Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I appreciate the important debate that is happening today and I know members on the opposition side of the House are all speaking in support of the opposition motion; however, I want to rise briefly in response to the point of order which was raised by my friend the member for Perth—Wellington on October 31, and to provide additional information and argument as the Speaker deliberates on the numerous submissions that have already been presented on this issue.
First of all, the original point of order was brought up in response to Standing Order 151, relating to the safekeeping of records and control of House officers and staff. The argument that was raised in the original point of order was made that the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association website had been updated to reflect the new chair and this was in violation of Standing Order 151, as the clerk or his delegate had not accurately recorded the results of the meeting.
However, I submit that this assertion is false and incorrect. The meeting was duly constituted, duly held and the results of the meeting were accurately recorded. In fact, the agenda was voted on by the membership under the then chair, creating an order of business that needed to be dealt with before an adjournment could be conducted. I was at the meeting along with many of my colleagues.
The member for Perth—Wellington continued that the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association meeting that took place on October 30 was “unlawful and illegitimate”. An unlawful and illegitimate meeting could not have been held as the clerks work for the constitution of the association and the Standing Orders of the House before they work for the chair, and the necessary arrangements for an illegal meeting would not have taken place. This can be demonstrated by the fact that the meeting itself was called when the chair was herself the subject of a non-confidence motion. Had the chair had the power to overrule the clerk's following of the written rules, the meeting could easily have been delayed out of existence.
The member then went on to say that the meeting was intended to orchestrate a coup. In fact, it was a motion of non-confidence brought on by members who had, as the name of the motion suggests, lost confidence in the chair. Were members who object to the meeting confident that the chair had the confidence of the membership, they would have worked to achieve a speedy vote and demonstrate that confidence.
As work needed to be done and action needed to be taken in order to welcome and accommodate representatives from our allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the next weeks and within very narrow timelines, the option of waiting for the next regular annual general meeting to express non-confidence was not a possibility. The chair needs to have the confidence of the membership to carry out their duties.
The Conservative whip and numerous other Conservative members of Parliament have also risen on this point of order, though no one has cited any standing order other than Standing Order 151 on record keeping by the clerk.
According to House of Commons Procedure and Practice, chapter 20, on committee proceedings, which applies to standing joint committees, and which I would suggest is the most similar structure in the rules that we have for parliamentary association meetings, there is only one situation in which a chair can unilaterally adjourn the meeting and that is if there is disorder.
The important point here is that the chair can only adjourn the meeting to address disorder. At this meeting, however, which I attended, disorder only happened after the meeting was attempted to be improperly adjourned and the chair left the meeting. Also, there was disorder, but it was after the attempted improper adjournment.
Conservative parliamentary staffers were drinking alcohol and singing from previously prepared songbooks, which demonstrated an obvious planning of these obstructive tactics. It is, I believe, without precedent for a member or members to encourage boozed-up staffers and provide them with prepared songbooks in an attempt to undermine the decorum of a meeting and it demonstrates a particular lack of judgment and lack of respect for this place.
The acting chair had to call the Parliamentary Protective Service through the Sergeant-at-Arms into the meeting room in order to remove the disrupters, the disrupters who, as I note, planned this disruption in advance and planned their obstruction of our duties here as parliamentarians. Members of the Parliamentary Protective Service do an amazing job keeping this place safe, allowing us to be able to fulfill our duties as parliamentarians. I think it is unacceptable for members in this place to encourage to create disorder and require the need for the Parliamentary Protective Service to intervene.
Now, about the rules and about the attempted adjournment specifically, the members, all of them Conservative, all referenced the adjournment of the meeting, and the member for Mégantic—L'Érable elaborated on what he deemed the inappropriateness of a vice-chair assuming the seat upon the premature departure of the chair.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice is clear about the adjournment of meetings. The relevant section is in chapter 20, on committees, entitled “Adjournment”, where it states:
A committee meeting may be adjourned by the adoption of a motion to that effect. However, most meetings are adjourned more informally, when the Chair receives the implied consent of members to adjourn.