Mr. Chair, that is exactly what I was proposing to do.
First, I would like to introduce Gisèle Dupuis, Director of Operations, Office of the Leader of the Opposition; Raoul Gebert, Chief of Staff of the Leader of the Opposition; and James Duggan, chair of the New Democratic Party's legal committee. They are here with me in the event more specific and technical questions are raised, and the time for this meeting will be better used if they are allowed to answer those kinds of questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have not appeared before a parliamentary committee in a long time. I did so dozens of times when I was minister because parliamentary committees usually have to study government activities.
I understand that the members of this committee are quite keen to learn how to serve Canadians better and how these best practices are within the rules. The NDP is totally transparent, and we believe in and practice accountability.
I'd like to take this opportunity to contrast our approach with the approach of the Conservatives. For example, Stephen Harper, Maxime Bernier, and Stockwell Day, all refused to appear in front of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security about security breaches caused by the Conservative government. Christian Paradis and Lisa Raitt refused to testify in front of the government operations committee about illegal lobbying activities involving them. Of course, the Prime Minister won't be testifying before this committee concerning the use of the Conservative Party database in thousands of illegal robocalls during the 2011 election, constituting electoral fraud on a level never seen before in Canada.
Those are the direct findings of a very highly respected federal court judge, Richard Mosley. Of course, we all know the level of respect the Harper government shows our judiciary. I could go on, but it's an interesting contrast in transparency, accountability, and respect for our democratic institutions, and Canadians will be the judge.
I'm here today because in 2011, four and a half million Canadians voted for the NDP and four and a half million Canadians stated there was a need for change and that it was time to do politics differently. Under the leadership of Jack Layton, that's what we ran on and that's what we set out to do because after 30 years of Liberal and Conservative corruption, scandal, and mismanagement, from the Liberal sponsorship scandal to the Prime Minister's chief of staff paying $90,000 in hush money to silence a sitting senator, Canadians deserve better.
In the wake of the orange wave, the NDP faced the major challenge of hiring and setting up political staff for 58 members in Quebec. The task of hiring and training more than 150 people to serve Quebec was enormous.
That is why, in June 2011, the new NDP members from Quebec decided, at Jack Layton's suggestion, to pool their resources. Our objective was to help them set up their offices and provide local support to members to assist them in their riding duties and, for some, in their roles as members of our shadow cabinet. The ultimate aim was to provide better service to the public and to be more directly involved with and more attentive to citizens. These were all parliamentary duties.
For example, parliamentary employees prepare direct communication products and manage media relations and community relations to support official opposition members.
There was also a genuine need to create a francophone environment so that we could create products in French to provide better support for our Quebec members.
Our parliamentary staff does parliamentary work. Our party staff does party work. Our parliamentary staff are involved in direct communications, media relations, and stakeholder relations, all functions in support of MPs and the official opposition.
That was all put in place following extensive consultations with the House of Commons administration, including its legal services, finance services and the officers of the pay and benefits service. There was so much consultation that pay cheques were delayed until November 2011 when they could be approved.
Hiring for the Montreal region began in August 2011. The hiring process was conducted in accordance with the procedure established at the time under the collective agreement between the New Democratic caucus and Local 232 of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, or CEPU. All members of that bargaining unit perform parliamentary duties only.
Employees who perform non-parliamentary duties belong to Local 225 of the Office and Professional Employees Union, or OPEU.
The respective duties of those bargaining units are very clearly defined and determined. Competition notices are always published according to prescribed periods. Obviously, the points of hire are clearly indicated.
This decentralization of services to Montreal and Quebec City was a major success. That is undoubtedly why we are here today: we were too successful.
Members can rely on constant support whether they are in Ottawa or in their ridings. This enhanced regional capability increased the efficiency of our teams, the scope of our consultations and the reach of our communications.
We also know that while the Conservatives were opening more and more regional ministerial offices—17 as of now, in fact—the NDP had to continue to adapt. As part of our duties as the official opposition, we have to monitor the work of the government on the ground in order to hold it to account. So, as the new—
Yes, I have exactly a minute left to go.
