By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 11, 2012 - 0 Comments
The auditor general’s office, in order to fulfill an access to information requests, wants to release emails between the AG’s office and several House of Commons committee clerks, but lawyers for the House of Commons are claiming parliamentary privilege and are seeking a court injunction to prevent the release, but the Conservatives say parliamentary privilege doesn’t apply and would support a motion to waive that privilege, but the Liberals say it’s all the government’s fault.
Update 3:46pm. And it was the NDP that filed the initial access to information request.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 12:37 PM - 0 Comments
As noted in our live coverage, Speaker Scheer ruled last night on Nathan Cullen’s question of privilege. Below, the text of that ruling. In short, I’d say it might have been a different matter if a parliamentary committee had issued an order for documents related to the information sought by Mr. Cullen. In that case, the Speaker might have been able to rule as Speaker Milliken did last year in regards to a demand for documents (the ruling that ultimately led to a finding of contempt against the Harper government). Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 6:44 PM - 0 Comments
Picking up where the discussion left off yesterday, Nathan Cullen returned to his point of privilege this afternoon after QP, repeating his concern that MPs are not receiving the information they need to assess C-38.
Peter Van Loan, Elizabeth May and Wayne Easter added their interventions.
Below, the transcript. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 11, 2012 at 3:51 PM - 0 Comments
NDP House leader Nathan Cullen rose after QP this afternoon on a point of privilege to argue that the Conservatives were in breach of the House for failing to disclose information about spending cuts to be carried out as a result of C-38.
Here is a copy of the letter Mr. Cullen sent to Speaker Scheer earlier today to explain his concerns.
And here is the transcript of Mr. Cullen’s comments in the House (and Peter Van Loan’s response). Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 2, 2012 at 10:14 AM - 0 Comments
The facts are as follows: the parcel in question, which was addressed to my colleague but mistakenly delivered to my office, was opened by a member of my staff who failed to notice that the parcel was not addressed to me and did not take the trouble to verify the addressee. As my colleagues know, we all receive many letters and parcels, and as everyone will understand, not every piece of mail is necessarily examined carefully. However, that is no excuse.
I also note that the email referred to by my hon. colleague may have added to the confusion. It read, and I quote, “We received the parcel on the member’s behalf.” The member in question was me. A member of my staff still believed, until yesterday, that the parcel had been addressed to me. The objects in the package were mistaken for promotional items, such as we all receive at our offices and do not always know what to do with. I usually distribute those kinds of items to the people of Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord. Unfortunately, that is what happened to the items addressed to the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie.
Mr. Tremblay accepted fault, apologized and offered to both “pay all costs incurred to rectify the situation” and “make a personal donation to the charity those items were supposed to benefit.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 11:31 AM - 0 Comments
Beyond the matter of the toy shuttles and beneath the daily debate over the F-35 procurement, there is an intriguing dispute playing out in the House.
Nearly a month ago now, Bob Rae rose on a point of privilege and attempted to make the case that the House had been misled on the F-35 file. The Speaker could not find a question of privilege in Mr. Rae’s comments, so the interim Liberal leader tried again the next day.
Mr. Rae’s argument was twofold: first, that while ministers were telling the House that the government accepted the conclusions of the auditor general, two departments of government officially disagree with some of the auditor general’s findings; second, that “if in fact it is true that the government accepts the conclusions of the Auditor General’s report, the Government of Canada is admitting that for a period of 21 months it misled the Parliament of Canada.”
After some quibbling with this from the government side, the House went on break for two weeks.
