Interventions in the House of Commons
 
 
 
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View Irene Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
View Irene Mathyssen Profile
2019-06-14 12:29 [p.29133]
Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present.
The first is from petitioners who support postal banking. They point out once again that nearly two million Canadians desperately need an alternative to payday lenders whose crippling lending rates affect the poor, marginalized and indigenous and rural communities. There are 3,800 Canada Post outlets in these communities, where there are fewer and fewer banks and credit unions and the infrastructure to make a rapid transition to postal banking. The petitioners ask the Government of Canada to enact my motion, Motion No. 166, to create a committee to study and propose a plan for postal banking under the Canada Post Corporation.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2019-05-29 15:23 [p.28227]
It being 3:22 p.m., pursuant to order made Tuesday, May 28, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment of the member for Trois-Rivières to Motion No. 170 under Private Members' Business.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2019-05-29 15:33 [p.28228]
I declare the amendment lost.
The next question is on the main motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Speaker: In my opinion the nays have it.
And five or more members having risen:
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2019-05-15 17:17 [p.27860]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say hello to the many constituents of Beauport—Limoilou who are watching. Today, it is my pleasure to debate Motion No. 170, which reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House, a special committee, chaired by the Speaker of the House, should be established at the beginning of each new Parliament, in order to select all Officers of Parliament.
Before I begin, I would like to recognize with all due respect that the motion was moved by the member for Hamilton Centre, who is with the NDP and has been in Parliament for quite a while, but will not seek re-election. If he is listening right now, I would like to acknowledge him and thank him for his work and decades of public service. The member for Hamilton Centre was once an MPP in Ontario, as well, and worked hard on all sorts of causes that were important to his constituents. I would like to congratulate him on his service.
Moreover, he is more than just a good parliamentarian. I remember hearing one of his speeches at the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, if I remember correctly. I took note of his delivery, because he is a fine public speaker with good rhetorical skills. I have always had a great deal of respect for my colleagues with vast parliamentary experience. I try to learn from the best.
I am sure the member for Hamilton Centre wants to leave his mark on Canadian democracy. I too want to improve Canada's Westminster-style parliamentary democracy. Our role as MPs is the cornerstone of parliamentary democracy. It is fundamental. MPs must play a leading role in the workings of Canadian democracy, which includes the selection and appointment of officers of Parliament. That is what this motion is about.
Officers of Parliament are individuals jointly appointed by the House of Commons and the Senate to look into matters on our behalf and help us carry out our duties and responsibilities. For example, Canada has a Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, a position created by Mr. Harper and the Conservative Party.
There is also the Information Commissioner, who ensures that Canadians are able to have access to all government information so that they can get to the bottom of things. Then, there is the Commissioner of Lobbying. We heard a lot about her because of the Prime Minister's trip to the Aga Khan's island. Then there is the Commissioner of Official Languages. I am the official languages critic and I worked on the appointment of the new commissioner, Mr. Théberge. There is also the Auditor General. That position is currently vacant because the former auditor general passed away just a few months ago. God rest his soul. I send my best wishes to his family. Finally, there is the Chief Electoral Officer and the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
There are other officers of Parliament, but the ones I mentioned are the main commissioners who have been mandated by Parliament to conduct investigations in order to ensure proper accountability in the Canadian democratic process.
The member for Hamilton Centre wants to improve and strengthen parliamentary democracy with respect to the process for appointing commissioners and other officers of Parliament. Here is why.
During the last election campaign, the Prime Minister made some promises that he mostly did not keep. He promised to make the process for appointing commissioners more democratic. Under the Conservative government, from 2006 to 2015, the process for appointing commissioners was much more democratic from the perspective of a Westminster-style parliamentary system. It was also much more transparent than what we have seen over the past few years with the Prime Minister and the Liberal government.
When the Prime Minister chose the Official Languages Commissioner a year and a half ago, I am sure that the member for Hamilton Centre noticed, as we all did, that the process for appointing officers of Parliament was anything but open and transparent. Note that I am not in any way trying to target the individual who was selected and who currently holds that position.
This was done differently before 2015. For example, the Standing Committee on Official Languages used to send the Prime Minister of Canada a list of potential candidates for the position of Commissioner of Official Languages. The Prime Minister, with help from his advisors and cabinet, selected one of the candidates suggested. That is far more transparent and democratic than what the Prime Minister and member for Papineau is doing.
