MPs begin orientation on Parliament Hill as ex-Liberal Kevin Vuong prepares to take his seat

·4 min read
Newly elected Green Party member of Parliament Mike Morrice, middle, joins other new MPs in an orientation session in Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Newly elected Green Party member of Parliament Mike Morrice, middle, joins other new MPs in an orientation session in Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Newly elected and re-elected MPs arrived in Ottawa today to undergo orientation sessions before taking their seats in the House of Commons.

One of them is former Liberal candidate — now independent MP — Kevin Vuong, who was dropped by the Liberals when it emerged that he had not disclosed to the party a sexual assault charge against him that was later dropped.

Vuong has apologized for not disclosing the allegation against him. Despite widespread calls for him to step down, he said he intends to take his seat in the House of Commons and serve residents of Spadina-Fort York as an Independent.

According to the Speaker's office, Vuong is one of 52 new MPs and 286 re-elected MPs who started arriving in Ottawa Monday for their orientation. Twenty MPs from the last Parliament opted not to run again.

When Parliament does resume, Vuong's presence in the House is expected to draw him into conflict with the party that turfed him in the final days of the campaign.

The Spadina-Fort York Federal Liberal Association has asked him to step down and let Elections Canada hold a by-election.

Vuong's decision to ignore that call does not mean he'll get to keep his seat. Under section 18 of the Constitution Act, 1867, the House of Commons has the power to reprimand MPs and expel them for offences committed outside of Parliament.

Expelling MPs from the House

The House has expelled MPs on four occasions. Louis Riel was expelled twice, once in 1874 and then again in 1875. In 1892, Thomas McGreevy, who was elected to the House six times, was expelled for corruption. In 1947, Fred Rose — who had been convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act — was expelled after being sentenced to six years in prison.

More recently, Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro was threatened with expulsion after being found guilty of election expenses violations under the Canada Elections Act. He stepped down before MPs could hold a vote.

The first group of MPs began orientation today with a welcome session that explained the two-day process for getting acquainted with Parliament Hill.

Day one sees MPs filling out paperwork, taking possession of electronic devices and ensuring they are connected to the parliamentary network.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

After that, new MPs are walked through what it means to work on Parliament Hill before being given a tour of where they will be working in West Block.

The second day of orientation instructs MPs on their managerial role in the House of Commons: structuring their office finances and hiring staff. After each election, every MP gets assigned a liaison officer to help them with the transition.

The Speaker's office said that the orientation sessions are held in groups of 10 or fewer, virtually and in person, and are expected to take about a month to wrap up.

Recount requested in Quebec riding

Candidates facing recounts are not contacted by the Speaker's office to arrange orientation until the results in their ridings have been settled by Elections Canada.

Recounts take place automatically when the difference between candidates is less than one one-thousandth of the votes cast in that riding. A spokesperson for Elections Canada told CBC that the agency is waiting for notices from lawyers to determine how many contests met that standard.

Recounts can also be requested for a number of reasons even in cases where the vote margin between candidates does not meet the threshold for an automatic recount.

Elections Canada said the Liberal Party of Canada has asked for a recount in Châteauguay-Lacolle, where the Bloc finished ahead of the Liberals by just a few hundred votes. Elections Canada said the recount was prompted by "a potential anomaly with the results reported for a single ballot box at an advance poll."

MPs do not have to complete their orientations before taking their seats in the House. They do have to be sworn in before making an appearance in the lower chamber, although they can do that virtually now.

As a pandemic measure, those who choose to appear in person to get sworn in are no longer allowed to invite anyone but immediate family.

While there is a date already in the parliamentary calendar for the return of Parliament — Oct. 18 — that date is set automatically when Parliament is dissolved for an election and is not likely to stand.

Now that the election is over, the Prime Minister's Office will send a notice to the Governor General to issue proclamations on the date and time the House will return to work. That hasn't happened yet and no date has been set for a new speech from the throne.

The first order of business when Parliament resumes will be to elect a Speaker of the House. The Speaker from the last Parliament, Anthony Rota, has indicated he will be running again.

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