As the new official opposition, New Democrats made the decision to engage with citizens in every province and territory. We know it's a concept foreign to Conservatives and Liberals, who prefer to talk with lobbyists in Ottawa, but Canadians deserve better. While our opponents are wasting parliamentary resources attacking the NDP, New Democrats are using these resources to reach out to Canadians in their communities, because Canadians want politicians to be more accessible to them in their own communities, where they live, where things happen, and where they can be heard and listened to. That's why we set out to talk to them, consult with them, and listen to them as often and as broadly as possible.
All of these, once again, are clearly parliamentary activities. This is our commitment to Canadians and that is what we set out to do.
I'll skip ahead, because you're impatient to get started and I don't blame you. But I will tell you one thing. This is not the first time the NDP is innovating the way parliamentary activities are undertaken in order to serve Canadians.
I'll end with this, and it's a quote from a report prepared for the Privy Council Office in 2005:
It's a rare event that an extension to parliament is invented without any design or debate, yet essentially, the introduction of constituency offices to Canada was a spontaneous act that didn't occur until an enterprising MP decided to create one. Credit at the federal level is shared between Ed Broadbent, who opened an office funded in part by the Canadian Autoworkers Union in 1968 and Flora Macdonald, who opened her Kingston office with the aid of a part-time university student in 1973.
We're proud that our effective extension to Parliament has resulted in better services to Canadians. I'll be happy to answer your questions in the unlikely case that you still have some.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I do indeed have a point of order.
I think you'll agree with me on this. We heard from Richard Denis, the deputy law clerk and parliamentary counsel, who specifically said to the committee a few days ago:
Given these factors, it is our opinion that the Committee should exercise caution in its proceedings in order to avoid unnecessarily compromising the confidentiality normally afforded to Members by the House Administration....
Furthermore, Mr. Denis said:
...we would therefore recommend generally that the material provided by House Administration be retained solely for the use of Committee members and not be released to the public.
As you know, Mr. Chair, this has been raised with you. We've had everything that has been put out partially leaked within minutes of the material being distributed to committee members. This is deplorable, as you know. This is not the way procedure and House affairs—
I have a point of order.
I'll try to be brief, also. I only want to be clear on the scope of this committee, because I read with very great interest the
memorandum from Richard Denis, who is Deputy Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel. I wanted to ensure that was consistent with the chair's vision. I was somewhat scared yesterday as I listened in the House to some of your answers, which suggested that the process had been characterized in some way.
In response to a request that you submitted dated May 6 last, Deputy Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel Richard Denis clearly explained, in a memo dated May 9, the difference between the exclusive jurisdiction of the Board of Internal Economy and the powers, as it were, of this committee.
Incidentally, I congratulate your service, which took three days to draft the quite impressive legal opinion that appears in the file.
I will spare what you have probably read, but I will read Mr. Denis's conclusion:
Based on the foregoing, your committee may proceed to review the matters referred to it by the House, being mindful that it does not interfere with or usurp the Board's exclusive jurisdiction under section 52.6 of the Parliament of Canada Act to determine the proper use of House of Commons resources provided to Members for the carrying out of their parliamentary functions.
I am raising a point of order because, in response to an enthusiastic question by certain colleagues, you suggested that you would do exactly with what your law clerk told you not to do. Consequently, I would like you to clarify your position somewhat.
I would prefer to have it done now rather than have anyone look back in five months and question the appropriateness of certain conversations, as some people do.
Mr. Chair, the rules of this committee preclude the clerk from distributing to members of the committee any document that is in one official language only. It is, of course, therefore, very convenient for the New Democrats that the lease was submitted in one language only.
However, it is also the case that I approached the clerk and asked to see it. The rules do not prohibit members from taking a look at documents if they choose to do so. In fact, the constitution clearly states, the Constitution of Canada, that any individual may interact with Parliament in the language of their choice.
Therefore, I don't really care what language the lease is in, whether it's in French or English. I wanted to see it and I would like to be able to see it. So I wonder if you could instruct the clerk to allow me to take a look at that lease in order to determine the information that Mr. Mulcair refuses to share with the committee.
