Mr. Speaker, I believe that we should very sincerely applaud the Speaker's decision to refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
Sadly, the current Speaker has informed us this year that this is his last term of office. This ruling will be part of the remarkable legacy that he will leave behind. We should now have even greater respect for this Speaker and his ruling on the motion that this ethical issue must be addressed by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
We and the members on the other side of the House have spoken at length about the fact that the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar has apologized. I have already said, here and elsewhere, that it was easier to beg forgiveness than ask for permission. In this case, we were told that action was taken as quickly as possible, which is untrue. I believe that we have to recognize this. It is untrue. Although this incident may have occurred inadvertently or innocently, it is still untrue.
As everyone has stated, my colleagues and I received the report from our committee clerk at 8:31 a.m. on Thursday. The first emails were sent six minutes later. Our Liberal colleague from Mississauga South gave some background on the person who sent these emails, Mr. Ullyatt. He said that Mr. Ullyatt even has a company that specializes in sending these types of things. This person did not act innocently; what he did was premeditated. It was done right away, immediately.
I was personally informed of the situation on Friday at lunch when I was told, in a trembling voice, that it had been learned the previous evening that three emails had been sent inadvertently. Three copies of the report were sent to three people. However, that did not happen on Thursday evening but on Thursday morning. We were told about it on Friday at noon. And that is where it ended. It just hung in the air. The committee met last Monday, at about 3:30 p.m., and we began talking about it. And now I am being told that due diligence was done and apologies were made as quickly as possible?
Last Monday, the member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar spoke at 2:05 p.m., relatively early in the day, to congratulate the Saskatoon Hilltops, but she said nothing about the oversight, the error in judgment, the fundamental mistake that occurred in her office. Not a word.
At 2:55 p.m., 50 minutes later, like other committee members, I told myself that perhaps she had warmed up and was ready to talk about it, but the same member instead rose to ask a question about her bill on accountability and enhanced financial transparency.
Enough is enough. Accountable to whom? Three days earlier her office was accountable to a Conservative Party lobbyist. As for the financial transparency of elected officials, I will not even go there. It was not until 5:50 p.m., three hours later, that the member said she acted as quickly as possible and apologized. We accept her apology, but there comes a point when, as the expression goes, enough is enough.
This is a question of responsibility. Here in this parliament, as in many others, there is ministerial responsibility. When someone makes a mistake, the minister is responsible. In my opinion, a member of Parliament or parliamentary secretary is responsible when a mistake is made. Of course, we need to look at the kind of mistake, but the more we dig and the more the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs digs, the more we will realize that this is no trivial matter. It is not a question of someone accidentally hitting “send” and wondering what he did. The person did it again. Who gave the order to hit “send”? No one knows.
The government is a control freak when it comes to sending information. Everything is managed by the Prime Minister's Office: press conferences, statements and so on. Everything is managed from above. Do we really believe that it was a young rookie who hit the wrong button on his computer, not knowing what he was doing? Perhaps it was something else.
We were in the midst of our work, and some members said that the Standing Committee on Finance was a serious committee. As one of the authors, I have a copyright on the report that will be released, but they went ahead and copied it. That is what she did. They copied certain things, even though the committee—my Liberal, Conservative and NDP colleagues and I—still had serious work to do.
Ministerial responsibility is reflected in the answers. On Monday, we asked the hon. member whom she had sent the unanimous report to. She swore that she had sent it to three people only. One of those three people sent us a message saying they had not received the report. That is odd. The other two then said they did receive it. The answer provided by the hon. member, maliciously or innocently, was not worth anything. We have to find out exactly what is behind such an answer.
We received other vague answers. We were told she had checked her BlackBerry, but it was turned off. Give me a break. Who does she take us for? When it comes to responsibility, the other members of the committee, including the Conservative members, should not be taken for fools. Perhaps someone has something to hide. That is why we support the motion of the hon. member for Outremont to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
We still do not have an answer. Who received the report? It is highly likely that many people in Canada received this report and are smacking their lips. I am sure of it. They have the list of recommendations made by each party, which is rather unusual. They are seeing what was kept and what was not, and how we proceeded. The documents were confidential.
I have asked whether we could have assurance that the documents were received, whether they were destroyed and whether we could get what we call in financial jargon, certification of destruction. So far, no one has given me any certification of destruction. I was told in one case that the document had been deleted and in another case, that it had never been received. In yet another case, the response I got was, “I heart you”, which is more than just a thank you very much. It is a declaration of love. That goes above and beyond appreciation. That is what we got. Those are the types of questions that need to be asked.
The Standing Committee on Finance plays an important role. Any finance minister faced with the leak of his budget or a draft of the budget would have to resign. We are talking about fiscal matters here. Does the member who was here earlier understand how important that is? Does the House understand how serious this work and the leak that happened are?
We conduct serious consultations about fiscal matters. These are either serious or not, either bogus or not. Consultations took place. Earlier, one of our colleagues said he sat on the finance committee for six years and went from coast to coast to coast. These are my second prebudget consultations. We have heard from more than 100 people, and nearly 500 wanted to appear before us. This is an important fiscal matter.
I will draw a parallel with something that has been on everyone's mind in recent days. Could this be insider trading? For the past three or four days in the House, questions have been put to the government about the sudden drop in the Taseko Mines stocks because insider trading was suspected. In that instance, a 165-page plus fiscal document was leaked. We are told that the member made a mistake, and we forgive her. I want to believe her, but this is more serious than the lump in her throat as she spoke. This is a serious matter.
Were any sanctions imposed? We were told that she booted out her secretary, Mr. so-and-so. Fine, but under what terms? Where is he now? Has he been recruited by a lobbyist of hers or by the Prime Minister' office? Who hired him? Will this be taken further? Someone who gets caught insider trading is prosecuted. Who will be prosecuted? Who is responsible? Someone in that office is the boss.
A simple apology is perhaps not enough. We are proud of the ruling made by the Speaker. I have been a member of another parliament, and I know that the rights and privileges of parliamentarians are sacred. We were all elected. We very often have differences of opinion. We sometimes make somewhat disparaging remarks and you are right to call us back to order, Mr. Speaker. I sometimes cannot contain myself when confronted with the slanderous remarks from the other side of the House, but we respect the fact that everyone here was elected by the public and was chosen to represent them. Our privileges are our rights as parliamentarians.
As vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Finance, I get the impression that my rights and those of the people of Hochelaga who elected me and the people who elected the 13 members of the committee have been violated. That is why the Speaker's ruling is special; the Speaker is showing respect for all the witnesses who have appeared since the beginning of the fall and who will appear in the future.
Next year, when we ask someone from Nova Scotia, Quebec, Winnipeg, British Columbia or Prince Edward Island to come and tell us what they think about the upcoming 2012 budget, they will say that there is no point, since anyone can hit the send button and send that information anywhere. Is that serious?
That is why this ruling is so important. I have been a member of this Parliament for one year, and I am very proud of this ruling. Obviously, the members of the Bloc Québécois are in favour of the motion by the member for Outremont. I should point out that that does not happen often.
I am sure that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs will ensure that these actions are punished—that word is justified—because our reputation, our loyalty, our rights and our privileges are at stake.