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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

House of Commons June 21st, 2017

I wish to echo the comments of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, the hon. member for Beloeil—Chambly, and the hon. member for Joliette.

To reiterate what I said before question period, I want to thank all my colleagues for their great work.

I also want to thank all of the staff who work on Parliament Hill and provide the many services, from the cleaners to those who move furniture to the procedural staff to the interpreters, and the many people in so many areas who provide such great assistance to us. I know colleagues will have other suggestions of who I should add to that. I know I have not listed all of them, and I am sure I will forget some. However, I thank all of them, because we are grateful for the wonderful work that they do.

Of course I particularly want to thank the pages, to whom we are saying “so long”. I hope they will all come back and visit us regularly. We have enjoyed having these wonderful pages with us. They have done such great work for us.

I want to wish all members a healthy and very relaxing summer. I can say that I am looking forward to some tranquility over the course of the summer at some point. I know members will come back refreshed in the fall and get back to work.

However, I particularly want to urge members, all those who work on the Hill, and all Canadians to be careful this summer when on vacation or travelling. It is particularly important. I know members spend a lot of time on the road, and over the years we have lost a couple of members because of accidents, so I urge members to be extra careful. Obviously, if they become tired, they should not drive but should get some rest, please.

I wish all the best to everyone.

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni, Taxation; the hon. member for Chilliwack—Hope, Standing Orders of the House of Commons.

Privilege June 20th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on June 8, 2017 by the honourable member for Winnipeg Centre concerning the right of members to use indigenous languages in proceedings in the House of Commons.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre for having raised this important matter.

The member began by explaining that, despite having provided documentation to interpretation services 48 hours in advance, simultaneous interpretation was not provided when he made a statement in nehiyo, the Cree language, on May 4, 2017. Unable to be understood by his fellow parliamentarians and those viewing the proceedings, he felt that he had been effectively silenced and his privileges violated. The member asked for not only the right to use indigenous languages in the proceedings of the House but also for minimal resources to enable him to participate and interact fully with other members in the proceedings and them with him in turn.

The issue raised by the member for Winnipeg Centre speaks to the very core of what members need when they come to this chamber, that is, not only to be free to speak but also to be understood. To be clear, the sacrosanct right of members to speak is not what is now being questioned; rather, it is the right of members to be understood immediately when they speak in a language other than one of the two official languages that is being raised.

This acknowledge of the need to bridge understanding between languages was surely at the root of the introduction of simultaneous interpretation for Canada's two official languages in the House in 1958. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 287, explains the intentions of members at that time:

Members were of the opinion that this would give further expression to the Constitution, which provides for the equal status of the official languages and for their use in parliamentary debate.

This critical service, which began by way of an order of the House when members unanimously agreed to a government motion on August 11, 1958, continues to provide integral support to members as they search to understand and participate in parliamentary proceedings.

The fact that interpretation is provided in our two official languages was not designed or intended to prohibit members from speaking other languages in this chamber. Acting Speaker Kilger confirmed this on June 12, 1995, at page 13605 of Debates, when he stated:

At this time, there is nothing in the standing orders preventing anyone from using, as you say, a language that is not one of Canada's two official languages.

Members have availed themselves of this opportunity on many occasions, speaking not only indigenous languages but others as well. However, given the House’s current limited technical and physical capacity for interpretation, if members want to ensure that the comments they make in a language other than French or English can be understood by those who are following the proceedings and are part of the official record in the Debates, an extra step is required. Specifically, members need to repeat their comments in one of the two official languages so that our interpreters can provide the appropriate interpretation and so that they may be fully captured in the Debates. By doing so, all members of the House and the public will be able to benefit from the rich value of these interventions.

The Chair understands fully how some members could find this to be woefully inadequate. Perhaps there is some merit to that view. Perhaps being able to speak in other languages without the benefit of simultaneous interpretation is not good enough for some, even as the Chair reminds members of the impact that inherent physical limitations of the chamber have on the capacity for interpretation.

