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House of Commons Hansard #106 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was code.

Topics

Business of Supply

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ending June 23, 2008, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of the supply bill.

In view of recent practices, do hon. members agree that the bill be distributed now?

Business of Supply

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of a Canadian parliamentary delegation concerning its official visit to the Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia from April 18 to April 27, 2008.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to five petitions.

Foreign Affairs and International DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development recommending that the government provide its response in a reasonable time to the advisory group report entitled “National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries”.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. In accordance with the order of reference of Monday, May 26 the committee has considered Bill C-34, the Tsawwassen first nation final agreement act, and has agreed to report it without amendment.

Supreme Court ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-559, An Act to amend the Supreme Court Act (understanding the official languages).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce a bill, in both official languages, amending the Supreme Court Act.

As we all know, the laws themselves are written in each of the two languages. There is one set of laws written in English and one written in French; neither one is a translation of the other.

The bill would amend the Supreme Court Act and introduce a new requirement for judges appointed to the Supreme Court to understand English and French without the assistance of an interpreter.

This is why I am proud to introduce this bill. Our country is officially bilingual, and it is only natural that judges in our country's highest court be able to read the law in the client's preferred language. This is why I am introducing this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Volunteer Service MedalPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to present a petition from a number of my constituents in Langley and across the country.

The petitioners are asking for a new volunteer service medal. They point out that during the specified period of service to their country, Canadians from September 3, 1939 to March 1, 1947 received the Canadian volunteer service medal. During a specified period of service to their country, Canadians from June 27, 1950 to July 27, 1954 received the Canadian volunteer service medal for Korea.

The petitioners respectfully call upon the Government of Canada to recognize, by means of the issuance of a new Canadian volunteer service medal to be designated the Governor General's volunteer service medal, volunteer service by Canadians in the regular and reserve military forces, and cadet corps support staff who are not eligible for the aforementioned medals, and who have completed 365 days of uninterrupted honourable duty in the service of their country, Canada, since March 2, 1947.

CBC Radio OrchestraPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present two petitions today submitted by Gene and Maureen Ramsbottom of North Vancouver, and signed by 104 others who share their concern over the disbanding of the CBC Radio orchestra.

Based in Vancouver, the orchestra is a beloved Canadian cultural institution that has enriched the lives of Canadians for over 70 years by giving Canadian musicians and composers a place on the stage in Canada, and the world.

The petition calls on the government to ensure a continued mandate and adequate funding for CBC Radio to allow it to continue its contribution to the cultural life of Canada, including a strong and renewed commitment to classical music, and to accord the Vancouver-based CBC Radio orchestra natural cultural heritage status.

Bus SecurityPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting three petitions today. The first is signed by several hundred residents of the Quebec City area, including Sainte-Foy, Charlesbourg, Beauport and Ancienne-Lorette. These citizens are calling on Parliament and the government to adopt legislative measures to protect public transportation workers from physical assault, which, sadly, is happening more and more frequently. These people are therefore asking the government to act and adopt the bill introduced by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Security and Prosperity PartnershipPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Second, Mr. Speaker, I would like to present more of the thousands and thousands of names that we have received in the House of Commons as part of the NDP “Stop the SPP campaign”.

Hundreds of residents in the ridings of Nanaimo—Cowichan and Nanaimo—Alberni are asking Parliament and the government to stop any further implementation of the SPP until there is full exposure of all of the minutes of the working groups with full parliamentary and public consultations.

The petitioners find the SPP anti-democratic and secretive, and that it will lead to the diminishing of our quality of life in Canada.

I also have a petition from residents of the lower mainland of British Columbia who are requesting the same thing, They find the SPP process that the Conservative government has embarked upon is anti-democratic and diminishes the quality of food, drug and air safety in this country.

The petitioners are asking the government to stop the SPP, allow for full public consultations, and a parliamentary vote.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 255 will be answered today.

Question No. 255Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

With regard to the four new airborne battalions of 650 regular force personnel to be stationed in Trenton, Comox, Bagotville and Goose Bay: (a) what is the deadline for the construction and completion of infrastructure for each of the squadron projects; (b) what funding announcements has the federal government made for each of these bases since 2006; and (c) how many troops have been added to each of these military bases since 2006?

Question No. 255Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, to date, the Government of Canada has taken steps to establish a rapid-reaction, air support unit at 3 Wing Bagotville through the creation of the 2 Air Expeditionary Wing (2 AEW), a variation of the original plan to form an air deployable army battalion in this location.

