July 1, 1955

CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

Grown men and young

women.

Topic:   SECOND REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE
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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulton:

I thank my hon. friends for enabling me to be more gallant than I was, and I would like to make their modifications my own.

In other words, we feel that this parliament, being an assembly of mature persons, is and must be in a position where from day to day it decides for itself within the limits of its rules-I am not saying there should be no rules-and within the pattern set down by the rules, just what time should be allotted to the various subjects which come before it, and that it does not require restrictions in advance such as we might impose upon persons of no discretion or of limited discretion, in order to prevent them from wasting their time or from abusing the opportunities for debate which are presented to them. Parliament is a responsible body and only so long as it remains responsible and maintains its responsibility will it maintain the respect which it must have in the eyes of the people. It is wrong in principle to say in effect to parliament that its members cannot be trusted and have to have every right and opportunity circumscribed, limited and hedged about by rules which will ensure that they do not abuse their rights and opportunities. We do not think that is a sound approach to parliament.

I have referred already to the related objection to the principle which we felt the government's proposals in their original form embodied, namely that there would be no opportunity to give important debates that emphasis which they deserve under the limitations first suggested. There is, I know, a very substantial body of opinion-I hope it is perhaps not as substantial now as it appeared at one time to be-which feels that the pattern we should follow is to cut down the time of speeches by formal rule.

I conceive that to be a fundamentally unsound approach, for reasons I have already

Special Committee on Procedure given. It is also interesting to note that in the United Kingdom parliament, where they have over 600 members as compared to our 270, and where their budget deals with more money than we do and in many ways the problems of their economy are more numerous than ours, they nevertheless have no limitation by rule on the length of individual speeches. There is no rule in the United Kingdom parliament to prevent a private member from speaking for two hours if he wants to do so, but the fact is that under their system the average length of speeches of ordinary members appears to work out at somewhere around 25 minutes. I mention that as a matter of interest and as supporting the argument that we make that it is not necessary, in order to have a curtailment of the length of speeches, to write that curtailment into the rules, but that it is a matter which this assemblage of grown men and women is able to handle for themselves.

These were the objections we took to the government's proposals in their original form. After those proposals had been discussed in the committee for some considerable time a series of more detailed negotiations took place in the committee itself and in the subcommittee to which the Minister of Finance has made reference. I should like to take this opportunity, if I may be permitted, to express my appreciation of the attitude shown by my colleagues on that subcommittee, one of those colleagues being the Minister of Finance, who forgot to mention himself. We were encouraged to find that when we got into the subcommittee we were able to make much more progress towards compromise and concession, and we found much more readiness to understand and accommodate our points of view than had at first been apparent. I want to make it very clear that we appreciated the attitude taken by the minister in the subcommittee and carried forward by him into the main committee after the subcommittee had completed its negotiations. As a result of these negotiations there were compromises and concessions which had the effect already outlined in the report of Mr. Speaker, referred to in the minister's statement this morning, and embodied in the report now before the house.

In general 1 would summarize the report itself and our attitude to it by saying that while it does not proceed along lines which we would like to have seen it follow, and while, if we were approaching it ab initio, it contains some things we would rather not see in it, compared with the original proposals made by the government which might have been forced on us had there been a decision to put it through by a majority vote,

it represents a satisfactory compromise. Its effect is not to initiate such changes, departures or limitations as we would feel to be entirely unacceptable.

I think there was a fair effort made after the negotiations commenced that where limitations were to be written into the rules they should be as closely as possible an average of the length of time which had been taken in respect to particular debates over the past number of years. There are only three main limitations, on the throne speech, on the budget debate and on the supply motions which are now limited to six of two days each. The length of the over-all number of days allotted to these three subjects is, I believe, a fair approximation of the average length of time devoted to these subjects in the past.

I want to make it clear that we regard the report as a substantial concession by the government from its original proposals, a concession which I think was won only as the result of hard bargaining, but I have no resentment of that. We all had quite different views and I have no objection to the fact that it was necessary to bargain vigorously because in the result I think the outcome was fair.

