Madam Speaker, I rise regarding the question of privilege that the whip brought forward yesterday, as well as the recent comments and explanation that was given by the member for Vimy. I want to take a couple of moments to comment, and I appreciate the opportunity to do so, and then we can continue with the debate on the bill.
I want to begin by thanking the member for Vimy for her explanation today. We all understand what it is like being a new member of Parliament and not always being sure of what it actually means to be in the chamber when the question is being read. I want to let the member know not to feel bad about that and that we all understand. We are glad that she now understands where she needs to be when the question is being read.
There are a couple of items I want to point to regarding two issues I know the Speaker indicated he would be looking at and making some decisions on. The first is on the issue of misleading the House. There is some precedent which I think is important we have the opportunity to hear and consider as the Speaker makes his decision.
On February 25, 2014, the House leader of the official opposition raised a question of privilege regarding statements made in the House by the member for Mississauga—Streetsville. The hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville had deliberately misled the House during debate on Bill C-23, the Fair Elections Act, when he stated that he had witnessed evidence of voter fraud first-hand.
He further argued that the matter was not resolved by the statements made by the member for Mississauga—Streetsville on February 24 and February 25, where he admitted that, contrary to his original claim, he had not actually witnessed what he had originally claimed to have witnessed and he apologized to the House.
On March 3, the Speaker delivered his ruling, citing what Speaker Milliken was faced with in February 2002 when the then minister of national defence, Art Eggleton, provided contrary information to the House. In that case as well, the minister indicated that he did not intentionally mislead the House and he too apologized.
Speaker Milliken went on to conclude, “In keeping with that precedent, I am prepared to accord the same courtesy to the member for Mississauga—Streetsville.”
We have two precedents where prima facie cases of privilege were found despite members indicating that they did not intend to mislead the House and apologized. There is precedent where when this House and the Speaker are misled, there still is a case of prima facie privilege and that there is a consequence that needs to be found for that action.
With respect to my whip's motion to send this matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I refer the Speaker to the second edition of Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, page 227, which states:
In the final analysis, in areas of doubt, the Speaker asks simply:
Does the act complained of appear at first sight to be a breach of privilege...or to put it shortly, has the Member an arguable point? If the Speaker feels any doubt on the question, he [or she] should...leave it to the House.
I am asking the Speaker to leave this matter to the House to decide, and if the House decides to send this issue to committee, then the committee can look at, in addition to the misleading statement, the issue my whip raised as to establishing a mechanism for the Speaker to deal with disputed votes, which is particularly important in a minority Parliament.
We need to deal with the issue of deliberately or not deliberately misleading the House and there is precedent for that. As well, we need to deal with the matter of the importance of votes. In a minority Parliament, we still have the question of how we would have dealt with it if it had been a matter of confidence and the government had lost that vote, which we all know is of grave importance.
I wanted to make sure that was presented as the Speaker continues his deliberations.