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View Ken Hardie Profile
Lib. (BC)
I have two questions in one.
You're now back in the business of promoting voting and educating people about the process. What will that look like? If I as an individual MP want to spread the word in the riding, through a ten percenter or a householder, can I take the information that you provide on this issue and run it again unchanged?
Stéphane Perrault
View Stéphane Perrault Profile
Stéphane Perrault
2019-02-07 11:56
I would just caution you on one thing. In terms of polling places, for reasons of a flood the night before, a burst pipe, whatever the situation, poll sites are subject to last-minute changes. We're always concerned.
This could be just a week before. If you do door hangers with poll site information, you run a risk of sending your supporters to the wrong polling place if there's a change. We'd much prefer that your information—your door hangers or whatever you use—refer them to our website, where they will have up-to-date information to avoid good-faith errors that then can lead to rumours of disinformation. It gets out of control.
If you push your supporters to our website, that's the safest way.
Marc Bosc
View Marc Bosc Profile
Marc Bosc
2014-06-18 18:22
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon, members of the committee.
I'm here today with Richard Denis, deputy law clerk, and Mark Watters, chief financial officer, in response to the committee's request for a technical briefing with respect to the Board of Internal Economy's recent decision on certain large-volume mailings.
Before I yield the floor to Mr. Denis, I think it's important that I address you, in my capacity as interim secretary of the Board of Internal Economy, so as to clarify the parametres which govern the information we can give the committee with respect to the board's decisions.
As members of the committee know, the proceedings of the board are confidential. Just as board members swear an oath of confidentiality in order to carry out their duties, employees of the House administration who support the board are bound by the conflict of interest policy that precludes us from communicating information obtained as a result of our employment that is not available to the public.
Consequently, the deputy law clerk will be able to comment the technical aspects of the board's decision that have already been made public. He will be able to describe for the members of the committee the administrative rules involved in this matter. He will be able to explain the differences between the responsibilities of the board and those of your committee. He may also describe the authority the board has to require that funds be paid back.
If the questions put by the members of the committee concern the technical practices with respect to the recovery of funds, Mr. Watters may answer.
With that, I will now turn the floor over to the deputy law clerk.
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:24
Thank you, Marc.
Good evening, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
Thank you for the invitation to appear before you following yesterday's meeting of your committee.
In addition to the duty of confidentiality imposed on House employees and referred to by the deputy clerk, I want to remind the committee that there are professional obligations imposed on me and counsel working for the House of Commons by the various law societies to which we belong also requiring us to protect confidentiality.
As you know, the trust that members put in the Office of the Law Clerk and the quality of the advice that they receive from us are of the utmost importance. I want to assure members that they can always count on us to provide neutral, non-partisan, and professional advice.
With this in mind, I am sure members will understand that I will not be able to specifically speak to the internal discussions that occurred at the board, but, as mentioned by Mr. Bosc, I will endeavour to explain the rules that apply in the current circumstances.
Perhaps I will start by summarizing the board's recent decision on this matter.
Referring to the publicly available minutes of the board's meeting of June 2, 2014, the board decided as follows.
I will quote from the minutes:
that certain New Democratic Party mailings under recent investigation were in contravention of the Board's by-laws on the grounds that they were prepared by and for the benefit of a political party; that the House Administration provide advice to the Board on appropriate remedies;that the Board's spokespersons be authorized to report to the public that the mailings have been found in contravention of the by-laws, and that the Board is seeking advice on appropriate remedies; andthat, further to a previous request for proofs of mailings, all proofs of mailings related to this matter be provided to the House Administration for analysis by June 13, 2014.
Indeed, the board issued a public statement to this effect on June 3, 2014. The board met again on June 11 and issued a statement on June 12, the next day, that described its determination that 23 NDP members contravened subsection 4(3) and sections 6 and 7 of the Members By-Law. As such, these members would be directed to personally reimburse a total of $36,309 to the Receiver General for Canada, which represents the total direct known costs to the House of Commons.
The board's statement went on to explain that since the costs related to the use of the members' free mailing privileges under the Canada Post Corporation Act are paid to Canada Post by Transport Canada, the board would be informing Transport Canada of its decision regarding the improper use of the postal privilege and that this correspondence would be shared with the Chief Electoral Officer.
Turning to the bylaws that apply in this situation, in considering the matters of these mailings, the board exercised its exclusive authority under section 52.6 of the Parliament of Canada Act to determine if the use of House resources was proper. I will read subsection 52.6(1), because, of course, it's the core provision at play here.
52.6(1) the Board has the exclusive authority to determine whether any previous, current or proposed use by a member of the House of Commons of any funds, goods, services or premises made available to that member for the carrying out of parliamentary functions is or was proper, given the discharge of the parliamentary functions of members of the House of Commons, including whether any such use is or was proper having regard to the intent and purpose of the by-laws made under subsection 52.5(1).
Following its review, the board concluded that House resources were used for those activities, established the value of those resources, and considered which action would need to be taken to rectify the situation.
