Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Secretive Commons Board Appeals Federal Court Finding in NDP Satellite Saga

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Secretive Commons Board Appeals Federal Court Finding in NDP Satellite Saga

Article excerpt

Secretive Commons board appeals court finding

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OTTAWA - The secretive committee that polices House of Commons spending has decided it has "no choice" but to appeal a Federal Court decision in the NDP satellite office saga.

Just last week, New Democrats were cheering the decision to allow an affidavit challenged by the attorney general, the Speaker of the House of Commons and the committee, known as the board of internal economy.

In the affidavit, University of Sherbrooke professor Maxime Saint-Hilaire noted the satellite controversy is not a matter of privilege, addressing a much greater question at the core of the case: do courts have jurisdiction in parliamentary matters?

At the core of the satellite office saga is the allegation that the NDP used parliamentary funds for non-parliamentary purposes when it pooled offices in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City -- an allegation the party strenuously denies.

It is now relying on its party funds to legally challenge a decision from the board to order 68 MPs -- many of whom were defeated in October's federal election -- to repay $2.7 million in parliamentary resources.

Heather Bradley, the director of communications for the Speaker's office, said in a statement the board now believes the court "erred in law and created a dangerous precedent" by allowing the affidavit to be admitted.

Government House leader Dominic LeBlanc, who sits on the board, added Tuesday the body acted on the advice of its lawyer, Guy Pratte, who is "one of the most respected and experienced litigators in Canada."

"The decision ... was not rendered by a judge, but by an official of the court," LeBlanc said.

"The advice from Mr. Pratte was that this should be taken before a judge, so with his experience and the work he's done, far be it from me to question somebody of his ability and the advice we received."

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the move will only create further delays in a political battle that originally played out behind closed doors because board proceedings are shielded from the public eye. …

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