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  • His favourite word is chair.

Liberal MP for Halifax West (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 69% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Points of Order April 23rd, 2018

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised earlier today by the hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby concerning the applicability of Standing Order 69.1 to Bill C-74, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2018 and other measures.

I would like to thank the hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby for raising this matter, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for his comments.

The hon. member argued that Bill C-74 is an omnibus bill, as defined under Standing Order 69.1, as it amends more than 40 acts and contains several different initiatives. He is concerned, in particular, by a new act contained in the bill, namely the greenhouse gas pollution pricing act. The hon. member acknowledged that this measure has been mentioned in the budget documents. However, he found it disproportionate that these few paragraphs, providing a brief overview of the government's intentions in relation to carbon pricing, represent 215 pages in the bill. He is of the view that this goes against the spirit of the Standing Order. For this reason, he feels the exemption provided for budget implementation bills by Standing Order 69.1(2) should not apply and that the measure should be voted on separately.

In his intervention, the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader expressed his disagreement. He noted that page 151 of the budget document contains a section called “Pricing Carbon Pollution and Supporting Clean Growth”. In his view, this passage contained in the budget satisfies the requirement contained in Standing Order 69.1(2), thereby excluding Bill C-74 from the application of Standing Order 69.1(1).

The Speaker has the power to divide the questions, for the purposes of voting, on any motion for second and third reading of a bill in circumstances where the bill contains a number of unrelated provisions. The matter before us today concerns paragraph (2) of that Standing Order, which makes an exception for budget implementation bills. Standing Order 69.1(2) reads as follows:

The present Standing Order shall not apply if the bill has as its main purpose the implementation of a budget and contains only provisions that were announced in the budget presentation or in the documents tabled during the budget presentation.

The provisions identified by the hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby were indeed announced in the budget, as he himself acknowledged. The Chair has reviewed the relevant sections of the budget document cited by both the hon. member and the hon. parliamentary secretary, as well as the relevant portion of the bill. I believe there is a direct link between what was announced and what is contained in Bill C-74. I do not, however, believe it is for the Chair to determine if the proportions of a measure correspond sufficiently to the amount of the reference to it in the budget documents. If the measures are contained in the budget documents, the exemption of Standing Order 69.1(2) applies. Therefore, I do not believe it would be appropriate to have a separate vote on the provisions relating to the greenhouse gas pollution pricing act.

Finally, I would like to point out that Bill C-74 was introduced almost four weeks ago and debated on several days since then. As I mentioned in my ruling of November 7, 2017, for everyone's benefit I would encourage hon. members to raise their arguments as early as possible after a bill is introduced.

I thank all hon. members for their attention.

Privilege April 23rd, 2018

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on March 27, 2018, by the hon. member for Langley—Aldergrove concerning the government's Canada summer jobs program.

I would like to thank the member for Langley—Aldergrove for having raised this matter, as well as the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands for his comments.

When raising the issue, the member for Langley—Aldergrove explained that many people and organizations in his constituency are not on this year's list of recommended projects for the Canada summer jobs program due to their beliefs, faith, personal conscience, or opinion, which are guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This, he argued, impeded his ability to administer the program on behalf of his constituents and thus constituted a contempt of Parliament.

Members will remember that, immediately prior to the matter being raised, I reminded the House and, in particular, the member for Langley—Aldergrove, that a requisite condition for a prima facie matter of privilege is that it is raised at the earliest opportunity. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Third Edition, explains at page 145 what is expected of members in terms of the timeliness of raising a question of privilege:

The matter of privilege to be raised in the House must have recently occurred and must call for the immediate action of the House. Therefore, the Member must satisfy the Speaker that he or she is bringing the matter to the attention of the House as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the situation.

While the member stated that he “just received the list” as proof of the timeliness of the issue, he gave a very detailed account of his communications with Service Canada about the program, which would indicate that he had been aware of the issue for quite some time.

