By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 0 Comments
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. It is an honour to come before you regarding the right of a member of Parliament to introduce an S. O. 31. Looking at our policy manual, O’Brien and Bosc, at page 60, it says that the classic definition of “parliamentary privilege” is the sum of the particular rights enjoyed by each House collectively and each member of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions.
What are those functions? What are those responsibilities? They are found on page 212 of O’Brien and Bosc, where it states: Members sit in the House of Commons to serve as representatives of the people who have elected them to…office. And: The member of parliament represents his constituency through service in the House of Commons.
That is the ultimate responsibility of us, as members of Parliament, each having the great honour to represent their communities. I am honoured to represent the community of Langley. It goes on, at page 61 of O’Brien and Bosc, to say: For example, the privilege of freedom of speech is secured to Members not for their personal benefit, but to enable them to discharge their functions of representing their constituents…
And there it says it, again, the importance of having that privilege, freedom of speech, to represent constituencies. On page 62 of O’Brien and Bosc, it says: Privilege essentially belongs to the House– To yourself, Mr. Speaker: –as a whole; individual Members can only claim privilege insofar as any denial of their rights, or threat made to them, would impede the [functions] of the House.
So, it clearly says that we each have responsibilities and we have privileges and rights to ensure that we fulfill the responsibility of representing our constituencies. It also goes on, at page 82 of O’Brien and Bosc, where it states: Any disregard…or attack on the rights, powers and immunities of the House and its Members, either by an outside person or body, or by a Member of the House, is referred to as a “breach of privilege”…
Last Thursday, it was my turn to present an S. O. 31. I was ready and prepared to introduce the S. O. 31. Now, some would ask, what is an S. O. 31? S. O., Standing Orders, clause 31 states: A Member may be recognized, under the provisions of Standing Order 30(5), to make a statement for not more than one minute. The Speaker–Yourself, Mr. Speaker: –may order a Member to resume his or her seat if, in the opinion of the Speaker, improper use is made of this Standing Order.
It refers to Standing Order 30(5). That Standing Order states the days and the times that S. O. 31s can be made. However, back to S. O. 31, it is clear, Mr. Speaker, that each member in this House of Commons has the right, the privilege, of presenting an S. O. 31, on a rotational basis, that gives each member in this House equal opportunity to represent their constituents.
That has been managed by yourself, Mr. Speaker, for those who are independent members of this Parliament. Those who are members of an official party, myself being a member of the Conservative Party, we, in an organized way, and the Liberal Party and the NDP, provide you with a list of those who will be making S. O. 31s in coordinated way. However, what has to be guaranteed is that each member of this House has the equal opportunity to make an S. O. 31.
If at any time that right and privilege to make an S. O. 31 on an equal basis in this House is removed, I believe I have lost my privilege of equal right that I have in this House. I was scheduled on March 20 from 2:00 to 2:15 to make an S. O. 31. Fifteen minutes prior to that time, I was notified that my turn to present the S. O. 31 had been removed. The reason I was given was that the topic was not approved of. However, there is no reason why an S. O. 31 should be removed.
The only person who can remove that is you, Mr. Speaker, according to S. O. 31. The authority to remove an S. O. 31 from any member of this House is solely in your hands, and the guiding is under S. O. 31. Again, it states: A Member may be recognized, under the provisions of Standing Order 30(5), to make a statement for not more than one minute. So we cannot go over one minute. It could be less. Then it states: The Speaker may order a Member to resume his or her seat if, in the opinion of the Speaker, improper use is made of this Standing Order.
So that is only in your authority, Mr. Speaker, to ask a member to return to his seat if you feel that the S. O. 31 that is being made is not in order. I believe that my privilege as a member to present an S. O. 31 was infringed upon by the actions that happened on March 20. This is my earliest opportunity to present my question of privilege, today. I believe it is not an issue specifically for me. I have experienced the removal of my right and my privilege, but it is a question as to how this House operates. The question for you, Mr. Speaker, is should every member have that equal right? Yes, it is clear that every member does. How is it being managed? Is it being managed in a way that members could have that right removed? Yes, I have experienced that and others have too.
Mr. Speaker, I am asking you to rule the matter prima facie, a question of privilege. I also reserve the right to speak again to respond to comments that may be coming from others. The Canadian Parliament is based on rules, responsibilities and privileges. Each of us has that responsibility to represent our communities, the people who elected us. We need to have those rights to be ensured that we have the opportunity to properly represent our communities.
