In many jurisdictions governed by a parliament, Contempt of Parliament is the offence of obstructing the parliament in the carrying out of its functions, or of hindering any Member of Parliament in the performance of his or her duties.The Definition for Canada:
Actions which can constitute a contempt of Parliament vary, but typically include such things as:
In some jurisdictions, a House of Parliament may declare any act to constitute contempt, and this is not subject to judicial review. In others, contempt of Parliament is defined by statute; while Parliament makes the initial decision of whether to punish for contempt, the person or organisation in contempt may appeal to the courts. Some jurisdictions consider contempt of parliament to be a criminal offence.
- deliberately misleading a House of Parliament or a parliamentary committee;
- refusing to testify before, or to produce documents to, a House or committee; and
- attempting to influence a Member of Parliament, for example, by bribery or threats.
See also: Parliamentary censure in Canada and Parliamentary Privilege in Canada
The power to find a person in contempt of Parliament stemmed from Section 18 of the Constitution Act, 1867 in which "The privileges, immunities, and powers to be held, enjoyed... shall not confer any privileges, immunities, or powers exceeding those at the passing of such Act held, enjoyed, and exercised by the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and by the members thereof."
Regarding the above-mentioned "privileges," there is an important difference between the "individual parliamentary privileges" and "collective parliamentary privileges." This difference is also important in any case of "breach of privilege" as it applies to Parliamentary privilege in Canada.
So here is what happened with regards to the Contempt of Parliament for Harper.
On March 9, 2011, Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons Peter Milliken made two rulings on contempt of parliament: The first found that a Conservative Party cabinet minister, Bev Oda, could possibly be in contempt of Parliament. The second ruling found the Cabinet could possibly be in contempt of parliament for not meeting opposition members of parliament's requests for details of proposed bills and their cost estimates, an issue which had "been dragging on since the fall of 2010." Milliken ruled that both matters must go to committee and the committee must report its findings by March 21, 2011; one day before the proposal of the budget.
Concerning Milliken's first ruling, on March 18, 2011, opposition members of parliament said they still thought Oda was in contempt of parliament, despite her testimony that day, however the committee process never proceeded far enough to find Oda in contempt.
Concerning Milliken's second ruling, on March 21, 2011 the committee tabled a report which found the Conservative Party in contempt of parliament. As such, a motion of no confidence was filed against the government. On March 25, 2011, Members of Parliament voted on a Liberal motion of no confidence finding the Conservative government in contempt of Parliament, passing by a margin of 156 to 145. This is the first time a Canadian Government has fallen on Contempt of Parliament, and marks a first for a national government anywhere in the Commonwealth of fifty-four states.
My question would be should this be an issue? I noticed that no-one has actually asked. It appears to have become a footnote amongst the rhetoric and negative attack ads of this election. We should be concerned as a government should never be in Contempt of Parliament. It shows contempt for democracy and for the citizens of this country. It should be akin to Impeachment in the US. Why is Stephen Harper running for office when as the leader of the CPC he should be setting an example for the rest of us.
What do you think?