What has the Prime Minister done these past few years? Instead of having committees with oversight and the necessary skills for selecting commissioners, such as the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics or the Standing Committee on Official Languages, the Prime Minister is no longer relying on committees to send him a list of names of people or experts in the field. They are no longer able to send a list to the Prime Minister. He said to trust him, that he had set up a system involving people in his own office who send him lists of candidates with absolutely no partisan connections or any connections whatsoever to the Liberal list, candidates who were found by virtue of their expertise.
What actually happened? We saw one clearly terrible case with Ms. Meilleur. Far be it from me to badmouth her, but unfortunately, she was part of this undemocratic process. Ms. Meilleur had been a Liberal MPP in Ontario. She donated money to the Liberal Party of Canada, and less than a year later, she was nominated for the position of official languages commissioner. The Prime Minister did not send a list of candidates' names to the opposition parties. He did not start a discussion with the other party leaders to ask who they thought the best candidate was. He sent a single name to the leader of the official opposition and to the then NDP leader, saying that this was his pick and asking if they agreed.
Not only did the committees have no input under the current Liberal Prime Minister, but the Prime Minister actually only sent one name to the opposition leader.
What the member for Hamilton Centre wants to do is set up a process whereby candidates are selected by a committee, which would be chaired by you, Mr. Speaker, amazingly enough. First off, the idea suggested by my colleague, the member for Hamilton Centre, could not be implemented before the session ends. We have only a few weeks left, and I gather that an NDP member will be proposing an amendment to the motion in a few minutes. We will see what happens then.
Personally, I would say we need to go even further than the motion moved by the member for Hamilton Centre. I will speak to my colleagues about this once we are in government, as of October.
Why not be even bolder and give parliamentary committees not just the power to refer candidates to the Prime Minister for him to decide, but also the power to appoint officers of Parliament? I want to point out that I am speaking only for myself here. I began reflecting on this a year and a half ago, after what happened with Ms. Meilleur and the current commissioner.
I have been a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages for two years now, and I humbly believe that I have learned a lot about official languages issues. I am familiar with the key players on the ground and I am beginning to understand who the real experts are, who the stakeholders are and who might make a good commissioner. I have to wonder why we would not go even further than what my colleague from Hamilton Centre is proposing, and perhaps even give the real power to the committees.
Imagine the legitimacy the process would have if parliamentary committees could one day choose officers of Parliament. These appointments should still be confirmed by both chambers, as is always the case.
Careful reflection is still needed. What is certain is that we are too close to the end of the current parliamentary session for the motion moved by the member for Hamilton Centre to become a reality. This is even less likely to happen under the current Liberal government, which made many promises to please the Canadian left, including a promise for democratic emancipation. All those promises have been broken.
I wish the hon. member for Hamilton Centre continued success.
View Robert Aubin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Robert Aubin Profile
2019-05-15 17:27 [p.27861]
Mr. Speaker, it is an immense pleasure to speak to the motion moved by the member for Hamilton Centre, whom I have admired immensely since arriving here in 2011.
I will quickly remind members of the motion, which states:
That, in the opinion of the House, a special committee, chaired by the Speaker of the House, should be established at the beginning of each new Parliament, in order to select all Officers of Parliament.
On October 21, Canadians and Quebeckers will vote in the next Parliament. The first and perhaps most important distinction to make is that, when people go to the polls, they will not only elect a government, they will elect 338 men and women who will represent them in the House and form the next Parliament.
Naturally, every member of every party works hard to ensure that theirs has the largest number of seats and forms the government because that is the system we have. However, we could very well find ourselves in a situation where, to keep the government going, several parties could be called on to collaborate if the people, in their infinite wisdom, decided to elect a minority government.
That speaks to the primordial importance of parliamentarians. First and foremost, Canadians will elect a Parliament; then, there will be a government, which will form a cabinet. We all know how it works. I just want to make it clear, because we hear so much nonsense about the role of opposition members. By the way, for anyone that follows my podcasts, that will be the subject of my next one.
The role of opposition members is different, but just as important as the role of government members. Again, in their infinite wisdom, Canadians want their government, regardless of political stripe, to be responsible and to allow all different perspectives to be expressed in the House.
