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House of Commons Hansard #166 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was debate.

Topics

The House resumed from April 11 consideration of the motion, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

When the House last took up debate on the question, the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup had 13 and a half minutes remaining.

The hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to resume debate on the question of privilege raised by my colleagues, in whose favour you ruled, concerning the privileges that the House gives to MPs and that are sometimes put to the test. When we raise a breach of privilege, that gives us a chance to review the facts.

Raising this question of privilege put an end to an extremely important debate on the fundamental changes that the government wants to make. It sneakily proposed the changes at a Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs meeting by tabling a paper about reforms to the way Parliament and the House of Commons work.

Although some of the changes are objectionable, I believe that we would be receptive to some of the other proposed changes. The reason we are getting in the way of the government's plans a bit is that we want to protect our privileges in the House.

It is important to recognize that society is changing. We are not against the notion of possibly changing the rules of the House of Commons. The problem has nothing to do with the points we might study or how the House might evolve, but rather how this was presented to us.

The vast majority, if not all, of the changes that the House has undergone since its creation, that is, over the past 150 years of the Constitution, have been adopted unanimously by all parliamentarians. This time, the Liberal government wants to unilaterally impose new procedures, supposedly in order to move things forward and make the House more efficient.

These lofty theories play well in the media, but the reality is that all parliamentarians deserve to be treated with a minimum of respect. It is completely unacceptable for a majority government to want to impose on all parliamentarians a new way of doing things in the House, without giving them the opportunity to vote for or against those changes. It is crucial that parliamentarians be unanimous regarding the discussion that the Liberals want to have, and Canadians need to understand that.

The reason is quite simple. There is one party in the House that has just one representative and another party, the Bloc Québécois, that has 10 members and is not a recognized party. However, every one of us was elected by Canadians and we should all be able to represent Canadians in a system where every parliamentarian has a say. We are our constituents' representatives and, as such, should have a say in these changes.

When we look at the paper as a whole we see some very interesting things. I repeat that we are not against potential changes. What we want is to have the discussion that the Liberals claim to be offering us. The problem is that they are not offering a discussion.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I am an entrepreneur. If I had the type of discussion that the Liberals want to have with parliamentarians with my clients, my partners, my associates, or my suppliers I would have gone out of business a long time ago. That would be inevitable.

To earn respect, you must show respect. As they say, you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. This is not happening at present. It seems that we are going to fight to the end. We cannot accept that. The beauty of it is that all opposition MPs feel the same way. We unanimously agree that we cannot accept the current arrogant and undisciplined way of doing things. In the past, the House of Commons has always been disciplined and, above all, respectful of all these elements.

I am going to end on that note even though my time has not elapsed. I will give my peers the opportunity to speak. I believe that we are extremely lucky to be who we are. There are 338 people in the House and we represent 35 million Canadians. We are very fortunate. We certainly have privileges, but we also have responsibilities, and one of them is to ensure that we properly represent our constituents. To that end, we must have the respect of all parliamentarians in the House, and especially the government's respect.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:10 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I just want to reinforce that all members, I believe, recognize the importance of unfettered access to the House. I have had the opportunity in the past to sit on the PROC committee when we have dealt with this issue. We would hope that an issue of this serious nature would not be politicized.

It has been a little while since I was on one of the green buses, but yesterday I was on a green bus. There was a discussion I overheard in regard to whether a member of Parliament should be able to get off the bus at any point, whether it is halfway down the Hill or a quarter of the way down the Hill.

Does the member think a member of Parliament should have the ability to get off the bus at any point he or she desires?

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, if my colleague's main priority this morning is to find out where people can get off the bus on Parliament Hill, and that certainly seems to be the case from his question, it just shows his disrespect for the matter before the House today.