I apologize to Mr. Woodworth.
Now there is an office, actually, that I'm well familiar with in Chilliwack because he was talking about co-location. It's 7388 Vedder Road in Chilliwack. It's a co-location. At that same address, we have MP office, paid by taxpayers' money, and the Conservative Party of Canada. It's the same address, same location, a co-location, and obviously the BOIE says that's fine.
So my first in the many questions I have for the official opposition leader is if he is aware of how many Conservative MPs do the same thing, and have that co-location where they have a Conservative Party of Canada office with their riding office.
Again, it's 7388 Vedder Road, common address, co-location.
I'll move on, though. I'll ask you a number of questions. You probably won't have time in the seven minutes to answer them, but I hope, Mr. Mulcair, you'll answer them in the minutes that follow.
Can you confirm that the NDP is conforming to the new rules the Conservative-dominated BOIE imposed on April 8?
Secondly, what were the barriers between parliamentary staff and non-parliamentary staff? I'm talking about physical barriers, collective agreements, different unions, supervisory barriers? Were there ever any grievances filed by non-parliamentary staff about parliamentary staff doing their work? Did the job descriptions follow the Members By-Law? It's very clear that if a person is doing an individual member's duties or electoral fundraising, those kinds of things, those would not be parliamentary duties.
How much money was paid by the party instead of by taxpayers? How much money was saved by having the party pay the lease? How much have you saved? How much has the official opposition budget actually decreased since 2011, and how much has the PMO budget increased at the same time?
I wanted to have you respond about the expansion of Conservative ministers' regional offices across the country. That budget seems to have substantially expanded, in fact, in many areas where Conservatives have no MPs, such as in Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, and Montreal.
Those are my questions. Please answer them as you can, perhaps in this section or later, and thank you for being here.
Mr. Chairman, such a substantive question now deserves a substantive answer now.
With regard to the place of work, there has been a change that came into effect on April 8, 2014. There's a basic principle of statutory interpretation. It's best expressed in French.
It states that Parliament does not speak in vain.
When that change was made to say that you could no longer have someone at the regular place of work, the space owned, leased, or under the effective control of a political party, that's because it was not interdicted prior to that. So that's why that change was brought in. It was like trying to tell somebody who is just driving to the cottage for Victoria Day weekend in a 100 kilometre per hour zone that after they got to the cottage, it became a construction zone and the speed limit was reduced to 70, and that even though they had arrived before the speed change was made, somehow they're going to get a ticket.
We respected the rules as they existed, and it was implicit in Mr. Woodworth's question and I would like to get to it. For the space that we're talking about, the lease was 100% assumed by the NDP. I offer again—the cheques are bilingual as far as I can tell—I can certainly help them all, because we've had our services put together a copy of every single cheque. You'll see that the annual rent is approximately $100,000, every penny of which is assumed by the NDP.
No one questions the fact that our MPs' employees are allowed to travel back and forth. No one questions the fact that the OLO employees are allowed to travel back and forth. That's the very essence of the very first section of the Members By-Law. It says:
duties and activities that relate to the position of Member, wherever performed and whether or not performed in a partisan manner
That's the first article of the rules governing members of Parliament. It continues:
namely, participation in activities relating to the proceedings and work of the House of Commons and activities undertaken in representing his or her constituency or constituents.
It doesn't matter how you're performing it, and it doesn't matter where you're performing it.
To hear the Conservatives tell it, we would have had to have hired that staff here in Ottawa, as the Liberals like to do, and only talk to lobbyists.
We're innovating. We're working across Canada. We're listening to Canadians. Mr. Julian just asked an important question about matching the Conservative move. They're spending millions of dollars for themselves on these ministerial offices across Canada. Our job as the official opposition, as an integral part of our democratic institutions, is to hold that government to account. We can't do that if we're here in Ottawa alone.
