Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your reference to the rules of this place, because that is very important to what I am going to say. My additional representations on my question of privilege of March 2 are based in large part on the submissions made by the deputy House leader on March 20. Therefore, I am trying to take a substantive approach to his response to my privilege motion.
At the outset, I want to thank everyone. I tried to raise a number of these points during our long period in the chamber last week, but I did not have the opportunity to do so. I said I would bring these forward at the first opportunity after the vote series. However, I would be remiss if I did not thank you, Mr. Speaker, as well as everyone else in the Chair and all the table officers, for your tremendous efforts last week. I know that parliamentary democracy is sometimes grinding and tiring, and I appreciate everyone's efforts, including those of Christianne in the library, who helped me with some of the references to previous speakers' rulings that the deputy House leader of the Liberal government brought forward in his rebuttal of my question of privilege.
I will try to be succinct, but it is very important for me to address and distinguish all the decisions he brought forward, because none is germane. It also seems that he did not understand the core elements of my motion.
Very briefly, my parliamentary privilege as an individual MP was sacrificed or fettered, as was the collective privilege of the House, specifically the privilege of the House of Commons to call witnesses and institute inquiries. Those elements of privilege of the House, collectively, are fundamental and well documented. My individual privilege is not just about me as an MP and my right to free speech and inquiry, which I mentioned. I wear an additional hat as the foreign affairs shadow minister. Since the Atwal affair stems from the Prime Minister's trip to India, the international negative headlines that stemmed from it, and the allegations levelled by the government at the Indian government, it falls squarely into my responsibilities. Much like my friend the deputy House leader, who is an MP for Winnipeg North and has an additional hat of responsibility, as an individual MP I have that additional hat.
It appears he believes that I cited the Milliken decision in the Afghan detainee documents case because it was directly relevant to certain elements of this case. I cited the Milliken decision because the Afghan detainee decision of the Chair was fundamental in that it showed that the unconditional authority of the executive, the Minister of Public Safety or the Prime Minister and his office, to censor information is not acceptable. What that decision meant, for purposes of my question of privilege, is that MPs are entitled to all information, and safeguards can be done, such as in camera and other things. However, that was the fundamental element of the Milliken decision I was relying upon, not because of other elements of that decision. I thought I would reiterate that.
The deputy House leader for the government had four or five direct decisions from previous Speakers. I will briefly refute them. He put those forward in response, but none is actually relevant to my question of privilege. The fact that we have spent hours in this place debating our basic request to have the same briefing as the one provided to journalists demonstrates that, as per the Milliken decision, we are entitled to that information, even if it is classified. It should not have been classified, because it could not be going to journalists if it was. We are entitled to that, and the decisions my friend the deputy House leader cited are just not on point.
The first was a decision from your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, who is now the leader of my party. I do not think I can say his name, although he was a fantastic Speaker, and is a great leader of our party.
The June 13, 2012, decision was cited by the member. The decision was brought by an opposition member who was trying to assess the impact of legislation, Bill C-38, and was unable to get satisfactory answers. It was being cited as a means to dismiss my motion.
I will direct you, Mr. Speaker, to that case and quote from the decision. It states:
In the case before us, the opposition House leader has acknowledged that information was unsuccessfully sought through various means including written questions, questions posed during question period and questions posed in committee. I cannot presume to judge the quality of the responses that have been received.
There are many decisions from that Chair, going back to the early days of our Parliament, that clearly say that the accuracy or quality of a response is not subject to privilege. In that case, the quality of a responses was not a breach of the member's privilege. That is what the decision says. It can easily be distinguished from this case, because we cannot assess any quality since there has been an outright refusal to provide the same briefing.
Therefore, it is not about judging the quality of the response, but whether we are entitled. As I will outline to refute several other cases he has made, we have been denied this at committee, in the House, and in question period. On all three of these elements of fundamental proceedings of Parliament we have been 100% stymied. It is not about assessing the quality. That first decision of the previous Chair occupant from June 13, 2012, in no way touched on why my individual privilege was fettered, and the collective rights of the House.
The second decision my friend, the deputy House leader for the government, cited to refute my point with respect to parliamentary privilege was another decision by the previous Speaker. It is from December 4, 2014. That one related to an inquiry from the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley with respect to the launching of an economic update of the government and it being done outside of the confines of Parliament. It is quite regular that economic statements or events surrounding the minister are not always delivered in the House. They can be delivered at Canadian club luncheons and events across the country. Also, it was an economic update, not a budget.
In that decision the Speaker said:
That is not to say, however, that every proceeding or activity related to delivering or accessing information by members implicitly involves their parliamentary duties.
In that case, the question of privilege brought by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley was that his privilege as a member was violated because the minister at that time delivered the economic statement to a private audience of financial professionals and others. This did not meet the threshold for violating the individual privilege of that member. The Chair said that he could find no cases of privilege or points of order in relation to updates happening outside of the House.
