July 1, 1955

LIB

James Joseph McCann (Minister of National Revenue)

Liberal

Hon. J. J. McCann (Minister of National Revenue):

Mr. Speaker, the correspondence from His Worship the Mayor of Saskatoon has been reviewed. There has been further correspondence from the city solicitor which is under consideration. I am unable at the moment to give a definite answer.

Topic:   NATIONAL REVENUE
Subtopic:   SASKATOON
Sub-subtopic:   REQUEST FOR TAX EXEMPTION ON HOUSING DONATIONS
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PARLIAMENT HILL

REFERENCE TO CONDITION OF STATUE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD


On the orders of the day:


PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. M. Macdonnell (Greenwood):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to direct a question to the Minister of Public Works, which is suggested partly by the day and partly by the reference we have had to "Earnscliffe" and to Sir John A. Macdonald. Will the minister examine the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald to the east

of this building. He will find it suffering from a great deal of unseemly weather discoloration.

Topic:   PARLIAMENT HILL
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO CONDITION OF STATUE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD
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LIB

Robert Henry Winters (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Hon. Robert H. Winters (Minister of Public Works):

I will do that personally, sir.

Topic:   PARLIAMENT HILL
Subtopic:   REFERENCE TO CONDITION OF STATUE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD
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PRAIRIE FARM ASSISTANCE

REPORTED DENIAL OF PAYMENTS TO FARMERS ON CROWN LANDS


On the orders of the day:


CCF

Hugh Alexander Bryson

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

Mr. H. A. Bryson (Humboldt-Melforl):

should like to direct a question to the Minister of Agriculture. Why are Prairie Farm Assistance Act payments denied to those farmers who hold leases on crown lands in areas where they are eligible for payment?

Topic:   PRAIRIE FARM ASSISTANCE
Subtopic:   REPORTED DENIAL OF PAYMENTS TO FARMERS ON CROWN LANDS
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LIB

James Garfield Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture)

Liberal

Right Hon. J. G. Gardiner (Minister of Agriculture):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the hon. member gave me notice of his question. The reply is, as a result of recommendations from the agriculture committee of this house, and action by parliament, awards under the Prairie Farm Assistance Act cannot be paid with respect to leases on crown lands because such lands are excluded from payments under paragraph (c) of subsection 3 of section 3 of the act.

Topic:   PRAIRIE FARM ASSISTANCE
Subtopic:   REPORTED DENIAL OF PAYMENTS TO FARMERS ON CROWN LANDS
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SECOND REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE

CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE


The house in committee on the second report of the special committee appointed to consider with Mr. Speaker the procedure of this house, Mr. Robinson (Simcoe East) in the chair.


LIB

Walter Edward Harris (Minister of Finance and Receiver General; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Hon. W. E. Harris (Minisier of Finance):

Mr. Chairman, the report which is before the committee is the result of rather extensive labours of a special committee over the last two sessions. That, however, is not the beginning of the story. We have had two special committees during and since the war, in 1944 and 1947, with respect to the procedure of the house, and those reports, while they were not adopted by the house on either occasion, did undoubtedly prove of great value to us in the studies that were made. They indicated the difficulties that members thought they had during those years and also indicated to some extent at least the cure of the problem that they had to contend with.

It is true, as I have said, Mr. Chairman, that the reports were not adopted but subsequently there have been at least one and perhaps more rulings of the Chair which have carried into effect some of the recommendations of those committees.

During the period of the parliament before this there was also a committee on procedure, and it has been said on more than one occasion that the only result of that committee was that we changed the sitting hours of the house. That is, I suppose, also partly correct but it should be noted that at that time the government had quite a large majority in the house, and it was stated at the time by the government that we did not feel we should use the majority we then had for the purpose of imposing upon the house any drastic change in the rules that had not been thoroughly considered at some length. No action was in fact taken by the government during the period 1949-53, but when during that campaign it was said, I think by members of all parties in the house, that the house procedure ought to be revised we re-constituted the committee unanimously in the house for the purpose of dealing with the rules, we hoped in a final sense for the time being.

