Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to the question of privilege that the Minister of Public Safety raised in the House yesterday.
I will begin by saying that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons presented a well-researched, cogent argument in support of that. I do not think there is anything I can take issue with in regard to that presentation. However, I do have some concerns about the points that were made by the minister himself.
With regard to the material that did come from the parliamentary secretary, it was quite clear that in each case, when one is looking at the question of privilege, the facts of the case must decide whether in fact privilege has been breached. I believe that is again true in this case.
With regard to the points that the Minister of Public Safety made, he basically had three arguments supporting his position that his privilege had been breached. I will just do a quick summary.
First was that parliamentary resources had been used to attack his position with regard to some incidents in his personal life and with regard to Bill C-30 that was the issue of contention, but it was more that parliamentary resources had been used in that regard that his argument was made.
Second, he argued that the threats that were coming at him, and there can be no dispute over that part of it, that is very clearly a breach of his privilege and the privilege of any member of this House faced with those types of threats, that he either withdraw the bill or additional information would be released, is a clear breach of his privilege and one that would cause us to very strongly agree that his privilege had been breached on the facts of this case.
His third point was on the opposition to Bill C-30, that the people who were opposed to it were clogging up his office. That is the part that most disturbed me. The position that we would be taking as a party is that that is not a valid argument in support of an argument for breach of privilege.
In that regard, Mr. Speaker, I would draw to your attention a ruling by your predecessor, Mr. Milliken, on June 8, 2005. There was a similar type of situation where the member was claiming that his office was being intentionally clogged, that his email and phones were being intentionally clogged on an issue of some import to whoever was doing the work.
The key point for Speaker Milliken was, I believe, the same as in this case. It is not the question of whether in fact that is occurring, although that is a factual matter that should be determined, the important point is whether it is the intent of the people who are trying to contact the minister or the member of Parliament to clog up his office and make it inoperable and impossible for other constituents to have access to the member of Parliament.
The test is: What is the intent of the calls coming in, the emails coming in and the faxes coming in? Intent is the key component.
With regard to this situation, it is quite clear that Bill C-30 is very contentious. We as an official opposition party have been adamantly opposed to it. The third party in the House is adamantly opposed to it. Lots and lots of Canadians are adamantly opposed to it. One of the ways of expressing that opposition is to attempt to contact the minister's office and tell him that this is a bad bill and give reasons for opposing it.
If you make a ruling, Mr. Speaker, that says that if the effect of what one is doing in trying to contact the member of Parliament, in this case the minister, is to clog up his office, it will significantly impact the ability of individual Canadians to express their democratic voice in opposition to legislation.
In this case, it is clear that the bill is so contentious that it is almost impossible to envision that that many calls, those many emails and faxes were coming in with the intent of clogging his office. The intent behind those was that Canadians were expressing their democratic right to oppose the bill. Canadians were telling the minister that they were opposed to the bill and they were giving their reasons.
It is quite clear that relying on that ruling from Mr. Milliken, the Speaker of the day, would not be a basis on which to make a finding of breach of privilege in this case. The facts speak to that quite clearly.
I want to repeat that we have no problem with the finding of breach of privilege because of the second point that the minister made with regard to the threats. That is not tolerable behaviour in our society, in this Parliament and in Canada as a whole. It is just not the way Parliament and our democracy function. Ministers and members of Parliament cannot be threatened in that way, so there is no question that there is a breach of privilege on that point.
On the third point, with regard to clogging his office, that clearly is not a basis for a finding of breach of privilege. I would invite you, Mr. Speaker, to make it specific that that is not a basis on which you could make a finding of breach of privilege, as did Mr. Milliken in that particular case of June 5, 2008.
The minister's first point is more problematic. He is arguing that the use of parliamentary resources to, as he put it, attack him surreptitiously, is more problematic. It is a grey area. The anonymity is the part that bothers me. If this had been done by one of my staff who had simply sent the minister a message using the resources that we have here on the Hill saying “At a personal level, I'm opposed to the bill”, there is no question that is permissible because the individual is just doing his or her job.
The grey area is the anonymity in the way this one was done. That one, Mr. Speaker, I will throw back into your lap and not make a suggestion. However, I do not think it is clear as to whether, because parliamentary resources are being used to communicate to a member of Parliament or to a minister, that automatically means a breach of privilege. I do not think that follows. It is the anonymity part of it that would be of concern.