House of Commons Hansard #102 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was spam.

Topics

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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3:05 p.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly be in favour of such a motion. I think the hon. member would be the first to acknowledge that the remark was made in jest and good humour. The hon. member for Beauséjour certainly took it in that spirit and I do not think any offence was taken. I am simply jealous that I cannot grow a moustache the way he can, but I would be pleased to contribute to his efforts to do so by contributing to the campaign.

Oral Questions
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Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I can only imagine the Conservatives and Liberals bandying around the two candidates in Vaughan. I want to tell the House, the people of Canada and the good people of Vaughan that if they want to end the nonsense between the Conservatives and Liberals, they should vote NDP in the next election.

Oral Questions
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Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I think the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore knows that is not a point of order.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, during question period in a question posed by the member for Brant, there were a number of assertions made, and I think that when questions are posed in the House they should have some modicum of truth.

In committee yesterday, we heard from an aboriginal gentleman who was a victim of the residential schools program and was victimized by his mother. We heard his tragic story about how difficult his life was and how he had to struggle being a victim. We heard, unfortunately, that his life led to a life of crime but that for the last six years he had turned it around. He said that, given an opportunity, he would not have a bill pass that would see him shut out from an opportunity of having employment.

The member for Brant expressed that the individual and some of the other gentlemen who were there today should be given another chance. His question today, saying that these gentlemen should not be given a chance, inferred that somehow I care less about my children or my community and its safety than he does. It is offensive and it does a tremendous disrespect to the House and to the debate that is before us.

We pose questions and they are answered, as the minister is doing. The same minister before committee admitted in answers to my questions that there were deep flaws with this bill, things that needed to be looked at and worked on. He asked for us to bring forward amendments to address those problems.

Yet, here they are in the House attacking me personally, trying to portray me as someone who does not care about the safety of my community. It is dishonest, disrespectful and below the level that should be expected in the House.

Oral Questions
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3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, since being elected to the House some two years ago and a bit, I will take no lessons from the member for Ajax—Pickering when it comes to presenting issues to Parliament that are not based on any factual evidence. I will take no lessons from that member.

Oral Questions
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Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I know hon. members will all try to be civil in their questions and responses in the House. I urge that on all hon. members.

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Outremont.

I recognize the hon. member for Outremont, who is presenting a question of privilege.

Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege
Oral Questions

November 23rd, 2010 / 3:10 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, you are right to point out that in keeping with our customs, I sent a written notice to the Speaker earlier today. I am pleased to be able to present my question of privilege, which is a rarity considering all the experience you have.

I am rising regarding the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Finance.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, the finding of a prima facie case of privilege cannot be made by a committee chairperson or by the committee report itself but only by you.

And so, the best thing to do is read the report, which is quite short. It says:

On Thursday, November 18, 2010, the draft report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance in respect of the Committee’s pre-budget consultations for 2010 was distributed by the Clerk of the Committee to all Committee members. The distribution occurred electronically.

I would like to add something here. On the front page of the report, the following statement is made to all of the members:

Please bring a copy of this document to the meeting. This report remains CONFIDENTIAL until it is tabled in the House of Commons. Any disclosure of the contents of a report prior to presentation in the House may be judged a breach of parliamentary privilege.

And the report continues:

On Thursday, November 18, 2010, the Member for Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar was informed that Mr. Russell Ullyatt, parliamentary assistant to the Member, had transmitted the Committee’s confidential draft report to three lobbyists: Mr. Clarke Cross, Senior Consultant, Tactix; Mr. Tim Egan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Gas Association; and Ms. Lynne Hamilton, Vice President, Public Affairs, GCI Group.

In light of this matter, the Committee has reason to believe that a potential breach of privilege has occurred and, on Monday, November 22, 2010, the Committee unanimously adopted the following motion:

That the Committee report to the House of Commons the potential breach of privilege resulting from the release of the confidential draft report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance in respect of its pre-budget consultations for 2010, entitled “Canada's Continuing Economic Recovery: What People, Businesses and Communities Need”, prior to its presentation to the House.

Your Committee feels it is their duty to place these matters before the House at this time since a question of privilege may be involved and to give the House an opportunity to reflect on these matters.

I hasten to say that, to her credit, the member in question apologized yesterday. I want to tell her that while the committee accepts her apology, it is important to understand that this is not an individual issue, but an institutional issue that directly affects our ability to do our work as parliamentarians unimpeded.

