House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.


Official LanguagesOral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario


Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, that is crazy. We are trying to provide Canadians with the services they need in the official language of their choice. Every Canadian has access to employment insurance services and to every Government of Canada service in the official language of their choice.

41st General ElectionOral Questions

February 27th, 2012 / 2:55 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, ever since it was first revealed that fraudulent telephone calls were made during the last election, the Conservatives have been trying to downplay the scandal by alleging that these were isolated incidents. However, the more we look into the situation, the more ridings we find that have been affected and the more it seems that this was a systematic Conservative practice. The situation is also oddly reminiscent of the calls about which the Bloc Québécois complained during the byelection held in Rivière-du-Loup in November 2009.

Given the increasingly serious allegations regarding the existence of an organized system of fraudulent phone calls, is the Prime Minister going to take responsibility and call for an independent public inquiry? If he has nothing to hide, he will do so.

41st General ElectionOral Questions

3 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario


Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member wants to make allegations here in the House of Commons, he must have evidence and he must provide that evidence directly to Elections Canada. We will wait until he does so.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

That concludes question period for today.

I would like to draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Honourable Cal Dallas, Minister of Intergovernmental, International and Aboriginal Relations for Alberta.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. Minister of Public Safety.

Alleged interference of Minister's ability to discharge responsibilitiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba


Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege to bring to your attention activities which I believe to be a contempt of this House.

On Tuesday, February 14, I introduced Bill C-30. In the days that followed I received a great deal of communications from Canadians in regard to this legislation. These ranged from the personally supportive to the critical and indeed to the humorous, but a handful were deeply threatening. It is with those in the last category that I take exception and rise in the House to seek determination of my rights as a parliamentarian.

First, on Friday, February 17, I indicated by letter to your office that news reports revealed that the vikileaks30 account on Twitter had connections to the House of Commons IT system.

The fact that House of Commons resources appear to have been used in an attempt to anonymously degrade my reputation and obstruct me from carrying out my duties as a member of Parliament is, I contend, a contempt of the House. I take no issue with an open attack on the floor of this House, in which the source of the attack may be seen by all. I take strong issue with the idea that House resources would be used to secretly attack a member of the House.

I will await the results of your investigation into that matter. I reserve the right to make supplementary or new arguments should that be appropriate in view of the finding.

Second, videos posted on the Internet on February 18, 22 and 25, published various allegations about my private life but also made specific threats, all of which are clearly stated to be in reaction to my sponsorship of proposed legislation tabled in the House, namely Bill C-30.

I will continue to do my duty and carry out my responsibilities in respect of this piece of legislation, including seeing a motion moved to refer the bill to committee where it can be discussed and debated in an open forum.

Nevertheless, the actions and threatened actions contained in these videos constitute an attempt by the creators of the videos to intimidate me with respect to proceedings in Parliament. The fact that these videos contained threats and have attempted to intimidate me in my role as a member of Parliament for Provencher I contend is a contempt of the House.

Third, I would like to address the fact that there is a campaign to inundate my office with calls, emails and faxes. This campaign is hindering my staff from serving the people of Provencher and I contend is a contempt of the House. Individuals who have real and legitimate needs have been unable to contact their member of Parliament in a timely fashion.

As you know, Speakers have consistently upheld the right of members to serve constituents free from intimidation, obstruction and interference. Speaker Lamoureux stated in a 1973 ruling that he had no hesitation in reaffirming the principle that parliamentary privilege includes the right of a member to discharge his or her responsibilities as a member of the House free from threats or attempts at intimidation.

Mr. Speaker, it is important that we engage in debate in this House. Sometimes that debate may be vigorous, including heated rhetoric. I have served as an elected official since 1995. In that time I have been called many things and, while occasionally distasteful, I have accepted it as part of my job. However, the online attacks launched on both myself and my family have crossed the line.

Attacks on the personal life of a member of Parliament, while not appropriate, can be judged by the public where there is public accountability. This should concern all parliamentarians. Members of Parliament must have the freedom and ability to effectively represent our constituents in the House.

