House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chapter.


Modernization Of The Standing Orders Of The House Of CommonsGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Mississauga South Ontario


Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Chairman, I know you have an important role to play with regard to the committee that the House has charged to look into the modernization of parliament issue.

I find it very fascinating the work that has been done and the proposals which have been presented, for instance the leadoff debate by the government House leader. Much of that was discussed at committee and unanimous consent is mandated for any changes. I understand there is very good progress so far.

Interestingly enough though, the entire debate has split into two channels. The committee as I understand it is dealing with the procedures of the House such as how to make it run smoothly, how to deal with filibustering and report stage motions which are frivolous and how do we make it more efficient? All those points are very characteristically how does this place work.

The other stream that has taken a life of its own has to do with the premise that there is a question as to the relevance of members of parliament and how do we engage the public and convince them that they have a role to play and a say? That is the citizen engagement issue.

The member talked about the public as if they were a homogeneous group but they are not. Across the country very few members of parliament had more than 50% of the vote in any riding. So the views of constituents in a particular riding are going to be divergent. There is going to be a bit of everything.

There are certain things that go beyond partisan purposes or objectives. Members of parliament on committee and when they do special work seek items that can go beyond the partisanship. We have an official Opposition and other opposition parties, and their role is to be the opposition. The government's role is to implement its mandate. Its democratically elected government has a constitutional obligation to deliver a program under which it was elected.

The members of the governing party are considered to be sheep because they support the platform on which they ran. How ironic, of course they have to support the plan on which they ran. There are issues that are not specific in the platform but certainly are specific in a party's policy such as a long standing policy background. It is clear that the thrust of most of the voting here probably is reflective of either the platform or the policy of a particular party.

The member who just spoke raised some issues. There are issues related to the environment, reproductive technologies, some cloning and stem cell harvesting and other issues which could go way beyond partisanship. These are things I can study and get into. We can hear witnesses, come up with good reports and help government fashion a legislative and regulatory framework which could guide some of these things that are evolving in our society. This is where the participatory democracy comes from, when we can find those ways to set aside the partisanship.

I will take this opportunity to suggest three or four items that I would like the committee to look at in trying to provide some guidance in shaping some of the things that happen in this place.

The first one is the concept of relevance. I must admit there was one member who spoke earlier who said that if there was time to speak, he always got up because he loved to speak. We have to exercise personal discipline. The Chair has some discretion to impose or to raise the question of relevance when members rise and tend to ramble on or repeat themselves et cetera. The efficiency of the operation of the House, if enforced judiciously, would encourage members who like to speak for the sake of speaking to check themselves periodically.

The whole aspect of debate within the House, and it would spill over to committees, is to make it much more relevant and crisp. In the British parliament the speeches of ministers on very important bills are very rarely more than 10 minutes long. There are certain points to be made and many of them have been well debated, but when we get down to it, a minister does not need 40 minutes to speak on a bill. Quite frankly, it is very difficult to fashion a good speech to last 40 minutes and keep everybody there.

The issue of relevance should not be overlooked in terms of the principle that the members should try to discipline themselves on that. However the Chair should also encourage us to keep on point and ensure that we do not act in a partisan way simply to repeat or to somehow stretch the envelope into areas that are not terribly relevant to the matter before the House.

The issue of question and comment is an area which leads to a lot of abuse in the House in that regard, simply from the standpoint that comment generally lends itself to members speaking for some time and raising new issues which were not in a member's speech. It tends to sidetrack the focus on the comments of a previous speaker.

I am hoping that the relevance issue will play an important role in shaping a signal for discipline by all members. Personally imposed and with the assistance of the Chair, I think we could be more efficient within the House.

I was fascinated to learn the longstanding tradition in the British parliamentary system, and I have not seen written rules on this, is that speeches should not be read in the House unless they are quoting from some references or providing detailed technical information. One member responded very quickly by saying that he had a lot to say, that he had 10 points to get across and he could not do it by memory.

