House of Commons Hansard #98 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vote.

Topics

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

May 13th, 2005 / 12:15 p.m.

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 56.1, I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice, the second reading stages of Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, and Bill C-48, an act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, shall be disposed of as follows;

  1. Any division thereon requested before the expiry of the time for consideration of government orders on Thursday, May 19, 2005 shall be deferred to that time;

  2. At the expiry of the time for consideration of government orders on Thursday, May 19, 2005, all questions necessary for the disposal of the second reading stage of (1) Bill C-43 and (2) Bill C-48 shall be put and decided forthwith and successively, without further debate, amendment or deferral.

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, before you rule on the admissibility of the motion by the minister, I seek your ruling on two points.

First, there is a constitutional question regarding the Standing Order that I believe has never been raised in the House. Second, I seek the Speaker's ruling regarding the admissibility of the motion being moved under Standing Order 56.1.

Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, section 49 of the Constitution provides for how decisions are to be made. It states:

Questions arising in the House of Commons shall be decided by a Majority of Voices other than that of the Speaker, and when the Voices are equal, but not otherwise, the Speaker shall have a Vote.

Standing Order 56.1 allows a motion to be adopted with fewer than 25 members objecting. That does not constitute a majority of voices. Standing Order 56.1 is unconstitutional.

If we were to continue to allow motions to be moved under Standing Order 56.1, the House would be perpetuating a serious problem by allowing the House to go beyond the powers conferred upon it by the Constitution. There are similar precedents regarding committees that you should consider, Mr. Speaker.

On June 20, 1994, and on November 7, 1996, the Speaker ruled:

While it is a tradition of this House that committees are masters of their own proceedings, they cannot establish procedures which go beyond the powers conferred upon them by the House.

If we are to be consistent, I would point out that while the House is a master of its own proceedings, it cannot establish procedures which go beyond the powers conferred upon it by our Constitution.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1985 that the requirement of section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and of section 23 of the Manitoba Act, 1870, respecting the use of both the English and French languages in the records and journals of the House of Parliament of Canada, are mandatory and must be obeyed. Accordingly the House can no longer depart from its own code of procedure when considering procedure entrenched in the Constitution.

On page 295 of the second edition of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , in reference to the 1985 case, he lists those constitutional requirements regarding parliamentary procedure that must be obeyed and includes in that list section 49, which deals with voting in the House of Commons.

While it is said that the Speaker does not normally rule on constitutional matters, the constitutional matter of voting is an obvious practice of the House, as are the financial privileges of the House, on which the Speaker does rule. The Speaker rules on those matters because they are part of our practice, as well as part of the Constitution.

My second point is in regard to Standing Order 56.1 having its limits. Marleau and Montpetit give examples of some motions that have been moved under 56.1. They are found on page 571. It suggests that while the rule appears at first glance to have limits, its usage tells a different story. I think what the authors are trying to say in a very delicate and diplomatic way is that the use of Standing Order 56.1 has gone way beyond for what it was intended to be used.

You confirmed this in your own ruling, Mr. Speaker, of June 12, 2001. You addressed the matter of the expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 and suggested that it should be restricted to the arrangement of the business of the House. You stated in your ruling that the Standing Order should never be used as a substitute for a decision which the House ought to itself make on substantive matters.

This is a very serious matter, indeed, Mr. Speaker, and I seek your ruling on the two points I have raised: the constitutional matter and the matter of the motion being eligible to be moved under Standing Order 56.1.

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, under our Constitution, the respective rights, privileges and responsibilities of the judiciary, the executive and the legislative are quite well defined. The legislative has the ability to define its own rules of proceedings. It has done so since the start of Confederation and will continue to do so because ours is a fairly well tested method of government. In that sense, the rules that the House of Commons sets for itself in its proceedings are of its own jurisdiction. Therefore, there is nothing here that is ultra vires.

On the matter of the eligibility as to the purpose of the motion that was put this morning, it is a matter of the setting of government business. This would essentially, when adopted, schedule that the motion to dispose of Bill C-43, the budget implementation bill, and Bill C-48, a bill which gives effect to the agreement that the government has entered into with the New Democratic Party, would be disposed of on Thursday, May 19, which is perfectly admissible. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, one would expect and hope that you will rule that the motion made by the House leader is in order.

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Speaker

I have considered the point of order raised by the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River in relation to the motion under Standing Order 56.1 put forward by the government House leader.

I refer hon. members to Standing Order 56.1 which reads as follows:

In relation to any routine motion for the presentation of which unanimous consent is required and has been denied, a Minister of the Crown may request during Routine Proceedings that the Speaker propose the said question to the House.

For the purposes of this Standing Order, “routine motion” shall be understood to mean any motion, made upon Routine Proceedings, which may be required for the observance of the proprieties of the House, the maintenance of its authority, the management of its business, the arrangement of its proceedings, the establishing of the powers of its committees, the correctness of its records or the fixing of its sitting days or the times of its meeting or adjournment.

Given those quite general words, I note the motion put forward by the government House leader provides for an end to debate on two bills to be next Thursday.

