Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to question the supply motion that is on notice in the name of the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.
I want to advise the House that the government agrees with the intention, that is the substance in terms of supporting justice bills that are before the House, but disagrees with the proposal being presented to the House in the manner and the form using the procedure that is being utilized.
Normally, when one seeks to have a motion for consent to have a bill approved outside of the normal process, that is, a government order, it is done by unanimous consent of the House. This is the only way in which that is done.
The core principle is very simple and it can be found in Standing Order 40(2), the rules by which we follow, under the heading “Process of Debate”. It states quite clearly:
Government Orders shall be called and considered in such sequence as the government determines.
The intention of this supply motion from the Liberals is to take control of the government's agenda, take control of those bills and call them in a fashion and in a process that they are utilizing and that is not open to them. The Liberals are seeking to do so through the mechanism of an opposition motion on a supply day to which I would draw attention to Standing Order 81(2) which states quite clearly, and I will read the reference note on the side:
Business of Supply takes precedence over government business.
The Standing Order reads:
On any day or days appointed for the consideration of any business under the provisions of this Standing Order, that order of business shall have precedence over all other government business in such sitting or sittings.
That, of course, being supply and the opposition motion. However, it is quite clear and implicit that the regular government orders of the day are a different matter. They are a different beast and I will speak a few times to the notion of fish and fowl being different and we cannot cross them over.
What would happen if this motion were allowed to stand in its current form and the House were prepared to considered it, is in effect a constitutional amendment to this country, to our parliamentary traditions, to the way in which we operate. It would be a move away from our traditions of responsible government to one of congressionalism whereby any member of the House at any time on an opposition day could take control of the government's agenda and effectively legislate in a fashion that is not contemplated.
We have Standing Orders that provide ways in which that can happen through private member's bills, through the government orders, but to do so through an opposition supply day to effectively convert what is an intended motion into effective legislation is a major modification, a change in our process.
I want to return to the question of unanimous consent. As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, such motions have been moved frequently by unanimous consent. That is entirely appropriate. It is the only way in which such motions could be moved.
On page 502 of Marleau and Montpetit and citation 19 of Beauchesne's, the case is made that nothing done by unanimous consent constitutes a precedent. I would also reference a Speaker's ruling from Journals May 3, 1977 at page 1030.
That said, the attempt to move several government bills through several stages with an opposition motion on an allotted day is unprecedented. It has not been done. It has not been done before because it is not an acceptable process. It is not in accordance with the rules of this place. It is not in accordance with the practices and traditions of this House.
Before we go down that road and establish this very dramatic precedent, I would like the Speaker to consider a few points.
The motion, as I said, treads on the prerogative of the government to move government business. These bills contained in the member's motion are not in the name of the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, but are in the name of the Minister of Justice. We have a distinct process and rubric for business that can be moved by private members and business that can be moved by ministers of the Crown. They are different. The member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine is attempting to indirectly move the minister's and the government's legislation. As you have said many times, Mr. Speaker, you cannot do something indirectly that you are not permitted to do directly.
My second point is that the motion is attempting to circumvent the legislative process in an unprecedented way. Again, I am not referring to unanimous consent motions but rather to this.
The closest examples, or parallels, of motions that set out expedient measures to dispose of government legislation outside of what the Standing Orders allow are motions dealing with back to work legislation. We had an example in this Parliament. When the motion was challenged by the member for Windsor—Tecumseh on February 23, 2007 on the grounds that the motion was attempting “to do all stages from first reading and printing of the bill to be considered in the same sitting and possibly, unless a minister rises to ask for it, without adjournment”, the Speaker gave a comprehensive ruling reinforcing other examples and allowed the motion to stand.
However, we cannot compare the motion that the Speaker referenced dealing with back to work legislation because that motion provided a procedure that still respected the Standing Orders of this House and that still respected separate debates and votes for each stage of the bill. The Standing Orders of this House were not prejudiced and the ability of the government to maintain the initiative was not prejudiced. That is very different from what we are seeing in the motion from member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine here today. It goes far beyond that.
Mr. Speaker, you may well hear that there was some implication that in the past the Speaker has been reluctant to interfere with any motion from the opposition. That reluctance, however, and those rulings relate to an earlier time when the only opposition motions that one was dealing with were ones that dealt with matters of confidence. Obviously it is a dramatically different issue here rather than one that reinforces the confidence of the House.
For that reason I suggest those do not apply.
I would say to you, Mr. Speaker, that to give effect to this motion, to allow it to be in order, would effectively amend the Constitution of our country and the way in which it operates, the way in which this Parliament operates.
It also could potentially have the impact of suppressing the minority in Parliament. We have rules in place that allow certain protections to the minority. When we allow for the rules of the Standing Orders of the House to be overcome, that is by unanimous consent, that is an order to protect the minority. However, should this be allowed as a precedent, there is every possibility that any opposition party could bring a motion together with the government and, through that motion, deny the minority parties or any minority member of the House the opportunity and protections that exist in the Standing Orders for a full debate to proceed, for their ability to address the legislation and for the processes that exist to be respected. In so doing, should this precedent be set, we would be opening the door to future suppression of the minority in the House by any opposition motion.
Being mindful of a House that has had as many as five official parties at one time recognized, this is a very real risk that we have to be cognizant of. Were we only in a two party Parliament, one might think differently, however that risk is a very real risk and the door would be opened if this motion were allowed to stand.
Finally, of course, this would have the effect of amending the Standing Orders through precedent to dramatically change the way things work in a way that contravenes the fundamental principle that government orders shall be called and considered in such sequence as the government determines.
For those reasons, I would ask that the motion by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, which has been set down for tomorrow's consideration during the opposition supply day, be ruled out of order.
However, I would also suggest that we could give effect to the intent of that motion. I should say that the intent of that motion and the various elements of it have been the subject of discussion among the House leaders regarding the potential for unanimous approval of the bills at all stages. Therefore, I propose to move four motions right now seeking unanimous consent.
On the first one I believe, based on the discussions, that you will find unanimous consent. I move that, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification, be deemed to have been amended at report stage, as proposed in the report stage motion in the name of the Minister of Justice on the Notice Paper of Tuesday of March 20, 2007, concurred in at report stage and read a third time and passed.
We have been advised by other House leaders in earlier discussions that it is appropriate and would receive the support of the House.