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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We are beginning the 17th meeting of the Board of Internal Economy.
The first item on the agenda is the minutes of the previous meeting, on April 22. Are there any comments on that?
Mrs. DeBellefeuille has the floor, and she will be followed by Mr. Holland.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I have a question. We've noticed that over the past two weeks there have been significant technological problems with interpretation, whether in the House of Commons or in committees. Last week, we were having difficulty going from French to English or English to French. This week, we're noticing that it's difficult to go from French to English.
Can someone explain the nature of the problem? Is it a technological or specific problem?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2021-05-13 11:04
Thank you for your question.
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, in preparation for the meeting, we always look at our statistics. Statistically, it's clear that we have had some issues in the past two weeks, but I would still say that the number of incidents this week is down from the beginning of April. This week, we've had some technical difficulties in the House.
We had technical difficulties in the House on Monday, and some difficulties this week in committees. As you know, we are in a very difficult time to do infrastructure maintenance. We're trying our best to resolve these issues in the evening, and we are on our way to a solution. We're trying to maintain the functional environment of the House and committees. We're working on it day and night, I assure you.
However, it's true that we saw five or six incidents in the House on Monday this week. We noted a few incidents on Tuesday in the House and in committees. That's more than normal, compared to past weeks. We have some solutions, but it's a matter of finding the time to do the maintenance. It's very difficult right now. We can only work on it at night and on weekends, but we're trying to make the changes. We're doing everything possible. The technical difficulties are with some of the equipment.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
It's a question for Mr. Janse.
Mr. Janse, you sent all the whips' offices your desire, in response to the clerks' request, to hold virtual rather than hybrid meetings in committees. Some clerks would be at home or elsewhere, but not on site.
The Bloc Québécois made an effort to ask members who liked attending committee meetings in person not to do so, because you had asked us to. We found that it was not necessarily a directive or an instruction that was followed by the other parties. We've asked our members to do that, because we want to listen to the clerks, as you've asked. However, we see that members from other parties are physically sitting in the meeting rooms. It seems difficult for them to comply.
We in the Bloc Québécois have strictly respected what you asked for, but when we return from the break, some members will probably come and attend committees in person. I wanted to warn you of that. We've made our effort. I think that when we return from the break, some members will want to use their parliamentary privilege to be physically present in committee. It's not out of disrespect for the clerks, but in order to work better.
For them, it's a more efficient way of working. I wanted to formally notify you of this at the BIE. I'm proud to say that we made our effort when you asked us to.
Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2021-05-13 11:08
Thank you very much for the information, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
I'd like to make a small clarification. We did not request that members not come into the committee room. We only notified the whips' offices that we had given our clerks the choice of coming in person or working from home. A large number of committee clerks still come into the committee room to work, but others have taken up the offer to work from home. We're still here to see members, either virtually or in person, in committee rooms.
Perhaps the message you are referring to is about next week's meetings, next week technically being a break week, although many committees will be in session. When we talked with other departments and our partners, some questions arose about resources. We wondered if the whips would consider the possibility of some committees meeting only virtually, given that it will be a break week and most members will be at home. If no members attend in person, it's going to require fewer resources, so all departments will be better able to accommodate all meetings requested for next week.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
All right.
The Bloc Québécois will support you on this. No problem.
View Peter Julian Profile
I just want to say briefly that we know very well that we are in the third wave. The idea of having exclusively virtual meetings, in my opinion, is simply a workplace health and safety issue. So, we support the idea of limiting as much as possible the exposure of employees and members to the variants circulating in this third wave, which is proving to be extremely dangerous across the country.
View Blake Richards Profile
—but I'll address this point quickly.
I'm supportive of the way the administration has approached this. They've given clerks the option to be there in person if they choose or to be there virtually. I think all people need to be given the choice to do what they feel is safest. It sounds like that's what the administration has done, so I'm supportive of what they have suggested.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 11:12
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
First, on that point, I would wholeheartedly concur with Mr. Julian that, wherever possible in this third wave, we need to avoid coming in. I understand there are challenges for all of us, but this is a matter of public health and safety. It's a matter of the security and health of people who work at the House of Commons, and it's a matter of risk for members traversing provincial borders. Hopefully, folks will take that into consideration, as we try to navigate through this global health crisis.
Mr. Speaker, I wanted to speak at this point, if I could, on a matter arising from the previous meeting, as noted in the minutes.
In the previous meeting, we had a very lengthy discussion in camera with respect to the member for Pontiac and the terrible incident that occurred with the photo that was taken of him during private proceedings. I'm not going to have any questions for the House legal teams, so my comments here are not in any way in camera. This is a very troubling incident because it is.... Let's start in the ways in which it's different from what we have dealt with before.
In the thrust and parry of partisan politics, we are all used to our characters being besmirched or having our ideas attacked. Before we come to this place, we have an idea that's going to happen. That's not what happened here. This was a member of Parliament who, in a private proceeding, made a decision to take a video or a picture and then share that image somewhere. That was an image of another member naked. That image was then disseminated across the planet. Because of that decision, a member of Parliament and his family were subjected to the image of him naked on late night talk shows in England and the United States, and on social media sites around the world.
To date, the member of Parliament in question, Sébastien Lemire, has refused to say where he sent that photograph or what his intent was in sending it. And that matters.
Now, fellow board members, there is only one place that can adjudicate our own behaviour. That's it. We're it. If this were any other workplace.... When I headed up the Heart and Stroke Foundation, if an employee took a naked photo of another employee against the will of that employee and disseminated it, I can guarantee that an apology and walking away as if nothing happened wouldn't be the end of the matter. I can assure you that no workplace in this nation—
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Yes, I have a point of order.
I don't understand. It's a very important matter, I agree, and I hope we have time to grant it the importance it deserves, but it's already an item on the agenda for the portion of the meeting in camera. So, I have a lot of trouble understanding why Mr. Holland is starting the discussion on this during the public portion of the meeting, because he is well aware of it.
So I'm asking you to rule on this, Mr. Speaker, because we're not following the agenda right now.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
It's a matter related to the business arising from the previous meeting. It was a little mixed up, but we let it go.
Mr. Holland, I'm not sure exactly how you would like to proceed right now. Would you like to withdraw and then come back?
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 11:16
No, absolutely not, Mr. Speaker. There's nothing that I'm saying that needs to be put in camera. The process of in camera is not to hide matters. It is not to bury matters. It is not to avoid dealing with matters. The purpose of going in camera is to allow matters to be discussed that cannot be discussed publicly.
One of the reasons the Board of Internal Economy made its meeting public was specifically so the deliberations of this body could be seen by the general public. It would be a violation of that principle to move this matter in camera. There is absolutely nothing I am saying now, or that I will say, that in any way needs to be in camera. And that is why I will continue.
The problem that I have is—
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
If I could, at this point, because we had determined that this was an item that was in camera, and it is—
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