I understand that the hon. government House leader or the deputy House leader will be making further, more detailed submissions in support of this question of privilege.

Should you find that there is a prima facie question of privilege here, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Alleged interference of Minister's ability to discharge responsibilitiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.


Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had intended to rise today on a question of privilege with respect to the use of House of Commons computers in the matter which has been raised today by the Minister of Public Safety.

I was advised yesterday that an employee of the Liberal Research Bureau is responsible for the vikileaks30 site that the minister has referred to. I discussed the matter with that individual this morning. He offered his resignation and I have accepted his resignation. I want to offer my personal apology to the minister for the conduct of a member of my staff.

I do not share many things with the Minister of Public Safety all the time but one thing I do share with him is a sense of longevity. One of the things that makes public life difficult is when political attacks become personal. I have tried, but have not always succeeded, in my political life to make it very clear that matters of personal and private conduct are not to be the subject of political attack or political reference.

I want to say very clearly that we did not meet that standard with respect to the establishment of that site by a member of the Liberal Research Bureau. I want to apologize unreservedly to the minister for that particular incident and for that particular issue.

I will not comment further with respect to the minister's question of privilege. Some of it is justified. Some of it is a bit more problematic, but that is a view that perhaps others who are a little less directly involved in this issue will be able to comment on.

I want to make it very clear that I am apologizing personally and on behalf of my party for the fact that a certain member of our research bureau was responsible for creating the Twitter account concerning the minister's personal life.

I will repeat what I said previously. I have been in the public eye for 30 years and I have always tried to differentiate between the personal and private matters of everyone in public life. Quite frankly, the rules I have tried to follow in my public life were not followed by a member of our group.

I wish to extend to the minister my personal apology for what has happened. Of course, others may have something to say about the minister's question of privilege, but I will repeat once again that I respect certain aspects of his position and that I disagree with others. However, that will be up to the Speaker to decide.

Alleged interference of Minister's ability to discharge responsibilitiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is difficult for us to get on our feet at this point and be at all sympathetic to some of the requests from the Minister of Public Safety. On the other hand, the vikileaks30 type of approach, that type of politics, is totally offensive to this side of the House and to my political party. I want to be on the record as saying that to the minister.

However, on February 10 the Minister of Foreign Affairs stood in the House and accused my party repeatedly and unequivocally, using offensive terminology and terms like “sleazy practices”, of exactly what we have now heard came from a staffer from the Liberal Party. We had nothing to do with that.

On this question of privilege that I have to raise for my party, I have to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to compel the Minister of Foreign Affairs to come back into the House at the earliest opportunity and apologize to my party and the members of my caucus.

Alleged interference of Minister's ability to discharge responsibilitiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario


Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise in response to the comments just made by the opposition House leader.

In setting out the terms of what the foreign affairs minister said the last Friday we were sitting, I added on a point of order afterwards that of course the reliance was on media reports that had indicated through their research that the source was obviously from the NDP or someone within the NDP in the House of Commons. Obviously that information was incorrect.

Based on the information today, I have every confidence that the Minister of Foreign Affairs will give his most fulsome and complete apology and withdraw those remarks from the last Friday that the House was sitting. I certainly would do the same on behalf of our government.

I will leave it to the minister himself to deal with the apology that has been offered by the hon. member for Toronto Centre on behalf of the Liberal Party in taking responsibility for the actions in this case. I can assure the hon. member that on behalf of the government we withdraw those remarks.

I am sure that the Minister of Foreign Affairs would be prepared to do the same.

Alleged interference of Minister's ability to discharge responsibilitiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Bloc Québécois and also as dean of this House, I would like to pause to say how shocked we have been by the intrusion into the minister's private life. I believe it is one of the worst attacks I have seen in the 27 years that I have served this House.

We share the minister's indignation and we fully agree that the public and the private lives of a politician should be completely distinct.

In closing, I would like to say to the leader of the Liberal Party that I admire the honest, transparent and most appropriate statement that he gave a few minutes ago on this matter.