There are many ways of considering the rules of the House of Commons. They can be considered as being something that is sacred and should not be touched, or they can be looked upon, as in fact I think they are, as being the means whereby we dispose of our business on a daily basis. I should like to quote from the fifteenth edition of May's Parliamentary Practice, as follows:

Much learning and loyalty have been lavished in the past in defending and maintaining forms and rules which had little intrinsic value and have not survived. The true standard of measuring the importance of a form or rule is the extent to which it is essential or serviceable to the exercise by each house of its parliamentary function.

I think that we looked upon our task as being that in essence, to deal with the rules in the light of whether they would be essential or serviceable to the House of Commons. During the last session the government took the responsibility of placing before the committee an agenda and a considerable number of suggested changes. The committee went through the agenda during the last session. Opposition members made their own suggestions and also criticized, quite properly, the suggestions the government had made. Indeed as time went on there was no thought in that committee but that every conceivable suggestion would be considered on its merit and accepted or rejected in the light of our terms of reference.

The consideration which we gave to the rules last session put us in a position where a report could have been made during the closing days of the session, but we all felt that second thoughts would be desirable and we left the report over until this session. Second thoughts were quite useful because 50433-35TJ

1, 1955

Special Committee on Procedure after reconsidering some of the suggestions we rejected them this past winter because they did not appear to be quite as acceptable as we thought they would have been in the first instance. Finally, we reconsidered all the rules and were again in a position to make a report.

At that time we could have had a report by a majority decision of the committee, which of course would have been in accordance with parliamentary practice, but we decided that if at all possible we ought to have a unanimous report. For that purpose certain alterations were made in the recommendations to the committee. I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by mentioning the changes that all of us accepted, both from the government standpoint and from the standpoint of the opposition. It might be sufficient to say that we have recommended a report to the house in its present form on a unanimous basis.

In the announcement he made on June 14 when tabling the report Mr. Speaker outlined the chief changes. There were a great many others that were not included in that explanation and I do not need to go through them and I do not suppose we should at this time. It would only be proper however to express my thanks personally to the hon. member for Acadia, the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre and the hon. member for Kamloops who constituted an unofficial subcommittee which met on more than one occasion and exchanged views for the purpose of obtaining the unanimous consent which ultimately was obtained.

More especially I think I would be voicing the opinion of all members of the committee if I said that the work of Mr. Speaker and his staff, especially his staff who did work long and unusual hours to meet the deadline we set, was extremely useful to the committee. Of course the presence of Mr. Speaker with his knowledge of the rules, his experience and his presiding genius, if I may say so, had a remarkable effect in creating patience and forbearance in the committee.

I think the committee would want the house to understand that there has not been a general revision of the rules and procedure since the 1880's. It is true that there were revisions in the early part of the century with another revision in 1927, but those were limited in scope and apparently were only the minimum which could be achieved at that time for changes that were felt desirable. We took the other view and we gave consideration to every rule to test whether it now had any useful purpose to serve. We did that, not only because it was covered by our terms of reference but because we recognized

Special Committee on Procedure that in all commonwealth countries where the democratic process obtains there have been quite substantial revisions of rules in the course of the past 15 or 20 years and that Canada had not in fact done that in that time.

This is not to suggest that because others had made revisions we should do so also, but it is to say that other jurisdictions functioning as we do have recognized the need for a more up-to-date procedure to deal with the growth of business. Whether one wishes it or not is a matter of opinion, but government is growing in all democratic countries, a growth which is perhaps out of proportion to the growth in population, because of the increasing demands upon government to intervene in matters that hitherto had been thought to be outside its scope.

For that reason we felt that we ought to find a way of disposing of this growth of public business in a reasonable time but to permit proper opportunity for consideration and criticism. We did not expect that we would be able to perform a miracle; we expect that parliament will continue to require lengthy sittings judging by pre-war standards. But the essential and real purpose of our meetings was to achieve an efficient manner of dealing with public business. It was not to shorten the sessions.

