Evidence of meeting #25 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 meeting.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

We ask a whole bunch of times and if we don't get unanimous consent, then we can bring a concurrence motion and have a three-hour debate and then pass it, but unanimously.

11:05 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Given that it's our Standing Orders, that's not a preferred process for making rules.

What I don't want to do is spend a half hour trying to make a persuasive argument for somebody else's case, especially when we're talking about the meaning of individual words.

What I was going to suggest to colleagues is whether there is any chance we could get agreement to ship this to the House leaders and force them to come to an agreement. It's their stuff, their language. Throw it to them. Let them come up to an agreement and come back to us. If they admit defeat, that they cannot come to an agreement, then fine. Then we can deal with it and we'll go through the majority process and life will go on. But for this to be ground zero on this to continue debating, I think we're just going to end up chasing our tail over and over here. I'm not in a position to give concurrence.

Do we really want to spend the next hour debating words that are somebody else's responsibility or would we be better off to ship it back to the House leaders and say that those folks come to a common agreement, advise us, and then we'll do our proper thing. I leave that to colleagues because I'm worried about the alternative and I think that may be fairly practical I hope.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Before we open debate on that, let me just give you a bit more background on your amendment.

11:10 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Sure.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

One is you have “House Officer” in it, and there is no such standard term. It's not used in the Standing Orders. We don't know technically who that means.

11:10 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Excuse me, Chair, to tell you where we are, I haven't been part of that discussion. I don't know about anybody else here. Maybe they have more control over their House leader than I do. But I get told by the House leader how these things are going to go as opposed to I tell him.

Right from the get-go when you say there's a particular problem, that's House leader stuff. I was a House leader at Queen's Park. This is exactly the kind of stuff they deal with. Having us do it makes no sense.

Sorry to interrupt, but it's better to provide context.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Mr. Chair, as much as I have complete faith in Mr. Christopherson's ability to carry a debate for an hour all on his own if he needed to, I think what he's saying makes some sense. That seems to have been the approach. We've also often decided that we want to go back and consult with our House leader, and if that's what we're going to continually do—

11:10 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Exactly.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

—let's just let them have a discussion and see if they have something they can recommend to us and then we can look at it.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Mr. Chan.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

I'll be quick. I agree.

June 2nd, 2016 / 11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

The consensus is we will defer to the House leaders. If they can't come to something, we'll come back here and vote, remembering that it's by majority here and in the House eventually if we have to do a concurrence debate.

I was just going to report back on the response from the minister. The response was something like she's not available over the next few weeks. At that point I wrote a letter, or the clerk did under my instructions, again saying that we really want her and here are the available dates, here is when our meetings are, and we really want to get this done before the summer. That just went. We'll see what response we get. Obviously, she's dealing with the Senate right now on that bill, but we'll see what response I get to that.

On the conflict of interest, I think we can deal with this fairly quickly because I just put this on as a sort of update of where we are. As you know, we had some problems, a lot of people on our committee had some problems with the suggested wording. First of all, we had a problem with understanding what the gifts.... It wasn't clear enough in the conflict what was a gift, what wasn't, what we're allowed to do and what we're not. We asked the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to do guidelines, which she did, but in terms of the guidelines, there are a lot of questions or items for debate on our committee.

We had an informal dinner meeting and at that time we came up with some ideas. Because Mr. Christopherson couldn't make it that night, Mr. Reid was going to put them down and then discuss them with Mr. Christopherson. Depending on that, once that happens, they may or may not have something to bring back to us. So we're going to leave it at that for now. I'm just giving the committee an update on where we are.

11:10 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Yes, that's fine. Thanks for that.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

That one's dealt with.

Other than the report on committee business, which we're going to shortly, which I will introduce, was there anything else that people think we can do, now that we're on a roll? It looks as if I got everything on my list.

Now on this report, which you all got yesterday, we're going in camera, even though there's almost no one here.

[Proceedings continue in camera]

[Public proceedings resume]

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

We're in public.

Jamie.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Thank you, Chair.

I want to speak to what you said before we broke for the in camera session, about the Minister of Justice not being able to attend committee.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

They didn't say they weren't able; they just said they weren't able in the next few weeks.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

In June, I think that was the goal. We wanted to deal with this hopefully before we rose by the end of June. I think it's quite upsetting. We gave her lots of notice. We gave her weeks in advance of the meeting. We meet for an hour. I don't think that's a whole lot of time. Bill C-14 is dealt with; it's through the House, anyway.

