Inside Politics

NDP forces emergency recall of House procedure committee

Undaunted, it seems, by the swiftness with which the government rejected their previous proposals for emergency mid-summer committee hearings on rail safety and the looming spectrum auction, the New Democrats have filed the necessary paperwork to trigger the recall of the House procedure committee.

According to the accompanying news release, NDP MPs are keen to start looking at ways to replace the existing internal economy committee with a transparent, independent oversight body, as per the eleventh hour omnibus order that was adopted unanimously just before the Commons rose for the summer break:

"Serious study of this issue is long overdue," said NDP Caucus Chair Peter Julian (Burnaby - New Westminster). "Harper is running away from accountability but the NDP knows that our bosses, the Canadian people, expect MPs to allocate tax payers' dollars in a diligent and transparent manner."

Under the Standing Orders, the chair is obliged to convene a meeting within five days of receiving a request signed by at least four committee members.

There is, however, no requirement that the meeting take place in public, which would give the Conservatives an easy out if they aren't quite as enthusiastic as their opposition counterparts -- they could simply use their majority to put the boots to the proposal behind closed doors without having to worry about explaining their objections to their constituents.

(Motions that are defeated during in camera meetings do not appear in the minutes.)

Even if the NDP MPs manage to convince their Conservative colleagues to support the motion, the looming September 16th deadline for prorogation -- which, for committees, means immediate, if temporary dissolution -- would render any such decision pretty much moot, at least until the Commons reconvenes later this fall. 

In any case, here's the full text of the letter, which helpfully includes the relevant portion of the June 18th order:

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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