March 21, 1975

OFFICIAL REPORT


FIRST SESSION-THIRTIETH PARLIAMENT 24 Elizabeth II


VOLUME V, 1975 COMPRISING THE PERIOD FROM THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF MARCH, 1975, TO THE SECOND DAY OF MAY, 1975, INCLUSIVE INDEX ISSUED IN A SEPARATE VOLUME


Published under the authority of the Speaker of the House of Commons by the Queen's Printer for Canada Available from information Canada, Ottawa, Canada



Friday, March 21, 1975


DELAY IN DISTRIBUTION OF YESTERDAY'S "HANSARD"

LIB

James Alexander Jerome (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order, please. Hon. members will have noticed that their edition of Hansard is not on their desks. I should explain that a combination of factors have contributed to a delay in Hansard this morning, perhaps the most important of which is computer difficulty. It is expected that Hansard will be distributed at about noon today.

Topic:   OFFICIAL REPORT
Subtopic:   DELAY IN DISTRIBUTION OF YESTERDAY'S "HANSARD"
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PRIVILEGE

PC

Eldon Mattison Woolliams

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Eldon M. Woolliams (Calgary North):

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a very important question of privilege affecting parliament and therefore the privileges of every member of parliament. I think all members will agree with me that one of the most important functions of parliament, and therefore the duty and responsibility of a member of parliament, is to scrutinize-question, as it were-and interrogate the government in reference to estimated expenditures of the various departments of government. This responsibility becomes more important to members who are not supporters of the government. I make nothing of that except to point out that the duty and responsibility of opposition members must be to make certain that careful scrutiny of expenditures is carried out.

Every member of parliament has a mandate to make certain that taxpayers' money is spent wisely, correctly, and according to the law. I am well aware that the new rules change the method of considering the estimates, but I do not interpret the rules to mean that the government can bring forward a bill a few seconds before they ask for interim supply as set out in clause 2 of the bill, appropriating certain sums of money for the public service for the financial year ending March 31, 1976, in the amount of $4,603,596,900.59.

I understand the rule is that once a motion for supply is put-and I shall refer to that in a moment-as it was last evening, and voted upon, the government can then ask for interim supply. I have no argument with that. I am well aware that if the bill is properly presented and is prepared according to the rules of this House, the rules say there can be no debate. However, the Chairman of the committee of supply of the whole House stated that we could ask questions: questions were asked by my colleague, the hon. member for York-Simcoe (Mr. Stevens), and they were disallowed and no answers were given.

I question very strongly whether-when you read clause 2 of the bill in question and then the details of how the $4,603,596,900 is made up-that the government can ask for three-twelfths of the estimates and then ask for additional sums of money on top of that. What I am saying-and I want to drive home the point, with the greatest respect-is that the government asks for interim supply, as it can, of three-twelfths of the total estimates. I want to emphasize that even when the government does that, none of those estimates are first fully considered by the standing committees. However, they ask for the approval of eight-twelfths of the total amount in several items in schedule A. Let us consider one of these items. They ask for a loan of $135 million for the CNR. If you add three-twelfths to eight-twelfths, you come up with eleven-twelfths. In other words, through the method of interim supply they receive the approval of the House for almost twelve-twelfths of the item in schedule A without the item first being given full consideration by the appropriate standing committee considering the taxpayers' money.

That is why many of us were wrought up last night, and so we should have been. The taxpayers of this nation expect us to be angry.

Topic:   OFFICIAL REPORT
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. WOOLLIAMS-PROCEDURE IN DEALING WITH SUPPLY
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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   OFFICIAL REPORT
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. WOOLLIAMS-PROCEDURE IN DEALING WITH SUPPLY
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PC

Eldon Mattison Woolliams

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Woolliams:

I ask, was this done because the government did not want the committee to examine the reasons for that loan? All this was done prior to the estimates being considered by the appropriate standing committee. Surely no rules of the House were devised to mean that the government should be given control of all the money through interim supply without the committees first examining the estimates.