I have mentioned the approach that we would like to have seen adopted as the basic approach towards this question of a change of the rules. I should like to dwell on that for a few moments. In this portion of my remarks I will be speaking for myself and in no sense for the party to which I have the honour to belong. As a matter of fact, in connection with this whole matter I think the proper approach is that the rules are not a party matter. The rules do not belong to any party in the house and should not be changed by a majority vote of any party in the house. The rules belong to the House of Commons, and in the outcome that was the spirit in which the committee approached the matter. Therefore in putting these views forward I am speaking for myself, although I am happy to believe that a number of my colleagues as individuals share the point of view I am going to express.

In my view, accepting the principle referred to by the minister earlier this morning that the object of the rules and the object of any change in the rules should be to ensure that parliament makes the most efficient use of the time available to it in which to discuss the public's business, and confronted as we are with an increasing volume of public business both in the sense of dollars and in the physical sense of the number of pieces of legislation that come before us, the answer to the problem is to be

found in the principle of self-discipline on the part of members and on the part of parties rather than along the lines of writing rigid limitations into the rules. It may be found subsequently that such rigid rules limit the rights of parliament and of members in a manner which is most undesirable. When an issue arises in a manner which could not be foreseen when such limitations were written into the rules, the effect may be that parliament cannot deal adequately, and individual members are denied the opportunity to deal adequately with the particular issue.

I believe again, while not saying that just because it is done in the United Kingdom it should be done here, that we can benefit from certain examples and from certain patterns afforded by the United Kingdom. I am ready to confess that there they do have a number of very rigid limitations in their rules. Nevertheless, by and large, the pattern there, and the only way they can get 650 members feeling they have a proper right to be heard, is by the imposition of a code of self-discipline. Members agree that they will not abuse the right to speak and parties agree with respect to the length of time to be occupied by a particular debate. It is my belief that such a pattern of selfdiscipline can only be made effective by recognition of the feature that the appointment of a member of parliament to be Speaker of the house should be permanent.

In my view, there is nothing more absurd, if you analyse it, than our system of changing Speakers every parliament. The responsibilities of a Speaker are enormous. The training that a Speaker has to give himself, the study he has to devote to the rules, to their application and interpretation, is really a lifelong study. I do not suppose there is a Speaker in any parliament who would not agree that, even after being Speaker for 15 or 20 years, he was only just beginning to be really on top of the situation. But in our parliament a Speaker is really only beginning to get a grasp of the rules and to feel at home in his position when we change him for a new one. In that connection, I think our system should be re-examined and we should study the question of the appointment of a permanent Speaker.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. Pouliot:

May I ask the hon. member a question? Is this a personal suggestion or a recommendation from the committee?

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulton:

No, this is a personal opinion. Perhaps I did not make it clear, but I am speaking now for myself.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. Pouliot:

Expressing your own views.

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulton:

Expressing my own views, although I am happy in the belief that my

Special Committee on Procedure views are shared by quite a number of my colleagues and other members of the house as individuals, not as any official group.

Another reason why I think this suggestion has merit is-it is rather delicate to discuss, but I think we should discuss it here among ourselves-that obviously the application of a code of self-discipline does require certain sanctions behind it so that if a voluntary agreement is arrived at between parties or individuals that the length of speeches, let us say, will be limited to 30 minutes in a particular debate, and one member breaks that voluntary agreement, a measure of sanction will be required. It is going to be a great hardship on other members who are conscientiously abiding by the agreement if that is not the case. Such sanctions, in my view, cannot be written into the rules. The only way such sanctions can exist and be applied is through the Speaker.

