Mr. Speaker, I am rising to address the question of privilege raised by the member for Timmins—James Bay in respect to the government's response to Order Paper Question No. 163.
I would point out that the member for Timmins—James Bay has presented different estimates as to the government's litigation costs related to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision respecting the first nations child and family services program.
The member presents three sets of information: the government's response to Question No. 163, which I would point out has been calculated using a consistent formula that the government uses for litigation costs in responding to Order Paper questions; a compilation of a number of responses to ATIP questions over the years, which has been compiled by Dr. Blackstock; and an estimate prepared by the Assembly of First Nations.
The government does not have a clear line of sight into how either Dr. Blackstock or the AFN calculated these costs nor what was included in their estimates. This in no way suggests that the calculations were done in bad faith or that the minister deliberately misled the House with the government's response to Question No. 163.
This amounts to a debate as to the facts, and therefore should not be considered a legitimate question of privilege.
This brings us to the broader issue. While we may have different political views on issues before the House, we are all here for the same reason, to work in the interests of Canadians.
When a member feels that the information the government has provided appears to be inconsistent with other sources of information or may feel that the information is incomplete, the simple and civil thing to do is talk to the minister or parliamentary secretary responsible for the file.
If that approach does not yield the results that a member expects, it is perfectly legitimate for members to raise these matters as points of order. What I have witnessed of late is that members are unfortunately using questions of privilege instead of more appropriately using points of order.
I would hate to suggest that members are using these important questions of privilege simply to score political points. I would also like to point out that raising these matters as questions of privilege is tantamount to a direct personal attack on a member's character.
There are but few examples that can be found where a member has deliberately misled the House. More often than not, a misleading statement arises when there is a mistake made, an omission or a simple misunderstanding on an issue. To assume that members and ministers deliberately seek to mislead the House is a false assumption.
Let us remind ourselves of the important role we play in our parliamentary democracy and treat each other with the respect that we all so thoroughly deserve.