October 14, 1983

LIB

Roderick Blaker (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker):

Unfortunately the Hon. Member for Yukon (Mr. Nielsen) mentions that we no longer have the relevancy rule. He well knows that it is a particularly difficult one to apply. 1 am doing the best 1 can.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STANDING ORDERS AND PROCEDURE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FIFTH REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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LIB

John Leslie Evans (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. Evans:

Mr. Speaker, 1 thank you for your ruling and 1 completely concur with it. We are talking about parliamentary reform. 1 ask Hon. Members opposite if they can show me one report, including the fifth, which does not have ramifications running through the whole question of the operations of Parliament. The final report of the committee changes the operations of the third report which are now in implementation in the House until December 21.

A question arose in committee as to whether or not it should try to refine the third report, whether or not it should try to correct the anomalies everyone in the House recognizes exist in the third report and the temporary rules under which we are now operating. Of course it was said that we would not re-evaluate our work, that it would be negotiated among House Leaders. That negotiation was supposed to take place among House Leaders to refine the rules and to find ways of implementing each successive report and the new changes to come forward. That was supposed to be done over a period of time. It was not supposed to be done by coming in and saying that, by unanimous consent, there would be no debate and suddenly implementing the entire series of reports in the House of Commons before 95 per cent of our colleagues have even read them. That is unacceptable. If we are to have parliamentary reform, it has to be done in a reasoned, rational and phased evolutionary way, not in a revolutionary way by snapping the fingers and adopting seven or eight reports of a committee which just reported within the last month.

May I call it one o'clock Mr. Speaker?

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STANDING ORDERS AND PROCEDURE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FIFTH REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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LIB

Roderick Blaker (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Blaker):

It being one o'clock, I do now leave the chair until two o'clock this afternoon.

At 1 p.m. the House took recess.

October 14, 1983

Report of Special Committee AFTER RECESS

The House resumed at 2 p.m.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STANDING ORDERS AND PROCEDURE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FIFTH REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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LIB

John Leslie Evans (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. Evans:

Mr. Speaker, when the House rose for lunch I was speaking about the nature of parliamentary reform in our system and the situation in which the House finds itself regarding some of the suggestions put forward about how we should proceed with the outstanding reports tabled by the special committee, and the suggestion that we not debate these items but, by unanimous consent, adopt all the reports.

We are dealing with one report today. I am concerned that Members of the House have not given full attention to the matters that have been brought before it in those reports. It is quite clear that there have been preliminary discussions in each caucus with regard to parliamentary reform and what we should do when the current temporary rules expire on December 21. That has been the basic context of the discussion. In addition, there has been preliminary discussion on the proposals brought forward in the outstanding reports.

After talking to Members on both sides of the House, Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that there has not been thorough discussion on the contents of each report and the implications of each of them. The fifth report that we are debating today is probably the most innocuous. It deals with issues that all of us could probably agree with most readily.

There are other reports outstanding. I will not get into the argument about whether concurrence was agreed to have been moved or not moved. Certainly Members on this side of the House who were involved in the committee were under the distinct impression that a consensual report would be tabled in the House, that a notice of motion would not be put, and that concurrence in those reports would not be asked for. As a result, they went along with some recommendations in the reports that, had they been voted in the committee or had there been a decision that concurrence would be moved once the report had been tabled, they would not have agreed to.

Of all the reports, the most contentious would be the so-called Huntington-Lachance report. It was an excellent report which dealt with a fundamental change in the nature of the way Parliament does business. It might not be an improvement but the recommedations went to the very heart of the way Parliament operates. I would defy any Member of the House to say that the full ramifications of those proposals are understood by Members of the House. They are not. The whole question of financial accountability in Parliament is well understood by a few Members. The Hon. Member for Capila-no (Mr. Huntington) has that understanding and has spoken eloquently in the House in the past about fiscal responsibility, financial management, and the accountability of Government and the bureacracy to Parliament. I suggest that the recommendations that were largely a part of the Huntington-Lachance report-where they understand the nature of those recommendations and where they understand clearly what it is they are trying to achieve-are not understood by the vast

majority of Members. That is not to say that Members of Parliament are not interested; it is simply to say that this is a very complex area.

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Subtopic:   STANDING ORDERS AND PROCEDURE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FIFTH REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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PC

Arnold John Malone

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Malone:

Shame!

