Content of Flyer–Speaker’s Ruling
I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on November 19, 2009, by the hon. member for Mount Royal concerning the mailing of a ten percenter to some of his constituents by the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London comparing the positions of the Conservative Party of Canada and the Liberal Party of Canada on certain aspects of Canada’s policy in the Middle East.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Mount Royal for having raised this important matter. I would also like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Whip of the Bloc Québécois, the member for Windsor West, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the member for Eglinton—Lawrence for their comments.
In outlining his case, the hon. member for Mount Royal stated that a mailing purporting to contain information on three issues, namely, fighting anti-Semitism, fighting terrorism and supporting Israel, was sent to some of his constituents, as well as to other ridings with identifiable Jewish communities.
The member went on to claim that this mailing was not only, in the words of the hon. member, “false and misleading”, but also “slanderous, damaging and prejudicial” to the Liberal Party and, by extension, himself.
This argument was supported by the Whip for the Bloc Québécois, the hon. member for Windsor West, the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville and the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence.
In response, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister explained in some detail the content of the ten percenter in question and defended its veracity. For his part, the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons pointed out that all parties are engaged in this style of communication.
As hon. members know, in deciding on a question of privilege, the Speaker is not charged with determining the facts; the Chair’s ruling is limited to whether on first impression, prima facie, the matter before the House merits priority consideration. In cases where a member alleges that he has experienced interference in the performance of his parliamentary duties, the Speaker’s task is particularly difficult. As O’Brien and Bosc states at page 111:
|| It is impossible to codify all incidents which might be interpreted as matters of obstruction, interference, molestation or intimidation and as such constitute prima facie cases of privilege. However, some matters found to be prima facie include the damaging of a member’s reputation, the usurpation of the title of member of Parliament, the intimidation of members and their staff and of witnesses before committees, and the provision of misleading information.
The Chair has examined the numerous documents submitted in this case. Having heard all the arguments presented, I must agree with several members who suggested that there is no denying the critical role that context played in shaping the cumulative net effect of the words used in this mailing. In my view, the end result was a negative effect that spilled over to the member for Mount Royal in a very direct and personal way.
It is not for the Chair to comment either way on the accuracy or inaccuracy of the comparisons drawn on the bulk mailing complained of by the member for Mount Royal. That said, however, the Chair has no difficulty concluding that any reasonable person reading the mailing in question, and this would, of course, include the constituents of Mount Royal, would have likely been left with an impression at variance with the member’s long-standing and well-known position on these matters.
Therefore, I must conclude that the member for Mount Royal, on the face of it, has presented a convincing argument that the mailing constitutes interference with his ability to perform his parliamentary functions in that its content is damaging to his reputation and his credibility.
Consistent with the ruling given on November 19, 2009 in relation to the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore and with other rulings in relation to mailings in 2005, and I suggest hon. members look at the ruling on November 3, 2005, pages 9489-90 of the Debates, the Chair finds that a prima facie question of privilege does exist. I therefore invite the hon. member for Mount Royal to move his motion.
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