I would like to point out that the report in question is the only committee report mentioned specifically in the Standing Orders of the House.

The prebudget report is one of only a few specific committee reports mentioned specially in the Standing Orders, and in fact Standing Order 83.1, which I will read. It is quite brief:

Commencing on the first sitting day in September of each year, the Standing Committee on Finance shall be authorized to consider and make reports upon proposals regarding the budgetary policy of the government. Any report or reports thereon may be made no later than the tenth sitting day before the last normal sitting day in December, as set forth in Standing Order 28(2).

Clearly, this is a report of an institutional nature. We are therefore not bringing this matter before you lightly. We understand the full consequences of what we are talking about today.

The report we were to have considered yesterday—obviously we focused on this instead—includes suggestions by the four political parties and a comprehensive analysis of our country's budgetary and economic situation. We work hard to do justice to the mandate given to us by the House, and I believe that all the members generally carry out that mandate to the best of their ability. But we are faced with a truly unique situation here. We are being told that despite the cover page warning that the report is official and confidential, people can turn around and give it to lobbyists.

A lot of questions still remain. The member explained that she fired the person who worked for her, but that is a little too easy. Who hired that person? What were his instructions? Is this something that happens all the time? Who are these lobbyists? Have they ever contributed to the Conservative Party? Are they well known? Is there a revolving door? This is a fundamental issue that affects our democratic parliamentary institutions.

In our opinion, this requires us to pay particular attention to what we are discussing today, otherwise the public will never know if someone had access to privileged information. For example, if the party in power and the three opposition parties arrive at a unanimous position on an important subject, if someone has several weeks' notice of this position, and if it could be inferred that this would possibly be the government's economic position, those persons, the clients, the lobbyists are being given a distinct advantage. That covers the external aspect.

As for the internal aspect of our work and the impediment this incident could represent to our privilege of working freely as parliamentarians, there is another simpler but equally important consideration. A great deal of barbs are flung about by all—one is called a socialist, another a separatist, and so forth. If the committee, in carrying out its work, were to adopt the position of the Bloc, the NDP, or another party, and if someone were to discover something that they would not have discovered otherwise, they might put a slant on it. This could have the following result: individual reports would be tabled—which has only happened once—rather than a committee report arrived at by parliamentarians working together, as the public wants and as our institutions require.

For all these reasons, we believe that this was a breach of confidentiality involving the office of the member in question. This raises fundamental questions that cannot be dismissed. Making public confidential information about the advice given by members of the House of Commons in one of its committees to the Minister of Finance in view of drafting Canada's budget is very serious.

Consequently, I ask you to rule that this is a prima facie question of privilege and to allow this matter to be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

I want to conclude by asking that you allow us to do our work. You often tell us that you cannot see what happens inside committees. I believe that the committee did everything it could. I know that this type of report is exceedingly uncommon. This is my fourth year in the House and the first time I have seen this. We request that you see fit to allow us to refer this matter.

We therefore move that the matters referred to in the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Finance, tabled in this House on November 23, 2010, be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on the same point of privilege.

To my hon. colleague from Outremont I would argue very vociferously that there is clearly no prima facie case for privilege in this case.

If I am given the opportunity to review the facts, I would point out that upon learning of the leak of the information of the draft report of the finance committee, the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar took immediate and very proactive action. The employment of the person who made the leak occur was terminated. The member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar then informed the clerk of the finance committee and in fact took what I believe to be unprecedented action by personally contacting every single member of the finance committee, informing them of the leak and offering her apologies at that time.

In recent years, the usual practice of this House has been that when there are leaks of information from either in camera meetings or the situation that we have before us today, when apologies are rendered, they are accepted and the House then moves on. There has been no need for a breach of privilege, no finding of a breach of privilege.

I would point out that all opposition parties, from time to time, have had some of their own members in a situation similar to this. I recall very vividly that the member for Vancouver South, on two occasions, violated confidentiality provisions by talking of in camera discussions from his committee to members of the media. Members of the New Democratic party have also breached confidentiality agreements, and when those unfortunate occurrences have taken place, the members in question who have breached confidentiality matters have risen in this place and delivered what I consider to be very heartfelt apologies. Those apologies, every time, have been accepted. There has been no privilege required, no breach of privilege found in the House, and committees have moved on.

