May 26th, 2024

Motz expects answers over reporting of gun bill

By Collin Gallant on October 31, 2018.

Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner MP Glen Motz speaks before the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018 in Ottawa.

Medicine Hat MP Glen Motz says a House of Commons committee needs to get to the bottom of how the government and its agencies view parliament when they are evaluating, developing and publicizing proposed laws.

The issue revolves around how the RCMP advertised potential changes to gun laws being debated as part of Bill C71 last spring.

In June, House Speaker Geoff Regan agreed with a complaint by Motz that the RCMP language used in a bulletin to gun retailers made it sound as if the changes were already approved, or that ministers alone had the power to enact the law.

That, Motz told the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on Tuesday, means the Liberal majority government or Ottawa bureaucrats view proposed policy as final, thereby discounting parliament’s authority.

“Where does that mentality come from,” Motz asked during his committee appearance in Ottawa on Tuesday.

“There’s a systemic challenge from government and public servants that can plow under the role of parliament.”

The proposed Bill C71 only went to second reading in the Senate last week, but Motz charges that the RCMP was in contempt of parliament by presupposing the outcome of Commons debate.

It made “millions” of gun owners uneasy, giving the impression they were breaking a law that hadn’t yet been dealt with by the House of Commons, said Motz.

Conservative committee member Stephanie Kusie, a Calgary MP, agreed and said she looked forward to an appearance Thursday by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

Also set to appear that day as witnesses are RCMP Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan and a director of Canadian Firearms Program, Rob O’Reilly.

Committee member Scott Simms, Liberal MP, compared the issue to the practice of the previous government.

The Harper Conservatives were roundly criticized by the Liberals in 2014 when the disclaimer “pending parliamentary approval” was placed in the fine print of announcements about tax changes and grant outlays included in budgets that had not yet passed.

Simms also said government agencies need to evaluate and prepare to implement changes before final votes are taken.

“They prepare themselves for what’s coming around the corner; that’s due diligence,” said Simms “If they didn’t, it would exacerbate the situation.”

David Christopherson, an NDP member from Hamilton Centre, implied majority governments at many levels of government tend to rule as if debate is secondary.

The attitude that majority governments will eventually pass programs as proposed is insulting, he said.

“The principle is a really big deal,” he said.

“No government or entity or agency has the right to purport to the people that something is law before parliament votes on it — I don’t care how big your majority is.

“Whether the government conspired with the RCMP to mislead the public or whether it was a comedy of errors remains to be seen.”

Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus said in French that if the issue doesn’t sit with the minister, then it’s an administrative issue of the RCMP, which is ultimately the minister’s responsibility.

Conservative MP John Nater suggested the committee look into internal procedures of the RCMP for producing and releasing such statements.

Liberal committee member Chris Bittle suggested Motz’s motivation in the matter was to “take a swing at the minister.”

“On one hand it’s a technical issue or on the other hand it’s a broad conspiracy,” he told Motz while asking for his opinion. “Are those the two options?”

Motz said during the meeting he “had his suspicions” about why and how the information had been presented as it was, but it was the committee’s job to determine the facts.

“It’s a huge affront to democracy regardless of the intent behind it,” Motz told Kusie earlier. “This isn’t just about this incident. It’s about a larger issue that other (parliamentary) speakers have dealt with, and that causes confusion in the public.”

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