House of Commons Hansard #55 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.


UkraineRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

March 3rd, 2014 / 3:15 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, while the world is watching, the crisis in Ukraine is escalating. I suggest that we take the time to once again deal with that crisis.

In fact, members will recall that back in December, we had a take note debate because of what was taking place regarding the EU trade association agreement. The president of Ukraine at the time backed away from it, which resulted in the people of Ukraine making it known how they felt about that, which ultimately led to a take note debate.

Through the month of January, we saw significant events take place, which ultimately saw us have an emergency debate on the issue. Then, just last week, we had another take note debate.

It is important that we recognize what has taken place over the last 48-plus hours in Ukraine, and since the last time we had a take note debate. The deployment of military personnel from Russia will have, and is having, a very profound impact affecting not only Ukraine and Russia but also, I would argue, the entire world.

Financial markets throughout the world are responding to this crisis. There is also a social crisis situation in Ukraine, and 1.2 million-plus Canadians of Ukrainian heritage from coast to coast to coast are watching what is taking place. They want to see more clarification.

We are asking that the House once again allow for a debate, given what has taken place over the last 48 hours with the deployment of military personnel from Russia and what is happening in Ukraine now.

Speaker’s RulingRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for Winnipeg North for raising this question again and for enumerating the most recent occasions when the House was able to debate the issue. I do note that tomorrow is a supply day and so I will not grant a debate at this time.

Bilingualism in Canada's Legislative Process—Speaker's RulingPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on February 6, 2014, by the member for Sherbrooke regarding a technical briefing offered by the Minister of State in relation to Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Sherbrooke for having raised this matter, as well as the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, the hon. House leader for the official opposition, and the members for Ottawa—Vanier, Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, and York South—Weston for their interventions.

The member for Sherbrooke explained that, at the technical briefing he attended on Tuesday, February 4 on Bill C-23, the interpretation provided was often inadequate and, as he described it, “[a]t times, there was little or no interpretation or it was of poor quality.” This, he felt, had the effect of preventing parliamentarians from participating fully in subsequent debate on the bill.

The member went on to note that the protection of official languages in the House is fundamental to ensuring equality among all members.

For his part, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform recognized that no professional interpreters were present for the briefing, but claimed that parliamentarians had been provided all information in both official languages, including the presentation, information sheets, press releases, and the bill itself.

As has been pointed out by the member for Sherbrooke, the guarantee of access to and use of both official languages in parliamentary proceedings, in the record-keeping of those proceedings and in legislation is no less than a constitutional requirement—a cornerstone of our parliamentary system. As your Speaker, it remains one of my principal responsibilities to ensure that members are not impeded in their ability to carry out their parliamentary functions and that their rights and privileges are safeguarded.

In the case of official languages, the House has a long-standing practice of ensuring the availability of professional interpreters during House and committee proceedings. Indeed, this practice extends to many other activities, such as caucus meetings, briefings or any number of parliamentary activities and events. In such cases, if interpreters are not present, the activity is delayed until they arrive, or, if they are not available, the activity is rescheduled. Likewise, if a technical problem arises with the equipment, proceedings are suspended until the issue is resolved. Members will be familiar with this as it has sometimes happened here in the House.

To the Chair's knowledge, during government-sponsored activities, similar norms are observed. This is illustrated in a case brought to the attention of the House on October 23, 2013, when a technical briefing on a budget implementation bill was organized but cancelled when it became apparent that no simultaneous interpretation was available. In the Debates for that date, at page 303, the government House leader apologized to the House, and stated that:

...arrangements have been made to reschedule this meeting and to hold it properly in both official languages with that capacity available for everyone. It is certainly the expectation of this government that all business be properly conducted in both official languages.

Clearly, in that case, the government viewed the absence of professional simultaneous interpreters as a serious matter.

When a situation is brought to the Chair’s attention, it must be assessed within the somewhat narrow confines of parliamentary procedure and precedents. In this case, the member for Sherbrooke is asking the Chair to find that problems with interpretation prevented members from being able to access departmental information and that this constitutes a prima facie breach of privilege.

To arrive at such a conclusion, the Chair must assess whether the member has been obstructed in the discharge of his responsibilities in direct relation to proceedings in Parliament.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 2nd Edition, at page 109, states:

In order to find a prima facie breach of privilege, the Speaker must be satisfied that there is evidence to support the Member's claim that he or she has been impeded in the performance of his or her parliamentary functions and that the matter is directly related to a proceeding in Parliament.

In addition, at page 111, it indicates that:

A Member may also be obstructed or interfered with in the performance of his or her parliamentary functions by non-physical means. In ruling on such matters, the Speaker examines the effect the incident or event had on the Member’s ability to fulfill his or her parliamentary responsibilities.

The question before the Chair is simple: does attending a departmental briefing that was delivered without full interpretation meet that litmus test? Speaker Parent's ruling of October 9, 1997, is very instructive, when he states at page 688 of the Debates:

...activities related to the seeking of information in order to prepare a question do not fall within the strict definition of what constitutes a “proceeding in Parliament” and, therefore, they are not protected by privilege.

Today's case is analogous in that, whether a member is seeking information in order to prepare a question or to participate in debate on a bill, the same fundamental definitions and principles apply. Whether a member who is preparing to participate in proceedings—whether through a technical briefing or some other means—is not participating in the proceedings themselves. While such preparation is no doubt important, it remains ancillary to, rather than part of, Parliament's proceedings.

Furthermore, in this case a government department is responsible for the situation which the member decries. On this point, Speaker Bosley stated on May 15, 1985, at page 4769 of Debates:

I think it has been recognized many times in the House that a complaint about the actions or inactions of government Departments cannot constitute a question of parliamentary privilege.

My own ruling of February 7, 2013, reached the same conclusion, when at page 13869 of Debates, I stated:

It is beyond the purview of the Chair to intervene in departmental matters or to get involved in government processes, no matter how frustrating they may appear to be to the member.