For her to give us an hour of her time on an issue the governing party feels is a priority to get off the plate, or on the plate, depending on if there's something there.... The fact that she has decided she can't meet before the end of June goes contradictory to what we've been talking about. Let's deal with this. Let's find out if there's something there, and if there is, let's deal with it and let's get through it as fast as possible.

To keep this on the agenda over and over again and drag this out.... Now it's going to go on through the summer, and we'll have to deal with it in September and October when we return. That we just can't find an hour is pretty disappointing, I think.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

I may not have been clear. They didn't say she couldn't meet in June. They just said for the next few weeks, and they're looking for a date. I wrote back to emphasize that we want the meeting to deal with this before the summer. We're waiting for the response to that. The letter just went out.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Mr. Chair, to make it clear, this is exactly the issue I was raising a number of weeks ago, that we needed to give some advance notice because we've had these kinds of excuses before from Liberal ministers. I'm getting a little tired of it. It's grown old already. There's no excuse. She's had advance notice.

I'm certainly willing, and I hope all members would agree, if her schedule is really that tight that she can't find an hour within our normal meeting schedule, we'll meet outside of our normal schedule if we have to, within some reasonable hours. She has to have one hour somewhere in June for this committee. If not, we kind of know how seriously the government is really taking this matter, and that would be a real concern. Let's press this issue. This is not acceptable.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

David and then Arnold.

11:10 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Thanks, Chair.

I can appreciate my colleague's frustration. I said to the government we went through this, and I took a chance on the government's word, back when we were bringing in the democratic reform minister. I forget the details. They could be gotten quickly if we need them if someone wants to refute my point.

The essence of it was the government wanted language like “reasonable” and “available”, but all kinds of commitments went with it; it wasn't part of the motion.

I ended up voting for that, and I said at the time I'm taking a bit of a risk. I'm taking these government members at their word, and I'm hoping I won't regret that.

Then, in my opinion, we got jerked around. The minister did not come before us in that timely fashion. It was well after the fact, and the appointments as I recall had been made. We had questions about that process.

As one member of this committee, and it's just me over here in the NDP corner, I did back the government, and I gave them the benefit of the doubt, and they let me down. We're in the same kind of thing again, and therefore, I'm going to give the balance of my opinion to my colleagues in the Conservative caucus when they say this is not acceptable. There's a bit of a track record going on here, and I will join them and say it's feeling like a dodge.

This is a matter of privilege. Let's remember, when a matter of privilege comes up in the House, if the Speaker believes there's a prima facie case, the Speaker stops everything else and takes a motion with regard to that privilege. It seizes control of the House until the House has disposed of that motion.

Then when it comes here, we make it a priority, and we say that's privilege. We went through it last week when we had the other privilege that we dealt with very well.

To say this is not an extreme priority on the part of Parliament—not the opposition; the opposition didn't send it here, Parliament did. For the minister to now say similar to the previous minister that she's sorry but she's not available in the next couple of weeks....

The next couple of weeks covers how long we're going to be sitting, and that means we get outside the sitting area. You don't have to be here as long as I've been here, and as long as Blake has been here, to understand that's what it looks like. The government has a bit of a track record, and it's not a good one.

I want to add my voice to the position of the official opposition, and I would also lend my support to the idea that if it takes meeting outside our regular hours for us to accommodate a matter of privilege, if the minister's willing to meet with us before the House rises, then that's exactly what we should do as a part of our obligation on a matter of privilege.

What I do not think is acceptable is we get this “I'm just not available; my schedule doesn't fit”, and we're supposed to take that legitimately. We did the first time, and we ended up wearing it, but not the second time. I'm from Hamilton. You don't do that to us twice.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Arnold.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

I appreciate my colleague's comments. We did this on good faith and asked for the minister's availability. There may just be a misunderstanding.

We're meeting on a Tuesday. Typically, that's when cabinet meets when we're meeting as a committee.

The suggestions of coming off-hours, we will go back to the minister and make it clear that we would be prepared to meet at a time that would be convenient for her. We will push it from the government members' side as well.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Okay.