House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was airport.

Topics

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, I was reading from my notes. Should I give them all my notes prepared for question period? The answer is no.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

We will move on.

The hon. member for Don Valley West is rising on a point of order.

Member for Don Valley West
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of order which really is not a point of order. For this, I beg your forgiveness, Mr. Speaker, but only after I have finished.

The two toughest decisions in politics are when to get in and when to get out. The tougher decision is when to get out, because in politics, one never knows what lies around the next corner, what new catastrophe or opportunity may suddenly appear just in time to change one's life forever. If one just stays on a little longer, who knows what may happen. Nowhere is this truer than in a minority Parliament. So, the temptation to stay on is great, just to see what happens next. In this regard, I am reminded of the British army officer whose men would follow him anywhere, just out of sheer curiosity; not, of course, that this reflects in any way on the management style of my current leader or his predecessors.

How extraordinarily privileged we are as members of this House, members of Parliament, to be part of great events as they unfold, witnesses to history, as we were last week when the residential schools apology was delivered, or as we were earlier in this Parliament when we were present for that remarkable debate on the question of a Quebec nation within a unified Canada.

Here in this place the stakes are high, the issues really matter, and we all feel we can make a difference. That is why we are drawn to politics. It is exciting, worthwhile and unpredictable. It is also a bit like playing the horses: addictive, potentially dangerous to one's health, and tough on family life.

I have enjoyed my fourteen and a half years here. I have learned a lot, made good friends in all parties and, I hope, in some small way worked with all of them to make Canada a better place.

In Arnold Bennett's novel, The Card, the countess asks of a rising young politician, “But with what great cause is he associated?” This is the question that each of us must ask of ourselves; not, “Am I great?” but “Is my cause great?”. Because the cause is always greater than we are, and each of us can take a greater pride in the causes we have advanced as members of Parliament than the formal titles we have achieved.

But none of us can serve our causes, or Canada, without the loyal support of the people who work with us and who make us look good. Over the course of fourteen years, I have been lucky enough to have worked with many talented and dedicated people and also, I would add, with many splendid parliamentary interns. I cannot name them all, but I want to make special mention of two long-time associates and friends, Kathy Kocsis and Andrew Bevan, and the current crew in Ottawa and Toronto, Catherine, Bo, Delaney, Jonathan, Steve and Angela.

As I look around this chamber, I also want to acknowledge my friends in all parties, in the Liberal caucus, the whole Liberal team on the Hill, my leader, the officers of this House and all the people who serve in it. I also want to recognize all the support staff of the committees and the Library of Parliament, all the men and women on the Hill who protect us, clean for us, serve us in the cafeterias and generally make our lives agreeable, and you, Mr. Speaker, for struggling so valiantly to create an atmosphere of non-partisan civility and camaraderie in a time of trouble.

I want to make special mention of the pages who buzz around so efficiently and have learned cheerfully how to interpret the eccentric demands of the member for Don Valley West, which he conveys by a unique form of sign language. Now here is a little lesson for the rest of you. Ready? Watch carefully: glass, ice, lemon, and make that fizzy water. What a legacy.

I also want to thank the people of Don Valley West, who have supported me through five elections; my constituency association and its long-serving president, Dennis O'Leary; Pam Gutteridge, my first and last campaign manager; and above all, my family, especially my wife, Trish, helpmate indeed, and my son, Ian, who made it all possible and who have been my greatest supporters. I should also mention that my son, Ian, graduated today from grade eight, just as I am graduating from grade fourteen and a half.

In politics it is always important to pick our moment to leave before the moment picks us.

And what a moment. I am lucky to have a new career as the headmaster of the Toronto French School. I am returning to my roots, to the education of young people and, even better, to the French language.

As I say goodbye, I leave with my idealism intact. I leave with a certain regret, but also with satisfaction and pride at having been one of the select few, a member of the House of Commons of Canada, one of you, one of us.

Thank you, merci, au revoir, goodbye.

