Mr. Speaker, we have heard a great deal of debate on the motion already today, so my plan was not to present a full constructive case for our proposal, but rather, to try to refute the arguments that have been made on the government side. Unfortunately, the government has given me relatively little to work with, and since I do not have very much to say, I am going to be splitting my time with my colleague from Burnaby South.
In the spirit of responding to the few arguments the government has put forward, I would like to identify three. First, the government has suggested it already has a really good process for appointments; second, it has suggested that all members of Parliament should vote on appointments; and third, there has been a suggestion that appointments should be reviewed by the relevant committee.
I will start with the government's first argument that it has brought in this new and improved appointments process that is working or is going to work very well. As part of this, it has also talked a lot about the process for judicial appointments. It is important to emphasize that the motion is not about appointments by the executive branch or judicial appointments, it is about appointments in the legislative branch, appointments for officers of Parliament. That is not just a difference of definitions. There is a really important difference in terms of the role that those appointees play.
There are all sorts of people who are appointed by the government through the executive branch, where it is understood that they are appointed by the government to work on behalf of the government, that the government is accountable for their performance, and there is no expectation that Parliament would review all of those appointments. A lot of the comments from the government apply to that type of situation and are not really relevant to the motion. The comments about judicial appointments also do not fit.
The point about officers of Parliament is that they are officers of this place. They are not representatives of the government and are not supposed to be beholden to the government. Quite the contrary, they need to be independent of the government. Therefore, it is important to have some sort of process that ensures that independence. What better process than one that requires the consent of a majority of the recognized parties in the House? I suggest that is already, essentially, a constitutional convention for many of the rules governing Parliament, in that the way one changes them is to have all parties, or at least the majority of parties, agree. It only stands to reason that we would hold the appointment of these officers of Parliament to exactly the same standard.
The other point I would make on this is that the motion we in the NDP put forward today in no way precludes the government from continuing to use the allegedly improved appointment process that it has been touting. The government would still put forward the names of the nominees to the subcommittee that we are proposing. Therefore, the government can use whatever kind of independent merit-based process it wants to select the best possible appointees to put before the subcommittee. The subcommittee would simply be a check on the fact that the appointees are also non-partisan, independent, and have the confidence of Parliament to serve as officers of Parliament. I would present today's motion as being an addition to and complement to whatever appointment process the government already has or might develop to select people for these roles. This is just another check to make sure the appointees are truly independent and non-partisan. It in no way would detract from a merit-based selection process to come up with nominees in the first place.
The second big argument we have heard from the government is that all members of Parliament should vote on whether or not to approve these appointments, as is currently the case. I believe the last member who spoke said it would be undemocratic not to have all members of Parliament vote.
I want to make crystal clear the NDP motion does suggest that appointees approved by the subcommittee would then be voted on by all of Parliament. As we recently heard from the motion's sponsor, we are quite happy to amend the motion in such a way that it is also crystal clear that proposed nominees who are rejected will come to all of Parliament for a vote. That part of the process is not going to be changed. It is the status quo. It remains that way in our motion. Ultimately, all of Parliament still gets a vote on these appointments. That is entirely proper, and as it should be.
We should also recognize that one aspect of having Parliament vote on these appointments is that quite often, and certainly right now, the governing party has a majority of votes in the House of Commons. We are in the situation where if the only test is a vote in Parliament, or a vote of a parliamentary committee that reflects the composition of the overall House of Commons, then the government can essentially appoint whomever it wants, and use its majority to pass that appointment.
While, clearly, these appointments should ultimately be subject to a vote of the entire House of Commons, I do not think that constitutes a sufficient test to guarantee independence and non-partisanship. The way to get independence and non-partisanship is to set up a process in which more than one political party needs to sign-off on the appointment. That is exactly what the NDP is proposing, to set up this subcommittee of the procedure and House affairs committee with one representative from each recognized party. That subcommittee would either approve or reject the appointments.
The purpose of this mechanism is to ensure that all parties have a vote, and that we have sign-off from more than just the governing party on the appointment. Whereas, if we only rely on existing standing committees, or the House of Commons to approve these appointments, it is entirely possible, and indeed likely, that officials may get appointed simply based on the support of the government without any buy-in from other parties.
The third argument we have heard is the idea that these appointments should be vetted by the appropriate committee. For sure, there is a logic that the Official Languages Commissioner should be looked at by the official languages committee, that the head of a public service commission or the public sector integrity commissioner should be looked at by the government operations committee. As a vice-chair of that committee, I have had the opportunity to review one such appointment already.
The point that really needs to be emphasized is that the composition of the subcommittee of PROC is not fixed. It is not only MPs from PROC who would be able to sit on that subcommittee and review appointments. As would any committee or subcommittee, the recognized parties in the House of Commons could substitute whichever MPs they wanted to vet any particular appointment.
Under this system, it is entirely appropriate and probable that what parties would do is take their relevant critics, and put them on this subcommittee when it is reviewing an appointment in its area. I would expect that if the government were trying to appoint an Official Languages Commissioner, parties would put their official languages critics on the subcommittee to review that appointment. If the government were appointing the head of the Public Service Commission, parties would almost certainly put their public service and procurement critics on the subcommittee.
The subcommittee in no way detracts from the expertise of other committees, it is simply a mechanism to ensure that more than one recognized party needs to sign-off on these appointments of parliamentary officers. That is precisely what this House needs to ensure these officials are able to operate in the way that is independent and non-partisan.