House of Commons Hansard #81 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was coalition.

Topics

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

September 19th, 2001 / 3:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough said that he talked to other House leaders and whips. As the House leader of the official opposition I have had no official meeting with that group about how they should sit in the House.

I had one phone call last Saturday evening from you, Mr. Speaker, about seating, to which I agreed. I have no disagreement with where they are sitting right now. I checked with my whip and he has had no official meeting. If you put the onus on yourself, it is the onus of that group and not of my party.

If you are at all tempted to grant this status and arrangement that the members of the DRC are seeking, you will be creating a parliamentary enigma in deciding a matter that is the proper decision of the House.

To comply with the member's request for a coalition, this group must be recognized as a separate entity. For official parliamentary purposes a separate entity can only be defined as a party. I will address the party issue first.

The concept of a political party, and particularly the funding of smaller political parties, is a relatively recent phenomenon. For example, in 1944 Prime Minister Mackenzie King argued that in consulting the opposition he was obliged only to deal with the leader of the opposition, not the leaders of other parties. He said, at page 554 of Hansard from February 16, 1944, “If the opposition wish to be divided into groups, that of course is their own affair”.

The granting of money to the leaders of smaller parties did not begin until 1963. It was also at that time that the so-called 12 member rule was established. It is here where I will begin examining some of the history of these types of requests.

In 1963, 13 members of the Social Credit Party split off and declared themselves a separate party under the name Ralliement créditiste. The matter was referred to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections. In committee the issue was not treated merely as a matter of applying the 12 member rule but rather as one determining the validity of the claim by the Ralliement créditiste to be a political party.

The committee looked at the legal and electoral evidence that would support the Ralliement créditiste claim. The committee refrained from committing itself to a full definition of the requirement that would be needed to be met in order for a group to be recognized as a political party.

In the Canadian Journal of Political Science of March 1978 in reference to the 1963 case, John Courtney states “A pragmatic solution was brokered amongst the existing party and groups in the House”.

On page 33 of Marleau and Montpetit it states “Speakers have been clear in rulings that it is up to the House itself to decide such matters”. This references the 1963 case as well as February 18, 1966, October 11, 1979, November 6, 1979 and June 16, 1994.

On September 30, 1963, at pages 3008 and 3009 of Hansard , the Speaker explained it in this way:

I cannot conclude this statement without some reference to the significance of these events for the future of the definition and status of parties in this House. It is not my place to evaluate the significance of these matters for the future of every changing structure and character of political parties; yet it is my duty, I believe, to bring to the attention of the House the novel character of the situation now before it, and more particularly the payment of allowances and the effect on the organization of parliament and parties and of the work of this House that naturally must be reflected by the emergence from time to time of new groups that invite the House to accord them the status of parties. Profound constitutional questions arise; for example, can a group of members which did not exist as a party at the time of the election of a parliament be recognized as a party before it has submitted itself to the electorate?

There are few precise rules regarding the recognition of parties in the House. Much depends on the will of the House.

In 1988, when members of the Conservative and Liberal caucuses quit their parties to form the Bloc Quebecois, they were not granted party status even though they went on to register under the elections act and managed to have a representative elected in the 1990 byelection. They were denied party status because the House was guided by the 12 member rule.

On the other hand, in the 1974 general election the Ralliement créditiste were reduced to 11 members. Even though it did not qualify for a research budget it continued to receive funds because its members were elected in a general election and the House made that decision, not the Speaker.

The first step in becoming a registered party under the elections act is the application process. There are a number of items to be included in the application such as the names, addresses and signatures of 100 electors and the names and addresses of party officers and the leader. Once a party has become eligible it becomes registered after it has obtained candidates whose nomination has been confirmed in 50 electoral districts. So far the DRC does not qualify under the elections act as a party.

It should also be noted that these requirements under the act are fairly new. They were made with the passage of Bill C-9, which received royal assent on June 14, 2001.

If anyone wants to know how the majority of members in this parliament might feel about the issue of a party status, they need to look no further than to the recent changes to the elections act. The passage of Bill C-9 made it more difficult for small fringe parties to emerge and be recognized under the elections act.

It would be inconsistent for the House to make it more difficult for small fringe parties to be recognized through the elections act and easier through the parliamentary procedure.

Another aspect of the law to consider is the bylaws of the House, specifically bylaw 302. This bylaw defines a recognized party as a party recognized by the House that has 12 or more persons elected to the House as members of that party.

The members of the DRC, by their own admission, are not an official party. According to the elections act they are not a party. The recent decision by the House with the passage of Bill C-9 would suggest there is no appetite to make them a party. Pursuant to the bylaws of the House of Commons they do not qualify as a party.