The Chair must respect the strict confines of parliamentary privilege in reaching its decision. Therefore, while it appears that the hon. member for Sherbrooke has a legitimate grievance, the Chair cannot conclude that this situation constitutes a prima facie breach of privilege.

That being said, this decision does not diminish members’ need for full and equal access to information about legislation nor does it discount the value placed on the provision of such information in both official languages.

While I cannot provide the member for Sherbrooke a privilege-based parliamentary remedy to his grievance, he may wish to explore other means at his disposal by direct discussions with the minister or raising the matter with the Commissioner of Official Languages.

I thank the House for its attention.

Statements by Member for Mississauga—Streetsville—Speaker's RulingPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on February 25, 2014, by the House leader of the official opposition regarding statements made in the House by the member for Mississauga—Streetsville.

I would like to thank the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition for having raised this matter, as well as the hon. Leader of the Government in the House and the hon. members for Winnipeg North and Kingston and the Islands for their comments.

I also want to acknowledge the statements made by the member for Mississauga—Streetsville.

In raising this matter, the hon. House leader of the official opposition claimed that the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville had deliberately misled the House on February 6, 2014, during debate on Bill C-23, the fair elections act, when he stated that he had witnessed evidence of voter fraud firsthand. He further argued that the matter was not resolved by the statements made by the member for Mississauga—Streetsville on February 24 and 25, where he admitted that, contrary to his original claim, he had not actually witnessed what he had originally claimed to have witnessed. In his view, this was not a simple case of someone misspeaking; he argued rather that it was a case where the member deliberately chose to take something he knew not to be true and present it as eyewitness evidence—something so egregious, it constituted contempt.

The hon. leader of the government in the House noted that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville had fulfilled his obligation to correct the record so that no inaccuracies persisted. He suggested that in and of itself this should be sufficient to “...rebut any concern that there has been a contempt”.

This incident highlights the primordial importance of accuracy and truthfulness in our deliberations. All members bear a responsibility, individually and collectively, to select the words they use very carefully and to be ever mindful of the serious consequences that can result when this responsibility is forgotten.

In calling on the Chair to arrive at a finding of prima facie in this case, the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition cited my ruling of May 7, 2012, where at page 7650 of the Debates, I reminded the House that, before finding that a member had deliberately misled the House, three conditions had to be met:, it must be proven that the statement was misleading; two, it must be established that the member making the statement knew at the time that the statement was incorrect; and three, that in making in the statement, the member intended to mislead the house.

Arguing all three of these conditions had been met, he concluded that a breach of privilege had occurred.

It was with these criteria in mind that I undertook a thorough review of all relevant statements made in the House on this matter, focusing particularly, of course, on the statements made by the hon. for Mississauga—Streetsville.

Originally, on February 6, he stated:

I have actually witnessed other people picking up the voter cards, going to the campaign office of whatever candidate they support and handing out these voter cards to other individuals, who then walk into voting stations with friends who vouch for them with no ID.

Later that day, he added, “I will relate...something I have actually seen.”

It was only on February 24 that he rose to state:

...on February 6...I made a statement...that is not accurate. I just want to reflect the fact that I have not personally witnessed...[fraudulent activity]...and want the record to properly show that.

On February 25, he returned to the House, characterized his February 6 statement as “an error on my part” and apologized “to all Canadians and to all members of the House”, adding that, “It was never my intention, in any way, to mislead the House”. The Chair takes due note that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville has admitted that his February 6 statement was not true and that he has apologized for his mistake.

As was noted by the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, we all recognize that there is an enduring practice here of giving members the benefit of the doubt when the accuracy of their statements is challenged. It is often the case that questions of privilege raised on such matters are found to be disputes as to facts rather than prima facie questions of privilege, primarily due to the high threshold of evidence that the House expects.

Speaker Parent stated on page 9247 of Debates on October 19, 2000:

Only on the strongest and clearest evidence can the House or the Speaker take steps to deal with cases of attempts to mislead members.

From what the member for Mississauga—Streetsville and other members have revealed, it is quite clear that the House has been provided with two narratives that are contradictory statements. At the same time, the member for Mississauga—Streetsville stated that he had no intention of misleading the House.

Speaker Milliken was faced with a similar set of circumstances in February 2002 when the then Minister of National Defence, Art Eggleton, provided contradictory information to the House. In ruling on a question of privilege raised about the contradiction, Speaker Milliken stated on February 1, at page 8581 of Debates:

I am prepared, as I must be, to accept the minister’s assertion that he had no intention to mislead the House.

In keeping with that precedent, I am prepared to accord the same courtesy to the member for Mississauga—Streetsville.

At the same time, the fact remains that the House continues to be seized of completely contradictory statements. This is a difficult position in which to leave members, who must be able to depend on the integrity of the information with which they are provided to perform their parliamentary duties.

Accordingly, in keeping with the precedent cited earlier in which Speaker Milliken indicated that the matter merited “...further consideration by an appropriate committee, if only to clear the air”, I am prepared in this case for the same reason to allow the matter to be put to the House.

I therefore invite the hon. House leader of the official opposition to move the traditional motion at this time.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That the question of privilege related to the statements made in the House of Commons by the member for Mississauga—Streetsville be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the ruling you just delivered to the House of Commons. I will read it in detail later, but I wanted to make some introductory comments based on what I have heard today and the debate that preceded this.

We have just now moved the motion of contempt that has been found in the House against the member for Mississauga—Streetsville. As you noted in your ruling, the criteria or threshold that we use in the House of Commons to find a prima facie case of contempt is a very high one. It is in fact not easy to do. Canadians might be surprised by this, but the rules that govern the House, as pointed out by the Conservatives and you, is to give members the benefit of the doubt. In many instances, and it is in the nature of healthy debate, that there are differences of opinion and differences of interpretation of fact, and if every time a member of Parliament were called out in contempt for a variation of evidence, then we would be here all day.