Member for Don Valley West
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is the hon. member for Halifax rising on this point of order?

Member for Don Valley West
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a word or two on the same point of order, I welcome the opportunity, on behalf of my caucus and also on behalf of Nova Scotians, if I may be so presumptuous, to extend hearty congratulations and best wishes to the member for Don Valley West.

I do so, in part, because I believe there is not as widespread knowledge as there ought to be, and as there deserves to be, about the very considerable contribution the member for Don Valley West made to the educational development of Nova Scotians and people who chose to go to Nova Scotia to be educated at the University of King's College when the member served as president of the university.

I should make special mention, because I know many people in the House have had sons and daughters who have chosen to go to attend the University of King's College, not because the member was still serving as president, but because he, and I think the record of the House of Commons should show this, was the founder of one of the most outstanding educational programs in any university anywhere in our country, the foundation year program that continues to attract an astounding numbers of applicants, not so many selected because there is not room for all the students who would benefit from the program.

The member's decision to return to the educational field is very good news for those who will study under his tutelage at the Toronto French School. I hope this will not seem unduly partisan, that the member also had a very abbreviated political career in Nova Scotia where he also ran as a provincial member, just once. I am sure if he had run again, he might have been elected the second time. I had to run three times to be elected. I am very glad the member chose to make another bid for public office. He has served the House well. He has done it with honour. He has done it with substance. He has done it with principle.

I cannot say a single occasion that I could remember where he engaged in cheap talk or cheap tricks. I congratulate him heartily. My wishes go to Trish and his son, Ian, that they will enjoy a higher quality of family life than is possible when one serves in this insane place. I, too, look forward, not to stepping into his partisan footprints or following his partisan path, to doing precisely the same after the next election.

I congratulate the member for Don Valley West.

Member for Don Valley West
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

On behalf of all hon. members, I thank the hon. member for Halifax for her contribution to this matter and, of course, the hon. member for Don Valley West for his point of order today.

Member for Don Valley West
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Liberal colleagues of the member for Don Valley West, we wish him every success in his new career.

In this place and in our caucus we have always benefited from his good advice, his hard work, his intelligent judgment on the various issues that he was called upon to comment on and to deal with from time to time. However, I think all of us recognize and want to pay honour to his commitment to principle, his civility, his passion and his dignity.

This place has been a better place because that hon. member has been with us. We thank him and wish him Godspeed on his way.

Members' Right to Freedom of Speech in Parliamentary Proceedings—Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

June 17th, 2008 / 3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River on May 26, 2008, regarding the report of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner in relation to the hon. member for West Nova.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River for having raised the matter and I would also like to thank the hon. government House leader, the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre and the hon. member for Mississauga South for their interventions.

In raising this question of privilege, the member for Scarborough—Rouge River underlined the importance of the privileges of freedom of speech and the right to vote for members, privileges that are of such fundamental significance that they are claimed explicitly by the Speaker at the beginning of each Parliament. It was with this in mind that he questioned the validity of the Conflict of Interest Code for members being interpreted in such a way as to limit unduly the freedom of speech and right to vote in the House and in committee not only of the member for West Nova but of all members. This concern was echoed by the members for Winnipeg Centre and Mississauga South.

The member for Scarborough—Rouge River took issue with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioners contention that being a defendant in a libel suit was tantamount to having a private interest since this interpretation would open the way to limiting the rights of members through the simple act of filing a lawsuit.

Specifically, he challenged the interpretation given by the commissioner of the term liability as used in the code, claiming that the commissioner's extension of the meaning of the word liability to include the sort of contingent liability represented by being named defendant in a libel suit was unreasonable.

In his remarks, the government House leader pointed out that the rights to free speech and to vote were not absolute and in support of this view, he cited a passage from page 26 of Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, wherein it is indicated clearly that there are limits to the privileges enjoyed by members. He stated that the House itself established the code and gave to the Ethics Commissioner the authority to interpret it.

