House of Commons Hansard #173 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was legislation.

Topics

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

That is what he said.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

No, it is not what he said.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

He was brought to the bar.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Waddell was never brought to the bar to apologize. He was brought to be admonished, not to apologize. A very different statement.

It is interesting that Mr. Waddell was from British Columbia as is my hon. colleague. That should outline to members on the other side the frustration members from western Canada have with the House. They have to go to such lengths because of frustration at the way they are treated in the House.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

No respect.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

There is no respect for western Canadians or their ideas. That is why frustration builds and these things happen.

In the last parliament a number of MPs criticized the Speaker and their criticism was reported in the media. The issue was with regard to the small Canadian flags the Speaker ordered off the desks of the members. As members may recall, the hon. member for Elk Island led the charge. He insisted he be allowed to keep his flag on his desk after the Speaker ruled the flag to be a prop. The matter was referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The members accused of contempt apologized, the committee accepted their apologies and no punishment was doled out.

The hon. member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca has already apologized for his conduct but for some reason the government is refusing to call off the dogs. It is pursuing the matter in an unprecedented way. It is difficult to find cases where a member has been punished unless we consider the Louis Riel case. Riel was expelled from the House twice because the House believed him to be an outlaw and a felon. I do not think the hon. member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca is an outlaw.

How about the Fred Rose case of 1946? He was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison for conspiring to commit various offences under the Official Secrets Act. Since he was in jail and could not participate in the proceedings of the House, the House vacated his seat. The crime of the hon. member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca hardly stacks to those of Mr. Rose.

However the hon. member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca does serve time. In the summer and other times he volunteers in hospitals and helps the poor and underprivileged for no pay. This gives us an understanding of how out of character what he did last week was. He only did so because of the frustration he has experienced in the House at the actions of the government across the way.

I will sum up. Punishment is not necessary when ministers mislead parliament, when they leak the contents of bills before they are tabled in the House, or even when a member attempts to get the military to defect. These acts are not worthy of punishment by the Liberal government. Yet it thinks grabbing the Mace deserves a penalty. I will let the public judge the government and its House leader on that one.

Let us visit other behaviours the government considers acceptable in comparison to what the hon. member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca did. No one on that side of the House, except maybe the Prime Minister, felt insulted when the chief government whip attacked our democratic traditions by forcing her members and threatening opposition members on the finance committee to vote for a chairman no one wanted.

What about how the Minister of the Environment respected the work of the environment committee on Bill C-5? The bill was changed all around. The committee worked together, got it done and it came back to the House a totally different bill.

Do members remember when we raised the issue of Mr. Gagliano having told the House he did not interfere with the operation of crown corporations when he in fact interfered with the awarding of contracts at Canada Lands when he was minister? Members on that side of the House could care less about that. Ethical behaviour by ministers means absolutely nothing to them.

It is a tradition of the House that members give truthful information to parliament. Does the government care about that? Obviously it does not. In case members do not believe me, I direct the House to a report of the procedure and house affairs committee dealing with the misleading statements of the Minister of National Defence.

As members will recall, the hon. member for Vancouver Centre when she was minister announced that crosses were burning on the lawns of Prince George. Did we entertain a motion like the one we are entertaining today? Does anyone think the people of Prince George are more insulted by what the hon. member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca did with the Mace than what the member for Vancouver Centre did in the House? I doubt it very much.

What about when the hon. member for Thornhill accused the hon. member for New Westminster--Coquitlam--Burnaby of treason? That might be considered a disrespectful comment levelled at a member of parliament. The same member called members of my party things I could not even mention in the House because they are so out of line they are unparliamentary.

Did the government House leader draft a motion of contempt to condemn the hon. member for Scarborough Southwest who told a veteran he would not receive any help because he did not vote Liberal? We never saw a motion on that one, yet it was one of the largest affronts to parliament I have ever seen. There was never a motion on the issue. We accepted his apology and let it alone.

Should we have called government members before the bar to explain why they tried to suppress the auditor general's report before the last election, why they threatened the information commissioner's staff, or why they threatened the fire chief and Deputy Chief of Defence Staff? If we did I missed it.

Do members think that the soldiers in Afghanistan care more about the mace or do they care more about having the proper uniforms and safer helicopters?

Do members think the unemployed softwood lumber workers worry about this issue or do they want to resolve a trade dispute?

My party has a motion on the order paper for tomorrow that calls on the government to introduce legislation to protect children from sexual predators. We should be discussing how to protect our children and punish predators, not considering a motion to punish one of our members who in a moment of anger hoisted the Mace above his head.

The member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca was wrong. He apologized. The issue should be closed.

I suggest that the government's preoccupation with the symbolism of the Mace should best be referred to the followers of Freud. Perhaps they can offer a better explanation as to why the government members are so excited over there today.

I would like to move an amendment to this motion. I move:

That the motion be amended by replacing all the words after “That” with the following:

“the actions of the member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca are found to be in disregard of the authority of the Chair and a contempt of the House and in keeping with tradition, and since the member has made a proper apology, no further action is necessary.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Resuming debate on the amendment.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, my speech will be far shorter than that of the leader of the Canadian Alliance. The motion we have before us is quite simple. From listening to the Leader of the Opposition, I got the impression that the motion was a condemnation of the hon. member for Esquimault--Juan de Fuca, one excluding him from parliament, banishing him forever, who knows. But no, the government's motion strikes me as reasonable.

