House of Commons Hansard #197 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-15b.

Topics

Privilege
Private Members' Business

12:25 p.m.

The Speaker

We all heard what he said. It is not for the Chair to interpret what hon. members say, but it is for the Chair to make a ruling on the question of privilege that the hon. member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast in his usual succinct and direct way has put to the House.

I thank the hon. member, the hon. minister of state and government House leader, and other members besides the hon. member for Winnipeg--Transcona who from their seats have contributed to the discussion.

I can perhaps best deal with this matter by referring to the decision I made on March 1, 2001 on a similar point, a decision to which the hon. member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast referred when he made his argument. He said it was the 69th time the government had used time allocation and he felt that he should raise the issue then. He did and I made a ruling. I want to quote again from the ruling if I may. I stated:

--under our current standing orders, it would be highly inappropriate for the Chair to take unilateral action on issues already provided for in the standing orders. Where the standing orders gives the Speaker some discretion, then it is the Speaker's responsibility to be guided accordingly; where no such guidance is provided, no such action can be taken. It is certainly not up to the Chair to establish a timetable for the business of the House.

I quoted it then and will quote again today from the ruling of Mr. Speaker Lamoureux on July 24, 1969 where he said:

The Speaker is the servant of the House. Honourable Members may want me to be the master of the House today but tomorrow, when, perhaps in other circumstances I might claim this privilege, they might have a different opinion—I am not prepared at this time to take this responsibility on my shoulders. I think it is my duty to rule on such matters in accordance with the rules, regulations and standing orders which honourable Members themselves have turned over to the Speaker to administer.

In the standing orders before us there is no discretion given to the Speaker to determine when the government may use time allocation or indeed closure in the House. There have been days before I became Speaker when I used to urge that the Speaker be given this kind of discretion, but we have had the revisions to the standing orders since I became Speaker and no such provision was included in those revisions. I am sure this is a matter perhaps much lamented by members on every side, but given the circumstances I feel there is little I can do today. I cite also Marleau & Montpetit page 570 which states:

As with closure, the Speaker has ruled that the Chair possesses no discretionary authority to refuse to put a motion of time allocation if all the procedural exigencies have been observed.

We have not yet gotten to a motion to be put to the House today. It might happen in a few minutes but I can only say that at the moment I have not seen any exigencies unobserved that would lead me to believe that in this case the motion is not one that could be put to the House were it to happen some time later this day in accordance with the notice we have received.

With respect to this bill, given the fact that we have had something like 40 speakers at third reading it would be difficult to persuade the Chair that the motion for time allocation was being used prematurely, whereas I might be hearing that argument had there only been one speaker or something like that.

I think hon. members can appreciate the difficulty in which the Chair finds itself and can sympathize with the Chair when I say that in my view there is no question of privilege before the House at this time.

Points of Order
Private Members' Business

June 3rd, 2002 / 12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order on a totally different topic. As vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage I bring to House's attention an issue that has risen in committee with respect to Bill S-7.

Bill S-7 passed this House and has been taken by up the committee. We are going through a process where amendments have been proposed. The committee chair has advised that the amendments are out of order but the committee continues to consider them. I draw to the attention of the Speaker a quote from page 661-662 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice which states:

Since a committee may appeal the decision of its Chair and reverse that decision, it may happen that a committee will report a bill with amendments that were initially ruled by the Chairman to be out of order. The admissibility of those amendments, and of any other amendments made by a committee, may therefore be challenged on procedural grounds when the House resumes its consideration of the bill at report stage. The admissibility of the amendments is then considered by the Speaker of the House, whether in response to a point of order or on his or her own initiative.

Considering that this process has taken place and that amendments ruled by the committee chair to be beyond the scope of the bill are being considered, I would ask that the amendments not be allowed to go forward.

Points of Order
Private Members' Business

12:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I think the hon. member for Kootenay--Columbia, who is very knowledgeable in this matter, is aware that the Chair would not be ruling on matters that are proceeding in committee until such time as the committee has reported to the House.

