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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was chairman.

Last in Parliament August 2016, as Liberal MP for Ottawa—Vanier (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 58% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, it would have been better if I had received a written response. I have not. I have had discussions today with some members of the governing party. I think they would not disagree with this way of going about it; that is, that the RCMP do it within a contractual agreement that specifies it must report to the parliamentary authorities, with respect, of course, for our current staff. I hoped that would be the case.

We have been asked tonight to vote on this in a rather precipitated manner because we have not had a chance to discuss it in caucus or see the report that the speaker has engaged to share with us. We are now asked to vote without all of that. I would have wanted to see a resolution that included these things, and it does not. That is why I am proposing that it does.

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I do not think that question was intended for me.

Having been in this place for 20 years now, I have as much respect for our security guards in the House of Commons and the Senate as I do for the RCMP officers.

I moved this motion and sent this letter to the government simply because I wanted to make sure that, by means of a contractual agreement, the supremacy of Parliament, the separation of powers and the rights of parliamentarians will be respected, so that we will be able to do our work.

If that is the government's intention, as the Chief Government Whip seems to be saying, why was that not included in the motion that has been presented to us? That is the mistake I am trying to correct.

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I also agree that a united security force would be the way to go, and that we must respect our current employees, both in the House and the Senate, who have protected us, our visitors and staff.

If the government whip is saying that is what they will do, I would be happy with that, but it is not in the motion. We are being asked to vote on something that is not included in the motion. That causes some concern. I am not the only one who has cause for concern. Members in the House, the official opposition, have read about it. I have had discussions with some members on the government side. It would be so simple to clarify it by saying that the RCMP must report to parliamentary authority through a contractual agreement. It is not said. It is not in the motion

I do not know what will happen tonight with the votes. However, I will engage beyond tonight with our Speaker if this is not included because I think he will need our support to make sure that is indeed what happens. It would have been very simple, very clear, if it had been included in the motion. That is why I wrote to the government to see if it would be willing to put it in. I have not had that, so I am going to try it this way tonight.

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, this has not been specifically included in the motion. There is no reference in the original motion that the RCMP would report to the parliamentary authorities. It says respect this and that, but it does not mention division of powers in the motion. There also is no mention of a contractual agreement that would include a reporting mechanism to the parliamentary authorities. If it were in the motion, I would not have done this.

I will give a very modest example of why I believe it is important. I have been stopped four times, the last time was yesterday, by RCMP officers at the main entrance point who do not speak French, and that is not acceptable.

I have written to the Speaker but never have never received a response. The Speaker has no authority, it seems, or if he does, he has not exercised it because there is no contractual agreement.

There has to be a contractual agreement so that we respect certain things, including the official languages of our country, but more than that, the supremacy of Parliament, the division of powers. If it were mentioned in the motion, I would have no difficulties. It is not mentioned in the motion and that is why I think it should be.

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, last week I sent a letter to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. I would like to read it so it will be in the record.

I also sent it to the chief government whip, the Prime Minister, the leader of the official opposition, the leader of my party, and every parliamentarian in this House and in the upper house as well.

It states:

Dear Minister...

I am writing to express concern regarding the motion introduced by your government to give the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) responsibility for all security on Parliament Hill, both on the grounds and throughout the Parliamentary Precinct.

First, I support the principle of fully integrated security on Parliament Hill and believe the employees currently responsible for parliamentary security should keep their jobs. They are very competent and no one is questioning their professionalism.

However, I believe we must respect the primacy of Parliament, parliamentary privilege and the separation of powers. Parliamentary privilege is one of the ways of ensuring respect for the fundamental constitutional separation of powers. This privilege protects Parliament from interference. A security force accountable to the government rather than to Parliament could be perceived as outside interference.

Given the limited time allotted for consideration of Government Business No. 14, I wish to make a recommendation. It is essential that the RCMP (the operational lead for the proposed integrated force) ultimately report to Parliament through the speakers of the two houses, not to the government. I therefore urge you to amend your motion to specifically stipulate that the RCMP commander responsible for security on Parliament Hill would report to parliamentary authorities.

Furthermore, I urge you to consult the April 1st, 2012, memorandum of agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia regarding provincial police services.

Specifically, Article 7 stipulates that the “Commanding Officer [of the RCMP] will act under the direction of the Provincial Minister in aiding the administration of justice in the Province and in carrying into effect the laws in force therein.” Therefore, a model already exists in our country that could be applied to the Canadian Parliament, a constitutional institution. That type of arrangement could very easily be expressly included in your motion and in any future service agreement. Article 7 of the 2012 Province of British Columbia Provincial Police Service Agreement is attached hereto.

