House of Commons Hansard #204 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was businesses.

Topics

Public SafetyOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, there should be no more excuses and no more empty promises.

The city and the province are waiting for the government's approval for 100 new RCMP officers. The people of Surrey need more police on the streets now. They need more gang prevention and drug crime prevention funding.

Conservatives' self-congratulation for their failures is not going to fix the problem. The violence on our streets is real, and the government needs to take real action.

Will the minister commit, here and now, to approve the new officers and resources, and provide clear timelines for when they will arrive?

Public SafetyOral Questions

3 p.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario

Conservative

Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, of course our Conservative government has taken strong action to keep British Columbians and all Canadians safe.

It is very interesting that they are standing here in the House asking for more resources when in fact this government has increased resources for the RCMP seven times, and seven times the member who asked that question voted against it.

TaxationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to thousands of hard-working parents in my riding about their child care choices and the cost of raising a family.

They have expressed their strong support for our new family tax cut and enhanced universal child care benefit that will make every single family, including single parents, better off. However, they are deeply concerned that the NDP and the Liberals would take that away from them.

Can the Minister of State for Social Development please outline how our balanced budget is providing real, tangible support to middle-class families?

TaxationOral Questions

3 p.m.

Portage—Lisgar Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen ConservativeMinister of State (Social Development)

Mr. Speaker, the member for Wild Rose is correct. His constituents need to be worried about the NDP and the Liberals and what they would do given the chance.

We are giving benefits to every family with children in this country. What the NDP does is insult families when they do not use licensed daycare, and 90% of them do not. We respect what families decide to do in terms of looking after their children.

That is why we are giving every family with kids $160 for each child under the age of six, $60 for every child over the age seven, because we believe that money belongs to Canadian families, not to bureaucracies, not to unions, not to government coffers.

EmploymentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' inconsistent management approach has made a terrible mess of the temporary foreign worker program.

After leaving this program wide open to abuse, the Conservatives are now going to the other extreme and closing the floodgates to the point where employers are being denied workers they legitimately need to keep our economy going. The Quebec government and the Chambre de commerce du Québec are condemning this mess and have every right to seek to negotiate terms.

When will the Conservatives stop hurting the economy with their incompetence and arrogance?

EmploymentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeMinister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, Quebec has known about these changes since June 2014, and we have spoken with the Government of Quebec about them since that announcement was made.

However, 143,000 Quebeckers have been receiving employment insurance benefits this year and they need jobs. Jobs in Quebec should be going to Quebeckers. It is shameful that the Liberal Party wants to take jobs away from Quebeckers and give them to temporary foreign workers. That is completely shameful.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. Speaker, Canada's two-year reign over the Arctic Council has been labelled a failure by the international community.

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the north, and the Conservatives chose to ignore it. The United States have taken charge and declared that the Arctic Council will return to critical issues, like the impact of Arctic climate change, the development of renewable energy, public education, monitoring ocean acidification.

Why did the government waste two years of Arctic Council time and spoil its efforts on the international stage?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where this member has been on this file, but we have championed a program of economic development and environmental sustainability.

This hon. member said something about a failure. I was at that conference. Every single permanent member there praised our government and the Minister of the Environment for her chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

He is the only one, and they are the only ones, who are questioning this. Nobody else is.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government, under the leadership of this Prime Minister, has been unequivocal in our support for Ukraine.

Whether it takes 5 months or 50 years, we will never, ever recognize the illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea, which is sovereign Ukrainian territory.

Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs please update the House on the most recent measures our government has taken to support Ukraine and its territorial integrity?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Canada strongly condemns the actions of the combined Russian separatist forces, and we remain concerned about what appears to be Vladimir Putin's command and control of militants in occupied Ukraine.

Today, I was pleased to announce, along with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, Canadian funding for a series of projects to strengthen human rights and improve Ukraine's business environment.

This is in addition to Canada's significant military contribution, NATO's assurance packages, and the world's strongest sanctions.

We should make no mistake: under the leadership of this Prime Minister, Canada stands with Ukraine.