I honestly do not know what to say. People can get off the bus wherever they want. There are designated bus stops. That is a completely ridiculous question. I do not understand why he is asking me about buses because that is not what we are talking about this morning. We are talking about the fundamental changes that the Liberals want to impose on the House of Commons.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I wanted to ask him a question regarding the ruling the Speaker delivered a few days ago on the question of privilege raised by his colleague. The Speaker indicated that the fact that the government cut short the debate on access to Parliament was unprecedented. As my colleague explained, this is typical of the Liberals' attitude toward making this Parliament work or not work, whatever the case may be.

I would like him to comment on the Liberals' tactics. We are talking about our parliamentary privilege and changes to the Standing Orders of the House, but this is all part of the litany of problems that we are facing with this government. I would like to hear his thoughts on the fact that the Liberals acted in an unprecedented manner by cutting short the debate on the fundamental issue of access to Parliament Hill by the members for Milton and for Beauce.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

What is interesting about my colleague's question is that he talked about the Liberals' behaviour lately, but this has been going on since well before the last week or two. The same thing happened last year with Motion No. 6, when they tried to literally stifle the opposition. In the end, thanks to the uprising we set off, the Liberals backed down. We will get them to back down on this one too, because it makes no sense. All they have to do is withdraw the motion so we can have a real conversation. That is not what we are having now. There is no conversation. The Liberals want to unilaterally impose a new way of doing business in the House of Commons without seeking agreement from all sides. That is completely at odds with how we have always done things in the House of Commons. We are confronting the Liberals' arrogance, and we will never let them force this on us.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we listened to some of the comments yesterday on the issue of relevancy. We have the member, in essence, not being relevant. What we are supposed to be talking about is privilege, and the bus was an integral part of the question of privilege that was being debated.

I ask the member why he chose to talk about something that is outside the actual privilege. What we are supposed to be talking about is unfettered access to the Parliament buildings. The member consistently made reference to rule changes and was trying to label them as a behaviour. That is not what we are technically supposed to be debating. If we want to debate the rule changes, there are other forums where we can have that discussion. I personally welcome that discussion.

I am wondering why the member refuses to talk about unfettered access. Why is so little time in his comments spent on unfettered access?

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, every question of privilege raised in the House is important. These questions are important because as representatives of the constituents of our 338 ridings, we have responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to ensure that we have access to the House of Commons and to a whole host of services. The privileges afforded to all parliamentarians are fundamental. Respect for those privileges is just as fundamental. When the hon. member said that two of our colleagues were unable to access the House, that affects our privileges. Hon. members have to have access to the House of Commons either by foot, minibus, or car. This is an integral part of our daily life on Parliament Hill. We have to be able to access the House.

We want to study this question and have this study take priority in committee. That is where the government does not want to co-operate.

Speaking of strained relations and an unwillingness to co-operate, we have another glaring example: the Liberals want to to impose their way of doing things because they have a majority and they take themselves for God knows who. However, that is not how things work in Parliament, and this should not happen this way either.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, I keep hearing Liberal members say how important this issue is and how seriously we should take the issue of a member's access to the chamber being denied, yet last week, on Thursday, the government moved to cut off this debate entirely. It would not even allow members of Parliament to vote to refer this matter to committee.

How can the government be taken seriously in saying that this is a serious matter when it denied members of Parliament the right to vote to send it to committee?

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question.

His question offers a perfect example of the arrogance the Liberals are showing towards the House of Commons. It is pretty obvious that they really do not give a damn. They are just not interested. That is not how the House of Commons operates. I think it is important to understand that. Who would have thought that the NDP members here on this side of the House would become our friends? We are working together to ensure that those arrogant folks over there change their ways.

We recognize that we have different political visions, and we all agree on that. Beyond that, however, we do share a common vision regarding how the House should operate, and that vision must continue being a common vision. No one should question that, not the Liberals or anyone else in the House.

