Mr. Speaker, I thank you for recognizing my privilege, my right to speak to this request and to give my reasons for making it.
I would like to say that you should examine this request in the light of the question of privilege raised a bit earlier. Allowing the question of privilege would automatically dispose of the emergency debate, because there would be a debate today, which would meet our objectives. If you were to rule the question of privilege out of order, obviously the matter of an emergency debate would remain an extremely pressing one.
On page 1 of the information commissioner's annual report, the hon. Mr. Justice Gérard La Forest, former judge of the supreme court, says—the words are heavy with meaning—and I quote:
The overarching purpose of access to information legislation...is to facilitate democracy. It does so in two related ways. It helps to ensure first, that citizens have the information required to participate meaningfully in the democratic process, and secondly, that politicians and bureaucrats remain accountable to the citizenry.
Page 2 of this report contains an extract from the Access to Information Act, subsection 2(1):
- (1) The purpose of this Act is to extend the present laws of Canada to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of a government institution in accordance with the principles that government information should be available to the public, that necessary exemptions to the right of access should be limited and specific and that decisions on the disclosure of government information should be reviewed independently of government.
The reason I have requested an emergency debate is that, in the report submitted to parliament, because the information commissioner reports to parliament, it says, and I quote very briefly:
PCO claims now that it may exclude confidences from access without any obligation to certify to the Commissioner (as it must—