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Results: 1 - 15 of 16
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I will take that under advisement and report back to the House.
Pursuant to an order made Tuesday, May 26, the House shall now resolve itself into a committee of the whole to consider matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other matters.
View John Brassard Profile
View John Brassard Profile
2020-07-21 13:23 [p.2680]
Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order concerning the fifth and seventh reports of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I respectfully submit that the reports each exceeded the committee's mandates and therefore should be found out of order.
Let me begin with the fifth report.
In its order of reference on Saturday, April 11, the House instructed the committee, “to study ways in which members can fulfill their parliamentary duties while the House stands adjourned on account of public health concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the temporary modification of certain procedures...”, and yet the committee in its fifth report has gone well outside the scope of that mandate.
In the interest of time, I will simply work from the recommendations the committee put forward in its report.
On page 27, the committee recommended, “That the House create a Pandemic and Disaster Plan...and that it is rehearsed and updated on a regular basis.” That sounds like something meant to last well beyond the current pandemic.
Next, on page 29, the committee recommended, “That the House of Commons establish an alternative set of Standing Orders which enables the implementation of a virtual Parliament so that the House can continue with its business in the event of a crisis or exceptional circumstances such as those arising from the current pandemic....” The current pandemic is cited as merely an example, not the limit, for that recommendation.
Meanwhile, on page 31, the committee made a couple of other procedurally questionable recommendations, “That the House of Commons undertake the necessary steps to expand its capacity and operations to achieve a fully virtual Parliament...in the event of exceptional circumstances” and “That the House of Commons continue to take an incremental approach, during exceptional circumstances, to the adoption of added parliamentary activities by virtual means....” Again, the committee looked beyond the current pandemic.
Then, over to page 40, we read that the committee recommended, “That the Clerk of the House of Commons ensure that all committees and party caucus meetings have access to a private, secure platform for in-camera meetings during the current and future emergency situations....”
The theme continues in recommending, on page 42, “during exceptional circumstances, virtual presence of members meets the requirements for quorum....”
Moving along to page 48, the committee recommended, “That the House of Commons set up a secure electronic voting system for conducting votes in virtual sittings as soon as possible...in the event of a pandemic or any other exceptional circumstances....” That one does refer to a pandemic, but simply a generic one, not specifically the current one we are confronting, before then extending into, “other exceptional circumstances.”
Finally, on page 50, the committee recommended, “That the Committee continue its study...in order to be ready to respond quickly to a new crisis.”
All these recommendations contemplate actions well beyond a response to the current COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring that members can fulfill their duties as parliamentarians during it.
Again for reference, on April 11, the House instructed the committee, “to study ways in which members can fulfill their parliamentary duties while the House stands adjourned on account of public health concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the temporary modification of certain procedures....”
If I put the House's order into plain language, it would be saying to deal with one crisis at a time.
Perhaps this was, dare I say, the Speaker's thinking too when he told the committee on April 21, at page 11 of the evidence:
Once this is over and they have reported, they should continue looking at different options that would keep Parliament running if something like this or something worse should happen again, and look at all of the worst-case scenarios.
There are good policy reasons for a step-by-step approach too. If we can avoid it, we should not be using our management of one crisis, mid-course, as a guide to solving the next one. We would not book, for example, CPR lessons while treading water to stay afloat. However, I am now straying into arguments beyond the scope of this point of order, so let me get back to that.
I will now switch to the seventh report and speak to my concerns there, before getting into procedural concerns which are common to both reports.
Before covering the new content of the seventh report, let me draw the Chair's attention to the final two recommendations on pages 71 and 72:
That the House consider all the work the Committee carried out for the pandemic- and procedure-related studies it conducted. The Committee wishes to ensure all its recommendations are taken into account in the development of any virtual Parliament and in the implementation and use of any electronic systems it might use if adopted. Note that this report supplements the preceding report, entitled Parliamentary Duties and the COVID-19 Pandemic (presented to the House on 15 May 2020), and that all the recommendations are important to preserving the parliamentary rights and privileges of the House and its members.
That, except in cases of clear incompatibility, the recommendations of the previous report, entitled Parliamentary Duties and the COVID-19 Pandemic, be deemed, mutatis mutandis, part of this report.
Therefore, it follows that if the fifth report is to be ruled null and void, so too would the seventh report since it too sampled the tainted fruit, so to speak. Nonetheless, there are several new recommendations in the seventh report that also fall wide of the mandate of the committee that was given by the House.
