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House of Commons Hansard #43 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pumps.

Topics

Earthquake in ChilePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is signed by Canadians calling on the Canadian government to match funds personally donated by Canadian citizens for the victims of the Chilean earthquake. On February 27, 2010, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake occurred in southern Chile. The Chilean-Canadian community has been mobilized. It has had many social events. As a matter of fact, there is one coming up on May 22, I believe.

The question is: When will the Prime Minister give the same treatment to the Chilean earthquake victims as he did to the victims of the Haitian earthquake and match funds personally donated by Canadians to help the victims of the Chilean earthquake?

Canada PostPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, we all know the importance of postal services in rural communities and in our northern communities. However, there is one area within York South—Weston, which is the area called Mount Dennis, where there is no postal station and there is a very high concentration of seniors and those with disabilities.

The petitioners from that little community are calling upon Canada Post to look at the situation in that particular area and are petitioning the House of Commons and Parliament to have a postal station in place as soon as possible, in consideration of citizens' needs in the Mount Dennis community.

This petition has more than 100 signatures from citizens in that particular area, Mount Dennis.

Animal WelfarePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a series of petitions to present.

The first is a petition to the Government of Canada to support the universal declaration on animal welfare.

The petitioners, residents of Canada, petition the Government of Canada to support the universal declaration on animal welfare.

Firearms RegistryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, in the next petition, the petitioners call upon the House of Commons and Parliament to support Bill C-391, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act (repeal of long-gun registry).

Employment InsurancePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the next petition is with respect to fixing the employment insurance program by having the hours set at 360, increasing the benefits duration to 50 weeks and increasing the benefits to at least 60%, using workers' best 12 weeks of earnings.

Assisted SuicidePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, finally, I have a petition respecting legalizing euthanasia in Canada.

The petitioners, residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to reject Bill C-384, which relates to the issue of legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Foreign TakeoversPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by hundreds of citizens from northern Ontario. The petitioners are very frustrated with the way the government completely blew the negotiations between Falconbridge and Inco, which would have emerged into a Canadian super giant.

The government rubber stamped corporate raider Xstrata and now we see the results. There has been the shutdown of mines in Sudbury. The copper refining capacity and zinc refining capacity is being shut down in Ontario. There has been no net benefit to Canadians from this corporate raider.

Frustrated communities in the mining belt call for changes to the Investment Canada Act so we can see the kinds of commitments these foreign takeovers will be subject to, if any, and that they will be open and transparent so we can learn from the debacle of Falconbridge and Inco, which is now being seen in the mining industry as the Tories' modern equivalent of the Avro Arrow.

We need to learn lessons from this debacle under the Conservative government, which is what the citizens of northern Ontario say, so it will not be repeated in other industries that are opened up to foreign takeovers.

JusticePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, when Canadians learned that Graham James had been pardoned for his crimes, thousands and thousands of Canadians were outraged, including one of my constituents from Wild Rose by the name of Amy Stewart. She started a Facebook campaign and later a petition campaign, which has now spread all across my riding and the country. I have the first stack of responses, the overwhelming response to that petition call by Amy Stewart.

The petition partially states that children are Canada's most vulnerable citizens and deserve full protection from sexual offences, that sex offences are despicable crimes that must be condemned and punished, that pardons granted to convicted sex offenders serve to limit public awareness of their movements and whereabouts in Canadian communities and that concern for the safety of children and Canadian communities should be placed ahead of the interests of convicted sex offenders, therefore.

The petitioners call upon the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to change the Criminal Records Act to prohibit the granting of pardons to convicted sex offenders.

It gives me pleasure to table this petition today.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Multiple SclerosisRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair has received a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Etobicoke North and I will hear her on this point now.

Multiple SclerosisRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to request an emergency debate on an urgent issue of national importance.

There are 55,000 to 75,000 Canadians who live with multiple sclerosis. Our country has one of the highest rates of the disease in the world. MS is a devastating, unpredictable disease, which affects balance, hearing, memory, mobility and vision. Its affects are physical, emotional, financial and last a lifetime. MS steals futures from families and there is no cure.

