House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was may.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Scarborough—Rouge River (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2008, with 59% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Standing Up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act October 4th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to intervene on debate on Bill C-21. I don't think I had the opportunity in the previous session.

What I first thought about the bill, I will be honest, was that the government was approaching the Criminal Code and its need for occasional reform as a kind of a smorgasbord. One time it would take a section over here and fix it up and then take another over there, and by the time we are finished.... I think our order paper shows a number of Criminal Code amendment bills at this time.

I thought it is taking a lot of parliamentary time and it is a lot of procedure. Why did the government, if it wanted to make some Criminal Code amendments, not put them all in one bill? We could have debated it and dealt with it that way.

The government chose not to. I thought it was for political reasons and I still do. However having viewed the process, I see that it actually gives the House an opportunity look at each of the bills more closely. Sometimes that is scary and sometimes that is helpful. At least it gives us extra time to debate. If the government had a Criminal Code amendment bill with 10 or 20 components, most of us would be unable to address most of the components, if we wanted to.

Looking more closely at each of the bills will probably tilt toward a better product. Perhaps a bill with more scrutiny has fewer problems down the road and is less likely to encounter difficulty in the other place, should the Senate pick it apart, and is more likely to be successful in the real world when the police and the courts deal with the new legislation.

This particular bill deals with sentencing for fraud, and it modifies the Criminal Code provisions related to fraud convictions. My party is supporting this in the context that a bill of this nature was probably inevitable over time.

If we look back over recent history, we wonder why something like this had not come forward sooner, but looking at the evolution of fraud crimes we also have to look at the evolution of financial services. If we look back at it, we can see how complex the evolution has been since the second world war.

I was not here then, happily, but before that we had basically cash and cheques, some kind of a postal money order and bank money orders. That was a simple financial world. However since then, this has proliferated. We do not just have cash, cheques and money orders. We have credit cards, debit cards, ABM cards and cash cards that actually hold a cash value and we can spend the cash value. There is a whole area of financial species that a fraudster could focus on.

We also have a whole new world of online Internet financial transactions. We even have online gaming, charities online, fake charities online and shopping online. In the world of securities we have stocks, bonds, GICs, T-bills, life insurance, pension plans and pension plans that are self-administered. All of these are financial envelopes, many of which did not exist 50 years ago, where the bad guy is still out there trying to get a piece of the action.

Even in our own federal financial envelope we have RRSPs, home ownership savings plans, RESPs, RRIFs, savings accounts, chequing accounts and all manner of other investment accounts. The average person might be forgiven for getting lost in this whole area of financial expansion.

In addition, the world of finance has gone global. It is not just bad guys here but it is bad guys internationally. The financial world has expanded in a huge proliferation.

In addition, something that happened somewhat slowly, which we did not notice, was that since the second world war we have all become a lot more wealthy. We in this country take for granted the wealth that we generated. The GDP per person has gone up, if not exponentially, very favourably. Canadians are much wealthier than they used to be.

These trillions of dollars of wealth, financial transactions by individuals, corporations, government and charities, have increased the opportunity for those who would steal from us to go ahead and do it in many different ways.

Fraud is essentially the criminalization of the old tort of deceit. Fraud is when someone intends to enrich himself or herself by taking money from another individual by deceit. That was the simple concept of fraud. However, with the backdrop of this proliferation in financial services and wealth and globalization and inter-con activity enhanced by the Internet, that basic law of fraud has stayed the same.

Although we are proposing an amendment now dealing with the sentencing for fraud, it would not surprise me at all that we would see a further change in how we approach some of the crime in the area of financial services shopping because It is quite likely that the bad guys who are doing this now will continue to do this and will find ways to disrupt and steal from innocent Canadians.

In the bill, there is reference to a restitution procedure. It has been in the code as a sentencing option for some time now. It is not used frequently but it is used. Bill C-21 contains a restitution procedure and some forms that are contained as a schedule to the bill, by which a victim of this type of fraud can ask the court for restitution. I have some concern about this. I am not suggesting that it will not work but it may have some break in problems.

The first issue that I want to flag for the consideration of members both here in the House and on the justice committee is that the reference to restitution in the courts under this bill does not really say who would be in charge of the process. It does not say that the crown prosecutor would be in charge of this process. It just seems to say that if someone wants restitution, he or she will need to fill out the form and send it in.

