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  • His favourite word is chair.

Liberal MP for Halifax West (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 69% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Privilege May 29th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on May 10, 2017, by the hon. member for Victoria concerning the government’s advertisement of job opportunities at the proposed Canada infrastructure bank.

I would like to thank the member for Victoria for having raised this matter, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader , the member for Perth—Wellington, and the member for South Surrey—White Rock for their interventions.

In presenting his case, the member for Victoria explained that the government had publicly launched the selection process for various positions at the proposed new Canada infrastructure bank before the bill creating the bank and its governance structure, Bill C-44, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures, had been passed by Parliament and received royal assent. In fact, he noted that the bill had passed only second reading in the House. Arguing that all new activities and the appropriation of associated funds require the authorization of Parliament before being acted upon, he considered the actions taken by the government to recruit for these positions to be a contempt of the House and a grave attack against the authority of Parliament.

In response, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader agreed that the Canada infrastructure bank being proposed by Bill C-44 could not be established nor any associated funds spent until such time as the bill has been passed by Parliament. However, he added that the member for Victoria was making an assumption that the government was seeking to proceed prematurely, when, in fact, the government was simply proceeding with planning for the potential establishment of the bank. As proof of this, he cited the news release posted on Infrastructure Canada’s website which stated that the selection processes in question were subject to parliamentary approval.

As the charge being made by the member for Victoria is one of contempt, it is important to understand what constitutes contempt and, in doing so, what distinguishes contempt from privilege. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 82, defines contempt as:

…other affronts against the dignity and authority of Parliament which may not fall within one of the specifically defined privileges.

It continues, and I quote:

Thus, the House also claims the right to punish, as a contempt, any action which, though not a breach of a specific privilege, tends to obstruct or impede the House in the performance of its functions; obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of the House in the discharge of their duties; or is an offence against the authority or dignity of the House, such as disobedience of its legitimate commands or libels upon itself, its Members, or its officers.

I might add, as many of my predecessors have, that it is possible to categorize the privileges of both the House and the individual privileges of members which are limited, whereas contempt cannot be catalogued and defined categorically.

It is within that framework that the Chair must now determine if, in advertising prospective positions at the proposed Canada infrastructure bank in advance of Parliament having authorized its creation and funding, the government committed an offence against the authority or dignity of the House. Did it, to quote the member for Victoria, discount “the need of this House to pass legislation before it rolls out appointments for this institution”. It is a serious question, one complicated, in some sense, by the need for the Chair to carefully measure precedents against the inability to either enumerate or categorize cases of contempt.

The Chair therefore examined thoroughly the evidence presented, including the news release on Infrastructure Canada's website, as well as the proposed selection processes in question on the Privy Council Office's website. In particular, as Speaker, I was looking for any suggestion that parliamentary approval was being publicized as either unnecessary or irrelevant, or in fact already obtained. Otherwise put, I was looking for any indication of an offence against or disrespect of the authority or dignity of the House and its members.

Madam Speaker Sauvé specified on October 17, 1980, at page 3781 of the Debates, that in order for advertisements to constitute contempt of the House, “there would have to be some evidence that they represent a publication of false, perverted, partial or injurious reports of the proceedings of the House of Commons or misrepresentations of members”.

The Chair’s review also looked for such evidence. In doing so, the Chair found that, in the news release on the Infrastructure Canada website, the words “subject to parliamentary approval” were clearly there, as the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader had indicated. In addition, the Chair notes that there is no reference to a starting date of employment. Thus, there were not any specific details found indicating that any position at the Canada infrastructure bank would be filled in advance of the enactment of the enabling legislation.

The Chair must also take into consideration the assertion of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons that the advertisement was but a preparatory measure for a proposed initiative, in addition to his clear acknowledgement of the role of Parliament. In keeping with established practice, the Chair must take the member at his word.

However, as noted by the member for South Surrey—White Rock, the relevant job postings found on the appointments-nominations.gc.ca website maintained by the Privy Council Office lacked any reference to parliamentary approval. On this point, the Chair notes, with some disquiet, that this was changed after this matter was raised in the House. The advertised positions are now listed as “anticipatory”, and a disclaimer has been added in each case. It reads, “An appointment to the position will only be made once the legislation to create the Canada Infrastructure Bank has been approved by Parliament and receives Royal Assent.”