I also recall the member speaking to the issue in the House on several occasions before giving notice to the Chair of his intent to raise a question of privilege, including during statements by members, back on February 13; during the debate on his party's supply day motion of March 1; and during the budget debate on March 20. It is therefore very difficult for the Chair, then, to accept that this matter could not have been raised earlier. As Speaker, I am no more persuaded to do so by the argument of the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands that they did not want to waste my time.

To be clear, the condition of raising a question of privilege at the earliest opportunity is not an arbitrary one. In a ruling delivered on January 30, 2018, I addressed this at page 16516 of the Debates:

There is a tacit understanding that, if a matter goes to the heart of a Member’s or the House’s privileges and immunities, or that contempt is involved, it is of the highest importance and should be addressed urgently.

Speaker Sauvé also explained it well in a ruling on May 26, 1981, when she stated at page 9924 of the Debates:

There has to be a balance in relation to a question of privilege. If an hon. member has a question of privilege, then it has to be dealt with very rapidly. If we defer questions of privilege for several days and they are serious, then I wonder what the meaning...of a question of privilege is. If it is urgent, it is urgent and therefore has to be heard immediately.

On that basis alone, the Chair cannot find that this question of privilege constitutes a prima facie contempt of the House.

As for the substantive arguments brought forward, a close review reveals that the member for Langley—Aldergrove is effectively taking issue with the eligibility criteria of a government program.

What is being challenged is neither a rule nor a practice of the House and is thus an issue to which the authority of the Chair does not extend. On November 22, 2016, I stated at page 7084 of the Debates:

It is equally clear that when members request redress with respect to rules external to the House, as Speaker I can neither interpret nor enforce them. It has long been the case that the Speaker's role is limited to ensuring that the body of rules and practices that the House has adopted are respected and upheld.

My predecessor also made this point on May 12, 2014, at page 5220 of the Debates , when he stated:

It is equally clear that it is not within the Speaker's authority to adjudicate on government policies or processes....

[T]he distinction between governmental procedures and House procedures remains and must be acknowledged.

Additionally, for privilege to be involved, it must be demonstrated that members, or the House as a whole, were impeded in the performance of their parliamentary duties as they relate to a proceeding in Parliament. As Bosc and Gagnon state at page 119:

In instances where Members have claimed that they have been obstructed or harassed, not directly in their parliamentary roles, but while being involved in matters of a political or constituency-related nature, Speakers have consistently ruled that this does not constitute a prima facie case of privilege.

Accordingly, I cannot find this constitutes a prima facie contempt of this House.

I thank all hon. members for their attention.

Points of Order April 17th, 2018

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on March 21, 2018, by the the hon. House leader for the official opposition concerning answers provided to the House during oral questions by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

I would like to thank the Opposition House Leader for having raised this matter, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader and the member for Durham for their comments.

In raising the matter, the House leader for the official opposition contended that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness provided contradictory answers to the House on February 26th and 27th in response to a simple question about who was responsible for an invitation sent to Mr. Jaspal Atwal for an event during the Prime Minister's recent visit to India. She argued that despite the members' right to obtain accurate and non-conflicting information when asking questions of the government, the government refuses to clarify the matter.

On March 27, the member for Durham added a second allegation, that of conflicting answers as to the confidentiality of information provided by the Prime Minister's national security adviser in a briefing to journalists about the same matter.

The parliamentary secretary argued that the question of privilege was not anything more than a matter of debate given that it concerns a dispute as to accuracy of answers to oral questions and that members must be taken at their word.

To summarize this issue, the Chair is being asked to decide whether answers provided by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness are, in fact, contradictory and, ultimately, provide a conclusive finding of fact in the matter.

This presupposes an authority that I, as Speaker, do not have. As members are only too aware, the role of the Speaker as it relates to the accuracy of statements is very restricted, as I can determine neither their veracity nor their consistency with prior statements. The House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states, at page 529:

There are no provisions in the rules for the Speaker to review government responses to questions.

