Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, before you rule on the admissibility of the motion by the minister, I seek your ruling on two points.
First, there is a constitutional question regarding the Standing Order that I believe has never been raised in the House. Second, I seek the Speaker's ruling regarding the admissibility of the motion being moved under Standing Order 56.1.
Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, section 49 of the Constitution provides for how decisions are to be made. It states:
Questions arising in the House of Commons shall be decided by a Majority of Voices other than that of the Speaker, and when the Voices are equal, but not otherwise, the Speaker shall have a Vote.
Standing Order 56.1 allows a motion to be adopted with fewer than 25 members objecting. That does not constitute a majority of voices. Standing Order 56.1 is unconstitutional.
If we were to continue to allow motions to be moved under Standing Order 56.1, the House would be perpetuating a serious problem by allowing the House to go beyond the powers conferred upon it by the Constitution. There are similar precedents regarding committees that you should consider, Mr. Speaker.
On June 20, 1994, and on November 7, 1996, the Speaker ruled:
While it is a tradition of this House that committees are masters of their own proceedings, they cannot establish procedures which go beyond the powers conferred upon them by the House.
If we are to be consistent, I would point out that while the House is a master of its own proceedings, it cannot establish procedures which go beyond the powers conferred upon it by our Constitution.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1985 that the requirement of section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and of section 23 of the Manitoba Act, 1870, respecting the use of both the English and French languages in the records and journals of the House of Parliament of Canada, are mandatory and must be obeyed. Accordingly the House can no longer depart from its own code of procedure when considering procedure entrenched in the Constitution.
On page 295 of the second edition of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , in reference to the 1985 case, he lists those constitutional requirements regarding parliamentary procedure that must be obeyed and includes in that list section 49, which deals with voting in the House of Commons.
While it is said that the Speaker does not normally rule on constitutional matters, the constitutional matter of voting is an obvious practice of the House, as are the financial privileges of the House, on which the Speaker does rule. The Speaker rules on those matters because they are part of our practice, as well as part of the Constitution.
My second point is in regard to Standing Order 56.1 having its limits. Marleau and Montpetit give examples of some motions that have been moved under 56.1. They are found on page 571. It suggests that while the rule appears at first glance to have limits, its usage tells a different story. I think what the authors are trying to say in a very delicate and diplomatic way is that the use of Standing Order 56.1 has gone way beyond for what it was intended to be used.
You confirmed this in your own ruling, Mr. Speaker, of June 12, 2001. You addressed the matter of the expanded use of Standing Order 56.1 and suggested that it should be restricted to the arrangement of the business of the House. You stated in your ruling that the Standing Order should never be used as a substitute for a decision which the House ought to itself make on substantive matters.
This is a very serious matter, indeed, Mr. Speaker, and I seek your ruling on the two points I have raised: the constitutional matter and the matter of the motion being eligible to be moved under Standing Order 56.1.