I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on Tuesday, April 12, by the hon. member for Red Deer concerning the government's disregard of a motion adopted by the House with respect to an order in council appointment.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Red Deer for bringing this matter to the attention of the House as well as the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for his intervention.
In presenting his case, the hon. member for Red Deer charged that the Prime Minister was in contempt of Parliament for disregarding the motion adopted by the House on April 6 recommending that Mr. Glen Murray's nomination as chairperson of the national round table on the environment and the economy be withdrawn. The hon. member for Red Deer argued that his privileges had been taken away because the Prime Minister had ignored the wishes of the House of Commons by appointing Mr. Murray to the position.
In order for the House to appreciate fully the context of the hon. member’s question of privilege, I feel it would be useful if I summarized the proceedings leading up to it.
On February 17, 2005, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons tabled the certificate of nomination of Mr. Glen Murray as chairperson of the national round table on the environment and the economy pursuant to Standing Order 110(2), after which the certificate of nomination was referred to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. Mr. Murray was subsequently invited to appear before the committee to answer questions about his qualifications for the position.
On March 8, 2005, the committee adopted the following motion:
That, due to the fact Mr. Glen Murray has insufficient experience in environment related fields or study, this committee calls on the Prime Minister to withdraw Mr. Murray’s appointment to the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy.
The chair of the committee, the hon. member for York South--Weston, informed the members of the committee that although the committee did not have the power to revoke an appointment, a letter would be sent to the Prime Minister advising him of the committee's decision.
On March 22, 2005, the committee adopted another motion to report its decision to the House and on March 24, 2005, the chair of the committee presented the committee's fourth report to the House. The House subsequently adopted a motion to concur in the committee's report on April 6, 2005. In the meantime, Mr. Murray's appointment had been confirmed by the Prime Minister's Office.
On April 14, 2005, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House rose to present the government's position with respect to the question of privilege. The hon. parliamentary secretary provided the House and the Chair with additional facts that he believed were relevant to the issue. He stated that the appointment was proceeded with on March 18, 2005, because the government understood from the chair's letter that the committee had completed its consideration of the matter and “in full knowledge that it did not have the power to revoke the appointment”. He noted that it was only after the appointment had been finalized that the committee decided to report the matter to the House.
During my deliberations on this question of privilege, I reviewed Standing Orders 110 and 111 relating to the examination of order in council certificates of nomination and appointments by standing committees to refresh my memory as to their operation.
For the benefit of members, Standing Orders 110 and 111 were first adopted on a provisional basis by the House in February 1986 and made permanent in June 1987. Standing Order 110(1) provides for the tabling in the House of a certified copy of an order in council appointing an individual to a non-judicial post and its referral to a standing committee for its consideration.
Standing Order 110(2) provides for the tabling of a certificate stating that a specific individual has been nominated for an appointment to a specified non-judicial role and the referral of this certificate to a standing committee for its consideration for a period not exceeding 30 sitting days. This is the mechanism by which Mr. Murray's nomination was referred to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.
Standing Order 111 sets forth the terms of the examination of the appointee or nominee in the designated committee. In particular, the Standing Order restricts the examination to the appointee's qualifications and competence and provides for a specific time limit of 10 sitting days for the examination of the appointee or nominee in the committee from the first consideration and within the overall 30 day limit.
I would also like to refer members to page 875 of Marleau and Montpetit:
Appointments are effective on the day they are announced by the government, not on the date the certificates are published or tabled in the House.
Further, on page 877, it states:
A committee has no power to revoke an appointment or nomination and may only report that they have examined the appointee or nominee and give their judgement as to whether the candidate has the qualifications and competence to perform the duties of the post to which he or she has been appointed or nominated. House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 448, further states that the adoption of:
A resolution of the House makes a declaration of opinion or purpose; it does not have the effect of requiring that any action be taken--nor is it binding.
To conclude, it is clear from the above that order in council appointments are the prerogative of the Crown.
While the government can be guided by recommendations of a standing committee on the appointment or nomination of an individual, the Speaker cannot compel the government to abide by the committee's recommendation nor by the House's decision on these matters. I therefore find there is no prima facie question of privilege.
I thank the hon. member for Red Deer for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.
The Chair has notice of another question of privilege from the hon. member for Ajax--Pickering.