In some instances those sanctions may have to be quite rigorous and have the appearance almost of being harsh. I suggest to the committee that it would be putting the Speaker in an impossible position to expect him to apply those sanctions absolutely automatically and vigorously when he is open to any suggestion of partiality. I ask my colleagues to believe that I am not making this discussion personal. Indeed, what I say with regard to the dangers of partiality does not in my view apply in the slightest to our colleague whom we have at the moment the privilege of having as our Speaker. I am speaking in general terms. I suggest that this business of rotating Speakers every parliament, so that as the end of a parliament approaches he knows that he is dependent upon the good will of the government for some other appointment, is not a good one. Yet that is the system under which we operate now, and I suggest that it places a very heavy premium on the exercise of impartiality by the Speaker. Human nature being what it is, it is difficult for a Speaker to be entirely impartial under those circumstances, although I believe that our Speakers as a whole have approached as close to impartiality as any Speaker could under those conditions.

I also suggest this. When members have the knowledge of that situation and an apparently harsh decision is applied by the Speaker against a member, say, on the opposition side, the temptation is to say: "the Speaker is being partial; he is being prejudiced. He sat me down without a word, but what else could you expect? After all, he knows that when this parliament is over he has to look to the government for his next appointment". Under these circumstances, I believe it would

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Special Committee on Procedure be difficult for us as members to accept the rapid and vigorous method by which the Speaker would have to apply those sanctions, even although he might be, in fact, completely impartial as between the two sides of the house. I think, therefore, our present system of rotating Speakers makes it impossible for that code of self-discipline to be applied in the way and with the effect that it might be applied elsewhere, where the position of Speaker is permanent.

I realize that one of the reasons why we rotate Speakers is because of the very proper recognition of the fact that there are two main language and racial groups in the country, French and English. I am not suggesting for a moment that in the appointment of a permanent Speaker we should depart from the recognition of that feature. I think the Speakers should be alternated, but that a Speaker having been appointed should be there until he retires of his own accord. Then, the next Speaker to be appointed should be of the other race and language group. In that way, we would preserve the principle of alternation but at the same time have the permanent feature of the office. There are a number of advantages which would flow from such a change. I realize that we cannot do it overnight, but I should like to see very serious consideration given to that suggestion.

Another approach which we feel should be followed with respect to the application of the rules is that a very much greater attempt should be made to arrive at ad hoc agreements with respect to the duration of any individual debate. This again is in accordance with our view that we should not write into the rules these rigid limitations which we think further circumscribe the functions of parliament. We feel there should be an agreement between the parties as to the length of time it would be sensible to devote to any particular debate as that debate arises.

One other feature of the United Kingdom system which I find attractive is the provision there of safety valves which we do not have here. I call them safety valves. I am thinking of the right of a member to raise a matter on the daily adjournment of the house and to discuss it for half an hour. If a member there is not satisfied, say, with an answer given by a minister to his question he gives notice immediately as follows: "Mr. Speaker, I intend to raise this on the adjournment." Then, by I believe a process of balloting, if he is lucky, he gets the right to discuss that particular matter and his particular complaint for half an hour only. It has the effect of forcing the minister to deal with it and to answer what the member regards as a legitimate complaint.

The second feature which they have there is the feature which gives them the right, if a sufficient number of members believe that the matter is important and urgent, to set it down for discussion. They can sign a motion and if a sufficient number of them sign it will be set down and discussed at a certain specific time and for a limited period. They cannot altogether interrupt the routine business and important government business, but there is a safety valve. If enough members believe it is important they can get it set down.

When you have those safety valves, then you can accept to some extent not only limitation of the rules but particularly the limitation which is imposed by the code of selfdiscipline and the sanction behind that code of self-discipline which is applied by Mr. Speaker.

There is one other suggestion which I think we should make here and I hope the minister will take it in good part. For myself, I believe the government at this session has done a commendable thing in getting the legislation by and large introduced and on the order paper early in the session. The minister said that was his intent, and generally speaking he has succeeded in his attempt, although there were a rather larger number of bills than we should like to see introduced late in the session. Nevertheless, in general, the attempt has been made and I think has been successful. However, that being the case, I do want to suggest that it will do a very great deal to expedite the business of the house and, if you like, shorten the session, if the house leader and the government would set the pattern of taking up a subject and carrying it through and completing it before they take up another subject.

