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Conservative MP for Regina—Qu'Appelle (Saskatchewan)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 53.50% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Decorum in the House December 12th, 2012
As the House prepares to adjourn for the Christmas holidays, the Chair would like to make a short statement about order and decorum.
In recent months, for a variety of reasons, the atmosphere in the chamber has been at times difficult. This is perhaps not surprising since the House is made up of members who are committed and whose strongly held views are freely expressed on a daily basis.
The House is also an inherently adversarial forum that tends to foster conflict. As a result, sometimes emotions get the better of us and we quickly find ourselves in situations marked by disorderly conduct. Tone and gestures can cause as much of a reaction as the words used in debate. Lately, it appears that at different times the mood of the House has strayed quite far from the flexibility, accommodation and balance that ideally ought to exist in this place.
My task as Speaker is to ensure that the intensity of feeling expressed around some issues is contained within the bounds of civility without infringing on the freedom of speech that members enjoy. The Chair tries to ensure that our rules are adhered to in a way that encourages mutual respect.
However, all members will recognize that ultimately the Speaker must depend on their collective self-discipline to maintain order and to foster decorum. My authority to enforce the rules depends on the co-operation of the House.
Our electors expect all members to make greater efforts to curb disorder and unruly behaviour. So I urge all members to reflect on how best to return the House to the convivial, co-operative atmosphere I know all of us would prefer.
This would be a great help to me and my fellow Chair occupants, about whom I would also like to say a few words.
I would like to take a moment to salute, on behalf of all of us, the excellent work of our Deputy Speaker, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, and our assistant deputy speakers, the members for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock and Simcoe North.
Often under trying circumstances, my colleagues in the Chair have soldiered on, doing their best to uphold the finest traditions of this chamber. As all honourable members are aware, unusual events arise frequently in the House. Thus the task of reading the will of the House is often left to Chair occupants—whether an unexpected sequence of events occurs or an expected sequence of events does not.
Since the House resumed its sittings in mid-September, we have witnessed our fair share of instances where the House has been faced with unforeseen situations but has, nevertheless, found its way with the help of our chair officers. I want to say that the three gentlemen who share duties in the Chair have, in my view, upheld the highest standards of professionalism and impartiality while trying to facilitate the orderly conduct of the House business.
Only those who have had the privilege of serving in the Chair and presiding over the deliberations in this chamber can truly understand to what degree the role involves as much art as science. I am very proud of the way in which the Chair occupants conduct themselves and I want, on your behalf, to thank them for their dedication to the institution and for their ongoing hard work.
Points of Order December 6th, 2012
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on November 22, 2012 by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie regarding the need for a royal recommendation for Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations), standing in the name of the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.
I would like to thank the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for having raised the matter; as well as the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; the hon. House leader of the official opposition; and the members for Saint-Lambert, Cape Breton—Canso and South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale for their interventions.
In raising this matter, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie explained that the provisions of clause 1 of the bill would result in expenditures of public funds in a manner and for purposes not currently authorized. Specifically, he claimed that a new entity within the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) would have to be created to administer and enforce the provisions contained in the bill, and that there would be costs incurred in setting up a new computer system to meet the requirements of the legislation. These, he concluded, would constitute “new and distinct” costs, thereby creating a need for a royal recommendation.
Similarly, the member for Cape Breton—Canso argued that the bill envisioned a new function and purpose within the CRA and as such the terms and conditions of the royal recommendation that authorizes the agency's current spending would be altered. He also suggested that Bill C-377 would regulate the internal affairs of unions and the relationships with their members, thus giving the CRA a new labour relations function.
For his part, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons rejected these arguments, claiming instead that the authority to spend for the purposes set out in the bill would fall under the general authority of existing broader provisions of the Income Tax Act, as well as the agency's general authorities under the Canada Revenue Agency Act. He illustrated this by referring to those portions of the Income Tax Act dealing with reporting requirements for charity organizations. He also stated that, should additional funds be required, the government would seek them from Parliament through an appropriation bill covering operating expenses.