When we talk about officers of the House, we are talking about parliamentarians' staff. For those who do not really know what is meant by “officers of Parliament”, I will give a few examples that should sound familiar.
First there is the Auditor General. If there is one report that people look forward to every year, it is the Auditor General's report. The Auditor General has the team and resources needed to keep tabs on the government's actions. He or she raises any issues of concern.
The Chief Electoral Officer is another example. Thank God we have a Chief Electoral Officer who ensures that our voting system is impartial, neutral and functional and that it operates without interference from foreign countries.
We could talk about the Commissioner of Official Languages. We could talk about the Privacy Commissioner, especially now, when personal information is such a sensitive topic. We could also talk about the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
I would like to make one very important point. We have been saying this all along, but it is still just as true, that in all situations, these officers of Parliament must not be associated with a conflict of interest or an appearance of a conflict of interest, so that they can do their jobs and also be perceived as having no ties to the executive.
What is happening right now with the appointment process? The whole process, or nearly all of it, falls entirely to the executive. It is all very well to say that the process is legitimate and fine, that there is no influence, that it is truly a coincidence that appointees are also on the Liberal Party donor list and that no one saw that coming. There is, at the very least, an appearance of conflict of interest there, which undermines the very credibility of these officers of Parliament, whose work is generally impeccable.
Before they can get to work, however, we need to make sure the appointment is impeccable. The existing process only requires the executive branch to consult the opposition parties. The word “consult” is open to interpretation. We recently saw that consulting can be as simple as sending the opposition party leaders a letter stating the name of the proposed candidate, not even a short list.
There is already a problem here, and there is an even bigger problem with the voting system, which needs to change. As we saw with the Conservatives, and again with the Liberals, a government is getting elected with 39% of the popular vote. That, however, is 39% of a total turnout of about 50%. That government suddenly ends up with 100% of the power and the responsibility of appointing 100% of the officers of Parliament. This is a clear procedural flaw that needs to be addressed.
Thank God we have this extremely simple proposal. Notwithstanding the member for Hamilton Centre's indisputable talent, his motion does not reinvent the wheel. We are not the first to notice this problem with potential conflicts of interest or apparent lack of neutrality. New Zealand and other parliaments have already taken steps toward what the member for Hamilton Centre is proposing, in order to give full authority back to elected officials via a multi-party committee.
We got a taste of how this could look when a committee made up of members from all parties was created to study electoral reform. Thanks to the NDP, this bill went a bit further to allow members of political parties that are not officially recognized in the House to serve on this committee. This brings all parliamentarians together and ensures that a single party is never making the final decision, which is instead based on a broader consensus among parliamentarians. This is, after all, about their employees.
These are our employees. When the government introduces a bill at 3 p.m. and I have to comment to the media at 3:45 p.m., it is difficult for me to analyze a 200-page document. Fortunately, the Parliamentary Budget Officer works full time, 365 days a year, minus vacation, on this and many other budget issues, to give us credible, objective and partisan-free information. We want more emphasis on ensuring that this information is free from any appearance of political involvement. This is truly a step in the right direction.
The member, in his infinite wisdom, particularly thanks to his experience in parliamentary procedure, and because time is running out as the session comes to an end, was not sure what the outcome of the motion would be, even if we all voted in favour of it. I have a hard time understanding why anyone would think this is not a good idea. I tried to find a reason, just to play devil's advocate. Perhaps someone would want to yield power to the executive in the hope of winning the election and getting that power to make choices. This would be a bad idea, since it would undermine nearly all of the principles I have been talking about today.
We could say that this is how it has always been, that it must be a British tradition and that we will not rock the boat. Well, no, we must move things along and go further. I believe that this motion is a step in the right direction. We could tell ourselves that we do not have the structure to do it. That is exactly what this motion does: it gives us the structure to do it, and it is up to us to find the means to move forward. I would like to point out that this costs nothing. All it takes is an ounce of common sense to recognize the merits of the proposal we are debating.
In my research, I could find no reason for voting against this motion. I look forward to hearing different points of view. What I am hearing so far already suggests that we seem to be headed for a broad consensus. However, I would like to present an amendment to the motion moved by the member for Hamilton Centre, who saw that time was passing and thought that perhaps we should move beyond the issue of principle and set up a pilot project that would take us further.