I recognize that quite frequently interruptions in debate are made to meet the convenience not only of members and ministers on that side of the house but of members on this side as well. I want to be fair in this. But I do think that even allowing for that, there is much too great a tendency to take up a subject, debate it for a couple of days, drop it and take up something else, which has the effect of course of making the debate less coherent, less effective, and also the very important effect of giving members a second wind and thus protracting the debate beyond what would quite possibly be the duration if it were taken up, dealt with, and disposed of before we went on to something else.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. Pouliot:

May I ask another question? In the hon. member's view, how many days should be allowed for the debate on the Defence Production Act?

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulion:

Oh, I can answer that quite easily. That debate should be continued until the bill is defeated.

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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:

Then the hon. member would recommend that it be the last item of business.

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PC

Edmund Davie Fulton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fulion:

Mr. Chairman, I have outlined the approach which some of us think should be taken toward any revision of the rules for the purpose that if a further revision is undertaken we shall have these views on the record. We are accepting the report before you, to which we are agreeing. We are accepting the limitations of the rules, therein recommended, for the reason I have indicated, that it is in the circumstances a compromise to which we are prepared to agree; but we wish it to be clearly understood we do not think it is the proper principle upon which to base an approach to any further revision of the rules of the house.

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

Mr. Chairman, I am very happy on behalf of this group to indicate our support of the motion which has been made by the Minister of Finance and seconded by the hon. member for Kamloops. As would be expected, there are some proposals in the rules before us as recommended in this report which we do not exactly like. Likewise, there are some changes that we were prepared to accept which are not included in the recommendations now before us. Nevertheless, on balance, we feel that the report and its recommendations represent substantial progress in the whole question of procedure for this House of Commons, and on balance we in this group give our support to this motion.

It strikes me, Mr. Chairman, that it is not without significance, to which attention might be drawn, that we are dealing with our rules of procedure on this 1st day of July, Canada's 88th birthday. I must confess, Mr. Chairman, that I am tempted to draw attention to the fact that it was indicated in a resolution of mine that was on the order paper a while ago that only 12 years from today we shall be celebrating Canada's 100th anniversary.

I hope we shall be in a position to celebrate it in the appropriate ways my resolution suggested.

My comment that there is an appropriate relation between this being Dominion day and our discussing the rules of the house is borne out by a little research I have had the pleasure of doing. I have looked up the record of the first day that the House of Commons sat after the Dominion of Canada came into being 88 years ago today. As we know from our history, July 1, 1867, was a gala day with celebrations of various kinds.

Special Committee on Procedure Of course, at that time there was not a parliament of Canada as we now know it. The elections for the first parliament took place that year between August 7 and September 20, and the House of Commons first met on November 6, 1867. This voluminous scrapbook, if I am strong enough to hold it up to read from it, contains reports of what went on in both the House of Commons and the Senate during that first session. One of the things that interested me was that on the occasion of parliament meeting for the first time even the speech from the throne was not delivered on the first day; it was delivered on the second day. Even the speech from the throne was preceded by the question as to what rules the House of Commons would use. Accordingly, when the house met on November 6, 1867, its members performed just two functions. I think I might be permitted to read just a bit from the record of that day as it appeared in print the next day;

The proceedings of yesterday, supplemented by those which will take place today, will form an interesting chapter in the history of our new Dominion, which we have good reason to believe will in the progress of time embrace the whole territory from north of the United States to late Russian possessions, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Already it is the second power on this continent; and should careful and moderate views animate our statesmen, and the struggles of hostile and intemperate factions continue to be a part of the policy of our southern neighbours, rending the various sections asunder, there is no reason that in time it may not be the first of American powers.

A little later in the same report I read this:

Of course among the hundreds of members collected in the capital on Tuesday night and yesterday morning, the all engrossing subject of conversation was as to who would be the first Speaker of the House of Commons.

