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Track Tom

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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is place.

Conservative MP for Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan (Saskatchewan)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 56% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House April 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates regarding the certificate of nomination of Patrick Borbey to the position of president of the Public Service Commission.

Privilege April 13th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, as someone who has sat on the procedure and House affairs committee for over nine years while our party was in government, and as someone who dealt with procedural matters routinely day after day in my capacity as parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, I can offer a unique perspective to what is occurring in this debate and the real motivation behind the debate, and that is the government's willingness and desire to unilaterally change the Standing Orders of this place.

I would not argue that the government has the ability to unilaterally change the Standing Orders, but I would argue that it does not have the right to unilaterally change them. The government is fond of saying that it wants to modernize the Standing Orders, but the reality is that it is up to Parliament to modernize itself, not up to the government. Will my colleague please comment on those observations?

Will he please as well comment on the fact that if the Liberals vote against the motion before us on privilege, in effect what they are saying is that they are voting against the privileges of members of Parliament of this place, for their own narrow political interests?

Privilege April 11th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could explain it, other than the fact that I think it is in the Liberals' DNA to believe that they are entitled to their entitlements.

All kidding aside, we know that partisanship plays a big role in this place, too much, from time to time. I find that the longer I sit in this place, the less partisan I become, and that is why what the Liberal government is trying to do is so distressing to me.

I believe in the Standing Orders. I believe in the rules that govern us all, and I believe that as parliamentarians, we should have the ability to conduct ourselves in a mature, adult fashion and understand that when changes are made, they have consequences. Any changes made to the Standing Orders must be made, in my view, in a way that benefits all parliamentarians, not just one political party. That is, unfortunately, the reality we are faced with. We are protecting the rights of all parliamentarians, not just the Liberal Party, and I would ask it to please think forward a few years, because, as has been said before, governments change over time.

One day, perhaps sooner rather than later, in view of the current government, Liberals will be sitting on this side of the floor, and I can guarantee one thing. Even if they were sitting on this side of the floor now, and the Conservatives were in government or the NDP happened to be in government and were trying to do what the Liberal government is trying to do with its ham-handed attempt to change the Standing Orders, there would be holy hell to pay. The Liberal government knows that, but it is still trying to ram through changes in the short term. That is unconscionable.

Privilege April 11th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is quite correct. It is most certainly not simply a discussion paper. The government is attempting to have the procedure and house affairs committee table a report in this place recommending changes that it wants to the Standing Orders. We know that because the government has a majority in this place electorally, it also has a majority on the committee.

Despite the opposition's best efforts to reason with the government, if a report from the procedure and House affairs committee were tabled in this place, it would undoubtedly recommend the changes the government wants to ram through. That would then allow the government to fall back on the committee report and say that it did not do it unilaterally but just accepted the recommendations of an all-party standing committee. We all know that this would be a sham, because the government, unfortunately, is using the procedure and House affairs committee as political cover.

The government well knows, and I do not have to give it any lessons on procedure, because it has its own procedural experts, that if it wanted to unilaterally impose changes to the Standing Orders, it could do so without having to go through the procedure and House affairs committee. Any one of its members could simply introduce a motion introducing changes, and once the vote was held in this place and the motion was agreed to, the changes would happen automatically. The reason the government does not want to do that is that it does not want to appear to be heavy handed and mean-spirited.

It is trying to use the procedure and House affairs committee as political cover. That subterfuge will not sit well with Canadians and will not disguise the fact that the Liberals are trying to do what we know they are trying to do, which is impose changes to the Standing Orders that do not benefit all parliamentarians but only Liberal themselves.

Privilege April 11th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would simply point out to my hon. colleague opposite that he was part of the committee that enthusiastically supported the concept of unanimity. He agreed with all members of that all-party committee examining the Standing Orders that unless we had unanimous consent, a standing order would not even be debated. He was a part of the decision-making process that agreed that unanimity was a prerequisite, a requirement.

Why the change of heart? I can tell members why the change of heart occurred. Unfortunately, it is because now the government does not feel that members of the opposition need to be consulted. The Liberals are trying to use bullying, ham-handed tactics, mean-spirited tactics, to be able to unilaterally impose their will on the opposition.

