November 22, 1983

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

BUSINESS OF SUPPLY

LIB

Eymard G. Corbin (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin):

I should indicate to the House at this time that the Chair is in a position to arrive at a decision in the choice of the motions on the Order Paper which are now before the House. If Hon. Members wish to make a comment at this time, the Chair is prepared to hear them out.

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Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
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PC

Erik Nielsen (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

Mr. Speaker, could the Chair indicate what it might be disposed to do without argument, because we might save the time of the House by doing that? I am prepared to make argument but it will take some time. Normally we get an indication from the Chair with respect to these matters before calling for submissions.

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NDP

Ian Deans (N.D.P. House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Deans:

Mr. Speaker, I think that is a reasonable request. I would also like to hear from the Chair what its predisposition might be without actually making a ruling, because I am equally prepared to argue the point.

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LIB

Eymard G. Corbin (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin):

The Chair should indicate at this time to Hon. Members that it is disposed to call the motion standing in the name of the Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shuswap (Mr. Riis). The Hon. Member for Yukon (Mr. Nielsen) on a point of order.

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PC

Erik Nielsen (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

Mr. Speaker, Standing Order 62, which in essence provides for three supply periods and 25 allotted days during those periods, is an innovation in the rules. The Standing Order provides that those days are available for the moving of motions by the Opposition. In each of the three semesters, not more than two of those motions will have votes attached. In the supply period ending December 10 are five such allotted days. In the spring semester there are seven and in the summer semester there are 13.

[DOT] (1110)

I point out the rules provide that these allotted days are intended for the Opposition. While there are two Parties on the Opposition side of the House, there is one Opposition and that is Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, sometimes called since the days of Mackenzie King the Official Opposition. But the

right to those allotted days is the right of the Opposition, not the Opposition Parties but the Opposition.

Since the invocation of the Standing Order providing for this supply process, it has been the practice of the Opposition to divide the allotted days in a fair way with the New Democratic Party, with the other Party that sits on this side of the House. In all cases, in arriving at that decision there have been several factors taken into account, but the chief one is that the allotment has been determined on the basis of numerical representation on this side of the House. That criteria would be applied and I have so assured the Hon. Member from Hamilton Mountain in this instance.

The total of 25 allotted days, the global number of allotted days available and provided to Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, the Opposition, the Official Opposition-whatever you want to call it-following the unwritten interpretation on which we have always proceeded as being fair, should be divided by 30 per cent and 60 per cent, or as close thereto as we could come to it. In my view, if you want to look at the rigid and strict interpretation of the Standing Orders, we need not apply any allotted days to the New Democratic Party. The same thing applies to the votes. On some occasions though, having given an allotted day to the NDP, we have withheld a vote until well on into the final supply period.

When we first came back to this interminable session of Parliament we started into the spring semester where there were still some allotted days that had not been allotted in the supply period that had to be disposed of. I take it from where the Hon. Member for Hamilton Mountain comes that by using a calendar year he may be advancing the argument to you, Mr. Speaker, as he has to me, that in this calendar year we have not yet reached that one-third position. If you take the calendar year he is, of course, correct. But if you take the supply cycle which commenced when we returned, then he is not correct.

I have examined the history of the allotted days, commencing with the period ending December 10, 1980, through to the period ending June 30, 1983. Of course, in this semester we are in now, this will be the fourth allotted day. In the event that this historical work has not been done for you, Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to make this examination available for your perusal. In all cases Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, the Official Opposition, has allotted days to the New Democratic Party in keeping with that fair approach over the period from February, 1980, which was the hangover period, through to June 30.

November 22, 1983

Supply

I submit that the Chair should not instruct the Official Opposition on how it must deal with the division of the allotted days to which the Official Opposition is entitled during supply periods. 1 suggest to the Chair that the discretion of the number and the discretion of the timing are discretion lying within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Official Opposition in the House.