The government is currently considering creating an airborne battalion at 8 Wing Trenton, or establishing rapid reaction, air deployable army battalions at 19 Wing Comox or 5 Wing Goose Bay.

In response to a) Planning for permanent infrastructure at 2 AEW Bagotville is progressing, but it is not yet possible to specify the completion dates for these projects, particularly since the tendering process has yet to begin. However, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces (DND/CF) are aiming for this unit to reach initial operational capability by 2010 with approximately 250 personnel; as such, DND/CF may decide to make use of temporary facilities at Bagotville to accommodate personnel until the primary buildings are completed.

In response to b) On 20 July 2007, the government announced that it will provide $85 million for personnel costs, and up to $300 million for infrastructure and equipment, for the creation of an Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagotville, which will eventually comprise approximately 550 personnel once it reaches full operational capability in 2015.

In response to c) The following military personnel have been added between 1 April 2006 and 1 April 2008:

- 3 Wing Bagotville: 30.

Of these 30 personnel, 21 personnel are directly associated with the creation of 2 AEW. This number will increase in Summer 2008, when a small cadre of personnel will begin arriving at 2 AEW Bagotville as part of initial preparations for the training, equipping and structuring of this air support unit;

- 19 Wing Comox: 3;

- 8 Wing Trenton: 222; and

- 5 Wing Goose Bay: 0.

The personnel increases at 19 Wing Comox, 8 Wing Trenton and 5 Wing Goose Bay are not associated with the creation of airborne or air deployable army battalions in these locations.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion--Conflict of Interest CodeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

moved:

That this House reaffirm all of its well-established privileges and immunities, especially with regard to freedom of speech;

that, in order to clarify and assure those privileges, Section 3(3) of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, which is Appendix I to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, is amended by deleting the word “or” at the end of paragraph (b) and by adding the following after paragraph (b):

“(b.1) consists of being a party to a legal action relating to actions of the Member as a Member of Parliament; or”;

that, pursuant to section 28(13) of the Conflict of Interest Code, the House refer the Thibault Inquiry Report back to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner for reconsideration in the light of the amendment to the Code; and

that the House affirm its confidence in the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that has been kicking around here for two or three months. The wording of the motion might make it seem like it is a trivial or technical thing, and it might even be seen as a little unconventional to make such a matter the subject of what we call an opposition day or a supply motion, but I and many others in the House believe this issue to be a fundamentally very important one because it has to do with my ability and the ability of all colleagues in the House to get up right now, to get up at any point in time, to do our jobs as members of Parliament.

It goes right to the core of what this place does as a place of debate, what members of Parliament do as they carry on their work of debating on public issues in the House, at committee, and actually in the constituency, out in the street.

Since parliaments began, the world has changed over that huge period of time. We now have another world of media: communications, television and text messaging all going on. The world is, of course, much bigger than what is here in our House.

There was a time not that long ago when just above us, just above where you are, Mr. Speaker, the media used to sit. We called them the press. Their benches are still there and their job was to report to Canadians on what we did in this House.

A lot has changed. The press actually do not sit there very much anymore because they can watch what we do on television. They make use of the communication facilities of the House. Indeed, by special arrangement and by special constitutional arrangements, what they do is quite special to us in the House.

We even let the media control a piece of our parliamentary precinct. The Canadian media control the press theatre downstairs. It is under their control and not the control of the political parties or the Speaker or the House, and there is a written agreement to that effect.

The point I am making here is that in the world of communications and what we do as members of Parliament, it is more than just what we say in the House. What we use to just do in the House has now moved out into the scrum area and out into the electronic universe.

Just for the record, I feel, and most members will feel, that we have to read some statement of the principle we rely on here, and I am going to read one. It is from the 1977 first report of the special committee on the rights and immunities of members of Parliament:

Freedom of Speech

By far, the most important right accorded to Members of the House is the exercise of freedom of speech in parliamentary proceedings. It has been described as...a fundamental right without which they [Members of Parliament] would be hampered in the performance of their duties. It permits them to speak in the House without inhibition, to refer to any matter or express any opinion as they see fit, to say what they feel needs to be said in the furtherance of the national interest and the aspirations of their constituents.

That refers to what is said in the House and by extension in committees. It does not necessarily, and technically perhaps, govern what is said outside the House and committees. What we are dealing with today is what is said or not said in the House and at committees.

The motion that is before us here today does not deal with communications outside the House and committees. The rules governing those communications are still out there. What we are talking about is the freedom of a member to speak freely and vote in the House of Commons.