Without party status, they cannot apply for a coalition arrangement with a recognized party. The reason is that there is nothing official to coalesce with. We cannot expect the Speaker to depart from convention and grant this group special status.

In the September 30, 1963 Hansard , at page 3008, in reference to the 1963 party status debate, the Speaker stated:

It is not one where the Speaker ought by himself to take a position where any group of members might feel that their interests as a group or a party have been prejudiced. Nor should the Speaker be put in the position where he must decide, to the advantage or to the disadvantage of any group or party, matters affecting the character or existence of a party, for this surely would signify that the Speaker had taken what was almost a political decision.

As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, the members of the DRC are still card carrying Canadian Alliance members. What political party will they claim to belong to when asked?

If that question were put to the hon. member for Prince George--Peace River, for example, his response would be “I am a card carrying member of the Alliance Party. In parliament I am a member of the democratic representative caucus, and the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party has just appointed me whip”. The hon. member is obviously suffering from some multiple parliamentary party disorder.

Most political parties would find it unacceptable for any of its members to be part of another federal party or caucus. It was not that long ago that former Liberal cabinet minister Doug Young bought a membership in the Canadian Alliance. The Liberal Party leadership reacted quickly and revoked Mr. Young's Liberal membership.

If members get ejected from their party, that should be as a result of the decisions of the political players involved. A Speaker's decision should not be the cause for a member's ejection from a party.

It could be argued that either way your decision may bring about a political action. The possible result of your not granting the members the status they desire could be that they quit the Canadian Alliance altogether in order to better qualify for special status. The difference is this: maintaining the status quo is the traditional position taken by Speakers.

I will go back to when the Reform Party was tied with the Bloc Quebecois in the House with 50 members each. The Reform Party asked to be the official opposition because it represented provinces right across Canada and the Bloc represented only one province. The Tories of that day, there were two of them, could have joined and made that a better argument. It was not to their advantage at the time so they did not try to do that to make sure that the opposition in Canada was a party that would represent all of Canada.

The same party, with the House leader for the Conservative Party who has just made his argument without any precedents, which I find amazing for a lawyer, lost five Tories in the last parliament. I did not hear them get up once and offer the Canadian Alliance a few more questions in question period, or the Liberals who gained four of the five members. They kept the same number of questions. That was the rule at the start of that parliament and it was the rule at the finish of that parliament. They cannot have it both ways.

You should not feel responsible for what may happen, Mr. Speaker, if you turn down the member's request. If a preacher refused to marry a couple because one was already married, the preacher could not be responsible if a divorce resulted in his decision.

On the other hand, he would feel very responsible for the sequence of events that followed a decision to marry the couple. I will put that aside for now, Mr. Speaker, and ask you to consider another point.

Assuming that all the conditions were met to entertain a request for a coalition, it is up to the Speaker to unilaterally allow a party to form a coalition with another party. I would argue that it would be a departure from convention for the Speaker to make a decision on behalf of the House. It would be a giant departure from convention to allow small group without party status to form a coalition with any party in the House.

The only coalition at the national level in Canada was Sir Robert Borden's 1917 union government. Faced with strong opposition to conscription and with other major difficulties during World War I, Borden brought several conscriptionist liberals into his government. The political party system has come a long way since 1917. The groups in 1917 were not vying for funding and increased resources. It was a matter of a coalition government, the first world war and the issue of conscription. It was not an issue of organizing or re-organizing the opposition. A coalition is necessary to govern but certainly not necessary to oppose.

As I said in my argument regarding the party's status, the concept of a political party, and particularly the funding of smaller political parties, is a relatively recent phenomenon. The granting of money to the leaders of small parties did not begin until 1963. Even if the members of the DRC had the so-called magic number of 12, they are not registered under the Canada Elections Act. There must be some cohesion between parliamentary law and the common law with respect to party recognition.

Before I wrap up I want to discuss briefly the issue of other jurisdictions because we are members of the Commonwealth and we have taken our lead all through the centuries from the mothers of all parliaments.

The funding of opposition parties in the U.K. is based upon votes received in the last general election. This is known as Short money, so named after a previous leader of the House. The DRC received zero votes in the last election. According to the practice of the United Kingdom they should receive zero money and zero consideration.

In New Zealand the rules regarding party status and coalitions are spelled out a little clearer in their standing orders. The relevant standing orders of the New Zealand house of representatives are as follows. Standing order 34(1) states that every party in whose interest a member was elected at the preceding general election or at any subsequent byelection is entitled to be recognized as a party for parliamentary purposes. Members who cease to be members of the party for which they were originally elected may be recognized as a party for parliamentary purposes if they apply to the speaker and their new party is registered as a registered party by the electoral commission. Once again, even if the DRC had 12 members they would not qualify.

