One of the main purposes of parliamentary privilege in the House is to ensure that the important decisions we make are based on information that is reliable, comprehensive, honest, and accurate.
When a question of privilege is raised, we task you, the Speaker of the House, with determining whether the matter constitutes a prima facie breach of privilege worthy of Parliament's time and attention.
I submit that all members must be able to rely on the information provided to them by a minister. We need to know for certain that this information is correct. In fact, ministers are subject to specific rules in this regard.
Ministers have a number of special procedural powers to help advance the government's agenda, among other things. They must also table any document that they refer to, and they have the power to table any document without seeking the consent of the House.
In exchange for those special powers, ministers must provide MPs with honest, authoritative, and accurate information.
In the case raised by the member for Calgary Rocky Ridge, it is clear there is a real difference between the facts and the statements that have been made in the House by the minister.
What we know is that there are numerous reports in the media, including information received from the department and information released by the Diabetes Society, that indicate the Canada Revenue Agency had changed its 2017 policy regarding the disability tax credit, so Canadians on insulin therapy would no longer be considered eligible for that tax credit as the therapy was no longer considered to meet the 14 hours per week threshold, even though 14 hours has always been considered the amount of time insulin therapy takes and the therapy has always met the threshold.
The minister has been adamant and persistent that there has been no change in the policy or practice of her department in this matter. It is possible that the minister has been told there has been no change in the way the DTC is being administered and she is passing along this assertion to us. I submit that this also would be a breach of privilege.
We, as a House, and we as members of Parliament, need to have confidence in the facts presented to us. Be it a minister deliberately misleading us, or a minister being misled by officials, the delivery of false information is a breach of privilege that has a clear impact on our work, and we have a right to know how it happened.
On page 115 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, it reads:
Misleading a Minister or a Member has also been considered a form of obstruction and thus a prima facie breach of privilege. For example, on December 6, 1978, in finding that a prima facie contempt of the House existed, Speaker Jerome ruled that a government official, by deliberately misleading a Minister, had impeded the Member in the performance of his duties and consequently obstructed the House itself.
We are dealing with a similar situation here. Many of our constituents across the country have contacted us to share their concerns about the changes to the eligibility criteria for the disability tax credit. The Minister of National Revenue has said many times that no changes have been made to the eligibility criteria, but we now realize that this is not the case. We think the House has the right to know the truth. Is the minister misleading us or has the minister herself been misled, as was the case in Speaker Jerome's ruling in 1978? Both cases involve a prima facie question of privilege. It is therefore essential that we get to the bottom of this matter so that we can understand what led to this breach of privilege.
Naturally, we ask that this question of privilege be dealt with in short order, as we believe this issue should be a priority in the House.