October 14, 1983

LIB

Roger Simmons

Liberal

Mr. Simmons:

-that is fair ball. However, there may be other Hon. Members in the House who, in their respective caucuses, might want to latch on to that particular issue. I say that 1, as a private Member, want to have the same opportunity to respond to ministerial statements as I were the official spokesman for my Party on the subject under discussion in that particular statement on that given day. I do not introduce that as a matter of substance now but as a matter of example only to show that if individual Members of the House were to scrutinize those reports, they would find a number of items about which they would understandably have some reservations.

What is the solution? Is the solution to wait until I can have my way on every point? Is the solution to wait until every Hon. Member in this Chamber can have his or her way on every point? We know the answer to that. The answer is no. However, the answer, equally, must be that we must wait a reasonable amount of time until either every Member of the House or a healthy majority of the House comes to the realization that the proposed set of rule changes, though not perfection of themselves, are an improvement on the previous set of rules. I yielded on my objections, as cited in the example a moment ago, not because I am happy about what the committee is doing on that particular point, but because I recognize that, in the over-all, the committee was proposing to the House a package of rule changes which would create a situation eminently better than what is now or what was before we adopted the third report some months ago. That is the point.

Why the headlong rush? What is it we are bickering about? We are bickering today. Those of us who say in one mouthful, "Let us not allow it to founder on partisanship", are saying in the next mouthful that there are people in this Chamber who are procrastinating and filibustering. Those people who make that charge know full well that that is not the issue. The issue is not even whether we had an agreement in committee or what kind of an agreement it was. I can tell Hon. Members what agreement we had, and my good friend, the Hon. Member for Ottawa Centre (Mr. Evans), reflected very accurately what the agreement was. However, that is besides the point. Suppose he is dead wrong. Suppose 1 am dead wrong on that issue. That is the mechanic. That is a bit of semantics.

The real issue is whether we want this experiment to work and whether we are prepared to put our money where our mouth is, whether we are prepared to take what action is

Report of Special Committee

necessary to have these reports or the substance of these reports, adopted by this Chamber.

As one member of the committee, I am prepared to go that route. If it takes being the brunt of some name-calling, if it takes a little healthy partisanship in this House, that is fair ball. We are not babes in the wood. We have had that before. However, let us not lose sight of the objective. Let us keep our eye on the ball. Surely the ball, the objective, is to get as much of the substance of those reports embodied in a set of future rules of this House as possible.

Now, how to do that? Let me set up two possibilities. One can use the old railroad approach. One can say to 282 Members of the House, ''You can have this now whether your like it or lump it. We will ram it down your throats". So, Hon. Members have not read the report. We happened to get a few reports in the House. I must admit that I have not yet read all the reports that have been tabled. I would say that there are Hon. Members in the Chamber who have not yet memorized the several reports from this committee. I would venture to say that. Therefore, we have two choices. Shall we use the old railroad approach and ram it down their throats, let them like it or lump it, or shall we say, "Let us take what reasonable steps are necessary to have these reports become the consensus of the three caucuses represented in this Chamber"? I advocate the latter.

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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:

I hesitate to interrupt the Hon. Member, but the time allotted to him has expired. He may continue with unanimous consent of the House.

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?

Some Hon. Members:

Continue.

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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:

Is there unanimous consent?

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?

Some Hon. Members:

Agreed.

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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:

There does not appear to be unanimous consent.

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PC

Walter David Baker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton):

There is.

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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:

There is unanimous consent? There is unanimous consent for the Hon. Member to continue.

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PC

Walter David Baker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton):

Certainly.

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LIB

Roger Simmons

Liberal

Mr. Simmons:

Mr. Speaker, I shall finish in a moment or so.

I thank the House.

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NDP

Leslie Gordon Benjamin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Benjamin:

Don't do that. Take as long as you want.

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LIB

Roger Simmons

Liberal

Mr. Simmons:

I become suspicious when I get support from such quarters. However, I am grateful.

