March 20, 1947

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

CANADIAN DELEGATION TO GENEVA MEETING OF INTERIM COMMISSION

LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Hon. PAUL MARTIN (Minister of National Health and Welfare):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to announce the personnel of the

House of Commons-Questions

Canadian delegation to the next meeting of the interim commission of the world health organization which will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 28. The delegation is as follows: Doctor G. D. W. Cameron, deputy minister of national health, Doctor T. C. Routley, executive secretary of the Canadian Medical Association as alternate delegate, and Doctor J. A. Melanson, chief medical officer for New Brunswick, who will act as technical adviser.

Topic:   WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
Subtopic:   CANADIAN DELEGATION TO GENEVA MEETING OF INTERIM COMMISSION
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

Will there be any delegates from Russia?

Topic:   WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
Subtopic:   CANADIAN DELEGATION TO GENEVA MEETING OF INTERIM COMMISSION
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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. MARTIN:

I can only say that that country is represented on the interim commission.

Topic:   WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
Subtopic:   CANADIAN DELEGATION TO GENEVA MEETING OF INTERIM COMMISSION
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PRIVILEGE

MR. DIEFENBAKER-CORRECTION OF STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON MARCH 19


On the orders of the day:


PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. G. DIEFENBAKER (Lake Centre):

Mr. Speaker, on a question of privilege and in fairness to the house, yesterday afternoon at page 1535 of Hansard I made this statement:

When his government came into power the first thing they did was to attack that act and appoint lawyers to argue that it was not within the powers of parliament,

I was referring to the Natural Products Marketing Act. My statement continued:

These lawyers represented the dominion government.

Mr. Ilsley: Is that so?

Mr. Diefenbaker: Yes; I have it here for

those who want to read.

Sir, I was in error in that statement. I was misled by the nature of the question that was asked of the privy council, which was:

Is the Natural Products Marketing Act, 1934, as amended by the Natural Products Marketing Act Amendment Act, 1935, or any of the provisions thereof and in what particular or particulars or to what extent, ultra vires of the parliament of Canada?

Then I read from the argument that was advanced by counsel for the appellant, which were counsel for the province of British Columbia. So the statement I made yesterday was in error, and in fairness I wish to state that.

Topic:   PRIVILEGE
Subtopic:   MR. DIEFENBAKER-CORRECTION OF STATEMENT IN DEBATE ON MARCH 19
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QUESTIONS ON ORDER PAPER-FORM AND PROCEDURE

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

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

Before questions are called perhaps hon. members will allow me to say just a word about questions as this is a matter which affects all of us, as respects both time and expense. I am sure hon. members

have felt, as I have sometimes, a little bit annoyed at questions being called and then being allowed to stand, this continuing from week to week and occasionally from month to month. This has been due to the fact that some questions require a great deal of research before they can be answered. Many are standing on the order paper which might well be made orders for returns.

It is obvious that the question of time is important in getting into the business of the afternoon. If the time required for questions could be abbreviated it would be to the advantage of everyone.

There is also the question of the expense involved in preparing answers to some of the questions. It may surprise hon. members to know that that expenditure runs into very considerable figures, particularly in the preparation of returns. The house has from time to time drawn attention to the desirability of limiting rather than increasing the number of civil servants, but to answer many of these questions and to prepare returns involves bringing on additional staffs. That is one of the considerations which should be taken account of by members in preparing questions and notices of motion for which they wish to have returns.

I thought it desirable to ask the Clerk of the House, who is an authority on these matters, to give me a memorandum which I could read to hon. members so that they will not mistake the intention or purpose of the ministry where in answer to questions ministers may feel obliged to say that they have such-and-such information but cannot give more. Because a minister has not answered all that is asked for in a question is no reason why the question should stand. We have to take the responsibility for the answers we give. They may not be satisfactory, and exception may be taken to that fact, but the government itself must decide what answer it shall give to different questions.

Topic:   QUESTIONS ON ORDER PAPER-FORM AND PROCEDURE
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PC

Gordon Knapman Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FRASER:

Before the Prime Minister reads the memorandum may I be permitted a question? Does he not think that some of the questions on the order paper save the taxpayers of Canada a great deal of money?

Topic:   QUESTIONS ON ORDER PAPER-FORM AND PROCEDURE
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I have not as yet come across any of that kind that my hon. friend has asked.

