February 14, 1939

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister) moved:

That on and after Wednesday the 15th February next to the end of the session, government notices of motions and government orders shall have precedence on Wednesdays over all business except introduction of bills, questions by members and notices of motions for the production of papers.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
CCF

James Shaver Woodsworth

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. J. S. WOODSWORTH (Winnipeg North Centre):

I hope the government will not press this motion. So far the private members have had no opportunity whatever of introducing any of their resolutions. It may be said that there has been a debate upon the Bren gun matter which has taken considerable time, on a motion introduced by a private member. On the other hand the government itself was prepared to refer that matter to the public accounts committee, and hon. members on the government side took their full share in the debate. I cannot see, therefore, that private members can be accused of delaying the ordinary business.

It seems to me there is a danger that this house will be enabled to consider merely government business. The supporters of the government, who are in the vast majority, seem to be content, largely, to let the government bring forward whatever measure it pleases; we in the opposition are reduced to the position of simply criticizing what the government brings forward, and when the government does not bring forward a great deal we are in rather a hopeless situation. There are certain matters which we believe are of great interest to our constituents, and which we should like to discuss. I do not think that at this stage of the

Precedence for Government Business

session we should have Wednesdays taken from us. I ask that the government do not press this motion.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. R. J. MANION (Leader of the Opposition) :

I support the remarks of the hon. member (Mr. Woodsworth) who has just taken his seat. As a matter of fact I do not suppose the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King)

expected that his motion would carry to-day. It is my recollection that all governments, when first they make this motion, expect it to carry with effect about two weeks later than the day they originally propose.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
?

An hon. MEMBER:

No.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

That has been my experience in the many sessions I have sat here. At any rate I think the hon. gentleman who has just spoken has very good grounds for saying that, owing not to the fault of the government but to other circumstances, private members have been crowded off the board. I support him and ask the Prime Minister to postpone the motion a little longer.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. J. H. BLACKMORE (Lethbridge):

I support the stand of the leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (Mr. Woodsworth). It seems to me there is developing in Canada the attitude that when people express the opinions of their particular constituencies they are wasting a good deal of time. All we need to do is to remember from what the word "parliament'' is derived, and it will begin to set us right along this line. All we need to do is to remember that there are two or three nations which have completely dispensed with the disagreeable necessity of having people talk politically at all, and we can see the direction in which, probably, we are going. I have no desire to see any of the time of parliament or of the country used in vain, but for centuries it has been the policy of British peoples to allow all the people to have their say.

Since I have come into this house, and since the group with which I am associated have come here, we have studiously avoided taking part in discussions to which we felt we could make no worthwhile contribution. It has been evident, I believe, to all who have willed to notice it, that we have contributed very little to this Bren gun confab. That is in accordance with our policy. Speaking for my own group, we came here with a message to deliver, and the day will come, sir, when it will be realized that the message this group came to deliver is a message which should have been listened to long ago. For the day will come when it will be realized that here-[DOT]

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Order.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

-lies the solution of the difficulty. Probably, Mr. Speaker, I am out of order.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

The hon. member must

keep to the motion before the house.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

We just wish to

back up the stand-of the two hon. members who have spoken, to the effect that we should not be denied the privilege of using private members' day.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

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

I

wish to add my voice to the protest which has been made by those opposing this motion -which is just another instance of the everpresent and continual attrition which is taking away the rights of private members, which are really the rights of the common people, to express themselves. The actions and privileges of private members are sufficiently curtailed now, and hardly a session passes without an attempt further to curtail them. One of the most important privileges the private member, as representing the common people, possesses is the right of bringing in resolutions and having them debated and possibly voted on. At least that used to be one of the privileges, but it is being restricted more and more. I often wonder why the government- all governments, whichever happens to be in power-are so much against this; because it is the best way for them to hear and to get an insight into the wishes of the people, and that government is always wisest and most successful which keeps its ear to the ground and informs itself of the wishes of the people and keeps a little bit ahead of public opinion.

For our own protection, and largely for the protection of the larger parties in the house, we framed a lot of what we call standing orders-quite a big volume; there are 130 of them-and they are very strictly and rigidly enforced as regards the rights of the two major parties. But when it comes to the rights of the groups and of individuals it is quite a different matter. No rule can be amended affecting the rights of the two major parties in the house on the conduct of public business without having a committee of the house, which generally has to be unanimous, to agree on the change. But anything in connection with the rights of private members can be done by a mere vote in the house any day, upon the leader of the government giving two days' notice.