I look forward to your comments, Mr. Speaker, and I appreciate the opportunity to bring this to the attention of the House.
Essentially, Mr. Warawa is challenging his party’s ability to control which Conservative MPs are allowed to stand and speak in those 15 minutes before Question Period.
Government Whip Gordon O’Connor followed Mr. Warawa, arguing that the Speaker was in no position to tell a party how to conduct its own affairs. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 4, 2013 at 12:41 PM - 0 Comments
The Globe finds that several Conservative MPs are a mere 98% or 99% loyal to the party line. Upon being presented with the findings, Government Whip Gordon O’Connor salutes his side’s democratic nature.
“I guess in principle, we’re more democratic than the other parties, basically,” Mr. O’Connor said in an interview with the Globe and Mail. “I’m not going to get out there and toot our horn, but if you actually check in Parliament, we have the most freedom as backbenchers.”
The maverickiest maverick, James Bezan, broke with the majority of the Conservative caucus a remarkable… 1.42% of the time.
As the Globe notes at the bottom of its story, most of the “divisive votes” had to do with private members’ motions and bills proposed by opposition MPs (the exception being Stephen Woodworth’s motion on the legal definition of life).
Nick Taylor-Vaisey rains on Mr. O’Connor’s parade here and it’s also worth noting, again, that the Conservatives came to office with a commitment that all votes except those on budget bills would be free votes.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 2:26 PM - 0 Comments
Members of the Canadian Medical Association voted in favour last week of maintaining Section 223(1) of the Criminal Code, the section that Stephen Woodworth seeks to have studied with his motion. Mr. Woodworth is unimpressed.
Meanwhile, Mark Warawa has posted a video to explain that he supports Mr. Woodworth’s motion.
It was reported in June that Conservative MPs were being pressured to vote against Mr. Woodworth’s motion. Mr. Warawa is, by my count, the third Conservative backbencher to public state support for Motion #312, following Stella Ambler and Jeff Watson.
Government whip Gordon O’Connor spoke against the motion when it was debated in April. It is expected to be receive its second hour of debate this fall.
I asked Mr. Woodworth via email this afternoon if he had any sense of how many MPs will be voting in favour of his motion and he responded as follows.
I really can’t say for sure, but I am not optimistic that it will even approach 50% unless there is a sudden resurgence among Members of Parliament of a commitment to the ideal of universal human rights.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 4:06 PM - 0 Comments
Stephen Harper has apparently succeeded in angering both sides of the abortion debate.
“People who call themselves Christians need to take another look at what Christianity means to them and what it means to life,” Ms. Kearney said, standing with her friends under a light drizzle and cloudy skies. The Prime Minister calls himself a Christian, she said. “I’m not judging him because I don’t know the man. But, if you call yourself a Christian, then you should believe in life from conception.”
More on today’s rally from the CBC. Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth’s issued an invitation today to anyone who would like to contact him about his motion. He has also put together this video to explain his initiative.
By From the editors - Friday, May 4, 2012 at 10:56 AM - 0 Comments
Gordon O’Connor made it clear: it’s a matter of small-C conservative principles
It was a moment of the kind Parliament is not supposed to provide anymore—not, at least, in the eyes of the endless drama critics who bemoan its fallen state. Conservative backbencher Stephen Woodworth had introduced a motion demanding that the House of Commons appoint a special committee to investigate the definition of a “human being” in the Criminal Code section concerning homicide:
“A child becomes a human being within the meaning of this Act when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother, whether or not it has breathed, it has an independent circulation, or the navel string is severed.”
This language has come down to us basically verbatim from the original Criminal Code of 1892. Woodworth finds the definition puzzling, given the scientific evidence gathered since. Perhaps he thinks that the Victorians, with their passion for anatomy and experimentation, did not know that a fetus, midway through its gestation, already possesses many of the incipient traits and physical characteristics of a human being. In any event, Woodworth’s private member’s motion called for a hearing of medical evidence concerning whether “a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 27, 2012 at 10:12 AM - 0 Comments
The Hansard account of last night’s debate begins here.
Below, the text of Gordon O’Connor’s rather dramatic denunciation of Stephen Woodworth’s motion.
