Madam Speaker, as I indicated in my questions, we do take the issue of privilege and access to the House very seriously, as I believe all members of this House should, and we recognize how important it is that we have unfettered access to the floor of the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister has consistently said to his members of Parliament, and has suggested to all members of Parliament, that it always works much better if we represent our constituents' interests here in Ottawa, as opposed to Ottawa's interests in the constituencies. This is something our current Prime Minister truly believes.
In order to represent our constituents' interests here in Ottawa, we need to have that unfettered access. That is something I, as a parliamentarian for many years, take very seriously. That is why I was offended by the members' comments in regard to changing the topic. We should be taking the issue more seriously. I will provide more comments with respect to the previous presentations shortly.
I want to emphasize that we perform many roles inside this chamber and in committee rooms. I would argue that our standing committees have the potential to be the real backbone of future developments of ideas for members of Parliament to be engaged with. The House is an opportunity for individuals to be equally engaged in all sorts of different policy areas. It is absolutely critical that MPs be able to attend our institution here, including all committee rooms on the Hill and on the precinct site, which goes beyond just the Hill. We do have committees that are off the Hill.
It is of the utmost importance that we have access, especially when it comes time to vote. I have been involved previously when similar questions of privilege were raised. When that occurred, I do not believe members at the procedure and House affairs committee tried to say that the government of the day was trying to block members from being able to participate.
After listening to some of the comments coming from across the way, it needs to be made very clear to all members of this House that there is not one member of the House who would be in support of another member not having unfettered access to House. To try to imply something different is just wrong. That is not the case. I know that at least it is not the case within the Liberal caucus, and I would suggest that it applies to all caucuses.
We all, collectively, understand and appreciate the importance of what members of Parliament need to do and are obligated to do. That mandate comes from the constituents who put us here. I do take this issue very seriously.
I have listened to the statements and asked questions of the two Conservative speakers. I am of the opinion that they do not understand the ruling made by the Speaker. What I would like to do is reinforce that. Nowhere in the Speaker's ruling was there any reference, at all, in regard to the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister's motorcade. In fact, it would seem to me that some members are trying to tie other issues into this very important issue of privilege.
I would like to reinforce exactly what the Speaker said. I am going to quote for members who maybe were not listening quite attentively to what the Speaker was saying. They will now have the opportunity to hear it, because I am going to repeat, word for word, in good part, what the Speaker said.
The Speaker stated, “In fact, I have received two reports of the incident. The first, from the House of Commons Corporate Security Officer and Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms, provides an excellent minute by minute summary of events and is supplemented by witness statements. The second report was received from the acting director of the Parliamentary Protective Service.”
I will pause there. I would like to think that no members in the House would actually question the consultation made by the Speaker and what he heard from the specific groups that helped him with the decision he shared with us just an hour ago.
His ruling further stated, “Based on those reports, here is what appears to have happened on March 22. At approximately 3:47 p.m., the bollards at the vehicle screening facility were lowered to allow for the arrival of a bus transporting journalists to Centre Block for the presentation of the budget. The media bus, under Parliamentary Protective Service escort, immediately proceeded to Centre Block. Seconds later, after the media bus had proceeded, a House of Commons shuttle bus arrived at the vehicle screening facility, but was not allowed to proceed to Centre Block. In the ensuing minutes, two more shuttle buses arrived at the vehicle screening facility and were similarly delayed. I am informed that members were on at least some of these buses. During these delays, which lasted a total of nine minutes, two members, the member for Milton and the member for Beauce, were waiting at the bus shelter near the vehicle screening facility. At approximately 3:54 p.m., the member for Beauce entered the vehicle screening facility and made inquiries of parliamentary protective staff about the delays and then decided, at approximately 3:55 p.m.”, which is one minute later, “to leave the bus shelter and walk up the hill. As members will know, it is at around this time that a vote was commencing in the House.”
The Speaker went on to explain, through House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, page 110, as follows:
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...have been found to be prima facie cases of privilege.
Members across the way who would have heard that would have also heard that there was no reference whatsoever to the Prime Minister's motorcade. What they would know from the ruling of the Speaker was that it was all about a media bus and an escort. That is, ultimately, what was implied in the Speaker's ruling that justified it as a prima facie case.
I listened to the member for Milton's response to that. This is what I love about Hansard. Members across the way can read for themselves what was said by the member. If we ask ourselves if the member relayed any sort of confidence in what the Speaker put on the record minutes before she stood, I would argue no. Her focus seemed to be politicizing the issue by talking about a former prime minister and then trying to apply it to the current Prime Minister.
Let us look at the word “arrogance”, and how the member across the way used it. Then she talked about other things that were taking place in the House of which members should be aware. I have thoughts on those issues too, and I would like to share some of them.
With respect to the current Prime Minister, I believe he has been one of the most accountable, transparent prime ministers we have seen in the House in decades. Members across the way laugh and heckle, but in my tenure as an MLA, I very closely watched the prime ministers, their attitudes, and how they interacted with the public. Never before have I seen prime ministers tour town hall style at open mics, where there were no taped or advance questions given to them, and actually answer questions.