Standing order 35(2) from New Zealand deals with a coalition. It says that a coalition between two or more parties must be notified to the speaker but each party to the coalition remains a separate party for parliamentary purposes. Again, the DRC does not qualify as a party in the House.

In Australia, coalitions have been an important part of Australian political life since the 1920s. In 1923 a nationalist party coalition government was formed which lasted until 1929. Since that time most non-labour governments have been coalitions between the major conservative party and Australia's rural party. As with the New Zealand example, each party to the coalition remains a separate party for parliamentary purposes. The DRC would not have a chance in the Australian parliament either. The same concept holds true for the U.K.

The other consideration is that coalitions are creatures of governments, not opposition. We can debate these examples from other jurisdictions all we want. The bottom line is that the Speaker has clear Canadian precedence and has no choice but to rule that it is the House that must decide this matter. The House could consider the New Zealand, Australia or U.K. models if it wanted. It could choose not to decide at all and maintain the status quo. That is its prerogative.

Maybe the House should seriously consider the private member's bill sponsored by one of the members from the DRC, the member for Saskatoon--Humboldt. In his February 21 press release that launched one of his many initiatives, he said that the bill would end official party status in the House of Commons for political parties with less than 30 seats or without representation from at least three provinces or territories.

For several years parliament's time has been wasted on fringe political parties that are not national in their effectiveness or appeal. With 4% of seats in parliament, the NDP and Progressive Conservatives do not deserve the financial resources that go along with official party status. Maybe the member has changed his mind.

In conclusion, I would like to comment briefly on the impact of the minor fluctuations in the size of party issue in the course of a parliament. Since 1963, when funding for parties began, parliamentary resources for parties remained stable, regardless of any change in the numbers of each party. Even when there was significant fluctuation, resources would not be distributed. I use the example that I mentioned earlier, the Conservatives in the last parliament lost five members. They did not ask to have their numbers reduced, their questions reduced.

There were other examples. In 1983 and 1984 the Liberals went from 147 to 135 elected members. In the 34th parliament the Conservatives went from 169 down to 151 elected members. Despite these changes, resources remained stable. In the 35th parliament we had a situation where a tie occurred between the two largest opposition parties. In that situation the Reform Party claimed the title of official opposition. The Speaker ruled that the status quo be maintained, preserving the Bloc Quebecois as the official opposition.

As Speaker MacNaughton said, the Speaker should not be put in the position where he must decide to the advantage or disadvantage of any group or party or that would signify that the Speaker has taken what is almost a political decision.

In the U.K. during the passage of the European Community's finance bill, 1994-95, the Conservatives expelled eight MPs, with a ninth voluntarily resigning. With this change, the government lost its majority. The House debated the composition of standing committees on January 11, 1995. It concluded that the composition of the committees would not have to be altered. There were no further repercussions over this situation.

In conclusion, the present distribution of resources for the opposition parties must be maintained. An official coalition between the PC Party and the DRC cannot be entertained because the DRC has nothing official to bring to the table with which to coalesce. The DRC can only be recognized officially as independent members for parliamentary purposes.

I am not saying that parties, groups and independents cannot co-operate with each other in parliament. It is far from that. They are welcome to co-operate all they wish. In fact, the Alliance co-operated with all opposition parties in the last parliament. The Reform Party co-operated with other parties in the parliament before that. It could be said that technically the opposition is always setting up a coalition of parties for the purposes of opposing the government with the leader of the opposition taking centre stage. Our rules would appear to reflect that.

We have two principal leaders in the House: the Prime Minister, who leads the government, and the Leader of the Opposition, who leads the opposition. To boldly recognize the arrangement being sought today would be a departure from our practice. Accordingly, the matter should be left for the House to decide, not the Speaker.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be much briefer than the member who spoke before me. I simply wish to remind the House that section 62 of the Parliament of Canada Act provides that in order to receive financial benefits, a party must elect at least 12 members in a federal election.

Nowhere else does tradition depart from these provisions of the Parliament of Canada Act. We have checked and, to date, no new political party has been registered with the chief electoral officer. No one in this House may therefore request research funding or operating budgets when these are traditionally given to parties.

I am very sorry for the members sitting as independents, but the only way to be able to request resources is to do what has already been done in the past and to officially become Conservative members. However, to my knowledge, this has not been done so far either.

Since there is no new party called the Alliance PC Coalition, and since no Alliance members have become Conservatives, I therefore do not see the point of prolonging this debate. The Parliament of Canada Act is clear.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the issue before us today is a serious one for the Speaker to consider. What we are talking about today is not whether a political party has a right to change names. Obviously, the party across did at some point in the past, but that is not before us today. To claim that PC/DRC is similar to changing the name of another party, I do not think is factually accurate. It is not the same and I will get back to that later.

