House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was surplus.

Topics

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member, unfortunately, takes the opportunity every Thursday to ask the same question, knowing the answer will be exactly the same because it is factual.

The opposition days will begin the week of November 14, and I indicated that some weeks ago to the opposition House leaders. At that point, I thought the matter had been dealt with and that we would focus on the agenda, which is important to Canadians.

We will continue with the second reading of Bill C-67, which is the surpluses bill. Should this be completed, we would then return to the second reading debate of Bill C-66, the energy legislation. We do not sit on Friday. On Monday we will commence the second reading debate of Bill C-68, respecting the Pacific Gateway. We will give priority to these bills over the next week.

On Tuesday evening there will be a take note debate on cross-border Internet drugs.

If debates on the major bills that I have referred to are completed by late next week, we will then turn to report stage of Bill S-38, respecting the spirits trade, second reading of Bill C-47, the Air Canada bill, Bill C-50, respecting cruelty to animals, second reading of Bill C-44, the transport legislation, second reading of Bill C-61, the marine bill, reference before second reading of Bill C-46, the correctional services bill, report stage of Bill C-54, the first nations resources bill and other bills that will perhaps come back from committee that we would like to get into the House for further debate.

In order to bring about that take note debate on Tuesday, I move:

That a debate pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 take place on Tuesday, November 1 on the subject of cross-border Internet drugs.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

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

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Privilege
Oral Questions

October 27th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to raise the question of privilege for which I already gave notice to the Chair. It relates to a householder sent by the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, and to similar documents sent by other members of his caucus, to whom I will refer by riding: Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, Québec, Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, Saint-Jean, Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, Drummond, Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, Louis-Saint-Laurent, Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Saint-Lambert, Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Abitibi—Témiscamingue, Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, Trois-Rivières, Mégantic—L'Érable, Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, Alfred-Pellan, Saint-Maurice—Champlain, Beauport—Limoilou, Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia et Richmond—Arthabaska. There are surely others. We are continuing our research.

I sent a copy of this householder to the Chair. This document contains false allegations on some members, including myself. Printing and mailing these false allegations not only violates the existing rules, but also seeks to tarnish the reputation of these members, and therefore adversely affect their ability to fulfill their parliamentary duties.

During the 30th Parliament, the Special Committee on Rights and Immunities of Members stated that the purpose of the parliamentary privilege was to allow members to fulfill their responsibilities as officials representing the public, without unjustified interference.

In 1990, the Special Committee on the Parliament of Canada Act said in a report that a member must enjoy constitutional rights and immunities, and must be able to fulfill the duties and functions of his mandate without interference or intimidation.

On March 25, 2005, the member for Windsor West raised a question of privilege on a 10 percenter sent by the member for Medicine Hat to areas of his riding. The rules governing 10 percenters and householders are quite similar. Neither one is subject to the franking privileges of a member of Parliament, but is considered to be an information bulletin printed and paid for by the House of Commons, and for which a member must assume responsibility.

In a ruling issued on this matter on April 18, 2005, the Speaker said the following, as regards the sending of false information about a member, “This may well have affected his ability to function as a member—”. He also quoted Speaker Fraser, who said, on October 16, 1986, “Depending upon the content of the communication sent under the frank, it could be a question of privilege if the content worked against the right of Members to free expression and the carrying out of their obligations as Members”.

The matter was referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which in its 38th report considered the publication of false information about an hon. member to be an infringement of privilege. In the report, the Committee also notes that the growing number of incidents involving householders and 10 percenters warrants a review of the guidelines on these matters by the Board of Internal Economy, which seems not to have been done. Whence the necessity, once again, of raising a question of privilege.

I know that you do not want me to give a detailed description of the document in question, so I will be brief. A document is mailed; it is a householder. That means that all the households of these hon. members have received a copy talking about the sponsorship scandal and the money trail. Regarding the money trail, they draw arrows and clearly state that the money moved through the current Prime Minister, the former Prime Minister, then through a series of ministers, myself included. This is slanderous and untrue. It is frankly disgusting

What is more, they make ill-advised use of the logo of our political party. Since when does an opposition party have the right to use the logo of the Liberal Party of Canada in a householder? These are criminal allegations, and this is totally unacceptable

In passing, since they like to talk about the Gomery Commission, as I understand it, under section 13, which all the media are talking about, we are supposed to receive a letter if we are implicated in the scandal. I have received no letter from the Gomery Commission, nor has my colleague from Westmount—Ville-Marie, nor my colleague from Saint-Laurent—Cartierville. This is false. How is it that, two weeks before the Gomery report is to be tabled, certain people are abusing the frank and the public purse, paid for with our taxes, to send householders everywhere?