The member for Victoria has noted that Bill C-44 has passed second reading only: this leaves the House and its members still able to determine its outcome. As Speaker Fraser indicated in his ruling of October 10, 1989, at pages 4459 and 4460 of the Debates in a case with some similarity to the present one:

In order for an obstruction to take place, there would have had to be some action which prevented the House or Members from attending to their duties, or which cast such serious reflections on a Member that he or she was not able to fulfill his or her responsibilities.

The Chair has carefully considered that ruling, which had to do with a misrepresentation of Parliament’s role in government communications respecting the proposed goods and services tax in newspaper advertisements, because of its relevance to the current circumstance. It is interesting to note that in it, Speaker Fraser, in reference to the clarity of advertisements, reminded the public service that the role of Parliament needs to be acknowledged and respected.

Members are aware however that, in the end, Speaker Fraser did not arrive at a finding of prima facie contempt. The honourable member for Perth—Wellington may be right: had he been confronted again with such a case, Speaker Fraser may have ruled differently as he indicated he would. We will never know, as Speaker Fraser was not again seized of a matter of that kind.

Thus today I must assess the facts of this case on their own merits. In applying the strict procedural confines of contempt, the Chair must conclude that the question raised does not constitute a prima facie contempt of the House, and thus there is no prima facie case of privilege as there is no evidence to suggest that the House was obstructed in its legislative authority nor that members were obstructed in the fulfillment of their parliamentary duties.

I thank all hon. members for their attention.

Points of Order May 29th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on May 17, 2017, by the hon. member for Victoria concerning the consultations conducted in the nomination process for the next Commissioner of Official Languages.

I would like to thank the member for Victoria for having raised this matter, as well as the House Leader of the Official Opposition and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for their interventions.

In raising the matter, the member for Victoria explained that, when appointing a Commissioner of Official Languages, two statutory requirements must be satisfied. Both he and the House leader of the official opposition cited section 49 of the Official Languages Act, which stipulates that “The Governor in Council shall, by commission under the Great Seal, appoint a Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada after consultation with the leader of every recognized party in the Senate and House of Commons and approval of the appointment by resolution of the Senate and House of Commons.”

Having acknowledged that the leader of the New Democratic Party did in fact receive a letter announcing the nomination and inviting a reply, the member argued that, nonetheless, Canadian courts have made it clear that the term “consultation”, when provided for in a statute, connotes more than mere notification. Having received no offer of further discussion from the government after the letter, he argued that this statutory precondition requiring consultation had not been met.

For his part, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons contended that the requirement for consultation had indeed been met when the Prime Minister sent the letter on May 8, 2017, to the leaders of both recognized parties in the House, informing them of the nomination and requesting their views on the appointment. Confirming that both leaders had replied, he argued that the government was required only to consult, not abide by the recommendations of the opposition leaders.

Essentially, the Chair is being asked to judge if the actions taken by the government satisfy the requirement for consultation pursuant to the Official Languages Act. To do so would require the Chair to determine what constitutes “consultations” pursuant to that act. Past rulings set the parameters of the role of the Chair vis-à-vis consultations as they pertain to proceedings in the House. For instance, when asked to rule on the consultations required for the use of time allocation pursuant to Standing Order 78(3), Deputy Speaker Comartin explained on March 6, 2014, at page 3598 of the Debates that:

The nature of the consultation, the quality of the consultation, and the quantity of the consultation is not something that the Chair will involve himself in. That has been the tradition of this House for many years. What the Chair would have to do, in effect, is conduct an extensive investigative inquiry into the nature of the consultation. That is not our role, nor do the rules require it.

My predecessor added on June 12, 2014, at page 6717 of the Debates:

Therefore, it remains a steadfast practice that it is not the role of the Speaker to determine whether consultations have taken place or not.

The fact that, in this instance, the requirement for consultation is embedded in statute, rather than a rule of the House, does little to change the role of the Speaker in this respect. In fact, it adds an additional element in terms of the role of the Speaker: that of interpreting laws. On that front, there is a rich body of jurisprudence to confirm that the Speaker cannot adjudicate on the legality of matters, which, of course, would include whether or not specific provisions of a statute, such as the need for consultations, have been respected.

Faced with a situation regarding the statutory requirement for consultations on appointments made pursuant to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, Speaker Fraser stated on December 7, 1989, at page 6586 of the Debates:

It is rather a question of law, and consequently I cannot offer my opinion as to the merits of the case…. The Chair is not in a position to decide upon questions of law. This is a matter best left to the courts.

