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Five things we learned from Peter Milliken's speech, and one we didn't

Graham F. Scott


…On analysing the evidence before it and the precedents, the Chair cannot but conclude that the Government`s failure to comply with the Order of December 10, 2009 constitutes prima facie a question of privilege. […] I will allow House Leaders, Ministers and party critics time to suggest some way of resolving the impasse for it seems to me we would fail the institution if no resolution can be found. However, if, in two weeks’ time, the matter is still not resolved, the Chair will return to make a statement on the motion that will be allowed in the circumstances.

— Peter Milliken, Speaker, Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thus begins two weeks of victory-declaring, midnight BlackBerrying, editorializing, and horse-trading. Canadian House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken ruled in his speech to the house this afternoon a bunch of important things:

  1. The December 10 motion requesting unredacted documents on the Afghan detainees was in-bounds;
  2. Letters from Justice Department officials could produce a “chilling effect” on witnesses called to testify before parliamentary committees, however in this case it does not constitute “intimidation”;
  3. The House has the right to request documents of the government, and that there are no exceptions to that, “even for national security.”
  4. There are ways the documents could be shared with the House that would not compromise national security;
  5. Ultimately, it is his opinion that the government is in contempt, and the House must vote on the matter.

Milliken, however, decided to give everyone two weeks to see if they can sort it out amongst themselves before putting it to that contempt vote. What’s going to happen? Nobody knows! Should be an interesting two weeks, though.

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