This is what the amendment says:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the words “in the opinion of the House,” and substituting the following: “during this Parliament, a special joint committee co-chaired by the Speakers of both Houses of Parliament should be created as a pilot project to begin undertaking the selection process for the vacant Auditor General of Canada position”.
Note the term “Parliament” rather than “government”.
This is a golden opportunity to take the first steps towards this new arrangement and open the door wide for the next legislature.
View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
I must inform the hon. members that, pursuant to Standing Order 93(3), amendments to private members' motions and to the motion for the second reading of a private member's bill may only be moved with the consent of the sponsor of the item.
Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Hamilton Centre if he consents to this amendment being moved.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
View David Christopherson Profile
2019-05-15 17:38 [p.27862]
Madam Speaker, the wording reflects the wording that I would like to have, and therefore, I formally accept the proposed amendment, with thanks.
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion moved by the member for Hamilton Centre and the important work done by our government to ensure a more rigorous approach to Governor in Council appointments.
The motion calls into question the important role that ministers play in recommending candidates to the Governor in Council, as well as our government's commitment to openness and transparency, which are critical elements of our approach to Governor in Council appointments.
As members know, in February 2016, the government announced a more rigorous approach to Governor in Council appointments. This new approach applies to the majority of full-time and part-time positions on commissions, boards, Crown corporations, agencies and tribunals across the country, including officers of Parliament.
As with all selection processes for all positions appointed by the Governor in Council, we ensure that the most qualified people are put forward for consideration. This is made possible by the hard work our government has already done to improve the selection process for Governor in Council appointments.
What sets this new approach apart is that the positions are open to Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Now all Canadians who are interested can apply for a position posted on the Governor in Council appointments website. This is a departure from the old way of doing things.
For example, in 2017, the position of Information Commissioner, which is an officer of Parliament position, was posted on the Governor in Council appointments website for all Canadians who might want to apply. The notice of appointment opportunity clearly stated the level of education, experience, knowledge, skills and abilities required for this senior position.
For this position and other officer of Parliament positions, a selection committee reviews applications and then screens the applicants for further evaluation against the publicly stated criteria. The candidates who are deemed to be the most qualified by the committee go through an interview, a formal reference check, an official languages proficiency evaluation and other evaluations, including an assessment of their personal suitability for the position. The selection committee then submits its formal opinion on the most qualified candidates to the relevant minister for review.
When selecting a new Information Commissioner, the Governor in Council appoints a person only after consultation with the leaders of every recognized party in the Senate and House of Commons and approval of the appointment by resolution of the Senate and House of Commons.
As we can see, there is already a parliamentary procedure for appointing officers of Parliament. The motion moved by my colleague, the member for Hamilton Centre, would add another procedure to a system that is already working openly and, of course, transparently.
The motion would actually impinge on the Governor in Council's ability to appoint highly qualified candidates in a timely manner to fill positions that are essential to the functioning of our democratic institutions. This motion could seriously delay the appointment of an officer of Parliament.
I can assure the House that our government takes this issue very seriously and is determined to ensure that highly qualified candidates are appointed to these important positions. Our government has also pledged to ensure that Governor in Council appointments reflect Canada's diversity and that the appointment process takes regional, linguistic and employment equity representation into account.
Since launching this new open, transparent, merit-based selection process, our government has made over 1,070 appointments, of which 53% have been women, 13% have been people who identify as members of a visible minority, and 9% have been people who identify as members of an indigenous group. Just over 50% of the appointees are bilingual, to be sure.
With respect to officers of Parliament, I would add that, in less than two years, eight of the 11 positions have been filled by means of the new open, transparent, merit-based selection process.
I want to take a few minutes to stress the important role played by the officers of Parliament in making the government run properly and providing important services to Canadians. The officers of Parliament have accountability and oversight functions over government and Parliament. They operate independently from the government, fulfill their statutory duties and report to the Senate, the House of Commons or both. The people appointed to these positions work for Parliament and report to both chambers, usually through the Speakers.
This motion would slow down the appointment process for the officers of Parliament, which is already working quite well. Parliamentarians are already asked to participate in the appointment process by law. Each legislative measure provides for slightly different processes, but the appointment process for officers of Parliament requires that the leaders of the House of Commons and the Senate, or both chambers, be consulted.