Therefore, in this matter, the Chair cannot pass judgment as to the adequacy of the consultations, nor the fulfillment of the legal requirements. Instead, the role of the Chair is strictly limited to determining procedural admissibility of the motion for the nomination of the official languages commissioner, which was put on notice on May 17.

As Speaker, I am satisfied that the procedural requirements have been met. The motion is in order and the process prescribed in Standing Order 111.1 can follow its course.

I thank all hon. members for their attention.

Privilege May 18th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on April 4, 2017, by the honourable member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman concerning allegedly misleading statements made by the Minister of National Defence.

I would like to thank the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman for having raised this matter, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for his contribution.

In presenting his case, the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman explained that the answer to written Question No. 600, tabled in the House on January 30, 2017, and signed by the Minister of National Defence, stated that all members of the Canadian Armed Forces deployed in Operation Impact in Kuwait and Iraq were granted tax relief benefits by the previous government. In later submissions, on May 3 and 16, 2017, the member added that a press release issued by the minister on April 19, 2017, a briefing note prepared for the minister obtained through an access to information request, and a ministerial order issued by the President of the Treasury Board on April 17, 2017, further supported this assertion.

The member argued that the minister misled the House when, in answers to oral questions on March 8 and 21, 2017, he stated that members of the Canadian Armed Forces were sent by the previous government to Iraq and Kuwait without the tax-free allowance at the time of their deployment.

The member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman alleged that these two seemingly contradictory versions of events were misleading the House and therefore constituted a prima facie question of privilege since, as he stated, “Only one of these statements can be true”. In one of his submissions, the member presented evidence to support his contention that, and I quote:

...the Minister of National Defence has misled, fabricated, and embellished other issues on numerous occasions in addition to my original question of privilege.

For his part, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons explained that, as the tax relief in question was applied retroactively, the minister had in fact provided the very same information when responding to Order Paper Question No. 600 and to oral questions asked in the House. Thus, he characterized the matter as a dispute as to facts and not a question of privilege

Members have a right to request and obtain trustworthy information in order to carry out their parliamentary duties. This reliance on access to accurate information is the cornerstone of their ability to hold the government to account. As a result, the Chair has often been called upon to rule on the quality, completeness, and internal coherence of information provided in responses to questions, whether oral or written.

As members will know, the exchange of information in this place is constantly subject to varying and, yes, contradictory views and perceptions. This, of course, heightens the risk that, inadvertently, a member making a statement may be mistaken, or, in turn, that a member listening may misunderstand what another has stated.

This, in large part, is why strong, even indisputable evidence is needed for the Chair to reach the very serious conclusion that the House has been deliberately misled and that therefore a prima facie question of privilege exists.

To aid in this arduous task, the Chair is guided by three clear and well-established conditions, which my predecessor outlined in his ruling of April 29, 2015, when he stated at page 13197 of Debates:

…first, the statement needs to be misleading. Second, the member making the statement has to know that the statement was incorrect when it was made. Finally, it needs to be proven that the member intended to mislead the House by making the statement.

These criteria are meant to protect members as they freely express views that can be at odds with the views of other members.

Without evidence meeting these conditions, when faced with this type of allegation, the Chair has consistently concluded that the House has not, in fact, been deliberately misled, but rather that the matter can only be viewed as a disagreement on the interpretation of facts.

Thus, while the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman may be in disagreement with the statements made by the Minister of National Defence, there was no evidence presented that would suggest that the three necessary conditions existed in this case or that the Chair has cause, exceptionally, to overlook the long-standing practice of taking members at their word when the accuracy of their statements is called into question.

As stated at page 145 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second edition:

If the question of privilege involves a disagreement between two (or more) Members as to facts, the Speaker typically rules that such a dispute does not prevent Members from fulfilling their parliamentary functions nor does such a disagreement breach the collective privileges of the House.

As such, the Chair concludes that no prima facie case of privilege exists in this case.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Private Members' Business May 9th, 2017

The Chair would like to take a moment to provide some information to the House regarding the management of private members' business.

As members know, after the order of precedence is replenished, the Chair reviews the new items so as to alert the House to bills which at first glance appear to infringe on the financial prerogative of the crown. This allows members the opportunity to intervene in a timely fashion to present their views about the need for those bills to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Accordingly, following the April 10, 2017 replenishment of the order of precedence with 15 new items, I wish to inform the House that there are two bills that give the Chair some concern as to the spending provisions they contemplate. They are Bill C-315, an act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act (Conservation of National Historic Sites Account), standing in the name of the member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, and Bill C-343, an act to establish the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Criminal Acts and to amend certain acts, standing in the name of the member for Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix.

