OTTAWA – House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer has ruled against the question of privilege submitted by Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands and Leader of the Green Party of Canada. Ms. May argued that the unprecedented use of time allocation by this government disproportionately impacts members of small parties and independents and is a breach of their Parliamentary privilege. Ms. May said is disappointed by this decision, but will accept it and look for other avenues to convince members from all parties to reduce this practice.
“I worked to craft a well-researched Question of Privilege for the Speaker to review,” said Ms. May. “I do still believe that it is anti-democratic to invoke time allocation on every single bill, but of course I must accept the Speaker’s ruling as he is the highest authority. I will take some comfort by the fact that there are other questions related to my Question of Privilege that will be addressed at a later date.”
On September 15, 2014, Ms. May rose in the House to raise a Question of Privilege on the Harper Conservatives’ unprecedented use of time allocation on Government Bills. The Conservatives have invoked this procedural tool, historically used very infrequently, to limit debate on numerous government bills. This denies Canadians the opportunity, through their elected representatives, to have their voice heard within the House of Commons on issues of national importance. The Harper Conservatives’ have shut down debate 27 times in the past year alone, including six times since Ms. May raised her question of privilege in the House just two months ago.
In his decision, Speaker Scheer cited a 1993 decision by former Speaker John Fraser as well as his own ruling from June 12, 2014, as evidence to support unfavourable decision. “Members of the House are also aware that it is not for the Speaker to judge whether an issue has been sufficiently debated,” said Mr. Scheer. “Rather, it is the House that retains that authority and, therefore, must continue to make that determination as to when and if a bill has received adequate consideration.”
Speaker Scheer however, will return to the House of Commons at a later with a statement to address other aspects of Ms. May’s Question of Privilege that were not addressed in his question.