Thursday, June 06, 2013

Do Canadian taxpayers a favour and stay out of The House of Commons!

By Kady O'Malley
Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Just moments after opposition members pointedly abstained from voting on suddenly embattled Conservative MP James Bezan's backbench bid to tighten up the parole system, Liberal MP Scott Andrews put his objection to Bezan's continued presence in the Chamber on the record.

Rising on a point of privilege, Andrews argued that neither Brezan nor his caucus colleague Shelly Glover should be permitted to sit or vote in the House until their respective camgaing expenses - related 'accounting disputes' with Elections Canada have been 'rectified' - either with the agency or at federal court.

His speaking notes:
  
Mr. Speaker,

I rise today on a Question of Privilege to discuss a matter of great importance relating to two Conservative MPs and whether or not they should currently be sitting in the House of Commons.

We learned recently that the Chief Electoral Officer sent notice to you, Mr. Speaker, in relation to the two Conservative MPs in question - specifically the Member for Selkirk-Interlake and the Member for Saint-Boniface--indicating that he had made requests for corrections to their electoral campaign returns and that the corrections requested had not been made. 

Before starting my arguments, Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote the Canada Elections Act, which reads as follows: 
"463(2) An elected candidate who fails to provide a document as required by section 451 or 455 or fails to make a correction as requested under subsection 457(2) or authorized by 458(1) shall not continue to sit or vote as a member until they are provided or made, as the case may be."
It is quite clear that this subsection of the Canada Elections Act would require that these two members be suspended immediately, because the Act says they are to be suspended until the correction requested by the Chief Electoral Officer is made.
I understand that they may disagree with Elections Canada on the substance of their filings and that they have both made applications with the Federal court on the matter. However, this does not change the fact that they should not sit or vote in this House until this matter is rectified either with Elections Canada or by the Federal court. The precedence on this matter is clear:
On March 1st, 1966 in dealing with a similar question of privilege, Speaker Lamoureux ruled and I quote:
a) "That, even if there is a penalty provision in section 63 of the Canada Elections Act and whatever may be the terms of the order made by the judge pursuant to the said section in allowing an authorized excuse, the House is still the sole judge of its own proceedings, and for the purpose of determining on a right to be exercised within the house itself which, in this particular case, is the right of one Hon. Member to sit and to vote, the House alone can interpret the relevant statute.
b) That the procedure followed in 1875 with regard to the precedent above referred to, which bears a resemblance to the case before us, seems to me to indicate that the question was dealt with at that time as being of the nature of a prima facie case of a breach of privilege.
c) That it is not within the competence of the Speaker to decide as to the question of substance or as to the disallowance of a vote, and that such decisions are to be made by the House itself."
This ruling makes it perfectly clear that it is the House, not the courts, and with due respect, not the Speaker to determine whether the Member for Saint Boniface and the Member for Selkirk-Interlake have the right to sit in this House.
As for how this matter should be addressed, we are of the view that the question on this matter be put to the House. According to Maingot, 2nd edition on page 188, in reference to from the same ruling from Speaker Lamoureux, and I quote:
"...the Speaker said that the right of the Member for Montmagny-L'Islet to vote subsequent to the date when he should have paid his election expenses was a proper subject of privilege, but that the House must decide that issue, and whether his votes should be disallowed. The Member who raised the matter did not move the usual motion to refer it to the committee and no further proceedings were taken."
Again, on page 247 of Maingot, 2nd edition, quote:
"A [...] procedure akin to "privilege" (because it would be given precedence and discussed without delay) would be the case of whether a Member was disqualified to sit and ineligible to vote. These matters may only be resolved ultimately by the House, and they are "privilege" matter because the House has the power to rule that a Member is ineligible to sit and vote, and to expel the Member."
It goes on to say... quote:
"The determination of whether a Member is ineligible to sit and vote is a matter to be initiated without notice and would be given precedence by its very nature." 
So Mr. Speaker, the facts in this case are quite clear. 

• The Members have not made the proper filings or corrections requested by Elections Canada. 

• The Act plainly states again I quote:

"An elected candidate who fails to provide a document as required by section 451 or 455 or fails to make a correction as requested under subsection 457(2) or authorized by 458(1) shall not continue to sit or vote as a member until they are provided or made"

• The review of the federal court does not provide relief from this section of the Canada Elections Act.

• And precedent states clearly that it is for the House to determine the Members' eligibility to sit and vote in this House. Not the Federal Court and not the Speaker.

As such, I would also ask that the Members of this House be provided with the Letter sent to the Speaker from Elections Canada on this matter.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, if you do find that there is a breach of privilege, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion.

In response, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan made the case that this was, after all, an administrative issue, and as such, should not result in either member being unceremoniously unseated.

Meanwhile, New Democrat democratic reform critic Craig Scott admitted that he could see merit in both arguments, and reserved his right to return to the matter at a later date -- which could mean tomorrow, or later this week.

Tags: blackberry jungle, james bezan, privilegewatch

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