Mr. Speaker, the third little spot in a row to stand up and talk about this point does not exactly scream diversity, does it?
Earlier, I asked my colleague from Welland a question. As I mentioned, I hoped that I would have a longer period of time because I want to get this out. I want to air this.
What we are talking about here, is my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley moved that there be a prima facie finding of contempt. The Speaker found that the matter merited further consideration by the appropriate committee. We have a motion. We have a decision. The Speaker then invited the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley to move the traditional motion. That is what happened. The Speaker is referring this issue to committee.
I have found it very curious, over the past day and a half, that Conservative members have stood up in the House and by the way they are arguing and presenting the “facts”, which I will put in air quotes, it sounds like they are disagreeing with the Speaker. They are saying that it is not contempt. It was not to mislead. I just heard the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley say that he believed the member meant this, and that he believed that the member did not mean that.
It sounds to me like they are disagreeing with the ruling of the Speaker to send this to committee. I have not understood this argument. I have not understood how or why they would bring this forward.
However, now it is starting to become clear. Procedurally, I did not understand that it was possible to vote against the Speaker's ruling, but I now understand that this is exactly what we have here.
We live in a day and age where communication is instant. I can read media reports well before the newspapers are printed the next day. I will read from a Globe and Mail article by Josh Wingrove. The first paragraph says:
The Conservative government is signaling it will vote down a motion to study whether one of its MPs misled the House of Commons, rejecting a finding by the Speaker that the issue deserves a closer look if only to “clear the air.”
That was my "ahah" moment. Maybe I am slower to get to it than others, but the Conservative government is going to vote against this. That is unbelievable to me.
We have a spokeswoman from the whip's office saying that all of the facts are known on the issue, so there is nothing for a committee to study, and there is little to be gained by sending the issue to committee. There is also a quote from the government House leader, who said:
The question you have to ask is if that is actually going to serve any utility? There’s really no dispute...Certainly, one cannot picture anything that will come of great utility from further discussion of the matter.
They are going to vote against this. I find that pretty unbelievable.
First of all, I heard my colleague from Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley say he believed that this is what the member meant and he believed that the member did not mean to mislead us. If he believes it, how about we have it aired out? How about we actually talk about it and figure out what is going on? Why did he make these statements? What was the intention here?
Let us go back to what the Speaker said:
...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.
Those are not very many words. They are two sentences, but those two sentences have a lot of weight. Members “must be able to depend on the integrity of the information with which they are provided to perform their parliamentary duties”. Parliamentary duties. Parlement. We are here. This is a place where we use words, where we talk, and where we have debate. It is a place of words.
I know that in the U.K., where our parliamentary tradition comes from, there is no paper. It is all in the spoken word. We are nothing but our words. We are nothing but our integrity and our words. Parlement.
We have a situation here where someone has diminished not only their own integrity but also the integrity of Parlement, of Parliament, and the ability for us to rely on our words, put weight on them, and believe in them.
I think that the Speaker made the right ruling and I do not know how the vote is going to turn out. Maybe there will be some rogue MPs on the Conservative side, but it looks like they are going to vote it down, and I find that truly outrageous.
There is another thing that I find truly outrageous. I am at what I perceive to be the end of the debate. I was here yesterday at the beginning of the debate. I heard the Speaker's ruling and then the response from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. If the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is speaking, I would take that to be the words of government. That is not an individual private member speaking on a private member's motion; that is the word of government.
I was sitting in this very chair and I could barely stand to listen to the argument put forward. I have a lot of respect for the parliamentary secretary, I think he is a good guy, but the arguments he was putting forward were really sending me pretty close to the edge. There was one point in the debate where, I do not know if you noticed, Mr. Speaker, I actually threw up my arms and screamed. I do not see it recorded in Hansard, but it happened, because I was overcome with how preposterous the argument was that the parliamentary secretary was putting forward.
Now I have the opportunity to dissect the argument he was putting forward and I have been looking forward to this. He started by saying the following:
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.
That is a good goal, but did he actually set the record straight? I do not think so, because he went on to say:
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...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.
He talked about torquing language, embellishing, exaggerating, and asked whether it is something we should encourage, “I have exaggerated, I will stand here in the House of Commons and admit that I have exaggerated”, but let us look at what the member for Mississauga—Streetsville said:
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—
Maybe he can see through walls:
—walk into voting stations with friends who vouch for them with no ID.
He states again, referring to the minister:
I will relate to him something I have actually seen.
This is not exaggeration, this is not torquing, this is not embellishing. This is saying something that did not actually happen.
I will go back to the parliamentary secretary's speech. He went on to state:
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.