There used to be no limit upon the length of speeches of hon. members in the house.

9i4 COMMONS

Precedence for Government Business

That was changed and the time was confined to forty minutes. It is a very severe restriction.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
?

An hon. MEMBER:

Too long.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

We have a standing rule, number 15, which lays down very strictly the program for the complete week. It defines what shall be taken up on Monday, on Tuesday, and so on, and that procedure is very strictly adhered to. There would be a nice fuss if there was any proposal to deviate from it without unanimous consent. But in connection with this matter, the right of private members to bring in resolutions, it does not need general consent at all. The program as laid down provides that Monday shall be devoted to the introduction of private members' resolutions. Wednesday is only a half day and private members have Thursday for the first four weeks. But that is only a trick of language, because as a matter of fact it is not four weeks, but only three weeks. The first Thursday cannot be counted because private members cannot discuss any resolutions on that day. Why not be honest and call it three weeks? That was thought reasonable at one time and perhaps it was then, but the gradual increase in the number of groups suggests that greater opportunity should be afforded for private members to debate matters in which they are interested. After a time the government moves that one of the days allotted to private members each week be discontinued, and a little later another day is taken away. This means blocking discussion.

Before last session I placed a notice on the order paper at least six weeks prior to the meeting of the house. Under ordinary conditions, in any company or public board, notice of that length of time would be sufficient to get a motion heard; but although I placed my motion on the order paper six weeks before the house met it had only reached the top of the list, about to come on for discussion, when the Prime Minister rose and moved that all further private members' days be taken away. This year I thought I would make sure and I therefore placed a resolution on the order paper three weeks after the close of the house. That surely was plenty of time. On July 25 I sent the notice in. Now I am second on the list and my resolution may or may not be heard. I do not think it will be. And twenty-five members with resolutions below mine cannot possibly be heard. Thursdays we have already lost because we debated the speech from the throne and the Bren gun for three weeks. But we discussed the speech from the throne on the motion of the Prime

Minister that it should take precedence, though he was well aware that in that way we were going to be deprived of three or four Mondays and Wednesdays. In the British Columbia legislature it is the custom-it is very frequently done, at any rate-to have a member or two speak on the address and then adjourn that debate and go on to some other public business on the order paper. But that was not done here; it never is, and in that way private members' days are taken away and they have no opportunity to discuss resolutions in which they are interested. The Prime Minister is now taking away one of the private members' days before we have had, even for one day, the opportunity to which we are entitled. This is the first time it has ever happened. We have not had a private members' day so far this session, and now, as the scripture says, the government is taking away the semblance of the privilege-"that which he seemeth to have." That is not democracy.

We have heard before, and I am sure the Prime Minister will tell us again, that there are a number of other opportunities available to us. One of these is the occasion when estimates are in committee of the whole. We are told that we can then deal with any subject in which we are interested. But that is limited by the fact that in committee there is a strict rule which provides that speeches in committee of the whole must be relevant to the item or clause under discussion. I have been caught in that way before. It may easily be that there will be no item in the estimates under which some particular subject which hon. members would like to discuss might properly be taken up, so that that outlet is closed. The other alternative is the time-honoured one, "Oh well, you can always discuss it on the motion to go into supply," that being the occasion on which under the old British tradition, members 'are allowed to voice grievances before granting supply. The answer is this. It is a well-known fact, indeed, it is one of the rules, that an amendment to the motion to go into supply constitutes a vote of want of confidence in the government. Can anyone expect therefore that members elected to support the government will take such a step when it might mean the defeat of the government? Still less can you expect the government to extend sympathetic consideration, let alone taking sympathetic action, on a resolution framed in such a way that, if carried, it would mean their own defeat.

That is why I say that we should not be deprived of these opportunities to introduce resolutions for discussion. Very often a resolution is brought in and defeated and on another

Precedence lor Government Business

occasion it is brought up again. The government hear what is going on and the people of the country become educated in the idea that is advocated and express their views privately to the government. Subsequently it may be brought forward in a more acceptable form and one or other of the parties adopts it as their policy. It is therefore educative and useful.