On May 26, after the imposition of closure, a majority voted for the following instruction of the procedure and House affairs committee, found at paragraph (f) of Government Business No. 7, “to review and make recommendations on how to modify the Standing Orders for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of an incremental approach beginning with hybrid sittings of the House as outlined by the report provided to the committee by the Speaker on Monday, May 11, 2020, including how to enact remote voting....”
Turning to the recommendations themselves, let us turn to page 55, with this one that speaks to events beyond the current pandemic, “That the House of Commons adopt a gradual and progressive approach to setting up a virtual or hybrid parliament so that the House may continue its parliamentary proceedings in the event of a pandemic or exceptional circumstances.”
However, the biggest and most substantive recommendation on pages 68 to 71 flagrantly defies the House's instructions. Here, a proposed new and permanent Standing Order 1.2 is recommended by the committee. There is no sunset clause. There is no deadline for it to expire. There is no provisional nature to it. It is a change that will sit on the books permanently. While the Liberals may argue that Standing Order 1.2 itself contemplates being applied on a one-time limited basis, this is still not limited to the current pandemic.
According to section (1), it would apply “In the event of a crisis or exceptional circumstances.” This does not refer to COVID-19; it does not even speak to a pandemic. It bears remembering that the House's May 26 instruction called for the committee to “make recommendations on how to modify the standing orders for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic....”
The seventh report contains a litany of other recommendations referring to situations when the House may have virtual or hybrid sittings. In the interest of time I will not read them all out, but suffice to say that when read in combination with Standing Order 1.2 in its current form, these other recommendations are similarly tainted, as speaking to House proceedings beyond the current COVID-19 pandemic. This is not simply a concern we have, and I would refer the Chair, for example, to the New Democratic Party's supplementary opinions on page 95 of the seventh report, where it said:
...the NDP believes that the scope of this report wavered beyond its boundaries. The committee was tasked with finding solutions for remote participation of members specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some recommendations were outside of those lines, and while the NDP doesn’t disagree with the idea of exploring other options and preparing for the future, it does not consider those to be part of the work the committee was asked to do by the House of Commons.
That is especially noteworthy, because it was the NDP that was the Liberal government's dance partner in negotiating passing Government Business No. 7. It would be difficult to find someone in a better position to speak to the intention underpinning the House's instruction to the committee.
Turning to the procedural framework, which undermines each of the procedure and house affairs committee's reports, the committee could normally have considered and made recommendations like these under its mandate pursuant to Standing Order 108(2)(a). However, as the Liberals have liked to point out, these are not normal times. Many things around here are quite different, to say the least, but one of the things that has quietly flown under the radar is that our committee system has not simply migrated over to Zoom to keep their work going.
In order for any committee to hold virtual meetings, it has to have special permission from the House to do so. However, the House has not granted blanket permission to all committees. Instead, under the Liberal motions to date, only specifically named committees have been empowered to use Zoom, and only to do the things spelled out in the Liberals' motions.
That approach extended to the procedural and House affairs committee when subparagraph (m) (i) of the House's order on April 11 stated:
During the period the House stands adjourned pursuant to this order, the provisions applying to committees enumerated in paragraph (l) shall also apply to the committee, however, the committee may consider motions related to the adoption of a draft report in relation to this study.
That topic is the April 11 mandate I have quoted twice already. Under paragraph (l), which was cross-referenced there, the committee was explicitly given a limit to “hold meetings for the sole purpose of receiving evidence related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
These provisions were, of course, renewed by subparagraph (f) (iii) of the House's order on April 20 which was, in effect, when the committee adopted its fifth report.
To simplify the procedural point here, committees meeting virtually are not allowed to do as they please within their usual range of activities. Similarly, for the seventh report, the committee only held virtual meetings because it was authorized by the House on May 26 to do so, as part of the House's instruction to study procedural changes “for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.” While the government might respond to my point of order by saying that committees are masters of their own proceedings, it just is not as simple as that.
Page 1058 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, states:
First, it is useful to bear in mind that committees are creatures of the House. This means that they have no independent existence and are not permitted to take action unless they have been authorized or empowered to do so by the House.
The freedom committees have is, in fact, a freedom limited on two levels. First, committees are free to organize their proceedings as they see fit, provided that their studies and the motions and reports they adopt comply with the orders of reference and instructions issued by the House.
