May 7, 1964

PROCEDURE

CONCURRENCE IN THIRD REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE

NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

I have the honour once again, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Your Honour's committee on procedure and organization to move concurrence in a report presented by this committee. I am grateful once more to the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Baldwin) for offering to second my motion. There are three parts to the brief remarks that I should like to make on this occasion.

First of all, sir, I should like to say a few words about the structure of Your Honour's committee and the work that committee is doing. As hon. members will recall from the first report of the committee which Your Honour tabled on March 25, the main committee has been divided into three subcommittees. The hon. member for Edmonton West (Mr. Lambert) is chairman of one of those subcommittees; the hon. member for Northumberland (Miss Jewett) is chairman of another, and I have the honour of chairing the subcommittee on procedure. All three of these committees, as well as the main committee, have been working very hard on the matters assigned to them and it is my understanding that very shortly each of the other subcommittees will have reports to be presented to the house. On those occasions the other subcommittee chairmen will be moving concurrence in the reports. I should like to express my own personal pleasure at working on both the subcommittee and the main committee. We are tackling a big job with earnestness and seriousness, and I dare to hope that as the weeks go by we will be able to make considerable progress, as I believe we have done already.

The second thing I should like to say, Mr. Speaker, is to draw particular attention to the provisional standing order that we are asking the house to adopt by the motion to concur in the third report of the committee which was tabled two days ago. This new provisional standing order, which would carry the number 15(2-a), will make provision regarding the making of statements on motions. Many members may not even realize that

thus far we have no standing orders and no provision whatever for the making of statements on motions. This is a practice that has grown up, and tradition seems to rule the day. Therefore, by not having any standing orders governing this matter, Your Honour has to be guided by precedents, by incidents in the past, and by judging the situation as it arises from day to day.

It is the feeling of the subcommittee, shared by the entire committee-in fact our decision in this matter is unanimous-that we should have a standing order governing the making of statements on motions so that Your Honour will have something to go by. We feel that provision should be made for statements to be made on motions by ministers of the crown, but we feel that something should be said to impose certain limitations. Therefore in our proposed standing order we say such statements should deal only with announcements or statements of policy and that they should present only such facts as it is deemed necessary to make known to the house; and we add the proviso that the making of statements on motions should not be designed in such a way as to provoke debate at that stage.

In the standing order we add the provision that one spokesman for each opposition party should be permitted to comment briefly, subject to the same limitations. I think all members will agree that in practice we have expanded on this procedure, which was not provided for at all, and on too many occasions we have had a five man debate in which nobody else can take part, which leaves us all with the feeling that we have taken too much time and that we have not actually dealt with any item of the business before the house.

I could, but I am not going to, cite examples of faults on both sides of the house. I have gone out of my way to speak to some of the front benchers on both sides of the house, and I find there is general agreement that we could improve this item of our business to the advantage of the house as a whole. I hope the house will accept the motion for the concurrence in this report; that it will accept this proposed standing order; that with the cooperation of the members we can get away from having irregular debates on statements made on motions and that we can have instead, when they are necessary, statements of fact from the government side and brief comment from spokesmen on the opposition side of the house.

Procedure Committee

The third thing I would like to say is that I hope hon. members will look at this proposal in the context of what this committee has endeavoured to present to the house thus far. As time goes on we shall have other proposals to bring in, but thus far we have been dealing with what I think is a justifiable criticism, that the house has been taking too long with its preliminaries, that it has been taking too long to get down to the business of the day.

We agree that questions are an important part of the house business. So are statements on motions and motions for the production of papers, but to the extent that we have taken an hour and even two hours on these preliminaries we have created the impression of being too slow in getting down to the business of the house. We feel that by a combination of our proposals thus far, what we have done about questions and what we now propose to do about motions, we can reach the point where we will get down to the day's business sooner, we can offset the criticism about spending too long on preliminaries, we can improve the image of the house and we can, in fact, get down to our work that much quicker.

We propose that this provisional standing order should be in effect from the date on which this motion is concurred in until the end of the session, unless otherwise ordered by the house itself, and our committee hopes that the house will adopt this rule unanimously.

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PC

Gerald William Baldwin

Progressive Conservative

Mr. G. W. Baldwin (Peace River):

Mr. Speaker, briefly I want to say that 1 approve as far as I can personally the recommendation contained in this report and the trial for a limited period of what is proposed, but may I briefly recite the philosophy which we have with regard to these particular changes, because there has been considerable comment in the house and outside in the press and elsewhere.

I think it is safe to say that those who suggest that hon. members come to this house purely to pass government measures or pass government estimates are wrong. We are here to give lengthy and critical examination to all matters which are on the order paper for debate. Only in this way does the public get the opportunity to examine in detail the subject matters which the house debates from time to time. It is only through the cut and thrust and the give and take of debate that this happens. Anyone who thinks there is not going to be a continuous series of wars, battles and skirmishes in this house is very wide of the mark.

On the other hand, those who suggest that there should be a continuous donnybrook

without rules, rhyme or reason are also wrong. I think we have to stop occasionally to drag out the bodies and put fresh sawdust in the ring, take time to find out what the new issues will be and when and where we wish to join them. It is in this sense, trying to reconcile those two opposing views, that the committee and the subcommittee have approached this problem of dealing with our rules.

There must be continuous review of and changes in the rules. With regard to this suggested amendment, what we are doing is legalizing a custom which has existed for some time. Frequently we have found that putting a custom into written words is a dangerous practice. It is often better to allow those customs to be moulded and refined by what happens. But I think, unfortunately, over the last period of time we have found that statements and comments on motions have been taking up a considerable part of the time of this house, so we are recommending this for a period of trial in the hope that there may be some measure of improvement.