Additionally, on an exceptional basis, I would like to raise concerns regarding Bill S-205, an act to amend the Canada Border Services Agency Act (Inspector General of the Canada Border Services Agency) and to make consequential amendments to other acts, and Bill S-229, an act respecting underground infrastructure safety. Both bills have been sent to the House of Commons for consideration. The Chair expects that in due course they will be given first reading in the House, as is usually the case with bills sent to the House by the other place.

As members know, certain constitutional and procedural principles inform the Chair with respect to bills containing spending provisions that would require a royal recommendation, which are also known as “money bills”.

A fundamental requirement for bills of this nature is that they must originate in the House of Commons. Standing Order 80(1) embodies this important principle, stating:

All aids and supplies granted to the Sovereign by the Parliament of Canada are the sole gift of the House of Commons, and all bills for granting such aids and supplies ought to begin with the House, as it is the undoubted right of the House to direct, limit, and appoint in all such bills, the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations and qualifications of such grants, which are not alterable by the Senate.

This stipulation explicitly prohibits “money bills” from originating in the Senate. In the past, if a bill requiring a royal recommendation was passed by the Senate and sent to the House, the Chair has seen fit to interrupt all further consideration of the bill.

The Chair has specific concerns about the unusual manner in which Bill S-205 and Bill S-229 are structured. Essentially, they appear to contain spending provisions that would require a royal recommendation, but they both conclude with coming into force provisions that suggest otherwise.

Receiving such bills from the Senate is exceptional and rare. Indeed it may well be the first time the House is seized with such legislative measures. Parenthetically, Bill C-343, which I referenced earlier, contains a similar provision.

If, following an anticipated first reading of Bill S-205 and Bill S-229, the Chair determines that the bills are contrary to our usual rules and practices regarding money bills, I would be obligated to disallow them to be further considered in the House. Specifically, it would be incumbent on me to order them removed from the Order Paper and any consideration of them ended. This is distinct from the process for bills first introduced in the House that require a royal recommendation, which are allowed to continue to the end of third reading before the Chair interrupts their consideration. Such would be the case for Bill C-315 and Bill C-343, should the Chair conclude that they do indeed require a royal recommendation.

In view of these considerations, I would encourage hon. members who would like to make arguments regarding the concerns about these bills that I have raised today, or any of the other bills now on the order of precedence, to do so at the earliest opportunity.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Points of Orders May 8th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the admissibility of the amendment moved on Friday, May 5, 2017 by the hon. member for Carleton to the motion respecting the Senate amendments to Bill C-4, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act.

At the time, the Chair took the matter under advisement and committed to return to the House as quickly as possible with a ruling. Thereafter, the House leader of the official opposition, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, and the member for Oxford made interventions on the matter, and I thank them for having done so.

The main motion would see the House disagree to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-4. The amendment is intended to do the opposite. Specifically, it aims to see the House agree to the Senate amendments.

No precedent of such an amendment could be found; thus, it is up to the Chair to rule on its admissibility.

Amendments are an integral part of the process of debate but are subject to certain limitations. Page 533 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice states: “An amendment must be relevant to the motion it seeks to amend.”

In this case, it is clear that the proposed amendment is indeed relevant to the main motion. However, House of Commons Procedure and Practice also states, on the same page, that an “amendment is out of order procedurally, if...it is completely contrary to the main motion and would produce the same result as the defeat of the main motion”.

I notice that the House leader of the official opposition has argued that the effect of adopting the amendment at hand in this case is different.

That being said, since there are no clear precedents allowing the Chair to accept the amendment, I would refer members to what is written at page 792 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, and I quote:

The motion for the consideration of Senate amendments is itself open to amendment and subamendment during debate. Members opposed to Senate amendments may move reasoned amendments to them.

While the member has proposed an amendment that is not in keeping with the procedural criteria outlined earlier, other types of amendments could be envisioned that would be more in keeping with precedents and practice. Accordingly, I find the amendment to be out of order. Debate will therefore continue on the main motion.

I thank the hon. members for their attention.