I was pleased to hear my NDP colleagues say that even the Conservatives never dared to go this far. That is quite a compliment, coming from the NDP. The Liberals have gone too far. No one party should ever undermine members' privileges or tell committees how they must operate. All parliamentarians must have their say on this.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure and a privilege to rise in the House to speak on behalf of the people of Chilliwack—Hope and to represent them in the House of Commons. That is what this debate really is about. It is about our ability, as members of Parliament, to represent our constituents here. When people see the title that rolls across the bottom of the television screen say “Privilege Motion”, I think they already believe members of Parliament are already privileged and probably wonder why we are fighting about our privileges.

The reason we are talking about privileges as members of Parliament is this. Essentially it infers that our constituents have privileges in this place. I represent 92,000 people. When I come here to vote in the House of Commons, I represent my electoral district to the best of my ability.

To bring people up to speed, two members of Parliament were denied their right to vote by being denied access to the precinct, by being denied access to this place for a vote on budget day. What does that mean? It means the constituents of the member for Milton and the member for Beauce were prevented from being heard through their MPs during that vote. That is a very serious violation.

At first, we thought all members of Parliament would take this matter seriously and we could deal with it in a serious way. However, it quickly became evident that the Liberal members, the Liberal government, had no intention of treating this as a serious matter. In the first day of debate, the member for Winnipeg Centre blamed the member of Parliament from Milton and the member of Parliament for Beauce for having poorly planned their day and not being able to enter this place for a vote.

The Speaker made it clear that there was an unacceptable delay on the buses due to motorcades, due to security, due to a media bus, but it did not really matter to the two members who were forced to miss the vote. For nine minutes, they were held up by security and were unable to proceed here. The member for Winnipeg Centre said that he planned his day better than that. Therefore, it was the fault of the members for having their privileges violated. That was what Liberal members said in the debate.

It reminds me of another question of privilege this fall in the same type of atmosphere in this place. Motion No. 6 was before the House. It was a motion in which the government was looking to strip the opposition of all our tools, all the means at our disposal to hold the government accountable and to do our jobs. I remember it well. At that time, I was sitting a little closer to the Speaker. The Prime Minister walked down the aisle, grabbed the Chief Opposition Whip, and bumped into another member. He created disorder in the House. What did we see from Liberal members? They blamed the Chief Opposition Whip and the member from the NDP for getting in the way of thePrime Minister. In any other workplace that would have been an assault. However, the opposition was blamed, just as the government is doing now.

When we were having a debate about privileges, when we were having a debate about whether members of Parliament could exercise their right to vote on behalf of their constituents, the Liberal members would not even allow members of Parliament to vote on whether that should be sent to the procedure and House affairs committee. That is the height of irony. Our rights to vote have been violated. When the rights of one member are violated, the rights of all of us are violated. That is why we take this seriously, but not seriously enough.

For the first time in the history of Parliament, the government took the step of ending the debate before a vote could be called on it. It did not allow the question of privilege to be decided on by the members of the House. It was an unprecedented attack on the members of Parliament, so much so that the member for Perth—Wellington had to raise a question of privilege on the fact that the question of privilege was not voted on, and he was successful in bringing that motion forward. I thank him for standing up for the rights of all members of Parliament, something the government is increasingly attacking.

This motion of privilege calls for this matter to be studied at the procedure and House affairs committee. A further amendment to that motion says that this should take priority over all other matters currently before the procedure and House affairs committee, which is where MPs from all recognized parties talk about the rules of the House and violations of the rules and rights of members of Parliament.

Why have we had to take that step? Why has the official opposition proposed that this matter be referred to the procedure and House affairs committee and that it be given precedence? We have done that because it is clear that the procedure and House affairs committee of the House of Commons has been hijacked by the Prime Minister's Office.

Currently, the Prime Minister's Office is pulling the strings of the Liberal side of that committee. The Liberals have brought forward what we call a guillotine motion. There is this guillotine hanging over our heads, figuratively. The Liberals have said that they want to make some changes and that we should talk about it. They want to take away our right to debate at committee. They want to cut off debate in the House of Commons, pre-emptively. They want to invoke time allocation, which means they will cut off the debate before it even starts.

