House of Commons Hansard #62 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was wine.

Topics

Member for Lethbridge
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

We can consider the matter closed. The member has indicated that he will respect the Speaker's ruling going forward. He certainly seems to have indicated regret that anybody may have taken offence.

I thank all hon. members in advance for respecting the ruling I gave yesterday on overall decorum and comportment not only during votes, but also during question period when members are both putting questions and trying to answer them.

The hon. member for Mount Royal is rising on the question of privilege he raised some time ago.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal Constituents
Privilege
Oral Questions

December 7th, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise again in the matter of the question of privilege I first raised on November 16. Simply put, the submission from the member for New Brunswick Southwest on Monday evening misstated the facts at issue, however inadvertently, yet again, while ignoring the attending breach of privilege. Moreover, he did not make any reference to the principles and precedents which support my position and which should guide your ruling.

I want to organize my remarks and ensure that we are all following House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition from 2009 by the recognized authorities O'Brien and Bosc. The member stated:

In conducting voter identification, the Conservative Party used its traditional voter ID script, with no mention of a byelection.

Either every person who has called, emailed, mailed or faxed my office, or talked to me in person about these calls is lying, or the member is utterly mistaken as to their content while ignoring the evidence.

May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to a Huffington Post article, a copy of which was provided to the table clerks, along with samples of the emails and phone calls to my offices, wherein a constituent says:

I kept arguing with them. They kept insisting that there was a byelection and I'm politically aware and there isn't one.

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat. The constituent, and more importantly this constituent is representative of the calls received and the evidence you have received, said, “They kept insisting that there was a byelection...” “was” being the key word, not “maybe”, “could perhaps be”, “might be”. She said “was” and that she had to argue with the caller otherwise.

Any dispute as to the contents of these calls is quickly resolved by looking at the evidence my office has submitted to the table clerks. But, Mr. Speaker, I will remind you that you need not resolve the actual content of the calls prior to ruling. Indeed, as the Clerk of the House noted before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in 2002, reprinted on page 145 of O'Brien and Bosc:

The Speaker's role ought to be explained, and it is that the issue put before the Speaker is not a finding of fact, it is simply whether on first impression the issue that is before the House warrants priority consideration over all other matters, all other orders of the day that are before the House.

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, your role is finding whether there is a prima facie breach which O'Brien and Bosc reminds us means a breach, “on the first impression or on first glance”.

It is standard practice that you would take the matter under advisement as you have done, upon first being presented with it. However, I would assert that it is evident on its face, particularly as we begin a fifth round of interventions on this topic, that the matter is sufficiently serious and sufficiently prejudicial to warrant consideration by the whole House and subsequently at committee.

The member for New Brunswick Southwest asserts that my privileges have not been breached and that my parliamentary duties have not been sufficiently impeded. The member is ignoring that sowing confusion as to a member's identity is actionable on its face and alone a per se impediment.

While l believe that I made a clear and compelling case in this regard in my previous intervention, I would like to remind the House and that member, through you, Mr. Speaker, that there is another privilege avenue of which I have not yet spoken. Specifically, O'Brien and Bosc explained it:

In deliberating upon a question of privilege, the Chair will take into account the extent to which the matter complained of infringed upon any Member's ability to perform his or her parliamentary functions or appears to be a contempt against the dignity of Parliament.

Admittedly, I have not delved much into the discussion of “contempt against the dignity of Parliament” in my previous interventions because the interference with my parliamentary duties was compelling enough on its face. Accordingly on this point, may I briefly remind all hon. members of what O'Brien and Bosc note re prima facie privilege:

...some matters found to be prima facie include the damaging of a Member's reputation and the usurpation of the title of Member of Parliament...

It went on to describe the reputational damage cases which I cited in my first intervention and where the matter at hand accords with the established precedents. While I realize that the precedents in O'Brien and Bosc are somewhat more recent on this point, may I draw your attention to the 1987 remarks of Speaker Fraser:

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.

While the government member assertions that “calls were within the bounds of typical political discourse”, I believe that once there is a false and misleading statement of fact made that there is or will be a byelection and that the member has resigned or is about to resign, this clearly crosses the line and is constitutive of reputational damage.

Again, Mr. Speaker, it is you who informs the House of vacancy in the representation, not any party and certainly not any unsolicited phone call.

I realize that determining contempt against the dignity of Parliament is a somewhat subjective test. On this point, I would direct you to articles in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the National Post, an editorial in the Ottawa Citizen, columns in Le Soleil and other papers that all similarly conclude that these calls are “black ops”, “sleazy”, “odious”, “disgusting”, “Watergate-like”, “a new low in politics”, and much more, the whole bringing members and this institution into disrepute, let alone the clear reputational damage involved.