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NDP

Leslie Gordon Benjamin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Benjamin:

It might never happen again.

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LIB

Roger Simmons

Liberal

Mr. Simmons:

I am grateful for it, anyway, it being such a unique occasion.

Mr. Speaker, I advocate the latter course. I believe we ought to take some time, not a lot of time. I believe the earlier House

October 14, 1983

Report of Special Committee

order to which I referred has, in effect, boxed us into a time frame, in any event. I am not advocating that we ought to wait until the midnight hour, until December 21. However, we are bickering over whether we will do it on October 14 or some time subsequent, but before December 21. That is what we are arguing over.

After putting 16 months into this exercise, we are now here for a full day bickering about whether we should do it today, next week, or maybe the week after, or sometime, hopefully, very soon. We must do it, in conscience. If we believe what we instructed the committee to do in the first place 16 months ago, in conscience we must have something to supplant, to take over, when the interim arrangement runs out on December 21. That is common sense. It would be a betrayal of the House if we did not do something, put in place an adequate replacement for the interim rules that are now operative in this Chamber.

Therefore, I make a plea to those who support the motion, because I can support the spirit of the motion. I can support it in the sense that we would like to have the concurrence of this House in this report. I would seek the indulgence of those who say it must be done today. I would ask them to stand back a moment and think about what damage they may be doing to the over-all process, because surely the over-all process, the over-all objective, is to get as much as possible of the package which the committee has produced over 16 months embodied in the new rules of the House.

I say to Your Honour that the most hopeful way, the best way of doing that, is to allow Members of the House an opportunity to deliberate on the implication, not an unduly long opportunity. However, when I hear Hon. Members of the House who are not members of the committee standing in their place and pleading with the House, in effect, "Give us a little time so we know what it is we are getting ourselves into",

I think that is a fair request and one which ought to be heard.

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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 Hon. Members rising to ask questions of the Hon. Member who has just spoken?

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LIB

Yvon Pinard (President of the Privy Council; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Pinard:

Mr. Speaker, I ask the unanimous consent of this House so that the debate on this motion be merely adjourned-

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?

Some Hon. Members:

No.

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LIB

Yvon Pinard (President of the Privy Council; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Pinard:

-and that we proceed to the Orders of the Day so that we can resume debate forthwith on Bill C-155. I can assure Your Honour that you will receive this consent from the Government side of the House.

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PC

Walter David Baker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baker (Nepean-Carleton):

Mr. Speaker, when this business began today, I was quite frankly hoping that the Government would have reflected on its rejection last night, yesterday, of the reports. Now we are dealing with this particular report, it would reflect upon the rejection of this simple report. We are not prepared to consent to a process that would eliminate the possibility of agreement today with respect to this very small but very important adjunct to the third report of the committee. That is why it is there. Therefore, the simple

answer to my friend s request is no, there is no unanimous consent.

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LIB

Jack Sydney George (Bud) Cullen

Liberal

Hon. Bud Cullen (Sarnia-Lambton):

Mr. Speaker, normally I would say that I am pleased to participate in a debate, but I would be less than honest if I made that particular statement today because I frankly feel that this debate is inappropriate at this particular time, given the approximately 16 months of splendid work done by the special committee which was established by this House in order to find ways in which we can make Parliament more relevant and the work of the individual Member of Parliament more relevant.

I wish to join with the Hon. Member for Nepean-Carleton (Mr. Baker) in paying tribute to the Chairman of that committee, the Hon. Member for Pontiac-Gatineau-Labelle (Mr. Lefebvre). I am sure all Hon. Members agree that he handled his assignments in an able, direct and non-partisan fashion. We also saw fit to name two vice-chairmen, one of whom is the Hon. Member for Nepean-Carleton. When he was called upon to fulfil that particular responsibility, he worked admirably and in a way as commendable as that of the Hon. Member for Pontiac-Gatineau-Labelle.

