94

All in


 

Liberal Derek Lee stood in the House, just a moment ago, and filed a question of privilege on the House’s demand that the government produce documents related to Afghan detainees. The NDP’s Jack Harris has followed with his own question of privilege, as has the Bloc’s Claude Bachand. Further interventions have been made by Bob Rae, Tom Lukiwski, Pierre Paquette and Larry Bagnell. The government argued, in part, that the question of privilege came too far after the breach—the order of the House having been issued December 10—but the Speaker has ruled that there is no objection to be made on timeliness.

The Speaker has now deferred debate on the matter until further submissions can be heard.

Here is the question of privilege that Lee had previously drafted. It seems to match quite closely his remarks today (though I’m not sure if it’s exactly what he presented today).

Here is the text of the motion that Harris proposes to move if the Speaker agrees a breach of privilege has occurred.

That the House considers the government’s failure to provide the documents specified in the Order of December 10, 2009, is tantamount to contempt, and therefore orders the Minister of National Defence, the Attorney General and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to be called to the Bar of the House immediately and hear the Speaker read this order to them;

That it be an instruction to the Special Committee on Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan to adopt rules and procedures for the reception and handling of the documents demanded by the House Order of December 10, 2009, in a manner that safeguards national security and other confidentiality requirements while respecting parliamentary privilege; after receiving advice from the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel,

That the Special Committee report these rules and procedures to the House no later than 21 calendar days following the adoption of this order, provided that if the House is not sitting when the report of the Committee is completed, the report may be deposited with the Clerk of the House and it shall thereupon be deemed to have been presented to the House; provided that no later than 6:00 PM on the 20th calendar day following the adoption of this order, any proceedings before the Special Committee shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the report shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment; and

That, on the 30th calendar day following the adoption of this order, if the government has not provided all the documents to the Special Committee, which shall receive them on behalf of the House, in their original and uncensored form, at the next sitting of the House, the first order of business shall be the consideration of a motion, “That the Minister of National Defence, the Attorney General and the Minister of Foreign Affairs be found in contempt of the House” and that such a motion shall have priority over all other business until it is decided, in the same fashion as a motion relating to a question of privilege.


 

All in

  1. Go baby go!

    I will now temporarily suspend my b*tching about the Liberal Party being utterly spineless, in hopes that this represents an emergent backbone on their part.

    I'm hoping for the best but preparing for the worst…

    • Ignatiff must have had spinach [popeye] for breakfast [ yuck]. Either that or him and Bob got wasted yesterday and decided to take a flame thrower to this place…ok, i'm going with the spinach – maybe crepes, maybe eggs benny with caramelized onions and roasted red peppers.

      • Damnit.. now I'm hungry.

        • It's even better with sockeye. :)

    • Right you are but I'm still smarting over Iggy's ridiculous letter. The above should have come from the Leader of the Opposition. Instead, we have a backbencher taking a stand to protect our democracy.

    • O happy day. I am very happy. But torn, as well, as all it took to get Canadian MPs to defend Parliament was a national movement, some 60 rallies here and abroad with some 50 000 people in the middle of winter, and screaming and shouting from their partisans, and the media, and and and…

      It shouldn't take that much for MPs to fulfill their most basic mission, to uphold Canadians' democratic rights, through them. But hey, at least they did the right thing, eventually. Now, if it comes to a vote, will they all show up? Kinda have to, or lose all face.

      I said it before and I say it again, these last months, and next days & months, may well prove the renaissance of Canadian democracy. And a lot of good things would come from that, beyond immediate democratisation: better, more respectful discourse, better policies, more empathy for adversaries' positions, more understanding, and hence nation-building.

      The 21st century belongs to Canada. If we want it. And that starts with democracy.

    • And what, dare I ask, is "the best" that you are hoping for?

      • The best outcome would be: 1) for Parliament to successfully defend its right and ability to demand access to documents and 2) an unimpeded investigation of the Afghan detainee issue by Parliament.