Further, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons argued that if members feel that the Code requires amendment, this ought not to be accomplished under the guise of a question of privilege but rather through the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, whose mandate it is to review the Code.

It should be noted at the outset that no one is suggesting that the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, in her consideration of the present case, did not recognize the importance of the rights and privileges of members. Nor was any concern expressed that she had not exercised the highest standards of diligence or that she had not acted in good faith.

As Speaker, I am profoundly aware both of the importance of the particular rights and privileges which members are accorded in order to allow them to carry out their functions and of the special responsibility that I have in that regard. My role in relation to privilege is very clear.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice contains several key passages which will be of interest to the House. First, at p. 261, Marleau and Montpetit states that:

It is the responsibility of the Speaker to act as the guardian of the rights and privileges of members and of the House as an institution.

Further, at p. 262, it goes on to say that:

The duty of the Speaker is to ensure that the right of members to free speech is protected and exercised to the fullest possible extent—

Then, at page 125 there is the following guidance to the Chair when it is deliberating on whether there are sufficient grounds to find a case of prima facie privilege:

—the Chair will take into account the extent to which the matter complained of infringed upon any member’s ability to perform his or her parliamentary duties.

This brings me to the questions raised by the government House leader regarding the propriety of attempting to remedy the current situation via a question of privilege. The hon. government House leader is quite correct in pointing out that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has a mandate to review and report on the Standing Orders and the Conflict of Interest Code. However, it must be pointed out that there are other paths available to the House to effect changes to the Standing Orders or to the code and that the House has on occasion seen fit to take them. Ultimately the fundamental requirement for any change to our Standing Orders or by extension to the Conflict of Interest Code, which is an appendix to our Standing Orders, is that any such change must agreed to by the House as a whole.

As House of Commons Procedure and Practice states at page 215:

Although the means by which the House reviews the Standing Orders vary greatly, the Standing Orders may be added to, changed or repealed only by a decision of the House, which is arrived at either by way of consensus or by a simple majority vote on a motion moved by any member of the House.

The reference given for this passage is a ruling by Mr. Speaker Fraser in Debates, April 9, 1991, pp. 19236-7.

An example of this freedom each member has may be found in the order paper where there is at present a motion to amend the Standing Orders standing in the name of the hon. member for Crowfoot.

The Chair notes, as additional information before the House, that in the case at hand no mechanism is in place that guarantees an opportunity for the House to disagree with a report such as the one at the centre of this question of privilege. Although there are provisions for a debate on concurrence in the report in the usual fashion, no deadline exists to bring such a motion, were it to be moved, to a vote. All that the code provides for, in section 28(10), is for the automatic concurrence in such report after 30 sitting days after the day on which the report is tabled provided the question has not been disposed of earlier.

Let me turn now to the substance of this question of privilege, namely the impact of this report by the Commissioner on the ability of members to carry out their parliamentary duties.

There is the suggestion, not entirely unfounded in my view, that unless steps are taken to clarify the notion of liability in the Code, the mere launching of a libel suit will now be sufficient to limit members’ freedom of speech and their ability to vote.

It is this particular aspect of the situation which the Chair finds most problematic from a procedural point of view since, as was noted, the current case carries with it the very real potential of affecting every member of the House.

I want to stress that as your Speaker I am not being asked to pass judgment on the decision of the commissioner in this case. Rather, the Speaker is being asked, given the facts presented, to determine whether, on the face of it, the matter is sufficiently grave and of immediate consequence for members to warrant consideration by the House on a priority basis.

I put it to the House that when the mere filing of a libel suit against a member, whatever the ultimate disposition of the suit may be, has the effect of placing restrictions on the ability of that member to speak and to vote in the House and in committee, it appears reasonable to conclude that the privileges of all members are immediately placed in jeopardy.

These privileges are not absolute. For as the government House leader has pointed out, members themselves have agreed to impose certain limitations on them. In fact, there was further agreement on this matter the other day when a motion was passed on a supply day dealing with this very issue.