On this point, Queen's University professor, Ned Franks, a noted expert on parliamentary procedure, referred to the calls as “disgusting...a perversion of the system of representation”.

Similarly, Carleton University political scientist, John Pammett, said:

People are confused and negative enough about politics that they don't need that extra push to make them think politicians are crooks or not telling them the truth.

I think those quotes and other like commentary speak for themselves.

Elsewhere in his intervention, the member for New Brunswick Southwest replied to an intervention from the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands regarding a 1985 precedent involving a newspaper ad that identified the previous MP as being the sitting MP. The government member said:

This is not comparable to the dispute before us today, for a simple reason. The newspaper ad caused confusion by stating that the seat in question was held by someone other than the person who held it.

While there is no less confusion caused by the misrepresentation in the matter at issue that I have resigned or am about to resign, there is also a long-standing principle in this place, and one need only search Hansard to see it repeated time and time again, such as by the Deputy Speaker on January 31, 2003, by the Acting Speaker on April 7, 2008, and by the Speaker on April 19, 2007, let alone in law generally, “...you cannot do indirectly what you cannot do directly”.

Accordingly, stating that there is a pending or imminent byelection clearly implies that the member is no longer serving. I do not think for a moment that, just as we would not tolerate calls that say “so and so is no longer your member of Parliament”, we should equally not tolerate these calls which, in their effect, if not also in their intent, convey the same false and misleading information that breaches a member's privilege.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to Speaker Bosley's 1985 ruling, which reads:

...anything tending to cause confusion as to a Member’s identity creates the possibility of an impediment to the fulfilment of that Member’s functions. Any action which impedes or tends to impede a Member in the discharge of his duties is a breach of privilege.

Mr. Speaker, I will conclude by addressing the final remarks made by the government member. He asserts that this practice will result in you being called upon to “rule on all matters of political activity” and that “You are being asked to send the House into territory where it does not belong”.

While my previous interventions sought to demonstrate that the conduct at issue has nothing to do with normal political activity, let alone the absurdity of trying to validate it under free speech, false misrepresentation is simply not protected speech inside or outside this House. This misconduct clearly falls into the territory of a breach of privilege on which you are asked to rule and for which ample precedent, as I have cited, already exists and has yet to be countered by anything said by government members who have yet to cite any relevant and pertinent authority in this regard.

Any ruling you make, Mr. Speaker, is directly on the point of parliamentary privilege. In other words, people can still discuss politics and people can still traffic in rumours, however distasteful that may be, as I noted already, but the line is crossed when false, misleading and prejudicial information is presented as if it were fact. This is when it becomes and constitutes a prima facie breach of privilege and becomes actionable in the House as past Speakers in the House itself have found.

In this regard, I would draw the attention of all members to the finding of a breach of privilege in the 38th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in the first session of the 38th Parliament on a matter regarding ten percenters and applicable to the matter before us. In the privilege case discussed in that report, mailings were sent to the wrong riding and, as such, contained references to “your MP that were inaccurate in terms of the member's positions, voting record and committee assignments”. This was found to breach the member's privileges.

Simply put, while I have intervened already in this matter to demonstrate that it has no relation to free speech, I would note that, with specific regard to false statements made about members, it has already been found that such matters may constitute a breach of privilege.

As such, whereas the government member asserted on Monday, Mr. Speaker, “you are being asked to send the House into territory where it does not belong”, let it be known that the House has already been there, has already pronounced and has already found that such actions may constitute a breach of privilege.

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely hope that there need not be anything more said on this matter, lest we spend more time discussing matters irrelevant to your ruling such that a breach of privilege somehow becomes protected speech or that false, misleading and prejudicial misrepresentations of fact are somehow said to be within the bounds of political discourse, or that somehow it is relevant as to what members did or did not invoke such privileges in the past as distinct from the principles and precedents where such privileges were invoked and applied.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, you have the authorities before you. The table clerks have been provided with the evidence. I have canvassed all the principles and precedents in this matter and applied them to the case at hand. It should be abundantly clear that the matter is one for the whole House to resolve and, as such, I urge you to find a prima facie breach of privilege with all deliberate speed.

Telephone Calls to Mount Royal Constituents
Privilege
Oral Questions

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for his further intervention on this point.

Public Sector Integrity Commissioner
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 111(1), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a certificate of nomination, with biographical notes, for the proposed appointment of Mario Dion to the position of Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. I request that the nomination be referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 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, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.

Prohibition on Importing Goods Produced by Sweatshop Labour Act
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-378, An Act to prohibit sweatshop labour goods.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Joliette for seconding the first reading of this bill.

As members know, Canada is a signatory to the International Labour Organization Convention. It talks about five labour standards that exist within the International Labour Organization and they are enforced here in Canada. They are: the right of association; the right to bargain collectively; the prohibition on the use of any forced or compulsory labour; a minimum age for employment of children; and acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work and occupational health and safety.

