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View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
The privileges of all members are affected when there is a question about the conduct of one member. In this case we are in a minority Parliament where every single vote that is a confidence vote will matter.
In this case, while there was a significant spread between the yeas and the nays, one can easily imagine a scenario in which the vote of one member could determine whether the government maintained the confidence of the House. We have a situation where a member was given not one, not two, but three opportunities to talk about what happened.
I say with respect, and I do not wish to overstate this, that it is so important that the voting rights of members are protected here. Maybe when the Standing Orders were written it was simply enough, without cameras in this place, to trust the word of a member.
Mr. Speaker, if you review the tape, which we all have access to, and which is the official recorded record of what happens in the House, you will see that the member in question was not in her seat for five minutes after the vote commenced.
Every time the camera pans past her seat, it is empty. This is not a matter of seconds and a member saying, “I heard it and I rushed in and sat down.” I am sorry. I want to take all members at their word in this place, but the video evidence is crystal clear.
For the hon. member to say today, “I now know that I needed to be in the chamber in order to vote”, you told us that on Monday night. You told the House, “To be clear, you must be in the chamber in order to vote”, and she stood and said, “I was here. I heard the question.” That is absolutely false.
Now what do we do? What do we do when there is a situation where it could absolutely have been the difference between the government surviving and the government falling? Do we have a situation where a member can stand in this place and mislead the House and there are no consequences for it? The government survives, the legislation passes, the motion passes and the next day, or two or three days later, they say, “Oh, sorry, what could we do? I made a mistake.”
Mr. Speaker, we need you to protect the rights of all members of Parliament. If some members of Parliament are given the right to vote when they are not in this place, that takes away the rights of every member of Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, a misleading statement by a member is listed as an offence against the House. That is on page 82 of Bosc and Gagnon. It is an offence against the House. It is not an offence against a particular party. I would say it is offensive to you, Mr. Speaker, as the guardian and custodian of our privileges, but this is something that could have made all the difference.
In the last Parliament, on Bill C-10, the transport bill, it was a tied vote that the previous Speaker had to break the tie on. We had three members in the lobby. We had three members who knew better than to come in and take their place and vote because to do so would have been dishonourable. It would have broken the rules of the House. What if we had just sent them in? The legislation would have been defeated at second reading. What would the remedy then have been?
Mr. Speaker, we are in this situation now where it is more imperative than ever that you protect the rights of all members and not just the governing party, and I know you would never do that. You are here. You were elected by all of us. You protect the rights of all of us.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but I think you need to review the tape to see if you find the same as we have, time after time. I wanted that member to get up and unequivocally apologize. Instead what she did was to say, “I was here”, three times. The tape does not lie. The tape shows exactly what happened.
I believe that we need this to be found a prime facie question of privilege and that the matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, because we need to know what the path forward is.
What if this is just an instruction that is given to any side of the House where they say, “You know what, things happen. Just run in and say you heard it. There is nothing the Speaker can do, and the House has no powers. Just be close to the House, come in, and if it comes up before your empty seat is called, just stand up and say that you were here. We'll sort it out in the wash”. That is unacceptable.
Again, I implore you to watch the tape, Mr. Speaker. This is not a matter of that single vote. That single vote has been withdrawn, but when the camera pans across the first row, second row, third row and fourth row before the member is in her seat, I am sorry, but she did not hear the question. She knows she did not hear the question.
I would ask, Mr. Speaker, that you rule in favour of moving this to the procedure and House affairs committee so that we can settle this once and for all.
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