Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief in respect of the fact that I had already risen earlier this morning during ministerial statements to announce to colleagues in all parties that we have reached agreement with three of the four parties represented in the House of Commons.
I want to congratulate the members of the negotiating teams from the official opposition, the Liberal Party of Canada and the Bloc Québécois for some tough negotiations that took place over the past weeks. As I noted during my brief ministerial statement, there were some 16 meetings, most of them at least an hour in length. We spent a considerable amount of time.
I made the comment at this morning's meeting that indeed my sense was, as is the case in most negotiations among hon. members and political parties in trying to resolve outstanding differences of opinion, that in the end the agreement reached reflects the fact that everyone there had to put some water in their wine, as they say, about these types of negotiations. I felt, at least on the part of the parties that arrived at the decision, that they were comfortable in recommending to their leaders that they sign the agreement that will get this committee of members of Parliament up and operating, as the official opposition House leader said, as soon as possible to address these outstanding issues. That is good news.
As I said, it reflects not only the intent and substance of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but also the needs of the government to ensure that the issues of national security, international relationships with our allies and the protection of information that could be damaging and indeed put members of our Canadian Forces at risk, are respected. It respects all of those things. That is why those negotiations were lengthy and involved, but they were always conducted with the utmost respect among all of the parties.
Mr. Speaker, in addressing this question of privilege, I would draw to your attention that it was certainly the government's hope all along and that of the people we had at the table that we could arrive at an agreement that would encompass all members of Parliament and all political parties in this chamber. Unfortunately, that has not proven to be the case.
However, three parties have indicated that their leaders have agreed to sign this agreement and get the process under way. It respects your ruling and represents the vast majority of members of Parliament in this chamber. As I said, it is unfortunate and I am disappointed that we could not include the New Democratic Party, but that was its choice.
I would point out as well that following this morning's meeting, we were apprised that the New Democratic Party, as it has done once or twice in the past, had already called ahead of time to organize a scrum before the meeting was even adjourned. It really calls into question whether the NDP members were negotiating in good faith this morning. I also find it unfortunate that the NDP chose to go down that path.
I do believe that the members of Parliament who will be tasked with working their way through all of the thousands of pages of documents, both redacted and unredacted, in being able to see all of the documents and the information that will be available, are going to get at the truth despite what the NDP is saying. That is certainly the hope of the government and, we believe, that of the ad hoc committee of members of Parliament.
The member for the New Democratic Party indicated that there would not be a provision for reporting. This was another instance and there were so many I could not possibly remember over the course of the 16 meetings how many different issues were dealt with from each of the parties bringing forward at times conflicting positions on different clauses of the agreement. However, this particular provision had been debated and discussed for some time. There is provision in the memorandum of understanding that will guide the work of this ad hoc MP committee, and the committee does have the means to make interim reports, if indeed that is the case.
Those reports will be as to whether the committee thinks the process is proceeding and whether there is any obstruction, that type of thing. Obviously those reports will have to respect the oath that each of those members of Parliament will take to ensure the security and, as I said earlier, the safety of our men and women in uniform and to ensure that information that must remain secure does in fact remain secure.
The members of the committee will see it. They will have the opportunity to report as to whether they believe they are getting all the relevant information as per your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I trust that you will understand, as you clearly do, that following these very extensive time-consuming negotiations, we have arrived at an agreement between ourselves, as the Government of Canada, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois. We have arrived at this place in our nation's history.
I think what we are doing is precedent setting, and we were all seized with that. We were certainly constantly reminded, as we worked through these negotiations, of your suggestion that the Parliament of Canada has been confronted with this type of dilemma in the past and has always managed to work through it. That is what we endeavoured to do, and I think that is what we arrived at this morning in the agreement of the three parties.
Mr. Speaker, I hope that in considering this question of privilege you will take all of these points into account, as I am sure you will.