Mr. Speaker, I move:
That the Speaker's public participation at an Ontario Liberal Party convention, as Speaker of the House of Commons, constitutes a breach of the tradition and expectation of impartiality required for that high office, constituting a serious error of judgment which undermines the trust required to discharge his duties and responsibilities and, therefore, the House refers the matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs with instruction that it recommend an appropriate remedy.
I appreciate the difficult position this scandal has put you in, and I appreciate your ruling, where you spelled out the normal course of actions for members to follow when dealing with a chair occupant or dealing with the Speaker. I appreciate that you also acknowledged the time-sensitive nature of what this scandal has caused for the House and for members. As you know, I made substantive remarks yesterday in making the case for this privilege motion. To save the House's time, I will not go through all of those again, but will just sum up the points.
The Speaker has incredible authority here in the chamber. The Speaker makes decisions that are not subject to appeal. There is no higher authority whom members can ask for a second opinion should they lose out on a point of order or on a question of privilege. The Speaker's word is the command during debates. If the Speaker does not like something that was said, the Speaker can take the floor away from a member. The Speaker has the sole authority to expel a member from the chamber. The Speaker is the only person who can name someone and force them to leave the chamber for the rest of the day. That decision is not appealable either. In other parliaments, that type of thing must be ratified by the House. In our chamber, the Speaker has sole executive authority. The reason I am talking so much about the incredible powers the Speaker has is that, for members to accept someone to hold that power, there has to be trust in that person.
I would like to mention that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable.
That is the type of authority the Speaker has here in the chamber. Around the precinct, the Speaker also has incredible authority as well. He chairs the Board of Internal Economy. The Board of Internal Economy sets the rules about how members are able to use resources to fulfill their functions, which is everything from printing protocols and ensuring there are adequate translation services to what types of expenses are allowed. It is a very important role. For members to accept someone to hold that authority, they must have 100% trust that the person holding that position is exercising their duty free of any partisan bias and free of any favouritism or preferential treatment.
It can be challenging. We all get elected through a political process. All of us seek a nomination. We join a political party. We sell memberships in that party in advance of a nomination race to win that nomination. During general elections, we pound in signs promoting our party, in terms of the brand, the policies and the leader. We all understand that.
When somebody enters this place and decides to run for Speaker, they usually go to some length to assure members that they do have a non-partisan side, that they can put aside their partisanship and partisan affiliations, and that they can take the Speaker's chair, put on the Speaker's robe and be impartial.
In the case of the current Speaker, the current Speaker was the former president of the Liberal Party. The current Speaker was the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, right up until he ran for Speaker. In the course of this Parliament, between the last election and the date he was elected as Speaker, the current Speaker was engaged in very partisan activities. As the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary, he was busy because there were a lot of scandals the Prime Minister was involved in. There were all kinds of ethics violations, spending scandals and allegations of corruption across multiple departments. The current Speaker would dutifully go to committee, defend the Prime Minister, engage in filibusters to prevent the committee from arriving at a decision, go on TV with other members of other parties, make accusations and defend his boss in a very partisan way.
We were all asked, as MPs, to take a leap of faith with this current Speaker that after being elected, after winning a majority of the votes in the House, he would go above and beyond what might be expected. Since his partisanship was so intense and so recent, we went out on a bit of a limb to believe he would put aside all that partisanship and would conduct himself in a way that would earn that trust and would justify that trust.
We gave him the benefit of the doubt. That is why it was so shocking. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the image of the Speaker in his robes, in his office on Parliament Hill, at a hyperpartisan political event. This was no quiet dinner among friends. This was a leadership election convention for the Ontario Liberal Party, a party in a province that he does not currently reside in.
I was shocked. At first, I honestly thought it was a bit of a joke. I thought somebody was trying to troll me or something. I did not believe it at first. Upon seeing the other images shared and the video itself, I realized, oh my goodness, the Speaker has actually done this.
Here is why it matters for Canadians. We heard the Speaker's excuse yesterday. We talked about the incredible authority, the need for trust between the House members and the Speaker.
We can think of other examples of institutions in Canada in which we can all instantly recognize the need for impartiality and the need to make a serious change if that impartiality is ever broken. Imagine a case in the NHL, if there were images displayed of an NHL referee wearing his referee's uniform and giving a pep talk to the Toronto Maple Leafs in their locker room during intermission.
How would fans of the Montreal Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators or the Edmonton Oilers feel if they ever had to see that referee ref a game between their team and Toronto?
It would not matter if the referee did that because he happened to know one of the players or maybe he had some close personal relationship. He did not expect it to be videoed; he just thought he could go in and say a few encouraging words and then leave. It would not matter, because once one sees that image, one cannot unsee it. That doubt will always be there. Doubt is the opposite of trust.
Imagine a defendant in a court case, where someone texts them an image of the judge, in his robes, at a backyard barbecue with the Crown prosecutor. The judge might have all kinds of context that he would want them to understand before jumping to conclusions, but would a defendant want to go through a trial proceeding with a judge who had shown that kind of partiality and bias? I would not.
Imagine a situation between a union and management that has gone to arbitration; the arbiter is then seen at a restaurant in his attire, in the same clothes he wears during the mediation session. Now he is sitting down with one of the parties involved in the dispute. Would a union want to accept a ruling, even if there was context and a rationale behind it? Of course it would not.
That is the situation we find ourselves in here in the House. That is why our recommendation to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs will be to recommend to the House that the Speaker resign. We do not believe that, to go forward, to accept those rulings without appeal, the current Speaker can fulfill that role.
Yesterday, I mentioned a few very important cases that are technically still under the purview of the Speaker. One touches on whether the budget bill was properly introduced. The government made a ways and means motion error, and we contend that this motion should have been ruled out of order. That is taxation and spending.
For us to trust that the Speaker made that ruling last week free of any bias or partiality is just impossible after seeing those images.
I hope my colleagues in the House will agree with me that this situation is serious and that it matters not just to members but also to Canadians. This is the pillar of our parliamentary democracy. Members should support this motion and support our calls at committee for the Speaker to do the right thing, put the institution above himself as an individual, make the role primary and step aside.