When determining whether or not the use of resources is proper, the test is to establish if such use falls within the parliamentary functions of the member. With specific reference to the bylaws engaged in the board's determination, section 1 of the Members By-Law, established by the board, defines “parliamentary functions” as follows:
Duties and activities that relate to the position of member, wherever performed and whether or not performed in a partisan manner, namely, participation and activities relating to the proceedings and work of the House of Commons and activities undertaken in representing his or her constituency or constituents.
Finally, subsection 4(3) of the Members By-Law provides further clarification on what is not considered “parliamentary functions”, as follows:
(a) activities related to the private interests of a member or a member's immediate family;
(b) activities related to the administration, organization and internal communications of a political party, including participation in a party leadership campaign or convention, solicitations of contributions and solicitations of membership to a political party;
(d) activities designed, in context of a federal, provincial, or municipal election, or any other local election, to support or oppose a political party or an individual candidate;
(e) activities that are related to a meeting of an electoral district association, as defined in the Canada Elections Act, and that are carried out for nomination, electoral or sponsorship purposes or that relate to soliciting contributions or membership.
Details on the application of these bylaws are further explained in the policies of the board set out in the manual of services for members, which all members are familiar with.
With that, I will now be happy to take your questions.
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Denis, thank you so much for being here.
I just want to make sure that when the time comes for questions, we're all respectful of the limits that I think exist for the law clerk. At some level maybe Mr. Denis can help the chair in this point, but the point is that the law clerk has an extraordinarily unique position in terms of being legal counsel at multiple levels—the House as a whole; committees, including this one; the Board of Internal Economy; and individual MPs, including the 23 MPs.
So I would simply ask, as a point of order, if the chair would be willing to convey this and maybe ask Mr. Denis that if he feels at any point his professional obligations with multiple representation will in any way be compromised, or that he will have a hard time answering for that reason, he should feel free to say, “I can't answer for that reason”.
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
We had a bit of a discussion beforehand.
Please, in terms of what Mr. Scott has just said, if you can't answer the question, I expect you to tell us that you can't answer the question. Members may, as they are wont to do from time to time, try to go a different route to get the same answer, and I expect that you will guard yourself in that way too.
Mr. Denis.
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:32
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Just quickly, I am quite conscious of this multiple role or of the many facets of the role we play at the House. I can tell you that we take it very seriously. Of course our primary loyalty, if you wish, or our primary client, is the House itself, and it's manifested in many ways. But I will certainly decline to answer a question if I feel that in any situation that would compromise advice that I would give to any of you or other clients.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much.
Thank you, gentlemen, for being here today.
I'll get right to it. I think everyone knows the background of why we're here, so I don't have to get into the process that led us here today.
My first question is for Monsieur Denis.
Sir, could you lay out for me and the committee the exact rules regarding acceptable mass mailings and the conditions under which such mailings are rejected?
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:33
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The rules that relate to printing material are found in two places. The first is in the Members By-Law, one of the four bylaws established by the Board of Internal Economy. You will find in section 29 the rules that apply to the mailings.
The details, if you wish, are also found in the members' manual, the MAS, the Members' Allowances and Services Manual.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you.
In the interest of time, perhaps we'll just move on, but thank you for pointing us to the guide in which we can do our own research.
I'll just ask you this specifically then. Were the NDP mailings in question vetted by House administration before they were sent out? My understanding is that the NDP used a printer outside of the House of Commons to print these mailings. They didn't use print services. Were they vetted at all before the NDP put them into franked envelopes and mailed them out?
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:34
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I will explain the process that the House goes through when mailings are reviewed. I cannot specifically speak to these mailings, because doing that would involve an internal process and things that were discussed at the board, but in general terms, I can say that any mailing—which is what you find in section 29—that is prepared for members by the House administration through the printing services is vetted by our printing services, and they apply the test that you find in the MAS.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Right. In that case, since it's generally and widely known that these mailings in question were not printed in-house—they were printed outside the House of Commons—what ability, if any, does the House administration have to ensure compliance with the rules? In other words, if the NDP deliberately went out and printed some mailings that they didn't feel would be approved by the in-house print services, does the House administration have any ability whatsoever to ensure compliance with the rules?
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:35
Mr. Chair, things sent with the frank available to members are not seen by the House administration, because they don't come to us. The frank is simply applied by the House, so mailings of that type would not be seen by the House administration in any way, shape, or form.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Okay. Further to my previous question, could you tell us specifically, or at least explain, how the mailings in question from the NDP contravene the rules?
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:36
I cannot explain how these specific mailings would break the rules. I can explain, however, as you would find in the bylaws and in the MAS, the rules that apply to mass mailings.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
My understanding is that there are three specific reasons, or three instances in which mailings would not be approved. The first is that members are prohibited from soliciting for memberships in a mailing. Second, they would be prevented from soliciting funds in a mailing, and third, they would be prohibited from trying to promote an electoral function such as a general election or a by-election. Am I correct in that assessment?
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:37
Without dealing specifically with these specific mailings—
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:37
In general, if you simply go to paragraph 29(1)(e), it says these services are available to members:
(e) printing or copying of material provided by the Member, except (i) solicitations of membership to a political party, (ii) solicitations of contributions for a political party,
as well as anything of an electoral nature, and—
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
In that case then, I was correct about those three solicitations.
