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House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was police.

Topics

Nova CorporationOral Question Period

June 18th, 1996 / 2:55 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. It has to do with events in the San Alfonso Valley in Chile in recent days. I have written to the minister about this.

Earlier this day members of Parliament from three different parties held a press conference to express their concern that NOVA Corporation of Canada, the majority shareholder in GasAndes which is building the pipeline from Argentina through to Santiago, is associated with a police action against a blockade in the San Alfonso Valley that in our opinion is dragging the good name of Canada through the mud and is bringing Canada's reputation into disrepute.

Is it the minister's intention to express concern on behalf of the Canadian government at the way the Chilean police are behaving and the way in which NOVA Corporation is associated with that police action?

Nova CorporationOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is regrettable that people were injured in the clash between demonstrators and riot police on June 13. Although we do not have the details of the incident, we understand that the police intervened to remove demonstrators who were blocking a national highway. According to some reports, some individuals threw rocks at police, injuring some people.

NOVA corporation is a lead partner in the GasAndes consortium. This consortium has gone through every single required approval by Chilean authorities including an environmental impact study. Amendments were made. It has completely abided by the law and I am told that many of the standards are very similar to the standards that exist in this country. They are following the law completely.

The incidents that occurred in the demonstration were most unfortunate although we have very little information at this point in time.

Competition ActOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Glen McKinnon Liberal Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Industry.

In June 1995 the Bureau of Competition Policy outlined a review of the Competition Act. At that time a discussion paper was circulated to obtain feedback on several proposed changes to this act.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers produced a paper which outlines strong arguments against the bureau's recommendation to repeal the price discrimination and promotional allowance provisions of the act.

Would the minister assure the House and the independent grocers across Canada that their concerns will be explored before any other changes to the act are adopted?

Competition ActOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, may I begin by stating that, when the bill is introduced this fall, my colleague, the Secretary of State for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec, will be responsible for it, being a Canadian expert on the Competition Act.

Second, I take very seriously the arguments that have been made by a number of representatives from the small business community, including the independent grocers, that the existence of provisions relating to price discrimination and promotional allowances gives them some protection from actions of large suppliers, although those provisions have never been used.

Having taken heed of those arguments we will not be recommending that those provisions be eliminated from the act.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, I would like to bring to your attention the presence in the gallery of one of our visitors. I refer to Professor Oliviu Gherman, President of the Senate of the Parliament of Romania and an accompanying delegation.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, I have two questions of privilege but I will hear first a point of order. You will see the reason why.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I hope to beg the indulgence of the House to have all members of the House of Commons join me in wishing the honorary clerk at the table and the former member for Winnipeg North Centre, Mr. Stanley Knowles, a happy birthday on his 88th birthday.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I have received notice of a point of privilege which takes the form of a personal statement. I would like to explain to you before the statement is made that it will be made simply as a solemn declaration. It is not meant to in any way incite debate.

I recognize the hon. member for Charlesbourg.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Marc Jacob Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I wish to make a solemn declaration today relating to a question of privilege raised in this House on March 12 by the hon. member for Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt, a question of privilege you yourself described as extremely serious, and to which you attached vital importance, stating, and I quote:

The House today is being faced with one of the more serious matters we have been faced with in this 35th Parliament. I believe the charges are so grave against one of our own members that the House should deal with this accusation forthwith.

I hereby declare that the hon. member for Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt, through his overzealous accusations of call to arms and sedition, has deliberately led the House and yourself astray, thus bringing doubt and suspicion to be cast upon a member of the House of Commons, without any proof, since his charges were based solely upon false interpretations of my press release dated October 26, 1995.

The report by the Liberal majority and the dissenting report by the Bloc Quebecois issued by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs conclude that this entire question is a matter of political debate and ought never to have been raised before the House on a question of privilege, particularly one supported by unfounded accusations.

What is of the most concern to me, apart from the attack on the rights and privileges of a parliamentarian, is that it is also an attack on the freedom of expression of all Quebecers and all Canadians.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleague, solemn declarations are generally free of what I might call any additional accusation. At this point, although the Chair has a decision to make, I find, with all due respect, dear colleague, that the words being used today tend more toward a debate than a solemn declaration. I would like to put an end to the statement at this point.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Oder, please. My colleagues, I would prefer this matter to remain closed at this time. I have made my ruling on behalf of all of the hon. members and I would ask you to respect it.