To offer something more, something different in terms of interpretation services, that is a decision that belongs to the House. As the member for Winnipeg Centre made a passionate argument for the improvement of interpretive services offered simultaneously in the House, I invite him to raise this issue with the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which has a mandate for reviewing the procedures and practices of the House and its committees. As the member for Winnipeg Centre noted, other legislative bodies in Canada have had some experience with this issue, perhaps experiences from which the committee could draw upon should it undertake a study on the matter.

In conclusion, while the Chair understands that the current offering of interpretation may be not be seen as ideal by some members, I cannot find that the member for Winnipeg Centre has been prevented from conducting his parliamentary functions.

Therefore, I cannot find that a prima facie case of privilege exists in this case.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Privilege June 8th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on May 17, by the hon. member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek concerning the alleged premature disclosure of the contents of Bill C-49, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek for having raised this matter, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona for their submissions.

In raising this question of privilege, the member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek explained that the media had made public specific details contained in Bill C-49 before it was introduced in the House. By drawing comparisons between what was revealed in several news reports from Monday, May 15 and the contents of the bill which was introduced in the House on Tuesday, May 16, she alleged that the required confidentiality before the unveiling of the legislation in the House was simply not respected and members' privileges were breached as a result.

The member stated her belief that this was not due to a simple accidental leak but, rather, was the result of a systemic advance briefing of the media.

For his part, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader contended that at no time had the government prematurely divulged any details of Bill C-49; rather, it had simply held extensive consultations on the review of the Canada Transportation Act, as is the government’s prerogative. He added that the minister and his staff were clearly aware of the need for confidentiality, declining to comment on any specifics of the bill when asked by the media.

The right of the House to first access to legislation is one of our oldest conventions. It does and must, however, coexist with the need of governments to consult widely, with the public and stakeholders alike, on issues and policies in the preparation of legislation. Speaker Parent explained on February 21, 2000, at page 3767 of Debates:

Although the members of the House should always be the first ones to examine legislation after it has been introduced and read the first time, this rule must be balanced against the need for the government to consult both experts and the public when developing its legislative proposals.

When ruling on a similar matter on November 1, 2006, Speaker Milliken concluded that the government had not divulged confidential information on the bill, nor the bill itself, but rather had engaged in consultations prior to finalizing the legislation in question. At the same time, he explained at page 4540 of the House of Commons Debates:

The key procedural point...is that once a bill has been placed on notice, it must remain confidential until introduced in the House.

In acknowledging this important nuance, he made room for both consultation and confidentiality, but also saw the distinction between the two.

In the case before us, the Chair is asked to determine if the level of detail reported upon by various media outlets in advance of the tabling in the House of Bill C-49 constitutes sufficient proof of a leak of the contents of this bill, and thus constitutes a prima facie breach of the member's privileges. In examining the bill, and noting the obvious similarities to the information cited in the media, the Chair can appreciate the seriousness of the matter raised.

When ruling on a similar question of privilege on April 19, 2016, I found a prima facie case of privilege in relation to the premature disclosure of Bill C-14, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other acts (medical assistance in dying). In that particular case, the government had acknowledged the premature disclosure of the bill while assuring the House that this had not been authorized and would not happen again. In other words, the facts were undisputed.

That is not the case with the situation before us. The parliamentary secretary has assured the House that the government did not share the bill before it was introduced in the House but conceded that extensive consultations were conducted. Nor is the Chair confronted with a situation where a formal briefing session was provided to the media but not to members.

Finally, it is a long established practice to take members at their word, and the Chair, in view of this particular set of circumstances, is prepared to accept the explanation of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

In the absence of evidence that members have been prevented from conducting their parliamentary functions due to the premature release of the bill itself, I cannot find that a prima facie case of privilege exists in this case.

Points of Order June 7th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on May 19, 2017, by the hon. member for Carleton, related to the government response to written question No. 954, originally tabled in the House on May 18, 2017, and for which a revised response was tabled on May 29, 2017.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Carleton for having raised this matter as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader for his comments.

When raising this point of order, the hon. member for Carleton indicated that the response provided to written Question No. 954 contained inaccurate information falsely suggesting that the Hon. John Baird made a sponsored trip while he was minister of foreign affairs.

On May 29, 2017, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons tabled a revised answer to question No. 954 and explained that the original response contained inaccurate information due to an administrative error in producing the response.

