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Track Michael

Your Say


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is senate.

Conservative MP for Wellington—Halton Hills (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 63.70% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply September 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite knows, I said that I will be voting for the motion. I am interested in her ideas, though, regarding question period, beyond just the issue of enforcing the irrelevancy and repetition rule.

One thing I think would be helpful for the government, and one day the Conservatives will no longer be in government and it will be a different party, would be to establish a rotation schedule for the first minister and other ministers so that they do not have to attend to the House every single day of the week to answer questions.

In the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister comes once a week for a full question period, and other ministers appear on a rotation schedule. One could be set up so that ministers of the crown appeared twice a week on a rotation schedule. It would allow members of Parliament who are interested in certain subject areas to attend during certain days to ask specific questions of specific ministers and for the House as a whole to attend on Wednesdays to hear the first minister, the Prime Minister, respond to questions about the whole of government.

I would be interested to hear the hon. member's views on going to that sort of rotation schedule.

Business of Supply September 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington referenced early in his remarks the fact that the current rule, Standing Order 11(2), was modelled on a rule in the British Parliament from the 1880s. I would have thought that the current rule in our Parliament, Standing Order 11(2), would have been interpreted in a way that included oral questions. Clearly, previous speakers and the current Speaker have not interpreted it that way.

I note that in the U.K. Parliament today, the Speaker has the right to cut off members of the ministry if he does not feel they are properly answering questions. In fact, this happened on April 30, 2014, just a mere six months ago, when the British Speaker at Westminster palace cut off the Prime Minister, because he felt the Prime Minister was not being relevant during question period.

I would point that out to my colleague as an example of a sister parliament, where the Speaker gets more vigorously involved in making sure that the ministry adequately answers questions put to it.

Business of Supply September 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary made mention during his remarks that he welcomed other suggestions to reform question period.

One thing that I think would increase the relevancy of questions and answers during question period would be to do away with the 35-second rule.

Many members who were more recently elected may be surprised to find out that the 35-second rule came in after the 1997 election when there were five parties in Parliament. The five recognized parties in the House each wanted a slice of question period to ask their questions, and so the length of time was shortened from about a minute or a minute and a half to 35 seconds to ask and to answer questions.

One of the things the House should also consider to make question period more relevant is to lengthen the amount of time given to ask and to answer questions now that there are only three recognized parties in the House.

Business of Supply September 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I am going to support the motion moved by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, but I want to make several points.

I think the previous Parliament, as we all know, overwhelmingly voted for a motion calling on the procedure and House affairs committee to examine reforms for question period. Despite that motion being overwhelmingly adopted by the House, a rubric of which was to examine the convention that ministers need not respond to questions, nothing ever came of it. Here we are, four years later, once again debating the reform of question period.

The other thing I would say is that we need to avoid turning these debates about parliamentary reform into partisan advantage or disadvantage. I think it is really important to focus on the substance of what is at hand.

In closing, if making members of Parliament and members of the ministry respond to questions is going to be a responsibility of the Speaker, then so too should it be the responsibility of the Speaker to make sure that irrelevance and repetition are not part of a questioner's line of attack when asking questions. I think we need to focus on the substance of the issue here.

I will be supporting the motion, and I encourage members not to turn it into partisan advantage or disadvantage.

Petitions September 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the second set of petitioners requests that Parliament enact a policy to reduce the risk for anaphylactic passengers.

Petitions September 24th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I have two sets of petitions from constituents in my riding of Wellington—Halton Hills.

The first set calls on the House of Commons to immediately hold an inquiry into the deaths and disappearances of aboriginal women and girls.

Reform Act, 2014 September 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, when I introduced Reform Act, 2014, I said I would welcome comments and amendments. Since being introduced, Reform Act, 2014 has generated a lot of interest and discussion. In these past months, I have received recommendations and comments from colleagues from both sides of the House and from Canadians across the country.

I want to thank all members of the House who have contributed to this debate, particularly the member for Edmonton—Leduc for seconding the bill. I want to also thank many members of my caucus, as well as the members for Mississauga, Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, Toronto—Danforth, Burnaby—Douglas and the other members from New Democratic caucus who have been up today to debate this bill.