Furthermore, as I had cause to say on May 18, 2017, at page 11397 of Debates:

As members will know, the exchange of information in this place is constantly subject to varying and, yes, contradictory, views and perceptions. This, of course, heightens the risk that, inadvertently, a member making a statement may be mistaken, or, in turn, that a member listening may misunderstand what another has stated.

Speaker Jerome alluded to a similar situation, stating on June 4, 1975, on page 6431 of Debates:

...a dispute as to facts, a dispute as to opinions and a dispute as to conclusions to be drawn from an allegation of fact is a matter of debate and not a question of privilege.

For the Chair to accept an accusation that the House was deliberately misled, it must be able to ascertain with a high degree of certainty that the statement was in fact misleading, that the member knew when making the statement that it was incorrect, and that the member intended to mislead the House by making the statement.

While the Chair understands that the significant complexity and the considerable media coverage of the issue may be conducive to different interpretations, the Chair is not convinced that the House has been deliberately misled. Accordingly, I cannot conclude that there is a prima facie question of privilege in this matter.

I would like to thank hon. members for their attention.

Debate, the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni, who has been waiting patiently.

Points of Order April 17th, 2018

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on February 28, 2018, by the member for Mégantic—L’Érable concerning access to the galleries on budget day.

I would like to thank the member for Mégantic—L'Érable for having raised this matter as well as the members for Chilliwack—Hope, Berthier—Maskinongé, and Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères for their remarks.

In raising the matter, the member for Mégantic—L’Érable put forward the information that on budget day, the Minister of Finance had booked all seats in the galleries, including those reserved for opposition members, therefore leaving the manager of his constituency office unable to secure either an access card from a finance department official or access to a gallery. Then, despite many seats in all galleries ultimately being unfilled on that day, he explained that his guest was again denied access by Parliamentary Protective Service, as she was without a pass from the Department of Finance. Stating that access to the galleries is the responsibility of the Speaker, and not the Department of Finance, he believed that this constituted interference by the executive branch in the administrative responsibilities of the House.

The Sergeant-at-Arms' office provided me with details on the procedures for gallery access on budget day as well as the sequence of events in this particular case, for which I thank them. As members are aware, there is a long-standing tradition that the Minister of Finance is allocated extra seats on budget day in the south gallery and the diplomatic gallery by way of a request submitted to the Sergeant-at-Arms' office. This year, this request was submitted and extra seats were allocated, as per the usual practice. As for the north gallery, a portion of it can also be provided to the government on budget day. That being said, seats remain available for overflow from other galleries, and extra seating can be requested by opposition parties. On budget day, only a portion of the north gallery was reserved by the Department of Finance.

Thus, as the galleries were evidently not reserved entirely for guests of the Minister of Finance, the situation as described by the member for Mégantic—L'Érable was unfortunate, particularly when there was ample seating available. It is also troubling to the Chair that the information that his guest received from various Parliamentary Protective Service employees was inaccurate.

As Speaker, I have been assured that, on the morning of February 27th, the budget day, representatives from Parliamentary Protective Service and the Sergeant-at-Arms' Office met to discuss the events of the day, including the seating plan, as per usual practice. While the appropriate information was made available to all concerned, it appears that it was not transmitted properly by Parliamentary Protective Service to the guest of the Member for Mégantic—L'Érable. The member's frustration is understandable as this miscommunication led to his guest being repeatedly refused access until he took it upon himself to escort her to the galleries.

As Speaker, I have responsibility for administrative matters, including the galleries, and I am committed to ensuring that guests from all sides of this House be allowed to attend our proceedings. I will continue to work with the Sergeant-at-Arms' office and the Parliamentary Protective Service so that communications between the various services are improved and solutions are put forward to prevent these kinds of incidents in the future.

I thank all hon. members for their attention.

Privilege March 27th, 2018

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on March 2, 2018, by the member for Durham concerning the information provided to members of the press in a media briefing.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Durham for having raised this matter, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the member for Berthier—Maskinongé, and the member for Joliette for their comments.