Indeed, the citation he cited from Marleau and Montpetit is very clear, that the admissibility of amendments may therefore be challenged on procedural grounds when the House resumes its consideration of the bill at report stage. The bill is not yet at stage. If and when the bill is reported to the House and when get to report stage, I know the hon. member will be on his feet making this argument forcefully and vigorously if there is some procedural question about the admissibility of any amendments that the committee adopts and sends back to the House to be considered at report stage.

However until that time the point of order is premature.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That in relation to Bill C-15B, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the third reading stage of the said bill and, fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government business on the day allotted to that stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the third reading stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order regarding Bill C-15B. I needed to make this point of order before the minister moved the motion because I will be arguing that not only should he not be allowed to close off debate but also that Bill C-15B should not even be allowed to remain on the order paper because the bill lacks the procedural necessity to qualify it to exist let alone proceed to the next stage.

Mr. Speaker, you might remember that in the government House leader's argument he even admitted that Bill C-15B was a distinct bill from Bill C-15. Bill C-15B has not been read a first time nor has it been read a second time and therefore is not legitimately before the House.

On September 26, 2001, a motion was moved regarding Bill C-15. It read:

That Bill C-15, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to amend other acts, be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights;

That it be an instruction to the committee that it divide the bill into two bills, the first containing the provisions of the bill respecting protection of children from sexual exploitation, criminal harassment, disarming or attempting to disarm a peace officer, home invasions, allegations of miscarriage of justice and reform and modernization of criminal procedure; and the second containing the provisions respecting cruelty to animals and amendments to the Firearms Act;

The motion instructed the committee to bring in two new bills. While the old bill, Bill C-15, was deemed to have been read a second time, Bill C-15B had not.

If the House had deemed the bill to have been read a second time then there would be no problem but since that was overlooked I would conclude that Bill C-15B should be withdrawn.

As a result the strictest standards must apply to its application. It would be wrong to carry the second reading achievement from Bill C-15, the mother bill, to Bill C-15B, its legislative offspring.

The argument that this bill received second reading would be a stretch. Members' speeches during the second reading debate on Bill C-15B would have been significantly and dramatically different than the debate on Bill C-15.

The official opposition supported Bill C-15A, the other half of Bill C-15, and opposes Bill C-15B. Bill C-15A passed through the House without the time allocation and Bill C-15B, according to the government, appears to require time allocation.

According to the government and since Bill C-15A is no longer before the House I am not sure of its fate. If it were in jeopardy I would give the consent of the official opposition to deem Bill C-15A to have received first and second reading. Getting back to Bill C-15B, which is still before the House, I would argue that if there is doubt as to the procedural correctness of advancing Bill C-15B through the system then, Mr. Speaker, you must rule on the side of caution.

A hasty call would not be in the interest of good governance in the House. The history of Bill C-15B warrants caution.

As I argued during the question of privilege on that matter, I pointed out that the member's right to vote and to be heard properly are well established rights that indisputably make up the powers enjoyed by members of parliament. In a constitutional democracy the right of members to vote is fundamental and goes to the very heart of our parliamentary system.

The 1993 Supreme Court of Canada decision in New Brunswick Broadcasting Company v Nova Scotia confirmed the constitutional nature of parliamentary privilege on this very basis.

Most of the powers and privileges of members of the House are the result of centuries of practice and convention. The courts have clearly recognized that conventions are part of our Constitution. Our legislative procedures, including voting, are part of our historical heritage, our parliamentary traditions and indeed of the privileges collectively of the House and individually of its members.

The legislative process requires that bill be read three times. On page 607 of Marleau and Montpetit it states:

Some of the rules concerning the legislative process that were in effect at Confederation are still in effect today. Some examples are: the Standing Orders prohibiting the introduction of bills in blank or in an imperfect form, and stipulating that all bills be read three times on different days....

