Evidence of meeting #160 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was regulations.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Philippe Dufresne  Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, House of Commons
Robyn Daigle  Director, Members’ HR Services, House of Commons

11:25 a.m.

Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, House of Commons

Philippe Dufresne

Certainly in the proposed regulation we are talking about maternity and parental arrangements and we're talking about justified absences from a House sitting. My point was that it's not the same type of leave that you would see an employee take, where the employee is not performing the functions of the job during that leave. That really is to answer questions about comparing this to the leave an employee takes, the length of leave and the benefits for employees who are on maternity leave, parental leave and so on. Does the member's so-called parental leave from this type of regime compare favourably or not?

My point is it's difficult and perhaps not the best way to compare those two things, because the member, unlike the employee, always continues to be a member. What we're talking about here is not the member being on leave from his or her role as a member, but it's the member having a justifiable reason for being absent from the chamber for a certain period of time. The member continues to be the member and continues to have all the functions.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

Okay. The draft regulation referred to “paternity and parental arrangements” in the title.

Where does the term “leave” come from anyway?

11:30 a.m.

Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, House of Commons

Philippe Dufresne

I'm mentioning the fact that sometimes we talk about this in the sense of parental leave.

I believe in some of the previous reports the word “leave” might have been used as well as the justification. When we looked at this and the board looked at this it's not seen as a leave situation but more as the justifiable circumstances where a member would be absent from the chamber.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

I believe you mentioned that exceptions are also made to this 21-day requirement for armed forces sick leave and public or official arrangements. Have any other exceptions ever been made on a per case basis, and if so, what were those exceptions?

11:30 a.m.

Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, House of Commons

Philippe Dufresne

We have the listed exceptions in the act. They are the three that I've highlighted. The other one I did not mention is if the House has been adjourned that day. There's no concern about not having been there. That, to me, is one that is perhaps implicit. The three that are considered justifiable reasons are illness, public or official business, service in the armed forces. The question became while illness might cover some absences, certainly for the pregnant member during the pregnancy and perhaps after the birth as well, but there's a gap. If you only justify it when you consider it to be illness, that does not provide the full recognition and the full protection for parents and pregnant members.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

What kind of circumstances are the public and official engagements, for example?

11:30 a.m.

Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, House of Commons

Philippe Dufresne

That's not defined. It would be raised by the member looking at their circumstances. There's certainly an understanding that members do many things outside the chamber that are part of their public or official business, such as attending events, following up on matters outside the chamber. It's a largely defined category.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

A member could be working in their riding and this exception would apply to them. They would not have to appear for 21 days if they can justify there's something relevant that they're doing there.

11:30 a.m.

Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, House of Commons

Philippe Dufresne

It would be for the member to say that they were absent and this was public or official business, that they were following up on matters in their constituency.

There is, obviously, an expectation that members will try to organize their affairs so as to be able to be in the House. That's really part of the role of members, to balance those two things: the obligations in the constituency and the obligations in the House.

The act recognizes there will be times when the members cannot be in the House and it's going to be because they're engaged in other public or official business.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ruby Sahota Liberal Brampton North, ON

As a comment at the end, I see this perhaps—I mean, we haven't seen it come into effect yet, but maybe Christine can speak from her experience—being used for flexibility and not in its entirety, from day one until the end of the 12th month. It might be that issues and circumstances arise from time to time in that first year of having a baby. Perhaps one month it would be difficult, or perhaps something happens in the fourth month and you were fine and able to come prior to that.

I'm sure we can learn a lot from Christine Moore, and there are other members who have had children as they've been serving.

Thank you for answering those questions.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you.

We'll go to Madam Moore and then Mr. Graham.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I can answer some of Ms. Sahota's questions.

You were wondering under what circumstances we may be talking about public or official business. I could tell you about a fairly plausible case. If a member becomes president of an international parliamentary association—for example, the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association or the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly—we can assume they will often miss sittings because they will have to travel. Having known some presidents of international parliamentary associations, I know that the position leads to many absences. I also know that some members have been approached to seek candidacy with an international association, but they decided not to do it. In any case, if a member holds an internationally recognized position that takes up a lot of their time, that could be one of the plausible reasons for which they will not often be present in Parliament. That is an example of public or official business that would explain why a member is not present.

I can now explain to you how we came to these regulations.

While I was a member, I had three children, so three pregnancies. When I started working on this issue, I knew that, until the Parliament of Canada Act was amended, we could not move on to the next step, that of regulations.

The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs first met on this issue and then produced a report containing that recommendation. The measure was then included in the budget. Once the Budget Implementation Act received royal assent and, consequently, the Parliament of Canada Act was amended, I provided draft regulations to the NDP House leader, who was then Ms. Brosseau. She was in charge of getting the regulations adopted. In fact, it was up to House leaders Ms. Bergen, Ms. Chagger and Ms. Brosseau to begin the discussion on the regulations.

Once I returned after giving birth, I came back to the issue to figure out why the regulations had not yet been adopted. I also tried to get this file on the agenda. So I know that other discussions were held among the House leaders of various parties to put it back on the agenda before the parliamentary session ends, so that a new Parliament would not have to finish the work on this.

That is what has happened concerning the regulations.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Mr. Graham.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

To build on Ruby's first question, BOIE makes changes all the time to all kinds of things, and in my four years on this committee, they've never come to procedure and House affairs.

Why this one? Do we have to take an action for this to happen?

11:35 a.m.

Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, House of Commons

Philippe Dufresne

Yes, you do. The act talks about the House making a regulation by rule or order, and so the power really lies with the House.

What is being asked of this committee is to report to the House with a recommendation that the House could consider. It's not something that BOIE would have the authority to do, given the way it is set out in the Parliament of Canada Act.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Okay, but BOIE changes things all the time, and there's nothing else they've done that would ever have had to come through PROC. I'm just surprised by that.

June 6th, 2019 / 11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

I'm guessing that the regulations they've done are not regulations under the Parliament of Canada Act. They must have been regulations under some other governing authority.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Under the book.... Whatever the book's called. Yes.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

If I understand correctly, the way it works is that normally a regulation is made by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of a minister, but in this case it's made by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the House.

Is that how it works?

11:35 a.m.

Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, House of Commons

Philippe Dufresne

This is a bit of a unique situation. This is really regulation made by the House on the authority in the Parliament of Canada Act, but in the exercise of its privileges in order to govern the presence of its members in the House.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

The Governor in Council has no role in this at all.

11:35 a.m.

Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, House of Commons

Philippe Dufresne

In my view, the Governor in Council does not have a role in this, because it would be looking at the manner in which the House is organizing and accepting the presence of its members in its proceedings. It's really at the heart of the proceedings of the House and the conduct of the proceedings in the House.

It's an unusual type of situation, but it is not something that the board would do by adopting one of its bylaws. It is something that the House would do. It could have been raised by the House, by a member, but in this circumstance, given PROC's role in studying this in the past, the board felt it was appropriate that PROC would be given the opportunity to look at this and report back.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

That's enough—

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

I have just one tiny little thing.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Okay.