Mr. Speaker, questions of privilege are not just about individual members; they are about the collective interest and health of all members. What happens if a member has a health problem? That is why we are having these in camera discussions at the Board of Internal Economy. People's personal situations and health status must be discussed in private.
We have members in this place who may be immunocompromised, people who are actually put at very real, elevated risk compared to others because of a communicable disease. What about their privilege? I do not hear the Conservative members talking about the privilege of members who are in that very vulnerable state.
This place is not just about our privilege. As I stand here, I see members of the House administration. I see pages. I know there are people who are doing translation. There are journalists. What about their health? What about their privilege to have their health protected? At what point do we set rules to make sure that the privilege of an individual does not compromise the safety and health of others?
We know that this chamber is full of rules and full of things that would infringe upon our individual privilege. The whip spoke about the fact that I have to wear this tie. He is absolutely right; that is a rule, and I suppose that is an infringement of my privilege if I did not feel like wearing a tie. So are dress codes, limited hours and limited debate. I was just talking to the member for Winnipeg North, who was telling me a story of a member who walked into the Manitoba legislature with a knife and had to be told that their privilege did not include carrying a knife.
There are limits on our privileges in this place. Those limits are present at all times. I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that they most certainly are present during a pandemic. We are in a public health crisis. We would expect all workplaces to have these provisions. I am, frankly, disappointed that we are talking about this, because all of these conversations miss the single most important fact, which is that with unanimity we could have avoided all of this. We could simply have agreed that vaccines, in this place, on the parliamentary precinct, are the right thing to do. Instead, we are continuing to debate this for reasons that frankly, I have to say, are confusing to me.
If these moral arguments do not hold sway and if the concern of privilege for others does not hold sway, I will refer specifically to some items within the Parliament of Canada Act and elsewhere that demonstrate the Board of Internal Economy's ability to have authority to decide vaccination requirements within this House.
I would like to draw to the attention of members section 52.3 of the Parliament of Canada Act, which states, in respect of the functions of the Board of Internal Economy:
The Board shall act on all financial and administrative matters respecting
(a) the House of Commons, its premises, its services and its staff; and
(b) the members of the House of Commons.
The Board of Internal Economy has a legislated mandate to act on administrative matters for the House and its members.
I would also like to draw the attention of members to Government Motion No. 1, which the government gave notice of today on the special Order Paper, and which was shared last week with all parties. Motion No. 1 directly addresses the matter of ensuring that members who participate in the deliberation of this House in person must be fully vaccinated or have a legitimate medical reason for not being vaccinated. This is a fundamental issue of the collective privileges of the House.
I can assure members that this matter will be debated as soon as possible to send a clear message that the health and safety of members who participate in person are of the utmost importance to the government members and, by extension, the House.
I would point out that not only does the Board of Internal Economy have the authority to make the sensible decision it has made, but also this matter will be debated and voted on in the next few days, which will further resolve the point raised by the opposition member.
In closing, I would like to cite a salient point made in the 2014 edition of Erskine May's A treatise on the law, privileges, proceedings and usage of Parliament, at page 203. It states that certain rights and immunities, such as freedom from arrest or freedom of speech, belong primarily to the individual members of each House and exist because the House cannot perform its functions without unimpeded use of the services of its members.
It goes on:
Other rights and immunities, such as the power to punish for contempt and the power to regulate its own constitution, belong primarily to each House as a collective body, for the protection of its Members and the vindication of its own authority and dignity. Fundamentally, however, it is only as a means to the effective discharge of the collective functions of the House that the individual privileges are enjoyed by Members.
That last quote is most pertinent to this situation. The question of the relationship between individual privileges and our collective privileges is a fundamental issue for this House to determine. That is precisely what the government is proposing to accomplish through Government Motion No. 1.
As the last point, even if the party opposite continues to protest in this way, there is a very simple solution, which the House leader for the NDP has indicated, and that is an extension of the hybrid measures which would allow the members who are unvaccinated in their caucus to participate remotely and do so in a way that is safe and does not in any way impugn their privilege. They are in the odd position of disenfranchising their own members by saying they are both against having this hybrid provision and also having this position on vaccines, which I find strange.
This matter is clear. Absolutely the board has the authority and collective privilege has to be respected in this place.