Our criminal courts are not used to this. I am not saying that this will happen but I have this vision of a criminal court starting to act like a small claims court. The prosecution is complete, there is a conviction and then the judge turns to the clerk and asks whether there are any requests for restitution. The clerk will say, “Your Honour, we have 728 applications for restitution, totalling $1 million.”

Of course the judge has spent his or her career convicting people, not as an accountant. Judges do not have calculators on their desks. They do not have the time to go through 728 restitution applications. So there is an administrative function here. That was the second point.

Third, there is this restitution function and an application form of sorts. It is a fairly brief application. There is nothing wrong with it. It is kind of short and simple. It does raise the expectation of the victim, who may be one of many, that he or she will get restitution because he or she has been invited by somebody to fill out the form and send it in the judge. The judge has the form, the form is filled out and it says that $7,528 is what this guy stole. It raises an expectation that the court will be able to deal with this.

I do not think that criminal court judges would be ready for that, although some of them have handled restitution orders previously, but it will need a kind of a management system. In fairness, the federal government does not manage these courts. It is done by the provinces. Therefore, the provinces will need to generate some system. They will need to hire somebody who will to understand this and manage all of these forms and requests for restitution that come in.

While it is certainly part of the Criminal Code, it will fall to the provinces, the crown attorneys, the court clerks and the judges. I am pretty sure the judges will resist the criminal court becoming a small claims court or the equivalent of it. They will say that if they want to do small claims court stuff in the criminal court, then they should bring in a small claims court judge.

I do not know if that will happen. We will wait and see. I wanted to flag that and the higher expectation that might be there on the part of the victim that he or she would receive restitution simply because he or she followed the rules, filed the form, put in the amount and are hoping the judge will give them an order.

Last, I will deal with the restitution exercise. I hope the Department of Justice will be able to describe at the committee hearings the impact of a bankruptcy or likely bankruptcy on the whole restitution procedure or on the order. Will a concurrent or subsequent bankruptcy mean that the restitution orders are worthless? If they are worthless, it is probably not worth the time to spend a whole lot of administrative hours, court time and the judge's time sorting out the restitution if, in the end, there is a bankruptcy.

At some point, someone administratively will need to identify some assets or an asset that could produce a recovery for the restitution claimants, that issue of the relationship between the restitution order and a concurrent or related bankruptcy.

Also, and this is really a bankruptcy issue, which is federal, but let us say that the crook has transferred some of these assets or the proceeds of the assets into the name of a relative. What jurisdiction does the court or the judge have in relation to those asset transfers or the hiding of those assets in the face of a restitution order?

One of the members spoke earlier about this getting very close to some of the organized crime sentencing procedures and proceeds of crime legislation that already exist on the books.

I do not know whether these aspects have been sorted out or whether the provinces and the crown attorneys who will need to administer it have been consulted on this. I am not objecting to restitution orders but this legislation seems to be importing a fairly conspicuous wholesale procedure. We know that in some of these cases the frauds can go into many millions of dollars with many people being hurt. While the new sentencing provisions are intended to target the big-time fraudster, the million dollar threshold is described in one part of the new law, I think there may be a learning curve here, if I can put it that way, and possibly there may be further legislation needed if the courts are going to get seriously into the restitution procedure.

Another of our colleagues was good enough to mention crime prevention, as my colleague from Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe did. This legislation deals with the crime and the effects of the crime after it has taken place. It is closing the barn door after the horse has left. While there is a role for that, while it is drawing a line in the sand for our society, there is nothing in the statute that appears to reach out and deal with some kind of prevention of crime in the first place. It does not get out in front.

As a society, I think we will need to invest a bit more in crime prevention. If we can cut some of these massive frauds down by half, one-quarter or one-third, that would be worth it, but we need to invest institutionally in methods, which means looking to our securities regulators, bank regulators, chartered accountants, lawyers, real estate brokers and mortgage brokers. Most of these organizations self-regulate and we need to look to them. I am not too sure about the process but somewhere in that administration and regulation of those professions and institutions we will find some ways to spot a big fraud early.

As members know, many of the big frauds do not actually start out as big frauds. Many of the big ones started as quite small and then, once the mistake was made or the money stolen, however small it was, more money is taken to infill and to hide and it grows. It gets to the point where the crook, who may not have set out to be a crook in that sense, ends up robbing Peter to pay Paul and moving all kinds of money around and harming so many people. If our regulatory mechanisms could spot some of this in the early stages, it would go a long way.

