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House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vice-chair.

Topics

Privilege

March 4th, 1996 / 11 a.m.

The Speaker

Before we begin with orders of the day, I have a point of privilege from the member for Beaver River.

Privilege

11 a.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

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.

Privilege

11 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member will recall that I did rule on what I feel is the first part of the question which she put before the House in review. The second part constitutes something quite different from what we dealt in the first, which was an administrative matter.

Privilege

11:05 a.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano LiberalMinister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, you have already ruled on this issue. I do not think the hon. member has all the facts. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, before you proceed we should find out exactly to whom the document belongs.

In any caucus there are documents that belong to it. All caucuses have documents such as research papers which belong to the caucus and we ask the House printer to print them for caucus members, whether from the government, the official opposition or the Reform Party.

Mr. Speaker, before you proceed you should inquire as to the exact ownership of the document. I think the hon. member is coming back on a ruling you have already made. I do not see any new facts. They are the same facts, the same document, the same person she referred to last week. Before you proceed, you should inquire more about the facts.

Privilege

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I heard briefly some of the remarks from outside the Chamber, remarks with regard to the alleged question of privilege today.

As the deputy House leader has just indicated, the Chair has already ruled on the issue. To raise the issue again with a further belief that the same point is valid even though it has been rejected by the Chair is not usually recognized by the Chair as being valid in itself.

The Board of Internal Economy has its own entity of the board and a subcommittee on printing. If my agenda is correct, we have a meeting of the subcommittee on printing only a few days from now. There are representatives from each of the political parties on that subcommittee of the board on printing. I believe the whip of the Reform Party is a member of that subcommittee. That sounds like an appropriate vehicle through which to raise the issue even though it is not a question of privilege, as the Speaker has indicated to us.

There is probably a suitable forum to raise the issue there to see if anything that has occurred is inappropriate, notwithstanding that it is not a point of privilege, and to determine what correction or restitution is in order if an offence by someone has been committed at any time.

We do have that structure. It was created by the Board of Internal Economy, which was created by the House. The issue could be appropriately dealt with in that forum. I understand we are only a few days away from a meeting of that group.

Privilege

11:05 a.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, in reference to the chief government whip's statement I would have to disagree that it is appropriate for this matter to be dealt with in that subcommittee. The issue here is not printing. The issue here is interference, bold faced interference by the Prime Minister's office.

This is a serious enough matter that we as members of the House want to redress it in the most appropriate forum, which is certainly not that subcommittee.

Privilege

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was in the House when the issue was first raised by the hon. member, at which time the Speaker also ruled.

My understanding is that when a matter comes forward like this in the same form after the Speaker has ruled, it is effectively a challenge to the Chair.

I would like to have clarification of whether it is the intention of the member to challenge the Chair's ruling with regard to the matters that have been addressed in the House. That is an extremely important point for all members. The integrity of the Chair is very important to the House.

Privilege

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it certainly is not my intention to challenge the Chair ever. You and I had a meeting along with the clerk of the House of Commons. New facts came out when you talked to me very specifically about the printing department and all those departments being under your supervision.

We are not talking about printing here. We are talking about interference by the Prime Minister's office which, Mr. Speaker told me clearly, was not under his jurisdiction. I am talking about a contempt of Parliament by the Prime Minister's office, not the printing department.

Privilege

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

We understand that the point of privilege on which I ruled has now been set aside.

Regarding the second point, the point of contempt, I would like to inform myself, get more information, seeing as I have been asked by both the deputy House leader for the government and by the Reform Party to consider the information.

I ask that the hon. member for Beaver River table the document she referred to in her contempt of Parliament. If you will give me some time, I will come back to the House with a ruling which I hope will be clear to all members.

If that will be deposited with the clerk, it will form part of the other point that was brought up, which I will look at. I will come back to the House if necessary.

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano LiberalMinister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, with regard to Government Orders, Government Business No. 1, debate be not further adjourned.

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour will please say yea.

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to.)

[English]

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, this motion calls for the reinstatement of any government bills at the same stage under the same legislative procedure and process at which they stood at the time of prorogation.