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LIB

John Leslie Evans (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. Evans:

I suggest that regardless of whether it is five, six or seven Members of the House who clearly have a grasp of the question of fiscal responsibility and accountability and say that this is what the House should do, it is so fundamental that it is something that all Members of the House should clearly understand en masse. It is not something that should be adopted holus-bolus by unanimous consent at the drop of a hat. It is too important. If we are to make such a change, we would be in a difficult position to make further changes in that area. For a long time we would be saddled with something that not many Members understand fully.

Parliament, by its very nature, is an evolutionary institution. That is why we go through three readings of Bills and report stage, why we send them to the Senate for three readings, why we have public hearings-we want to make sure that we get it right.

The kind of procedure we are engaged in today and would be engaged in under some of the proposals for adopting these reports holus-bolus, is not an evolutionary procedure, it is a revolutionary procedure. Some may say that Parliament may be revolutionized. I would not agree. I think my colleagues would agree that I have been very supportive of the notion of reform, the need for change, the need to make us more accountable, to make us seem more relevant to our constituents and the country. This cannot be overlooked, but it cannot be satisfied by a revolutionary change that institutes new policies and procedures in the House of Commons that are not fully understood by Members who will have to live under them. That is why I say, Mr. Speaker, that we should be taking the parliamentary reform process in a regular step by step way.

The Hon. Member for Edmonton West (Mr. Lambert) asked me about the third report. Yes, Mr. Speaker, the third report is in place. We have had experience with that for 12 months. But there are parts of the third report, parts of the procedures and rules under which we are now living, that Hon. Members in the House today, if they had an opportunity, would say need to be changed. For example, Mr. Speaker, we have the whole day on Wednesday devoted to Private Members' Business. As a result, it breaks the week. Hon. Members have said this. Those Private Members' days, being the sole business of Wednesday, break up the week, but it has led, quite frankly, Mr. Speaker-and you know it as well as I do- to the problem of attendance in the House at times, and that should be changed. Recommendations have been put forward from many circles as to how we should change it. Perhaps we should have Private Members' Business on Monday, or perhaps on Monday evening. Perhaps we should do it in some other way. Certainly there are issues with which we are now

October 14, 1983

living under the new revised procedures which need to be dealt with. It seems to me only logical that we would refine and perfect that under which we are now operating before we add additional major changes to the system which would not only compound the newness and uncertainty under which Hon. Members in the House are operating, but would also compound the problem of the existing rules. Some of the parts of the final report, for example, modify procedures with which we are now living. There are at least two recommendations in the final report of the committee which would change the provisional rules under which we are now living and under which we are supposed to be living until December 21.

I believe we must consider what has to happen if a House order were passed today with regard to the fifth report. Presumably tomorrow we would be operating under different rules. That would mean that the Standing Orders of the House would have to be changed, because Hon. Members would not know what rules they were operating under, and they certainly would not understand the changes to the rules themselves. There is a logical time for us to make these changes, Mr. Speaker, and that is when we go into a recess, for example, the Christmas recess, as we did last year. On December 22 we passed the House order which said that when we come back on January 17, the new rules will take effect. It is not appropriate, to my mind, to change the rules overnight in the middle of a session. Hon. Members would come back on Monday morning and be told, "Well, the rules are changed now. The rules are not the same as they used to be." I believe there has to be an orderly process to parliamentary reform. In addition, it has to be an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary process.

I believe the time is inappropriate and, quite frankly, I feel it is unfortunate that the Hon. Member for Nepean-Carleton moved concurrence in this report today, not only for the reasons which will be raised very clearly by my colleague, the Hon. Member for Sarnia-Lambton (Mr. Cullen) later, but also because I feel that if we are going to implement parliamentary reform, it must be done in a way which continues the consensual process under which the special committee operated. That consensual process would have to involve negotiation among the House leaders, discussion with the caucuses to ensure the Members were in agreement and understood, and agreement that the process could carry on in an evolutionary fashion, not the kind of revolutionary fashion which would be the case if we were to concur in this report today.

The process which has been started by the Hon. Member for Nepean-Carleton, I feel, is regrettable. We were making progress. There was a feeling that we could negotiate some kind of changes with regard to the reports. However, that attitude and that good will has been largely damaged by the action which has been taken in this House today by the Hon. Member for Nepean-Carleton.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STANDING ORDERS AND PROCEDURE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FIFTH REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Are there Hon. Members rising to make comments or ask questions? The rules at this point provide for a ten minute period of questions and answers. If there are no Hon. Members seeking to be recognized, the

Report of Special Committee Chair will recognize the Hon. Member for Burin-St. George's (Mr. Simmons).

