Tuesday, March 4, 2014

1 I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised onFebruary 25, 2014, by the House Leader of the Official Opposition(Mr. Cullen) regarding statements made in the House by the Member

Full text of House Speaker Andrew Scheer's ruling on Brad Butt

1I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised onFebruary 25, 2014, by the House Leader of the Official Opposition(Mr. Cullen) regarding statements made in the House by the Member fromMississauga

Streetsville (Mr. Butt).I would like to thank the hon. House Leader of the Official Oppositionfor having raised this matter, as well as the hon. Leader of the Governmentin the House (Mr. Van Loan) and the honourable Members for WinnipegNorth (Mr. Lamoureux) and Kingston andthe Islands (Mr. Hsu) for theircomments. I also want to acknowledge the statements made by theMember for Mississauga

Streetsville.In raising this matter, the hon. House Leader of the OfficialOpposition claimed that the hon. Member for Mississauga

Streetsville haddeliberately misled the House on February 6, 2014, during debate on BillC-23,
Fair Elections Act
, when he stated that he had witnessed evidence ofvoter fraud first-hand. He further argued that the matter was not resolvedby the statements made by the Member for Mississauga

Streetsville onFebruary 24 and 25 where he admitted that, contrary to his original claim,he had not actually witnessed what he had originally
to havewitnessed. In his view, this was not a simple case of someonemisspeaking; he argued rather that it was a case where the Memberdeliberately chose to take something he knew
to be true and present itas eyewitness evidence; something so egregious, it constituted contempt.The hon. Leader of the Government in the House noted that theMember for Mississauga

Streetsville had fulfilled his obligation to correctthe record so that no inaccuracies persisted. He suggested that in and ofitself this should be sufficient to
(quote) “
rebut any concern that there hasbeen a contempt

(unquote).This incident highlights the primordial importance of accuracy andtruthfulness in our deliberations. All Members bear a responsibility,individually and collectively, to select the words they use very carefully andto be ever mindful of the serious consequences that can result when thisresponsibility is forgotten.

In calling on the Chair to arrive at a finding of
prima facie
in this case,the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition cited my ruling ofMay 7, 2012, where at page 7650 of the
, I reminded the Housethat, before finding that a Member had deliberately misled the House, threeconditions had to be met:
(quote) “…
one, it must be proven that the statement was misleading;two, it must be established that the member making the statementknew at the time that the statement was incorrect; and three, that inmaking the statement, the member intended to mislead the House
(unquote) Arguing all three of these conditions had been met, he concluded thata breach of privilege had occurred.It was with these criteria in mind that I undertook a thorough review ofall relevant statements made in the House on this matter, focussingparticularly, of course, on the statements made by the hon. Member forMississauga

Streetsville:Originally, on February 6, he stated, (quote)

I have actuallywitnessed other people picking up the voter cards, going to the campaignoffice of whatever candidate they support and handing out these votercards to other individuals, who then walk into voting stations with friendswho vouch for them with no ID

(unquote) Later that day, he added:(quote)

I will relate
I have


(unquote)It was only on February 24, that he rose to state, (quote)

onFebruary 6
I made a statement
that is not accurate. I just want toreflect the fact that I have not personally witnessed
[fraudulent activity]
and want the record to properly show that
(unquote)On February 25, he returned to the House, characterized hisFebruary 6 statement as (quote)

an error on my part

(unquote) andapologized (quote)

to all Canadians and to all members of the House

(unquote), adding that (quote)

It was never my intention, in any way, tomislead the House

(unquote). The Chair takes due note that the Memberfor Mississauga

Streetsville has admitted that his February 6 statementwas not true and that he has apologized for his mistake.

As was noted by the hon. Leader of the Government in the House,we all recognize that there is an enduring practice here of giving Membersthe benefit of the doubt when the accuracy of their statements ischallenged. It is often the case that questions of privilege raised on suchmatters are found to be disputes as to facts rather than
prima facie
questions of privilege, primarily due to the high threshold of evidence thatthe House expects. Speaker Parent stated on page 9247 of
onOctober 19, 2000:

Only on the strongest and clearest evidence can the Houseor the Speaker take steps to deal with cases of attempts to mislead
members.” (unquote)

From what the Member for Mississauga

Streetsville and otherMembers have revealed, it is quite clear that the House has been providedwith two narratives that are contradictory statements. At the same time, theMember for Mississauga

Streetsville stated that he had no intention ofmisleading the House.Speaker Milliken was faced with a similar set of circumstances inFebruary 2002 when the then Minister of National Defence, Art Eggleton,provided contradictory information to the House. In ruling on a question ofprivilege raised about the contradiction, Speaker Milliken stated onFebruary 1, at page 8581 of Debates:
(quote) “
I am prepared, as I must be, to accept the minister’s
assertion that he had no intention to mislead the House.
” (unquote)
In keeping with that precedent, I am prepared to accord the samecourtesy to the Member for Mississauga

Streetsville. At the same time, the fact remains that the House continues to beseized of completely contradictory statements. This is a difficult position inwhich to leave Members who must be able to depend on the integrity of theinformation with which they are provided to perform their parliamentaryduties. Accordingly, in keeping with the precedent cited earlier in which
Speaker Milliken indicated that the matter merited (quote) “

consideration by an appropriate committee, if only to clear the air 
 (unquote), I am prepared in this case for the same reason to allow thematter to be put to the House.I therefore invite the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition tomove the traditional motion at this time