Mr. Speaker, a number of analogies and metaphors have been employed today so I might best begin with a marital analogy as one who has performed the odd wedding ceremony in my time. There is a question that is customarily asked, and it is in fact required by law: If either of you know of any reason why you should not be joined together in holy matrimony, you should say so now or forever hold your peace. I am paraphrasing.
If that question were asked of the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough and the member whom he still illegitimately calls his whip, and I will not get into that, I do not think it would be greeted with the silence with which it is normally greeted in any of the ceremonies at which I have presided. The fact remains that members of the so-called DRC already and still have another relationship, with the Alliance Party.
They may not have a relationship with the Alliance caucus, and I am sure this is a source of great weeping and gnashing of teeth among members of the Alliance caucus, but the members of the DRC still have a relationship with the Alliance Party.
I do not think the House of Commons can be completely isolated from what takes place outside it and from the status people enjoy outside the House. The House of Commons is not a motel where we can check in and pretend to be someone we are not or where we can have a relationship that does not exist.
Without wanting to put too fine a point on it, Mr. Speaker, I think it is obligatory on your part to consider not only that members of the so-called DRC still belong to another party but that this fact must be taken into account when judging whether or not the DRC, which is presenting itself as a parliamentary group and demanding the rights and privileges of a party, should be treated as a party.
We might argue that even if members of the DRC were fully divorced from their former family the so-called group would still not qualify as a party unless and until its members made up their minds and joined the Progressive Conservative Party. In that case we would have an entirely different set of circumstances on which I am not prepared to comment at the moment.
However that is not what we have before us. We have before us the illegitimate proceeds of a rolling political orgy that took place over the summer in which people made all kinds of relationships with each other. It does not do parliament any good to have to figure this out on the floor of the House of Commons.
I am glad the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough is immune from libel suits in the House of Commons because he slandered me when he quoted my intervention of 1994 having to do with the recognition of parties.
What I was talking about at that time was parties, political parties like the New Democratic Party that was elected in the election of 1993, nine of us, as New Democrats. We sat in the House as New Democrats. We did not pretend to be someone else. We did not decide to be sort of half this and half that. All we wanted at the time was procedural recognition of ourselves as a party in this House, not a group, not a coalition, not something else, but as the political party that we presented ourselves as to the Canadian people and we wanted that recognized here. That is fundamentally different than what is being requested by the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough this day. It is not fair or accurate to compare my argument at that time with the argument that is being made today.
Earlier on the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, like his leader on television last night, suggested that in some way or another they had already been working as a coalition and had been recognized to some degree as a coalition in this House; in question period and in voting. That is not true.
We had a discussion yesterday and you will recall, Mr. Speaker, that the reason that they are able to pretend they are a group is because we had a precedent in this House wherein a previous parliament the Reform Party granted certain of its questions to members of parliament who were not members of its caucus, particularly the member for York South--Weston, if I remember correctly.
This is the precedent which has permitted the impression, but not the reality, of this group to my left, acting as a group and claiming that some kind of precedent has been set. It is the same thing with respect to the votes yesterday. If I am not mistaken, they voted separately, one group after the other; first, the Progressive Conservative Party and then the independents who call themselves the DRC.
For this claim to be made that somehow what we are debating today is whether or not to extend some sort of recognition that has already been extended, is completely false. Even the fact that they are sitting together is a form of parliamentary geographical coincidence. It is where independents would sit.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I would certainly urge upon you to in no way accept that somehow what we are doing today here is debating whether or not to expand a recognition that already exists. There is no recognition that already exists.
What we are debating is whether or not this particular self-defined group should in fact make history, and make bad history I would suggest, by being recognized as a coalition that has the rights and privileges of a party, because it is certainly not a party. Even if they were to claim successfully the rights and privileges of a party they would still not be a political party.
We would have done something entirely new which I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, holds a great deal of negative potential for the House of Commons. I urge you to think about that.
I also urge you, Mr. Speaker, to think about, and this is something that I know you will be thinking about in any event, whether or not this is actually in the purview of the Speaker to decide. Having to do with the question of whether or not they are a party and all the precedents and all the argumentation cited by the government House leader, I would certainly want to associate myself with them. The standing orders, Beauchesne's, the Board of Internal Economy, wherever you want to look, Mr. Speaker, talk about parties, not coalitions.
The member referred to a variety of names that people have called themselves over the years, political configurations, a union, a government, et cetera. They ran on those names. They did not make them up after they got here. That is different.
Finally, the Bloc members left their respective political parties. Individual members of the Bloc did not maintain memberships in the Liberal and Conservative parties.
The fact is there is no such thing as a political entity in any of the documentation or jurisprudence that we have before us today.
However, back to the point of whether or not this is within your purview to decide, Mr. Speaker, I want to be consistent here because I argued in 1994 that it was within the purview of the Speaker to make certain decisions to protect minority parties from the herd, so to speak. Having been a victim of that herd mentality, I fully appreciate and reaffirm the role of the Speaker to protect minority parties from that kind of situation.
I do not regard this situation as analogous or similar. We have an entirely different situation here. We do not have a minority party here. We have a configuration whose legitimacy as a party is in dispute and which therefore would make it the very political decision that Speaker MacNaughton warned against in 1963. It would be a political decision or have the nature of a political decision in a way that had the Chair decided in favour of my point of order in June 1994, it would not have been, for example, a political decision in that way.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I urge caution on your part, as to whether or not you want to consider that this is a matter for you or a matter for the House to decide.
The House has not decided this because there has not been any meetings. Contrary to the impression left that somehow some attempt was made to resolve this matter among the parties, there was no attempt made. Of course it is very difficult to make that attempt when the very act of meeting itself could in fact set precedents. However, we could have had a discussion in the status quo context about what might be in a new context. That was not even sought.
Therefore, this new group has thrown themselves upon the mercy of the Chair. I ask the Chair to consider whether or not in fact it is the role of the Chair. However, Mr. Speaker, if you consider it to be the role of the Chair, then I ask you to consider all of the arguments that have been made here today, including mine, as to the lack of wisdom that would attend any decision to recognize the so-called PC/DRC in the way that they have asked.