The sequence of these events started about 20 or 25 years ago. Some lobbying went on, which has been generally spoken to and described in two separate files. One file is the airbus file and the other file is the Thyssen or Bear Head file, which are separate files but in some ways linked.

With a lot of lobbying going on 20 years or so ago, some money was moved around. The question that has come up now is whether the rules we had then were appropriate to guide public officers in either receiving, not receiving or managing those types of issues involving lobbyists.

The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics embarked on a study and did not do too bad a job. It reported to the House. It is not that all issues have been cleared up but a number of public issues were raised in that whole sequence.

In the context of that, one of the members of that committee said something outside the House, to which a witness at that committee study, a former prime minister, took objection and commenced a lawsuit. That was a slander action and it is still out there. It was not directly connected to what we do in the House at all, at least we did not think it was.

I have another set of facts that are on a collision course now. Those facts include the decision of the House to adopt rules of conduct and a Conflict of Interest Code, which was a good step forward. The code is in place and we now have an Ethics Commissioner who assists us in the interpretation and enforcement of that code. It has worked quite well so far but my recollection is that when the code was put in place it moved fairly quickly. It involved a complex set of issues.

Most members are quite happy and proud that we now have an Ethics Commissioner and a code. However, these two facts now collide when they are taken up by the Ethics Commissioner in dealing with a complaint about the member who made the alleged slanderous remarks. She, quite professionally, looked at the code and tried to figure out whether the member has some duty or obligation in the House as a result of what happened outside the House.

Inside the House, the commissioner points out that section 3 of our Conflict of Interest Code has a provision that says that members may not further their private interests inside the House but that outside the House they can do whatever they want. However, as members of Parliament, we are bound not to further our private interests in what we do in this place and at committee.

In defining a private interest, the Ethics Commissioner looked at subsection (3)(2)(b) of the Conflict of Interest Code which states that a private interest would include “the extinguishment, or reduction in the amount, of the person’s liabilities”. That is all well enough.

We have the member for West Nova, who is being sued outside the House. Does he have a private interest? The Ethics Commissioner decided that, on the face of it, it was not clear that a lawsuit outside the House was a liability so she decided that she would include in the definition of liability the term “contingent liability”.

The Ethics Commissioner included the words “contingent liability” in our set of definitions because those words are included in Black's Law Dictionary, not because we put it in our code, and that therefore the contingent liability she would focus on is potential liability, not contingent liability, in my view, that might be there in this lawsuit.

Therefore, because the member is subject to a lawsuit that might produce a judgment, which, in the view of the commissioner, could constitute a contingent liability, it would then fall within the rule that says that we should not further a private interest. She believes the member could further his private interest, this contingent liability, this potential liability in the lawsuit, by something he might do or not do in voting or speaking in the House. That takes us right to the core of the principle here today. It was her view that this set of circumstances must, by our rule, abridge the member's right to free speech in the House and at committee, not only the right to speak but the right to vote.

We have this interpretation that comes in through the back door. It certainly was an unintended result. I cannot recall anyone around here envisaging this back door route in interpretation to secure the logic that brought us to the point that would abridge, curtail, prevent the member from voting or speaking on this particular set of issues in the House of Commons or at committee. As I have said previously, that is intolerable.

The member for West Nova is, under our Constitution, completely free and unfettered to say whatever he wants outside the House in the media, in the scrum, in his riding, in his house, in his town council and everywhere else out there. However, inside the House, according to our Ethics Commissioner, he cannot speak freely.

This House is the one place in the whole country that is supposed to have, by constitutional root going back hundreds of years, the total, unabridged right of free speech for members but somehow we have ended up in a situation where the member has had that right taken away. If he follows the guidance and decision of the Ethics Commissioner, he has broken the rule and, therefore, may not speak and may not vote on those issues.

I submit that was a totally unintended result caused by what I call this back door, circuitous interpretation of the rules. I am not saying that the Ethics Commissioner made a huge mistake. She made a fairly mechanical interpretation of the rules. It was a little bit like a law school exercise. a syllogism made two plus two equals four, and she reached the conclusion, but did she miss the big one. She missed the fundamental constitutional right of free speech for everyone who serves in this place.

By coincidence, when we adopted the Parliament of Canada Act quite a few years ago, like 140 years ago, section 5 says that the privileges we have in this place are so fundamental that outside in the real world no one has to plead them to the court because all the courts in the country are, by statute, obligated to take notice in courts judicial notice of these privileges. They are very fundamental but most of the time we take them for granted which maybe we should not.

