Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. It came to my attention yesterday afternoon that the office and position of legislative counsel has in a de facto manner ceased to exist. I would suggest that this in and of itself is a prima facie case of breach of privilege.
I need not remind members of the House that a breach of privilege occurs according to all the precedents when there is some improper obstruction to the member in performing his parliamentary work. The facts are that in 1993 there were seven legislative counsel and today there are approximately two point something legislative counsel. This is the improper obstruction.
I have three questions to ask. How can a member of any of the 18 standing committees be reasonably expected to have access to independent legal advice concerning the probable effect of specific sections of bills before a committee when no legal counsel is available? How can a member draft amendments to legislation when there is a six month wait for the same two point something people to draft private members' bills? How can a member who is sent here as a legislator fulfil that role without reasonable access and availability of legal counsel? In brief, to do the job, each member requires the tools.
The Privy Council in the case of Kielley v. Carson in 1842 when ruling on a question of privilege noted that members of the legislative body enjoy these privileges because the legislature cannot act or perform without the unimpeded use of the services of its members.
Yet members are in fact being impeded in performing their parliamentary work. Indeed I as a member have no reasonable access to the services of the legislative counsel's office. As a member of this House I have been disempowered in carrying out my duties.
As the guardian of the rights and privileges of this place, I implore you to give me along with others in this place the right to do our work. I am suggesting to you that this is not a matter for the Board of Internal Economy. That body functions in a realm that is defined by statute.
What I am asking of you is to uphold my rights as a member of this House and not my interests as a member of a particular political party which we know is reflected in the composition of the Board of Internal Economy. When the Board of Internal Economy meets, its members present the positions of their parties and members but do not speak or represent each and every member of the House. Only you, Mr. Speaker, as guardian of privileges can act in such a manner.
I am not asking for another business process review of the House staff and functions, nor do I believe that I should be forced to resort to individuals who have been subjected to four hours of training and are now called legislative clerks.
Finally, I am aware suggestions abound that the British Parliament uses legislative clerks to fulfil the function of legislative counsel and by extension the same could apply here. I would suggest that this kind of logic ignores 130 years of the evolution of this House to the point that we are unique and not a twin or clone of Westminster.
I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that a prima facie case of privilege exists and with your permission I would like to move the motion:
That the lack of legislative counsel to assist members in fulfilling their duties is a prima facie case of privilege and this matter shall be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.