The three criteria that you have laid down are very specific and very difficult to accomplish, as the member for Mississauga—Streetsville has somehow managed to do. It has to be proven that the statement was in fact misleading; that the person who gave the misleading statement knew at the time that it was misleading; and that in giving that misleading statement, the member of Parliament knowingly attempted to mislead the House of Commons and Canadians. To accomplish all three, as the member did not once, but twice, in referring to so-called evidence that he had personally witnessed with regard to the unfair election act, is quite an accomplishment, not one that anyone in the House should seek to do, and yet he has managed to.

The reason we take time in the House this afternoon, and here I suspect some of my colleagues will do so and I would hope that members from the government side would do so as well, to address this issue is that it is now being referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. As to when that committee will take this up, I would suggest that it will be informed not only by your ruling but also by the contributions that have been made to the debate to this point.

I wanted to point out the following very specifically. I know that the government House leader will be very attuned to this, because in defending the Conservative member for Mississauga—Streetsville, he made a number of points that the committee will have to grapple with in relation to his defence of the member. I will cite this because it has some bearing.

He said the following in response to our question of privilege:

As everyone is, I am sure, aware, the presumption in this House is that we are all taken at our word, that the statements we make are truthful and correct. That we are given the benefit of that doubt brings with it a strong obligation on us, in the cases where a member misspeaks, to correct the record.... In this particular instance, the member for Mississauga—Streetsville, has done exactly that. Having misspoken in this House and having realized his comments were in error, he has come to this House and corrected the record. ...The fact that we are even discussing this point of privilege, the fact that it has been raised, is only because the hon. member has taken that duty and obligation seriously, has come to this House and corrected the record.

I have two points on this. One is that it seems that the government's frame of reference on this is to congratulate the member for Mississauga—Streetsville for having knowingly misled the House, to say “way to go”, having misspoke, having misled—and here we are not allowed to use the term “lie”—having done these things, he then came back and said that he maybe misspoke, and then tried to move on.

It seems to me that to congratulate members for having done such a thing, and then to stand for 30 seconds and try to dismiss it, would send the absolute wrong signal to all members who participate in debates, that all someone has to do is to make a big speech and show so-called evidence, and not tell the truth, and then come back two weeks later in this case, and say “I misspoke, let us move on”. It does not work. It does not work for the nature of Parliament, for the nature of this House of Commons.

He suggested in his statements that he does not want to encourage any kind of a chilling effect. Here, let us get the three conditions right: if members are proven to have misled the House, if they knew it at the time that they were misleading the House, and that they intended to mislead the House.

If he does not want to create any chilling effect for anyone doing those things, I have an idea. Do not mislead the House in the first place. Do not knowingly go about spreading mistruths about something as fundamental as our Elections Act. Do not say we should congratulate him, well done, for having spoken about something as fundamental as our election laws in an untruthful manner, and then his coming back and having the courage—a word that I will use carefully—to attempt not once, but twice, to correct the record in some off-handed way.

The reason I come back to this is that we will explore how it was that this sudden, new-found love of the truth came to be. I hope the government will encourage this exploration. The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, in his intervention in the debate, said that the member should be congratulated, because he had the ability to come back to try to correct the record, saying that he misspoke. Why did he misspeak?

There have been several media reports, which we have to verify at committee. We would hope to call the member for Mississauga—Streetsville so that he can defend his actions. In the accounts we have since had in the media, such as in The Globe and Mail, Elections Canada was notified, because this is a grievous thing he talked about. I have a few citations from the media, if you seek them, Mr. Speaker.

He said that he witnessed electoral fraud. He said that he watched people take the identifications of other Canadians and take them to some party's headquarters, where it had its volunteers take them and vote with that identification, which actually confuses the different kinds of identification that are mailed to Canadians. I believe that my colleague from Toronto—Danforth may explore this a bit.

The member for Mississauga—Streetsville said that he watched all of these things take place. He then used this so-called evidence, which he later admitted was not true, to support the government's unfair elections act. That is the evidence they used.

Perhaps the only reason he came back was that Elections Canada said that a sitting member of Parliament watched electoral fraud take place. It wanted to know more, because it sounded like a problem. Maybe there was a problem with voter ID cards and it should get into this. Maybe it should ask the member to come forward to Elections Canada and to Canadians to explain, first of all, why if he witnessed a crime, he did not report it. That seems to be an interesting thing for a tough-on-crime party.

Second, if he witnessed electoral fraud, why would he not have gone to Elections Canada to say that he saw something terrible happen, that he had watched people being disenfranchised, votes being rigged, and ballots being stuffed into boxes? He did neither of those things. He just used it as evidence in a place we call the House of Commons. One would think he would have used more discretion.

In terms of contempt, it is important to understand that the bar is very high. It has been set by you, Mr. Speaker, and previous Speakers, to guide us as members of Parliament.

There are other instances. You referred to one in your ruling. The former minister of defence, Art Eggleton, was found in contempt after talking about the transfer of Afghan prisoners. He was found in contempt, having knowingly misled the House about something as grievous as that.

Members might remember the infamous memo in which the minister at the time, minister Bev Oda, inserted the word “not” and then later said that it had never happened and was not true, when it was in fact completely true. She denied funding for a group as important as KAIROS. That was the effort there.

We now have the member for Mississauga—Streetsville misleading the House, and knowingly doing so, about something as fundamental as our Elections Act. It is not commendable that the member was forced to come back and admit that what he said was not true. It is serious.

I was somewhat taken aback, as I looked over the government House leader's comments, at how celebratory he was of this moment. We seek the motivation behind this. This is something we will be exploring in the committee. It will be of interest to all members of Parliament and to all Canadians.