The Chair is confronted with not only two but three motions on the Order Paper with respect to allotted days. One is in the name of the Hon. Member for Wellington-Dufferin-Simcoe (Mr. Beatty). I will cite them in chronological order with respect to the time they were accepted for filing by the Chair. As 1 said, the first is in the name of the Hon. Member for Wellington-Dufferin-Simcoe, the second is in the name of the Hon. Member for Kingston and the Islands and the third, which was tabled yesterday, is in the name of the Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shuswap. As I understand it, after having failed to obtain unanimous consent to put the motion yesterday, it was then filed with the Table. In any event, the motion was filed subsequent to the motion filed by myself on behalf of the Hon. Member for Kingston and the Islands.

There are some numbers which should be taken into account in exercising your discretion, Mr. Speaker, under Standing Order 62(4)(c). Based on the fact that New Democratic Party Members in the House constitute approximately 23 per cent of the Opposition, according to practice they would be entitled, in our view, to roughly six of the 25 Opposition days in any given year. We agree with the Hon. Member for Hamilton Mountain that this would be their normal entitlement. However, he is wrong in the manner in which he has chosen to calculate these days. He will be making his own argument in that respect, as he has in a letter to me which requested the allotment of one of these five days. The letter was delivered to me by hand after I had already filed the motion of the Hon. Member for Kingston and the Islands.

I want to emphasize that the first supply period in this session was an extended period ending December 10, 1980. Therefore, the calculation of the annual allotment of supply days should begin in the fail trimester; that is when it should begin, not on January 1. On this basis it can be seen that last year Members of the NDP received six Opposition days out of a total of 25, which is their fair allotment.

We are now about to commence the fourth day in the fall trimester, the first trimester of supply for the purpose of our calculations. Although the first four supply days have been taken by the Official Opposition, there is no obstacle which prevents the NDP from receiving a share of the remaining 21 days, accepting my submission that we start in the fall trimester. I have indicated to the Hon. Member for Hamilton Mountain that we are prepared to give those days to the New Democratic Party, as we always have in the past. Indeed, just before coming in here I gave him that undertaking. However, this is done at the initiative of the Official Opposition, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, or the Opposition, however you want to call it.

[DOT] (H20)

If we operate on any other principle, there not being any specific divisions set forth in the Standing Orders, then what we would be doing would be negating the idea that there is an Official Opposition in this House with some exclusive rights by virtue of being that Opposition. What we would do if we depart from the practice of allowing that discretion to remain with the Opposition would be to give a minority Party in the House the right to decide at any time when it will elect to have an allotted day.

I might point out that while there are three motions on the Order Paper attempting to use the fourth allotted day, the NDP, in making the submission that they are now entitled to have their motion considered before two others filed in priority, are making a presumption with respect to the disposition of the final day in this trimester. That argument happens to be academic, because not even the Chair knows what disposition is going to be made with respect to that day coming up on November 28.

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Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
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PC

Arnold John Malone

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Malone:

Nor does the House Leader.

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PC

Erik Nielsen (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

Nor does the House Leader at the moment, as my colleague points out. There is nothing in our Standing Orders that requires the Opposition-and 1 submit that the majority on this side are the Official Opposition-to make any division.

Second, we have functioned in the past on the basis of fairness but without any requirement technically in the Standing Orders to divide those Opposition days on the basis of numerical representation in the House. We have done that on a global basis. We have allotted a little less than one-third out of the 25, not out of the five in the fall trimester, the seven in the spring trimester and the 13 in the final trimester. We have not approached it that way. In the past we have operated on the basis of the 25 days being divided. Nor is there any obligation, with respect to the two votes in each of those semesters, as to when those votes are going to be allotted.

The strongest argument I make to you, Mr. Speaker, is the right of the Official Opposition to exercise that discretion. It has not been abused in the past. Even though there is no technical requirement for allotting any days, we have been fair throughout. Even the Hon. Member for Hamilton Mountain will agree with that. They have never been dealt short on a fair division of the days, but that discretion rests with us and, with great respect, with no one else.

[DOT] (1125)

Even if that argument does not find favour with the Chair, there is the argument that if any discretion is to be exercised under Standing Order 62(4)(c), then that discretion should be exercised on the basis of the time of filing of the motion. There are two motions that were received by the Table prior to the motion of the Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shuswap, the one filed by the Hon. Member for Wellington-Dufferin-Simcoe which we prefer not to have called today, and the one filed by myself on behalf of the Hon. Member for Kingston and the

November 22, 1983

Islands. 1 did not note the time that it reached the Table, but it did reach the Table, I believe, prior to the commencement of yesterday's debate. Perhaps I am a few minutes out on that one way or the other, but it certainly reached the Table before the motion of the Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shuswap.

