Mr. A. W. NEILL (Comox-Alberni):
Mr. Speaker, I think this motion is debatable; I also think it is out of order. I also think it is unjust, but of course that is a matter of opinion. Taking the point that it is out of order, the house is governed by certain rules known as standing orders, arrived at by consultation in committee of the whole house, to which we adhere very strictly. Standing order 15 is one of the most important of these. I see that it was first introduced in 1867 and has stood the test of four separate revisions since then. That order prescribes the procedure of the house, and on Wednesdays it says the order shall be as follows: Questions, notices of motions, public bills and orders, government notices of motions and government orders. It does not forbid government orders; it only gives the other business precedence. Now we come along with this resolution which says we are not going to follow that procedure on Wednesdays, and we say nothing whatever about standing order 15. I submit that we ought to repeal or suspend it, or do something about it; otherwise we shall have two conflicting procedures, so to speak. As a precedent I might cite the situation which often arises in this house, when the chairman of a committee moves for the printing of a report, or evidence, or something like that. He always says, " standing order 64 notwithstanding." That has been omitted in this case, though of course that could be remedied on a later occasion.
With regard to the unfairness of the thing I would make this comment. There are sixteen resolutions on the order paper which as yet have not been heard even once. My resolution happens to be the third on the list. It will not be reached the day after to-morrow, so it will never be reached at all. I lodged that resolution with the clerk about a month before the house met, which seemed not an unreasonable time. Other members coming along later waited, as was their privilege, until the house met before presenting their resolutions, which by this motion are prevented from being heard. I submit that they should
Business oj the House
be given at least one opportunity to present their views. I agree with what was said the other day by, I think, the hon. member for South York (Mr. Lawson) who suggested that all resolutions on the order paper before a certain date should be heard, or alternatively I would suggest that Wednesdays always be left open for private members. We are supposed to be governed by democracy, and democracy is the expression of the wishes of the people by their elected representatives. While we may not like some of the resolutions -I wholly disagree with some of them- nevertheless I feel like fighting in order that they shall be heard, because in that is involved the right of free speech. If people are not allowed to relate their views, how are the government and the house going to be informed of their wishes? This takes away from private members their rights under the rules to which we all agreed, without saying anything about standing order 15, as I have already suggested. It is taking a little bit more away from our democratic rights. It may not be a very important thing; if none of these resolutions are heard I do not suppose the country will suffer very materially, but there is a danger involved. If this or any government-I am not singling out this government particularly-can come along and simply pass by a majority vote, not by unanimous consent, a resolution of this kind, it is possible to conceive of a government passing a resolution to the effect that members of the opposition should be heard for only five minutes, or only on Fridays, or something like that. There is a danger in that situation against which we should guard. We had better stop the leak in the embankment before it becomes overwhelming.
It has been suggested that this is necessary in order to save time, but I do not agree with that. Right towards the end of the session, when we were extremely busy, I have seen the house adjourn at six o'clock because it happened to suit the convenience of a certain group who wanted to go to a certain dinner, or something of that kind. I have even known the house to adjourn in order to listen to election results. I am not particularly asking the government to allow one more Wednesday in order that I might have my resolution discussed. I am trying to stress the point that here are sixteen members who have put resolutions on the order paper and, because of our peculiar rules, or because the government cuts off the rules, they are not going to be heard. The big parties wonder why the groups in the comer are increasing in volume and number at every election. Per-51952-82
haps it is because people are getting suspicious. They do not see anything done, and they begin to think that democracy has been a failure. It is not that democracy has been a failure; it is that democracy has not been accorded the justice to which she is entitled.
I submit the motion is out of order on the one technical point to which I have alluded, namely standing order 15, and on the wider and bigger point of order, which is not founded on any rule, but on the fact that it is desirable in the name of democracy that resolutions by private members should have an opportunity to be heard during the session.
Subtopic: PRECEDENCE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON AND AFTER WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23