Public SafetyOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me parenthetically agree entirely with the member for Northwest Territories. Canada's performance as chair of the Arctic Council was a disgrace.

My question is related to Bill C-51 and the 94th application of time allocation. Earlier today, the government House leader made the absurd claim that I had not read Bill C-51, which I assure the House I have studied assiduously, and I doubt that the hon. member has.

I would like to know if the government House leader knows the difference between oversight, review, and issuing a warrant. They are three entirely different concepts. Bill C-51 does not contain any judicial oversight.

Public SafetyOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, when we introduced this legislation and drafted it, we had a choice. We could ask politicians after the fact to examine the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service with regard to its new powers, or we could give that power to judges to examine, in advance before acts were undertaken, whether they were appropriate, and if they thought so, to grant a warrant.

That is the choice we made. We chose to have judges review these matters rather than politicians.

EmploymentOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Forces et Démocratie

Jean-François Fortin Forces et Démocratie Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Employment should look outside and see that summer is just around the corner. It is a crucial time for many businesses that will need many workers, including temporary foreign workers, to operate.

This morning, Quebec minister Kathleen Weil criticized Ottawa's refusal to understand Quebec's needs and to modify the current criteria of the temporary foreign worker program, which will penalize many employers and sectors of activity.

Does the minister realize that his refusal to fix the program will hurt the economy and inevitably the workers he claims he is protecting?

EmploymentOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeMinister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, 143,000 Quebeckers received employment insurance in 2013. Employers should hire those Quebeckers instead of hiring temporary foreign workers. Quebeckers are entitled to work in their own province.

We will protect this right by ensuring that employers look to hire Quebeckers and not just temporary foreign workers.

EmploymentOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

That will bring question period to an end for today.

However, I would like to draw the attention of all hon. members to the upcoming centenary, on May 3, 2015, of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae's iconic poem In Flanders Fields.

McCrae, a surgeon in the Canadian Field Artillery, was in charge of a field hospital during the second battle of Ypres in 1915. His friend and former student, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed in the battle. It was his burial among the poppies that in part inspired the poem, first published anonymously in the magazine Punch.

Over time, the poem has come to symbolize the collective mourning of all Canadians in remembrance of those who, in service of their country, have made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us.

Hon. members may have noticed that the words of McCrae's well-known poem are engraved in English and in French on two of the marble panels that line the walls of the Memorial Chamber.

This room is a reflection of the country’s profound sense of loss following the First World War and, like the poem, it has come to represent our nation’s immeasurable gratitude for all those who have died in service to Canada.

I am pleased to inform all hon. members that the Department of Veterans Affairs has given permission to modify the page-turning schedule of the First World War Book of Remembrance so that the page that bears the name of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae will be displayed today, April 30.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge members of the clan McCrae, who are present today in the gallery.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have bad news and good news.

The bad new is that today, the government sadly used a closure and time allocation motion for the 94th time to shut down debate on Bill C-51, which is a threat to our rights and freedoms.

The government even seems to want to move a 95th closure motion after question period. Unbelievable. This government will not allow debate.

The good news is that tomorrow is May 1. That means that there are only 170 days left in the life of the Conservative government. There are only 30 sitting days. What that means is that the damage the Conservative government is doing is going to start being repaired as of Oct 19, when an NDP government comes in and starts repairing all that the government has broken over the course of the last few years. That is good news for Canadians.

That being said, I would like to ask my hon. colleague, the government House leader, what will be on the government's agenda in the coming week.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

April 30th, 2015 / 3:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I admire the quality of optimism, and I know that hope springs eternal in my colleague's breast.

After this statement, we will complete the motion, pursuant to Standing Order 78, in relation to Bill C-51. After that, we will consider Bill C-46, the pipeline safety act at report stage, and then proceed to debate it at third reading. This bill would ensure that Canada's pipeline safety regime remains world class. That debate will continue next week, on Wednesday.

Tomorrow we will wrap up the second reading debate on Bill C-50, the citizen voting act. The House will have an opportunity later today, I hope, to deliberate on how that will proceed.

