July 12, 1955 (22nd Parliament, 2nd Session)

LIB

Jean-François Pouliot

Liberal

Mr. Poulioi:

It was done for others and it could have been done at the time, but they had so many other things to pack up that they did not have time to look after their friends. I think hon. gentlemen should give credit to the Liberal government for rewarding those two gentlemen who left many fond memories among those who knew them. My dealings with the members of the house have been most pleasant and I think one of

Special Committee on Procedure the finest rewards of a member of parliament in fulfilling his arduous duties is the many lasting friendships he makes among members on all sides of the house. I am known as a die-hard Liberal but I have many friends across the house and I shall remember them with emotion. I thank hon. members for having listened to these remarks on the rules.
Before concluding may I say what I have said to hon. members who have asked me to explain the rules to them. I said that it was easy to know the rules, it was easy to abide by the rules, provided the members are dealt with fairly in all circumstances.
Mr. Cold well: Mr. Chairman, we have just listened to a most interesting and characteristic speech by the hon. member for Temis-couata. He gave us the background of many of the rules of the House of Commons. I was most interested in his explanation of some of the old customs that have died out. When I first came to the house there were probably half a dozen members who used to insist on wearing their hats during the sittings, but I cannot recall any time in the last several years when an hon. member has followed that old custom. For example, 1 remember the Hon. Mr. Motherwell sitting in the chamber with his hat on, and I remember a former senator who used to represent a Quebec constituency in this house invariably wearing his hat in the chamber.
The historic background given this morning by the hon. member is rather different from what I learned when I was at school. I was told that the custom arose because in ancient times when the knights entered the House of Commons they wore their helmets in order to protect themselves should anything occur during a turmoil in the House of Commons. Similarly, in the house at Westminster the distance between the opposition and the government side of the house is exactly two swords' length, so that they cannot poke each other across the way. When I look at the mace I am reminded that it was once a club in the hands of the gentleman who occupied a position analogous to that of the Sergeant-at-Arms so that he could maintain order in the assembly.
Reference to these customs brings back worth-while historic references to the workings of this remarkable institution we call parliament. May I say in the house what I have often said outside, that I do not think that in the long history of mankind an institution has yet been devised which is as efficient and useful for the self-government of nations as is the parliamentary institution which we possess and under which we live

in this country. I think it is the duty of all members of the House of Commons to maintain respect for this institution.
With regard to the rules, I agree with the hon. member that the fewer rules we have the better it is for debate. When I came to the House of Commons some 20 years ago I expected to find the parliamentary rules being most carefully observed. I had taken part in debating clubs and societies and had belonged to organizations, including a city council, that had constitutions and bylaws, and when I came here I was amazed to find that strict parliamentary rules were more often disregarded than followed. I find that as a rule in smaller organizations that have constitutions and bylaws you are more apt to find the chairman enforcing the constitution and the rules with great vigour. As the hon. gentleman said, in this parliament of Canada there is across the floor of the house and from the Chair usually a breadth of tolerance which enables us to invoke the rules very rarely indeed.
With regard to the revision of the rules now before us, as the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre said when the rules were introduced for consideration a short time ago, we carefully considered these amendments and accepted the package policy. That does not mean to say that we are entirely satisfied with all the proposed changes. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will not misunderstand what I am about to say because I do not intend to cast any reflection upon him. In the recent debate I began to have some qualms about the 40-minute rule and about the new rule in connection with committees under which hon. members would be limited to 30 minutes.
I am not objecting to the 30-minute rule, which I think is a good rule, as I believe hon. members, except in exceptional circumstances, could condense their remarks and confine themselves to 20-minute speeches. Apparently they have no time limit in the British house, but I notice on reading their Hansard when there is an interesting debate that in the main most speeches run from 20 to 25 minutes. They seem to get along very well.
I think that if members of parliament are going to be limited to 40 minutes there should be some understanding regarding the length of time for which a member of the government or the Leader of the Opposition may speak. As I say, I am not reflecting upon anyone, but we did listen to a speech which taken in pieces extended for 4 hours and 20 minutes. Under the rules now laid before us the debate on particular topics is to be limited and the motions on going into

supply are to be limited also. If a member on the government side, a minister, say, occupies two to three hours in bringing something in and talking on a particular measure, and on our side of the house we have a speech of two to three hours or more, it means that private members of the house who are neither members of the government or leader of the opposition are going to be denied the right to enter the discussion in a particular debate. Consequently I would say this. We are going to accept the amendments as they are now before us because we have already pledged ourselves to that, but there will undoubtedly be a move in this house to amend these rules further, limiting, we shall say, a member of the government introducing a measure to one hour and a reply from our side to one hour, if restraint is not exercised by those who have the privilege that the rules are going to give them in this house.
I want to say that very forthrightly, because I think somebody has to say it. I say it, not in any disrespect to anyone. Please do not misunderstand me. I say it because I think that otherwise there will grow up in this house something of an ill feeling, and I do not want to see that. We have always had, as the hon. member for Temiscouata has said, a pretty good feeling in all parts of the house. That was the main point that I really wanted to make in connection with the rules.
These amendments are new and we are going to see how they work. I am in agreement with the hon. member for Temiscouata in another sense too, when he speaks of the citations. I know that those who have written the books of rules and procedures for us -Beauchesne, Bourinot, May and so on-have gone through the precedents of the past and have gathered all the decisions of the various Speakers or the decisions of the house together in these books. I have often found since I have been here that it is quite easy to find one citation that will support the government in one respect and another citation that will show that the first citation is wrong. It seems to me that the citations need to be looked over and many of them swept out of the rule books used in the house. Some of them are in conflict. As the hon. member said, some of them are entirely out of date. I think we need a committee to go into the rule books and see what can be eliminated from them.
In the same way, we have Speakers' decisions quoted as precedents. It seems to me that a Speaker's decision is the decision of the Speaker of the house at the time and that it should not be used to govern the house in all
Special Committee on Procedure subsequent sessions, as is sometimes the case. One of the reservations I always have when a decision of Mr. Speaker is challenged, in voting for or against the Speaker's ruling, is that once the house makes a decision in support of a Speaker's ruling it can be quoted as a very convenient precedent, even though the ruling may appear subsequently to have been wrong and not in the interests of the house itself.
I do not want to prolong the debate. I want to follow my own particular advice, which is to speak within 20 minutes or so on a matter. As a matter of fact, in the 20 years I have been here I do not think I have exceeded the 40-minute rule more than half a dozen times, because I think we should all try to live within the confines of the rules of debate. The 30-minute rule in committee is to be commended, and I would like to have seen that 30-minute rule put into effect in the major debates in the house, because the 30-minute rule would give more members an opportunity of expressing themselves. If everybody takes 40 minutes, you are going to deny some of the members the right to express themselves.
I think a good job has been done by the committee. While, as I say, I have some qualms about some of the proposals, none the less I think it is in the interests of parliament to try them out. When we have tried them out, we can set up a committee again and perhaps make some further revisions in the interests of facilitating the business of the house and at the same time preserving the rights of all members of the house.

Topic:   SECOND REPORT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE-CONSIDERATION IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
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