Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent and enlightening speech. She clearly explained the issue that is before the House today.
If I relied on Conservative Party members on the other side of the House, I would have no idea what the issue is. After hearing the speech by the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, I no longer understood the point of the debate.
I would like to remind hon. members of the topic of debate. In the context of the electoral “deform” bill, Bill C-23, the member for Mississauga—Streetsville rose in the House and made misleading statements. He misled the House.
We therefore asked the Speaker to investigate what had been said in the House to determine whether, prima facie, the member made false statements and misled the House. The Speaker responded in the affirmative. We have three criteria that allow us to determine whether the House was misled, and these criteria were developed by the Speaker himself.
I am going to summarize them. First, it must be proven that the statement itself was misleading; second, it must be established that the member making the statement knew at the time that the statement was incorrect; and, third, the member must have intended to mislead the House.
According to the Speaker’s ruling, the situation meets those criteria prima facie. That is why this matter is before us. Will we refer it to the parliamentary committee responsible for examining this kind of issue, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs?
After hearing the speeches of the members on the other side of the House, I believe we have lost sight of the motion. Hon. members will remember that it reads:
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.
It is nothing more or less than that. I think that is clear. The member for Mississauga—Streetsville seems to have made two completely contradictory statements. We must go further and examine this issue.
Why must we do so? It is possible that the member spoke with Elections Canada or that Elections Canada communicated with the member. We do not know what happened. All we know is what the member himself said.
Hon. members will recall what he said in his speech on February 6. To paraphrase, he said that he lived in a very urban, very densely populated riding where there are a lot of apartment buildings and blue boxes. He claimed that people had found Elections Canada cards that had been discarded by voters in those boxes, and that they had picked them up so that they could take them to the offices of other parties, claim a new identity and possibly vote illegally.
It is a serious accusation for a member of Parliament to rise in the House and say that he has personally witnessed election fraud in Canada.
Let me go back to the original quote. I would like to do so because I think it is always better quote the member himself. What he said was very specific. That is why we have to wonder what the facts really are.
I would like people to pay attention to the details of what the member for Mississauga—Streetsville told us in the House. In response to a question he was asked following one of his speeches in the House on February 6, he said precisely this:
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.
A question is being raised in the House. The member for Mississauga—Streetsville did not merely miscalculate. He did not merely conjugate a verb in such a way that we did not know whether it was in the future or the past tense. It was not a typographical error. It was a specific and very detailed error. It would be very difficult for me to be mistaken for about three minutes of a speech. There might be perhaps one or two incorrect words in my speech, and I would definitely rise in the House and apologize for my mistake.
Here we are talking about a complete paragraph from the speech of a member of the House, where he said that he had actually seen a fraudulent act committed against the Canadian electorate. When he was asked to apologize and he returned to the House on February 24—18 days later—he did not do so. He merely stated that some of what he had said might have been inaccurate.
What was incorrect in all that? One specific thing? Everything? We do not know, and that is why it should be looked into by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The hon. member should provide more detailed explanations to Canadian voters, because those given so far are insufficient. He gave a brief apology of a few sentences in the House, whereas he made a 15-minute speech, and what he said over three minutes or so was downright incorrect, according to what he says. That merits the attention of this House.
We must have confidence that what is said in the House is accurate, honest and true. We cannot allow members to come into the House and say things as inaccurate as that. If someone truly saw what the hon. member claimed to have seen, that constitutes fraud. That is a violation of the Canada Elections Act. We are beginning to move into the criminal field. There are serious consequences for witnessing that kind of activity and keeping silent for three years. The member claimed to have seen this in 2011. This is 2014, and for all that time, he said nothing. He witnessed a very serious fraudulent act in his constituency and did nothing.
In this case, it seems to me, a member of Parliament has a much greater responsibility to act than an ordinary Canadian citizen. He knows this very well. He is a legislator. He is very familiar with the consequences of such a serious act. He has to report it. Either he failed to report that act, and today he is trying to hedge and have people believe it was a mistake, or it truly was a mistake.
I would like Elections Canada to tell us if there were any reports and if the member came forward at that time. Do we know what happened? That is deserving of the attention of this House.
Again, in the context of Bill C-23, the electoral deform bill introduced by this government, we want Canadians to vote in elections. For years, the voter turnout rate has been in constant decline. We should bring it up.
According to opposition members, the content of Bill C-23 will unfortunately achieve the direct opposite. It will stop people from voting and decrease the turnout rate even further.
With respect to voter cards, 800,000 seniors and 70,000 members of first nations used them to vote. Under the terms of the bill now before us, they would unfortunately no longer have that right. That is precisely why the member rose in the House. He wanted to condemn a practice that, as we see it, has helped people vote, rather than prevented them from doing so.
If this case is referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, we definitely want everything open to the public. That is why I am moving a motion. I do not want this to take place in camera.
I move, seconded by the hon. member for Québec:
that the motion be amended by adding, after the words “House Affairs”, the following:
“, and that all procedures in respect of this order of reference be held in public”.