I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Carleton on May 31, 2018, concerning the alleged intimidation of a potential witness by the office of the Minister of Finance.
I would like to thank the member for raising the matter, as well as the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader for his comments.
According to the member for Carleton, the Canadian Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, CAMIC, received two phone calls from the office of the Minister of Finance, which he claimed were intended to stop them from raising their objections to Bill C-74, either by meeting with parliamentarians or by appearing before committee. He surmised that these comments, which he characterized as threatening, might be why this association did not even express an interest in appearing as a committee witness.
In addition to questioning the timeliness of this question of privilege, the parliamentary secretary framed the matter as one of debate and contended that actions of a civil servant have not historically qualified as breaches of privilege.
The issue of timeliness is one that the Chair has raised on several occasions recently since it is a requisite condition that members must heed. In this instance, it is a valid issue to be raised again. This question could have, and should have, been brought to the attention of the House much earlier. The article from The Globe and Mail, dated May 15, 2018, in which the member for Carleton is quoted, suggests that he was aware of this matter as early as May 15. Additionally, it could have been raised at any point since May 22, when the House returned from a break week. The fact that the member for Carleton gave notice of his question of privilege a full week prior to actually rising in the House to make his case also suggests that he could have done so earlier.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, explains at page 145 what is expected of members in this respect, when it states:
The matter of privilege to be raised in the House must have recently occurred and must call for the immediate action of the House. Therefore, the member must satisfy the Speaker that he or she is bringing the matter to the attention of the House as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the situation.
In the past, Speakers have chosen not to pursue further on a matter when it is not apparent that it is being raised at the earliest practicable time.
In fact, Speaker Sauvé determined, on March 1, 1982, in a ruling found at pages 15473 and 15474 of Debates, that a question raised by a member was not a breach of privilege, as it had not been raised at the earliest opportunity. She stated:
The first problem I have with this question of privilege is that it does not appear to have been raised at the earliest opportunity....
I must therefore decline to accord this matter precedence over the regular business of the House, particularly in view of the fact that it does not appear to have been raised at the earliest opportunity. This requirement is not a mere technicality, but indeed in some respects a test of the validity of the complaint.
Today the Chair can only come to the same conclusion. This matter was clearly not raised at the first opportunity; the member did not meet this requisite condition, and therefore the Chair will not comment further on it.
I thank all hon. members for their attention.