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

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Please, you're questioning the witnesses, not the members of the other side.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

The other point I wanted to note for my colleague, the member of the official opposition, was that if Mr. Woodworth had actually read through all of the material—because he referenced the House administration—he would have seen all of the job contracts.

For example, there is "Caucus Services for Quebec". That was submitted to the House administration.

Further on, it states:

Media Officer

NDP Caucus Services for Quebec

Montreal, Quebec

And further on:

Press Secretary

NDP Caucus Services of Quebec

Montreal, Quebec

Frankly, if the member had reviewed all the documentation, he would already have found the answers to his questions without wasting the committee's time.

Now I would like to put some questions to my colleague, the leader of the official opposition.

He has already responded with regard to barriers. That was important for him, as is the issue of grievances.

Unless I am mistaken, cuts have been made to the budget of the Leader of the Opposition since 2011. That is a fact that my Conservative colleagues did not mention. Mr. Muclair, I would like you to state the exact percentage that has been cut. I would also like you to compare that reduction with the enormous increase in the budget of the Office of the Prime Minister and particularly the increase in the number of ministerial premises or offices across the country, both in the regions where the Conservatives have no elected members and in those where they have several.

12:25 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is important to recall that there is currently a very big gap between the budget of the leader of the official opposition and that of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister's budget is approximately 300% larger.

To assist you in understanding how those budgets have evolved, I should say that the government is using its majority to strangle the budget of the Leader of the Opposition. The opposition budget has been cut by 9.8% from 2011-2012 to 2014-2015, whereas, in a single year, from 2011-2012 to 2012-2013, the government once again used its majority to increase the budget of the Office of the Prime Minister by 7.4%. It should be noted that the government has opened several new regional offices for its ministers during the same period. That has cost a total of several millions of dollars. As you so well said, that was often in regions where the Conservatives had virtually no—

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Mr. Mulcair, I'm going to stop you there. Our study is on a reference from the House on the spending for political purposes. You're talking about government spending and you're going a little far afield of where we are today.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I have a point of order.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

I thought it might get there, Mr. Julian.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Well, thank you, Mr. Chair.

It was my question and it is absolutely relevant. We've had, I would say, some pretty going-over-the-borderline comments from Conservative members. This is an honest question. Overall, how much has the budget from the official opposition actually gone down? How much has he saved, while the government has been spending millions and millions of dollars expanding their network across the country? It's a perfectly legitimate question.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you, Mr. Julian.

I didn't interrupt until we started talking about government offices. Government spending is not the purpose of this committee today.

12:25 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

We'll certainly have the estimates before us in some point of order, and we'll do that. But right now, let's see if we can keep it on the reference that we're here on today.

May 15th, 2014 / 12:25 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

It is nevertheless relevant to recall one fundamentally important point, Mr. Chair. While the government is cutting our budgets, it is opening ministerial offices across Canada to do partisan work. That is relevant to this study, since the essential purpose of today's discussion is to determine and understand the definition of parliamentary functions in the context of what has been done.

I must also say I find it highly unusual that, being unable to prove, after an hour and a half of explanations, that there has been any problem whatever, Mr. Woodworth has stepped forward as a witness on the matter of telephone numbers and office responses. What he said is utterly false. It is a fabrication on his part. We have rigorously respected the separation between parliamentary and party duties.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Thank you.

I would like to go back to the Members By-Law.

Mr. Woodworth thought he had something there. What happened is that the Conservatives used their majority on the BOIE to change the rules. They have a majority and they use it. The process changed. There used to be a consensus on the BOIE, whereas now the majority decides, regardless of what is just and fair for everyone. The government, which has a majority, changed the administrative rules. The question should have been whether the leader of the official opposition was obeying the new rules, and he has already answered that. The fact that the Conservatives had to make up a new rule so they could claim the rules had somehow been violated already puts an end to that kind of question.

I am going to ask the leader of the official opposition one final question.

All kinds of other attacks have been made against agents of Parliament. Do you think the government should make better use of resources and try to meet the needs of the Canadian population rather than continue this kind of investigation?

12:30 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

That would have been more interesting and instructive, but I will nevertheless take the liberty, Mr. Chair—

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

You have five seconds.

12:30 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

What did you just say, Mr. Chair? I did not understand you.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

I said you had five seconds. By the time Mr. Julian had asked his lengthy question, he had left you no—

12:30 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

In one of these famous ministerial offices, Saulie Zajdel, of sad memory, now facing criminal charges, was put to work. He was a defeated Conservative candidate, and these guys want to talk to us about partisans?

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

We'll see what the next questioning does.

Mr. LeBlanc, please, you have seven minutes.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am going to ask a brief question in French, and my colleague from Charlottetown, will follow with more questions.

Mr. Mulcair, when Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc Québécois were accused of using public funds for partisan purposes, your member and house leader at the time, Mr. Comartin, said their people were not paid out of parliamentary funds if they did work for the party. He thought that was beyond argument; there was no doubt about it. He said he did not understand how Mr. Duceppe thought he could clear himself and that the House expected to be able to sanction him and the party to repay the money. Those are the comments that were made by your parliamentary leader at the time, Mr. Comartin.

Mr. Mulcair, during those same weeks, the NDP, with assistants paid by taxpayers, was arranging to lease an office in Montreal. You say it was ultimately paid for by the NDP, and we understand that. However, parliamentary employees at that office were organizing electoral training sessions, for example.

My question is very simple: do you still agree with Mr. Comartin that that represents an inappropriate use of taxpayers' money and that taxpayers should be reimbursed?

12:30 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

The claim that I said that was ultimately paid for is false. I thought you were a lawyer, but perhaps I was mistaken. There is proof. Cheques here show that was paid for by the party. That is not a matter of opinion; it is a fact. Our parliamentary employees do parliamentary work and party employees do party work. They report to different people. We had organizers who worked there, and they belonged to another local of another union.

The clear and precise answer to your question is as follows. We informed the House from the outset that people would be going to work in Montreal. We were very clear. They had a right to do so. The act says so in any case. Even though the documents prove it, there are not even any grounds for discussion as to whether they had a right to work in Montreal. The question instead is whether they did parliamentary work. The answer is yes. We are the only ones who can prove that since there were two different unions and two different job descriptions.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Mulcair, with all due respect, I must say that my question concerned Mr. Comartin's comments. However, we have very little time, and my colleague from Charlottetown would like to speak as well.

12:35 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

I will nevertheless answer the question about Joe Comartin because it is important.

What happened—

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Mulcair, was David Patry paid through parliamentary resources in 2012?

12:35 p.m.

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

Thomas Mulcair

David Patry was paid with parliamentary resources, yes. He was hired, I think it was in 2012.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Would it be acceptable for him to put out a press release reporting NDP party memberships using parliamentary resources?