The Hon. Member for Hamilton Mountain (Mr. Deans), who is the House Leader for the New Democratic Party, was also named as a vice-chairman. Due to the fact that there are few of them and the other responsibilities given to that Member, I understand that that task was subsequently taken over from time to time by the Hon. Member for Winnipeg-Birds Hill (Mr. Blaikie) and the Hon. Member for Selkirk-Interlake (Mr. Sargeant), particularly during the latter portion of the committee hearings when they saw fit to attend each and every meeting. This shows that there was a positive response not only from every Member on the committee but every Party in the House on a strictly non-partisan basis.

This was an enjoyable committee because our work was worth-while. Our hearings were conducted in a wonderful atmosphere. Let me give an example of the importance we gave to the committee and the sense of humour which made it enjoyable. We had a rather long debate about whether we should go to Mont Ste.-Marie for a day or two to work full-time on a particular report, to Montebello or to remain here in Ottawa. The feeling was that Mont Ste.-Marie would be the choice. Unfortunately, one of the members of the committee left the meeting before we finally made our decision, although he was the one who emphasized that if we were going to Mont Ste.-Marie we should be there to begin work at 9:30. When it came to 9:30, this particular Member did not show up. As a matter of fact he did not show up until approximately one o'clock in the afternoon. We had determined that instead of leaving for Mont Ste.-Marie he had gone to Montebello and therefore had to find his way to Mont Ste.-Marie from there. We will not mention his name because it is with a sense of humour that we are not letting that individual forget that he went to the wrong place. We certainly

October 14, 1983

chided him for missing four valuable hours of debate in the committee.

1 am one who has spent almost 15 years in this place but it did not take me long to learn from the Member for Winnipeg-North Centre (Mr. Knowles) or a former Member, Max Saltzman, that rule changes can only properly be made if they are made with the consent of Members of Parliament from both sides of the House. Mr. Saltzman said that one can make all the rules in the world, but if an individual or a Party feels it is being shortchanged, all those rules will not make Parliament more productive or relevant and certainly not make the individual Member of Parliament feel more important in his particular role. There must be consensus and agreement from all sides.

I stated that I am disappointed in this particular debate because our previous experience with the third report shows that we can agree. Our third report was adopted unanimously after each committee member from each Party took this report to his respective caucus saying that it had to go through as a complete package or not at all. We were able to convince our individual caucuses that we could make this work by experimenting on a temporary basis to see how it worked. 1 believe that precedent showed that this procedure works and can be completed in a very short period of time.

It was my hope that the reports subsequent to the third report could be dealt with in exactly the same way and, according to my understanding of the mechanics, that is precisely what we were supposed to do. It was on that basis that our chairman, who happens to be a Member of our Party, in co-operation with those of us on the Liberal side, demanded and received a full caucus hearing at which we would discuss solely the rule changes contained in the reports of that particular committee. I hope that I am not betraying the confidence of the caucus, but that meeting was to take place next Wednesday when we would go over each report to try to point out the strengths and weaknesses and arrive at a consensus. We would then put our submission to the House Leader who could meet with the House Leaders of the other Parties.

It has worked before. We presently have temporary rules in place which, I submit, are working very well. We did that on the basis of consensus. Unfortunately, I think the Hon. Member for Nepean-Carleton has moved out of the consensus arena and into the political arena. Frankly, I feel that 1 am not talking to Members of Parliament but to the public, because we now seem to be trying to make a political point. The Opposition Party says that it is prepared to adopt all of these reports without any debate. However, there are some flaws in some of these reports. For instance, the Huntington-Lachance report was made by a Member of the Conservative Party and a Member of the Liberal Party. That report which dealt with accountability was debated during several long committee hearings. We felt that the accountability concept was good but the procedure for setting up all of the committees would, in effect, work to the detriment of accountability because we would not be able to get people who were prepared to serve on committees such as the Public Accounts Committee on a

Report of Special Committee

full-time basis. We felt that that system was too cumbersome and needed improvement. However, we put that in the report because it highlighted one of the concerns of all Members of Parliament, which is accountability.