It may be said that a good part of the session has already gone and we have done nothing. But the address in reply to the speech from the throne is a part of the government's business. Apart from custom, there is no law that makes it incumbent upon the government, when they have little or no business of their own, to adjourn the house. They might go on to private resolutions. But they never do; instead they adjourn the house. There have been two Friday evenings that we could have made use of in the discussion of private members' resolutions, but on both occasions the house was adjourned.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

By unanimous desire.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

We had not got into estimates, though that was not through any fault of the government; but the fact remains that the house was adjourned, and therefore two occasions were lost to private members. It will not do the slightest good to protest because the government have a majority and they can make up their mind to do these things, but I add my protest to those that have come from the other groups against having private members' days taken away so early in the session.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
CON

Thomas Langton Church

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. T. L. CHURCH (Broadview):

The motion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) must be considered in conjunction with the larger question of reorganizing the rules of procedure of the house. Private members' privileges are being taken away every year. I have a motion on the order paper and I have no objection to letting it go this year in order to get on with the business, because all these motions might be considered under the estimates; but we have a parliamentary constitution and we have rules, and yet private members have few or no privileges. Some ten years ago and almost every year since I introduced a motion which would have remedied the present situation, and in the last four years I have discussed the subject matter of that motion, namely, the revision of the rules of the house, together with constitutional reform, parliamentary reform, cabinet reform and law reform. It took three hundred years for parliamentary government to attain its present control over the budget and the executive, and in the struggle there was bloodshed. When

parties cannot agree there is always trouble. The constitutional changes that have been brought about in the motherland have not come about without a great deal of sacrifice, and where two sides could not agree there was trouble, as in the case of the general strike in 1926 when troops were sent to the docks.

My proposal is that we should set up a committee to study the question of our rules and procedure, and of parliamentary, constitutional, cabinet and law reform, and reform in other directions. We have no control over the constitution or the exchequer at the present time. We are simply conducting post mortem examinations. For example, this afternoon we have been hearing something about an international trade treaty that was passed over the heads of parliament, and of industry and labour. I do not refer in any spirit of criticism to what the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) has said, or done because I believe he did at heart what he believes to be right. But, I repeat, we should have a committee on law reform and on House of Commons reform to bring our proceedings up to date. On the order paper there are many bills having to do with the criminal code, bills embodying amendments which private members think should be made. Some of these are proposed by the leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, and some by other hon. members, and in my opinion there should be a standing committee on legal bills and estimates to which these questions could be referred. There are a number of standing committees to-day. I have been a member of one committee that has not met in years, the public accounts committee. We should revise our ways of doing business and adopt the municipalities' plan of dealing with estimates. The heads of departments sit around a table with a committee and strike off thousands here and there, or perhaps half a million. The deductions are made by all with the officials present as a guide, and-

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
LIB

Walter Edward Foster (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I think the hon. member

is wandering from the subject matter of the motion. The motion is to take away Wednesday as a private members' day.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
CON

Thomas Langton Church

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CHURCH:

I accept that ruling, sir;

it is quite correct. But I say that this question of private members' days and the motions of private members on the order paper should be referred to some committee of the house, and the rules and regulations should be amended.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

A good deal has been

said on this motion with respect to the rights of private members. Odd as it may seem, I

916 COMMONS

Precedence jor Government Business

think something ought to be said as to the rights of the government. I must say in reply to hon. members opposite that I have most in mind at this moment what I think the people of this country will expect ine to say. In the first place may I point out that it is over a month since this parliament assembled. In that time the government has not been able, until to-day, to bring forward a single government measure. That has not been the fault of the government but has been due to the fact that the entire time has been occupied by private members speaking in the debate on the address in reply to the speech from the throne and on the motions with respect to the Bren gun contract. It has been due to another fact, namely that while the government have sought in a courteous way to secure the cooperation of hon. members opposite in expediting business we have had no cooperation, but opposition. The hon. member for Comox-Alberni (Mr. Neill) has spoken about the adjournments which have taken place on Friday evenings. I asked hon. gentlemen opposite early in the week if they would not allow us to go into supply in one of the departments that we might have a chance under the rules to take up supply on Fridays, as is customary in this house. Hon. members know that for years past, in fact for all time, it has been a general custom of this house to reserve at least part of Fridays for discussion in committee of supply. But though the request was repeated later on we were refused that opportunity. That is one of the reasons why we did not sit on Friday night.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink
CON

Robert James Manion (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MANION:

You could have brought

up your other business.

Topic:   BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Subtopic:   PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Permalink

February 14, 1939