I believe my request meets several criteria for emergency debate. This is a genuine emergency, as a delay of a matter of months for some patients may mean the difference between working and not working, walking and not walking or living on their own or in care. The topic is immediately relevant as patients are now mortgaging their homes and spending their savings in order to travel overseas for the procedures that are not available in Canada.

The topic is a concern throughout the nation as Canada has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world. MS is the most common neurological disease affecting young adults in Canada. Every day three more people in Canada are diagnosed with the disease in communities across the country.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information, or CIHI, estimates that the annual total cost of MS to the Canadian economy is $1 billion. Direct care and treatment costs are estimated at $139 million annually, with drugs accounting for almost half. A scan and venoplasty in a public hospital setting is estimated to cost $1,500. However, the true cost of MS has nothing to do with money. The impact of quality of life is simply catastrophic.

The matter absolutely falls within the administrative responsibilities of the government as it is responsible for the health of aboriginal Canadians as well as the Canadian Forces and it is a partner with the provinces and territories to deliver health care to Canadians across the country.

I am thankful for the Speaker's consideration and eagerly await his response.

Multiple SclerosisRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for her submissions on this point and the letter that she sent detailing the issue.

While I have no doubt that it is a serious situation, I am not sure the request meets the exigencies of the Standing Order in respect of an emergency debate at this time. Accordingly I will decline the request at this stage.

Statements by MembersPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, May 6 I gave notice to the chair of a matter arising out of the statement by the member for Peace River just prior to question period.

You issued a letter, Mr. Speaker, dated February 26, 2009, to House leaders concerning members' statements made pursuant to Standing Order 31. That is the reason why I have raised this privilege. You expressed your concern about what was happening. The letter to the House leaders states:

In recent days a number of Members' Statements made pursuant to Standing Order 31 have caused me some concern.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice at pages—

That has been amended now with the second edition of O'Brien and Bosc at page 422.

—sets out guidelines governing the content of such statements. In particular, it states that “personal attacks are not permitted”. I intend to halt at early stage any trend in this direction. As such, I am writing to advise you that I will vigorously enforce the authority given to me by Standing Order 31 to cut off Members if, in my opinion, improper statements are made.

This letter is signed by the Speaker. A carbon copy was sent to all whips and encouraged them to inform members of their parties of the Speaker's approach in this regard.

Obviously the matter has become untenable. It is out of hand. The statement I am rising on is probably the worst thing that has happened to me in my over 16 years as a member of Parliament. I want to read into the record the offensive S. O. 31 made by the member for Peace River. It can be found on page 2459 of May 6 House of Commons Debates. The member states:

Mr. Speaker, this morning the Liberal chair of the ethics committee showed yet again the ethical bankruptcy of the Liberal Party, when it was revealed that he had a private conversation with the interim Information Commissioner about an ongoing investigation.

Is this how the Liberal Party respects the independent officers of Parliament? All members of the House should believe in respecting due process, all members should believe in respecting the independence of officers of Parliament.

No member of the House should be engaged in a private conversation with a legal authority about an ongoing investigation in the middle of that investigation.

Yet, the member for Mississauga South threw due process and respect for the independent authority of that officer completely out the window by attempting to influence, interfere or direct that independent officer of Parliament.

This is highly inappropriate, grossly unethical, and shows yet again why the Liberal Party cannot be trusted.

I do not think I have to explain to you, Mr. Speaker, how these allegations are all directed at myself.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, I have no recourse to defend myself. If I do not, then it is important that I take the consequences. As I said, this is so serious that I had to rise on this matter.

I should make reference to Standing Order 18 as it regards using offensive words against either House or against any member thereof, with which the House is well familiar. I can also refer to page 618 of O'Brien and Bosc which states:

The proceedings of the House are based on a long-standing tradition of respect for the integrity of all Members. Thus, the use of offensive, provocative or threatening language in the House is strictly forbidden. Personal attacks, insults and obscenities are not in order.

That is footnote 176.

That is footnote 176. It also includes, “any allegation that a member has lied or misled the House”. This is a very important aspect of this. Certain allegations in the statement by the member for Peace River he knew were incorrect and yet he proceeded to make the statement even when he knew the facts were different. It goes on to say:

Personal attacks, insults and obscene language or words are not in order. A direct charge or accusation against a Member may be made only by way of a substantive motion for which notice is required.

