I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on April 10, 2019, by the hon. member for Chilliwack—Hope concerning allegedly misleading statements by the Minister of National Revenue.
When raising his question of privilege, the member for Chilliwack—Hope explained that the Minister of National Revenue had told the House more than once that the Canada Revenue Agency had hired 1,300 new auditors since 2016 but that certain Quebec newspapers reported this to be inaccurate, stating that the true figure was just 192. The member went on to explain how the minister's statements breached privileges since they were knowingly and deliberately misleading and made with the intent to deceive the House, in his view.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader countered that the minister’s statements, inside and outside the House, were in fact accurate and consistent. The parliamentary secretary cited the auditors hired from 2016 through 2018 to justify the minister’s claim that 1,300 auditors were hired by the Canada Revenue Agency. From his perspective, the parliamentary secretary claimed that this was a dispute as to the facts rather than a legitimate question of privilege.
By now, members are only too aware that, in most instances, when members are accused of misleading the House, the Chair has ruled that it is a dispute as to the facts. Given the gravity of such a charge, the Chair must be able to establish with certainty that the statements made were undoubtedly false, misleading and intended to misinform the House.
Members must recognize that what may appear to be misleading and false is often a matter of perception subject to context and interpretation, factors that are inherent to debate. On this, Speaker Milliken stated on December 6, 2004, at page 2319 of Debates:
Disagreements about facts and how the facts should be interpreted form the basis of debate in this place.
Consequently, absent any compelling evidence to the contrary, I do not find that a prima facie question of privilege has been established in this case.
I thank all hon. members for their attention.