POLITICS

NDP wants answers on Senate residency vetting process

05/11/2015 01:57 EDT | Updated 05/11/2016 05:59 EDT
The New Democrats are calling on House Speaker Andrew Scheer to wade into what has become a daily standoff in the Commons over the government's refusal to reply to questions on the Senate appointment process.

On March 23 — two weeks before the trial of suspended Senator Mike Duffy on fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges got underway — New Democrat MP Charlie Angus submitted a written parliamentary question seeking more details on the appointment process.

In it, he asked: "With respect to each Senate appointment made by Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper, did the government verify that each individual being appointed to the Senate met their constitutional residency requirement?"

He also wanted to know how, exactly, the government would "verify that each individual met their constitutional residency requirement."

The question did not mention Duffy or any other specific senator.

But on Friday, the government tabled a one-line reply, in which prime minister's parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra, simply stated that the government "does not comment on matters before the court."

Non-answers 'now come in written form': Angus

That's the same response that both Harper and Calandra have delivered repeatedly in the House in response to oral questions on the vetting process.

"Calandra's non-answers now come in written form," Angus told CBC News via email. "At least he didn't respond to the question about Senate residency with an answer about pizza."

Angus intends to lodge an official complaint over the response after question period on Monday afternoon.

"It's only a matter of time before this important tool of parliamentary oversight is treated with the same lack of respect and seriousness as question period," he noted.

That's why he wants Scheer to "give us a chance to stand up for accountability and stop the Conservatives from further undermining our Parliament."

Still, he may not want to get his hopes up.

This isn't the first time an opposition MP left unsatisfied by a written response has attempted to convince the Speaker to intervene on his or her behalf.

In his rulings on similar complaints to date, Scheer has consistently concluded that as long as the government meets the 45-day deadline, it's not his place to police the quality of a particular response.