The question before us is whether the implementation of Bill C-377 would constitute a new appropriation requiring a royal recommendation, or whether the costs would be administrative in nature and would fall under the ongoing mandate of the Canada Revenue Agency.
I would like to remind the House of the conditions under which a royal recommendation is required. As the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie noted in his presentation, bills which authorize new charges for purposes not anticipated in the estimates require royal recommendations. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 833 further states:
The charge imposed by the legislation must be “new and distinct”; in other words, not covered elsewhere by some more general authorization.
The Canada Revenue Agency already has the mandate to administer various tax and benefits regimes and to manage a broad range of other programs and activities. More specifically, section 5 of the Canada Revenue Agency Act mandates the agency to support the administration and enforcement of program legislation. Furthermore, in reviewing the documentation provided by the member for Saint-Lambert, which makes reference to specific cost information provided by the CRA in response to questions from the Standing Committee on Finance, the Chair notes the references made to section 220 of the Income Tax Act, which states:
(1) The Minister shall administer and enforce this Act and the Commissioner of Revenue may exercise all the powers and perform the duties of the Minister under this Act.
(2) Such officers, clerks and employees as are necessary to administer and enforce this Act shall be appointed or employed in the manner authorized by law.
In carefully reviewing this matter, it seems to the Chair that the provisions of the bill, namely the requirements for the agency to administer new filing requirements for labour organizations and making information available to the public, may result in an increased workload or operating costs but do not require spending for a new function per se. In other words, the agency, as part of its ongoing mandate, already administers filing requirements and makes information available to the public. The requirements contained in Bill C-377 can thus be said to fall within the existing spending authorization of the agency.
In a ruling given by Speaker Milliken on February 23, 2007, which can be found at page 7261 of Debates, he stated, in relation to the then Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), that:
Bill C-327 may or may not result in a greater workload for the CRTC, but the activities being proposed are within its mandate. If additional staff or resources are required to perform these activities then they would be brought forward in a separate appropriation bill for Parliament’s consideration.
It appears to the Chair that a similar situation would arise should Bill C-377 be enacted and, thus, that this particular ruling is directly relevant and applicable to the current circumstance.
A second ruling by Speaker Milliken, this one on December 3, 2010, Debates page 6803, in reference to then Bill C-568, An Act to amend the Statistics Act (mandatory long-form census), is also helpful. In that ruling it was apparent to the Speaker that the proposed legislation was not adding to or expanding upon the existing mandate of Statistics Canada and, thus, that the bill in question did not require a royal recommendation.
Accordingly, the Chair rules that Bill C-377 in its current form does not require a royal recommendation to proceed through the next stages of the legislative process.
I thank hon. members for their attention.
Points of Order December 5th, 2012
The Chair is now prepared to rule on the point of order raised a few moments ago by the House Leader of the Official Opposition with regard to the manner in which the motion for concurrence at report stage of Bill C-45 was moved yesterday evening.
I have looked into how events transpired last night and can report to the House that there was indeed a clerical oversight in the moving of the motion for concurrence at report stage. However, members will know that our practices do provide for this.
As is stated at page 440 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition:
A government bill standing on the Order Paper in one Minister’s name may be moved on his or her behalf by another Minister since the bill is considered an initiative of the entire Cabinet.
Members will know that it routinely happens that sponsoring ministers are not present when their bills are either introduced or are proceeding through the various stages of the legislative process. When that is the case, staff assisting the Speaker with forms will note the absence, insert the name of another minister, and the Chair carries on, indicating that one minister is moving a motion on behalf of another.
Last night, the staff had duly noted the Minister of Finance as moving the motion for concurrence, but when the time came to move the motion last evening, the minister had stepped out, and neither the staff nor the Chair noticed his absence, nor, might I say, was that raised by any member.
This kind of occurrence is, in my view, a minor oversight. It is our practice to consider that this progress of government bills represent the will of the cabinet. I will again refer the House to page 440 of O'Brien and Bosc. One minister is often cited by the Chair as moving a motion for the sponsoring minister who is absent.
