McLeod: minority government leads to parliamentary concerns

Cathy McLeod

Cathy McLeod

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod says she isn’t surprised by House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken’s two rulings that chastised her Conservative government on how it’s conducting parliamentary business.

On March 9, Milliken ruled that it appeared the Stephen Harper government withheld information from the finance committee’s demand for costs related to the crime bill and corporate tax cuts.

He also determined International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda had given inconsistent testimony to a Common’s committee about who ordered funding to be cut to a foreign aid charity, but later told Parliament that she had ordered the change.

These rulings were Milliken’s responses to complaints lodged by Liberal MPs, and both matters have been moved to the procedures and House affairs committee, which opposition MPs hold the majority of seats.

The committee will report to the House on March 21 with its recommendations on whether the Conservative government should be held in contempt for withholding prison costs. On March 25, the committee will report on whether it thinks Oda misled the House and breach parliamentary privilege.

Meanwhile, McLeod says her government certainly respects Milliken’s rulings and has already stated it will work with Parliament to get the information to the Opposition parties. She notes Oda has said she is willing to testify and clarify the issue swirling around her.

McLeod notes Parliament is not used to working with long-term minority government, as has been the case with the Stephen Harper Conservatives, which has controlled the longest minority government in Canadian history.

“So this is not surprising, at least in my mind, that we’ve had some challenges that the Speaker has had to rule on.”

Noting she sits on the finance committee, McLeod says the Opposition had requested a “fairly comprehensive” document list and the Speaker ruled that while the government gave the Opposition some documents, it didn’t release the ones the committee members were requesting.

“So, we’re looking to see if there are additional documents we can release without breaching cabinet confidentiality. We had looked at what we thought we could release without that breach and did so, but obviously it was not enough.”

The other aspect, she notes, was the release of what the cost would be to reduce the corporate taxes.

Again, she adds, it’s difficult to give definitive answers because there are a number of potential scenarios involved and a wide range of diverse opinion on whether reducing corporate taxes would have positive or negative aspects.

Regarding Oda declining a funding application by inserting the word “not” into the document, McLeod says the Speaker ruled it was confusing, and the minister will be going back to the committee to explain about that document.

“My concern is certainly we are more than willing to comply with the ruling of the Speaker, but not only because of the minority of government but also the minority on committees, I’m hoping that the Opposition are respectful, appropriate and fair opposed to using it as an opportunity make political points.

McLeod won’t speculate on whether this will lead to an election, but she says the government hopes to present its budget on March 22.

“In my perspective, it’s critical to continue on. We have some good news about our economy. Our intention is to continue to do what Canadians have asked us to do and present a budget that we feel is the best for Canadians.”