We know the adage: Lie, and something of the truth will always remain. What is even more appalling is that this can be found on their own website. That means it can go all over the planet. Everyone has access to this sort of thing.

I learned this morning that the Bloc Québécois has prepared a pre-recorded program that it wants to broadcast next week. We know how this usually works on the community channel. They use our research budgets, they organize a program and then they broadcast it on the network. It goes to every region in Quebec. This means that next week the Bloc Québécois is going to use this program to spread its criminal allegations. That is totally unacceptable.

But the worst is yet to come. For the hon. members for Laurier—Sainte-Marie and Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord have loudly proclaimed that the content of this householder was approved by the House of Commons. That was their defence; that was what they replied to the journalists’ questions. Yet, after verification, that is not true. There was no request for authorization, and what is more, the content of householders—not ten percenters—is the responsibility of the members, who sign the householder themselves. They have to assume their own responsibility. We are responsible for the content of our own householders.

I would ask the members to prove what they say. In fact, they blame House employees, for whom I and all of us here have the utmost respect.

It is also clear that the use of our logo is improper and a major infringement of our privileges. The more I look, the more I find and the more this mailing damages my reputation and besmirches my honour and integrity.

I am proud to be the member for Bourassa, a Canadian and a Liberal. My parents taught me the importance of honesty and of speaking up for those who cannot. They said above all that it was important to protect our reputation. It is time that we restored the dignity of this House, of this Parliament, of the very cradle of our democracy, which I so cherish. We must realize how fragile our institutions are and that we must protect them. It is our duty to do so.

I demand justice and redress. I expect at the end of this privilege process to receive nothing less than apologies from the Bloc, its leader and all its members who approved the printing and mailing of this rag. I expect the Bloc to pay back the entire cost of this householder and to send out another at its expense to all the homes in ridings that received this untrue, defamatory libel. I expect as well that no one will broadcast this pre-recorded program that was supposed to be broadcast next week in all parts of Quebec. I also expect a formal correction in the media, paid for out of Bloc Québécois funds.

The more I look, the more I find. That is why my lawyers and I are continuing to assess the extent of the damages I suffered.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier said that starting is half the battle. It is time to sort out all these questions about householders and 10 percenters. It is totally unacceptable for the privileges of members of Parliament to be abused in this way. There is an abuse of public funds and an abuse of members' privileges.

I say that the printing and mailing of this document is against the rules. By damaging the reputation of certain members, including myself, this document intimidates them in the exercise of their parliamentary duties and is a breach of the privileges of this House. If you agree, I am prepared to introduce a motion immediately.

Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the question of privilege raised by the hon. member, and I must admit that I fail to see a matter of privilege, since the allegations are the following: the hon. member contends that his name was unjustly associated with the track of money in the sponsorship scandal.

First, I understand that government members resent a mass mailing being done to inform the public about the abomination that the sponsorship scandal is. In terms of misuse of taxpayers' money, the sponsorship scandal is an unprecedented example of such misuse in Canada.

There is a second point. If the use of graphics irks government members because they give a clear picture of how things unfolded, the hon. member should also raise a question of privilege with the Toronto Star , which published a full page document, albeit not the same one, explaining everything with arrows, multiple arguments and the names of the people involved at one level or another. The name of the member for Bourassa was one of those published.

Raising a question of privilege on this is tantamount to raising a question of privilege against the media as a whole, because none of the information contained in the document had not already been made public in the news media, on television, in the papers, and what not.

Also, the hon. member claims that his good name was unjustly damaged by having been associated with the sponsorship scandal. I will simply say that, if he took the trouble of reading the flyer carefully, the member would see that it very clearly refers to members of cabinet. This expression is marked with an asterisk, in the box containing the names of four ministers, including two current ones, namely the hon. member for Bourassa, who was minister at the time, and Mr. Gagliano. At the bottom, the note explaining the asterisk states, “Have appeared before the Gomery Commission”.

I can understand that the hon. member for Bourassa found it unpleasant to have to appear before the Gomery Commission, but what can I do? What can the Bloc Québécois do about it? The fact is that the information is very clear. The four members of cabinet whose names are shown in that box have appeared before the Gomery Commission. That is an unmistakable fact.

These are facts of information, and there is no breach of parliamentary privilege when truth is told. I am sorry, but the hon. member for Bourassa was indeed summoned before the Gomery Commission. I was not, but he was. So, his picture was published. Mine would have been as well, but I was not there.

As for use of public money, one has to be shameless to have abused public money as the people opposite have done, to have misappropriated it for the Liberal Party. That party has been implicated to its very core — public servants, politicians, the Prime Minister’s Office—

Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

An hon. member

Shame.

Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

One has to be shameless to speak of abuse of public funds, when they have been the most brazen party in terms of the abuse with which most of the politicians on the other side of the House have been associated. This week, the Gomery report will give us reason to suspect a number of them. The Minister of the Environment may well get worked up.

Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Privilege
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, in closing, the Minister of the Environment, whom Mr. Thomas Mulcair of Quebec, the most federalist of Liberals, is criticizing as arrogant in all the media, should be quiet, because arrogance is having done something and having the effrontery to deny it and accuse others.

In closing, sincerely, the hon. member for Bourassa is included in a box where it is made very clear that this has to do with Cabinet ministers who appeared before the Gomery Commission, and that is a fact. So there is no breach of privilege.

Privilege
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the question of privilege raised by my colleague, the hon. member for Bourassa. The question raised is of particular interest to me, in that I myself am mentioned in this same text, as well as other of my colleagues.

These householders, printed and paid for by the House of Commons, are the responsibility of each of the hon. members who send them out.

These householders contain false allegations, associations that are totally false and baseless. As I see it they are an attack on our reputation, and therefore prejudicial to our work as parliamentarians.

You know very well that there is a time for partisan propaganda and a time for the work of the member of Parliament, who is obliged to worthily represent all of his and her fellow citizens.

In my view, the Bloc has overstepped the limits, crossed a line which I never thought it would stoop to cross, in attacking the integrity of certain hon. members of this House. It is more than unacceptable, it is reprehensible.

I consider my parliamentary privilege to have been breached.

Privilege
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, while I do not have the information available to me, which is the reason the member for Bourassa has come forward with his question of privilege, I wish to remind the Chair that this whole issue of ten percenters has been before the House a number of times. Not one party in here has escaped accusations of printing stuff that is erroneous, including the Liberal Party, the governing party. The issue of ten percenters and their use is currently before a subcommittee of the Board of Internal Economy. I know the Speaker himself is well aware of that issue and that it is being looked at.

The member for Bourassa said that the deeper he digs into this issue the more he finds. I would remind him that the same thing could be said for the sponsorship scandal itself.

Privilege
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, for the same reasons as those given by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, having myself been the victim of the false allegations that were made in the document, I would like to support the request of the member for Bourassa concerning his matter of privilege.

I would like to draw your attention to a passage on page 86 of Marleau-Montpetit. It says:

The unjust damaging of a Member's good name might also be seen as constituting an obstruction. In ruling on a question of privilege, Speaker Fraser stated: “The privileges of a Member are violated by any action which might impede him or her in the fulfilment of his or her duties and functions. It is obvious that the unjust damaging of a reputation could constitute such an impediment”.

I believe the case at hand, the document that has been submitted to you, meets the criteria that I just mentioned, and I would ask you to find that this is a prima facie matter of privilege.

I do not know why the Bloc Québécois is playing politics like this, but I believe that the request of the member for Bourassa must be heard.

Privilege
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I see that some members would now like to respond to what has been said. I have already been fair, I believe, in choosing members from both sides to deal with this issue. I do not want to continue the debate all afternoon. This might be the subject of a debate on the motion, if I allow it to be the case after I have considered this request.

The hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean wants to add something. He only has a few minutes to do so.

Privilege
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, three questions of privilege have been raised. Much of the case was made with regard to the first, since the other questions are similar.

I will simply tell the Minister of the Environment, who has just said that his parliamentary privilege has been breached, that this is completely untrue. If he thinks that, by saying or writing that he appeared before the Gomery commission is preventing him from doing his job, he should look instead to the former Prime Minister and his office, who have ensured that he was quoted on several occasions in this regard. The opposition had nothing to do with that.

A householder that provides pure facts cannot, in any way, constitute a breach of parliamentary privilege. If a member's reputation has been called into question as a result, it is because, perhaps, that member did not conduct himself properly.

It only states that they appeared before the Gomery commission. I know that this is not pleasant, but we cannot change the facts. The argument does not hold water for any of the three individuals; the fourth person being Alfonso Gagliano. Now, we know the four former ministers who appeared before the Gomery commission. It says so here in black and white. So there is no breach of privilege.

Privilege
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, since we are talking about questions of privilege, I am not rising on this particular question but on a point of order arising from the discussion that we have just had.

When I was remarking to the Speaker about the subcommittee of the Board of Internal Economy, the member for Ahuntsic was sitting there and she said, “And you refused to sit on that subcommittee”.

Mr. Speaker, you know very well that what takes place at the board is in confidence. I would wonder, given the seriousness of this, how the member was apprised of the information of who was sitting on the committee and who chose not to sit on the committee.