Mr. Speaker, I find myself a bit surprised to be standing again today on another question of privilege, which is, in fact, very much related to the question of privilege to which I spoke yesterday. The accumulation of these things happening together is a signal to everybody. I hope it is particularly a signal to the Speaker that something is going very wrong in this place. It is of a matter of great importance and it is a hard thing for most normal people to understand. This has to do with centuries of history of how this place works and rules people consider to be arcane, but they are important rules. They are the foundation upon which this democracy exists and upon which it has been built for generations.
While the government said that it respected that privileges had been offended, we saw the government's double manoeuver yesterday in choosing to vote to extinguish any effort to protect those privileges. Then through another device, it tried to mislead and pretend it was protecting them in a fashion that was entirely inappropriate and not permitted under our rules.
Questions of privilege belong to this chamber. Questions of privilege are not government legislation. They take precedence over government business on the orders of the day. They take precedence because they are profound. A question of privilege and a motion of privilege are the property not of the government but of this chamber.
Yesterday, the majority government members took a decision to reject the effort to protect those privileges. They now try through words to escape the consequences of that decision and pretend they did not reject the effort to defend members' privileges. That is exactly what they did yesterday.
The more serious question is this. Are we now going to change how privilege and the defence of privileges of members works in this place from this point going forward? Is privilege no longer a question for the House to decide? Is it now a question of government motions and government initiatives that happen at a committee level? Are we going to so diminish the question of privilege in this place? Are we going to create that as the route through which it is done?
That is why this calls out for the intervention of the Speaker. There are rare occasions in the history of a Parliament when events begin to take a course and, for whatever reason, people get too clever by half. We get folks who think they can find ways to change rules, make new rules and make life more efficient for themselves. Some people call this campaign brain or political brain, and they get too clever by half. In a time like this, the circumstances cry out for a Speaker to say, no, that it is the duty of the Speaker to defend the rights and the privileges of members of this place. That is the most profound and important duty of the Speaker. That is what the Speaker is elected by the members to do, not to aid and abet a government effort to make its life more efficient. I would never suggest our Speaker has done that thus far. I am very pleased that has not happened. However, there comes a time when passivity is not sufficient.
When this question of privilege was raised, it raised a question of profound importance. It called out for that intervention to protect all of our rights and privileges. Let us remember what we talked about. The government is saying that we should not worry, that privilege can be taken care of by the initiative of a government member at a committee. I do not see that anywhere. I do not see it anywhere in the big green books. I do not see it anywhere in Erskine May. I do not see it anywhere in centuries of Speakers' decisions. Committees deal with questions of privilege after this place, sitting as a court, has taken a decision on them and referred them there. We are to sit in the second instance, with you, Mr. Speaker, in the first instance in making the prima facie finding. Then this place, as a court in the second instance, makes the decision on a reference. That is the proper process.
The government, for whatever reason, while saying it protected the privileges, took a decision yesterday to extinguish and snuff out the proper effort through the processes that belong to us to defend those privileges. Every member on that side who voted to do so took that decision that the right of a member to vote was not really important enough for them. They were going to have it drop off of the agenda of this place. Now the Liberals try, through some sleight of hand, to make the trick where they pretend they will really defend it elsewhere. It is not the process that does that, and if it does it, they are not really defending the rights and privileges of members at all. It is a profoundly troubling manoeuvre.
It comes in the context, and the context is important, of these other events that are taking place, because the Liberals are seeking to change the rules once again here. They are seeking to change the rules at a committee. They are doing so at the same time as saying, “Oh, we just want good faith discussions. Trust us.” It is the same as, “Oh, this kind of motion is another good way of doing it. Just trust us.”
One of the ways this House of Commons has worked, again for generations, has been through trust. Sure, we could have partisanship—