Evidence of meeting #40 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was work.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Thomas Mulcair  Leader of the Official Opposition and Leader of the New Democratic Party, NDP

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I certainly will, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Woodsworth, I think it's rather rich, and I think—

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Mr. Julian, I have a point of order from Mr. Reid.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, the rules of this committee preclude the clerk from distributing to members of the committee any document that is in one official language only. It is, of course, therefore, very convenient for the New Democrats that the lease was submitted in one language only.

However, it is also the case that I approached the clerk and asked to see it. The rules do not prohibit members from taking a look at documents if they choose to do so. In fact, the constitution clearly states, the Constitution of Canada, that any individual may interact with Parliament in the language of their choice.

Therefore, I don't really care what language the lease is in, whether it's in French or English. I wanted to see it and I would like to be able to see it. So I wonder if you could instruct the clerk to allow me to take a look at that lease in order to determine the information that Mr. Mulcair refuses to share with the committee.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

I have no problem with you looking at the lease. I just cannot distribute it because our rules are that it must be in both official languages. Without unanimous consent, I can't distribute it.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

That's fine. I'll go up and take a look. Thank you very much.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Carry on, Mr. Julian.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I'm going to ask a series of questions. I appreciate Mr. Mulcair's being here. The PROC committee has been trying to get Mr. Harper here on a number of issues that have been raised, and of course, the majority has been refusing that.

I'm actually going to start with where Mr. Woodsworth ended up, which is the issue of co-location.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

On a point of order, Mr. Chair....

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Mr. Woodworth.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

I'd just like the member opposite to pronounce my name correctly. It is Woodworth.

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I apologize.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Otherwise, I will start calling him Mr. Julisian.

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I've been called worse, Mr. Woodworth.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Let's keep it through the chair. I'm having a lot of fun with points of order today, but it sure is dragging out the committee. So let's see if we can get through one line of questions without it.

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I apologize to Mr. Woodworth.

Now there is an office, actually, that I'm well familiar with in Chilliwack because he was talking about co-location. It's 7388 Vedder Road in Chilliwack. It's a co-location. At that same address, we have Mark Strahl's MP office, paid by taxpayers' money, and the Conservative Party of Canada. It's the same address, same location, a co-location, and obviously the BOIE says that's fine.

So my first in the many questions I have for the official opposition leader is if he is aware of how many Conservative MPs do the same thing, and have that co-location where they have a Conservative Party of Canada office with their riding office.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Excuse me, Mr. Julian. I see my guidance on points of order may have gone unnoticed.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Chair, I know you've asked that we be judicious in our use of points of order; however, I do feel there is some misinformation that needs to be corrected here. I'm certainly aware of the Chilliwack office he's referring to. There are, in fact, two separate leases. One is a Conservative Party of Canada lease; one is the member of Parliament's lease. They just happen to be in the same shopping mall.

There's a very clear difference between this and what the NDP is doing, where they're using taxpayer resources in the same office.

May 15th, 2014 / 11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you, Mr. Richards.

Mr. Julian.

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Again, it's 7388 Vedder Road, common address, co-location.

I'll move on, though. I'll ask you a number of questions. You probably won't have time in the seven minutes to answer them, but I hope, Mr. Mulcair, you'll answer them in the minutes that follow.

Can you confirm that the NDP is conforming to the new rules the Conservative-dominated BOIE imposed on April 8?

Secondly, what were the barriers between parliamentary staff and non-parliamentary staff? I'm talking about physical barriers, collective agreements, different unions, supervisory barriers? Were there ever any grievances filed by non-parliamentary staff about parliamentary staff doing their work? Did the job descriptions follow the Members By-Law? It's very clear that if a person is doing an individual member's duties or electoral fundraising, those kinds of things, those would not be parliamentary duties.

How much money was paid by the party instead of by taxpayers? How much money was saved by having the party pay the lease? How much have you saved? How much has the official opposition budget actually decreased since 2011, and how much has the PMO budget increased at the same time?