No one would question the fact that they're allowed to work in Montreal. So the most interesting aspect of this is that if someone on our communications staff was organizing, as they did this week, a press conference in Montreal for , our Transport critic, and that person was to help him, according to the Conservatives the best use of taxpayers' money would be to pay the kilometres back and forth to Montreal and keep that person working here in Ottawa.
Since it is allowed for that person doing the press relations to work in Montreal, there is nothing to prevent him from being based in Montreal. There was nothing until April 8, 2014, preventing him from working out of a space paid for by the New Democratic Party of Canada. After April 14, we had to make a change, which we did. We respected all the rules before. We respect all the rules after that change, but there was a change.
The amendment that I just read was a substantial change to the existing rules, and it's a little bit like my cottager who's going to be looking at a change in the speed limit. There's no way you can apply that retroactively.
That's an interesting question, because it's so comically loaded it's worthy of nothing but contempt.
You are affirming that is the case, whereas if you look at that package, you'll see that on September 22, 2014, Marie-Dominique Sicé wrote to Christian Boileau, the same person who's talking at the House of Commons, and it says this:
I just took up to the 11th Floor (Suite 11-45) fifty-one (51) Employment Forms from each Quebec NDP MP for staff working in Montreal.
These were the forms that divided up the number of people who were going to be paying the salary for each of the people based in Montreal.
We also have voluminous correspondence non-stop with the IT people in the House of Commons every step of the way. We also have every posting, because we are unionized, and every one of those public postings explains that it's a job in Montreal. We also have every single letter of nomination sent to the House of Commons authorities that either mentions specifically the address in Montreal of the work, or the person's address in Montreal. Every step of the way, the House of Commons, its staff, have been informed.
You are referring to something that someone today is saying happened three years ago. This is not a formal meeting. There are no minutes of this meeting. This is what your interpretation is of a snippet of a conversation or an exchange between two people.
Jess Turk-Browne, to my knowledge, was an exceptionally capable public administrator. She left several years ago to go work to help register women to vote in Pakistan, where she spent more than two years. She's back as far as I know, but I haven't spoken to her since she left for Pakistan. I find it grossly unfair for you to make that affirmation that she somehow broke the law.
Let me address a couple of things that you raised in your answer.
You said there were no minutes of the meeting. You are also aware that there is, included in the package in preparation for this meeting, an email from Sophie Hart to Robin Kells, which reads:
Here are the minutes of the meeting between NDP (Jess Turk-Browne), HRS (Christian Boileau) and FS (Nathalie Charpentier)....
So that would address that point that you made, sir.
As for the next point, you referenced an email of September 22 from Marie-Dominique Sicé to Christian. You conveniently, sir, did not reference the response. The response was on October 7. Christian Boileau to Marie-Dominique Sicé, the email that you referenced in your response, sir, says:
In the email below it is indicated that the employees all work in Montreal. On the employment forms we received for the 9 employees, it is indicated they all work in Ottawa. Can you please confirm their work location?
It was that exchange of emails, sir, that gave rise to the October 13th meeting, the October 13th meeting in which Jess Turk-Browne indicated that these employees worked in Ottawa.
So let me come now to the Clerk of the House of Commons. Again in that same memorandum, the Clerk of the House of Commons says:
At no point was the House administration informed that the employees would be located in Montreal or that their work would be carried out in co-location with a political party’s offices....
What you just said in your answer, and what Audrey O'Brien just said, cannot both be true. Which is it, sir?
What I've just said is true. I'm not going to let you impugn the motives of someone who worked for us a few years ago, and Audrey O'Brien is someone who is deserving of the respect of every single person in this House. She's an outstanding public officer, who has served with dignity and deserves all of our respect, and not to be the object of your tricks.
Here's the answer to your question. Every step of the way, we published notices that said the job was in Montreal. They were public. We sent documents to the House administration that either referenced directly the fact that the job was in Montreal, or gave the person's address in Montreal. They had BlackBerry phone numbers that were 514. Their home addresses in Montreal were where their cheques were sent to. We held a press conference to celebrate the opening of the Montreal office. It was carried everywhere from the Montreal Gazette to The Hill Times. I'm not David Copperfield, I can't make an office disappear. It was open. It was transparent. It was public.
