House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was security.

Topics

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

You were not accurate in your response.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege with regard to Bill C-42, a bill that was tabled earlier today and debated during question period.

Like Bill C-36, Bill C-42 was drafted to address the security issues facing Canadians as a result of the attack on the United States on September 11. Once again the security of the very bills designed to protect the security of Canadians has been breached. The government indicated that the bill was not ready to be tabled in the House yesterday, yet its contents were leaked to the media.

There was an article in the Globe and Mail by Steven Chase and Campbell Clark which reports “the legislation will include stopgap immigration enforcement measures similar to ones contained in immigration Bill C-11, that will not be in effect until late spring 2002, government sources said”. The article goes on with details of the bill, quoting government sources.

This is also within the context of the fact that yesterday in question period we asked substantive questions of the government about the contents of the security bill. The government said it could not answer the questions and that it was going to be tabled tomorrow. At the same time that it was not answering our questions, it was answering questions from the Globe and Mail on the phone to meet its four o'clock deadline.

As with the cases of Bill C-15 and Bill C-36, the media received an extensive briefing before members were and before the bill was tabled. As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice and her department were held in contempt of the House for leaking the contents of Bill C-15. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is presently looking into the leak of Bill C-36. The deputy clerk of the privy council appeared before the committee this morning and reported on his investigation into the Bill C-36 case.

In your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on Bill C-15 you stated:

In preparing legislation, the government may wish to hold extensive consultations and such consultations may be held entirely at the government's discretion. However, with respect to material to be placed before parliament, the House must take precedence.

Not the Globe and Mail , the House.

The convention of the confidentiality of bills on notice is necessary, not only so that members themselves may be well informed, but also because of the pre-eminent role which the House plays and must play in the legislative affairs of the nation.

To deny to members information concerning business that is about to come before the House, while at the same time providing such information to the media that will likely be questioning members about that business, is a situation that the Chair cannot condone.

In this case it is clear that information concerning legislation...was given to members of the media without any effective measures to secure the rights of the House.

I have concluded that this constitutes a prima facie contempt of the House.

This matter was referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The committee concluded:

The committee believes that the protocol of the Department of Justice whereby no briefings or briefing material should be provided with respect to a bill on notice until its introduction in the House of Commons should be adopted as a standard policy by all government departments. We believe that such a policy is respectful of the House of Commons and its members. It recognizes the legislative role of parliament, and is consistent with parliamentary privilege and the conventions of parliament.

The committee noted that the adoption of such a policy should not be viewed as preventing the provisions of courtesy copies of government bills on a confidential basis to opposition critics shortly before their introduction. The committee went on to state:

This incident highlights a concern shared by all members of the Committee: apparent departmental ignorance of or disrespect for the role of the House of Commons and its members. Even if the result is unintended, the House should not tolerate such ignorance within the government administration to undermine the perception of parliament's constitutional role in legislating. The rights of the House and its Members in this role are central to our constitutional and democratic government.

Finally, the committee heeded this warning:

Failure to adopt appropriate measures could lead to a reoccurrence of this problem, in which case the House would have to consider using its power in a more severe way.... The acceptance of an apology will not necessarily be considered a sufficient response.

Despite this warning, the government proceeded to leak the contents of Bill C-36 and yesterday it leaked the contents of Bill C-42.

On the privy council website it describes ministerial responsibility as:

Ministerial responsibility is a fundamental principle of the constitution.... This responsibility is honed by the ever present possibility that in particular circumstances ministers may be embarrassed, suffer loss of prestige weakening themselves and the government, jeopardize their standing with their colleagues and hence their political future, or even be forced to submit to public enquiry possibly resulting in censure and loss of office as a result of the way in which their power has been used.

We have already embarrassed the government with the Bill C-36 and Bill C-15 cases.

We have had a public inquiry through the work of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. We have had a minister censured and charged with contempt. The only thing left to do is to call for the minister's resignation.

It is time for action, not more studies and not more warnings. The minister should take responsibility for this action. Mr. Speaker, if you rule this to be a prima facie question of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion to that effect.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I would like to ask one point of clarification before I hear from the government House leader.

Could the hon. member indicate, is it the Globe and Mail story on which he is relying in support of this or is there some other evidence that he wishes to bring to the House?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are in fact two stories. There is one story on the front page of the Globe and Mail above the fold written by Campbell Clark and Steven Chase and another article in the National Post written by Ian Jack, both of which quote government sources.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I believe this time the hon. member does not have the story correct at all for a number of reasons which I intend to explain to the Chair and all members.

