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View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, let me begin by congratulating you on your election as Speaker. As we all know, it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility to conduct oneself in an impartial manner, and I have the utmost confidence in your ability to do that. Congratulations once again.
I am rising on a question of privilege today concerning the very troubling allegations published this month respecting the Clerk of the House. I am sure we have all watched or read Ashley Burke's reporting on these matters. It was based on at least 10 different credible sources as well as primary documents, but it is important to put the most pertinent details on the record of the House.
Broadly speaking, the allegations fall into one of two distinct but no less troubling categories. One concerns a management style that has led to a rapid loss of top talent and deep experience from the table, and the other concerns demonstrations of partisanship through the Clerk's comments and actions.
I understand that some of the complainants' letters, cries for help really, have even recently made it into some Parliament Hill inboxes, and it is my respectful view that all told, these allegations amount to a prima facie case of privilege, which the House must address urgently.
I will be focusing on the partisanship allegations, but I cannot turn a blind eye to what the CBC confirmed. Three senior figures at the table took sick leave and then early retirement, while a fourth senior official is now on sick leave, owing to the Clerk's management style.
According to CBC, Colette Labrecque-Riel—
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, as I stated at the outset, the allegations are extremely disturbing and troubling. If we are going to go back and forth on this, I think—
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, the arguments that have been made are profound on the part of the privilege and the rights of members. The Speaker will recall that some very serious allegations have been made that I believe breach the rights and privileges of members, not the least of which is a table officer acting in a partisan manner.
I am not attempting to bring those issues in a manner that exacerbates the kinds of challenges that exist. What I am trying to do is lay out the facts as we now know them so the Speaker can make a prima facie case of the rights and privileges of the members being dealt with.
At the end of what I am presenting, I offer an option and a solution that the Speaker can act on, but in the absence of presenting the facts as we know them and the facts as they came out, it is awfully difficult for me to talk in terms that would give the Speaker a better understanding to make a decision that is in the best interests of the House. We are dealing with not just the rights and privileges of our members, but also the confidence in the ability of our democracy and our democratic institutions to function in the manner in which they should.
Some of those accusations, as salacious as they are and as uncomfortable as they may be, are very important points I need to make in this discourse to the Speaker. I would ask for some latitude with that and ask that I continue to lay these out not as a way to disrespect a certain individual but to present the information that is in front of me, and that has been presented to all of us as members, as it relates to our rights and privileges.
I will continue in the manner in which I started, which is to lay out this case to suggest that the rights and privileges of members have been breached as they relate to the functioning of our democracy.
As I continue, according to CBC, Colette Labrecque-Riel, a former clerk assistant, wrote to the Speaker that—
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, before I continue, I would like to ask for unanimous consent to table copies of the relevant PCO documents that were disclosed through access to information. I would like unanimous consent for that.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, without laying out properly the facts of this case as we know them, it is awfully difficult to present a prima facie case, but regrettably a cloud has been placed upon the House administration, and it certainly has given Conservatives cause to reflect on what extent to which we can collaborate. In fact, the same paranoia is, as we have seen, among House officials themselves.
In my view, the House could and should refer this whole mess to the procedure and House affairs committee for full and proper investigation. As much as some of the reactions of the media have referred to some secret external review, it has been completely uncontested in the reporting that this review has never considered any of the partisan revelations that have come to light.
To that end, we should bear in mind the words of Mr. Speaker Milliken's February 1, 2002 ruling, at page 8582 of the Debates, where he said:
...in view of the gravity of the matter, I have concluded that the situation before us where the House is left with two versions of events is one that merits further consideration by an appropriate committee, if only to clear the air.
Surely, when it appears that perhaps one side is not aligned with this, all sides should agree that the air needs to be cleared here. That is why the Conservatives last week asked for the Liberals to release all correspondence and records they had with the clerk so we could see whether the allegations were true or just how big that pipeline was, yet the Liberals have not been forthcoming to this point, which speaks volumes. That is why stronger tools are now needed to clear the air.
A parliamentary committee is a strong vehicle to do just that, as Mr. Speaker Milliken ruled on October 15, 2001, at page 6085 of Debates:
There is a body that is well equipped to commit acts of inquisition, and that is the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which has a fearsome chairman, quite able to extract information from witnesses who appear before the committee, with the aid of the capable members who form that committee of the House.
The House must stand up for its own dignity and self-respect. If you find a prima facie case of privilege, Mr. Speaker, I am prepared, as I said earlier, to move the appropriate motion for a committee study. This is the only way, I am afraid, that the cloud can be cleared and these foundation-shaking allegations can be either confirmed or purged so we can get to the real business of Parliament.
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