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Minutes of Proceedings

43rd Parliament, 2nd Session
Meeting 2
Tuesday, October 6, 2020, 11:04 a.m. to 12:27 p.m.
Ruby Sahota, Chair (Liberal)

Library of Parliament
• Andre Barnes, Analyst
• Laurence Brosseau, Analyst
Pursuant to Standing Order 106(4), the committee commenced consideration of the request by four members of the committee to discuss their request to resume the committee’s consideration of the motion moved by Ms. Vecchio on Monday, September 28, 2020, regarding a study pursuant to Standing Order 32(7).

At 11:13 a.m., the sitting was suspended.

At 11:18 a.m., the sitting resumed.


Todd Doherty moved, — That the committee resume consideration of Ms. Vecchio's motion moved on Monday, September 28, 2020.

The question was put on the motion and it was agreed to on the following recorded division:

YEAS: Omar Alghabra, Rachel Blaney, Todd Doherty, Kirsty Duncan, Mark Gerretsen, Tom Lukiwski, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Alain Therrien, Corey Tochor, Ryan Turnbull, Karen Vecchio — 11;

NAYS: — 0.


I'd like to begin by ruling on the motion moved by Ms. Vecchio at the meeting on September 28, 2020.

The motion is quite long and detailed, and I appreciate, once again, having the time to review it over the course of the past week. In assessing the motion's admissibility, my primary concern was to determine whether the motion falls within the mandate of this committee. Standing Order 108(1)(a) states:

Standing committees shall be severally empowered to examine and enquire into all such matters as may be referred to them by the House, to report from time to time and, except when the House otherwise orders, to send for persons, papers and records...

Beyond this, the specific mandate attributed to this committee can be found in Standing Orders 104 and 108(3)(a). Among these responsibilities section 108(3)(a)(iii) includes:

(iii) the review of and report on the Standing Orders, procedure and practice in the House and its committees;

More relevant to this case however, is Standing Order 32.7 which provides that the government documents explaining reasons for prorogation be referred to this committee. The section reads:

(7) Not later than 20 sitting days after the beginning of the second or subsequent session of a Parliament, a minister of the Crown shall lay upon the table a document outlining the reasons for the latest prorogation. This document shall be deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs immediately after it is presented in the House.

This is a new Standing Order adopted in 2017 and this is the first time that it has been invoked. My assessment in this ruling is based on the application, the timeliness and the relevance of these authorities to the motion of Ms. Vecchio.

As I read it, the motion contains two distinct separate parts. The first clearly relates to the prorogation, while the second is more focused on the inquiry of the WE Charity and all its entities with relation to the Canada Student Grants.

Also to be noted in paragraph (o) which requires that all documents obtained through this motion be published on the committee's website. The supposed purpose of the motion is to prepare the committee for the review of the government's explanation for the prorogation of parliamentary session 43.1.

Herein lies the first flaw of the motion. At first glance one may be quick to draw parallels to the committee undertaking a pre-study on the matter. However, in this instance, even undertaking a pre-study at this time would be seen as being premature. When a pre-study of a bill is commenced in a House committee, or a Senate committee, for that matter, it is done once the bill has been given first reading in the House of Commons but not yet reached the committee stage. This procedure allows the subject matter of the bill to be studied or referred to the House or Senate committee for general review as opposed to a clause-by-clause study.

In this instance, because the government has not yet tabled in the House a report outlining the reasons for prorogation, the committee is not in a position to have a base of reference from which to begin the study, nor would it be appropriate to pre-suppose the outcome of the report. Therefore conducting a study on the matter through this motion is not timely.

Furthermore, even if it could be argued that through the creation of Standing Order 32.(7) this committee now has within its mandate the issue of prorogation and a subject matter study could be initiated before a response by the government is tabled in the House or prior to receiving an actual order of reference from the House, then the first part of the motion appeared to be in line with this objective.

It states that several ministers, including the Prime Minister, will be called to appear. It orders that various government background documents relating to the prorogation decision be turned over to the committee and that additional documents between the government and identify WE Charity entities and officers and M-Cap in respect to the prorogation also be turned over to the committee.

These documents are expected to be available to the committee by the time the government is required to table its justification for the prorogation towards the end of this month. Although I still find this motion to be premature at this time I can agree with the basic proposition as articulated by several committee members that the automatic referral to the standing committee on Procedure and House Affairs, referenced in Standing Order 32.7, places the government's stated reasons for prorogation within the mandate of the committee and that the committee is empowered to look into the government's reasons for prorogation.

Paragraph (a) through (d) make a direct connection to the issue. In so far as that link is made the centrality of the prorogation reasons is respected. The witnesses and documents sought in these paragraphs are consistent with the effort to study reasons for prorogation. I have more difficulty in understanding the procedural connection of paragraphs (e) through (n) to possible reasons for the prorogation. Each paragraph orders, among other things, the production of papers, documents, and records, from the government including several ministers and the WE Charity, its affiliate entities, and identify individuals. While the request for this material is an exercise of a committee's power under Standing Order 108.1(a) it is not clear to me that it is being applied in the pursuit of a procedurally acceptable mandate. This is an overreach. There is also the prospect of normally confidential unredacted cabinet documents obtained through this motion including in paragraph (e) that would be published on the committee's website.

In a political context arguments and inferences can be made that a connection exists between the government's decision to prorogue and the WE Charity issue. However, as Chair, I must examine the matter strictly in a procedural context. In this case, the proposed course of study must be centrally linked to the committee's mandate. To the reasons why this session was prorogued paragraph (e) through (n) do not establish that essential link. Unlike the first part of the motion there is no direct association to these paragraphs to prorogation. Instead, they are focused on the WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. Consequently, I view these paragraphs as outside the committee's mandate and more in keeping with the mandate of the standing order committee on finance which was seized with these issues prior to prorogation.

As such, I cannot find that this motion at this time and in its current form is in order. Nor can I allow debate to continue on the motion.

I would like to thank all honourable members for their attention to this matter.

Chair’s ruling challenged.

The question: "Shall the decision of the Chair be sustained?" was put and the decision was sustained on the following recorded division: YEAS: Omar Alghabra, Rachel Blaney, Kirsty Duncan, Mark Gerretsen, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Ryan Turnbull — 6; NAYS: Todd Doherty, Tom Lukiwski, Alain Therrien, Corey Tochor, Karen Vecchio — 5.


Todd Doherty moved, — That the committee do now adjourn.

The question was put on the motion and it was agreed to on the following recorded division:

YEAS: Rachel Blaney, Todd Doherty, Tom Lukiwski, Alain Therrien, Corey Tochor, Karen Vecchio — 6;

NAYS: Omar Alghabra, Kirsty Duncan, Mark Gerretsen, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Ryan Turnbull — 5.

At 12:27 p.m., the committee adjourned to the call of the Chair.

Justin Vaive
Clerk of the Committee