House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.

Topics

Business of Supply
Points of Order

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I call upon your power of selection under Standing Order 81(14)(b), which states:

When notice has been given of two or more motions by Members in opposition to the government for consideration on an allotted day, the Speaker shall have power to select which of the proposed motions shall have precedence in that sitting.

In Marleau and Montpetit, at page 725, the criteria used in the past to guide the Chair in making a decision are outlined. I will quote this paragraph from page 725:

—in making their decision, Speakers will take into consideration the following: representation of the parties in the House; the distribution of sponsorship to date; fair play towards small parties; the date of notice; the sponsor of the motion; the subject matter; whether or not the motion is votable; and what has happened, by agreement among the parties, in the immediate past Supply periods.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, that on the basis of all these criteria, you will conclude that today's opposition day should be allotted to the Bloc Québécois. Let me explain in greater detail why we feel this should be the case.

In my opinion, several of the aforementioned criteria are inextricably linked in the present situation.

Let us go over the following criteria together: the representation of the parties in the House, the distribution of sponsorship to date and what has happened, by agreement among the parties, in the immediate past Supply periods.

As far as the representation of the parties in the House is concerned, I should point out that Bloc Québécois members currently account for 28% of opposition members, while NDP members account for 17.14%.

Standing Order 81(10) clearly states that any calculations with respect to opposition days have to be based on the calendar year.

In addition, whenever the opposition parties negotiated among themselves in recent years, the number of opposition days allotted to the various parties was always determined on a yearly basis and strictly respected the representation of the parties in the House.

It is important to take that criteria into account. In a ruling dated May 31, 1984, the Speaker said:

The Chair's selection must be based on the representations of the Parties in the House and also on what happened, by agreement of the Parties concerned, in the immediate past Supply periods.

Because the House was prorogued, there will be 20 opposition days in 2007 instead of the 22 initially planned. If we divide up these days according to the opposition parties' representation, we get 11 for the Liberals, six for the Bloc Québécois and three for the NDP.

To date, the Liberals have had 10 opposition days, the Bloc has had five and the NDP has had three. Consequently, in our opinion, the final two opposition days should be assigned to the Bloc Québécois and the Liberals.

If the next opposition day were given to the NDP, then it would be entitled to 20% of the opposition days in 2007, when it accounts for only 17.14% of the opposition members, and the Bloc Québécois would be entitled to 25% of the opposition days when it accounts for 28% of the opposition members. There would be a difference of 5% between the parties in the number of opposition days, when the difference in representation is 11%.

I would like to make one final comment about mathematical conventions. As a result of the negotiations that took place at the start of the 39th Parliament, the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal Party agreed to give the NDP a fourth day, even though they were entitled to 3.51 opposition days at that time, because they accounted for 15.93% of opposition members in this House. The NDP got a fourth opposition day even though their representation was only one hundredth of 1% over the threshold to obtain that fourth day.

In this case, the Bloc Québécois is one tenth of 1% over the mathematical threshold, not one hundredth of 1%. In other words, our percentage is ten times what the NDP had during the last negotiations. Under the circumstances, we are of the view that the Bloc Québécois should benefit in the same way as the NDP did less than two years ago.

This brings us to another criterion for assigning opposition days, a criterion on which the NDP is basing its argument. Marleau and Montpetit say that the Speaker must demonstrate “fair play towards small parties”.

Allow me to make an observation. I find it somewhat ironic that a party that publicly boasts about being the real opposition party is seeking some sort of protection from the Speaker because it is a small party.

That being said, Marleau and Montpetit talks about fairness toward small parties. In its arguments, the NDP is claiming that both the Bloc Québécois and the NDP have benefited from this protection given to smaller parties.

If that is the case, then the NDP is asking the Speaker to be unfair to one party, large or small, for the sake of being fair to a small party. This seems like a slippery slope and we feel the Speaker should never take that approach.

Let us look at the last set of criteria. Again, they are: the date of notice, the sponsor of the motion, the subject matter and whether or not the motion is votable. Some of these criteria will not resolve the current situation. Both motions are votable; each was introduced by a member. Notice was given on the same day, although the Bloc Québécois motion was presented earlier in the day. That leaves just one major factor: the subject matter. And I will close on that.