Law is not an exact science: I have stood in every court in this land and I know that that is so. Some people say a rule means this, and others say it means that. The rules that were devised are supposed to be reasonable and workable. I ask, what happened last night? As I said, I believe the government has a right to ask for interim supply, but not by this method of presenting an additional amount such as I pointed out in respect of the item for the CNR, and many other items. I do not want to take up too much time of the House on this. All I will say is that I believe the rules of the House were breached last night, thus affecting my privileges and the privileges of every member of parliament who has a mandate from the taxpayers of Canada.

Standing Order 58(10) reads as follows:

If the motion under consideration at the hour of interruption is a no-confidence motion, the Speaker first shall put forthwith, without further debate or amendment, every question necessary to dispose of that proceeding, and forthwith thereafter put successively, without

March 21, 1975

Privilege-Mr. Stevens

debate or amendment, every question necessary to dispose of any item of business relating to interim supply-

I find nothing wrong with that rule. The government can ask for interim supply, but surely they cannot ask for 100 per cent of the estimates. That rule has been read very often; maybe it is the only protection for the taxpayers. Standing Order 82(2) reads as follows:

In order to give effect to the purposes and provisions of section 3 of the Canadian Bill of Rights, it is the duty of the Clerk to cause to be delivered to the Minister of Justice two copies of every bill introduced in or presented to the House of Commons, forthwith after the introduction in or presentation to the House of such bill.

They must have had roller-skates on last night to have been able to run with that bill to the Minister of Justice (Mr. Lang), because it was put to the House two seconds before the debate was allowed. Mr. Speaker, I have never been more sincere in my life than I am now, and if you feel I have a proper question of privilege I ask you to consider a motion to refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections.

Topic:   OFFICIAL REPORT
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. WOOLLIAMS-PROCEDURE IN DEALING WITH SUPPLY
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LIB

James Alexander Jerome (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

I also have notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for York-Simcoe (Mr. Stevens). It is not identical to the one just put forward by the hon. member for Calgary North (Mr. Woolliams) but it is on the same general subject. In the interest of orderliness it might be appropriate to ask the hon. member for York-Simcoe to develop his question of privilege.

Topic:   OFFICIAL REPORT
Subtopic:   PRIVILEGE
Sub-subtopic:   MR. WOOLLIAMS-PROCEDURE IN DEALING WITH SUPPLY
Permalink

MR. STEVENS-RIGHT OF MEMBERS TO VOTE SUPPLY AND SET CEILING ON GOVERNMENT BORROWINGS

PC

Sinclair McKnight Stevens

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Sinclair Stevens (York-Simcoe):

Mr. Speaker, I also rise on a question of privilege which concerns the most important and fundamental privilege of members of the House. I refer to the exclusive right of hon. members to vote supply and to set a ceiling on the amounts that may be borrowed at any time by the government. On December 11 of the last year I rose on a question of privilege concerning the procedure then adopted which gave the government power to raise a further $2.5 billion in loans. With respect, I would refer to what was said at that time, beginning at page 2143 of Hansard. At that time the President of the Privy Council (Mr. Sharp) stated:

-I want to make it clear that I am not defending the procedure that was followed. I hope we can avoid this sort of thing in future.

Subsequently, Your Honour stated:

I would only add that the comments of the President of the Privy Council must be taken, if not as a clear undertaking, at least as very close to an undertaking tantamount to the previous one that the hon. President of the Privy Council was good enough to give to the chamber, that is that the supply procedures would be examined by the procedure committee and furthermore the procedures contained in the actual supply bill, being as it is under a very severe guillotine with regard to amendment and debate, would also be taken under consideration by that committee and certainly that is something for which we would hope.

In last evening's debate there was a further $4 billion in loans authorized by the passage of Bill C-55. Since 1967, total loans or liabilities of the Government of Canada have increased by $24 billion, from a total of $32 billion to $56 billion, yet there has never been any comprehensive review of ceiling limits by any committee of this House;

there has never been a debate on these ceiling limits. Instead, this procedure has been used repeatedly.

