House of Commons Hansard #166 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was atlantic.

Topics

Employment Equity
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, if I had the unanimous consent of the House, I could table the report on employment equity this very afternoon. It is the 2006 annual report.

Employment Equity
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Unanimous consent is not required; the hon. minister may table it when he wishes. The documents have now been received.

The hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert also wishes to raise a point of order.

Employment Equity
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, when I saw the Minister of Labour rise to ask for unanimous consent, I had a glimmer of hope that was quickly dashed.

Nevertheless, I rise on a point of order to seek unanimous consent of the House to adopt the following motion, which is different than that of the other days. It bears on the same subject, but the motion is different.

That the government's notice of ways and means motion No. 13, tabled in the House by the Minister of Labour on December 8, 2006, be deemed adopted and that the House require the Minister of Labour to table immediately in the House, for first reading, the bill listed on the order paper under “Introduction of Government Bills” and entitled “An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act and chapter 47 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005”, in order that this bill can be amended by this House, pursuant to the request of the National Assembly of Quebec, in a motion adopted unanimously this morning.

Employment Equity
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Employment Equity
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Employment Equity
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There is no unanimous consent.

The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North on a point of order.

53rd Report of Procedure and House Affairs Committee
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

June 7th, 2007 / 3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Comuzzi Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, although I open this debate as a point of order, I truly believe that it is a question of members' privileges. I will rise on a point of order with the understanding that you may decide that it is a question that deals with members' privileges.

I refer to a discussion that was held in the House yesterday regarding the motion to concur in the 53rd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which did not receive the unanimous consent of the House of Commons. The four independent members of the House did not give their consent.

There was really no problem until this was presented by the whip of the Bloc Québécois. He presented it to the standing committee, not to remedy the orders of the House but in order to silence a former member of that party because the Bloc considered she was getting too many questions in the House. That was the purpose of this amendment.

What surprises me is that all the other parties consented to the motion. Every party consented to the motion and it opened a can of worms.

This is an issue that the standing committee presented that affects the privileges of all independent members of Parliament.

Mr. Speaker, I submit that it is in your exclusive jurisdiction to protect the privileges of every member of the House of Commons. I ask that until this matter is resolved, and since there are only four of us but our party is growing, I am asking for your assurance that this matter will not come before the House for unanimous consent unless some of us are present in order not to give consent and then the matter can be resolved either in committee or through your wise counsel.

53rd Report of Procedure and House Affairs Committee
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reassure my hon. colleague from Thunder Bay—Superior North, as well as the three other independent members of this House, my. hon. colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, my hon. colleague from Nova Scotia and the hon. member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. This morning, at the public meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I tabled an amended version of the 53rd report. I amended that report simply for tabling.

The four independent members will be consulted before the next discussions, which are to be held next Tuesday at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I am certain that we will be able to find a solution.

Nevertheless, I changed my approach somewhat as a result of the comments I received earlier this week.

53rd Report of Procedure and House Affairs Committee
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think it would be useful for you to know that not everybody in every political formation would necessarily support this if unanimous consent were requested. I for one would have tremendous difficulty in restricting the ability of independent members of Parliament to address questions in this House as well.

53rd Report of Procedure and House Affairs Committee
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, this issue was raised yesterday and again today. I know that the whips have discussed looking at clearing this up. Perhaps I could explain it to other members because I think there is a lot of concern not only by the independent members but by others about what it is that the whips and the procedure and House affairs committee are concerned about here.

As I understand the issue, it is this: When there are a number of independent members there are obviously a certain number of questions and Standing Order 31 statements by members that could be assigned to those independent members.

We have had cases in the past, and indeed we could have cases in the future, where a party falls below the requisite 12 members. For that purpose there has been a precedent set for Speakers to pool the questions that those independent members would be entitled to so that they could assign their questions to their leader or to some other member of their caucus.

In my political lifetime, members will recall that post-1993, we had that situation with two parties in the House of Commons. While the Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party were recognized registered political parties outside of this chamber, they did not have the requisite 12 members to be a recognized party in the chamber at the time. One had two members and the other had nine, as I recall. The Speaker at the time pooled, or bundled, or whatever term one wants to use, the number of questions that they would get during question period and then assigned the questions to them as a group.

