Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with regard to Motion No. 425 standing on the order paper in my name. The motion reads as follows:
That a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint their honours that this House wishes to convey its dismay regarding the undue delay in the Senate's progress on Bill C-247, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Members of the House of Commons have expressed their distress at the unnecessary delay in dealing with this legislation and in the interest of co-operation between the two chambers, and, ultimately service to the Canadian public, the House feels compelled to express its serious concerns regarding the handling of Bill C-247 by the Senate.
On the notice paper this motion is listed as a private member's motion. I intended this motion to be placed on the order paper so as to be moved at Routine Proceedings under the rubric motions. I believe this is the only way a private member can realistically and practically deal with the Senate with respect to a private member's bill. I will also argue that placing this motion on notice for Routine Proceedings is in keeping with our practice.
On September 16, 1996, a number of members raised questions of privilege to complain that the Standing Committee on Justice was not dealing with Private Member's Bill C-234. It was argued that while a government could use time allocation to dislodge a bill from committee, a private member had no means to do this except by way of introducing another private member's motion.
It was pointed out that a second private member's motion dealing with the issue would have little chance of being considered by the House because of the complex and sometimes awkward process of private members' business. It would be like lightning striking the same place twice and very unlikely to ever happen.
Members felt that since the majority sent the bill to committee, the committee should respect the will of the House. This principle was so important to members that the standing orders were changed to ensure that this situation would never happen again. Before this change was instituted, the Speaker felt that one way of dealing with the matter was to allow a motion to be moved by a private member during Routine Proceedings.
The principles regarding the fate of Bill C-234 in 1996 are similar to the principles regarding Bill C-247 in this parliament. In both cases the government leadership was out to kill a private member's bill. Fortunately both bills enjoyed the support of the majority.
In the case of Bill C-247 it was gutted at committee by the government leadership. Thankfully it was restored by the power of the backbench and opposition members when it was reported back to the House. Through all its stages and despite the efforts of anyone else the majority supported the bill, and finally the House sent it to the Senate.
Unfortunately the Senate has unduly held up Bill C-247. I suspect this hold-up is due in part to the many friends that the government side may have over in the Senate, possibly because of the appointments that have been made there. Sadly this may cause more problems for private members' bills that do not enjoy the support of the Prime Minister in the future.
On September 23, 1996, the Speaker made his ruling on the questions of privilege regarding Bill C-234. He did not rule the matter to be a prima facie case of privilege but he did make the following comment and suggestion:
Should a member or a minister be of the opinion that a committee charged with the review of a bill is defying the authority of the House, he or she may choose to bring it to the attention of the House by placing on notice a motion to require the committee to report by a certain date.
As hon. members know, this can indeed be done under Government Orders or Private Members' Business, but such a notice of motion could also be placed under the rubric motions and be dealt with under Routine Proceedings.
As Speaker Fraser ruled on July 13, 1988, at page 17506 of the Debates , referring to the then Standing Order 56(1)(p), which is our current Standing Order 67(1)(p):
“This Standing Order lists as debatable items usually raised under Routine Proceedings motions concerning the management of the (House) business (and) the arrangements of its proceedings.
“The rubric motions usually encompasses matters related to the management of the business of the House and its committees, but it is not the exclusive purview of the government, despite the government's unquestioned prerogative to determine the agenda of business before the House.”
Under our current practices the Chair may well accept, after due notice, such a motion.
Standing Order 67 lists motions that can be moved during Routine Proceedings. They are:
—for the observance of the proprieties of the House, the maintenance of its authority, the appointment or conduct of its officers, the management of its business, the arrangements of its proceedings, the correctness of its records, the fixing of its sitting days or the times of its meeting or adjournment.
The Senate's failure to deal with Bill C-247 in a timely manner relates to the proprieties of the House, the maintenance of its authority and the management of its business.
Since we are talking about a private member's bill, it stands to reason that a private member should be allowed to move a motion under the rubric motions and send a message to the Senate regarding the progress of the said bill.
If a government bill was stuck in the Senate, the government could move a motion under motions to send a message to the Senate. Mr. Speaker, as you ruled on September 23, 1996, motions are not for exclusive use by the government. Therefore, I should be allowed to move my motion under motions.
In conclusion, the Prime Minister has been talking about an election perhaps in the fall, certainly within 12 months. If the Senate does not deal with Bill C-247 it will die. This government, through its power to send a message to the Senate and through the leader of the government in the Senate, can easily set the government's priority in the other place. Private members cannot.
On the eve of an election, if we are on the eve of an election, this House should be allowed to send a message to the Senate without going through the many hoops and the impossibility of timing of the private member's system. There is not time to do that.
In the interests of the people who elected us to this House and those who want Bill C-247 to become law, which is a majority of people in this place, the House has an obligation to communicate to the Senate its concern about the fate of Bill C-247. Once again, the motion says:
That a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint their honours that this House wishes to convey its dismay regarding the undue delay in the Senate's progress on Bill C-247, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, members of the House of Commons have expressed their distress at the unnecessary delay in dealing with this legislation and in the interest of co-operation between the two chambers and, ultimately, service to the Canadian public, the House feels compelled to express its serious concerns regarding the handling of Bill C-247 by the Senate.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for your consideration of that point of order.