February 26, 1929

PRIVATE BILLS

FIRST READINGS


Bill No. 61, respecting the Lacomibe and North Western Railway Company.-Mr. Blatchford. Bill No. 62, respecting The Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway Company.-Mr. Dickie. Bill No. 63, respecting The Toronto Terminals Railway Company.-Mr. Hocken. Bill No. 64, respecting Chartered Trust and Executor Company.-Mr. Lawson.


REPORTS OF COMMITTEES


First report of the special committee appointed to consider Bill No. 4, to amend and consolidate the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act.-Mr. Howden. First report of the select standing committee on railways, canals and telegraph lines.-Mr. Cahill. 460 COMMONS Rides of the House-Mr. Morin


MONTREAL RAILWAY TERMINAL FACILITIES

REPORT OF MR. FREDERICK PALMER


Hon. CHARLES A. DUNNING (Minister of Railways and Canals): I beg to lay on the table a copy of the report on the Montreal railway terminal facilities, by Mr. Frederick Palmer.


RULES OF THE HOUSE

PROPOSED REFERENCE OF CERTAIN ESTIMATES TO COMMITTEE-THIRD READINC OF BILLS


Mr. L. S. RENE MORIN (St. Hyacinthe-Rouville) moved that the first report of the select standing committee on standing orders, reading as follows, be concurred in: Your committee have considered an order of the house dated 15th February, viz:- "That the select standing committee on standing orders be instructed to consider the advisability of amending the standing orders so that certain estimates may be referred to a committee and so that bills reported from a standing or select committee shall be placed on the order paper for third reading after having been sufficiently debated by the house." Your committee recommend that, during the present session, the house may refer any of the estimates to a standing or special committee, concurrently with the committee of supply, but that none of the estimates shall be concurred in by the house until reported by the committee of supply. Your committee further recommend that, during the present session, when any bill, other than a government bill, reported from any standing or special committee, shall have been considered at two sittings and not disposed of, it shall be placed on the order paper for third reading; and when called in pursuance thereof, the question "That the bill be now read a third time" shall be put by Mr. Speaker and decided without debate or amendment.


IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. A. W. NEILL (Comox-Alberni):

Mr. Speaker, I think the house would do well to hesitate to pass this report.

Topic:   RULES OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PROPOSED REFERENCE OF CERTAIN ESTIMATES TO COMMITTEE-THIRD READINC OF BILLS
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LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order. The mover has

something to say.

Topic:   RULES OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PROPOSED REFERENCE OF CERTAIN ESTIMATES TO COMMITTEE-THIRD READINC OF BILLS
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LIB

Louis-Simon-René Morin

Liberal

Mr. MORIN (St. Hyacinthe-Rouville):

The order of reference to the select standing committee on standing orders was two-fold. The committee was instructed to consider the advisability of amending the rules of the house, first, to enable the house to refer the consideration of certain estimates to standing or special committees, and second, so that bills reported from a standing or select committee might be placed on the order paper for third reading after having been sufficiently debated by the house.

The purpose of the first part of the reference was to expedite the business of the house by referring the estimates of some of the departments which, under the present rules,

can only be dealt with by the house sitting in committee of the whole, to standing or special committees upon which concurrent jurisdiction would be conferred, in which committees fuller and more accprate information could be obtained from the officers of the departments familiar with the circumstances of each particular item than could reasonably be expected from a minister speaking offhand on the subject from his seat in the house. The results to be expected from this new procedure would be more accurate and secure fuller information for the benefit of hon. members; and secondly, the discussion in the house would be restricted to the really contentious items, the debates thereby being materially shortened.

The committee was of the opinion that rather than amend the rules of the house at once, it would be wiser to test the expediency of the new procedure by an experiment during one session, and its recommendation is that during the present session the house may refer any of the estimates to a standing or special committee, concurrently, with the committee of supply, such estimates, however, remaining subject to consideration and report by the committee of supply.

The object of the second1 part of the reference is again to expedite the business of the house and to enable it to give a decision on private and public legislation submitted to it after such legislation has been sufficiently debated. : vl

The house expressed itself on this matter when, two years ago, with that definite purpose in view, it amended its rules by providing that private bills considered during the hour devoted to private bills on Tuesdays and Fridays, and not disposed of, would be placed at the foot of the list on the order paper.

But the rule resorted to has proved inadequate, and to remedy this situation the committee recommends that, as an experiment, a sessional order be passed providing that dhring the present session when any bill, other than a government bill, reported from any special or standing committee shall have been considered at two sittings, and not disposed of, it shall be placed o>n the order paper for third reading, and when called in pursuance thereof the question, "that the b;ll be now read the third time," shall be put by the Speaker and decided without debate or amendment.