The member for Durham put forward that the Minister of Public Safety had acknowledged that the Prime Minister's national security adviser provided members of the press with information that he was unwilling to share at the same time with members of Parliament, for reasons of confidentiality and security. The member argued that even if such reasoning were justified, such claims of confidentiality could not override the individual and collective rights of members to access that information, and, as such, accommodations to make the information available must be made.

The parliamentary secretary disagreed, arguing that, since there was no order of the House to divulge to members the sensitive information requested, the privileges of the member and the House could not have been interfered with and the Speaker has no authority to compel the government to release it. Furthermore, he contended that, as matters of privilege necessarily involve a proceeding of Parliament and do not pertain to the actions or inactions of a government department, this was simply a matter of debate.

On February 7, 2013, at page 13,868 of the Debates, my predecessor stated, in a ruling, “access to accurate and timely information is an essential cornerstone of our parliamentary system”. There is not only great truth but also great power in these few words, for they represent a right that is integral to the health of our democracy. They also explain, to some extent, why members take seriously the need to defend their right to access timely and accurate information in order to fulfill their parliamentary duties, particularly their role of holding the government to account.

In raising this issue, the member for Durham looked to a ruling by Speaker Milliken on April 27, 2010, for justification for his argument that the right of members to be provided with any and all information is absolute. However, a close reading of that ruling reveals that while it touched on the broader issue of access to information, the core issue was the right of the House to order the production of documents, confidential or not.

Bourinot’s Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, First Edition, states at page 281:

...it must be remembered that under all circumstances it is for the house to consider whether the reasons given for refusing the information are sufficient. The right of Parliament to obtain every possible information on public questions is undoubted...

Thus, should the House, by way of a formal motion, order the information from the government, it will be under an obligation to produce it.

However, what is equally true is that this absolute right of the House does not de facto extend to individual members' requests for information. This distinction is crucial to a clear understanding of the limits and obligations with respect to members' access to information and very much informs the merits of this case. Since the House has not ordered the government to produce the information in question, the government is currently under no formal obligation to provide it to the House. The same logic applies to the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. Moreover, it means that I, as Speaker, do not have the authority to require the government to provide that information to the House.

Given this, and having examined the facts, the Chair is unable to conclude that members were impeded in the discharge of their parliamentary functions. Accordingly, I cannot find a prima facie question of privilege in this case.

I thank all hon. members for their attention.

Privilege March 20th, 2018

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on February 26 by the hon. member for Abbotsford concerning briefings held by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change in relation to Bill C-69, an act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I would like to thank the member for Abbotsford for having raised this matter, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the member for Berthier—Maskinongé for their comments.

In raising the matter, the member for Abbotsford explained that within an hour of having introduced Bill C-69 in the House on February 8, a briefing on the bill was offered to the media and to stakeholders. This briefing was more than five hours before members of Parliament were offered the same. With members unable to respond immediately to media and stakeholder inquiries, he contended that this was a profound act of disrespect on the part of the minister that constituted a contempt of the House.

The parliamentary secretary disagreed, saying that the minister had not deliberately tried to impede members’ access to information on the bill and would offer additional briefings, if requested. Noting that the bill was not debated in the House until days later and that departmental briefings are beyond the purview of the Chair, the parliamentary secretary said that no breach of privilege had occurred.

As I already noted, the Chair is concerned that this question of privilege was not brought up at the earliest opportunity. Members know that in determining a question of privilege prima facie, the Speaker must consider whether the two requisite conditions have been met; that is, whether the matter was raised at the earliest opportunity and whether, in the Speaker's view, it constitutes, at first view, a breach of a parliamentary privilege.

With respect to timeliness, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states at page 145:

...the Member must satisfy the Speaker that he or she is bringing the matter to the attention of the House as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the situation. When a Member has not fulfilled this important requirement, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is not a prima facie question of privilege.

