MP questions truthfulness of government response to his question

Looking for straight answer

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the topic of order paper questions in a column.

To refresh your memory, an order paper question is a written inquiry that, after a 48-hour notice period, is posted on the Order Paper. It is expected the responsible minister will provide a comprehensive response within 45 sitting days.

Recently, I received a response from the government to my order paper question, which was about the its online “censorship” activities. As some may know, the government, through various bills, aims to gain more control over the Internet. That includes the power to define online hate speech and penalize citizens accordingly.
In my opinion, any government endowed with the power of censorship should exercise great responsibility.

Therefore, I submitted an order paper question requesting the government disclose how many times it has asked a social media company to censor and remove online content.

The response I received from the Privy Council Office (PCO) was unambiguous. It stated it has never "made any requests to censor information."
I assumed the case was closed. However, on April 5, a representative of the Privy Council Office testified at the

Public Inquiry on Foreign Interference. The representative stated that, in 2019, the PCO asked Facebook to remove a post about the prime minister from The Buffalo Chronicle.

The representative of the PCO further revealed Facebook agreed to the request, resulting in the content's removal. The PCO expressed its belief the post was disinformation, which could potentially compromise the integrity of the 2019 election.

The PCO also stated it was aware of misinformation targeting Conservative candidates during the same time frame. However, in those instances, it took no action. Frankly, I’m disturbed by the double standard.

The PCO took measures to guard against disinformation aimed at the Liberal Party of Canada, citing the integrity of the election as the reason. However, it did not take similar actions to protect the Conservative Party of Canada under similar circumstances.

While I have serious concerns about that issue, that's not the focus of my column today.

My main concern is the contradiction regarding the PCO. It admitted asking Facebook to censor and remove a post, however, in response to my question in the order paper, it stated, “Since Jan. 1, 2016, the Privy Council Office has not made any requests to censor information.”

That suggests the PCO wasn't truthful in its response to my order paper question. As a result, I brought up a "Question of Privilege" in the House of Commons.

What does "Question of Privilege" mean? The House of Commons describes it thus, "Parliamentary privilege refers to the rights and immunities that are considered necessary for the House of Commons, as an institution, and its members, as representatives of the electorate, to carry out their roles."

In our roles as a members of the official Opposition, we must rely on the government to provide factually accurate and honest information to all members through order paper questions in order to hold the government accountable. That did not occur here.

I believe MPs should be prepared to stand up when our right to truth from our government is undermined. If we remain silent, we will only witness more of the same.

My question for you this week is:

Do you support the federal government's ability to censor and potentially remove online media content without disclosure? Why or why not?

I can be reached at [email protected] or call toll-free 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Conservative MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

Dan  is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active Members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and also continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

Dan welcomes comments, questions and concerns from citizens and is often available to speak to groups and organizations on matters of federal concern. 

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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