Upon the resumption of business last week, Peter Van Loan offered a full response from the government. The next morning, Nathan Cullen tabled the NDP’s position. That afternoon, Liberal MP John McKay added ten points of his own. He was then followed by Wayne Easter. Last Thursday, Mr. Rae responded to Mr. Van Loan. Yesterday, Mr. Van Loan responded to Mr. Rae. Though the Speaker is now pleading for the House to leave the matter with him, Mr. McKay has suggested he might have more to add.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 30, 2012 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
Liberal House leader Marc Garneau rose after QP this afternoon on a point of privilege to complain, in very strong terms, that the office staff of a New Democrat MP—Jonathan Tremblay—had erroneously received and then improperly opened and distributed a shipment of toy space shuttles that was meant to be delivered to Mr. Garneau. Apparently the package of toys was to be forwarded on to a charity.
There seems to be some dispute as to whether or not the package was marked for Mr. Garneau, but the Liberal House leader is asking the Speaker to rule that a breach of his privileges has occurred.
Below, the full exchange of points. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 3:48 PM - 0 Comments
When the Harper government was found in contempt of Parliament a year ago, its breach had much to do with an order to produce documents that was moved by the finance committee. Much of the debate over that order and the Speaker’s ruling on that order concerned the cost of corporate tax cuts and the Harper government’s various crime bills. But within that the finance committee’s demand was a clause that dealt specifically with the F-35.
The committee also orders that the Government of Canada provide the committee with electronic copies of the following … All documents that outline acquisition costs, lifecycle costs, and operational requirements associated with the F-35 program and prior programs (CF-18). Such documents include but are not limited to the Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) and the report of the US Department of Defence’s Joint Estimating Team (JET) both relating to the F-35;
As the CBC noted last night, the phrase “lifecycle costs” would seem to be important.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 12:39 PM - 0 Comments
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae rose after Question Period with the following point of privilege.
Mr. Speaker on Tuesday of this week April 3, 2012 you had the honour of tabling in this House the 2012 Report of the Auditor General.
The Auditor General of course is an officer of Parliament and the reports tabled through you by his office are presumed to be an accurate reflection of the issues his office undertook to examine. As such all members of this place operate on the assumption that the contents of the Auditor General’s report, tabled by the Speaker are reliable enough to base not only questions and comments upon but for the government and if necessary Parliament to act upon whether through administrative reforms or legislative measures.
That is point number one.
My second point concerns the contents of questions, answers or statements made in this place by members. As the Speaker is well aware there are certain words and terms which are considered unparliamentary and when used by a member, the Speaker has the authority to sanction that member for the use of such terms. One such term is the word “liar”. A member who uses that word when addressing another member is considered to have breached this rules of this House and is expected to apologize. If no apology is forthcoming, the Speaker has the power and authority to sanction that member. All members of this place have accepted this authority.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 10:44 AM - 0 Comments
Last week, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews rose in the House to claim that videos posted by individual(s) claiming to be with Anonymous had violated his rights as a Member of Parliament.
The Speaker has now ruled this morning that the videos do constitute a prima facie question of privilege. Here is the prepared text of his ruling. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, December 16, 2011 at 5:26 PM - 0 Comments
Bruce Anderson considers the Speaker’s ruling and the campaign against Irwin Cotler.
Does the leadership of the Conservative Party interpret the ruling as carte blanche to do more of this kind of “wet-work”? If this tactic were carried out on a broader scale, would anyone really think it is nothing more than sporting politics? (As an aside, do we really think the Speaker would have arrived at the same decision if the tactic was used against 50 or 100 opposition MPs?)
Do other leading Conservatives share the views of Government House Leader Peter Van Loan, who said that the calls made into Mr. Cotler’s riding were vital free speech and a sign of good health in our democracy? If Mr. Van Loan truly is speaking for cabinet… well, that would be kind of frightening. If not, he should seek an opportunity to step back from that argument and acknowledge that a line was crossed.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 8:45 AM - 0 Comments
Speaking with reporters after QP yesterday, Irwin Cotler was asked if he would advise somebody to get into politics.
