Mr. Speaker, today, I would like to speak briefly about the question of privilege that was raised by the member for Portage—Lisgar on Wednesday, April 28 about the Prime Minister's comments in the House concerning facts arising from the complaints process against General Vance, more specifically former chief of the defence staff Jonathan Vance.
The comments that the Prime Minister made in the House on April 27 differ from the testimony and documents submitted to the Standing Committee on National Defence and from what the Prime Minister himself said during question period on March 10 and 11.
In the testimony given in committee, it came to light that not only was the Minister of National Defence aware of the nature of the actions in question, but so were the Clerk of the Privy Council; the Prime Minister's senior adviser, Mr. Marques; and the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Katie Telford.
Clearly, the Prime Minister's Office and the Prime Minister himself are providing two different versions.
On the one hand, testimony pertaining to the facts and the documentary evidence show that the Minister of National Defence and several people in the PCO and the PMO were aware of the nature of the allegations against General Vance. On the other hand, the Prime Minister said that nobody was aware of the exact nature of the allegations while the complaint was being dealt with. Statements made by the Prime Minister on March 10 and 11 and on April 27 differ with respect to whether the nature of the complaint was known or not.
This morning, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons tried to clear up the confusion about the dates on which the Prime Minister made his statements, about whether the nature of the complaint was known or not, and about the specifics of the allegations and the unspecified allegations, among other things.
Mr. Speaker, I invite you and all my colleagues to familiarize themselves with the evidence and the testimony given before the defence committee, which appear to contradict the Prime Minister's statements.
We know that questions of privilege concerning misleading statements are not easy to resolve, but we must get to the truth of this matter. It is important to democracy, and it is important to the parliamentary process.
To dispel any doubts, I refer you to the ruling of February 1, 2002, at pages 8581 and 8582 of the Debates, in which your predecessor Speaker Milliken found that the three criteria had not been met to find a prima facie contempt of the House.
The criteria in question are the fact that the Prime Minister made a misleading statement to the House, that the Prime Minister knew that the statement he was making was false at the moment he made his speech, and finally that the Prime Minister acted with the intent to mislead the House.
In that case, Speaker Milliken stated, “On the basis of the arguments presented by hon. members and in view of the gravity of the matter, I have concluded that the situation before us where the House is left with two versions of events is one that merits further consideration by an appropriate committee, if only to clear the air.”
In the circumstances, since the House also received two contradictory versions of the same events, whether or not this is a prima facie case of contempt, we ask that the case be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for a detailed study of the matter, to allow the House to get some clarification on the Prime Minister's statement.