Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time.
I rise on a question of contempt of Parliament. The issue is one that I originally raised as a question of personal privilege on February 28 on the floor of the House. After further consideration of all the information, I now raise this matter as a concern to all members of Parliament in the context of a contempt of Parliament.
I cite Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , page 192:
While privilege may be codified, contempt may not, because new forms of obstruction are constantly being devised and that Parliament must be able to invoke its penal jurisdiction to protect itself against these new forms; there is no closed list of classes of offences punishable as contempts of Parliament.
I intend to prove in my arguments that Mr. Simpson of the Prime Minister's office coerced, intimated and incited staff of the House of Commons into not fulfilling their mandate to answer to a request for printing made by me on February 28 and that this constitutes a contempt of the House. Consequently I will be asking, Mr. Speaker, that if you rule this a prima facie case of privilege, this matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for examination.
It is difficult to determine what any House of Parliament will consider as an offence and a contempt of Parliament. Erskine May describes contempt as:
Any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as contempt even though there is no precedent for the offence. It is therefore impossible to list every act which might be considered to amount to a contempt, the power to punish for such an offence being of its nature discretionary. Nevertheless, certain broad principles may be deduced from a review of the kinds of misconduct which in the past either House has punished as a contempt.
On October 29, 1980 a Speaker of this House had this to say:
The dimension of contempt of Parliament is such that the House will not be constrained in finding a breach of privileges of members, or of the House. This is precisely the reason that, while our privileges are defined, contempt of the House has no limits. When new ways are found to interfere with our proceedings, so too will the House, in appropriate cases, be able to find that a contempt of the House has occurred.
The House shall not be constrained in dealing with this matter. It is a very serious matter and should be taken up by the Standing Committee of Procedure and House Affairs for further study.
It is very important at this time to understand the sequence of the events in this matter. Since I went through those last week I do not know if we need all the gory details again. However, suffice it to say that when I requested a printing order from the printing people they were willing to fulfil my request and had already completed 48 out of the 60 copies I had requested when not only one but two phone calls were made from the department to the Prime Minister's office to talk about the number of copies that would be available. It then slipped out erroneously from the printing department that it had run off copies and that it was for an opposition member.
At that point,Mr. Simpson in the Prime Minister's office said: "No, do not fulfil her request". It certainly limits me or any other member of the House of Commons when somebody from the Prime Minister's office can know what is going on and what members are asking to be printed, and further that somebody there would have the gall to say do not print that.
I give notice and read the following motion which I am prepared to put forward. I move:
That Mr. Simpson of the Prime Minister's office coerced, intimated and incited staff of the House of Commons into not fulfilling their mandate to answer to a request for printing made on February 28, 1996 by the member for Beaver River, and that this constitutes a contempt of this House, and consequently that this matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for examination.