Last night I attempted to question the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Chretien) as to what is the actual, new ceiling limit as far as the lending or borrowing ability of the government is concerned, and I was denied the right to receive an answer to that question. With regard to last evening's debate, the confusion which arises from our current procedure is perhaps shown in the apparent conflict in the rulings of the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House. At one point in the questioning of the President of the Treasury Board the Chairman stated that at that stage of committee of the whole proceedings there was no debate and that the committee had to decide upon this. The Chairman indicated that hon. members could ask questions for information, but he did not want to have an exchange from one side of the House to the other. However, later when I rose and asked whether the President of the Treasury Board could indicate what sums remained unborrowed and negotiated in loans authorized by parliament, the Chairman ruled that the rules did not permit debate and that asking questions is debate. Subsequently, the Chairman indicated that I might have a procedural point of order concerning clause 5, but that I could not ask for information as far as the bill was concerned.

Mr. Speaker, this point was dealt with in part by Your Honour and Your Honour indicated that under this procedure the estimates, whether they be main or supplementary estimates such as is the case with respect to these two bills, are examined in the standing committees. Subsequently, Your Honour stated that the rapid passage of these bills in the evening must be predicated upon the previous opportunity of examining the spending estimates, which after all are the substance of debate either in standing committees or on the floor of the House.

The $4 billion loan limit to which I have referred was not included in the estimates; it was not something that will ever come before any committee of this House. I point out that it is, surely, a most unsatisfactory procedure when we are asked to raise a lending ceiling by a further $4 billion. We are not even made aware of the total ceiling which the government now has available to it with respect to lending activities, yet when questions were put on this subject last evening, because of procedural problems we were not given the privilege of obtaining that information.

If the Chair agrees that my question of privilege is well founded, I will move, seconded by the hon. member for Grenville-Carleton (Mr. Baker):

That the subject matter of this question of privilege be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and Organization to recommend a suitable procedure for the setting of ceilings by parliament on the amount thaft may be raised by loan by the government.

Topic:   OFFICIAL REPORT
Subtopic:   MR. STEVENS-RIGHT OF MEMBERS TO VOTE SUPPLY AND SET CEILING ON GOVERNMENT BORROWINGS
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LIB

Mitchell William Sharp (President of the Privy Council; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Hon. Mitchell Sharp (President of the Privy Council):

Mr. Speaker, I begin these brief remarks on the question of privilege by reference to Standing Order 58(10) under which the procedure took place last evening. The relative section is in the middle of that subparagraph and reads as follows:

If the motion under consideration at the hour of interruption is a no-confidence motion, the Speaker first shall put forthwith, without

March 21, 1975

further debate or amendment, every question necessary to dispose of that proceeding, and forthwith thereafter put successively, without debate or amendment, every question necessary to dispose of any item of business relating to interim supply, main estimates, and supplementary or final estimates, the restoration or reinstatement of any item in the estimates, or any opposed item in the estimates, and, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 72, for the passage at all stages of any bill or bills based thereon.

The procedure that was followed last night in which the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole had to intervene to suggest that the questions being asked were in the nature of debate seems to be well founded on the rules. Let me deal particularly with two questions raised in the questions of privilege put forward. The first is the matter of borrowing authority. The House will recall-as a matter of fact, the hon. member for York-Simcoe (Mr. Stevens) drew attention to this fact-that when the main estimates were being approved during the first part of this session there was an unusual procedure in which a clause dealing with borrowing authority was included in the bill dealing with the Appropriation Act. At that time Your Honour will recall that I said I did not defend the procedure and that I hoped it would not recur.

