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No committee or caucus roles, longtime Tory MP Scott Reid still sidelined after breaking rank

The election ushered in what is certain to be a period of uncertainty and discord unseen in Canada for years.
Conservative MP Scott Reid, pictured at a meeting of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee in Centre Block's room 112-N back in 2017, is the only member of his caucus not running to lead the party to not have any additional roles. The Hill Times file photograph
By Laura Ryckewaert      

After being stripped of his critic duties during the last Parliament for voting against the party line, longtime Conservative MP Scott Reid has been entirely left off of House committee membership lists this time around.

Up until this Parliament, Mr. Reid had spent 15 years as a member of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee (PROC).

“I did not request to be free from a committee assignment,” Mr. Reid (Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston, Ont.) said in an email response to questions from The Hill Times.

Mr. Reid declined an interview by phone during the break week last week on the subject, and did not respond when asked whether he believed his lack of committee assignments this Parliament was down to continued punishment for his having previously voted against the party line and for speaking out about it.

“Unfortunately, responding to these questions would involve a breach of the conventional practice of caucus confidentiality,” he wrote.

As caucus whip, Conservative MP Mark Strahl (Chilliwack–Hope, B.C.) oversees the committee assignment process. Asked about Mr. Reid’s lack of assignments, and whether it was part of continued punishment, in an email, Mr. Strahl said “Mr. Reid is a valuable member of the Conservative caucus and will continue to play an important role in it.”

“With the largest Official Opposition in Canadian history, we have more MPs than there are available spots on committees,” said Mr. Strahl, flagging that Mr. Reid is an associate member of all House committees and as such “will have the opportunity to participate in a number of committee studies during this Parliament.”

Of the 121 members of the Conservative caucus, Mr. Reid is one of 14 who are not regular members of any standing House, joint, or special committee, but is the only one among them without any critic role or other caucus-related responsibilities.

Those 14 include Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.), who, as party leader, wouldn’t be assigned to committees, so, too, with Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen (Portage-Lisgar, Man.) and Mr. Strahl, who are instead both members of the House Board of Internal Economy.

Conservative leadership candidates Erin O’Toole (Durham, Ont.), Marilyn Gladu (Sarnia–Lambton, Ont.), and Derek Sloan (Hastings–Lennox and Addington, Ont.) were removed as critics, and similarly do not have committee assignments, because of their leadership campaigns. Conservative MP Alain Rayes (Richmond-Arthabaska, Que.) is instead busy as Mr. Scheer’s Quebec lieutenant. Conservative MPs Ted Falk (Provencher, Man.) and Glen Motz (Medicine Hat–Cardston–Warner, Alta.) are members of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. Conservative MP Bruce Stanton (Simcoe North, Ont.) has no committee assignments as he’s deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.

Longtime Conservative MP Diane Finley (Haldimand–Norfolk, Ont.) also isn’t a member of any House committees, but is instead busy as caucus-party liaison and is a member of the Conservative Leadership Election Organizing Committee and the Leadership Debate Committee. Conservative MP Chris Warkentin (Grande Prairie-Mackenzie, Alta.) is caucus-OLO (opposition leader’s office) co-ordinator. Finally, Conservative MP Tako Van Popta (Langley–Aldergrove, B.C.) is the B.C. regional caucus chair.

Mr. Reid is listed as an associate member for House committees, but so is the vast majority of the Conservative caucus. For example, he’s one of 113 Conservative MPs listed as an associate member of PROC.

In January 2018, Mr. Reid was abruptly stripped of his duties as the Conservative critic for democratic reform. Reached by media at the time, specifically then-National Post reporter Marie-Danielle Smith, Mr. Reid denied having been fired, and instead pointed to his new role as vice-chairman of Giant Tiger’s board of directors, a company owned by his family.

But, in an essay published on his MP website on Dec. 30, 2019—the first of a planned series laying out ideas for policy and internal party reforms as the Conservative leadership race unfolds—Mr. Reid admitted he had “lied” (for which he later apologized) and that his removal as critic was punishment “for the crime of having broken ranks two months earlier” by voting in favour of the Liberal government’s cannabis legalization act.

Mr. Reid said he voted as he did because it was the will of his constituents, and criticized the fact that no caucus vote took place to determine the party’s position, which was instead “simply imposed” by the leader, without explanation.

He said he’d lied to protect Mr. Scheer “from the consequences” of what he “regarded as, at best, a very ill-considered policy decision that was intended to permanently hobble my own career,” writing later that, “Andrew’s obvious desire to avoid the negative publicity associated with his decisions was met.”

“It is a sign of just how craven our political culture has become, that there will be some people who will say that I was right to lie to a journalist in January 2018, and am wrong to come clean about it now at the tail-end of 2019,” he wrote.

This admission came in a section of the essay calling for the next Conservative leader to “restore free votes on all matters not otherwise designated,” and to “ensure that no member is disciplined for voting against a party position imposed by a body of which he or she is not a member.”

House committee memberships this Parliament were finalized by February, roughly a month after his essay came out.

Mr. Reid, who’s tied with Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, Ont.) for the title of the longest-serving member of the party’s caucus, said his staff have written a memo to Conservative MPs on PROC and the subcommittee on international human rights “offering to fill in whenever they aren’t able to attend.”

“I served for 15 years on PROC (longer than any currently sitting MP has served on any committee), and I chaired Human Rights for nearly a decade, so I think that I can be a helpful fill-in for my colleagues, any time they need me,” wrote Mr. Reid in an email to The Hill Times.

First elected as a Canadian Alliance MP in 2000, Mr. Reid has held a number of caucus and committee roles over the years. Most notably, he was a member of PROC from October 2004 until the end of the last Parliament, and was its vice-chair from September 2017 until January 2018. Before becoming an official PROC member, he spent a year-and-a-half on its subcommittee tackling the 2003 electoral redistribution process, and was part of those decennial efforts again in 2013.

PROC is consistently one of Parliament’s busiest—and arguably most important—committees, and is tasked with oversight of the rules that govern the House (the Standing Orders), the House administration, Elections Canada (and the appointment and work of the Chief Electoral Officer), order-in-council appointments, electoral redistribution, and codes of conduct for MPs, among other things. When the House Speaker so decides, it’s to PROC that questions of privilege are punted.

The next redistribution process is set to follow the 2021 census, and, depending on how long this Parliament lasts, it could be tackled by PROC later this Parliament.

“I am the only MP, from any party, who was involved in both the 2003 and 2013 redistributions. Should the 43rd Parliament last long enough, I’ll put my experience at the disposal of my party,” Mr. Reid noted in his email.

He’s also spent seven years on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights, including as chair; three years on the House Official Languages Committee; and was on 2016’s Special Committee on Electoral Reform, among other shorter assignments. Mr. Reid was also deputy government House leader during the Harper government’s nine years, and from 2015 to 2016 as deputy opposition House leader.

lryckewaert@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

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