I am going to give you a couple of examples. These are not related to the internal discussions you had at the Board of Internal Economy, so I don't believe this will prejudice you in any way from answering this question. I have three specific examples of NDP mailings, and I'll just give you the opportunity to say whether or not some of the content of those mailings, if they were brought to the board before, would have been approved.
The first one is a mailing from Mr. Mulcair himself. In the second-to-last paragraph, he speaks of trying to defeat the Harper government, and specifically, the quote in question I will give you is, “And come 2015, we'll be ready to replace him”—meaning the Harper government—“with a government that puts your priorities first.”
Would that meet the standard of what is acceptable?
In my view, this is the promotion of an electoral event, the 2015 federal election.
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:38
I don't think I'm in a position, Mr. Chair, to answer this question. However, I just want to point out that regarding any kind of mailings that go to the board, ultimately it's the board that makes the decisions. The House administration provides the information, but the decisions about these ultimately are made by the board itself, not the House administration.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Okay.
With regard to the report that you had been engaged to conduct on behalf of the BOIE, you were asked to conduct an investigation, and you provided the findings to us at the outset of this meeting. If in fact your findings were presented to the board, and the board then reacted, would we be able to get...?
I guess I'd put my question to you, Mr. Bosc. If this committee requested a copy of that report that you presented to the Board of Internal Economy, would you be able to provide it to us?
Marc Bosc
View Marc Bosc Profile
Marc Bosc
2014-06-18 18:39
That would be a decision of the board, Mr. Lukiwski.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Okay. Thank you for that.
Let me ask you this. How common is it for members of Parliament who are producing ten percenters, householders—
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Actually, Mr. Chair, I think I may take the spot this time, and then we can go to Mr. Scott.
I'm sorry about that; we're all eager to ask questions.
Just following up on Mr. Lukiwski's questions, which actually were extremely helpful, I have in front of me a mailing that was done by the Conservatives. I'm getting a lot of complaints, actually, about very vicious partisan mailings coming out from the Conservative Party.
This one talks about Mulcair's NDP proposing “billions in reckless additional spending, to be paid for”, and it talks about “new taxes and higher debt”. It say that we “can't afford Mulcair's risky economic theories”, and talks about the Conservative government being “focused” on things. It actually asks the question of “who's on the right track”, including Conservatives, Greens, NDP, and Liberals. That's the type of vicious partisan mailing that we're getting a lot of complaints about. I know there was a complaint sent to the board and the House administration about this.
I gather from your answer, Mr. Denis, that the Board of Internal Economy is the one that makes the decisions, so I guess you may not be able to answer this, but has something like this, this very partisan Conservative mailing, been analyzed in any way?
If you can't answer that, I guess my follow-up question would be this. Is it not the Board of Internal Economy, which has a Conservative majority, that ultimately makes the decision as to what mailings are evaluated by the House administration or not?
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:42
Mr. Chair, every mailing that is brought to the attention of the board is looked at by it and a decision is made. If it's properly brought to the board, it's the board, ultimately, that makes the decision.
I cannot comment specifically on this one, Mr. Julian, but I can assure you that the material that's brought to the board is in front of the whole board for them to make the decision.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you. That answers my question. So it's the Board of Internal Economy, which is composed of a Conservative majority, that makes that decision.
I'll pass my speaking spot over to Mr. Scott.
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much.
Mr. Denis, the House of Commons is certainly not a rule-of-law-free zone, correct? So I'm wondering if there is some sort of presumption that you and your staff, and your colleagues, actually...some sort of presumption that House institutions should respect fundamental legal principles that would otherwise apply in Canada's legal system unless there are clear reasons related to the nature of Parliament to depart from them or unless there's sort of clear internal legal authority not to abide by them.
I'm thinking particularly of rules of procedural justice and that kind of stuff. In any kind of a House context, if there was nothing precluding those rules applying, would the House institutions, as a matter of the rule of law, be asked or expected to conform to those kinds of principles?
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:43
Mr. Chair, the rules that apply to the board, similar to the rules that apply to parliamentary committees, are the rules these two groups give themselves. There is no set of rules that specifically apply. There are mostly self-made rules.
If you look at the bylaws of the Board of Internal Economy, specifically at the bylaw that deals with the rules of practice and procedure of the board, you will not find anything about how it conducts its own proceedings. It's all internal.
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
So we're dealing with self-made rules that may or may not conform with broader fundamental principles of justice.
How much time do I have, Mr. Chair?
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
Mr. Denis, think about maybe the members of Parliament involved here. Assume someone's accused of not following rules, whether contractual or regulatory, whether important or less important, and then a House body, the BOIE here, meets to decide whether this is actually so and what the consequences are.
Now, the person—just assume it's an MP—is never informed of the meetings discussing his case, never asked to answer regarding the case, never shown the evidence or legal arguments against him, and never invited to present arguments or to be heard. Then assume a member of that body comes out of a meeting and gives a press conference saying this person has broken the rules and must make amends. There's no written decision of any consequence—just an annotation, so to speak, from almost minutes—let alone one that sets out reasons that can be assessed for validity or coherence. Then the person might receive a letter from an official that might or might not actually use the same language as the applicable rules the member was seeking to abide by. To top it all off, within this internal system, there's no avenue for appeal.