On this occasion, however, the borrowing authority that was sought was in the bill approving interim supply. I looked at the precedents, and perhaps my hon. friend will be impressed by the fact that this procedure was inaugurated by the Right Hon. R. B. Bennett some 40 years ago and has been followed almost without exception in subsequent appropriation bills, namely, that on interim supply there is usually an extension of the borrowing authority of the government. There was nothing unusual about the procedure. As my colleague the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Chretien) said, this is the usual form that has been approved in the past, so he gave the necessary assurance. He also gave the assurance that notwithstanding the fact that interim supply was being asked for and would be approved, there would be an opportunity for the House and standing committees or the committee of the whole to look at the items out of which the interim supply was being extracted.

I say to my hon. friend who raised this question that it would be quite impossible to limit interim supply to exactly three-twelfths of any particular item, because there are occasions when the government finds it necessary to spend the money earlier in the year rather than later.

I do not think, therefore, Mr. Speaker, that there is a valid question of privilege. May I add, as chairman of the Standing Committee on Procedure and Organization, that we have been looking at supply procedures and there is before the House now the report of the standing committee on which I intend to move concurrence early next week. If the hon. gentlemen or anyone else in their party would like to suggest further amendments, they would certainly be welcome to do so, or perhaps one of their spokesmen could raise the same point. So, Mr. Speaker, I suggest there is no question of privilege.

Topic:   OFFICIAL REPORT
Subtopic:   MR. STEVENS-RIGHT OF MEMBERS TO VOTE SUPPLY AND SET CEILING ON GOVERNMENT BORROWINGS
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LIB

James Alexander Jerome (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order, please. Perhaps it is best to be clear, at first, that there is no serious suggestion of disorder. It seems to me that it was well understood and expressed by both proponents of the alleged questions of privilege that the procedures followed last night and discussed were not out of order. The complaint was not that those procedures

Privilege-Mr. Stevens

were irregular. Those procedures conformed with the practices adopted in this House for many years. The President of the Privy Council (Mr. Sharp) has pointed that out. Instead of being the end of the problem, it is but the beginning.

The complaint is not that the procedure itself was disorderly, but that important powers are accorded to the treasury benches, without parliament being given an opportunity to scrutinize those powers,to limit and restrict them. The difficulty that poses is very real. I am sure it is clear to hon. members that it involves parliament's most fundamental exercise. The solution, since these procedures conform to existing Standing Orders, is not by way of a question of privilege or point of order; neither is it by way of any remedial action by the Chair. The solution lies in the examination of these procedures in the Standing Committee on Procedure and Organization, which is basically the motion proposed by both proponents.

I find it difficult to accept the matter as questions of privilege. I prefer to reserve any decision, in the hope that in the discussion which will arise next week on the motion for concurrence in the report of the standing committee- the committee has experimented with ways to improve supply procedures-hon. members will be assured that the committee will examine this difficulty which arises every time the House votes supply. What aggravates hon. members' feelings is the focal point of the procedure, when money must be voted. It must be voted without debate and without amendment. The matter must come to a vote some time. As the hon. member for Crowfoot (Mr. Horner) suggested so clearly last night, hon. members must accept the fact that at some time the House must come to a decision and at that moment it must be done without debate or amendment.

The procedures leading up to that point might be usefully examined by the committee, in the hope that arrangements may be made for seeking legitimate information and that the opportunity for members to examine the ingredients of such important bills might somehow be extended, so that crises may be averted, crises which arise when there is no proper opportunity for hon. members to ask questions, particularly about clauses like clause 5, which surfaces for the first time in the supply bill without there having been an opportunity to ask questions.

It seems to the Chair that that procedure might usefully be improved; but the way to do it is not by way of an order of the Chair. The way to do it, surely, is by way of co-operation among House leaders in arranging further discussions in the standing committee.

Agriculture

Topic:   OFFICIAL REPORT
Subtopic:   MR. STEVENS-RIGHT OF MEMBERS TO VOTE SUPPLY AND SET CEILING ON GOVERNMENT BORROWINGS
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ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS


March 21, 1975


AGRICULTURE

PROPOSED REVIEW OF SEASONAL DUTIES ON AGRICULTURAL

March 21, 1975