Even in those days it was a matter of great importance, and to be chosen Speaker of this house was recognized as one of the highest honours that a Canadian could be given. As I read that I find that when the house met there was a discussion over who would be Speaker. The Hon. Mr. Cockburn who became the Speaker was nominated by Sir John A. Macdonald, and his nomination was supported by the Hon. G. E. Cartier. There was some verbal opposition and a number of rather lengthy speeches, but at any rate the motion for Mr. Cockburn's election as Speaker was carried unanimously. The Speaker of that day made the usual statement which a Speaker makes on taking the chair, and then I read this:

Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald said that as there were no rules for the guidance of members, he thought the plan adopted in 1841 should be followed.

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Special Committee on Procedure

The reference there was to the rules that had been used by the late Province of Canada, which had been in existence from 1841 to 1867. I might pause to say parenthetically that despite the changes we are now making some of the language and some of the ideas contained in the rules of 1841 are still being carried forward.

This record of November 6, 1867, goes on:

It would be necessary for a committee selected from the whole house to be appointed for the purpose of drawing up a code of rules to be reported to the house.

It is a long-time practice, having committees on rules. Some of us who have been on these committees for 10 years would do well to remind ourselves that the practice has been going on for 88 years. The record continues:

In the meantime, the practice of the last session of the parliament of the Province of Canada, which was almost the same as that which governed the House of Commons in England, was the best that they could follow. He therefore moved, seconded by Hon. Mr. Cartier, that the rules of last session be adopted, which was carried.

The next notation is that the sitting then adjourned. In other words, my point is that on the first day that the House of Commons of Canada met it dealt with only two matters, the election of a Speaker and making provision for its rules of procedure. Therefore I suggest that it is rather appropriate that on this 1st day of July when we are celebrating our 88th birthday as a nation we find ourselves dealing with the rules of the House of Commons.

I should like to follow the pattern and I am sure the hon. member for Acadia will want to do likewise, and add to the bouquets which deserve to be extended. I feel we all owe a great deal to Mr. Speaker, and to the Clerk and members of his staff for the help they gave to us in our work as a committee. I too wish to add my expression of pleasure at the way in which the Minister of Finance dealt with us. Not only did he spend a great deal of time in connection with this matter, not only did he bring to bear the results of a great deal of study, but when it got down to the hard business of compromise and bargaining the four of us who met together found that as a result of collective bargaining in good faith-something which I support wholeheartedly-we have been able to come up with a report which is unanimous so far as the committee is concerned. As the hon. member for Kamloops has said, this does not mean that every individual in each of the four parties has to support every item in the report, but so far as the committee is concerned the report is

unanimous. And so far as our party is concerned, we are in support of the changes which have been made.

Incidentally I might point out that the report being brought in in this way meets a basic condition which we have laid down every time the motion has been made for the setting up of a committee on procedure. We contended every time that the rules of parliament belonged to parliament as a whole and that they should not be changed simply by the government using its majority to put through such changes as might be convenient for the government. We took the position, not that all changes had to be unanimous but that they should be by general agreement. These proposed changes are by general agreement so far as the committee is concerned and so far as the four parties of this house are concerned. I think we can compliment ourselves as a House of Commons on the job that we have done in connection with this matter.

As the previous speakers have indicated, the real work and progress came about once we got down to collective bargaining by four people in a small committee. When that time came everyone was willing to engage in a give and take process; everyone stated quite clearly the issues that to him were most sacred; everyone indicated where he was prepared to make concessions; and it was on that basis that we were able to work out this report.

I indicated earlier that there were some things proposed by the government and by others that we were prepared to accept but which have not been included. As I indicated publicly even before the committee met this year, we would have been prepared to accept a reduction in the time limit on speeches when the Speaker was in the chair from 40 to 30 minutes. Just to let hon. members know we worked in our bargaining, I supported that suggestion of a 30-minute speech right across the board down to the point where we were doing this bargaining and compromising. When it became evident to me that this was an important matter so far as the hon. member for Kamloops was concerned, and when we were trying to bargain on a certain other point I said that as far as I was concerned I was prepared to withdraw my support for the proposal that we reduce the time limit from 40 to 30 minutes if my hon. friend would support me on another point. I will not go into detail but it was a result of that sort of bargaining that we reached this unanimous decision.