You're referencing something that completely obviates the mass of information that proves conclusively that the NDP was totally open, transparent—
Mr. Sean Casey: Point of order, Mr. Chair....
Hon. Thomas Mulcair: —and sincere in working with the House administration on this issue from day one.
I guess the answer to that is this lovely picture of Stephen Harper boasting strong economic leadership, and this somewhat unflattering picture of me talking about reckless spending and higher taxes.
You see, this is something invented by the Conservatives. That's why we took it, you see, back to the Speaker of the House of Commons when Bob Rae starting using franked envelopes to attack the NDP, because we thought that had been taken care of. It turns out it hadn't been taken care of, and the Speaker ruled, with a minor change to the number that could be sent, that it was absolutely legit.
Now, the NDP sometimes has a reputation for being overly generous in our interpretation to make sure we don't follow this sort of thing, but we've started to say, “You know what? We'll very directly communicate with the Canadian public using the exact same tactics and techniques as the Conservatives and the Liberals” because in my 36 years in government, Mr. Woodworth, I've never seen the governing party get together with its handmaiden in the third party to convene the Leader of the Opposition. But you know what, I'm here, and I'm going to answer all your questions.
Richard Denis, Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel,
who wrote to you on the 9th of May, Mr. Chair, about the scope of this committee on franchise postale, and it says quite clearly on page 4:
The postal frank is not a resource that is provided by the House of Commons. Rather its existence is recognized and provided for in section 35 of the Canada Post Corporation Act. The nature of the frank dates back to before Confederation; since that time, the frank has been recognized and carried forward through the various Acts that have been enacted to govern Canada Post/Postes Canada. Given that it is a mailing privilege of Members of Parliament, your committee could look at its extent and scope and make recommendations on its purpose and the use to which it may be put by Members. On the other hand, the Board’s role regarding the postal frank relates to the "administration of the free mailing privileges" as per paragraph 30(a)...
I believe that all these questions from Mr. Woodworth are inadmissable. If you want to hold a meeting specifically on franking privileges,
be my guest. I'd love it, because frankly I'm tired of that type of literature from all parties.
The actual lease includes an annex where you can clearly see the three closed offices that were for the three party workers. They had separate spaces closed off, and the rest of the space was shared.
The two collective agreements are quite substantial, as is normally the case. Anyone who has worked in that atmosphere understands that it is a great illustration of the old principle that good fences make good neighbours. In other words, when you have a collective agreement, for one, they know what work is reserved for their bargaining unit, for their section, for their union. There's never been a problem with that.
I checked with the heads of both unions before coming here today, and I asked if we've had grievances. There have been none. That means that these things have been enforced and applied very strictly, that we've followed, every step of the way, the physical separation of the work, the actual separation by job category and function, as prescribed in the collective agreements.
Now, it is worth pointing out—maybe it won't come as a surprise to anyone, because I know no one in the NDP is surprised about it—that we are the only political party in Parliament that is unionized. In other words, we're the only ones who can make this proof, because actually, the whole question here today is whether or not we were performing parliamentary duties. We have to go back every time to section 1 of the Members By-Law. The question is not whether or not they could work in Montreal. That's established in article one. That's set out right away. They can work in Montreal.
The question then becomes, were they allowed to work in a place that was rented and where the rent was paid for by a political party? The answer to that is yes. Up until the month of April 2014, they could do that. You wouldn't have had to bring in that new rule if it wasn't already allowed. That new rule was brought in because it was allowed.
We followed the new rule once it was brought in. Every step of the way, we've been open and transparent with the House of Commons. We've been open and transparent with this committee. We've respected the rules.
I'm very proud of the fact that we're the only unionized shop in Canadian and indeed North American politics. It also gives me the advantage to say that I know that the two have always been separated.
There's a great article in iPolitics
that summarizes the situation. It's by Elizabeth Thompson, dated April 10, 2013. It has to do with what we thought at the time was a misuse by the Liberals and Bob Rae: a direct attack on , our extraordinary member of Parliament from Toronto—Danforth.