Topic:   QUESTIONS ON ORDER PAPER-FORM AND PROCEDURE
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PC

Gordon Knapman Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FRASER:

Thousands of dollars have been saved by these questions. Take "George's Wife," for instance.

House of Commons-Questions

Topic:   QUESTIONS ON ORDER PAPER-FORM AND PROCEDURE
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I did not hear my hon. friend's remark, but I did see him nodding his head vigorously and I take it he was agreeing with me.

Topic:   QUESTIONS ON ORDER PAPER-FORM AND PROCEDURE
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PC

Gordon Knapman Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FRASER:

A question I did ask last year saved the country a great many dollars.

Topic:   QUESTIONS ON ORDER PAPER-FORM AND PROCEDURE
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Both the hon. member and the government are to be commended for that.

Topic:   QUESTIONS ON ORDER PAPER-FORM AND PROCEDURE
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PC

Gordon Knapman Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FRASER:

The government would not have saved the dollars if I had not asked the question.

Topic:   QUESTIONS ON ORDER PAPER-FORM AND PROCEDURE
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

Mr. Speaker, may I now read this memorandum which I have received from the Clerk of the House, who is an authority on the rules and procedure of the house. The memorandum is as follows:

Members of the House of Commons are entitled under standing order 44 to place questions on the order paper seeking information from the ministers of the crown relating to public affairs. The rule does not compel ministers to answer but it says that in replying no facts are to be stated except so far as may be necessary. The rule also provides that no debate is allowed on the answer to a question.

It is a mistake to believe that any kind of question dealing with government business may be asked on the floor of the house. All the authorities such as Hatsell, May, Redlich, Cushing, Todd and Bourinot agree that unless certain rules are observed considerable time can be wasted in putting and answering injudicious questions.

The practice now followed with regard to questions in the house does not conform with parliamentary procedure as observed in other British parliaments. It has been decided in the United Kingdom house that a question cannot be placed on the order paper if it seeks information set forth in documents equally accessible to questioner, as statutes, published reports, et cetera. When questions seeking information published in public documents are placed on the order paper in the United Kingdom, the minister concerned replies by giving the title of the document or blue book in which this information can be found. All printed government reports are distributed free of charge to members of the house.

A rule on which the United Kingdom house is very firm is that questions are inadmissible when they deal with matters referred to a parliamentary committee. This rule does not deprive the member of his rights or privileges; it merely places him in the right channel for procuring proper information.

Public interest at large should be the guiding principle in publishing information on government matters. It seems unfair to the taxpayers of the country that thousands of dollars be spent in the preparation of answers on matters that have only a local interest.

In many cases a letter to a minister or deputy minister would be sufficient for the member to get all the facts required. The purpose of a question, as "May" says, is to obtain information or press for action, and it should not be in effect a short speech or 'limited to giving information or framed as to convey a particular point of view. The rules of the house are so framed as to allow every member to use his right of being informed as to management of public affairs, but it must be understood that in a house of 245 members it is desirable that certain rules be observed lest parliamentary procedure degenerate in confusion and chaos.

That is the end of the memorandum. I place it on Hansard in order that hon. members may not feel that when a minister considers it necessary to answer a question briefly or to draw attention to the fact that certain expenditures will be involved in answering the question, it may not be the thought that the government is seeking to do other than to meet the wishes of hon. gentlemen opposite. All we are seeking to do is to save time and to save expense.

May I add this further word, and this applies to notices of motion for the production of papers. The government should not be expected to be in the position of a reference library to gather together information for members which they are in a position to gather for themselves.

Topic:   QUESTIONS ON ORDER PAPER-FORM AND PROCEDURE
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?

Mr. M. J. COLD WELL@Rosetown-Biggar

If the Prime Minister will permit a supplementary question on the statement he has just read, the authorities cited are nearly all British authorities, and I would ask whether they apply equally to this parliament, since our method of question and answer is fundamentally different from theirs. Members of the British parliament may put a question and then two supplementaries are permitted. It is much the same with research. The members here have few facilities for research, and the purpose of many of the questions is to seek information that would require a great deal of research on the part of a private member. I have often wondered whether facilities should not be granted to private members to get some research work done for them.

Topic:   QUESTIONS ON ORDER PAPER-FORM AND PROCEDURE
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March 20, 1947