The word “contempt” is an interesting notion. It is the frame we use when a member of Parliament goes so far. I thought I would look up the definition, because sometimes we throw these words around somewhat casually. I thought I would seek out the definition. Contempt is:

a feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration or worthless, or deserving scorn....

What we are talking about is not the member for Mississauga—Streetsville. We are talking about Canada's Parliament. When we say that someone has been found in contempt, it is the feeling that a person or a thing, in this case it is the House of Commons, is beneath consideration. It is worthless or deserving of scorn.

We, on this side, do not believe that. We believe that this is, in fact, a sacred place, where we seek the truth. We seek to hold the government to account on its spending measures, its policies, and its laws. The law we are considering right now goes to the heart of all of our efforts to serve the public. All of us here stand in free and fair elections.

We just heard another plea for an emergency debate and much consideration.

I heard my friend from Halifax commend the government for its work and efforts in Ukraine, where there are people fighting and struggling, in a struggle that has left many people dead, to sustain and support the idea that people can have democratic governance. We are debating that very issue when we are debating the government's unfair election act.

To have a member of Parliament who is duly and fairly elected come forward and claim electoral fraud in defence of and justification for that bill, then to have him caught out not having told the truth, then to have the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, who, as I am, is meant to respect and hold up the fundamental democratic principles of this place, say that the member is not deserving of condemnation but of praise, having been caught somehow and made some half-apology and then had slightly more contrition, is contempt. That is contempt for this place and for all of us as members of Parliament.

The conditions have been met. I will remind the members of the House of where they and their team take this ruling. On page 75 in Erskine May's A treatise on the law, privileges, proceedings and usage of Parliament, “parliamentary privilege” is defined as the following: “...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,...”

Without these particular rules in place, we cannot do our job. We have found out that this one piece of evidence the government has been using that actual electoral fraud took place, and therefore we need this bill, and therefore members of Parliament should vote for it, is not true. We take members' word as members of Parliament in good faith, and yet we found it not to be true.

Let us take the words directly from the member for Mississauga—Streetsville. He said, in his alleged apology:

...I rise on a point of order with respect to debate that took place on February 6.... I made a statement in the House during the debate that is not accurate [and] I just want to reflect...that I have not personally witnessed individuals retrieving voter notification cards from the garbage cans or from the mailbox[es]...of apartment buildings. I have not personally witnessed that activity and want the record to properly show that.

Here is what the member was correcting. He said:

...I want to talk a bit about this vouching system again.... On mail delivery day when the voter cards are delivered to community mailboxes in apartment buildings, many of them are discarded in the garbage can or the blue box. I have actually witnessed other people picking up the voter cards, going to the campaign office of whatever candidate they support....

How the member witnessed them going to other campaign offices is a fascinating bit of evidence to me, but so be it. That will be for him to rationalize. He is visiting other campaign offices, I suppose, or maybe he only had access to one. He continued:

....going to the campaign office of whatever candidate they support and handing out these voter cards to other individuals, who then walk into voting stations with friends who vouch for them with no ID. Does the minister not believe this kind of thing will get cleaned up properly with this bill?

There it is right there: “Does the Minister not believe this kind of thing will get cleaned up properly with this bill?” He said that he had cited a problem of voter fraud. He said that he believed that voter fraud was happening, because he watched it happen, so we needed this piece of legislation to clean up that voter fraud, yes? No. It is not true. This is one piece of evidence the government has used.

We have heard the Minister of State (Democratic Reform), a term I use loosely, time and again on questions put by us, to criticisms placed before him by the Chief Electoral Officer, by experts in voting, and by Preston Manning, for goodness' sake. When we have asked this democratic reform minister about these particular problems with his bill, what did he say? He cited evidence of voter fraud. He cited concerns and conspiracy theories that this is a problem, and that is why we need the bill.

This is a solution looking for a problem, and if they cannot find the problem, they invent it. They mislead the House on the so-called fraud they have seen.

Here is the member's other comment. The member for Mississauga—Streetsville said:

Earlier this afternoon I asked the Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification a question. I think my friend from York South—Weston will appreciate this because, just like the riding I represent, there are a lot of apartment buildings in his riding.

He has had a lot of time to reflect on this. Does he continue down this path? Did he misspeak earlier, or does he double down on this? It is such a good piece of evidence. A sitting member of Parliament actually watched voter fraud go on and people cheat during elections. Well, he doubled down.

He continued:

I will relate to him something I have actually seen. On the mail delivery day when voter cards are put in mailboxes, residents come home, pick them out of their boxes, and throw them in the garbage can. I have seen campaign workers follow, pick up a dozen of them afterward, and walk out. Why are they doing that? They are doing it so they can hand those cards to other people, who will then be vouched for at a voting booth and vote illegally. That is going to stop.

This would stop with their bill. What is going to stop? It is this thing that did not happen. Why would we have the legislation?

If a is not true and we raise concerns b, c, and d, then suddenly, b, c, and d start making a lot more sense. If there is not actual voter fraud going on, if the problems the minister keeps citing and the member for Mississauga—Streetsville keeps mentioning are not going on, then there is something else.

What we see from Neufeld, who wrote the report the minister likes to cite, from Canadians, when asked, and from experts in the field who actually deal with this is that this is a partisan piece of legislation.

It is unprecedented in Canadian history. When reforming our election laws, it has always been the fact that whatever the party, whatever the historical situation, political preference, or debates of the day, the government has always engaged the opposition and Canadians broadly. Why? It is because it is not about the Conservative Party of Canada. It is not about its chances of holding onto its slim majority.

It is about the Canadian people. It is about the democratic society we have built and fought for over generations. That is what this should be about, and it is not in this case.

What do we have here? What has this debate become? What is the House of Commons if, when debating something so critical as our electoral laws and the very legitimacy of governments to make law and pass budgets, MPs mislead the House? They come back a couple of weeks later and say, “Never mind that. I misspoke. Let us move on”, to try to persuade members of Parliament and people watching and listening. These are people who care, who do not become cynical. Lord knows, they have enough reasons to be cynical. They have watched the government destroy the census, fire and muzzle scientists, and ignore facts time and again. If the facts do not fit the argument, the Conservatives switch it around and twist logic to the point of breaking.