This point of privilege, this statement, is terminated. I would ask members to respect my decision as your Speaker. I ask you that with the full authority of the House and of my position.

I will now hear a second point of privilege from the hon. member for Lethbridge.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege with regard to a personal charge that is against me in this assembly, a charge that is criminal in nature and which reflects on my reputation. This has and will continue to affect my ability to function effectively as a member of Parliament while the matter remains unresolved.

On March 22, 1983, at page 24027 of Hansard the Speaker ruled:

A reflection upon the reputation of an Hon. Member is a matter of great concern to all Members of the House. It places the entire institution under a cloud, as it suggests that among-

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Perhaps the hon. member would withhold this point of privilege. I am prepared to rule on the point of order to which the hon. member has referred. I would propose to do that after I have heard any other points of privilege that come up, if the hon. member permits.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree with that procedure.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now ready to rule on the point of order raised on May 9, 1996 by the hon. member for Lethbridge concerning the procedural acceptability of Motion M-1 standing on the order of precedence for Private Members' Business in the name of the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

The hon. member for Lethbridge argued that the motion is procedurally unacceptable because it contains allegations of contempt by one member against another and yet had not been designated as votable by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. In other words, the House must be capable of taking a decision on any motion which contains a charge against a member. In addition, he questioned the current rules governing Private Members' Business which have allowed this situation to occur.

The rules governing private members' business are indeed complex. Members may put bills or motions on notice, and then those members whose names have been chosen in a draw decide which item they wish to put forward for debate in the House during private members' business hour.

Once the chosen items are placed on an order of precedence, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs selects which ones will come to a vote of the House. In the case of Motion M-1, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs chose not to designate this item as votable.

Pursuant to Standing Order 92(2), the report of the committee concerning votable items is automatically deemed adopted, and therefore stands as a decision of the House. This is how the House has decided, through its Standing Orders, to deal with private members' business.

The hon. member is quite correct in his assertion that the conduct of a member can be brought before the House only by way of a specific charge contained in a substantive motion. Often, in such cases, members will choose to raise the matter on the floor of the House without giving the required 48-hour or two-week notice and ask the Speaker to give it priority or right of way for immediate consideration by the House, thus putting all other regular House business aside.

What is at stake here is whether or not your Speaker can override the rules governing the transaction of Private Members' Business in order that such motions come to a vote even when the sponsoring member has selected to bring it before the House under that procedure. I humbly must admit that unless the House changes its rules I do not have that power.

For the benefit of the House, please allow me to point out that this is not the first time this type of motion has come before the House without the possibility of a vote.

On a number of occasions on supply days the opposition has moved non-votable motions to condemn or challenge ministers for their actions.

In one case a motion condemning a minister for "failing to provide full and satisfactory information on the blatant conflict of interest situation involving the minister" was moved as a non-votable motion on a supply day.

I refer members to the Journals of the House of Commons of May 12, 1986, page 2160: ``In at least one other instance, a non-votable supply motion contained a specific charge of contempt of Parliament against the minister''. The text of this motion can also be found in the Journals of June 17, 1982, page 5025.

The content of the motion and the fact that it has not been designated as a votable item under Private Members' Business does cause the Chair some difficulty.

I understand the concerns of the hon. member for Lethbridge. As your Speaker I suggest this situation could be corrected either by the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, the hon. member for Lethbridge or, for that matter, the House itself. There are procedures at the disposal of the House to ensure that a sense of fair play prevails in all of its proceedings so that members are not placed in this type of position.

In the current circumstances I find that the rules for Private Members' Business have been followed and that there is therefore no point of order.

I would like to thank the hon. member for raising this point and the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell for his contribution to the discussion.

The hon. member for Lethbridge on a question of privilege.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, based on your ruling, I would like to rise on a question of privilege.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I understand the hon. member wants to rise on a question of privilege. If the hon. member wishes to do so today, I will listen to his question of privilege.

