Can an MP ask a constituent’s question during QP?

The matter of crowd-sourcing Question Period
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is applauded by fellow MPs rises in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Monday, April 15, 2013.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Last month, Justin Trudeau asked Canadians to send him questions they wanted to have put to the Prime Minister and on Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau raised two such questions in the House.

Immediately after Question Period, Peter Van Loan complained that questions from constituents were not allowed.

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order relating to a number of questions that were raised by the leader of the Liberal Party, which were clearly in contravention of the rules of this place. I know he is somewhat new here and is not entirely familiar yet with the rules, but when we look at the good book, O’Brien and Bosc, we will find at pages 502 and 503 a reference to questions in question period. A question should not be a representation and, furthermore, it should not be a question from a constituent. This has been dealt with on occasion by Speakers of the House. For example, in early 1994, the member for Fraser Valley West asked the finance minister a question on behalf of one of his constituents and Speaker Parent advised that was out of order.

Mr. Trudeau countered that the two Canadians referenced were not his constituents as the the MP for Papineau and Mr. Van Loan responded that this was not a relevant distinction. After a final intervention, the House moved on to other matters, with the Speaker offering no ruling on the validity of Mr. Van Loan’s complaint, nor suggesting that he might be offering one later.

Here is the section of House of Commons Practice and Procedure that deals with oral questions (scroll down for the portion on the “Principles and Guidelines for Oral Questions”).

As I noted at the time of Mr. Trudeau’s call for questions, the Reform party tried something similar in 1994. Back then, the Speaker voiced some concern with the practice, but it’s not entirely clear from Speaker Parent’s comments why such questions should be ruled out of order and that might be a discussion worth having.

It might merely be a matter of phrasing. MPs are, of course, supposed to be representing their constituents, but in the case of the question Speaker Parent objected to, the Reform MP was quoting directly a question asked by another person. And perhaps there is some reason to insist that MPs put questions themselves, even if inspired by a question raised by someone else.

Whether it is a particularly good use of Question Period is another discussion entirely.

Presumably, if Mr. Trudeau persists in asking such questions and Mr. Van Loan persists in objecting, the Speaker might be compelled to clarify the parameters here.