We have it here again. It is not easy to do what the member for Mississauga—Streetsville accomplished. He somehow managed to do something that only a few members of Parliament in the history of our country have been able to do, which is to be found in contempt of Parliament.

I do not know how he goes back to his voters and says that he represents them well. That is for him to answer. I do not know how the government House leader, the Prime Minister, and all the people who support him on that side feel good about this situation or feel that they have not stepped a little too far this time and been caught.

Who knew that what we say in this place actually mattered? Who knew that people were actually listening, like Elections Canada, like people who participated in the election where he said he watched fraud happen. Who knew that they were watching, and when they heard that there was electoral fraud in that campaign, they felt that they had better do something about that, because if that was true, it was a problem?

Lo and behold, it was not true. Lo and behold, our words do matter when Elections Canada or whoever it was from the Conservative Party contacted the member and said, “I know what you said, and we bend the truth all the time in the Conservative Party, but you actually may have misled. You may have lied. You have to get back in there and apologize and try to cover this over”.

That is because what it does is discredit all the rest of the arguments being made by the government, by the democratic reform minister, and by the Prime Minister as to the necessity of this bill.

As to the alleged problems it is looking to correct, and we have to say “allegedly”, because it has now been proven that one of the government's central arguments, which was made in the House not once but twice, was not true. It was rumour. It was invented.

The member for Mississauga—Streetsville has a lot to answer for. He will do so at the procedure and House affairs committee. We will call other witnesses who can shed some light as to how this was found out. Did he have a moment?

We see this as grievous. We see contempt for Parliament as one of the worst things a member of Parliament can do to this place and its reputation. We need to restore it, not bring it further down.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.


Ted Hsu Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier, the Chair, at the end of the ruling, said that there were too many contradictory statements in this House.

If every time a Canadian went to read the record of this House of Commons they had to check to see if something an hon. members said was corrected later on, would Canadians think of us as hon. members? Things cannot be that way.

I have a question for my hon. colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley. Does the member think there should be a system put into place so that the official record of this chamber may be corrected? If anybody read a statement or looked at a video where a statement was later corrected, that person would see that the statement had been corrected, or would see in the video when a member stood up to say something that it was later retracted.

Then we would not have to worry about whether something we are reading which was said in this House of Commons was true or not.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the specific proposal would be.

The member is right. Canadians cannot check the record, nor should they be expected to check the record every time an MP gets up and says something. What is the sense of this whole thing if we doubt everything and then have to go and fact check it?

The ideal would be not to lie in the first place, to come in with evidence that is true, and when a member says they have seen something, that they have actually seen it. That is the ideal. That is why we were afforded these privileges that you and I share, Mr. Speaker, as well as all of our colleagues.

When we stand in this place and say something, we try to trust one another. That is perhaps hard for Canadians to believe, that there can be an ability to have vigorous debate and to dispute the facts of whether the government is telling the truth about a program, for instance. However, when somebody says they saw something, we are all under the rules that guide us in this place that we are meant to trust one another, at least that much. When these kinds of things happen, when members are found in contempt in this place, that trust is eroded just a little bit more. There is not that much territory left to us.

This has to be corrected. The government has to realize its ways. It has to allow for cross-country hearings on this bill, to allow Canadians to have their say and have the truth about how our elections ought to work in Canada.

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3:55 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. It is indeed a sad day.

The decision that will be made by this committee will be studied, and it will have an impact in the Westminster systems around the world. That is how the parliamentary system works.

Contempt of Parliament is about the interference and obstruction in the making of laws in a country. In Australia, that is a crime. If members obstruct Parliament in their duty, they go to jail.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question. Even though we have a Conservative-dominated committee, and because we are part of a much larger system of parliamentary democracy that goes back centuries, what does he think about the importance of the decision that will be made on this deliberate interference and undermining of the creation of a law in Canada? What significance will it have to the overall credibility of the parliamentary system worldwide?

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3:55 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, as has been famously said, it is a terrible system but it is great when compared to the alternatives.

I will not speak specifically to what measures the committee might take. I do not sit on this committee. I have great confidence in the New Democratic members who do.

The fact is that in Australia the repercussions are more than a slap on the wrist: one faces jail. That would certainly give pause to members when debating a bill, when bringing forward evidence and facts. Members would not want to get caught out like Bev Oda did, or like the member for Mississauga—Streetsville did, or Mr. Eggleton.

While they may be impassioned about a certain debate one way or the other, it does not justify lying. It does not allow the member of Parliament, somebody who makes this their service, their occupation, something they would hopefully hold pride in, to think of Parliament as a contemptuous place, somewhere they have no duty-bound honour.

In terms of the effect on other Westminster systems, Mr. Speaker, you would know that we are constantly relying on the rulings and the guidance of other Westminster-style Parliaments, in the U.K. and around the world.

The fact is that this is going on here in Canada. It started small, but the effects of it linger. If one were to bring forward a proposal in which contempt was then to lead to more serious consequences than they do right now, I would expect the Conservative tough-on-crime Party to be the first one in line. However, it has been in power for eight years and has not made the suggestion. That may offer more insight into the way it puts its talking points together than its true interest in making this place less contemptible.

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4 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will tread carefully here. I happen to count the member for Mississauga—Streetsville as a friend, and I know him to be a good person. However, I see these statements as being at incomprehensible odds. I commend the official opposition for raising this, and I thank the Speaker for allowing us to dig into it.

As I probably will not be allowed to say anything in committee, I would like to propose an alternative explanation and hope that my friends and colleagues will look in that direction, and that is in the direction of the Prime Minister's Office that writes all the speeches for Conservative members.