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act April 12th, 2017

I wish to inform the House of an administrative error that occurred with regard to Bill C-22, an act to establish the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians and to make consequential amendments to certain acts.

Members may recall that the House studied a number of motions at report stage. On March 20, 2017, the House adopted some of those motions and rejected others. One of the rejected motions was Motion No. 7, moved by the hon. member for Victoria, which was intended to delete clause 31 of the bill.

The House concurred in the bill, as amended, at report stage with further amendments and eventually adopted the bill at third reading on April 4, 2017.

As is the usual practice following passage at third reading, House officials prepared a parchment version of the bill and transmitted this parchment to the Senate. Due to an administrative error, the version of the bill that was transmitted to the other place was prepared as if Motion No. 7 had been adopted and clause 31 had been deleted, with the renumbering of another clause in the bill as a result. Unfortunately, the mistake was not detected before the bill was sent to the other place.

I wish to reassure the House that this error was strictly administrative in nature and occurred after third reading was given to Bill C-22. The proceedings that took place in this House and the decisions made by the House with respect to Bill C-22 remain entirely valid. The records of the House relating to this bill are complete and accurate.

However, the documents relating to Bill C-22 that were sent to the other place were not an accurate reflection of the House’s decisions.

Speaker Milliken addressed a similar situation in a ruling given on November 22, 2001, found on page 7455 of Debates. My predecessor also dealt with a similar situation in a statement made on September 15, 2014, found on page 7239 of Debates. Guided by these precedents, similar steps have been undertaken in this case.

First, once this discrepancy was detected, House officials immediately communicated with their counterparts in the Senate to set about resolving it. Next, I have instructed the Acting Clerk and his officials to take the necessary steps to rectify this error and to ensure that the other place has a corrected copy of Bill C-22 that reflects the proceedings that occurred in this House. Thus, a revised version of the bill will be transmitted to the other place through the usual administrative procedures of Parliament. Finally, I have asked that the “as passed at third reading” version of the bill be reprinted.

The Senate will, of course, make its own determination about how it proceeds with Bill C-22 in light of this situation. I wish to reassure members that steps have been taken to ensure that similar errors, rare though they may be, do not reoccur.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Privilege April 11th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on April 7, 2017, by the hon. member for Perth—Wellington, in which he asks that the matter of privilege under debate on April 6, 2017, which was superseded by the adoption of a motion to proceed to orders of the day, be revived.

I would like to thank the member for Perth—Wellington for having raised the matter in the House, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, House leader of the official opposition, and the members for Beloeil—Chambly, Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, Sarnia—Lambton, Banff—Airdrie, Calgary Signal Hill, and York—Simcoe for their contributions to the discussion on this important matter and unprecedented circumstance.

In presenting his case, the member for Perth—Wellington acknowledged that a motion to proceed to orders of the day while the House is considering a matter of privilege is procedurally in order. On this point, he and the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader agree. The Chair also agrees that the motion, as moved, was in order, and this is supported by numerous authorities.

Rather, it is on the issue of whether and how such a matter of privilege can be revived that the member for Perth—Wellington focused his argument. He pointed out that other types of proceedings, like the consideration of motions of instruction to committees or motions to concur in a committee report, can be considered again once a motion to proceed to orders of the day has been adopted. He argued that allowing such a motion to permanently end further consideration of something as important as a question of privilege would create a dangerous precedent. He asked the Chair to effectively restart the proceedings on the question of privilege by again finding a prima facie case of privilege on the matter relating to the free movement of members in the parliamentary precinct, as originally raised by the member for Milton.

The problem facing the Chair then is determining, first whether it is procedurally in order to revive a matter of privilege that has been superseded and second, in the affirmative, how that could be done in a procedurally acceptable manner.

If a motion to proceed to orders of the day is adopted when the House is considering a motion of instruction or a motion to concur in a committee report, the motion is also dropped from the Order Paper. However, members who wish to revive the matter can again give the required 48 hours' notice of the same motion and then move it in the House. As the member for Perth—Wellington correctly stated, this means that: “one is back where one began and can reinitiate the same identical proceeding in the usual fashion appropriate to that class of motion.”

These arguments are persuasive, and accordingly the Chair must conclude that it is procedurally possible to revive a matter of privilege that has been likewise superseded.

Having answered the first question in the affirmative, the next question for the Chair is determining how this ought to be done. The member for Perth—Wellington and others argue that this is properly done by raising the matter in the House and having the Speaker again give priority consideration to it.