That is how events are recorded in Journals, since the absence of the minister was drawn to the table's attention after the fact by a member. As it usually does, the table followed our practice and the Journals were drafted to indicate that the government House leader, who we knew to have been present, had moved the motion for the Minister of Finance.
Points of Order December 3rd, 2012
I appreciate the eagerness of the hon. government House leader. I have not yet called for orders of the day, so I cannot hear that motion just yet.
However, if I can get back to the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, it does say in O'Brien and Bosc that if no dissent is detected then the House is obviously allowing the member to move the motion.
I take the member's point with regard to the reading of the names. In my view, the member had moved the substance of the motion and was in the process of reading an abnormally lengthy list of names of lakes that would be added. She had the floor for approximately 10 minutes.
There was a similar case that Speaker Milliken dealt with, wherein the member at that time was reading a long litany of the names of members, I believe, and there were several points of order. The Speaker decided that because it was unduly lengthy, and in view of the fact that there was obvious disagreement to the motion being moved, in order to manage the use of the time in the House efficiently he intervened to see if there was consent.
In my view, there is a similar parallel here. As was her right, the member sought the floor on a point of order to ask for consent to put the substance of her motion, and then got into the part of the amendment that added all of the names of lakes, and perhaps rivers, that she was interested in. Given that it was likely to go on for a significant period of time and that she had already had the floor, in the interests of allowing the House to make a decision on that, and sensing that the House was eager to do so, I asked to see if there was even consent for her to move the motion.
I do not want to get into hypotheticals. However, if the House would have granted consent, I am sure the House would have then wanted to hear the whole term of the motion.
I will hear the hon. member again as a courtesy, but I do believe I have made my points on this.
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012 November 29th, 2012
There are 1,667 motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-45.
Motions Nos. 241, 387 and 388 will not be selected by the Chair since they require a royal recommendation.
Motions Nos. 4, 39 and 62 will not be selected by the Chair as they should have been preceded by a ways and means motion.
Motion No. 1085 will not be selected by the Chair as it could have been proposed in committee.
Motions Nos. 2, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12 to 17, 19 to 21, 23, 24, 27, 28, 31, 33, 41, 43, 45, 47, 49, 51, 53 to 60, 66 to 73, 75 to 77, 79 to 82, 85 to 94, 98, 107, 117 to 130, 132 to 135, 137, 141, 148 to 150, 152, 154, 156, 161, 238, 239, 244, 247, 250 to 252, 255 to 277, 283 to 285, 290, 291, 298, 301, 342, 343, 358 to 360, 367, 391, 403, 406, 408, 412 to 414, 416 to 418, 420, 421, 424, 425, 427, 429 to 437, 439, 441, 444, 447, 450 to 453, 462, 468, 496, 576, 584, 585, 593, 609, 668 to 1084, 1086 to 1336, 1339 to 1547 and 1549 to 1667 will not be selected by the Chair as they were defeated in committee.
Motions Nos. 1337, 1338 and 1548 will not be selected by the Chair because they are repetitive.
All remaining motions have been examined and the Chair is satisfied that they meet the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76.1(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage.
The motions will be grouped for debate as follows.
Group No. 1 will include Motions Nos. 1, 3, 7, 9, 11, 18, 22, 25, 26, 29, 30, 32, 34 to 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, 52, 61, 63 to 65, 74, 78, 83, 84, 95 to 97, 99 to 106, 108 to 116, 131, 136, 138 to 140, 142 to 147, 151, 153, 155, 157 to 160 and 162.
Group No. 2 will include Motions Nos. 163 to 237, 240, 242, 243, 245, 246, 248, 249, 253, 254, 278 to 282, 286 to 289, 292 to 297, 299, 300, 302 to 341, 344 to 357, 361 to 366, 368 to 386, 389, 390, 392 to 402, 404, 405, 407, 409 to 411, 415, 419, 422, 423, 426, 428, 438, 440, 442, 443, 445, 446, 448, 449, 454 to 461, 463 to 467, 469 to 495, 497 to 575, 577 to 583, 586 to 592, 594 to 608, and 610 to 667.