That is Speaker Michener's ruling of June 19, 1959, which I wanted to raise with you, Mr. Speaker.

I should indicate that I had to wait for the blues to ensure I had the words and the statement absolutely correct. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the House to give proper notice and to rise at the late hour of the day on Thursday. I had to catch my plane home to attend to parliamentary business.

I want to raise this also in the context of freedoms of speech. I refer O'Brien and Bosc, pages 97 and 98 and I think that this helps with the essence because it does refer broadly. There is no question, and I will not read all of this. I want to be concise. It states on page 98:

It states on page 98, “Such a privilege confers grave responsibilities on those who are protected by it”. That refers to the immunity privileges that we have here, that nothing we say in here can be used against us outside of this chamber and the same goes for things that are said in committee, for instance. It goes on to say, “By that I mean specifically the Hon. Members of this place. The consequences”, and Mr. Speaker, this really is serious. If the members are not interested in allowing me to have freedom of speech—

Statements by MembersPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

You can't be serious.

Statements by MembersPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

I am serious.

I am reading from chapter 3, page 97 of O'Brien and Bosc, 2nd edition, “Misuse of Freedom of Speech”. I am quoting a ruling on a question of privilege by Speaker Fraser who spoke at length on the issue. He said, in part:

Such a privilege confers grave responsibilities on those who are protected by it. By that I mean specifically the Hon. Members in this place. The consequences of its abuse can be terrible. Innocent people could be slandered with no redress available to them. Reputations could be destroyed on the basis of false rumour. All Hon. Members are conscious of the care they must exercise in availing themselves of the absolute privilege of freedom of speech. That is why there are long-standing practices and tradition observed in this House to counter the potential for abuse.

Speaker Parent emphasized the need for Members to use great care in exercising their right to speak freely in the House.

He said, and this is from the footnote, the Debate September 30, 1994, page 6371, in which he states in part:

...paramount to our political and parliamentary systems is the principle of freedom of speech, a member's right to stand in this House unhindered to speak his or her mind. However when debate in the House centres on sensitive issues, as it often does, I would expect that members would always bear in mind the possible effects of their statements and hence be prudent in their tone and choice of words.

He goes to say in footnote 170, on page 98, the debates of May 5, 1987:

Specifically, during a debate as well as during Question Period and other House proceedings, Members are bound by the Standing Orders and practices of the House with respect to the content of speeches and remarks. For example, Standing Order 18—

I referred to that earlier. He goes on to say:

—prohibits the use of disrespectful or offensive language in debate. Moreover, personal attacks, insults, obscene language or words that question a Member's integrity, honesty or character are not permitted. It is unparliamentary to state that a Member has deliberately misled the House. As Speaker Milliken observed in 2002: “If we do not preserve the tradition of accepting the word of a fellow member, which is a fundamental principle of our parliamentary system, then freedom of speech, both inside and outside the House, is imperilled.

This is very powerful. These are the fundamentals of Parliament. These are the fundamental issues that we must respect and defend.

I want to move on specifically with regard to statements by members under Standing Order 31. I refer to unparliamentary language referred to in Marleau and Montpetit on page 525. With regard to unparliamentary language particularly related to any statement, it says:

The proceedings of the House are based on a long-standing tradition of respect for the integrity of all Members. Thus, the use of offensive, provocative or threatening language in the House is strictly forbidden. Personal attacks, insults and obscene language or words are not in order. A direct charge or accusation against a Member may be made only by way of a substantive motion for which notice is required.

I believe that is what is happening.

On November 18 I rose in the House on a similar point and O'Brien and Bosc would have been helpful. I rose on a question of privilege regarding a member in this place who made statements referring to me during his own question of privilege. I rose and made my argument. The Speaker took the matter under consideration. That was almost six months ago and there has been no response yet to that question of privilege I raised on November 18. Considering the seriousness of the situation, this calls for some attention yet again.

I will now refer to examples of how important and sensitive things are. Page 614 of O'Brien and Bosc has to do with something as simple as references to members by name. It says:

Remarks directed specifically at another Member which question that Member’s integrity, honesty or character are not in order. A Member will be requested to withdraw offensive remarks, allegations, or accusations of impropriety directed towards another Member. The Speaker has no authority to rule on statements made outside the House by one Member against another.

