Mr. Speaker, I know colleagues do not want to spend the whole afternoon debating this issue, but I want to make two remarks.
First, I intend to support the motion, not because I believe it is, as has been put, a clear-cut case of breach of privilege but it certainly falls within the category of difficulties that the procedure and House affairs committee is looking at now.
Mr. Speaker, I would not want your ruling to be taken as a ruling that a franked envelope communication from a member of Parliament to a person in another riding would constitute a breach of privilege of the member in the other riding where the letter was sent. Members of the House of Commons routinely send out communications to Canadians either in reply to letters or for other purposes.
In terms of free speech and our franking privilege, I just wanted to make it clear that members have to continue to be free to communicate with Canadians on issues, especially when Canadians write to individual MPs who are not their members of Parliament.
The second point I want to make is that the rules that govern both mailings, whether it is under the frank or whether it is a 10 percenter or whether it is distribution of householders or the bulk mailing machinery that allows us to send communications by weight, I regard the rules now as an absolute wild west show. I do not regard the rules as being in keeping with the way these privileges and services developed originally.
When I first came to this place, there was a rule that mailings of that nature did not include partisan material. Eventually that rule sort of fell by the wayside. It was honoured more in the breach, which is a very unfortunate thing to say. The rule was not followed so we abandoned the rule because we could not police it. Then, not only did we have the partisan material going out routinely as part of any of those types of mailings but we started to add in negative political material. It would not just be promotional of one's own party; it would actually be negative about another party, or another MP, or a minister.
Now all kinds of communications are going out under different categories of parliamentary services, paid for by the taxpayer, which is loaded with political self-promotion and negative political content about other members and other parties. I do not believe the citizen would be able to keep track of it all. I am afraid to even inquire into it. It is a wild west show. None of us is actually in a position, singly, to grab hold of this, but I am hopeful that the procedure and House affairs committee will signal the problem and commence on developing a resolution.
Ultimately, it is not the procedure and House affairs committee as much as it is the Board of Internal Economy that will have to deal with these rules. Of course that particular body, the Board of Internal Economy, operates in camera and its minutes are not public. Nobody knows--I do not even know--how his or her representative or how the representatives of their colleagues in the House are dealing with this issue on the Board of Internal Economy. That is just not the way to run a democratic institution, especially when we are dealing with on one hand, members' privileges and services, and on the other, our democracy, which relies on fair free speech, as was pointed out earlier today, and communications between this place, its members and our electors.
I make those remarks in trying to be helpful. I regret if my inability to immediately unanimously agree to the motion has prolonged debate here, but I hope my remarks will be taken as helpful.