June 5, 2003

PC

Joe Clark

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. Joe Clark

Mr. Speaker, I was perhaps inarticulate before. Here is our concern. There is serious concern about the legislation that has been brought before this House. Members of Parliament have an obligation to move amendments and to express their concerns. We were not allowed to do that in committee and now, we are not allowed to do that in this House.

You are now telling me, and I must say that it is a surprise to me, that when the Speaker rules that there will be a full opportunity to discuss the merits of an amendment before it is deemed acceptable or unacceptable, he means that the full opportunity will be by whispering in the ear of someone at the Table.

That was not my understanding of a full opportunity. I can say with some confidence it was not the opportunity for the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. It was not the interpretation by other members of the House. We thought that when the Speaker said we would have an opportunity to defend amendments that we were going to bring here, that the Speaker meant that we would stand in our place as members of Parliament and make our case which is what we are sent here to do.

Is there some other kind of procedure that allows people who whisper in the ear of the Chair to have a new ombudsman? A massive new amendment was brought in that had not been seen before that would create a new institute or centre. Yet, we are not allowed to bring forward or propose amendments because we do not have the adequate whisper power at the Table. That is a very alarming situation.

Mr. Speaker, you are the final recourse for members of Parliament when there are procedures that stifle and limit our capacity to do our job as members of the House of Commons of Canada. That is why I am coming to you.

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The Speaker

I appreciate the right hon. member's appeal. I am sorry but I do not want to hear a lot more on this. I have made a ruling that, in my view, this motion is out of order and I think we should move on.

I will give an additional reason. The practice in the House at report stage for years has been that members who have amendments they wish to move make submissions on them. Various members have sent letters indicating why in their view their motions should be considered and accepted. They approached the officers of the House and indicated why they should be accepted. I received letters from members that I forwarded to those people who assist in preparing the ruling that is given by the Chair at report stage.

For the right hon. member to suggest that the only way to make submissions is by standing up on the floor of the House and talking about amendments is unrealistic. If we were to deal with those arguments here all day, we would be on points of order with respect to admissibility of amendments constantly. The whole purpose of the procedure we have adopted was to ensure that this was done in an expeditious manner in a way that was fair to hon. members and gave them a chance to make submissions.

Those submissions are drawn to the Speaker's attention when the ruling of the Chair is considered, and I point out that in this case 132 amendments were submitted at report stage on this bill and 104 of them were ruled admissible. They are being allowed for debate in the House.

I do not think it is correct to suggest that members had no opportunity. I invited it to be done in what I considered the normal and practical way in which we dealt with these matters and it was done in this case to the best of my knowledge. There were submissions received.

Is the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar rising on the same point or a different point?

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CA

Brian Pallister

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Brian Pallister

It is the same point.

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The Speaker

All right, very briefly.

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CA

Brian Pallister

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Brian Pallister (Portage—Lisgar, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, very briefly and with the greatest of respect to you.

Regardless of the fact that the member for Calgary Centre may or may not have made submissions, his point is valid. We did of course make submissions from this side. The opposition submitted more amendments than all other parties combined and we had more amendments accepted than all other parties combined. We made submissions regarding many of those, as you well know.

Nonetheless, the point is valid. We did not know which amendments you may or may not have ruled admissible until the precise moment when we had to begin debate. That is a factor to consider in this instance. In addition, the fact that we did not have the opportunity, upon learning of your decision, to make any subsequent appeal or submission is germane to what the member for Calgary Centre is raising in his remarks.

Naturally this comes from frustration. This is because of the position the government has adopted from the outset regarding this bill. It is advancing it as rapidly as possible and limiting debate.

In respect of the conduct of the chair during committee hearings, and in respect of the rancour and the acrimony that existed there, there is some question--and I believe the member has raised it in his motion--as to how it would be possible for members of the committee to raise amendments in that environment.

The larger question, which the member is alluding to as well, is the difficulty with the rules, which the House leader has recently imposed upon the Speaker, to fully and fairly debate, submit amendments, and have such amendments known to members of the House prior to debating the legislation. If we are limited in our ability to know of amendments or to speak to amendments or to appeal amendments we submit, then clearly our ability to act as members of Parliament is impeded as a consequence of that.