The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting.
I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1, 3, 7, 9, 11, 18, 22, 25, 26, 29, 30, 32, 34 to 38, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, 52, 61, 63 to 65, 74, 78, 83, 84, 95 to 97, 99 to 106, 108 to 116, 131, 136, 138 to 140, 142 to 147, 151, 153, 155, 157 to 160, and 162 in Group No. 1 to the House.
Points of Order November 29th, 2012
Before delivering a ruling regarding the report stage of Bill C-45, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, the Chair would like to take a moment to respond briefly to certain arguments raised yesterday by the Honourable House Leaders of the Government and the Official Opposition. A more comprehensive ruling, dealing with their points in detail, will be delivered at a later date. Today I will limit my comments to only a few key points.
Yesterday, the hon. opposition House leader raised a point of order about the manner in which votes were applied in June of this year at the report stage of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures. The expressed concern that, as a result of the grouping of votes at report stage, members may, in essence, have had to cast a single vote that would apply to several motions, some of which they supported and some of which they opposed.
Let me say at the outset that analyzing report stage motions for purposes of selection, grouping for debate and voting is never an easy task and represents a significant challenge for the Chair, particularly in cases like the present one where a very large number of motions have been placed on notice. As I stated in my ruling of June 11, 2012 in relation to Bill C-38:
In my selection of motions, in their grouping and in the organization of the votes, I have made every effort to respect both the wishes of the House and my responsibility to organize the consideration of report stage motions in a fair and balanced manner.
The Chair is being asked to consider the suggestion that every motion to delete a clause should be voted on separately. This would diverge from our practice where, for voting purposes where appropriate, a long series of motions to delete are grouped for a vote. Since the effect of deleting a clause at report stage is, for all practical purposes, the same as negativing a clause in committee, to change our practice to a one deletion, one vote approach could be seen as a repetition of the clause by clause consideration of the bill in committee, something which the House is specifically enjoined against in the notes to Standing Orders 76(5) and 76.1(5) which state that the report stage is not meant to be a reconsideration of the committee stage.
That said, though, it has been a long-standing practice for the Chair to select motions to delete clauses at report stage. I reminded the House of our practices in that regard in my ruling in relation to Bill C-38 when I stated, “motions to delete clauses have always been found to be in order and it must also be noted have been selected at report stage”.
To provide just two examples, I would refer members to a ruling by Speaker Milliken regarding the report stage of Bill C-50 on May 30, 2008, which can be found at page 6341 of the Debates of the House of Commons, as well as my own ruling regarding the report stage of Bill C-9, which can be found at page 2971 of the Debates for May 26, 2010.
In the absence of any specific guidance from the House with regard to motions to delete and other matters raised in the points of order, the Speaker cannot unilaterally modify the well-established current practice. Accordingly, with regard to the report stage of Bill C-45, the Chair will be guided by my past rulings and, in particular, by the ruling on Bill C-38.
Points of Order November 29th, 2012
I am now prepared to rule on the points of order raised on November 26, 2012, by the hon. House leader for the official opposition and the member for Kings—Hants, both of which arose from proceedings in the Standing Committee on Finance during its consideration of Bill C-45, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures.
I would like to thank the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition and the hon. member for Kings—Hants for having raised their concerns, as well as the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons for their interventions.
In raising his point of order, the opposition House leader asserted that the Standing Committee on Finance, through the adoption of a timetabling motion on October 31, 2012, regarding how it would conduct its proceedings on Bill C-45, went beyond its mandate and usurped the authority of the House when it invited other standing committees to study particular sections of Bill C-45 and to forward any proposed amendments back to the finance committee. He drew particular attention to that part of the finance committee's timetabling motion that provided for amendments to the bill recommended by other committees to be deemed proposed to the finance committee and must be considered in its proceedings along with amendments proposed by members of the committee. He argued that, as the House had referred the bill specifically and solely to the finance committee and had not adopted a motion of instruction authorizing other committees to study specific parts of the bill and subsequently report back to the House in the usual manner, the 13th report of the committee on Bill C-45 should be ruled out of order.