The Liberals are saying that they are going to eliminate our ability to discuss committee reports in the House of Commons. They are going to eliminate the ability of everyday members of Parliament to move procedural motions to do things like adjourn the debate or move “that a member be now heard”. Any of the tools we have at our disposal as members of Parliament the Liberals are looking to take away. That is what is happening at the procedure and House affairs committee right now. The government has shown no willingness to withdraw that motion and work with the opposition to come up with solutions that will benefit all of us.

It was quite something that at the end of the so-called discussion paper, which is being jammed down the throats of opposition members, it says, “A key consideration in the reform of the Standing Orders is to ensure that the scheme operates equally effectively in a majority and minority context.” There is no word about it working for the majority and the minority of members of Parliament, simply that it always works for the government. The changes must always work for the government, no matter what forum we find ourselves in, either a minority or a majority.

As the Speaker has said, it is unprecedented for the government to cut off a debate on privilege. It is also unprecedented for the government to try to jam down the throats of the opposition rule changes that will only benefit the government. We have seen what that looks like.

There is an easy solution to all of this, and that is to withdraw the guillotine motion that threatens the rights of opposition members. We have ideas on how to make this place work better. Many have already been implemented, and I have spoken on that before. However, for the bully to stand over us and say that we are about to get it and that we should talk about how it will be fed to us is not a way for the House to work well, and we will not accept it. We are obligated on behalf of all members of Parliament to fight for the rights of members of Parliament.

I thought this was telling. A member of the Liberal Party, who is one of the few Liberal members of Parliament, realized he was not a member of the Liberal government if he was not in cabinet. If members do not sit in the cabinet, they are not a member of the Liberal government. They are members of Parliament who happen to be Liberal. If the members on that side realize that fact, they should be standing with us to defend the rights of all members of Parliament who are not members of the cabinet.

The member for Malpeque, who has sat in opposition, who has sat in government, who has sat in cabinet, and who now sits outside of cabinet, said:

...this place is called the House of Commons for a reason. It is not the House of cabinet or the House of PMO. Protecting the rights of members in this place, whether it is the opposition members in terms of the stance they are taking, is also protecting the rights of the other members here who are not members of cabinet or the government. We talk about government as if this whole side is the government. The government is the executive branch. We do need to protect these rights.

Bravo to the member for Malpeque for knowing what his role is as a member of Parliament, for knowing that he is not a member of cabinet and therefore not a member of the government. There are a few members like him who have played on both sides of this aisle, who have gone from opposition to government, and back again. They understand that what we are seeing here is not only the unprecedented attack on the rights of members of Parliament to determine whether a breach of privilege has occurred, but on the rights of members of Parliament in the opposition to do their job. They know that Prime Minister Chrétien would never have attempted this kind of stunt. Prime Minister Martin would never have tried to silence the opposition. Prime Minister Harper never tried to manipulate the rules of the House to take away the tools of the opposition.

However, we now have a Prime Minister who has complete disregard for the rights of members of Parliament, and quite frankly for this place. We saw it when he was the leader of the third party and would show up just enough to get his questions in. This is not his priority. His priority is taking speaking fees of $20,000 to $25,000 a pop from charities and non-profit organizations to supplement his meagre $170,000 income. This was not, and still is not, a priority for him. This is an inconvenience for the Prime Minister, who, as we have seen, treats it unlike any prime minister in Canadian history, with unprecedented attacks on the privileges of members of Parliament.