In this particular case, I note that between February 8, the date of the alleged contempt, and February 14, the date on which the member raised his complaint in the House, several sitting days had elapsed during which the member was aware of the situation that gave rise to his question of privilege. This is cause for concern for the Chair, particularly as the member did not provide an explanation as to why the condition of timeliness was not satisfied. While I am prepared to be flexible on this point this time and not dismiss his question of privilege for this reason alone, it is a condition that must be taken into account in assessing the alleged question of privilege.

Now, turning to the substantive elements of the member’s question of privilege, there have been past instances where members have raised concerns about departmental briefings. Speaker Milliken, in a ruling on November 21, 2002, stated, at page 1742 of the Debates:

It is very difficult for the Chair to intervene in a situation where a minister has chosen to have a press conference, or a briefing or a meeting and release material when the Speaker has nothing to do with the organization of that....The same thing goes for those who are invited to meetings and for the way people are notified of meetings. Whether there is one meeting, or three or four, makes no difference. In my opinion, it is impossible for me to intervene in this case.

It is equally important to understand that the House’s right to first access to legislation was respected in this instance since, as the member acknowledged, Bill C-69 was introduced in the House before either of the briefings in question took place. Thus, this situation cannot be characterized as one of premature disclosure of a bill, even if Members were excluded from the first briefing, that of the media.

The member stated that a contempt may occur if, by diminishing the respect it is due, the House’s ability to perform its functions is impeded. Speaker Sauvé, in a ruling on October 29, 1980, at page 4214 of the Debates, said:

…while our privileges are defined, contempt of the House has no limits. When new ways are found to interfere with our proceedings, so too will the House, in appropriate cases, be able to find that a contempt of the House has occurred.

This points to an essential truth that to constitute a contempt, it is necessary to demonstrate that a proceeding in the House, or the ability of members to fulfill their parliamentary duties, was in some way impeded. In response to a similar complaint, on December 4, 2014, at page 10168 of the Debates, my predecessor reminded the House:

That is not to say, however, that every proceeding or activity related to delivering or accessing information by members implicitly involves their parliamentary duties.

He also had cause to state on March 3, 2014, at pages 3429 and 3430 of Debates:

When a situation is brought to the Chair’s attention, it must be assessed within the somewhat narrow confines of parliamentary procedure and precedents. ...the Chair must assess whether the member has been obstructed in the discharge of his responsibilities in direct relation to proceedings in Parliament. ...a member who is preparing to participate in proceedings—whether through a technical briefing or some other means—is not participating in the proceedings themselves. While such preparation is no doubt important, it remains ancillary to, rather than part of, Parliament's proceedings.

That being said, as Speaker, I understand the member for Abbotsford's frustration and the sense of disrespect that he feels in not having had priority access to a briefing on such a complex piece of legislation. In fact, the Chair not only finds this matter to be unfortunate, but also entirely avoidable. While no parliamentary rules may have been broken or privileges breached, respecting members’ needs for timely and accurate information remains essential. There is no question that the work of members of Parliament is made more difficult without expeditious access to legislative information. Given this reality, there is a rightful expectation that those responsible for the information should do their utmost to ensure members’ access to it. Not respecting this expectation does a disservice to all. It is particularly disconcerting when the government gives priority to the media over the members of Parliament.

Having examined the evidence and given the limited parameters of the Chair in this matter, I cannot conclude that the House or its members were unable to fulfill their parliamentary duties. Accordingly, I cannot find that the question raised constitutes a prima facie contempt of the House, and thus there is no case of privilege.

I thank all honourable members for their attention.

Point of Order March 1st, 2018

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on February 27, 2018, by the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé concerning the second reading of Bill C-69, an act to enact the impact assessment act and the Canadian energy regulator act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, under the provisions of Standing Order 69.1.

I would like to thank the hon. member for having raised this question, as well as the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for his intervention on this point.

The hon. member argued that Bill C-69 is an omnibus bill, as she feels it contains several different initiatives which should be voted on separately. She noted that the bill would delete two existing acts, would enact new ones, and would amend over 30 other acts. The hon. member requested that the Chair divide the question at second reading to allow for a vote on each of the three main parts of the bill.

