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House video would prove Liberals broke voting rules: Bergen

A loss in any one of more than 200 that occurred over the protracted procedural gambit would have been considered a loss of confidence in the government, and triggered an election.
Jason Unrau Montreal, QC

The video footage of a disputed vote during the marathon filibuster would prove Liberal MPs broke the rules and should be released, says Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen.

“There were at least 50 Liberal Members of Parliament who did not tell the truth, who should not have been a part of that vote. We saw it,” said Bergen of the MPs allegedly late to the House and ineligible to vote, but who did so anyway. “It’s very clear all of them were rushing in.”

The 30-hour filibuster that ended early Friday morning involved line-by-line votes on budgetary spending, each considered a confidence vote in the government which raises the stakes considerably.

A loss in any one of more than 200 that occurred over the protracted procedural gambit would have been considered a loss of confidence in the government, and triggered an election.

“(Liberal MPs) were having sleeps and whatever, and hey that’s the nature of what we were doing and we wanted to beat them on a vote and we had the numbers to do it,” Bergen said. “And they broke the rules and then they lied about it. This is very serious.”

While opposition MPs protested alleged latecomers on the Commons floor at the time, House Speaker Anthony Rota decided to proceed with the vote, “and leave it up to the honour of the individual members to identify whether they can vote or not.”

But Bergen said that “this is a case where (honour) did not work and … we’re continuing our point of privilege on this – if there’s nothing to hide, if they were telling the truth, then why not just show the video.”

According to the rules, to be eligible for a vote. an MP must be inside the House of Commons before the question of said vote, or motion, is read into the record by the Speaker – Bergen and other MPs say dozens of Liberals were late and therefore their votes should be disqualified.

New Democrat MP Charlie Angus told The Post Millennial that he remembers the disputed vote On Thursday afternoon well because he was “specifically told not to vote on the previous one (vote 125),” because he was late to enter the House.

“So I sat down and waited. Then vote 126 began and it was pretty quiet. Anthony Rota stood up, began to read the question and then it was like mayhem,” said Angus. “And not just one or two MPs, I mean it was a flood of Liberals that came in and they kept coming in as points of order were being made, they were still trying to get into their seats. They completely dropped the ball.”

Hansard, a record of all statements made in the House of Commons, indicates a raft of points of order on alleged latecomers, whether MPs had even heard the question and Rota’s inability to hear through the sound system. Following the vote further debate ensued on who was actually in the House on time and who was not, like this exchange between Conservative MP Steven Blaney and Liberal MP Francis Drouin.

Blaney:

“I would like to give my francophone colleague from Glengarry—Prescott—Russell an opportunity to withdraw his vote, out of respect for his constituents. He unfortunately seems to have voted even though he was not here when the motion was read out.”

Drouin:

“I would like to ask my colleague through which door I came in. He may not have noticed, but I was in the left-hand corner of the room at the beginning of the reading of the motion, and I was seated when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons rose on a point of order. I was in the room when the motion was read out.

Other MPs, including New Democrat MP Peter Julian and Conservative MP Larry Maguire asked Rota that video of the House chamber be reviewed to which the Speaker noted, “It is under advisement.”

In an email from the Office of the Speaker to The Post Millenial, office spokesperson Heather Bradley said the matter of who was eligible to vote on 126, “Is a question that is before the House, the Speaker will get back to the House on the matter, in due course.”

“Keep in mind there is a long standing tradition in the House of Commons that Members are taken at their word,” wrote Bradley, who did not answer whether the Speaker had reviewed the video or planned to do it.

Angus said the issue is one he has never seen before and questions whether Bergen and her Conservative colleagues actually had enough votes to beat the government in the first place, even if a video proved some Liberal MPs broke the rules.

“We’re in unchartered territory here. I don’t know if there were enough Conservatives in the House to make a difference but I think this is problematic and I think how (the Speaker) handled it is problematic,” said Angus. “I think there does need to be some way of finding out if people voted ineligibly because they’re undermining the credibility of the democratic vote in the House.”

The fillibuster was triggered after the Liberals voted down a Conservative motion on Wednesday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waive a partial gag-order on ex-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, preventing her from discussing events after she was removed as Justice Minister on January 14.

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Jason Unrau
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