Mr. Speaker, I call upon your power of selection under Standing Order 81(14)(b), which states:
When notice has been given of two or more motions by Members in opposition to the government for consideration on an allotted day, the Speaker shall have power to select which of the proposed motions shall have precedence in that sitting.
In Marleau and Montpetit, at page 725, the criteria used in the past to guide the Chair in making a decision are outlined. I will quote this paragraph from page 725:
—in making their decision, Speakers will take into consideration the following: representation of the parties in the House; the distribution of sponsorship to date; fair play towards small parties; the date of notice; the sponsor of the motion; the subject matter; whether or not the motion is votable; and what has happened, by agreement among the parties, in the immediate past Supply periods.
I believe, Mr. Speaker, that on the basis of all these criteria, you will conclude that today's opposition day should be allotted to the Bloc Québécois. Let me explain in greater detail why we feel this should be the case.
In my opinion, several of the aforementioned criteria are inextricably linked in the present situation.
Let us go over the following criteria together: the representation of the parties in the House, the distribution of sponsorship to date and what has happened, by agreement among the parties, in the immediate past Supply periods.
As far as the representation of the parties in the House is concerned, I should point out that Bloc Québécois members currently account for 28% of opposition members, while NDP members account for 17.14%.
Standing Order 81(10) clearly states that any calculations with respect to opposition days have to be based on the calendar year.
In addition, whenever the opposition parties negotiated among themselves in recent years, the number of opposition days allotted to the various parties was always determined on a yearly basis and strictly respected the representation of the parties in the House.
It is important to take that criteria into account. In a ruling dated May 31, 1984, the Speaker said:
The Chair's selection must be based on the representations of the Parties in the House and also on what happened, by agreement of the Parties concerned, in the immediate past Supply periods.
Because the House was prorogued, there will be 20 opposition days in 2007 instead of the 22 initially planned. If we divide up these days according to the opposition parties' representation, we get 11 for the Liberals, six for the Bloc Québécois and three for the NDP.
To date, the Liberals have had 10 opposition days, the Bloc has had five and the NDP has had three. Consequently, in our opinion, the final two opposition days should be assigned to the Bloc Québécois and the Liberals.
If the next opposition day were given to the NDP, then it would be entitled to 20% of the opposition days in 2007, when it accounts for only 17.14% of the opposition members, and the Bloc Québécois would be entitled to 25% of the opposition days when it accounts for 28% of the opposition members. There would be a difference of 5% between the parties in the number of opposition days, when the difference in representation is 11%.
I would like to make one final comment about mathematical conventions. As a result of the negotiations that took place at the start of the 39th Parliament, the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal Party agreed to give the NDP a fourth day, even though they were entitled to 3.51 opposition days at that time, because they accounted for 15.93% of opposition members in this House. The NDP got a fourth opposition day even though their representation was only one hundredth of 1% over the threshold to obtain that fourth day.
In this case, the Bloc Québécois is one tenth of 1% over the mathematical threshold, not one hundredth of 1%. In other words, our percentage is ten times what the NDP had during the last negotiations. Under the circumstances, we are of the view that the Bloc Québécois should benefit in the same way as the NDP did less than two years ago.
This brings us to another criterion for assigning opposition days, a criterion on which the NDP is basing its argument. Marleau and Montpetit say that the Speaker must demonstrate “fair play towards small parties”.
Allow me to make an observation. I find it somewhat ironic that a party that publicly boasts about being the real opposition party is seeking some sort of protection from the Speaker because it is a small party.
That being said, Marleau and Montpetit talks about fairness toward small parties. In its arguments, the NDP is claiming that both the Bloc Québécois and the NDP have benefited from this protection given to smaller parties.
If that is the case, then the NDP is asking the Speaker to be unfair to one party, large or small, for the sake of being fair to a small party. This seems like a slippery slope and we feel the Speaker should never take that approach.
Let us look at the last set of criteria. Again, they are: the date of notice, the sponsor of the motion, the subject matter and whether or not the motion is votable. Some of these criteria will not resolve the current situation. Both motions are votable; each was introduced by a member. Notice was given on the same day, although the Bloc Québécois motion was presented earlier in the day. That leaves just one major factor: the subject matter. And I will close on that.
I want to emphasize this point, which in my opinion is of the utmost importance. The NDP motion is not time sensitive, but the Bloc Québécois motion addresses an urgent matter. Foreign competition has put the manufacturing industry in a very unstable position for some time now. We know that. The potential repercussions of the recent rise in the Canadian dollar and rising energy costs are cause for great concern to thousands of workers and companies. These workers and the companies they work for expect their elected members to be concerned about their situation and to take swift action.
The NDP motion may be of some interest to some people, but the Bloc Québécois thinks that workers affected by the crisis in the manufacturing and forestry sectors are far more worried about their livelihood than about the future of the Senate.
It is for all these reasons that the Bloc Québécois believes that the House should debate the motion by the hon. member for Trois-Rivières on this opposition day.