April 12, 1962

LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

It is a question of privilege, not a question of order.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming (Eglinion):

So far as privilege is concerned, Mr. Chairman, this being a day for government business and the chosen item of government business having been called-

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

I rise on a question of

privilege-

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming (Eglinion):

Mr. Chairman-

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PC

Paul Raymond Martineau (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

The Chairman:

Order.

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

I rise on a question of

privilege. I had the floor on a question of privilege and the minister interrupted me. No interruption is allowed on a question of privilege.

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PC

Paul Raymond Martineau (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

The Chairman:

Order. I believe only one question of privilege can be taken up at a time. The hon. member for Laurier has raised a question of privilege. I understood the Minister of Finance to be replying to the question raised by the hon. member for Laurier.

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

I did not get started.

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PC

Paul Raymond Martineau (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

The Chairman:

Does the hon. member wish to discuss the question of privilege?

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

Yes, Mr. Chairman, I do. I wish to discuss it as calmly as I can. I hope the minister will not rise and interrupt me repeatedly, as it is his practice to do. I was stating that on Friday, March 23 the house concluded consideration of the third set of supplementary estimates and passed the appropriation bill. Then we embarked upon the fourth set of supplementary estimates, commencing with the Department of Agriculture, about five minutes before five o'clock. On Monday, March 26, instead of continuing the supplementaries, as the government should have done and as the opposition asked, they were not called again until Wednesday, March 28. If they had been called at the beginning of that week they could easily have been concluded by March 30 and probably by March 29, particularly as items in nine various departments were passed on March 30.

Having failed to do that, the government should have called the supplementaries on April 2, and they could have been concluded at the latest by April 3. Instead they were held off until Friday, April 6, about one hour before five o'clock, by which time General McNaughton's interview was in the press. In other words the committee was given no consecutive opportunity to dispose of this business.

If one looks at the order of business one will find 10 items were given last night by the house leader as the business for today, the first item having to do with the electoral boundaries commission, and the next having to do with a measure concerning the Senate. I will not go over them all, as they can be found at page 2864 of Hansard. Then this morning about 11.30 the house leader advised that supplementary estimates were coming on.

As I said earlier, we on this side of the house have no objection whatsoever to the calling of these supplementary estimates, but what we on this side of the house to object to is that statements are being made outside of the house, particularly on television last night by the Prime Minister, that we on this side of the house are obstructing and delaying the business of the house. That, sir, is not the fact.

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PC

Gage Workman Montgomery

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Montgomery:

It is true.

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

The facts are as I have clearly indicated them, and I have done so as calmly as I could under the circumstances. If there is any delay, if there is any holdup in the business of the house, it is because of the confusion that exists on the other side

of the house. It is because of the fact that there is no orderly decision as to what the business shall be. One day we are on legislation and the next we take supplementary estimates. Again we are on legislation and later back again to supplementary estimates. If the supplementary estimates had been continued as they should have been without interruption, then in my opinion we would have been beyond them a long time ago.

I conclude my question of privilege by saying this. Before we agree to postpone consideration of item 729 we are entitled to an assurance that the committee will dispose of last year's supplementary estimates, the ones we are now on, before going on with other business.

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?

Mr, Herridge:

Mr. Chairman, I want to express our complete approval and support of the remarks made by the hon. member for Laurier. I also wish to bring to the minister's attention the fact that when we concluded discussion of these estimates previously we were on item 729, and it is obvious that the officials thought we were going to proceed with that item because the gallery is flooded with all these great engineers from the water resources branch. There is no branch in any department of the government whose officials spend more time in the gallery than those of the water resources branch. They are all here this afternoon, so it is obvious they expected that the government would proceed with item 729. I trust we will.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming (Eglinlon):

Mr. Chairman, this is a pretty far fetched question of privilege. I had hoped that all hon. members would address themselves to making some progress with these items instead of threshing straw that has already been well threshed. Furthermore, let me make it very clear that in other years final supplementary estimates have usually been dispatched in about two days, because final supplementaries are usually of a uniform character. They are usually simply further amounts required for purposes that have already been approved by parliament in adopting the main estimates. That is the character of most of the items.

This year, apart from the short commencement that was made on March 23, three days were set aside for these final supplementary estimates; Wednesday, March 28, Thursday, March 29 and Friday, March 30. Those three days fell far short of being enough for the carrying of these items. Indeed, only a minority of the items were disposed of then. This, I think, is not an indication that the committee proceeded to deal with these items at normal speed.

Supply-Northern Affairs

There is other business of the house that has to be done, and some attempt has to be made to advance business that there is some hope of advancing when it is quite clear that the committee has been bogged down on items in the estimates. We brought these estimates back again last Friday, April 6, and we passed one item in an hour and a quarter.

There is no ground for complaint about our calling item 730 today, because it was made very clear to hon. members this morning why that course was being proposed. It remains with the government, when the government is introducing estimates as its business on a government day, to call the particular items that it is asking the committee to pass. We did not complete the discussion of item 729 last Friday, April 6, or at least the item was not passed, and as certain hon. members had indicated on Monday of this week that they wished to discuss a subject that had been raised in the debate on item 729 it seemed to me we would be affording them a better opportunity for debate by proceeding in the manner that is now indicated, that is to say, by proceeding with item 730 and disposing of it and the balance of the items, and then returning to those items that have been held over, namely the items on external affairs and item 729, and have an orderly debate on those.

I think it would impress hon. members as a grave waste of manpower to have those officials who must be in attendance in connection with the many items that still remain to be considered sitting around waiting if we are to have an extended debate on item 729 or on the items pertaining to external affairs. My suggestion, which was communicated to hon. members opposite this morning and was not objected to by them, was simply that in the interests of orderly procedure we would start with item 730, dispose of the balance of the items, and then return to the items which had been held over, namely the external affairs items and item 729. That proposal was made and this course is put before the committee in the hope of an orderly and expeditious procedure. I would hope, Mr. Chairman, that we could proceed. The sooner we dispose of these other items, the sooner we will be able to have a debate on item 729 and the external affairs items.

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NDP

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

New Democratic Party

Mr. Herridge:

In reply I should like to ask the minister this question. If that was the government's intention it is a sign of poor planning again, because why were these

Supply-Northern Affairs very highly paid and most expensive members of the water resources branch, whose time is most valuable, all brought here to sit in the gallery?

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?

An hon. Member:

Are they?

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NDP

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

New Democratic Party

Mr. Herridge:

Why is their time to be wasted here when the government had other intentions?

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

Mr. Chairman, the minister, of course, has gone far beyond the point raised by the hon. member for Laurier, and I should like to deal with some of the points he has raised. The minister talked about his desire to facilitate orderly procedure, in the light of what we were told last night was going to be discussed today and the fact that at 11.30 this morning the government for its own reasons changed the order of discussion completely, presumably without telling some of the departments that it had been changed.

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PC

John Ferguson Browne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Browne (Vancouver-Kingsway):

On a

point of order, Mr. Chairman-

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PC

Paul Raymond Martineau (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

The Chairman:

I would ask the hon. member for Vancouver-Kingsway to defer his point of order until the Leader of the Opposition has completed his remarks.

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April 12, 1962