First, the member is conveniently mixing up the issue of Bill C-15 which was not the issue of a leak at all, as he knows. The issue involving Bill C-15 had to do with an administrative procedure used by officials for briefing the media. It was a form of briefing offered to the media ahead of MPs which was obviously wrong. It was corrected.

I issued instructions which are now in the public domain. As a matter of fact, this morning a briefing was offered to MPs and no briefing to the media. In any case, had one been offered to the media, it would have been no sooner than the one offered to members and only if they were locked up. I will get into the content of what was in the Globe and Mail in a minute.

That is the mistake, I will be generous, that the member makes when he compares this to Bill C-15.

I want to get into what the member alleges are leaks. There are a number of newspaper articles. I will quote a few of them. Part of the article says:

Today's new bill had been expected earlier but was delayed until today because it needed more work, Liberal House Leader Don Boudria told reporters.

Some secret that was that I revealed to the reporters so far. The reporter speculated that cabinet is debating whether to transfer the responsibility for airport security screening to a non-profit corporation or to local airport authorities. I will not say whether cabinet is or is not debating that, but regardless whether it is debating it or not, it is not in the bill.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

That is not the Globe and Mail story.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

That is the Globe and Mail story entitled, “Ottawa takes aim at bioterror; Second terrorism bill toughens penalties and loosens air passenger privacy rules”, by Steven Chase and Campbell Clark with reports from Brian Laghi, Daniel Leblanc and Shawn McCarthy.

This is exactly the story to which I am referring. It goes on with a number of such speculated things, a couple of them which happen to be correct, I will admit that, particularly the one that says the bill deals with bioterrorism. That is the title of the bill. It would not be surprising that the bill dealt with that which was in the title. In terms of what would such bioterrorism measures include, Canada has signed a convention. It is all in a public convention and it is in the title of the bill.

The reporters are very smart but the one who concluded that what is in the title of the bill and what is in the international convention we signed, and he speculated that was in the bill, frankly that does not require rocket science. Most people could have speculated on that particular one.

Let us listen to some more. This time it is the National Post story:

Sources said the government is considering creating a new agency of government responsible for transport security, reporting to Transport Canada.

That is not in the bill at all. Let me read further. The Ottawa Citizen has a story by Rick Mofina. This is a real good one. It says:

On Monday, Parliament gave notice of a new bill entitled--

Mr. Speaker, you being the expert on parliamentary procedure that you are, how does parliament give notice of a bill? This mechanism does not exist. I as leader of the government in the House give notice of all government bills pursuant to authority given to me by cabinet. Parliament does not give notice of a bill. The article goes on to say:

Meanwhile, the global pact on germ warfare is under review at an ongoing conference concerning the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, ratified by 144 countries, including Canada.

All of this was obvious to anyone who read the title of the bill that was presented in the House today, just in case somebody says, “Oh yes, but the bill was presented today, we did not know the title”. I would bet that is what the hon. member who is heckling was going to say.

That was put on the notice paper, at the back of the order paper under the Roman numerals on the first page, two days ago. That is where that piece of brilliant information comes from.

I do not know where the evidence is of a leak this time. First, there has been an unfair comparison made with Bill C-15. Second, a whole pile of what I saw was factually inaccurate. Third, the little bit of it that was, was very easy to speculate on, such as reading the title of the bill which again is not rocket science.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair will certainly take the matter under advisement.

I want to thank the hon. member for Port Moody--Coquitlam--Port Coquitlam and the government House leader for their interventions in this matter. I will review the statements hon. members have made. I will review the newspaper articles in question and get back to the House in due course.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

November 22nd, 2001 / 3:40 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. A little while ago, I attempted to rise to offer a relieving measure to the House in relation to Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism legislation. I realize that some of us have worked very hard and are tired. I intend to try again with this measure to see whether it will be helpful to the House.

I am told from informal conversations with the table officers that if the House were to unanimously agree to extend the time, provided it is reasonable and table officers and Mr. Speaker can carefully review report stage amendments, that we could alter the time of 2 p.m. tomorrow in order to assist hon. members. I have had no opportunity to consult other parties, but in order to be helpful to the House, I would like to seek unanimous consent to move the following motion. I move:

That the normal hour for filing report stage amendments be extended from 2 p.m. November 23 to 2 p.m. November 24.

This will give members more time, until Saturday, and hopefully this will accommodate them. I know everyone has worked hard and hopefully this will be--

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

We will say yes. We will show our goodwill but we are not going to give a big kiss. No one has to kiss us to say yes.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Again, it is not I who wants to propose amendments. I am trying to do this for the benefit of opposition members and hopefully for the entire House.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)