In replying to these arguments, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons insisted that the Standing Committee on Finance had at no time relinquished any of its authority over the committee proceedings on Bill C-45, as it had simply invited other committees to offer suggested changes to the legislation. Further, he stated that there was an established practice whereby a committee charged with studying a bill has consulted other committees by inviting them to study a particular subject matter in the bill and then provide feedback.
The point of order raised by the member for Kings—Hants centred on the manner in which the committee dealt with the amendments to the bill which he, as a member of the committee, had submitted. He pointed out that the motion adopted by the committee on October 31, 2012, specified that once a specific time was reached, “the Chair shall put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment, each and every question necessary to dispose of clause-by-clause consideration of the bill”, and explained that, accordingly, the chair of the committee ruled that the committee would not be voting on any amendments on notice which had not been moved prior to the deadline.
Because the committee overturned that decision by the Chair, the member for Kings—Hants argued that the committee forced votes to be held on all amendments submitted, even those which had yet to be moved. He alleged that the removal of his discretion to decide which amendments he wanted to move, coupled with the overturning of the Chair’s procedurally sound ruling, constituted an abuse of the committee process.
The government House leader began his remarks by pointing out that, as committees are masters of their own proceedings, such matters ought to be settled in committee. He then argued that a broader interpretation of the timetabling motion adopted by the finance committee was needed in order to have a consistent interpretation in committee and in the House of such practices. He asserted that, in overturning the chair's decision, the committee broke no rules, nor did the putting of the question on all amendments submitted result in the member's rights being denied.
The Chair is therefore being asked to address two questions. First, did the Standing Committee on Finance overstep its authority when it adopted a timetabling motion, which, among other provisions, asked other standing committees to consider the subject matter of various parts of Bill C-45 and to offer suggestions as to possible amendments?
Second, do the actions of the committee in overturning the Chair so as to have all amendments on notice—including all the amendments of the hon. member for Kings—Hants—deemed moved during clause-by-clause consideration constitute a denial of his rights as a member?
The government House leader and the parliamentary secretary have both argued that the approach taken by the Standing Committee on Finance, namely, to seek the assistance of other standing committees in the consideration of the subject matter of a bill, is not extraordinary. In support of that contention, the parliamentary secretary referred to a motion of the Standing Committee on Finance on April 28, 2008, when it proceeded in a similar fashion by requesting that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration consider the subject matter of a part of Bill C-50, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26, 2008 and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget.
While it may be overstating matters that this is “established practice”, it is true that committee practice is of considerable flexibility and fluidity. This is acknowledged by the opposition House leader himself who spoke of the need for committees to respect clear and distinct limits but declared to that, “when work is assigned to it by the House, it is largely up to the committee to decide how and when to tackle it”.
It should be noted that in the present case, even though other committees were invited to suggest amendments, it is the finance committee itself that chose to do so. It also decided how to deal with any suggested amendments and it retained the ability to decide whether or not to adopt any such amendments.
This is not the first time proceedings in a committee have given rise to procedural questions in the House and concerns about precedents being created. The Chair is reminded of a ruling given by Speaker Fraser on March 26, 1990, which can be found at page 9757 of the Debates of the House of Commons, in relation to a particularly controversial committee proceeding. He said:
I would caution members, however, in referring to this as a precedent. What occurred was merely a series of events and decisions made by the majority in a committee. Neither this House nor the Speaker gave the incidents any value whatsoever in procedural terms. One must exercise caution in attaching guiding procedural flags to such incidents and happenings.
The case at hand is not necessarily analogous to the one before us now but, nevertheless, this quote from Speaker Fraser serves as a useful reminder that committee practice is in continuous flux and that it is important to place particular occurrences in context.