I would like to thank the members for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville and Saanich—Gulf Islands, who has been a big supporter of this initiative all along, as well as the Minister of State for Democratic Reform. I also thank all who have voiced concerns and constructive criticisms about the original bill.

Change is never easy. The changes proposed last week and the changes incorporated into the bill introduced last spring reflect the input that was received.

I want to take this opportunity to respond directly to one concern, which is the general concern about imposing on parties, whether they be party caucuses or registered political parties, mandatory rules about how they operate, whether that concerns the selection of party candidates, or the rules regarding the review and removal of the party leader, or the selection of a caucus chair or the expulsion of a caucus member.

I believe the changes announced last week will directly address those concerns. These changes, which I hope the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs will adopt, would leave it to the parties, whether they are party members at a national convention or members of a party caucus, to decide on how to implement these particular changes. Any rules would have to be voted on, either by party members on the floor of a national convention or by caucus members within a caucus. Regardless of the outcome, it would be a recorded vote so that members of Parliament could be held accountable, not just to their constituents but to party members, as to why they voted the way they did.

It is also important to note that this bill would not affect in any way, shape or form how registered political parties outside the House would review the leader or how those parties would elect the leader in the event that they had a leadership race. All the bill would do is clarify the rules concerning the review and removal of a party leader by caucus. In the event that the party leader is removed or in the event that the party leader becomes incapacitated, suddenly dies or resigns, the bill would provide for the clarity and rules on the election of the interim leader.

It is important to point out that party caucuses are not private organizations. If they are private organizations, we have semi-privatized the election and removal in part of premiers and prime ministers. It is important to point out to colleagues that in the last nine months two premiers have been removed from office as a result of caucus action: Premier Dunderdale of Newfoundland and Labrador and Premier Redford of Alberta. It is also important to point out that party caucuses in the last nine months at the provincial level have elected four new interim leaders during that time.

There is a greater need for clarity and transparency about how these changes take place at the federal level and why we need to pass the bill.

Many wanted to see this bill pass in its original form. I understand. However, in this case, we need to acknowledge that perfection is the enemy of the good. The bill in its original form would never have passed Parliament. The bill in front of us today is very good, and has a good chance of passing and becoming law. I reserve the right to not move this bill at third reading if the committee makes changes that are not acceptable.

In closing, I urge members of the House to adopt this bill next week. More important, I urge members of the procedure and House affairs committee to deal with this bill as expeditiously as possible. Time is short. There are a mere few months before the dissolution of Parliament and the onset of the general election. We cannot allow this bill to die on the order paper. Canadians are watching.

Reform Act, 2014 May 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, quite simply, the rules would be enforced by the members themselves, just as we self-enforce the rules on the Standing Orders and other unwritten conventions that govern parliamentary parties in this place.

To respond to the first part of his question, political parties are quasi-public institutions. The days that this chamber and political parties existed as private clubs for an elite group of people are over. Parties in this country are registered under law. They are creations of the Canada Elections Act for a reason, because they receive hundreds of millions of dollars a decade of political public taxpayer dollars. In return for the receipt of that public money, they ought to be publicly accountable and publicly available to a broad group of Canadians.

In the last ten years, the Conservative Party of Canada has received close to $300 million in public support through political tax credits and other political expenditures, which the Department of Finance Canada considers expenditures, and other forms of subsidies. In return for that money, we are quasi-public institutions, and we ought to be publicly accountable for that money.

Reform Act, 2014 May 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville.

I think it is very important to have written rules. The greatest danger right now is that the current rules that allow caucuses to assess their leaders are not written down. In a democracy that believes in a system of laws, it is important to have written rules.

It is important to have written rules, because unwritten rules and conventions are subject to ad hoc and arbitrary measures. That is far more dangerous than using the medium of legislation to ensure consistent written rules for all parties in this chamber.

Reform Act, 2014 May 27th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would be willing to work with the member and any other colleagues who have concerns about this particular clause through the work of the committee.

However, I would also answer the question by telling the member that the bill maintains the current power of the party leader and two other officers of a registered political party to unilaterally deregister and re-register an electoral district association. By maintaining that current power in the Canada Elections Act, we would ensure that parties could mandate a consistent set of rules across all 338 electoral districts and ensure the kind of policies the NDP currently has in place.