I am not suggesting that members should not have any paper in front of them. Certainly they could have one page which would have the themes to which they were speaking. However imagine what would happen to the quality of the speaking within the House if members had to address the House rather than read to the House?

It would be very important for us to consider whether or not members should come here with their piles of papers. As the cameras film them giving their speech all that would show would be the tops of their heads. I have often thought, when watching CPAC and the proceedings of the House, that those members who address the House have eye contact. They can sense whether or not they have lost people or whether they are grumbling. There can almost be an interactive dialogue going on simply by checking the mood of the House.

It is important that we consider the great orators of parliamentary tradition. That skill has been lost.

Why is it that people can come in here with canned speeches and read them. If the paper were taken away from them and they were asked to carry on, they would probably say in many cases that they could not because they do not know very much about the subject they were in the House talking about. It would be terribly embarrassing for some members.

I hate to say this but, if that is the case, what is the relevance of a member standing up here? We might as well simply circulate the speech to all members or put it on their ParlNet. If a speaking spot opened up on a subject on which the member was not too familiar he or she could just read the speech.

I think the relevance of speaking in the House has to reflect the fact that these people have evidentiary knowledge or have done their research because the subject matter is something that is important to them. Debate is to try to sway opinion. I do not think many people are moved by looking at the top of someone's head as they read a speech prepared for them by somebody else.

Much has been said about committees. Committees have a very important role to play if they can get their act together. Fortunately we have some committees that do extremely well. I would think the finance committee has an excellent reputation. The foreign affairs committee has quite a good reputation. The environment committee to some extent has a pretty good reputation because it has strong leadership, et cetera, and I think the people on it are very interested. They continue to educate themselves and champion important initiatives.

One of the big problems we have with five official parties, and the need to put members on different committees—I think it is 16 members—is that it spreads us very thin. Members who have served on two committees know what I am talking about. I know of a number of cases where members are on two committees and the committees happen to meet at exactly the same time.

How can a member properly prepare let alone keep up with committee work? It is unfortunate that we are in that situation but there is not much we can do about it because we have five official parties. It was a lot different when there were three parties. We could have 10 members or maybe even 8 members on a committee and still do some good work. Quite frankly, more work would get done on committees if there were fewer members.

One of the committees' principal responsibilities is to deal with government bills. In committee today we went through clause by clause of a bill and some 30 amendments were proposed by the government. I would think by and large that most of those amendments were housekeeping in nature. No major changes were made to the thrust of the bill. The committee took a long time to deal with the bill which created a lot of frustration among the members, particularly those in opposition. They did not like the idea that the government was ramming through a bunch of changes.

It was very clear though, by watching the opposition members' growing frustration, that they were not quite aware of the way in which bills are dealt with at committee, particularly at clause by clause, and in fact did not know their rights as committee members. They could have put forward their own amendments and called for recorded votes. They could also have stood clauses for later consideration while they consulted with someone. This tends to support the suggestion of one member that an MP school might be important.

When I became a member of parliament and we received orientation in early 1994, the one day orientation was sadly lacking. There was more information than could possibly be absorbed. It certainly did not prepare us for what we had to do. We were just told to fend for ourselves and hopefully we would learn a little bit.

Interestingly enough, this time around after the election, there were, I believe, 17 new members of our caucus. I penned a 10 page typed letter on a potpourri of items just as a heads up. I probably could have gone on a lot longer.

It strikes me that some of the day to day ordinary activities of members of parliament do not get communicated to MPs. I think we do a terrible job, quite frankly, on orienting MPs on the day to day activities.

What is duty? What are votes? What are motions? What does it mean when the Speaker says “on division”? Those things are not written in too many places unless we start using enormous textbooks. We should probably start building a pragmatic manual for members of parliament so they can better understand budgeting, House duty, House hours, private members' business and where they can get help. They do not realize that they do not need a legislative assistant. The library of parliament is there with a large number of people with PhDs who are prepared to do all kinds of work for them.