Nonetheless, I believe it remains my duty as your Speaker to ensure that all measures to safeguard their very existence are taken. This is particularly true in the circumstances before us where an interpretation of the rules that we have adopted entails consequences which appear to be so obviously unintended by the very members who created the rules.

For these reasons, I believe the matter has met the necessary conditions to be given priority consideration by the House. Accordingly I rule that this is a prima facie matter of privilege and I invite the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River to move his motion.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope members on both sides of the House will appreciate all aspects of your ruling today and the non-partisan way in which the matter has generally been addressed and debated in the House on more than one occasion recently.

At your invitation, Mr. Speaker, I will move a motion that I think will suit the moment and suit the issues. While it would not impose a burden, if adopted by the House, that has to be delivered upon by the procedure and House affairs committee, it would at least invite that committee to review matters.

I will move the motion and I gather the House will debate it or adopt it as it sees fit. I move:

That for the purpose of better assuring the privileges of this House and its members, including our ancient and undoubted privilege of free speech, the subject matter of the Speaker's ruling today on these issues be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for its consideration, and if necessary, to study and/or consult with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and/or report to the House.

The member for Wascana would be prepared to second the motion.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Debate, the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to say a few words in support of the motion.

It has caused us within the NDP and, I think, those within all opposition parties a great deal of concern as to whether the ruling by Commissioner Dawson would continue to inhibit our conduct in the chamber, at committee and just generally in terms of our ability to do our job.

I welcome the motion and I welcome your ruling, Mr. Speaker. It may not be entirely appropriate but I congratulate you on the ruling. I think it is extremely important that we no longer feel the pressure, at least those of us in the opposition parties, that we have felt since the ruling came down from Ms. Dawson, that we were not able to do our job. I think we all felt a concern in what we would say in public.

It was a ruling that to me seemed to fly in the face of the long tradition we have had, going all the way back to Westminster. I think we can argue that this right was granted to us when parliaments first began being formed within the Westminster system. It was a right that we had to respect. I have to say that the individual case that we are dealing with should not have had that right taken away in any way.

We have all listened to a lot of the speeches that were given on that opposition day. I listened to all members from all parties. We all felt that, in spite of what Ms. Dawson found, we understood how she found it, how she made those decisions and how she came to the conclusions that she came to. Even she acknowledged in the report and in her determinations the type of impact and effect it would have on us.

As I was I was reading her decision, if I read between the lines it was as if the commissioner was almost reluctant to make the determination she made but felt compelled to do so by the wording of the mandate that she had been given within the code.

Mr. Speaker, the ruling you made was extremely important. I think all of us in this House recognize the responsibilities we have to act responsibly in terms of this very special privilege we have been given. It is the members of this House alone who have this privilege throughout the country and we recognize its importance and that it is not to be abused.

However, we also must recognize that even where it is abused in individual cases that right should not be taken away from all of us. I think inevitably the only way you could conclude the decision that we had from the commissioner was to that effect.

We sit here and try to do our jobs as best we can. We try to be responsible and then we get hit, I would almost say blindsided, which is not meant in any way to be a criticism of the commissioner's decision. We could go back and probably point fingers at ourselves for not properly drafting the wording by which she was being mandated. We need to take some responsibility in that regard.

I do not have a sense that the government is willing to move on changing that mandate given that it was one of its members who initially raised the complaint before the commissioner. I do not believe we are at a stage where we can correct the wording. In any event, we do not have the time to correct it so your ruling, Mr. Speaker, is timely in that regard as well.

I want to go back to the issue of the abuse because the commissioner was obviously concerned about the impact on the victim if the power we have here is abused. I recognize that. However, all members of the House, those who are here and those who are not, should know that it puts greater pressure on us to act responsibly and we cannot shirk that duty to act responsibly.

