May 9, 1966

BROADCASTING, FILMS AND ASSISTANCE TO THE ARTS CONCURRENCE IN FIFTH REPORT OF STANDING COMMITTEE

LIB

Gérard Pelletier

Liberal

Mr. Gerard Pelletier (Hochelaga) moved

that the fifth report of the standing committee on broadcasting, films and assistance to the arts, presented to the house on Thursday, May 5, 1966, be now concurred in.

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LIB

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Is it the pleasure of the house to adopt the said motion?

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NDP

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

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles:

On division, Mr. Speaker.

[DOT] (2:40 p.m.)

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RA

Gilles Grégoire

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Gilles Gregoire (Lapointe):

Mr. Speaker,

I would like to say a few words on this motion.

We are asked to reduce the quorum from 13 to nine members. The committee on broadcasting, films and assistance to the arts is made up of 25 members of parliament.

I feel that there is something wrong. If 13 members out of those 25 cannot be found to attend that committee's sittings, then I submit that the committee is not important and must cease its activities.

The first point I want to make is that the Ralliement Creditiste is not represented at all on eight committees because the Liberals refused to allow us a member on them. An attempt was made to divide the number of committee members according to the number of members in each party.

It is a fact that Liberal members are not interested in taking part in the work of committees. On the other hand, we are interested and, in spite of that, there are eight committees on which the creditistes are not represented at all. It is not surprising, therefore, that committees fall short of the quorum when interested members are not allowed to sit on them.

And on how many committees is the party of my hon. friend the member for Red Deer (Mr. Thompson) not represented? And if I

asked the same question to the members of the New Democratic Party? They are also interested in sitting on committees where they are not represented. I am convinced that there would be many of them if they were invited to become members of those committees.

They cannot attend because they were denied that. There are members of the New Democratic Party and the Ralliement Creditiste who are not members of the committee on broadcasting, films and assistance to the arts and who, in spite of that, attend its sittings. There is for instance, the hon. member for Timiskaming (Mr. Peters). I do not think he is a member of that committee and yet he attends its meetings although his attendance is not recorded. Why? Because there is no room for those who are interested. Members of the Liberal party are chosen even if they are not interested and do not show up. Then, there is no quorum. Those who are interested cannot make up the quorum. That is my first argument.

Mr. Speaker, hon. members who are interested, whatever their party, should be asked if they want to sit on committees and should be allowed to do so if they agree. Then we would have a quorum and the committees could hold their meetings. If at least members who are interested could have their names substituted for those who have given their names to be members of committees, but are not interested.

There are hon. members who are interested in being members of this committee, but are not. Why? Because there is no room for them. When I asked the member for Sherbrooke (Mr. Allard) the other day whether he would have liked to sit on the committee on broadcasting, films and assistance to the arts, he said he would have accepted. At any rate, he attends the meetings, but he is not a member of the committee and his presence does not count for the quorum. There is a weakness in the establishment of committees. The Liberal whip has to run after his own members to get them together, to ask them to attend committee meetings, even when they are not interested. The situation is the same for the Conservative party.

Broadcasting Committee

Instead of leaving that to the whips, all members interested in being members of a given committee should be asked to give their names. Afterwards, the substitutions needed could be made. Thus, we would not be faced with the problem we have today.

The second reason why I object to the quorum being reduced from 13 to nine is that no committee is without Liberal members, none has less than 13 Liberal members. If the government is serious,-it is to the government that we owe the committee reform________

it should see to it that all members of its party attend committee meetings. There are 13 Liberals on each committee, but they are not interested in attending the meetings. That is why there is no quorum. The party in office wants to have too big a share in committee membership. Its members are not interested; they do not want to take part in committee meetings and that is why there is no quorum.

Mr. Speaker, I submit that if the members of the party in office were interested in attending committee meetings, then we would not face the problem we face today and there would be a quorum in committees.

As the motion is debatable and as we are entitled to 30 minutes each, I intend to use all my time or at least a good deal of it, because I believe that we are now debating a question of principle dealing not only with the committee on broadcasting, films and assistance to the arts, but to any other committee. What is good for one committee is good for all the others.

The third reason why I strongly object to reducing the quorum is because I found that when a committee has a hard time getting a quorum, it is because more important work is being carried out in the house. For instance -and the chairman of the committee can bear me out on this point-Monday and Tuesday last, the committee on broadcasting, films and assistance to the arts found it hard to get a quorum for certain sittings. Why? Because important speeches were being delivered in the house, namely a statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Pearson), which was awaited by everyone. Now, it was understandable to find all Liberal members present in the house. That same afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Diefenbaker) made an important speech and Conservative members were present in great numbers in the house. In the evening a very important vote took place. That is why the committee on broadcasting, Aims and assistance to the arts did [Mr. Gregoire.l

May 9, 1986

not have a quorum all day long. This is entirely normal and I am convinced that the Prime Minister preferred making his statement when all members of his party were present in the house instead of making it in front of empty seats or when members of his party were scattered here, there, and everywhere in various committees.