The resources we have are enormous. I can look around this place at members who have been here particularly from the class of '93 or earlier. I can point to each one of them and tell exactly the niche they have found for themselves in this place and the contributions they have made. Regardless of partisan stripe, I know that each and every one of them looks for a way to make a contribution and find their niche, usually related to either their riding or their own personal experience or expertise.

I have no sympathy for members who just whine about things and say they do not get this or that. There is an onus on each individual member of parliament to take up the challenge and to understand that the best way to get an item past the chair, whether one is a government member or an opposition member, is to get a bill or a motion before the House, to have it voted on by the members and passed. The very best outcome is to do the best job possible to garner consensus, to get public support and to convince the government that it should take on the item and introduce it, just as the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore said. He had an idea on the blood issue but it did not go the way he wanted. Good ideas should bypass partisanship.

The last thing I want to talk about has not been mentioned yet. I hope the House will take this in the spirit in which it is given. The premise is that Canadians do not feel engaged or they do not seem to understand parliament. I told the member from Scarborough what my agenda is. A lot of people were amazed. They did not know what I did.

It seems to me that we are not doing a very good job of explaining to Canadians at large the scope of activity that goes on. More important, I do not think Canadians feel connected to this place. They can watch CPAC if they can get away from work but that means sitting in front of a television.

I am hoping there is a way to do this. I am wondering why I as a member of parliament or a constituent of mine cannot tune in to a radio band and listen to the proceedings of the House of Commons of Canada. Why can I not follow the debate unless I am not in front of a television? Why do my constituents need to be in front of a television to hear me speak on an issue that concerns them or to hear the questions I am asked or the answers that I give?

How hard could it be for the Parliament of Canada to communicate to Canadians the activities in the House? Question period is not a good reflection on members of parliament and the quality of work in this place. The debate on bills, motions, opposition day motions and the like are very interesting and very important to a lot of people out there.

I raise that with you, Mr. Chairman, in the hope that you will bring it to the committee to find out if there is a possibility for Canadians to listen to the House of Commons when there are matters of importance they would like to hear rather than waiting for Hansard to be published or going to the library if they do not have access to the Internet.

If it is important enough to be debated in this place it is important enough for Canadians to be aware of it and to be aware of it on a timely basis. The broadcasting angle may be a way to address that need and to connect with Canadians about the important work in this place.

Modernization Of The Standing Orders Of The House Of CommonsGovernment Orders

10:40 p.m.

The Chairman

I would like to remind my colleagues that we have approximately 20 minutes left. I understand there are yet a few members wishing to speak. We will begin with the member for Elk Island and I will leave it to the three members who wish to speak to share the time.

Modernization Of The Standing Orders Of The House Of CommonsGovernment Orders

10:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Chairman, I will ask some questions of the hon. member who just spoke. We have had some good times together on the finance committee. I will ask him the questions, but I will not give him an opportunity to answer because I am now speaking myself.

He may want to consider this. He said he ran on a party platform, as we did. There is certainly a lot of truth to that. The fact of the matter is that we deal with many issues in the House that are not the object of debate during an election campaign. It is incumbent on us, then, to make sure that we as individual members of parliament have the ear of our constituents so we can represent them in this place.

I have a very curious question for which I have never been able to get a decent answer, that is, how come we, on our opposition day, chose word for word a paragraph right out of the election platform of the Liberals which all of the Liberals on command then voted against? To me that contradicts what he said, but that is getting partisan and the whole tone of tonight is very non-partisan.

I already stated my case on private members' business earlier today during questions and comments. I also spoke when we had the debate some time ago. I would like to add a few things that I do not think I spoke about previously and that I think are relevant to your committee, Mr. Chairman.

With respect to committees, I have some really important points. I have enjoyed working on the finance committee. We have a good working relationship in the committee, but there are some real frustrations. First, the majority the government holds on the committee and the presence of the parliamentary secretary, who seems to direct the votes, are very frustrating.