Bourinot's Parliamentary Procedure and Practice, fourth edition, puts it more bluntly at page 469. It states that “a committee is bound by, and is not at liberty to depart from, the order of reference.”
Meanwhile, citation 760(2) of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules & Forms, sixth edition, states that, “Committees receive their authority from the House itself and the authority of the House overrides that of any committee.”
Bosc and Gagnon write at page 978 that, “The House delegates certain powers to the committees it creates in order for them to carry out their duties and fulfill their mandates. Committees have no powers other than those delegated to them in this way, and cannot assume other powers on their own initiative.”
The next page adds, “In the absence of specific instructions from the House, it is up to each committee to define the exact nature and scope of the studies it will undertake.”
As Mr. Speaker Milliken said on March 14, 2008, at page 4182 of Hansard, “Inherent in the power the House grants to its committees is the basic principle that each committee will respect its mandate.”
In the present case, the committee could, under the House's instruction, only address the issues within its precisely defined mandate while it was holding meetings by video conference. Therefore, because the committee included a recommendation in its reports that could have only been decided under Standing Order 108(2) at a physical meeting, rather than under the special orders of April 11 and May 26 at a virtual meeting, I want to turn to how this distinction has practical meaningful consequences.
I would pause to note that even if the Chair finds that the May 26 order offered more latitude than the April 11 order, the committee nonetheless reached back to incorporate the fifth report's procedurally flawed recommendation into its seventh report. Nothing the House decided on May 26 cured the defects of the report made under the April 11 order.
Also, I would note that the committee itself, on page V of the seventh report, refers to the report being adopted under the April 11 and May 26 orders of reference, and not Standing Order 108(2).
As to the consequences of the committee's choices, page 991 of Bosc and Gagnon states:
...the Speaker of the House has ruled a report or a specific part of a report to be out of order when a committee has gone beyond its order of reference or addressed issues not included in the order.
Those authors, at page 1001, speak directly to my concerns regarding the recommendations I cited from the fifth and seventh reports, and state:
Committees are bound by their orders of reference or instructions and may not undertake studies or present recommendations to the House that exceed the limits established by the House.
In support of these propositions, I would refer the Chair to the following rulings: Mr. Speaker Lemieux on June 9, 1928, at page 571 of the Journals; Madam Speaker Sauvé on June 29, 1983, at page 26943 of the Debates; Mr. Speaker Francis on June 13, 1984, at page 4624 of the Debates; Mr. Speaker Bosley on December 14, 1984, at page 1242 of the Debates and on February 28, 1985, at page 2603 of the Debates; and again, Mr. Speaker Milliken on April 2, 2009, at page 2301 of the Debates.
Had the procedure and House affairs committee wanted to report on contingency planning for future crises, and there is a legitimate reason to be interested in that, once we have resumed normal operations the committee could have taken up the subject at physical meetings here in Ottawa once it was safe for the whole membership to assemble, or it could have availed itself of the advice of Beauchesne's citation 831(4), which states:
Sometimes a committee may have to obtain leave from the House to make a special report when its order of reference is limited in scope.
To sum up my arguments in conclusion, first, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs exceeds the scope of the mandate given to the committee by the House on April 11, 2020.
Second, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs incorporates from the fifth report the same procedurally flawed recommendations, and also includes new recommendations that also exceed the scope of the mandate given to it by the House on May 26, 2020.
Third, it cannot be argued the reports are justified under Standing Order 108(2)(a), because all of the committee's meetings were held by video conferencing, thereby requiring the committee to observe all of the special conditions imposed upon it by the House and, therefore, both the fifth and seventh reports are out of order and must be withdrawn.
View Scott Reid Profile
Madam Chair, on February 26, the Standing Committee on Health passed a motion stating the following:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a), the committee order all documents, including briefing notes, memos and emails from senior officials, prepared for the Minister of Health, Minister of Transport, Minister of Public Safety, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of National Defence regarding the outbreak of the coronavirus, no later than March 15, 2020; that matters of Cabinet confidence and national security be excluded from the request; and that any redactions to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens and permanent residents whose names and personal information may be included in the documents, as well as public servants who have been providing assistance on this matter, be made by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons.
The documents were provided, but they were redacted by the government in advance. As a result, the Parliamentary counsel has written to complain about this action.
Will the government reverse its course and allow the parliamentary counsel law clerk to do the redactions, rather than redacting proactively?