    • About time Mr. Lee!!! Someone has to stand up for the people. Harper must realize he is accountable to the people through the House of Commosn

  2. Just e-mailed the opposition parties on this issue last night. If I had known they were just waiting to hear from me, I would have done it sooner. LOL

  3. I'm curious if the speaker gets a heads up that this is coming, or even if the conservatives knew it was coming? What are the odds the speaker will refuse, on the grounds that Iacobucci is deemed an adequate response from the gov't – or wait and see what comes of his "inquiry"first? Call me a nervous nelly, but i hope the opposition got all their ducks in a row before plunging in. That said – go for it Parliament, go! – we're all rooting for you[ some of us anyway]

    • Technically, I would think the Speaker has no ability to consider Iacobucci and that his involvement has no bearing on the existing Parliamentary order and its enforcement.

      The terms of reference made it clear that he is merely an advisor to the Minister of Defence on the interpretation of the statutes allowing or requiring disclosure. He's essentially a beefed up information access officer.

      Further, his terms of reference are besides the point. Parliament has subpoened certain records of the government. It does not get to say yeah or nay.

  4. My observation is that Milliken struggles to keep members from swearing at each other in the house, so I'm not entirely convinced that he'll be able to manage this doozy.

    Good on MP Lee for forwarding it, though.

  5. It appears that the three oppo parties are at least speaking to each other. I guess that's progress. The Libs not completely caving (yet) is also a positive sign for this democracy. But, I'm not yet convinced that these motions will go anywhere.

    The Iacobucci manouver laid down by the PM may well provide Speaker Miliken a basis on which to decide there has not (yet) been either contempt of parliament or a violation of members' privileges. Or, at least, the Iacobucci-gation gives the Speaker reason to defer a decision almost indefinitely.

    I'm predicting not much comes of these privilege claims in the near term.

    Here's another question: Surely Iacobucci knows he's being used by the government to defer and deflect. A former SCOC Justice, likely doesn't need the money, the hassle, nor the publicity attached to the Iacobucci-gation. There's no real legal or constitutional nut to crack here – at least not one the the terms of reference allow Iacobucci to consider. So why's he doing it? Why risk dragging your good name into political muck?

    • As noted above, since Iacobucci's terms of reference make him merely an advisor to the Minister on whether to release the documents or not, I would think his engagement has no bearing on an outstanding Parliamentary order and its enforcement.

      It's like the court in a lawsuit asking for documents, the respondent refusing to comply over and over, the court finally issuing a subpoena and then the respondent saying they don't have to deal with the subpoena because they hired a lawyer to tell them if they have to comply with the subpoena.

      That's just not the way the law works.

      • Frankly, I hope you are right. The outcome I suggest does not bode well for our democracy nor this Parliament.

        My only quibble is that outside Parliament, there are statutes and pretty clear precedents that have establish the law governing subpoenas over many decades. In Parliament, there are some old and quite rare precedents and – best as I know – absolutely no statute. So the Speaker is far more free to effectively make new "law" with each decision. Further, as someone else mentioned above, this Speaker seems very conflict adverse, so his nature may well be to avoid this becoming a shootout.

      • Yeah, right, explain that one to King Steve

  6. Have to say, Aaron, well done. I can't find any reference to this yet anywhere else online or in the blogs as at 11:36.

  7. Are the proposed Harris motion and the proposed Lee motion competing motions? What would be the point of that?

    • The three motions (the Bloc brought one too) are not competing. They are MP points of privilege on the same contempt, the contempt being made against every member of the House. Milliken will rule on all three simultaneously after he speaks with the ministers responsible. We won't get a ruling until tomorrow at the earliest is my guess.

      • The reason I'm confused is because Harris and Lee referred to motions they wanted to table – they were worded differently, tho both would have essentially the same effect.

      • OK, Kady seems to have answered my question: "My suspicion is that the speaker would expect the members involved to discuss the matter beforehand, and decide who will put forward the motion – or an amended version thereof; I mention that possibility because Derek Lee's motion deals with the alleged breaches by MacKay and that poor associate deputy minister at Justice who attempted to dismiss the opinion of the House Law Clerk, which is not, I believe, mentioned in either the NDP or Bloc motions."

        It's a little disconcerting that they didn't get together before the questions of privilege session, but maybe they just wanted to get everything on the record.

        This is fascinating stuff!

  8. It's worded as, if the speaker agrees, a motion will be voted on and then if all doesn't go well, another motion could be voted on several weeks later. Can't they just note that the first motion passed, and the get the speaker to order compliance within "x" days or you're automatically sanctioned?