I do not mind if I present my ideas and the people hearing those ideas reject them because they are not valid or I do not have a strong enough argument or I do not express them well enough. Then I lose that debate and the vote goes against me. That is fine.

However, when I present something in committee and can tell by the body language that the people agree with me—I taught for 31 years and learned when my students were with me and when they were not—but the parliamentary secretary opens his mouth and basically suggests to the members that they should vote against me and then they all do, I find it very frustrating. I do not know whether our standing orders can be changed to accommodate this frustration, but I certainly would echo what some of the other members have said and that is that perhaps the parliamentary secretary should not be on the committee acting as whip.

I found the process of the election of chairs very frustrating. I do not think it is right that all we get is a motion that so-and-so be elected and then we vote on that. Usually in elections there is a list of candidates. In meetings which we conduct under Robert's Rules of Order , we open the floor for nominations and accept all the names. Then there is a vote based on all of the names on the slate.

What happens too often in our committees here is that the instant the clerk of the committee, who chairs the committee until the chairperson is selected, says the meeting is constituted and we are accepting nominations, whoever yells the loudest gets recognized. I have noticed in the meetings I have been in that the clerk of the committee always has her face to the right so that she is looking at the Liberal members, whereas we on the other side are ignored.

As a matter of fact the last time we elected the chair of the finance committee I was prepared to nominate the person who won. That would have been a wonderful non-partisan effort to show that we were working together as a committee. We should have a slate of candidates and there should be a ballot, perhaps a run-off ballot. I would like it to be a secret ballot. The choice of the chairs of the committees should not be orchestrated from on high.

I am concerned about government control with its majority on committees. Some may say that the government has to have the ability to promote its agenda. That is true to a certain extent. I have had several experiences in my seven years where the committee chair has in my humble unbiased view made an error. I referred to this once or twice.

I brought one to the House as a point of order. A motion actually passed and the chairperson of the particular committee said that it had failed. I pointed out to the chairperson that only two people had said yes, that nobody had said no and that therefore the chairperson saying the motion had failed was the opposite to what it should be. Then we got into a bit of a shouting match because I did not accept the chairperson had the right to say that a motion had failed when in fact it had passed. Eventually in this case he went back to the rules and said that was his decision. Then he said “Shall the decision of the chair be upheld” and the majority on the government side said yes, the decision should be upheld, and so it was.

One cannot do that. One cannot do something that is against the rules of procedure in committee and then somehow justify it by getting other people who happen to be on one's side to back it up. I would like to see something in our standing orders which would allow an appeal for things like that to the Speaker or to the procedure and House affairs standing committee.

Committee travel was mentioned earlier. Sometimes our party, as the official opposition, has denied the right of committees to travel. I recognize that it is important for committees to travel, but very often the official opposition uses that as a bargaining chip when it wants something else. Often it is the recalcitrance of the House leader of the government that changes that.

I wish to say a little about free votes in the House. It is something that we should do. Even though the government ran on a platform, there are sometimes amendments which are needed to improve legislation. To always wholesale deny a motion, because it comes from opposition without in my view proper thought being given to it, is an affront to me as a member of parliament.

I would like to say something about the parliamentary calendar. I would like to see MPs have more days in the riding. I am one that is in this place way too much. I do not know why it is. Maybe I have a problem and should go to see a psychiatrist about it.

It reminds me of this lady that I have in my riding who is always watching CPAC. I asked her one day if she had any other medical problems. The parliamentary calendar should be changed because I would like to have more days in my riding, but I feel when the House is in session I have an obligation to be here. That is how it ought to be. Consequently I would like to see some change to in calendar to allow members of parliament more days in their ridings.

I would also like to suggest that we improve attendance in the House. I really would like to see members actively engaged in debate in the House, instead of just a token number of people. With committees running at the same time we are in committee and then we get a phone call in the committee room which says to get down here and make a speech. We come down here and make our speech on the topic, and we have not heard what other people have said. It is not a true interaction. It is not a true debate. It is a monologue that we deliver and then rush back to our committees. I would like to see some changes in that area.