If that were to take place, quite apart from whether those were the facts, as a lawyer, would you say that accords with principles of fundamental justice or natural justice? Are MPs actually being treated in accordance with the norms that we would normally expect to apply outside of the context of the BOIE?
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:46
Mr. Chair, I don't want to answer this question specifically. However, I just want to remind members that the board is composed of members from all the recognized parties. Board members are all provided with the same material when material goes to the board. Each member is aware of the agenda, the material that's presented, and has an equal opportunity to assess the evidence and present more evidence if necessary, and arguments can at least be made at the board. So there is a process.
However, if a member is not satisfied with the decision or feels not enough information was provided, I just want to point out to members that section 9 of the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Board of Internal Economy provides that a member or the House administration may make requests to the board for “direction on the interpretation or application of the By-laws”.
So for someone who feels they don't have enough information about a decision, there is an existing process for them to go through. Subsection 9(2) tells us the request referred must be made in writing, in the case of a member, through the whip—so the whips are there as well—and an answer must be provided by the board within 20 sitting days. So there is a process further to a decision of the board.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Denis, I hope to get five questions answered from you, and I'll try to be as short and concise as possible.
I would like to ask about the oath of secrecy members of the Board of Internal Economy must swear, according to subsection 50(5) of the Parliament of Canada Act, which states the following:
Every member of the Board shall, as soon as practicable after becoming a member of the Board, take before the Clerk of the House of Commons an oath or affirmation of fidelity and secrecy in the form set out in Form 3 of the schedule.
Subsection 50(6) states:
For greater certainty, the oath or affirmation referred to in subsection (5) only relates to matters of security, employment and staff relations, tenders and investigations in relation to a member of the House of Commons....
We are, in fact, in favour of open meetings of the Board of Internal Economy, and my leader, in fact, has a bill to do just that.
Can you please tell the committee if the oath of fidelity and secrecy currently contained in the Parliament of Canada Act applies to the issue we are discussing today? It seems to fall under the rubric of investigation in relation to a member of the House of Commons.
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:48
Mr. Chair, I would answer yes, in the sense that, for the case at hand, we have a decision of the board that was made to refer documents to this committee to help it in the furtherance of its mandate. If you look at the oath that members take, it specifically says:
I will not communicate or allow to be communicated to any person without due authority in that behalf any information....
The view would be that “due authority” came from the board. The fact that we were faced at this committee with an instruction from the House meant that the board could go ahead and transmit the information.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
On June 12, the Board of Internal Economy made a determination regarding an inappropriate use of House of Commons' resources, and directed that this money be reimbursed. It was my understanding that the decision was taken based on the recommendations of the non-partisan professional civil servants of the House of Commons. Can you comment on that?
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:50
All I can say, Mr. Chair, is that information from the House administration is provided to the board, and the board itself, looking at what is presented, makes the decision ultimately on whether or not in its opinion the resources were properly used.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
I'm going to refer to something that you made reference to earlier, and that's section 52.6 of the Parliament of Canada Act, which states the following:
The Board has the exclusive authority to determine whether any previous, current or proposed use by a member of the House of Commons of any funds, goods, services or premises made available to that member for the carrying out of parliamentary functions is or was proper, given the discharge of the parliamentary functions of members of the House of Commons, including whether any such use is or was proper having regard to the intent and purpose of the by-laws made under subsection 52.5(1).
Parliament has decided to give this responsibility to the board and has entrenched it in legislation. Given its responsibilities contained in the Parliament of Canada Act, if the board is presented with evidence of misuse of House of Commons resources by the professional public servants of the House of Commons, officials from the House of Commons, are they not, therefore, obligated to take action to remedy the situation?
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:51
Yes, Mr. Chair, the board has the exclusive authority and makes the ultimate decision. But again, based on information that is provided by the House administration, the board itself ultimately makes the decision. Ultimately, the board, considering all the matters and facts, decides if the use was proper; so the board makes the decisions.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
If a member of Parliament is directed by the board to repay House of Commons' resources that were used inappropriately, and they do not comply, what remedies does the House of Commons have to ensure compliance?
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:52
Certainly, subsection 12(2) of the Members By-Law tells us that:
Members are personally responsible for paying expenditures
Then we go to section 19, and you have kind of a progressive process, beginning with paragraph 19(a):
If a person fails to comply with this By-law (a) the Board or the Clerk of the House of Commons acting under the authority of the Board may give written notice to the Member responsible, requiring the Member to rectify the situation to the satisfaction of the Board or the Clerk;
That's the first step.
Then,
(b) if the situation is not rectified to the satisfaction of the Board or the Clerk, the Board may order that any amount of money necessary to rectify the situation be withheld from any budget, allowance or other payment that may be made available to the Member under this By-law or the Governance and Administration By-law;
And the next step:
the Board may order that any budget, allowance or other payment that may be made available to the Member under this By-law or the Governance and Administration By-law be frozen for such time and on such other conditions as the Board considers necessary (i) if the non-compliance continues, or (ii) if the Board considers it necessary to protect House of Commons funds.