As a consequence of the events of April 6, the Chair can see a few other ways the matter of privilege could be revived. The member for Milton—or any other member, for that matter—could seek to revive the question by way of written notice on the Notice Paper. As House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, states at page 154, such a notice of motion, unless it were proposed by a minister, would be

placed on the Order Paper under the list of Private Members' Business items outside the Order of Precedence following the 48 hours' notice period.

The matter could also be brought before the House as an opposition motion.

However, the situation in which the House finds itself is unprecedented. The Chair can find no instance of debate on a matter of privilege superseded by the adoption of a motion to proceed to orders of the day. At the same time, the Speaker has a duty to uphold the fundamental rights and privileges of the House and of its members. That is why, when questions of privilege are raised, the Speaker has to decide whether, prima facie, they ought to have immediate priority consideration.

If a superseded matter of privilege were brought forward again as the subject of an opposition day, the Chair would not likely interfere, unless the motion was found to be defective in some way.

If a superseded matter of privilege were put down for debate via the Notice Paper, it could also eventually proceed, pursuant to the procedures applicable to government or private members' business, as the case may be. However, as is stated in O'Brien and Bosc at page 154, the member in whose name the item stands has another option, and

may decide to seek priority in debate for the motion (e.g. if new information were to come to light). The Member must then seek to convince the Speaker that the matter raised in the motion should be considered a prima facie question of privilege.

This, in a sense, is a third manner in which a matter of privilege can be revived and it is, for all practical purposes, the same method that the member for Perth—Wellington is advocating.

Given the unprecedented nature of this circumstance, and given the weight of procedural jurisprudence, the Chair is inclined to conclude that there are sufficient grounds for allowing the matter of privilege superseded on April 6 to be revived in the manner proposed by the member for Perth—Wellington. Accordingly, without restating my ruling of April 6 in the matter of delayed access to the parliamentary precinct, I again find a prima facie question of privilege.

I now invite the member for Perth—Wellington to move the appropriate motion.

Privilege April 11th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on March 23, 2017, by the House leader of the official opposition regarding an alleged intimidation in the chamber by the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs on March 22, 2017.

I would like to thank the House leader of the official opposition for having raised this matter, as well as the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the member for Chilliwack—Hope, the member for Calgary Nose Hill, the member for Victoria, and the member for Flamborough—Glanbrook for their comments.

In her arguments, the opposition House leader stated that on March 22, after she had moved a motion to proceed to orders of the day, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs approached her in a manner she considered to be aggressive.

In response, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs admitted that she had crossed the floor, simply in order to point out to the opposition House leader the presence in the gallery of two particular visitors. Additionally, she apologized for the tone she had used.

To be clear, the Chair considers physical intimidation to be a most serious charge. As Speaker, I firmly believe that all members have the right to execute their parliamentary responsibilities, be it in the chamber or elsewhere, free from intimidation. It is from that standpoint that I have reviewed carefully this matter, including the video of March 22, 2017.

As with any claim of a breach of privilege, including one founded on an allegation of a member being intimidated, the Chair must assess if the member was impeded in the performance of his or her parliamentary duties.

As Speaker Bosley noted on May 1, 1986, at page 12847 of Debates:

Should an Hon. Member be able to say that something has happened which prevented him or her from performing functions, that he or she has been threatened, intimidated, or in any way unduly influenced, there would be a case for the Chair to consider.

Based on a review of the video, it is clear that the minister crossed the floor to the opposition House leader's seat and can be seen pointing to the gallery. She appears to be animated. The comments of the minister in that regard indicate that she regrets and apologizes for the tone she used in that incident. What is not clear to the Chair is how the opposition House leader was impeded in the performance of her duties. As honourable members know, this is a key factor in any determination of a prima facie question of privilege of this nature.

As the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice points out at page 109:

In order to find a prima facie breach of privilege, the Speaker must be satisfied that there is evidence to support the Member’s claim that he or she has been impeded in the performance of his or her parliamentary functions....

Given the procedural jurisprudence available to me, and in view of the particular circumstances of this case, I cannot conclude that there has been a prima facie breach of privilege.

Needless to say, all members are aware of the importance of professional and courteous behaviour at all times. Despite the varying views on issues which we espouse in this chamber, even vehemently at times, we are, at a minimum, colleagues who deserve the utmost respect from each other.