I do not happen to believe that Bev Oda lied, by the way, at least she did not lie when she initially said she did not put the word “not” in there. I can use her name as she is no longer in this place. It is clear to me from the chronology of events on the signing of those documents that she signed the document to approve funding to KAIROS, and that subsequently the Prime Minister's Office told her she was not allowed to do that because “we do not like those people”. That office put in the “not”, and she covered for it. That, to me, is the chronology that makes the most sense.

As a somewhat objective observer, the chronology that makes sense in this instance is that an over-torqued speech was handed to a member who then read it and realized that he could not live with having said something he never saw.

I hope that when this goes to committee we will seek out the truth, and not just seek to destroy one member's reputation. As I said, I know the member to be a good person.

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4 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think my friend is misguided on the motivation for this. She talked about destroying people. This is about maintaining Parliament's dignity, or what shred of it is left after we hear the contemptuous comments from across the way on a daily basis.

Her question is about torqued-up speeches, as she calls them, by the Prime Minister's Office. The Prime Minister's Office is famous for, and takes great credit and pride in, the fact that the control is near absolute. Conservative backbenchers rallied against this control, seeking to make their own statements prior to question period. They wanted to be allowed to use their own thoughts and words as members of Parliament while also existing in the Conservative Party of Canada. What a fascinating idea that would be. Two worlds collide.

I do not know if the member perhaps received these comments directly from the Prime Minister's Office in a pre-prepared speech. I read through Hansard, the official record of this place, and some comments appear to have been made, and perhaps they were made in a speech and then they were reinforced. As I said in my comments, individuals double-down when something seems to sound pretty good to justify a bad bit of legislation. However, I do not know.

I cannot speak to the motivation, but I can speak to what this effort is about. The Speaker's ruling is not seeking to destroy somebody. We are not seeking to destroy somebody with our attempts on this question of privilege. We are seeking to empower the House of Commons and provide it with the dignity that it was designed to have in the debates we have, so that members can speak truthfully here and be understood to be speaking the truth, from their interpretation of it, to allow rigorous debate to take place, and even occasionally to find common ground. Heaven forbid that Parliament would do what it was actually meant to do under a Conservative government.

The fact remains that this is more than about the member for Mississauga—Streetsville. This is a pattern of language. This is a problem. This is a serious debate because it is about our election laws. It is about that foundation of our democracy. To be so free with the truth and so at ease with whether something like electoral fraud did or did not happen is reprehensible, regardless of the individual and his qualities. It matters. Lo and behold, it matters.

This is a good day. This is a good day over a very bad thing. Let us correct this. Let us make sure that the punishment and the consequences meet the crime, as Conservatives are so often happy to say. I am talking about other people. I am not talking so much about Conservatives, but we will find out.

It is a Conservative-dominated committee, and that is a concern. We hope that it will be public because that would allow a free and transparent view of this case. Everyone could see the motivation, not only behind the misleading in the first place, but the correction after the fact. Questions could be answered, such as: Why did it take two weeks? Who talked to the member? Who talked to Elections Canada? Was it notified? Were other people who participated in the election notified? The committee can call whomever it deems right to call.

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4:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Louis-Hébert, Quebec Bridge.

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4:05 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 consider this to be an extremely important motion that has been brought forward. The topic we were discussing this afternoon is the responsibility of members of Parliament to speak truthfully and accurately in this place. In fact, any time an MP speaks, even outside this place, we all hope he would be speaking with a great degree of accuracy. A few things have been said this afternoon that I think have not been accurate, and I want to try to set the record straight.

My friend the opposition House leader has mentioned several times in his intervention that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville was lying. That is simply not true.

The Speaker's ruling, and an earlier ruling by former Speaker Milliken, in the Eggleton case, both stated that the respective Speakers did not find that the member in question had deliberately misled the House, merely that he was referring this issue to committee for further clarification and examination. I take issue with my colleague opposite, who is trying to characterize the comments made by the member for Mississauga—Streetsville as lying, because that simply is not what the Speaker has found.

The other thing I want to point out, and I do not think it really needs to be pointed out to members, particularly any member who has been here for any length of time, as my friend from Saanich—Gulf Islands said, there are opportunities when all members, and I emphasize all members, tend to torque their language a bit, perhaps to embellish or to exaggerate. Is that something we should encourage? Certainly not. Does it happen regularly? Yes, it does.

I would point out that even today in question period, I only noticed one instance, there may have been more, but certainly in one instance, a Liberal member, the member for Markham—Unionville, with a prepared question, when he was questioning the Minister of Finance he misspoke about how many budgets our government has run in deficit.

The Speaker mentioned, as did my hon. colleague, that there are three thresholds to be met to find whether there should be a point of privilege. The member for Markham—Unionville was a former member of cabinet. I believe he was a minister of Revenue Canada. I believe he also has serious bona fides when it comes to economics and finance. I would suggest that the member knew full well what our record was and that we did not run eight consecutive deficit budgets, as he suggested in his question. That is simply not the case, and I suggest that the member for Markham—Unionville knew that.

Second, I believe he knew his statement was wrong when he made it. Third, he was aware that the statement was wrong as he presented it.

My point is, should we then bring down a point of privilege on the member for Markham—Unionville? I do not think that will happen because statements like that are made routinely in this Parliament.

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4:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

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4:05 p.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

I am not defending them. I am not suggesting that it was wrong. My friends from the Liberal side are heckling because they do not like it. The truth hurts. If they want to have a serious debate about this, I would encourage my friends to listen.

I am suggesting that this happens perhaps all too routinely in this place, but should it then be considered contempt? My friend opposite continues to make the point that it was contempt. Again, that is simply not accurate. The Speaker has merely referred this to committee for an examination.

There are two or three points that we already know. We know that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville did misspeak. He admits it freely, but he also came back to this House and admitted that what he said on February 6 was not accurate. He has corrected the record. He has apologized, and now all facts are known in this case.