I would like to see the larger issue addressed. I believe the member has alluded to it. The larger issue is the actually restrictive--

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The Speaker

Order, please. The larger issue can be addressed, but not by a motion like this. The motion questions the authority of the Speaker's decision and under Standing Order 10 such a motion is not debatable.

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PC

Joe Clark

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. Joe Clark

It does not do that.

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The Speaker

I am sorry, I read the motion to the House and I think that, in fairness, it does. It says that the House disagrees with the decision of the Speaker and, therefore, is debating the Speaker's ruling, which is contrary to Standing Order 10. It is as plain as day. Accordingly, this motion is out of order.

Another motion proposing a change in the rules is a debatable motion and could be moved. If the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar has problems with the Standing Orders and disagrees with the way the Speaker's rulings are handed down on report stage amendments and wants some mechanism for appeal of those rulings on certain points, fine. However, it has to be done by amendment to the Standing Order, not by this kind of motion.

He is free to move a motion to amend the Standing Orders. All hon. members are free to do that. In addition, they can approach the procedure and House affairs committee and make submissions to have the committee submit a report changing the Standing Orders. There is nothing preventing hon. members from doing that.

I invite hon. members to take the matter up there or propose a motion that is permissible in the House. The one before us today is not admissible for the reasons I have given and is therefore out of order.

The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who is probably rising on a point of order.

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BQ

Yvan Loubier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am a permanent member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources. I have seen the how amendments were dealt with in that committee.

We had less than 48 hours to prepare a series of amendments, so we had to rush to get them through. We had our right to speak in committee taken from us. The atmosphere was aggressive, indeed violent on occasion.

The committee chair acted in a very hurried manner. I would remind hon. members that not only are we at report stage now, but we are doing second reading at the same time. We are being deprived of a stage of debate that is essential for a proper understanding of this bill. As well as being deprived of an essential stage of debate by the government's actions, we are losing 25 motions which, in your opinion, ought to have been presented in committee. This contradicts your position of a few days ago, when you told my right hon. colleague from Calgary Centre that, if he felt wronged by not having been able to move amendments to the bill after April 2, he could do so at this stage.

So he did present them, and you eliminated 25 of them, saying he could have presented them in committee. Either you are open to the fact that he could not present them in committee after April 2, as a result of the totally barbarian approach taken by the committee chair to receiving our amendments, or you are closed to it.

Your decision is a closed one. WIth all due respect, I find there is a certain lack of logic in your decision of a few days ago and your decision to take away 25 amendments as well as the possibility of debating them. Either you are open or you are closed.

There are 25 amendments missing. I would remind you that we are being deprived of a stage of debate, that is to say we are combining report and second reading stages. This is undemocratic.

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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I too am a permanent member of the standing committee. Very briefly I want to share with you how frustrating I find it now. If I understood you correctly, Mr. Speaker, you have more or less said that we now need to go back to the standing committee if we are going to challenge the rules by which amendments can be put, and to make those changes a recommendation should come from the standing committee.

The very point the right hon. member for Calgary Centre was making is that we have now heard four opposition members from four different parties say that the process at that standing committee is not satisfactory and it is not possible for us to achieve satisfaction, Nor is it possible for us to come together as a committee with even enough consensus to come forward to the House with--

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The Speaker

The hon. member has completely misunderstood me. I suggested that the members go to the procedure and House affairs committee if they want to get changes in the rules. There is no mechanism for taking this back to the standing committee that considered the bill. I was not suggesting that, and I would not want to confuse the hon. member in that regard.

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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin

Mr. Speaker, that gives me some comfort but it does not change the original point that the right hon. member for Calgary Centre raised.

There was an arbitrary fashion with which amendments put at the report stage were dealt with. The frustration we had as members of the standing committee was because the decorum of the committee descended in such a way that even vulgar language was used at that committee which was offensive to some of us. I know the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot is particularly aggrieved in this fashion that his mother was insulted. He found it offensive that--

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The Speaker

With all respect, we have been over this before. There have been points of order raised in respect of these matters.

The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot already raised this issue. It is not necessary to continue discussing this issue. The question now is on the admissibility of the motion. I have already ruled on the matter. I feel we must carry on.