The committee considered that after full and free debate on the second reading and before the special or standing committee to which the bill was referred and at two different sittings of the house sitting as a com-

Rules oj the House-Sir George Perley

mittee of the whole, any such 'bill had been sufficiently debated, and that if the members of the house so wished they should be entitled to an opportunity to give a vote thereon.

Topic:   RULES OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PROPOSED REFERENCE OF CERTAIN ESTIMATES TO COMMITTEE-THIRD READINC OF BILLS
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CON

George Halsey Perley

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE PERLEY (Argenteuil):

Mr. Speaker, when the motion to refer this matter to the committee was brought up by the Prime Minister, the hon. member for Acadia (Mr. Gardiner) raised the point that it was a double-barrelled resolution. The event shows that he was correct in that respect, for there are two entirely different matters considered by the committee in this report. Would it not be possible to divide the report into two sections in order that they may be dealt with separately? Because in my humble judgment the first recommendation will be considered by all hon. members as a reasonable one; whereas the second may provoke a lot of discussion.

Topic:   RULES OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PROPOSED REFERENCE OF CERTAIN ESTIMATES TO COMMITTEE-THIRD READINC OF BILLS
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LIB

Louis-Simon-René Morin

Liberal

Mr. MORIN (St. Hyacinthe):

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that the only course open is to refer the report back to the committee with instructions to amend it.

Topic:   RULES OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PROPOSED REFERENCE OF CERTAIN ESTIMATES TO COMMITTEE-THIRD READINC OF BILLS
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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. A. W. NEILL (Comox-Alberni):

Mr. Speaker, the report contains two recommendations, as the mover has said, but in them both there is evidence of a tendency to divest this house of a certain portion of its responsibilities and to hand them over to other bodies, sometimes to the cabinet, sometimes to boards, and sometimes, as in this case, to committees. But all these bodies to which we are invited to hand over our authority are not so directly responsible to the people as we .are, and they function in a way which prevents that desirable publicity being shed on their proceedings which is associated with our deliberations and actions in this chamber.

Now, there are two recommendations, and I propose to deal with them separately. The first one is to the effect that estimates may be sent to a special or standing committee, but it provides that those estimates must also go through our committee of the whole before they have any legislative sanction. It appears to me, sir, that on the face of it, if it does not go any further than that, it is a comparatively innocuous and, to tell the truth, a somewhat feeble suggestion. It reminds me of the epitaph on a tombstone in an old English graveyard erected to the memory of a three-day-old child. After stating the particulars of the infant's name and death this doggerel follows:

If so soon I would be done for,

What on earth was I begun for?

And it seems to me that if this innocuous recommendation does not really go any further, and is not intended to, what on earth was it begun for.

It will probably be said in the course of this debate, and correctly so, that this method of dealing with estimates has been a success in the case of the estimates for the Canadian National Railways. But the conditions are entirely different there from what they are in the action now proposed. The Canadian National Railway estimates represent what is entirely a national proposition. Broad policies are discussed, you have Sir Henry Thornton and his staff in attendance, and the leaders of the various groups in the house can readily agree whether the policy is a good one or not. But the other estimates are local estimates and so to speak, specialized; think of the thousand and one items that comprise the agricultural estimates, or those of the marine and fisheries or the Post Office Department -almost any of the estimates in fact other than the larger ones in connection with the national railways. Those items require local knowledge to illuminate them, as it were. As you know, the procedure now is for the minister to explain the reason for the estimate from the book that is placed in front of him. If further information is required, perhaps the over-burdened memory of the deputy minister is drawn on; but in the last analysis when it comes down to the giving of information for or against that particular item, is it not the member for the local district whose particular knowledge is relied on, and in the special committee that local knowledge will be lacking except as it may be furnished by the few members composing the committee. Now, if this proposal to send estimates to a private committee is to replace discussion in committee of the whole, then it is vicious, absolutely so. We are toldl that that is not now proposed, but I am very much afraid, sir, that it is the direction in which we will be heading if we adopt this recommendation. It is unreasonable in itself unless it is intended logically to go further.