Now the Liberals want to formalize it going forward. They want to make the House more predictable. Would it not be nice if the House were more predictable for the government? It is not the role of the opposition to make the House more predictable. As I have said previously, the Prime Minister and the government have now moved to the point where they get very upset when an opposition is actually presented to them because they prefer an audience. That is what they are trying to make all members of Parliament into, an audience for this grand play that is the Prime Minister's life in the House of Commons. When they take away the rights and privileges of members of Parliament, both through fighting against the rights of my colleagues from Milton and Beauce to be heard at the PROC committee, and by denying us the right to vote on that, to send it to committee, and to make it a priority, they show how seriously they take this matter, and they deny the rights of all members of Parliament to represent our constituents. We cannot stand for it.

This is the reason I call upon my colleagues in the Liberal Party. Even the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader is not a member of the Liberal government. He is a Liberal MP who happens to be on the same side. He has been down at this end of the House. He has been in opposition. He has utilized the tools that were available to him as a member of Parliament, as an opposition member. For the Liberals to try to now take that away, they need to take the words of the member for Malpeque to heart.

I know there are a lot of new members of Parliament who were elected in 2015. However, we are just temporary residents in the House of Commons. These seats do not belong to us. They belong to Canadians. They belong to our constituents. As members of Parliament, we have a sacred duty to protect the rights of our constituents when we do our job.

When members of Parliament are denied the right to vote on whether that was a violation of privilege, we see the arrogance of the government, and it is unprecedented. I keep using that term because the Speaker used it himself on Thursday.

We talk about why we need to make this a priority. That is what the amendment of the member for Battle River—Crowfoot says, that we need to make this a priority at the procedure and House affairs committee. We need to do that because, while the Prime Minister's office directs traffic there, the House of Commons is actually the body that is supposed to advise the committees on what they should study. We do it all the time. When we refer bills to committee, they take precedence.

I would argue that there is no greater issue that the procedure and House affairs committee should study than whether we are able to do our jobs as members of Parliament. The government did not show good faith. It said that this should be studied at committee but it is not going to allow a vote that says that, and that we should take its word that the government will get to it eventually and move its own motion at committee, and that the House does not need to worry itself with this sort of thing. This is exactly what we need to worry ourselves with, because the government has shown that it does not care about the rights of the opposition, that they are very inconvenient, in fact.

I remember the member of Parliament who represents Vegreville standing up for her constituents in committee and questioning John McCallum, the then minister of immigration. She questioned him for the full length of his time there, with the member for Calgary Nose Hill helping her out. The government said it was really inconvenient to have a member of Parliament standing up for her constituents when it wants to shut down a case processing centre in her riding; it did not think she should be able to do that anymore in committee; and it was going to take away the right of that member to hold the minister and the government accountable. It said it was very inconvenient and it was going to strip that away.

This week, debates have taken place in the House on things like gender parity, gender equality, the House rules, and how we can make this place better, all brought forward by the opposition after bringing forward committee reports. That is very inconvenient for the government, so it wants to strip away that right. That is what is being talked about in PROC right now.

It is very inconvenient when members of Parliament are able to speak in the House for 10 minutes, so the government wants to reduce that to maybe five minutes. It is very inconvenient to have to listen to members of the opposition.

It actually says in the supposed discussion paper being discussed in PROC ahead of the issue right now that the ringing of the bells for votes is very inconvenient. It is saying the bells that call us here to do our jobs, to represent our constituents, to vote on matters that are before the House, are all a grand inconvenience. We represent millions of Canadians on this side of the House. In fact, those of us on this side of the House represent over 60% of Canadians, and the rules of the House are there to protect the minority. They are not there to make this place more predictable and convenient for the government. When members are denied the right to vote, we do not expect the government to take action against members of Parliament by cutting off their rights to debate or vote; we expect the rights of the minority to be protected. That is what the House rules do. That is what we are doing here when we talk about privilege.

The level of attack that the government has taken against the members of Parliament whose privileges were found to be violated in a prima facie case is unprecedented. We urge the government and Liberals members who are not in the government to vote in favour of these motions, to deal with this matter seriously, and to stop their unprecedented attack on members of the opposition.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:40 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that whether it is this speaker or the previous speaker, they want to have a debate about the possibility of having rule changes brought into the House. The Prime Minister and the government, and in fact a number of members in the House, want to see Canada's Parliament modernized. This, in essence, is what it is all about. Hopefully, we will get to that discussion at the procedure and House affairs committee.

