Mr. Speaker, it is my duty to inform the Speaker of the House of an incident that occurred yesterday when the budget was tabled in the House by the Minister of Finance.
The House of Commons is not an instrument of government. The House of Commons is not a place where the Minister of Finance has permission to control who has or does not have the right to be present in this place.
A guest from my riding wanted to be present when the Minister of Finance made his presentation and opposition members subsequently made their statements. She therefore requested an access card in order to attend the budget presentation. She was very surprised to learn that all seats, including those reserved for opposition members, had been reserved by the Minister of Finance. I still asked her to attend, in case a seat became available.
Mr. Speaker, you and I noted that there were many seats available in all the galleries yesterday, so I told my guest to come and attend the budget presentation.
To her astonishment, the finance department official denied her access to the House and would not give her an access card. My guest is the manager of my constituency office. She came all this way to attend the budget presentation. She has an ID card that allows her to move about on the Hill. She then went to the Parliamentary Protective Service and asked them to let her in. However, they had orders not to admit anyone without a pass from the Department of Finance. She then went back to the rotunda and reminded the finance department official that there were seats available, but she still denied her access to the House.
My guest then sent me a text message to inform me that she was unable to attend. I had to leave the House and miss several minutes of the finance minister's speech to go meet my employee and accompany her to the gallery, where she was finally able to see the presentation.
Mr. Speaker, this is unacceptable.
Members will recall that last year, on budget day, there were two incidents. The first one involved the distribution of the budget documents. The documents were distributed before the Minister of Finance rose in the House to present the budget, and even more offensive was the fact that the documents were distributed to Liberal members only. The second matter involved the vote that preceded the budget presentation. The members for Milton and Beauce were prevented from attending that vote because security was holding the buses that carry members to the House on account of empty cars from the Prime Minister's motorcade.
Mr. Speaker, both of those cases and the case before you today have involved the interference of the executive branch with the administrative responsibilities of the House. It is your duty, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that the Department of Finance gets out of our way and allows us to control our own affairs. You, Mr. Speaker, are responsible for the distribution of documents in the House, access to the House, and access to the galleries, not the Department of Finance.
Last year, the matter of access to the House was settled through a question of privilege, and the distribution of documents was dealt with by you personally, Mr. Speaker. I am asking you to intervene again this year and to once again rein in the executive branch. This place belongs to us, not them.
Speaker Fraser summed it up this way when he was faced with the behaviour of the Department of Finance in 1989. He said, on October 10, 1989:
I expect the Department of Finance...to study this ruling carefully and remind everyone within the Public Service that we are a parliamentary democracy, not a so-called executive democracy nor a so-called administrative democracy.