We asked the Speaker to rule, and it was brought to the Board of Internal Economy. He made a couple of tweaks with regard to the numbers, but he essentially confirmed to the NDP that this type of very personal attack, partisan attack, by the Liberals against the NDP was indeed allowed.
So I'm sorry, we're not going to roll over, if the others are allowed to use these techniques, and.... The Conservatives invented it. There is a little bit of humour in listening to Mr. Woodworth on this today. We respect the rules.
By the way, I will remind Mr. Woodworth that section 1 of the Members By-Law talks about our “duties and activities...wherever performed and whether or not performed in a partisan manner”.
That's the key to our discussion here today, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I could probably have five minutes. That is what was just allotted to Mr. Woodworth.
Mr. Mulcair, thank you for being with us today. I find it absolutely fascinating to see the leader of a party take two hours out of his time to come here. I would have hoped the Minister of Justice would do the same thing for the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, but, in his two appearances, he took advantage of votes that were held on time allocation motions to shorten his appearance. I barely saw him 20 or 25 minutes each time.
That said, Mr. Woodworth's insinuations, those we sense coming from our Liberal colleagues and the comments we have read suggest that there is some confusion. When I say confusion, I mean about the role of party employees at the Montreal office and that of caucus employees and members from Quebec.
I would like to clarify once again how the structure operated, apart from the way it is described the two agreements.
How did you make sure that the work done by one of the groups actually focused on parliamentary issues? Our Liberal and Conservative colleagues are trying to insinuate that irregularities were committed in that regard. What we see in the media is fairly consistent with that.
Mr. Mulcair, I would also like you to take a moment to tell us about the new rule, which was introduced in April. It seems to me I read that it would come into force at the end of this Parliament. You have not had the opportunity to go right to the end. As a lawyer, I thought it was a very smooth move to change the rule along the way. That may seem sensible in cases involving someone that one does not really like too much. However, it has been confirmed that that was not the aim. As they say in the courts, when you want to reach an unreasonable settlement, make sure it points in only one direction. That is the impression I get from this.
I would like you to tell us about all that, particularly about Mr. Woodworth's insinuations. According to them, our employees were doing partisan work, that is to say work for a party, rather than parliamentary work, the work for which they were being paid.
I would like you to comment on the document in question.
Thank you. Your question consists of two parts. I will address them one after the other.
This is important for Parliament. It appears in section 1 of the most important by-law enacted pursuant to the act governing the House of Commons. It is a worthwhile exercise to read that section. I have read it to Mr. Woodworth several times, but that does not mean he has understood it. I will read it to you as well.
In section 1, "parliamentary functions" are defined as follows:
"parliamentary functions" in relation to a Member, means the duties and activities that relate to the position of Member, wherever performed and whether or not performed in a partisan manner, namely, participation in activities relating to the proceedings and work of the House of Commons and activities undertaken in representing his or her constituency or constituents.
Ms. Boivin, you raise a very interesting, even mesmerizing point. We noted that it was the party that paid the rent in Montreal. We know there was nothing preventing those people from working in Montreal, according to what I just read you. We know that those people reported to Ottawa, and that is entirely consistent with the information that was submitted. We also know that the House administration was aware, at every stage, that these people were working in Montreal. Lastly, we know that Joe Comartin, my colleague and yours, wrote a long letter in December 2011. Silence is consent. Joe has thoroughly established what is happening.
The most intriguing part...
Mr. Chair, I will finish my speech in 30 seconds.
So the office was paid for by the party. The House of Commons staff knew the people were working in Montreal. There was no attempt to hide the fact that the Montreal office was there. In fact, there was a media event to promote the opening of it. We've established that there were clear separations between the functions of people who were on the parliamentary side versus those who were on the partisan side.