Monday, we will conclude the report stage debate of Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015. Our Conservative government takes all threats to the security of Canada and Canadians very seriously.

That is why we are moving forward with Bill C-51 and the crucial provisions contained in it to protect our national security. Third reading of this important bill will take place Tuesday.

Thursday, before question period, we will consider Bill S-3, the port state measures agreement implementation act at report stage, and hopefully, third reading. This bill passed at second reading with widespread support, and I am optimistic that third reading will be no different.

I understand that the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities is meeting this afternoon to give clause-by-clause consideration to Bill C-52, the Safe and Accountable Rail Act. This bill would further strengthen Canada's rail safety regime and ensure that adequate compensation is available. If the committee finishes that work today, we will consider the bill at report stage and third reading after question period next Thursday.

At second reading, New Democrats spoke about the importance of passing this bill urgently and therefore I hope that they will see to letting this legislation pass next week, so that the Senate will have plenty of time to complete its consideration of the bill before the summer adjournment.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege. We will proceed with that now.

Physical ObstructionPrivilegeOral Questions

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege related to an event that took place a little earlier this afternoon as a number of my colleagues and I were returning to the House of Commons for a vote.

Allow me to preface my comments by saying that as of the events of October last year, and the constant reminders, our admiration and respect for the security forces that govern and protect us on Parliament Hill is consistent for me and my colleagues on the New Democrat benches and all members of the House. We commend them for their work and for their constant courage. They have a difficult task. They maintain access for the public to this institution, this House of Commons, and to all of the parliamentary buildings. They have to maintain an incredibly high level of security, given the world we live in. They also must maintain, as is ordered by this House and our constitution, access for all members of Parliament to the House of Commons in order for us to fulfill our duties on behalf of Canadians.

Today, however, I, and others, was blocked from accessing the parliamentary precinct by an officer of the RCMP. The physical obstruction impeded me from performing my parliamentary duties, which I believe constitutes a prima facie breach of my privilege as a member of this House.

I will remind the House that this a matter that concerns all members of Parliament, and there were, in fact, Conservative members of Parliament on the bus who shared my concern about the actions that took place and our inability to return to the House, because as members will know, today we had a number of votes. The votes we were returning to were taking place a few short minutes from the moment we were stopped from entering the gate onto Parliament Hill.

Erskine May's Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament defines “privilege” in the following way, on page 75:

Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively...and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions....

We take this, of course, very seriously. It is the foundation of our democratic principles in this place.

Let me explain what happened. I think that will set the ground for a ruling perhaps later today or in the future.

Earlier today I was denied reasonable, timely access to the parliamentary precinct by an officer of the force. At the time, I was coming to the House of Commons to attend a vote to adjourn the House of Commons.

When the bells started ringing for the vote, I was in the Valour Building for a meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance. I was chairing the meeting at the time. We had remained with a number of MPs to entertain the witnesses we had who were discussing the important issue of terror financing. Once the committee adjourned its meeting, with sufficient time to return to the House so that all members could make it in a reasonable time, I went outside onto Wellington Street and took one of the official shuttles of Parliament to get back to the House immediately for the vote. There were some, I want to approximate, seven or eight minutes until we were voting, which is certainly sufficient time.

As the shuttle approached the East Block entrance to the parliamentary precinct on Wellington Street, an officer refused to allow the shuttle to turn into the security area, leaving us in the middle of Wellington, in the left-hand turn lane. I am sure members are familiar with it.

MPs from both sides of the House, Conservatives and New Democrats, particularly my Conservative colleagues, I should say, from my recollection, raised their concern about the need to proceed to the House immediately. The time was approaching perhaps five minutes before the vote was to take place. They raised their concern and asked the driver to allow us, if we could not turn into the parliamentary precinct, to at least disembark from the bus.

Not surprisingly, though, the driver of the bus was unable to do so, because we were in the middle of Wellington Street, and that would have been entirely unsafe for all members, and we were denied that permission, which was of course right.

