House of Commons Hansard #63 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was yea.

Topics

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

Are you still going to raise a question of privilege?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker. As you know, I provided you with notice on March 3 of this question of privilege. While my notice detailed much of the concern, I believe that it is only appropriate that I outline the issue in the House so that all members will be aware of the present situation, as we are all equally affected by these recent events.

I believe this question of privilege is related to one similar, which was heard by the Speaker in October 1997. I say related because the breach of my privileges as a member of parliament has also arisen over the functions of our legislative drafters.

In 1997 you ruled that the matter be resolved by the Board of Internal Economy. My issue does not concern the administrative matters, such as the number of legislative drafters available to assist us in our work, and it does not concern just who is assigned to assist us in drafting legislation. My question of privilege has solely to do with solicitor-client privilege and breach of confidentiality.

First, I will relate the facts of the case. Over the past number of weeks I have been dealing with our legislative drafters on a number of amendments to legislation presently before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The drafting of legislation is one of the most important aspects of this place. It is imperative that confidentiality of information be maintained until each member decides to make his or her work public by introducing it either in committee or here at report stage.

Mr. Speaker, you can imagine my surprise and outrage when I learned from the clerk of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that he was in possession of my amendments before I had even decided which of them I would be introducing at committee.

I was informed that it has now been decided that solicitor-client privilege does not attach itself to work completed by our legislative drafters and that the material will be made available to the clerks.

I do not know who else will have access to this work. I do know that the clerk did seek my permission to release my proposed amendments to the Department of Justice lawyers. I denied him the permission to release them to anyone.

Let me make it clear that I do not call into question the integrity of the clerk of the committee, but if he was able to gain possession of my amendments, who else has them?

It was my understanding that members of parliament are operating with our legislative drafters in a solicitor-client relationship. These drafters are lawyers who have been tasked by the House as a whole to assist members in their legislative initiatives.

It is a competitive market in this place for political reasons, for representing our constituents and for ensuring that our laws effectively achieve what we as individuals perceive to be in the best interests of the country.

You will remember, Mr. Speaker, how concerned members from all political stripes became in October 1997 when the issue was raised over the lack of sufficient and proper resources to provide members with adequate legislative assistance. As I have stated, my concern today is not an administrative function. It goes to the essence of the relationship between our lawyers and ourselves to fulfil our duties as members of parliament. These lawyers work for us both on private members' legislation and on amendments to government and Senate legislation. Without protection of confidentiality, our parliamentary work is severely impacted. We become disempowered from carrying out our duties.

This work was released to others without my consent, which I believe is necessary under the law. Legislative counsel come under the precinct of the Speaker of the House of Commons. It is my understanding that they have been ordered to release this information contrary to the protection of the solicitor-client privilege.

To sum up, I believe that the release of confidential work in progress to the clerk of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights without my consent is a prima facie case of privilege. It has happened in my case and may well be happening or could happen to almost anyone in this place. It must be addressed. Should you find that a prima facie case of privilege exists, Mr. Speaker, and with your permission, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

If I understand the hon. member correctly, what he is saying is that there has been a breach of confidentiality because the clerk of the committee had the information.

I invite the hon. member to review my ruling of this morning. With all due respect, I would suggest to him that the clerk of the committee is a member of the team that has to work together so that members can be served.

If the hon. member is saying that someone other than a person on the team that I described this morning has access to the information, I would like to know about it. But the team itself, the drafters, the lawyers, the people who put it into the information system, they are all part of that group. As for anyone outside that group, if the hon. member is alleging that someone else had that information, then I would like to hear more about it.

I would like to review everything the hon. member has said today. Barring anything that I have missed, my decision of this morning, I believe, would apply. However, I will have a look at it in detail to decide what is necessary.

I would like to let this matter sit at this point, unless someone has something to offer which is in addition to what the hon. member has said.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, with respect, I think the point is something a bit different from a team and who in the team has access to certain information.

