I am now ready to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Kootenay East on June 12, 1996 concerning the placement under Private Members' Business of a motion for a free conference with the Senate.
I thank the hon. member for raising this matter and the chief government whip for his contribution to the discussion.
In his submission, the hon. member argued that because his motion seeking a free conference with the Senate on the accountability process for the main estimates dealt with the maintenance of the authority of the House on the management of its business, it should be considered under Motions, under the rubric Routine Proceedings, pursuant to Standing Order 67(1)(p). He also requested that this matter be dealt with expeditiously in light of the timelines established for the supply process. I have tried to accommodate his request.
I have examined the arguments and precedents and, in my opinion, there are two aspects to this point of order: the first, whether or not free conferences can be employed to deal with matters such as the one proposed by the hon. member and, second, under which heading on the Order Paper this motion should be dealt with by the House.
In a bicameral Parliament such as ours, the two Houses share in the making of legislation. Throughout the legislative process, the House of Commons and the Senate communicate with each other by means of messages. Historically, on occasions where the two Houses had reached an impasse on amendments to a bill, they had resorted to a free conference, a meeting of the representatives of the House and the Senate at which they attempt, through negotiation, to resolve their differences on the amendments in dispute.
In the Canadian context, free conferences have occurred only in relation to amendments to bills. Although the possibility of resolving conflict by means of a conference is provided for in our standing orders, it has not been used since 1947. As the hon. member acknowledged, Beachesne's sixth edition, citation 748 states in part:
Conferences between the Houses are now obsolete, since their main function, that of providing an occasion for communicating reasons for disagreement to amendments to bills, has been taken over by the modern practice of sending Messages.
In the present situation, in my view it is not for the Chair to decide whether or not a free conference is the appropriate mechanism to deal with the substance of the hon. member's notice of motion. The matter before the Chair is its placement on the Order Paper.
Over the years, various kinds of motions have been categorized and assigned their own place in the daily programme, including private members' motions, motions for leave to introduce bills, and motions to adjourn under Standing Order 52.
These categories have developed over a lengthy period of time in response to the need to adapt to the organization of House business. Some categories are now uniquely reserved for the government or the opposition, whereas others are reserved for private members and some very special categories are reserved for items which affect the transaction of the routine business of the House.
In addition, the kind of motions permissible under "Motions" has been narrowed to those that consist primarily of motions for concurrence in committee reports and motions relating to the sittings and proceedings of the House.
It has become the practice that when private members give written notice of motions pertaining to matters of the type described in Standing Order 67(1)(p), these motions are placed under the heading Private Members' Business on the Order Paper. These include motions seeking to amend the Standing Orders, providing orders of reference to committees of the House, arranging the
conduct or the management of House business or in some other way dealing with the parliamentary environment.
On many occasions where such motions as enumerated in Standing Order 67(1)(p) have been moved under Motions without notice, both ministers and private members have sought and been granted unanimous consent to do so. However, there are currently no other opportunities for private members to move motions during Routine Proceedings.
Therefore, the hon. member's notice of motion M-266 is properly placed on the Order Paper under Private Members' Business. I thank the hon. member for having brought this matter to the attention of the House.