I am now ready to rule on the question of privilege raised on February 16, 2021, by the member for Banff—Airdrie concerning the meeting of the Standing Committee on Health on February 12, 2021, and on the interpretation services made available to members for committee business.
Following a detailed description of the event that unfolded during the meeting of the Standing Committee on Health, the member argued that a breach of members' privilege occurred when the committee chair decided to suspend the meeting, invoking an anticipated lack of the support necessary to continue working. The member feels that there was an interference with the exercise of members' parliamentary functions. The member also mentioned a technical problem related to interpretation at the moment the member for Beauport—Limoilou was prepared to vote.
The members for Calgary Nose Hill, Salaberry—Suroît, Vancouver Kingsway, Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam and Brandon—Souris, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, also added their comments on this matter.
The member for Banff—Airdrie raises an important question related to the administration services for which I am responsible. It would be remiss of me not to ensure that the support offered to parliamentarians, individually and collectively, meets their expectations in every respect. On that matter, the difficulties of communication and support for members encountered last Friday are regrettable. I wish to reaffirm for members that the House administration and its partners are wholly capable of providing the support necessary to committees' operations.
The question now facing the House is whether, in the context of the pandemic, certain situations, while quite justified, will eventually put a strain on the approach taken in recent months and the resources that are available to us. Despite best intentions, the exceptional dedication shown by the individuals involved and the clearly expressed desire to meet members' expectations, resources are not unlimited. We should seize the opportunity to ensure that this does not arise again while also ensuring that parliamentary proceedings continue to respect our rules and traditions. The new reality confronting us requires us to be particularly vigilant, to communicate and provide timely updates and to ensure close coordination with the staff required for each committee meeting.
I have therefore asked the administration, in collaboration with its partners, to review the organization of the service offer and to add a protocol to be followed in certain circumstances. This protocol would allow the whips to be informed at all times of specific situations that should be brought to their attention and to take the necessary measures in accordance with the order adopted last January 25. It is, in fact, up to the whips of the recognized parties to agree on the priority of use of the House's resources. I cannot overemphasize the importance of these discussions and I am counting on their co-operation.
I thus hope to respond to the suggestion of the chief opposition whip, who demonstrated openness by suggesting that he was prepared to envision a more effective and appropriate solution to the circumstances.
Lastly, while the Chair is aware of how important it is to members that our rules and traditions be respected and of certain issues that House committees sometimes face, there is a well-established practice that Speakers are required to follow that prevent them from intervening before the report from the committee has been submitted to the House. The member for Banff—Airdrie recognized that fact in his statement.
I thank the hon. members for their attention.
We have a question of privilege from the hon. member for Fundy Royal.