I recall in Ontario a very sad case of a guy who was selling fake franchises. Even though that is provincially regulated, a way has not been found to prevent that kind of fraud. However, at the end of the day the principle of caveat emptor must remain. The buyer must beware. We must ensure our citizens are educated, sensitive and wary of these kinds of things. That type of public education is very valuable.

Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act October 4th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, in the bill, section 380.3 deals with the innovation regarding possible restitution. I wonder whether the member or the originators of the bill had given any thought to the possible difficulty in setting up this restitution mechanism, which actually involves a victim filling out a form, submitting it and requiring the court, if it does not proceed with a restitution mechanism, to give reasons why it is not.

I see in it the possible loss of managerial control by the prosecutor. The victims will say they are going to file a claim and the judge will make a decision. This will be inserted into a criminal process and not a civil process. It is unclear what the role of the prosecutor is.

Has the hon. member given any thought to the complexities that might be there for the court, for the judge, in a situation such as this where there does not appear to be a controlling mechanism?

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act October 4th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, it is quite possible I may have spoken to this bill in a previous session of Parliament, because it did not move very fast, as we all know, after it was first introduced. I have synthesized my comments down to seven or eight points and I can go through them very quickly.

My party is supporting the bill for passage at second reading, but that should not prevent us from making constructive comments about the bill's form or content.

The first thing I want to mention has to do with the form of the bill, the title of the bill. Certainly the way it is described, an act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography, is correct; I do not have a problem with that. However, the government has put forward a bill. It has tried to change the title of the bill a little, because clause 1 says that the short title shall be “Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act“. When I first read that short title, I thought it must have something to do with people trying to get children to do something their parents would not otherwise want them to do, but really what the bill is dealing with is child pornography, and if that short title is relied on, there is no indication of that in the short title.

The government in its almost Goebbelsian messaging has tried to squeeze this newspeak title into the bill and it does not describe the bill very well. I hope the committee will take a look at that, because this bill will be a stand-alone bill, as I understand it. It is not an amendment to the Criminal Code. It will stand alone and it will forever be cited as that title, so I think at least we ought to get the title right.

The second thing is that the definition part of the bill refers to an Internet service as:

“Internet service” means Internet access, Internet content hosting or electronic mail.

Internet service therefore means electronic mail, and if one goes to the charging section of the bill, it says that “if a person is advised, in the course of providing an Internet service to the public, of an Internet protocol address”, et cetera, that simply means that if a person is advised in the course of an electronic mail. That seems to involve almost anyone who uses electronic mail, email. I am not so sure that it was the intention to charge every person who uses email with the burdens of reporting set out in the act.

This is either a criminal or quasi-criminal bill. It is not clear on the face of it whether this is intended to be criminal or quasi-criminal, and the penalties reflect that. That is an issue that will have to be discussed at committee. Who knows if this might render the bill weaker than the government intended.

The third thing is that the wording in the bill in the definition section in parentheses is not part of the bill. This is the first time I can recall, and I have been here 22 years, a bill saying that the wording contained in the bill is not part of the bill, that it is only descriptive. That is what the margin of the bill is for. The margin is for the purpose of providing descriptive or helpful comments on the bill. If the bill is adopted in its current form, we will have a bill on the books where some of the words in the bill are not part of the bill. I think that is bad form. I think it is rather dumb. I am not too sure why we have done it, but it seems to be a departure, and that can be explained at committee.

The next thing I want to say, with reference to my second comment about electronic mail, email, is that the bill purports to criminalize or quasi-criminalize Internet service providers or emailers, those who send or receive email.

Not only would it criminalize them for a specific act or omission, but it would criminalize them for an act or omission involving an email or website where child pornography may be available. It is not where it is available, but where it may be available. It criminalizes a class of people who send email. I am just using the words that are in the bill, but it potentially criminalizes a class of people who send or receive emails involving possible knowledge of child pornography where child pornography may be available. I do not for a moment second-guess the objective of the bill, but I do question that particular process.

One could take from my words perhaps a bit of an implicit understanding about why this is not in the Criminal Code. It is quite possible that wording such as this, a description of a criminal act such as this, would not survive in the Criminal Code where we have very strict tests on precision and such. I am flagging that it is in clause 3.