I remind members that this applies even during times of procedural tension.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Privilege April 6th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on March 22, 2017, by the member for Milton regarding delayed access to the parliamentary precinct.

I would like to thank the hon. member for having raised this matter, as well as the members for Beauce, Perth—Wellington, and Hamilton Centre for their comments.

In raising this matter, the member for Milton indicated that she was prevented from attending a vote in the House of Commons and, thus, impeded in the performance of her parliamentary duties when her access to the parliamentary precinct through her normal transport was temporarily blocked. The member for Beauce confirmed that he was subjected to the same delay.

As Speaker, it is my role to ensure that the privileges of the House and the individual privileges of members are protected, including that of freedom from obstruction; for it is that privilege of unfettered access to the parliamentary precinct which ensures that members are able to discharge their responsibilities as elected representatives. I take my role in this regard very seriously. That is why upon hearing the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Milton I stated that I would obtain a report into what occurred.

In fact I have received two reports of the incident. The first, from the House of Commons Corporate Security Officer and Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms, provides an excellent minute-by-minute summary of events and is supplemented by witness statements. The second report was received from the acting director of the Parliamentary Protective Service.

Based on these reports, here is what appears to have happened on March 22nd. At approximately 3:47 p.m., the bollards at or by the vehicle screening facility were lowered to allow for the arrival of a bus transporting journalists to Centre Block for the presentation of the budget. The media bus, under Parliamentary Protective Service escort, immediately proceeded to Centre Block. Seconds later, after the media bus had proceeded, a House of Commons shuttle bus arrived at the vehicle screening facility but was not allowed to proceed to Centre Block. In the ensuing minutes, two more shuttle buses arrived at the vehicle screening facility and were similarly delayed. I am informed that members were on at least some of these buses.

During these delays, which lasted a total of nine minutes, two members, the member for Milton and the member for Beauce, were waiting at the bus shelter near the vehicle screening facility. At approximately 3:54 p.m., the member for Beauce entered the vehicle screening facility and made inquiries of parliamentary protective staff about the delays and then decided at approximately 3:55 p.m. to leave the bus shelter and walk up the Hill. As members will know, it was around this time that a vote was commencing in the House.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, on page 110, states:

Incidents involving physical obstruction—such as traffic barriers, security cordons and union picket lines either impeding Members’ access to the Parliamentary Precinct or blocking their free movement within the precinct...have been found to be prima facie cases of privilege.

The importance of the matter of members' access to the precinct, particularly when there are votes for members to attend, cannot be overstated. It bears repeating that even a temporary denial of access, whether there is a vote or not, cannot be tolerated. The Parliamentary Protective Service needs to better familiarize itself with the operations of the House so that its posture reflects and gives priority to the needs of the House, its committees, and its members at all times, and it needs to ensure that Parliamentary Protective Service staff are always alert to changing circumstances in this regard.

-–This was stressed as long ago as 2004, when, in its 21st report, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs stated:

The denial of access to Members of the House—even if temporary—is unacceptable, and constitutes a contempt of the House. Members must not be impeded or interfered with while on their way to the Chamber, or when going about their parliamentary business. To permit this would interfere with the operation of the House of Commons, and undermine the pre-eminent right of the House to the service of its Members.

As my predecessor stated on March 15, 2012, at page 6333 of Debates:

...the implementation of security measures cannot override the right of Members to unfettered access to the parliamentary precinct, free from obstruction or interference.

Obviously these kinds of incidents, which have given rise to the issue now before us, have been all too frequent. It is for this reason that my predecessor stated on May 12, 2015, at page 13,760 of Debates that protective personnel:

...need to know the community they serve. They need to be sensitive and responsive to the community they serve, and they need to be familiar with the expectations of the community they serve. This includes having the primary function of this place top of mind as they go about performing their duties.

Clearly there was a failure in that regard on this occasion.

It is precisely to prevent the recurrence of events like that of March 22nd that some months ago I asked the director of the Parliamentary Protective Service, as one of his annual objectives, to provide mandatory training on an ongoing basis for all members of the service on the privileges, rights, immunities, and powers of the House of Commons, including unfettered access of members of the House of Commons to the parliamentary precinct.

The Chair has every confidence that the leadership of the Parliamentary Protective Service will be able to achieve this important understanding of the parliamentary community they serve by availing themselves of all opportunities available for relevant training, including those previously offered by the procedural staff of the House.