However, to deal with what is absolutely before us, it is said to be concurrent; that is to say, that the discussion in the special committee will be additional to the discussion which will take place in this house. In that case it will be useless; if it is useless it will be wasteful and entirely unnecessary. Once upon a time an eastern potentate who had captured a city proposed to burn a valuable old library. On being remonstrated with he said: Either these books support the Koran or they are opposed to it. If they support it they are unnecessary; if they oppose it they are wicked. In either case they are superfluous. Thereupon he ordered the library to

Rules oj the House-Mr. Neill

be burned. Now, all we obtain from this recommendation, provided it is not intended to go any further, is that the overworked minister-'because he is 'busy at this season of the year-and his equally overworked deputy-who is also very busy-shall be compelled to go over all their estimates, one by one, in the fullest sense, twice, once in the special private committee-shall I call it the "hole-and-corner" committee?-and again in the full light of this house. What use will that be to anybody if the work is done twice? The answer has already been given by the mover, and will be given again: It will shorten debate in committee of the whole. That is all right, sir, as regards the estimates of the Canadian National Railways. When the three leaders in this house and the outstanding members of their parties tell us in committee of the whole, "We have looked at these estimates of the Canadian National Railways and are satisfied with them,'' I for one am quite prepared to accept their view, as I have no doubt are other members. But, as I say, the conditions are totally different with respect to what I call the local estimates. When it comes down to local matters affecting the coal mining, farming, logging and fishing interests of the constituency which I represent, I say emphatically, no; I will not surrender my right to discuss these matters; I will not surrender it to any lawyer from Winnipeg, any millionaire from Toronto, or any business man from Halifax, however worthy they may be; however much abler they are than I am in their particular spheres, they do not know the local conditions of the district I represent. I know that the time honoured gag will be trotted out-it is hoary headed in its hypocrisy: "Oh, but you can go before the committee and you will be allowed to speak there." How often have I not heard that advanced: You can go to the committee although you are not a member of it and you will be accorded a courteous hearing. Yes, you will be given a courteous hearing once; but when it comes down to butting in-to use a common expression-on every item and arguing the merits and taking an active part generally in the debate you will soon find that you are not wanted. Any member butting in-I cannot use any other word to express the idea-will find that he has as much weight there as the Hansard reporter has in the debates that take place in this chamber.

We are told that this would shorten the debate and save the precious time of the house. Well, that was the very bait that was held out to us two years ago when we sold our birthright of free speech, or a portion

of it at any rate, for a mess of pottage. And a sorry looking mess the pottage was when we got it; to me it seemed more like the funeral baked meats of the ancient Egyptians. Certainly it was very much inferior to the life giving pottage of the days of Isaac and Esau, and indeed even inferior to what is supposed to be its lineal descendant, the brose of the modem Scot.

I would submit to the house in all seriousness that there are greater advantages to be gained by our considering every item in committee of the whole than by getting through quickly and going home, which is the main bait held out in this case. There are a good many members of this house, myself amongst them-and I am not ashamed to admit it-who exhibited great anxiety to come here and occupy the honourable position we hold, and who by hard fought campaigns and many promises secured this much sought boon. We told the people that we would do our duty to the last ditch, and so forth. Now are we getting tired and lazy? Do we want to shirk the obligations which we undertook when we came here? A few days, a week or two longer would not make any great difference. I would point out also, to put it bluntly that we are being paid for being here. I admit that the salary is quite incommensurate with the work we do, but at the same time we knew what the remuneration was when we sought the position, and if we are not satisfied to do the work for which we were sent here we should resign. I know there are scores of men in the district I represent fully as able and1 quite as willing to represent my constituency.

Another time-honoured gag will be trotted out for our delectation. When the report comes from the select private committee we shall be told1: "Now, this matter has been seriously and carefully-almost prayerfully- considered in the select committee and the house would be well advised to accept their just and wise verdict." I can recall that gag also; many a time have I heard it in this house. Let me give an illustration of what actually happened on One occasion, I was endeavouring in this house to have the report of a select committee changed. The committee had reported something and I wished to have their report amended. The chairman of the committee got up and in sonorous tones he got off the gag I have mentioned; the matter had been so carefully considered by the select committee that the house would be wise to follow that committee's "mature judgment". But this is what actually happened on that occasion. It was a small

Rules of the House-Mr. Neill

committee and the recommendation I wished was defeated by a vote of four to three. One of my friends on whom I had relied to support me was absent, however, and on my reproaching him afterwards with his absence he said he was very sorry but he had gone to have his hair cut; and because that hon. gentleman had gone to have his hair cut something of material importance to certain interests in the country had to stand over for a year or, perhaps, be abandoned altogether. That is the effect of accepting always the report of a small select standing committee.