The motion calls for a member to apologize for having laid hands on a symbol which represents the very authority of the Speaker. This strikes me as the minimum. I would, however, like to take a few moments to offer my party's view on this.

We in the Bloc Quebecois are not particularly enamored of the institution of the Canadian parliament, but it seems to us that it must be respected, as all of the world's parliaments must be respected. I have already said in this House, and repeat it now for those who did not hear me, that where there is no longer respect for parliament, differences can only be settled by conflict.

I would simply like to remind my distinguished colleagues that the Mace is not that metal object we see at the end of the table. That is not what is at issue. The Mace is the symbol of the Speaker's authority. To come up to the mace and take hold of it is tantamount to announcing to the House, and to the person who directs us, “I no longer recognize your authority as Speaker”. Moreover, when the House goes into the committee of the whole, the first thing that happens is that the Mace is removed and placed under the Table.

There may be some people listening to us who will wonder, “What point is there to an attachment to such symbols?” When difficult situations arise, when there is a crisis, our behaviour is guided by symbols and traditions, over and above wisdom, over and above political impulse.

I therefore do not believe that this act was appropriate under the circumstances. I do not believe it can have done anything positive for the cause of the Canadian Alliance that someone took it into his head to pick up the Mace and then return it to its place. In our opinion, this denotes disrespect for an institution that merits respect.

It is true that the government often takes the standing orders too far, tabling motion after motion in order to hold up the work of the House. It is true that committee chairs take full advantage of their authority to prevent certain questions from being asked or certain things from being done. But it is then up to us to amend the standing orders or to bring it to the attention of the public, explaining that the government, or sometimes the opposition, is using the standing orders to prevent the exercise of democracy.

Not that long ago, when the government House leader was the member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell, we reviewed the standing orders of the House together. I myself have done quite a bit of work on this. I had changes made which I wanted to see and which improved parliamentary democracy, but I do not recall the Canadian Alliance, or any other party, saying that the standing order invoked by the government House leader was a bad one. Overuse at a particular point in time should not be a reason for abolishing not the standing order, but this authority, or violating the fundamental rules of parliament. That does not strike me as a good idea.

That having been said, I do not want the member in question to be considered as having committed a crime against a person. We must simply understand that his emotions at the time caused him to take a regrettable action.

What he did was unacceptable, in my opinion, because if this were what happened whenever a parliamentarian got excited or felt that his privilege was being violated or that the government had done the wrong thing, we would be constantly grabbing the mace, or whatever, or throwing things. I do not know what sort of impression people would have of parliament if we behaved like that.

If one does not agree with what is going on here, if one feels that the government has gone too far or that the Chair's rulings are unacceptable, one can leave the House—which the Alliance has done—or even meet with those involved to express one's dissatisfaction.

But if every time the person speaking to you was not happy with the government's decisions, they had to pick up the mace, I think I would ask to have my desk moved a little closer, because that is how things would work. But that would be ridiculous. Imagine if we behaved like that, showing our displeasure in the most outlandish ways whenever we were not happy.

Personally, I do not appreciate this kind of excess. I believe that we have other parliamentary means, including or abstention. I believe that a verbal demonstration of discontent, within the limits of the acceptable, is sufficient. But please let us control our excesses and our impulses to express ourselves in every imaginable way, otherwise we will not have a parliament, we will have a free-for-all.

The act that the member committed was not so serious an act that he should be punished forever. However, from our perspective, the member did commit an error in judgment that should not have happened.

Furthermore, the government is merely asking the member to appear at the bar of the House and make an official apology, since the act was an official one. It is official, it happened in front of everyone, so the member must apologize in a very official manner.

As far as I am concerned, the government motion seems perfectly reasonable. The member should be as well. And, if he is a distinguished parliamentarian—which I believe him to be—he should do as I would do if I were in his shoes. I would appear and say, “yes, Mr. Speaker, let us put an end to this. Let us not waste time. I reacted in an exaggerated manner, I overstepped my rights. I recognize this. It was done out of impulse. I apologize and I ask my peers to excuse me”.

The government is reasonable in its request. Our colleague should be reasonable in his reaction. He stands to gain nothing in personal prestige, nor in terms of his legacy. Nor has he anything to gain from trying to shirk his responsibilities. I believe that the situation is being resolved in the right manner and, personally, it is for this reason that I will support the motion as moved by the government.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to continue in the same vein as my colleague for Roberval. With respect to the situation of our colleague, the hon. member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca, the motion calls for him

—to be suspended from the service of the House until such time as he appears at the bar of the House to apologize in a manner found to be satisfactory by the Speaker for his actions in disregard for the authority of the Chair and in contempt of the House.

In one way I am pleased to speak to this matter, but in another I feel regret. Those of us in opposition sometimes become frustrated. I would even venture to say that even government backbenchers sometimes become frustrated as well.

