Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege. I maintain that the privileges of the House as a collective have been breached in that the government has assumed direction and control over when parliamentary precinct flags will be lowered to half-mast, when, according to the authorities that I have researched, that choice in fact should be the jurisdiction of the Speaker on behalf of Parliament.
On page 275 of Marleau and Montpetit, chapter 7, it states:
One of the fundamental privileges of the House is to regulate its own internal affairs, holding exclusive jurisdiction over its premises....
Notwithstanding that certain government departments have a role in the upkeep and maintenance of the buildings in the precinct, ultimately even those tasks are the duties and responsibilities of you, sir.
I argue, and I ask you to consider, that it should not be up to the protocol office of the Departments of Heritage or Public Works and Government Services to dictate when the flag is lowered. It should be you on behalf of my colleagues in the Parliament of Canada.
I would like to quote as well for your consideration page 170 of the book Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, second edition, by Joseph Maingot. It states:
--the House of Commons is not a department of the government of Canada, but exists as a constituent element of Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, I think you will find it instructive that in today's question period, when asked again to lower the flag, the Minister of National Defence said, “government has decided”, “government has its policy and is sticking to it”.
Neither the Minister of National Defence nor the Prime Minister representing the executive branch of government has primacy over the will of Parliament. I believe their unilateral and arbitrary actions pertaining to the treatment of the flag flying over the Peace Tower usurps the authority and undermines privileges of members of Parliament. Our collective privilege as MPs should have primacy over any minister, even the Prime Minister.
Therefore I believe that my rights as a member have been offended and limited. I respectfully point out and remind you, sir, that according to Marleau and Montpetit it is the responsibility of the Speaker to act as the guardian of all the rights and privileges of members and of the House as an institution.
I quote lastly page 170 of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada by Maingot which states:
Each House of Parliament is entitled to the administration of affairs within its own precincts free from interference.... Control of the accommodation and services within the Parliament Buildings is therefore vested in the Speakers...on behalf of their respective Houses. Thus Public Works and Government Services and other government departments act only on the advice of officials of each House.
I read this to say, Mr. Speaker, and I hope you agree, that it should be the Speaker on behalf of members of Parliament who should determine if and when the flag flies at half-mast.
The government taking upon itself the authority to tell staff whether or not they should lower the flag to half-mast is an appropriation of the powers of Parliament and violates the privilege of each member here. I ask that you to find a prima facie case of privilege in this argument.