Inside Politics

Committee study on House transparency will go ahead this fall

In a rare demonstration of cross-party cooperation, the procedure and House affairs committee has officially -- and unanimously -- reiterated its continuing support for an NDP-initiated bid to look into improving the transparency and accountability of the House of Commons, including options to replace the secretive all-party committee that governs MPs' expenses with an independent oversight body.

On Sunday afternoon, the committee held an emergency confab -- which was triggered by an NDP request --  to discuss the proposed study, which was one of several motions unanimously approved by the House just before MPs headed home for the summer, but faced an uncertain future due to the looming prorogation. 

After an hour or so of discussion -- which, it's worth noting, ended up taking place in public, despite initially being scheduled to go down behind closed doors -- they passed a motion to restore the original motion in its entirety when the House returns to regular parliamentary business later this fall. 

The full text of that motion, which was introduced by Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski, and amended by NDP democratic reform critic Craig Scott, as denoted by the bolded text:

That the Committee hold meetings in the fall of 2013 pursuant to the House order of Tuesday, June 18, 2013, regarding the transparency and accountability of the House of Commons, and that the Committee show respect for the will of the House by allowing one Member who is not a member of a recognized party to participate in these hearings as a temporary, non-voting member of the Committee, and that the Committee further show respect for the will of the House by instructing the Chair of the Committee to write to the Government House Leader to request that he, on the first day of the return of the House, seek unanimous consent from the House to bring back the House order of Tuesday, June 18, 2013, in the exact form adopted on that day.

Here, once again, is the original motion, as passed on June 18th, and now guaranteed to be brought back to life when the new session gets underway: 

Pursuant to Standing Order 106(4), we are requesting that a meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be held to start work on the House order of June 18th, 2013, which in part instructs the Standing Committee to:

(i) conduct open and public hearings with a view to replace the Board of Internal Economy with an independent oversight body,

(ii) invite the Auditor General, the Clerk and the Chief Financial Officer of the House of Commons to participate fully in these hearings,

(iii) study the practices of provincial and territorial legislatures, as well as other jurisdictions and Westminster-style Parliaments in order to compare and contrast their administrative oversight,

(iv) propose modifications to the Parliament of Canada Act, the Financial Administration Act, the Auditor General Act and any other acts as deemed necessary,

(v) propose any necessary modifications to the administrative policies and practices of the House of Commons

(vi) examine the subject-matter of the motions, standing in the name of the Member for Papineau, placed on the Order Paper on June 10, 2013,

(vii) report its findings to the House no later than December 2, 2013, in order to have any proposed changes to expense disclosure and reporting in place for the beginning of the next fiscal year;

Canadians are demanding that we get back to work as soon as possible to push for further transparency and accountability in the House of Commons.

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