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

12:40 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

If you have that, and that's the case, then.... As I've said since the beginning, we've been absolutely clear and transparent on this. It's an office paid for 100% by the party, so of course there are party activities that take place there, with the party staff. We've been clear about that since the beginning.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

In fact, it's used as the address of a partisan political riding association for Pierrefonds—Dollard, correct?

12:40 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

We just went over that. If you want to have the same answer and eat up some of your own time.... But I think the answer couldn't have been clearer to your colleague who just asked the exact same question.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

The answer is yes, correct?

12:40 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

The answer is that political parties sometimes give the address of the political party, waiting for a riding association to be up and running and structured. That's what happens in all political parties—yours, ours, theirs. There's nothing there.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

In fact, at this office staffed by, among other people, paid House of Commons staff, there are sessions for fundraising and election preparedness on behalf of the New Democratic Party partisan office, correct?

12:40 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

This is a party office. There are several people in there who are party employees. They come under a collective agreement that defines their tasks. Our parliamentary staff do parliamentary work. Our party staff do party work. You're describing some party work. Our party staff do party work.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Well, you've insisted that there was no partisan work done by House of Commons staff at 4428 Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Do you think, perhaps, that Alexandre Boulerice got his pitch for 2015 election support that he sent out with taxpayer assistance prepared at 4428 Saint-Laurent Boulevard?

12:40 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

Well, it's quite possible if it was done by somebody who was working for the party, but I go back to section 1 of the Members By-Law, “parliamentary functions” include all “duties and activities that relate to the position of Member, wherever performed and whether or not performed in a partisan manner”.

Mr. Woodworth, the law couldn't be clearer.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Well, Mr. Mulcair, let me refer you to bylaw 4, subsection 3, which says, “For greater certainty, the following activities, when performed by a Member, are not parliamentary functions”, and paragraph (d) says, “activities designed, in the context of a federal...election...to support or oppose a political party”, very much as Mr. Boulerice has done in this mail-out. Do you agree with me that's not proper?

12:40 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

Mr. Woodworth, since the beginning, you've had great difficulty understanding a very clear proposition. At an address where the rent was paid 100% by the NDP, there were certain employees in a union performing work that was party work. At the same address, because it was allowed up until April 14 of this year, we had other employees doing parliamentary work. There's never been any commingling of the two. Party workers do party work. Parliamentary workers do parliamentary work.

It would be a really difficult proposition for you to prove because you don't have that sort of separation. We do. I'm the only one who can come here and say that, under these collective agreements, party workers have always done party work and parliamentary workers have only done parliamentary work.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

What I do have, Mr. Mulcair, is a piece of literature talking about the 2015 federal election, asking people to join in order to put the country on the right track, and it was sent out at the very least with taxpayer funds through the free mailing privileges. How do I know it wasn't done at 4428 Saint-Laurent Boulevard?

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Mr. Woodworth, thank you very much.

12:40 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

What you have, Mr. Woodworth, is the exact same thing that the Liberals do, the exact same thing that the Conservatives do. We have example after example after example.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you.

Mr. Christopherson, please, you have four minutes.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Thanks very much, Chair. I appreciate that.

In my last comments, I said I was looking forward to sort of a new front being opened that might actually get the government somewhere, and the Liberals too. That didn't happen, so I don't need to spend my time shoring anything up because they haven't done any damage to the very clear straightforward case that Mr. Mulcair has put forward. So what I'd like to do is return back to this April 8 change to the rules, because it's key to all of this in many ways.

This is new. Now it says, in subsection 93.1(1):

No employee of a Member or House Officer may have as their regular place of work any space in premises owned, leased or under the effective control of a political party.

Does that currently exist right now, Mr. Mulcair?

12:45 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

The rule came into force on April 8, 2014, effective April 14, 2014, and we've been obeying it since it came into force.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

So the second the rule was changed, you immediately brought your party into compliance. Prior to that.... The government's trying to suggest that retroactively, this clarification, this interpretation—call it what you will—should be applied to something before April 14. Would you please again just explain how that doesn't make any sense and that it's not how law-making works?

12:45 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

You can just imagine if somebody were to create a penalty after the fact for something that you've already done that wasn't, up until then, an offence. That's the essence of the argument on the Conservative side of this discussion today.

The reason that the new rule was brought in—and it is a completely new rule—was because up until that date, there was nothing wrong with it. We've been clear, open, transparent that this was an office paid for by the NDP, 100% with NDP money, and when the rule changed, those employees were gone immediately from that office. We've continued to follow the rules as they're now established.

As for a clarification on how the amendment 93.1 can be interpreted as anything other than an attack on the official opposition, because it expires in 2015, I'll let the Liberals and the Conservatives explain that to you.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Thank you.

If I might, I just want to stay with this, because there's a part here that I find interesting, and I would appreciate your thoughts on it. Subsection 93.1(7) makes the point that the section becomes effective April 14. You've addressed that in terms of what the NDP was doing prior to that date, and what they did upon the April 14 new rule's coming into effect.

It's interesting, the subsection before that, Mr. Mulcair, at 93.1(6), says, “This section is repealed effective on the dissolution of the 41st Parliament.” If this is such a good rule, protecting taxpayer money, do you know—because I don't—why this rule dissolves at the end of this Parliament and doesn't exist in the next Parliament?

12:45 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

It is intriguing to ask that question, because you can immediately imagine that Conservatives heading for third if not fourth party status, and Liberals heading for maybe third party status, if they're lucky, could want to bring back a rule on the dissolution of the next Parliament. Here's the rub. If it was such a problem, why make this rule change apply for only the next couple of years? When we saw the rule change applying only until the next election, it was immediately clear to us—the jig was up. This whole exercise is about Conservatives using their majority, along with their Liberal buddies, to try to stymie the extraordinary work that the NDP official opposition has been able to do across Canada.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you, and we're well past time.

I'll go to Mr. Woodworth for four minutes, please.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Mulcair, I'm going to read to you what Speaker Scheer had to say in his statement about the April release:

The Honourable Andrew Scheer, Speaker of the House of Commons and Chair of the Board of Internal Economy, has confirmed that the Board is conducting an investigation into the use of House of Commons resources in offices outside of the Parliamentary Precinct or constituency offices. This investigation is further to allegations of improper use of House resources brought forward to the Board, specifically related to the Members By-law (section 4.3).

While the investigation is proceeding, the Board is acting quickly to end the performance of parliamentary work and political party work from the same location, adopting the following provisional amendment....

What that really says is that this amendment was adopted to stop you and your party from ignoring all of the rules, which I've been quoting to you for the last hour and a half. Isn't that correct?

May 15th, 2014 / 12:50 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

Mr. Chair, I would appreciate it if Mr. Woodworth were to provide Anne McGrath, our party general secretary, with his address so we can share the fee of our attorneys. I thank him for proving our case for us. It's exactly that.

This rule was brought in so that as of April 14, 2014, what was allowed up until that date would no longer be allowed. Both Mr. Scheer's short statement and the rules of statutory interpretation are conclusive. Prior to April 8, 2014, there was absolutely nothing that interdicted the use of an office paid for by a political party as long as the separation was such that we were practising—parliamentary workers doing parliamentary work, party workers doing party work. It was allowed. It became disallowed on April 14, and following that date we respected the new rules the same way we respected, at all times, the old rules.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Conservative Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I'd like to defer to my colleague, the parliamentary secretary.