However, in this case the Ethics Commissioner somehow missed it. Maybe we should have listed our privileges a little more clearly in the Code of Conduct but we took it for granted and did not bother, so she did not interpret it. She read in Black's Law Dictionary the definition of “contingent liability” but she did not read our fundamental rights and privileges in this place. She never got there. In a sense I am saying that she should have but I must forgive her because when we wrote the rules we wrote them in a certain way that took a lot of things for granted. In fact, we may have written the rules a little too quickly but we wrote them and it was for a good purpose.

Where do we go from here? We need to assist the Ethics Commissioner to clarify the ruling and to fix our rules. It has created what people call a kind of libel chill.

I asked a week or two ago what would happen if someone decided to sue every member in the New Democratic Party or the Bloc Québécois caucuses for something allegedly mean and nasty they were doing or had said. Would that prevent every member of the caucus having a contingent liability under these rules and this interpretation from speaking or voting on something in the House? According to the Ethics Commissioner, it would if we take the literal interpretation of her ruling. There is no other conclusion one can draw.

We need to clarify the rule. As I do that, I need to address the context in the House. We are working in a minority Parliament and most of us will agree that the debate and the exchanges in the House have been rather testy, excessively partisan and maybe less than the standard we would want to use back in our ridings. In fact, most of us get along pretty well with other MPs back in our ridings. In the House, however, it is not working too well. I am urging members, in dealing with this motion, to try to put the partisanship aside.

One has to accept that it would be natural for a political party with a political stance, in dealing with something coming from another party in debate, to want to use whatever rule or device it could to repress, knock off, set aside or defend against whatever is being alleged and said. That happens in debate.

It is possible that some members may say that the ethics rule is good because it prevents those guys from saying those things. Many may say that we should let the Ethics Commissioner's ruling be the device to prevent that person or those people from saying those things because we do not like what they say. I urge members on both sides to take a step back and look at the broader picture.

I know we have all heard the adage “I don't like what that person is saying but I will defend unto death the person's right to say it”. That adage has been around so long I do not even know who originally said it. I am not offering death at this point. I am offering nothing more than our fundamental right in this place, which is that we have the right to say it in this place, though not necessarily out there.

The lawsuits can go fast and furious out there but in this place and in committees there is an absolute unfettered right to say it. I am urging members on both sides of the House to consider this objectively and to affirm the fundamental right we have to debate, speak and uphold the constitutional traditions and conventions that we have always had and which have now been, arguably, impaired by this ruling. We need to fix the rules and get the member for West Nova back on his feet on all issues.

Opposition Motion--Conflict of Interest CodeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my hon. colleague's presentation. I agree with one thing he said, or perhaps even more than one thing, but the one thing I agree with right off the top is that this debate is extremely interesting and it should be held in a very reasonable and non-partisan manner, because I think it is extremely important.

What the motion intends to do is fundamentally change some of the rules that have guided all of us for a number of years. We are guided by a great many rules, if I can call them that, or conventions, as the member says, from procedures and practices to Standing Orders to codes of conduct, and I think before we make any changes we ought to very carefully examine the consequences of those changes.

The member speaks of what he considers to be the overriding principle of members of Parliament, that is, the right to speak freely in this place. While I appreciate that, I would suggest that there is one even more overriding or overarching principle that we are all guided by and that is to put the public interest ahead of our own interest.

I would give the member a suggestion and ask him whether or not he agrees with it. If there is a legitimate lawsuit brought forward by a member of the public against a sitting member of Parliament and that member of Parliament is allowed to speak to that issue at a committee level, in effect that member of Parliament would have an advantage over the member of the general public who brought the lawsuit.

In effect, the member of Parliament would be conducting an examination for discovery or, in other words, putting his own private interest in that case over that of the general public. That is why we have a commissioner to interpret cases on a case by case basis. If there were a lawsuit that had no effect as to the subject material in the committee, then the member would not be encumbered.

I would simply ask the member this. Does he not agree that the overarching principle of all members in this House should be to put the public interest over the private interests of members of Parliament?

Opposition Motion--Conflict of Interest CodeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with that so much that I would say the parliamentary interest trumps everything else. It trumps the lawsuit out on civvy street. If we are going to buy the principle, we buy the whole thing.

If there is a lawsuit between two people, that is fine. They can have their own pissing match. They can, but what governs is the public interest, and the public interest is reflected by the views of every member of this House in here and at committee. That trumps everything that goes on out on civvy street.

