Mr. Speaker, on February 10 the Auditor General tabled her report before the House which has given light to evidence of parliamentary contempt in the 1999-2000 “Report on Plans and Priorities” which was signed by the then minister and deputy minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.
This is the first opportunity I have had to bring this matter to the attention of the Speaker, as this evidence was confirmed earlier today by the Auditor General during today's meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts, both in oral evidence and in private conversation.
In chapter three, the report of the Auditor General states the following on page 30, paragraph 3.100:
Not only was Parliament not informed about the real objectives of the Sponsorship Program, it was misinformed about how the program was being managed. The parliamentary process was bypassed to transfer funds to Crown corporations. Funds appropriated by Parliament to the PWGSC were used to fund the operations of the Crown corporations and of the RCMP.
She goes on to say:
PWGSC's 1999-2000 Report on Plans and Priorities, signed by the Minister and the Deputy Minister, contained the following statement about CCSB:
“The CCSB business line will focus on the following strategies and key activities over the planning period...provide core communications procurement and project coordination services to federal departments that are useful, timely and value added while ensuring prudence, probity and transparency throughout the process.”
The Auditor General then says:
More than half of CCSB's spending was on sponsorships. Prudence and probity in the delivery of the program were certainly not ensured.
That was a statement signed by the minister. So it is clear that the Auditor General has found sufficient evidence to conclude in her report that Parliament was misled. To that end, it is my duty as a parliamentarian to bring forward this evidence and seek appropriate justice on the matter, as I feel there is enough documentation to prove the case.
The Prime Minister himself acknowledged on February 10 of this year that the rules were not followed and that Parliament was not clearly advised. He said:
...the hon. member knows that when money is allocated by a cabinet...it is allocated on the basis that certain rules...will be followed. The problem is that those rules were not followed.
A Speaker in 1978 ruled a matter to be a prima facie case of contempt where the RCMP were alleged to have deliberately misled a minister of the crown and the member for Northumberland--Durham resulting in “an attempt to obstruct the House by offering misleading information”.
On page 225 of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , he describes contempt as “an offence against the authority or dignity of the House”.
In the 22nd edition of Erskine May on page 63, it describes ministerial responsibility and states:
...it is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister....
The House has always insisted on accurate and truthful information. That is why the direct misrepresentation of a ministry's plans and priorities must be treated as contempt.
Parliament must never be misled or lied to. Parliamentarians and the public must rely on the goodwill and the honour of ministerial presentations and submissions.
I trust the Speaker will take my comments under advisement and return with a ruling. Should the Speaker find that this is a prima facie case of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.