Before I call orders of the day I wish to indicate to the House that I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised yesterday morning by the hon. member for Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar concerning Motion No. 2 on the order paper standing in the name of the Minister of State and the Leader of the Government in the House, relating to the reinstatement of business from the 1st session of the 37th Parliament.
I wish to thank the hon. member for Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar for raising the matter and the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, the hon. member for Fraser Valley, the hon. member for Lakeland and the hon. member for Prince George--Bulkley Valley for their comments and the hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough for his submission on this matter.
The hon. member for Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar, in raising the matter, argued that this motion for reinstatement of business contains four separate and distinct parts. She objected to the fact of having only one debate and one vote when the House is being asked to decide on four subjects and she asked the Speaker to divide the motion to permit separate decisions to be taken on each subject.
The government House leader pointed out through his parliamentary secretary that the unifying principle of the motion was to allow several matters to be taken up in this session at the point they had reached at the conclusion of the previous session.
The hon. member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar cited page 478 of Marleau and Montpetit which states:
When a complicated motion comes before the House (for example, a motion containing two or more parts each capable of standing on its own), the Speaker has the authority to modify it and thereby facilitate decision-making for the House.
The passage goes on to state that any member may object to a motion that contains two or more distinct propositions and he or she may request that the motion be divided and that each proposition be debated and voted on separately. Ultimately it is the Chair who must make the determination with a view to ensuring an orderly debate on the subject matter before the House.
The matter of dividing a complicated motion has previously arisen in the House. On June 15, 1964, Mr. Speaker MacNaughton, ruled on a request to divide a government motion regarding a new Canadian flag. After an erudite review of the precedents in British and Canadian parliamentary practice, the Speaker stated the following:
I must come to the conclusion that the motion before the House contains two propositions and since strong objections have been made to the effect that these two propositions should not be considered together, it is my duty to divide them.
I cite the Journals for Monday, June 15, 1964, at page 431.
On April 10, 1991, Mr. Speaker Fraser took a somewhat different approach when ruling on a request to divide a government motion to amend the standing orders of the House. Rather than intervening to divide the motion, he ruled that a single debate would be held on the motion, and its components would be separated into three questions for voting purposes.
Research into Canadian practice reveals few instances where a Speaker has moved to divide a motion. In my view, this indicates that the Chair must exercise every caution before intervening in the deliberations of the House in the manner requested in this instance.
After having carefully examined the precedents and after having reviewed the arguments on both sides of the question, I am inclined to agree that Government Business Item No. 2 does, indeed, present an instance where the Chair is justified in taking some action.
In light of the complex nature of Motion No. 2, it is my ruling that the issues related to the reinstatement of business from the first session to the second session will be debated together but will be the subject of two separate votes.
Specifically, one vote will be held on the matters of the laying on the table of evidence adduced by standing and special committees and the proposal for the reinstatement of government bills; and one vote will be held on matters related to the reappointment of the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in Canada, the terms of its membership, its powers and its reporting date.
Finally, there is the matter of empowering the finance committee to travel in consideration of the prebudget consultations set out in Standing Order 83(1). In the view of the Chair, this motion is not, strictly speaking, a matter of reinstating unfinished business. Rather it is a motion to consider a sessional order relating to the work of a standing committee whose members have yet to be determined and which has yet to be organized. Our usual practice is to adopt travel motions on a case-by-case basis. I believe that this practice should apply in this case. The motion will therefore constitute a stand-alone motion to be debated and voted on separately.
I hope this ruling will permit the House to debate the matters raised originally in Motion No. 2 in an orderly fashion, to propose amendments, if members wish to do so, and to take decisions that reflect hon. members' differences on these topics.
I thank all hon. members for their attention and their assistance in this matter.