In the meantime, given the evidence that members were impeded in the fulfilment of their parliamentary duties and in view of the guidance provided by precedents, the Chair can only conclude that there are sufficient grounds for finding a prima facie question of privilege. I now invite the member for Milton to move the appropriate motion.

Privilege April 6th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on March 22, 2017, by the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent concerning the advance distribution in the House of the Minister of Finance’s budget presentation documents.

I would like to thank the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent for having raised the matter in the House, as well as the members for Victoria, Flamborough—Glanbrook, Carleton, and Banff—Airdrie for their comments.

In raising the matter, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent contended that an unacceptable breach of privilege had occurred when copies of the budget presentation were distributed to government members only, while a vote was taking place in the House, in advance of the Minister of Finance’s budget presentation. This, he claimed, provided government members with privileged access to confidential budget information.

As members may recall, what transpired in the House on March 22, the day of the budget presentation, was rather exceptional in procedural terms in that an unexpected recorded division was under way at the time the Minister of Finance was scheduled to commence his speech. It was in this context that the pages, who earlier in the day had been given instructions to begin distribution at 4 p.m., began distributing some copies of the budget document during the vote, rather than just before the Minister of Finance rose, as is the usual practice. Thus, while the documents should not have been distributed during the vote, and the distribution was stopped as soon as I was aware that it was happening, this was a purely administrative error, which, unfortunately, gave some government members premature, albeit momentary, access to the budget documents.

It is our practice that information contained in the budget is kept secret until the Minister of Finance stands in the House to deliver the budget speech. However, it is also the practice that closed-door informal sessions are held by the Department of Finance prior to the budget presentation in the House of Commons—lock-ups as they are commonly known. These lock-ups have long played a role in the way parliamentary business is conducted, allowing members, as well as the media, advance access to sensitive information contained in the budget so they can be prepared to respond to questions once it has been made public. However, parliamentary convention also states that members should refrain from divulging that protected information prior to it being made public by the Minister of Finance later that day. There is no evidence that those members to whom the budget documents were inadvertently distributed on March 22 divulged their contents in any way.

The issue then is whether, in this case, the premature, even if short-lived, access of some members to budgetary information constituted a breach of members' privileges, thereby impeding them in the performance of their parliamentary functions. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, states at page 894:

...Speakers of the Canadian House have maintained that secrecy is a matter of parliamentary convention, rather than one of privilege.

In the past, Speakers have had cause to address this very relationship between parliamentary convention and privilege. On November 18, 1981, at page 12898 of the Debates, Speaker Sauvé stated:

… a breach of budget secrecy cannot be dealt with as a matter of privilege. It might constitute a very important grievance for members. Such action might have a very negative impact on business or on the stock market. It might cause some people to receive revenues which they would not otherwise have been able to obtain. All of these are possible consequences of breaches of budget secrecy, but they have no impact on the privileges of the member. They might do harm—irrevocable in some cases—to persons or institutions, but this has nothing to do with privilege.

For his part, Speaker Fraser ruled on June 18, 1987, at page 7315 of the Debates that:

Budgetary secrecy is a matter of parliamentary convention. Its purpose is to prevent anybody from gaining a private advantage by reason of obtaining advance budgetary information.

The limits of parliamentary privilege are very narrow and it is not a responsibility of the Chair to rule as to whether or not a parliamentary convention is justified, or whether or not the matter complained of is a breach of that convention. That is a matter of political debate and not one in which the Chair would wish to become involved.

Although, as Speaker Fraser surmised, it is not for the Chair to pass judgment on the appropriateness of a parliamentary convention, as Speaker, I continue to shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that members are in no way prevented from carrying out their parliamentary functions. In response to a question of privilege raised about the premature disclosure of information contained in the main estimates, Speaker Milliken reminded members in his ruling of March 22, 2011, which can be found at page 9113 of the Debates that:

… in such instances when there is a transgression of [a] well-established practice, the Chair must ascertain whether, as a result, the member was impeded in the performance of parliamentary duties.

While, in the case before us, there may be a grievance, there has been no evidence suggesting that any member was unable to perform his or her parliamentary duties. Accordingly, I cannot find that there is a prima facie case of privilege.

Before I conclude, please let me take a moment to state how thankful I am, and I am sure we all are, for the continued professionalism of the House of Commons pages. They do extraordinary work in serving all members of this House, and for this they deserve our support and gratitude and obviously have it.

I thank all honourable members for their attention.