On that basis, Sir, with great respect, I suggest to the Chair that it allow the practice to continue whereby the Official Opposition has the discretion to determine when the New Democratic Party will obtain its allotted days of the total of 25, having operated on the basis of the semesters as they come up rather than on a calendar year. We are following practices that have not been abused in the past. I can assure you, Sir, that as long as I have any power to make recommendations for my caucus with respect to the allotment of those days, that practice will not suffer any abuse in the future. I can assure you, Sir, that the New Democratic Party will, as it has in the past, obtain its full allotment both of days of a total of 25 and of votes.

I would strongly suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you exercise your discretion in favour of calling the motion of the Hon. Member for Kingston and the Islands even if it is only on the basis of its having been filed in priority.

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NDP

Ian Deans (N.D.P. House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Deans:

Mr. Speaker, I ask only for fairness and I concede that we have had no reason to complain up until now. In fact, I can recall at least one occasion and perhaps two occasions where, at the request of the Official Opposition and in order to facilitate its own particular requirements of the time, we took an Opposition day. I can recall that on two occasions there were other events occurring outside of the House that Hon. Members of the Official Opposition were desirous of attending. On those occasions we accepted the day although, quite frankly, it would not have been a day of our choosing if we had had any choice at all.

I would like to deal with some of the arguments raised by the Hon. Member. To begin with, if one were to accept the argument put forward by the Hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition that the time of filing should be a predetermining factor, then of course we could today file half a dozen motions that would then sit on the Notice Paper throughout the entire period of supply. That would give our motions priority if one were to accept that argument. Of course, that argument cannot be accepted. The time of filing does in no way interfere with the right of the Speaker to determine the business to be called at this point in time.

I put to you, Mr. Speaker, that contrary to what has been said by the Hon. House Leader for the Official Opposition, it is not solely the responsibility of the Official Opposition to determine which Party will in fact be allocated the day for the purpose of supply debate. Quite clearly, the Standing Orders give that right to the Chair in cases of doubt and in cases of dispute. It is therefore incumbent upon the Chair to make a decision in circumstances such as these and is not incumbent upon the Official Opposition to dictate to anyone how that decision ought to be made.

Supply

I am operating on the basis of the provisional Standing Orders which are in place for a calendar year. If so, I can only assume that one must argue about the right of individuals to be recognized, the right of certain processes to be followed, within the calendar year. There will be a new calendar year starting in January next, hopefully with the continuation of the provisional Standing Orders, and we would anticipate that we would get our share of the allotted days during the calendar year 1984.

One argument made by the House Leader of the Official Opposition is that the Chair does not know who will be granted the fifth allotted day. As the House Leader for the Official Opposition would no doubt affirm, I want to make it clear that I raised that matter with him before we filed the motion. I raised it last week, in fact, and asked whether or not we would be receiving one of the three days designated by the Government House Leader. The response was an unequivocal no. I then assumed, I think quite rightly so, that it was the intention of the Official Opposition to utilize each of those days for their own use. That would mean that out of the five allotted days during this period, we would not receive any. Not only would we not get a voting day, which I am not going to argue about at the moment, but we would not even get a day at all.

I waited to see whether the Official Opposition had in fact filed the motions, which they did to take up each of the days, before I filed on behalf of my colleague, the Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shuswap. I was hoping that perhaps as a result of communications I sent to the Official Opposition House Leader, they would see the fairness of giving us one of the five days. I say, Mr. Speaker, that one of the five days would be less than one might reasonably expect given the numerical breakdown of the Opposition, but we understand that you can only break it down according to an even division. You cannot get part of a day. So we are prepared to accept less than what we expect we might be entitled to as a result of the numerical breakdown in the Opposition.

If, however, we were not given the day today, it would mean, since we now know the Official Opposition intends to take the final day also for themselves, that out of the 25 days in this calendar year we would have received five. That is clearly less than we would be entitled to and it would mean we would be denied the opportunity of putting forward a motion which we frankly feel is of some considerable importance.