However, today we are actually debating unfettered access to this precinct. That is the actual debate. I have had the opportunity to have this debate on several other occasions. Sometimes the vote occurs immediately. Other times, we might have a few members get involved. The members across the way try to give the impression that we are trying to prevent a vote from taking place. The member knows full well that, as with other questions of privilege, if people were to be somewhat relevant to the privilege, we could possibly even have a vote this morning. We do not see the government trying to prevent a vote.

Does the member believe that this question of privilege is any different from the others we had on unfettered access? Perhaps he could illustrate why it should take into consideration other changes that are not necessarily relevant to unfettered access to this building. It is an issue of relevancy, in good part.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, the facts do not bear out what the member just said. They specifically tried to deny a vote. They moved to return to orders of the day last Thursday. I was scheduled to speak last Thursday. The Liberals denied that right. They did not put the vote on that motion, they just tried to punt this off into the ether where it would never be discussed again. The member for Perth—Wellington had to rise on a question of privilege because they had violated the privilege debate.

Therefore, this is unprecedented. This is unlike any other debate, and it is the fault of the government for failing to take this seriously, for failing to address the motion, and for trying to punt it off into never-never land.

We are not going to let that happen. We will continue to stand up for the rights of members of Parliament not only to vote in this place but to do our jobs. It is a very relevant discussion, and they should stop trying to violate the privileges of members. Before, it was merely a matter of access and security, but now the Liberal Party has taken it on itself to defend it, somehow, and to try to prevent us from moving forward.

We should vote in favour of this motion. We should vote to send it to committee. We should vote to have it take precedence over all other matters, due to the seriousness of it.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a new member of Parliament, like more than 150 of my colleagues across the aisle, I came here knowing that I had been sent by people who took the time to go and vote for me to come here to represent their best interests. What I see happening across on the Liberal bench is very disturbing to me, because I see that people are basically allowing themselves to be silenced. I do not know if they are being told to be silent, or if they are just choosing to remain silent. They are doing an extreme disservice not just to their colleagues in the House and to the very honour of being a member of the House but also to the constituents they came here to represent. That is an embarrassment. They need to take that seriously, and I do not believe they are.

As we heard yesterday from my colleague, the member for Papineau seems to have had a turnabout of his entire previous career here in the House. The things that he said in the House that he would do and he would make different, he has not chosen to do. I remember him coming in to the new member lunch that we had in the beautiful new Wellington Building, telling us all how it was going to be different. Foolishly, I thought that was a positive thing, but the truth has become that it is a pattern of disdain and disrespect, and what he meant by “different” was that he would disrespect the members of the House in a way that has never been done by previous Conservative and Liberal governments.

Privilege means respect, and there is poison leaking out of the House in the treatment of—

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Chilliwack—Hope.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

I appreciate the passion in the question from the member for Essex. It is clear that what the Liberals ran on and what they are delivering are two separate things. The latest example is the use of omnibus bills, which were specifically forbidden in their platform document.

We have a 300-page omnibus bill that deals with all kinds of things from increasing fees on people for passports, to increasing camping fees, to changing the role of the parliamentary budget officer. It contains all sorts of things and they used the exact same defence, quite frankly, that our Conservative government did: these are implementing matters that are in the budget. That was a great line when we said it, and they seem to have adopted it now.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Maybe it is true this time.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals promised sunny ways, but it is all coming apart. Their true selves are being revealed. They are not taking the privileges of members of Parliament, members of the opposition, seriously. They were not going to heckle either, but we see they cannot help themselves.

