That, in order to facilitate the conduct of the business of the House in the Second Session of the Thirty- fifth Parliament, this House order as follows:
That, during the first thirty sitting days of the Second Session of the Thirty-fifth Parliament, whenever a Minister of the Crown, when proposing a motion for first reading of a bill states that the said bill is in the same form as a Government bill was at the time of prorogation of the First Session, and, whenever any Private Member, when proposing a motion for first reading of a public bill states that the said bill is in the same form as a private member's public bill that he or she introduced in the First Session, if the Speaker is satisfied that the said bill is in the same form as at prorogation, the said bill shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation and shall stand, if necessary, on the Order Paper, or, as the case may be, referred to committee, at the same stage and under the same legislative procedural process at which it stood at the time of prorogation;
Provided that any evidence adduced by any committee with regard to any bill in the First Session of the Thirty-fifth Parliament that is affected by this Order shall be deemed to have been laid upon the Table, and, as the case may be, referred to the appropriate committee;
Provided that, if this Order is applied to any bill, the consideration of which had been completed in the House of Commons, but which was before the Senate at the time of prorogation, the said bill shall be deemed to have been introduced, completed at all stages and passed by the House of Commons in the present session; and
That, for the remainder of the calendar year 1996, Standing Order 81 shall be amended as follows:
- Section (4) is suspended and the following substituted therefor:
(4) The Main Estimates for the year ending March 31, 1997 shall stand referred to standing committees up to and including June 21, 1996. Each such committee shall consider and shall report, or shall be deemed to have reported the same to the House not later than the said date, provided that: a ) not later than the third sitting day prior to June 21, 1996, the Leader of the Opposition may give notice during the time specified in Standing Order 54 of a motion to extend consideration of the main estimates of a named department or agency and the said motion shall be deemed adopted when called on
Motions'' on the last sitting day prior to June 21, 1996; <em>b</em> ) on the sitting day immediately preceding the first allotted day in the supply period ending December 10, 1996, but, in any case not later than ten sitting days following the day on which any motion made pursuant to paragraph ( <em>a</em> ) of this section is adopted, and not later than the ordinary time of daily adjournment, the said committee shall report, or shall be deemed to have reported, the main estimates of the said department or agency; and <em>c</em> ) if the committee shall make a report, the Chairman or a member of the committee acting for the Chairman may so indicate, on a point of order, prior to the hours indicated in paragraph ( <em>b</em> ) of this section, and the House shall immediately revert toPresenting Reports from Committees'' for the purpose of receiving the said report.
- Section 14( a ) shall be suspended and the following substituted therefor:
(14)( a ) Forty-eight hours' written notice shall be given of motions to concur in interim supply, main estimates, supplementary or final estimates, to restore or reinstate any item in the estimates. Twenty-four hours' written notice shall be given of an opposition motion on an allotted day or of a notice to oppose any item in the estimates, provided that for the consideration of the Main Estimates for the year ending March 31, 1997, forty-eight hours' notice shall be given of a notice to oppose any item in the said estimates.
Section (17) is amended by inserting, immediately after the word "ending", the words "June 23".
Section (18) is amended by deleting the words "On the last allotted day in the period ending June 23" and by substituting therefor the words "On the first allotted day in the period ending December 10";
Mr. Speaker, this motion is intended to provide a framework for the effective management of the business of the House at the beginning of this new session of Parliament.
This motion is intended to provide a framework for the effective management of the business of the House.
Our standing orders are designed to provide a framework for the normal operation of the House of Commons on an annual calendar without regard for the periodic disruptions of that calendar which may be caused by dissolutions, prorogations or emergency situations. Whenever that calendar has been interrupted and for whatever reason, the practice has been for the House to amend its standing orders or to pass a special order to deal with the situation in question.
Therefore the government is placing before the House a motion for a special order to deal with the current situation. We are not proposing permanent amendments to the standing orders at this time. Instead we are proceeding in a manner which we view as being similar to but more constructive than that used in the past to deal with a situation that has occurred on a number of occasions previously and will no doubt recur many times in the future.