Clause 4 is essentially placing a burden on other people to snitch on other people. Anyone who has knowledge of somebody else who may have knowledge of such a website is obligated under this statute to snitch, to tell the police, and failure to do so would result in liability.

I do not think we have snitch laws in this country, but we are about to get one now if this bill passes in its current form, in my opinion. I know the committee will want to look at that, or maybe get some witnesses in from East Germany, because I know East Germany had a wonderful array of laws that required citizens to snitch on other citizens. We will take a look at that at committee. I know my colleagues will do a good job of that.

The next point is really a jurisdictional one. If this is not to be criminal law, then it has to be based on another federal jurisdiction as opposed to a provincial jurisdiction. That is not set out in the proposed statute. I would like to have that clarified for the record. If it has not been clarified here in debate, and I do not think it has, I would like to see that clarified by the government at committee. The committee should be scrutinizing the precise federal jurisdiction on which this statute is based.

The next thing I want to point out is there are two elements added into clause 11, which are good. I am pleased to see that the drafters of the bill are requiring that for anyone to be convicted of an offence, he or she must have knowingly contravened the act. That is a good thing. We would not want to have people convicted for things they did not know about, especially if one is just sending or receiving an email.

There should be some scrutiny given to the question of the term “knowingly”. Does one have to know about the law? Does one have to know about the alleged child pornography, or does one just have to know about the Internet site? What extent of knowing is required? What threshold of knowing is going to be needed before there is actually an act or omission that constitutes the alleged criminality in this case?

The last thing I want to point out is that the government has the ability to make regulations, and maybe that is the real answer here. Because the government is making regulations, it is obviously not criminal law. We would not allow the cabinet, by making a regulation, to make a criminal law. That would be very rare in our history if we ever did.

There is a regulation section that gives the government six separate regulation-making powers. The last one is a red flag for me. It says that the “Governor in Council may make regulations generally for carrying out the purposes and provisions of this act”.

I ask the question that must be answered before the House finally adopts the bill. Could the government, in making a regulation, create a new element of an offence and thereby make that new regulation an offence under this bill? I say no.

However, I have had some 20 years of experience here on the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations. I have heard this argument in the House and at committee from the Department of Justice, which feels pressed to make an argument that if the government has the ability in the statute to make a regulation generally for the purpose of carrying out the purposes of the bill, then it has the right to make a regulation that would criminalize certain acts. That has happened before. There has been some push back by the House of Commons and it may be in relatively good balance now.

Categorically, I could never accept a bill that would allow the government to make a regulation which would criminalize or quasi-criminalize the conduct of any Canadian resident. We must keep our eye on the scope of this authorization to make more regulations under this statute to carry out the purposes and provisions of this act, which is a stand-alone act and not in the Criminal Code. It must be scrutinized.

We must get an answer to this. I do not want to be in a position to accept any answer except no, the government, the cabinet, would not, could not use this clause on its own, or make a law or regulation that would create a new criminal or quasi-criminal offence that would be imposed on our electors.

Privilege September 30th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues, factually, is probably whether or not this bill was on notice or not in the House.

I am sure all agree that the purpose of the House is to call the government to account, so the procedural rules involving government bills should be subscribed to religiously. I am quite sure it is not the role of the House to call individual private members to account.

There may be in the interpretation of the rules some need to distinguish and some appropriateness in distinguishing between private members' business and government business.

International Transfer of Offenders Act September 23rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for the hon. member.

The premise, and I hope he will agree, is that the very clear history and convention of this House as a democratically elected House is to prevent the imposition of arbitrary measures on all of our citizens. The Conservatives should realize that that is our role.

First, does the member regard the unfettered discretion outlined by him and discussed earlier in this bill as being an arbitrary measure of that nature so that it should be rejected out of hand?

Second, could that unfettered discretion be constrained within the scope of the bill by, for example, describing that discretion to be linked and related only to measures involving the safety of the public?

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act September 23rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, let me start out by paying tribute to every assistant in every constituency office across the whole country. Some are new and some are a little bit more experienced, but inevitably, most constituency staff have to learn some immigration law and procedure in order to succeed. For members of all parties, that is a fact of life, and the member properly brings attention to that.