Madam Speaker, I offer my response to Motion No. 312. The issue before us, in essence, is on what it is to be human. This has been debated as long as man has existed. Scientists, theologians, philosophers and doctors have all offered opinions.
The House of Commons, however, is not a laboratory. It is not a house of faith, an academic setting or a hospital. It is a legislature, and a legislature deals with law, specifically, in this case, subsection 223(1) of the Criminal Code.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, April 27, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The New Democrats have said they will unanimously oppose Stephen Woodworth’s motion—which, as private members’ business, would generally be considered a free vote—and Jeff Jedras argues that the Liberals should whip their vote.
If this issue is as fundamentally important as our messaging makes it out to be (and I believe it is), why are we not whipping this vote? If Harper not killing a private members bill is evidence he supports it, what does it say when the Liberal leadership lets its members vote for it? How are we any different? And worse, we’re launching petition drives and releasing pious press releases while pretending to be different. It’s ridiculous, and we’re setting ourselves up to look like hypocritical idiots.
As noted last night, the government’s chief whip spoke against Mr. Woodworth’s motion during the first hour of debate. During QP, the Prime Minister said it was “unfortunate” that the motion had reached the House floor. The NDP sent out a news release yesterday calling on the Prime Minister to prevent Conservative MPs from bringing forward initiatives related to abortion.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 7:39 PM - 0 Comments
Shortly before 5:30pm, Stephen Woodworth was on his feet from the back row. Close around him sat eight other Conservative MPs.
“Motion 312,” he said, “simply calls for a study of the evidence of when a child becomes a human being.”
He wondered aloud what opponents of his proposal had to fear. Staring directly at the dozen NDP MPs seated across the way he called on them to hear the evidence.
Fourteen spectators watched and listened from the south gallery. Four Liberals joined the New Democrats on the opposition side of the House. The Conservatives numbered somewhere in the neighbourhood of 24.
Mr. Woodworth spoke loudly and gesticulated dramatically, as if addressing the nation at a moment of great significance. He invoked rights and humanity and science and parliamentary duty and he damned a “dishonest law.” When he was done, a dozen Conservatives applauded. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar MP Kelly Block, who serves as Saskatchewan caucus chair, would “not have any comments,” one of her staff said Tuesday. Block’s staff member referred questions to the government whip, Conservative MP Gordon O’Connor. “It’s jam-packed. I’ll see if there’s anything we can do,” an official in O’Connor’s office said Tuesday morning, but did not call back.
A spokesperson in Harper’s office took a message Tuesday, but no one returned the call. Messages to the media line at the Conservative Party of Canada’s office in Ottawa went unreturned Monday afternoon and Tuesday.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 5:01 PM - 8 Comments
After QP today, the Bloc’s Andre Bellavance rose to ask that Conservative MP Jim Hillyer apologize to the House for his gestures several weeks ago during a vote on the long-gun registry. Mr. Hillyer duly stood and clarified his gestures had nothing to do with the Montreal Massacre, but that he was “sorry, not just that this has been misinterpreted but misrepresented to be at all associated with the tragic events at École Polytechnique 22 years ago.”
The NDP’s Francoise Boivin and Bob Rae rose to add their remarks, both referencing the Speaker’s ruling yesterday. Then Gordon O’Connor, the government whip, stood and apologized. And then Mr. Hillyer stood again.
With everyone in the House seemingly dissatisfied with the situation, the Speaker declared the matter closed.
Here’s a transcript. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 1:30 PM - 19 Comments
After Question Period yesterday, the House proceeded to the traditional messages on the occasion of Remembrance Day (the House is due to be on break next week). Veteran Affairs Minister Steven Blaney spoke for the government, Peter Stoffer for the NDP and Sean Casey for the Liberals.
Louis Plamondon then rose to offer remarks on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, but was denied the unanimous consent of the House he needed to do so as the member of a party that does not have the sufficient number of MPs to be recognized in the House as an official party. Bob Rae suggested it was the Conservatives who had objected. Conservative backbencher Stephen Woodworth stood to object to Mr. Rae’s version of events. Government whip Gordon O’Connor then stood to explain.
Mr. Speaker, the Standing Orders say, in response to a minister’s statement, that only members of recognized parties can make statements. The Bloc is not a recognized party.
