Evidence of meeting #45 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was champion.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Andrew Lauzon
Dara Lithwick  Committee Researcher

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Good morning.

Welcome, Mr. Lukiwski. You have been on this committee for nine and a half years, so I think you bring lots of experience to the table.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Yes. Those are good memories.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Welcome to the 45th meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Today we're beginning our study of the Standing Orders and procedure of the House and its committees. Members will recall that the matter was referred to the committee on October 6, 2016, pursuant to Standing Order 51 following the debate in the House.

A briefing note summarizing the content of the debate in the House was prepared by the analyst and has been distributed twice now to members, once a long time ago, and then just yesterday or today so you would have it again.

Today's meeting is in public. Here is a brief summary of what happened the last time. This comes up after every Parliament. It's a standing order that we have to do this. First of all, the parties distributed the report to all their caucuses and received input from their caucuses. I'm assuming, hopefully, we'll get permission from the committee to allow their caucuses to have input.

Once they got into working on the report and stuff, it was in camera. I think Mr. Richards, Mr. Reid, and Mr. Christopherson were probably here during that procedure last time. Mr. Lukiwski went through one too.

I don't know if those people who were in such a debate before want to add anything to what I've said. Our researcher was integrally involved in the debate last time also. At Tuesday's meeting, he could add anything we've missed.

Tom, go ahead.

December 8th, 2016 / 11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Thanks, Larry.

Welcome to everyone here.

Larry was right. For nine and a half years I was a member of this committee. One of the things we did in the last Parliament was to do quite an extensive review of the Standing Orders. To give you a sense of history, as Larry has quite correctly noted, each Parliament is required within, I think, 80 or 90 days of the new Parliament being convened to do a review and report back to Parliament on any potential standing order changes.

Many times that wasn't the case. Many times, if it gave any kind of a review at all, Parliament gave a review that was cursory in nature, but sometimes it didn't even do a review.

In the last Parliament, I had suggested to then prime minister Harper that we do a fairly extensive review, because I felt there were many standing orders that could be revised. Many of them were very outdated and arcane, and I felt they could be dispensed with. Other changes would be perhaps more substantive, for example, if we wanted to take a look at changing the timing of question period, or if we wanted to look at substantive changes in other areas of how committees operated.

However, the one thing I insisted upon after I formed an all-party committee to do this review—and that all-party committee was only the three recognized parties: ourselves, the Liberals, and the NDP—was that if any member of a party brought forward to our little subcommittee a proposed change to a standing order, it had to receive unanimous consent or else it was not even considered. I pointed out that the Standing Orders affect all parliamentarians, and it would be patently unfair, in my opinion, even though we were in a majority situation, to try to change the Standing Orders with the tyranny of the majority. That approach worked out very well.

There were a number of suggestions made by all three parties that were not unanimously agreed upon. Once we found that out, they were off the table with absolutely no discussion. There was no debate. We didn't try to convince others to change their opinion. It simply was taken off the table.

At the end, we did change a number of standing orders. We deleted many of them, primarily because they were outdated, but it was because we had unanimous consent for all of them. Still to this day I feel quite strongly about that. If any Parliament wants to change standing orders, whether they be minor changes or substantive changes, it should, at least morally, get the unanimous consent of Parliament to do so. We don't need it, but I suggest it would be the proper thing to do, once again, only because these are the rules that guide us all. They affect us all. I don't believe in one party using its majority to try to change rules that affect all parliamentarians because it might just be convenient for them or it might benefit them somewhat politically.

That was how we approached things. It was a fascinating exercise to go through and to actually learn more about the Standing Orders. I thought I knew a little bit about procedure before I went into this exercise, but I found I knew nothing. I'm quite a bit more knowledgeable now than I was before.

I understand this committee is looking at the standing order changes now, and that's great, but I would offer up from my experience my thoughts that if you're going to make any changes, I would strongly suggest you try to get unanimous consent before you do so.

Thanks, Chair.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Blake, do you remember anything from the process in the last Parliament?

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

I think Tom has outlined it pretty well. I don't know that there's much to add to that, to be honest with you.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Okay, that's fine.

I'm open to suggestions.

Mr. Graham.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

It's interesting to hear the history of it, so thank you for that, Tom.

An idea that I wanted to throw out there is to go through the nine pages of the report from Andre and say which ones we want to defend at committee when it comes to a debate, which ones we find interesting for each of us to do as parties or as individuals, and then take one forward, see if we can get it passed, and see if there's a consensus to go forward on it. I'm not saying we should decide everything. We just say, “These are the ones I want to be the defender of.” The thought is that everybody would go through it and say what they like. That's where it would start, and then I can defend my clause.

11:10 a.m.

An hon. member

Did you come up with lights on the camera? Is that you?

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

It was Mr. Baylis.

11:10 a.m.

An hon. member

That has been suggested several times.

11:10 a.m.

An hon. member

Yes, I like that idea.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

What happened when that came up? Obviously it didn't change, so there was no consensus.

Was there a specific reason for the objection?

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

That's a good question, David. I can't remember if there was a specific reason.

One of the things that happened with this all-party committee is that it basically just died on the vine. There were so many other issues that were coming forward that PROC had to consider and that Parliament as a whole had to consider. After we made the initial changes, we just kind of stopped.

I certainly was in favour of the camera. I don't know what the rationale of this suggestion was.

I suggested, particularly for new members but it would be helpful for all members, that if you had a camera with a light on, just as if you were in a television studio, you would know where to look. Sometimes it's just embarrassing if you're looking one way.... The camera should follow the speaker, but sometimes it doesn't.

The other ancillary benefit that I thought of, not that members should need any prompting, is that for those members who may not be paying attention in question period or in legislative debate, if they see a red light kind of glaring at them, it might wake them up a little bit. They might pay more attention and not be embarrassed if they see themselves asleep on camera.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I think it would also help the camera crew to have that interaction with the people speaking.

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

We talked about it. I think we actually arrived at the point where we checked with the technocrats to see whether that was within the art of the possible, and it was. It just hasn't been fulfilled. I still think it's a good idea.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

There are nine cameras in there. It would be nice to have it.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

How many people were on your special committee?

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

I think there were just three of us: me, Joe Comartin, and who was the Liberal? Kevin Lamoureux. How could I forget Kevin? Not that he wants to speak at all, but....

Adam and I, together with a few others within our caucus and our staff, had a working group, and we went through all of the standing orders. We put out a laundry list of items we thought would be appropriate to change or amend. Every party did the same.

As I mentioned earlier in my dissertation, we brought forward those changes, and we took a look at all of the suggestions. If any party at any time for any reason said, “No, I don't like that change; I'm not in support of it,” then it was gone. We didn't even discuss it. Those that were left, we discussed and determined whether or not it would be appropriate to make the changes.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I would be willing to go a step further and have debates on those items. If there's one person objecting, let's at least find out why and see if we can get past it. If they still say no, that's fine, but let's have the discussion.

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Are there any further comments on David's proposal that we go through the list and see if there's....

Is your idea to go through the list to see if there's a champion for each item, and if not, then it drops off?

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Yes, it's like the “adopt a highway” program, but instead it's the “adopt a standing order” program.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Are there any comments on that procedure? It would mean that we would start with a list, with the report, go through it and ask, for the first one if anyone is interested in it, and if not, it would drop off the order paper and we would go on to the—

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

We could come back to it later if someone else said that they wanted to do that one in retrospect. For example, David isn't here—

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Before we go any further, I would like to get approval from the committee that we share this with our caucus members and get their feedback.