In terms of the people working in the field of consultants, most of us from the big cities know immigration lawyers, because their files have been referred to the constituency on some basis, or they know immigration consultants. Every once in a while, a mistake is made and it has to be fixed. Every once in a while, an inquiry has to be made about the progress of a file.

It is unfair for this bill to stigmatize consultants. These professionals will come as witnesses to the committee hearings on this bill, and when they walk into the room, they will hear that the name of the bill is an act to crack down on crooked immigration consultants. These people are not crooked immigration consultants. They are upstanding professionals. They are qualified professionals. I hope that one of them objects. I hope that some member of the committee will offer to propose to change the short title of the bill to get it back on track.

The committee, because of the attitude of the House, in which there appears to be general support, has an important job to do in going through this bill. I am confident that the committee will do it with a good attitude. I hope that there will be some leeway offered on both sides of the House to allow the committee to do a good and effective job consistent with what I hope will be rigorous consultation with the professionals in the field and with government officials, as well. We want to get the best possible set of regulations that will really bite down on the abuses and provide mechanisms for enforcement and firm regulation of this field. The professionals want that. They would prefer to have a set of good working regulations rather than to have the wild west, where future immigrants are prejudiced and victimized.

The committee has an important job to do, and I am confident that it will embark on it with good intentions.

Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act September 23rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, colleagues around the House have touched on almost all of the important aspects of this legislation by now but I want to highlight two or three areas that are of significance to me in my capacity as the member representing Scarborough—Rouge River.

Canada's immigration program has actually been a very successful public policy tool and it has served Canada extremely well over the decades. With all due respect extended to our first nations, we are a country of immigrants and this has always been the case. We have learned how to do it well but our immigration act and procedures have provided the infrastructure under which people have come to Canada from all around the world. It is a controlling mechanism for people movements from outside Canada to Canada and we are absolutely, without any reservation, a receiving country of many wonderful people throughout our history.

My particular constituency happens to be about 75% immigrant, which is a relatively high percentage. Three-quarters or more of the people in Scarborough—Rouge River are, or were, immigrants. That means that in my work as a member of Parliament, and this includes my staff in the riding and in Ottawa, we see a lot of immigration issues on behalf of constituents. Those constituents are connected to other places around the world. We see immigration issues from all around the world of every type and description.

I know there are many millions of happy customers of immigration consultants as well as immigration lawyers. Many immigrants, depending on what type of immigration they follow, which procedural line they follow when they come to Canada, rely on professional advice, and that serves them and it serves Canada. They pay for it. It is quite a well working and positive system. However, that is not to say that it is perfect. What we are dealing with here today is a component of the immigration infrastructure that is not working well.

I want to recognize here on the floor, because I am not so sure we have done it, all of the good work of all of the immigration lawyers and consultants who are out there. There are thousands of them out there all doing good, professional work and we should recognize that. I say that because that comment lies in stark contrast to the name that the government has given to the bill. The short title is “Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act”.

This is somewhat Orwellian. The government has decided to put colourful, descriptive advertising into the title of its bill. The government has not quite gone so far as to put neon signs up on the Peace Tower yet, but contorting the title of a bill in this way is inappropriate. However, it has chosen to do it. I have been here for over 20 years and it is the first time I have seen this kind of Orwellian manipulation of the short title of a bill to broadcast something. If the name of the bill were totally descriptive, I would not object, but in this case the bill describes itself as a bill to crack down on crooked immigration consultants.

The bill is much more than that. It purports to regulate the whole class of immigration consultants, most of whom are good guys. The name of the bill stigmatizes a whole class of people. Would the government do the same thing if it were further regulating architects? Would it write a bill that cracked down on stupid architects or write a bill to crack down on stupid, incompetent ships' captains? I do not think that is the right way to do things. It stigmatizes a whole class of people.

What we are doing here with this bill is facilitating the further regulation of immigration consultants, which is a good profession, whether they are professional consultants or whether they are lawyers.

I wanted to get that straight. I say shame on the government for manipulating the short titles of bills in this way.

We want to try to fix or allow consultants themselves, by self-regulation, to fix some of the problems we have seen, and they have been described here today. One of the areas that I do not think we will be able to fix is the problem of a consultant in another country. We can deal with consultants here but we have never successfully found a way to deal with the enforcement of someone who acts as a consultant in Damascus, Shanghai, Colombo or New York City, someone who just says, “I'm an immigration consultant. If you pay me 10,000 bucks, I will deliver your documents and get you into Canada. All you have to do is pay me the 10,000 or 20,000 bucks and I guarantee a great result”.