Alleged interference of Minister's ability to discharge responsibilitiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.


Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the members in the House for the comments that they have made.

I accept the personal apology from the hon. member for Toronto Centre. I think it is a heartfelt apology and is worthy of acceptance.

I would point out though, and this is something I will have to take under advisement, there were members of the Liberal Party who actively encouraged the use of the vikileaks30 website and continuously promoted the use of that website. Mr. Speaker, I think you have to look into that.

While I am prepared to take the member's comments at face value that he had nothing to do with it, I think the evidence on the public record is clear that there was at least one hon. member who advocated on a continuous basis the use of that website. Mr. Speaker, I would respectfully submit you need to take a look at that.

Alleged interference of Minister's ability to discharge responsibilitiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario


John Baird ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I saw the interventions by the hon. member from Windsor—Tecumseh and the government House leader.

At times emotions get strained in this House. I think they get particularly strained when one has a friend and colleague who is under attack. Sometimes one rushes to judgment and believes certain media reports.

I heard the comments from the opposition House leader. I want to unequivocally and unconditionally apologize and retract my comments to him and to anyone in the New Democratic Party who may have taken offence.

I think I went out of my way to not single anyone out, but I unconditionally retract those comments. I unconditionally apologize to the hon. member, his caucus and the members of his party who were offended.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to retract the comments I made about the Liberal Party on the last Friday the House was sitting as well, in which I said I was not accusing it of anything.

Alleged interference of Minister's ability to discharge responsibilitiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


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

Mr. Speaker, I have a further submission dealing with my colleague, the hon. member for Provencher, in his intervention on a question of privilege just a few moments ago. My comments will be restricted to a question of privilege regarding the group Anonymous and not on the Wikileaks issue, which we just clarified a few moments ago.

I am rising to provide the Chair with additional submissions with respect to the question of privilege, as I mentioned a few moments ago. My hon. friend has put before the House a submission that his rights as a member of Parliament have been breached with respect to freedom from obstruction, interference, intimidation and molestation. In particular, his freedom from intimidation in connection with the proceeding in Parliament has been breached, amounting to a contempt.

Moreover, Sir, I submit there is a second contempt in relation to the obstruction of the hon. member for Provencher through an interference of nepotism and an accusation of criminal activity.

The classic definition of parliamentary privilege can be found at page 75 of the 23rd edition of Erskine May's Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament. It states:

Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively … and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals.

A more pithy summary of privilege can be found in Mr. Speaker Lamoureux's decision at page 5338 of Debates for April 29, 1971, where he stated:

In my view, parliamentary privilege does not go much beyond the right of free speech in the House of Commons and the right of a member to discharge his duties in the House as a member of the House of Commons.

Citation 93 on page 25 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules & Forms, sixth edition, states:

It is generally accepted that any threat, or attempt to influence the vote of, or actions of a Member, is breach of privilege.

Citation 99 on page 26 of that same publication adds:

Direct threats which attempt to influence Members' actions in the House are undoubtedly breaches of privilege.

While some parts of the situation are time tested, other characteristics of this case present novel aspects to contemplate. On the one hand, responding to threats is among the first matters of parliamentary privilege dealt with in Canada. Page 198 of the second edition of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada tells us of an incident in 1758 where the Nova Scotia House of Assembly proceeded against someone who made threats against a member.

Although the framework of privilege has largely solidified through centuries of common law statutes and even the Constitution, it continues to have sufficient flexibility to adapt and be applied to a changing environment, such as televising proceedings, as noted at page 63 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition.

Page 225 of Maingot advises:

While privilege may be codified, contempt may not, because new forms of obstruction are constantly being devised and Parliament must be able to invoke its penal jurisdiction to protect itself against these new forms; there is no closed list of classes of offences punishable as contempt of Parliament.

That speaks to the novel aspects in this case where we are dealing with publications on the Internet, particularly with videos on the website YouTube. The YouTube videos of the so-called Anonymous include comments which are, I submit, threats and even blackmail. These comments seek to induce the Minister of Public Safety to undertake certain actions in respect of a bill he has introduced and sponsors.

