Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, BQ)
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the point of order, page 724 of Marleau and Montpetit reads as follows:
The Standing Orders give Members a very wide scope in proposing opposition motions on Supply days and, unless the motion is clearly and undoubtedly irregular (e.g., where the procedural aspect is not open to reasonable argument), the Chair does not intervene.
Therefore, for all opposition motions, unless there is a clear irregularity, the Chair does not intervene. However, there have been precedents, and I would like to review them. On November 5, 2002, a motion adopted on an opposition day amended the Standing Orders of the House of Commons with respect to the election of committee chairs and vice-chairs. A motion presented on a supply day amended the Standing Orders of the House with respect to the election of chairs and vice-chairs.
On April 18, 2005, the current Chief Government Whip gave notice in the order paper of a motion to set opposition days for the rest of the supply period ending June 23, 2005. It turned out that this motion was never debated because the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons decided at the last minute to withdraw opposition days.
My argument is this: as per the November 2002 precedent, which amended the Standing Orders, it is possible during an opposition day to amend the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. Furthermore, when they were in opposition, the Conservatives thought—and I agree—that it was possible to introduce a motion on an opposition day to change the Standing Orders of the House, as evidenced by the April 18 notice of motion by the Conservatives themselves.
It is therefore possible to amend the Standing Orders, and it is also possible to change the Standing Orders by means of a motion introduced during a supply day. The motion before us today proposes a change to the Standing Orders of the House in order to accelerate consideration of certain bills. In light of the precedents, I see nothing unusual about the official opposition's proposal.
The issue here is not whether or not the Bloc Québécois will support the motion of the official opposition. The issue here is the latitude that the opposition parties have to present motions on supply days. I am among those who will always defend the extraordinary freedoms and privileges the opposition parties have in the House of Commons, which enable them to bring any subject before the House that they think is important, interesting or that needs to be debated. Under no circumstances do we object to the government's power to bring up any subject they would like to debate here in the House. But the counterpart to this great power are the 22 little supply days, 22 opportunities during a session here in the House, when the opposition decides on the debate.
The precedents are very clear, and unless there is something very wrong with the motion, unless it is absolutely out of order, it must be agreed to.
We can amend the Standing Orders and we can depart from them. The motion we are discussing today proposes to depart from the Standing Orders, but there is absolutely no reason to doubt that it is in order.
I think it is perfectly in order. Ruling it out of order would strike a great blow to the privileges of the opposition in this House.
Subtopic: Points of Order