The Backbench Spring: Megan Leslie comments - Macleans.ca

The Backbench Spring: Megan Leslie comments

‘It is a question of right versus wrong’

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Earlier this afternoon, NDP MP Megan Leslie rose in the House to speak to Mark Warawa’s question of privilege.

Megan Leslie: Mr. Speaker, I rise to add to the debate around the point of privilege of my colleague, the member for Langley.

Before I begin, I would like to say that I worked with the member for Langley when he was the chair of the environment committee and I do respect his work as a member of Parliament in the House.

Saying that, I categorically oppose the content of the motion that he wishes to bring forward. The NDP has been very clear about its support for a woman’s right to choose and when it comes to women’s reproductive health. With that foundation, I would like to speak on the substance of the member’s point of privilege and add to that debate with the perspective of an NDP member of the House.

The NDP does not vet its members’ statements. Our statements are allotted and organized by the our whip and it is done in a fair and equitable manner so that all MPs have the opportunity to highlight the important issues going on across the country, as well as in their ridings. We also have a roster system when it comes to our daily statements, which we have had for the last decade.

We used to only have one statement a day when we were a smaller party. We have always held some of those statements for different reasons. For example, on Wednesdays, we hold a statement to make a statement on women’s issues. We hold back some other statements for specific days, for example, a day of mourning for injured workers or Remembrance Day. We also hold back the occasional statement so that we can respond to issues arising that day, which are time specific, or to correct serious and deceitful accusations made by the government. We do have that kind of system.

What we are seeing right now, what is happening within the Conservative caucus over this issue, is a number of Conservatives are rising to speak and are speaking out against their own internal process. This speaks directly to the Prime Minister’s misunderstanding and disrespect of how Parliament needs to work for MPs and for Canadians.

First of all, the Conservatives ignore the voices of the oppositions and their own MPs. Second, they stifle attempts by our officers of Parliament to hold them to account. Third, they shut down the ability of MPs to speak by shutting down debate. That is disrespectful to Parliament.

I do not believe that this is a question of left versus right; it is a question of right versus wrong.

The NDP respects Parliament. New Democrats respect freedom of speech and I think that can be seen even at our very roots when we look at our party conventions, for example. This past weekend, we had a party convention and we debated requiring a two third majority of Parliament vote to consent to prorogation. We also debated and discussed having a two third majority to move parliamentary committees in to camera. These motions have not yet been adopted and they are not yet on our official policy, but it shows that there is a strong culture of respect for Parliament in our party and within our caucus.

We do respect the right of members of Parliament to use their S. O. 31s, or their statements, to express views on the topics of their choosing. This is their right. We oppose the abuse of using normal parliamentary tools and procedures. We oppose the Conservatives writing the book on lack of judgment disrespect for this institution.

The NDP has long been champion of the rights of free speech in the House, as well as for fair debate on legislation. It is against, for example, the government’s limiting of time for debate on important issues in the House, whether it is through time allocation or closure. New Democrats put forward an opposition day motion in November 2011 that would have required the government to justify its use of time allocation or closure–

An hon. member: Stop politicizing it. Talk to the issue.

Megan Leslie: Mr. Speaker, it is remarkable that I am getting heckled on a point of privilege. It really is. The Conservatives know no bounds.

We did actually put forward an opposition day motion in 2011 to require the government to justify its use of time allocation or closure before they could be put to the House. The Speaker would have criteria to follow to ensure that this stifling of debate could be not become as routinized as it has become under the government.

Those are my perspectives as an NDP member on this side of the House. I hope that the Speaker takes those comments and considerations into account when he is making his decision.

Ms. Leslie sort of allows what Nathan Cullen has kind of acknowledged: that the NDP seems to handle its last allotted statement with some specific purpose. Starting, by my recollection, in the fall of 2011, the NDP has taken to using at least some of the time for statements by members for partisan purposes. This week, for instance, they used each of their last statements to congratulate themselves or attack the government.