For that reason there may appear to be similarities between some of the solutions we are putting forward in this motion and some of the actions of a previous government in a previous Parliament which some members on this side of the House as well as others criticized at the time. I submit there are fundamental differences between our proposals now and those put forward in 1991.
On that occasion the government of the day dealt only with specified government bills at specified stages. There was no attempt to provide a system that would apply equally to private members' business as well as government bills and the motion attempted to reinstate a limited number of government bills only in one fell swoop. Of course this is not what is being done with this motion.
If the procedure we are proposing for the special order operates effectively, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs may want to recommend some permanent revisions to the standing orders along the lines of our proposed special order. Of course this is for the committee to consider.
The rules governing the business of supply require that the main estimates, that is the spending proposals of the various departments and agencies, be tabled and referred to the several standing committees by March 1 and reported by May 31 in order to be passed before the summer adjournment. Also, in order to facilitate government operations in the first three months of the fiscal year, an interim supply bill is passed in March.
With the opening of the new session, if this motion were not adopted, under the regular rules in our standing orders governing the opening of a new session, the standing committees of the House need not be organized before mid March at the earliest. This means that if the normal procedure were followed, the time available to study the main estimates could quite properly be truncated, be cut by 20 per cent or more. In addition the normal rules, if this motion were not adopted, would require the tabling of the main estimates before the budget.
The budget when presented could alter the fiscal needs of the government as initially reflected in the estimates. Therefore this would make the estimates a less reliable instrument for Parliament's scrutiny of government expenditure.
It is therefore proposed in this motion that for the year 1996 only, the supply cycle be altered to remove the referral deadline of March 1 and the report deadline of May 31 and to provide a new report deadline of June 21, the day the House adjourns for the summer.
The House will be asked to give final approval to the main estimates in September or October rather than in June. This will replace the three weeks of what I might call dead committee time in March with three weeks of live committee time in June. In other words, the full period of time that would have been available to standing committees to study estimates would be restored to them through this motion. In order to facilitate this, in March the House will be asked for seven months rather than three months interim supply.
Members will recognize that the government could well have ignored this situation. We could have presented the main estimates sometime this week before the budget and met the March 1 deadline for their referral to the standing committees. Under the rules, even though these committees would not have been able to meet before the middle of March, they still would have been compelled to report the estimates to the House by May 31.
The government does not view that as a desirable course at all. The work of standing committees on the expenditure process is an important element in our approach to the revitalization of Parliament. Therefore, we are not prepared to take advantage of a quirk in the rules to deprive members of upward of 20 per cent of the time normally allotted to this process.
We believe that the proposed temporary supply calendar for 1996 as set out in the motion now before the House will work to the advantage of members on all sides of the House and to the public at large.
In a similar vein, we believe that the provision of a procedure for members to reinstate bills on which progress had been made in the previous session to the stages which they had reached at the time of prorogation should be viewed as a progressive and constructive step.
It is important to note, as I have said on another occasion, an initiative in this regard was actually taken last autumn by the House leader of the Reform Party, the hon. member for Lethbridge. At
that time he put down a notice of motion calling for private members' bills to be reinstated after a prorogation.
When this motion was chosen as a votable item on the order of precedence, my colleague, the former parliamentary secretary to the House leader, the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, privately indicated to him the positive interest in his proposal and our likelihood therefore of offering an amendment to his motion that would treat all bills the same, government bills as well as private members' bills. It seemed to make sense. It seemed to be fair and reasonable. If it was sensible to reinstate private members' bills to where they had left off at the time of prorogation, it was equally sensible to do the same thing for government bills.
Unfortunately, on the day the proposal of the Reform House leader was to be debated, the Reform House leader, the hon. member for Lethbridge, unexpectedly was not present in the House. As a result, under the rules his proposal disappeared from the Order Paper. In effect the government is now picking up the ball where the hon. member for Lethbridge had dropped it last fall.