By the same token, we cannot give up. At this point, I am really addressing my comments to members of the governing Conservative Party who were willing to say, because of the individual cases of irresponsibility, as they saw in this case and maybe in others, that the commissioner did and should have the authority to curtail our freedom as members of Parliament to speak as freely as we possibly could.

The members of the government need to step back and take a look at the history of the Westminster Parliament that we and a number of other countries have adopted and implemented, particularly in the Commonwealth.

We do not see this kind of limitation placed on parliaments elsewhere that I have been able to discover in any event. The consequences of this decision would be unique to Canada, the fear I suppose being that if it were to happen here, would it happen subsequently in Australia, New Zealand, in England or in some of the other parliaments in the Commonwealth.

We must be conscious of not creating that precedent, if I can put it that way, in the legal sense and have it followed elsewhere. We need to curtail it here and to fight strongly for the rights that we should have in regard to our ability to do the very best job we can for our constituents.

At times we do need to say things in the House and in committees that we might not perhaps otherwise say. We respect the limitations we are under and we know we have limitations. In the last few years we have had a ruling around the responsibilities we have under human rights legislation. We recognize that. We recognize that our conduct is bound by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the House.

Having said that, it does not seem to me that those two examples in any way should take away our right to speak freely, as we have historically had.

I pride myself, and I think we all do in the House, that I come here on behalf of my constituents to advocate for them, to defend them and to protect their rights. Because we have been given that right and responsibility by the constituents who have elected us and sent us here, we bring with it a duty to do our utmost to provide that protection and to advocate as strongly as we possibly can.

If we were to give that up, the very essence of why we are here and why our constituents have sent us here, we would be abandoning that duty. We would be giving it up, which may sound melodramatic but it is as fundamental as that.

We have the responsibility in the House to do whatever we can to maximize protections to our constituents, the citizens and residents of Canada. It is not too harsh to say that if we are not prepared to the maximum to stand up for those rights they expect us to protect by protecting our own rights, our ability, in effect, to do that job, then we probably should not be here.

The motion put forward by the member for Scarborough—Rouge River is extremely important. The Speaker's ruling today is extremely important because I believe it sets back into balance the rights that we have as members of Parliament. The responsibility to carry out those rights always remains with us individually and that we do not abuse them.

In the particular case that prompted Commissioner Dawson to make the ruling that she did, that legal case that is in the civil courts, whether there has been abuse and whether there has been defamation is to be left to the courts and to be dealt with there. If there is a penalty to be paid, then it should be paid there. It is not a penalty that the member should suffer in this House or in committee doing his job as a member of Parliament and, more important, it is not a penalty that any other member should have to suffer, which is what is happening here.

The Speaker's ruling today was extremely important, timely and one that was badly needed. Once again, I congratulate the Speaker on his ruling.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Windsor for pointing out some of the aspects of this that have been troubling to many of us, especially those of us who were present at the ethics committee, which was the genesis of the whole incident.

Two things trouble me and it may be helpful to ask him because of his legal background. One is the ruling by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner when she made the statement that members are in fact in a conflict of interest if they are named as a defendant in a lawsuit.

As this concerns a legal question, it would be helpful guidance for those of us who are not lawyers if those members in the House who do have a legal background could explain how just being named in a lawsuit is seen as a liability, even before we know the outcome of that lawsuit or any blame is assigned by the courts of law, and the untenable situation in which it puts a member of Parliament.

I would ask the member to dwell somewhat on the concept of liability. Just because someone is being sued is that already a liability, a pending a liability, an unfunded liability or whatever, and when would that take effect?

One of the worrisome things about this case is that as soon as the papers were served, even before the defendant knew he was being sued, the Ethics Commissioner ruled that the person was in a conflict the day the papers were filed at a courtroom in another city somewhere else without his knowledge. Actually, the member for West Nova learned from the newspaper that he was being sued and it seemed the Conservative Party member who found fault with the situation knew about it already. Somebody told the Conservative Party that this lawsuit had been initiated even before the defendant knew about it.

