POLITICS

Mauril Bélanger questions 'expedited' RCMP takeover of Hill security

02/13/2015 01:53 EST | Updated 04/15/2015 05:59 EDT
A long-time Liberal MP has launched a last-ditch effort to ensure that putting the RCMP in charge of policing inside the parliament buildings won't put parliamentary privilege at risk.

In a letter sent to Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney earlier this week, Ottawa-Vanier MP Mauril Bélanger says that, while he supports the principle of "fully integrated security," he'd like to see the government's proposal amended to include explicit acknowledgement of the need to maintain parliamentary primacy.

"Parliamentary privilege is one of the ways of ensuring respect for the fundamental constitutional separation of powers," he notes.

"A security force accountable to the government rather than to Parliament could be perceived as outside influence."

To dispel such worries, he wants Blaney to amend the motion currently before the House to "specifically stipulate that the RCMP commander responsible for security on Parliament Hill would report to parliamentary authorities."

He suggests that the minister look at the agreement between the RCMP and the government of British Columbia for the provision of provincial policing service.

'Much more than an academic debate'

"A model already exists in our country that could be very easily be expressly included in your motion, and in any future service agreement," he notes.

In an interview with CBC News, Bélanger pointed out that the division of powers is actually a constitutional requirement.

"It's much more than an academic debate," he noted.

"There was a committee of the House and Senate … that was looking at that, and it hasn't completed its work," he pointed out.

"Yet somehow, all of a sudden, things got expedited next week."

He's also not happy at the decision by the government to invoke closure on the House debate of the motion, which could mean a final vote as early as Monday.

"It's too expedited for my liking," Bélanger observed.

"We haven't even had a chance to debate this in caucus yet."

Liberal caucus supporting government motion

Even so, a spokesman for the Liberals confirmed to CBC News that the party will support the government motion.

"We believe that a fully integrated security force of House of Commons, Senate and RCMP officers under a single chain of command is the best approach to securing Parliament," Cameron Ahmad told CBC News via email.

"It will be up to the Speakers of the House and Senate to ensure that the rights, privileges, powers and independence of Parliament are maintained in this arrangement."

The party will also be voting against the proposed amendment put forward by the New Democrats before the House rose for the constituency break.

If adopted, the NDP motion would enshrine "the ultimate authority" of the House and Senate Speakers to control access to Parliament Hill.

Public Safety has not yet responded to a query from CBC News on Bélanger's letter.

Mobile users: Read the letter sent by Liberal MP Steve Blaney to Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney