I am the last person to dissect parliamentary procedure but every once in a while, my law degree comes in handy. (Also reading this excellent Liberal blog.)
The Commons public accounts committee had a meeting on March 24, 2011. For those of you for whom the last month is a blur, the budget was March 22 meaning by March 24 we all knew an election was coming. At that meeting -and the full transcript can be found here - Liberal MP Jean-Claude D'Amours put forward the following motion:
"That the committee report the following to the House of Commons:
Whereas reports of the Auditor General of Canada are of critical importance to our democracy and whereas the Auditor General Act states that-section 5-each additional report of the Auditor General to the House of Commons made under subsection (1) shall be submitted to the House of Commons on the expiration of thirty days after the notice is sent pursuant to subsection (4) or any longer period that is specified in the notice and the Speaker of the House of Commons shall lay each such report before the House of Commons forthwith after receiving it or, if that House is not then sitting, on any of the first fifteen days on which that House is sitting after the Speaker receives it. And whereas the Speaker of the House of Commons continues to hold office during dissolution of Parliament, that notwithstanding the Act, the committee calls on the Speaker of the House of Commons, in the event of dissolution of Parliament, to post a copy of any report of the Auditor General on the Parliamentary website the same day that he receives it."
Boy wouldn't that solve a lot of problems. The Auditor-General finishes her report, sends it the Speaker, he posts it on the popular parliamentary website even though there's an election underway. John Baird says the final report is glowing for the government? Let's see.
Not surprisingly the Conservatives on the committee freaked out. Out of order, they claimed. The chair of the committee disagreed. The clerk of the committee disagreed. The rules clearly say the motion was in order, they said. But for understandable reasons, the Conservatives continued to try to block it. No shock, no horror.
And then a surprising thing happened: David Christopherson, the NDP member of the committee, voted with the Conservatives. If there's an election, tough luck voters, no Auditor-General's report for you from your friends at the NDP.
I have no idea what the NDP was thinking. I'm sure Jack Layton will think of something before Tuesday's debate.