Contempt Motion Raised by PCs
QUEENS PARK – I write to give notice that I intend to raise a point of privilege for contempt of the Legislature after Question Period on September 9th, 2013. In accordance with Standing Order 21(C), I write to you providing the appropriate notice and to bring this matter to your attention at my first available opportunity.
On June 25th, 2013, the Standing Committee on Justice Policy passed a motion that required the Ministry of Government Services to provide documents and electronic correspondence related to the cancellation and relocation of the Oakville and Mississauga gas plants sent by the Premier, Cabinet Ministers and their staff.
On July 26th 2013, some of these documents were released to the public and members of the Justice Policy Committee. These documents contained an email exchange which I am concerned may constitute a prima facie contempt of the Legislature.
In the midst of a previous point of privilege ruling from last September, senior Liberal staffers and advisors wrote in an email exchange that the “Speaker needs to follow up on his prima facie finding and change his mind.” The email exchange also states “Dave is putting the member from brant on notice that we need better here.” I have taken the liberty to attach this email exchange.
In testimony to the Justice Policy Committee on August 6t\ 2013, Laura Miller, former Deputy Chief of Staff to Dalton McGuinty, confirmed that a conversation did indeed take place between Dave Gene and the Speaker about the ruling.
On page 108 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, clerks Audrey O’Brien and Mark Bose state that, “Over the years, Members have regularly brought to the attention of the House instances which they believed were attempts to obstruct, impede, interfere, intimidate or molest them, their staffs or individuals who had some business with them or the House. In a technical sense, such actions are considered to be contempts of the House.” 1
This is reaffirmed by a 1973 ruling from former House of Commons Speaker Lucien Lamoureux. Speaker Lamoreux found that “parliamentary privilege includes the right of a member to discharge his responsibilities as a member of the House free from threats or attempts at intimidation. “2
O’Brien and Bose go on to state on page 116 that “as with the intimidation of a Member or witness, the intimidation or attempted intimidation of the Speaker or any other Chair Occupant is viewed very seriously by the House.” 3
I believe that the actions and statements of these senior Liberals is an attempt to intimidate the Speaker and falls under this description. The issue here is not whether the Speaker was intimidated, it is about whether an attempt was made. Parliamentary authority explicitly states that even an attempt to intimidate the Speaker is a matter that needs to be investigated by the Legislature.
There is one precedent that I bring to your intention. In 1998, the Ottawa Sun published quotes attributed to Members of the House of Commons that were deemed as an attempt to intimidate the Speaker Gilbert Parent and his pending ruling. One of the Opposition House Leaders rose on a point of privilege and asked that the Speaker rule on the matter. Speaker Parent found that a prima facie case of privilege existed and referred the matter to the Procedure and House Affairs Committee .4
In conclusion, my point of privilege is based upon the simple fact that members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario should be free from any attempts of intimidation – especially the Speaker.
It is concerning to me and my Caucus colleagues that the Speaker was being ‘put on notice’ and that senior Liberals stated that the Speaker needed to “change his mind.” I hope that a Standing Committee will have the opportunity to study this matter and ensure that future incidents do not occur.
I thank you for looking into this and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Jim Wilson, MPP Opposition House Leader
1 O’Brien and Bose, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 2nd Edition , 2009
2 Ibid, pg. 108
3 Ibid, pg. 116
4 Hansard Debates, March 9th, 1998, Number 69, 1st Session of 36th Parliament