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Chair, yes, during the course of the outbreak, as it began, the HESA committee did compel what turned out to be well over a thousand documents. Our officials also appeared in front of the committee a number of times, and I also appeared in front of the committee.
We have spared no effort to try to ensure that the HESA committee has access to the professionals that it is compelling from the Government of Canada, as well as political leaders such as myself. As well, we were providing documentation even as those officials were working day and night to try to ensure that our response was strong and robust to protect Canadians' lives.
View Scott Reid Profile
Madam Chair, they were not so busy that they could not busy themselves with redacting the documents, a task that in the committee's motion was to be left specifically to Parliamentary counsel.
I ask again: Will the government submit the same documents unredacted so that Parliamentary counsel can make those decisions, as is appropriate under the privileges of the House?
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Chair, we will always comply with the health committee's request for appearances of officials, of ministers and of documentation that is required for them to complete their studies.
View Scott Reid Profile
Madam Chair, part of the request was that all such redactions “be made by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons.”
Will the minister and her government respond and respect that request?
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Chair, since the beginning of the outbreak, I and my department have appeared in front of HESA numerous times to answer questions to our fullest to provide technical briefings to the committee to ensure that they have the information they need to study Canada's response and Canada's next steps.
We continue to provide documentation that is requested. We completely value the work of HESA in examining the response of Canada, but also in looking for the next steps ahead.
View Scott Reid Profile
Madam Chair, one gets the impression the answer to that is no. The minister is certainly reluctant to say so.
It is worth noting that in the special order that was adopted by the House on April 11, the health committee is set up to proceed, but only to receive evidence. It is not permitted to pass motions. If it could do so, it would of course pass a motion demanding that these documents be submitted and perhaps chastising the minister for her actions.
Why has the ability of this committee to pass motions and to make reports been taken away from it?
View Scott Reid Profile
Madam Chair, the health committee and all the other committees, including the indigenous affairs committee, do not have the ability to make reports or to pass motions, and there is no reason in the world that they should not be able to do so. I note that on the April 11 motion, the procedure and House affairs committee was specifically mandated to adopt motions and reports.
Why is this ability being withheld from the health committee and the other committees that are sitting right now?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Does the hon. minister have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Absence or presence of membersAdjournmentAdoption at more than one stageAuditor General of CanadaAudits and auditorsBroadcastingC-12, An Act to amend the Financial Admi ...C-13, An Act respecting certain measures ...C-14, A second Act respecting certain me ...Committee meetingsCommittee members ...Show all topics
View Kyle Seeback Profile
View Kyle Seeback Profile
2020-02-27 11:14 [p.1658]
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to stand today to add my voice to this debate. I think it is a particularly important debate. It is an important subject, and I think there are a lot of issues that need to be discussed.
I am going to confine my comments to issues I have with the bill, things I am concerned about, and my genuine belief that the government will take a very collaborative approach to this legislation. If we take a collaborative approach to this legislation, Canadians will have trust and faith that we developed legislation to actually address their needs and protect their concerns.
Speaking of concerns, I have a number of them. I will start off by talking about what I consider to be a significant lack of consultation.
This legislation will come up for review in June. It is the five-year mandated review of the legislation. My understanding is that the government has applied for a four-month extension with respect to the implementation of this legislation, which the Quebec court struck down.
If we have this four-month extension and have the mandated review of the legislation scheduled in June, what is the rush? Why have we rushed to introduce legislation prior to that mandatory review, which would, of course, be extensive and broad and far more in depth than any consultation that has been done with respect to the current legislation? My understanding is that there was only about two weeks of public consultation for this legislation. In my opinion, that is woefully deficient given the gravity of the topic we are discussing today.
This is my first real concern. What is the hurry? What is the rush? The court has given us more time to do this, and I believe we should be taking the time to go through the mandatory review and consult with Canadians, and then decide on the path forward. That is my number one concern.
I want to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Langley—Aldergrove. My thanks to the page for bringing that to my attention. She is doing an excellent job.