So that's the answer. I don't know if Mr. Watters wants to explain how that would be done in practice, but there is a process in the bylaws to deal with this.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
If I may, I have just one last question.
On November 27, 2012, a statement regarding allegations that former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe made improper use of House of Commons' resources, the Board of Internal Economy stated:
It was never the intention of the Board to allow House of Commons resources to be used to support political party activity or party staff.
The Board is confident that the revised Members By-law, which was completed before these allegations came to light, will prevent similar events from occurring in the future.
The NDP was on the board at this time and would have been participating in these discussions, and would, therefore, have been well aware of these rules. Can you provide a summary of the changes that came into force on April 1, 2012?
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 18:54
All I can say, Mr. Chair, is that starting April 1, 2012, the bylaws were modernized, revised, and the definition of “parliamentary functions” was also reviewed. But it was more a modernization of the bylaws than a revamping, if you wish, so the rules were just modernized.
That's pretty much all I can say on this.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much.
I just want to follow up a little bit on the conversation Monsieur Denis had with Mr. Lamoureux on the potential non-compliance from NDP members.
I'll address my question to you, Mr. Watters. How would the House go about getting reimbursement for the $36,309 from the 23 NDP members if they chose not to voluntarily repay it? It apparently is the position of the NDP to not repay any moneys. In practical terms, how would the House go about recovering that money?
Mark G. Watters
View Mark G. Watters Profile
Mark G. Watters
2014-06-18 18:55
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As the law clerk has explained, the process would be laid out in progressive steps, as per section 19 in the bylaws. The Clerk of the House, under the authority of the board, would first of all give notice to a member that an amount is outstanding. As Mr. Denis suggested, if the situation is not rectified, then the clerk, through the board, may order that the amount of money necessary to rectify the situation be withheld from any budget.
So the board would decide that a budget is to be reduced, or payments are not to be made from a particular budget. Failing that, the budget that is afforded to a member under paragraph 19(c) may be frozen or not made available to a member until such time as the situation is rectified.
There is a series of progressive steps, as the law clerk identified, for correction.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Mark G. Watters
View Mark G. Watters Profile
Mark G. Watters
2014-06-18 18:56
If we look at section 20 of the bylaws as well, it is the only place where we have a specific timeline in place. It says:
If a Member is 90 days or more in arrears in an amount owed to the House of Commons, the Chief Financial Officer
—which would be me, in this particular case—
may deduct the amount in arrears from any amount to be paid
to the member other than a payment made under the Parliament of Canada Act for sections 55 and 62, which are basically the sessional allowance provisions of the act.
So from any other amounts owing to a member, within 90 days an amount could be reduced in order to satisfy the arrears.
Mark G. Watters
View Mark G. Watters Profile
Mark G. Watters
2014-06-18 18:57
It says “90 days”, so I guess absent specification it would be calendar days.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
So the statement of the board of June 12, stating that 23 New Democratic Party members will be directed to personally reimburse a total of $36,309—that is the start date and it is 90 days from then that they have to repay the money. Am I correct in that assumption?
Mark G. Watters
View Mark G. Watters Profile
Mark G. Watters
2014-06-18 18:57
Mr. Chair, it would depend on the date that the request was made of a member for reimbursement. If a date was specified—the board would like repayment by such-and-such a date—that is the date from which the 90 days would start to count down.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Okay.
How much time do I have left, Chair?
The Chair: You have one minute.
Mr. Tom Lukiwski: I'll start my question, and then I'll go back to it in my next round.
I want to go back to the question of the NDP utilizing an outside printer for these mailings. It may be a question that neither one of you gentlemen can answer. It may be something that is best directed towards printing services. But how common is it for members of Parliament, from whatever party, to use outside printers for common mail-outs like ten percenters, householders?
It would seem to me that, generally speaking, if an MP wants to do a mail-out and get reimbursed for that mail-out, they would use in-house printing services. Yet the NDP determined, for whatever reasons—we'll examine that in detail a little later—to use an outside printer.
Do you know if that's a common practice or if that's unusual?
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Chair, it's interesting. A lot of good questions are coming forward.
I think this might already have been responded to. Other parties have been the subject of complaints made to the House administration about using outside printers. Those were part of the letters directed to the House administration about 15 months ago. So I believe—and you may want to clarify—you already answered that other parties have used an outside printer.
I also wanted to add the issue of the Board of Internal Economy and the secrecy provisions. Of course you know we've been pressing to have the Board of Internal Economy opened up. Do you see any provisions that actually prohibit publicly discussing these issues so that the public can actually see that one party is being investigated and the majority on the BOIE is refusing to let the other parties be investigated for doing things that in my book are much more partisan? Do you see any reason why the BOIE could not meet in public concerning the complaints the NDP has made about partisan mailings by the Conservatives and the Liberal Party?
Marc Bosc
View Marc Bosc Profile
Marc Bosc
2014-06-18 19:00
Mr. Chairman, I can take the latter part of that question and say simply that it's not for us to comment on how the board should conduct its business or decide to conduct its business.
With regard to the earlier part of your question, I think Mr. Watters is in a position to provide an answer.