Again, here is another reference that says that making allegations or insults or otherwise questioning the character, honesty or integrity of another member of Parliament are absolutely out of order.

There are more references, but I believe that I have given sufficient argument at this time. Having taken the weekend to consider what happened, reading it many times, and seeing some statements even in today's press, there was no choice. I have to defend myself.

If those statements had been made outside of this chamber, I would have ample grounds to seek redress in the courts for libel, slander and defamation of character.

In May 2009 I had the honour of being awarded a fellowship by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario. It is the highest honour that can be bestowed on a chartered accountant by his or her profession. That honour is bestowed on only 3% of the total membership of the institute.

Being a chartered accountant in good standing for over 35 years, there is a code of conduct and a code of ethics. It is very strict. If any of the matters that the member alleges were true, complaints could be made against me to my own profession. It would be terribly, terribly embarrassing for me if I had to go before my own profession and defend myself against allegations which have made against me.

It would disrupt me and there are other potential consequences. But when I read it in paper, when I hear members from the Conservative Party across the way laughing and chiding me, I understand that they think this is just politics, but everyone here is a real person. They have a reputation. They want to serve here to the best of their ability and they hope to leave here with their good name intact.

However, my good name has been attacked by the member. I know the member well enough to be absolutely surprised that these words came from him. I would never have guessed it. There is more to it.

I take this extremely seriously. I have taken the time to open up to the House to tell members that I believe we have a very serious problem here where members have taken advantage of the opportunity to say things in this place, which no member has any recourse whatsoever to do anything.

Speaker Parent once said that once it is on the record, it is hard to retract it. It is almost impossible. It is like telling a jury to disregard the comment.

I would like to make one last reference which may be helpful. It is in O'Brien and Bosc, page 74, and has to do with what is called the Pallett case. This particular case has an option for the Speaker. It states:

The new citation in Beauchesne enabled successive Speakers to keep a tighter rein on questions of privilege, even though practice required that the interventions at least be heard, however briefly, before being ruled on. The prima facie condition was invoked most often, although a number of other cases were refused because they were not raised at the proper time. Several cases arose which permitted the Speaker to find that debate on a matter of privilege should go forward, with the result that a body of precedents began to take shape. For example, a 1959 case (known as the Pallett case) led Speaker Michener to declare that a proposed motion in which the conduct of a Member was alluded to was not, prima facie, a matter of privilege and could not be given precedence because the proposed motion was not a specific complaint against the Member, a ruling frequently cited in subsequent years.

In other words, there still could be a debate in this place on the subject matter that I have raised, specifically noted in the Speaker's letter of last February asking members to deal with this.

I have raised this question of privilege because I believe that it has impinged on my integrity, my honesty, my character, my ethics and my reputation. I have to defend myself. This is my only opportunity to do that and it is my only opportunity to have this matter corrected. I believe that the facts, as presented by the member for Peace River, are incorrect, or stated in a way which leads to these impacts on me.

As a consequence, I do not believe for a minute that withdrawing that statement or even an apology would be acceptable. I believe that this must be looked into because it is now over a year after the Speaker has admonished the House for these attacks on other members of Parliament. The procedure and House affairs committee has to look at this and we have to deal with it.

Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, should you find a prima facie case of breach of privilege, my privileges and my rights, I would be prepared to move an appropriate motion.

Statements by MembersPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak to the issue brought forward by my colleague across the way.

What we have here this afternoon is an issue of debate. It is dispute between myself and my colleague on our opinion of his actions and in what way they might be classified. I believe this is an issue of debate.

I believe very strongly, I did on Thursday and I do today, that it was inappropriate for the member for Mississauga South to have a private conversation with a commissioner of this House who is undertaking a review, an investigation. He spoke to her about the exact issue she is currently considering.

My opinion, and I will stand behind my opinion, is that it was wrong for the hon. member to call the interim information commissioner to ask her questions with regard to an investigation that she is currently undertaking.

The only issue we have here today is an issue of freedom of speech in the House. On page 26 of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, it states:

One of the first and greatest of its privileges is free speech and one of the advantages of legislative bodies is the right of exposing and denouncing abuses by means of free speech.

I believe that is what I was doing. I believe I have, not only a responsibility or an option, but I have a duty to expose what I believe to be the abuse of authority of this chairman in committee.

