Mr. Speaker, I rise to seek your guidance on a matter that came to public attention this morning. There would appear to be interference with the business of the House by officials of the Prime Minister's Office.
I refer to an article by Campbell Clark in this morning's Globe and Mail , wherein it is reported that the duly elected president of the Liberal Party of Canada, Mr. Stephen LeDrew, was prevented by the Prime Minister's Office from giving testimony to a committee of the House. The article stated:
In an unusual move that highlights a battle over the bill between the outgoing Prime Minister and his party, [the Prime Minister's] office told Liberal Party president Stephen LeDrew that it did not want him to testify on the changes to fundraising laws at a parliamentary committee yesterday.
Instead, the Prime Minister's Office asked the party's senior paid staffer, national director Terry Mercer, to give the Liberal view. Mr. Mercer said he would speak in favour of the bill. He was accompanied by Eddie Goldenberg, the Prime Minister's senior policy adviser and right-hand man, who rarely appears before Commons committees.
The article went on to say:
Mr. LeDrew said he found it unusual when [the Prime Minister's] chief of staff, Percy Downe, told him the PMO did not want him to testify at the hearing. “The Prime Minister wants Terry to give the evidence,” Mr. LeDrew said in an interview yesterday
Mr. Speaker, as an experienced parliamentarian, you know that irregularities before committees are usually dealt with in committee. However, from time to time, Speakers have implicated that in grave circumstances the Chair would be justified in intervening without a report from the committee.
It is known that there is a dispute between the Prime Minister and the president of the Liberal Party of Canada. That is not a matter for the House. What may be a matter for the House is an interference with witnesses or people who seek to be witnesses before committees of the House.
If Stephen LeDrew were prevented from giving testimony on Bill C-24, and I remind you that he seems to oppose the bill, having described it as, “dumb as a bag of hammers”, if he were prevented by the Prime Minister's agents from giving testimony to a parliamentary committee, that would seem to me to be a grave and serious matter. Therefore, I seek the guidance of the Chair.
On April 7, when dealing with irregularities in the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources , Mr. Speaker stated:
That said, it is, I think, advisable, to remind the House of our usual practice with respect to procedural irregularities in a committee. Marleau and Montpetit, page 858, states: “If a committee desires that some action be taken against those disrupting its proceedings, it must report the situation to the House”.
At page 128, we read: “Speakers have consistently ruled that, except in the most extreme situations, they will only hear questions of privilege arising from committee proceedings upon presentation of a report from the committee which directly deals with the matter and not as a question of privilege raised by an individual member”.
In ruling that there are extreme cases where the Speaker would have a responsibility to hear a question of privilege on a matter that was before a committee, did the Speaker have in mind such a matter as interference with a potential witness? Or is there another avenue open to the House to ensure that the Prime Minister's agents do not stop the elected president of the Liberal Party from expressing his opposition to a measure that the Prime Minister has threatened to push through the House whether or not his party favours it?
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your courtesy in hearing me on this important issue.