Part 1 would enact the impact assessment act and repeal the existing Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Part 2 would enact the Canadian energy regulator act as well as repeal the National Energy Board Act. The hon. member argued that this second part deals more with natural resources than with the environment and should therefore be voted upon separately.

Part 3 consists of amendments to the Navigation Protection Act, which would be renamed the Canadian navigable waters act. As this deals with matters relating to transportation, she felt that this part should also be subject to a separate vote.

The hon. member helpfully identified which of the consequential and coordinating provisions, contained in part 4, she believed were associated with each of the other parts. I am grateful for her specificity in this regard. I would note that these consequential and coordinating amendments represent the changes to the 30 other acts referenced by the hon. member. In the vast majority of cases, the changes are to reflect updated terminology relating to the names of new agencies or statutes created by the bill. The fact that there is a large number of them is not a significant factor in determining whether or not this constitutes an omnibus bill.

The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader agreed that the bill amends several acts, but argued that there is in fact a common element to link together all of the changes. He stated that the bill represents a comprehensive review of federal environmental and regulatory processes and that to consider them separately would create unnecessary uncertainty about the overall framework.

As members will recall, Standing Order 69.1 took effect last September. It gives the Speaker the power to divide the question on the second or third reading of a bill where “there is not a common element connecting the various provisions or where unrelated matters are linked”. The critical question for the Chair, then, is to determine to what extent the various elements of the bill are linked.

To date, I have been asked to apply this standing order on two instances. On November 7, 2017, I declined to allow multiple votes in relation to Bill C-56, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Abolition of Early Parole Act, as I felt the two issues raised by the bill were sufficiently related and that they were essentially provided for under the same act. On November 8, I agreed to apply the standing order in relation to Bill C-63, the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 2, as I considered that there were several issues contained in the bill that were not announced in the budget presentation. On November 20, in relation to Bill C-59, the national security act, 2017, I ruled that the standing order could not apply to a motion to refer a bill to committee before second reading, though I invited members to raise the issue again prior to third reading of the bill if necessary.

I would underscore, as I did in my ruling on Bill C-63, that the Chair does not have the power to divide a bill into different pieces of legislation to be considered separately. The Standing Order only allows me to divide the question on the motions for second and third reading for the purposes of voting.

Bill C-69 does clearly contain several different initiatives. It establishes two new agencies, the impact assessment agency and the Canadian energy regulator, and makes a series of amendments to the Navigation Protection Act. One could make the case, as did the parliamentary secretary, that there is indeed a common thread connecting these various initiatives, in that they are all related to environmental protection. However, the question the Chair must ask itself is whether the purpose of the standing order was to deal only with matters that were obviously unrelated or whether it was to provide members with the opportunity to pronounce themselves on specific initiatives when a bill contains a variety of different measures.

In presenting arguments relating to Bill C-63, the hon. member for Calgary Shepard raised an interesting concept from the practice in the Quebec National Assembly. Quoting from page 400 of Parliamentary Procedure in Québec, he stated: “The principle or principles contained in a bill must not be confused with the field it concerns. To frame the concept of principle in that way would prevent the division of most bills, because they apply to a specific field.”

While their procedure for dividing bills is quite different from ours, the idea of distinguishing the principles of a bill from its field has stayed with me. While each bill is different and so too each case, I believe that Standing Order 69.1 can indeed be applied to a bill where all of the initiatives relate to a specific policy area, if those initiatives are sufficiently distinct to warrant a separate decision of the House.

In this particular instance, I have no trouble agreeing that all of the measures contained in Bill C-69 relate to environmental protection. However, I believe there are distinct initiatives that are sufficiently unrelated that they warrant multiple votes. Therefore, I am prepared to allow more than one vote on the motion for second reading of the bill.

