Yesterday a question came up with regard to the report on a certain petition, and Objection was taken to the drafting of the report signed by Mr. Todd, who is the Examiner of Petitions. His report appears in the Votes and Proceedings of yesterday.
It was stated by the right hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) that the examiner should not, so to speak, dictate to the House what course it should follow. I have read very carefully the report of Mr. Todd, who, by the way, has been almost fifty years in the service of parliament, and who is one of the most distinguished officials of this House. His report was not inspired by me, I need not say, and in my opinion Mr. Todd in presenting this report has followed what has been the practice of this House ever since my memory serves me.
Hon. members will see that Mr. Todd in his conclusions states:
The forai of this petition and its contents so far as the first part of the prayer is concerned are within the requirements of the 75th rule, and refer only to such matters as are within the right and competency of the House to deal with, should the House desire to do so; should, however, the course suggested in the second part of the prayer be taken by 'the House it would apparently have the effect of authorizing other persons to exercise a power which the House has already delegated by statute to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts.
Apparently the first part of the prayer of this petition is only of a preliminary nature leading up to the main request as contained in the second part, consequently, the prayer, (considered as a whole, brings this petition within the rulling of Mr. Speaker Lemieux given on the 6th May last, in a somewhat similar case, which ruling was subsequently sustained by the House on appeal, viz., that a petition which prays for any action to be taken by the House that might involve in any respect an interference with the provisions of the Controverted Elections Act, chapter 7, R.S.C., 1906, cannot be received.
Under these circumstances I have therefore the honour to report that this petition should not be received.
Mr. Todd does not order the House, he does not even direct the House, not to receive the petition. He simply states that in his opinion, as an officer of fifty years' experience, and having always reported in that way to the House, the petition should not be received. But the House, of course, is at liberty to receive it or not, as it sees fit. .
I should like to point out this, and I am not now dealing with the merits of this case at all: Last year on two occasions, on the 17th of June and again on the 27th of June the Clerk of Petitions reported on two different petitions with this postscript: "Irregular. Would involve the expenditure of public money." And in the House, on the 17th of June, and again on the 27th of June, Mr. Speaker decided, following the immemorial usage:
That as the granting of the prayer of this petition wouild involve the expenditure of public money, it cannot be received.
The same wording is used this year as last year; therefore there has been no departure in this case from the procedure followed in former days. It is taken as a matter of course that when this official makes his report, provided it is not in excess of his authority and that he keeps within the meaning of his prescribed duties, the House always accepts it. As I said a moment ago, I am not now speaking on the merits of this case. I notice there is a motion to reject the report and to proceed further with this petition.
As the action of this official was called in question yesterday, let me read from the Classification of the Civil Service of Canada, which defines his duties:
Olerk of Petitions
Definition of Class:
Under direction, to receive and handle petitions presented by members of the House of Commons; to read and revise petitions in accordance with the rules; to bring to the attention of the Speaker such petitions as do not comply with the rules and to point out their defects.
I respectfully submit that Mr. Todd only pointed out in his report to the House and to the Speaker the defects contained in this petition.
The standard authority in this House is Bourinot, who for half a century almost was our guide at the Clerk's table. He left before he died to the officials of this House his directions regarding the powers and privileges of the Houses of Parliament as respects their officers, clerks and servants, in which he says:
The Houses cannot part with any of these privileges, immunities and powers, necessary for the conduct of *business, their existence and their dignity, except by statute expressly conveying and delegating their powera, immunities and privileges to others. For instance, in the trial of controverted elections, the Commons parted with their jurisdiction previously exercised by committees of their own, and handed it over to judges in express terms.
I quote this simply to remind the House that Mr. Todd, who for a long period was associated with his immediate chief, Sir John Bourinot, could not ignore the principles and precedents laid down by the late Clerk. Some
Red Lake Railway Company
of those principles are to be found in a concrete form in section 91 of the Controverted Elections Act. But as I said a moment ago,
I am not passing on the merits of the case at all. This is a.temple of free speech and of free thought (in matters affecting parliamentary procedure. There is a motion to reject that report and it is within the right of the House to accept or reject it. I simply wish to present these considerations in justice to Mr. Todd and to point out that he did his duty, and only his duty, by reporting respectfully to the House his candid and honest opinion in regard to the petition.
Subtopic: REPORT OF THE CLERK OF PETITIONS