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Subtopic:   STANDING ORDERS AND PROCEDURE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FIFTH REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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LIB

Roger Simmons

Liberal

Hon. Roger Simmons (Burin-St. George's):

The subject of this particular motion is the report of the special committee which grew out of a recognized need for some change. The House determined 16 months ago that 20 or so Members of this Chamber ought to devote their time to the question of what is wrong with the rules of the House and how they could be changed to better facilitate the purpose for which we have been sent here by the people of Canada. For 16 months those Hon. Members, representing all three Parties, of whom I was pleased to be one, worked long and hard, week in, week out, month in, month out. We asked ourselves the question, what changes are required to better facilitate the work of the House of Commons? I can tell you that there were many disagreements. Many proposals came across the table about which at first hearing I could not get very excited as a member of that committee. However, hearing the rationale of the proposer of a particular change, be it an Hon. Member from the New Democratic Party, the Conservative Party or my own Party, I found myself, along with 18 or 19 other people, seeing the wisdom of some fairly far-reaching proposals for change. As I said, I was pretty dubious about these changes when I first heard them. If one becomes accustomed to a status quo, a set of rules which has served us reasonably well over the years- with some glaring exceptions-one wants to hear a very good reason why they ought to be changed. At the beginning, there was no very clear consensus among the Members on the committee as to what rules needed to be changed, although there was consensus on the length of speeches. That has already been addressed in the third report, under which rules we are operating in this Chamber today. Aside from two or three very obvious areas, such as the length of speeches and the old Standing Order 43 procedure immediately preceding Question Period, and apart from the two or three areas which were very glaring in terms of their need for change, there were Members on the committee, I can say without misrepresenting anyone on that committee, who wanted particular changes to which I was opposed. I wanted changes to which other Members were opposed. That is the nature of the exercise. That is the reason why we needed a committee in the first place.

Those Hon. Members from all parties who spearheaded the effort to strike a committee long before the committee was ever established, recognized that you cannot ask a committee of 282 Members to focus on this issue. They recognized, in their wisdom, the need to delegate this matter to a smaller group of people with a particular interest in the issue who could focus on it day in and day out. This they did. The result is the fifth report which is before us, and several other reports which await the decision of the House.

Why, Mr. Speaker, have these reports not been concurred is in weeks, in some cases in months, after they came to the floor of this House? That is the easy question. Of course, the easy answer, the flippant, partisan answer, the answer that would

Report of Special Committee

destroy the very noble initiative taken by the House in establishing the committee in the first place, the destructive answer to that question, is that somebody is sitting on the reports. Somebody does not want something in those reports to go forward. I have news for you, Mr. Speaker, and for everyone in this Chamber, especially for my colleagues on that committee. I am one of the people who would be just as happy if certain things in those reports never saw the light of day. Why do I say that? Do I betray everything I stood for as a Member of that committee? No, I articulate what must be common knowledge and common sense for every person in this Chamber.

As a member of that committee I can say that there were items 1 disagreed with but to which I gave my support. I swallowed my disagreement in the interests of getting a compromise around that particular table. I did nothing any more laudable than anyone else around that table. We all did that kind of swallowing to achieve through compromise a set of initiatives to be agreed upon and then to be brought before the larger committee, the committee of 282, the entire membership of this House.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if as a member of that committee, focusing on a fairly continuing basis on the ramifications of the proposed changes, I can stand in my place today and say that I have some reservations, the operative question is, then, how many more reservations and how much deeper are they in this Chamber of men and women who, on the one hand, will have to be governed by whatever new rules we introduce and agree to here, and, on the other hand, have only had a passing glance at the substance of those other reports which have yet to be concurred in? What I have just said is not a brief for non-concurrence, Mr. Speaker. It is not an argument to undo the work of that all-Party committee. It is not a cloaked suggestion that we ought to go back to square one. But is a plea that we recall why this exercise was started in the first place. That was in part because the rules, or some of them, were not serving us in the best possible way. Also, because partisanship in this House was getting the upper hand. I think you know my views on partisanship, Mr. Speaker. It is a very healthy phenomenon, and the day some Member tells you he is not partisan, he is lying to you. But when partisanship becomes the objective, when it becomes the end in itself, it is time to rein in the rules to see if we cannot have the rules dictate rather than partisanship. That is what brought the House to a determination that it was time to rewrite some of the rules.