As each of the first two parts of the bill does indeed enact a new act, I can see why the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé would like to see each one voted separately. However, my reading of the bill is that the regimes set out in part 1, the impact assessment act, and part 2, the Canadian energy regulator act, are linked in significant ways, reflected in the number of cross-references. For example, the impact assessment act provides for a process for assessing the impact of certain projects, but contains specific provisions for projects with activities regulated under the Canadian energy regulator act. There are also obligations in the Canadian energy regulator act that are subject to provisions in the impact assessment act. Given the multiple references in each of these parts to the entities and processes established by the other part, I believe it is in keeping with the Standing Order that these two parts be voted together.

With respect to part 3, which amends the Navigation Protection Act, I find that it is sufficiently distinct and should be subject to a separate vote. While there are some references in part 2 to changes made in part 3, I do not believe they are so deeply intertwined as to require them to be considered together. There would be an opportunity to correct these references as part of the amending process if part 3 should not be adopted by the House.

As I stated earlier, part 4 of the bill is made up of consequential and coordinating amendments arising out of the other 3 parts. In my ruling on Bill C-56, I recognized that the analysis and division of a bill into different parts can sometimes be quite complex. Based on my reading of part 4, which differs slightly from that of the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé, clauses 85, 186, 187, and 195 seem to be related to part 3 and will be voted with that part. The remaining clauses in part 4, with the exception of the coming into force clause, specifically 196, appear to relate only to parts 1 and 2 and will therefore be grouped with those parts. The schedule relates only to part 1 and will also be grouped with it.

Privilege January 30th, 2018

On December 5, 2017, the hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge raised a question of privilege concerning allegedly misleading statements made by the Minister of National Revenue.

I would like to thank the member for Calgary Rocky Ridge for raising this matter, as well as the Minister of National Revenue, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the member for New Westminster—Burnaby, and the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for their comments, which assisted me in assessing the prima facie merits of this question of privilege.

The member for Calgary Rocky Ridge explained that some responses to oral questions made by the Minister of National Revenue regarding disability credit eligibility criteria contradicted information found in an internal departmental memo obtained through an access to information request. The member explained that the minister had repeatedly said that the disability credit eligibility criteria had not changed nor were there any changes to the way the law is interpreted. However, in the member’s opinion, the departmental memo showed otherwise. This, he contended, was proof that the minister had deliberately misled the House.

He then raised this matter again on December 11, adding that comments by the minister’s parliamentary secretary in a recent media interview were further proof of this allegation.

In turn, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons noted that, as the minister's statements were neither inaccurate nor contradictory, the requisite conditions for determining that the House had been misled have not been met. Thus, he concluded that this is simply a matter of debate.

The Minister of National Revenue rose in the House on December 12, and maintained the validity of her previous statements to the House on this matter. However, she did concede that the internal departmental memo in question, even though she argued it did not outline a change to the eligibility criteria, may have had unintended consequences in contributing to confusion. For that, the minister apologized.

Before addressing the matter at hand, I would like to remind members of the conditions involved in raising a question of privilege.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 141, states:

First, the Speaker must be convinced that a prima facie case of breach of privilege has been made and, second, the matter must be raised at the earliest opportunity.

There is a tacit understanding that, if a matter goes to the heart of a member's or the House's privileges and immunities, or that contempt is involved, it is of the highest importance and should be addressed urgently. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 143, reminds us that:

...the Member must satisfy the Speaker that he or she is bringing the matter to the attention of the House as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the situation. When a Member has not fulfilled this important requirement, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is not a prima facie question of privilege.

This, of course, is in addition to the need for members to provide a written statement to the Speaker at least one hour before rising in the House.

When examining a charge that a member has deliberately misled the House, the Speaker is strictly limited with respect to what can and cannot be considered. As recently as November 20, 2017, at page 15325 of the Debates, I reiterated the following:

Members know well that in any case in which the veracity of what a member of the House has said is called into question, the Chair's role is very limited to the review of the statements made in a proceeding of Parliament. In other words, the Chair cannot comment on what transpires outside of the deliberations of the House or its committees.

