Friday, June 07, 2013

CyberSmokeBlog rises in the House on a Question of Privilege!

Mr. Speaker:

How do taxpayers get rid of a seriously under performing House of Commons Speaker?

Your conduct in the following matter is beyond pathetic. While your bio confirms you are not an attorney, nevertheless, you don't have to be a Philadelphia lawyer to know Court of Queen's Bench hearings can take significant time to schedule. Then depending upon the ruling an appeal can be filed. Again, more delay. Do you not have access to solicitors who can apprise you of these matters?

Take the case of James Bezan. His hearing isn't scheduled until September and should he appeal ..... you're prepared to let him sit and vote in the House of Commons in the meantime? Shame!

Have you forgotten it's taxpayers who pay your overly generous salary, pension, benefits and perks? Do you not have a feduciary duty to them?

To date your management of this situation has been beyond despicable. Thank goodness for CBC News and sites such as CSB that are there to do the work you should be doing on behalf of taxpayers!

This site will attend both court hearings to update taxpayers of the proceedings since you are either unwilling and/or incapable.

Therefore, CyberSmokeBlog moves that you immediately be removed as Speaker on the basis you, like Stephen Harper, has lost the public's confidence.

Clare L. Pieuk

Editor's Note: Shelly Glover is CyberSmokeBlog's Member of Parliament.
Elections Canada letters put Speaker in the hot seat
Andrew Scheer refuses to release letters, critics say he's acting to protect fellow Tories

By James Fitz-Morris
Friday, June 7, 2013
Speaker Andrew Scheer has raised eyebrows over his decision to withhold letters from Elections Canada concerning the fitness of two Manitoba MPs to continue to sit in the House of Commons. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer is in the hot seat over his decision to withhold letters sent to him two weeks ago about two Conservative MPs who have run afoul of Elections Canada.
In a letter dated May 23, Canada's chief electoral officer wrote to the Speaker to inform him of "the failure of the Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake, Mr. James Bezan, to provide corrections to his electoral campaign returns."
The letter goes on to say, "The [Canada Elections] Act provides that an elected candidate who fails to provide documents required ... may not continue to sit or vote as a member until the corrections have been made."
The next day, the same type of letter was sent in regard to Shelly Glover, the Conservative MP for Saint-Boniface.
Both members continue to sit in the House of Commons, voting, speaking and even putting forward motions. Both are challenging Elections Canada's findings in court.
Scheer has so far refused to release the letters.
Liberal Scott Andrews has raised a question of privilege over the issue that the Speaker has yet to decide on.
However, on Thursday, another Liberal, Massimo Pacetti, was still trying to get the Speaker to officially tell the House what is going on.
"I'm asking you to make that letter available to the House so that all members may be made aware of its contents," Pacetti said after question period.
Scheer brushed aside the request.
"My understanding is that these types of things are made public by Elections Canada and it's even up on some websites — so I'm sure he'll be able to obtain a copy of that if he so desires."
Scheer is partially right — the documents in question are available to any member of the public that makes an appointment with Elections Canada to review the campaign returns of the MPs.
But the documents can only be viewed at Elections Canada's office Ottawa, and it takes at least three to five business days to arrange an appointment.
The versions of the letters available online are there because of media outlets that went through the process.

'Cavalier attitude'

Thomas Hall, who worked in the House of Commons for 30 years, including time as a procedural clerk, was taken aback by Scheer's behaviour.
"I was very surprised that he didn't inform the House on it ... just the fact that it was keeping information from the House that [MPs] were entitled to know."
Hall cites a precedent in 1966, when an MP had similarly gotten into trouble with the election law.
In that case, the Speaker at the time said it was up to the House to decide what should happen to the transgressor and that the Speaker had no role to play in such matters.
This time, Scheer seems to have taken on the decision largely himself.
"The Speaker has consulted House Officials on the facts and the provisions of the Canada Elections Act and the court applications for Mr. Bezan and Mrs. Glover," reads a statement issued by his office earlier this week.
"The Speaker will await the decisions of the courts in the appeals before taking any action."
Michael Behiels, a professor of Canadian political and constitutional history at the University of Ottawa, says Scheer is wrong to cede authority to the courts.
"By being deferential to the courts, the Speaker is undermining the sovereignty of Parliament and his authority as Speaker of the House," he says.
Hall says it is the wrong approach made worse by dismissing a direct request for information by an MP.
"To take that cavalier attitude, frankly, was quite surprising. The Speaker is the servant of the House, not the master," Hall says.
Hall says Scheer's actions put him at risk of appearing to be protecting two members of his own party.
"It was a bad judgment call on his part because it does give an opportunity to criticize his action – and Speakers should always avoid this kind of controversy in the House."
Read the letters, from the Elections Canada files:

Records show Conservatives' new battle with election agency
Manitoba MPs Shelly Glover, James Bezan could lose House voting privileges

By Laura Payton
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Conservative MP Shelly Glover, as well as one of her caucus colleagues, could lose their House privileges if a court case over election expenses insn't resolved in their favour. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Newly released records shed light on a court case that could see two MPs lose their House privileges, following an increasingly fraught back-and-forth between the elections watchdog and the Conservative Party's lawyer.
Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand and Arthur Hamilton, the party's lawyer, debated the election expenses of two Manitoba Conservative MPs in a series of letters between March and May 2013. The letters are included in the campaign spending files of the two MPs, Shelly Glover and James Bezan.
If the dispute isn't resolved, the MPs could be blocked from sitting and voting in the House. That's the penalty under Canadian law for not correcting a campaign spending file.

