The Honourable Leo Housakos
44th Speaker of the Senate (2015)
May 4 to December 3, 2015
The Honourable Leo Housakos was appointed 44th Speaker of the Senate on May 4, 2015 by the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada and with the joint support of the Senate’s Leader of the Government and Leader of the Opposition.
In his role as Speaker, the Honourable Leo Housakos is eager to continue working towards modernizing the Senate and building a more transparent and accountable institution.
The duties of the Speaker are multi-faceted. It is the Speaker’s function to preside over the Senate proceedings, ensure the orderly flow of debate, and interpret parliamentary rules. He is also called to perform diplomatic duties at home and abroad consistent with the Speaker of the Senate’s fourth overall position in the Canadian Order of Precedence.
Speaker Housakos was first appointed to the Senate of Canada on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper on December 22, 2008 to represent the region of Wellington, in the province of Quebec. Since his appointment to the Senate, he chaired the Advisory Working Group on Communications of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and served in various capacities on the following Senate standing committees: Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources; Foreign Affairs and International Trade; Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament; and, Transport and Communications. In December 2014, he was elected by his peers as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate. He currently chairs the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration.
Throughout his career, he has been actively involved in Canada’s political, community service and business sectors. Prior to his appointment to the Senate, he had worked as a ministerial staffer in the Ministry of Multiculturalism and was an advisor to the Mayor of Montreal. His business experience includes the positions of President of TERREAU Inc., President of Quadvision International, and Vice-President, Sales, Constant Laboratories. His community service includes two terms as Vice-President, National Issues, with the Hellenic Congress of Quebec, and he co-founded the Hellenic Board of Trade, a member of the Board of Trade of Greater Montreal.
The Honourable Leo Housakos was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1968. He graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Arts. He is married to Demi Papapanagiotou and they have two children, Peter and Tasso.
The Speaker shall preserve order and decorum in the Senate. In doing so the Speaker may act without a want of order or decorum being brought to his or her attention. Furthermore, the Speaker shall be authorized to act on his or her own initiative to interrupt any debate to restore order or to enforce the Rules of the Senate. In the case of grave disorder, the Speaker may suspend the sitting of the Senate for a period not to exceed three hours.
The Speaker shall decide points of order and when so doing shall state the reasons for the decision together with references to the rule or other written authority applicable to the case.
With respect to the Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, the authority of the Speaker is limited to matters expressly incorporated into these rules.
When the Speaker has been asked to decide any question of privilege or point of order he or she shall determine when sufficient argument has been adduced to decide the matter, whereupon the Speaker shall so indicate to the Senate, and continue with the item of business which had been interrupted or proceed to the next item of business, as the case may be.
Statement By Senate Speaker Leo Housakos on the Auditor General Report
Comme vous le savez, en juin 2013 le Sénat du Canada a demandé au vérificateur général de mener une vérification exhaustive des dépenses du Sénat, y compris celles des sénateurs. Le rapport du vérificateur général vient d’être déposé au Sénat.
Au nom de mes collègues, je tiens à remercier monsieur Ferguson et son équipe pour leur diligence.
Le rapport qu’ils ont produit contient des recommandations de fond visant à améliorer la gestion financière de notre institution.
Canadians expect us to treat the Auditor General’s report and its recommendations with rigour and good judgement.
In that regard, I want to make it clear that we wholeheartedly embrace the fundamental principles of transparency and accountability that underscore the Auditor General’s recommendations.
We will see to it that they inform every aspect of our approach to introducing an oversight mechanism which, when implemented, will conform to standards that are necessary and appropriate for a modern parliamentary institution.
To that end, we will also ensure that new rules and procedures are brought forward in a way that respects applicable laws including the constitution and the Parliament of Canada Act.
We will be mindful of the need to achieve our goals while not unduly impairing the ability of legislators to do their jobs. But let there be no doubt that there will be more disclosure, more oversight and better controls.
Nous veillerons à réaliser nos objectifs sans nuire à la capacité des législateurs de s’acquitter de leurs fonctions. Nous nous engageons fermement à améliorer la transparence, la surveillance et les mesures de contrôle.
Like any other audit, the Auditor General’s report reflects a snapshot in time. The reality is that the process of reforming rules and procedures in the senate began even before the Auditor General was commissioned and it has been our mission even as his work proceeded.
For example, the rules for validating residency were changed and implemented in April 2013. In 2014, the scope of the Senate code of ethics was broadened. The travel policy has been updated and tightened several times since 2012.
Having said that, reforms proposed by the Auditor General in this report will further assist as we continue to modernize this institution.
During the course of his work, the Auditor General raised questions about certain expense claims which, in his view, should not have been reimbursed.
In some cases, these were administrative issues. In others, there is honest disagreement about claims that were made in the performance of parliamentary duties by parliamentarians.
To deal with these disagreements, and to avoid having senators sit in judgement of each other, we have put in place an independent arbitration mechanism which, as you already know, will be overseen by former Supreme Court Justice, Ian Binnie.
Au cours de ses travaux, le vérificateur général a soulevé des questions au sujet de certaines demandes de remboursement qui, à son avis, n’étaient pas admissibles. Certains cas portaient sur des pratiques administratives insuffisantes.
D’autres ont donné lieu à des débats de bonne foi afin de déterminer si les dépenses ont eu lieu dans le cadre de fonctions parlementaires.