There has been some attempt to make a parallel between this and the issue of the role of the Speaker regarding the Créditistes in the 1960s. That also is very different. The situation that we had at the time, if my memory serves me correct, was that there was only enough members to make one party and a large number of the members of that party had defected to create the new political party. The issue before the House then was which one of the two groups was the real party. The Speaker at the time referred it to a committee where eventually it was decided that the Ralliement des créditiste would maintain its status because it met the criteria.

That was the issue then. Again, I do not think that is the same as what we have in front of us today. It is of little consequence to me, as a partisan, what goes on in this regard because it does not change the status of the government in any way. However, it goes beyond that.

The Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition in the House referred to Short money and the role in the British House. The parallel of my position as leader of the government in the House is referred to in the British House as leader of the House. In a way, without being presumptuous, I consider my role to be analogous to that in the sense that if colleagues across the way ask me why the government or a minister has failed to respond to a question or anything like that I take it upon myself to ensure that I can do what I can because I feel that I have that responsibility to members individually and collectively in the mandate that has been given to me. It is in that regard that I make the comments that are before us today, not for any particular advantage because obviously there is not one either way.

The debate before the House today concerns whether a significant material change in membership affects the benefits that members would have. In other words, if a political party across lost a grand sum of members and that sum was added to another political party, there could be a debate. I do not know what the outcome would be, it is not before us, but there could be a debate as to whether or not that changes the resources between one political party and another one. Again, that is not the issue that is before us at the present time. It goes beyond that. This is also not a case of whether or not there is or has been a coalition government in this country. There has been. We know that. It has been referred to in previous contributions.

The issue before us is whether or not a political party and some independent members can be collectively identified as an opposition coalition, not an opposition coalition party. If that was the name of their party--I do not happen to think it would be a particularly attractive name but that is a personal view--anyone could use whatever name they think is attractive to the electors to who they are appealing. That is certainly none of my business but it is something that members might want to consider at another time.

The issue before us in whether or not independents can be grouped with a political party in order for the sum of the two to change the status of other parties in the House, because that is the effect. That is really the issue before us. This is my interpretation of it and I would ask the Speaker to consider it.

Mr. Speaker, the standing orders that we have at the present time, along with the board bylaws, Beauchesne's and Marleau and Montpetit can perhaps guide us and indicate what structure in the House has official recognition.

Standing Order No. 5 states:

No Minister of the Crown, nor party leader, shall be eligible for the election to the Office of Speaker.

The office of Speaker is the highest office in this room. Does that mean a leader of a coalition could be a candidate for Speaker? I do not know, but we must realize the implication it would have were we to make a decision in the House.

Does it mean that an officer of the House who is not a member of a party could be eligible for some of these offices? Again there are repercussions to consider.

I will draw Beauchesne's to the attention of the House. Beauchesne's sixth edition refers to the role of party whips. This is particularly important today because one of the debates before us is whether someone who is not a member of a political party can be a whip for an entity, whether we call that entity a party or something else.

Beauchesne's sixth edition, citation 201(1) states:

Each party has as one of its supporters a Member known as the Chief Whip.

It does not say each coalition or anything else. It says each party. It makes no reference to anything that is not a party.

Citation 201(2) states:

The duties of the Whips are to keep their Members supplied with information concerning the business of the House--

The citation describes the role of party whips, not other individuals.

I will also draw to the attention of the Speaker references from Marleau and Montpetit which I believe are helpful. Of course I will recognize and respect how the Speaker adjudicates in the matter. However the Speaker will know of the reference to the Parliament of Canada Act on page 30 of Marleau and Montpetit. It refers to financial benefits, which is presumably an issue of interest here today. It states:

With regard to financial benefits, the Parliament of Canada Act provides additional allowances to the Leader, the Whip and the House Leader of a party that has a recognized membership--

On page 31 it goes on to talk about financial support to the caucus research units of recognized parties. It further states:

However, in recent practice, a procedural interpretation of the definition “recognized party” has come to mean any party with 12 or more Members in the House.

Once again the reference is to parties.

On the conduct of question period, page 423 of Marleau and Montpetit refers to:

Members of a political party not officially recognized in the House--

It describes what these members would be if they belonged to something other than an officially recognized political party.

It is my interpretation that if there was a definition of a group of people who are something other than a political party one would find it on page 423 of Marleau and Montpetit. It is not there. Page 492 of Marleau and Montpetit states the following:

The Whips of the other parties and Members without party affiliation usually rise to indicate their agreement.

That means of course that the whips of the parties speak for the group and those who are not members of the party must make their identification individually because they are not members of the party. It states on the same page:

--Members without party affiliation indicate how they wish to be recorded.

