I am now prepared to deliver my final ruling with respect to Bill C-206 standing in the Order of Precedence for Private Members' Business in the name of the member for Wentworth—Burlington.
This matter, concerning the acceptability of the list of 100 signatures, was originally raised on February 7, 2000 by the member for Athabasca. The hon. member for Athabasca complained of the use made of his signature in helping to have Bill C-206 placed in the Order of Precedence. He maintained that his support for the bill was limited to the text in its original form as Bill C-264 and not to the current version which is before the House. The hon. member for Wentworth—Burlington, for his part, claimed that he had never attempted to mislead the House or any of its members by his use of the list of signatures which he had gathered during the previous session.
In a preliminary ruling which I delivered on February 8, 2000, I indicated that, as the mechanism provided by Standing Order 87(6) for having an item placed in the Order of Precedence was a recent addition to our rules, the Chair lacked any precedents on which to base a decision. At that time, I requested that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs consider the matter and provide some indication of how the provisions of Standing Order should be understood.
The procedure and House affairs committee has presented the results of its deliberations in its 19th report, which was tabled on Friday, March 17, 2000 and I am thus in a position to make a ruling on the question. I am deeply grateful to the members of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for the advice that they have provided the Chair. I appreciate both the care which they have exercised in their deliberations and the promptness with which they have returned their views to the House.
In light of the guidance provided by the procedure and house affairs committee, it seems to me that the most reasonable, and the fairest, way of proceeding in the present case is to declare the list of supporters, collected during the first session of this parliament in support of Bill C-264 in its original form, invalid. The list was collected at a time when our new procedures were not yet in place and legitimate concerns have been raised concerning just what it was that members thought they were committing themselves to in signing it.
I am therefore accepting their recommendation that the member for Wentworth—Burlington have the opportunity to demonstrate that current support exists for the debate of Bill C-206 by filing a new list in conformity with the provisions of Standing Order 87(6)(a). I emphasize here, as the committee did in its report, that what is sought here is support for the holding of a debate on the substance of the bill, not support for the content of the bill itself.
If it is shown that there is widespread support for the consideration of this item, it will be allowed to proceed. Failing the filing of the necessary list with the Journals Branch prior to Bill C-206 being set down for the first hour of debate at second reading, the item will be removed from the Order of Precedence. It will, of course, remain eligible to be returned to the Order of Precedence through a later filing of such a list or by the normal process of the draw.
I would like to thank the member for Athabasca for raising this issue and the member for Wentworth—Burlington for his clear and concise account of the order of events. I would also like to thank the House leader of the official opposition, the member for Berthier—Montcalm, as well as the member for Roberval, for their contributions to the consideration of this question. I would also once again express my appreciation to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for its valuable assistance.