Perhaps the hon. minister will get a chance to add to that comment at the next round.
Questions. The hon. member for Medicine Hat.
I thank the hon. member for Medicine Hat for his further comments on the question of privilege currently before the chair. Of course, I will be getting back to the House in due course with a decision.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great honour to rise today in this place as the democratically elected member of Parliament for Medicine Hat. I rise to speak on the question of privilege raised by my colleague, the hon. member for Langley. Our Westminster parliamentary system is without a doubt the best in the world, as we all know. It is not perfect, but if we look at all of the other democratic systems, ours is the best.
Obviously, here in Canada, our system has evolved over time. Starting in the early 1980s, it became the responsibility of the party whips to submit lists to the Speaker of those who would ask questions before each member is able to make an S. O. 31 statement before question period. That seemed to make sense at the time because Parliament was growing and the Speaker was getting busier. That is completely sensible. I do not think we could find any member who would disagree with that, and I am certainly not either.
What is unfortunate is that some members are denied the ability to speak if what they are going to say is unacceptable to the powers that be. I was elected by the people of my constituency to represent them in Ottawa. When the majority of my constituents feel strongly on one particular issue, I feel it is my duty to speak freely in the House about that issue. In fact, our handbook, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, 2009, clearly stipulates what my rights are as a duly elected member of the House.
Allow me to quote from O'Brien and Bosc, 2009, which states:
By far, the most important right accorded to Members of the House is the exercise of freedom of speech in parliamentary proceedings.
Therefore, we know that freedom of speech in this place is key to us being able to carry out our task of being good representatives of the people who elected us.
It goes on to state:
Freedom of speech permits Members to speak freely in the Chamber during a sitting or in committees during meetings while enjoying complete immunity from prosecution or civil liability for any comment they might make. This freedom is essential for the effective working of the House.
Mr. Speaker, it is for you to decide whether the privileges of the member for Langley had been breached. O'Brien and Bosc further states:
A Member may also be obstructed or interfered with in the performance of his or her parliamentary functions by non-physical means. In ruling on such matters, the Speaker examines the effect the incident or event had on the Member's ability to fulfil his or her parliamentary responsibilities.
I realize that some have tried to make out of this issue more than what it is. I can assure the House and, indeed, all Canadians that there is nothing antagonistic or rebellious about these interventions. It is a question of the rights of members, like the member for Langley, who wish to speak out on issues that are important to his or her constituents. Is that not what the role of a member of Parliament is? His or her role is, indeed, to be their voice here. To suggest that voice should be muted because an issue is considered too controversial is bizarre, to say the least.
This is the Parliament of Canada. I do not believe there are issues here that are too controversial for members to debate. That is why we are here. If we do not do it as democratically elected officials, then who will? That is why I stand here today to lend my voice and wholehearted support not only to the member for Langley but other members of Parliament who have stood to speak out on this issue. The member for Langley should be allowed to speak. I believe he was dropped from the speaking order because the powers that be decided that what he was going to say was just too controversial for them and that goes against the point of our system.
What started as a way to make it easier for the Speaker to manage who stood up to speak has now become a way to control the message. I believe it has gone too far and that is why I stand here today to lend my support to my colleague from Langley, as well as all others who have risen to speak on what they feel is an injustice.
As one of my colleagues pointed out previously, we need not look outside the Westminster parliamentary system for clues on how we can do things better. Let us go directly to the source that we inherited the system from. In the United Kingdom, government backbenchers rise from time to time to ask very tough questions of their own government.
Mr. Speaker, I conclude by asking you to look into this matter at your earliest convenience and thank you for giving me this opportunity to make my case.
The electoral district of Medicine Hat (Alberta) has a population of 113,085 with 82,528 registered voters and 206 polling divisions.
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