June 14, 1972 (28th Parliament, 4th Session)


Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Speaker, in view of the generosity of my friend in yielding to me I shall try to say what is mainly on my mind in five minutes and leave three or four minutes for him to make his speech.
I should like to say that I believe this has been one of those debates in which good speeches have been made on both sides of the House. I have no hesitation in saying that even though he was speaking in a political vein, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Privy Council (Mr. Jerome) scored some very strong points. I should also like to commend the hon. member for Gloucester (Mr. Breau) on his speech. I thought his analysis of information of various kinds was good, and I thought his description of the daily question period was one to which we should pay some attention. On this side of the House, the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Baldwin) introduced the debate with a very constructive speech. I believe my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Surrey-White Rock (Mr. Mather), also made some very valuable and very helpful suggestions. I also think one of the highlights of this afternoon was the speech made by the hon. member for Fundy-Royal (Mr. Fairweather). I could go further, but I think I have gone far enough to demonstrate my point that good speeches have been made by members on both sides of this House.
I could go into this matter at length but I have agreed to be short, so may I concentrate on two areas in which I think we could make a real effort to improve things. Both relate to the question of information being provided to Parliament.
Information on Government Business
First, may I support the hon. member for Saint John-Lancaster (Mr. Bell) and other hon. members who suggested that the roster system is for the birds. It is not so much the non-attendance in this House of ministers on a certain day when members want an answer to a particular question that bothers me, but, rather, the downgrading of the question period which is produced by the nonattendance of a third of the ministers every day, and frequently by the non-attendance of half the ministers.
I think we ought to accept the criticism of the hon. member for Gloucester who suggested that opposition members do not always ask the brightest questions. I suggest, however, that upgrading the question period is a responsibility that must be shared on both sides of this House; and, just as the questions of hon. members on this side ought to be good and sharp, and aimed at advancing good ideas and at getting information as well as at advancing political points, so the government should take the question period seriously. That means that all the ministers ought to be here almost every day. If it does not happen in this Parliament, then, in the next Parliament I hope this roster will be torn in shreds; I hope we will return to the old system and that all ministers will be prepared to answer questions every day the House sits.

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