The point is solicitor-client privilege. The point is whether we are entitled to rely on legislative counsel to work for us in a privileged way. In other words, nobody else knows what we are discussing, what we are planning or what we are doing because these lawyers are giving us advice solely for our own purposes.

If the clerks are getting this information, then it is on the instructions of someone, Mr. Speaker, and that someone clearly is not us, the members. That someone clearly is directing legislative counsel to give information without our knowledge and consent. In other words, these legislative counsel do not work for us.

This even goes beyond solicitor-client privilege because if legislative counsel are getting instructions and are following orders from someone besides us, then how can we be confident that they are doing their greatest and best work for us if their responsibility is to someone else? This is very serious, Mr. Speaker.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member reiterates a point that was brought up earlier. The fact is that the legislative counsel, the lawyers who are there, do not have in the traditional sense the client-lawyer relationship only because there are other people involved.

That has been the way. It has been our tradition since the beginning. I would invite the hon. member to please have a look at my ruling of this morning to understand why we arrived at this decision.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must inform you of an important decision that has been reached by the members of the Bloc Quebecois, in connection with this morning's decision.

We would have preferred not to have been forced to such a decision, and I mean that most sincerely. It is, however, a matter of democracy, as evidenced by the matter of privilege that has just been raised. It is a matter of confidence. In the next few minutes, therefore, I shall be introducing a motion of censure of the Speaker of the House, which reads as follows.

That this House resolve that it no longer has confidence in the Speaker, since it is of the opinion that the Speaker exhibited partiality in determining that the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Rimouski—Mitis on Wednesday, March 1, 2000 was out of order and in rejecting the point of order raised by the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, to the detriment of the rights and privileges of all of the members of this House.

I shall be tabling this motion in the next few minutes. I would have preferred not to have had to do so. However, as I said, our rights and our privileges are at stake, and so is democracy and the confidence everyone must have in the Chair.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

This is the first time in a long while that the Speaker has had to deal with such a motion. The motion is out of order at this time. The hon. member must give notice. He may do so at his leisure.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Elgin—Middlesex—London
Ontario

Liberal

Gar Knutson Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to one petition.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

March 13th, 2000 / 3:15 p.m.

Liberal

George Proud Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House in both official languages the fourth report of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association which represented Canada at the meetings of the defence and security committee held in Washington, D.C. and southern California from February 1 to 8, 2000.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-450, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to present a bill on behalf of constituents and Canadians right across the country. It tries to prevent the merry-go-round that members of parliament do once in a while when they decide to cross the floor and join another political party.

I have never agreed that a member of parliament can just up and leave a party and right in the middle of a term join another political party. That decision should be in the hands of the Canadian people. This legislation says to a member of parliament that if he or she has a falling out with the party and wishes to leave and join another political party, then step down, run in a byelection under the new political banner and let the people in the riding decide whether or not the member is capable of flying under the new political banner.

It is a great privilege to thank the seconder of this wonderful bill. I am sure the bill will sweep across the country and be endorsed by all Canadians of all political stripes.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Reform

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present on behalf of my constituents and residents in British Columbia. The first is a dated petition concerning the NATO actions in Yugoslavia calling upon parliament to do what it felt was fair.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Reform

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is one that I can wholly support. It calls on parliament to provide more funding for the national highway system in the 2000 budget. Unfortunately they are a little bit late in expressing that sentiment. I certainly think they are going in the right direction in asking the government to provide more funding for the highways program.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lou Sekora Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, today I present 277 signed ribbons from the annual white ribbon against pornography campaign. This campaign was held from October 24 to October 31, 1999 by the Catholic Women's League of Canada. The use of pornography must be stopped.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I assumed the hon. member was presenting a petition and not ribbons to the House. I hope it was a slip of words in his description because of course ribbons would not be in order.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to present four petitions today.

The first one is a very important petition with several hundred signatures from members of my riding. It says that whereas the majority of Canadians consider unborn babies to be worthy of protection and whereas Action Canada for Population—