We then asked the driver, some of my Conservative colleagues, to drive onto the sidewalk portion. For those who are familiar with the parliamentary precinct, there is a small buttress before one hits the gate where the RCMP member was standing and denying access. The driver also indicated that this was not possible. It was not permitted by the security conditions of the House, and the RCMP was not allowing that option either. We were literally not stuck in traffic but stuck in the middle of the road, unable to proceed onto Parliament Hill.

This is, I presume, part of some security protocol that was going on at the time, but that was not explained to us when we eventually were able to pass through.

The RCMP officer signalled to our driver, and then through him to us, that it would be another three to five minutes before he would allow us to proceed in the shuttle.

As members can imagine, this caused a certain amount of consternation among me and my colleagues, more so from my Conservative friends because every minute as the bells are ringing and time is ticking down is a precious one. When the votes commence they are not done again if someone is unable to attend, once a vote is taken.

We were not told what reason led to the officer denying us access to the parliamentary precinct, but many other MPs were on the shuttle with me. The member for London—Fanshawe, whose office is in the Valour Building, was also on that shuttle, trying to make every effort to get to the vote and perform her duties. Members can check this against their own memories, but I am almost certain that the member for North Vancouver and the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's were also on the bus, as well as one other colleague, whose name I am misplacing right now, from the Conservative caucus. I am sure if they seek it, they would have an opportunity to intervene in this debate because, as I have said a few times, they showed a certain amount of consternation.

At one point, one of my Conservative colleagues said that if this were a confidence vote the government could fall and this is unacceptable. While it was not a vote of confidence, we have had confidence votes in this place that have been decided by one or two votes on one side of the House. We all remember our dear departed friend, Mr. Cadman, who cast a vote in this House on a motion of confidence and that night in the House of Commons the government was to fall or continue based on that one singular vote.

There are a number of precedents for this. As members know, the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice says on page 110:

In circumstances where Members claim to be physically obstructed, impeded, interfered with or intimidated in the performance of their parliamentary functions, the Speaker is apt to find a prima facie breach of privilege has occurred.

Incidents involving physical obstruction—such as traffic barriers, security cordons and union picket lines either impeding Members' access to the Parliamentary Precinct or blocking their free movement within the precinct—as well as occurrences of physical assault or molestation have been found to be prima facie cases of privilege.

To reiterate, security cordons, traffic barriers or any kind of picket line would all qualify as reasons why we would find a prima facie case of a breach of privilege.

The second edition of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada by Joseph Maingot states on page 230, “Members are entitled to go about their parliamentary business undisturbed”.

Members have experienced this on the grounds typically as they approach a security cordon or any of the entrances to the House of Commons that many conduct ourselves with our parliamentary pins or a ring or some indication. However, that of course is not the rule. The security precinct is also required to be able to identify us as we come in. As I look around the House today, I see that members on both sides, including me, do not carry our pins at all times. Identification is paramount to allow us to enter. I notice the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons missed his pin today, but he of course has free and unobstructed access to the House and is granted that permission every time he comes in.

In fact, this is not the first time we have raised this matter. Every time, we are told again and again by the establishment that the matter will be looked into, yet we see little or no improvement. Examples of prima facie cases of breach of privilege abound. I will remind the House of Speaker's rulings in similar instances.

The first occurred on March 15, 2012 when, during the visit of a head of state, members who were not carrying their identification with them—not just the pin but some form of picture ID—were barred from accessing Parliament Hill by the security forces.

The second happened again basically two years later on September 25, 2014 when the member for Acadie—Bathurst was delayed in accessing Parliament Hill by a similar roadblock set up to allow the motorcade of the then president of Germany to pass. The obstruction again occurred while bells were ringing for a vote on time allocation presented by the Conservative government of the time, and the member was nearly denied his right to vote.

In both of these previous cases, Mr. Speaker, you ruled that these instances were prima facie breaches of privilege. The House was returned with the message that those things, in both cases, would not happen again, that things would improve and certain measures were made, but clearly not enough.

