Mr. Speaker, I am going to start where my hon. colleague from the New Democratic Party left off, which is on the subject of the implied potential from the Liberal member's comments earlier, vis-à-vis some kind of retaliation in the Senate. The apparent threat was that senators would decide not to allow private members' business from the House to go forward and this would result in all members being disenfranchised.
This is implausible for two reasons. First of all, it is beneath our hon. colleagues in the other place. They would do no such thing because they are just as honourable and just as dedicated to the public interest as are members here. Second and equally fundamentally is the fact that the rules of the Senate do not permit that kind of action. They do not permit a change to the standing orders of the Senate that would cause private members' business from the House to be in some way pushed off the order paper. Indeed that is not what is happening here with Senate legislation in this House. The rules do not permit that.
The Senate cycles through its entire agenda every day. It has no order of precedence in the form that the House of Commons has. Therefore, there is no standing order that states that House of Commons private members' bills will arise at a certain spot.
The analogy I have used elsewhere for how it works in the Senate is it is similar to a sushi bar and all the little boats that float by at the sushi bar are equivalent to items of business. They all go past and we pick out the ones we want for the day. Every day the Senate could decide to be malicious and refuse to deal with items of private members' business originating in the House, but they would have to do it every day. They would all have to reaffirm that they are all acting maliciously in order to get back at the House of Commons.
That is a highly implausible course of action given their personalities. Indeed, even if they were malicious people it would be hard to keep that up on an ongoing basis. I think that threat is implausible.
Let me go back to some of the facts about how this motion will affect private members' business in this House. Our rules currently allow for one item of private members' business to be discussed every sitting day. On average, there are 132 sitting days in Parliament in a year. The first 20 days of a parliamentary session are used for other purposes and no private members' business is considered. We are left with 112 sitting days. It takes two sitting days to get a private member's item through at second reading in the House of Commons and on to committee. That leaves 66 items that can be dealt with in an average year, if nothing else intrudes and takes up the time available for private members' business, such as Senate private members' bills.
Given the number of members of Parliament who are eligible to bring forward private members' bills, that means that in four years, each member can expect to get one item through, assuming we have a four year Parliament.
Every time something else intrudes on that, such as a Senate bill that pushes its way up the order of precedence, the practical effect is that some member of Parliament gets dumped off the bottom of the list. In practice, in examining previous years, we find that most members of Parliament do not make it onto the order of precedence to get their items of business discussed in any given Parliament.
I know of members on my side of the House who have been here since 1993 who have not yet had private members' business come up. On average, members have managed to get one item every four parliaments. That is a statistical average going back over the past four parliaments. I am down around numbers 106 to 170, which is outside the order of precedence. I do not anticipate I will be able to get my item into the order of precedence, whether or not Senate bills come up.
Clearly there are members further up the list who have a realistic prospect, unless Senate bills push their items out of the way. The goal is to make sure that those individuals do not have their items pushed off the order paper.
If a member who is closer to the top of the list chooses to do so, he or she is free to sponsor a Senate private member's bill that has passed through the Senate. He or she would lose his or her place to produce his or her own bill. That is what our rules would allow for, if changed in the manner proposed by my hon. colleague from Beauce in his motion. That seems reasonable.
There is good reason to drop one's own item and pick up an item recommended and passed through the Senate. For one thing, it has already made it through the other place. It stands a very good chance of actually making its way into law because it is halfway through the legislative journey through the two chambers. Many items coming from the Senate have considerable merit as pieces of legislation, so there are reasons to do it.
What is not reasonable is that the way it works now, any member, whether high on the list of precedence or not, can sponsor a bill that is passed through the Senate and push every single other item of private members' business in this House down a notch, thereby pushing somebody off the list. For every Senate bill that is preferred in this manner, inevitably one member will fall off the list. Every single time that occurs, one member drops off that list and his or her item of private members' business will not be discussed.
The more items that come from the Senate, the more this happens. I believe the number may be rising. It may not be rising to the point that it is going to push all business off the list, which I think was the point my colleague from the Bloc Québécois was raising. Nevertheless, every time a Senate bill is preferred in this manner, one member of this chamber loses his or her ability to raise an item of business. That is pretty significant.
I want to emphasize again that this is not discrimination against items from the Senate. They are perfectly sponsorable under the rules in exactly the same manner as a bill that has originated here can be picked up.
My colleague from Beauce chose to raise this item of business even though the original concept came from the member for Crowfoot rather than something that sprang fully formed from his own head like the goddess Athena sprang from the head of Zeus. Nonetheless, he is doing something he believes makes sense and is credible because he can see a good idea when he recognizes it, in the same way any member of this House can spot a good idea coming from the Senate and choose to adopt it. I suspect that practice would continue for the reasons that I offered earlier.
Now I will deal with the technical aspects of the motion.
The motion's meaning is not obvious in the way it reads. In order to aid any member who is having trouble understanding the exact mechanical way in which it works, I will read it and then go into how the rules have changed. The motion reads as follows:
That Standing Order 89 be amended by deleting the words “and of second reading of a private Member's public bill originating in the Senate”; and Standing Order 86.2(2) be amended by deleting the words “a Senate public bill or”.
That, of course, does not tell us anything. I will now turn to the Standing Orders. When I read the relevant Standing Orders it will start to make sense.
Standing Order 86.2(2) currently reads as follows:
A Member shall not lose his or her place on the List for the Consideration of Private Members’ Business by virtue of sponsoring a Senate public bill or a private bill,--
A private bill is a bill that concerns one individual.
--but no Member may sponsor more than one such bill during a Parliament.
We would drop the words, “a Senate public bill or” from that, and it would read, “A Member shall not lose his or her place on the List for the Consideration of Private Members’ Business by virtue of sponsoring a private bill, but no Member may sponsor more than one such bill during a Parliament”. That is the change that would occur to that Standing Order.
Standing Order 89 would be changed from the current wording, which is the following:
The order for the first consideration of any subsequent stages of a bill already considered during Private Members’ Business, of second reading of a private bill and of second reading of a private Member’s public bill originating in the Senate shall be placed at the bottom of the order of precedence.
That means the bottom of the order of precedence for private members' business. Effectively, it means the next vacancy, typically about 30 spots down the list and ahead of every other item of private members' business. That would be changed to drop the words “and of second reading of a private Member's public bill originating in the Senate”. That would be removed.
I think that explains the technical changes. The result would be that Senate private members' bills would still be able to move forward, but would not push private members' business from other MPs out of the way in so doing.