  9. Thank God.

    Not that I'm totally optimistic yet, but THANK GOD they're going to have to actually DEAL WITH THIS.

  10. Anyone know how much time the speaker is allowed before giving an answer? Does he have to respond immediately (like, this week), or will he get back to us in two years (in which case, what's the point)?

    • I think as a question of privilege, it now must be dealt with before any other business of the House.

      I think.. not sure though.

      • It must be dealt with before any other business of the House, yes, but it does not need to be resolved before any other business can carry on.

        So all business of the House stops while the Speaker hears the point of privilege, then invites other members to comment, then decides if the point of privilege should be rejected out of hand or considered. Having done that, the Speaker can defer the decision, as he has done, and business of the House resumes.

        • So "dealt with" does not mean "resolved"….got it. Ahh, language is a wonderful thing.

  11. Wilson must be busy so let me try to get the talking points rolling: the motions this morning show that the coalition has been plotting overtime to overthrow the only patriots who support our troops. Good family and hockey loving Canadians must teach them a lesson and give the King a majority.

    How did I do, folks?

    • You win for most immature comment. Good job.

    • Too cohenerent. throw in some bafflegab about whether parliament is supreme, citing and pasting a source from random.

      • And break up your lines with haphazard returns.

    • As a wilson impersonation? Pretty poorly.

      You were on topic, after all.

    • You forgot to claim that the economy is in excellent shape.

    • Where's the part about the Liberals doing it first?

  12. Kind of like asking a question of the Def. Min., the Min. of Transport jumps up and answers. lol

  13. I can't believe the Harper government had the unbelievable gall to try and argue that the question of privilege didn't count because it came too long after the demand for documents back in Dec, when it was the Harper government itself that shut down Parliament between then and now, making it impossible for anyone to file the question of privilege. Thank God the Speaker rejected that bullshit. Everytime the members of the Harper government thumb their nose at our elected representatives in Parliament, they are thumbing their nose at us, the people who elected those MPs to represent us.

  14. Release the documents; this cannot continue. Any possible repercussion from the public release of classified information has long since been outweighed by the ramifications of this mess. Either (1) something genuinely awful is in the documents and the resulting scandal will be very painful, or (2) something classified will be compromised, or (3) there is nothing significant in them.

    If (1), the scandal will be painful. It's already painful – just rip the bandage off and disinfect the whole affair. If the CPC is implicated then they should be politically destroyed without mercy.

    If (2), there will be some serious cost – operations that will have to be cancelled, or agents whose cover will be blown. It is possible lives will be lost. At this point I think we have to risk these. If lives are lost or operations compromised then the Opposition should be made to wear that guilt and be politically destroyed without mercy.

    If (3), the Opposition owes the government a serious apology, but the entire affair can be put behind us.

    • The opposition is not demanding "public" release. Read para 2 in block quote above.

    • If (2) or (3) is demonstrably true, the opposition and media will jointly agree to pretend it's really (1) regardless, so why bother?

      • No they wouldn't, they'd just move on to a new scandal. It would be "stimulus funds being spent in favour of Tory ridings" redux. That would be ok – I'm used to the smear-before-data-is-available / data-turns-out-to-be-not-that-big-a-deal / move-to-the-next-possible-scandal pattern from many in the press and most on the Left; everyone can deal with that. It's to be expected.

        No, what worries me is that the docs may actually have something horrendous. If that's the case, and the Left is right for once, justice demands that heads roll.

    • If (3) or if not-(3) the Government owes all Canadians an apology for its obstructive and arrogant behaviour. Nobody owes the Government an apology.
      As for (2) fat chance; Harper's only use for the troops is to hide behind them when he refuses to do his job properly. The arse he is covereing is his own.

    • Re number 2, that's always this bugaboo that Republicans and Tories are good at trotting out–with NO foundation at all. It's this nebulous fear of some kind of inchoate catastrophe that everything will come crashing down, but they never even make a prima facie case that this kind of harm might occur. If they raise that argument, they should be forced to at least set forth SOME kind of factual basis for it, rather than some generalized inspecific threat of possible future harm.