What is more, Standing Order 111 provides for the appropriate standing committee to examine the qualifications and competence of all those appointed to a Governor in Council appointed position. That is what we should be focusing on, the qualifications of those who have been selected. That is what is important. We have already implemented a process to ensure that these people are qualified. As I already mentioned, the criteria associated with the Governor in Council appointed positions are posted on the Governor in Council appointments website. Candidates are carefully assessed against those criteria through a number of formal evaluations.
I would also like to remind members that, when it comes to the appointment of officers of Parliament, this government informs the party leaders of both chambers of the process and publishes the appointments for each position. The government also asks the leaders for their opinions and for the names of people who, in their view, have the qualifications and experience necessary to do the job. The government is not required by law to contact the leaders that early in the process, but it does so in a spirit of openness.
Our government's approach to Governor in Council appointments guarantees that public institutions are open, transparent and accountable, which enables us to focus our efforts on the people we are supposed to represent.
I will close by—
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
View David Christopherson Profile
2019-05-15 17:50 [p.27863]
Madam Speaker, I want to begin by thanking colleagues both in the first hour and specifically today.
My friend for Beauport—Limoilou was very generous in his remarks. He was very kind with regard to my time here. I am reminded that there is an axiom in politics that I am finding to be absolutely accurate, which is that one is never more loved than when one first gets here and when one leaves. It is the stuff in between that tends to be a little rocky.
I want to thank my good friend and caucus colleague for Trois-Rivières for his remarks and also for taking the time to care enough about this issue to work with me to ensure that we have wording that, quite frankly, stands the best chance of passing.
Finally, I want to thank my colleague from Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook for his remarks. I appreciate his taking the time to make those remarks.
Here is where I am on this. I originally had a motion that sort of spoke to the principle. My goal, if it carried, was that it would lay the groundwork for the next parliament to pick up that torch and run with it. We then went through the tragedy of the untimely death of Michael Ferguson, who was a phenomenal Canadian and an amazing agent of Parliament. I thought this could be in his memory, because he was one of those, as far as I know, along with all the other agents of Parliament, who signed a document recommending this change. The government likes to brag about the quality of appointments, but these very appointments recommended the very change that is in front of us right now. We cannot say that they are high-quality people with great advice and then ignore them.
There has been a movement in the last few months in particular and over the last year, especially among new members, which I am not. The new members who came in wanted to reform this place. In large part, they wanted to make sure of the relevance of ordinary MPs, meaning those who are not in a leadership capacity or ministers of the Crown. They would become more meaningful, and being here would have a purpose.
There are people working in the background now. We now have a democracy caucus. There are cross-party discussions. There are proposals in front of the House and in front of PROC to consider further changes. It is not easy. It is complicated.
The beauty of this motion and this matter is that the power to hire the agents of Parliament is already ours. We do not have to change a single law. All we have to do is follow a different procedure. If a majority of members in the House, never mind government caucuses, ministers or whips, stand up and say yes to this motion, we will have struck the single biggest blow against keeping backbenchers from playing a meaningful role. It is one vote.
Will the process be completed in this term? No, but I would hope that it would at least get started. More importantly, it would send a message to the next parliament and those after it, which is that in this Parliament, we cared enough about our work to stand up to our own leadership and say that we are members of Parliament, and we will oversee the hiring of our own agents. That is what this is about. It is about us standing up in the majority and saying that enough is enough. These are our agents and our process, and we are now standing up and taking ownership of it, and from this day forward, all agents of Parliament will be hired by Parliament and not by the executive.
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
View David Christopherson Profile
2018-10-23 18:51 [p.22770]
moved:
That, in the opinion of the House, a special committee, chaired by the Speaker of the House, should be established at the beginning of each new Parliament, in order to select all Officers of Parliament.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to present this motion. It is a pretty simple motion, actually. It is a matter of fixing something that is wrong right now, that our officers or agents of Parliament, the words are interchangeable, are hired by the executive in the process that is used.
My motion is deliberately worded so that I am not calling on the government, today, to implement it this Parliament, because, quite frankly, I have been around long enough to know that is not going to happen. I deliberately placed a model in here. I want to say that I am not married to that model either. The principle is what matters to me. The principle is that Parliament should hire Parliament's agents. It is that simple.