This is in the case of recorded divisions. Again there is no mechanism for someone to speak on behalf of those who are not members of a recognized political party. That is made quite clear here.

On the pairing of members it is very interesting. There is a well established procedure of the clerk having on his table a book describing the duty of the whips of political parties with regard to pairing.

The reference to party whips is at the bottom of page 492. It says whips can pair for their members. However there is no provision that says a whip can speak in this form for someone who is not a member of their party, coalition or other group by which they wish to be recognized collectively. It refers only to parties. Anything else is deemed not to fit the bill.

I will draw to the attention of the House Bill C-28 which we recently passed in the House of Commons. It is a bill members will recognize because it had to do with our salaries as MPs and senators. Page 4 of the bill refers to party leaders with respect to salaries. It refers to the:

--leader of a party that has a recognized membership of twelve or more--

Again the reference is uniquely to a political party and no other structure.

I drew to the House's attention references to Marleau and Montpetit. The only item that remains, at least in my contribution, is the issue of the bylaws of the Board of Internal Economy. The Board of Internal Economy is free to change its bylaws just as the House is free to change its laws. However until it has done so it is bound to interpret the laws under which we currently operate and nothing else.

Bylaw 302 defines a party as one which has been recognized by the House and has a membership of 12 or more persons elected to the House. Bylaw 302(6) refers to House officers of a recognized party and describes some of their functions and so on. Again the reference is to a political party.

In conclusion, it is not for me to say whether independent members should belong to one political party versus another in the House. That is none of my business. We all recognize that. It is a decision which members will make in their consciences and which we will respect.

In a partisan way I could say it would be wrong either way because I do not agree with it politically. However that is immaterial for the purpose of what we have here. If members decide to join another party and indicate they have done so, I for one would accept it, as I am sure would all my colleagues. What other choice would we have? It would not be our business beyond that.

However that has not even been advocated or brought to the attention of the Speaker. No one today so far has suggested or asked that independent members be recognized as members of their party. Unless that is sought, asked for or presented, it is difficult for the Speaker and/or the House to claim the proposition was brought forward because it was not.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you consider these arguments along with several others you have heard. We will fully respect what you have to say in this regard.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, a number of analogies and metaphors have been employed today so I might best begin with a marital analogy as one who has performed the odd wedding ceremony in my time. There is a question that is customarily asked, and it is in fact required by law: If either of you know of any reason why you should not be joined together in holy matrimony, you should say so now or forever hold your peace. I am paraphrasing.

If that question were asked of the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough and the member whom he still illegitimately calls his whip, and I will not get into that, I do not think it would be greeted with the silence with which it is normally greeted in any of the ceremonies at which I have presided. The fact remains that members of the so-called DRC already and still have another relationship, with the Alliance Party.

They may not have a relationship with the Alliance caucus, and I am sure this is a source of great weeping and gnashing of teeth among members of the Alliance caucus, but the members of the DRC still have a relationship with the Alliance Party.

I do not think the House of Commons can be completely isolated from what takes place outside it and from the status people enjoy outside the House. The House of Commons is not a motel where we can check in and pretend to be someone we are not or where we can have a relationship that does not exist.

Without wanting to put too fine a point on it, Mr. Speaker, I think it is obligatory on your part to consider not only that members of the so-called DRC still belong to another party but that this fact must be taken into account when judging whether or not the DRC, which is presenting itself as a parliamentary group and demanding the rights and privileges of a party, should be treated as a party.

We might argue that even if members of the DRC were fully divorced from their former family the so-called group would still not qualify as a party unless and until its members made up their minds and joined the Progressive Conservative Party. In that case we would have an entirely different set of circumstances on which I am not prepared to comment at the moment.

However that is not what we have before us. We have before us the illegitimate proceeds of a rolling political orgy that took place over the summer in which people made all kinds of relationships with each other. It does not do parliament any good to have to figure this out on the floor of the House of Commons.

I am glad the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough is immune from libel suits in the House of Commons because he slandered me when he quoted my intervention of 1994 having to do with the recognition of parties.

What I was talking about at that time was parties, political parties like the New Democratic Party that was elected in the election of 1993, nine of us, as New Democrats. We sat in the House as New Democrats. We did not pretend to be someone else. We did not decide to be sort of half this and half that. All we wanted at the time was procedural recognition of ourselves as a party in this House, not a group, not a coalition, not something else, but as the political party that we presented ourselves as to the Canadian people and we wanted that recognized here. That is fundamentally different than what is being requested by the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough this day. It is not fair or accurate to compare my argument at that time with the argument that is being made today.

Earlier on the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, like his leader on television last night, suggested that in some way or another they had already been working as a coalition and had been recognized to some degree as a coalition in this House; in question period and in voting. That is not true.