The motion we have put before the House does not deal with any specific bill. It may well be that some members, whether ministers or private members, have reasons for not reinstituting proceedings on their bills that were terminated by prorogation. We are therefore merely providing a procedure to apply equally to ministers and to private members.
Under this procedure, bills on which valuable parliamentary time had been expended in the last session may be proceeded with in the new session without duplication of work and the resulting waste of both time and taxpayers' money. At the time of prorogation 15 government bills and 11 private members' bills had at least been advanced to committee but had not been given royal assent.
There are ample precedents for the House of Commons deeming government bills from previous sessions to have been advanced in new sessions to the stages at which they had expired at prorogation. This has been done in the interest of not wasting parliamentarians' time. It has been done in the interest of not wasting the time of members of the public who otherwise would have to come back to committees to present their views and briefs all over again. It has been done in the interest of not wasting taxpayers' money by repeating exactly the same debate or committee hearings on exactly the same bill.
What is unprecedented in our motion is that we are proposing to give private members exactly the same rights as ministers on this matter. Since taking office in November 1993, this government has acted to enhance the role of the private member especially with regard to private members' public bills.
As far as supporters of this government have been concerned, every vote on a private member's public bill has been a non-whipped, that is, a free vote. It would not therefore be either equitable or consistent with its policy on private member's business for the government to seek authority from the House to reinstate its legislation without also asking the House to grant the same authority to private members. Consequently, for the first time in Canadian parliamentary history, private members' bills will be eligible in a new session to be reinstated to the point they had reached in a previous session.
The proposal in this motion will apply only to bills from the last session in which the House and therefore the public had invested a significant amount of time, namely those bills on which the House had at least taken one more decision in addition to permitting first reading. This would be those bills that had at least been referred to committee, whether before or after second reading. Bills that had merely been introduced but not advanced any further in the last session do not represent any real investment of House time and may simply be reintroduced in the new session in the ordinary fashion.
The procedure will work as follows. During the first 30 sitting days of the new session any minister or private member who introduces a bill precisely the same as a bill in the old session and which had at least been referred to a committee will have the right to request that the new bill be reinstated to the stage at which it had progressed at the time of prorogation.
If the Speaker is satisfied that the bill is precisely in the same form, it shall be ordered reinstated at that stage. This procedure does not oblige a minister or a private member to reintroduce a bill. It merely gives them a new right to do so during a limited period at the beginning of the session.
For the government's part, it has already decided to reintroduce a number of bills under this proposed regime. There will be some bills returned to the committee stage, some resumed at the report stage and some at third reading stage. At least two will, under this special procedure, be deemed by the House to have passed all stages in this session and be sent forthwith to the Senate where they were at the time of prorogation.
Not every minister has reached a final conclusion on this matter, but the list will include Bill C-7 regarding controlled drugs and substances; Bills C-52, C-95 and C-96, reorganizing a number of departments; Bill C-78 respecting witness protection; Bill C-84 respecting regulations; Bill C-88 respecting internal trade; Bill C-94 regarding fuel additives; Bill C-98 concerning oceans; Bill C-100 regarding financial institutions; Bill C-101 respecting transportation; Bill C-106 respecting the Law Reform Commission; Bill C-111 respecting employment insurance.
This may not be an all inclusive list. Ministers as well as private members will have 30 sitting days to make their final decisions on restoration of bills.
I cannot speak with authority on which private members will reintroduce their measures. At least four of my colleagues on this side of the House have been in communication with my office, demanding the action we are proposing. I hope it is not presumptuous of me to expect members on the other side to be equally committed to their own legislative proposals.
One initiative actually came from the hon. member for Lethbridge. I am looking forward to his thoughts, which I hope will be positive, on our acceptance of what could be argued to have started with his own proposal.
In closing, I think this is a very good motion and I ask the House to support it.
I commend the motion to the House and I ask for its early approval.