The long-awaited Speaker's decision on his point of privilege over having his member's statement (S.O.30) snuffed by the CON Whip was announced yesterday at around 3 p.m.
Here's Kady O'Malley's story filed at 4:57 p.m.
If backbench MPs want to the right to speak freely in the House, they're going to have to start standing up to be counted -- even if it means ignoring the speaking lists prepared by the party whip to compete against their caucus colleagues for the attention of the speaker.So, fans of the Westminster parliamentary system parsed that all to hell, gleefully anticipating little bobble-heads bobbing up and down trying to catch the eye of the venerable 33-year-old Speaker.
That, it seems, is the gist of House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer's much-anticipated ruling on the point of privilege raised by Conservative MP Mark Warawa after his pre-Question Period speaking slot was abruptly yanked by his party's whip due to his choice of subject -- specifically, his similarly scuttled attempt to bring a non-binding motion to condemn sex-selective abortion before the House.
Although he ultimately found that no prima facie breach of privilege had occurred, Scheer made it clear that, as far as he and his predecessors are concerned, the speaker has never ceded the right to choose which member should be recognized -- not just during the fifteen minute block designated for members' statements, but, in theory, during QP as well. He just hasn't yet been put in a position where he would have to do so, as -- again, at least as yet -- no members have ever attempted to circumvent the whip-created list.
The more cynical of course wondered just how much eye-catching Opposition members might have to mount. Clown-costumes wouldn't be out of place, after all.
Other cynics wondered if this really meant anything at all.
Funny, though, not much attention at all was paid to this story filed by John Ivison at 11:13 yesterday morning, about 4 hours before the decision.
John Ivison: Ruling on alleged breach of Warawa’s privilege to speak freely could head off Tory rebellionSo, at least four hours in advance, senator-in-waiting Ivison was tipped to the outcome.
But there are rumblings in caucus that Mr. Scheer may make a significant additional ruling by pointing to the Westminster example, where it is a long established convention that the Speaker has the right to recognize members from either side of the House when they stand during Question Time. In the British House of Commons, a number of MPs bob up and down at any given time, trying to catch the Speaker’s eye, and it is up to the chair to recognize them. The inference would be that if more than one MP stands up during members’ statements and Question Period, they could be recognized by the Speaker, whether they are on the whips’ list or not.
If Mr. Scheer leans towards the Westminster model, it could have profound implications in both the short and long term governance of the House. It would also suggest he will not find Mr. Warawa’s privilege was breached, since he could have been recognized by the speaker if he’d only stood up to speak at members’ statements.
In the short-term, it could head off a rebellion in the Conservative caucus that threatens to culminate in some Tories voting alongside the Liberals. New Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has introduced a motion to allocate members’ statements in alphabetical order which will reach the House on Wednesday and, absent some kind of significant reform, a number of Tory MPs may be tempted to signal their displeasure.
And indeed, the Speaker's ruling does have the salubrious effect of quelling the now pretty-well defunct Backbenchers Spring.
As the Church Lady would say: How conveeeenient.
Political shenangigans in the Speaker's Office!?!1???
Say it ain't so.
Now of course the question is which of the intrepid backbenchers will get up on their hind legs and attempt to speak to an unapproved topic -- like abortion, for example?
@fernhilldammit It's actually pretty close in structure to the UK model. We'll see if he actually sticks to it.— E (@freezingkiwi) April 23, 2013
(I've bet @freezingkiwi that his kiwis will really freeze before that happens.)
Will only the nutbars avail themselves of this
I wondered if Speaker Scheer had offered any protection -- kinda like whistle-blower protection -- for retribution from vengeful whips and leaders.
According to Mark Jarvis, author of Democratizing the Constitution:
Retired House of Commons procedural clerk, Thomas Hall, went further.
It's down to party constitutions. And ipso fatso, only future Christian Heritage Party candidates will partake.
ADDED: For all of you breathless with anticipation as to what Free Speech Warrior and Defender of Girls, Mark Warawa, would say in his totally unfettered S.O. 31 today -- behold! (I swear you can't make this shit up.)
UPDATE (April 26/13): How successful was Speaker Scheer in quelling the Backbench Revolt? Perfectly. Not one BBer voted for the Liberal motion to choose MPs to make member's statements by alphabetical order.