Mr. Speaker, if this is the proper time, I would ask leave to bring up the motion I made yesterday, which the hon. member for North Toronto suggested should be left over for consideration until to-day.
I understand that the committee from which the report is made has between 70 and 80 members. That is a pretty large committee, and it seems as if we shall scarcely get from that committee such an authoritative revision and recommendation on matters concerning banking and commerce, as shall have force in this House, if we now reduce its quorum to 15. This would make it possible to get measures through the committee by drumming up a very few members, whose recommendation might not be at all representative of the majority of the committee and would hardly be called authoritative for this House. I would be very sorry to see the quorum of the committee reduced to 15. Possibly this talk 'and warning may have the effect of advertising members of that committee that they should be a little more careful in attending to their duties. I shall take that as a warning and advertisement to myself. The whole trouble arises, as I have said before, and as the Prime Minister has agreed, from having too large committees, so that when three or four are meeting on the same day, it is impossible for the members to attend properly to their duties on any one of them. Maybe this little discussion, and this statement of what seems to be coming if that committee does not attend to a greater extent to its duties, will be sufficient to bring about the desired end, namely, that it shall be a working committee. Nobody desires that it should be made any smaller than is absolutely necessary to gain the ends of revision and recommendation to this House.
I think the hon. gentleman is quite right in saying that the membership of the committee is from 70 to 80. However, when only 15 members of the committee are in attendance, it does not necessarily mean that 55 or 65 are neglecting their duties.
It does not necessarily mean that all the members who are not present are neglecting their duties, because, as a matter of fact, every member of the Banking and Commerce Committee is also a member of at least one other committee, and many of them members of two or three other committees. Several of these committees meet at the same time. Yesterday there were meetings of the Committees on Agriculture, Banking and Commerce, Public Accounts, and Printing, and many of the 130 members of the Banking and Commerce Committee were actually in attendance on these other committees. It would be very desirable if we could get every member of the Banking and Commerce Committee to attend and take an interest in the business of that committee. The hon. member for North Toronto (Mr. Foster) said just now that he would take this discussion as a warning to himself that he ought to be more constant in attendance on this committee. If so, that would bring about a very good result because the hon. gentleman is a member of this committee, and not very constant in his attendance. In saying this I am not implying that he is in any way neglecting his duties because no doubt, when not present at the meetings of this committee, he is doing possibly better work in connection with his public duties elsewhere. But that is also the position of many other members of the committee. The whole matter was carefully discussed in the committee on Wednesday morning, and both sides were unanimous in the opinion that the quorum ought to be reduced. Under present conditions, and that no doubt applies to many other committees, if business is to be proceeded with at all the chairman has to see a quorum when really there is none. Rather than have the committee do business in that irregular way, it would be better to have the quorum reduced.
I went to the trouble this afternoon to secure a copy of the printed list of committees in order to ascertain whether I was a member of this Banking and Commerce Committee, and I did so because I have never yet this session received a notice to attend any of its meetings, and it is quite possible there may be other members who have likewise not been notified.
I take great care to note my committees in my diary. The night before last I had only two and yesterday two, and was quite surprised to read in the evening papers that there was a meeting of this Banking and Commerce Committee. Before any action be taken, we should have this matter referred back to
the committee, and have a full meeting. What is the use of holding'hole and corner meetings, at which only some of the members are present, and then passing resolutions. No doubt it is very easy not to have a quorum if the secretary neglects to notify the members of a committee to attend the meeting, and the fact that all the members of this committee were not notified to attend ought to induce the hon. member to withdraw his resolution for the present.
During the discussion which was held at the last meeting of this committee, it was quite apparent that there was great difficulty in getting a quorum. No doubt that is partly due to all the members not being notified, but 1 think the chief trouble is the number of committees which hold meetings on the same day. Greater care should be taken not to have so many committees meet on the same day. When the meeting of the Banking and Commerce Committee took place, there were three other committees being held and members could not attend them all, so that necessarily there would be a slim attendance at some of these. But because of the length of time taken in waiting to get a quorum, the suggestion was made to reduce the quorum. I think, in the first place, that the committee is entirely too large. The quorum would seem to be a small one compared with the size of the committee, but it is a reduction from 21 to 15, and it seems to me that if we reduce the quorum at all 15 is a fair number. My experience of late years is that the business is done br a. few members, perhaps from 10 to 25. There may be a quorum at the start, but members leave and even if there be then no quorum, the business still goes on.