Mark G. Watters
View Mark G. Watters Profile
Mark G. Watters
2014-06-18 19:00
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
On the question of outside printers, which I think the member was speaking to, there is a prohibition on asking the House to reimburse for any printing done by an outside printer for over 4,500 copies. As members know, that is clearly laid out in the Members’ Allowances and Services Manual. So if members are having things printed in any amount over 4,500 copies and are not seeking reimbursement from the House, the House would not necessarily be aware of that.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Okay. Thank you. That was certainly our case.
I have one final question before I turn things over to Mr. Scott.
Last fall we had hearings, as you will recall, about replacing the BOIE because it is secretive. At the time there was some discussion that there was still a consensus-based model around that. The Clerk, Audrey O'Brien, and former speakers like Peter Milliken, spoke very eloquently to the importance of maintaining a consensus model in which all parties work together to resolve differences or issues that come up. Although I may disagree with it, that model certainly worked better than what we are seeing now, which is not consensus-based at all.
You may not be able to comment on this, but do you see a problem when consensus-based decision-making within the BOIE is replaced by partisan decision-making?
Marc Bosc
View Marc Bosc Profile
Marc Bosc
2014-06-18 19:02
Mr. Chairman, very briefly I would say that we believe the consensus model has worked very well historically and has the potential to continue working very well. Without commenting on anything that is taking place at the board, I will say it is a desirable model and we believe it can work very well.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much.
I have a comment before my question. In response to Mr. Julian's allegations again that everyone is doing the same thing, clearly that's not the case. If the BOIE wanted to investigate any other specific allegation, it could do so. It doesn't do it on a normal basis because, quite frankly, no other party has sent out mailings for electoral purposes to try to influence a by-election or a federal election and has used franked envelopes to do so.
However, here is my question, specifically to Mr. Watters.
I want to go back to what you said about a prohibition on anyone, any party, or any MP who is sending over 4,500 copies and trying to get reimbursed. Is that correct?
Mark G. Watters
View Mark G. Watters Profile
Mark G. Watters
2014-06-18 19:04
In terms of reimbursement, yes, Mr. Lukiwski.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
If that's the case then, my understanding is that the mailings in question here were close to two million. Is that correct? There were certainly well over 4,500.
Mark G. Watters
View Mark G. Watters Profile
Mark G. Watters
2014-06-18 19:04
Yes, I would agree, Mr. Lukiwski.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Okay, so in that case, there is no reimbursement given.
I'm curious, and again we'll discuss this perhaps a little later, why someone, if they were producing a mailer that they felt was in proper order, would not want to use House printing services to get reimbursed. It would appear though, if they thought it was a political mail-out they couldn't get reimbursed for, or if they couldn't get approval by the House, they might want to use an outside printer and pay for it themselves so they could avoid that embarrassment. However, then of course you couldn't use franked envelopes, and that's exactly what I believe has happened here.
Let me go back again to the MPs who are using outside printing for ten percenters and householders. Would we be able to get that information from printing services as to how common that is? In other words, if someone wanted to use an outside printer for less than 4,500 copies and get reimbursed, surely there's a record in printing services. Yes...?
Mark G. Watters
View Mark G. Watters Profile
Mark G. Watters
2014-06-18 19:05
Mr. Chair, all householders and ten percenters are prepared by the House. I think what the member is talking about is other types of things that might be printed, but householders and ten percenters are produced strictly by the House, and therefore, the bylaws are applied. They are reviewed by printing and mailing services prior to publishing, and if there is an area that's grey, then there's a conversation with the member about possibly altering their ten percenter or their householder to make it compliant.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
If they wanted to mail out something like we saw with the NDP, where it's not considered necessarily a ten percenter but they were going to put it into franked envelopes, they could certainly have in-house printing services produce that and be reimbursed if the content was acceptable. Yes...?
Mark G. Watters
View Mark G. Watters Profile
Mark G. Watters
2014-06-18 19:06
That's correct. Printing and mailing services would prepare material at the request of members, subject to the entitlements, the paper allowances that members have to respect, but they would also ensure compliance with the bylaws.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Since the research and analysis on the investigation determined that the NDP content of these mailers was not acceptable, and therefore, improper and in violation of the rules, one would suspect if they presented those to the in-house printers, they would be rejected perhaps, which is a good motivation not to do it in-house.
That's an opinion. I won't ask you to comment on that because it's not within your purview.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
My question goes back to whether printing services will be able to provide information to this committee as to how many, whether you call them mailers or communication pieces, have been used by MPs and approved by the House. Would they have that information?
Marc Bosc
View Marc Bosc Profile
Marc Bosc
2014-06-18 19:07
I believe we can get that information to the committee, certainly. We'll have the information.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much.
Let me ask you something about, again, an inference, I suppose, by the NDP. There has been certainly some criticism by the NDP saying that this was a political decision, that the BOIE did this for political purposes. That infers the BOIE makes all of these decisions in a vacuum.
Is that true, or are they based on research and analysis provided by non-partisan professional House administration officials? In other words, the decision might have been made by the BOIE, but they were in receipt of information provided by your officials, and they used that information and analysis to make their decision. Is that a correct assessment or a correct statement?
