Mr. Speaker, I will be reasonably brief.
I want to thank the hon. member for Winnipeg Transcona for giving notice of his point of order. I would like to make a few comments on it, though first of all I would like to quote from Hansard of November 27, 1990, when a similar point of order was being discussed. At that time Ian Waddell, the New Democratic Party member for Port Moody-Coquitlam, argued in the House with regard to the Bloc Quebecois saying:
It is not a party. It does not have 12 people. Those are the rules. They should stop whining. The House has been very liberal to them and I find it shocking when they get up and whine, bitch and complain.
With regard to participation in question period and in members' statements, the House has been very generous with independent members and the Chair has been very generous, considering that very likely the New Democratic caucus has the poorest attendance record in the House.
I would like to get to some of the arguments that the member made with regard to having official party status. In 1974 the Ralliement Créditiste brought 11 members to the House of Commons. Despite their having less than 12 members all privileges which come with party recognition were given to them except for the extra stipend given to the leaders of the parties, other than the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, with at least 12 members.
In October 1979 Prime Minister Clark was in the process of setting up his new government. He put forward the names for composition of the striking committee and moved approval by the House. Initially one issue raised for decision by the House was whether the Ralliement Créditiste with six members should be represented on the striking committee. Mr. Clark moved approval of the committee with no Créditiste. Mr. Roy of the Créditiste put forward an amendment to the motion to include a Créditiste.
Mr. MacEachen, House leader for the Liberals, raised the following additional issues for consideration: first, whether the group would enjoy the status, particularly the leader of that group, equivalent in standing to that of the Leader of the Opposition, who was Mr. Trudeau, and the leader of the New Democratic Party; second, whether they would have full status of other parties in respect of the question period; and, third, whether they would have full status of other parties in respect of statements on motions in response to ministerial statements.
Additionally, Mr. Knowles, the House leader for the New Democratic Party, who is now a member at the table, reiterated some of the above arguments and added a fourth issue for consideration. He stated:
While it has come to be thought that 12 members were required for party status, we overstepped it when the party had only 11 members last time.
He was referring to 1974. He further stated:
Can a party that has used a name in election come here and claim all of the advantages that go with party status regardless of how small it is?
That is from Debates , October 9, 1979, page 13.
Mr. Knowles, Mr. MacEachen and others argued to the Speaker against party status for a party with less than 12 members in the House. The outcome of this deliberation and the decision of the House rendered by recorded division was nay. The Speaker twice refused to overturn the decision of the House on appeal from the Creditiste even when attention was called to the popular vote which the Ralliement Créditiste received. That is in House of Commons Debates, October 10, 1979.
Other issues are that the stipend which is given to leaders of parties with at least 12 members, excluding the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, is covered by the Parliament of Canada Act which states:
-to each member of the House of Commons, other than the Prime Minister or the member occupying the position of Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons, who is a leader of a party that has a recognized membership of 12 or more persons in the House-
This can only be changed by a legislative amendment, not by a ruling of the Speaker.
A final issue connected with recognition of parties in the House has to do with research funding. The requirement that parties must have at least 12 members can be waived by the Board of Internal Economy which includes three opposition members.
My conclusion is that if the House were to grant recognition of the New Democrats or the Progressive Conservatives as parties in the House they should first address the precedents against recognizing parties with fewer than 12 members, including the 1979 precedent.
It should be noted that in addition to Messrs. Clark, MacEachen and Knowles, that Messrs. Chrétien, Axworthy, Gray, Kilgour, MacLaren, Masse and others voted nay to the amendment. Further, it should be noted that the Speaker at that time refused to overturn the decision on appeal since the House had raised these issues and put them to a vote.
Therefore a decision of any of the issues given should be given careful consideration by the Speaker of the 35th Parliament. The independent members in the House should not be given recognition beyond what should be accorded by any individual member unless the House agrees to give such recognition.
In brief summation, the recourse of the members of the New Democratic Party is to appeal to the House for changes in the legislation whereby they would be recognized. We believe it should not be an appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to make a ruling on this issue.