We think that we have achieved that in some measure although we recognize that there may be contrary views. I think the house also ought to know that we have made no substantial change in the functioning of the House of Commons. I think we were all greatly impressed by the durability of the parliamentary system and of the party system within parliament and we would not have made any change had it been looked upon as a reflection upon the existence of the present system.

The house has always been master of its own procedure and all hon. members will recall many occasions of emergency when without any rule whatever or any formal decision the house has reacted instinctively as the emergency required to do what had to be done. Knowing that, we have not altered the flexibility of parliament in any way. On the other hand, it was recognized that certain changes could be made to facilitate the day by day business when matters of lesser importance were under consideration and in so doing we would contribute more to the opportunity of devoting more time to matters of greater importance should they arise.

I recognize that we may have made obvious mistakes. We may have omitted something that hon. members may think we

should have included. It may be that next session in trying to interpret the rules we will find results that we did not anticipate. But subject to these obvious mistakes or obvious changes that ought to be made as a result of certain consequences which we do not expect, I suggest that the rules be accepted as they are and given a decent interval of experience in which to judge their value. Then if necessary we could consider changes, but not until that time.

I should like also to put on the record two other quotations, one of which I think hon. members opposite would wish me to put on the record.

Nothing tended more to throw power into the hands of the administration and those who acted with the majority of the House of Commons than a neglect or departure from these rules-when the forms of proceedings as instituted by our ancestors operated as a check and control on the actions of ministers and when they were In many instances a shelter and protection to the minority against the demands of power.

None of us anticipate that in these rules there will be anything which will increase the power of the executive, so to speak, to the disadvantage of the house generally.

Topic:   SECOND REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulton:

Would the minister say the author of this quotation?

Topic:   SECOND REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
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LIB

Walter Edward Harris (Minister of Finance and Receiver General; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Harris:

The second volume of Hatsell, page 237. I should like to give one final quotation which, I believe, sums up our difficulty. This again is from May and is by the author of the present edition. It is a comment on the situation as he found it to be in the course of the past few years:

Recent periods of emergency have not made it any easier to reconcile the ancient practice of the house, which protects the rights of minorities, with its modern standing orders which aim at the forwarding of government business. In face of these conflicting claims the drastic powers of curtailing debate entrusted to the Speaker by the standing orders would be hard to justify but for the confident belief that they will be exercised with a discretion trained in the spirit of the traditional practice.

Of course, the author had in mind the powers granted to the Speaker of the House of Commons at Westminster. But the conclusion, I think, is one which is apt in any event here. We have not in the rules given the Speaker, as I recall, any powers such as they have in the United Kingdom, but we have in some cases changed the rules substantially and for those who might be concerned about them my quotation is apt in that, in the interpretation of standing orders, it might be hard to justify them but for the confident belief that they will be exercised with a discretion trained in the spirit of the traditional practice.

No member of the House of Commons would want to alter the traditional practices of fair play which have always been part of parliamentary practice and esteem. This is a wholly unconscious decision which every member comes to as soon as he becomes acquainted with the background of parliament and seeks to contribute to its future. He would not want to do anything here in the name of the majority, or even in the name of a competent and well organized opposition, which would destroy the respect which parliament must have at all times among the public generally. For that purpose he would not want to offend or outrage public opinion by doing those things which the public would consider unfair.

I think the use of the word "fairness" is to sum up the British tradition in the operation of the rules of the House of Commons, since to say of a person that he is unfair is perhaps the deepest criticism that can be made of him and his actions. For that reason I am confident we have not offended in any way here. We have only adapted procedures in other jurisdictions to our own. Nothing has been done which is not being done under similar conditions elsewhere. We think that these rules will in fact improve the efficiency of the House of Commons.

For that reason, then, I should like to move the following motion:

That the committee adopt the proposal to amend the standing orders and procedure as recommended in the report of the special committee on procedure, presented to the house on June 14.

My motion is seconded by the hon. member for Kamloops.

Topic:   SECOND REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulton:

Mr. Chairman, my first words must be words of appreciation to the minister for giving me the opportunity of seconding the motion he has just moved. My second words are words in which I desire to express very great pleasure in associating with the minister in the tribute he paid to Mr. Speaker and to the work done by Mr. Speaker and the clerical staff of the house in processing, expediting, revising and advising on the work of the committee.