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 19:08
Mr. Chair, yes, it's correct. The material that goes to the board is always based on a team effort, if I can say, from the House administration where specific topics that need to be researched are prepared by financial services, legal services, other services of the House, and information is provided to the board so they have the full picture and are able to make their decisions.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you.
Mr. Chair, I'll go back to one of my earlier comments when I asked Mr. Bosc whether or not we'd be able to see a copy of that report with their analysis and research. He said that would be a decision of the BOIE. I'm recommending heartily to this committee, that, as a committee, we make a request to see that report, to see exactly what that research and analysis showed so we know on what basis the BOIE made its decision. The NDP is continually trying to say this was a political decision only.
I would like to see the information provided to it before we can properly get an indication of why that decision was made and when it was made.
Let me ask you one other question. We're talking about the recovery by the House administration, by the board, of $36,309, but there is another $1.17 million outstanding, which, you have identified, would be owed to Canada Post. I think the next logical step for this committee would be to ask someone from Transport Canada or Canada Post to come in, and to ask them what steps they may be taking to recover that money.
Would you have any comment? Since it's out of your purview, I doubt whether you've had any conversation with Transport Canada—I don't know why you would—but do you think they would be able to provide some information or shine some light on the fact that they may be in a position to try to recover $1.17 million from the NDP?
Marc Bosc
View Marc Bosc Profile
Marc Bosc
2014-06-18 19:10
That's a question for those officials, Mr. Lukiwski.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
I certainly think then, Chair, for our next meeting, we should look at getting Transport Canada officials in here and asking them a series of questions.
Have you had any communications with Elections Canada or the Chief Electoral Officer yet, respecting the decision of the board?
Since my time is limited, while you're trying to get that information, let me ask yet another question. Again it goes back to an inference from the NDP that somehow, if these meetings were held in public, things might be different. Let me just ask you this. Based on your analysis and investigation, even if the meetings of the BOIE were held in public, would that in any way have changed the recommendations that you made to the board?
Marc Bosc
View Marc Bosc Profile
Marc Bosc
2014-06-18 19:11
Our duty to the board does not change in that respect.
To answer the previous question, the statement by the board indicates that the information being sent to Transport Canada would also be shared with the Chief Electoral Officer.
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I think it is important to point out that one reason Conservatives, for example, have not been subjected to the same kinds of requests by the BOIE to provide memos and opinions and everything else related to mailings is that the BOIE is organized in a partisan, majority government-dominated fashion.
I want to go to the Canada Post point. We had quite an amazing situation in the House recently. Last week, the Minister of Transport, despite constantly talking about being at arm's length from Canada Post and therefore saying, “Ask Canada Post; don't ask me” when we ask anything else to do with Canada Post, in response to a question planted by a Conservative MP, said:
...I also expect that those members will refuse to pay back Canada Post, and that is why today I spoke to the CEO of Canada Post to ensure that he understood what was happening. He does. He takes it very seriously. Canada Post will be developing a plan to deal with the situation.
I'm particularly grateful to the minister for making so clear, in such a ham-fisted way, that this is nothing but a political exercise, but the question here is did the BOIE ask the Minister of Transport to insert herself in this way by contacting the CEO of Canada Post?
Marc Bosc
View Marc Bosc Profile
Marc Bosc
2014-06-18 19:13
First of all, Mr. Scott, again, I can't comment on discussions at the board.
That being said, I think it's important to specify that the Speaker chairs the board. There is no majority on the board, and the Speaker, of course, is a non-partisan actor in this as chair of the board.
Mr. Watters is pointing out to me that the board has an obligation to deal with the matters brought before it, and that is what it does.
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
The minister also thought she was providing a defence when she then said outside the House, “No directives have been given in this case, it was just a phone call to ensure that they understood the issue and that they would be looking into it. That's it.”
She is a lawyer, but she didn't appear to grasp that it makes it even worse that she made these calls to influence—and, I dare say, pressure—the Canada Post CEO without even the pretense of legal authority. She said, “No directives have been given”.
I imagine you may not be able to answer this question, but is this involvement of a minister in a BOIE matter appropriate?
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
Should there be any doubt that the minister is pressuring Canada Post and intending to use it in the most instrumental fashion as a tool of the government, consider the press release she also sent:
I will be discussing with the head of Canada Post in the coming days for a report on their plan to recover these funds.
Despite the fact that Canada Post is reimbursed, it has to be Transport Canada that deals with this.
Rest assured, every single penny that was misspent by the NDP will be paid back....
Now, putting all of these statements together, how would courts supplying administrative law look on the fairness of any Canada Post decision to seek payment from MPs when that decision comes from the fact or at the very least the appearance of political interference?
Marc Bosc
View Marc Bosc Profile
Marc Bosc
2014-06-18 19:16
Again, Mr. Scott, this is a process entirely outside the House, and we can't possibly comment.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you.
I'm sorry, but my first question may be something outside of your purview. We talked about and you talked about the consensus model that the BOIE follows. Even though this is a consensus model, if one party—and in this case obviously it's the NDP—has been found through independent research to be in violation of the rules of the BOIE in terms of these mail-outs, should or does one party have veto rights like those of a UN council?