The other night the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Woodsworth) and my desk mate the hon. member for Labelle (Mr. Bourassa) told us, and it was not denied, that we were railroading divorce bills through the house at a scandalous rate. I say, it cannot be denied. And why does that condition exist? It is just a logical and direct consequence of the very system now proposed. These divorce cases used to be considered in this house in committee of the whole, but we drifted into the dolce far niente method of leaving the whole question to a select committee, with the result that divorces are now rushed through without the slightest attention being paid them. That is the natural and inevitable consequence of the same sort of system proposed in this Connection,; only in this case we are beginning in a small way and comparatively gently.

I may point out that this very practice has been tried elsewhere before. It was tried in British Columbia when I was a member of the local house, and it was never tried again. I got my estimates through, it is true, but by a method which-I have not the time now to describe to the house. But it was not desirable; it led to log rolling, most of us know what that means. Now, if the system here proposed were to be adopted I might be tempted to approach some hon. members opposite-perhaps I might select my worthy and genial friend from New Westminster (Mr. McQuarrie), because at times he has evinced a certain amount of the milk of human kindness, and we are brother British Columbians-and I would say to him: " If you vote for the wise and just estimates for my district, I will vote for the rotten, unjust estimates for yours." It is to be hoped, of course, that neither the hon. member for New Westminster nor myself would yield to that temptation. Still, Mr. Speaker, you, yourself, deem it advisable every day at three o'clock to pray that we be delivered from temptation, and sometimes I wonder whether it would not be wise if you renewed the supplication at eight o'clock for fear the strength prayed for earlier in the day might have waned.

I will be nothing but frank; I admit that this recommendation as it stands, word for word, and not going 'beyond that in the slightest, is comparatively innocuous. Nevertheless it is a wedge; it is that fatal thing known to us in this house as a precedent. Why did we spend three days last week debating the question of grants for roads? We did so largely because we had this great thing behind us, precedent. Once enter the fatal path of precedent and it will soon lead us to all the evils I have suggested. Moreover it is not merely a question of passing estimates for this post office or that wharf or something else of the kind; what is valuable is the discussion that arises out of the estimates. Statements which the leaders, the cabinet ministers, hear in their offices, statements made in caucus, are almost entirely ex parte; are they not? But it is in the light of the publicity obtained in this house that the members of the cabinet get the cross current of public sentiment. It is of the greatest benefit to them, to us all and to the country at large to hear the discussions that take place even on some comparatively trivial item-arguments which would be all lost sight of in this private committee.

Let me now state my final objection to this particular recommendation. I am utterly opposed to what I call star chamber methods. There would be no Hansard in this private committee; no votes would be recorded but merely totals; no names would appear. It would be possible for the government or a member to speak one way on the hustings and vote another in the committee. I referred a moment ago to a friend who was absent from a meeting because he had to have his hair cut. Now, I do not wish to be cynical for a moment, but it might be said by those who are cynical that the government whip had suggested to him that his hair was a little long! Also it would be open to unscrupulous opponents to accuse a member of having cast a wrong vote in committee and he would not be able to prove its untruth; for a lie can always get ahead of the truth. I am very much afraid, not so much of this particular recommendation as of what it would logically lead to. Before long we will be putting our power of voting estimates into the hands of a private committee, a hole in the corner committee, one upon whose actions they cannot, will not and perhaps dare not let the God-given light of publicity shine.

'So much for that part of the report; I want now to deal with the second recommendation which is of much greater immediate importance. I refer to the recommendation with regard to the manner of dealing with private

Rules of the House-Mr. Neill

and public bills. We will do well to remember that this deals with both private and public bills; it may be a bill of a thousand pages, dealing with the Companies Act or with the Criminal Code, imposing some drastic restriction on the right of assembly or free speech. This is the course such a bill will pursue: After going to this private committee, where no vote is recorded and where there is no Hansard, it will be brought back to this house on two separate occasions. We know that public and private bills come before this house for only one hour on two evenings a week. It may be said that the bill may be brought up on Monday and discussed all day, but if there were any suspicion that a bill would be opposed very strenuously it would not be brought up on that day. It might be brought up at ten minutes to nine or it might be brought up at ten minutes after eight; strike an average and say it would be up for one hour altogether. Two advocates of the bill may speak on it; each is entitled to speak for forty minutes, so there will not be much left of the hour. Some hon. members may have some important amendments to offer, of which they nfay have given notice; the advocates of the bill, knowing that, could make it their business to talk out the bill, and at the end of the hour it would come to the house for third reading. That would be bad enough, but it becomes much worse. The next time the bill comes up it stands for third reading, and it is proposed that there can be no amendment and no debate on the third reading; you cannot put anyone on record from the second reading until the bill has gone through. Many members vote for the second reading of a bill with the idea of offering amendments in committee, but under this system we will never get the opinions of different members because bills will be talked out of committee on to third reading with no debate and no amendments allowed.