It is quite understandable, Mr. Speaker, that members should be present in the house when important matters are being discussed here. But then, committees cannot get a quorum.

Mr. Speaker, the main reason is that committee members are selected by the whips, whereas all members, regardless of their party, interested in taking part in committee work should be able to do so.

The second reason is that counting the government members there would be enough for a quorum, but they are not interested.

In the third place, there is the fact that when something important is happening in the house, members prefer to sit in the house rather than in the committees, and that is perfectly normal. But reducing the quorum would not solve the problem because in that case, when members have to choose between a committee in which they are particularly interested and the house, where something important is happening, what would their decision be?

[DOT] (2:50 p.m.)

What should we, as members, choose? We are faced with a difficult alternative. The member should not be given such an alternative. He has to choose between being absent from committee meetings which are important and which, he feels, he ought to attend, and being absent from the house while something important is going on. A member should not be faced with such an alternative.

That is why the solution is not in reducing the quorum but in a better organization of the committees' work, in finding a system whereby members may be allowed to attend the house when it is important and also to attend the committee sittings when such committees, also of importance, are sitting.

Such a formula must be found instead of reducing the quorum.

We are asked to reduce the quorum to nine, which means that only nine members would submit reports and decide on some matters on behalf of all their colleagues. That is not proper.

May 9, 1966

Let me give an example. During the debate on the budget speech in the house, the committee on finance, trade and economic affairs was sitting. Now, the people most interested in the budget debate are necessarily the members of the finance committee. Yet, the finance committee was sitting during consideration of the budget in the House of Commons. That is not proper. Those who are interested in the financial administration of the country had to choose between taking part in the budget debate, which lasted six days and which is surely the most important debate of the session on financial matters, and attending the committee sittings where consideration was being given to the financial problems of the country.

You see, Mr. Speaker, the situation in which members interested in the problems and financial administration of the country found themselves. They could not be in both places at the same time while discussions were taking place on important matters concerning the finances of this country. For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, I claim that the solution is not in the reduction of committees' quorum but in finding time periods during which the committees could sit outside the sittings of the House of Commons. For instance let the house sit three weeks a month and let the committees sit one week while the house is not sitting.

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NDP

David Lewis

New Democratic Party

Mr. Lewis:

Or three days a week.

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RA

Gilles Grégoire

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Gregoire:

Or yet, have the house sit three days per week and, as the hon. member for York South (Mr. Lewis) suggests, allow the committees to sit two days a week while the house is not sitting.

Let the committees sit a week per month or two days per week, while the house is not sitting, and their work will be done more seriously. Besides, members could then attend the sittings of the House of Commons. The way things are being done at the present time we would have to be in both places at the same time and that is not possible.

We are still looking for the scientist who will discover a system allowing people to be in two places at the same time. Such a system has not yet been developed and it is not this government which will develop it either. We still do not possess the gift of ubiquity. For lack of this system for the time being, we cannot be forced to be in the house and in the committees at the same time.

Broadcasting Committee

I therefore ask the government and the leader of the house to devise another system, different from that which is offered to us at this time.

That is why we object to the motion before us today.

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NDP

Robert William Prittie

New Democratic Party

Mr. R. W. Prittie (Burnaby-Richmond):

Mr. Speaker, I can agree with many of the things the hon. member for Lapointe has said. However, I plan to support this motion because it is the only way out of our immediate difficulties. But I would suggest that a committee of representatives from each party should be formed to discuss these matters.

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?

An hon. Member:

A committee on committees.

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NDP

Robert William Prittie

New Democratic Party

Mr. Prittie:

A committee on committees, if you like.

I do not believe we are going to settle this matter on the floor of the house each time one of these motions comes before us.

I should like to make one suggestion, Mr. Speaker. It seems to me that the house might well consider a system of appointing alternate members to committees. Quite frequently a committee has to meet on Monday and a member has not returned from his riding. If his party were able to name an alternate, that member could be there to take his place and it might be possible to provide a quorum. There have been many times, as the hon. member for Lapointe has said, when there have been enough members at committee meetings but not members named to the committee. It seems to me that this is a suggestion which might help to provide quorums and get the committee sessions under way. I would like to suggest again that this matter is not going to be settled in the house, but that a committee dealing with committees should take this matter under advisement very soon.

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SC

Howard Earl Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. Howard Johnston (Okanagan-Revel-stoke):

Mr. Speaker, I should also like to protest the suggestion that quorums of committees be reduced. I have found in any organization in which I have previously been involved that only a few people participate actively in the real work of the organization. However, I believe in this particular situation in the House of Commons we are only a few-265 representatives-of the 20 million people who elected us. I believe the people of Canada have the right to expect that their representatives will concern themselves with

May 9, 1966

Broadcasting Committee the business of the nation, and that concern should be a continuing one as long as this house is in session.