  • Glover and Bezan have filed applications in the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench to prevent themselves from being barred from the House of Commons.
Both MPs are arguing with the agency over how they calculated the costs of signs they used during the 2011 election campaign. Bezan's dispute has grown to include the signs used in the previous two elections, while Glover is also fighting the agency over how to count her campaign staff's salaries.
Both MPs will have spent more than allowed under election law if the campaign expenses are calculated in the way Elections Canada says the rules require.
All candidates must submit their expenses to Elections Canada, which holds the publicly available files along with related letters and emails.

Fighting for spending power

Glover and Bezan are arguing that signs they were already using or had used before should be valued at a lower cost than if they were new.
Mayrand summarizes the problem as one of fairness: essentially, letting incumbents claim their used signs at a reduced cost gives them more room to spend on other items.
"Reporting paid election expenses or non-monetary contributions at less than commercial value would create inaccurate financial returns and render both the election expenses limits and the contribution limits ineffective and in doing so, compromise the level playing field that these limits intend to create," Mayrand wrote to Hamilton.
The costs being fought by Glover's campaign include permanent signs at bus stops in her riding, as well as the cost of a website set up by her riding association.
Hamilton argued Glover didn't use much of that website during the campaign, particularly the "donate" button, which he said was an expensive element of the design.
Mayrand dismissed that argument, however, using numbers from Glover's election file to show the riding association's fundraising was in fact a key part of her campaign.
"During the election period, the association accepted $50,666.76 in contributions of $200 or more, while the Glover campaign accepted only $1,800 in contributions of $200 or more," Mayrand wrote.
"The primary source of funding for the Glover campaign was a $75,000 monetary transfer received from the association on April 30, 2011. It is evident that most contributions to this campaign were directed to the association and not to the candidate, and therefore the functionality of the website was used by the candidate."

Spending too much means penalty

Glover's initial campaign filing showed she spent $81,426.71, only $660.28 shy of her spending limit. The additional expenses Elections Canada says she needs to claim would put her over her cap, which would result in a penalty.
Bezan's dispute is over 18 permanent billboards in his rural riding, for which Elections Canada says he should include the full cost in his filing. Like Glover, Bezan added stickers to show they were election advertising authorized by the campaign.
"The fact that these signs were modified for use in the election ... further demonstrates the requirement to report their use as election expenses," Mayrand wrote.
Bezan would have covered up the permanent signs and erected cheaper temporary signs in front of them, Hamilton replied, had he known he needed to claim the full $36,509.95 cost of the permanent signs as part of his campaign spending.
Bezan's initial filing with Elections Canada showed he spent $85,526.69 on his campaign. Adding the cost of the signs would put him 19,434.43 over the limit.

MPs missed deadline

The MPs were supposed to correct their campaign files by May 17, 2013. One week later, Mayrand sent a letter to House Speaker Andrew Scheer about the missed deadline.
The law "provides that an elected candidate who fails to provide documents required ... may not continue to sit or vote as a member until the corrections have been made," Mayrand wrote in the letter.
Hamilton argued Mayrand jumped the gun, since MPs have two weeks following the deadline to file in court.
"It is deeply disappointing in these circumstances to see that an officer of Parliament has seen fit to prematurely inform the House that MP Bezan is not in compliance with the act ... MP Bezan is making an application specifically for the purpose of determining what constitutes compliance with the act, and is doing so lawfully within legislated timelines," Hamilton wrote, calling it "entirely inappropriate."
In question period, the Liberals demanded Prime Minister Stephen Harper not allow Glover and Bezan to vote on the budget estimates Wednesday night.
"Today, two Conservatives have not provided these [campaign] documents and are therefore not allowed to sit in this House ... is the prime minister seriously going to allow the member from Selkirk-Interlake and from Saint Boniface to vote illegally on over $65 billion?" MP Marc Garneau said.
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said Glover and Bezan have the right to take the fight to court.
"The Elections Act is clear on a lot of things. First of all, it is clear that these members have the ability to make this intervention at the court level. We also know that they acted in good faith and there is a difference in interpretation with Elections Canada," he said.
Bezan will argue his case on Sept. 12 in Winnipeg. Glover's Court of Appeal date is June 21.
Arthur L. Hamilton


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