As all members are aware, it is a long-established practice that committees are expected to report matters to the House before they can be considered by the Speaker. Speaker Milliken, in a ruling made on November 27, 2002, which can be found at pages 1949 and 1950 of the Debates, put it this way:
As Speaker, I appreciate the responsibility that I have to defend the rights of all members and especially those of members who represent minority views in the House. At the same time, it is a long tradition in this place that committees are masters of their own proceedings. Ordinarily the House is only seized of a committee matter when the committee reports to the House outlining the situation that must be addressed.
In the same ruling, he added:
...it is true as well that committees are permitted a greater latitude in the conduct of their proceedings than might be allowed in the House. It may not always be clear in a particular set of circumstances how best to proceed and so the ultimate decision is left to the committee itself.
Even the rulings of the chair of a committee may be made the subject of an appeal to the whole committee. The committee may, if it thinks appropriate, overturn such a ruling.
Today, I am being asked to decide, in the absence of a report from the committee whether, in this particular instance, the committee exceeded the limits of its powers to such an extent as to warrant an intervention from the Chair. As I see this case, the House referred the bill to the committee for study. The committee proceeded to study the bill, as has been described, and then the committee reported the bill back to the House without amendment. The report of the committee returning to us the bill is all this House has before it.
In other words, I cannot see how the Chair can reach into committee proceedings to somehow provide redress without a report to the House from the finance committee detailing particular grievances or describing a particular set of events. Accordingly, I cannot find sufficient evidence that the standing committee exceeded the limits of its mandate and powers in the manner in which it considered Bill C-45.
The Chair is fully aware that some members are frustrated with the way in which the proceedings took place in committee, particularly given that, as events unfolded there, they believe they were left without recourse. However much I might appreciate these frustrations, the fact remains that none of the actions of the Standing Committee on Finance have been reported to the House for its consideration. Therefore, in keeping with the long established practices of the House in that regard, the Chair is not in a position to delve into the matter further.
In conclusion, the Chair finds that the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Finance on Bill C-45 is properly before the House and, accordingly, that the bill can proceed to the next steps in the legislative process.
I thank members for their attention.
Points of Order November 27th, 2012
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on November 5, 2012 by the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie and the House Leader of the Liberal Party, regarding the nature of an answer given to a written question.
During question period on November 5, the member for Etobicoke North asked the Minister of Public Safety why the government had not provided a substantive response to her written Question No. 873, a very lengthy and complicated question about disaster risk reduction and recovery. The minister replied that it had cost more than $1,300 just to determine whether an answer was possible, and suggested that the cost of preparing a comprehensive response would be prohibitive.
In raising this point of order, the House Leader of the Liberal Party objected to the Minister of Public Safety's reference to the cost of preparing a response to the question, claiming that this was contrary to our practices, as described at page 522 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, which states:
—it is not in order to indicate in a response to a written question the total time and cost incurred by the government in the preparation of that response.
However, the Liberal House Leader’s main complaint was about the nature of the response provided to the written question itself. Specifically, he expressed concern that the nature of the response—a brief statement about why the question would not be answered—was setting a “dangerous precedent”.
In response, the government House leader stated that the government's response to Question No. 873 made no references to the cost of its preparation, and that the costing information had been provided by the Minister of Public Safety only in the response to an oral question.
It may be useful at the outset to remind all members of the purpose of oral and written questions to the government. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 491 states, and I quote:
The right to seek information from the ministry of the day and the right to hold that ministry accountable are recognized as two of the fundamental principles of parliamentary government. Members exercise these rights principally by asking questions in the House. The importance of questions within the parliamentary system cannot be overemphasized and the search for or clarification of information through questioning is a vital aspect of the duties undertaken by individual members. Questions may be asked orally without notice or may be submitted in writing after due notice.
While members are well aware of our practices as they relate to oral questions, they may be less familiar with those that regulate written questions. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition states at page 519 and 520, in relation to questions:
In general, written questions are lengthy, often containing two or more subsections, and seek detailed or technical information from one or more government departments or agencies....Given that the purpose of a written question is to seek and receive a precise, detailed answer, it is incumbent on a Member submitting a question for the Notice Paper “to ensure that it is formulated carefully enough to elicit the precise information sought”.