The next thing I want to talk about is palliative care. The minister has made comments in the House today espousing the great investments that are being made by the government in health care, but has not really talked about any specific investments with respect to palliative care. I think that is a critical thing to look at when we discuss this legislation. I want to remind the minister that Bill C-277, an act providing for the development of a framework on palliative care in Canada, was passed in the previous Parliament in 2017, and clearly states in the preamble:
Whereas the Final Report stated that a request for physician-assisted death cannot be truly voluntary if the option of proper palliative care is not available to alleviate a person’s suffering;
This was passed by Parliament, so if we are looking to expand the scope of medically assisted death without also expanding the availability of palliative care, we are doing an incredible disservice to Canadians, because the availability of palliative care in this country is poor at best. I am going to speak about this personally just for a moment.
Both of my parents suffered from terminal cancer. My mother was not able to get into a palliative care facility because there was no palliative care facility available for her, so she passed away in the hospital. My father was also not able to get into palliative care, but fortunately his illness was longer than my mother's, or unfortunately, depending on how one looks at it, and we were able to get private home care that eased his suffering and made sure he was being taken care of. However, there was no way that he was going to be able to get into palliative care within the scope of his illness.
This is affecting Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and the minister has rushed to introduce this bill. Why would the minister not have introduced corollary legislation, or legislation in tandem, or announced increases in funding for palliative care?
In my riding of Dufferin—Caledon, there is a fantastic hospice for palliative care. It is called Bethell Hospice. It only has approximately 15 beds. That is the palliative care option in my riding. For approximately 200,000 people, there are 15 palliative care beds.
Members can imagine that there is a significant number of people who are not able to get into palliative care. Therefore, the option of medically assisted death becomes far more attractive for someone who is not able to enter into a palliative care facility.
I will repeat that it is clearly a violation of legislation that was passed by the House. When people do not have the option for proper palliative care, their consent for a medically assisted death is significantly in question. I am extraordinarily concerned by the lack of any plan by the government to deal with investments in palliative care.
The minister has suggested that there are significant safeguards in place for people who suffer from any type of mental illness. However, I am not sure what those safeguards are. She suggested that just having that condition would exclude someone from obtaining a medically assisted death. What is the definition of that? How are we proving that is the only issue?
There is no requirement for individuals to go to a psychiatrist in order to assess that they are not suffering from a severe bout of depression. In my own life, I have gone through extraordinary stages and phases of depression during which I actually did not want to live anymore. I was not seeing a psychiatrist at the time. Would I have then been able to avail myself of these services while I was in a period of particular darkness? We know that mental health is an issue that is rampant throughout this country.
Again, I will go back to my first point, which is: Why are we rushing to do this? Why are we not taking the time to go through the five-year review? We need to take the time to find ways to make sure we are safeguarding all Canadians in providing them the option of medically assisted death, if they want it, but also ensuring that people who are choosing this, maybe because of a lack of palliative care, or maybe because of underlying mental health issues, are going to be protected.
These are some of the major concerns I have with respect to this piece of legislation.
Going back to the consultation, two weeks for online submissions with respect to concerns by Canadians is not anywhere near a sufficient amount of consultation. My understanding is that it was mostly online submissions. This is not a way to get the pulse of Canadians with respect to a very significant issue that is going on in this country. I will continue to ask why there was not a longer or broader consultation.
I know this matter will be studied at committee, but having been a member of Parliament now for going on five and a half years, I understand the extreme limitations at committee. We will often have a panel of six witnesses. Those six witnesses will each get their 10-minute statement, and then members of Parliament might get a six-minute intervention to try and raise an issue.
If one is going to suggest that a committee study will be far broader in scope, or somewhat more encompassing than the mandatory statutory five-year review, I will respectfully disagree with that submission.
Committees absolutely do great work, but they also suffer from an extreme pressure of legislation and time. To suggest that one or two weeks or three meetings at committee is sufficient time to analyze, debate and discuss this legislation, I do not think that is the correct answer. We should be putting this legislation off until we have the mandatory five-year review in June, which would allow us to have a far more expansive discussion with respect to all of the issues that are being discussed in the legislation.
These are my comments and concerns with respect to the legislation. I certainly hope the government will listen to these concerns, act collaboratively and co-operatively, and not try to drive this legislation through without listening to legitimate concerns that are being raised by members of the opposition.
View Eric Melillo Profile
View Eric Melillo Profile
2020-02-18 12:46 [p.1141]
Mr. Speaker, the matter we are debating today is a very important. We must ensure we have a robust debate and ensure we get it right. I think all members of the House would agree with that.
Does the member agree that this should be sent to a committee as well, that a study should be undertaken to ensure there is a comprehensive review of the EI sickness benefits so we get it right for all Canadians?
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