That consultant is out there in another country and our laws cannot apply extraterritorially into another country. So it is tough for us to regulate this in a way that would regulate that person in that other country, which we all regret. Sometimes we call them ghost consultants. Immigration officials, as I understand it, will refuse to accept an immigration application of some sort if it appears there is an immigration consultant behind it and the immigration consultant is not properly registered or not in good standing. That is a partial address to the problem but I hope the committee will look at this and look at ways to isolate and identify consultants who are not properly registered and not properly trained in the foreign country.

Most of us as MPs have people come to us only when the file is broken. If the file is going all right through the immigration department, they do not need the MP. It is really quite shocking when a member of Parliament or a staffer of a member of Parliament has people coming in saying that they have a problem with immigration after paying a guy $15,000 and that the file is all messed up. My staff are saying, “My goodness, $15,000 and we have to fix it. If you had come to us in the first place, it wouldn't have cost you anything and we would have done it correctly for you”. It is not that we do immigration work directly out of the office but we certainly do advise our constituents and we try to fix situations that have gone sideways.

I know my party will be supporting the bill at second reading, in principle, for the purposes of getting it to committee where I hope the committee will redouble its efforts. I know the committee has looked at this stuff before. Half measures will not work. If there was ever an area subject to loopholes, this is one of them. I encourage the committee to consult with the industry, with the professionals, to look for a consensus and to be bold, to hammer down and make any amendments to this bill that will make it effective. Do not be shy. Let us do it and do it right.

Combating Terrorism Act September 21st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to be seen as negative on the issues raised by the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway. This, of course, is the one place in the country where we should always be supportive of advocacy in favour of our freedoms.

The member may have failed to connect the dots for me. First, he referred to the right to remain silent. That is not a right in Canada. There is a right against self-incrimination. The member may have been watching a few too many American television shows.

The Canada Evidence Act is very clear that when a question is put in a judicial proceeding, the answer must be given. The answer cannot subsequently be used in a criminal proceeding against a person, other than for perjury. However, there is no actual right of self-incrimination. I would like him to address that, because he referred to this right but did not give an example of how this legislation would breach that right.

Second, on the issue of investigative hearings, we have always had in this country, for over a century, the grand jury procedure. It requires citizens to appear before a grand jury, where they are forced to answer questions on criminal matters. That evidence is not usable against them in subsequent criminal proceedings if charges are laid. That is an example of how our legal system has already done that. I would like him to comment on that.

Third, preventive detention is virtually analogous to the conspiracy offence whereby someone is charged with conspiring to commit a criminal act that has not happened yet. These concepts are not new to us. We are just refining them a little for Canadian purposes in compliance with the Charter. Would he comment on that, please?

Questions on the Order Paper September 20th, 2010

What steps would Canada take or require as part of a process leading to its recognition of Somaliland as an independent state among the United Nations following Somaliland’s third self-governing democratic election in June 2010?

Privilege May 14th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, most of us realize how impossible it is for the Speaker to sit in any kind of adjudication on what happens at the numerous committees that meet from time to time on the Hill. You have said in the past that it is not possible. The slimy Conservative slandering innuendo I hear is distorting debate. Let me get back to my remarks.

In trying to deliberate on what happens at committees, Mr. Speaker, you are indeed handicapped. What you really need to have is a report from the committee before you are in a position to take notice of what has happened.

In my view what really is at issue is the use of Standing Order 31, members' statements, and question period to slander or attack another member, when in neither of those procedures, neither in the statements nor in the question period, does any member, including a chair of a committee of the House, have an opportunity to respond or deal directly with the issue.

As you look at this, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to include a reference to the distortion or misuse of either members' statements or question period for attacks on matters that are not urgent. It is hard to understand how this could be seen as a matter of urgency, as set out in the Standing Orders dealing with oral question period.

If this is a matter of privilege, and I think the member has raised a serious issue, I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will take notice of that procedural perspective. We are really in danger of losing a couple of our most important procedural vehicles, the members' statement and question period, as they are taken over by initiatives to distort, attack and undermine those procedures.