If he, however, would like to take some 24 hours and return to the House, I would be willing to hear him tomorrow.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to proceed today with my question of privilege under the circumstances.

Motion No. 1 is still on the floor of the assembly. Because of that-

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member now has the floor on his question of privilege.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, in light of your ruling and based on the fact that Motion No. 1 is still on the floor before us, I rise on a question of privilege with regard to that matter which is a personal charge against me as contained in the motion put forward by the member.

In a sense that charge is one that is criminal in nature and reflects upon my reputation. This has and will continue to affect my ability to function effectively as a member of Parliament while the matter remains unresolved.

On March 22, 1983 on page 24,027 of Hansard the Speaker ruled:

A reflection upon the reputation of an hon. member is a matter of great concern to all members of the House. It places the entire institution under a cloud, as it suggests that among the members of the House there are some who are unworthy to sit there. An allegation of criminal or other dishonourable conduct inevitably affects the member's ability to function effectively while the matter remains unresolved.

The Speaker was concerned with the matter remaining unresolved. I raised a point of order with regard to private member's Motion No. 1 in the name of the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

I thank you today for considering that and I appreciate the ruling you have placed before this assembly. This type of motion and the affect of this motion is considered an anomaly of the rules. Although the motion is in order, I would like to demonstrate that its presence infringes upon my and other members' privileges in the Chamber.

The motion accuses me of intimidation and coercing others to intimidate. The member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell's charge against me is in the form of a motion and so he is allowed on a technicality to get away with what I believe is unparliamentary language.

For the purpose of my question of privilege, the fact that the charge against me is in the form of a motion is immaterial. What is important is that the motion is non-votable. It is non-votable by the virtue of our standing orders. It is unresolvable and therefore prima facie.

I would also like to address at this time the issue of raising this question of privilege at the earliest opportunity. Before raising my point of order regarding Motion No. 1, I felt it necessary that the motion be at least scheduled for debate, and I believe we are at that course of events here today.

The member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell agreed with me because despite the impression I was under at the time, the motion was not before the House that day and the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell argued that he ought not bring the matter up until it was before the House. For once I agreed with him. Fortunately I was allowed to present my argument on that day in May.

The fact that the motion of the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell is a product of our rules led me to originally pursue the matter as a point of order.

At this point my only hope for a remedy to resolve this charge against me a question of privilege because the matter remains unresolved, as you have said so eloquently, Mr. Speaker.

In the ruling I referred to earlier from 1983, the Speaker considered:

The question for the Chair to determine, therefore, is whether the hon. member for Lincoln should seek his remedy through the courts, or whether, in order to bring the matter to a swifter resolution, the Chair should accord this question of privilege precedence over other business.

As you are fully aware, Mr. Speaker, I do not have the luxury of bringing this matter before any court. The member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell is protected by parliamentary privilege.

The Speaker in 1983 had another concern:

Given the precedence I have studied, it is clear to me that while the hon. member could seek a remedy in the courts, he cannot function effectively as a member while this slur upon his reputation remains. The process of litigation would probably be very lengthy and there is no knowing how long it would take before the issue is finally resolved.

Once again there is the emphasis on resolving the matter.

The Speaker was also concerned here with the length of time the matter was to be unresolved. The member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell could, through a series of trades, avoid debating the motion. If we do finally get a debate on the motion it will disappear from the Order Paper after one hour of debate.

Regardless of those two scenarios, the matter will never be resolved by this motion. My reputation will be hanging out to dry forever. As Speaker Sauvé was concerned with, the entire institution of Parliament will be left under a cloud without ever being resolved.

Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , page 210, states that the practice relating to taking up the conduct of members is a matter of privilege.

If the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell raised this as a question of privilege the matter would have been dealt with, but it was not.

To protect my reputation and the reputation of the House I must raise this matter as a question of privilege. Mr. Speaker, if you rule this to be a prima facie question of privilege I will be moving the following motion:

That the member for Lethbridge and the Reform Party of Canada be exonerated of the allegations levied by the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell of attempting to coerce, intimidate or incite others to coerce the hon. member for Welland-St. Catharines which are contained in his non-votable private member's Motion No. 1; and that the matter of the use of non-votable motions to charge members with contempt of Parliament be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Mr. Speaker, if you do not consider this a prima facie question of privilege I would appreciate your guidance and maybe that of the law clerk on how I can resolve this allegation against me of criminal intent. I cannot allow this motion to stay on the Order Paper all summer. This charge has been hanging over my head long enough. It must be resolved now.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to take but a moment to respond to what has been stated by the hon. member for Lethbridge.

