They say that truth is one of the first casualties of war, but it should not be a casualty in the daily war of words we see in the House of Commons.
Recently, House of Commons Speaker Andrew Sheer ruled on an NDP motion which had accused Conservative MP Brad Butt of misleading the House with comments Butt made about witnessing voter fraud in the last election. Speaker Scheer in his ruling stated, “From what the member for Mississauga-Streetsville and other members have revealed, it is quite clear that the House has been provided with two narratives that are contradictory statements.”
When an MP or minister stands and addresses the House of Commons, they are not just speaking to other elected members, but to the nation as a whole. It is a huge responsibility they carry on their shoulders and that is one reason everything they say is recorded in Hansard. The words our MPs speak are important and they do matter.
There will always be disputes over the interpretation of what someone said or the facts used in an argument or debate. Going all the way back to Confederation, members have contorted themselves into all sorts of verbal positions to avoid misleading the House. In this case though Speaker Scheer was pretty clear about how he viewed this issue when he stated “At the same time, the fact remains that the House continues to be seized with completely contradictory statements.”
The only person who knows if the member for Mississauga-Streetsville simply got carried away the first time he stood to reference the issue or if he deliberately mislead the House is the member himself. In this case the member has apologized to the House.
Whether or not his apology was sufficient, this episode should serve as a warning to all of our elected members whether they sit on the government side or in opposition.
The public may disagree with what you say, we may argue about the facts you tell us or how you interpret them, but remember that your words will still be there for others to see and read decades from now. We are listening, so at least tell us the truth. Is that too much to ask?