Before I press further into my submissions, I want to make it very clear that I do not seek to bring ordinary free and democratic expression or critical speech into what is being considered here.

Page 235 of Maingot offers an articulate review of the balance to be considered. It states:

—all interferences with Members' privileges of freedom of speech, such as editorials and other public comment, are not breaches of privilege even though they influence the conduct of Members in their parliamentary work. Accordingly, not every action by an outside body that may influence the conduct of a Member of Parliament as such could now be regarded as a breach of privilege, even if it were calculated and intended to bring pressure on the Member to take or to refrain from taking a particular course. But any attempt by improper means to influence or obstruct a member in his parliamentary work may constitute contempt. What constitutes an improper means of interfering with Members' parliamentary work is always a question depending on the facts of each case.

The February 18 video of Anonymous said, in respect of my hon. friend, that, “you will cease your efforts...immediately. If you do will soon find yourself not only mocked, but jobless and despised.

The video went on to suggest that my hon. friend, “is bound to have many skeletons in his closet. Some of these have already been brought to light and we have no doubt that this is only the tip of the iceberg”. The video later inferred that he would not be allowed “to have any secrets of his own”.

The February 18 video also included a broad swipe at all hon. members by threatening, “Let this be a warning to any politician....Your actions will not stand. You cannot run. You cannot hide”.

In a subsequent video published on February 22, after disclosing a number of items of personal information in respect to the hon. member and of individuals close to him, Anonymous rhetorically asks:

Do we have your attention? How does it feel to have personal information about your family in the hands of people you know nothing about, with no control over who disseminates it or how it will be used?... Let it be known this is only a taste of the information we have access to. And this is only the beginning.

Later in the video, there was another broad threat to all members of this House. I suppose that this very intervention I am making will come within the ambit of this threat to the effect that, “to the rest of the Parliament of Canada: you would do well to mind your words about Anonymous”.

In the most recent video on February 25, a further threat to the hon. member for Provencher was uttered to the following effect, “You have seven days to reflect upon your personal and political crimes. After that, the Canadian people will also be made aware of just how disgustingly unscrupulous and corrupt you are.”

As I will review later, there have been false and misleading statements meant to malign the hon. member. We should expect more of the same.

In this weekend's video, there was yet another threat aimed generally at all hon. members:

And to the rest of those who support Bill C-30: do not believe for a moment that you are untouchable. Anonymous has received information implicating many of you in both political and personal scandals....Let the next seven days serve as a period of reflection for the entire House of Commons. Ask yourselves, how many more scandals can you afford?

To summarize the various quotes, they are more than just intimidation or threats. Quite frankly, they are blackmail.

In a ruling on September 19, 1973, Mr. Speaker Lamoureux on page 6709 of the Debates stated that he had:

—no hesitation in reaffirming the principle that parliamentary privilege includes the right of a member to discharge his responsibilities as a member of the House free from threats or attempts at intimidation.

Speaker Bosley, on May 16, 1986, at page 13362 of Debates held that the threat or attempt to intimidate cannot be hypothetical but that it must be real or have occurred.

For his part, Mr. Speaker Parent, on March 24, 1994, at page 2706 of Debates said:

Threats of blackmail or intimidation of a member of Parliament should never be taken lightly. When such occurs, the very essence of free speech is undermined. Without the guarantee of freedom of speech, no member of Parliament can do his duty as expected.

In that instance, a prima facie breach of privilege was not found because the threats were associated with an appeal then pending at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

On page 143 of Erskine May, it says, “The House will proceed against those who obstruct Members in the discharge of their responsibilities to the House or in their participation of its proceedings”.