On the basis of fairness, we are asking for no more than we should reasonably expect to get. Having waited, hoping the Official Opposition might change its mind, I think we dealt with it in a reasonable way. We waited until the motions were clearly there for both days before we decided to file, in the hope that maybe the Official Opposition might change its mind.

I would argue very strongly that it would be a bad precedent for the Speaker to determine that the Chair has no jurisdiction in determining which of the two Opposition motions-three in this case but two that we are arguing over-should be be

November 22, 1983

Supply

called for debate today. The Chair would be derelict in its duty if it accepted the argument of the Official Opposition House Leader that, by virtue of being the Official Opposition, they and they alone should have the jurisdiction and discretion.

Quite clearly, the Standing Orders, and I need not cite them now, give the Chair the obligation of making such a decision. Nowhere in the Standing Orders or in Beauchesne or anywhere else that I can find is there any reference to there being some discretion to be exercised solely by the Official Opposition in the determination of the allocation of Opposition days. The only reference to allotted days is in the following way, where it is said that although technically the business under discussion is Government business, motions given precedence on these allotted days may be moved only by Members in opposition to the Government. It makes no reference to whether they sit in the Official Opposition or whether they sit, as my colleagues do, in a third Party in the House of Commons.

1 concede that we have not been shortchanged over the course of the last two or three years, but I appeal to the Official Opposition House Leader to consider in the interests of fairness that we would be receiving considerably less during this calendar year than we would be entitled to. That is no guarantee we would be given an appropriate number, although the House Leader says that he will make every effort to persuade his colleagues that we should. We are not asking for more than we would reasonably be entitled to, given the numbers in the House as broken down by the Parties represented here. We are not asking for a voting day, although we might feel it would have been appropriate to have allocated one for this Party during this particular point in time. By granting the day to the Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shus-wap's motion, we would be receiving what would be fair during this period consistent with what has gone on in the past.

1 would ask that the Chair continue with the preliminary ruling the Chair has given, recognizing that allotted days are not only for the Official Opposition. The decision we are asking for is not in any way an attempt by us to abuse the Standing Orders. Though we may in fact be a minority in the House of Commons, we are surely entitled as Members of the Opposition to receive consideration on matters such as this. I point out that it is not precedent-setting. Quite clearly, the Standing Orders give the Chair the discretion to allow for a matter such as this to be resolved by the Chair. I ask the Chair to uphold the preliminary ruling the Chair indicated it was about to make, and give the Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shuswap the opportunity to discuss during this important session a question of vital importance to many people in western Canada, in fact many people across the country.

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PC

Erik Nielsen (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

Mr. Speaker, I have called for and now obtained precise times for filing which I think should be taken into account in your consideration in this matter. There is something 1 am going to have to raise on another occasion with respect to the parliamentary documents here, parliamentary publications. The Order Paper lists all three motions which have been filed, one in the name of the Hon. Member for Wellington-Dufferin-Simcoe, one in the name of the Hon.

Member for Kingston and the Islands and one in the name of the Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shuswap, in that order. While I realize that the Projected Order of Business is not an official parliamentary publication, nonetheless we find only two of them listed. The first one under No. 112 is the motion filed under the name of the Hon. Member for Kingston and the Islands, and No. 113-and I point that order out to you, Mr. Speaker-in the name of the Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shuswap. Our motion, the one in the name of the Hon. Member for Kingston and the Islands, Mr. Speaker, was filed at 2.50 yesterday afternoon and was witnessed by the deputy principal clerk of Journals. So clearly that has priority.

I would point out, Sir, that we are embarking on pretty dangerous ground when the Chair, if it does, exercises discretion under Standing Order 62(4)(c)-and I say this with great respect-in ordering, really, what are the internal affairs of one side of this House. I might also point out to my hon. friend, the Hon. Member for Hamilton Mountain, that last year his Party received two voting days, which is 33 per cent of the voting day entitlement, notwithstanding the fact that his Party by numbers is entitled to only 25 per cent. One-quarter is the entitlement.