I think this is where the problem lies, Mr. Speaker. Let us take into consideration that there are currently four independent members of Parliament. Of the questions that we usually go through in the rotation, the number of questions in a day, if we divide those, excluding the three that the government gets, by the number of opposition members of Parliament, whether they are one of the three recognized parties or the four independent members, we get to a ratio of how often each member would be eligible for a question, all things being equal.

The problem arises if, for example, there were three independent members, each one of them should get one question per week. That makes sense. To make it equal, whether they were in a recognized party or sitting as an independent, they would have exactly the same rights to ask one question per week.

What has been happening as I understand it, Mr. Speaker, is that if you bundle those questions together and there are three questions for independents in a week and then two of the independents choose not to ask a question and you give the other questions to that other member as though they were a party, then that individual independent member would obviously get more questions than they would be entitled to if they sat in a recognized party.

I think that is the question that we are trying to deal with. Certainly, and I can speak for myself here, I do not want to see any inequity. I want to see the same rights and responsibilities for every member of Parliament, whether the member is an independent or whether the member sits in a recognized party, with no greater or lesser advantage to being in a party or sitting as an independent when it comes to those rights of a Standing Order 31 statement or asking a question in our chamber.

I think the goal is to ensure that if we take that equation, the number of questions asked per day or the number of questions asked per week and divide it by all the opposition members and we get to how many questions that person would get in a week, then it should be the same whether the person is an independent member or in a party.

Obviously when a member is in a party, there is a mechanism in place to assign that question. Let us say for argument's sake, every member would get one question per week, whether the member was an independent or was in the Liberal Party, for example.

Obviously the Liberal Party has a mechanism in place in its caucus to assign those questions to certain members, whether it is the leader, the deputy leader or whoever it is. However, it should not detract from the basic rule that each member is equal in the eyes of this chamber. That is what we are trying to get to, I believe. I would look for others to support that fundamental principle of equality.

53rd Report of Procedure and House Affairs Committee
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

We are on points of order here, not to debate the merits of any proposal that may or may not be before the House. We are not debating a motion for concurrence, and while I am sure the House appreciates the comments from the chief government whip, it sounds like debate.

I see two other members rising on this. We have spent almost 20 minutes on it already. We do not have a motion before the House. In my view, there is no point of order here. I gave a ruling yesterday that this was not a point of order.

The member for Thunder Bay—Superior North has asked me to give an assurance that somebody will not pull a unanimous consent stunt when the members are not here. I can only urge him to stick around. I cannot control what members do in the House. If a member stands up and asks for unanimous consent for something and gets it, I am stuck. I cannot say no.

I can only urge the hon. member to keep a close eye on the House. He has three colleagues. One of them could sit here 24 hours if necessary and the others could do what they have to do if they are concerned about this. However, no one has moved concurrence in this report at this stage.

The hon. member for Mississauga South is rising on a point of order. I hope he will stick to the point of order and not debate the merits of any proposal.

53rd Report of Procedure and House Affairs Committee
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Yes, and I do agree, Mr. Speaker. As I raised the matter yesterday, I believe that privileges will not be affected unless a decision is taken. I doubt there is a matter of privilege here.

The point of order is that within the Standing Orders, there are mechanisms for ordinary members to debate relevant changes to the Standing Orders. There were special legislative committees set up to consider a renewal, improvement or modernization of the rules. We have not had that.

I am simply asking on behalf of all members, which I believe would support the premise, that the majority of members should not establish rules that will affect a minority of members of Parliament. It is an issue. I would only ask that a proposal from procedure and House affairs come forward for the information of members, so that all members can have input before a question is put before this place.

I believe you would then find unanimous consent for that motion.

53rd Report of Procedure and House Affairs Committee
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

No proposal from procedure and House affairs can be adopted by the House without a motion for concurrence in the report. It is simple. There has to be a motion. Motions are debatable if members choose to debate them. It is up to members. It is not up to the Chair. The hon. member must know that.

He must realize that if the motion for concurrence in this report is to be put in this House, it has to be done either with unanimous consent and no debate, because everyone agrees not to debate it and let it go through, or the member moves concurrence. This is basic procedure.

If the motion for concurrence is moved, there is a three hour debate and then the question is put. It is standard on all committee reports, including ones that recommend changes to the Standing Orders of the House.

53rd Report of Procedure and House Affairs Committee
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

There have to be two questions.

53rd Report of Procedure and House Affairs Committee
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

No, there are not two questions. There is a motion to put to the House and then we vote on it. I will leave it at that.

The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques on a point of order as well.