We must remind the House that some people will ask what it matters if an MP is unable to return back to vote. We on this side believe that right and privilege is the central tenet of how a democracy functions, that members must absolutely be able to return and vote at the earliest possible convenience and cannot be barred from entering the House to vote.

Let us again remember the scenarios. It may not mean much to members today because many votes are decided not beforehand, but there is a majority in the government right now and the Conservatives are able to cast ballots and win the vast majority of those votes. However, it was not that long ago that we were in minority parliaments, and we may return to them again in the future, in which every single vote that is cast has a contributing factor to the outcome, either on the passage or the denial of a bill, or in the very sustaining of a government or having that government fall and have Canadians return to an election.

I raise this question in the context of the larger issue that has previously been raised in the House of Commons, which is becoming increasingly relevant following the adoption of a motion that the Conservatives pushed through, under closure I might add, related to the general security of the parliamentary precinct. This motion instructed both Speakers of Parliament to invite the RCMP to lead all operational security throughout the parliamentary precinct and the grounds around Parliament Hill.

Mr. Speaker, jurisdiction is no longer clear. I refer to the fact that although the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Speaker of the Senate are in fact masters of the parliamentary precinct, you will then be forced to delegate the authority for all operations, maintenance and security to the RCMP, to PWGSC and other agencies. Let me remind you that in the case of our security forces, we have been put in the situation, not by negotiations reached by all parties, which has been the tradition of the House of Commons here, the House of Commons in England, and virtually every parliamentary precinct that has a functioning democracy, that when speaking of issues of security the best and really the only good solution is arrived at by all members of the House because there is no partisan interest, there is no vote to be gained, there is no advantage to be taken by having one security version over another. However, that was not done here. A motion was pushed through the House under closure to come to the situation that we are in right now.

I believe this contradicts the second edition of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice on page 323, which states:

One of the fundamental privileges of the House is to regulate its own internal affairs, exercising exclusive jurisdiction over its premises and the people within.

Let me remind us of that statement, that our own guidelines, the instructions that we have to follow as parliamentarians, instruct us that the masters of our fate must be guided here. That includes issues regarding security. They cannot be outsourced or given over to another. The function of Parliament is unique, as are the functions of any other part of government. The free and fair access to voting, and the security systems that are informed by the members who are here are exclusive to here. The government has chosen a different path that we think is a precarious one.

I also refer the House to page 170 of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada by Mr. Maingot, which states:

...the House of Commons is not a department of the government of Canada but exists as a constituent element of Parliament.

He goes on further to say:

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—

You, the Speaker of the House:

...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.

Therefore, in our rules and guidelines around parliamentary function it clearly states that the design of security and the function of this House is guided by who we elect to the Speaker's office, both here and in the Senate. It cannot be sourced out. This is not some department and it cannot be controlled by the government of the day, regardless of what the Conservatives are trying to do.

Mr. Speaker, I think you would be the first to agree that all members of Parliament are equal in their privileges in this House and no member should be interfered with or disadvantaged in any way in accessing the Hill to conduct his or her duties as a member of Parliament. I could only imagine that, if a group of government members were denied access to a vote that they sought to win and they lost that vote because a certain number of members were kept at a security cordon, this exact same privilege being raised by my friends would cut across all partisan interests because our central interest is to allow us to do our democratic duties.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to consider my question of privilege and the facts I just related. I believe you will find that my privilege was breached and that I was prevented from carrying out my functions as an elected member of the House of Commons. If you find that there was a prima facie breach of my privileges as a member, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Physical ObstructionPrivilegeOral Questions

3:30 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's words very carefully and I must say that, being a member of the procedure and House affairs committee, if you find that there is a prima facie case of privilege in this instance, it will be the third time that our committee has dealt with this very issue about access to the Hill.

I do not in any way, shape or form want to try and suggest that this is not an important issue, because it is. However, I note with great interest that while the member very eloquently pointed out that he was almost prevented from attending a very important vote, we have votes yet to come this afternoon. I am sure that my colleague would not want to miss those by unduly delaying the process that is currently under way to allow such a vote to occur.