I'd be interested to see where the government goes from here, because I don't know what's left. Everything that has been raised has been adequately covered off piece by piece by piece—minus the rhetoric, I grant you. You've removed the rhetoric. You're left with what I just said, which is that there's no House of Commons money involved in the paying of this office; the House of Commons staff knew that our staff were working in Montreal; there was no attempt to hide the fact that this office was there, open, and functioning; and lastly, there is a clear separation between the work being done by those on the parliamentary side and those on the partisan side. We've established that. It will be interesting to see where else the government wants to go, because so far they're not getting anywhere.
Now, my question is this. To put it in a broader context, Mr. Mulcair, I want to take you back. You mentioned in your opening remarks the reason why you opened up these offices and why you were looking at the Saskatchewan office. I want to put that in the context of a government that is opening up ministerial offices all across the country—17, I believe. So I would like you to speak to that objective you had in light of what the government was doing—with 100% taxpayer money, by the way. I'm not saying that's partisan work, but it's a presence and they're there.
Then I'd also like to put it in the context of what your budget is, as the leader of the official opposition, and what the budget of the Prime Minister's Office is, and what the increases have been to your budget versus the increases to the cabinet budget the has access to.
I wonder if you would respond, Mr. Mulcair.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
The other point I wanted to note for my colleague, the member of the official opposition, was that if Mr. Woodworth had actually read through all of the material—because he referenced the House administration—he would have seen all of the job contracts.
For example, there is "Caucus Services for Quebec". That was submitted to the House administration.
Further on, it states:
NDP Caucus Services for Quebec
And further on:
NDP Caucus Services of Quebec
Frankly, if the member had reviewed all the documentation, he would already have found the answers to his questions without wasting the committee's time.
Now I would like to put some questions to my colleague, the leader of the official opposition.
He has already responded with regard to barriers. That was important for him, as is the issue of grievances.
Unless I am mistaken, cuts have been made to the budget of the Leader of the Opposition since 2011. That is a fact that my Conservative colleagues did not mention. Mr. Muclair, I would like you to state the exact percentage that has been cut. I would also like you to compare that reduction with the enormous increase in the budget of the Office of the Prime Minister and particularly the increase in the number of ministerial premises or offices across the country, both in the regions where the Conservatives have no elected members and in those where they have several.
I would like to go back to the Members By-Law.
Mr. Woodworth thought he had something there. What happened is that the Conservatives used their majority on the BOIE to change the rules. They have a majority and they use it. The process changed. There used to be a consensus on the BOIE, whereas now the majority decides, regardless of what is just and fair for everyone. The government, which has a majority, changed the administrative rules. The question should have been whether the leader of the official opposition was obeying the new rules, and he has already answered that. The fact that the Conservatives had to make up a new rule so they could claim the rules had somehow been violated already puts an end to that kind of question.
I am going to ask the leader of the official opposition one final question.
All kinds of other attacks have been made against agents of Parliament. Do you think the government should make better use of resources and try to meet the needs of the Canadian population rather than continue this kind of investigation?
I am going to ask a brief question in French, and my colleague from Charlottetown, will follow with more questions.
Mr. Mulcair, when Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc Québécois were accused of using public funds for partisan purposes, your member and house leader at the time, Mr. Comartin, said their people were not paid out of parliamentary funds if they did work for the party. He thought that was beyond argument; there was no doubt about it. He said he did not understand how Mr. Duceppe thought he could clear himself and that the House expected to be able to sanction him and the party to repay the money. Those are the comments that were made by your parliamentary leader at the time, Mr. Comartin.
Mr. Mulcair, during those same weeks, the NDP, with assistants paid by taxpayers, was arranging to lease an office in Montreal. You say it was ultimately paid for by the NDP, and we understand that. However, parliamentary employees at that office were organizing electoral training sessions, for example.
My question is very simple: do you still agree with Mr. Comartin that that represents an inappropriate use of taxpayers' money and that taxpayers should be reimbursed?
If I might, I just want to stay with this, because there's a part here that I find interesting, and I would appreciate your thoughts on it. Subsection 93.1(7) makes the point that the section becomes effective April 14. You've addressed that in terms of what the NDP was doing prior to that date, and what they did upon the April 14 new rule's coming into effect.
