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House of Commons Hansard #90 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rcmp.

Topics

Privilege

10 a.m.

The Speaker

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 Glen Murray's nomination as chairperson of the national round table on the environment and the economy be withdrawn.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.

Privilege

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier today I served notice of my intention to raise a question of privilege concerning a householder I had sent to my constituents in the month of April which was a 16 page booklet. I received a number of complaints from constituents telling me that inserted directly inside the householder was a piece of Conservative partisan material.

The item in question was a reply card apparently sent as a 10 percenter by the member for Vegreville—Wainwright displaying the Conservative logo and asking my constituents to send their address information to the Leader of the Opposition.

I am not sure what reason the member from Alberta has to communicate with my constituents but my point is that this solicitation was inserted directly inside my householder and was an integral part of it. This caused confusion for many of my constituents, as well as upsetting them.

We have four opportunities a year to send out our message to all constituents and those messages are not to be filtered by media or opposition members. It is our opportunity to communicate directly with our constituents.

This parliamentary privilege is discussed at page 83 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice and states:

Members are entitled to go about their parliamentary business undisturbed.

This incident has interfered with my parliamentary privilege to communicate with my constituents in an unfettered way.

Some of the householders containing the partisan material were sent to locked Canada Post superboxes. This confirms to me that the insertion occurred either at the House of Commons or somewhere in the Canada Post system. This material was not inserted after it reached the constituents' letter boxes and I think that is an important point to raise in this context.

Mr. Speaker, if you find that I have a prima facie case of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Privilege

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Having recently been through a situation where a similar matter has been referred to the committee, I think the hon. member may have met the threshold that the Chair has established in respect of these kinds of mailings.

It is not clear to me what happened in this instance but there seems to be some confusion as to whether it was generated when this householder was put together or in the course of officials at Canada Post distributing it in the riding. Perhaps the committee will want to have a look at this, so I am prepared to accept the hon. member's motion now.

Privilege

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That the matter of Conservative Party inserts in my householder be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Privilege

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Privilege

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Privilege

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Privilege

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Privilege

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Privilege

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Privilege

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Privilege

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Privilege

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Privilege

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

At the request of the chief opposition whip, the vote on this matter is deferred until Wednesday at the conclusion of the time provided for government orders.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of a Canadian parliamentary delegation to Chile and Argentina from March 14 to 17, 2005.

Is the hon. member for Prince George--Peace River also proposing a motion today? If so, perhaps again he could tell me which number it is he is proposing.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, as I did yesterday and as I will continue to do, I am seeking leave to move concurrence in the 35th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi is also proposing to move a motion. Perhaps he could enlighten the Chair as to which one he is proposing.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 3rd, 2005 / 10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Paradis Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Civil Protection, presented on Friday, December 10, 2004, be concurred in.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

The question is on Motion No. 6 under Motions on today's order paper. The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Paradis Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Bourassa.

On September 23, the RCMP announced the closure of detachments in Coaticook, Granby, Saint-Hyacinthe, Lac-Mégantic, the Magdalen Islands, Baie-Comeau, Roberval, Rivière-du-Loup and Joliette. The detachments affected are located in remote areas.

The top brass at the RCMP maintains that this is a logical decision and the result of a change in vision and direction by the federal police force. The mayors of the municipalities in question, however, fear that the regions will be unprotected and that organized crime will have free rein.

The Association des membres de la Police Montée du Québec Inc. called for a federal inquiry into this matter, after this plan was announced last September. Like the mayors of the affected municipalities, RCMP officers feared an increase in the activities of organized crime, while the top brass talked about the federal police adopting a new vision and direction. They are not alone in condemning this situation; the Association des policiers provinciaux du Québec, the Fédération des policiers et policières municipaux du Québec and the Fraternité des policiers en Montérégie have too.

In early October, federal Liberal caucus members from Quebec also decided to ask the RCMP to reconsider.

This is important to me because it is a matter of public safety. I have met the coalition of mayors and, together, we decided on a strategy. Following this meeting, I wrote to my colleague, the chair of the Standing Committee on Justice, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and member for Simcoe North. I asked for the mayors to have the opportunity to be heard in committee. I am pleased to note that the committee agreed.

On December 7, 2004, the coalition of mayors appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. They had the opportunity to share their opinion and ask that the decision to close the RCMP detachments be reviewed. At committee meetings and, then in the House, I spoke out against this situation.

At that time, they presented a very well documented report. They clearly demonstrated the threat posed by removing the RCMP from our regions, a concern that is shared by the Quebec Liberal caucus, as well as many of our colleagues in this House, and certainly some colleagues in the Bloc Québécois as well. The decision to close the RCMP regional detachments in Quebec needs to be reconsidered. We cannot allow our regions to be vulnerable to crime. Let me quote an except from the mayors' report:

Criminals and organized crime have no regional, municipal or other boundaries and they do not need consultation studies or to testify before committees in order to act. They are wherever we are, seeking the weak link. Let us not allow them to take over our territory, because you can be sure they will take it, if they have not already done so.