I want to emphasize this point, which in my opinion is of the utmost importance. The NDP motion is not time sensitive, but the Bloc Québécois motion addresses an urgent matter. Foreign competition has put the manufacturing industry in a very unstable position for some time now. We know that. The potential repercussions of the recent rise in the Canadian dollar and rising energy costs are cause for great concern to thousands of workers and companies. These workers and the companies they work for expect their elected members to be concerned about their situation and to take swift action.

The NDP motion may be of some interest to some people, but the Bloc Québécois thinks that workers affected by the crisis in the manufacturing and forestry sectors are far more worried about their livelihood than about the future of the Senate.

It is for all these reasons that the Bloc Québécois believes that the House should debate the motion by the hon. member for Trois-Rivières on this opposition day.

Business of Supply
Points of Order

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak briefly on this point of order.

First of all, it is regrettable that we are put in this position where we are appealing to you to make a decision on where this supply day will go today. Unfortunately, the two parties could not come to an agreement, so we are now coming before the Speaker for a fair decision on this question and we appreciate that you are giving this consideration.

You will know that the NDP submitted a lengthy letter to you dated November 1 where we put forward our arguments, and I certainly appreciate the arguments put forward by my colleague, the House leader from the Bloc. I appreciate its position and understand that it wishes to have a supply day today, but we believe that there are some very serious arguments that would see the Speaker rule in favour of the NDP having its opposition day today.

The Bloc has based its argument mostly on the mathematics of representation in the House. Our contention is, first of all, that all parties should share in the loss of supply days that was caused by the session being shortened by prorogation, as long as there is not an unreasonable result. We believe that the contention by the Bloc that only the Liberals and the NDP should lose an opposition day is not fair, nor is it correct.

Its argument rests mostly on the math involved in terms of representation, and it is claiming that the fourth allotted supply day in the cycle rests on the fact that it is 0.1 over the threshold for a supply day, while saying on the reverse that the NDP should not be allotted a supply day because we are 0.08 below the threshold. You can see, Mr. Speaker, that mathematically, there is virtually no difference on that basis.

I do want to put forward that we do not believe that the issue of math or representation is the only issue that you should be deciding this upon. There is certainly a question here of fairness to small parties and in fact, as the Bloc itself has pointed out to you and we have in our letter, under M and M, page 725, it deals with the criteria that guides the Speaker in choosing a motion under Standing Order 81.1(4)(b). There is no question that it includes fair play toward smaller parties.

On that point, I would like to argue that we should examine what fair play to smaller parties has meant in terms of the practice of the business of this House. I would argue that, for example, in speaking rotations, it is very clear that fairness is provided to all parties. For example, on the opening rounds, it treats each party as equal and is a very good example where consideration is given to ensure that every party has an equal standing.

Second, we can look at the way question period works. Again, even though there is a rough proportion of questions being allocated to parties based on their numbers in the House, it is also based on the fact that there is a rotation that ensures that each party gets fair play and coverage, particularly in the opening round.

I would also submit, Mr. Speaker, that your own decision about how you ensure that there is at least a single question per week that is allotted to an independent member of the House is based upon the same principle of ensuring that there is a sense of fair play in the House and ensuring that independent members can be heard.

Again we can look at the way the allocation of financial resources is made to each party. It is based on the standing that each has in the House, but one of the criteria is also the recognition that smaller parties need a certain base level of funding to be able to function, regardless of the numbers that the party may have in the House, so even the allocation of financial resources is based on this very important principle and criteria of fairness to smaller parties.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to rule on this matter and consider not only the mathematical question, but also the important question of fairness to smaller parties.

I believe the request we have to ensure that there is a minimum of one allotted day per cycle, per party, is not unreasonable. In fact, it is very reasonable, and it is based on a proposal that each party in the House should have an expectation that its members can debate on at least one occasion per cycle an opposition day.

Mr. Speaker, if you rule in favour of the Bloc today the NDP will lose that opportunity on what is basically a very narrow mathematical argument that we think does not do justice to fair play in the House. We ask you to consider these arguments and to rule in favour of the NDP for the motion placed before the House today.

Business of Supply
Points of Order

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. The Chair obviously was aware this argument might take place, because correspondence had been sent outlining the arguments of the two parties that have made submissions and of others. I have had an opportunity to read that correspondence. I would like to thank the members who intervened in the matter and thank those who sent the letters. I am quite prepared to make a ruling now on the apportionment of the remaining allotted days for the supply period ending on December 10, 2007.