The fact that I have been allowed to associate my name with the motion as seconder, although strictly speaking it does not require a seconder, is evidence of the fact that this report of the committee on procedure is unanimous. I want to emphasize that fact and to say that so far as the official opposition is concerned, while of course no one of us who acted for the official opposition on the rules committee can commit his party or all individual members of it with respect

Special Committee on Procedure to all details of the recommendations, nevertheless it has been agreed with respect to the report as a whole that it has our general approval and support.

Having said that, I think it is important that we should make clear the considerations by which the committee was able to arrive at a unanimous report. For myself, I do support this report and I do not intend anything I say now to detract from that undertaking. Of course, having seconded the motion, I could not, even if I were so disposed, oppose the report; and I do not intend to. But I should say that the report now before us represents not only a compromise but, so far as we are concerned, what I might call the choice of the lesser of two evils. It represents the maximum of change which we were able to get in the very far-reaching and, in our view, damaging proposals which were originally submitted to the committee by government spokesmen, on that committee.

On the other hand, the report before yon represents a very substantial modification by the government itself of those proposals: as originally submitted by them, the proposals to which the Minister of Finance made reference earlier this morning. The result of the compromise and the negotiations has been that there are now before you and before this committee recommendations contained in a report in a form which, while not along the lines which our members on that committee would ourselves have preferred, nevertheless constitute a modification of the rules which in our view does not depart too far from the previous pattern and does not make changes of such a sweeping nature that they would be entirely unacceptable. For that reason the report is accepted and recommended by us to the house for its approval. It is accepted as being a great deal better than what I might call the original package deal which was before the committee as a result of the government's original proposals.

It will perhaps be helpful in establishing just why in our view this report should be accepted by the house if I review briefly the pattern of discussions in the committee. As the Minister of Finance has said, this committee has sat now for two sessions and was the inheritor of a great deal of work done in previous sessions, to which he made reference. Speaking entirely in connection with this committee, which is the only one of which I myself have had experience, I may say that at the outset, and up until about the beginning of this session, the representatives of the Conservative party on the committee suggested a certain approach which

Special Committee on Procedure we felt would be the proper approach to the question of a revision of the rules and procedure of the house. I shall refer later in somewhat more detail to that general approach. About the beginning of this session it became apparent that the approach we suggested as a basis upon which the revision might have proceeded was not generally acceptable to the other members of the committee, particularly-and I think I am not being unfair in saying this-to the representatives of the government party on the committee.

As the minister has said, at about that time the government accepted the responsibility of bringing in specific recommendations and proposals and placing them before the committee; and from that time on discussions proceeded on the basis of the government's proposals which were discussed fully and carefully. From those discussions there has now emerged this report which in effect is a modification of those proposals, which we have found acceptable as being a substantial improvement over those proposals as originally presented.

I am not going to discuss in detail the effect of the changes or of the blanket proposal which the government first submitted. By way of a brief review, however, I may say that the proposals contained, naturally enough, amendments of two characters. First, they contained a series of changes in detail which, while important,-and I do not wish to detract from their importance-were nevertheless not of a substantial nature; that is to say they did not constitute a major departure from or variation of any established rule. I refer to such matters, for instance, as the method by which we might deal with questions, the method of dealing with resolutions preceding a money bill and so on. Those matters, while important, were nevertheless the subject of general agreement and our approach to them was merely to work out the best method of detailed application of the changes. As the minister has said, in our discussions our approach was to enable the house to make the most efficient use of its time. There were a considerable number of such matters of detail.