On that famous December 7, when the mayors made their appearance, they were backed up by municipal councillors and reeves, as well as former MPs who had been actively involved in this issue. I would like to again congratulate and thank Diane St-Jacques, David Price, and Gérard Binet.

I also salute the mayors' coalition and their spokesperson, Guy Racine, for their excellent work.

When the mayors appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Civil Preparedness, they presented a very good report. They were well prepared and presented some solid arguments. The committee decided to follow their lead and recommend that the detachments be kept open.

The Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Civil Preparedness therefore recommends the following to the government: “ that the RCMP maintain the nine detachments in Quebec that were discussed during our hearings and that it agree to maintain or restore the critical mass of officers per detachment.”

Despite all these supporting arguments, Commissioner Zaccardelli turned a deaf ear. He even went so far as to tell the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Civil Preparedness that a police officer used to be able to process roughly 15 cases a year. Then he added that now they have changed their methods and it takes 15 police officers—according to the Commissioner— to handle one case. I have a great deal of trouble following this about-face.

I would like to make another point. The police must be present locally and seen there. They must be there and be visible there. I think it is important. If the police are never seen on the highway, some might be tempted to speed. So it is important to see the police.

They should be seen at the local level. Their presence has a dissuasive effect. I have been a member of this House for ten years, now. We have always been told at meetings how important the presence of police officers is for dissuasive purposes. I am not talking about community police. I refer to federal police, a drug, customs, national security and public protection network.

In my riding of Brome—Missisquoi alone, it is very clear that marijuana is being planted increasingly in the fields. What sort of message is being sent with RCMP officers being withdrawn from our regions.

In addition, my riding has 10 official border crossings, not to mention the unguarded roads where there is no customs officer. I worked as a customs officer while I was a student. When a person fails to stop at a crossing, who is to be called, now? The Sûreté du Québec officers are busy in their own jurisdiction with roads and crimes involving people or goods. Can the RCMP be present when a customs officer calls?

What do our American neighbours think of all this? They have beefed up security on their side with border patrols. I think the number of police present at border crossings and in the regions should be returned to what it was. The RCMP must be present locally to discourage crime and to keep an eye on dubious transactions, such as when homes are sold for cash at three times their price. Officers have to be part of the community. They have to be involved and act as the ear of justice.

As I said at the outset, I am sharing my time with the member for Bourassa. I give the floor over to him.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague's speech, but I want to ensure, as I will be doing every day that this charade continues, that the viewing public at home understands what is going on here. It is pretty simple. My concurrence motion, which is attached to a report--

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

An hon. member

It is irrelevant.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Oh, really? The member says it is not relevant. It is very relevant to what is going on in this chamber. It is very relevant, because what is happening here is a refusal by the government to allow the democratic process to take place.

My motion would allow the opposition to have a designated opposition day, something the government took away from us. It unilaterally took that away from us a few weeks ago. The government has not re-designated any opposition days, and what is going on with these concurrence motions is not allowing that to happen. Why is the government shutting down Parliament?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Paradis Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are talking here about the RCMP. My hon. colleague need only look at the newspapers. This is a motion that I introduced on December 10, 2004. If he wants to take part in a democratic debate, this is the right place.

This is a debate that the House has every right to hold. It has a right to pronounce on this motion introduced by the member for Brome—Missisquoi. If the hon. member really wants to participate in a democratic debate, I would ask him to continue under our democratic rules and in the framework of the debate currently before this House about the reopening—I am not sure that he knows anything about it—of nine regional RCMP detachments in Quebec. So first of all, does my hon. colleague know anything about this?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was very interested in what my colleague had to say. I know that on this issue, from the beginning, we have been up against the position of not only the commissioner but also the minister. The mayors and the committee have made a series of representations. We met with the minister. The most disappointing moment in this operation, in my view, was when the minister wrote a letter indicating her full support for the commissioner.

It strikes me today as important, therefore, for this motion to be debated and voted upon in the House of Commons. In this way, the government can be sent a very clear message. I hope that a majority in this House will tell the government that these detachments absolutely must be reopened.

During the work done by the border caucus, we realized, first, that there is a major problem with the open area that is left to organized crime and, second, officers are being withdrawn from the borders. The question I have for my colleague is about these two things. Should the minister not have faced the fact that not only do the current areas have to be covered but additional money must be obtained for the coalition to deal, for instance, with organized crime, rather than just robbing Peter to pay Paul. A way has to be found to provide all the services.

Does the hon. member agree with me that it is important that a majority in this House vote in favour of the motion? By doing so, we might prompt the government to change its attitude and show some respect for the will of the House of Commons in this regard.