The number of supply days and how they are distributed throughout the year are set out in Standing Order 81(10)(a), which states:

In any calendar year, seven sitting days shall be allotted to the Business of Supply for the period ending not later than December 10; seven additional days shall be allotted to the Business of Supply in the period ending not later than March 26; and eight additional days shall be allotted to the Business of Supply in the period ending not later than June 23; provided that the number of sitting days so allotted may be altered pursuant to paragraph (b) or (c) of this section. These twenty-two days are to be designated as allotted days. In any calendar year, no more than one fifth of all the allotted days shall fall on a Wednesday and no more than one fifth thereof shall fall on a Friday.

As is the practice at the beginning of each Parliament, an agreement was reached among the opposition parties concerning the apportionment of the 22 allotted days for the calendar year. However, in 2007, prorogation intervened, so some three weeks of sittings otherwise projected by the House of Commons calendar were not held. As a result, given that the House did not begin sitting until October 16, pursuant to Standing Order 81(10)(b) the number of supply days for the supply period ending December 10 was reduced from seven to five.

As the House has heard this morning, this reduction in the number of allotted days has resulted in the parties in opposition to the government being unable to reach an agreement concerning how those days should be apportioned in this supply period. Specifically, there is disagreement about whose motion should be debated today.

The Speaker’s role in the apportionment of supply days is addressed directly in Standing Order 81(14)(b), which states:

When notice has been given of two or more motions by Members in opposition to the government for consideration on an allotted day, the Speaker shall have power to select which of the proposed motions shall have precedence in that sitting.

Furthermore, as has been mentioned in the arguments made today, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, p. 725, states:

Generally, in making their decision, Speakers will take into consideration the following: representation of the parties in the House; the distribution of sponsorship to date; fair play towards small parties; the date of notice; the sponsor of the motion; the subject matter; whether or not the motion is votable; and what has happened, by agreement among the parties, in the immediate past Supply periods.

In the vast majority of cases, of course, the opposition parties are able to reach an agreement as to which party will bring forward the motion to be debated in the House on a particular supply day. The number of cases in which the parties have not been able to agree is so small it is only rarely that the Speaker has been called upon to adjudicate such a dispute, fulfilling the obligation set out in the Standing Orders.

Past Speakers have noted that little guidance is provided concerning how the Speaker should exercise his discretion in carrying out those responsibilities. Even though factors to be taken into consideration are listed in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, the resolution of any particular case will depend, as it usually does in most procedural difficulties that the House encounters, on the particular circumstances which confront the House.

By way of example, let us consider the factor of votability cited in Marleau and Montpetit. It might be argued that votability ceases to have much significance when the Speaker adjudicates a dispute, given that 2005 amendments to the Standing Orders made all opposition motions automatically votable.

However, in any dispute, one factor always plays a major role. As Speaker Francis stated in a ruling given on May 31, 1984, at p. 4223 of Debates:

The Chair’s selection must be based on the representations of the Parties in the House…

At the time of that ruling, there were only two parties in opposition; today there are three. However, the representation of the various opposition parties remains the primary consideration in ensuring procedural fairness to all opposition parties, large and small.

As we have already reviewed, the Standing Orders explicitly set out the number of allotted days and their distribution among the three supply periods on the basis of the calendar year. In this Parliament, as in the past, the agreement among the parties on apportionment of those days was based on the proportional representation of each opposition party and calculated using the traditional numerical rounding conventions. Translated into practical terms, this meant that of the 22 supply days, the official opposition got 12, the Bloc Québécois six, and the NDP four. However, prorogation saw the total number of supply days for this calendar year go from 22 to 20.

Any intervention by the Chair at this stage must, of course, take into account the apportionment that has already occurred during the two preceding Supply periods.

An examination of the Journals of the House for the first two Supply periods—ending in March and June respectively—shows that the Official Opposition has so far received eight allotted days, the Bloc Québécois four and the New Democratic Party three.

It seems only reasonable, then, that in the situation before us the Chair make its decision on the number of supply days to be allocated to each party in these new circumstances on the same basis as that used in reaching the original agreement among the parties. The number of days allotted to each party should reflect that party's representation in the House. By using the same method of calculation the parties used to arrive at their original agreement, the Chair has determined that the apportionment for the revised total of 20 days works out as follows: 11 for the official opposition, six for the Bloc Québécois, and three for the NDP.

While the Chair recognizes that this distribution is only approximate with respect to the relative numbers of each opposition party, it provides the closest approximation possible to their representation. Furthermore, let me stress again that this conclusion is based on the very same calculation used by the parties in reaching their original agreement.