In this case, a private member's bill was involved. I have the greatest respect for anything that involves an individual member. When a motion or bill originates with a private member, this must hold some meaning in the House of Commons, just as the Mace holds some meaning in the House of Commons, in my opinion. It represents the authority of the Speaker.

When the government acts as it has been acting, for example by amending a motion or a bill that has originated with a private member, this does lead to frustration. This is regrettable, but I do not think it should justify the action taken by our colleague from the Canadian Alliance. This is no reason to lay hold of the Mace and raise it before the Speaker.

There have been occasions when I have been frustrated—I think it has just happened on one or two occasions since I have been an MP—but it did not make me act in ways that I might regret, or that would require me to apologize. When one does act in such a way, one must face up to the consequences. It is therefore desirable for the hon. member of the Canadian Alliance to apologize on his own without being forced to do so.

There is one way the problem can be solved. If a member is not happy with the way a private member's motion or bill is handled in the House, the matter can be raised in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, in order to try to find a solution the members of the House of Commons will find satisfactory.

An amendment to the government motion has been introduced.

The amendment reads:

--“the actions of the member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca are found to be in disregard of the authority of the Chair and a contempt of the House and in keeping with tradition, and since the member has made a proper apology, no further action is necessary”.

That is not the tradition, since the Speaker already has authority. The following was taken from the House of Commons Procedure and Practice :

On October 30, 1991, furious after missing a vote, Ian Waddell (Port Moody—Coquitlam) attempted to take hold of the Mace as it was carried out of the Chamber at the end of the sitting.

He did not even touch the Mace. He attempted to grab it. I read on:

This act was found to be an attempt at filibuster, and was viewed as a challenge to the power of the Chair to adjourn the sitting. After having found it to be a prima facie case of contempt, the House adopted an order finding Mr. Waddell guilty of contempt and calling him to the bar to receive a reprimand from the Chair. (Debates, October 30, 1991, p. 4269-4270; October 31, 1991, p. 4271-4285 and 4309-4310). As a member, he could have been reprimanded in his place, which would have been customary.

That would be the tradition to which the Canadian Alliance referred. I continue:

But in this case, the motion adopted by the House specified that the member had to appear at the bar.

I believe that in this case, this is the only respectable thing to do, that the member appear at the bar and make an honourable apology. Then, I believe that everything would be in order again.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with some regret that I rise to take part in this debate. I think we have gone far afield now from what should have taken place with respect to the dealing of this matter within the House.

Certainly the Mace is of undeniable procedural significance to which members who spoke previously have referred. What took place last Wednesday was I think properly deemed to be contempt of the House and something that brought the Chamber into disrepute.

I want to stay away from a lot of the partisan diatribe that we heard from the leader of the official opposition and House leader, and I hasten to add, a former speaker of the British Columbia House of assembly. Yet he referenced the previous Progressive Conservative government of which at one time he was a member before he began his legendary political bed-hopping.

He made reference of course and castigated the government with respect to some of its actions and contempt. That is a strong word but appropriate word with respect to what took place that provoked the member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca to the action that he undertook. Yet the previous speaker from the Alliance in this Janus faced justification of the action, really distracted from the issue at hand.

Of course the oldest trick in the book is to accuse the accuser. He compounds the contempt when he starts naming the cause as just and justifying the end. As all members know, we break oath with this place when we bring disrepute to the Chamber.

We could all easily reference some of the reversal positions of his own party and the public promises that were made to bring a new level of decorum to this place. We know about the denial of the pensions, the denial of the perks of office, the Stornoway that none of them were going to live in, including the hon. member who gave his remarks in the House, not going to take the chauffeur driven limousines, going to bring a new decorum, having Mexican hat dances outside the Senate, painting jalopies with Canadian flags and circling the parliamentary precincts and throwing flags on the floor of the House of Commons, all of that. The members of that party do not like to talk about that any more because that is part of their ancient history, the reformed reformers.Yet it is all there.

I hasten to add that some of their own members were outside of caucus for remarks seen as unbecoming. They asked to come back but were asked to give a very contrite and public apology, and yet the same standard should not apply. The same standard should be glossed over now. When one of their own members is accused, there should be no contrition.

I would not want anyone to take from my remarks that I condone or support the government's action in killing the private member's bill which is the subject of this. It was not the proper action, yet this was not a legitimate form of protest.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. While I listened to the hon. member, he said that we threw a flag on the floor. That is totally false. It was the red book and it deserved to be thrown on the floor.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Respectfully to the hon. member for Okanagan--Shuswap, that is not a point of order. It is a matter of debate and the debate is going to continue. However I sincerely trust that this debate now will be conducted in the finest parliamentary tradition of which we are all capable. The hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I suppose next the hon. member is going to challenge me to step outside in the truest parliamentary performance.

Back to the issue at hand--

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I agree with you. I trust that this debate can be held in a civil manner which is conducive to the respect the House deserves. Certainly that last comment by the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough was not. He should withdraw it with an apology.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I have not heard anything that I would deem unparliamentary. It is not a point of order. However, I am a very patient man and I will urge the House once again to rise to the occasion on this question of privilege so that we might resume this debate.