It's interesting, the subsection before that, Mr. Mulcair, at 93.1(6), says, “This section is repealed effective on the dissolution of the 41st Parliament.” If this is such a good rule, protecting taxpayer money, do you know—because I don't—why this rule dissolves at the end of this Parliament and doesn't exist in the next Parliament?
Thank you very much. I'm glad to be here.
The one thing that is clearly apparent in all of this testimony that we've heard this morning—and some may argue that there is just a difference of opinion or a difference of interpretation. But there's one thing that is crystal clear, that there is a huge contradiction in the testimony provided by Mr. Mulcair and documents provided by the House administration in one key point.
Mr. Mulcair has stated, as have his colleagues on many occasions, that he was excruciatingly clear with the House administration that the employees under question were located in Montreal. He has said every step of the way they let the House administration know that those employees were to be housed and located in Montreal.
The problem with that, and where the contradiction lies, is in a document of May 9, a memo. I believe it was to Mr. Preston from the Clerk of the House of Commons, Audrey O'Brien, who, as characterized by Mr. Mulcair, is above reproach. Her integrity is never questioned, nor should it be. I agree with that totally.
However, in that memorandum of May 9, on page 8, Mr. Mulcair, if you want to reference it, point 21, it says:
At no point was the House Administration informed that the employees would be located in Montreal or that their work would be carried out in co-location with a political party's offices.
There is a huge contradiction, and because of that, Mr.Chair, I want to give notice to the committee, and particularly for the benefit of Mr. Mulcair:
That, in light of the discrepancies between the evidence of the Leader of the Official Opposition and the documents produced in response to the Committee’s order of Tuesday, May 6, 2014, the Committee continue its study, pursuant to its Order of Reference of Thursday, March 27, 2014, on the matter of accusations of the Official Opposition’s improper use of House of Commons resources for partisan purposes;
That, in view of the evidence adduced to date, the Committee expand its study, if further evidence warrants, to topics incidental to matters relating to the election of Members to the House of Commons, pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(a)(vi);
That the Committee accept the request of the Board of Internal Economy of Wednesday, May 14, 2014, to provide it and the Speaker with a report, pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(a)(i), in addition to any report the Committee may provide to the House in relation to this study;
That the Committee invite additional witnesses, including, but not limited to, the Member for Saint Maurice-Champlain and the Clerk of the House of Commons, to appear in relation to this study; and
That the Clerk of the Committee advise the Leader of the Official Opposition that the Committee is prepared to recall him to appear as a witness, if necessary, following further evidence adduced during this study, provided that it shall be deemed to be a continuation of his appearance on Thursday, May 15, 2014.
I will be moving this motion for approval at our next meeting of Procedure and House Affairs.
Mr. Chair, how much time do I have left?
They're from 2011. They're from 2012. They're from 2014. They always mention the Montreal office. When the rule was changed on April 8, 2014, we respected the new rule, the same way we respected the existing rules prior to that date, Mr. Casey. There's never been a problem. Their port d'attache
was Ottawa. That was clear as well. These documents go back to the past three years.
There's a great letter from , and I invite you to take cognizance of it. That letter from Mr. Comartin remained unanswered.
Silence is consent.
He set out the whole case in that letter, and we have all of these documents that refer specifically to Montreal. He asked a series of questions, because the whole thing had been the object of a serious analysis here in the House. I have far more respect for the officers in this House who were providing BlackBerrys to 514, receiving documents written in Montreal, and sending documents themselves that mentioned the Montreal office, than you appear to.
I know that they knew what they were doing, and we have respected the rules every step of the way.
Yes, what I'm saying is that we're stopping at that point.
With the number of points of order today, we certainly are ruling that there will be a number of spots missing at the bottom of this meeting today.
We have a document coming out from the clerk today. You'll receive it today at all your offices about the documents and stuff that we have out. Please take note of that.
I'd like the committee to also take note that May 27 would be one of our normal meeting days. We're looking at, because of a number of members being in Ukraine for election observation, perhaps not having a meeting that day. We'll give you as much notice as we can about that happening.
Thank you all for your work today. We are adjourned.