    • Actually, if it is (3) then the Government owes Canadians and the Opposition a serious apology. Why have they undermined our democracy, stalled, shut down committees, smeared a civil servant, changed their stories a hundred times, gone to court, blocked or intimidated witnesses, made many many false statements, even lied or deliberately misdirected Canadians for so many months if there was nothing.

      If there is nothing, then the Conservatives should be crucified.

      • That caught my attention as well.

        Guanillon was on a decent roll there with items 1 and 2 (perhaps a bit over the top, but basically on target), but to then suggest that the Opposition should be the group to apologize if there is nothing to be seen was an odd finale.

        the government has missed several – or even many – opportunities to de-escalate the entire story; instead, for reasons that I don't understand they seem to have used each of those opportunities to escalate the story.

        • If the government has deliberately obfuscated then you have a point.
          However, if the government has merely been refusing to pander to partisan smears with no basis, then your point fails. In that case it would have been perfectly reasonable for the government not to give in to partisan pressure – if they did it would merely encourage such tactics again the next time. On the contrary, the Opposition would owe everyone an apology for wasting Parliament's time.

          • No basis??!!! This is simply absurd!! The Colvin allegations are more than reason to examine the relevant documents, irregardless of what ultimately comes to light, even nothing.

          • If the government has deliberately obfuscated then you have a point.

            I basically agree with your distinction – deliberately obfuscating versus refusing to pander.

            But, as I posted elsewhere on this blog, from my perspective the government has missed several opportunities to defuse the entire issue, choosing instead to use those opportunities to inflame, and I have a low threshhold for that type of behaviour. If it turns out that their stalling has some justification, and the Opposition was knowlingly inflaming a non-issue, then I, like you, will be expecting an apology from them.

          • Are you asserting it is likely that Colvin is lying, that the other parties are completely aware that he's lying, while the conservatives, who actually form the government and have for some time, are simply too flummoxed to actually investigate the matter?

          • Nope, not at all.

            Since I do not know for sure what's what wrt this issue, I'm asserting that there is an entire range of possible explanations, all the way from it's a complete fabrication to the current government has betrayed the Canadian people. The truth is unlikely to be at either end of that range.

            I do support a much more thorough investigation than has occurred to date, by either the MPCC or the relevant HoC committee, and I'm trying not to pre-judge until such an investigation has been completed.

          • But what kind of a scenario makes the conservatives non-culpable for not releasing the documents, and the opposition somehow liable. Remember, for the opposition to be absolutely sure it's all a fabrication and Colvin is lying, they have to KNOW what's in the documents. And yet they are pushing to get them made available.

          • A recap (for my benefit):
            – Guanillon opens with "The documents should be released…leads to 1 of 3 outcomes"
            – outcome 3 is "There is nothing in the documents…..apology from the opposition"
            – tedbetts counters with "If 3, it should be the government that apologizes, not the opposition."
            – I agree with tedbetts, and add "The government has missed opportunities to resolve"
            – Gaunillon replies with "OK, sure, if the government has been obfuscating they should apologize BUT if the opposition attacks are baseless, they should apologize"
            – I'm happy that Guanillon has agreed that outcome 3 might lead to a government apology rather than an opposition apology

          • A recap (for my benefit):
            – Guanillon opens with "The documents should be released…leads to 1 of 3 outcomes"
            – outcome 3 is "There is nothing in the documents…..apology from the opposition"
            – tedbetts counters with "If 3, it should be the government that apologizes, not the opposition."
            – I agree with tedbetts, and add "The government has missed opportunities to resolve"
            – Gaunillon replies with "OK, sure, if the government has been obfuscating they should apologize BUT if the opposition attacks are baseless, they should apologize"
            – I'm happy that Guanillon has agreed that outcome 3 might lead to a government apology rather than an opposition apology

          • the rest…

            – I accept Guanillon's revised outcome 3 and reiterate my "missed opportunities" complaint
            – you join us, wondering if I'm asserting that Colvin is likely a liar etc
            – I indicate that at this stage I'm still open to a range of possibilities, and that I support a more thorough investigation than we have achieved to date.
            – you ask a question

            So, out of all that, my answer is "I don't know. I am not currently aware of a scenario that absolves the government"

            But, at this stage I have no problem leaving room for the possibility of such a scenario, and that is why I support releasing the documents to a suitable group of people. If it turns out that the government's behaviour was beyond reproach, that will be great, and if they "betrayed" us, then they should be held to account.

