The Liberals had said they wouldn’t get involved in Mark Warawa’s question of privilege, but after Question Period today, Liberal House leader Dominic LeBlanc stood to make a submission. He expressed his support for Mr. Warawa’s cause, but also asked that the Speaker to “resist” ruling on that question of privilege until the House has had a chance to debate and vote on the related Liberal motion.
Mr. Speaker, I am intervening with respect to the question of privilege that was brought before the House by the member for Langley. Without any doubt, freedom of speech for members of Parliament is paramount in any democracy. In fact, you will be very familiar with this text, Mr. Speaker. Erskine May’s 19th edition states: “The freedom of speech is a privilege essential to every free council or legislature”.
Mr. Speaker, the sheer number of interventions you have had on this question clearly displays the considerable concern surrounding the current management of members’ statements. That concern is reflected clearly on all sides of the House.
The Liberal Party has until now not intervened in this question of privilege. I want to make it clear, on behalf of my colleagues, I am rising to intervene in support of the concerns raised by the member for Langley and I do so with the proviso that perhaps a solution is at hand, a solution that may negate your needing to find a prima facie breach of privilege.
As you will know, Mr. Speaker, the leader of my party, the member for Papineau, gave notice late last week of a motion that in our view would resolve the issue and perhaps lead the member for Langley to conclude that his question of privilege need not be debated in the House and subsequently at the procedures and House affairs committee.
We had hoped to be able to debate the motion today. The motion from my colleague, the member for Papineau, would take control of members’ statements away from the party whips, every party whip including our own, and give it back to members themselves because we believe that it is very important for members to be able to rise in the House in a consistent and reliable way to represent their constituents and speak for the women and men who have elected them and sent them here to this chamber.
We had been told in last Thursday’s statement by the government House leader that we would have a Liberal opposition day today and therefore the House would have been seized of this very issue today. Unfortunately, the government decided to change the order of the proceedings today. We would have preferred to be discussing this today, but we are hopeful that in the coming days, perhaps even this week, the House will again be seized with the motion from my colleague from Papineau.
The motion, from our perspective, and I hope from other colleagues as well, would provide not only direction to the Chair by, we hope, changing the actual standing orders, but would reduce the need for the question of privilege to continually be debated in the House and for the procedure and House affairs committee, which is currently dealing with the rather lengthy and complicated electoral boundaries reports from each province, to take up its time with this particular matter.
The question of privilege has been before the House for several weeks. There have been regular interventions from members on all sides. Mr. Speaker, I would urge you, and believe it would be prudent for you, to wait only a few more days in the hope that the House is able to pronounce itself through a vote on the motion presented by the Liberal Party on an opposition day, which we believe may, in a very common sense and democratic way, resolve the issue. A ruling by you, Mr. Speaker, before the House has had a chance to speak and to vote on this Liberal motion could in fact lead to the procedure and House affairs committee’s important work on electoral boundaries being delayed. I think there is no better way than to get the consensus of the House in a stand up vote on a thoughtful, democratic motion brought forward on an opposition day.
Therefore, I would urge you, Mr. Speaker, to resist ruling on this question of privilege, to give the House, I hope, in the coming days a chance to pronounce itself on a motion that we think is very important to restore the democracy of this House of Commons and Canadians’ faith in their elected representatives to speak on their behalf at every available opportunity in this chamber.