June 2nd, 2014

Secretive parliamentary body becomes kangaroo court

The partisan role of the House of Commons’ Board of Internal Economy was further entrenched today—as the Conservative majority united with the Liberals to politically attack the New Democrat Official Opposition for following the rules.

In 2013, the Official Opposition operated an outreach program that employed addressed mail to consult with Canadians. We conducted extensive consultations with the House of Commons and the Speaker to confirm that this program respected all applicable rules. Today, the BOIE retroactively ruled those activities out-of-bounds.

Today’s unprecedented move confirms that, under Stephen Harper’s Banana Republic Conservatives, due process and the rule of law are secondary to political gamesmanship. Behind closed doors, with no due process and no opportunity to review the evidence, the two parties transformed the BOIE into a kangaroo court. Ironically, this transformation is the ultimate misuse of parliamentary resources for partisan purposes.

In a fair process, the Official Opposition would have been able to provide key information, including this excerpt from a February 04, 2013 communication from the Clerk of the House of Commons to NDP staff about mailing privileges:
“The problem is, though, that the rules concern mass mailings, mailed and posted as such, that is not sealed and paid for as bulk mail not individual envelopes. What I think is happening here is form letters going out to individuals, in addressed franked envelopes. There are no rules about that.”

The Official Opposition is also saddened to see the Speaker put in a position where the institution he represents can no longer protect all Members’ rights and defend our democracy. His capacity to do so has been compromised by the actions and intimidation of the Conservative government. Last week, it took significant pressure to have the Speaker confirm, after stating the opposite that the NDP had indeed checked with him on the precise application of mailing rules. The Official Opposition now believes the integrity of the Speaker’s chair—and the democracy it protects—is at risk.

Before launching our mailing program, Official Opposition officials checked with the House of Commons administration. The Chief Opposition Whip sent a formal letter to the Speaker. We undertook due diligence to confirm that our mailing program followed all applicable rules, as Ms. Turmel explained Friday in a statement. Elections Canada has already confirmed that the NDP respected the law. In the face of the evidence, it would have been only logical for the BOIE to do the same. Instead, a majority of its members opted today to openly hijack our democratic institutions.