Mr. Claude-Andre Lachance (Rosemont):
Mr. Speaker, I shall be brief. I know you are smiling. Always beware of Members of Parliament who start their speeches this way. However, you may take me at my word. I am somewhat hesitant about speaking again to this subject. The Hon. Member who moved the motion will remember that I took part in a similar debate before. In any case, I am doing this for the simple reason that it may be my last chance to speak to my peers, since I thought, after ten years in politics, this might be the right time to say farewell to this House. At the end of this term, I shall be leaving public life, and my Rosemont constituents will have to choose a new Member of Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, with your leave, and despite the rules of relevance, I would like to thank all my colleagues with whom I have worked during the last ten years, and also the officials of the House of Commons and, of course, my constituents in the riding of Rosemont, who during three terms have allowed me
to represent their interests at the seat of Government, and to do so to the best of my ability, to work for the well-being of the people who elected me, and to try to make our governments as responsible as possible so that Canada, this exemplary parliamentary democracy, will take the road of progress at the end of the twentieth century and look to a future which, I hope, will be as progressive and as positive as it can be, especially for our youth who are seeking their identity and are looking at the future with some anxiety.
Mr. Speaker, the last ten years were ten years of experience on which I look back with pride, not because of my work as such, because one must be humble in politics, but because serving one's country is probably the highest goal to which we can aspire in our working life.
Mr. Speaker, I mentioned accountability, which is the essence of the motion of the Member for Edmonton West (Mr. Lambert). The Hon. Member wants to include in the Board of Internal Economy, now consisting of members of the Privy Council, a number of backbenchers who would provide better representation, within a body that manages our destiny as an institution, for the divergent but also complementary interests of the Parties, the Government and backbenchers, the aim being improved accountability, whether physical or financial, on the part of the administration of this House, to the elected representatives and the Canadian people.
I need no convincing by the Hon. Member to realize that this is the way of the future. In fact, the Special Committee on Standing Orders and Procedure, or rather the Special Committee on Regulatory Reform, whose third report and the amendments proposed therein continue to structure the business of the House during this trial period-it is to be hoped they will become permanent for the next Parliament-this committee then proposed in its ninth report a formula very similar to the one suggested by the Hon. Member for Edmonton West. In this report, committee members suggested that the enabling legislation that provides for the organization of the Board of Internal Economy be amended to allow four backbenchers to sit on the Board, two representing Government backbenchers and two representing Opposition backbenchers, with at least one representing the Official Opposition. More importantly, Mr. Speaker, Special Committee members were in favour of having these representatives elected by their respective caucuses, this to avoid a situation where once more, the Government would be controlling these appointments. The exact formula could be worked out later and is not all that important. It is the principle that counts, which is to make the Board of Internal Economy truly representative of the interests of all Members of this House, which is not the case right now. I am not criticizing the way the Board operates.I think Hon. Members who sit on the Board at the present time and are members of the Privy Council certainly have our interests at heart and are doing their best to
June 18, 1984
respond to suggestions coming from the Committee on Management and Members' Services.
That being said, the very concept of accountability implies that we must not only have the right, we must also be seen to have the right. The visibility of this right is lacking in the Board of Internal Economy and its membership. Let's be realistic. In other parliamentary democracies, even in Canada in the provincial legislatures, backbenchers have a say in the administration of the institution. Why should we not have the same responsibility and the same duties here in the House of Commons, especially since our parliamentary colleagues in the other place have already taken steps to make their presence felt in the manner in which they are administered.
Mr. Speaker, in the Senate, which I suppose I should not name, they have already done in practice, though not in law, what the Hon. Member for Edmonton West is suggesting.
We are nearing the end of this Parliament. I do not think that, in the few days of debate we have left before a general election, we can expect to change the Board of Internal Economy. It certainly is not, and perhaps should not be, a legislative priority. However, I urge all my colleagues on both sides of the House who return after the election to act on the recommendations of the Hon. Member for Edmonton West, which are also contained in the Ninth Report of the Special Committee on Regulator Reform and adopt them, either as is or as amended.
The time to do this is at the beginning of a new Parliament. We now have two new leaders. What will be their respective positions? Let the voters decide. However, one will be Leader of the Opposition and one Prime Minister. The two new leaders have promised to give the House of Commons more responsibility and a more active role, which might even go so far as the much maligned free vote, but at least some necessary changes will be made in our operating methods.
The Third Report of the Special Committee on Regulatory Reform is only a first step. The House must go much further when a new Parliament begins. For instance, it should start by broadening the scope of the Board of Internal Economy by opening membership to backbenchers and making the Board truly accountable. Mr. Speaker, as you know, neither the Chair nor the President of the Privy Council nor members of the Board of Internal Economy may be questioned here in the House on the operations of this Board. We have no way, as parliamentarians, to express within these walls any problems, concerns, queries or complaints about the Board of Internal Economy. We must go through the Committee on Management and Members' Services, which is only an advisory body that transmits the complaints of Members of the House of Commons to the Board of Internal Economy, the latter having the actual executive power with respect to the administration of this House. Therefore, a good place to start would be to bring some democracy to the Board of Internal Economy, to do what our Senate colleagues have done, and our colleagues in Westminster, and the Questure in France, and what our provincial legislatures or at least most of them have already
House of Commons Act
done, which is to allow Members to run their own affairs, because that is what it boils down to. Let us run our own show! This House belongs to us. We work in it. We are responsible to the voters if there are any administration problems. Therefore, if we are accountable for its administration, we should also participate in that administration. Responsibility implies accountability. However, for the time being we are accountable, but not responsible. Give us the responsibility and we can then be truly accountable for the administration of the House of Commons!
Mr. Speaker, without wishing to take up any more of the House's time, since other Members will probably want to speak as well, I should only like to add that I agree wholeheartedly with the Member for Edmonton West, who for many years has been in favour of this measure which, as a concept, is reflected in the recommendations of the Special Committee on Regulatory Reform. It is a measure that probably has the support of most Members of this House. I therefore urge the future Leader of the Government, when a new Parliament begins, to implement not only this recommendation but also the other recommendations made by the Special Committee on Regulatory Reform, in order to make this institution as modern and efficient as it should be and also to make it accountable for its administration to those it administers.
Mr. Speaker, in concluding I want to thank my constituents and my colleagues. Until we meet again. Goodbye!
Topic: HOUSE OF COMMONS ACT
Subtopic: AMENDMENT RESPECTING INTERNAL ECONOMY COMMISSIONERS