I also draw your attention to another example in the United Kingdom. The London Metropolitan Police Service provides security services to the UK Parliament under a service agreement. The unit responsible works with the Director of Parliamentary Security, who is an employee of the houses of Parliament and is responsible for making recommendations to the Joint Committee on Security (made up of members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords).

In my opinion, the vast majority of Canadians would approve of an arrangement whereby the RCMP is under contract to the House of Commons and the Senate to provide fully integrated security services, and reports to parliamentary authorities. It is a model that allows both [to] respects the separation of powers and the primacy of Parliament, and to ensure its safety through the RCMP. I therefore urge you to amend your motion to specifically state that RCMP security services on Parliament Hill would be governed by a service agreement between RCMP and Parliament of Canada, pursuant to which the RCMP would ultimately report to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Speaker of the Senate.

Sincerely,

[Self]

As I mentioned, I have sent copies to the Prime Minister, the chief government whip, the leader of the official opposition, the leader of my party, and all other parliamentarians.

Why did I send that letter? It is because I am somewhat preoccupied with the fact that Motion No. 14 before us today could be interpreted different ways. I am not the only one who believes that. I have heard the leader of the Green Party and others mention that. It is not clear that it would stipulate that the RCMP, should it be the agency responsible for the integrated security of Parliament Hill, would be doing it under a service agreement by which it would be stipulated that it report to the parliamentary authorities. It is very important that we have that.

I am also a little concerned that the Speaker, after the events on October 22, informed the House that he would ask for a full review of security matters and how we should better integrate the security of parliamentarians, their staff and visitors. We have not seen that report yet. I know there was a committee appointed to look into that, but somehow things were expedited and we have not seen that report.

The Chief Government Whip advised the whips of the other parties on Wednesday of the last week the House was in session, in the afternoon or evening after the caucus meetings, and then proceeded to have a debate on the Friday, a very short day when not many members could address this matter. I was surprised it had been done that fast and then was even more surprised that the debate would end today. That means members have not had a chance to have their respective caucuses discuss this matter among themselves. That would have been a very useful exercise. Unfortunately, it does not seem that will happen.

That is why I considered this matter, did some research and proposed that the government consider amending its motion. The House procedures make it impossible for someone to propose an amendment to the motion once another amendment has been proposed. I can only propose a subamendment, which I will do later in my address, but then I have to address the amendment that has been proposed and not the motion of the government.

That is why I wrote to the government, hoping it would consider this. The government has nothing to lose amending its own motion to make it clear that the intent was not to have the RCMP be in charge of the security on the Hill and report to the government but to report to the House, and to make it clear through a contractual agreement, as has been done in other provinces, as our mother of Parliament has done in England. That would have made things much more clear and less subject to any interpretation or anyone wishing to challenge it and perhaps would have helped the Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the Senate ensure that this would happens, as opposed to perhaps being caught in other wishes, desires and pressures. It has not happened, and I am very sorry for that.

I am going to read parts of a text that has been printed in the National Newswatch, written by a lady by the name of Anne Dance. This lady is a history post-doctoral research fellow at Memorial University. She first began researching security and public space as part of the 2008-09 non-partisan Parliamentary Internship Programme. This was published last week. I will not read it all, but I would like to quote some parts of it, as follows:

—some do not seem to understand what Parliamentary Privilege actually is, or why it demands a fierce defence.

Once called Parliamentary democracy’s “beating heart” by House Clerk Audrey O’Brien, Privilege is a set of rules developed to protect legislatures from interventionary or violent governments (i.e. the executive; in Canada, this is the Prime Minister and the cabinet). Privilege prioritizes the work of Parliamentarians. Without Privilege, there is no guarantee that MPs and Senators will be able to control and manage Parliament, reach important votes, or carry out their jobs.

As emerging democracies well know, Parliamentary Privilege does not spring fully formed from a rulebook or constitution. Frighteningly easy to subvert or destroy in the name of patriotism or expediency, it must be carefully cultivated and protected.

Another paragraph reads:

Parliamentary Privilege is the hard-won legacy of centuries of struggle by democratic reformers both at home and abroad. It would be a shame for MPs and Senators to let it crumble without a fight.

I invite colleagues to read the rest of her article.

I am not here on a partisan basis. I am here out of respect for Parliament and its duties and powers, and the separation of powers of the government. We have three branches of government. We should never interfere with the judiciary. I know that in the past unfortunately some ministers did and they had to resign from their job. We respect the separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature.

