The hon. member for Portage la Prairie (Mr. Meighen) yesterday, (December 1), called my attention, as 27
a matter of privilege, to the position of another hon. member of this House who had been returned for two constituencies and had not yet declared or elected for which of the two constituencies he would continue to retain his seat.
The contention was made that a certain sessional order of the House of Commons of Great Britain, requiring a member under such circumstances if within one week that it should be made to appear that there was no question as to his return, &c., was applicable to the case referred to inasmuch as such a case was not provided for by the rules and orders of this House. Rule No. 1 of this House is as follows;
In all cases not provided for hereinafter or by sessional or other orders, the rules, usages and forms of proceeding of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in force on the first day of July, 1867, shall be followed.
In the imperial parliament the matter under consideration is dealt with by sessional orders which are renewed by the House of Commons from session to session and which expire at prorogation.
The sessional order on the subject which was, presumably, passed by the imperial House in 1867 may or may not have been in force on the first day of July in that year depending on whether the House was then in session or had been prorogued before that date. Even if that sessional order was in force _ on the first day of July, 1867, the question as to whether that order in all its terms is applicable to the House of Commons of Canada is one of importance and not without difliculty. As far as I have been able to ascertain in the limited time allowed me since the question was raised, I have not been able to find that it has been observed in this country. In fact, from a somewhat hasty consideration of the precedents, I think I would be safe in saying that the practice of this House as to the time in which the member's choice shall be made, has been far from uniform and to the present time no formal ruling on the subject has been made in this House.
The question is, are such sessional orders as are annually passed by the British House of Commons at the beginning of each session included in the meaning of the words ' rules, usages and forms of proceeding ' mentioned in rule 1 of this House. Those sessional orders are clearly neither rules nor forms of proceeding nor in the strict meaning of the term are they to be considered 1 usages ' and consequently are not applicable to this House in cases not specifically provided for. The practice of this House has so far not recognized them as binding.
In 1873, Hon. Mr. Blake having been elected for Durham and Bruce announced his choice of constituency fifteen days after
the beginning of the session, and in 1896 Mr. Dalton McCarthy elected which of the two seats (Brandon and Simcoe) he would sit for, on the seventh day after the opening of the session. The case of the honourable the present Postmaster General, returned for both Nicolet and Gaspe in 1904, is one of the latest in point. He only resigned for Nicolet on the third of December, 1906, and after some fifteen months had elapsed during which he might have exercised his privilege of choice. No doubt a search of the journals and records would show many similar cases.
A strict adherence to the British rule would therefore to a certain extent form an alteration in the customs and usages of this House in that regard.
My ruling is, therefore, that there is nothing in the rule of this House requiring a member who has been returned for more than one constituency to elect within any prescribed time for which of such constituencies he will sit. But, in my opinion, it is eminently desirable that some definite rule and practice on the subject should be established. The House has a Standing Committee for the purpose of considering such questions-the Committee on Privileges and Elections-and I would suggest that at an early date the matter should be considered by the House, or by the committee, with a view to the fixing of a definite period within which such election is to be made.