The hon. member for Lethbridge essentially says today that his reputation is somehow tarnished by this motion's being on the Order Paper. He says it is further damaged because the issue is non-votable and therefore whenever the issue is dealt with in the House no conclusion will have been arrived at and therefore his name will not have been cleared, if I understand the allegation properly.

The member also says the accusation in question, which appears in my Motion No. 1, ballot item No. 3 on the Order Paper, is criminal in nature.

I will begin by dealing with the last issue. It has been suggested on at least two occasions in the remarks of the hon. member that the allegation listed in Motion No. 1 is criminal in nature.

Mr. Speaker, I remind you of a report tabled in the House earlier today which clearly indicates to the House that those things that are criminal in nature are not to be dealt with in the House on matters of privilege and that a motion should not contain that, and I believe it does not, and that those issues would be dealt with elsewhere even if they were in the motion.

To refresh the House's memory, the motion states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the attempt by the hon. member for Lethbridge and the Reform Party of Canada to coerce, intimidate or incite others to coerce the hon. member for Welland-St. Catharines-Thorold (the Hon. Gilbert Parent), in his capacity as Speaker, to make certain decisions in regards to the status of the Official Opposition in Parliament, constitute a contempt of this House and consequently that the hon. member for Lethbridge be ordered to the bar of the House to be admonished by the Chair.

I do not believe that someone's being admonished by the Chair in Parliament constitutes criminal behaviour. If criminal behaviour was there I suggest the punishment would be rendered by someone else and it would probably not be an admonishing by a Chair that would be the proper sentencing if that kind of criminal behaviour had been what was done. We are not talking about that at all.

The issue that was brought before the House had nothing to do with what the hon. member has just suggested. What was brought before the House is what was believed to have been and still believed to be a case of someone's doing things to the most senior officer of Parliament. That is what is contended as being the case of contempt listed in the motion.

I have in hand a memorandum dated January 11, 1996 entitled "To all Reform constituency presidents, regional organizers and executive councillors". This letter says in part: "What I am asking you to do is to help launch a high pressure phone, fax and letter writing campaign to", and it lists your name, Mr. Speaker. "The objective is simple: to make it clear to him that as he contemplates his decision", this is the decision to choose who the official opposition is in this House, "that Canadians will no longer tolerate a separatist official opposition".

It goes on to say that time is running short and that this high pressure campaign against the occupants of the Chair of this House should be commenced immediately by fax, letter writing, telephone calls, and so on so that Mr. Speaker, can and I conclude "do the right thing". Presumably Mr. Speaker would rule based on pressure put on to intimidate him to give a favourable ruling to those who had asked for the ruling.

That is what is in the motion that was brought by your humble servant. What was put in that motion is not an allegation of criminal behaviour. It is an allegation that something wrong was occurring against the occupant of the Chair of this House, this House being the institution that all of us cherish.

That is what occurred and nothing else. I am sure that deep down in his heart the hon. member knows this.

Mr. Speaker, there is even a draft letter to be sent to the occupant of the Chair with his fax number preprinted on the form. This draft letter, prepared by the Reform Party and attached and sent by the hon. member for Lethbridge, is an instruction to the occupant of the Chair of this House to rule not according to what is right, but to rule according to the pressure applied to him as organized by a member of this House.

Mr. Speaker, that is what was asked of you as the occupant of the Chair of this Chamber. You were asked to rule that way for the reasons I have enunciated.

I do not pretend that it is criminal and I never will. I never suggested so, either in my press releases or in the motion that is today before the House.

What I did say, however, is that this sort of behaviour should not be how we approach things in this House and should stop. The events occurring a few days after this motion dealt with matters, and we hear no more of the issue today. What I have heard in the House today explains why we have heard no further mention.