Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to address a point of order that was raised on March 21 by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons in regard to remarks made by me during debate on a concurrence motion on Friday, March 2, 19 days earlier.
I do not agree that anything in my speech on March 2 should be considered out of order or unparliamentary for the following three reasons, and I will be brief.
It is true that, on March 2, I said that some of us in western Canada were calling the Minister of Agriculture Il Duce, which is a nickname given to the Italian fascist leader Mussolini. We do call him Il Duce, but it is important to note that I did not call the minister a fascist. I implied he was acting like a fascist when he denied farmers the right to vote on marketing wheat through the Canadian Wheat Board, even though that right is guaranteed by statute.
Fascism is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a right-wing authoritarian form of government. Even though it is a form of government that modern Democrats do not endorse or support, it is not in and of itself an insult.
My implying the minister was acting like a fascist is no different than his fellow Conservative colleagues saying that I often act and speak like a socialist, which is an accusation that they make freely and often and one that I do not necessarily object to or deny.
I do not contest that the word “fascist” is listed in Beauchesne's as having been found to be unparliamentary in past rulings by the Speaker, but I ask you to consider that Beauchesne's concedes it is impossible to lay down, in any specific rules, in regard to what specific words or expressions are or are not contrary to order. Much depends on the context, including the historical context of certain emotionally charged words.
I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider section 486, on page 143, of Beauchesne's sixth, edition which says:
An expression which is deemed to be unparliamentary today does not necessarily have to be deemed unparliamentary next week.
In other words, what is considered acceptable language may change over time.
For instance, accusing a fellow MP of acting like a right-wing authoritarian may have been a lot more offensive when Canada was at war with fascist governments. At that time, it would have been like accusing an MP of being like the enemy, perhaps questioning their patriotism. I meant no such thing about the Minister of Agriculture.
Conversely, it would have been less offensive in the early 1930s before World War II when there were legitimate, although we would argue misguided, fascist parties in Great Britain, Canada and the United States. My point is that some words that were volatile and emotionally charged in a certain historical context are less so today and should no longer be considered unparliamentary.
In another example, calling a fellow MP a separatist was ruled out of order as being unparliamentary in 1964. In those days, calling a fellow MP a separatist would have been comparable to accusing him of treason. Now, for better or for worse, we have separatists all over the place in the Canadian Parliament and calling a member of the Bloc Québécois a separatist is only stating a fact.
Many other terms and expressions probably should be struck from the list of what is considered unparliamentary. In 1875 it was ruled unparliamentary to call someone a political bully. I have heard the Leader of the Opposition call the current Prime Minister a bully frequently.
In 1886 it was ruled out of order to suggest that an hon. member had come into this world by accident. In 1919 we were prohibited from suggesting a fellow member was seeking cheap notoriety. I myself have been accused of that many times. In 1881 a member was asked to withdraw his remarks when he suggested that a colleague was “inspired by forty-rod whisky”.
The list of what is acceptable should clearly be updated. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that your ruling will not be guided by the fact that the words “fascist” and “Mussolini” have at one time been found to be unparliamentary in the past.
In fact, Marleau and Montpetit seem to agree that precedents should not be the only consideration when the book states that:
The codification of unparliamentary language has proven impractical as it is the context in which words or phrases are used that the Chair must consider when deciding whether or not they should be withdrawn.
The second point I would make, Mr. Speaker, is that in determining whether my remarks made on March 2 should be withdrawn, I ask you to consider the matter of timeliness, as found in section 485 of Beauchesne's on pages 142 and 143.
Section 485 states, “Unparliamentary words may be brought to the attention of the House...by any Member”, but it goes on to say that “the proper time to raise such a point of order is when the words are used and not afterwards”.
Marleau and Montpetit speaks to the same matter on page 526, where it states:
Since the Speaker must rule on the basis of the context in which the language was used, points of order raised in regard to questionable language must be raised as soon as possible after the irregularity has occurred.
No one objected to my remarks at the time I made them or later on the day that I made them. The complaint was made 19 days later, on March 21, and I believe the matter should be dismissed on the basis of timeliness, if nothing else, or the Speaker may be buried in a landslide of historic grievances.
The third point I would make is that in the same section of Marleau and Montpetit it states:
In dealing with unparliamentary language, the Speaker takes into account...most importantly, whether or not the remarks created disorder in the Chamber.
I think all who were present in the House on March 2 would agree that my remarks did not create disorder in the House that day. They did not cause any disruption in the House. There was no interruption of debate or interference or delay caused to the orders of the day. In fact, at the time, my remarks did not even trigger heckling or groans.
In summary, Mr. Speaker, I ask you to rule that the comments I made on March 2 were not out of order because: (a) the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons should have raised any objections he may have had to my comments on March 2 at that time and not at this late date; (b) my comments of March 2 do not constitute unparliamentary language in that they did not cause disorder in the House; and (c) saying that a minister or the government is acting in a way that is typical of or consistent with the actions of a right-wing authoritarian regime should not in and of itself be considered unparliamentary.
In closing, I draw the Chair's attention to the fact that in the context of objecting to my remarks, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons accused me of being hypocritical.
Mr. Speaker, I point out that accusing another member of hypocrisy is itself unparliamentary. I refer you to pages 363 and 364 of Bourinot's fourth edition, where it states, “It is out of order to...accuse [an hon. member] of being 'hypocritical'”. That reference is from 1872. A similar reference to a ruling on March 22, 1927, in Beauchesne's second edition, also cites using the word “hypocrites” as being out of order.
The words “hypocrite”, “hypocrites” and “hypocritical” were consistently found to be out of order in rulings from the Chair in February, June, on July 5 and on July 8 of 1961, in a particularly bad rash of using the word “hypocritical”.
Because I am not hypocritical, Mr. Speaker, I am not formally asking you to order the parliamentary secretary to withdraw or to apologize for this hurtful insult. Instead, I maintain, as I have consistently, that such an objection should have been raised on March 21 at the time the parliamentary secretary's insulting remarks were made.
In closing, may I simply reiterate that I do not accept that anything I said on March 2 warrants withdrawal, nor should you, I would hope, deem it to be unparliamentary.