Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, February 20, 2002, the hon. leader of the official opposition raised a question of privilege in which he made several assertions concerning my conduct and behaviour. He has raised a most serious issue of privilege and I take it very seriously. Therefore I asked for and appreciate the chance in the House to consider his comments and respond more fully.
You know better than anyone, Mr. Speaker, that for the business and decorum of the House it is vital that House officers work together in a spirit of courtesy, honesty and integrity. That is a responsibility I take very seriously. This is what I have done consistently, not as a tactic and not as a way of operating but as a genuine expression of my real respect for those people with whom I have to work, for you and for the House, Mr. Speaker.
I was accused yesterday in the House of intimidation, of harassment, of goonish misconduct, of threatening not only my own colleagues but opposition members and a staff member of the official opposition, and of running roughshod over the rights of opposition members.
All these accusations arose simply because I was doing my job, carrying out my responsibilities as chief government whip, responsibilities I have in common with every other whip in the House. For instance, the standing orders specifically provide that our responsibilities as whips, individually and collectively, are constituted as a steering committee for the purpose of naming the membership of committees in the House. A committee is only constituted when the chief government whip asks the clerk to convene a meeting of the committee for the first time.
In carrying out these duties and others the five whips regularly consult with each other. It is not unusual for us to communicate directly with each other or through our staffs. I will regularly communicate with them, as they will with me, a course of action I would like to see taken and ask for their support. The other whips do precisely the same. They have done on numerous occasions and will continue to do so, I trust, in the future.
I categorically deny the accusations brought against me by the Leader of the Opposition. At no time did I intimidate or harass anyone. Nor did I have any intention of doing so.
In his statement the hon. leader chose to accuse me of feeling free to intimidate government members. This accusation too is simply false. I taught my children at a young age not to be bullies and not to give into bullies and I have not become one. The hon. Leader of the Opposition also stated that parliament must use all its powers to condemn any conduct of harassment. On this I agree totally.
I want to refer only briefly to the statement by the hon. member for Regina--Qu'Appelle with whom I have a relationship going back 13 years. I am appalled that he would repeat as fact an allegation concerning my conversation with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue which she has denied, which I have denied repeatedly, which he knows has been denied, and which he only heard, he claims, third hand.
As for the member for Kings--Hants I similarly deny any attempt to intimidate or coerce him into any form of action. To request his co-operation is a legitimate part of my function.
I particularly regret, however, if a member of the whip's staff of the official opposition felt intimidated. We had a conversation in which I communicated with her as she or another representative of the opposition whip communicate with me on numerous occasions. I hope we will continue to do that. I certainly did not intend to intimidate or to harass. I regret very much if that were the impression she was left with.
Once again I categorically deny, as I did yesterday, the statement attributed to me and any action of intimidation, harassment or anything else I have been accused of. I look forward to a continuing good relationship with the other House officers in this place.