I have to say that I am really looking forward to arguments against this motion, simply because I cannot think of any that hold any merit. I am very much looking forward to the debate that will ensue with those who do not think that Parliament should stand up for its own rights.
I am going to make reference during, and also after, my initial remarks to a Public Policy Forum report that was just issued in April this year. What is interesting is that I had already drafted my motion by the time this report came out, which calls for something similar.
First of all, I want to introduce the report very briefly:
In this report, the Public Policy Forum (PPF) analyzes the current and evolving role of agents at the federal and provincial levels to provide recommendations on how oversight and guidance in the administration of policies can be improved while maintaining their autonomy within Canada’s Westminster system.
Supported by an advisory group of former agents, senior public servants and other experts, PPF conducted 20 interviews and organized three roundtable discussions between October and December 2017.
I do not want to take the time to mention everyone involved in this report, but just to give colleagues a taste of the calibre of the people who were involved in it. There is going to be at least one name that will twig with everybody, I suspect. I am just going to pick some of them: Margaret Bloodworth; Robert Marleau, former Clerk of the House of Commons; Jodi White; David Zussman; Richard Dicerni; Paul Dubé; Janet Ecker; Christine Elliott; Graham Fraser; the amazing Sheila Fraser, who alone should be enough for the House to follow the recommendations; Edward Greenspon; Bonnie Lysyk; John Milloy; Kevin Page, whom we all remember, and for the work he is still doing at the University of Ottawa; James Rajotte, a well-known member to colleagues; and Wayne Wouters, former Clerk of the Privy Council. That is the calibre of people who were involved in this report.
Their number one recommendation out of nine is the following:
The creation of new agents is the purview of Parliament and legislatures, not the executive.
The third recommendation states:
Legislators must be responsible for the appointment of agents, with the aim of having all-party support for the final selection. The Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister’s Office should withdraw entirely from the appointments process. A special parliamentary committee should consider the kinds of selection processes operating in provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan.
May I add that the United Kingdom, the mother ship, is really radical in who takes the lead in hiring the U.K. Parliament's auditor general. Guess who it is? It is the public accounts committee, the home committee to our auditor general. How can that not make sense?
Before we get to the principle of why we should be doing this, members need to look at the incompetence on the part of the current government in making appointments and at all the messes and botch-ups it has made through all of it. I expect that all of those details are going to come out over the next couple of hours of discussion, which will be split over a couple of days.
The report I made reference to had something to say about the process the government followed too:
The shambolic nature of the appointments process has done nothing to elevate the standing of agents in the mind of legislators, public servants and the public.
Further, as one round table participant said, one only has to look at the botched effort to appoint former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister Madeleine Meilleur as the Official Languages Commissioner, in 2017, to see how not to handle the appointment of an agent of Parliament.
If we take a look at the current process, it technically meets the law in that this House has to give its final approval with a vote. However, under the current system, the government does the entire hiring process, short of letting the two other leaders know what its intention is.
I just happen to have a sample of that. This is a letter to the leader of the NDP. We will see who knows the rules over there.
It states, “I am writing to seek your views regarding the proposed nominee for the position of Chief Electoral Officer.” I am pulling out bits of this. I love this. It goes on, “Following an open and transparent and merit-based selection process, I propose the nomination of”, Mr. X, “as the next Chief Electoral Officer.” I do not feel it is necessary to mention his name.
That was on April 3. On April 27, the NDP leader got another letter from the Prime Minister, which stated, “I am writing in follow-up to the letter from the government of April 3 regarding the position of Chief Electoral Officer. Your feedback was appreciated. Please be advised that the government will not be proceeding with the nomination, as the principal nominee has been withdrawn.”
We can tell it is a form letter, because it says, “Following an open and transparent and merit-based selection process, I propose the nomination of Stéphane Perrault as the next Chief Electoral Officer.”
That took months and months and months, and it was still screwed up in the end.
This is basic civics. We all know that there are three branches that govern in Canada. First, there is the legislative branch. That is us. That is Parliament, which is every MP who is elected. Second, there is the executive. That is the Prime Minister and cabinet. Finally, we have the Supreme Court, whose primary function in relation to us is to make sure that the laws that are passed are consistent with the Constitution.