Why is this necessary? Why not introduce legislation from the session before we prorogued which is new and improved? All those bills that are at various stages and which all members know can be improved upon, why not bring them back in their new forms?

Why did the Prime Minister prorogue? To give a confusing throne speech? He talks about a national referendum in the throne speech or is there not a national referendum? He talked about creating jobs and not creating jobs. He said that maybe it is not the government which should create jobs, it should be the business community. He talked about national unity: Is it plan A, plan B or no plan at all?

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

An hon. member

No plan at all.

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

No plan at all. That is probably what he has.

The point is, why did the Prime Minister prorogue if only to introduce this motion to bring back any of the legislation, anytime the government wants at any stage at which the legislation was if it is similar to the current bill? Why did we prorogue?

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

An hon. member

For a photo op.

Government BusinessGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

For a photo op. I never thought of that one.

We were happily working along in the 35th Parliament. We were happily going about our business trying to make the government be held accountable. We were working along trying to ensure that the bills that were being passed were as good as possible and trying to give our constructive criticisms.

What happened? The Prime Minister said: "Whoa, let's clean the slate. Let's just take three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine weeks", how many weeks did we take off? He said: "Let's just take that time off. We will prorogue and we will come back with a new slate. We will come back here with a new throne speech, a new direction, a new vision and new ideas for Canada". What do we get? Motion M-1: "Let's bring back all the old bills whenever we want. We will not tell the opposition when; we will just sneak them in there when we can and at the same stage".

That is anti-democratic and very autocratic. The use of closure which we just voted on is a violation of the freedom of speech within the House. It is a violation of the freedom to openly express our thoughts and our points of view. By limiting the debate, by limiting the time in which we can debate this, we are forcing members of Parliament to be quiet. We are allowing this freely, democratically elected Prime Minister to be a dictator and he is dictating to us by his very action.

Why is the government acting just like the previous government, but only worse? When the Liberal members were on this side of the House they accused the Tories of using closure and time allocation and the hue and cry went out. I can remember watching them on television saying it was anti-democratic and asking why debate was being limited. All the arguments they were using I am using now, except they are over on the other side and they are laughing. Already the Liberals have used time allocation and closure in the 35th Parliament more times than the Conservative government did during its mandate of four years.

The Prime Minister when he was opposition leader sat here criticizing former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney asking: "Why are you travelling outside the country? Why are you going all over the world when the problems are here in Canada? We have to solve our problems with Quebec; we have to solve our problems with Alberta, B.C., Ontario and the Atlantic provinces? Why are you travelling all over the world?"

Now that he is Prime Minister, the current Prime Minister has already travelled more outside this country. He is very close to being outside this country more, while we have to run this government, than he has been in the country. This Prime Minister has travelled more than the previous Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Why is he doing this exactly in contradiction? I have already mentioned prorogation. When the Conservatives prorogued the House and they came back in, all they wanted to do was bring back five bills. That is all the Conservatives wanted to do, bring back five bills. When the Liberals were on this side in opposition the hue and cry that went out about those five bills, about how it was anti-democratic, how it was short circuiting the system, how it was changing the parliamentary rules. They said: "We would never do that if we were over there because we are better than you guys. We would be different".

What did they do now that they are over there? Exactly the same thing as the Conservative Party did, only worse. They sat over here

and watched the Tory GST come in. They said: "That is not the way to do it. We should look at tax reform. We should look at other ways of replacing this manufacturers' sales tax. We would get rid of it. We hate it. We would kill it". What have they done in two and a half years? They have not got rid of it. They have not killed it.

On Senate appointments, how they used to sit here in opposition and criticize those Senate appointments and they are doing it the very same way. They are doing it for the very same purposes, the very same reasons as the Conservatives.

What has changed? All that has been done is change the faces of the people in government. The system has not been changed. In fact, it is worse. What about the latest appointment to the Senate? I am sure the gentleman is a fine, outstanding Canadian citizen but he is eight months away from having to retire after he is appointed to the job. Does it not take six to eight months to learn the job of a senator? It takes at least a year to learn the job as a member of Parliament. By the time this gentleman learns the job he is out and is replaced by someone else. Why not put someone in the Senate who has some time to learn and contribute something?