MP Report by Jay Hill, M.P.
“The Tyranny of the Majority”
When I first decided to run for political office, I can’t say I knew EXACTLY what I was getting into.
I knew for certain that it is one of the highest honours possible to represent my fellow constituents in Ottawa and to advance my views on how to make this nation stronger and better.
I knew that maintaining the trust and confidence of my constituents would require long hours, hard work and sacrifice, not only for me, but my family. And while I couldn’t fully comprehend it until I experienced it, I understood and accepted that I would be held to account for everything I do and I would be subject to varying degrees of public scrutiny for my actions, both public and private.
Nevertheless, I CHOSE all that comes with being a politician. My staff did not.
Throughout the past several weeks, using their majority on parliamentary committees, the opposition parties have set aside due process and fair play to conduct random “interrogations” of Ministers’ staff members on a variety of subjects.
These actions reject the fundamental principle of Ministerial accountability in our parliamentary system. Ministers are ultimately accountable and answerable to Parliament for government policies, decisions and operations. Staff members are accountable to their Minister.
Our Government fully recognizes the need and authority of Parliamentary committees to call for persons or papers as they carry out their work. However, these are not merely “fact finding” sessions by committee members to seek further detail or clarification on a government program or policy, such as when senior public servants might appear before a committee.
Ministers’ staff who have appeared before committee have been subjected to aggressive, adversarial questioning and downright bullying. They have been denied the accompanying support of their Ministers; they have been denied the opportunity to give an opening statement, something normally granted to committee witnesses; and, they have been threatened by opposition MPs with contempt of Parliament through the media.
Even during the largest political scandal in Canadian history; the Liberal sponsorship scandal, where millions of dollars were stolen or mysteriously disappeared, Parliamentary committees at the time demanded Ministerial accountability. Ministers were seen as responsible and answerable for the actions of their staff.
In the absence of any respect for fair play and parliamentary tradition, I delivered a Ministerial Statement this week, as Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, to give formal notice that our Government will stand up for Ministerial staff, who did not sign on to being humiliated and intimidated by MPs.
Ministerial staff members will no longer appear when called before Parliamentary committees. Instead, Ministers will appear before committee when required to account for a staff member’s actions.
In response to one staff member refusing to appear at committee this week, opposition MPs on that committee voted to give the Liberal chair unprecedented, sweeping powers to summon any individuals he chooses via subpoena.