Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

House of Commons trying to stop release of e-mails on F-35 purchase

Lockheed F-35 AF1 joint strike fighter.

tom reynolds The Globe and Mail

A strange court battle is shaping up where the House of Commons is trying to stop Auditor-General Michael Ferguson from releasing e-mails, including preparations for his May testimony on the over-budget F-35 fighter purchase.

Lawyers for the House of Commons are asking a federal judge to prevent the spending watchdog from making public a slew of e-mails in response to an access-to-information request.

They point out that the Commons isn't bound by the Access to Information Act, which requires government departments to make public records requested as long as this information does not breach secrets or damage Canada's interests.

Story continues below advertisement

"The Commons is constitutionally and legally independent from the federal government and is not subject to the act," the legal application says.

"By allowing the disclosure of documents created in the course of preparing for a parliamentary proceeding, the Office of the Auditor-General would be interfering with the House of Commons's constitutional rights and privileges to conduct its affairs without any interference."

Someone has requested the Auditor-General's office disclose any records between Jan. 17, 2012, and April 17, 2012, regarding Mr. Ferguson's appearance before Commons committees. This period would include preparations for Mr. Ferguson's May 15, 2012, testimony before the Commons committee on national defence regarding the controversial decision to buy American-made F-35 fighter jets.

The development of this cutting-edge war plane has been plagued by technical glitches and rising costs that have pushed the expected final price tag beyond what Ottawa has budgeted.

The Prime Minister's Office moved quickly Tuesday to distance itself from effort to stop the release of the e-mails, saying it doesn't agree with what the Commons law clerk is doing.

"We don't believe this is covered by parliamentary privilege," Andrew MacDougall, director of communications for the Prime Minister, said via Twitter.

He said the Conservative government would support a motion to waive, or relinquish, parliamentary privilege, on the matter.

Story continues below advertisement

Officials say the PMO is anxious to ensure Canadians don't think they're linked in any way to this attempt to block documents that might concern Mr. Ferguson's views on F-35s.

The Auditor-General's Office said it was not yet ready to comment on the legal application.

A spokeswoman for House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer did not respond to a request for comment.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More


The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