Practices that regulate answers to written questions are similarly referenced at page 522, and I quote:
The guidelines that apply to the form and content of written questions are also applicable to the answers provided by the government. As such, no argument or opinion is to be given and only the information needed to respond to the question is to be provided in an effort to maintain the process of written questions as an exchange of information rather than an opportunity for debate. As with oral questions, it is acceptable for the government, in responding to a written question, to indicate to the House that it cannot supply an answer. On occasion, the government has supplied supplementary or revised replies to questions already answered. The Speaker, however, has ruled that it is not in order to indicate in a response to a written question the total time and cost incurred by the government in the preparation of that response.
Let me assure the House that I realize full well that over the years Speakers have recognized that they exercise little oversight in the matter of written questions. As always, however, the Chair remains attentive to these matters and is ready to assist in any way it can in ensuring that written questions continue to serve members as an important channel of genuine information exchange.
So I take this as an opportunity to ask the House to bear in mind the underlying purpose of a written question, namely the seeking of information. In my view, it is incumbent on the member who submits it to formulate it in such a way that it is in fact answerable. As such, it is not unreasonable to expect, particularly where the member submitting a question attaches to it the 45-day time limit, that it would be worded in such a way as to allow the government to provide the information requested within the time allotted. Not surprisingly, a question that fails to do so is more likely to yield an answer that fails to meet the questioner's expectations.
Grey Cup October 24th, 2012
When Albert Grey, the fourth Earl of Grey and ninth Governor General of Canada, commissioned the creation of a silver chalice in 1909, he probably could never have envisioned the remarkable story that his namesake trophy would experience in its 100 years.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup. We are honoured by its presence here today, escorted by CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon, Football Hall of Fame member and former Ottawa Rough Rider Russ Jackson, as well as Ave Poggione and Bryce Russell.
Through the years, the Grey Cup has been battered, bruised, stolen and even started a fire. Like the sport it honours, it is, without question, a hard-nosed trophy and yet it is elegant in its beauty and in its embodiment of the rich tradition of Canadian football.
In its long history, the Grey Cup has seen a variety of teams challenge for the right to hoist the cup in victory. Amateur teams, like the Toronto Balmy Beach and the Sarnia Imperials, were among the early winners.
During World War II, military bases across the country formed teams to compete for the Grey Cup as a boost to morale for troops and civilians alike.
In 1958, with the emergence of the Canadian Football League, the Grey Cup champion was decided in the format we now know and love today with tens of thousands in attendance and millions more watching at home from coast to coast.
Of course, we all remember those memorable Grey Cups, like the 1950 Mud Bowl, the 1962 Fog Bowl, the 1977 Ice Bowl and the very memorable 1966, 1989 and 2007 Grey Cups.
Like the people it brings together every year in November, the Grey Cup has a remarkable history. I am quite confident that this history is not about to end any time soon.
After today, the Cup makes it way to Toronto for the Grey Cup celebration and the CFL championship on November 25. Shortly thereafter, it will probably be in Regina for a parade.
Access to Information Act September 17th, 2012
Order, please. The House has just adopted an important motion in reference to the rights, privileges and immunities upon which the proceedings of the House and its committees are founded and I would like to make a statement at this time to clarify the situation that has given rise to this decision, particularly in view of some comments that have appeared in recent days.
In June of this year, the House of Commons was advised by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada that they had received a request under the Access to Information Act for all emails pertaining to the appearances of the Auditor General before parliamentary committees between January 17 and April 17, 2012. The information in question consisted of email exchanges between the clerks or officials of five standing committees and officials of the Office of Auditor General.
The House was given third party notice of the request under section 27 of the Access to Information Act and provided 20 days to make any written representations to provide sufficient reasons as to why the information should be disclosed.
There followed several exchanges of correspondence between the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel and the Office of the Auditor General in which House officials questioned the release of the documents, given their concern that these documents related to committee hearings, which are protected by parliamentary privilege. This view was consistent with past practice which considered material that forms part of a parliamentary proceeding, whether that proceeding is in the chamber or in committee, to be protected by parliamentary privilege.
