Tory MP ends first day of budget filibuster over SNC-Lavalin
Published Monday, April 1, 2019 12:35PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 1, 2019 6:44PM EDT
OTTAWA -- Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre has ended the first day of a "marathon" speech filibustering the debate on the 2019 budget, over the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
"I will speak for hours and hours on end until the prime minister agrees to end the coverup and begin the investigation," Poilievre announced shortly before stepping into the House of Commons on Monday.
After holding the floor in the Commons for around the combined five hours of government business on Monday, Poilievre vowed “this is going to continue and continue” when the House resumes debate on the budget, which could be Tuesday.
He said at the offset that he was prepared to continue speaking until the Liberals agree to Conservatives' calls to re-open the House Justice Committee study on the matter.
This procedural tactic is permitted because the House is holding the debate on the 2019 budget document, which comes with unique rules and is separate from any coming debate on the budget implementation bill that is yet to be tabled.
The rules of the House of Commons allows for up to four days of debate on the budget itself, and this takes precedence over all other business until this debate concludes. There is a provision that allows the first speaker for the Opposition to speak for an unlimited amount of time.
Therefore, Poilievre, who took that first speaking slot for the Conservatives, was given the floor indefinitely on Monday, and could resume on Tuesday.
"I will be using that ability to demand that the government end the cover up," he said. Typically if an MP is veering too far off-topic in their speech, the Speaker can intervene and cut them off, though the budget debate "allows for a wide-ranging debate, during which the rules of relevance are generally relaxed," according to Commons procedure.
Though, his unlimited speaking time has been periodically interrupted as he is only able to hold the floor during “government orders,” meaning his filibuster was put on pause for around two hours as the House had question period and dealt with other procedural matters, and was ended for the first day around 6:30 p.m.
The Conservatives want the House Justice Committee study to be revived and to hear from a dozen witnesses they say have been "implicated" in the ongoing scandal, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The entire affair centres on allegations from former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould that she faced sustained and improper pressure from senior government officials to interfere in a criminal case against Quebec engineering and construction firm SNC-Lavalin.
Wilson-Raybould was one of a handful of Liberal MPs who were in the chamber during the better part of the late afternoon and evening portion of his speech. Other than the occasional glance up when her Conservative colleague referenced her, she appeared to be largely fixated on her phone.
Poilievre said that there will be “plenty of time” to debate the budget in the coming weeks but “now is the time for accountability.”
On CTV's Question Period, opposition MPs called for the committee to resume its business after a secret audio recording Wilson-Raybould made of a conversation she had with outgoing Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick was made public, alongside dozens of pages of new information.
On Sunday, Trudeau’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts tweeted that he has handed over texts and notes between he and Wilson-Raybould to the committee, after reviewing her newly-released evidence.
Butts's evidence is expected to be made public by Tuesday at 3 p.m., according to the clerk of the committee.
The SNC-Lavalin controversy has dominated Parliament Hill for nearly two months, during which time Trudeau has faced calls to resign, the House of Commons agenda has been largely usurped by opposition-prompted procedural moves, and several other high-profile officials have resigned amid insistence that nothing improper occurred.