Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege today pertaining to comments made by the government House leader yesterday in the House.
On page 2668 of Hansard , the government House leader is quoted as stating:
Both speakers from the Alliance who have preceded my remarks have been sued, both successfully and both for saying wrong things about Canadians.
I was one of the speakers to whom the minister referred. When the government House leader stood and made that comment he spoke about a case he had heard as a member of the Board of Internal Economy. As a member of the board, he had firsthand knowledge of the details of the case.
As the House leader was making a definitive assertion, one not in the public domain, it is logical to conclude that there was only one place he could have obtained the information, which was via his role as a member of the Board of Internal Economy.
As every member of the House knows, members of the Board of Internal Economy are bound by oath or affirmation of fidelity and secrecy as legislated in the Parliament of Canada Act. It is my contention that the government House leader violated his oath as a member of the Board of Internal Economy, the Parliament of Canada Act and my privileges as a member of parliament.
There are no public documents or media reports which show that I was ever successfully sued. The court documents show that the lawsuit against me was dismissed without cost. In an October 15, 1999 Ottawa Citizen article, authored by Jim Bronskill, there was only mention of an out of court settlement.
When the government House leader claimed that I was successfully sued, he obviously obtained the information from a source outside the public domain.
As a member of the Board of Internal Economy, the government House leader has firsthand knowledge of the disposition of my lawsuit. In fact, he played more of a role in determining the outcome of the lawsuit than I did, as I was not privy to the discussions of the BOIE.
When the government House leader stood in the House yesterday and said that I was successfully sued, people would infer that he knew what he was talking about because he had access to information not available to the public.
Despite taking an oath of secrecy, the minister chose to discuss the case in public because it suited his political purposes.
The Board of Internal Economy finds its authority in the Statutes of Canada, specifically the Parliament of Canada Act. Subsection 50(5) of the Parliament of Canada Act reads:
Every member of the Board shall, as soon as practicable after becoming a member of the Board, take before the Clerk of the House of Commons an oath or affirmation of fidelity and secrecy in the form set out in Form 3 of the schedule.
Form 3 of the schedule reads as follows:
I,..., do solemnly swear (affirm) that I will faithfully, truly and to the best of my judgment, skill and ability execute and perform the duties required of me as a member of the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons.
I further solemnly swear (affirm) that I will not communicate or allow to be communicated to any person without due authority in that behalf any information relating to matters of employment and staff relations, tenders, security and investigations in relation to a member of the House of Commons, nor will I allow any such person to inspect or have access to any books or documents belonging to or in the possession of the Board and relating to the business of the Board. (In the case where an oath is taken, add “So help me God”).
I know that members of the board generally hold their oaths very dear because when my case was heard the level of secrecy was so high that even I received extremely limited communication from the board.
However, for reasons of his own, the government House leader chose to ignore his oath, which is the law, and to make a new allegation.
Under no circumstances should the government House leader or any other member of the board discuss in public a case they have heard as members of the Board of Internal Economy. He certainly should not have made an accusation that was not in the public domain when he had firsthand knowledge of the true facts of the case.
It is clear that the government House leader's comments were not just an off the cuff mistake. He led the government's opposition to our motion yesterday and his attack on me was obviously part of his strategy.
The government House leader's accusation was also made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister during debate and by the Minister of Industry during question period. This was clearly a planned and deliberate act by the government House leader.
If the government House leader's assertion that I was successfully sued is true, then he is obviously in clear violation of his Board of Internal Economy oath, the Statutes of Canada and my privileges as a member of parliament.
This situation is even more egregious. Not only did the government House leader talk about a case that he had dealt with at the Board of Internal Economy, he chose to deliberately misrepresent the facts of the case. By no legal measure could it ever be considered that I was sued successfully.
It must be pointed out that the very next government speaker, the Minister of Industry, who was not a member of the BOIE at the time in question, presented a more accurate portrayal of what transpired and carefully avoided any mention of me being successfully sued. The truth, therefore, was obviously known to the government side.
However, for purely partisan, political purposes, the government House leader chose to ignore the truth. Instead, despite having firsthand knowledge of the truth through the BOIE, he deliberately chose to present a misleading statement to the House.
As stated on page 119 of Erskine May's twenty-first edition:
The Commons may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt.
As previously mentioned, this was not an off the cuff remark by the minister. It was obviously a calculated strategy devised by the government House leader.
Mr. Speaker, I also refer you to the twenty-second edition of Erskine May, where on page 63 it states:
It is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament...Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.
I do not believe members of the House will have a great deal of confidence in the Board of Internal Economy if members of that board believe they can discuss in public the cases they have heard. Certainly there will be no confidence in the BOIE if its members are free to not only discuss cases in public but to deliberately misrepresent them.
In conclusion, the government House leader made a definitive statement about me. It is either true or false. If the statement is true, the minister has violated his oath as a member of the Board of Internal Economy, the Parliament of Canada Act and, by extension, my privileges as a member of parliament.
If the statement is false, and I contend that it is, not only has the government House leader violated his oath as a member of the Board of Internal Economy, the Parliament of Canada Act and my privileges as a member of parliament, he has also deliberately misled the House and is therefore in contempt of the House.
I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that you find this a prima facie case of both privilege and contempt. I am prepared to move the appropriate motion in that case.