House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-10.

Topics

Decorum in the House
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the people who were demonstrating throughout the vote, members of Parliament were encouraging them with respect to their own response to the vote that was taking place.

All we are asking for is that fair is fair with respect to the conduct of votes that take place and what demonstrations are permitted by the Speaker and what demonstrations are not permitted by the Speaker. If there is going to be decorum on one side of the House, there needs to be decorum on every side of the House and that has to be the rule every day.

Decorum in the House
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the leader of the Liberal Party and I think we must have been in a different chamber yesterday. I did witness a number of people in the gallery. They were peaceful, law-abiding people, which is all one would expect from people seeking their basic freedom and rights.

Decorum in the House
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I wish the Prime Minister would respect the rule of the House. If we go by the rule of the House, the invited guests who are in the gallery are not supposed to stand and clap their hands. He is approving what they did. That is the rule of the House and the Prime Minister should respect that.

Decorum in the House
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

In light of the events over the last few days, the Chair will come back to the House with an analysis of what happened both last week and this week.

Motion No. 6
Ways and Means
Government Orders

November 29th, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved that a ways and means motion to introduce an act to amend the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act be concurred in.

Motion No. 6
Ways and Means
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Motion No. 6
Ways and Means
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Motion No. 6
Ways and Means
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Standing Committee on Public Accounts--Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on November 23 by the hon. President of the Treasury Board concerning modifications made to the transcript of the November 2 meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the impacts these changes have had on his ability to perform his duties.

I would like to thank the minister for having raised this issue, as well as the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition for his intervention.

The minister explained that allegations that he and his staff had caused changes to be made to the published committee evidence of his testimony to the committee were false, as his office had made no such requests for the committee transcript to be altered. He claimed that these allegations were a breach of his privileges, and impeded his work as a member and a minister.

For the benefit of members, I will begin by making a few comments about the production of the Debates and committee evidence. First, it is important to note that Debates and committee evidence are not, in fact, verbatim transcriptions of what is said, but rather a report of the proceedings that House of Commons editors have edited for clarity, grammar and syntax. There is, however, a distinction between the processes followed for the production of the Debates as opposed to committee evidence. In the case of the Debates, there is a formal process in place for individual members to consider corrections and minor alterations to their interventions as transcribed in the unedited version of the Debates, commonly referred to as the “blues”. There is, however, no exactly comparable process in place for individual members to review the transcripts of committee evidence. This does not mean that members do not have an opportunity to propose changes to the unedited transcript.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 1219, clearly sets out how corrections and alterations are made to committee transcripts:

Unedited transcripts of committee proceedings, known (as with the Debates) as “blues”, are made available to users of Intraparl, Parliament’s internal Web site, usually within 24 hours after a committee meets. Traditionally, minor corrections can be effected by submitting the proposed change to the editors; corrections of a more significant nature are made by the committee itself as a corrigendum. Should this happen, the electronic version is expeditiously updated.

When this question of privilege was raised, the Chair asked for a report on the editing process followed on the particular transcript now at issue. I can assure the House categorically that no members or members' staff submitted proposed changes to the transcript. The changes made were the result of normal editing protocols being followed. I would like to explain.

Due to stringent timelines and voluminous amounts of text, the technical task of editing is frequently parcelled out to multiple editors whose collective work for a given meeting is then reviewed by a senior editor. These senior editors look at the full context of the preliminary verbatim transcript, including the intonation of the person speaking, in order to accurately convey the intended meaning in the final transcript. Thus, they routinely authorize the removal of redundant words, false starts, hesitations, words that might lead to confusion as to the true intent of the statement, and so on. Sometimes entire sentences are restructured for clarity. Even within the testimony of a single witness or member speaking, it is not unusual for words to be removed in one place and retained in another if the editors judge that, in the latter case, the words do not lead to confusion or convey an unintended meaning.

Needless to say, the editing of the transcripts of proceedings, whether in the House or in committee, is a difficult and demanding task that our editors and senior editors take very seriously. Ultimately, however, authority for the final version, as I have just indicated, rests with the committee, and it is of course free to issue a corrigendum if it so wishes.

The question remains whether the rendering of the transcript in the manner shown has, in and of itself, impeded the President of the Treasury Board in the performance of his duties to the point of warranting a finding of prima facie privilege. The Chair must remind the House that the Speaker generally does not rule on matters relating to proceedings in committees. As this matter deals with the committee evidence of a meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, and in the absence of a report from the committee on the matter, it would be premature for the Chair to make a determination on the matter at this time. The Chair will leave it to the committee to determine how to address any issues arising out of the manner in which the testimony of the minister has been transcribed.

There can be no doubt that the minister feels aggrieved by the interpretation being given to these events. However, as presented to the Chair, and again, in the absence of a report from the committee on the matter, I cannot find that this is sufficient grounds to establish that the minister has been impeded in the performance of his parliamentary duties. Therefore, I cannot find that a prima facie question of privilege exists.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Standing Committee on Public Accounts--Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your careful review of this matter and I am pleased that you have been able to clear up this controversy. I also thank you for the helpful information you have provided.

I would say that it is very unlikely the NDP did not know that the House of Commons transcription services routinely make inconsequential amendments to the official report. Many of those members have been around for many years--

Standing Committee on Public Accounts--Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. President of the Treasury Board have a point of order to make?

Standing Committee on Public Accounts--Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I will make that point of order now.

With your ruling today, I would sincerely hope that the member for Timmins—James Bay will reflect on his actions. He made these accusations against me both inside and outside this place and I request that the member for Timmins—James Bay apologize for his baseless smear on my reputation as soon as possible.

Standing Committee on Public Accounts--Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I did not hear a point of order in that.

Safe Streets and Communities Act
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca has three minutes left to conclude his remarks.