          • It's the "range of possibilities thing" that intrigues me. The opposition can't have been knowingly inflamming a non-issue, as you claim as a possibility, because the documents which would allow this determination are being kept from them. And if the government is merely ignoring a baseless attack, as Gau above says may be possible, then Colvin is lying.

            Can anybody construct a scenario, no matter how outlandish, that people a month from now are going to say "yeah, the conservatives did the right thing by avoiding and delaying on the matter?

          • "Random" thoughts, some more directly related to the initial, narrow topic of who should apologize from Gua…
            – highly unlikely that Colvin is lying

          • – Colvin is not exagerrating perse
            – Colvin may be a bit too erstwhile (hope that is the word I want)
            – opposition knows more than we do
            – government has not been as forthcoming as it should be
            – opposition is exaggerating here and there
            – government has not been as forthcoming as it could be
            – some torture has occurred, but not a lot
            – of that torture, some of it has been extreme
            – we aren't going to find a widespread, systematic torture program directed from the PMO
            – this government is willing to accept that some torture is inevitable

          • – this government is not going to go out of its way to try to search out and remove every hint of torture
            – the government is comfortable (and somewhat successful at) using opposition questions to characterize opponents as Taliban sympathizers
            – if/when the 'truth' comes out opponents will be able to say "See, we were right! There was torture, and you knew about it and you didn't do much if anything to eliminate it, and you should have."
            – if/when the 'truth' comes out government supporters wil continue to say and believe that nothing of significance occurred

            Does that answer your question? ;-)

          • There are many interesting points, but most of them point to reasons the opposition should and must be trying to uncover the documents being stonewalled, not reasons they could later be shown to have been acting underhandedly in a manner for which they would have to later apologize.

          • Baseless attacks are not productive; ignoring them is generally the best approach.

            That approach is part of the reason that we are where we are today; more sincere efforts to honestly and openly address Opposition concerns would be helpful.

          • "…more sincere efforts to honestly and openly address Opposition concerns would be helpful." … unless they are known to be baseless, in which case it was perfectly understandable to dismiss them. One encounters similar phenomena on this forum from time to time: a commenter will post a nasty, baseless personal attack which both the attacker the the target know to be false. In that case it's often best to just ignore the attack. In fact, I think it's generally best in cases where this occurs repeatedly to ignore the commenter.

            Same for the CPC here; if they know there's nothing in the docs and that the Oppo is just throwing dirt, then ignoring it may have been a good idea until now. Of course, it's also entirely possible that the CPC is just obfuscating for the sake of politics (bad), or obfuscating to hide something awful (very bad).

          • Same for the CPC here; if they know there's nothing in the docs and that the Oppo is just throwing dirt, then ignoring it may have been a good idea until now.

            Would you really characterize the government's handling of this issue, to date, as ignoring?

          • are you suggesting Colvin was simply delivering "partisan smears"?

          • No. You'll notice that Colvin is not part of the Opposition.

          • in which cases, i seriously hope that it will not be too much to ask you to notice that the opposition's call for the docs largely emerged from Colvin's testimony and the other information he had brought forward and their feeling that the government was not sufficiently responding to the allegations Colvin was bring forward.

    • You should watch proceedings of the defense committees. They regularly hold meetings, or part of their meetings, behind closed doors when dealing with sensitive information.

    • "If (2), there will be some serious cost – operations that will have to be cancelled, or agents whose cover will be blown. It is possible lives will be lost. At this point I think we have to risk these. If lives are lost or operations compromised then the Opposition should be made to wear that guilt and be politically destroyed without mercy"

      Non sequitur – Do you really believe the names of agents or operations will be shown parliamentarians even in camera? The security forces would refuse to divulge them and rightly so. Even the defence mnister is likely to be operating on a need to know basis, or should be. It is possible that backbearings and inferences could be attempted from disclosed information – but again one would assume that very few people will get to see truly sensitive information.