We enforce these regulations and standards here in Canada but there are often companies abroad that do not enforce them. Because of that unfortunate situation and because of our clear belief in fair trade policies that set a higher standard around the world, I am tabling this private member's bill today to say that sweatshop goods should not be brought into Canada. There should not be a way of getting around the ILO standards.

We must ensure that the right of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining is enforced. In areas where there is compulsory labour, no right to free association and to organize collectively and where those fundamental human rights are violated, Canada should say no to the goods coming from those sweatshops.

I am very proud to table this bill and I hope it receives support from all members of the House.

In closing, I would like to thank the students of Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School in Toronto. With their “Voices Through Choices” campaign, they are strong supporters of ending sweatshop labour.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Protecting Canadians' Personal Privacy Act
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-379, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (visual recording of persons in their residence).

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Scarborough—Guildwood for seconding my private member's bill.

We are quite fortunate to live in a time where we glean so many positive benefits from technological developments. That said, many of these developments have serious implications for such basic matters as privacy.

In the past, the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court and other provincial courts have ruled that an individual's expectation to privacy in public areas is limited at best. While people may take offence to a neighbour making or attempting to make a visual recording of them in the privacy of their home or backyard, inadvertently or otherwise, presently it is not an offence to do so unless the crown can prove the victim was harassed, fearful or that the act of recording was of conduct sexual in nature. Barring those circumstances, a victim has to sue the person taking the recording, an exercise only the wealthy can afford.

The bill would effectively alleviate the victim from having to explain his or her activity on his or her own property, as innocent or private as it might have been.

What is worse is the retention of these recordings, which could be made public, disseminated to a specific audience or kept for personal reasons without the knowledge of those who had been recorded.

This private member's bill is drafted to capture those situations where the act of making or attempting to make a visual recording, or the publication, attempted publication or possession of the recorded material, whether made deliberately or recklessly, are made illegal, regardless of the intentions of the person recording and without the need for the crown to prove that the victim was harassed, fearful or had the use or enjoyment of his or her property interfered with in any way.

People deserve the opportunity to use and enjoy their own home and property, perhaps their last bastion of privacy, and conduct themselves as they wish without concerns that any of it is being recorded so long as the conduct is not criminal in nature.

I hope that when the bill comes before the House I can count on the support of all members of this place.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

An Act to authorize the Industrial Alliance Pacific General Insurance Corporation to apply to be continued as a body corporate under the laws of Quebec
Private Members' Bills
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, I believe that you will find unanimous consent for the following motion.

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill S-1002, An Act to authorize the Industrial Alliance Pacific General Insurance Corporation to apply to be continued as a body corporate under the laws of Quebec, be deemed to have been reported favourably by the Examiner of Petitions pursuant to Standing Order 133(3); and that the bill be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole, deemed considered in Committee of the Whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

An Act to authorize the Industrial Alliance Pacific General Insurance Corporation to apply to be continued as a body corporate under the laws of Quebec
Private Members' Bills
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

An Act to authorize the Industrial Alliance Pacific General Insurance Corporation to apply to be continued as a body corporate under the laws of Quebec
Private Members' Bills
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

An Act to authorize the Industrial Alliance Pacific General Insurance Corporation to apply to be continued as a body corporate under the laws of Quebec
Private Members' Bills
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

An Act to authorize the Industrial Alliance Pacific General Insurance Corporation to apply to be continued as a body corporate under the laws of Quebec
Private Members' Bills
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

An Act to authorize the Industrial Alliance Pacific General Insurance Corporation to apply to be continued as a body corporate under the laws of Quebec
Private Members' Bills
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, considered in committee of the whole, reported without amendment, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

The Environment
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from people all across Canada who are concerned with the proposed mega quarry in Melancthon township in Dufferin country, Ontario, which would be the largest open-pit quarry in Canada of over 2,300 acres.

The petitioners are concerned about a number of items, one of which is that the proposed mega quarry would put at risk the drinking water of over one million Canadians.

The petitioners ask that the Government of Canada conduct an environmental assessment under the authority of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act on the proposed Highland Companies' mega quarry development.

The Environment
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to table in the House a petition from Albertans supporting the Canadian interfaith call for leadership action on climate change.

The petitioners call on Parliament, in the spirit of global solidarity, to take collective action by: signing a binding international treaty to maintain our temperature at 2°C; demonstrating national responsibility by committing to national carbon emission targets, which I will remind the House our country signed on a year ago to do exactly that, and a national renewable energy policy to achieve sustainability; implementing climate justice by playing constructive roles in the design of the green climate fund under the UN governance; and contributing public funds to assist the poorest and most affected countries to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.