How can members be barred from speaking at a committee if we do not even know we are being sued but we find ourselves deemed to be in a conflict of interest because papers have been filed somewhere? Could the member speak to the untenable situation that puts members in as well?

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an important issue that needs to be addressed and it comes back a bit to the comments I made in my opening remarks about the way we drafted the mandate that the commissioner was under in the code. We did not clearly define what liability meant. The commissioner obviously drew the conclusion in a very narrow sense of what liability was.

Again, if we read the part of her report that dealt with the issue of liability, she was trying to make it very clear that she was interpreting it very rigidly and in a very narrow scope. She clearly was saying that liability arose at the time the action arose in court and perhaps, although she did not say this but I think we would have to draw this as an inevitable conclusion, it happened at the time that the alleged defamation occurred. It was really back when the member was alleged to have made the offending comment. Therefore, the liability actually arose at that point.

The context of it obviously had to do with a future liability. When we look at liability in the sense that she was, which is what is in the code, a liability arises out of some conduct but may not be realized until the future. It was in that context that the commissioner found that liability was that broadly to be interpreted. However, it really is a very narrow focus of what the word meant. It would be relatively easy, from my perspective, to change the code so we could more clearly define what we mean by liability.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is an important debate that we are having on the member's motion today. The member for Windsor—Tecumseh has spoken very eloquently in support of the motion in speaking about the importance of parliamentarians' ability to speak freely and democratically without fear of an imposition on our abilities to operate as members.

I want to ask the member for Windsor—Tecumseh a question. He is of course speaking in support of the Speaker's ruling, but the motion itself speaks to a reference to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. We know what has transpired over the last year at committees, which was a lot of, and I have to use the term, dirty tricks, with committees not meeting or being shut down by the government, which in a strange way was trying to undermine the work of Parliament.

We have heard allegations of a 200 page dirty tricks book to be used by committee chairs to try to, in a very real sense, stop debate and the work of parliamentary committees. However, in this motion, we now are essentially referring the subject matter of the Speaker's ruling to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Given some of the games that have been played in the procedure and House affairs committee by the government, I wonder if the member for Windsor—Tecumseh feels that is advisable or whether he has any concerns about how the government has been misusing committee tactics to try to shut down debates on important issues like this one.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the points my colleague has raised in his question. I must admit that I was not quite sure what was going to be in the motion by the member for Scarborough—Rouge River.

I must admit that I am a bit concerned about this being referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs because of the antics that have gone on for seven or eight months now, led entirely by the government, as the NDP sees it, in order to protect its interests in another area.

One kind of wonders about the ruling by the Ethics Commissioner when we see the kind of conduct that has gone on in the committee, with the government members protecting themselves from what I believe are ultimately going to be some very serious repercussions because of the in and out scheme.

I must admit I was half hoping that the member for Scarborough—Rouge River would get up to debate this so I could ask him whether he has concerns over the referral to the procedure and House affairs committee. Is the motion simply going to get stalled in committee by government members refusing to meet?

I know there are ways in which the committee can call for a meeting and conduct it without the chair being present; the chair has to call the meeting. My concern right now, as I understand the situation, is that there is no chair. I believe the procedural rules of the House would allow for a committee meeting to be held even if the government members opted not to show up or take part.

That will be the next question. My colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River might be able to give us some more information on that, should he see it appropriate to speak today on the motion. I am concerned about it.

I also sit on the justice committee. That committee has been thwarted for some two months now because of the conduct of the chair, also a government member. It is not good for democracy that we have this happening. I am a little concerned.

We are talking here, as I have said in my opening remarks, about the very fundamental issue of being a member of Parliament. Could it be thwarted, in spite of the very strong ruling from the Speaker, by government inaction in the procedure and House affairs committee?

Not being entirely sure what the outcome of that is going to be, perhaps I could pledge to my colleague from Scarborough—Rouge River that we in the NDP will do whatever we can to support the motion going ahead at the procedure and House affairs committee.