Some will recall that when we elect a Speaker at the beginning of Parliament, the Speaker is ceremoniously dragged, as if reluctant to take the very position he or she just spent days, if not weeks, actively running for. Why is that? We have to go back to the beginning, when Parliament first came into existence. All or any of the powers Parliament had came from the monarch. The monarchs, kind of like some of our former prime ministers, did not like it when people opposed them or took away any power they had. They had to remember their place.
Therefore, the Speaker would be the one to report to the monarch on what Parliament had said, and it was not unusual in the early, early days for Speakers to lose their heads. Therefore, it was not a position a lot of people wanted because they had to go in front of the monarch, who may or may not be in a good mood. My point in raising that is to show the separation of those powers. This is not a complicated constitutional issue, in my view.
The Supreme Court hires its own staff. We would not think of deciding for the court who its nominees should be, give it a phone call the night before and say, “After consultation, do you agree with this name?” That is all that happens here. We would never think of doing that with the Supreme Court and the court, of course, would never think of hiring our agents. I remind all of us that Parliament is supreme, not the government. Parliament decides who the government is. That is the power of Parliament.
The executive is a separate, distinct branch and power base of its own. We currently have this ridiculous, unacceptable overlap. In the case of our agents, whether it is ethics, languages or the Auditor General, the government does the advertising, the interviews, the short listing and picks a name from its own short list, phones the opposition leaders and says, “Consistent with the law, this is consultation. Do you agree?” That is unacceptably absurd. Why would we allow that?
I am looking at all fellow MPs when I say that we are parliamentarians. We are the ones who make up this legislature. Why do we allow the executive to control the hiring process of our officers and agents of Parliament? Why would we do that? Some might say we do that because the executive does it so well. It is going to be fun if anybody tries that defence, because I can say that not just me but there are a whole lot of other people who are ready to go on that one. Is it because the executive has the means? We control the purse. We can give the Speaker all the money we feel necessary to run the selection process. I run out of ideas after that. It always was. It is never much of an answer for anything really, to just say “it always was”. This is an attempt to plant a seed, hopefully for the next Parliament, when somebody will grab it, bring it to light, give it life and have the next Parliament do this.
Knowing how tough it is to get a government to change in midstream and how late my number was coming up in the term, I thought that all I really want to achieve, if I can, is a majority vote of parliamentarians who accept and respect that we should control the process of hiring our officers of Parliament. My goal is hopefully to get that majority and if I cannot, I would tell those who do not support this to get ready to defend, because the New Democrats are going to make it an issue.
I do not know what the official opposition is going to do. It will be interesting to see. Part of my thinking is that the Conservatives do not want to give up power because they see themselves going back across the aisle and they would like to have that power for themselves, but, by the same token, they want to oppose the government so here is a chance to stand with the angels. It will be tough. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds.
At the end of the day, this is about respecting ourselves, respecting Parliament and taking back that which is ours.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
2018-10-23 19:06 [p.22771]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Hamilton Centre for bringing forward his motion and for his extremely passionate speech. I have not had the opportunity to really talk to him outside of this place. However, my father who spent some time in the Ontario legislature with him spoke fondly of his passion and the speeches he would give. He has certainly lived up to that today.
We have adopted within this government a new approach, a new open and transparent approach to how appointments are handled. As a matter of fact, of the over 900 appointments made, including eight officers of Parliament, after more than 250 open and transparent and merit-based selection processes, we know that over 50% of the candidates self-identified as women, 12% as visible minorities, 9% as indigenous people and 4% as people with disabilities.
Does my colleague think that the process we currently have is producing a wide and diverse pool of candidates from throughout the country?
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
View David Christopherson Profile
2018-10-23 19:07 [p.22772]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague and friend for his kind remarks. I remember his dad well and enjoyed working with him very much.
The hon. member mentioned 900 appointments. We just want nine. We want 1%. As to the other ones, I am glad that the government is improving the system and that it is resulting in more diversity. That is all to the good, but it has nothing to do with what I have put before the House.
I have put before the House this question: Should we as Parliament have the responsibility and ownership for hiring our agents?
It is good that the government is making those changes. I hope they do better than the appointments we have seen, because the process is pretty bad.
The issue is really not what the government is doing internally for the positions it is entitled to make appointments for. I am talking about the nine that in my opinion the government is not entitled to appoint.
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