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Speaker of House calls for probe into security breach at NDP offices in Ottawa

Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 8, 2016. A Liberal staffer entered the NDP’s research office on Sparks Street near Parliament Hill on Nov. 3, 2016.

Blair Gable/The Globe and Mail

The Speaker of the House of Commons is calling for a further investigation into a security breach involving a Liberal staffer at one of the NDP's offices near Parliament Hill last year.

Following a request from NDP whip Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, Speaker Geoff Regan asked deputy sergeant-at-arms Pat McDonell to further examine an incident last November when Liberal staffer Mark Livingstone gained unauthorized access to the party's office at 202 Sparks Street in Ottawa.

"Please be assured that a comprehensive review has been conducted and measures have been taken to ensure that a similar incident does not happen again. That being said and given the fact that you have additional serious concerns, I have asked the deputy sergeant-at-arms to further investigate," said Mr. Regan in a letter to Ms. Boutin-Sweet, obtained by The Globe and Mail.

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"Both safety and security of Members, employees, visitors and information on Parliament Hill is paramount."

In a letter to the Speaker, the sergeant-at-arms's office and Parliamentary Protective Service Monday night, Ms. Boutin-Sweet said the NDP has been "given contradictory information and no clear assurances that this event was properly investigated."

Last week, The Globe revealed that Mr. Livingstone, who was working for Health Minister Jane Philpott at the time, entered the New Democrats' research office around 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2016, the day before the Liberal government's one-year anniversary in power. Mr. Livingstone left his job after the incident.

On Nov. 8, the Liberal House Leader's chief of staff, Rheal Lewis, notified Ms. Boutin-Sweet that a Liberal staffer had entered the office days earlier. The NDP was told Mr. Livingstone did nothing while he was briefly in the office, where senior staff, media relations and research teams work.

The New Democrats said they attempted to follow up with the Liberal House Leader's office after they were notified and were directed to parliamentary security, which told them it had footage from cameras at the main entrance of the building and the second-floor reception area in the NDP's office.

However, a few days later, the NDP said the House of Commons corporate security operations chief, Michel Denault, told them they could not see the video. The party said that when asked for a summary of the tape, Mr. Denault responded that the footage was not available because of a "programming oversight" and refused to identify the intruder.

The party learned who the staffer was only last week when Mr. Livingstone dropped off a letter claiming sole responsibility and apologizing for the intrusion. The letter arrived hours after the Globe asked Ms. Philpott's office about the incident.

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In the letter, Mr. Livingstone said he was "enjoying an evening of celebrations at an establishment located in the basement of 202 Sparks Street" on Nov. 3 before the intrusion. The Cock and Lion, a pub frequented by Liberal staffers, is below the NDP research bureau. Mr. Livingstone worked in that office when it was the Liberal research bureau during the party's time in opposition.

Months later, the NDP still has a number of outstanding questions about the intrusion, including how long Mr. Livingstone was in their office, which areas he accessed, whether this kind of event has ever occurred before and what happened to the security footage.

The NDP also obtained a note left for a security guard the night of the intrusion, raising questions about how many individuals accessed the office that night without authorization. Security for 202 Sparks Street is contracted out to a third-party provider.

"We miss you and hope you are well!" read the note, which was signed "Your former tennants [sic]."

NDP caucus chair Daniel Blaikie said his party is looking forward to the results of the investigation.

"I think any time that someone goes into your office without permission is very concerning and I think it's fair to say that members of caucus here absolutely want to get to the bottom of what happened."

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