The members opposite think that was a matter of contempt and that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville deliberately misled the House, when in fact the Speaker, in his ruling, suggested that this was simply not the case.

The problem we now have before us is that because the member for Mississauga—Streetsville came back to this place and corrected the record, he is now facing possible sanction. What the consequence or the net result of this may be is that the truth begins to be pushed underground.

I would suggest, and I doubt that I would have any opposition from members across the floor, that had the member for Mississauga—Streetsville said nothing and had he not come back to this place and admitted that he spoke in error, nothing would have been done. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I would point out to you, and I have not heard this yet in debate, that prior to the member coming back to the House, he corrected the record at the procedure and House affairs committee. When the Minister of State for Democratic Reform appeared before the committee, the member for Mississauga—Streetsville stated, on the issue of voter ID cards and vouching, that he had heard many times from people who had worked for him in his prior business that they had seen people would go into blue boxes and garbage bins in apartment buildings to withdraw voter ID cards. However, he said that was anecdotal and that he had not seen it personally. I believe that alone speaks to the fact that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville was not deliberately trying to mislead the House.

I would also point out one other fact. My friend the opposition House leader had spoken of whether the comments from the member for Mississauga—Streetsville were said deliberately in a prepared text. I would point out that they simply were not.

When he made those comments, which were inaccurate—and I will not defend that, as they were certainly inaccurate—they were said when he was making extemporaneous comments. They were not part of his prepared text, which means to me, most certainly, that he was not deliberately trying to mislead the House. Had he done so in a prepared text, then I would probably have to agree that this was indeed a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts, but he did so in the heat of debate and speaking extemporaneously.

However, now, if we are to believe members opposite, by correcting the record, he should then be punished with a finding of contempt. I do not know how many times members opposite have also met this threshold of knowingly saying something that was untrue, something that was not accurate, yet contempt rulings have not been brought forward when members opposite torqued the debate, whether in questions in question period or in general debate on a piece of legislation.

Should it happen? Absolutely not. Would I like to see everything said in this place said in a reasoned, sensible manner, devoid of the partisanship that we see all too often? Of course.

Members opposite, particularly the one for Timmins—James Bay, who is laughing and heckling—

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4:10 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Laughing at you.

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4:10 p.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

—is probably a poster boy for people who can torque issues, yet I do not think we have ever seen—

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4:10 p.m.


Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

He's not a liar. That's the thing.

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4:10 p.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

—anyone bring forward a question of privilege or try to find that member in contempt.

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4:10 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Because you couldn't.

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4:10 p.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Is it distasteful from time to time? It certainly is. Is it personal? Many times it is. Do the members on our side do the same? Yes, we do.

Since the Chair has not found the member to have lied, even though my colleagues opposite keep trying to tell that tale, they perhaps should stand up and set the record straight, because the Chair did not find the member for Mississauga—Streetsville to have deliberately misled this House; in other words, he did not find that he had lied, merely that the committee should take an examination and try to clarify the comments surrounding his statements of February 6.

While I know the opposition wants to convince Canadians that there is some nefarious reason behind the comments of my colleague from Mississauga—Streetsville, I would purport to you and everyone else in this place that he merely did what so many of us have done previously: in the heat of debate, he had simply gone overboard.

There is no excuse for that. We do have a responsibility to speak accurately. However, if there is anyone who can stand in his or her place today and say that in his or her entire career in politics he or she has never torqued a comment, never exaggerated a claim, never perhaps gone a little beyond the pale when it comes to making comments during debate, let that person speak now, because that will be the first person that I have found who could make that claim, and I have been in politics an awfully long time.

That is how we are conditioned. That is what we do. It is not right to do so. The member for Mississauga—Streetsville recognizes that, first and foremost. No one else had brought this forward before my colleague stood in his place in this chamber and admitted to the House that what he said on February 6 was not accurate. He apologized for his comments. He set the record straight.

My friend the opposition House leader said that he should not be congratulated for that. I agree. However, at the very least, he should not be condemned for setting the record straight. He did what every responsible member of Parliament should do, which is that when one misspeaks in this House or says something that is not accurate, the member has an obligation to come back and correct the record. My colleague did that. As I pointed out, he did so earlier at committee, when the Minister of State for Democratic Reform appeared.

How can we talk about motivation? My friend opposite talks about motivation. He wants to explore motivation. It is quite simple. We work, live, act, and react in a hyperpartisan environment. There is certainly enough blame to be thrown around on all sides of the House. The opposition will obviously say that this partisanship, this mean-spirited environment and culture we seem to live in these days, is caused by our government. Arguments can be made to the opposite. Again, the members opposite who seem to be doing most of the heckling seem to be the ones who are most prone to making these personal, vitriolic, sometimes hyperpartisan attacks during question period. That is the environment we live in. It is unfortunate.

As a bit of an aside to this, I recall when Jack Layton, the former leader of the NDP, first came to this place as the official opposition leader. He pledged that his party would bring a new sense of decorum and respect to this place. Unfortunately, that did not last very long. I had great admiration for Mr. Layton, as did most of us in this place, and I wish that spirit of decorum and respect that he talked of was evident today. I think this place would be a better place for debate.

However, on the issue that is before us today, I simply state once again what we know. The member misspoke. He came back to this place and admitted that he had not spoken accurately on February 6. He apologized for his comments and not speaking accurately. All of the facts are now known and before us.

This has happened many times in the past in this place, and there have not been findings of contempt in all of the times that I have been here when a member has stood in this place and apologized.

Apparently that is not sufficient for member of the opposition. I can understand that. Opposition parties are trying to score some political points here, and I do not begrudge them that. It is what opposition parties do. They opposed Bill C-23, the fair elections act. We understand that. We understand that they are trying to do everything in their power to delay, obstruct, or perhaps even kill that piece of legislation. I get that. However, that is what I believe is truly behind the motion we are debating today.