So far as we were concerned there were a number of things-as a matter of fact, the

hon. member for Kamloops has referred already to these-which were pressed for by the government which we felt we simply could not accept in the form in which they were put to us. I refer particularly to the attempt to curtail still further the amount of time to be spent on motions to go into supply, as well as the attempt to limit the amount of time to be spent on estimates in committee of supply. These matters were most important to us from our point of view and once the government was prepared to compromise on them, as the Minister of Finance certainly was, we were on the way to achieving a unanimous report.

I think we all recognize that in a matter of this kind we cannot achieve perfection. Parliamentary people have been at this job for decades and centuries. We like to think, and we show this in our quotations from dusty tomes of the past, that there was a great deal of wisdom in those who formulated the rules of earlier days and that we have simply built on the foundation which they laid, but even in our attempting to improve on rules which were pretty good we recognize that what we have achieved is not necessarily perfect. We may find next session that we made some mistakes or that certain other changes should have been made. In the nature of things these changes do not get made very often but I would hope if it is found that there are other changes that should have been made or that some of the changes we have made prove to be unwise that this house will not be unwilling to review the matter at an early date.

This matter has been covered so fully, both in an academic and practical fashion, by the two previous speakers that I do not need to deal with all the matters that I have before me in the form of notes.

However, it seems to me our problem in committee and our problem now that it is back before the committee of the whole house was and is to get in between two considerations. On the one hand it is expected of us, and I think we expect it of ourselves, that we apply a little more discipline to our proceedings. This is expressed in the public mind and in the columns of the newspapers rather offhandedly in the suggestion that we must cut down the length of our speeches and cut down the length of debates. There is something to that, although it is sometimes suggested in a rather offhanded fashion without regard to the importance of debate and without regard to the fact that that is what parliament is for-to debate, to be a national forum for the people of the country that we represent.

1, 1955

Special Committee on Procedure

Nevertheless that is one consideration that we certainly had to take under advisement, namely the whole problem of trying to conserve time where we could-not just to shorten the session, but in order that we might give time where it should be given. It is on that basis, Mr. Chairman, that we have agreed to certain limitations. As hon. members know, the only limitation as to length of speeches is in committee of the whole where we have agreed to 30 minutes rather than 40 minutes each time a member is permitted to speak. The other limitations are three, namely, 10 days on the address in reply to the speech from the throne, eight days on the budget debate, and six supply motions limited to two days each. There are certain qualifications to that, but I shall not take the time to go into them here.

As I say, one of the considerations that prompted us to do that was the realization that we have to discipline ourselves for the good of parliament so that we might devote all the time we have to the issues and to the debates that most need our attention. The other consideration is, of course, that we must not try to muzzle parliament, we must not interfere with the freedom of speech of any of its members. I say quite frankly as a member of the opposition that in the last analysis that means we must be very careful not to limit the speaking rights of the opposition. It applies to government members too, but in the nature of things parliament has become very largely a contest between opposition and government. There is still a great deal of merit in citation No. 1 from Beau-chesne's third edition:

The principles that lie at the basis of English parliamentary law, as Bourinot so aptly says, are: "to protect a minority and restrain the improvidence or tyranny of a majority; to secure the transaction of public business in an orderly manner; to enable every member to express his opinion within limits necessary to preserve decorum and prevent an unnecessary waste of time; to give abundant opportunity for the consideration of every measure, and to prevent any legislative action being taken upon sudden impulse." In a close contest when the house is considering a highly controversial measure, the positions of parties are equalized: the government side may rely on its majority but the opposition is strengthened by the rules of procedure which both are bound to observe and which the Speaker must enforce.