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, your own decision on December 13, 2011, at page 4396 of the Debates, also turned on the principle of whether there was an impact on parliamentary duties. This brings me to whether or not these threats arise from a “proceedings in Parliament”. The circumstances before us today arise from Bill C-30, which was recently introduced and now sits on the order paper as an order of the day. Pages 91 and 92 of O'Brien and Bosc quote two definitions of this term “proceedings in Parliament”, from Erskine May on Australia's Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987. May's definition states that:

An individual Member takes part in a proceeding usually by speech, but also by various recognized forms of formal action, such as voting, giving notice of a motion, or presenting a petition or report from a committee, most of such actions being time-saving substitutes for speaking.

The Australian statutory definition contains the expression “all words spoken and acts done in the course of, or for purposes of or incidental to, the transacting of the business of a House”.

Page 80 of Maingot addresses the point that:

—two of Parliament's constituent elements, the House of Commons and the Senate were established for the enactment of laws, those events necessarily incidental to the enactment of laws are part of “the proceedings of Parliament”.

The introduction and sponsorship of a bill cannot get closer to the process of enacting a law. Therefore, I would submit that the threats and accusations are quite clearly relating to a proceeding in Parliament.

While I am making references to Australia, that is one case when the Commonwealth which shares features to this case, particularly with regard to generalized threats to all hon. members.

On May 4, 1993, the President Sibraa of the Australian Senate ruled that page 19 of Hansard on two related questions of privilege. On one of the matters the president said:

The essence of the matter raised by Senator Walters is that a person has allegedly threatened to publish certain supposed information concerning Opposition members of parliament if the Opposition members adopt a certain policy in relation to X-rated videos.

The subsequent Forty-third Report of the Committee of Privileges, in December 1993, described the threats identified by Senator Walters as: first, an alleged threat “to 'out' Liberal party figures if the party adopted what it claimed was a leaked policy document proposing a sex industry crackdown” and second, an accusation regarding a “potential release of security film of a coalition member at a sex shop”.

The president found that:

The possible contempt of parliament contained in the matter raised by Senator Walters is that of seeking by threats to influence senators in their conduct as senators. This is one of the well known contempts of parliament...

The alleged threat is directed to Opposition members generally and not to any particular person, but it is well established that the threat to unnamed members, or to a group or category of members, or to members in general, can be a contempt just as can a threat to particular members.

The alleged threat as reported and also directed to Opposition members of Parliament generally, and does not distinguish between members and senators. If the threat as reported were made, it could be regarded as being directed to senators as well as members of the House of Representatives. This is so particularly having regard to the fact that senators could, and probably would, participate in the formulation of any policy relating to X-rated videos.

The formulation of such a policy by a group of senators clearly falls within their duties as senators and their conduct as senators...A threat such as the one reported obviously has the potential substantially to obstruct senators in the performance of their functions.

In the event, after hearing submissions and evidence, the committee concluded that, in view of the further details it acquired, this particular case “did not have the effect or tendency of substantially obstructing senators in the performance of their functions”, although the committee did find the actions of those responsible to be “inept and offensive”, and part behaviour which was “cavalier and unprofessional”.

One area I should address is the identity or source of the threats and the ability to make a specific charge. Citation 99 on page 26 of Beauchesne's states that:

Direct threats which attempt to influence Members' actions are undoubtedly breaches of privilege. They do, however, provide serious problems for the House. They are often made anonymously and it is rarely possible for the House to examine them satisfactorily.

In his September 19, 1973, ruling, Mr. Speaker Lamoureux found, at page 6709 of the Debates, that the instance raised by a member could not be a prima facie question of privilege because the member did not know the identity of the person at the other end of the telephone conversation which gave rise to the complaint.

Nonetheless, the unknown identity of those responsible for breaching privilege did not deter Mr. Speaker Milliken in his October 15, 2001 ruling, at page 6085 of the Debates, from stating:

There is a body that is well equipped to commit such active inquisition, and that is the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which has a fearsome chairman, quite able to extract information from witnesses who appear before the committee, with the aid of the capable members who form the committee of the House

I have no doubt that the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London is an even more fearsome inquisitor than his predecessor 11 years ago. I believe that the same principle about the role of committee holds equally true today, that is to say, any unanswered questions can be resolved there.