I think it is a question of practicing self restraint. As a backbencher this direction has often been given to me. I think it would be helpful to bring it to the notice of those who sit on the front benches opposite particularly, from where these motions originate. I propose to them that they bear in mind the motto hung up in railway stations during the war: "Is your journey really necessary?" They might ask themselves, before making statements: "Are these statements really necessary?" After they are made, it frequently happens that no reply may be necessary at all from the opposition side. Frequently one reply only might be sufficient; and those who have in the past directed to us the admonition that we should save the time of the house might give this some consideration.

Finally, we are departing to some extent from the English practice. There is no reason why we should slavishly follow English practice but in England, in the mother of parliaments, these statements on motions are followed not only by comments, but questions are allowed. In this way the issue is sharpened and clarified so that it becomes quite apparent what is involved in the statement. Because of the situation in this house, the number of parties and the type of statements which have been made, it is not possible to follow that practice, but I hope that after giving careful consideration to what happens when this rule comes into effect the word "comment" which appears in the second last line in the phrase "parties in opposition to the government may

comment briefly" might be extended to include the right of questioning. This is something that will have to be considered in due course. This procedure might then serve a very useful purpose in preparing these particular subject matters for consideration and future debate.

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SC

Horace Andrew (Bud) Olson

Social Credit

Mr. H. A. Olson (Medicine Hal):

Mr. Speaker, very briefly I wish to say on behalf of this party that we concur in the remarks that have been made by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre and the hon. member for Peace River. I should like to commend concurrence in this report to all hon. members of the house, first of all because, as is clearly stated, it is going to be adopted on a trial basis, and second because I think it will provide some written formality, if you like, and will strengthen Your Honour's position when on occasion statements on motions and subsequent debate get out of hand. We agree that a tradition has grown up in regard to the provision for motions contained in section 15 of standing orders, and this procedure has been used to make statements of policy. On occasion we believe there has been far too much preamble to the actual statement of fact or policy being presented, and on other occasions there has been too much debate from all parties in opposition.

We believe that in the majority of cases the acceptance of this motion will not require any action on the part of the Speaker, but we think it is necessary to have this provision in standing orders so that Your Honour's position will be strengthened in dealing with a situation that gets out of hand when statements are made on motions.

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RA

Gilles Grégoire

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Gilles Gregoire (Lapointe):

Mr. Speaker, convincing arguments have been put forward by hon. members who spoke before me. However, as a member of the subcommittee on procedure, I should like to take this opportunity to give well deserved praise to the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) who did some exceptionally fine work as chairman of the subcommittee.

The subcommittee has already submitted two reports to the house and others will be forthcoming. I can assure hon. members that the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre did most of the work. I am pleased to pay him tribute today, because it will be thanks to him if the proceedings of the house are accelerated in future.

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PC

Eldon Mattison Woolliams

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Eldon M. Woolliams (Bow River):

Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very clear that I am speaking for myself at the present time,

Procedure Committee

but I think we have hidden a certain process and procedure under the desk, and it is time it was brought on top of the desk. I am one of those members of parliament who believe this parliamentary system functions best with a two party system. We have talked a great deal about wasting time in this House of Commons when statements are made from the front benches and two, three, four, five or six comments are made by various parties. I would like to pose one question in this regard. The future holds a lot for us, because look at what happened to France. We may in this House of Commons, in my time-

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?

Some hon. Members:

Order.

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PC

Eldon Mattison Woolliams

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Woolliams:

-or sometime, see as many as ten different parties making ten different statements.

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Maurice Bourget (Speaker of the Senate)

Mr. Speaker:

Order.

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister)

Liberal

Right Hon. L. B. Pearson (Prime Minister):

Mr. Speaker, we on the government side heartily support this recommendation and hope it will have the good results which are anticipated for it.

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PC

Eldon Mattison Woolliams

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Woolliams:

Mr. Speaker, I did not think I had yet been ruled out of order, and surely I have the right to make a personal comment as far as this procedure is concerned.

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Maurice Bourget (Speaker of the Senate)

Mr. Speaker:

The hon. member is quite correct; no one has been ruled out of order yet, and I sincerely hope no one will be. We are discussing this motion, and I suggest to the hon. member that he stick to the motion under discussion.

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PC

Eldon Mattison Woolliams

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Woolliams:

I think I am sticking right to the motion, Mr. Speaker. We are dealing with the subject of statements made by ministers. It is necessary for ministers to make statements from time to time in the house. What I am suggesting, and surely this is sticking to the subject matter, is that where you have six different parties each making comments, the time will surely come in this country when any one of us can form a group or five or six members and we will be having 20 or 30 different parties in this house.

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?

Some hon. Members:

Oh, oh.

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PC

Eldon Mattison Woolliams

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Woolliams:

I know the rules, and hon. members cannot shout me down. They do not want the Canadian people to know the truth. The main cause of delay in this house since I have been here is the splinter parties.

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NDP

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

New Democratic Party

Mr. T. C. Douglas (Burnaby-Coquitlam):

Mr. Speaker, since you have permitted the last speaker to wander far afield from the motion may I just say this. The hon. member

Wheat Delivery Quotas tor Bow River is objecting to the number of parties in this house and says he is in favour of having two parties. I would merely point out that there were two million Canadian voters voted at the last election who did not agree with him. As long as we have a democracy in this country I think the hon. member for Bow River will have to abide by the decision of the electorate.

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Motion agreed to.


CHANGE IN ADMINISTRATION OF DELIVERY QUOTAS

May 7, 1964