The last time I checked, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition had a role to play, as did all opposition members in this place, whether they represented a recognized party or were independents or not. We recognized that fact when we were in government. As the member well knows, I was the one who suggested we have unanimous consent, and if any proposed changes to the Standing Orders were not universally accepted, the standing order was taken off the table. It was not even discussed. The member wanted to make sure that we did that.

There were some minor changes made. We were interrupted before the final, completed version of our study took place, but all of the changes that were made—and there were several, as the member well knows—were unanimously passed. That has been the long-standing tradition in this place. The member fails to recognize that.

Privilege April 11th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I take your advice and I will follow it to the best of my ability, but of course if this matter is presented to the procedure and House affairs committee and if the amendment is accepted by the House, then this privilege motion would take precedence over the filibuster that is taking place in the procedure and House affairs committee currently. That is the interconnection.

As a former member of the procedure and House affairs committee, when I was the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, I sat through three distinct discussions in PROC dealing with privilege and the rights of all members to have unfettered access to this place. This is not new. Unfortunately, this happened too many times in the past when, for whatever reasons, certain members from time to time were prevented from attending votes in this place because they were denied access to this place. Mainly they were denied access by security forces. Whether they be the RCMP, municipal police officers, or the security forces that take care of all of us here, members were prevented from having access in the past.

We have had many discussions and many witnesses come forward in the procedure and House affairs committee. We had the commissioner of the RCMP the last time privilege was discussed at procedure and House affairs. We had videotapes of all of the evidence of why certain members were not able to get to the House in time for a vote. I can say this about the members of the RCMP from the top leadership down to the rank and file members who protect us on the premises. None of them, in my opinion, wants to see any member prevented from attending this place to do the work that members were elected to do. Unfortunately, from time to time, circumstances happen where members are prevented.

I want to go back a few years and discuss some of the elements that caused that prevention of members from getting to this place. Normally it is when special events occur, for example, if we have visiting dignitaries attending Parliament or there is a motorcade of some sort where security forces must provide adequate protection for those visiting dignitaries to come into this place. Some members who perhaps have not tried to get to the House in an early fashion have been prevented from gaining access because of the motorcade. We talked on many occasions with members of the RCMP about how we could prevent that from happening in the future. They have shown a true willingness, in my opinion, to try to do whatever they need to do to make sure that these types of situations do not occur, but it has occurred once again.

My colleague moved an amendment to the original motion asking that the procedure and House affairs committee deal with this issue of privilege immediately. I think that is quite a fair amendment and I would appeal to all members of this place to vote in favour of that amendment when the time comes. Right now, as members know, there is a filibuster in the committee. It has been going on now for well over a week and shows no signs of abating. If that filibuster continues, and continues, and continues, there is a real chance that we may adjourn this Parliament for the summer without dealing with this question of privilege. That would negatively impact every member of this place. To not have the ability to deal with an issue that so fundamentally affects all of us would be a shame, but I would suggest it would be far more than that. I would suggest it would be almost unconscionable.

What we will have is a question that only the government will be able to answer, and that is on the amendment to the motion before us today. Will the government support that amendment and then suggest to the procedure and House affairs committee that it deal with this issue of privilege immediately, or will they vote against it and allow the filibuster to continue?

If the government votes against the amended motion, in effect it will be saying to all parliamentarians that the Liberals are putting their own political interests ahead of a matter of privilege of fellow members. They will be sending a clear and distinct message that they wish a filibuster on an action that is absolutely, fundamentally, and profoundly opposed by every member of the opposition benches to be put ahead of a discussion on privilege of parliamentarians. I hope it does not come to that, but it appears that it might.

If we cannot ensure that all of us have the ability to do our jobs, the jobs that Canadians in each one of our ridings elected us to do, then we have problems and issues far larger than probable changes to the Standing Orders.

I believe that the amendment calling for this issue of privilege to be referred immediately to the procedure and House affairs committee and for that committee to deal with it in an expeditious manner, to deal with it as a matter of precedence and priority, is absolutely fundamental to each and every member in this place.