As for how one could start to get to the bottom of this, I have some thoughts. I am sure others do too. However, my prevailing thought is that it should go to a committee to sort out this approach, hear from appropriate experts and go from there.

Mr. Speaker, I would commend to you the decision of your immediate predecessor from October 6, 2005, at page 8473 of Debates. The Chair wrestled with a novel question related to new statutory and Standing Order provisions pertaining to the Ethics Commissioner and that the officer of Parliament's conduct in respect of an investigation of the hon. member for Calgary East.

In those circumstances, Mr. Speaker Milliken opined that he was prepared to find a prima facie case of privilege, “to afford the House an opportunity to pronounce itself on how it wishes to proceed”.

Indeed, Mr. Speaker Jerome asked, in his March 21, 1978 ruling on page 3975:

Does the act complained of appear to me at first sight to be a breach of privilege?

...or to put it shortly, has the Member an arguable point? If the Speaker feels any doubt on the question, he should....leave it to the House.

Mr. Speaker Lamoureux also took this perspective of a member getting the benefit of the doubt on October 24, 1966, at page 9004 of Debates and on March 27, 1969, at page 853 of Journals.

In the present novel circumstances, I think the same course of action is equally appropriate.

Before concluding, I want to turn briefly to the other source of contempt in this argument: the unjust damaging of a member's name as constituting an obstruction.

In the February 22 video, “Anonymous” accuses the hon. member for Provencher, through an inference by using sarcastic language, of nepotism in respect of an employee of a member of the other place.

Again, on February 25, it was said that, “It is widely known that you have engaged in criminal activity to further your political career, as you did in 1999”.

It needs to be clear that the hon. member has not been convicted of any criminal offence.

These statements are not only misleading but are false and can only be viewed as an attempt to discredit the reputation of my hon. friend.

Mr. Speaker Fraser's ruling on May 5, 1987, at page 5766 of Debates stated:

The privileges of a Member are violated by any action which might impeded him or her in the fulfillment of his or her duties and functions. It is obvious that the unjust damaging of a reputation could constitute such an impediment. The normal course of a Member who felt himself or herself to be defamed would be the same as that available to any other citizen, recourse to the courts under the laws of defamation with the possibility of damages to substitute for the harm that might be done. However, should the alleged defamation take place on the floor of the House, this recourse is not available.

Nonetheless, Mr. Speaker Milliken issued several rulings with respect to the damaging of a member's reputation, including some decisions with respect to mailings by a member into another member's constituency, as well as the previously mentioned case on comments made by the Ethics Commissioner.

Given this departure from Mr. Speaker Fraser's view, but more so the inseparable nature of the accusations from the threats contained in the video published by “Anonymous”, I would submit that the Chair should find this to be further ground for finding a prima facie case of privilege.

In closing, the Chair is faced with a case where those who have legitimately held concerns about some business before Parliament have gone about expressing their opposition, and seeking to secure actions in view with their thinking, in an utterly despicable manner.

Extortion and blackmail are not part of legitimate debate. Threats against MPs to vote one way or else are unbecoming of the Canadian political discourse. Not only are they awful and inappropriate, they cross a line. They are a contempt of this honourable House.

The ancient privileges of Parliament were first meant to secure the independence of members' actions free of the interference of the Crown. They subsequently broadened to encompass freedom from interference regardless of the source.

As an institution, we cannot allow this reckless and irresponsible behaviour to go completely unchecked. The first step would be to find a prima facie case of privilege so that the hon. member for Provencher may offer his motion to refer the matter to a committee where the facts can be investigated and the issues studied so that we may, as a House, respond to such behaviour now and in the future.

Alleged interference of Minister's ability to discharge responsibilitiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:35 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reserve the right to come back to the House in the next day or two to speak to this in more detail. I do not think I heard anything from the deputy House leader on the government side that I would take issue with, but there were a couple of comments from the Minister of Public Safety on which I may want to make some comments, so I would reserve that right. I will get to it as quickly as possible.

Alleged interference of Minister's ability to discharge responsibilitiesPrivilegeOral Questions

3:35 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The Chair will look forward to the member for Windsor—Tecumseh's response.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:35 p.m.


Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I seem to be in the correction and apology business today. In the course of question period I referred to a company by the name of Crestview. I would like to withdraw, unreservedly, any association of Crestview with the activities in the 2011 election.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 38(6) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in relation to Bill C-290, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sports betting).

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with an amendment.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 15th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in relation to its study of the report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, entitled “Responding to Changing Needs – Recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Following the 40th General Election”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we provided a dissenting report on this. I want to thank the hon. member, who chaired an excellent meeting. This has far-reaching ramifications for future elections.

I do not have a lot of time so I will only comment on one of the three areas where we disagreed. I want to emphasize that we were very strongly in support of the work and the recommendations. except for the three we disagreed on. Much of the credit is due to the chair, who did an excellent job over the two years we have been working on this.

The one item I want to raise very succinctly is that the recommendation from the Chief Electoral Officer was that he be given the power directly to request documents that he may need to verify that taxpayers' subsidies being provided to parties were appropriately filed and that they should get that money.

The recommendation, unfortunately, did not carry by the majority. We were opposed to the fact that the recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer was not accepted by the majority, meaning that when the Conservatives stand in their place now and talk about all the powers of the electoral officer and that everything should be turned over to that office so that office can go after it and get to the bottom of things, like we are seeing now, when it comes to giving power to the Chief Electoral Officer, the Conservatives do not want to do that.

They went the most expensive route, the least efficient and the one that will hurt smaller parties the most. On this issue we want to strongly oppose and dissent and say that the Chief Electoral Officer should always be given the powers he needs to verify all reports that are submitted, particularly when taxpayer money is being received.

Investment Canada ActRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-401, An Act to amend the Investment Canada Act (committee members).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to table my bill entitled “An Act to amend the Investment Canada Act (committee members)”. I am pleased the bill is being seconded by my colleague from Thunder Bay—Rainy River.

Liberal and Conservative governments have consistently rubber-stamped foreign takeovers of Canadian companies without any transparency or accountability to the Canadian people. When parliamentarians seek details of these takeovers they are told by the industry minister that they are not allowed.

This bill would change all that. It seeks to expand section 36 of the Investment Canada Act to include members of the Standing Committee on Industry. Amending section 36 in such a way would provide meaningful oversight by parliamentarians and would allow a multi-party review of foreign takeovers. This would provide greater public confidence in the process.

For too long, federal industry ministers have hidden behind section 36 of the Investment Canada Act to deny stakeholders and the public access to the terms of agreements between foreign companies and the federal government. With this bill, the Minister of Industry would now have to co-operate with parliamentarians and the industry committee, which is a much-needed improvement over the current act.

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

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-402, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (public transportation workers).

Mr. Speaker, Canadians rely on transit operators and bus drivers across the country to get them, their friends, their family members and their loved ones to work and to events safely.

However, over the last few years we have seen is a disturbing trend where a growing number of transit operators and bus drivers are being assaulted in the line of duty. While they are protecting Canadians, taking them from point A to point B, often they are subject to verbal threats and often quite worse. What we have seen in places like Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal is a growing trend of assaults against bus drivers and transit operators, which is why I am moving forward with this bill. I thank my seconder from York South—Weston. The bill would increase penalties for those who assault bus drivers and transit operators in the line of duty.

The bill has been supported by the Canadian Auto Workers and the Amalgamated Transit Union. I think we have a broad based consensus across the country that we should be protecting our bus drivers and transit operators when they are working in the line of duty and ensuring that our loved ones are safe.

I hope the bill will receive support from both sides of the House and that we can move rapidly to its adoption.

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

Elections CanadaRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among all parties and I believe that if you seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That this House call on all members to provide Elections Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with any and all information they have on voter suppression and illegal phoning during the last election;

offer its full support to both the Commissioner of Canada Elections and the RCMP in their investigations into these despicable practices;

and call on all parties to immediately hand over any and all documents requested or required by the authorities to assist in their investigation.

Elections CanadaRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?