I want to say one thing about time allocation and closure. The government holds the record on the number of times it has been used. That defeats what parliament is about. Parliament is about words. We use words to spread ideas. The clerk will know that I have stated to him some time ago that one of the flaws of this place is that we do not know how to use the language.

Language is the embodiment of the ideas that we have in our heads. I would like to see the rules on closure changed. The government should not be allowed to introduce closure or time allocation until a certain minimum period has been spent on a bill at each level.

On a number of occasions the government has moved time allocation at the report stage of a bill saying that the bill will go through all the remaining stages and will be finished at the end of the day. That is not adequate. We should have a minimum of one day to debate each stage of a bill, although I would like to see more.

I want to comment on bills going to committee before second reading. I find that unsatisfactory. It sounded at first to be so good, but we need to debate the principal of a bill before we send it to committee.

Finally, I have some question with respect to all the disallowed words. We as members of parliament should use our discretion and should be very careful when we condemn other members. However I personally find it an affront when other people do something and I am called out of order for having pointed it out. I resent the restriction on the words that we can use. Nevertheless, we should still be very honourable all the time.

Modernization Of The Standing Orders Of The House Of CommonsGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

The Chairman

In the 10 minutes remaining, I will recognize the member for Yukon. The hon. member for Elk Island on a point of order?.

Modernization Of The Standing Orders Of The House Of CommonsGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Chairman, I would not have any objection if we went five or eight minutes longer to give other members an opportunity to speak.

Modernization Of The Standing Orders Of The House Of CommonsGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

The Chairman

As this is a new format and in the spirit of co-operation I hope members will be mindful of the late hour. The understanding was that everyone would have completed their remarks by 10:58. Trusting that members will not abuse the latitude the Chair will exercise, I will begin with the member for Yukon.

Modernization Of The Standing Orders Of The House Of CommonsGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your flexibility and I will try to make the few points that I have as quickly as possible. These comments have come up during the debate tonight.

There are 301 of us in the House and we will not always get our way. In any job that any of us have had I am sure there were some frustrations. Before people out there line up to break down the doors of parliament, as was suggested by the member from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, I would like to make contrary arguments to some of the points that he made which I feel are a bit of hyperbole.

He said that this was not a democracy. In my adult life as a spectator viewing parliament, whatever government was elected by the people or whatever party was elected by a majority, it seems to have been able to make the laws of the land, to promote programs and platforms that it wanted and to implement them in a democratic fashion. It seems to be working relatively well in that respect.

The member went on to ask why we were dealing with taxation issues or endangered species. The point still puzzles me. This is a democracy and times have changed so that there is a surplus and a more competitive world. We need to make tax cuts and that is why we made the biggest tax cut in Canadian history.

People in parliament and across the country are unified in their beliefs that we need to solve child poverty or work to reduce it. That is why we brought in the child tax credit, the largest recently started, social program. The people of Canada and the majority of parliamentarians wanted this so the government implemented it. That is democracy and that is exactly what should be happening here.

The hon. member talked about the major huge reports on health care and on aboriginal affairs. Again I think it is hyperbole to say that nothing came out of them. It is never a loss to do study. It is never a loss to do education.

There was a major health accord this fall between the provinces and the federal government that had all sorts of innovative things in it. I assume that some of those things and other progress in health care that has happened since that report came from that report. The people who work in the field refer to those reports and use what knowledge they can.

Of course in the aboriginal affairs field there has been “Gathering Strength” and a number of very progressive items in the throne speech. It is not productive to say that nothing comes out of the studies.

I appreciate the member for Elk Island being here tonight. We have shared many late night debates. I want to say that sometimes party positions change, in all parties, because the circumstances change. A member would be doing the wrong thing if he or she did not change. That relates to the taxation item I mentioned.