  15. Now, now you have hurt my feelings …

  16. I can't believe the Harper government had the unbelievable gall to try and argue that the question of privilege didn't count because it came too long after the demand for documents back in December, when it was the Harper government itself that shut down Parliament between then and now, making it impossible for anyone to file the question of privilege. Thank God the Speaker rejected that nonsense. Every time Harper and his cohorts thumb their nose at our elected representatives in Parliament, they are thumbing their nose at us, the people who elected them.

    p.s. It would appear one cannot use the word BS in these comments, so I substituted "nonsense."

    called that the bullshit that it is, otherwise I would not be able to substitue acronymns and euphemisms for how fucking pissed off I am.)

  17. Voice inside SH's head:

    "Sooo, my pretty kitties, it's to be the COALITION!! all over again is it? Much as i prophesised. Quick someone get hold of youtube again – and for god's sake someone go over and tell Her excellency to book some time off…gah…this f****ing cat's crapped in my inbox again"!

  18. I can't believe the Harper government had the unbelievable gall to try and argue that the question of privilege didn't count because it came too long after the demand for documents back in December, when it was the Harper government itself that shut down Parliament between then and now, making it impossible for anyone to file the question of privilege. Thankfully the Speaker rejected that nonsense. Every time Harper and his cronies thumb their nose at our elected representatives in Parliament, they are thumbing their nose at us, the people who elected those MPs to represent us.

    (I was using another word for "nonsense" that apparently is unacceptable.)

  19. I'm assuming that they're assuming that releasing to Parliament will inevitably involve leaks to the public. Otherwise there is no argument at all for keeping the documents under wraps.

    • Tell you what, how about we don't release the documents to Guergis or Bernier, as they're the only ones so far that have a track record of not properly caring for national security.

      • Said it far too many times, will say it again – even if we assume MPs will leak information merely to make the other side look bad, there's no reason to assume they can't keep important details secret at the same time. They have every interest to not endanger troops (the other side is going to say that anyway, so best not to make it true).

    • In fact, i would suggest that this "experience" of which you so cavalierly speak suggests that widely disseminating information which would legitimately endanger soldiers is frowned upon by MPs of all parties and the media, and happens extremely rarely.

    • Actually, the MPs are regularly given access to tons of information that we never see or hear about. It is the non-security related, non-confidential stuff that gets leaked. I can't think of anything sensitive to security that has ever been leaked, including during the Somali inquiry.

    • Actually, the MPs are regularly given access to tons of information that we never see or hear about. It is the non-security related, non-confidential stuff that gets leaked. I can't think of anything sensitive to security that has ever been leaked, including during the Somali inquiry.

  20. "The government argued, in part, that the question of privilege came too far after the breach—the order of the House having been issued December 10"

    Isn't this a confession that prorogation was a delaying tactic?

  21. That idiot Lukiwski from Regina actually responded in the HoC by demanding to know why the opposition took so long to raise the point of privilege. I guess he was too busy cleaning the dirt from under his nails to remember the prorogation. He's a madcap, that one.

  22. Seems to me that a small group of the elected officials i.e. MPs – overrode the caution inherent in their core – the advice of appointed staff CoS OLO et al. – and decided to damn the torpedoes…

  23. The political reality remains the same …

    No Party WANTS an election.

    But the CPC (and Bloc) are much more PREPARED for an election.

    Hence, Harper is much less likely to give ground. Two weeks ago, a PMO insider told Chris Hall that the CPC was willing to fight an election over this issue.

    But, kudos to the coalition for playing some hardball, and entertaining us junkies.

    • The one the CPC Irregulars are still fighting, because they preferred their odds/polling from back then compared to those of recent days.

  24. Kudos to Mr. Lee, Mr. Harris and Mr. Bachand. Well done! And not a minute too soon.

  25. go go go!

  26. Let us hope that the Opposition sticks together and resolves this matter. The Speaker has no reason to deny them since they are all in unison.

  27. The government argued, in part, that the question of privilege came too far after the breach

    Oh dear! Whoever said this, were they able to keep a straight face while they did so? I shake my head.

  28. Surprise, another blatant disregard for democracy by the Liberal party. It is clear these people have no shame, and will do anything including threatening the safety of Canadians, to score cheap political points.

    • Somehow "no shame" is echoing in my ears as well all of a sudden.

  29. You mean that you tube thingy didn't put this to bed?

  30. Well, this should be interesting…

Sign in to comment.