They continue to break their promises and they should be held accountable for it.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Mr. Speaker, as someone who has sat on the procedure and House affairs committee for over nine years while our party was in government, and as someone who dealt with procedural matters routinely day after day in my capacity as parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, I can offer a unique perspective to what is occurring in this debate and the real motivation behind the debate, and that is the government's willingness and desire to unilaterally change the Standing Orders of this place.

I would not argue that the government has the ability to unilaterally change the Standing Orders, but I would argue that it does not have the right to unilaterally change them. The government is fond of saying that it wants to modernize the Standing Orders, but the reality is that it is up to Parliament to modernize itself, not up to the government. Will my colleague please comment on those observations?

Will he please as well comment on the fact that if the Liberals vote against the motion before us on privilege, in effect what they are saying is that they are voting against the privileges of members of Parliament of this place, for their own narrow political interests?

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his work on these files over the last nine years.

My colleague is absolutely right. I remember that when we were in government, that member was a key part of the review of the Standing Orders. The current parliamentary secretary to the government House leader was there, and he knows that the rule was that if not all parties could agree on the rule change, it was immediately dropped. There was consent to move forward with any changes. Under Stephen Harper's government, that was the benchmark. If we could not agree with the opposition, we would not make the change. Now that same member who benefited from that co-operation, from that unanimous consent approach, is trying to ram changes down the throats of the opposition, which would benefit the Liberal Party.

This is unprecedented, as the Speaker has indicated. It is an unprecedented attack on the privileges of members of Parliament. We will continue to fight for our constituents and the rights of the minority in this place.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we go to resuming debate and the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill, I will let her know that there are only about 10 minutes before we have to go to the period for statements by members and question period. I will interrupt her approximately halfway into the time that is available for her remarks.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a matter of great import that should concern every member in this place. As a recap, why are we here today debating this particular issue?

A few weeks ago, I believe it was on budget day, my colleagues from Milton and Beauce were held up at the parliamentary security gate, I believe it was for a period of nine minutes, and as such, were not able to vote.

My colleagues raised a question of privilege. What does that mean? For those who might not know what parliamentary privilege is, there are conventions that are afforded to members of Parliament that allow us to do our jobs here. The Compendium of House of Commons Procedure states:

The House of Commons and its Members enjoy certain constitutional rights and immunities that are collectively referred to as parliamentary privilege (or simply “privilege”).

It gives a bit of history about this. The point that is relevant here today is that there is a privilege with respect to the freedom from obstruction, interference and intimidation. Under that section there is this paragraph:

Any physical barrier preventing Members’ access to the parliamentary precinct or blocking their free movement within it may be treated by the House as a breach of privilege. Questions of privilege have been raised in connection with traffic barriers, security cordons, and even union picket lines. A

Rightly so, my colleagues raised a question of privilege. The Speaker ruled on that question of privilege and said essentially that privilege had been violated. A motion was moved to refer that issue of privilege to PROC, our procedure and House affairs committee. This is the way we resolve these issues. Here is where things got strange.

The government did something that was absolutely unprecedented. In fact, the Speaker of the House of Commons called it unprecedented, in that the government moved a motion to proceed to orders of the day. What does that mean in regular language? It means that the government tried to shut down debate on a motion of privilege without a vote.

Then we had to raise another question of privilege. The Speaker ruled in our favour again, saying that no, the government should not be able to just override a question of privilege in the House of Commons.

Why is this important to somebody watching this today? It is important because the people watching us today pay our salaries to vote on issues of import to this country, to be in the House to debate and to raise issues on behalf of our constituents. This is why privilege exists. This is why matters of privilege take precedence in the House of Commons. This is a very serious matter.

I will be the first to admit that things can get very heated in the House of Commons. I get very heated in the House of Commons. I get passionate in the House of Commons, because there are issues on which I fundamentally disagree with other colleagues in this place. It is my job to do that. It is my job to either support the government or to hold the government to account on issues that are of interest to my constituents. I am not here to agree with everyone. I am here to do something that resembles work so that we can come up with the best public policy instruments for the people who pay our salaries to be here.