One of my frustrations in the parliamentary system is that we cannot be here all the time when there are debates because we have so many other events to attend, such as committee meetings or dealing with constituents. We come into a debate having missed half of it, so how can we be knowledgeable when it is our turn to speak on that topic? I do not know how this is solved. I want to table this as one of my frustrations.

I will elaborate on something one of my colleagues said earlier on the pincer between the judiciary and the executive. At least it is not there without our own doing or causing. A strong executive and also a first past the post system allow us to have a strong government that can work fast to solve the problems. That is more important in this rapidly changing world. We have elected to have government work in that way. As to the judiciary, the only reason it can make decisions is that we make laws that are unclear or we give it the latitude to make decisions. If we want to prescribe it so that the judiciary does not have an effect, we can do that. Once again, that limit on us is through our own doing.

I agree with the idea that came up earlier of explaining things better to the public and to ourselves when bills are coming forward on the legislative agenda. Perhaps we could have a one page summary for parliamentarians and Canadians. Perhaps CPAC could play it. I appreciated the reception that CPAC gave today, because it explained some things I did not understand in regard to people knowing what bills were before the House. I congratulate the Hill Times for doing this. I was reading it today and I kept that aside. There is not a lot of that information out in the public so that people know what bills they might comment on and what the intent is of those bills.

One of my last points is on private members' bills. There has been a lot of discussion on this, with several debates this session. If people want more respect for this, they also have to remember how legislation is normally arrived at: through a large bureaucracy of professional expertise that has studied and has been expert in that area for years. Private members' bills might come forward from members who have not taken advantage of that expertise and the knowledge of how it fits into the present environment. Then they expect the bills to be taken seriously. If that procedure is ironed out it would help to give this more credibility.

My final point is on question period. Someone asked during the debate what would happen if we eliminated question period. One comment is that I think it would be good if we eliminated discussion in question period that relates to individual members of parliament. There are issues in the country that are a lot larger than that. In the last several months, part of question period has been taken up with discussion on members from virtually all the parties in the House. To me that has not dealt with the major issues of the land and our time is limited.

My last quick point is that if we did not have question period, which is the 45 minutes a day that the press is in the gallery and everyone is here, I wonder what would be covered.

Modernization Of The Standing Orders Of The House Of CommonsGovernment Orders

11 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Chairman, I congratulate the hon. member for Yukon for taking part in this debate because these are important debates. The hon. member for Yukon is a new member to the House and it takes a lot of courage to just plunge into this kind of thing. I will try to be brief because I appreciate that it is late and the staff are staying here, waiting for us to finish.

I have listened to most of the debate and have been here for much of it as well. I make the observation that particularly a lot of it dealt with private members' business. The theme that ran consistently through the debate tonight was the whole idea that private members' bills needed to be made votable, but lost in all of that, in my opinion, is that it is not a matter of whether private members' bills become votable automatically or whatever. It is a matter of whether private members' bills succeed.

The problem is this whole idea of backbench MPs bringing in legislation. The real message we want to get out to the public is that these bills that we do introduce actually do become law eventually.

You well know, Mr. Chairman, with all your long experience, that in fact the government holds all the cards when it comes to legislation going through the House, whether it is government legislation or private members' legislation. That is not wrong. The government is elected to govern. The government has the resources and the absolute duty to make sure that no legislation succeeds through the House that actually does not work or that is inconsistent with the interest of Canadians.

The difficulty with private members' business is, as we have heard tonight, that we get focused on our own ideas. We get focused on the interests of our own constituents. We will see a piece of private members' legislation as the be-all and the end-all. It may be selected. It may be deemed votable. It may go to committee. We as individuals will defend that legislation, even if that legislation in fact may have a very negative impact out there.

Indeed in private members' business, as I have discovered because I have been a great champion of expanding it, the reality is that we are all politicians here. We all act with the sort of self-interest of our constituents, but a self-interest nevertheless of politicians.

