Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 48 where, if it has been demonstrated and if in your wisdom, Mr. Speaker, you find that there has been deliberately misleading information put forward by a member of the House, you can rule accordingly.
On Friday, November 19, in my absence, in response to a question from the House leader for the official opposition, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration said the following:
The deputy leader of the Conservative Party requested a permit a couple of weeks after the election for a personal friend. I have since learned that the hon. member's personal friend was a former Conservative candidate and has been a big political contributor to the Conservative Party. I guess I should have asked, did he work on the campaign?
Mr. Speaker, that information is inaccurate. I was asked to intervene for a minister's permit, for the first time in seven years, I might add, for a visitor's visa for a student from India. That visa was granted. It lasted two weeks and that student then subsequently left the country. Information has been provided to the minister's office as such.
This original request had been made to a Liberal member at the time, in Mississauga, and because of the election the matter was not processed, so I was simply following a process that was initiated by a member of the government.
The person requesting the permit was the husband of a former Progressive Conservative candidate who ran in the 2000 election. I might add that although I met that individual through political circles on a few occasions, I would hardly deem that a personal friend, and I say that respectfully.
There was some negative implication, I would submit, that somehow this was an indiscretion or somehow this was an inappropriate intervention made on my part. The minister implied that this person then may have worked on my campaign. I am quick to add that the individual in question, coming from India, came to Ontario and never set foot in the province of Nova Scotia, nor did the individuals making the request ever leave the province of Ontario during the election.
Since there is no evidence that would lead to the minister's accusation that the fact that somehow I had acted inappropriately as a member of Parliament, this information that was provided was clearly false. I can only conclude that the accusation was made to deflect attention away from the current situation in which the minister finds herself, that it was done for a political purpose to deter the official opposition from asking questions in the House on this particular issue, which I find disturbing, and deflect away from the actual real issue, and that is one of her own inappropriate and preferential intervention.
It is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that the Privacy Act itself prohibits personal information of this sort from being under the control of the government, again I add, from being released without the consent of the individual. I would suggest that the minister is treading dangerously close to the line of breaching the Privacy Act when she starts to disclose information about interventions made by members of the House with her department. It is reckless on her part and it is not supposed to be done without the consent of the individuals in question.
Page 111 of the 22nd edition of Erskine May states:
The Commons may treat the making of a deliberately misleading statement as a contempt.
Page 141 of the 19th edition of Erskine May states:
Conspiracy to deceive either House or any committees of either House will also be treated as a breach of privilege.
I would refer the Speaker as well to a ruling by the Chair on October 29, 1980, at page 4213 of Hansard , where the Speaker states that:
--in the context of contempt, it seems that to amount to contempt, representations or statements about...members should not only be erroneous or incorrect, but, rather, should be purposely untrue and improper and import a ring of deceit.
Mr. Speaker, these comments made by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration are not only inaccurate and incorrect, but her statement was politically motivated, and it was a deliberate attempt to tarnish my reputation for in some way making an intervention for a citizen of India visiting this country for two weeks on a visitor's visa as a student.
The minister also implies by referencing requests from members that representations from either party, any party in this House, are somehow inappropriate and that somehow an opposition member, or a backbench member of the government, for that matter, could actually be responsible for the issuing of the visa, which is clearly untrue.
She is also well aware that the only person who possesses that authority is herself as minister and therefore the only one who could use that authority is herself, which she has done clearly in some cases. Her referencing of members' requests in the context of the abuse of power is reckless and misleading, and I would suggest that there is an air of intimidation when a minister tries to reference these interventions from members of the opposition.
The real issue is the minister herself being the exclusive authority to benefit a campaign worker and in some way indirectly benefit herself and her campaign.
Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, as you yourself ruled on a similar case on Friday, February 1, 2002, you said:
The authorities are consistent about the need for clarity in our proceedings and about the need to ensure the integrity of the information provided by the government to the House. Furthermore, in this case, as hon. members have pointed out, integrity of information is of paramount importance...
Mr. Speaker, I therefore submit to you that there is a case before the House and before you where the minister has deliberately provided false information. Therefore, if the Chair so finds that there is a prima facie case of a breach of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.