As the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River points out, I had previously given a ruling that expressed some concern about the use of this Standing Order as a means to avoid using time allocation or closure or some other limit on time for debate, and I invited committee response. None has been forthcoming since the ruling which he referred to in 2001.

Therefore, in the circumstances, having expressed reservations and having got no feedback from the committee to the House on this point, which then the House might have dealt with it if the House shared my concern, I do not feel it is for me to rule out of order a motion that appears to be in compliance with the Standing Order, as had happened before and I made no ruling saying that it was out of order. I expressed concerns, but allowed the motion to proceed at that time. I believe having had nothing back, I can only allow this one to proceed at this time, particularly so when the time allocated here is much more generous than would be the case under closure or under time allocation because of the minimum times that are permitted. Accordingly the motion appears to be in order.

I have to deal of course with this other argument about section 49 of the Constitution. I note that this Standing Order has been in force for some time. It has been used in the House for a number of years. I point out that the Constitution, while I am not here to interpret that, says that questions arising in the House of Commons should be decided by a majority of voices other than that of the Speaker, et cetera.

I believe those are questions of substance. It is quite clear that the use of Standing Order 56.1, while allowing the House then to determine things in relation to its affairs that are not substantive matters, that is passing laws, may be done by using this technique. The passage of bills in the House, the passage of motions in relation to bills are clearly questions that require a majority of the House. There is nothing in the provision here or in our Standing Orders that would allow a bill to go through the House that had not received the support of a majority of voices in the House, as defined in section 49 of the Constitution Act.

While there may be arguments to be made in other places, I believe the House is master of its own proceedings. It has chosen to adopt this Standing Order as a basis for proceeding in respect of House business and has specified in the words of the Standing Order the things that can be done under it. I find the motion fits under it. While the wording of the Constitution would appear to fly in the face of this, in my view it would apply to questions of substance that are decided by the House, not matters of internal procedure, which the House can decide on its own initiative and which it clearly did when it set up this Standing Order by virtue of its adoption in the House with a majority of the members voting for it, because that is how the Standing Order got into place.

If a majority chose to delegate powers for certain purposes to a group of 25 or more members, I believe it was within the power of the House to make that kind of delegation. Accordingly I intend to put the motion to the House.

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for your indulgence because we have not received the motion in writing and I have not had the opportunity to review it. However, from what I just heard you say, is it your interpretation of this motion that there would be, if it were to pass, debate on the two bills, Bill C-43 and Bill C-48, every day beginning with the next sitting of the House, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and thus there would not be in effect time allocation or closure brought?

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

The Speaker

No, that is not my interpretation. I will read the motion to the House and the hon. member will be able to derive his view of it, too. It was moved by the member for Hamilton East--Stoney Creek, seconded by the member for Ottawa--Vanier, pursuant to Standing Order 56.1(1)(a):

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice, the second reading stages of Bill C-43, An Act to implement certain provisions of the Budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, and Bill C-48, An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments , shall be disposed of as follows:

  1. Any division thereon requested before the expiry of the time for consideration of Government Orders on Thursday, May 19, 2005 shall be deferred to that time;

  2. At the expiry of the time for consideration of Government Orders on Thursday, May 19, 2005, all questions necessary for the disposal of the second reading stage of (1) Bill C-43 and (2) Bill C-48 shall be put and decided forthwith and successively, without further debate, amendment or deferral.

Will those members who object to the motion please rise in their places.

And more than 25 members having risen:

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Twenty-five or more members having risen, the motion is deemed to have been withdrawn.

(Motion withdrawn)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Harper Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am tabling two petitions on behalf of my constituents and all Canadians.

The first petition is from Canadians Addressing Sexual Exploitation, or CASE as they are commonly referred to. Their petition totals 300 signatures of Canadians who call upon Parliament to protect children from adult sexual predators by raising the age of consent from 14 to 18 years of age.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Harper Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition deals with protecting our children from child pornography. One hundred and seventy-eight concerned Canadians signed this petition to encourage Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials which promote or glorify child pornography are outlawed.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to introduce two petitions to the House, one from my own village of Harris, Saskatchewan. The petitioners ask that the government quit closing rural post offices and that it look at rural Canada as essential to our country's viability.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from a group of people in Vanscoy, Saskatchewan asking that the Government of Canada create new drug laws that penalize people who are involved in the drug trade.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions.

The first asks Parliament to correct a mistake from 1982 and amend the Constitution Act, 1867 to include the right to own and use, and earn a living from, private property.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition asks Parliament to immediately suspend any future rent increases for accommodation provided by the Canadian Forces Housing Agency until such time that the Government of Canada makes substantive improvements to the living conditions of housing provided for the military.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the third petition asks that Parliament maintain the current definition of marriage, that being between one man and one woman.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a large number of petitions I will quickly introduce. They come from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

They ask the House to introduce and support a motion that in the opinion of this House the government introduce a bill entitled “A Woman's Right to Know” that would guarantee that all women considering an abortion would be given complete information by their physician about the risks of the procedure before being referred for an abortion, and provide penalties for physicians who perform an abortion without the informed consent of the mother, or perform an abortion that is not medically necessary for the purpose of maintaining health, preventing disease or diagnosis.