Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Last week, as a parliamentarian, I asked the House of Commons to make a correction to what is commonly called the blues. These are the preliminary transcription of what is said here in the House and sometimes corrections are made to it, sometimes not.
I had asked for a correction. Mr. Luc Bélanger and Mrs. Louise Brazeau, an editor, pointed out to me that the correction I was asking for could change the meaning of what I had said in the House and that the only way to make corrections was to listen to the recording in order to see whether a word or expression makes no sense the way it is written down. The purpose is to make the record of what was said as faithful as possible.
The only corrections that can be made are to improve the quality of the English or French as the case may be.
In connection with this, I commented to House Services that I had often had the impression in the past that substantial changes had been made to Hansard , far more substantial ones than what I was asking for.
They swore that was not the case, that all changes were from the tapes and that never would the editor in question looking at a potential change decide to alter the meaning of remarks expressed here in the House.
I advised the transcription group that I would be watching the operations of the service very carefully, given that I had been treated unfairly compared with what I had seen done in the past. I did not have to wait long to see that there was a double standard at least in this service of the House.
I would draw your attention to what the Prime Minister said in the House on March 21, 2001. In what are called the blues, the Prime Minister said, and I quote “We had no financial interest in that company in November 1993”. That was the statement and it was very clear. It was limpid.
In Hansard , we find: “Mr. Speaker, we did not have shares in that company since November 1993”.
I do not know under what authority the editor responsible for this or the head of the editing group changed “We had no financial interest” to “We did not have shares”. It is substantially different. The sentence was in perfectly good French and at no time was any correction whatsoever of the form necessary, as is clear from the blues.
In the corrected version the meaning has changed. Why? One might think that someone from the Prime Minister's Office had stepped in, because that is how things are done, and requested that the House editors change the substance, not the form.
Why, when the Bloc Quebecois House leader asks for a verb tense to be changed, is he told that it is impossible, that it is too great a shift, that it changes the meaning? Why are requests from the Prime Minister's Office treated differently than requests from the office of the Bloc Quebecois House leader?
That is the first point I would like you to clear up.
I am going to have to conclude that if the Prime Minister's Office requested a change between what the Prime Minister said and the official House Hansard , it is because that office had a special interest, and what was that interest? It resorted to what amounted to a coverup of an answer given by the Prime Minister. Why did the Prime Minister feel the need to make a substantial change in the statement he made here in the House from “intérêt financier” or “financial interest” to “parts” or “shares”. The two things are completely different.
Mr. Speaker, I therefore ask you to take my point of order into account. I think my parliamentary privilege has been somehow breached. I think the editors have not behaved appropriately. I think the influence of the Prime Minister's Office is so pervasive that it has managed to change the editing service's rules for handling our requests. Ultimately we will sort this out with the Prime Minister in oral question period.