It is ironic that we are discussing an issue today that I believe is far less offensive than the lines of questioning, the statements and the behaviours that he permits in his own committee. On Thursday, I had an opportunity to sit for a time in his committee, at which time I incurred that abuse myself.

I was shut down on a point of order and was lectured on an issue on which I felt I had a right to bring forward.

Mr. Speaker, if you refer to the transcripts of the committee, which I will be willing to table once I am finished, you will find that in fact that was the case.

I point out that the assistant information commissioner had instructed the person who was before the committee with the following words. It is Andrea Neill. She had given a confidentiality order to the witness. The dispute here essentially is that the deputy commissioner had told the witness to conduct himself in one way. Yet, we had the member opposite instructing the committee to disregard what the witness had been told by the assistant information commissioner, and to simply believe that, based on a private conversation he had with the commissioner, we should all believe that what she had stated to the witness should be disregarded.

She had told the witness that any question asked, answers given, and exhibits used during his examination under oath before counsel of the Information Commissioner on March 23, 2010 in any matter to anyone, until the Information Commissioner's investigation is complete, except to his counsel, should not be done.

Later, the member for Mississauga South stated that he had a conversation with the Information Commissioner that morning and claimed that all was well, everything was open and nothing should be restricted.

My question at committee was, and still is, were his instructions the correct instructions, or should we, as members of Parliament, be held to the requirements that were put forward by the assistant information commissioner?

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether you have the capacity to rule as to who we as members of Parliament should listen to.

Simply put, even this afternoon as I stand here, there seems to be a contradiction. Either he has the correct information or the Information Commissioner gave the correct information. This is probably more an issue of debate than it is a question of privilege, but these are the discussions we are having.

We talk about bullying people and witnesses, and the member went on at great length about what is appropriate to be said and if that somehow impedes the ability for other people to do their work, but in The Hill Times I read the chairman's comments, and the quotation from the chair is very clear. I believe it stands as evidence that there was this type of influence being put forward by the chair on the witness. I believe it is intimidating for the witness if the witness were to read this, and I am sure the witness has read it by now. In The Hill Times the chairman is quoted as saying, and he is referring to the witness:

If he refuses to answer [questions at Tuesday's meeting], then he is subject to possibly being in contempt of committee.

We see now in the press the member opposite giving instruction to a witness who is still before committee in a matter that I believe demonstrates all of the intimidation anybody would have to bring to this place to show that is in fact intimidation. This is the type of situation we are talking about.

Based on this information, my opinion has not changed. I still believe it was inappropriate for the member opposite to talk to the commissioner about an investigation that was ongoing. We are led to believe that he talked specifically about if or not the witness should be allowed to talk about information he had been told not to talk to members about. There is a confidentiality order.

Based on these conclusions, I felt it was my responsibility to come forward and demonstrate what I felt to be abuse in this place. That is where it is important that we have the freedom of speech.

I in no way, shape or form brought forward a personal attack. There is a clear distinction between bringing forward what we believe to be the facts and bringing forward a frivolous personal attack. I believe there is a clear distinction.

If we are not allowed to bring forward facts, if we are not allowed to bring forward debate items that may impact other members because it may offend somebody or it might hurt somebody's feelings, that limits free speech in this chamber.

I know that the hon. member opposite has a high ethical standard. I believe that he will stand in this place and apologize to members of this chamber and members of the committee which he chairs for the actions that he has undertaken both in communicating with the Information Commissioner and then in the way he conducts the committee as well.

Statements by MembersPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would encourage members wishing to add new information to this point and bringing up new points to be as brief as possible in their remarks.

Statements by MembersPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have just been made aware of the proceedings here and the very serious state of affairs which has brought us to the reputation of one of the most reputable members of the House being sullied.

Knowing the reputation of the member for Peace River, which I believe to be a good one, I wonder if he would not accord the following remarks that were given to him this morning in committee and perhaps was clarified by the hon. member for Mississauga South. This is a letter dated today from the interim information commissioner and states:

On May 6 at 9 a.m., I called the Chair of ETHI [the ethics committee] to invite him to speak at a conference in September 2010.