Second, the member asked whether the member of Parliament would have an advantage. I say no, because we all know that the courts out there operate based on only the evidence adduced in the trial at the hearing. Let me repeat: only the evidence adduced in the trial at the hearing.

However, everything that happens in this House and at committee is privileged and bound by parliamentary privilege. It is not usable. It cannot be used or transported outside this place. If somebody attempted to use evidence adduced in a committee or in the House it would be a breach of parliamentary privilege. It would be a contempt.

So the answer to that on both fronts is yes, the public interest trumps everything, and that is why what happens here is more important than what happens in the trial. Second, the evidence from here is not usable out there, so there is no advantage.

Opposition Motion--Conflict of Interest CodeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me say for my colleague from Scarborough--Rouge River that it seems to me the dilemma we are faced with when we are making a decision on this motion before us today is a balancing act, whereby potentially we expose abuses if we have a member of Parliament who is irresponsible and is prepared to use his or her freedom of speech, that extra layer of freedom of speech that we all have as members of Parliament, in an irresponsible or even abusive way.

I would like to ask my friend if he has analyzed the balance he is trying to strike here. What would he say to those who would say that we are exposing individual members of society to potential abuse by an individual member of Parliament who is irresponsible?

Opposition Motion--Conflict of Interest CodeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a good question, but I suggest to the hon. member that the boundaries have already been drawn and that we already have decided in this place. I read for members that earlier quote. One of my colleagues gave me a quote from a 1974 British lawsuit, which will come up late in the event, but we already have decided that in this place we have the absolute, unfettered right to say whatever we need to say in the public interest.

That decision has already been made. The motion today corrects one section. It provides an exception from one section of our conflict of interest rule. It is really quite minor, except that it takes us right to the core of our fundamental right of free speech. Whether or not we like to hear what some members say in this House does not matter so much as their right to say it.

Opposition Motion--Conflict of Interest CodeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the member's speech. I want to give him the opportunity to flesh out this privilege. It seems very clear from his speech that he is saying there is no more important job as members of Parliament than to represent the people. We are here for the people. The people will judge us at election time.

Is that not what we are doing when we speak in Parliament or at committee? We are speaking for the people. Given that there is history here, that kings have lost their heads, that in Singapore such protections do not prevail in parliament and therefore people who oppose the government can be shut down by lawsuits, is not the most important thing that we do as parliamentarians to act for the people? Is it not that we are the people and therefore what the hon. member from Regina said is very consonant, which is that our role is for the people and that is primordial?

Opposition Motion--Conflict of Interest CodeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with this subject to the rules that we adopt here in the House for our own conduct. Subject to those rules, I would say that the only decision maker about what we say is our constituents. They are the only arbiter. The judgment on the goodness or badness of what we do in this place and at committee is with our constituents. That is how we have constructed it. I cannot do a better job than that.

I had one image in my mind as the member spoke. It is the image from 19 years ago yesterday of Tiananmen Square and the one guy who stood in front of the tank. I gather he did not make it through that sequence and is no longer with us, but he stood in front of the tank and stopped the tanks on that roadway. That is what we have to make sure we have the right to do here in speech, and sometimes it is a bit like standing in front of a tank, but we must have that ability to stand here representing our electors and say what has to be said even if it irritates all other 307 members of the House.

Opposition Motion--Conflict of Interest CodeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, in listening to this it seems to me that between the two arguments the hon. member is making there is a distinction that he has not really clarified. The first point is in regard to his concerns about freedom of speech. He has waxed eloquent on those concerns. The second is the question of casting a vote. There is a distinction there.

We all of course remember a few years ago Chuck Cadman casting a deciding vote on whether or not a government would fall. As well, given the fact that we seem to be in an era of minority governments, we have committee meetings that are decided by one vote. That is one issue. Having the right to vote can very well make a distinction between a successful or an unsuccessful vote in certain cases.

Actually engaging in the freedom of speech, which of course also means the freedom to question, to summon witnesses and so on, seems to me to have a much more aggressive intent or potential for misuse. Yet at the same time it is less likely to be a right which, if constricted, is going to actually affect the business of Parliament.

We have to remember in this context that the privileges of an individual member are actually the member's part of the privileges of the whole House. They are not actually privileges of that member qua individual, but as a person performing a portion of the role of this House, thus the importance of ensuring the entire body can vote without having any of its members taken away. Could the member comment on that?