When we are impeded from doing our jobs, such as was the case with this matter of privilege, that ability, that fundamental component of why I am here is negated.

My colleague from Chilliwack—Hope raised some very good points that I want to expand upon this morning. First, it is the role of a member of Parliament. What does that mean? I was part of the executive at one point in my career. I was a cabinet minister. At that point in time, I was part of the government, but even when I was part of a government, I was also responsible to my constituents. If we are going to remove that role, there is a great commonality among all members in this place. If a member does not hold a cabinet position, the individual is a member of Parliament, and that individual's role as a member of Parliament is to hold the government to account.

Even if the member is a Liberal backbencher, the member's job is not to agree with the government all the time. The member's job is to represent his or her constituents and flesh out policy, flesh out bills that have been put forward in this place to try to ensure that constituents' voices and opinions are heard and what is in their best interest is reflected in the law of the land.

When we have matters of privilege that are breached in this place, it fundamentally prevents each and every one of us from taking on that specific, very important role, which is to hold the government to account.

One of my colleagues has proposed a subamendment to the motion that would allow this question of privilege to take precedence at PROC, the procedure and House affairs committee. Those who have been following along know what is happening at PROC right now. At the procedure and House affairs committee, the government is trying to ram down the throats of members, and therefore all Canadians, changes to the rules on how Parliament works.

Why is the government doing this? I would put it forward to the House that it is because the government members see this place as an inconvenience to putting their agenda forward.

This place is what differentiates us as a country from dictatorships. This place is where we review legislation, where, yes, we are going to filibuster legislation, where, yes, we are going to vote for and against legislation, and where, yes, we are going to debate legislation. The privilege that I have to stand in this place, stand up for my constituents, and speak my mind on this is not an inconvenience. It is democracy.

When the government puts forward a “discussion paper” that talks about “modernizing Parliament”, what does it mean? The way I read this, it is code for making this place less inconvenient for the Prime Minister. My colleague the member for Chilliwack—Hope had a great line, which was that the Prime Minister wants an audience, not want an opposition. I can verify that fact.

If the Prime Minister wanted an opposition, if he truly wanted to use Parliament and the voices of Canadians to come up with legislation that is in the best interests of the entire country, he would not have put the discussion paper forward. Again, I do not even want to use that term. It is not a discussion paper; it is a fundamental change to Canadian democracy.

One of the things that is talked about in the paper that we are trying to filibuster at PROC, because we do not believe that Canadians should have this foisted on them, is the curtailing of debate. If these changes go through, my ability to stand here and speak on behalf of my constituents will be permanently curtailed. That is wrong.

If Parliament is inconvenient for the Prime Minister, then perhaps he should not be the Prime Minister of Canada.

I will resume speaking after question period.

Access to the House of CommonsPrivilege

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill will have eleven and a half minutes remaining for her speech when the House next resumes debate on this question, and of course the usual 10 minutes for questions and comments.

We will now proceed to Statements by Members.

The hon. member for Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères

Patriation of the ConstitutionStatements By Members

April 13th, 2017 / 11 a.m.

Bloc

Xavier Barsalou-Duval Bloc Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, April 17, 1982, is a black day in the history of Quebec. Thirty-five years ago, Ottawa patriated the Constitution. The then British consul, John Ford, deemed it to be a coup carried out to change the balance of power in the Confederation. The goal was to weaken Quebec by diminishing its ability to make its own societal decisions, beginning with its ability to protect the French language.

Every one of Quebec's governments has refused to sign Trudeau's Constitution because they all came to the same conclusion: this Constitution was negotiated at the expense of Quebec and was bad for our nation.

I remember. The Bloc Québécois remembers. We expect nothing else from Canada but betrayals and attempts to weaken our ability to stand on our own. Thirty-five years later the patriation of the Constitution is a failure. The separatist movement is still alive and Quebec is still standing.