Mr. Speaker, this motion on the point of privilege regarding the member for Mississauga—Streetsville is such a strange situation. We usually like to start our speeches by saying that it is an honour to rise in the House, and it is an honour, but it is sad to be speaking to a subject like this one.
My colleagues from all parties spend a lot of time going door to door, visiting organizations, participating in events and talking to their constituents. We are no strangers to cynicism and negative comments about the work that we do as MPs and politicians. As elected members of Parliament, part of our job is to change that reputation and show people that we can have a positive impact on our communities and on their daily lives. We hope to earn their trust after an election, regardless of the circumstances of the election, whether we had a hard-fought win or we came in on a wave, like the orange wave in Quebec. We all have a responsibility to earn the trust of our constituents.
It is very troubling when members do things or say things that mislead the House, as in the case before us today. This situation is worthy of being examined, especially since it is related to Bill C-23, the electoral “deform” bill. This bill will change the very foundation of our democracy. Some aspects of the bill are very worrisome, and the public is not necessarily aware of them.
I want to expand on that point. When we rise to speak during debates in the House of Commons, we are not necessarily doing so just to convince our colleagues. We certainly hope to convince some of them, but at the end of the day, we rise to speak not only on behalf of our constituents, but also to them. We communicate ideas, try to help them understand the bill and, in most cases, share our thoughts on the bill and how our party feels about it.
When we debate a subject and try to explain a bill as complex and important as the one that amends the Canada Elections Act, we have to make sure that people know the real story. When a member actually misleads the House, and therefore the people we represent—those from Chambly—Borduas in my case—and all Canadians, that is extremely troubling.
My colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley said it well: if we look at the situation, we realize that the intervention by our colleague from Mississauga—Streetsville was clearly made with the intention to mislead the House. First, it has to be said, the statement was made not just once, but twice, at two different times. Obviously we are all aware of the time we are talking about the most, which was February 6, in the House. I was here and we were all surprised to hear such a thing. However, since the member said the same thing twice, the three conditions were met. You, yourself, said so in your ruling yesterday, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member was aware of what he was doing, he intended to mislead the House and this was not really a mistake.
Yesterday, the Conservatives gave some interesting speeches—and that is being kind—and we are hearing the same things again today: the member is fair and honest. He simply misspoke and he has apologized.
As I said in the House yesterday, a mistake is forgetting someone's birthday, someone you have not seen in a long time. Mixing up the name of a riding such as Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, which is long and complex, that is a mistake. It is an easy mistake to make when speaking in the House, especially if one is trying to speak without notes.
However, when someone stands in the House—as a member duly elected by the people, I dare say—and that individual states, with confidence and certainty, that he has seen a crime committed in his riding, that is a very serious accusation.
That is a far cry from mixing up numbers, a name, a date or any other information. We realize that the member was willing to come back to the House and have his remarks corrected in the Hansard. However, I doubt that the government, which proudly claims to be tough on crime, would be willing to forgive other criminals who simply apologized. I am not saying that the member opposite is a criminal, but he did commit an unforgivable act in the House, one that could be considered contempt of Parliament. That is what we are discussing today.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons said that there was no contempt, that we have all of the facts and that there is no need to study the issue in committee. However, during question period, when the Minister of State for Democratic Reform was asked how many cases of fraud were the same as those identified by the member for Mississauga—Streetsville in the House, he said that there were some, but he did not say how many or provide any details.
The minister is not able to provide clarification, but it seems that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville can. He corrected his statement, but that led to a lot of confusion. We therefore need to clear things up in committee.
It is essential to say things that are accurate. Nobody should mislead the members of the House and much less the people of Canada. This is very serious, because this is not a routine bill. In the past, the Canada Elections Act has not been the kind of thing that gets changed frequently. The changes proposed by the Minister of State for Democratic Reform are especially significant because they had to be put forward following a series of accusations and deeply disturbing scandals. In this case, we are talking about robocalls, but there was also the in-and-out scandal and the very serious Liberal scandals, such as the sponsorship scandal.
People are worried, and with good reason, about how elections are conducted. This bill was introduced long after a motion moved by the member for Toronto—Danforth, if memory serves. The NDP asked the minister of state for democratic reform at the time to introduce a bill within six months.
Not only has all this time been spent on introducing the bill, but false statements were made that misled members. This illustrates the bad faith shown by this government, which has the gall to defend the member in question.
Ms. Therrien, for instance, stood up to disclose factual things about employment insurance. There are other situations in which public servants may have made mistakes, and this has created a difficult situation for the government. In each of these cases, the government did not hesitate to publicly destroy those people's reputations. The Conservatives did not hesitate to put the blame for a difficult situation on public servants, instead of accepting that they were elected to form a government and assume their responsibilities.
It is interesting that the government is not treating a member of its own caucus the same way, after he acted inappropriately by misleading the House and Canadians. We would have hoped that the government would show its own members the same hard line that it shows public servants and other Canadians who sometimes do difficult jobs. There is a double standard here.
We in the NDP sometimes engage in overheated rhetoric in the House. We are all guilty of that. At the end of the day, however, we are talking about the truthfulness of the facts. We are talking about misleading the House. That is what the member did, and it needs to be studied at committee. It is not an exaggeration to say that our democracy depends on it. After all, this bill aims to deform—or reform, as the minister would say—our election laws. We really need to examine this issue and have a much higher standard for the members of this House.