Thus were the Bloc Quebecois and Elizabeth May prevented from offering remarks.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 9:43 AM - 3 Comments
“The Savage War,” by Canadian Press defence writer and Afghanistan correspondent Murray Brewster, paints a portrait of a PMO keen to preserve its tenuous grip on minority power and desperate to control the message amid dwindling public support for the war.
MacKay, who took over Defence from Gordon O’Connor in August 2007, was blindsided by the Harper government’s decision later that year to set up a blue-ribbon panel to review the mission headed by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley, Brewster writes. ”It wasn’t discussed with the broader cabinet, no,” the minister says in the interview. “I didn’t know all of the specifics.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 10:08 AM - 59 Comments
An apology, of sorts, offered after Question Period yesterday.
Mr. Speaker, during the course of question period, I allowed my emotions to take over the calm, studied aspect of my personality that I am usually able to exhibit. The Minister of National Defence, responding to a question, in his typical fashion was going down to the lowest common denominator … In the heat and the anger at listening to the Minister of National Defence make his comments, I called him a “slime”. I wish to unreservedly withdraw my remarks calling the minister a slime and offer him my sincere apology for having called him a slime. It was unparliamentary. I apologize unreservedly.
John Baird, the government House leader, pronounced his disappointment with this and noted that the various House leaders have been making some effort to enforce calm on the proceedings. Indeed, there have been noticeable attempts at shushing of late—most notably on the part of Gordon O’Connor, the old general and now government whip, who will periodically rise from his seat and walk over to the spot of a heckler to have a brief word with the offender.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 12:41 PM - 16 Comments
The Prime Minister’s Office has sent out its version of events.
It was a productive first meeting. We hope to meet again as early as possible next week. Ministers Hill and Nicholson went to the first meeting with a spirit of openness in order to reach a compromise while respecting the government’s legal obligations.
Apparently government whip Gordon O’Connor was also present. Reference to the “government’s legal obligations” is perhaps relevant to this discussion.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 15, 2010 at 12:38 PM - 58 Comments
Anonymous senior Conservatives are apparently agitating for Helena Guergis to be swiftly dispatched to the furthest reaches of the government backbenches. Make of this what you will.
Keep in mind that, if memory serves, no minister in the Harper government has been outright fired or banished. Michael Chong resigned as minister of intergovernmental affairs in opposition to the Quebecois motion. Maxime Bernier resigned after misplacing his briefs. Various ministers perceived to be underperforming (Gordon O’Connor, Rona Ambrose, Lisa Raitt) have been moved to less-prominent portfolios, but only in the context of a cabinet shuffle. No one, if I recall correctly, has ever been outright and unambiguously fired.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 1:01 PM - 54 Comments
Again harkening to simpler times, the Liberal issue another open letter: this one from opposition whip Rodger Cuzner to government whip Gordon O’Connor, laying out all the Liberals have been doing while Parliament was on break and all the government should be prepared to do when business resumes.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 7:54 PM - 63 Comments
The government side feels the House of Commons is not presently scheduled to sit for a sufficient amount of time.
Facing an outpouring of anger and criticism over prorogation, the Conservatives are cancelling March break on Parliament Hill and one other off week scheduled for mid-April…
Government Whip Gordon O’Connor sent an email to Tory MPs and senators today, telling everyone to change their schedules (i.e. cancel any vacation plans) to ensure they’re in town… Mr. O’Connor writes: “Our position is clear: there is no reason for the House of Commons to take constituency breaks during these weeks. Quite frankly we would be surprised if the Opposition disagreed.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 21, 2009 at 1:03 AM - 71 Comments
The head of the International Red Cross is reported to have met with Peter MacKay, Gordon O’Connor and Stockwell Day in the fall of 2006.