The hon. member for Miramichi also has a point of order. I hope it is not more arguments on this issue.

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LIB

Charles Hubbard

Liberal

Mr. Charles Hubbard (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, as parliamentarians we all come to this House to do parliamentary business. We have to be very careful that we do not show a flagrant disrespect of the House and of the Speaker's rulings and proceed in the manner that has been outlined here by the member for Calgary Centre.

For the record, the committee received the bill last fall. It spent hours on the bill. It spent in fact the longest time of any bill that ever was processed before the House. The party that the member represents failed to come to any of those committee meetings, except for the last two or three when he also tried to obstruct that committee. It is very--

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The Speaker

Order. The hon. member for Miramichi I know is trying to be helpful, but the difficulty is we are into a debate here that in my view ought not to be a debate. I am proposing that we move on to the next motion.

On a question of privilege, the right hon. member for Calgary centre.

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PC

Joe Clark

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. Joe Clark

Mr. Speaker, I am raising a question of privilege on behalf of my colleague, the member of Parliament for Dauphin—Swan River, whose absence from committee for several weeks has been referred to, I think quite inappropriately, by the Liberal parliamentary secretary. I want to make the point, with great regret, that the hon. member for Dauphin--Swan River has been ill.

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The Speaker

Order. The right hon. member on his own admission has said that he is raising a question of privilege on behalf of somebody else. It is clear that we are into a debate here. I interrupted the hon. member for Miramichi because I thought that while trying to be helpful it was not helpful and the right hon. member, I am afraid, is in the same boat.

I do not believe there is a question of privilege here. These are matters of debate, and I think we should move on to the next item on the agenda today, which I am prepared to do.

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PC

Joe Clark

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. Joe Clark

Mr. Speaker, the House has a very real dilemma here. You have indicated that the rules must be respected and cannot be changed. We have indicated, and all the evidence is undeniable in committee, that the normal practices of this Parliament were not respected. They were flagrantly violated.

The issue that is of most concern with respect to amendments was a motion which the chair himself in that committee ruled out of order. He was then challenged by the government majority who overturned his ruling. Instead of resigning, he continued to proceed in what can only be described Sir, as a disorderly fashion, as the motion I have submitted suggests.

The practice has changed, putting members of Parliament who are obliged to make their case--

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The Speaker

This issue has been dealt with in the House before on appeals to the Speaker and rulings have been made on these matters.

I know the right hon. member would love to have a debate on this, but he cannot do it with the motion he has proposed today. He can do it by proposing some other motion that involves some amendments to the rules or a reference to the procedure and House affairs committee of the issues or whatever, but he cannot do it by the motion he has proposed today. It is out of order.

The hon. member knows that rulings on these matters are given in the regular course. The Chair of this House does not control committee proceedings. The committee is master of its own proceedings.

If the member wishes to change the rules in respect of how committees operate and specify rules and abolish appeals of chairmen's rulings, he can propose those kinds of motions in the House and get a debate on them. He cannot get a debate by proposing a motion that in effect proposes a debate on a ruling of the Chair which the standing orders say is not allowed. It is quite clear. Everything the member is saying is in effect debating this matter.

Before proceeding with the next matter, I will hear the right hon. member for Calgary Centre for about two minutes and that will be it. I want something that is relevant.

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PC

Joe Clark

Progressive Conservative

Right Hon. Joe Clark

Mr. Speaker, you have suggested that there is some other remedy which we could follow which will allow us to deal with the breach in parliamentary practice that has brought to this House from a disorderly committee a bill that we cannot deal with effectively here.

Sir, what option is open to us that will allow us to deal with the bill? Sir, do not speak to us about changes in the rules that will relate to some other bill. We have a very serious matter here, a matter that is not only unjust, but a matter which could lead to disorder in the streets of the country. It is precisely because it has been handled in such an undemocratic fashion that there needs to be a response by the protector of democracy here in the House of Commons.

There was no one whispering in my ear today before I rose that the motion would be deemed unacceptable by the Chair. If we cannot proceed in this way to deal with this urgent matter that the House is dealing with, how are we to proceed? What is Parliament to do?

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June 5, 2003