Mr. Speaker, as deputy House leader of the NDP, I want to add a few words to the comments made by my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby.
During question period on February 7, the Minister of Justice started his answers with a very weak attempt to cover himself by saying, “as the Prime Minister said earlier today”. The Minister of Justice repeated this phrase 11 times. Do not be fooled. This cautious language is meant only to protect the Prime Minister and the minister. It in no way changes the matter at hand.
The minister and parliamentary secretary gave the House a version of events that differs not only from the truth but also from the version that the former attorney general gave the committee and the version the Prime Minister himself gave to the media on March 7. I also want to point out that on the following day, February 8, the parliamentary secretary answered a number of questions without ever using this pseudo-disclaimer.
It is quite clear to us that the minister and his parliamentary secretary breached the privilege of the House. In the parliamentary secretary's case, he cannot even claim to have quoted the Prime Minister as a defence. As for the Minister of Justice, he can try to defend himself by referring to the 11 times he quoted the Prime Minister, but I am sure members would agree that the Prime Minister totally contradicted that version of events during his press conference on March 7.
Accordingly, whether they were quoting the Prime Minister or not, the Minister of Justice and his parliamentary secretary misled the House during question period on March 7 and 8. My colleague also reminded us of an example from 2002 involving former defence minister Art Eggleton. Speaker Milliken ruled that Mr. Eggleton had breached the privilege of the House, even though the minister believed he was telling the truth and therefore had not intentionally misled the House.
The same principle applies here. Although the justice minister was quoting the Prime Minister, he said something that was not true, as demonstrated in the Prime Minister's remarks on March 7 and in the former attorney general's testimony.
As for the parliamentary secretary, as I said, he cannot even use that defence because he never claimed to be quoting the Prime Minister. Let me add that it would be interesting to find out where the minister and the parliamentary secretary got the information that they used in responding to the questions raised on February 7 and 8. If we knew that, we would know whether they were acting of their own accord or in accordance with a PMO briefing.
In light of all this, Mr. Speaker, it is clear to us that the privilege of the House was breached and that you must refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.