Evidence of meeting #27 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was commons.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Noon

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Thank you, Madam Chair.

To the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, we'll get to that. We know the rules regarding committees. You like to select which ones you like to use, so I'll get to that in a minute.

The House of Commons Standing Orders are categorical on this issue. Standing Order 10 states:

The Speaker shall preserve order and decorum, and shall decide questions of order. In deciding a point of order or practice, the Speaker shall state the Standing Order or other authority applicable to the case. No debate shall be permitted on any such decision, and no such decision shall be subject to an appeal to the House.

Furthermore, O'Brien and Bosc state the following on pages 1046 to 1047:

The Speaker of the House is regularly asked to rule on the procedural admissibility of matters before the House. Rulings from the Speaker constitute precedents for future Speakers of the House. The matter before the House may pertain to the proceedings of one or more committees. If the Speaker rules on a matter of that nature, the committees affected will be required to comply with any provisos in the ruling.

So we've just read the ruling out and it's out of respect for the ruling of the Speaker that this question of privilege is now closed. The issue could be no clearer. The Speaker has ruled. We must comply. Anything else would be contrary to the standing order and a challenge to the ruling of the Speaker.

O'Brien and Bosc are clear that committees derive their authority from the House itself. On page 973, they say:

The House delegates certain powers to the committees it creates in order that they can carry out their duties and fulfill their mandates. Committees have no powers other than those delegated to them in this way, and cannot assume other powers on their own initiative....[C]ommittees can invoke these powers only within and for the purposes of the mandate that the House (and the Senate, in the case of joint committees) has entrusted to them.

Page 1044 states the following:

Committee procedure includes all of the rules and practices governing the proceedings of parliamentary committees. The primary sources are the Constitution and Acts of Parliament; orders of reference, instructions and Standing Orders of the House of Commons; rulings by the Speaker of the House and committee Chairs; and, finally, practice.

For the sake of emphasis, I'd like to repeat that the primary sources are the Constitution and acts of Parliament, orders of reference, instructions and Standing Orders of the House of Commons, and rulings by the Speaker.

O'Brien and Bosc also state the following on pages 1047 to 1048:

The idea that committees are “masters of their proceedings” or “masters of their procedures” is frequently evoked in committee debates or the House.

As the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister just mentioned, “The concept refers to the freedom committees normally have—”

12:05 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Jean Crowder

Could you read a little more slowly? I don't believe the interpreters have a copy of this, and they're having trouble keeping up.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

O'Brien and Bosc also says the following on pages 1047 and 1048:

The idea that committees are 'masters of their proceedings' or 'masters of their procedures' is frequently evoked in committee debates or the House. The concept refers to the freedom committees normally have to organize their work as they see fit and the option they have of defining, on their own, certain rules of procedure that facilitate their proceedings.

This is common with most committees and we've done this regularly here.

These freedoms are not, however, total or absolute. First, it is useful to bear in mind that committees are creatures of the House. This means that they have no independent existence and are not permitted to take action unless they have been authorized/empowered to do so by the House.

The freedom committees have is, in fact, a freedom limited on two levels. First, committees are free to organize their proceedings as they see fit provided that their studies and the motions and reports that they adopt comply with the orders of reference and instructions issued by the House. Second, committees may adopt procedural rules to govern their proceedings, but only to the extent the House does not prescribe anything specific. At all times, directives from procedural sources higher than parliamentary committees (Constitution; statutes; order of reference, instructions and Standing Orders of the House; and rulings by the Speaker) take precedence over any rules a committee may adopt.

This committee is specifically mandated by the House of Commons. This is clear in Standing Order 108. The mandate involves the Access to Information Act, the Privacy Act, the Conflict of Interest Act. None of those acts apply to members of the House of Commons or their staff. An examination of a former House of Commons employee is beyond the scope or the authority of this committee given to it by the House of Commons.

In light of all this, I would ask the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister a very important question. In light of the Speaker's ruling, is he still going to pursue this motion? If the answer to this question is yes, then Mr. Del Mastro is voting non-confidence in our Speaker. The parliamentary secretary--

12:05 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Jean Crowder

I need to intervene on that. I'm not sure you can drag the Speaker into this in that way. The Speaker is neutral, selected by all members of the House, and a decision by the committee doesn't relate to the Speaker's role. So please proceed without drawing that inference.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Madam Chair, I think I just laid out the case for directives from procedural sources higher than parliamentary committees. We've already dealt with that; I've laid that out. I'm just trying to come full circle on this, Madam Chair.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Jean Crowder

My understanding is that the Speaker rules on a prima facie case and is not into the substance of the case itself. He's made a ruling on the prima facie aspect of it, but it is now, I understand, if the motion passes tonight, being referred to the procedure and House affairs committee for further investigation on the anonymous piece.

I think in terms of getting into talking about non-confidence or confidence in the Speaker, that's not relevant. So continue with your argument.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

With due respect, Madam Chair, not this aspect of the ruling. The Speaker made the ruling on the aspect of the very motion the parliamentary secretary was putting forward.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Jean Crowder

There's a point of order from Mr. Del Mastro.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

The Speaker made a ruling on a question of privilege. The Speaker did not make a ruling on the motion before the committee.

Thank you.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Jean Crowder

As you know, I made a ruling on the mandate of this committee. It has been overturned by a majority of the members. The committee has decided, with a majority of the members, to proceed with the motion before us. The committee has made a decision about the study it's choosing to undertake, and that's the matter that's before us at this point, not what the Speaker ruled or did not rule on.

Please continue.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

It's hard to separate the weeds on this. This is pretty specific. The motion relates directly to the Speaker's ruling. The parliamentary secretary wants to ignore the ruling of the Speaker. This is just another attempt by the Conservative Party to draw attention away from the issue of electoral fraud that is ongoing right now in the House of Commons and the public domain. Now they're trying to attack Parliament and the Speaker himself.

The parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister is saying the rules do not apply to him or the Conservative Party. They're bringing shame on themselves and throughout Parliament. I think the apology was made. The apology was accepted by your own party. Why can't you leave it at that, Mr. Del Mastro? Why do you have to go dragging before the committee a staff person of the Liberal Party, who is sorry for his actions? The matter has been dealt with. This is just an attempt to discredit this particular individual. He has lost his job, and that's hard enough on a family.

I don't think we live in a place here in Parliament that deals with this kind of stuff. We're dealing with people's lives and families. The very matter that at heart we apologized for dealt with that. So there's really no need to carry that on. I'm saddened that the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister would continue in this vein.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Jean Crowder

Thank you, Mr. Andrews.

Mrs. Davidson.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

First of all, I would like to ask a clarification from the clerk, and then I'd like to propose a friendly amendment.

If this motion proceeds and passes, will it be treated under the rules of the routine proceedings? Will there be a ten-minute presentation and then a set rotation for questions?

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Jean Crowder

It's a study the committee would be undertaking--

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Okay, so it would fall under the same rules.