I would still recommend people going into politics. I go back to what John Turner once said when I first started to work with him in, in my late 20s, and he said politics is the highest form of public service. I still regard is as the highest form of public service and I was brought to this House when I was 12-years old and my father turned to me and said, and I still remember his words, and he said son, this is vox populi. This is the voice of the people. Today, people might react cynically. I don’t. I still think this is the voice of the people. I intend to speak and work on behalf of the people. And on this issue, their voice has not yet spoken the final word either.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 3:37 PM - 0 Comments
While allowing that “all reasonable people would agree that attempting to sow confusion in the minds of voters as to whether or not their Member is about to resign is a reprehensible tactic,” Speaker Scheer has ruled just now that, on technical grounds, the campaign against Irwin Cotler does not constitute a case of privilege.
And below, the prepared text of the Speaker’s ruling. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 4:51 PM - 9 Comments
After QP this afternoon, Tony Clement stood with the following point of privilege.
Mr. Speaker, it has come to my attention that certain changes were made to the evidence of the meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on November 2, 2011, including my testimony. Members of the NDP opposition have alleged that I made those changes. I have not, nor has anyone in my employ. These baseless and outrageous allegations form a serious breach of my privilege, which is impeding my work as a member of this House and as a minister of the Crown.
I respectfully ask that you review this matter to determine how and why these changes were made and that you provide assurances to this House as to the reasons for any changes to the official record of this place. The suggestions from the opposition regarding any role by me are absolutely false, and I look forward to your attention to this matter. In conclusion, I believe you will find all the necessary information in my letter that I provided to you before question period. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 7, 2011 at 1:10 PM - 38 Comments
Peter Milliken reflects on his time as Speaker.
Ultimately, the Speaker is left to attempt to curb the worst of any excesses, to uphold the rules insofar as this is possible—for example, to ensure that the time limits applicable to questions and answers are strictly adhered to—and to strive to do this in an unbiased and impartial fashion. The toleration of some indecorous behaviour is preferable to creating the impression that the Speaker is intervening in a partial or partisan fashion. Neither can the Speaker be seen to interfere with or arbitrarily to obstruct the legitimate questioning of government Ministers.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 8:57 AM - 62 Comments
Raffi has some requests of the Prime Minister.
Apologize to Canadians for being in contempt of the House — the true reason your minority government was brought down, and a rightful concern for Canadians, which you’ve dismissed as mere “bickering.” Have the humility and courage to say, “I’m sorry.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 1:41 PM - 14 Comments
After announcing yesterday that Parliament will resume business on June 2, John Baird was asked about the state of the Afghan detainee document review. He responded as follows.
There’s a good number that, I understand, should be able to be tabled in short order. That should proceed. Obviously the agreement that we had in place was with the Bloc Quebecois and the Liberal party. Obviously the two Bloc members were defeated and there’s only one of the Liberals so that’ll be something that, as government House leader, working with the Minister of Justice, we’ll have to discuss.
See previously: The detained documents
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 9:48 AM - 44 Comments
Dan Gardner talks to Peter Russell and considers what this election will mean for the future of Parliament.
“The status quo is just not tenable, for anybody,” says Peter Russell, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and one of the country’s most respected political scientists. But a Conservative majority would be worse. “It would send a bad message about Parliamentary democracy if a government brought down for contempt, very serious contempt, on the finding of a Speaker, is rewarded with a majority. I think it would encourage Mr. Harper and maybe those after him to be contemptuous of Parliament. And then I think we’re in real trouble.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 28, 2011 at 2:47 PM - 11 Comments
Not only does this reckless, unnecessary, opportunistic election imperil everything you hold dear, it also deprived Bev Oda her place in the history books.
A parliamentary committee reviewing whether she had misled the House of Commons over a decision to reject an international funding request was unable to adopt its report before Friday’s non-confidence motion vote brought down the government. ”Bev Oda missed becoming a footnote in history by about a millimetre,” said Liberal MP John McKay.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 25, 2011 at 11:26 AM - 11 Comments
With all the usual caveats about Mr. Ignatieff’s general willingness to stick to a script, here is the prepared text for his speech to the House of Commons this morning.
