Mr. Speaker, I am speaking in favour of this motion, which would amend the standing orders, specifically Standing Order 97.
As I understand it, the hon. member for Mission-Coquitlam wishes to require that a private member's bill, if defeated in committee, be reported in the House that, first, it was defeated and, second, why it was defeated.
I listened to the amendment proposed by the member for Rimouski-Témiscouata. We are talking about two subjects here. As the standing orders now stand the rules allow that a bill, if defeated in the committee, the committee need not report back to the House that the bill was defeated. The chair of the committee is instructed not to report it to the House. This is, in effect, not correct.
At the same time, I have to acknowledge that this whole business of private members' business is being studied by a House committee. A process of evolution is occurring. Since 1986 when private members' business was given an earlier statutory amendment, it has evolved a great deal in the last 11 years.
The member in question for Mission-Coquitlam was the author and sponsor of Bill C-245, which was an act to amend the Divorce Act. As a member of the justice committee, yes, it was rejected by the committee. I was the person who moved that it not be reported to the House because the clerk of the committee told us that the rules only allowed that when a bill was defeated. There was no other alternative. We had no choice but to move that once the bill was defeated.
Also, this was a bill that was not whipped. There was no intervention or interference from the whip's office. It was a bill that was not discussed in the sense that, on one side of the table, we arrived at a consensus. It was a vote based on the merits of the legislation as proposed.
I would suggest that Bill C-245 was rejected for two reasons, namely, that the Divorce Act already has a provision for grandparents' access and that Bill C-245 was fundamentally flawed in that it would include custody and access rights equivalent to parents at the time of the divorce when those grandparents did not have those rights prior to the divorce writ being issued.
It seems to me that, as a parent, we would not want to give rights greater to grandparents than what they had prior to the divorce. No one would want to engage in litigation when a divorce, which becomes a rather crazy piece of litigation at best, could have added another four petitioners or respondents to that type of action.
Although the intent of the sponsor of that bill was correct and undoubtedly there is some room for amendments to the Divorce Act to accommodate that, nonetheless I voted against the bill because it was not the best piece of legislation.
The fact that the bill was never reported back to the House is the sad part of the process. I, for one, can speak from personal experience that a private member's bill is a lot of work. A lot of heart and soul is put into it. The House agreed in principle that this was an idea worth examining. The fact is that it went to a committee and the committee did study it. Then we add the ultimate insult not only to those on the committee but to the sponsor of that bill by saying we cannot under the rules report the bill to the House is a great tragedy.
In the end it was the House that referred this bill to the committee, and the committee should be given the right and the authority to refer it back to the House and to say that yes, in this particular case the bill was defeated and here are some of the reasons why it, independently or collectively, defeated a bill. Then let the House decide if it was a good and valid reason.
Obviously the committee system in this place is not intended to be the terminal point of pieces of legislation. Committees are there to examine legislation at greater length than can possibly be done in this House. They are there to summon witnesses and experts and to determine if there are flaws, shortcomings or problems that were not contemplated in the House which should be considered. They are there to consider if legislation should be fine tuned, amended or defeated.
After the committee makes its collective decision obviously the House which sent it there would like to hear what the collective or individual opinions of those members might be with regard to the meaning of legislation, apparently or unintended.
To terminate a piece of private member's legislation in a committee is wrong. It is not proper; it is not fair. We have a chance now to do that which is proper, right and fair. We can move to amend the standing orders so that in the end we give to the House, not to the committee, the right to decide whether the committee was correct or whether the committee had enough evidence or whether the committee, based on the evidence presented to it, came up with the right conclusion.
We have a lot of boards in this country. For example, in Ontario we have boards to determine whether an individual should be issued a liquor licence. If the board turns the application down, the individual can at least appeal to another body which can ask based on the evidence before that board, did it follow the rules and arrive at the right conclusion. That is what the courts are for and that is
why we have laws dealing with administration. The administration act in Ontario deals with this.
It seems strange that fundamental laws of justice that apply in the courts of this country are in some way short circuited. I do not think it is a deliberate attempt, but the ultimate consequence is that a committee can short circuit the collective judgment of this place. I do not believe that was intended but that is what is happening, which is why this motion should be adopted.
I have heard the other argument about the amendment that it should be in six months. In the justice committee we have a rule that every month private members' business will be reviewed by the committee with respect to the status of items, including when we will deal with them. I believe that is what the member for Rimouski-Témiscouata was talking about.
We must also give private members' business the courtesy it deserves. We should ensure that committees deal with it. In the justice committee it works. I was the sponsor of that motion before the committee, and the motion passed. At least private members' business does not die in the in basket. In fact, it is dealt with. Not everybody likes the results of how the committee deals with it but if we follow this motion things will at least circuit back to the House where we can let the House collectively deal with them.
This motion has great merit and I urge others to examine it and to support it.