Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege in regard to the matter of introducing government public bills in the Senate.
My leader raised the issue with you under the provisions of Standing Order 52. It should be noted that since my leader's application for a special debate, a third bill has appeared on the Senate order paper today.
I bring this to your attention at this time, not as a matter of ministerial responsibility and not as a matter of debate, but as a matter of our procedures and practices which only you, Mr. Speaker, can entertain under the guise of privilege. The situation is unique to this Parliament, so I ask that you be patient and consider my arguments carefully.
This situation is unique because three out of the five recognized parties in the House of Commons do not have representation in the other place. The Prime Minister's use of the Senate as the first house to consider his government's legislation is insulting and offensive to the dignity of this elected House. It is also disrespectful to the new political reality of this House and its members.
Beauchesne's sixth edition, citation 28, states “Parliament is a court with respect to its own privileges and dignity and the privileges of its members”.
In Erskine May's 21st edition, at page 115, it states that an offence for contempt “may be treated as contempt even though there is no precedent for the offence”.
This is the first time that the Senate will consider government public bills prior to the House at a time when the party representation in the Senate is so out of sync with the wishes of the electorate. While there is clearly no precedent for this situation, we are not precluded from finding that the action of the Prime Minister is in contempt of this House.
Mr. Speaker, I refer you to Beauchesne's citation 3 which describes some elements of the Constitution Act as follows “If the electorate so wishes, the system presupposes an opposition ready and willing to attack the government in an attempt to have its legislation altered or rejected”.
Our system presupposes that the elected members be the real opposition to government legislation. The electorate has elected its government and its opposition. The role of the Senate is for sober second thought and must not be the front line of opposition to ensure government accountability.
Some might argue that the procedure the Prime Minister is using is in order. What they fail to recognize is the changing circumstances that guide our practices. I refer you, Mr. Speaker, to Beauchesne's sixth edition, citation 11, which reads “The House is to adjust the interpretation of its precedents and tradition in the light of changing circumstances”.
In conclusion, we claim the right to consider government public bills first. The Prime Minister's conduct in introducing government legislation in the Senate is offensive to the dignity of this elected House, disrespectful to all of its members and is a contempt of this House.