Page 625 describes how the standing orders of the House require that every bill receive three readings, on different days, before passed. The practice of giving every bill three separate readings derives from an ancient parliamentary practice, which originated in the United Kingdom. At that time when the technology was not yet available to reproduce large numbers of copies at low cost, bills were introduced in handwritten form, one copy at a time. In order for members to know the contents of the bill, the Clerk read the document to them. The idea of reading the bill was taken literally.

Marleau and Montpetit goes on to explain that today a bill is no longer read aloud but the formality of holding a reading is still preserved. When the Speaker declares that the motion for first reading has passed, a clerk at the table rises and announces “first reading of this bill”, thus signifying that the order of the House has been obeyed. The scenario is repeated when the House has ordered a second and then third reading of the bill.

Marleau and Montpetit describe that bills must go through the same stages of the legislative process but do not necessarily follow the same route. It describes on page 626 three avenues for the adoption of legislation. The path of Bill C-15B does not match any of the three avenues described on page 626 and fails to meet the requirements to be legitimately before the House. The three avenues are:

After appropriate notice, a Minister or a private Member may introduce a bill, which will be given first reading immediately. The bill is then debated generally at second reading stage. It is then sent to a committee for clause-by-clause study.

A Minister or a private Member may propose a motion that a committee be instructed to prepare a bill. A bill will be presented by the committee and carried through the second reading stage without debate or amendment.

A Minister may move that a bill be referred to a committee for study before second reading.

Regardless of the avenue that the House decides to take, the bill will then have to be carried through report stage, to be read a third time and be sent to the Senate....

Page 627 of Marleau and Montpetit outlines in detail the stages a bill must go through when it is introduced in the House of Commons:

Notice of motion for leave to introduce and place on the Order Paper;

Preparation of a bill by a committee (where applicable);

Introduction and first reading;

Reference to a committee before second reading (where applicable);

Second reading and reference to a committee;

Consideration in committee;

Report stage;

Third reading (and passage);

Consideration and passage by the Senate--

And on it goes. I point out that Bill C-15B missed a few things, like notice for leave to introduce, introduction and first reading and second reading.

I reviewed the other examples of bills being divided and what I discovered was that normally the bills are divided and presented to the House at first reading and all the constitutional and procedural hoops and loops necessary to advance the bills through the House were met. For example, at page 618 of Marleau and Montpetit there is a reference to Bill C-93 that, at the insistence of the opposition in 1982, the government withdrew the bill and introduced two separate pieces of legislation. The two new bills did not appear on the order paper at report stage, as did Bill C-15A and Bill C-15B.

In the case of Bill C-94, the energy bill that led to the famous bell ringing incident, the bill was divided into eight separate pieces of legislation. Once again there was no Bill C-94A, Bill C-94B, Bill C-94C, Bill C-94D, Bill C-94E, Bill C-94F or Bill C-94G. Bill C-94 emerged from a committee without having gone through first and second reading.

There is a major flaw here with Bill C-15B that has been overlooked.

On page 619 of Marleau and Montpetit it suggests that historically disputes over omnibus bills are brought about by political interaction. While the division of Bill C-15 was brought about by political interaction, the path the government took was different and flawed.

If you like, Mr. Speaker, we can look at other jurisdictions. In the U.K. the process is the same. Page 464 of Erskine May's twenty-second edition states that public bills have five stages: introduction and first reading; second reading; committee; report stage and third reading. The U.K. also has the restriction that successive stages of a bill must be taken up on different days.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to the legislative process. The integrity of the House is at stake here. If there is any doubt I would urge you to rule on the side of caution and withdraw Bill C-15B from the order paper. If the government has to start all over again and proceed legitimately, then so be it.

It is our responsibility to ensure that procedural requirements are observed before a bill leaves this place to become law since the courts have the legal power to inquire into the procedural history of a bill before it has been assented to.

On page 186 of Joseph Maingot's second edition of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , it states:

--the courts might be effective in ensuring the observance of procedural requirements imposed by the constitution with respect to the enactment of legislation.

