Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege in regard to the Minister of Justice deceiving the House and its members, falsifying documents, misleading the House, and impeding my ability to perform my duties as a member of Parliament.
On December 12, 2002, during a statement in the House in regard to the firearms registry boondoggle, the minister said:
I will report back to the House with an accounting of how we manage any shortfalls. I will be open. I will be transparent.
This would be in keeping with ministerial responsibility as outlined in the 22nd edition of Erskine May at page 63:
...ministers have a duty to Parliament to account, and be held to account, for the policies, decisions and actions of their departments...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...ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament...
We were off to a good start on December 12. However, I have learned that the justice minister held back a crucial document from the House of Commons when he tabled reports from two inquiries into the controversial firearms registry this week. By so doing the minister is in contempt for withholding a complete version of one of the reports.
The minister tabled two reports in the House on Monday concerning the gun registry: a 27 page report from former top bureaucrat Ray Hession about management failures in the program, and a separate 27 page report from KPMG accountants.
The minister held back the 65 page report on which Mr. Hession's report and recommendations were based. I was not aware of the existence of the 65 page report until I read about it in the newspapers the next morning. The Journals branch did not have a copy of the 65 page report and the Library of Parliament was not able to locate one until 5:30 p.m. yesterday.
The 65 page report contains 10 year spending and revenue forecasts for the registry and licensing system that were not included in the report tabled by the minister in the House.
The report tabled in Parliament acted like a decoy. As a member of Parliament I assumed the report would be complete and I conducted my business as a member of Parliament accordingly. Meanwhile, a more complete version was released upon demand by the media and others. The House was not even told of the existence of the 65 page report. That was and is clear deception.
On page 141 of the 19th edition of Erskine May it says:
Conspiracy to deceive either House or any committees of either House will also be treated as a breach of privilege.
The forecasts in the unedited version are crucial for the accurate picture of how the government intends to manage the registry, particularly after the Auditor General was critical of the minister's department last December for allowing the program's budget to balloon to $1 billion over the original 1995 forecast price of $2 million.
The forecasts in the 65 page report that was withheld from Parliament predict the gun registry will cost another $500 million over the next 10 years unless the government makes drastic changes to streamline the program and begins collecting stiff registration and licensing fees from firearms owners.
The 65 page report also reveals the cost of the gun registry. It reveals that the cost of the gun registry for 2003-04 and 2004-05 will be higher than the government's 2002-03 estimates of $95 million and $80 million respectively. The 65 page report also reveals the actual cost will balloon once again to $115.4 million and $103.4 million for each of the next two fiscal years.
The edited version of Mr. Hession's report that was tabled in the House of Commons does not contain those forecasts. As a result, there is no record in the House of the spending forecasts. The House was deceived and my privileges were breached.
In addition, if the Speaker finds the minister did in fact edit a report paid for with public funds and promised to the House, that, in my opinion, would constitute falsifying a document meant to be tabled in the House which is also considered contempt. I refer to Erskine May, Twenty-first Edition, which describes contempt as:
...any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence.
Since the minister on December 12 told the House that he would be open and transparent and was not, I would add the charge of deliberately misleading the House.
In summary, the minister deceived the House and its members. He falsified documents, misled the House, and impeded my ability to perform my duties as a member of Parliament.