We had a discussion yesterday and you will recall, Mr. Speaker, that the reason that they are able to pretend they are a group is because we had a precedent in this House wherein a previous parliament the Reform Party granted certain of its questions to members of parliament who were not members of its caucus, particularly the member for York South--Weston, if I remember correctly.

This is the precedent which has permitted the impression, but not the reality, of this group to my left, acting as a group and claiming that some kind of precedent has been set. It is the same thing with respect to the votes yesterday. If I am not mistaken, they voted separately, one group after the other; first, the Progressive Conservative Party and then the independents who call themselves the DRC.

For this claim to be made that somehow what we are debating today is whether or not to extend some sort of recognition that has already been extended, is completely false. Even the fact that they are sitting together is a form of parliamentary geographical coincidence. It is where independents would sit.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I would certainly urge upon you to in no way accept that somehow what we are doing today here is debating whether or not to expand a recognition that already exists. There is no recognition that already exists.

What we are debating is whether or not this particular self-defined group should in fact make history, and make bad history I would suggest, by being recognized as a coalition that has the rights and privileges of a party, because it is certainly not a party. Even if they were to claim successfully the rights and privileges of a party they would still not be a political party.

We would have done something entirely new which I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, holds a great deal of negative potential for the House of Commons. I urge you to think about that.

I also urge you, Mr. Speaker, to think about, and this is something that I know you will be thinking about in any event, whether or not this is actually in the purview of the Speaker to decide. Having to do with the question of whether or not they are a party and all the precedents and all the argumentation cited by the government House leader, I would certainly want to associate myself with them. The standing orders, Beauchesne's, the Board of Internal Economy, wherever you want to look, Mr. Speaker, talk about parties, not coalitions.

The member referred to a variety of names that people have called themselves over the years, political configurations, a union, a government, et cetera. They ran on those names. They did not make them up after they got here. That is different.

Finally, the Bloc members left their respective political parties. Individual members of the Bloc did not maintain memberships in the Liberal and Conservative parties.

The fact is there is no such thing as a political entity in any of the documentation or jurisprudence that we have before us today.

However, back to the point of whether or not this is within your purview to decide, Mr. Speaker, I want to be consistent here because I argued in 1994 that it was within the purview of the Speaker to make certain decisions to protect minority parties from the herd, so to speak. Having been a victim of that herd mentality, I fully appreciate and reaffirm the role of the Speaker to protect minority parties from that kind of situation.

I do not regard this situation as analogous or similar. We have an entirely different situation here. We do not have a minority party here. We have a configuration whose legitimacy as a party is in dispute and which therefore would make it the very political decision that Speaker MacNaughton warned against in 1963. It would be a political decision or have the nature of a political decision in a way that had the Chair decided in favour of my point of order in June 1994, it would not have been, for example, a political decision in that way.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I urge caution on your part, as to whether or not you want to consider that this is a matter for you or a matter for the House to decide.

The House has not decided this because there has not been any meetings. Contrary to the impression left that somehow some attempt was made to resolve this matter among the parties, there was no attempt made. Of course it is very difficult to make that attempt when the very act of meeting itself could in fact set precedents. However, we could have had a discussion in the status quo context about what might be in a new context. That was not even sought.

Therefore, this new group has thrown themselves upon the mercy of the Chair. I ask the Chair to consider whether or not in fact it is the role of the Chair. However, Mr. Speaker, if you consider it to be the role of the Chair, then I ask you to consider all of the arguments that have been made here today, including mine, as to the lack of wisdom that would attend any decision to recognize the so-called PC/DRC in the way that they have asked.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Would it be within the purview of the House to seek consent to extend the hours tonight in view of this group asking for resources for themselves? We have such immediate and important national issues to consider in the House, and I would ask that we at least extend the hours past this sort of thing to cover the issues that are more important to the nation.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

4 p.m.

The Speaker

I think it is an inappropriate question at this particular moment. I hope that we will wrap this up soon. If, once we get on to other business, there is an extension of an hour sought, that is fine. However, given the imprecision of the hon. member's proposition at this point, might I suggest we try to deal with this.

I think we are close to the end of the argument here. I do not expect to hear much more. However, I think the hon. member for Fraser Valley might want to say something in light of the fact that he is part of the group that may have something to contribute to the discussion.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I can hardly wait to get on to the business of the day, the modernization of parliament, which is of course gripping the nation.

Some of the arguments I have heard, particularly from the House leader of the New Democratic Party, seem to be based on when there is no good argument, resort to humour and ribald humour is even better. Perhaps someone will notice and maybe the media will put a member's funny clip on the news, and we will all be better off for it.

The other parties too seem to think this is light-hearted humour and, again, perhaps some ribald humour is even better. However, there are big issues here today.

