Mr. Speaker, it certainly is an honour and a privilege to stand to join the debate today. It is not exactly what I think most of us originally anticipated. Actually, I believed we would be talking about Bill C-25, a bill to modernize certain aspects of Canadian corporations, co-operatives, and the like. All the same, I am very proud to stand on behalf of the citizens of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola.
I have had some experience making a case to the Speaker of this chamber, asking for those views to be considered and receiving a response. Certainly, in the case of an Order Paper question, which I did not believe was answered factually or truthfully, I raised that directly with a Speaker. The Speaker came back and said that he had done a full examination of the issue. I felt it was a fair process. I felt heard, was happy to have had the opportunity, and was ready to move a motion. This was much the same as we saw this morning with the member for Milton, followed by an amendment from the member for Beauce, about their concerns with respect to the incident that happened on March 22.
Before I really get into my comments on this issue, I would like to address some of the concerns that were raised earlier, particularly by the member for Hull—Aylmer. He is perfectly capable of making those statements, as is the member for Elmwood—Transcona. It is important in a democracy that people can make their views known, and to have their constituents, as well as us, hear those words and be influenced by them.
However, before I begin to make any comments with respect to the motion or the amendment today, my comments do not undercut anyone involved. As a member of Parliament, sometimes we have to ask questions that may make others feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, as members of Parliament, we have to ask questions that may seem a little out of the box and may get a response from other people who are not necessarily happy with them.
I have complete faith in our security systems and the people who operate them. They are working within a system that is meant to protect us, not just our security but obviously to ensure Parliament can have those critical debates. However, like any system, sometimes hiccups happen. Sometimes it is a lack of training. Sometimes it is just a flood of events.
Speaking of a flood of events, I remember when the former member of Parliament from Atlantic Canada, Mr. Peter Stoffer, who is a fine and very genial individual, raised a concern in this place. We had a visiting dignitary, and he felt the security was disproportionate to the need and he was stopped. I believe he stood right behind where I sit today. He was given the chance to raise the concern. Regardless of whether the privilege was found to be in order and a prima facie case was found by the Speaker, by him standing up and raising it, it not only caused a discussion within this place but also a discussion among the officials who ran the systems to ensure members of Parliament were not impeded in the active consideration of and discharge of their duties.
That member made those concerns known, and I will give my personal opinion with respect to it. I was thinking that when we had a visiting dignitary, such as a president from another country, we expected there to be issues. Therefore, people should basically decide to make changes to their schedule to ensure things would go well. Personally, that is what I do. However, having now sat on the opposition side, I saw cases in the House where, and not yourself as the Chair, Mr. Speaker, the bearer of the title of Speaker in all things spoke to us and found prima facie cases of where members of Parliament were manhandled.
Since then, I have brought forward my own question of privilege. Therefore, my awareness of these things has increased. While a Speaker may not agree with Mr. Stoffer when he sat here as a member, or a Speaker did not agree with me, it made me feel my voice was heard and that we had a chance to deliberate and to think on our duties, and that is an important part of this conversation.
Again, I walk into this place with a great deal of respect. I also wear my ID wherever I go. The simple reason is that I want to make the job for those people who handle our security as efficient as possible. Despite all that, when we have members of Parliament who are unable to come to do the one thing that no one else can do, which is to stand in our places and vote yea or nay, or to abstain, then the voices of the people back home do not count.
Therefore, regardless of party, I would hope the members of the government and all members would agree we should stop, pause, and take note of it. Some members may take note of a particular motorcade was given as an explanation to the member for Beauce. Some may focus on a media bus. Some may focus on the fact that the prima facie case brought by the Speaker is enough for this place. We heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance say that more could be said. I am here to join that and to ensure we get as many views as possible and that when, as I really hope, this goes to PROC, my peers from parties on both sides of the House will be able to make representations, to hear witnesses.
Again, as a previous Speaker declared, and I am quoting from page 4 of the ruling, “The denial of access to Members of the House—even if temporary—is unacceptable and constitutes a contempt of the House”. A contempt of the House is a very serious thing. That is why we have committees, to bring people in to have an honest accounting from the different agencies. I asked questions specifically, saying that on page 2 the Speaker specifically laid out, “In fact, I have received two reports of the incident...Based on those reports”.
Again, we have a ruling that had an overall look at it, got some initial reports in, and said that there was a prima facie case. That is not being disrespectful of the Speaker. I would suggest it is asking if there could be more than just in a four-page summary. Absolutely I believe there could be, and that is why PROC can be there. It is not up to the Speaker to get into the intricate details. It is up to his or her peers and members of Parliament at the procedural and House affairs committee to examine these. It is the Speaker's job to say that there is a prima facie case. That is how our rules work, and they work very well.
The process we have set up is a good one. As many members have remarked, so many things happen on this precinct and the people working in it all want the same things. However, when these issues come up, where the member for Milton has said that she was unable to vote, we should take that very seriously.
How seriously should we take it? We should take it very seriously. In the centre of this room on the table is the mace. The mace represents your authority, Mr. Speaker, but it also represents the protection of your authority that is garnered through all our members. When it is here, it means the protection is here and that you are going to help us to coordinate our business.