I am anticipating the arguments which may be brought forward in favour of this method. It will be said, "Oh, he is depicting an extreme case; these things are not done now, because the good sense of the house will not allow them." Will it not? Let me remind hon. members that two years ago I was opposing the establishment of the forty minute rule;

I pointed out that if two or three obstructive questions were asked the member's time would be cut into seriously, and the answer given was that this would not 'be done, that time would be allowed) for interruptions. Upon that understanding perhaps many members agreed to the forty minute rule, but has that been the case? It has not; the rules are strictly

[Mr. Neill.3

enforced, and quite properly so once we adopted them, so do not let us be beguiled by the suggestion that the rule reads one way but that we will be allowed to do something else.

There is one other feature of the matter to which I would like to direct the attention of the house. This rule will be introduced immediately, and there are two important private bills coming up this session, the Sun Life bill and the Bell Telephone bill. I think I voted for one of them last year, so I am not particularly antagonistic to them, but I can see what may happen to these bills and I am opposed to it. When they were brought in the other day on second reading there was practically no debate, in the expectation that the debate would take place in committee of the whole. Now, unannounced, we will be deprived of that right; we cannot go back and debate the bills on second reading, so all we have (before us is two short periods of perhaps ten minutes each, after which the bills stand for third reading without debate. If this iniquitous rule is to be adopted let us at least send it back to the committee with instructions that it shall not take effect until next session.

I frankly admit that the rules were abused last session; these and other bills were deliberately obstructed. There is hardly a privilege we enjoy which is not subject to abuse at times, but because 10 per cent of the members abuse a privilege are we to deprive the other 90 per cent of their rights? Social conventions do not allow us to steal up behind a man and knock him down because we do not like the colour of his hair or the tie he wears; it is held that that is too drastic a remedy, and I submit that this rule is also too drastic for the difficulty it assumes to correct.

It may be said that I am merely offering destructive criticism, but that is not the case; I can easily suggest an appropriate remedy for the obstruction which undoubtedly occurred last year. I suggest simply the use of the rule we have had for many years, that is, the closure; that is the correct thing to do in such a case, simply put on closure. Almost every government in the world has the closure rule in some form or other, but some hon. members will say that closure is objectionable. Why, this is simply Ossa piled upon Pelion, with respect to closure; this is a hundred times worse than closure heaped up, pressed down and running over. Under closure you must give notice, and the debate can continue until two o'clock the following morning; each member is limited to twenty

Privilege-Mr. Edwards (Frontenac)

minutes, so that thirty or forty men may speak, but here we will be limited to perhaps two speakers. And as an aside, may I draw attention to the incoherent condition of our rules at present owing to the way we tinkered with them two years ago. Now we have one rule which says we can take a vote under closure at two o'clock in the morning and another which says we must stop the debate at eleven o'clock. Our mess of pottage is all spattered up with red tape like the seals on a Christmas parcel.

I hope the house will reject this motion altogether. The first part is only weakly evil, but it has potentialities of harm which make it undesirable; the second part is wholly poisonous and destructive, subversive of the right of free speech, both propositions are unsound in principle and will be unworkable in practice. I fully believe that not one-half the members of this house knew this question was coming up to-day, and not half of them have been made acquainted with the effect these recommendations will have if adopted, so in order to give the government and hon. members on both sides of the house an opportunity to see what they are voting on, I am going to move that this debate be adjourned. I have not solicited anyone to second my motion, but if anyone cares to do so in order that the matter may be discussed better in their caucuses or in some other way, they may do so. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Motion (Mr. Neill) agreed to.

Topic:   RULES OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PROPOSED REFERENCE OF CERTAIN ESTIMATES TO COMMITTEE-THIRD READINC OF BILLS
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OPIUM AND NARCOTIC DRUG ACT


Mr. J. P. HOWDEN (St. Boniface) moved that the first report of the special committee for the consideration of Bill No. 4, to amend and consolidate the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act, be concurred in.


LIB

Hewitt Bostock (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Notice should be given of this motion. Perhaps this may serve as notice.

Motion stands.

Topic:   OPIUM AND NARCOTIC DRUG ACT
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February 26, 1929