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Pedestrians walk past the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation building in Toronto in June of 2006. (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)
Pedestrians walk past the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation building in Toronto in June of 2006. (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

Speaker declines to intervene in CBC document dispute Add to ...

The Speaker of the House of Commons is refusing to step into a dispute over whether Conservative MPs should be allowed to see internal CBC documents.

Andrew Scheer ruled Monday the Conservative-dominated committee on access to information, privacy and ethics still has time to work out some sort of compromise over its contentious study of the public broadcaster.

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“There remains room in further deliberations for a thorough airing of the serious issues that have been raised and potentially for a satisfactory resolution of the current situation,” Mr. Scheer told the House.

The CBC has gone to court in an effort to stop the release of documents requested under the Access to Information Act by a direct commercial competitor, Quebecor Media.

Mr. Scheer was responding to an NDP request that he order the Commons ethics committee either to stop its CBC investigation altogether, or at least suspend the study until the broadcaster's court appeals are complete.

In the meantime, the CBC under duress has submitted sealed internal documents to MPs on the committee, arguing that their order to turn over the material may be unconstitutional.

Mr. Scheer in his ruling says Commons Speakers have a tradition of refusing to intervene in committee business, especially when the committee has yet to produce a report detailing the areas of contention.

Dean Del Mastro, parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the spearhead of the Tory investigation, said the committee will resume hearings on the CBC later this week.

“We'll look forward to the committee recommencing so it can continue its study and ultimately produce a report that I believe will be of value to all Canadians,” Mr. Del Mastro said outside the Commons.

NDP justice critic Joe Comartin said the Speaker's ruling was not unexpected, given the historical reluctance to intervene, but that the situation was serious enough to warrant the effort.

Mr. Comartin said his party is “grossly dissatisfied” by the Conservative decision to demand documents that are currently the subject of a court proceeding.

“In my opinion – and I'm saying this as a lawyer – they way crossed the line in that division between the judiciary and the legislative functions, intervening in a way that I've never seen historically in this country,” the New Democrat said.

“I worry about that coming back to haunt us at some point, either in this committee or in other committees if they try to do the same thing.”

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