I suppose it might be argued that had it been known at the beginning of the year that there would only be 20 allotted days, the parties, among themselves, might have reached a different agreement concerning the apportionment of allotted days for the 2007 calendar year, or for one or more of the supply periods in it, but for the Speaker that remains speculation. The Chair must address the specific situation in which the House finds itself today and must, of course, take into account what has occurred so far this year.

In this current and last Supply period, the Official Opposition has so far had two allotted days, for a total of ten this year; the Bloc Québécois has had one allotted day, for a total of five in 2007.

It is therefore my ruling that today, November 13, 2007, the fourth day in the current period, shall be allotted to the Bloc Québécois. The fifth day, when it is designated, shall be allotted to the Official Opposition.

I remind the House that the guidance provided by the Standing Orders and our practice is of limited assistance to the Speaker in adjudicating this kind of dispute. The application of a mathematical formula may seem to be a crude method for a Speaker to use, one that does not take sufficient account of more subtle aspects of the problem. I believe that the Speaker's discretion in these matters is limited, especially given that the House itself has never seen fit to elaborate on the grounds on which the Chair might exercise such discretion. I do no more than repeat the request of my predecessors when I say that the Chair would welcome any recommendations from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs that might clarify these issues for the future.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Citizenship and Immigration
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to subsection 32(2) of the Standing Orders, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, the proposed Regulations Amending the Citizenship Regulation. These regulatory amendments concern foreign born children adopted by Canadian citizens.

Public Works and Government Services
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I wish to table in the House two copies of the 2006-07 Public Works and Government Services Canada Access to Information Act and Privacy Act annual report.

Constitution Act, 2007 (Senate tenure)
Routine Proceedings

November 13th, 2007 / 10:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate tenure).

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

Senate Appointment Consultations Act
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-20, An Act to provide for consultations with electors on their preferences for appointments to the Senate.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to give notice of the government's intention pursuant to Standing Order 73(1) to refer the Senate consultation bill to committee before second reading.

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

Canadian Human Rights Act
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon
B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-21, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the special order made previously, I would like to inform the House that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-44 at the time of prorogation.

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

Canadian Human Rights Act
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The Chair is of the opinion that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-44 was at the time of prorogation of the first session of the 39th Parliament.

Accordingly, pursuant to order made Thursday, October 25, the bill is deemed read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as is our normal practice in regard to the Canada-Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group, and having given notice to all parties, I seek consent to table its report, in both official languages, on its delegate meetings in Taiwan from September 1 to 8, 2007.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Mississauga South have the unanimous consent of the House to table the document?

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-472, An Act to amend the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act and the Special Import Measures Act.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be introducing a bill to amend the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act and the Special Import Measures Act, mainly so that trade unions representing workers engaged in the production of goods affected by dumping or subsidizing can request inquiries, which is currently prohibited.

By introducing this bill, the Bloc Québécois seeks to correct this grave injustice, at a time when globalization is threatening many of our jobs. Moreover, in this bill we want consideration for job protection in future decisions of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.

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

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-473, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (public transportation workers).

Mr. Speaker, this is an act to amend the Criminal Code to protect public transit workers. A recent survey showed that 36% of bus drivers and transit operators have experienced some form of physical assault. In Vancouver and the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia there are about 240 physical attacks on drivers every year. In the greater Toronto region, it is more than one a day. The lives of Canadians are in their hands. The least that we could do is move to protect them.

This is An Act to amend the Criminal Code (public transportation workers). A recent survey showed that 36% of bus drivers and transit operators have experienced some form of physical assault. In Montreal, there are more than 100 attacks per year.

Since bus drivers and transit operators protect us as they transport us to our homes and work, we truly hope that the members of this House will support the NDP's bill to protect these bus drivers and transit operators.

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

National Sustainable Development Act
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Don Valley West, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-474, An Act to require the development and implementation of a National Sustainable Development Strategy, the reporting of progress against a standard set of environmental indicators and the appointment of an independent Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development accountable to Parliament, and to adopt specific goals with respect to sustainable development in Canada, and to make consequential amendments to another Act.

Mr. Speaker, I think the rather lengthy title speaks to the content of the bill. Its timing is designed to be a response to the environment commissioner's recent report on the state of sustainability reporting in the Government of Canada, which the commissioner found to be totally inadequate. I believe that this bill would go a long way in responding to that, while establishing once and for all the independence of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

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