Mr. Speaker, when I had to interrupt my speech that I started before question period and the vote I was talking about the context in which we find ourselves regarding the appointment of officers of Parliament, specifically that of the Commissioner of Official Languages. In the end the nominee withdrew her candidacy, but it became clear that there are a number of things to consider when someone like Ms. Meilleur is nominated to become an officer of Parliament.
In this case, it seemed that her political affiliations may have played a role in her appointment. She tried to get around the process by going directly to PMO operatives. She spoke openly about her appointment and had even asked to be appointed to the Senate. Apparently she was told that to be a senator she had to be completely impartial, but she was told she could be offered the official languages commissioner position.
This proves that the government does not believe that impartiality is a criterion for becoming commissioner of official languages. We might have expected the opposite to be true, that the position of official languages commissioner requires complete impartiality.
Unfortunately, that is not what happened, and that is why, today, we are debating a motion that seeks to remedy the situation. In that regard, since the beginning of the day, the government has been telling us that everything is fine. As the song says, “Don't worry, be happy”. The government is saying that there is no problem here and that we should concern ourselves with other things. However, this is such a serious problem that we are worried that what happened with the appointment of the official languages commissioner will happen again when other commissioners and officers of Parliament are appointed, as they will be in the near future. There is a long list of appointments that need to be made.
We are not just an opposition party. We are also a party that proposes solutions. In this case, we are proposing a mechanism that will allow for real consultation. One of the biggest problems we had with Ms. Meilleur's appointment was that consultations were held only after the choice was already made. However, the law is clear. It requires the government to consult the leaders of the parties of the House of Commons before appointing an official languages commissioner. In this case, letters were sent to the leaders of the two recognized opposition parties of the House after the decision had already been made. It was not to consult them, but rather to inform them of the decision that had been made.
Obviously, the government did not comply with the law. That is why my colleague from Drummond and other Canadians, including Yvon Godin, former MP and official languages critic, have filed complaints. Obviously, Ms. Meilleur's appointment process did not comply with the Official Languages Act. The law is clear. The government must absolutely hold consultations before making an appointment. However, in this case, the parties were not consulted until afterwards, and they were not even really consulted. They were informed of the decision once it was already a done deal.
That is why we want to remedy the situation by creating a subcommittee of the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs that will meet on an ad hoc basis when an appointment is to be approved. I would also like to clarify something that seems to be confusing my colleagues on the other side of the House. Although the committee will hear the candidates and make a decision, ultimately, it is the two chambers that will make the final decision.
If the committee meets with candidates and agrees on the best one to fill an officer of Parliament position, that appointment will have to be approved by both chambers.
There has been much confusion in the House on this point. The members thought that Parliament as a whole would no longer have the prerogative of selecting and approving the appointments, and that only the small committee, made up of a few members of the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, could do that. Nothing could be more wrong. The motion is clear, and we are prepared to clarify it further, to make sure that the Liberals are satisfied that the decision will lie with the House of Commons as a whole.
I think it is important to make a distinction. The government is fond of putting all Governor in Council appointments in the same basket. In my opinion, however, a sharp distinction must be made between Governor in Council appointments in general and appointments of officers of Parliament, who must absolutely demonstrate non-partisanship, independence, and impartiality. That goes without saying, since they work not for the government, but for Parliament, that is, for all parliamentarians in both chambers. It is therefore obvious that a different and more rigorous process should be put in place to ensure that the appointees have the confidence of everyone here and in the other place.
I will be happy to answer questions from my colleagues who are in need of clarification.