I remind the House that when people quote from Marleau and Montpetit, Marleau and Montpetit is a collection of the record of precedents in the House. It is not an instruction book on what will happen, especially when there is no precedent.

We recognize that today is a precedent setting day and we are not pretending it is not. To quote Marleau and Montpetit and say they have not dealt with it in the past, is simply not understanding the purpose of that book. The book is a collection of precedents. Today will be another one either way, whatever the ruling is, it will be again another ruling of precedence.

Those who would argue that the Speaker should not make decisions on behalf of the House, every day Mr. Speaker, you are called to make decisions on behalf of the House. It is precisely because the Speaker has a duty to rise above the interests of political entities in the House and address these parliamentary activities that we have come to appeal to you today.

The House leader of the government side said that we have not even been asked to have been recognized as a group as a coalition. You know of course that that is not true, Mr. Speaker. You know that there is a letter in your possession with 20 signatures on it stating precisely that, that we do wish to be recognized as a coalition, as one entity. We have chosen one parliamentary leader, one House leader, a whip and so on. The members of the House should know that this has taken place.

It is interesting too how much time has been spent today in the presentations trying to mix apples and oranges. There was all kinds of talk about the Elections Act and a bit of talk about the Parliament of Canada Act. However, they are mixing the two.

When we talk about resources in the House, we have not talked today about monetary resources. That will be something that will be negotiated, if ever, with the Board of Internal Economy. It is not something that is done here in the House. It is always referred to the House leaders for negotiations.

To follow the logic of the House leader for the Canadian Alliance who said that in the British practice if a member was not elected under a certain standard he or she should not get any resources under a certain name, then when the Reform Party changed its name to the Alliance, the members would not have had any resources. Of course that is absurd. It did not happen that way.

It is also interesting that, whether it is legislation or standing orders, when we refer to all the quotes today about parties, they are all in lower case; a party, an entity. We call ourselves a coalition. Others might call themselves an alliance, which is perfectly fine. I remember asking for that change. I did not want it to be called a party but rather an alliance because the first principle of the Canadian Alliance was to form coalitions. It was in the constitution of the party.

It was also interesting that a recent mail out from the Canadian Alliance to all its members asked if it should consider a merger with the Tories or should it consider forming a coalition in the House of Commons. To argue against it today, when the Canadian Alliance was asking its own members if they wanted to form a coalition, does not seem consistent.

Someone has tried to point out that a coalition is for governments and not for opposition parties. Says who, Mr. Speaker? Coalitions are put together in order to make democracies work better.

When coalitions function well, do not take resources away from others and just allocate the current time in the House, allocate the number of questions and allocate supply days, nobody loses. It is allocated based on the number of people.

I am not asking for funds, but it was interesting when I was negotiating assets such as House of Commons questions, supply days and monetary issues this spring as House leader. Every single time I insisted it be done on a per capita basis and other House leaders agreed. That is the proper way to do it because of course it reflects in the best way the will of the Canadian people who have sent their representatives to the House of Commons.

I will also point out that although much fuss has been made about memberships in political parties, I would like to point out the example of the member for Portage--Lisgar who holds memberships in both the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and the Canadian Alliance. I assume he holds two memberships because he says he does. Not only does he hold two memberships, but on his website and in his public speeches he encourages all of us to buy memberships in two political parties. He has chosen to sit with the Canadian Alliance and I accept that. That is his decision. However he has two memberships in two different political parties and encourages others to do the same. Again, I have no problem with that. He chooses to sit there and that is fine. We choose to sit here and put together a coalition to advance common themes.

We have been expelled from the Canadian Alliance caucus which is obviously a different status than being suspended. The whip sent a letter to many of us saying that he no longer represents us. We are gonzo. We are out of the whole frame of reference there.

There happen to be 8 members involved in this matter, but what if there were 18 or 28 members? At what stage does it become significant to the House? We could argue that maybe one person does not make any difference in the House but once we start getting significant numbers of people, it starts to affect the status. If we push it to the extreme, the Leader of the Opposition could expel everybody from his caucus and sit there with 16 questions a day and hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets, saying “It is all mine”. That is simply untrue.

It is different, and not because it takes away from the New Democratic Party. No one is suggesting that a single question be taken away from the New Democratic Party. It does not affect the Bloc Quebecois, not a single question, not a single supply day, not a single difference in the order of speaking in the House of Commons.