That is because in some parts of our collective history some Speakers were not respected, and I am going back again to Great Britain hundreds of years ago. When Speakers would go to a monarch and say “Here's what the people have said about taxation”, they risked being beheaded or imprisoned, simply because the monarch of the day did not want to hear what the House of Commons, as it was back then, had to say.
I would just point out that we need to have safety for individual members as well as the proper processes that we trust our Speaker with to ensure those things are respected.
We have three forms of government: the executive, obviously embodied in the Prime Minister and his cabinet; the legislative function, which we are; and the judiciary.
I will read off the back under my card, which states, “Under the law of parliamentary privilege, the bearer has free and open access at all times without obstruction or interference to the precincts of the Houses of Parliament which the bearer is a member.” The reason why I raise this is the law. This is not just a simple privilege. This is actually law. We have the ability to say in this place that we will manage our own affairs. When members are somehow stopped through a process not of their own making, that is unreasonable, unreasonable meaning that the system or the people operating it stop them from fulfilling their functions, then it bears close examination. That is what the committee process is set up for, and I really hope government members will support that process.
There was an amendment proposed by the member for Beauce, and I will read in French:
That the motion be amended by adding the following: “and that the committee make this matter a priority over all other business including its review of the Standing Orders and Procedure of the House and its Committees.”
As we all know, that particular committee is seized with the issue of our rights. It is seized by the issue of how this place conducts itself. Some members on the government side do not want to hear those voices. They are not happy that the committee is seized with an issue of their own making. They are not happy that parliamentarians from various parties are standing up for those rights, not just our inherited rights but the rights that this place needs to maintain in order for those who come after us to enjoy. If those rights are not taken seriously in any place, whether it be in this House, the other chamber, or in our parliamentary committees, we have a problem.
The Liberal government says that it is all about discussion. Let us discuss members not being able to vote, things that are happening now that should not be happening. We understand that when things out of anyone's control happen, forgiveness is often given, explanations though should always be made.
Our primary responsibility is to scrutinize the spending of government, to authorize the spending of government. Supply is very important. When those concerns come up, we need to be able to deftly examine the issue and hear from the individuals responsible as well as their managers to give a proper accounting of what happened, what went wrong, what could be improved, and how this could be avoided in the future. Anything less is not taking those rights seriously.
We have heard Liberal government members say that they take this seriously. Good, let us take care of it now. Let us get this to PROC. Let us give the committee the ability to see the infringements of our rights and be able to right them. Maybe during that time some position of authority of the executive will have quiet conversations saying that they have been hearing from caucus members and opposition members, and that maybe the Liberals should change their minds on how they approach things.
Just like with Motion No. 6, maybe a little space on PROC to examine this issue would allow for some of those crucial conversations between those in authority, those who obviously have pushed to have their modernizing Parliament agenda at that committee. Maybe, like Motion No. 6, the Liberals will withdraw it, because they know that people on this side of the House are going to stand up, whether it be that inadvertently our rights were denied or whether this is a plan orchestrated to make life easier for those in power.
I believe that if we send this to PROC, perhaps those things might happen. I write to my constituents about those things, that there is a proposal to have us stop sitting on Fridays, that there is a proposal to pre-program motions so the government does not even need to move time allocation and just accepts it as being a default status quo, which is wrong. It is just as wrong as it is when members rise and say they were denied their rights to discharge.
Again, I believe that members of Parliament must be responsible. Obviously there are things that happen in day-to-day life where inadvertently those rights may be pushed, but members still have a right to come here, as Mr. Stoffer did, and to raise those concerns, and for those in positions of authority to hear the feedback from a member to make sure these things are being dealt with, that people are trained and knowledgeable about the very special institution we have.
I have no doubt that many members of the security service out there know more about the Criminal Code than I do, and I sat on the justice committee. I have no doubt. By the same token, they should also be versed in at least the basics of parliamentary procedure and our law, which again stands firm. We have the ability to make laws for how we conduct ourselves in this place. It is something that was hard fought for and maintained by your predecessors, Mr. Speaker, and through the Sergeant-at-Arms and his predecessors.
That is what I contend. I contend that this ruling is fair. I believe that had this ruling happened previously, the immediate result would have been that this would have gone to PROC right away so that the government could actually start moving forward and bring in its bills instead of getting lost in these things. However, it is interesting that we see a filibuster at the procedure and House affairs committee that the government does not want to interrupt with what the member for Milton and the member for Beauce have both said is an obvious issue that needs to be dealt with.
I just want again to thank the Speaker and his staff who definitely listen, who act quietly to ascertain the facts, to hear all of our voices, whether they be with the government or not, to ensure that this place always has a space to make sure that we are able to do our jobs. I humbly submit that if we support both the amendment and the motion, this will show faith in our parliamentary system and allow us to move forward. I plead with the government to have that conversation among its members asking if the way it is proceeding is good not just for the country but for this place, and whether this will, as the Rotarians like to say, build better friendships and a more fair use of our time.