Mr. Speaker, my point of order today relates to Bill C-377, which is on the notice paper and which was reported back to the House within the last week, I believe on April 29. It will come forward on Monday for your rulings in selecting what amendments would be in order.
The provision for making that determination is in accordance with the Standing Orders, and specifically with Standing Order 76.1(5). I will only read the first sentence because the rest of it is not particularly germane. It states:
The Speaker shall have power to select or combine amendments or clauses to be proposed at the report stage and may, if he or she thinks fit, call upon any Member who has given notice of an amendment to give such explanation of the subject of the amendment as may enable the Speaker to form a judgment upon it.
Flowing out of that particular Standing Order, the procedure and House affairs committee some period back made a proposal to be brought forward in the form of a resolution. There was a note attached to that, Mr. Speaker, which you made some reference. However, the note, and I will quote the initial sentence of it, which is by way of explanation of how Standing Order 76.1(5) is to be interpreted, states:
The Speaker will not normally select for consideration by the House any motion previously ruled out of order in committee and will normally only select motions which were which were not or could not be presented in committee.
You made further rulings with regard to that, Mr. Speaker, in a ruling that affected, first, myself and then the member for Mississauga South. In response to the report from procedure and House affairs, you made these notes. I want to quote in terms of setting the criteria. First, in terms of what the considerations would be, you said, “past selection practices not affected by this latest directive will continue to apply”. We have a history of how we deal with amendments at report stage. You went on to say:
For example, motions and amendments that were presented in committee will not be selected, nor will motions ruled out of order in committee. Motions defeated in committee will only be selected if the Speaker judges them to be of exceptional significance.
Then you went on and referred members to pages of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice.
You further went on, Mr. Speaker, and said:
Second, regarding the new guidelines, I will apply the tests of repetition, frivolity, vexatiousness and unnecessary prolongation of report stage proceedings insofar as it is possible to do so in the particular circumstances...
I want to quickly add that the amendments being proposed by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley are not frivolous or vexatious and do not meet that test whatsoever.
In the two decisions you have rendered in this regard, Mr. Speaker, one, as I pointed out, affected myself when I was first here back in November 2001. It was a situation where I was unable, because of conflicts of being at two committees at the same time, to get my amendments put forward. You ruled at that time, acknowledging the difficulty on my part, that I did have difficulty in moving these amendments and the Chair, in those circumstances, would give me the benefit of the doubt and allow the amendments to move forward, and they in fact did.
Then there was a second ruling by yourself, Mr. Speaker, in January 2003, involving a request from the member for Mississauga South for amendments to be selected by you. At that time, you made two points, the second of which I think is more relevant to the circumstances we have today. The first one recognized that our parliamentary system was party driven and that the positions of parties were brought forward to committees through its officially designated member. The Chair also recognized that some members may want to act on their own. You then went on to say, Mr. Speaker:
Consequently, the Chair is of the opinion that certain motions by the hon. member for Mississauga could not be presented during the clause by clause study in committee and should therefore be studied at the report stage.
In combination, those two rationales, Mr. Speaker, were to the point that if motions could not have been presented at the time when we normally would in committee, then you would normally allow them to be selected at report stage.
I argue today that this is exactly what we are confronted with here. In that regard, the history of what has happened, and I will go to the two reports that have been issued from the environment committee, because that is where Bill C-377 was considered, is there was an initial report, the third report about two or three months ago, which indicated that there were significant difficulties in process at that committee, to the extent that it felt compelled to bring the report forward. I would refer you to the report, Mr. Speaker, when you make considerations as to my point of order.
The second report with regard to Bill C-377 and the environment committee was the sixth report from that committee, and there were several points. I refer you, Mr. Speaker, to the third paragraph of the report, indicating that in fact work had been done on Bill C-377 in committee, that certain clauses had been adopted, others were postponed because of, to use the term in the report, “a prolonged debate of over twenty hours on clause 10 which led the Committee to an impasse”. In effect, what was going on, in the terms that we more often use in the House, was a filibuster by the government. Therefore, the report was passed back here from the committee.
I also would refer you, Mr. Speaker, to emphasize the effect of what was going on there and the degree of the impasse, to the fifth paragraph of the report, which states, “Given the impasse, the Committee opted not to consider the remaining clauses and parts of the Bill and adopted the following motion”. Out of consideration of time, I will not read that, but in effect the motion reflected that certain sections were reviewed, some were amended, but there were outstanding amendments that were never considered, and the final paragraph sets out which ones those were.
The motion was adopted by the committee, that the bill be sent back at that stage. Therefore, some have been amended, others have not even been considered, and others had been considered, but with no opportunity for amendments to be made.
The amendments proposed by our member are very clear. They are not frivolous.
I also want to make one final note. There were minority reports to the sixth report, and in that, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley made it very clear to the committee so there was no misunderstanding, and I was there at the committee and also made a similar statement, that we would be moving amendments at the report stage, subject to the determination by the Chair as to whether they should be selected or not. It is not like the committee did not understand that these amendments would come forward and that they would be pursued at report stage.
In summary, I believe it is one of those opportunities. We did not have the ability to move these amendments at committee. It is appropriate that you consider them, Mr. Speaker, and select them at this time.