During that telephone call, he mentioned the confidentiality order issued by my Office to Mr. Togneri (which in fact had been discussed before ETHI on May 4, 2010). I explained in general terms to the Chair of the Committee the meaning of confidentiality orders and indicated that those orders do not prevent a witness from testifying before a Parliamentary Committee or other fora. I also mentioned that I would be pleased to provide any such clarifications with respect to confidentiality orders in writing or in person to the Committee should it request it.

She went on:

There was no discussion of any evidence in our ongoing investigation.

I hope this adequately answers the Committee's request for clarification. I remain available to the Committee....

I understand that the chair said this in committee. Given that the member for Peace River heard this, the member for Peace River will avail himself and if given the opportunity, I will be glad to table the letter with the unanimous consent of the House.

I have read the pertinent parts into the record. His comments would otherwise be seen as misleading. I know him to be a better man than that. I would ask him to apologize and withdraw his remarks.

Statements by MembersPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the member have unanimous consent to table the letter, in both official languages?

Statements by MembersPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Statements by MembersPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be as brief as possible, but I think that the member for Peace River has not overstepped his bounds at all, considering the situation in which we found ourselves when the member for Mississauga South was chairing the ethics committee meeting last Thursday. I participated in that meeting and I must say that I have great concern over the way the member for Mississauga South conducted himself at that committee meeting.

First of all, just to follow up on what the member for Peace River said, the witness that we had before committee was definitely intimidated by the member for Mississauga South. O'Brien and Bosc, on page 1069, states:

Witnesses appearing before committees enjoy the same freedom of speech and protection from arrest and molestation as do Members of Parliament.

It goes on to say on page 1070:

Tampering with a witness or in any way attempting to deter a witness from giving evidence may constitute a breach of parliamentary privilege. Similarly, any interference with or threats against witnesses who have already testified may be treated as a breach of privilege by the House.

The member for Mississauga South at the committee said, “Mr. Togneri, I would just indicate to you that refusal to answer a question is not an option”. That is the first crossing of the line, in my opinion. The second one is in The Hill Times, where the member for Mississauga South said:

“I think the posture of the witness and the arguments of the government members seems to indicate they really don't want this matter discussed in committee,” he said. “If he refuses to answer [questions at Tuesday's meeting], then he is subject to possibly being in contempt of committee.”

Again he is threatening the witness and definitely trying to tamper with the witness and how he appears before committee, intimidating him and taking away that witness's opportunity.

The member for Mississauga South in getting up here with his sanctimonious statement, his question of privilege, his feigned indignation, really is an overreaction knowing how he behaved at committee last week.

I will move on to point number two.

Statements by MembersPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Is it relevant?

Statements by MembersPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

This is relevant. Standing Order 117 states:

The Chair of a standing, special or legislative committee shall maintain order in the committee, deciding all questions of order subject to an appeal to the committee; but disorder in a committee can only be censured by the House, on receiving a report thereof.

At the very beginning of the committee meeting, the member who was chairing instructed that the mic be shut off on another member who was speaking, which again goes against the freedom of speech that we enjoy here as members.

We want to make sure that we address all the issues that were raised as a question of privilege. I am just saying that his freedom of rights and privileges were not impugned in any way, shape or form, versus the privilege that he has himself used in a very authoritarian manner as committee chair in impugning the rights, privileges and freedom of speech of members of that committee.

Moving on, if we look at my second point in reference to Standing Order 117, the chair of the committee does not have the power to censure disorder or decide questions of privilege. Should a member wish to raise a question of privilege in a committee, or should some event occur in committee which appears to be a breach of privilege or contempt, the chair of the committee will recognize the member and hear the question, or in the case of some incidents, suggest the committee deal with the matter. The chair, however, has no authority to rule on whether a breach of privilege or contempt has occurred.

The member for Peace River never had his rights honoured at committee because of the overbearing way the meeting was chaired by the member for Mississauga South.

We have censorship, intimidation of the witness, and this whole issue of contempt. We should be reversing the role here, because I personally feel that his role as chair of the committee has had such an authoritarian measure that it has affected the rights and privileges of members of that committee to do their jobs properly. I will move on to those points.

The member for Mississauga South is overstepping the powers of the committee over the House itself. If we look at what the House of Commons decides versus what the committee decides, first of all--