That the question of privilege regarding the free movement of Members of Parliament within the Parliamentary Precinct raised on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with the member of Parliament for Beauce on this topic.
I want to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your thoughtful ruling.
I do appreciate the time that the Parliamentary Protective Service puts in to making sure that our privileges, our rights, and our duties are supported in this place. I also want to thank those who provide the transport around the precinct, who I know were not at fault for what ended up happening. As I said, I truly appreciate the work they do every day to allow us to do the work we do every day here in this House on behalf of Canadians.
I thought I would give the House a bit of an idea from my perspective of what happened and why I felt so strongly in making sure that I rose on a point of personal privilege that day. As was noted in your reports, Mr. Speaker, I did arrive in time to be able to come to the Hill and, as expected, I waited for the transport to arrive. The frustrating part about it was that the transport was right there and I could see it waiting to come through security in order to bring us to the Hill. I made small talk with people at the bus shelter, including my colleague, the member of Parliament for Beauce. We waited patiently as the media bus proceeded to the Hill.
After a long period of waiting, when we realized that time was passing and the security bollard was not opening, my colleague from Beauce went over to inquire as to why the buses were not being released. The reason given was that security was waiting for the empty motorcade of the Prime Minister to vacate the precinct before we were allowed to go to the House to vote.
As I said, we could see the bus from where we were. We could see four or five officers who were in the area. If they had people on the bus who were members of Parliament, I was unaware, but now I understand they did. Indeed they would have seen us waiting at the bus shelter. They would have known that those waiting were members of Parliament, yet they did not know whether there were other members who were scattered among the different stops along the way to be brought to the House. Every expectation I had was that the bus would approach, that we would get on it, and we would be able to proceed to the House in order to vote.
One thing I do know about the scheduling of buses during a vote is that all efforts are taken to ensure that the system of timing is such so that members at the last minute, sometimes with one or two minutes to go, are not left stranded at their offices in any of the buildings around the precinct. As a result, careful thought is given to making sure that those last-minute buses in the six, five, and four minutes left in the ringing of the bells make it to the House in time so that members can discharge their parliamentary obligations and duties on behalf of Canadians. However, that did not happen in that case. In fact, I am very distressed to understand that it was not a single bus or even two buses, that it was three buses that were held up for nine minutes preventing members from going to vote. The reason we were prevented was that the supremacy of one was paramount over the supremacy of the members of Parliament going to vote. The supremacy was in one person, and that was the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau once famously said that 50 yards off the Hill, MPs are nobodies. Unfortunately, that type of arrogance seems to have bled into his son, the current Prime Minister, in terms of how he approaches issues. It is an incredibly arrogant statement and it is one that we reflect on a lot when we discharge our duties, because as members of Parliament we do not feel that way at all. It is unfortunate that the singular importance of that day during the budget had to do with whether or not the empty motorcade of the Prime Minister came off the Hill as opposed to members of Parliament coming into the House of Commons to vote. Indeed, it trumped what was, as you said, Mr. Speaker, our abilities to discharge our parliamentary responsibilities to Canadians.
We need to understand two things. First, was this done by actual order? If it was, who made the order and how was that order made, because it was a serious matter, one that you have expressed, Mr. Speaker. The second is whether this is something of an interpretation of the people who serve on the Hill that one group or one individual is far more important than the other. I do think that this is very indicative and very problematic.
Currently we have a discussion happening in PROC, the procedure and House affairs committee, with respect to the Prime Minister's and the government's desire to ensure that the members of Parliament's duties, privileges, and responsibilities are curtailed. Lots is said and lots is written about the importance of tradition and rules and what we do here in this House and the precedents that are set. It is incredibly important that we stop once in a while to be assured and to ensure that what we are doing here is respected.
The fact is that a number of MPs were prohibited from voting on a day when the budget was being presented in the House of Commons. The fact is the Prime Minister has, through his ministers, put forth a document that seriously curtails the ability of MPs to fulfill their duties. I do not think that this is an isolated incident, and I do worry that the tone of the government being set is such that MPs are no longer important either in this place or in what we have to say in opposition.
Mr. Speaker, I hope and I support that this matter be referred to the appropriate committee so that the committee can undertake a study to determine through your two reports that I hope will be tabled, exactly what happened, who proceeded in making the decision to stop the MPs from getting on the Hill, and whether or not there was an implicit order or whether or not there was just tone being followed with respect to this matter. I am sure that my colleague, the member for Beauce, will also speak to the issue and the importance of it to his parliamentary privilege.
I greatly appreciate the time that has been put into ensuring that this was duly studied and appropriately thought through and that the time and effort of those who did the investigation did it in a timely fashion so that we could get to the facts of the matter. However, the facts are now known and what we need to understand more importantly now is the intention and the tone under which this Parliament seems to be operating that leads to the conclusion that the Prime Minister is paramount and supreme over the rest of us sitting here taking our seats in the House of Commons. Obviously, I reject that notion. I think that all members of Parliament in this place are incredibly important in how they represent their communities and their views, be they on the government backbench or in opposition.
I believe we should take pause to not just bat away complaints of the opposition on matters that are extremely important such as long-standing rules, long-standing conventions, agreements that we want to change things in this place, that we do so in concurrence with one another as opposed to having one side determine which path we are going to be following well into the future in terms of rules in the House.
I understand that the committee I am seeking this matter be referred to is undergoing a bit of a filibuster. I applaud my colleagues who are doing that, because they are making the point there that I am making here. It is unacceptable for a government to contemplate and think it is supreme above each and every member of Parliament that sits here, and if that arrogance is what is infiltrating the decision-making in this place by those who are serving us, then we need to throw some light on it and ensure that it does not continue, because it is completely unacceptable.
Unfortunately, my colleague from Beauce and I were both caught up in the moment where we were not allowed to be able to vote in the House. Some would say that is just a small infraction, but I would submit it is not. It is absolutely grave. We had our intention. We wanted to come to the Hill. We wanted to exercise our franchise on behalf of our constituents, and we were unable to do so because some individual, some person, we do not know yet, decided that was not going to happen because the Prime Minister's motorcade, which was empty, and the convenience of having it in one place or another took precedence over the duties and the responsibilities of a duly elected member of Parliament.
It is absolutely shameful. The committee deserves to study it, and we deserve to have a report back.