I would suggest that was the appropriate course of action to take in those cases. It is certainly an appropriate course of action to take in this case.

Mr. Speaker, I would also say that despite the arguments by my colleague from Outremont, I would suggest to you and to the members of this place that the member from Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar has acted in an honourable, responsible and respectful manner to this House, and rather than a breach of privilege, she should be applauded for her proactive stance on this matter.

Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Finance and I would like to begin by saying that the chair of the committee, the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc, handled this matter properly yesterday when we discussed this particularly important issue.

The hon. member for Outremont has basically repeated the same discussion we had yesterday. However, with all due respect for the members of this House, I would like to clarify a number of aspects and actions, and remind the House of the facts.

Last Thursday, an employee of the hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, in a premeditated act, pushed all the right buttons to post the document in question on the Internet. It is important to note that this was no accident and the information did not slip out in a conversation in an elevator or in the bathroom.

Thus, three well-known lobbyists were given access to the document. They were basically given preferential treatment, since the document in question had not yet even been discussed in committee. In fact, we still have not discussed it, since we thought it would be better to resolve the issue here in the House before discussing it in committee. The document is over 100 pages long and was worked on by public servants and parliamentary officials. In it, the four parties' positions are very clearly stated. So these lobbyists received all of this information before the members of this House did.

Before we had a chance to address this item in committee, roughly 100 hours had passed between Thursday around 5 p.m. and yesterday around 4 p.m. During that time, the document was out in cyberspace. Some 100 hours went by before the chair of the committee could contact the three lobbyists in question to ask them to stop circulating the document, if it was indeed circulating, to destroy the document and to provide supporting evidence that the document had been destroyed. Circulation for 100 hours on the web, on the Internet, is a lot, especially since we have no control over the web. In my opinion, significant harm has been caused to the hon. members of the House since this document was a draft of a report that was to be tabled here.

I will close by citing page 1073 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice:

Committee reports must be presented to the House before they can be released to the public. Even when a report is concurred in at a public meeting, the report itself is considered confidential until it has actually been presented to the House. In addition, any disclosure of the contents of a report prior to presentation, either by members or non-members, may be judged to be a breach of privilege.

It is often much easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission and that is deplorable. Consider how long it took for the hon. member to apologize to the House last evening, and that was the thing to do. We hope nothing like this will happen again in our committee or in the House.

Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have some submissions. I generally accept the facts that have been presented. However, I would like to state at the outset that this should not be taken personally by any member because this is a matter of importance to all hon. members.

I received a phone call from the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar on Friday at about 4:30 when I was at the airport. I was advised that a copy of the draft report from the finance committee was sent by one of her staffers, Russell Ullyatt, and that it was sent to three lobbyists. This information has been confirmed by others. A Google search and other sources of information would indicate that these three parties to whom the draft report was sent via email all have notable ties to the Conservative Party of Canada.

I asked the member what she had done and, contrary to what the parliamentary secretary to the government house leader just told the House what action she took, she told me that the first thing she did was to go to the chief government whip. The member did not mention that.

The chief government whip is a Privy Councillor. Over and above his responsibilities as a member of Parliament, he also has a responsibility as Privy Councillor to abide by, to protect and to defend the laws of Canada and the rules of Parliament.

It has been confirmed to me by two different parties, and I guess these will have to stand as allegations, that the whip's response to the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar was that the matter should be left with the committee and that she should not to take any further action. This is significant.

The member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar may in fact find herself to be a victim of detrimental reliance. She is a member of a caucus and the whip tends to tell its members what to do. However, the member, also as a member of Parliament, has responsibilities and those responsibilities are laid out in O'Brien-Bosc and in our standing orders.

