The Chair is now prepared to rule on a point of order raised on March 21 by the hon. member for Carleton concerning information provided to the House by the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. I would like to thank the member for Carleton for having raised this matter.
The member for Carleton explained that a report of the Parliamentary Budget Officer tabled in the House stated that no plan existed for the government's expenditure of $186.7 billion on infrastructure but that, conversely, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities stated during oral questions on March 21 that such a plan did exist. The member argued that if such a plan existed and the Parliamentary Budget Officer had been denied it, the government would be in contempt, but if the plan did not exist, then the minister had provided false information to the House.
In essence, the Chair is being asked to weigh in about the correctness or exactness of the answer provided by the minister to the House. Members are, of course, aware of the well-defined limits that are placed on the Chair in this respect. As such, the Chair cannot unilaterally assume a role in the interpretation of these facts or, more particularly, decide even if the plan alluded to by the minister is the same plan that is referred to in the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report “Budget 2018: Issues for Parliamentarians”, which was tabled in the House on March 19.
Additionally, as the previous speaker reminded the House on April 30, 2014, at page 4753 of the Debates:
[I]t is not sufficient for members to simply make allegations based on their perceptions of what is or is not factually correct. Members must recognize and accept the existence of differences of fact and interpretation, which have always been a part of the normal cut and thrust of debate and question period.
Thus, any question concerning the existence of infrastructure plans is a matter better defined as debate.
However, the Chair notes that this matter also speaks to the unwavering need for accuracy and clarity in the information that members of Parliament receive, as well as the need for those providing that information to shoulder this responsibility in a serious and consistent way. The House would be well served by this being remembered in all exchanges of information.
I thank hon. members for their attention.