The NDP is trying to suggest here that this was an unfair process. The consensus model has worked well, but clearly if one party is in contravention of the rules, they can easily say they were outvoted and it wasn't fair. The system is set up to be as fair as possible. Clearly if one party is guilty and knows they are guilty, they are going to try to do whatever they can to stop any repercussions from occurring.
So how do you square that circle? How do you deal with a consensus model if in fact one party doesn't want to play ball and doesn't want to agree to a consensus even if the evidence proves or at least demonstrates that they have been in violation of the rules?
Marc Bosc
View Marc Bosc Profile
Marc Bosc
2014-06-18 19:17
You know, Mr. Lukiwski, the board works in mysterious ways.
Again, we can't comment on how the board arrives at decisions, but it does arrive at decisions. Historically that's been done by consensus.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Okay.
Let's go back, then, to where we started. I just want to make sure we're all crystal clear on this one.
The content of the mailings in question—the nearly two million pieces of mail that the NDP sent out using an outside printer, the mailings they put into franked envelopes—was never seen by House administration. Is that correct?
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
So, therefore, unless there was a complaint to the BOIE—which there was—the House administration might never have known that these mailings were in contravention of the rules. Is that correct?
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
So if a party wanted to deliberately mislead House administration, they could do so by following the model we've seen by the NDP: use an outside printer; pay for it yourself, of course, because there are over 4,500 copies, which, if you were a party engaged in an election campaign, you would do anyway, because that's obviously a party function; and then put it into franked envelopes. You end up paying for campaign literature, in effect, and that's exactly what this was, but you stick the taxpayer with the postage.
Now, I'm wondering if there's anything that could be done, if events like this have occurred, or will occur again in the future, that you would suggest or recommend to the BOIE for their consideration in terms of preventative measures. I mean, it's quite obvious to me that....
Obviously I have a viewpoint that you can't comment on because you're non-partisan. You're professional. But we know now a number of things. Outside printers were used. The NDP paid for it. House administration never saw it. But if they would have seen the content of those mailings, they would have rejected them. And franked letters were used to mail out improper election campaign pieces. That's what we know, as a basis, as a result of this meeting.
I'm wondering if you have any suggestions for this committee—even though it's the board's decision ultimately, this committee can make recommendations—on how to prevent this type of thing from happening again.
Richard Denis
View Richard Denis Profile
Richard Denis
2014-06-18 19:20
Mr. Chair, one way of looking at it could be a recommendation from this committee as to how the use of franking could be clarified in the future. For example, it would relate to different things relating to the parliamentary functions of members: extend it, or restrict it.
That would be one aspect of—
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
If we were to recommend, as an example, that all mailings put in franked envelopes must be approved by the House, do you think that recommendation would be worthwhile considering?
Marc Bosc
View Marc Bosc Profile
Marc Bosc
2014-06-18 19:21
I would say at the outset that this is a much more complex issue than it might appear to be, and it would require considerable analysis before we could answer that question.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
But let me just point out again that what we do know is this. Had those mailings, the mailings that were found to be in violation of the rules, been sent to the House administration, they wouldn't have been approved. That would have been the end of it. The NDP then could still send them out, if they wanted, but they'd have to pay for them and the postage. But at least the House would have been able to step in and say, “Sorry, you can't used franked envelopes.”
It seems to me a very simple fix to require all mailings by political parties who wish to use franked envelopes to be viewed and approved or rejected by House administration. Would that not be a fairly simple approach to fix this complex problem; a simple solution?
Marc Bosc
View Marc Bosc Profile
Marc Bosc
2014-06-18 19:22
I'm sure the board will welcome any recommendations the committee wishes to make—
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
All right. Thank you.
If the NDP wanted the discussion on these matters to have been held in public, as they say they're all in favour of, what would they have had to do to make that happen? Or was it even possible to have these discussions in public? Are you in a position to discuss whether they undertook any actions to try to make this public?
The point I'm getting at is that we don't know. I wish I did know. I understand this investigation and this discussion in the BOIE went on for several months. I would certainly suggest that this committee request of the Board of Internal Economy a copy of the report so that we can take a look at exactly what evidence you found when making the recommendations you did to the board to ask the NDP to repay.
I'm wondering, if the NDP was truly sincere in wanting to have all of the deliberations of this particular issue of which they've been found guilty made public, did they approach the board? Can you comment on that? Did they try to make any effort to have these deliberations in public?
Marc Bosc
View Marc Bosc Profile
Marc Bosc
2014-06-18 19:23
Mr. Lukiwski, we can't comment on that.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Actually, Mr. Lukiwski knows, because he denied our unanimous consent motion, which we brought forward in the House that day just before the BOIE..., that the NDP undertook and has been undertaking now for almost a year to break open the partisan, secretive, and ugly BOIE, the pro-Conservative BOIE.
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Then I can only assume that you will accept our recommendation to see the report, to shine a light on the report.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
It's very interesting; I did reference earlier this very personal, vicious, partisan attack on the leader of the official opposition, which is being sent out as we speak, because I'm getting complaints and even tweets tonight from folks saying, “I got this from my CPC member”. It is linked up—
View Joe Preston Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Julian, was that franked mail or did it come as a householder or a ten percenter?
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