We have heard much about privilege and parliamentary privilege. I recall a seminal 1982 publication by Joseph Maingot on parliamentary privilege in Great Britain and Canada. He spoke mainly of privilege as freedom of expression and freedom of speech within this place. More fundamental than that, even though that is an important tenet of privilege for all parliamentarians, far more important than that, in my view, is a privilege which says that members of Parliament should not be impugned in any way from conducting their business and doing their job. They should not be prevented from having unfettered access to this place to do the most fundamental job for which their constituents elected them, and that is to vote both on behalf of their constituents and on behalf of all Canadians.

It appears the government does not feel that this discussion and that privilege are important. The Liberals have shown that. They have demonstrated that by shutting down the initial debate on privilege. They tried to ensure that the procedure and House affairs committee would not deal with the two specific examples of members being prevented from attending a vote. It is only because of the wisdom of our current Speaker that this debate is back on in Parliament.

I call upon members opposite. I beseech them to think about the precedent they will be setting if they do not allow this motion, as amended, to pass. Once again, they will be saying to all members of this place and to all Canadians who may be listening to this debate that they believe their own political partisan interests are more important than the privileges of members of Parliament. If it comes to that, and if they vote against the amended motion, it would allow the filibuster to then have precedence over a matter of privilege. All I would be able to say, through you, Mr. Speaker, to each and every member of the government is shame on them.

I truly hope that there can be a resolution to the impasse that is seemingly never-ending in the procedure and House affairs committee, but it would take a willingness from both sides to come together and try to ensure, as others before me have said in this debate, that Parliament is the place it is intended to be, a place of rational and reasoned debate, a place where, although there may be differences, we all have one motivation at heart, and that is to represent our constituents and represent all Canadians.

Having said that, I now move:

That the amendment be amended by adding the following: “provided that the committee report back no later than June 19, 2017”.

Privilege April 11th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to lend my voice to this very important debate. May I ask you to remind me when there is just about a minute left in my presentation as I have an amendment to the current amendment to the motion which I want to bring forward.

Before I begin my remarks on privilege and how it affects each and every one of the members of this place, I want to go back to a few words that my colleague, my friend from Perth—Wellington, mentioned when he brought forward the motion, seeking a Speaker's ruling on the prima facie case of privilege. That is when he applauded the Speaker's ruling that came down, saying that yes, in the Speaker's opinion, there was a prima facie case of privilege when the government of the day prevented a vote on two members' privileges being impugned by not being allowed to vote, by being denied access to this place.

That ruling within the last hour has been called by some as historic. I would concur in that. I think some would also perhaps suggest it would be courageous. I will stop short of calling it that, but I believe this ruling today underscores and reaffirms in the eyes and the minds of many Canadians the total impartiality of the Speaker.

I think most Canadians understand when a Speaker is elected to the chair in this place, he comes with a background of partisanship. He comes obviously from a political background and represents a political party, not necessarily in the chair but back in his home constituency.

I believe there is a tendency for some Canadians to believe that because of the background of political partisanship, that a Speaker, once elected to the chair, would find it almost impossible to separate his political allegiance to his duties to be impartial to all members.

I must applaud the Speaker of this Parliament because he did exactly that. He made a difficult ruling, but he underscored the fact that his role was to be impartial, to represent all members of Parliament. He did that today, and for that ruling, I applaud him, and I applaud him mightily.

We are here to talk about this motion and the fact that the initial motion of privilege, the debate on the privilege brought forward from two of my Conservative colleagues, was in fact not only delayed, but it was snuffed out by the government of the day. That in itself was unprecedented.

It is so ironic that the privilege debate was being conducted because two members were prevented from voting in this place. What was the response of the government, the great irony? It prevented 338 members from voting on the privilege. It is truly something I have never seen before, and I sincerely hope I will never see again.

Madam Speaker, you have also admonished some of us, very slightly, very gently, to try to speak to the motion before us today and not get off track with what is happening in procedure and House affairs, with the filibuster over the government's attempt to unilaterally change the Standing Orders of this place. I would suggest that there is a lot of commonality between what is happening in procedure and House affairs and what we saw the government do just a few days ago by shutting down debate on privilege.