Mr. Speaker, what you have before you today is a group of 20 people who say it is only right. We were elected to the House of Commons to represent our constituents. By the way, I was elected under policies that put my constituents above even the party. The best way to do that is to form a coalition with 20 like-minded people who say it is time to get on with the business of the House and hold the government accountable in the best way possible, in our opinion. To deny that coalition access, not to money because nobody is talking about that today—others are but none of us are—but to deny us access to questions, to membership on committees, to a certain number of debating spots, is to say to several million people who supported these 20 members of parliament that we just do not rank, that we not get the same ranking as any other member of parliament. That is unacceptable.

To just finish off with the language issue, the government House leader said that the standing orders are silent on the word coalition. When the House is saying party in those standing orders, it is talking about a political entity in the House.

I was first elected in 1993 and came to the House in 1994. The first thing we said was that we did not want to have a whip. We wanted to have a caucus co-ordinator. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that you will remember that. This was an attempt to try to describe the role given to that position, which is to co-ordinate the activities of the group.

The standing orders are completely silent on the term caucus co-ordinator. It does not exist in the Parliament of Canada Act as far as the extra salary to a caucus co-ordinator. It does not exist that the caucus co-ordinator meets with other caucus co-ordinators. It talks about whips because it is the tradition of the House to call them whips.

Mr. Speaker, you can call them whatever you want. In 1994 we called them caucus co-ordinators. We then changed it back after a few years to whip but no one cared. The whip got the salary. The whip budget was intact. The whip did the job whether called a caucus co-ordinator or a whip.

When we call ourselves a coalition it is because we are like-minded people intent upon advancing like-minded principles in the House of Commons. We want to do that because we think it is in the best interest of democracy. Because it makes no difference to the other political parties that will not get shortchanged, I ask you to consider it favourably and consider these arguments instead of perhaps some of the humour, which I thought was less than ideal but passed as argument earlier, and grant us the status as a coalition of 20 here in the House of Commons.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

4:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I want to bring this discussion to an end. Is the hon. member for Langley--Abbotsford rising on the same point of order?

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Since 3 p.m. eight independent members of the House have been occupying the nation's time for themselves at the cost of the whole House, while at the same time the nation faces serious issues.

I would ask the Speaker to hasten this debate along, or I ask now for unanimous consent of the House to extend the House for the same amount of time as they are spending.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

4:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I certainly intend to move the matter along. Is there unanimous consent to extend the sitting hour?

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

4:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has heard information on this point. I am sure there are other hon. members who feel they can make helpful contributions to the discussion. I am sure we could go on at some length, but we have heard from each of the parties and from the group of independent members who are sitting in the House as to what position the Chair ought to take in making a ruling on this point.

The Chair has heard sufficient argument from all hon. members in order to render a decision.

I am very grateful for the contributions of all the members who took part in the debate this afternoon. I also note that this has taken quite some time.

However I also feel that this matter is of some importance. Obviously it is a matter that has aroused some considerable interest in the House, and needless to say in the media as well, in the last few weeks and indeed over the last while.

Given that I intend to take the matter under advisement, I will come back to the House as quickly as I can with a ruling on this point.

I also want to say that I appreciate the co-operation that has been shown in making the necessary arrangements to deal with the issue without having heard the argument earlier this week. We could not get to it until today in a reasonable way. I appreciate the fact that it has taken some forbearance on the part of all members to deal with the situation that the House was confronted with on Monday morning at 11 o'clock.

I want to thank hon. members for their co-operation in that regard. I assume that the arrangements currently in place will remain in place until I am able to come back to the House with a decision, which as I indicated I hope will happen very quickly. I thank all hon. members for their interventions.

Citizenship Act
Routine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-391, an act to amend the Citizenship Act (Oath or Affirmation of Citizenship).

Mr. Speaker, this bill has as its purpose to change the current oath of citizenship which simply says that we swear allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, the Queen of Canada, and swear to faithfully fulfil our duties as Canadian citizens.

I have many times tried to change the oath of citizenship because I feel very passionately that it should reflect the values that we hold dear as Canadians. The oath that I am proposing in the bill reflects the charter of rights and liberties.

With your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, I would like to just read the text of the oath that I propose. I will read the affirmation rather than the oath itself. What I am proposing is an affirmation of citizenship that says the following:

In pledging allegiance to Canada, I take my place among Canadians, a people united by their solemn trust to uphold these five principles: equality of opportunity, freedom of speech, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that this is a very timely occasion on which to introduce a new oath of citizenship.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-392, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sex offences and violent offences).

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my coalition colleague from Prince George--Peace River for seconding the bill.

This private member's bill would bring about an amendment to the criminal code that would preclude persons who have committed and been convicted of committing sexual offences or offences involving violence from receiving the benefit, I would suggest, of an application of conditional sentences under the criminal code. This would preclude judges from applying sentences that they mete out for offences that fall in that category.

I believe that this would be an important amendment, more reflective of the deterrence that is required under the criminal code. Again, I hope all members would support this private member's bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)