The respect of the division of powers between the legislature and the executive must also be respected. Unless it is specified in the motion that the government has put before us that the RCMP would be reporting to the parliamentary authorities and not to the government, it can therefore be perceived as a way of undermining parliamentary privilege, Parliament's authority and the separation of powers. This should be something that none of us consider, and that is why I have brought it forward.

When I wrote this letter to all, the first response I got was from a friend of mine, who happens to be in the Senate and who happened to be the gentleman heading up the committee, Senator Vern White. He told me it was an excellent letter and that he agreed fully.

I want my colleagues to know that this preoccupation is not just shared by members of the third party or members of the official opposition. I have even had discussions with some of my colleagues on the government side, and it is shared by many of us in this room and of course, as I mentioned, in the upper house. It would have been a wise thing for the government to introduce such an amendment because I cannot introduce an amendment to the motion of the government.

I can only provide a subamendment, which will alter the amendment proposed by the official opposition. That is the nature of our parliamentary procedure. I wish I could have presented a substitute amendment or a substitute motion, but it cannot be done.

Therefore, I will move an amendment to the amendment. I move:

That the amendment be amended a) by adding after the words “fully integrate” the words “by way of a contractual agreement with the House of Commons and the Senate”;

b) by deleting the words “while respecting” and substituting the following “and through which an integrated security body would report to the Speakers of the two Houses so as to respect the division of powers between the executive and the legislature, parliamentary supremacy and”.

The rest of the amendment follows.

The subamendment is proposed by myself and seconded by my colleague from Winnipeg North. My colleague from Mount Royal would have seconded it as well, but he had to leave to attend a briefing on another bill that we will be debating soon, Bill C-51.

I do not know what will become of the amendment, but the House of Commons has to debate the need for the government's proposal to be clear and precise. Perhaps that was the government's intention, but it was not written in the resolution. That is the problem. It has to be specified—

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I will basically continue with the same question that I asked all my other colleagues.

If the RCMP were responsible for security, would the member agree that it be on condition that, under a contractual agreement, it must ultimately report to the parliamentary authorities, namely the speakers of both chambers—the House of Commons and the Senate—and any mechanisms that they would establish? Personally, I believe that no matter who has this responsibility—whether it is the current guards or an outside organization or agency—they should not report to the government, because this could be seen as undermining the authority of Parliament and not respecting the separation of powers between the executive and the legislative branches.

Therefore, would my colleague agree that even if it were the RCMP, it should be subject to a contractual agreement requiring it to report to the parliamentary authorities?

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, my colleague knows that I wrote to the Minister of Public Safety and to the Chief Government Whip last week. I suggested that they consider an amendment to the government's resolution to stipulate that the RCMP have a contractual agreement requiring it to report to parliamentary authorities.

I gave two examples: the agreement signed in 2012 between the Government of Canada and British Columbia, which stated that the RCMP commanding officer in British Columbia had to report to the provincial security minister; and the London police force, which provides security to the British Parliament, but must report to parliamentary authorities under a service agreement.

Does my colleague have any comments about that suggestion?

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, I have worked with the member for Prince Edward—Hastings and I have a lot of respect for him.

The question I have for the member is along the lines of the question I posed earlier. I do not have a problem with a unified force that would respect our guards, and I think that is what everyone in this House is saying. I do not have difficulty with it being the RCMP. My difficulty would be if the RCMP had to report to the government as opposed to reporting to Parliament.

What does my colleague think about the notion of including such a measure in the government's motion, so that it is clearly stated that once the RCMP becomes the unitary form of security to ensure the security of all of us on the Hill, including our staff and visitors both inside and outside, that it is also stipulated in the motion that it reports to parliamentary authorities and not the government?

That is not clear now. I would like to hear the member's comments on that notion.

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the government's motion does not specify that the RCMP would have to report to Parliament. Therefore, the interpretation could be that it would be reporting to the government, and that could be seen as undermining the authority of Parliament and not respecting the division of powers.

I have written to the government suggesting that the Conservatives perhaps consider amending their motion so that if the RCMP is chosen to do the united force security of the Hill, both inside and outside, it would do so through a contractual agreement, which would also specify that the RCMP would report to the parliamentary authorities, and they are the Speakers of both Houses.

Would the member for Oxford care to comment on that?

Parliamentary Precinct Security February 16th, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the question I would like to ask my colleague has to do with a concern I expressed to the government in a letter to the Minister of Public Safety, the Chief Government Whip, the Prime Minister and all party leaders.

This country has three branches of government: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. The separation of the three branches and the division of powers have always been respected. If people saw that the RCMP was responsible for our security but was reporting to the government, it could be interpreted as an infringement on the division of powers and parliamentary supremacy.

I would like to hear what my colleague thinks of that.