Monsieur le Président, avant de commencer, j’aimerais parler de vous.
Vous arrivez à la fin de votre mandat comme Président de la Chambre, et j’aimerais témoigner de l’affection et le respect que nous avons tous pour vous.
Vos règlements et vos jugements ont marqué l’histoire de notre pays.
You have taught us all – sometimes with modest rebuke, sometimes with stern force of argument – to understand, to respect, and to cherish the rules of Canadian democracy, and for that alone, all Canadians will be grateful to you.
This is a historic day in the life of the democracy you have served so well.
I have to inform the House that the Official Opposition has lost confidence in the government.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 1:51 PM - 64 Comments
When the government falls tomorrow afternoon and Parliament is subsequently dissolved, Peter Milliken‘s time as Speaker of the House of Commons will come to an end, Mr. Milliken having already decided that he will not seek reelection as the MP for Kingston and the Islands. First elected to the post in January 2001, he will retire as the longest-serving Speaker in the history of the House.
His tenure will be remembered as historic on a number of fronts, but his ruling last year on Afghan detainee documents and his rulings this year on statements made by International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda and the government’s refusal to turn over documents requested by the House will likely be of significant and lasting consequence. Amid much gnashing of teeth over the state of our parliamentary democracy, Mr. Milliken reasserted the power and preeminence of the House of Commons. As a legacy, a Speaker could not ask for much greater.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 21, 2011 at 6:03 PM - 103 Comments
The Scene. In case anyone on the government side had forgotten, the leader of the opposition stood to recall where proceedings had left off a week ago and what else had arisen in the interim.
“Mr. Speaker, the government faces two RCMP investigations at once, one of them about Bruce Carson’s influence peddling right in the Prime Minister’s Office, and four members of the Prime Minister’s inner circle face accusations of election fraud that could result in jail time,” Mr. Ignatieff reported. “As if that was not enough, a committee of this House has found the government in contempt of Parliament.”
The government side chuckled at this last bit.
Democracy is, of course, a funny thing. An unruly, chaotic, competitive thing, compelled by unwritten rules and collective will, as much theoretical as it is practical and inherent. Ours is formally practiced in ancient dignity: “Mr. Speaker” this and “honourable member” that. A quirk that renders the proceedings both hallowed and peculiar, grounded and remote.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 21, 2011 at 4:00 PM - 16 Comments
The procedure and House affairs report is now available here.
In light of the testimony heard by the Committee on this matter referred to the Committee by the Speaker on March 9, 2011, the Committee concludes the following: 1) That the government has failed to produce the specific documents ordered to be produced by the Standing Committee on Finance and by the House; 2) That the government has not provided a reasonable excuse; 3) That the documents tabled in the House and in Committee do not satisfy the orders for production of documents; nor do they provide a reasonable excuse; 4) That this failure impedes the House in the performance of its functions; and 5) That the government’s failure to produce documents constitutes a contempt of Parliament.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 21, 2011 at 1:11 PM - 15 Comments
Shortly after Question Period today, a report will be tabled from procedure and House affairs committee recommending that the government be found in contempt of Parliament for failing to turn over budgetary and financial information related to various pieces of crime legislation and the proposed purchase of 65 F-35 jets.
A separate finding of contempt against International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda is still to be decided, but it appears Ms. Oda may have the sympathy of Pat Martin working in her favour.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 21, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 16 Comments
The 40th Parliament began with a moment of unprecedented democratic intrigue and may soon end similarly. The House returns this morning at 11 and there are various pieces in play, or potentially in play: a budget, a contempt finding against the Harper government, a contempt finding against International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda, a budget amendment, a motion of non-confidence and a vote on the government’s financial estimates.
Oh, and there’s a military campaign against Libya to be discussed.
Greg Weston has a comprehensive accounting of what may happen when.