On September 27, 2016, I told members of the House, at page 5176 of Debates:

Access to information, accurate information, is one of the cornerstones of our parliamentary system. Members must be able to rely on it at all times. The integrity of many of our procedures, especially those relating to written questions, rests on the rightful expectation that ministers, and the public servants who support them understand the value and utility of providing, not simply technically accurate but also complete and transparent, answers in the written responses that they provide to members of the House.

Furthermore, I want also to reiterate, as successive Speakers have before me, that the Standing Orders do not empower the Speaker to rule on the quality of responses to written questions.

Given that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader has tabled a revised answer to Question No. 954, which addresses the error as raised by the member for Carleton, I am satisfied that the current case reaffirms that all members clearly understand the importance of an accurate exchange of information meant to enable members to properly fulfill their responsibilities as legislators and representatives.

I thank hon. members for their attention, and I consider this matter closed.

Privilege June 6th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on May 4, 2017, by the honourable member for Montcalm concerning the effect of the proposed changes to the Standing Orders on the rights and privileges of members from unrecognized parties.

I would like to thank the hon. member for having raised the matter, as well as the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, and the member for Joliette for their contributions.

In raising this question of privilege, the member for Montcalm alleged that the government’s proposed approach to parliamentary reform will violate the rights and privileges of members of unrecognized parties. Specifically, he argued that their freedom of speech will be violated by any discussions held in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, as members of unrecognized parties are not entitled to be members of committees, and that the proposed increased use of time allocation in the House will likewise affect these members disproportionately. In addition, he decried the government’s expressed intent to bring into effect rule changes without a consensus, as well as the inequitable treatment of members of unrecognized parties who were notified of the government’s parliamentary reform proposal later than members from recognized parties.

In response, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons enumerated opportunities that members of unrecognized parties have to participate in committee deliberations, as well as the fact that debate time in the House is limited for all members, which in any case, is beyond the Speaker's purview to judge. He also challenged the belief that changes to the Standing Orders should be made only with the consent of all parties, citing instances of rule changes achieved without the support of opposition parties.

As the member for Montcalm rightly suggests, as Speaker, I am the custodian and defender of members’ privileges, regardless of their political affiliation. The member is looking to the Chair to ensure that there will be no abrogation or willful disregard of the rights of individual members as the House determines if and how it should change its rules.

The privilege of freedom of speech is undoubtedly the most important right accorded to members of this House. At the same time, there is an important distinction to be made between the right to freedom of speech and the right to participate in the proceedings of the House and its committees. Asked to rule on the right of members to make statements in the House pursuant to Standing Order 31, my predecessor stated on April 23, 2013, at page 15800 of Debates:

…there are inherent limits to the privilege of freedom of speech. Aside from the well-known prohibitions on unparliamentary language, the need to refer to other members by title, the rules on repetition and relevance, the sub judice constraints and other limitations designed to ensure that discourse is conducted in a civil and courteous manner, the biggest limitation of all is the availability of time.

This very same limitation, time, which is a limit for all of us in this life, is equally relevant to other proceedings, including those that may be involved in any review of the Standing Orders.

As has been well established, the Speaker has no authority to judge the adequacy of those time limits agreed upon by the House, nor decide when and if an issue has received sufficient debate; that authority rests solely with the House.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, states, at page 648:

When asked to determine the acceptability of a motion to limit debate, the Speaker does not judge the importance of the issue in question or whether a reasonable time has been allowed for debate, but strictly addresses the acceptability of the procedure followed. Speakers have therefore ruled that a procedurally acceptable motion to limit the ability of Members to speak on a given motion before the House does not constitute prima facie a breach of parliamentary privilege.

The honourable member for Montcalm has asked whether or not the Speaker should be empowered to determine which procedure the House must use to effect parliamentary reform. The rules and practices of the House provide different approaches, procedurally speaking, to changing the Standing Orders. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, whose permanent mandate includes “the review of and report on the Standing Orders, procedure and practice in the House and its committees”, has frequently been the originator of Standing Orders changes. The House has also tasked special committees in the past to study the Standing Orders and report recommendations back to the House. In other cases, the House has been seized of motions to change the Standing Orders that have been sponsored either by the government or by private members.

