Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'll continue from where I left off.
I'll start by reviewing certain comments made by members during the debates held in the House on October 6, 2016.
I also want to mention that, at the end, I'll talk about another article published in the Canadian Parliamentary Review. The article describes the events that occurred at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 1990s, in other words, the obstruction from the opposition. It's a perfect example of the situation at that time.
I'm first going to continue with the debate that happened on October 6, because, again, there is a reference to it in the motion. I think we would greatly assist the committee if we were to pass the very reasonable amendment that we've proposed in order to be able to follow through with and study some of the ideas that have been discussed by other members of Parliament before us—for instance, electronic voting.
Mr. Chair, you mentioned “electronic voting” during the debate. I'm looking at page 5557 of Hansard for that day. There's a brief discussion there about how we could have buttons on our desks that would speed up the vote, especially when we have successive votes to do, but those often happen because we're having a recorded vote.
At the very beginning, maybe a few hours ago, you heard me mention Bill S-201, the genetic discrimination bill, when members of the cabinet rose to have a recorded vote after they lost the prior vote that I believe indicated the will of the House to pass the bill. We could have done it “on division”—those two most beautiful words in parliamentary history. They are historic words. Saying “on division” speeds up the process. If we police ourselves, we don't need electronic voting, whether we're voting on a BlackBerry or an iPad, or with switches or dials or with ballots cast. If we police ourselves and ask for a recorded vote only when we absolutely must, I believe we could gain from it.
It's happened at committees too. Committees I have been on have done things on division, and not just for committee reports, but when there's a disagreement that's profound and the two sides can't agree, and they choose not to go with a recorded vote. I think I have asked for one recorded vote at a committee, only once in all my time serving on them. Every single other time, we just agreed to disagree. We can agree to disagree without being disagreeable. I think many committees succeed in doing that.
On electronic voting, I would hope that whatever the committee may or may not study in the future will balance the speed of voting with the understanding what we're voting on. I know that it's sometimes a challenge in the House to hear what the Speaker is saying or to fully understand exactly the motion that we've been called to the House to vote on.
For some of the motions or bills, we know ahead of time, because we get our notices and it's easy to plan around them; they're on pieces of legislation at different stages that we're moving on to committee or there's a vote at report stage. It's a fairly simple exercise to understand what we're voting on. At times, especially on estimates or business of supply votes, it can be difficult to hear. The difference between Bill C-40 and Bill C-41 is minute, and the speakers do have to read through them quite quickly. You could miss it.
If consideration is given to electronic voting—I know the government's proposal and the discussion paper's very brief mentions of it don't have very many details—I would hope that we don't just look at speeding up voting in the name of efficiency while taking away the ability of members of Parliament to fully understand how they're voting.
I think the changes that have been introduced in the past in order to vote from the backbench to the front are good. They are positive changes. I think very many of us, then, can look at our colleagues around us regarding how they vote. I know that I talk to my colleagues before deciding on how I will vote, and when I choose not to vote with my party and my caucus, I let them know. They know how I'm going to vote, because I inform them ahead of time.
I'm sure that in the government caucus the members opposite me right now do the same thing.
You have discussions, you talk amongst yourselves, and you inform those who you need to inform. “No surprises” is almost a slogan here in Parliament, but I think it applies to all of us. We don't want to surprise our colleagues. We want them to know how we're going to vote. It shouldn't be much of a secret. When people ask me how I'm going to vote on a particular motion or bill, typically I tell them exactly what I'm thinking, how I am going to vote—yes or no—and I have no problems in conveying that, but I have to know what I'm voting on. Sometimes there are last-minute amendments proposed or report stage amendments that I would like to be able to read more carefully.
I'm not opposed to electronic voting, but what does electronic voting mean in this context? I do have potential issues with it.
Another comment that arose, and this is from Mr. Dubé, the member for Beloeil—Chambly, was this:
This is certainly something that we should include now officially in the Standing Orders, barring certain exceptions that can come up. It is something that we can easily formalize and seems to be something that already, despite being relatively informal and based on the motions that we have to adopt every single time through unanimous consent, has that consent. Why not make it formal and avoid having to do it every time?
He was talking in this context about the personal situations, the gruelling schedules we all have to go through. The votes being moved to after question period I think is a good change. It's done by agreement. It's not in the Standing Orders. It's simply that we have agreed, as a group of people doing work on behalf of our constituents, to have the votes scheduled at a more convenient time. We're still going to vote, but just at a more convenient time.
I also think that one of the things that Parliament could look at and this committee could really look at is studying all the unanimous consent motions that have come through in recent history. You can get staff to do that. I don't mean for all of us to start going through the pages of Hansard. We would be looking at what was the most common unanimous consent motion and potentially—