Evidence of meeting #7 for Subcommittee on Private Members' Business in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was decision.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Alexandre Lavoie  Committee Researcher
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Marc-Olivier Girard

8:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Filomena Tassi

I'm very happy to call this meeting to order. I wish everybody a good morning on this glorious day.

Welcome to the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

The April 10 list has been replenished. We have 15 items on that list. What we'd also like to do today is add the three Senate public bills. One of them we've had previous notice of, which is Bill S-226, but two were introduced yesterday. They are Bill S-231 and Bill S-233, which we would like to add if we have consensus.

Do we have consensus to add those two Senate bills in the interests of time and efficiency?

8:50 a.m.

Liberal

Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Sure.

8:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Filomena Tassi

Okay. Very good.

Now I'll pass it over to Alexandre, our analyst, for his comments.

8:50 a.m.

Alexandre Lavoie Committee Researcher

The only item I wish to comment on is Bill C-344. You may have noticed that Bill C-344 is essentially the same as another bill, Bill C-227, which was struck from the Order Paper on January 31. I understand that this bill was dropped from the Order Paper not because of the substance of the bill, but because its sponsor was appointed Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Marc-Olivier can confirm that it shouldn't be a problem to have this bill discussed again in the House.

That's the only one, unless there are other questions on issues.

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Yes, Chair, if I may, through you, I do have a few questions for our analysts. We believe that this constitutes a decision by the House. As you pointed out, they are pretty much word for word the same bill.

May 4th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.

Committee Researcher

Alexandre Lavoie

That's right.

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

One of the criteria for determining whether or not it can be voted on is that bills and motions must concern questions that are substantially the same as ones already voted on by the House in a current session of Parliament, or the ones preceding them in the order of precedence.

The reference I'd like to point to is Standing Order 86(4):

The Speaker shall be responsible for determining whether two or more items are so similar as to be substantially the same, in which case he or she shall so inform the Member or Members whose items were received last and the same shall be returned to the Member or Members without having appeared on the Notice Paper.

I think the rule here is clear. Obviously we have concerns that the decision has been made, so I guess the plus side here is that if it's determined to be non-votable at this committee, the member from Brampton has the opportunity to table another bill or to revise this one. If it passes here—and we will probably raise a point of order in the House—at that point, I believe, the member could, if I understand the rules correctly, lose his chance of having a private member's bill. I think that's where we need to be careful, because having a private member's bill can be a once-in-a-lifetime and a once-in-a-career opportunity, as we all know. This is where I want to be very careful for that member.

The Speaker could go either way, obviously, but the point is that without further analysis on this point, I don't want to see this member lose his opportunity. That's why I think we need to proceed very carefully with this.

8:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Filomena Tassi

Okay. Thank you, Mr. Schmale.

Marc-Olivier, do you want to comment?

8:50 a.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Mr. Marc-Olivier Girard

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Schmale, for your concerns.

To address these, you talked first about Standing Order 86, if I remember correctly. Just to inform the committee members, this standing order actually applies to notices, for instance a private member's motion or a private member's bill, that members eligible for private members' business put on the Notice Paper.

In this specific instance, the standing order doesn't apply, because you cannot argue that, for instance, Bill C-344 was identical or similar to another item already on the Order Paper. Why? Because on January 31, the House of Commons had already withdrawn the bill by Mr. Hussen, Bill C-227. Basically, Bill C-227 was no longer on the Order Paper when Mr. Mr. Sangha wanted to put Bill C-344 on notice. That was your first comment.

Your second point was about a decision of the House being made. The practical interpretation is this. The time of the House of Commons is very precious. The House doesn't like to waste its time on something it has already considered in the past and also voted on or decided on in the current session of Parliament. I interpret this decision as one of the following options: a bill that would be negatived at second reading; a bill that would be negatived at report stage; a bill that would be negatived by the House at third reading; or a bill that would be adopted at third reading for final passage of the bill.

If I take a look at Bill C-227, nothing in this decision actually happened to the bill. The bill was withdrawn when it reached report stage in the House of Commons. None of these options actually applied to Bill C-227 before the withdrawal from the House of that bill.

With that in mind, it's my interpretation, as a matter of procedure, that the decision has not necessarily been officially made. If you follow the spirit of the rule you mentioned on Bill C-227, the withdrawal from the House of Commons of that bill was mostly based on the fact that the bill had no eligible sponsor anymore for private members' business, Mr. Hussen having been appointed as a minister of the crown. It was not a decision made on the substance of the bill.

I'll let my interpretation be the advice I'm giving to the committee, but as a person devoted to the committee, I will emphasize that the final decision lies with the committee itself.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

I will also quote Beauchesne's—

Madam Chair, do I still have the floor?

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Filomena Tassi

Yes.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

—sixth edition, page 192. Citation 624 states:

(1) There is nothing in the rules and no precedent to prevent the setting down of more than one bill or motion dealing with the same subject.

And:

(3) There is no rule or custom which restrains the presentation of two or more bills relating to the same subject and containing similar provisions. But if a decision of the House has already been taken on one such bill, for example, if the bill has been given or refused second reading, the other is not proceeded with if it contains substantially the same provisions and such a bill could not have been introduced on a motion for leave.

I think that's where our issue lies.

I understand what you're saying. I go back to my original comment on how a private member's bill can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I just want to make sure we do everything we can so that the person doesn't lose this opportunity. That's my concern.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Filomena Tassi

I appreciate the spirit in which this is raised.

Mr. Chan.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

I want to come back to your final comment.

I think the point the clerk is making is that there actually was no decision of the House. The decision of the House was fairly clearly laid out in respect of what the conditions were, namely, that this bill was withdrawn because there was no sponsor.

I think the point you're making is that if there was a negative decision at second reading, at report stage, or a negative decision made at third reading, there would be a decision of the House as it relates to the substance of the bill. In this particular case, the bill was at report stage. We didn't actually have a decision of the House. Under the Standing Orders, it had to be withdrawn because Mr. Hussen could no longer be a sponsor of the bill.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Yes, for sure. I'm just saying our challenge is that we believe a decision was made by the House in withdrawing it.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

That's procedural withdrawal, not an actual substantive decision of the House. I think that's the distinction that you and I are making right now. You believe it was withdrawn because of the fact that Mr. Hussen became a member of the Privy Council. Our view is it is procedurally withdrawn. There's no substantive decision on the bill.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Well—

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

It's a procedural withdrawal, not a substantive withdrawal.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

For sure. I'm just saying there is.... We believe the opposite, that's all.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

What is the practice of the committee if we are not in agreement? Is it just voted straight up and straight down?

8:55 a.m.

The Clerk

Do you want me to answer?

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Filomena Tassi

Yes, please.

8:55 a.m.

The Clerk

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Most of the time, as you know, the subcommittee proceeds on the basis of consensus, but if there are concerns raised about a specific question, well, in the end the question will be put by the chair and could be resolved by a show of hands. Then we know whether the specific question is carried or not.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Filomena Tassi

Marc-Olivier, do you want to add any comments with respect to the discussion that has taken place back and forth? Do you have anything further to add in terms of what you've said already?

8:55 a.m.

The Clerk

Nothing further to add, thank you.