I want to start by giving a reference out of O'Brien-Bosc, second edition, 2009, from chapter 3 under “Privilege versus Contempt” on page 82. I will not read all of it, but for the information of hon. members because this has come up before and we need to understand, it states:

It is important to distinguish between a “breach of privilege” and “contempt of Parliament”. Any disregard of or attack on the rights, powers and immunities of the House and its Members, either by an outside person or body, or by a Member of the House, is referred to as a “breach of privilege” and is punishable by the House. There are, however, other affronts against the dignity and authority of Parliament which may not fall within one of the specifically defined privileges. Thus, the House also claims the right to punish, as a contempt, any action which, though not a breach of a specific privilege, tends to obstruct or impede the House in the performance of its functions; obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of the House in the discharge of their duties; or is an offence against the authority or dignity of the House, such as disobedience of its legitimate commands or libels upon itself, its Members, or its officers. As the authors of Odgers’ Senate Practice (Australia) state: “The rationale of the power to punish contempts, whether contempt of court or contempt of the Houses, is that the courts and the two Houses should be able to protect themselves from acts which directly or indirectly impede them in the performance of their functions”. In that sense, all breaches of privilege are contempts of the House, but not all contempts are necessarily breaches of privilege.

The House of Commons enjoys very wide latitude in maintaining its dignity and authority through the exercise of its contempt power. In other words, the House may consider any misconduct to be contempt and may deal with it accordingly. Instances of contempt in one Parliament may even be punished by another Parliament. This area of parliamentary law is therefore extremely fluid and most valuable for the Commons to be able to meet novel situations.

The rest of the section goes on to list the kinds of things that would constitute contempts or privileges. Coincidentally, the very last item says:

divulging or publishing the content of any report or evidence of a select committee before it has been reported to the House.

That is exactly what we are talking about.

As a further reference, I would refer to a situation that occurred in the House during the tenure of Speaker Parent. There was an incident involving, I believe, officials of either the justice department or of the Journals Branch who assist members of Parliament in the drafting of private member's bills. Inadvertently, cross conversations went on between those officials and the clerks at the table. This came forward as an issue of a breach of privilege because of the confidentiality requirement with regard to draft private members' bills. They cannot be disclosed and, just as our draft report of the finance committee says, they are confidential. It must be respected. It is the right of the member to have that respected.

Mr. Speaker, you may recall what happened there. There was a long debate in the House and at the very end, before the time for government orders had expired, a motion was moved by the Bloc House leader, after consultation with House leaders, that the matter be referred to procedure and House affairs. It required unanimous consent. The motion was posed by Speaker Parent and when the Speaker asked if there was unanimous consent, a member had walked into the chamber and said “no”. The Speaker then said, “There is no consent”, and then said, “It being 5:30...”. I remember very precisely because at that moment I rose in the chamber, as a pretty young member of Parliament, on point of order.

My point of order was that the only member of Parliament who had said no had just walked into the chamber, had not heard the debate, had not participated in any fashion in the debate and was not aware that there was all party consent for that motion. As a consequence, my point of order was that the question be re-put. The Speaker suspended the House, allowed the House leaders to convene again and after they took the member out in the back room and roughed him up a little bit, they came back, moved the point again and the matter was carried and referred to the procedure and House affairs committee.

The importance of this particular example during my tenure is that it was the Speaker who was at risk in terms of the contempt or the breach of privilege because it is the persons who report to the Speaker who had been involved in that breach by that cross communication. We have a parallel here where the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar did not herself disclose this confidential document to any other persons. She has declared that and I trust her. The people who work for her, however, did and they sent it to certain people who have been characterized as being strong supporters of the Conservative Party. Is this a culture in the offices of the Conservative member? Is this what is being told? We do not know and in fact we do not have all of the information.

However, the intentional conveyance of confidential documents affects every member of the committee. It exposes members to pressures and undue influence as they finalize their report and it also prejudices the freedom of all the participants. It means that now that the report is out in the hands of at least three lobby firms and who knows who else, they will now know which party supported or recommended certain aspects of the presentations of the 451 submissions and 155 witnesses who we heard.

Now, because we are at the drafting stage, these members could be prejudiced or pressured into taking another position. It puts us at risk. It interferes with our freedom to make good laws and wise decisions, which is part of our prayer each day.

Just to give an idea, this is just one of the emails that came back. It has to do with Lynne Hamilton, the vice-president of public affairs of GCI Group. The email went from the staff member to Ms. Hamilton. The simple response was “I heart you”. I assume this refers to “I love you”.

That was the reaction. This was important. This was valuable. This was something that we are going to have a good time with.

Interestingly enough, the wording of the transmission of the report to Ms. Hamilton by Mr. Ullyatt, was:

Thought you may want a peak at this in its infancy.

That was the message, which was signed “Russell”.

