Question of Privilege – Physical Obstruction

That the question of privilege regarding the free movement of Members of Parliament within the Parliamentary Precinct during the state visit of September 25, 2014, be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst. This was truly tragic for him because he was coming to do his job in this place and also because it is a breach of the privileges of members of Parliament.

I speak of a process that has become increasingly routine. I have been searching for historical precedents, but it is certainly becoming routine in this place to convert Parliament, as I mentioned earlier today, into something of a photo op for staged greetings, red carpets and flags.

I recall from access to information requests uncovered some years back that the current Prime Minister was exploring the possibility of turning the former U.S. embassy across the street into something of an imperial foyer for greeting foreign heads of state. The place to greet foreign heads of state with better security and without interfering with our work here is Rideau Hall.

Rare events in our past history have involved speeches by, for instance, the president of the United States to a joint session of Parliament. However, that is rare in our history and it is much more appropriate that we remember that we are a constitutional monarchy, the Prime Minister is first among equals, and the work of this place should not be made secondary to photo ops.

Yvon Godin: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the member is getting at, but I thank her for the question.

For instance, in the case before us today, they were aware that there was a vote. It is up to Parliament’s security service to prevent visitors from entering until the members of Parliament are in the House of Commons to exercise their right to vote. They do not have to parade around Wellington Street and Bank Street to get here. There are direct entrances. By using certain doors, we would not really have to bother the people coming to Parliament. However, they closed the grounds entirely. Access to Parliament was blocked because someone was coming to visit Parliament.

I have visited dozens of parliaments, together with the Speaker of the House. I can guarantee that parliaments in other countries have never put their work on hold for us. That has never happened. Never has the access of those members of parliament been blocked. We would go there and the members had priority. That is their place of work.

This is Canada’s democracy. This is where things happen, and yet a parliamentarian, democratically elected to represent Canadians, cannot enter Parliament when a vote is being held. Let us put this on the record, I was on time today, but I could have been late. The Standing Orders are clear and state that absolutely nothing can prevent me from going to my office and the House to fulfill my duties. However, this is what happened today; our parliamentary rules have been violated.