I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on November 22, 2017, by the member for Montcalm regarding the participation of the Minister of Finance in the vote on Motion No. 42. In raising this matter, the member for Montcalm reiterated the arguments raised by the member for Joliette on November 8, 2017, contending that the Minister of Finance was in contravention of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons by participating in a vote on Motion No. 42 relating to tax avoidance. He also argued that the minister had attempted, through his parliamentary secretary, to influence the House in the furtherance of his private interest.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, page 568, states:
No Member is entitled to take part in debate or to vote on any question in which he or she has a private interest (formerly referred to as a “direct pecuniary interest”), and any vote subsequently determined to have been cast in these circumstances would be disallowed....
If a Member's vote is questioned after the fact, it is the practice to accept his or her word. If the House wishes to pursue the issue, notice must first be given of a substantive motion to disallow a Member's vote.
In addition, section 13 of the Conflict of Interest Code, which was established to guide members in the ethical discharge of their duties, including when there are private interests, states, and I quote:
A Member shall not participate in debate on or vote on a question in which he or she has a private interest.
Based on the restriction provided in the code, it is clear that the right of members to debate and vote is not absolute. Furthermore, Speaker Milliken, on October 6, 2005, stated, at page 8473 of the Debates:
...the Conflict of Interest Code contains rules that the House has adopted for itself and that the House has mandated the Ethics Commissioner to interpret and apply the code.
It is the commissioner who has the sole authority to apply the dispositions of the code and to investigate any alleged conflicts of interest. It should be noted, however, that members do have the ability to refer matters to the commissioner. Section 27 of the code establishes the process relating to concerns about a potential conflict of interest involving another member. The House too can direct the commissioner to conduct an inquiry by way of a resolution. Section 28 then outlines how the House may proceed if the commissioner concludes that a member has not complied with an obligation under the code.
It is not the role of the Chair to determine if a conflict of interest exists, but instead, to ensure that the rights and privileges of members of this House are always safeguarded. By extension, as Speaker, I cannot unilaterally deprive a member of the right to vote any more than I can unilaterally order that a vote be redone.
As members will surely appreciate, the seriousness of a charge against a member is such that the Chair must make absolutely certain that the procedures that the House has adopted are strictly followed. I would like to thank all members for their attention in this matter.