On the basis of that timing, Mr. Speaker, since the motion of the Hon. Member for Kingston and the Islands had been filed at 2.50 p.m. yesterday, well before the motion of the Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shuswap, plus the fact that the Projected Order of Business lists it as No. 112 as opposed to listing the motion of the Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shuswap as No. 113-obviously, the Table gave it priority-plus the fact that on the Order Paper our motion appears as No. 2, whereas the Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shuswap's motion appears as No. 3, once again, I would strongly suggest that the Chair allow the Opposition to proceed with the motion of the Hon. Member for Kingston and the Islands.

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NDP

Ian Deans (N.D.P. House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Deans:

Briefly, Mr. Speaker, and dealing only with the point the Hon. Member has raised, I cannot for the life of me understand how the argument can be made both ways. You cannot on the one hand claim that he or she who files first should be given precedence, while at the same time claim that the Official Opposition has the right to decide. You cannot have it both ways.

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PC

Erik Nielsen (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

It is not both ways.

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NDP

Ian Deans (N.D.P. House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Deans:

It would seem to me that if the Chair were to take the position that the person who files first will receive priority, then we could quite legitimately file at the beginning of each period in advance of the Official Opposition and keep them from getting any precedence. That would be ridiculous.

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PC

Flora Isabel MacDonald

Progressive Conservative

Miss MacDonald:

That sounds like you.

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NDP

Ian Deans (N.D.P. House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Deans:

The Official Opposition likewise could file and make the argument that, since it filed first, it was entitled therefore to have all of the days. 1 do not see how anyone can make that kind of argument. The reason the Official Opposi-

November 22, 1983

tion was able to file first was that we were not prepared to file until we were sure that it did not have in mind to give us one of the two days.

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PC

Erik Nielsen (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Nielsen:

Nonsense!

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NDP

Ian Deans (N.D.P. House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Deans:

We were awaiting some indication that perhaps the Official Opposition would change its mind and that we would be able to have one of the days. We had to wait until we were sure that both today and Monday next were going to be taken up by the Official Opposition, that it had that intent. Otherwise, the House Leader for the Official Opposition could then legitimately claim that we had no knowledge of what was going to happen on the subsequent day of Monday next, and we therefore were moving without justification to ask for something which those Members themselves might otherwise be prepared to see us have. Therefore, I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that the time of filing is irrelevant.

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LIB

Eymard G. Corbin (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Corbin):

There being no further comments, I will now proceed with my ruling on the matter.

1 should point out initially though that the Chair is again faced with a situation whereby Hon. Members-if 1 may put it in these terms-agree to disagree among themselves. As the Hon. Member for Yukon so rightly pointed out, it is not for the Chair to meddle in those affairs, and the Chair respects that entirely. However, there are three motions standing on the Order Paper under today's supply proceedings; two motions are sponsored by Hon. Members of the Official Opposition and one motion is sponsored by the Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shuswap.

The Chair finds itself in the unenviable position of having to exercise its power of selection under Standing Order 62(4)(c). However, the Standing Order places a clear duty on the Chair to make a choice under such circumstances. It is a clear duty imposed on the Chair by the Standing Orders. The Standing Order is very clear and explicit about the Speaker's power of selection in this situation, and I will read Standing Order 62(4)(c):

When notice has been given of two or more motions by Members in opposition to the government for consideration on an allotted day, the Speaker shall have power to select which of the proposed motions shall have precedence in that sitting.

I draw the attention of the Hon. Members to the words "by Members in opposition". The Chair is clearly in the presence of a situation where Parties disagree among themselves. The argument that the Chair should take into account the time of filing may be an argument which the Chair certainly would want to look at, and has looked at, but it does not appear to be the paramount factor in the case this morning. Past practice indicates that Parties in opposition to the Government, other than the Official Opposition, have received their share of allotted days in any supply period. Since this is the fourth day of a five-day period, and taking into account that three of the days have been used by Hon. Members of the Official Opposition, it is my intention to put to the House the motion standing in the name of the Hon. Member for Kamloops-Shuswap.

Supply

This ruling is consistent with the duty of the Chair to give special attention to the protection of minorities. Should debate terminate before the ordinary hour of adjournment later today, this does not prevent the House from moving on to one of the other motions now standing on the Order Paper.

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ALLOTTED DAY, S.O. 62-FORESTRY

November 22, 1983