Did the government lose a ruling in the House this week due to bad advice?
Tom Lukiwski, parliamentary secretary to the Conservative government house leader, suggests the reason behind one of this week's rulings by Speaker Peter Milliken might have been the advice of civil servants to the government.
"The information we had originally submitted to Parliament was on the advice of many of those within the public service who told us that this information should be able to satisfy the request. Obviously the Speaker saw it differently," Lukiwski told The House in an interview airing Saturday.
On Wednesday, the Speaker of the House ruled that there was a prima facie — or, "on its face" — case against the government for breach of parliamentary privilege, after it refused to hand over detailed cost estimates related to scheduled corporate tax cuts, the government's anti-crime agenda and the costs of the new F-35 aircraft.
Lukiwski didn't go so far as to say that civil servants were ultimately responsible for the ruling, but he did suggest the committee looking into the matter next week would have to hear from bureaucrats to get the full story.
"I suspect this is a situation where the public servants who were responsible for gathering the information were the ones who advised the ministers that the information that they'd provided was adequate and satisfactory."
Deputy Liberal Leader Ralph Goodale told The House that argument is in line with the Conservatives' approach.
"For Conservatives, ministerial responsibility seems to be a temporary and constantly shifting phenomenon," Goodale said. "When they're trying to duck an issue, well, find a public servant and throw them under the bus. That appears to be their tactic."
In this case, Goodale says he doesn't think the government will be able to hide behind bureaucrats.
"They won't get away with it on this one because we have a Speaker's ruling, and the Speaker's ruling is not directed toward the public service, the Speaker's ruling is directed squarely at the government and the government as an entire entity."