Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege with regard to the very grave matter relating to information I requested through Question No. 94 on the order paper.
Events have led me to believe that there has been a deliberate attempt to deny me the information by the Deputy Prime Minister and his staff with respect to the question. Accordingly I charge the minister with contempt of the House.
On December 3, 2001, I used an order paper question to ask for details about all real estate sales by Canada Lands, a crown corporation that sells surplus federal properties which at the time reported to the minister of public works and now reports to the Deputy Prime Minister.
My question sought information about all land sales since the Liberals took power in 1993. I indicated my desire to receive this information within 45 days pursuant to Standing Order 39(5)( a ). As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, the 45 day period has long lapsed and according to new procedures a committee investigation could be launched to look into this matter pursuant to Standing Order 39(5)( b ).
Under normal circumstances I would await the outcome of such an investigation. However I am in possession of information that elevates this matter to privilege. This is not a case of mere negligence or incompetence but involves and requires the attention of the House and a resolution through its authority. As a result, I am duty bound to bring this matter to your attention, Mr. Speaker.
While we may have a new procedure to deal with late questions in committee, order paper questions are instruments of the House and contempt against such proceedings must be dealt with in the House itself.
Before I present my evidence regarding the withholding of the information, I would like to set the procedural stage for this question of privilege. I requested information from the government through Standing Order 39(1) which states:
Questions may be placed on the Order Paper seeking information from Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs; and from other Members, relating to any bill, motion or other public matter connected with the business of the House, in which such Members may be concerned;--
On December 16, 1980, at page 5797 of Hansard the Speaker ruled:
While it is correct to say that the government is not required by our rules to answer written or oral questions, it would be bold to suggest that no circumstances could ever exist for a prima facie question of privilege to be made where there was a deliberate attempt to deny answers to an hon. member--
As I stated earlier, I requested information under the provisions of Standing Order 39 on December 3, 2001, and the deadline to answer my question pursuant to Standing Order 39(5) had lapsed.
Yesterday a National Post reporter called Canada Lands to find out why the information I requested through Q-94 had not yet been delivered to me. You may find this article, Mr. Speaker, in today's National Post .
The reporter, Andrew McIntosh, put his question to Gordon McIvor, a vice-president of communications for Canada Lands. Mr. McIvor replied that information was sent off to the minister's office several weeks ago. The National Post article reported Mr. McIvor as saying:
It's all been completed and it all went to the minister's office, two weeks ago, three weeks ago. There's absolutely no reason why it shouldn't have been passed on to--
And he mentions my name.
The information I sought has been available for some time. The government agency responsible, Canada Lands, has complied with my request but the Deputy Prime Minister and his staff acting as the middle agent have deliberately withheld information from parliament for several weeks now. This dismissive view of the House and its members is contemptuous.
As members of parliament it is our duty to scrutinize the government and to hold it to account. The order paper question is one of those tools that we as members use to seek information from the government. The order paper question is part of our rules and is considered a proceeding of parliament commanding respect from ministers and necessitating protection by the House.
I ask that you allow me to move the appropriate motion to secure that protection and to bring a swift resolution to this matter.