It has no application here because, while the briefing by the national security adviser with journalists did happen abroad, the attempts for parliamentarians to inquire, to call witnesses at committee, and to ask questions in the House during question period have been stymied by the government's consistent refusal with respect to Mr. Jean. It does not relate to the fact that Mr. Jean's briefing was held elsewhere. My friend the deputy House leader seems to have conflated the two issues. Therefore, the second case he brought forward is not applicable.
The third case to refute my question of privilege, from Speaker Parent on October 9, 1997, was cited as well in his submission of March 20. That case involved the MP for Wild Rose in Alberta. It related to the MP being in his constituency and attending a meeting on a first nations reserve. At one point in the meeting, government officials from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development asked the member to leave the room because some items would be discussed of which he was not entitled to be a part.
When the House resumed and constituency week was over, the member of Parliament for Wild Rose stood in the House and said that his privileges were violated because he was not entitled to that departmental briefing to the full extent. The departmental officials asked him to leave the meeting and he felt that violated his privilege as a member.
There have been some Speakers' decisions, including this one, that have said the constituency affairs of a member of Parliament, which is what I think all of us believe is a fundamental aspect to our job, does not involve or export the privileges from the chamber.
This is the precedent that the Speaker's decision of 1997 provides to us, that some of the privileges granted to members in the House in a collective sense or an individual sense cannot be ported with us to our riding even if government officials are in an MPs riding for a briefing. The finding in the end was that there was no breach of parliamentary privilege because the member was not “participating in a proceeding of Parliament”.
This is the critical element of what my friend the deputy House leader seems to miss with all of these decisions he is putting forward. He is suggesting that the need to have Mr. Jean does not involve the proceeding of Parliament, thinking that because Mr. Jean provided this briefing to journalists abroad or outside of Parliament somehow it does not apply to a proceeding of Parliament.
We certainly know that the first vote last week before the cavalcade of votes that followed related to the request to have Mr. Jean appear before a proceeding of Parliament, a parliamentary committee. In fact, the opposition day motion that day was a proceeding of Parliament. The question period responses by the minister and the Prime Minister were a proceeding of Parliament.
The fourth decision that he cited, which I am responding to in an effort to show that it can be easily distinguished, was a May 15, 1985, decision of Speaker Bosley. It related to a grant program at the time called “Challenge '85”. MPs were trying to find out whether grant applicants in their ridings were successful in obtaining grants under Challenge '85. I am trying to be brief, so I will not relate to the Liberal government's problems with the Canada summer jobs program, but it came to mind when I read this decision.
In this case, the Speaker found that there was no question of privilege violating the individual rights of MPs to find out the status of their grant applications because “actions or inactions” of a government to update an MP or provide the yes or no to a grant application was a decision of that department. It is not a proceeding of Parliament.
Much like the previous case, finding out whether an important group in one's riding received funding for a grant program does not relate to the MP's privileges as a member in the proceeding of Parliament. Once again, it was a constituency-based issue and that was how it was distinguished. However, that does not apply to this case. All aspects of the request for the national security adviser to appear before a committee, the opposition day motion, all of those things are proceedings of Parliament.
There was another case cited previously, Speaker Parent's decision of November, 1999. This focuses on looking at what is a proceeding of Parliament, and it acknowledges that question period, committees, and those sorts of things are proceedings of Parliament. With respect to privilege, it identifies the categories of individual and collective privilege.
I will highlight a very important quote from that decision because, as I said, my March 2 question of privilege showed that both individual and collective rights were violated. Speaker Parent said:
As for the rights and powers of the House as a collectivity they may be classified as follows: the regulation of its own internal affairs, the authority to maintain the attendance and service of its members, the power to expel members guilty of disgraceful conduct, the right to institute inquiries and to call witnesses and demand papers, the right to administer oaths to witnesses, and the authority to deal with breaches of privilege or contempt.
Former Speaker Parent then goes on to cite Maingot in Parliamentary Privilege in Canada to highlight that in exercising their functions as members, anything they do with respect to committee and other things are proceedings of Parliament.
As I said, my friend, the deputy House leader for the government, seems to suggest a number of cases where MPs were demanding information in their ridings, the status of grants, whether an answer or a response from the government was accurate or fulsome enough. None of that applies here.
In this case, in committees of Parliament, in the House, and in question period, we have been seized for weeks with respect to the issue of Mr. Jean, the national security adviser, and whether members of Parliament, both myself both as an MP and the shadow minister for foreign affairs, or my colleague, our public safety shadow minister, who has been trying to call Mr. Jean at committee, or the responses we have been receiving from members of the executive, our individual and collective rights for proceedings of Parliament, such as question period, debate, and committees, are all being impeded by the government's consistent refusal to provide Mr. Jean under the same circumstances that the executive provided him to select members of the press gallery. Therefore, we have a double standard here or some have suggested a cover-up in respect to our rights to have the same amount of information.
The Minister of Public Safety, again on the weekend, in an interview with CTV Question Period, refused to provide the same briefing that journalists received to—