The classic example is all those backbench MPs who submit private members' bills with no intention of them ever becoming votable, who submit them for first reading debate for the sole reason that they can get the quick hit in the newspapers. I have seen members submit six, seven, eight or ten private members' bills and motions, all for the short political advantage that they might get in their riding or with their constituents, or just to say something about a faint hope cause.

One of my first recommendations in private members' business would be that we restrict the number of first reading motions and bills that a member can put forward. As you well know, Mr. Chairman, it is one of the things that so occupies those members of staff who are responsible for drafting private members' bills or all those, shall we say, dilatory bills that members never intend in the first place to ever go anywhere.

The second point that has come up, and I think it is a very good point, is the proposal that has been bandied about to get around the subcommittee on private members that we all agree we do not like. It works by consensus and it determines whether bills are votable or not votable. It is not a satisfactory arrangement.

What has been proposed is that every member of the 301 MPs has the opportunity during a mandate to have one bill deemed votable and that the draw would only determine the order in which the members have their bills appear on the order of precedence.

That is very good, but it still has a problem. The problem is that there are still 301 MPs in the House. We cannot deduct the parliamentary secretaries because they only serve for a short time and they need to have their turn at their own private members' legislation, but if we deduct the frontbenches and the ministers we still have 280 members of parliament, all with a votable bill. We would never get through them all.

I would propose that in a mandate every MP had the choice of having one bill deemed votable that he can put forward and still be subject to a draw, or that he be given the choice of having three non-votable motions or bills so that he can have three hours of debate on things that he does not want to go forward but he wants a debate on. In that way there will be less votable bills overall going to committee.

When a bill comes forward to debate I think it is very important on private members' bills, if we really do believe that they should succeed and they really have merit, that there be genuine debate in this House. I have heard one member say that if it is a votable private member's bill there only needs to be two people who speak on it and then it should go to the committee.

That is wrong. What we really need when it is private members' business and when it is a votable bill are questions and answers. What we have now is three hours of debate in which there are token speeches or there are real speeches but there is no debate. I think if we really believe in private members' bills, that they should have merit and they should go the whole distance, then we need to have debate.

I would also extend the hours of debate for private members' business. Again, if we really believe that it should succeed, then we have to have opportunities for that debate.

There are a lot of MPs that would rather spend less time here than more. I can tell you, speaking for myself, Mr. Chairman, I believe so passionately in this place and in private members' legislation that I would be quite happy to stay an extra week or an extra two weeks or stay extra hours in the day in order to have the private members' debates that we need.

I think it is very important that we consider formulas, ways in which we can have extended debate on a Friday, for example, or extended debate on a Monday, or even a special period for private members' business, maybe a couple of weeks even during the break in January or in June. I think it is a mistake if the House leaders rule on private members' business on the basis of those MPs who are not interested in the business of the House. I think it is very important that we serve those who have legislative initiatives that they want to put forward.

Just very quickly, I have four other points related to the general business of the House. I would like to see reports from committees when they are tabled by the committee chairman. I would like to see some words of debate with respect to them because what happens is today the chairman of the finance committee tabled the report of the finance committee. I do not know what it says and it just disappears. I really think it is important that something be said with respect to that.

On minutes of the committee, I would like the minutes of the committee to be properly hansarded and put on the Internet. It is not enough just to televise. It is very, very important to have the minutes of committees moved into the public domain as quickly as possible.

Finally, I would just say that like private members' business I think committee activity needs to be extended. As I proposed earlier tonight, I think there is much to be said for striking special committees that can sit when the House is not sitting and even pay those members to sit on those committees if necessary.

Modernization Of The Standing Orders Of The House Of CommonsGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

The Chairman

I thank the hon. member for his co-operation and all members for their participation throughout the evening.

It being 11.08 p.m., pursuant to the order made earlier today, the committee will rise and I will leave the chair.

Modernization Of The Standing Orders Of The House Of CommonsGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

This House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 11.08 p.m.)