If the members on the government side think we sometimes talk too much about the rights of the opposition, I ask them to consider the point made there both by Bourinot and by Beauchesne. The government in the last analysis, whether it is on the 1st of July or 1st of September-some hon. members will know what I mean by that-has its majority. You have to equalize that, if

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Special Committee on Procedure parliament is going to be parliament, by giving to the opposition the full protection of the rules. That being the case, we have to be careful not to go too far in our desire to effect discipline, in our desire to meet the request of the press that we cut down the length of our speeches. We have to be careful not to go too far in limiting the rights of the opposition to the only weapon they have, namely speeches, the right to try to persuade parliament as a whole that the government is either doing something wrong or is failing to take a step that it should take.

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LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. Poulioi:

Mr. Chairman, if I may ask the hon. member a question, does he not think that the same protection of the rules should be given to each individual member as to any opposition group?

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

I thought I made that clear, Mr. Chairman. At least that was in my mind when I first started to talk about this. I asked private members on the government side to realize that we are interested in their rights being protected just as much as ours. But in the nature of things parliament has become a contest between the opposition side of the house and the government side of the house. Since the government side of the house in the end has the majority, on the basis of which it can achieve its will, as Bourinot and Beau-chesne have said, the opposition does have a particular interest in the protection afforded to it by the rules. I agree with my hon. friend that the same protection that is afforded to us by the rules is afforded to him. It should be and I hope it always will be.

Since that was our job, to get in between the consideration that we should apply selfdiscipline and the consideration that we must not limit free speech and must not let parliament become a rubber stamp, there will be some who will say that we went too far in agreeing to the limitations that were set, in particular to the 10-day and eight-day limits and the six times two limit. However, I should like to point out that in accepting these limits we have accepted limits on what in the end are simply procedural motions. We have not accepted and we are not asking the house to accept any limitations on debate at any point where legislation is being enacted.

The debate on the address is a formal motion for confidence in the government. The debate on the budget, so-called, is a debate on the motion for Mr. Speaker to leave the chair so that we may go into committee of ways and means to consider the budget resolutions. The supply debates are on motions for the Speaker to leave the chair so that we can go into committee of supply. I do not detract from their importance. They are extremely

TMr. Knowles.]

important and we shall continue to assert that fact. But I point out that we have not imposed any limitation on debate on any resolution standing by itself, or on any resolution preceding a bill, or on any bill at any stage, second reading, committee of the whole or third reading. In other words, when it comes to the business of enacting legislation, there are no limitations on any member of the house. The humblest backbencher has just as much right to speak, regardless of how long it takes to conclude the debate, as has any frontbencher in any party.

So I think we have got in between the two considerations and have achieved a balance. We have made progress in the direction of some self-discipline without interfering with the principle that when legislation is being enacted there should be no limitation on any backbencher, any more than there is on any so-called frontbencher.

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An hon. Member:

One o'clock.

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

I shall be only a few minutes, Mr. Chairman. I want to add that I do not like filibusters, at least when I am not taking part in them. If I were taking part in one, of course, it would be good. I think it will be appreciated by my hon. friends to the right when I say that I am glad that we did not take any steps that would seem to have the effect of preventing filibusters on any item of legislation. Whether one likes them or not, they play their part. In the end it is up to the judgment of those who are carrying on a filibuster as to whether it is what they should do or should not do, just as it is up to the judgment of the government as to whether a filibuster should be stopped by the use of closure. I am glad that we did not make any change in respect of that matter in spite of any feelings that some of us might have about our being kept here in Ottawa in the present heat.

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An hon. Member:

One o'clock.

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Knowles:

As I have talked about selfdiscipline, I had better apply it and conclude at this point, despite other things that I might have said. I will conclude by saying that I think that on the whole the committee has brought back to the house a report which represents a maximum degree of progress although there may be some details with which some hon. members may not be satisfied. I hope that the report as a whole will have the unanimous support of the house.

Progress reported.

At one o'clock the house took recess.

The house resumed at 2.30 p.m.

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FURTHER SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATES, 1955-56


A message from His Excellency the Administrator transmitting further supplementary estimates for the financial year ending March 31, 1956, was presented by Hon. W. E. Harris (Minister of Finance), read by Mr. Speaker to the house, and referred to the committee of supply.


SECOND REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE-CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

July 1, 1955