I will not make additional comment at this point in time, but I believe that it needs further comment. We have heard from the RCMP on two occasions already in the procedures and House affairs committee. We have expressed our dissatisfaction with the operation of the RCMP from time to time. We have met with the Assistant Commissioner who is responsible for security and the last time we met with the Commissioner of the RCMP.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you that, with your guidance and permission, the government will come back with a more detailed assessment of exactly what occurred this afternoon and present our position at that time. However, I do want to encourage all members to observe brevity this afternoon so that we can continue with the votes that the member opposite so graphically pointed out are important to all members of this House.

I will be making further submissions in due course.

Physical ObstructionPrivilegeOral Questions

3:30 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very troubled by the events related by the hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, but I must say that I am not at all surprised. The level of interference around the House of Commons in the Parliamentary Precinct by RCMP officers has markedly increased to my direct observation.

I have actually had RCMP officers tell me as I go through security clearance that even though they recognize me, they demand to see a pass. Now this is rather unusual. As the member mentioned, the parliamentary pin was supposed to be accessed.

The House of Commons security guards inside this place, as we all know, are extraordinary and know us all on sight. The RCMP appear to go through a rapid cycling through new people all the time. I suppose they recognize the Prime Minister, I would hope so, but I do not think they know anyone else on sight. As I was told by an RCMP officer, even if they do, they think they have to see a pass.

There is a real problem around this place. I know we have important votes. Of course, on the subject matter of votes being time allocation, I do not think that these matters of time allocation should be coming before us at all.

However, I do agree that we want to be able to be present for all important votes, and every vote is important. Impeding access to this place by being encircled by RCMP who have now, in an unconstitutional fashion, been placed in charge of Hill security is a real problem.

Physical ObstructionPrivilegeOral Questions

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my voice to the concerns expressed by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

I was indeed on the same parliamentary bus trying to make my way to the House of Commons for a very important vote. I am sure you can imagine, Mr. Speaker, how upsetting it was to be stranded in the middle of Wellington Street, unable to disembark, prevented from moving to the security area and denied access to the House of Commons.

I wish to remind the members present that I, like every member here, have an obligation to my constituents, the people of London—Fanshawe, to uphold their right to expression through my vote. My parliamentary privileges were jeopardized, because my access to the House was denied, and consequently the rights of my constituents were not respected. This obstruction is absolutely unacceptable.

I wish to underscore the concerns of my colleague for Skeena—Bulkley Valley in reminding you, Mr. Speaker, that we in this Parliament have been put in this situation, not by negotiations agreed to by all parties, but by a simple motion written by the government, without consultation with other parties, and rammed through by a vote of the Conservative majority.

This is clearly yet another example of the tyranny of the current Conservative majority. It is not democratic. It is not acceptable.

Therefore, I ask, Mr. Speaker, that you ensure the free movement of members of Parliament within the Parliamentary Precinct. It is absolutely essential if we are to have any semblance of democracy in this place again.

Physical ObstructionPrivilegeOral Questions

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I sit on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the issue of access to the parliamentary precinct is of the utmost importance. We all represent constituents and we all have a mandate to serve. The importance of being able to have that accessibility to the parliamentary precinct as a whole, which goes beyond the chamber itself, is of critical importance. Being able to be present for votes is also very important.

I would like to highlight that if we are going to err, it is better that we err on the side of caution and recognize that we have had a couple of members stand in their place this afternoon to indicate that they felt their privilege was breached. To that extent, I would suggest that there is merit for this matter to go to the procedure and House affairs committee. I know that PROC is busy nowadays with the windup of other issues in this session, but the seriousness of the issue at hand indicates that it does merit review. This is no reflection whatsoever on the professionalism of the RCMP, our security staff, or even the green shuttle bus driver, who I suspect is just following instructions. It is not safe for all those on the bus and others to just let people out in the middle of a street.

We recognize the high sense of professionalism and would suggest to the chair that if we are going to err, let us err on the right side of this issue and allow it to go to PROC where it can be properly looked at.