Mr. Speaker, I want to support the arguments put forward by my colleague and remind you that while there may not be any precedents for this offence there is no reason why you cannot allow the member's motion to be put to the House.
Erskine May's 21st edition at page 115 states that an offence for contempt “may be treated as contempt even though there is no precedent for the offence”.
Page 221 of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada describes a prima facie case of privilege in the parliamentary sense as one where the evidence on its face, as outlined by the member, is sufficiently strong for the House to be asked to debate the matter and to send it to a committee to investigate whether the privileges of the House have been breached or a contempt has even occurred.
The member has demonstrated that the evidence in this case is sufficiently strong.
It may be of help and interest to this House to understand what led to this particular question of privilege.
The Speaker was asked to rule on a similar complaint on March 9, 1990 regarding a pamphlet put out by the government concerning the GST. Again on March 25, 1991 another complaint was launched on a similar matter. These complaints, while worthy of discussion, were not ruled to be prima facie questions of privilege.
A stronger case was made on October 28, 1997 by the hon. member for Fraser Valley. In that instance the Department of Finance went much further and actually started to take action before the bill authorizing the department to act was passed by the House. The member argued that these actions undercut the authority of Parliament.
This led to the Speaker's ruling which contained what I believed to be a strong statement and a strong warning. At that point the Speaker made it clear that the tolerance for such actions was wearing thin.
I argue that the case put forward by the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River represents another incremental affront to the House and a case for a prima facie contempt of Parliament against the ministers and their departments has reached the flashpoint.
I do not want to question past rulings regarding complaints of this nature. I recognize that Speakers must always be prudent in determining a prima facie question of privilege. The seriousness of the complaint brought to your attention by my colleague concerns offences that have escalated to the point where inaction will only serve to question the legitimacy of the House, its members and the Speaker.
It is not a time to be prudent because this continued disrespect has already cast a cloud of doubt over the role of this institution. It is time, Mr. Speaker, that we settle this matter once and for all, and I urge you to allow the member to propose his motion.