Evidence of meeting #35 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was rcmp.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Noon

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Okay.

Noon

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

You know you have time, if you have more.

Noon

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

That's fine.

Noon

Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

Thank you, Madam.

Noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

If there are a couple of minutes I just have a brief—

Noon

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Sure.

May 3rd, 2012 / noon

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

I guess I'm trying to understand. I see there are different points of view as to what members should have on them on these special occasions that happen.

Underneath this is watching, when certain dignitaries come, it almost subsume our own Canadian security, because they are special. The American security officials say if they are coming to visit, then we are essentially going to use their security system and that's how it's going to be, otherwise they aren't coming. They use their own protocols and their own people and that's what the President expects. So there's a bit of that in me as a Canadian that says it's interesting, I guess that's the real politics of our world, with those particular high-level, under-threat leaders.

On the piece around what we should carry and what we shouldn't, I guess here's the concern I have. One can understand that on a high-profile visit from Israel or from the United States, these are special conditions. We've all talked about these special moments. Should MPs not just adapt to those special moments? The concern I have is that there's some encroachment. There are other things that are designated as special moments too, and further and further. The tradition of our accessibility, particularly to Centre Block and to the chamber, is not a casual thing. This is not something that was just invented for no reason. It's very particular.

I'm not impugning the motive on this particular government, but some future government could decide that other things are special moments and that we're going to have everybody running back and forth to their offices. The rules are such as they are and they're based on tradition, and those traditions are there for a reason. I guess this is less a question, perhaps, for our witnesses but more of a wanting to just name what the concern actually is. From my point of view, at least, my concern is that we start to make this more of a pattern and lose that important tradition. Some folks say, well, it's just a tradition and it means nothing. That's not the case. It does mean something and it is important. I think all of us have had different experiences with it, but when I go in through the Senate doors we have a conversation every time, every single time—with the pin on or not sometimes. For me, I'll keep having the conversation so that they understand they can't stop me. There's a reason they can't stop me and it is because I might be on my way to an important vote, and in some Parliaments one vote makes a difference.

I just want committee members to understand, and for my own understanding, that longer historical perspective and what this means, because it's important. And we shouldn't just casually say, well, we're going to start to name more and more special circumstances where you are no longer able to just access a place that you need to access as an elected person in this country.

Noon

Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

If I may, Mr. Chairman, through you to Mr. Cullen, I wouldn't want anything we've said to suggest that we are in any way insisting on, or in any way running counter to that tradition that I think you rightly cite as having very serious origins and being something that needs to be respected.

In the memo, for example, from the Speaker about next Monday's situation with President Peres, I think we take for granted that most members wear pins and most members will carry an ID or whatever, but if members don't have that for some reason they should not be stopped. They should still be able to have access, which is why the booklets....

I think you're right. We can't have a situation where we're saying there are special circumstances or there are special hoops that members have to go through in order to access what is basically their chamber. That's something that I wanted to make very clear.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Excellent.

Mr. Lukiwski.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Thanks, Chair.

I'm just trying to get my head around this as well, even though I've come here, obviously, and I haven't had a problem with visiting dignitaries being on the Hill.

You talk about not wanting to restrict members who come from various locations to the Hill. Explain to me, if you will, exactly where the checkpoints are. When would MPs first encounter a member of an outside security force if they're walking to work in the morning? They are not funnelled through particular checkpoints. If I was walking off Wellington Street by the East Block, or any place else, for an example, when would I first encounter security?

12:05 p.m.

Sergeant-at-Arms, House of Commons

Kevin Vickers

If you were in a vehicle, sir, obviously, the entrance off Wellington—

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Sure. But what if I'm walking?

12:05 p.m.

Sergeant-at-Arms, House of Commons

Kevin Vickers

You're not really going to encounter or have face to face contact with the RCMP. As you know, they are stationed in their vehicles at different perimeters.

There's actually a system in place. It may look, from time to time, like they're scattered about the precinct in a haphazard way, but there is a purpose behind the stationing of the vehicles at different points and they do have a system of coverage of each car being responsible for a certain geographical area here on the Hill.

My sense is that if you were walking up to the building here, unless there was something amiss, the likelihood of your being stopped or being challenged by an RCMP officer would be remote.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Where was Mr. Peter Stoffer? I was assuming he was coming up by the Confederation Building, by the main checkpoint?

12:05 p.m.

Sergeant-at-Arms, House of Commons

Kevin Vickers

On that day, if I'm not mistaken, he had advised me that he had gone down to the bank. I believe he was walking up Metcalfe Street, so he would have come in—I believe on that particular visit, the RCMP had a small tent down by the gate. That's where he would have encountered the RCMP, had the conversation, and then gone back to get his pin at his office.