One of two things ought to be done. Either an arrangement should be made not to have so many committees called for the same day or the size of each committee should be reduced.
Everybody will agree that the evil is that the committees are altogether too large. That matter was discussed by my hon. friend opposite and myself when we were forming the committees this year, but we did not think it advisable to make any alteration in the number during the present parliament, but to wait until the new parliament and then endeavour to reduce the committees to a practical number.
I belieye that io a certain extent I am responsible for the motion to reduce the number from 21 to 15. The reason for this motion was that if the number was reduced we could do business legally and regularly and not do, as at present, the work with a lesser num-Mr. CURRIE (Simcoe).
her than is required by the rules of the House. I may say it is no unusual thing to find a small meeting of the Banning and Commerce Committee. I do not understand that every member who is on the list is expected to be present, but the idea of putting a large number on the committee is-to give an opportunity of attending to any member who has any special interest in any matter that comes before it, and if there is nothing beforp the committe in which he is specially interested he is not called upon to attend. There is a good deal in what the chairman says, that the business of that committee from year to year is conducted by a few members, and I am not aware that the business is not just as well done as if a hundred were present. I remember on one occasion-I have not mentioned it before, and I mention it now to show how difficult it is to get business through that committee-on one occasion a good many years ago only two members of the committee turned up, the chairman even was absent, and a matter of some importance, at least requiring immediate attention, was to come up. I was moved to the chair by the other member, the other member made the motion, I put it, the clerk drew up the report, the report was adopted and presented, and I never heard that what was done on that occasion by two members was not just as well done as if it had been done by the whole quorum. However, I promised to myself that I would never repeat that. Perhaps it was not the proper thing to do, and I have no desire to repeat it. But I do not think members of that committee are all expected to attend a meeting, when there are three or four committees sitting, but it gives tne members of the House an opportunity, when there is anything special before the committee, of going there and expressing their opinion, and voting on the question. The Same thing applies to the Committee on Railways and Canals that has, I think, 160 or 180 members. You never find them all there, perhaps not much more than half of them. Yet we have an opportunity, if a special circumstance calls for it, to be present. I do not object to putting the number back to 21 again if the members will only attend the committee. But let us do it in a legal way, instead of doing business without a quorum.
I am a member of that committee, and I did not receive a notice of this meeting at which I understand this resolution was passed. I think at a meeting where you are proposing to change the number, we should all have an opportunity of being present and discussing it. This year especially, when tne Bank Act is coming up, perhaps one of the most important Acts that has ever
been before that committee, it is hardly fair that the members of that committee should be reduced just at this time. 1 think the Prime Minister should ask the mover of this resolution to let it stand, m order that we may have an opportunity of discussing it at a fuller meeting of the committee. I do not agree that the numbers should be reduced. We are all interested in everything that is going on in that committee, and in knowing what is going on. I think, therefore, that there should be no hesitation in withdrawing this resolution, or letting it stand until we have another meeting of the committee, where we can thrash the question out, and if a majority agrees that the number should be reduced, I am willing to fall in line.
As a member of the Committee on Banking and Commerce, I want to remind the chairman that he is in error when he said there are three or four committee meetings at the same time. The Banking and Commerce Committee is generally called, and was called, at 10.30; the other committees meeting on the same day were not called until 11 o'clock, and there was plenty of time for the members of this committee to meet at 10.30, and put in half an hour's work before they went to the other committees. If we cannot get a quorum at 10.30, it is not on account of other committees meeting at the same time. I think the quorum is quite small enough at 21 on an important committee like this.
Let me point out that the pioposition is only to reduce the number of the quorum, because some times we have to wait a long while for a quorum to appear The hon. member for Leeds (Mr. laylor) said the meeting was called at 10.30 and though we waited till 11, sometimes then we did not have a quorum. That is why the suggestion was made to reduce the quorum. I want to point out that we do not propose to reduce the number of the committee at all, but only to reduce the quorum so that we can go on with the business instead ^ of sitting there and waiting all the morning for a quorum to turn up.
I have no objection to withdrawing the motion. I may say that I had no idea that every member of the committee had not received a notice. The clerk of that committee is usually very careful. I shall speak about that, and see that every member does get a notice of the future meetings.