Officially, the Red Cross would only say the talks focused on topics including Afghanistan, humanitarian law in modern conflicts and co-operation with Canada. Unofficially, sources in Geneva said the international agency, whose functions include monitoring the treatment of prisoners, was growing frustrated over Canada’s tardy notification of its handover of captured suspected Taliban to Afghan authorities. The delay could often be as much as 34 days, making it difficult to track the detainees.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 12:49 PM - 10 Comments
It was suggested during QP yesterday that some sort of apology to the House might now be in order. Here, for the sake of comparison, is the statement Gordon O’Connor, Peter MacKay’s predecessor as minister of national defence, made in the House on Mar. 19, 2007, after it was confirmed that statements he had made were not accurate. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 6:20 PM - 39 Comments
“We were told yesterday at the Afghanistan committee that a braided electric cable, which is undoubtedly an instrument of torture, was found in the office of the director of investigations at the National Directorate of Security,” he reviewed. “I would like to ask the Minister of National Defence, would he not agree with us that a discovery like that points to a systemic problem rather than simply a single instance with respect to a discovery of that kind?”
As Mr. Rae spoke, there was some discussion on the Conservative side as to who should answer. Since the Liberal critic had requested the Minister of Defence, it was apparently decided that the Transport Minister would rise. Mr. Baird duly rose to list all the times Canadian officials have searched Afghan prisons without finding anything like a braided electric cable.
“In other words, in 2007 alone, we visited the prison on 33 occasions, the National Directorate of Security on 12, and the Afghan National Police Detention Centre on two, for a total of 47 visits,” Mr. Baird explained. “These were usually unannounced and there was nothing discovered.”
“Au contraire,” Mr. Rae said, reminding the Transport Minister of the braided electric cable to which he had referred just seconds earlier.
The Transport Minister rebuffed this too. Over then to Ujjal Dosanjh, the increasingly frustrated Liberal defence critic.
By John Geddes - Thursday, November 26, 2009 at 4:15 PM - 1 Comment
The Richard Colvin controversy raises broader historical questions about why Canada was so ill-prepared for combat in Kandahar—and the need to take all those detainees—in the first place. This is admittedly a matter of recent history, not current news, but I find it intriguing.
By Andrew Coyne - Monday, November 23, 2009 at 11:58 AM - 75 Comments
The Star’s Rosie DiManno reminds us of a rather salient point:
… Few of those clawing at their faces today in angst and shame over who-knew-what-when-generated hysteria with regard to mistreatment of Afghan detainees have paused to recall how this mess originated.
It’s because Canada picked Afghans over Americans as front-line allies…
Given the toxic view of American forces – no matter that the horrific mistreatment of Iraqi detainees was, at least in terms of supporting evidence, limited to specific rogue units in one notorious facility – it was clearly decided, by who knows whom, Canada could not put detainees in such soiled hands, despite the U.S. being this country’s closest nation-friend.
Someone bought into the dubious premise that the entire American military was not to be trusted and that Afghan wardens, Afghan guards, Afghan officials, were preferable partners in the disposition of detainees, although the only remotely up-to-Western-par prison facility was at the American base in Bagram.
And who was that someone? A Globe editorial reminds us:
In hindsight, the Liberal government of Paul Martin may have been naive in taking the initiative to press for the transfer of detainees to the Afghan authorities, rather than continuing to hand them over to the armed forces of the United States. At the time, Canada was worried by the prospect that Afghans captured by Canadian soldiers might end up in the limbo – or worse – of Guantanamo, Cuba. The government of Afghanistan, having been recently democratically elected, appeared to be a more promising and appropriate recipient for Afghan citizens.
Oops. But can you blame them? Remember the brouhaha over that photo, splashed across the front page of the Globe and Mail, of Canadian JTF2 commandoes shepherding Afghan prisoners for transfer to the Americans? That was in early 2002, when Jean Chretien was prime minister and Art Eggleton was the minister in charge of offering up confused, misleading answers to Parliament — a post later occupied by Gordon O’Connor and now by Peter MacKay.
So the tangled web goes back a ways. As A. Columnist wrote at the time:
But let’s remember why this was an issue in the first place. Mr. Eggleton’s startling revelation, that members of the Joint Task Force 2 commando unit had captured several enemy fighters nearly two weeks ago, was only newsworthy because it contradicted the Prime Minister, who had been saying publicly that no prisoners had as yet been taken. The Prime Minister had said this in order to make the point that the question of what should be done with any prisoners our forces might happen to come across — whether they should be handed over to the American forces, or to some other body — was “hypothetical,” and that as such he was not obliged to take a position on it.
And the reason the Prime Minister took refuge in this non-answer was because he did not wish to confront critics within his own party, who have worked themselves up into a state over the Terrible Wrong that would be committed if Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters were to be delivered into the hands of the Americans…