Speaker Milliken also upheld this important principle on February 10, 2011, at page 8030 of the Debates, stating that:

…the Chair is bound by very narrow parameters in situations such as this one. It may sound overly technical but the reality is that when adjudicating cases of this kind, the Chair is obliged to reference material fully and properly before the House.

As has been acknowledged, in examining this case, involving a series of statements by the minister, there are three necessary conditions to be met: the statements must be misleading; the member must know when making them that they are incorrect; and, finally, there must be proof that the member intended to mislead the House by making the statement.

In reviewing the statements made by the minister, which is all that the Chair is able to assess in this instance, I am unable to find evidence that they were deliberately misleading when measured against the threshold set by the House.

This is in addition to our long-standing practice of accepting members at their word, something I am bound to do. As my predecessor stated on April 29, 2015, at page 13198 of the Debates:

…as your Speaker, I must take all members at their word. To do otherwise, to take it upon myself to assess the truthfulness or accuracy of members' statements is not a role which has been conferred on me, nor that the House has indicated that it would somehow wish the Chair to assume, with all of its implications.

Consequently, for these reasons, I cannot find that a prima facie question of privilege exists.

That being said, this situation should serve as a pointed reminder of the need for clear and accurate exchanges of information in the House. Members' inalienable right to clarity and consistency in the information they receive underpins their ability to carry out properly their responsibilities as legislators and representatives. Any information that fails to support this right and obligation is in essence a disservice to all members.

I thank all hon. members for their attention.

Concurrence in Vote 1B--Department of Finance December 4th, 2017

Is it agreed to proceed in this manner?

Point of Order November 30th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on November 22, 2017, by the member for Montcalm regarding the participation of the Minister of Finance in the vote on Motion No. 42. In raising this matter, the member for Montcalm reiterated the arguments raised by the member for Joliette on November 8, 2017, contending that the Minister of Finance was in contravention of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons by participating in a vote on Motion No. 42 relating to tax avoidance. He also argued that the minister had attempted, through his parliamentary secretary, to influence the House in the furtherance of his private interest.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, page 568, states:

No Member is entitled to take part in debate or to vote on any question in which he or she has a private interest (formerly referred to as a “direct pecuniary interest”), and any vote subsequently determined to have been cast in these circumstances would be disallowed....

If a Member's vote is questioned after the fact, it is the practice to accept his or her word. If the House wishes to pursue the issue, notice must first be given of a substantive motion to disallow a Member's vote.

In addition, section 13 of the Conflict of Interest Code, which was established to guide members in the ethical discharge of their duties, including when there are private interests, states, and I quote:

A Member shall not participate in debate on or vote on a question in which he or she has a private interest.

Based on the restriction provided in the code, it is clear that the right of members to debate and vote is not absolute. Furthermore, Speaker Milliken, on October 6, 2005, stated, at page 8473 of the Debates:

...the Conflict of Interest Code contains rules that the House has adopted for itself and that the House has mandated the Ethics Commissioner to interpret and apply the code.

It is the commissioner who has the sole authority to apply the dispositions of the code and to investigate any alleged conflicts of interest. It should be noted, however, that members do have the ability to refer matters to the commissioner. Section 27 of the code establishes the process relating to concerns about a potential conflict of interest involving another member. The House too can direct the commissioner to conduct an inquiry by way of a resolution. Section 28 then outlines how the House may proceed if the commissioner concludes that a member has not complied with an obligation under the code.

It is not the role of the Chair to determine if a conflict of interest exists, but instead, to ensure that the rights and privileges of members of this House are always safeguarded. By extension, as Speaker, I cannot unilaterally deprive a member of the right to vote any more than I can unilaterally order that a vote be redone.

As members will surely appreciate, the seriousness of a charge against a member is such that the Chair must make absolutely certain that the procedures that the House has adopted are strictly followed. I would like to thank all members for their attention in this matter.