Mr. Speaker, on a different point of order, I rise in relation to a question on the order paper in my name, to which the government replied with an answer that was not only insufficient and incomplete, it was effectively a non-answer.
I do this in light of the recent ruling that you issued, Mr. Speaker, on the matter of a question raised by the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie concerning the government's response to written Question No. 410.
My Question No. 588 related to the budget and asked in part:
(a) with how many groups and organizations did the Department of Finance consult on?
It then asked specifically how many were represented by women and and how many were led by women respecting the individuals, groups and organizations consulted by the Minister of Finance or Department of Finance in preparation of budget 2012.
The answer I received to these questions states that the department and minister sought, and I quote, “the input of countless individuals and groups of both genders”.
As you noted, Mr. Speaker, in your ruling on April 3, and I quote:
...order paper questions are a very important tool for members seeking detailed, lengthy or technical information that helps them carry out their duties.
While you note the limited power of the Speaker in these matters, and I appreciate that, you go on to observe that in the case of the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, the government indicated that it would table additional information. To quote your ruling:
The original response to Question No. 410 tells us that this is how the government intends to proceed in this case, just as we have recently seen the government provide such supplementary responses to other questions.
Mr. Speaker, the government has not indicated in any way that it will table any further information or further respond to my question. Therefore, the situation that I raise is distinguishable from the case brought forward by the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.
Let me be very clear respecting the remedy I am seeking.
You have ruled, and O'Brien and Bosc agree, that quibbles over the content of responses do not rise to the level of a breach of privilege, and I am not referring to that.
That said, previous rulings of O'Brien and Bosc do note that the ministry's “failure” to answer a question, and this is what I am referring to here, is grounds for referral of the matter to a standing committee. As such, this point of order is to ask you to refer the government's failure to answer the question to the Standing Committee on Finance.
I want to be clear as to why this is a failure to respond. Simply put, this House cannot allow situations where the government puts whatever words it wants on a page and deems that an acceptable response regardless of the question. All hon. members would agree that there has to be some correlation between the question and the response.
The rules regarding your purview, Mr. Speaker, I understand are such—and you have ruled on this matter—that you will not engage as to matters of accuracy and completeness of response. I am not referring to the issue of accuracy or the completeness of response on the part of the government to my question. I am referring to the utter lack of any response to the question.
While we could quibble about whether the word “countless” is an appropriate response to the question of “how many” groups the Department of Finance consulted, there is no way anyone can argue that the word “countless”, even with “both genders” added, is in any way a response to the question of “How many of the groups were represented by women?”, and even more specifically, “How many of the groups were led by women?” There simply is no answer in what I received.
If this were allowed as a response, it would make a mockery of our written questions process.