If we want to talk about motivation, let us ask what the motivation is for the point of privilege that was first raised, which is to delay discussion of the fair elections act at committee as long as possible.

Mr. Speaker, as you well know, we have here a debate that is procedurally unlimited. No legislation will be brought forward as long as we are debating this point of privilege.

I was somewhat surprised, frankly, that when the motion was made to refer this matter to committee, the opposition did not put a deadline on it, because that would have perhaps forced this question of privilege to be dealt with immediately at committee, which would then further delay any attempts at examination of Bill C-23. Perhaps they will bring an amendment forward to try and do just that. However, that is the motivation that I see, and that is what is driving this debate today.

In conclusion, I agree, and I believe my colleague the member for Mississauga—Streetsville would also agree, that if one does not speak accurately in this place, records should be corrected. If one does not speak with accuracy on any point, whether it be legislation or during debate, it should not be tolerated. However, when is it right to punish someone for correcting the record? When does one become a victim for speaking what one needed to say, which was to correct the record?

I do not think we will be getting much reasoned debate from members opposite on this point. However, I think it is imperative to at least put on the record what we do know: there was no deliberate misrepresentation in the eyes of Chair; the reference to committee was simply to try to clarify and determine exactly what the member said and why he said it.

On that we agree. However, for anything else to be said or to say that there was a deliberate attempt to misrepresent is simply not the case.

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4:20 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for his comments.

First of all, the reason for this debate is that the Speaker did find a prima facie case of contempt.

My friend says that there is some problem of accuracy. However, that is not the problem here. It was not that member for Mississauga—Streetsville was inaccurate, but that he attempted to mislead the House.

The Speaker of the House of Commons found that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville managed to satisfy all three criteria for showing contempt of Parliament: that he knowingly misled the House, that he was aware of it at the time, and that his attempt to mislead the House was intentional. These are not easy things to do.

However, the member seems to dismiss it as if there was some point of fact that was inaccurate and the member for Mississauga—Streetsville just corrected it, so what is the big deal, since it happens all the time?

It happens all the time—really? It happens all the time that members walk into this House, knowingly mislead the place, and attempt to contort the debate?

The member says that it is “torquing up” the debate. This is not torquing something up; that is rhetoric. This is not about rhetoric, and that is not what the Speaker said.

I am not sure if the member is actually challenging the ruling that came down. It seems that way. It is as though there were no prima facie case of contempt found, as though that is just what the NDP believes.

No, no, my friend. The Speaker also agrees with us. If the Conservative member would like to challenge the Chair, then he is able to make that kind of point. However, that is not what is happening here.

The member also said that “all of the facts are now known”. Wow, that is great. I would like him to leave some of those with us this afternoon as to what the facts of the case are. He said that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville had a moment of conviction, which is why he came back, and that he is the product of his environment. I wish the Conservatives thought that about all Canadians. I wish they thought that when misdeeds happen, they are all just products of their environment.

My question is this: is the member challenging the Chair? Is he suggesting that only NDP members have found a prima facie case of contempt, or is it in fact the Speaker of the House that I heard make that ruling this afternoon?

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4:25 p.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, again, my friend opposite is trying to contort my words. What I said was an accurate reflection of the Chair's ruling. That is, the Chair found the member for Mississauga—Streetsville did not deliberately mislead the House. Check the blues. I am afraid my friend opposite does not understand what the Chair said.

However, let me point out again what I said in debate. I am glad to see the member for Markham—Unionville joined us, because this happens often. It happens frequently. I used the example today of what happened in question period.

My friend opposite asks if I think this simply happens routinely. It happened routinely today. The member for Markham—Unionville stood in question period with a pre-ordained, pre-planned question and did not tell with any accuracy his question on deficit budgets. I point out that he must have known this when he stated the question. He is a learned man. He has a background in finance and economics. He was a member of the former Liberal cabinet, so he knew what he was saying was incorrect. He knowingly knew it and yet he still spoke it.

Does that mean we should bring a point of privilege against comments from the member for Markham—Unionville? I do not think so. It happens in this place. Is it right? No, it is not, but it happens. That is the point I was making, that is the point that my friend opposite conveniently ignores.

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4:25 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be afforded the opportunity to address the issue in more detail in a few minutes. I have a specific question for the member, when he talks about the issue of misspeaking. I have been a parliamentarian for over 20 years, the last few years here in Ottawa, and I have seen many opportunities when individuals were challenged in terms of speaking or not speaking the truth. We know it is against our rules to intentionally mislead the House. Very rarely do we get as far as we have in regard to the Speaker affording the opportunity to have further debate on the motion. This is not simply a misspeak.

Does the parliamentary secretary know if the member for Mississauga—Streetsville was actually approached by Elections Canada or the commissioner and asked about his comments? There are very serious allegations that this might have been a motivating factor. Has the member actually asked his colleague whether or not that was the motivating factor for him to come before the chamber to apologize? Does he know whether or not Elections Canada or the elections commissioner was in contact with the member for Mississauga--Streetsville?

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4:25 p.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, a simple answer to the question is that, no, I do not know; but I have spoken with my colleague, who said that when looked at the blues and saw the comments that he made on February 6, he decided to come back here and set the record straight. That is pure and simple.

If we think about everyone who has spoken in this place over the years, and again I point out that if we asked every single member who has ever served in this place if they had ever at any time perhaps either crossed the line by embellishing, by exaggerating, or as I pointed out today with our friend the member for Markham—Unionville, that they said something that was not completely accurate, I think the answer would be yes. That does not make it right, but it happens.

I would point out that to prevent that from happening would be nigh on impossible. Do I think we need to encourage people to be extremely considered in their comments, in their questions? Absolutely, I do, but from time to time, mistakes happen. What needs to be done is that those mistakes should be corrected, and that is what my colleague did.