Mr. Speaker, for members of Parliament to do their jobs effectively we need to operate on the basis of good information. That information is often provided by the minister responsible for our critic areas, in this case the Minister of Health.
Giving the minister and her department full credit, they do provide us on a daily basis with the media clippings, reports from across the country.
The reason I bring this forward today to the floor of the House is that I think there was a deliberate attempt by the minister and her department to withhold information from individual members of Parliament, and I refer to those clippings.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, we are debating the so-called health care accord reached with the first ministers. It has been an important subject and in fact the number one topic on the minds of most Canadians.
Today, when I received these clippings they were unusually thin, fewer pages than what we normally get. In fact, on the front page of these clippings provided by the department it says “all FMM (first ministers meetings) related clips are provided in separate package with limited distribution”.
That limited distribution is restricted to the government side of the House. None of the health critics on this side of the House received that distribution of clippings, which we need to get the information required to question the minister.
Mr. Speaker, you know full well that the minister has been very much confused on how much money is going into this new package in terms of dollars for provinces and dollars for the aboriginals. She was floundering the last couple of days, so there is a deliberate attempt.
I will quickly go to Marleau and Montpetit and read to you, to the public and to this place the responsibilities of a minister:
In terms of ministerial responsibility, Ministers have both individual and collective responsibilities to Parliament.
Further on it states:
The principle of individual ministerial responsibility holds that Ministers are accountable not only for their own actions as department heads, but also for the actions of their subordinates; individual ministerial responsibility provides the basis for accountability throughout the system. Virtually all department activity is carried out in the name of the Minister who, in turn, is responsible to Parliament for those acts.
That is us, Mr. Speaker.
I contend that it was deliberate on the part of the minister's staff to withhold those clippings from us on this side of the House to effectively to our job, because there is egg all over the Prime Minister's face and the minister's face on this accord.
In addition to that, I think you will find, Mr. Speaker, on the evidence that I am providing, a prima facie case of breach of privilege of individual members.
Again I will quote from Marleau and Montpetit, on page 52, chapter 3, Privileges and Immunities. It states:
The distinctive mark of a privilege is its ancillary character. The privileges of Parliament are rights, which are “absolutely necessary for the due execution of its powers”. They are enjoyed by individual Members because the House--
And this is most important, Mr. Speaker:
--cannot perform its functions without unimpeded use of the services of its Members; and by each House for the protection of its Members and the vindication of its own authority and dignity.
This place only works when we have good opposition. Governments get sloppy and lazy when that opposition is not there. Knowledge is power. We need to have that knowledge to do our jobs. We should not be denied information on the most important issue on the minds of all Canadians, which we get on a regular basis, and this is not just me speaking as one individual member of Parliament. I have consulted with all the health critics, with the exception of one who I believe was absent today, but none of us received those clippings.
Members on that side of the House got those extra clippings. That put them at a distinct advantage over us in this place.
Mr. Speaker, I expect that you will see that there is a prima facie breach of privilege and I would request that you turn this over to the appropriate committee for an investigation.