The commonality obviously is the fact that the government is acting in such a ham-handed, heavy-handed, mean-spirited way that it is disallowing and disenfranchising members of this place to exercise their ability, not only to debate but to vote. That is a very dangerous precedent.

For the benefit of members who may perhaps be minor historians on procedures of this place, I would like to point out something as an example of why this is so dangerous. I do not believe many Canadians and perhaps many parliamentarians understand the history of time allocation and when time allocation was actually introduced into the Standing Orders in this place. I believe it happened in the mid-1960s, although I do not know the exact year. It was brought in unilaterally by a Liberal government.

Now we consider time allocation to be a normal procedural tactic used by governments of the day to ensure that legislation is debated and passed speedily. However, because time allocation was brought in unilaterally, without the consent of opposition parties in the 1960s, it was almost entirely not used until at least two decades later.

Why was that? It was because Parliament itself recognized it as being almost illegitimate. Since the rules of this place, the rules that govern us all, were brought in unilaterally, without the agreement of other parliamentarians, Parliament itself did not utilize the provision of time allocation for at least two decades. Why? It was because Parliament knew that it was wrong to bring in any change to a standing order in that fashion.

That is what the present government is trying to do right now. It has shown its unwillingness to co-operate with members of the opposition. Despite the government's utterances to the opposite, its actions have proved that it is absolutely unwilling to co-operate or even discuss issues of fundamental importance to all of us. I find that to be not only disappointing, but a very dangerous course of action and path that the government is taking.

As was exhibited by my example of time allocation not being recognized as a legitimate standing order or parliamentary tactic for at least two decades, what the government is attempting to do now by unilaterally changing the Standing Orders would have the same effect. It would poison the well, in other words. Members of the government may not recognize that now, but as surely as time allocation was recognized as such over half a century ago, any changes that the government wants to bring down without the co-operation and consent of members on the opposition benches will be viewed similarly. I do not want to see that happen. I simply do not want to see that happen.

I made reference to the fact that in the last Parliament I chaired an all-party committee on proposed changes to the Standing Orders. My friend and my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, was a member of that committee. In fact, he was vice-chair of that committee.

I will get back to the privilege connection in just a moment, but my final point on that for now is that the member who is now arguing that the government should have the right to unilaterally change the Standing Orders was an unabashed and enthusiastic supporter in the last Parliament of the idea that unanimous consent should be a requirement before any change is made. That—

Privilege April 11th, 2017

Madam Speaker, I was not going to make an intervention, only because I am going to be speaking on this point of privilege in just a few moments from now, but I must respond to a comment from my good friend from the island, whom I respect very much, who has been a parliamentarian of some distinction in this place for many years.

However, I have to take some umbrage at his suggestion that unilateral changes to the Standing Orders really are something that we should not be discussing. In fact, he made his specific point that having a prime minister's question period does not prevent the Prime Minister from attending other question periods throughout the week, and criticizes opposition members for suggesting that the Prime Minister will then have an out, and only have to appear in this place to answer questions once a week.

I want to ask my colleague from the NDP, who made his presentation, if he agrees that if those changes are made, even if we take the Liberals today in good faith, over time the consequence, whether intended or unintended, will be that prime ministers in the future will feel no obligation to attend question period except for one day a week.

Standing Orders of the House of Commons April 7th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, there has been a long-standing tradition that any changes to the Standing Orders must require unanimous consent.

In the last parliament, I chaired an all-party committee looking at changes to the Standing Orders. In fact, the current Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons was vice-chair of that committee, and was an enthusiastic supporter of the concept of unanimity. My, how times have changed.

When will the government finally admit that any changes made to the Standing Orders must be made for the benefit of all parliamentarians, and not just for the benefit of Liberals?

Questions Passed as Orders for Return April 3rd, 2017

With regard to the government’s responses to Questions on the Order Paper since January 1, 2016: what directives have been issued by the Director of Issues Management in the Office of the Prime Minister, other members of the Issues Management section of the Office of the Prime Minister, or as a result of advice or direction given by the Issues Management section of the Office of the Prime Minister, broken down by (i) question number, (ii) content of directive or advice, (iii) date of directive or advice, (iv) the individual who issued the directive?