Then there were a far smaller number of matters of substance on which, as became quite early apparent, there was fundamental disagreement in the committee. I do not think I will be going into too much detail, Mr. Chairman, if I say that the effect of those recommendations of the government in the field of these matters of substance was to present the committee with proposals involving three main changes. I am not saying that these are the only effects but to my mind

these were the main effects. The first effect was that there would be two classes of members in the house. Under the proposal with which we were confronted, the effect would be to limit all speeches in the house, with the Speaker in the chair, to 30 minutes on the first two days of any debate; and if the debate on the bill, the resolution or whatever it was that might be before the house carried over into a third day, from there on speeches would be limited to 20 minutes. There were two objections which we took to that proposal. Not only did we not agree that the time of speeches should be further limited by the rules-we did not accept that principle-but we took fundamental objection to the idea that there would be two classes of members, namely first-class members who might speak the full 30 minutes and second-class members who might speak for only 20 minutes.

Then the next effect of these proposals would have been the limitation-and a severe one, in our mind-of opportunities of the opposition generally and of members individually to raise grievances. The detail there was that the number of motions for the Speaker to leave the chair for the house to go into committee of supply would have been limited to eight a session and the discussion on each of those motions would have been limited to one day each. I suggest to you, Mr. Chairman, that our experience has indicated that while occasionally there are grievances raised formally-and I am speaking only of formal grievances-to which justice can be done in the course of one day's debate, that situation is the exception rather than the rule. Therefore while we were prepared in principle to admit of some limitation on the number of occasions upon which these grievances might be raised, we were not prepared to agree to the one-day limitation; we took this stand on the basis that if a grievance was sufficiently important to justify its being raised formally by the opposition in the house, then it was absurd to agree in advance that it was only important enough to justify one day's debate.

Then the third general proposal which we found to be entirely unacceptable was the proposed limitation of the number of days available to discuss estimates in committee of supply to 20 days throughout the session. In our view that would have been to incorporate in the rules what would have been a fundamentally unsound proposition, namely that in a time such as we are experiencing today of increasing expenditures by government and increasing responsibility of government, we should say in advance now that

we will for all time limit to 20 days the discussion of government expenditures in committee of supply.

I quite realize that that pattern is incorporated in the rules of some other parliaments of commonwealth countries; but that fact does not to my mind indicate that we should necessarily have it here. As was pointed out in the committee-and I shall be referring to the matter later-those countries, particularly the United Kingdom, have in their rules what I might call safety valves which we do not have under our rules here. Those safety valves act to a great extent as a compensating factor for the restrictions of the type that I have mentioned. At any rate, we felt that, under our rules as they stand and under the proposals advanced by the government, this over-all limitation to 20 days in committee of supply was entirely unacceptable.

There were other changes-and important ones-which were recommended but which I have not mentioned, and I will not mention them in detail mainly for the reason that on those changes compromise has been found to be possible, such as the proposals for the limitation of the length of debate on the address and on the budget which were also contained in the government's package proposal.

Our objections, some of which I have mentioned in detail, not only proceeded on the basis of detailed objection to each of those specific proposals but involved also disagreement in principle. We felt that the pattern presented by the government involved the imposition of too much rigidity under the rules and, if accepted, would not allow to parliament that flexibility to which the minister has made reference and which we regard as essential in order to enable parliament to deal intelligently with the issues which may come before it.

To try to condense our thought there into a few words, I would say this. It is impossible to decide long in advance how much time will be allotted to subjects the importance of which you have no way of measuring; that is to say, the pattern of saying that each debate will be limited in advance by the rules to a certain number of days takes no account of the fact that in one year that particular debate may be of no importance because there is involved in the subject no issue which justifies any more than the number of days allowed; but the next year, that very same debate-say the budget debate-may involve proposals by the government which would be of such a far-reaching nature that any man inside parliament or outside of it would agree that it would

1, 1955

Special Committee on Procedure be appropriate for parliament to debate that proposal for a number of days in excess of those allotted under the rules. Therefore in general we were and are opposed to the principle of fixing by the rules in advance the number of days to be allotted to a debate, because it does not leave parliament sufficient flexibility.

Second, we feel that the approach to the whole question must be upon the basis that parliament is an assembly of grown men-

Topic:   SECOND REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

And women.

Topic:   SECOND REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulton:

-and not a schoolboy debating society.

Topic:   SECOND REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE
Subtopic:   CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
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July 1, 1955