It might be a good idea to recall the situation which brought about the hearings of the committee on broadcasting. The intention was to debate the whole issue on the floor of this house, but rather than use the time of the house when we have so much other business to attend to the suggestion was that the matter should be turned over to the standing committee on broadcasting. It seems to me that those who favoured the plan to turn it over to committee and those who opposed this plan have a common interest in seeing that a quorum for the committee is maintained, and that we should take the committee work seriously. I will agree that it is not a good thing to see the press and witnesses waiting for hours for a quorum to develop, but I do not believe there would be any improvement if the membership of the committee is reduced to nine when the membership of the entire committee is 25. If we have to reduce it to as low as nine we will be throwing out the balance which a committee should have in hearing the important issues placed before it.

How can such a committee possibly have the temerity to ask witnesses to come from great distances and from important duties to present their case to such a small group of members of parliament? I cannot see any witness looking at us very favourably under such circumstances. I would suggest that we take our duties a little more seriously than we have been doing, and that the alternatives which have been suggested by previous speakers be considered and tried before we act on the easy suggestion of reducing the size of the quorum.

[DOT] (3:00 p.m.)

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RA

David Réal Caouette

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Real Caouette (Villeneuve):

Mr. Speaker, I fully agree with the remarks of my colleague, the hon. member for Lapointe (Mr. Gregoire). All the members of the house know that the committee on broadcasting, films and assistance to the arts consists of 25 members, 13 of whom are Liberals.

Now we are asked to reduce the quorum from 13 to nine, that is four less than the number of Liberals assigned to that committee, the committee on broadcasting, films and assistance to the arts.

Mr. Speaker, I said last week that it is no more important to reduce the quorum of

committees than to reduce the number of committees. We have some 23, 24 or perhaps 25 parliamentary committees, where members of the Liberal party and of the opposition parties make an appearance. Now, we of the Ralliement Creditiste have no members on eight of those committees. There are two points of view in that respect.

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely believe that the hon. member for Lapointe is right in asking that the quorum be left as it is. If the Liberals cannot take their responsibilities concerning the committee in question, they should not lay the blame on the others; let them attend the meetings and the other members will also attend, as they are doing now.

And, Mr. Speaker, to support my colleague from Lapointe, I say that we cannot agree to the quorum of the committee on broadcasting, films and assistance to the arts being reduced. But we are ready to co-operate with the House of Commons as a whole to get results, not results to please the hon. member for Hochelaga (Mr. Pelletier), for instance, who is chairman of that committee. The hon. member for Hochelaga told us himself last Friday night on the television program Les couche-tard-I saw him then-that he did not know what was going on in Ottawa but that he was there just the same. So he is here, we see him here right now, however we cannot accept any suggestion from the hon. member for Hochelaga. We want results and we will get them if each member assumes his responsibilities, if each member-

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LIB

Gérard Pelletier

Liberal

Mr. Pelletier:

Mr. Speaker, on a question of privilege. First, I think that the hon. member for Villeneuve quoted me so freely that I failed to recognize the remarks he attributed to me. Second, we are discussing at this time the suggestion from the majority of the committee, not from a single member.

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RA

David Réal Caouette

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Caouette:

Mr. Speaker, was there really a point of order in what the hon. member for Hochelaga just said?

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?

An hon. Member:

No, a question of privilege.

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RA

David Réal Caouette

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Caouette:

Neither a question of privilege. I heard the hon. member for Hochelaga on the program Les couche-tard-

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LIB

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order. I would ask the hon. member for Villeneuve to keep to the matter now before the house, that is the resolution in the name of the hon. member for Hochelaga.

May 9. 1966

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RA

David Réal Caouette

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Caouelle:

Then, Mr. Speaker, will you give a ruling about the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Hochelaga?

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LIB

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

I will study the matter.

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RA

David Réal Caouette

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Caouelle:

May I expect an answer before next week, Mr. Speaker?

In any case, I think that even if the hon. member for Hochelaga is very active in the committee of which he is chairman, several of his fellow members from the Liberal party forget to attend its meetings.

Therefore, under the circumstances we cannot accept the suggestion that the quorum be reduced from 13 to nine. We ask that it be set at 13, that it remain at 13 and that the committee do its work in a constructive rather than a negative way. And the hon. member for Hochelaga is well versed in positive terms.

Now, I would ask him, through you Mr. Speaker, to call on his friends in the Liberal party to attend the committee sittings, and then we would not have to be concerned with reducing the quorum, but we would instead be concerned with increasing it to achieve tangible results, positive results concerning broadcasting, films and assistance to the arts as we are not discussing in parliament.

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May 9, 1966