A plea for decency - Macleans.ca
 

A plea for decency


 

I wasn’t in the House this afternoon on account of other commitments, but I’m told that shortly after Question Period, Speaker Peter Milliken rose to rule on a point of order previously raised by Liberal Derek Lee. Mr. Lee complained last month that a statement by Conservative MP Phil McColeman should have been ruled out of order as a personal attack on Liberal Mark Holland. That the time allotted for statements by members—15 minutes each day normally reserved for noting charitable causes, the accomplishments of constituents and such—was being used to launch partisan attacks was identified as a problem last March by Speaker Milliken, a problem he attempted to addresses with limited success.

The prepared text of Mr. Milliken’s ruling today follows. Coincidentally, in an essay for the current issue of Canadian Parliamentary Review, former government House leader Jay Hill calls for the Speaker to more strictly enforce order upon the proceedings.

RULING ON THE POINT OF ORDER

RAISED ON NOVEMBER 30, 2010,

BY THE MEMBER FOR SCARBOROUGH—ROUGE RIVER (MR. LEE) CONCERNING A STATEMENT PURSUANT TO STANDING ORDER 31 MADE BY THE MEMBER FOR BRANT (MR. MCCOLEMAN) WITH REGARD TO THE MEMBER FOR AJAX—PICKERING (MR. HOLLAND)

December 14, 2010

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on November 30, 2010, by the Member for Scarborough—Rouge River (Mr. Lee) concerning a statement pursuant to Standing Order 31 made by the Member for Brant (Mr. McColeman) with regard to the Member for Ajax—Pickering (Mr. Holland).

I would like to thank the Member for Scarborough—Rouge River for bringing this matter to the attention of the House, as well as the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader (Mr. Lukiwski) for his intervention.

The Member for Scarborough—Rouge River claimed that the Member for Brant had delivered what could only be regarded as a “negative attack” on the Member for Ajax—Pickering, and argued that it was in disregard of previous rulings and the rules of the House.

In reviewing this matter it was immediately apparent to the Chair that the statement complained of related directly to committee proceedings.  In a very similar case in which the conduct of a Member in committee was called into question,
I reminded the House in a ruling on June 14, 2010 that it is incumbent upon committees themselves to deal with issues that arise from their proceedings.

With regard to the content of the statement itself, I would like to draw the attention of the House to page 618 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, where we are clearly reminded that:

“The proceedings of the House are based on a long-standing tradition of respect for the integrity of all Members.  Thus, the use of offensive, provocative or threatening language in the House is strictly forbidden.  Personal attacks, insults and obscenities are not in order.”

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 614, goes even further in stating that:

“Remarks directed specifically at another Member which question that Member’s integrity, honesty or character are not in order.  A Member will be requested to withdraw offensive remarks, allegations, or accusations of impropriety directed towards another Member.”

This is why in my ruling from June 14, 2010, at page 3779, I stressed that:

“When speaking in the House, Members must remain ever cognizant of these fundamental rules.  They exist to safeguard the reputation and dignity not only of the House itself but also that of all its Members.”

Furthermore, on page 3778, I noted, as have other Speakers:

“…that the privilege of freedom of speech that members enjoy confers responsibilities on those who are protected by it, and members must use great care in exercising their right to speak freely in the House.”

At that time I also expressed the Chair’s concern with the “continuing and unsettling trend toward using Members’ statements as a vehicle to criticize other Members”.

As the Chair has indicated in the past, personal attacks in Statements by Members pursuant to Standing Order 31 are of particular concern in that the Members targeted are left without an opportunity to respond to or deal directly with the accusations that are made.

For all of these reasons, after careful review of the Statement of the Member for Brant, the Chair finds that it constituted a personal attack on the Member for Ajax—Pickering and that it was an inappropriate use of a statement made pursuant to Standing Order 31.  Therefore, I call upon the Member for Brant to withdraw his comments.


 

Comments are closed.