I wanted to have you respond about the expansion of Conservative ministers' regional offices across the country. That budget seems to have substantially expanded, in fact, in many areas where Conservatives have no MPs, such as in Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, and Montreal.

Those are my questions. Please answer them as you can, perhaps in this section or later, and thank you for being here.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Mr. Mulcair, do you have a yes or no answer?

11:25 a.m.

Leader of the Official Opposition and Leader of the New Democratic Party, NDP

Thomas Mulcair

Mr. Chairman, such a substantive question now deserves a substantive answer now.

With regard to the place of work, there has been a change that came into effect on April 8, 2014. There's a basic principle of statutory interpretation. It's best expressed in French.

It states that Parliament does not speak in vain.

When that change was made to say that you could no longer have someone at the regular place of work, the space owned, leased, or under the effective control of a political party, that's because it was not interdicted prior to that. So that's why that change was brought in. It was like trying to tell somebody who is just driving to the cottage for Victoria Day weekend in a 100 kilometre per hour zone that after they got to the cottage, it became a construction zone and the speed limit was reduced to 70, and that even though they had arrived before the speed change was made, somehow they're going to get a ticket.

We respected the rules as they existed, and it was implicit in Mr. Woodworth's question and I would like to get to it. For the space that we're talking about, the lease was 100% assumed by the NDP. I offer again—the cheques are bilingual as far as I can tell—I can certainly help them all, because we've had our services put together a copy of every single cheque. You'll see that the annual rent is approximately $100,000, every penny of which is assumed by the NDP.

No one questions the fact that our MPs' employees are allowed to travel back and forth. No one questions the fact that the OLO employees are allowed to travel back and forth. That's the very essence of the very first section of the Members By-Law. It says:

duties and activities that relate to the position of Member, wherever performed and whether or not performed in a partisan manner

That's the first article of the rules governing members of Parliament. It continues:

namely, participation in activities relating to the proceedings and work of the House of Commons and activities undertaken in representing his or her constituency or constituents.

It doesn't matter how you're performing it, and it doesn't matter where you're performing it.

To hear the Conservatives tell it, we would have had to have hired that staff here in Ottawa, as the Liberals like to do, and only talk to lobbyists.

We're innovating. We're working across Canada. We're listening to Canadians. Mr. Julian just asked an important question about matching the Conservative move. They're spending millions of dollars for themselves on these ministerial offices across Canada. Our job as the official opposition, as an integral part of our democratic institutions, is to hold that government to account. We can't do that if we're here in Ottawa alone.

No one would question the fact that they're allowed to work in Montreal. So the most interesting aspect of this is that if someone on our communications staff was organizing, as they did this week, a press conference in Montreal for Hoang Mai, our Transport critic, and that person was to help him, according to the Conservatives the best use of taxpayers' money would be to pay the kilometres back and forth to Montreal and keep that person working here in Ottawa.

Since it is allowed for that person doing the press relations to work in Montreal, there is nothing to prevent him from being based in Montreal. There was nothing until April 8, 2014, preventing him from working out of a space paid for by the New Democratic Party of Canada. After April 14, we had to make a change, which we did. We respected all the rules before. We respect all the rules after that change, but there was a change.

The amendment that I just read was a substantial change to the existing rules, and it's a little bit like my cottager who's going to be looking at a change in the speed limit. There's no way you can apply that retroactively.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

We're out of time on that round.

11:30 a.m.

Leader of the Official Opposition and Leader of the New Democratic Party, NDP

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

I'll go to Mr. Casey for seven minutes.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Mulcair, in preparation for the meetings here today, we have been provided with a package of documents. One of those documents is a memorandum from the Clerk of the House of Commons. I'm sure you've had a chance to read it. That memorandum references a meeting that took place on October 13, 2011. The purpose for the meeting was that some NDP employees had indicated their residence to be in Montreal but their place of work to be in Ottawa. At that meeting, the NDP deputy chief of staff was asked directly where these employees worked, and she responded “in Ottawa”.

Can you explain why the NDP deputy chief of staff would have misled the House of Commons administration with respect to that?