Those are most of the facts, but there are some points that have not been mentioned. One, as I indicated, is that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons maybe conveniently, I do not know, left out the fact that the first person to find out about this was the Chief Government Whip. I would have expected the Chief Government Whip to know to protect and to defend the rights and privileges of parliamentarians, and he did not. That is an issue to be dealt with.

The member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar had a conversation with the member for Kings—Hants. He has advised me, and I think he may want to rise to confirm, that his sage advice to the member was to contact each of the lobbyists and tell them that this was by mistake, that it is confidential and they should destroy everything, recover whatever copies have gone out and mitigate the damage.

That was not done. As a matter of fact, it was not until yesterday's finance committee meeting, and I hope I am not divulging confidences as that was an in camera meeting, so maybe I should just say that I am aware that the chair of the committee had to call each of those lobbyists last night while the committee was not meeting. We had suspended, and that is what he was doing.

There was no attempt by the Chief Government Whip nor the hon. member to mitigate the potential damage. Not all members were contacted, as well. I had phoned several times but only got voicemail, so I do understand that some members may not have been able to get through.

I think those are the substantive issues. I would certainly support the motion by the sponsor of this question of privilege.

I would like to raise one last point. Should this go to the procedure and House affairs committee, I am sure it will be well taken care of. Even if it is viewed that it should not go to that committee, I believe there is another issue that the House must deal with. We, as a Parliament, have not had an opportunity to discuss possible amendments to the Standing Orders for a variety of reasons, such as prorogation of the first session so that 60 sitting days never occurred, an election, and things like that.

We have a situation where when things happen at committee, we have a delegated authority to do certain things. We cannot sanction people. We cannot deal with it. It has to come to the House. The only way we can do that is to report to the House.

If we have a situation where a member's conduct is way out of line and needs to be dealt with, but the structure has a balance of members in it who have the ability to frustrate the issuance of a report, there will never be a reckoning of a member's conduct or speech or whatever matter may come forward that is disrespectful to the committee, to parliamentarians and to Parliament as a whole.

The second one has to do with leaked reports. We could not do it unless we had a report. In certain circumstances, whether in a majority Parliament and even in minority Parliaments where the opposition parties are co-operating, it can frustrate the reporting of any matter to this House. There is not a mechanism where an important matter that is in the best interests of parliamentarians and of Parliament can get on the table and be dealt with to mitigate the damage.

I understand that the chair of the procedure and House affairs committee is aware that these have been problems in committees in the past, but they have not been discussed in this House. I would like to write a letter to him and suggest that we might do this. This matter may be the watershed point at which we need a protocol, a checklist, or a Standing Order amendment so that when things happen in this place that should not happen, and all hon. members agree, we should have a very swift disposition. We should have this matter go through a protocol which ensures that if someone has given bad information, or information which frustrates the rights and privileges of members, it be dealt with immediately. It is something on which we cannot wait.

I am aware of situations, and one situation would certainly be the Mulroney-Schreiber hearings, where it was months before certain things could be dealt with. We do not have the delegated authority in committee to sanction or to deal with these things. It would only be the House, and in fact the Speaker on the recommendation of the House, or the committee that it is referred to.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, it is a very serious matter. I would sincerely hope that you would look at the details and consider this matter to be meritorious of being referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add a couple of points.

I did speak to the hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar on Friday. It was said by the deputy House leader earlier that the hon. member has taken every action she could take upon being made aware of this. She did take some action. She fired the individual. She did contact all hon. members of the committee. What she did not do was contact the lobbyists themselves. I believe that having this material out there for over four days before the lobbyists were ultimately contacted and asked not to distribute the information, not to do anything with the information, was a mistake.

I understand that the whip of the Conservative Party was notified at the time of the incident, which was last Thursday, and in fact there was no action taken to contact those lobbyists. I think that is regrettable.

The three lobbyists include Clarke Cross, a senior consultant at TACTIX. His CV indicates that he previously worked as a Conservative staffer to the member for Vegreville—Wainwright and the member for Nanaimo—Alberni. Lynne Hamilton, according to her biography, worked with Conservative governments federally, provincially and municipally. In fact she used to work in the premier's office for Mike Harris. Timothy Egan is the president and CEO of the Canadian Gas Association. According to Elections Canada's website, Timothy M. Egan has donated over $1,500 to the Conservatives since the summer of 2008, including a donation of over $300 to the finance minister's 2008 election campaign.