That was a fairly hefty exercise. It has taken a committee of 20 people some 16 months to lay the groundwork. What are we doing today? I hope I am wrong in what I am going to say next-

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STANDING ORDERS AND PROCEDURE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FIFTH REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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PC

Gordon Edward Taylor

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Taylor:

Probably you are.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STANDING ORDERS AND PROCEDURE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FIFTH REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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NDP

Daniel James Macdonnell Heap

New Democratic Party

Mr. Heap:

Usually you are.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STANDING ORDERS AND PROCEDURE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FIFTH REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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LIB

Roger Simmons

Liberal

Mr. Simmons:

I believe what we are doing today is running the risk of undoing the very excellent groundwork laid by that

October 14, 1983

committee. You see, Mr. Speaker, I find a certain contradiction in some of the things being said today.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STANDING ORDERS AND PROCEDURE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FIFTH REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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PC

Walter Franklin McLean

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McLean:

So do I as I listen.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
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LIB

Roger Simmons

Liberal

Mr. Simmons:

I hear the gentleman, my good friend, the Hon. Member for Nepean-Carleton (Mr. Baker), Vice-Chairman of the committee, a man who has made a marvellous contribution to this House and a remarkable contribution to the committee's work.

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Subtopic:   STANDING ORDERS AND PROCEDURE
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PC

Walter Franklin McLean

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McLean:

There is more to say.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STANDING ORDERS AND PROCEDURE
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LIB

Roger Simmons

Liberal

Mr. Simmons:

I hear him say in effect, these are not his words but in essence he said that we ought not to allow this effort to founder on the rocks of partisanship. I heard him say that.

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PC

Walter David Baker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton):

I said, "Stumble over the feet of discord".

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LIB

Roger Simmons

Liberal

Mr. Simmons:

I agree he said it more eloquently, as he always does, but I think that was the substance of what he said. We ought not to allow this effort to founder on the rocks of partisanship. I agree with him. I believe that he believes that with all that is in him. He has put a lot of work into this, as have we all. It ought not now to come apart at the seams because of undue haste. That is where I hear the contradiction.

I say to my good friend from Nepean-Carleton that if this was worth waiting 16 months for, the wait from now will not be long. We are not talking about another 16 months.

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NDP

Daniel James Macdonnell Heap

New Democratic Party

Mr. Heap:

Two years.

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LIB

Roger Simmons

Liberal

Mr. Simmons:

He knows, as I know and as the Hon. Member for Spadina (Mr. Heap) knows, that an earlier House order dictates, de facto, that we have to address this problem before December 21.

What are we fighting over today, Mr. Speaker? After all the good will, the good intentions, after all the hours or work which have gone into this for 16 months, what are we bickering over today? We are bickering over whether we should rush headlong into adopting the fifth report, and maybe tomorrow or on Monday there will be a similar motion, because there are several on the Order Paper. We are bickering about whether we should rush headlong into it today and in the process invite, rightly so, the disapproval of the various private Members in this House who do not yet, I say with respect, understand the full implications of these reports.

Let me tell you by way of example one of the things I object to in the committee's findings and recommendations. It might be my good friend, the gentleman who sits in this Chamber as an independent Member from Edmonton. It might be a Member in the Official Opposition, in the NDP or in this Party. It might be any other Member who in the future might choose to sit as an independent or be elected to this House outside the umbrella of a particular Party. But I object to such a Member not having the opportunity to respond under the ministerial statement procedure. If one would check the report,

October 14, 1983

one would find no provision for that. It is not an earthshaking situation, but it does have ramifications for the first-class versus the second-class status of private Members in this particular Chamber. I say it ought to be addressed. I made an effort and was given full opportunity to address it in committee. 1 lost my point in committee. If it is only I who feel very strongly on that issue

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Subtopic:   STANDING ORDERS AND PROCEDURE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FIFTH REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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PC

Walter David Baker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton):

You argued it eloquently.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   STANDING ORDERS AND PROCEDURE
Sub-subtopic:   CONCURRENCE IN FIFTH REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE
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October 14, 1983