One of our reports deals with the Commission of internal economy and we discussed how that might better be handled other than by a Privy Councillor or former Privy Councillors as was suggested. There is enough of them around now on both sides of the House.

In any event, we felt that the backbenchers should have some opportunity to have a final say on such things as whether we should have committee rooms, particularly for those important committees meeting on a constant basis.

I hear some people saying "filibuster". I worked 16 months on this particular committee and I feel very strongly about this issue. I was angry today and lost my temper when criticizing the Hon. Member for Nepean-Carleton, but those who know me realize that that is not my usual demeanor. However, I felt let down today and yesterday as a result of these particular motions. I am afraid it will do irreparable damage to the splendid work that we did over that 16 months.

The Hon. Member for St. John's East (Mr. McGrath) was making the point that it was agreed that we could move, after we finished our final report, in any direction we wished. It would be acceptable to move concurrence, and this was discussed at the last meeting. The last meeting was specifically set up to give final approval to the report. I know that because I was unable to attend the last meeting and I asked for a copy of the report a day in advance. I sent it back to one of the staff on the committee indicating that I thought it was a splendid report and a great summary. That was the sole reason for that particular meeting.

Let me substantiate my position. If we had not agreed on a consensus and not moved concurrence, the Government, with its majority on the committee, would then have been in a position to prevent the proposal of several suggestions because we would vote against it with the knowledge that there might be several Members who felt very strongly that it should not take place. Therefore, the consensus was there, and no vote was required. We were essentially trying to raise issues that were of concern to backbenchers. We were not necessarily agreeing with how it was dealt with. The response to the Lachance-Huntington report is an example. I personally feel it is too cumbersome. I think something like that can be done.

The Hon. Member for Edmonton West (Mr. Lambert) was here earlier. He said "Yes, hammer it through like 1969." 1 agree with him. I think 1969 was a mistake. As it turned out we had 112 new Members when I came here in 1968. We had come from the business community, from farms and from various sectors of the community and we were anxious to get on with the business. We were fed up with the slow pace of things taking place. I remember the first speech I ever made in the House of Commons. I said "Let's get out from behind our newspapers. Let's get down to work and let s make this

October 14, 1983

Report of Special Committee

chamber more relevant to the people out there." That was the sum and substance of what I was endeavouring to get across, as was everyone else back in 1968.

We moved too quickly. What happened? I have forgotten the numbers, but I think the rule was No. 17A, B and C, or something like that. There were flaws in it because we moved too quickly. Subsequently we had to move an amendment and we ended up with what is today Standing Order 75a, B, and C. 1 think it is a better rule, but if we had spent a bit more time we could have done an even better job.

There are areas in these reports, this one included, although it is a fairly minor one, that are favourable, or something the Opposition would like. Some of these rules we rather like, and there are some that every Member in the House feels are necessary. The Commissioners of Economy is, I think, a case in point. We have rules in place on a temporary basis now. I think most of us agree that replacing Standing Order 43 with Standing Order 21 was a good idea. I think the semester system is a good idea, as well as the 20 minute speeches with a ten-minute response. At least when a Member is making a speech he knows he may be asked questions. I think he will be a little bit more careful about what he has to say.

There are some who feel, and I happen to be one, that dealing with Private Members' Business on one day does split up the week. Maybe some changes could be made, but they will be made only with co-operation. Not all of these rules will be adopted by either side. In fact, I am fairly well satisfied that the Opposition had tongue in cheek, knowing that no government could automatically say yes, we are going to accept all of these without looking to the ramifications.

In the interests of getting back some degree of co-operation and negotiation, I move:

That the House do now proceed to the Orders of the Day.

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October 14, 1983