Mr. Speaker, today the House will complete the last hour of debate on private member's Motion No. 277, sponsored by the member for Beauce.
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”.
As my time is limited, I will concentrate my remarks on the purpose of the motion and what I believe to be the sponsor's motives in bringing this proposal forward.
However, before I get to the purpose of the motion, I would remind viewers that bills can be introduced by the government, known as the executive, or by private members, parliamentarians who are not in cabinet, through the legislative process. I had the opportunity in the last Parliament, as the member for Cape Breton--Canso, to introduce a private member's bill regarding a tax deduction for firefighters. Bills can also be introduced by the government or private members in either the House of Commons or the Senate.
The purpose of the motion is to amend the Standing Orders with respect to private members' bills originating in the Senate. If Motion No. 277 were to be adopted, the effect would be twofold: first, the House would not to give automatic or guaranteed consideration in the order of precedence to Senate public bills, as is the case now; and second, to force those wishing these bills to progress to the House to sponsor them by giving them their own item.
As an example, under the new rule, let us say that the Senate has passed a bill. The bill gets to the House but is not placed on the order of precedence automatically, as is the case now. Instead, a member must use up his or her spot in the priority list to sponsor the Senate bill. Therefore, a private member who is a member of the Senate will see his or her chances of getting a bill through the legislative process severely restricted, even though no restriction will be placed on the government's chances of seeing its bill evolve, even if introduced in the Senate.
The question I ask myself is why the member for Beauce and his party feel the need to restrict the chances of senators or private members to see their bills evolve through the legislative process. Does the member for Beauce feel that senators have abused the treatment that the Commons gives their private members' bills? The facts are contrary to that.
In the current session of this Parliament, the government has introduced 28 bills in the Commons and 6 bills in the Senate. Therefore, 18% of the government's legislative agenda has been introduced in the Senate. How many private members' bills originating from the Senate have found their way onto the order of precedence? The answer is zero.
Therefore, it is clear that the hon. senators have not been flooding this House with private members' bills. I must ask myself again why the member for Beauce feels it is necessary to amend the Standing Orders in this way.
I should also point out that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is permanently mandated with reviewing the Standing Orders, is currently looking into the rules governing private members' business.
For that reason, I feel that this initiative is premature, as the member for Beauce could have waited for the committee to table its report.
I also agree with my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine when, on March 13, she said:
Now while some members may mistakenly believe that if fewer Senate bills were on the House order of precedence, more House bills would pass, but the effect is the exact opposite. In fact, we in the House give priority to the small number of Senate private members' bills that reach our House and, in exchange, our private members' bills receive priority in the other House. It does not mean that the House always gets its way but it does mean that the absence of this reciprocal agreement would be to the disadvantage of the House.
Maybe the Conservatives are afraid of the kind of legislation that may come from the Senate if not sponsored by the government. Maybe the government is worried that such legislation will not be conservative enough and respect strict right wing ideology.
Therefore, being faced with the possibility of having to deal with more moderate Liberal legislation, the Conservatives prefer to restrict democracy. For this reason, I will vote against Motion No. 277.
It will be an interesting vote. I do not believe the NDP will speak to this. I know that, of the about 170 pieces of private members' business, the NDP has sponsored about 100 of them.
My party believes in private member's business. We do not whip private members' business. We encourage our members to engage in a broad range of private members' issues and I know that many have come from the other place to the House and have been very vigorously debated by both sides.
In light of the fact that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is doing a study and that it will soon be completed and tabled, it would be prudent on the part of all parliamentarians to see it through. This motion is somewhat premature. We believe the current system is serving all parliamentarians very well now. There is a good relationship.
Obviously, from my remarks, everyone knows that if there is a perceived problem, that is all it is. In actuality, there is no problem. We are not being flooded from the upper chamber by private members' bills.
On this side of the House, we will, for the most part, not support this motion.