Afin de régler ces différends, nous avons mis en place un mécanisme d’arbitrage indépendant qui, comme vous le savez déjà, sera dirigé par Ian Binnie, ancien juge de la Cour Suprême.
To put this new process in its proper context, I want to draw your attention to the Auditor General’s finding that, and I quote:
“A structure in which individuals set the rules that apply to themselves, and have the authority to make final decisions about how those rules are applied, may give rise to a perceived lack of objectivity, as those individuals may be viewed as looking after their own interests.”
So now, Senators will have two choices: to reimburse the Senate or to avail themselves of the arbitration process.
If a Senator opts for arbitration, Justice Binnie will receive testimony from the Senate administration and finance department as well as from the affected Senator. After considering the evidence, he will deliver a judgement that will be considered final and binding.
Regrettably, there are 2 sitting and 7 retired senators who, in the opinion of the Auditor General, may have engaged in conduct which merits referral to other authorities.
Given the nature of the Auditor General’s opinion in these cases, they were referred directly to the RCMP last Friday.
It will now be up to the police to determine whether or not further investigations are warranted.
The names of the two sitting Senators have also been referred to the Senate’s Ethics Officer.
Les mesures que nous prenons illustrent le sérieux avec lequel nous traitons ces cas.
Un lien de confiance doit régner entre les canadiens et leurs représentants parlementaires – tout acte qui affaiblit ce lien est inacceptable.
Les parlementaires doivent respecter les normes de conduite les plus strictes, et les dirigeants de cette institution sont déterminés à faire respecter ces normes avec tous les moyens à leur disposition.
Nous voulons faire du Sénat une assemblée législative responsable, attentive, transparente et respectée par tous les citoyens.
Mes collègues et moi travaillerons sans relâche pour atteindre cet objectif. C’est notre devoir envers les canadiens et les canadiennes.
Our actions reflect the seriousness with which we regard these matters.
There must be a bond of trust between canadians and their legislators -- conduct that places that bond at risk is unacceptable.
As Parliamentarians, we must hold ourselves to the highest possible standard of conduct.
The Leadership in this place is determined to uphold that standard using all means at our disposal.
Our intent is to render the Senate of Canada an accountable, responsive, transparent legislative body that the citizens of our great country will and can respect.
I know I speak for all my colleagues when I say that we will work as hard as possible to deliver just that.
Canadians deserve no less.
Thank you. Merci
Remarks by the Honourable Leo Housakos, Speaker of the Senate Press Conference on the Release of OPP Reports and RCMP After Action Review
The tragic events of October 22nd have marked us forever. It has also been the catalyst to becoming a stronger, unified security force on Parliament Hill. I would like to acknowledge the leadership of my colleague Speaker Scheer, and the commitment he has shown towards the integration of our security services.
Numerous enhancements have been underway both before and since October 22nd and improvements will continue as we move towards a unified service, and beyond. Our Parliamentary Security operations have become more efficient and parliamentary security has continued to improve and evolve.
Speaker Scheer, Commissioner Paulson and I have a shared responsibility to build a unified security presence that is efficient, effective and proactive. Enhancing operational cooperation between the Senate, the House and the RCMP is an ongoing priority. Officials within the three institutions have been working together for some time towards a seamless unification service.
Considerable progress has been made towards an agreement to have the RCMP lead physical security services throughout the parliamentary precinct and on Parliament Hill. This agreement builds on the advances towards interoperability that have been made by the three institutions since 2009 with the implementation of a tripartite Master Security Plan.
The three security partners have formed a transitional team. The Trilateral Transition Team, made up of representatives from the Senate, the House of Commons and the RCMP, will address all aspects of establishing a first-rate integrated security presence to protect the parliamentarians, employees, visitors and buildings of the Parliamentary Precinct while ensuring reasonable access to the Parliamentary Precinct for all Canadians.
We want to reassure Canadians that this protective presence will be founded on operational excellence and a respect for the fundamental rights and privileges of a democratic society.
Brief statement from the Speaker
Honourable senators, if you will oblige me, I would like to take this moment to offer a few words. First, some expressions of gratitude: I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his confidence in appointing me Speaker of this vital parliamentary institution. I would also like to thank the Governor General for his commission, which I unreservedly accept.
Thank you to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Claude Carignan, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, the Honourable Senator Jim Cowan, for your firm escort into this chamber and for your steadfast support.
I believe it is essential to carry on the work of our late Speaker, the Honourable Pierre Claude Nolin, and that of his predecessor, the Honourable Noël Kinsella, on modernizing this institution.
By working in concert, Senator Carignan and Senator Cowan embody the culture of collaboration and compromise that I wish to support in my new role as Speaker. To me, the Speaker of the Senate acts as a barometer of consensus. I will take my cue from Speaker Nolin and undertake to work with each of you in order to modernize the Senate, where openness and transparency are essential to carrying out our parliamentary duties for the good of all Canadians.
We should treat each other with dignity and respect, no matter the political colour or the outstanding issues. We should strive to find common ground and to build from there. Our great institution is facing great challenges, but also great opportunities. I am certain that I speak collectively for all senators when I say that our institution can serve as an instrument that empowers the citizens of our country and Canada so that democracy can better serve their interests from coast to coast to coast.
I truly believe that this is what will allow us to fulfill our constitutional mandate in a manner that restores our standing in the eyes of the Canadian public. That is my pledge to you, honourable senators. Thank you.