It would be irresponsible to knowingly cast doubt upon the legitimacy of our proceedings. Bill C-15B must be withdrawn and put back on the order paper.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, some of these arguments were a bit convoluted, if I can say so respectfully.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

A little above your head, Don.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Perhaps that too.

First, the hon. member said in the previous argument that he put before the House that the bill had been dealt with too expeditiously and that we were not justified in moving time allocation. Yet one of his first points on this one was that the bill had been so long before the House that its status was now being questioned. That is the reverse of the same argument.

I want to draw this to the attention of the House. It has been so long that perhaps some of us have forgotten. To tell everyone the truth, I hardly remembered it myself.

I draw this to the attention of the Speaker. I am reading from the Journals of the House of September 26, 2001, which states:

By unanimous consent, it was ordered that Bill C-15, an act to amend the Criminal Code and an act to amend other acts, be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

If it was ordered by the House unanimously, presumably all of us were here.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

Yes, but not the first reading.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

We will get that in a minute.

This is the important part. There was an instruction to the committee that it divide the bill into two bills. The first contained the provisions of the bill respecting: the protection of children from sexual exploitation; criminal harassment; disarming or attempting to disarm a peace officer; home invasions; allegations of miscarriage of justice; and, reform and modernization of criminal procedures.

The second contained the provisions respecting cruelty to animals and amendments to the Firearms Act. In other words, what the House unanimously agreed to was to send the bill to committee and from that point on divide them into two distinct bills.

If some people are arguing that all of this is incorrect procedurally, then it would have been equally incorrect for Bill C-15A. What is the difference? Bill C-15A has now been accepted by the House for third reading and sent to the other place. Therefore the House decided that procedure was correct, otherwise it would not have put up with it.

In addition it states that the committee report the first bill no later than Wednesday, October 31 and report the second bill no later than Friday, November 30, 2001. Obviously then if the House unanimously agreed to report both of them, the House must have assumed that both of them existed, otherwise it could hardly have done so.

We have accepted as a principle that the first one was reported. Therefore, it follows logically that the same would apply to the second. Any other conclusion I suggest would be totally illogical and inconsistent with that which we did on the first part of that bill.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

The Speaker

Once again, I have considered the points raised by the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast and by the government House leader.

The government House leader referred to the Journals of September 26, 2001, on which date the House passed a motion referring this bill to a committee of the House after it was deemed to have been read a second time.

It is difficult for the Speaker to intervene on this matter at this time, when the House decided to divide this bill in committee. The committee received an instruction to divide it and report two bills to the House which had already received second reading. They came back to the House for consideration at report stage, after consideration in committee.

The bills came back to the House as required by order by a specified date, were considered at report stage by the House, in both cases, and this one now before the House has been considered at third reading on a number of days: May 10, April 29, April 22, April 11, and April 10, and this question has not come before the House before.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

It just occurred to us.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member said that it just occurred to us. I am delighted for that reason which the hon. member raised, because we would hate to miss something that might invalidate anything that this House does.

However in the circumstances, given the House's explicit instructions to the committee to divide the bill and report it in two parts, like dividing things like the Red Sea, we do have to follow the instructions that the House gave. In my view the procedure adopted by the committee was the exact instruction the House gave, which was to divide the bill into two parts and report it accordingly.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

We made a mistake.

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member said we made a mistake. We may have, but we did it unanimously. In the circumstances, it is tough to argue that it is a mistake given that the House agreed unanimously to divide this bill and is now dealing with the fallout from that, and that is the second part of the two parts of the bill. I realize that one part may have been more popular than the other but the fact is we do have two parts.

We are now dealing with the second part of the bill, and therefore I believe that the point of order is not well taken. We will have to proceed with the 30 minutes of questions and comments that follow a motion such as that proposed by the hon. government House leader. I intend to put that motion now to the House.

Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1 there will now be a 30 minute question period.