Mr. Speaker, on December 13, 2018, at the end of the very last sitting of the House before the long Christmas adjournment, the hon. NDP member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley raised another question of privilege about me.
At that time, the NDP member had the following information in his possession.
First, he knew that on April 25, 2018, I issued a press release in which I announced that I intended to step down for very serious personal and family reasons and that in the meantime I would continue performing my duties as MP.
Second, he knew that I was present in the House until the adjournment in June. In fact, on June 12, 2018, I rose in the House to thank my constituents and wish my colleagues well.
Third, on November 6, 2018, I publicly announced that I would be resigning on January 22, 2019, and that I would be donating my MP's salary as of that date.
Fourth, two days after the announcement of my resignation and the donation, the NDP member submitted a request for an inquiry by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, who I will henceforth simply refer to as the commissioner.
In this request, the member alleged that I breached the conflict of interest code by collecting my salary and not being present in the House during certain periods.
Fifth, on November 26, 2018, the NDP member raised a question of privilege about the same issues found in his complaint to the commissioner.
Sixth, on December 11, 2018, I addressed the House in response to the question of privilege raised by the member, who admitted that he was aware of my comments, including the statement that I would not keep my salary for the period from the fall to the return of the House.
Seventh, on December 11, 2018, the Chair ruled on the NDP member's question of privilege and concluded the following:
The member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel provided the House with his reasons for his absence.
...the Chair finds that there is no prima facie question of privilege....
I want to share some other facts with the House.
On January 11, 2019, the ethics commissioner ruled on the NDP member's call for an investigation. I had previously submitted everything required, as well as the information and answers to the questions asked of me.
In his ruling on the NDP member's request for an investigation into me, the commissioner stated the following:
Based on your statements and on the information you submitted describing how you continued to carry out your parliamentary duties while engaging in extra-parliamentary activities, I've decided that an investigation is not warranted in the circumstances, and have informed [the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley and his colleague] of my decision.
Even though the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley was trying every trick in the book to damage my good reputation, all of his complaints and recriminations were rejected by the appropriate authorities. I remind members that no one else has made any accusations against me.
Since the member waited until December 13, 2018, just before the break, to raise the new question of privilege, you indicated that it would be dealt with when the House reconvened. I asked whether I could respond to it during the break. I intended to resign my seat on January 22. That day, I received a message from you saying that, if I wanted to respond to the NDP member's question, then I would have to do so in the House when it reconvened.
Although your message was dated January 21, I was unable to read it until the next day because of technical difficulties. Since yesterday's schedule involved dealing with protocol issues, today is the first opportunity I have had to respond.
On December 11, I responded in French to the NDP member's November 26 question of privilege. I wrote the response myself. When drafting his December 13 question of privilege, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley made a very surprising choice. He chose to rely on the English translation that I had nothing to do with drafting. The NDP member chose to ignore the original French version and rely only on the translation.
I will never ever, under any circumstances, apologize to anyone for speaking in French. French is the language of this country, my county. French is the language Canada was built on. Although I cannot and do not plan to force anyone to learn it, I can still insist that it be be shown the proper respect.
It is true that I switch between English, French and also Italian when speaking to my colleagues. Let us agree that this is each person's choice to make. In Quebec and in the other provinces in general, I work with Canadians in the language of their choice. However, when I rise in the House, I mainly speak in the first language I learned at school, after my mother tongue, Italian, which I still speak on a daily basis, as does my entire family.
The NDP MP ignored my French statement. If he had bothered to use the language spoken by the other Canadians he represents, he would have realized I did not say the words he attributed to me. What I said was “je n'empoche pas de salaire”, meaning I am not pocketing any salary. If he had just checked, he would know that “empocher” means “collect”.
Furthermore, he knew that I had also said, in the same statement, that I would not keep my MP's salary for the period in the fall when I was not present in the House.
The NDP member was aware of all these facts and knew that I was not keeping my salary for the period beginning with the return of the House last September. Nevertheless, he chose to tell the House that I had been absent for eight months, although he knew full well that that was false because he referenced a statement I made in the House in June 2018, around the time of adjournment for the summer. His statement is false and the member who made it knew that it was false.
The vagaries of life would have it that, one way or the other, I would not have been able to carry out my mandate. Nevertheless, I served my constituents to the end. I was not present in the House, but I continued my work as an MP and worked on a cause that is dear to me. At the beginning of my leave I chose not to keep my salary. I was also very clear with those I spoke to. I did not publicize it because, during my career, I made charitable donations in addition to volunteering.