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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.
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