Mr. Speaker, I want to address the complaint that was raised by the member for Sydney—Victoria after question period on Monday last week. It had to do with two separate events associated with the announcement of the government's plans with respect to Cape Breton Development Corporation.
In commenting, I am at a bit of a disadvantage because I was not personally involved in either event. However, I have been assured by those with direct knowledge that the following is an accurate recounting.
The first issue raised by the member dealt with the scheduling of the announcement. On January 27 at about 9 o'clock in the morning the member for Sydney—Victoria and the member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton were in the waiting room of my office in the Confederation Building. At that time the member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton indicated that she had heard that an announcement with respect to Devco was coming in the next two or three weeks. The members were told by a member of my staff that an announcement was imminent and that it would take place sooner rather than later.
In fact later that day, January 27 at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, we received confirmation from the Privy Council Office authorizing me to make an announcement on the future direction of Devco.
So there can be no confusion, allow me to once again emphasize the chronology of that day. On January 27 at about nine o'clock in the morning my staff informed the two MPs that an announcement was imminent and that it would take place sooner rather than later. At about five o'clock in the afternoon on that same day, that is about eight hours after the conversation between my staff and the two MPs, my office received a call from the PCO informing us that we were authorized to make an announcement. Given our desire to end the uncertainty faced by the people of Cape Breton, the decision was made to announce the next day.
The second issue pertains to a media briefing by officials which took place on the day of the announcement. My office advised a staff member in the office of the member for Sydney—Victoria that the media briefing was, as the words themselves imply, for the media. In addition his office was also told that it would be receiving a copy of the information package prior to a media conference at which the announcement would be made. Copies of that information package were hand delivered to both the Parliament Hill and riding offices of both the member for Sydney—Victoria and the member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton. As promised by my office, these packages did arrive prior to the beginning of that media conference.
However the key point is that the media and the members for Sydney—Victoria and Bras d'Or—Cape Breton were not the only people to receive the information prior to the media conference. While officials briefed the media, I met personally with union leaders and others and most important with miners and their families to describe the impending announcement and to answer their questions. I can confirm that the member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton was in the room for that discussion with the miners and others and the member for Sydney—Victoria and/or his staff could well have been there too. Both members of parliament were present at the subsequent media conference for the announcement itself.
It is clear that we tried very hard to treat everyone fairly and appropriately in what were very difficult and emotional circumstances. It was certainly no one's intention to cause any offence.