I am going to go back to what the Speaker said. He stated:
...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.
Members should get ready because I am going to be going back to these two quotes a lot. The parliamentary secretary continued:
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
That is not the problem we have here. The problem is not that this guy might get his wrist slapped. The problem is that he stood up in the House, not once but twice, and said, “I have actually witnessed people doing these actions”. It is unbelievable.
The parliamentary secretary went on to state:
What the consequence or the net result of this may be is that the truth begins to be pushed underground.
What? How is the truth being pushed underground when the statements were not based on truth?
If somebody comes in and says “I did not actually see that”, how are we pushing truth underground by actually exposing it to light? How would we be pushing truth underground by actually referring this to committee and saying “Hey, member for Mississauga—Streetsville, what happened here? Why don't you tell us in your own words? Were you all excited about things? Did you want to contribute to the debate? Did you want to catch the eye of the Prime Minister?”
We actually have to have this discussion at committee. I do not think the truth is being pushed underground at all.
The parliamentary secretary then goes on, but there is so much material to work with that I am going to go to a point further on in his debate.
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 the member's statements of February 6.
I will go back to the piece of paper in my hand. The Speaker found that there were contradictory statements, and I do not think we can put enough emphasis on the fact that we have nothing but our integrity and the words that we say in this House. Our laws are created based on Parliament, on the fact that we get to stand here and speak and use our words and tell our stories from our ridings. One would hope that those stories were actually true.
The parliamentary secretary then went on to say:
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.
Mr. Speaker, you have heard me admit to exaggeration. I am sure that, under duress maybe, most of us in this House would admit to exaggeration, but we are not talking about being in the heat of debate and simply going overboard. This is not the heat of debate. I am looking at the quotes from the member for Mississauga—Streetsville. This is not a vigorous back-and-forth. This is not a moment in which all of a sudden someone says, “Oops, I didn't mean to say it that way.” This is two interventions, and I will repeat the words.
I have actually witnessed other people....
It was not even something like “This could happen, and, like, I have seen some folks picking up the cards, and maybe this happened.” He said, “I have actually witnessed other people picking up the voter cards”. He said, “I will relate to him something I have actually seen.” This is not the heat of debate. This is not a bit of an exaggeration. This is saying something that was not based on fact.
The member admitted it was untrue. I cannot get over the arguments put forward by government that this is just about a bit of torquing, a bit of exaggeration. The Conservative members are saying that if they exaggerate, they should not be punished for exaggeration.
First of all, it is not an exaggeration. Second, we are not actually talking about punishment. I do not believe that the Speaker, and I have his words here, said “And therefore, we send this man to committee to be punished”. No, not at all. He said we actually have to send this to committee. What we are doing is we are sending it to committee.
The Speaker does have a line in there about at least clearing the air. The member for Mississauga—Streetsville stands up, he says that he did not mean to say what he said, he wanted to set the record straight, and then nothing more. There is no more.
This is what we do. We get to the bottom of things. We air things out at committee. Sometimes we travel. Sometimes we hear from Canadians. Sometimes we hear from expert witnesses. In this case, we have to hear from the person himself who actually said these statements. We need to know why, what was going through his mind, and what was happening here.
The line that made me throw up my hands in exasperation was, “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?”.
I am going to skip to a little later to where the partisan piece came up in his speech again:
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.
Really? Then I think the Speaker would have probably seen through that. If the Speaker thought that this was just to delay, I hardly think he would have found this to be a prima facie case.
I want to go back to the scoring of political points, that we would like to see things devoid of the partisanship that we see all too often. The opposite is true here. If we look at the statements that the member for Mississauga—Streetsville made, that is the example of what the parliamentary secretary is talking about. Those statements are an example of someone trying to score political points. Those statements are an example of the partisanship that we see all too often.
The member was trying to score political points, saying things that were not true to support a position after the fact. If we want to talk partisanship, if we want to talk political points, I think we should go back to these statements: “I have actually witnessed other people picking up the voter cards..”.
Why would he say that? Was it being said to cause mischief, to validate the Conservatives' points after the fact, instead of having a hearing on whether we need changes to the Elections Act?
I will finish with the parliamentary secretary saying the following:
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?
Oh, so the member for Mississauga—Streetsville is a victim here. Right. The big, bad opposition is ganging up and punishing him. Give me a break. That is the wickedest twisting of words that I have seen in some time.
I believe that the Speaker was right in his ruling. I think we need to have an airing out of this. We need to understand what the member was doing. I do not think he was a victim. I do not think we are trying to punish. I think we are trying to get to the bottom of something in Parliament, where we use our words to talk about these issues, to debate these issues, and to represent Canadians.