In the case at hand, the documents requested were directly linked to a parliamentary proceeding and the actions taken were fully in keeping with a long-established practice.
The privileges, powers and immunities of the House of Commons, as provided by section 18 of the Constitution Act, 1867 and section 4 of the Parliament of Canada Act, include freedom of speech and debate as set out, among others places, in article 9 of the Bill of Rights, 1689, which provides
that the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.
As Erskine May's 24th edition, at page 227, states:
—underlying the Bill of Rights is the privilege of both Houses to the exclusive cognizance of their own proceedings. Both Houses retain the right to be sole judge of the lawfulness of their own proceedings and to settle—or depart from—their own codes of procedure.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at pages 91 and 92, explains that proceedings in Parliament include the giving of evidence before the House of Commons or its committees; the presentation of a document to either the House of Commons or its committees; the preparation of a document for purposes of or incidental to the transacting of any such business; and the formulation, making or publication of a document, including a report, by or pursuant to an order of the House. This has been seen to extend to all evidence, submissions and preparation for the participation by all persons participating in the proceedings of the House of Commons or its committees, all of which are protected by all the privileges and immunities of the House.
Since the House was adjourned when these discussions took place, House counsel requested that the Office of the Auditor General delay the decision to release the documents until September when the House was scheduled to resume sitting.
Notwithstanding this request, the Office of the Auditor General proceeded with its decision to release the documents in question, arguing that it had not identified parliamentary privilege among the exemptions or exclusions in the act that would allow a refusal to do so. This decision started the clock on the timetable provided by the act. Specifically, this meant that the House had the right to apply for a review of this decision pursuant to section 44 of the act, which imposes a strict deadline of 20 days from the day notice is given to file a notice of application in the Federal Court. In short, because attempts to have the Office of the Auditor General postpone this decision were unsuccessful, the House of Commons faced a deadline that had to be respected and so filed not an injunction but an application for a judicial review of the Auditor General's decision to release the documents. Had this filing not been made on or before September 10, 2012, the documents would have been released without the express consent of the House. This would clearly have been unacceptable so we acted to reserve for the House its long-standing primacy in decisions of this nature.
I want to stress that the steps taken in this case were undertaken for the sole purpose of safeguarding the rights and privileges of this House and to reserve for the House the final decision in the matter.
As noted at page 307 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition:
It is the responsibility of the Speaker to act as the guardian of the rights and privileges of members and of the House as an institution.
Whatever the circumstances, as your Speaker, I believe that my primary responsibility is to safeguard the rights and privileges of the House and its committees and to ensure that they are not inadvertently eroded.
Of course, while I am duty-bound to protect all of the House’s privileges, I am also the servant of the House and thus entirely at its service in putting into effect its decisions.
As noted on page 307 of O’Brien and Bosc:
The Speaker is the servant, neither of any part of the House nor of any majority in the House, but of the entire institution and serves the best interests of the House as distilled over many generations in its practices.
The Speaker must ensure that the best interests of the House are upheld and that the House remains the master of its own proceedings.
This is the principle that informed the decision to file an application for judicial review, respecting the strict deadline imposed by the act and allowing the House the opportunity to make its own determination in this matter.
The House has now made its decision on this matter. We are all aware that this decision applies only to this case at hand and it is not precedent setting. The House's rights and privileges have not been jeopardized by the House's resolution, nor has the House ceded any of its traditional rights or privileges, particularly as they relate to parliamentary committees.
However, it is likely that today's issue will not be the last of its kind. The Chair would therefore welcome a prompt and thorough review of the question by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, as House committees and their officials will most likely continue to be confronted with more requests of a similar nature. It would not be the first time the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs considered and reported to the House on a matter related to the nature and extent of parliamentary privilege, indeed it did so in November 2004 in presenting its 14th report. There are also other instances, notably in 2007 and 2009, where committees have seen fit to report to the House on aspects of parliamentary privilege in relation to issues with which they were confronted.
I trust this clarifies the context of the situation for the House. I would like to thank all honourable members for their attention in this important matter.