Markham—Stouffville MP Jane Philpott made the following statement in Parliament this morning in response to her ouster from the Liberal caucus:
"Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege concerning my recent expulsion and the expulsion of the member for Vancouver Granville from the Liberal caucus and a breach of the Parliament of Canada Act. The question of privilege concerns a breach of my rights, the rights of the member for Vancouver Granville and other members' rights while respecting the confidential nature of caucus discussions and mine and the member for Vancouver Granville's obligations to maintain confidentiality of caucus discussions.
"How do I know that mine and my colleague's rights were breached? On November 5, 2015, section 49 of the Parliament of Canada Act required Liberal MPs to vote four times. These four votes were to be recorded. On March 21, 2019, the honourable member for Scarborough—Guildwood confirmed in a Toronto Star article that with respect to the four required votes, 'Nothing like that ever happens in caucus.' As such, this would mean that one of the recorded votes that did not occur was the rule concerning caucus expulsions. This also means that one of the recorded votes that did not occur was the rule for readmission of a member to the caucus.
"When the prime minister and his office prevented Liberal members of Parliament from exercising their rights under section 49.8, they violated the rights of Liberal members in three ways. First, the prime minister deprived members of their right under right under section 49.8 to vote four times in a recorded manner.
"Second, in depriving members of their right to vote, the prime minister denied members the opportunity to adopt the rules in sections 49.2 and 49.3 concerning caucus expulsions and caucus readmittance, respectively. In doing so, the prime minister deprived members of their right to determine the expulsion of a caucus colleague on a secret ballot vote and their right to determine the readmittance of a Liberal member to the caucus on a secret ballot vote.
"Third, in denying members their right to vote and adopt the expulsion rule in section 49.2 and the readmission rule in section 49.3, the prime minister denied members being considered for expulsion or readmission the right to a due process, one that is not ad hoc, not arbitrary or unlawful.
"With respect to expulsion specifically, section 49.2 lays out a clear process for expulsion and the bar is deliberately set high. First, at the time, on April 2, at least 36 Liberal MPs would have had to write to the caucus chair requesting an expulsion and, second, a majority of the entire caucus, not just a majority of MPs present, would have had to vote in favour of expulsion in a secret ballot, an absolute majority.
"In other words, on April 2, 2019, when I and the member for Vancouver Granville were expelled by the prime minister, the Liberal caucus had 179 members, which means that at least 90 Liberal MPs would have been required to vote in favour of expulsion in a secret ballot. If only 120 MPs showed up to vote, 90 votes in favour of expulsion would still have been required.
"The prime minister stated at the April 2 open meeting of the Liberal caucus and on national television, “I have taken the decision to expel the honourable members from caucus.”
"The prime minister added that he had met with me and the member for Vancouver Granville to inform us of his decision. This confirms that we were expelled prior to the commencement of the Liberal caucus meeting. The prime minister's words that night to the Liberal caucus are important to underscore because expulsion should not be his decision to take unilaterally. However, the decision had been already made.
"Members of Parliament are not accountable to the leader; the leader is accountable to members of Parliament. This is a constitutional convention.
"I cannot adequately underscore how important this part of the confidence convention is.
"In fact, it is so critical to the functioning of our institutions that the last Parliament decided to take part of that unwritten constitutional convention and enshrine it in legislation to make an amendment to the Parliament of Canada Act.
"This question of privilege is timely. Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you ruled on a question of privilege raised by the member for Perth—Wellington. Respectfully, that response does not address our situation or our concerns.
"First, the response to the question from the member for Perth—Wellington concerned the member for Whitby, who resigned from caucus and was not expelled. This is not the circumstance with respect to myself or the member for Vancouver Granville.
"Second, we are not asking that this House deal with the possible expulsion of a specific member of caucus as a question of privilege; rather, the matter of privilege is with respect to knowing which rules apply with regard to expulsion and readmission. This is necessary in order to ensure due process, fairness, and that the rule of law is respected.
"The Speaker's response to a point of order raised on December 10, 2015 by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills indicates that the chair of the Liberal caucus did indeed inform the Speaker in accordance with section 49.8(5) of the Parliament of Canada Act, but that the content of such notice would not be made public. The Speaker stated, “All actions required by the act to be taken by the Speaker have been taken.”
"Recently, my honourable colleague, the member for Vancouver Granville, inquired of the Liberal caucus chair, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis, by email, no less than four times, asking for clarity on the rules that apply respecting expulsion from the Liberal caucus.
"We anticipated that expulsion was imminent as was being reported in the media. The expulsions have now taken place, however we still do not know the rules and so cannot determine if they were followed.
"Notwithstanding the Parliament of Canada Act, the rules of this place, points of order, or points of privilege, or inquiries we have made of our former colleagues, both myself and the member for Vancouver Granville still do not know what rules applied to our expulsion, nor what rules would apply to any readmission.
"Third, we acknowledge that you have stated you have no role in the interpretation of a statute or in the conduct of these 2015 provisions, but with respect, it is our view that this does not relieve you of your responsibility to ensure that all members are aware of their rights in this place. This is our privilege.
"Accordingly, a remedy is required for our situation. This matter is urgent and cannot wait for new standing orders; procedural fairness and the rule of law demand this.
"Secret in-camera meetings or private notices should not be a shield to prevent the upholding of the law and members' rights. I ask that you find a prima facie case of privilege to ensure that the rights of members, both for expulsion and readmission, are upheld and are consistent with the law."
The Speaker: "I thank the honourable member for Markham—Stouffville for raising her argument. While I am left with the difficulty, as I said in my ruling yesterday, that the Speaker is not empowered to enforce statutes, I will certainly consider her argument and come back to the House."