The government knew of this leak last Thursday and it allowed this report to circulate within Conservative cyberspace for over four days, until yesterday when action was taken. There ought to have been action taken on Thursday immediately to contact these lobbyists and to ask them not to use the information, not to distribute the information.

It is regrettable that that action was not taken. I do think that this issue merits investigation at the procedure and House affairs committee.

Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise as vice-chairman of the finance committee. Before ruling, I think you should consider not only parliamentary tradition and some of the jurisprudence that you may refer to, because I think some of the members who are not to repeat what they have said, have spoken about how things have changed. We all use BlackBerrys, emails and other technology. In fact, the member for Hochelaga and the member for Kings—Hants just spoke about the fact that in the technological world we live in, information being out there for 100 hours, or four days, compromises our parliamentary privilege.

I just want to make sure that you consider the fact that this document was out there in cyberspace for four days, for 100 hours, or however one wants to interpret it. It is going to affect my parliamentary privilege in addressing the report. I have had experiences where there were leaks while I chaired this committee. We were in prebudget consultation mode. Reporters were trying to get copies of the reports. It has always been a challenge. We have tried working with hard copies. However, if we are going to allow members of Parliament to continue using technology, you are going to have to consider that in your ruling, and I would like you to strongly consider a proper mechanism that we can work with in the future.

There is one other item I would like to put on the record. I understand the parliamentary secretary stated that the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar contacted all members. However, I am the vice-chairman of the committee and I was not contacted personally on this matter. I only found out about it on Sunday because I was talking with the chairman, who was kind enough to let me know about this.

Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:50 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I thank all my hon. colleagues for their interventions. I want to point out, if I may, again for the record, that I thank all my hon. colleagues who observed the spirit and the recommendations considered in the House of Commons Procedure and Practice manual which states quite clearly that any interventions made on breaches of privilege such as we have before us today should be made briefly and concisely. Everyone in this place, the notable exception being the member for Mississauga South, has observed that. I find it unfortunate, quite frankly, that the member for Mississauga South, who professes to be an authority on procedure and practice, would so blatantly flout the quite clear instructions contained in the manual which we use to conduct ourselves in this place.

Having said that, there are two additional points for your consideration, Mr. Speaker.

First, it has been a practice in previous years, but most recently in previous months, in this place where apologies have been accepted.

One example is when the member for Vancouver South on two occasions breached confidential matters by speaking to members of the media about discussions held in camera in a committee. The member for Vancouver South apologized. The apology was accepted, and the Speaker ruled that no further action should be taken.

Most recently, the member for St. Paul's disclosed the contents of her private member's bill regarding the mandatory long form census before it was introduced in Parliament. Once again, the member apologized and you, Mr. Speaker, determined that no further action was required.

I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that we have a similar situation before us today.

Last, Mr. Speaker, I would point out to you that, as you well know, a breach of privilege only occurs when the ability of individual members to do their job has been impugned or impaired. There has been absolutely no evidence, in my submission, that the ability of the members of the Standing Committee on Finance have had their ability to do their job retarded or impaired in any way.

This has been a regrettable incident. It was not the cause of the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar directly. Yes, it was a member of her staff, but she took the appropriate action, action that has been recommended and recognized by members of this House to deal with in an appropriate manner, that being an apology to the members of this place. Those apologies, in recent memory, have always been accepted and the issue has then been closed.

I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you follow the precedents that have been set, that you accept the apology, as all members have accepted the apology of the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, and that you rule as quickly as possible that this matter is now closed and there is no breach of privilege.

Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Finance
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the member from the Conservative Party just made the point that when people stand up here and apologize the case is closed.

However, when people stand up and apologize and the House says that it does not agree or it wants to have it investigated, that is your responsibility, Mr. Speaker, to send it to committee to have it studied. If no one stands up and everyone is happy with the apology, that is another kettle of fish.

In this case, that is not what is happening. The member is talking about members from the NDP and about something that happened for which the member apologized. I recall, as the whip of the party, that it was so small there was no damage that could be made and we all agreed that an apology would be okay.

However, in this case we are talking about the finance committee where we have to look at what it could cost, with the lobbyists and all of those people who have the document. That is why I think you have to rule, Mr. Speaker, that this is a different case and you have to deal with the case you have in front of you today.

That is why I am putting my two cents in to bring my point to you.