Regardless of the means chosen, ultimately the Standing Orders can be amended only by way of a decision of the House. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at pages 256 and 257, states:

Such a decision is arrived at either by way of consensus or by a simple majority vote on a motion moved by any Member of the House.

The Chair has been asked to determine if potential or future courses of action with respect to the review and reform of the Standing Orders will negatively impact the privileges of individual members. As the member's claims are more speculative in nature at this point, it would be premature and presumptive for the Chair to rule based on assumptions of what might transpire.

I can assure the member for Montcalm, and the whole House, that the Chair has found no evidence that the rights of members from unrecognized parties have been breached nor that they have been impeded from fulfilling their parliamentary duties. Therefore, I cannot find that a prima facie question of privilege exists in this case.

I thank members for their attention in this matter.

Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1 June 5th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Repentigny concerning an amendment presented in committee to Bill C-44, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017, and other measures.

The member raises two key points in this question of privilege: the first relates to the admissibility of the amendment she presented in committee, which she has resubmitted at report stage; the second issue she raised has to do with her status as a member from a non-represented caucus in committee proceedings. In so doing she is asking the Chair to select her report stage motion, Motion No. 87, for consideration during the report stage debate of Bill C-44.

The member argues that the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance wrongly ruled that her committee amendment was inadmissible because it required a royal recommendation. The member stated that her amendment altered the qualifying weeks needed to claim maternity leave benefits for newly or suddenly unemployed mothers of newborns. She maintained that it did not represent a new or extended charge against the consolidated revenue fund, which would require a royal recommendation. The member simultaneously argued that the employment insurance fund was separate, and that, therefore, additional payments from the EI fund could not be seen as a new charge against the CRF.

On that specific point, I would like to direct the House's attention to a ruling by Speaker Milliken on November 10, 2006, at page 5027 of the Debates. He said:

Although contributions to the employment insurance program are indeed made by employers and employees, appropriations for the program are taken from the consolidated revenue fund and any increase in such spending would require a royal recommendation.

Accordingly, I cannot agree with the member’s view that a royal recommendation is not required. The ruling by the chair of the Standing Committee on Finance was procedurally sound and appropriate. Without a royal recommendation forthcoming for Motion No. 87, I cannot acquiesce in her request that the motion be considered during the report stage of Bill C-44. The Assistant Deputy Speaker indicated on June 2, 2017, that the motion would not be selected as it required a royal recommendation, and I see no reason to go back on that finding.

The member also argued that, because of her status as a member of a non-represented caucus, she did not have the ability to appeal the decision of the chair with respect to the admissibility of the amendment she presented in committee, as permanent members of the committee could.

The member is correct in her assertion that she is not able to participate in precisely the same way as permanent committee members, specifically in this case because committees’ practice is clear that only permanent members can appeal the ruling of a chair. That is not to say, however, that the member for Repentigny has been excluded in all ways from participating in the proceedings on this bill.

My predecessor, in a ruling on a similar question of privilege on June 6, 2013, at pages 17795 to 17798 of the Debates stated:

Turning to the issue of the rights of independent members, the Chair can only observe that the decision of the finance committee permitted them to do something they could not do before: namely, to have their amendments considered in the committee and, indeed, to be granted, pursuant to Standing Order 119, an opportunity to speak in committee. This is something that was not open to them before. In that sense, they succeeded in obtaining a form of participation in committee proceedings, as imperfect as it may have been in their eyes.

In the matter currently before us today, the member may not have been able to participate exactly as other members, but the process did afford her the ability to participate. In fact, she has had the opportunity at report stage to present her case as to why her amendment should have been admissible and the Chair has delivered its findings on that matter. Based on the substance of the member’s complaint, I cannot conclude that she has been impeded in the performance of her duties nor can I find, accordingly, that the Standing Orders or practices of the House have been breached.

I would like to thank all hon. members for their attention on this matter.

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Vancouver East, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; the hon. member for Brandon—Souris, Taxation; and the hon. member for Montcalm, Air Transportation.

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.