Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to speak in favour of this important motion.
Let me say at the outset that I think that it is important for all members to understand that there is a difference in the regime of private members' bills in our place and the regime of private members' bills and the process with which they are dealt in the Senate. If this motion is adopted, it would change the way Senate private members' bills are dealt with in our place.
Mr. Speaker, as you know and I think as most members know, when a Senate private member's bill currently makes its way to our place, it is given some precedence in our place. In other words, we have a Standing Order that allows for Senate private members' bills to be dealt with in a more expeditious manner than House of Commons bills that go to the other place. I would point that out because I think what we are talking about with this motion is the principle of House of Commons private members' bills and the way with which they are dealt.
I would argue to all members here that we are at somewhat of a disadvantage inasmuch that in any particular Parliament there are only a handful of members of Parliament who actually get to introduce and debate their private member's bills. That is because, as we all know, we have a draw or lottery that allows for the order of precedence to be established. That determines which private members' bills are introduced at what time. Currently, with 308 members of Parliament sitting, it is unlikely that a private member's bill could be introduced and debated in this place unless one was in the top 50 or 60 names drawn in the lottery of which I speak.
However, what makes the situation even more difficult for members of Parliament to get some of their private member's bills and legislation debated is the fact that Senate private members' bills are given precedence. In other words, as we all know, the first draw has the names of 30 members of Parliament drawn in order: one through 30. That is the order in which their private member's bills would be introduced. However, if a Senate private member's bill came over, it would automatically go to spot number 31. If there were 10 Senate private members' bills that were passed in the Senate and made their way over to our place, the spots would be then taken from spots 31 to 40.
In other words, members of Parliament are disadvantaged. If I happen to be in spot 31 or 32, but 10 Senate private members' bills came over to our place, then I would not be able to present my private member's bill for debate in this place until all of those Senate private members' bills had been dealt with. I think that is fundamentally unfair to members of Parliament. I think there is a principle. Since we are the elected body, the private members' bills that we introduce should be given more precedence than any Senate private member's bill that comes over to our place by the unelected Senate.
I would also like to point out that there is a huge difference between the way in which we treat private members' bills from the Senate and the way in which the Senate treats private members' bills from our place. In other words, when a House of Commons private member's bill makes its way to the Senate, it is not given the same priority that we give to Senate bills. There is a daily routine of business in the Senate that allows for all items on the order paper to come up for debate on a given sitting day.
This means that any private member's bill, whether it be a House of Commons bill or a Senate bill that happens to be on the order paper over there, can be brought forward at any time. Even more than one Senate bill can be debated in one day. While we have a strict order of precedence here, that is not the case in the Senate. There is no precedence, no priority, given to House of Commons private members' bills that make their way to the Senate, but we give priority to Senate private members' bills that come to our place. Fundamentally, that is wrong and it must be changed.
That is what the motion we are debating today attempts to do. It would merely prevent priority being given to a Senate private member's bill. Senate private members' bills would not automatically be added to the order of precedence thereby bumping a House of Commons MP's private member's bill.
The motion would still allow for Senate private members' bills to be debated. If a member of Parliament, who is on the order of precedence, chose to sponsor one of those Senate bills, that member of Parliament could do so, and then that Senate bill would be debated in the slot provided to that member of Parliament. Right now we cannot do that. We are forced to debate Senate private members' bills at the expense of members of Parliament private members' bills.
Some have argued in committee that this really has not been a problem. To date, that is probably true. It really has not been too much of a problem because we have not had that many Senate bills come across to our place, but it appears that things are changing.
Right now, on average, one Senate private member's bill is introduced in the Senate every day. Theoretically, we could see a whole raft of Senate private members' bills make their way into our place, thereby bumping many members of Parliament's PMBs from the order of precedence. Let me give the House a graphic example.
Currently, there are, I believe, eight Senate private members' bills being discussed in Senate committees. There are six more private members' bills in the Senate that deal with business that has been previously introduced in the Senate. Once debate and discussion has been held on a bill, if another bill is introduced similar to that first bill that has already been debated, the Senate tends to move those bills through fairly quickly.
Quite possibly we could have a situation where 14 Senate bills would go on the order of precedence in our place. That would mean that the next time there is a replenishment of private members' bills, and we always replenish in lots of 15, they would all be bumped back and delayed because the Senate private members' bills would take their place.
Normally, a replenishment and debate on those private members' bills takes about six weeks. What that would mean, again theoretically but quite possibly, is that all of the members of Parliament whose names have been drawn for replenishment would have to wait at least six weeks before their bill could even be introduced because we were dealing with the Senate bills that have been given priority.
Again, I would argue, that totally disadvantages members of Parliament, and in particular, members of the opposition parties. It very much disadvantages members of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP because it is highly unlikely that we will ever see a federal government comprised of NDP members. It is also impossible for the Bloc Québécois to form government since that party does not run enough MPs to form a majority government at any time.
The only opportunity members of the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois have to bring forward legislation, since they will never be in government, is through private members' bills. If an NDP MP was on the order of precedence and his or her bill was bumped because of the Senate bills coming across, that would disadvantage that member from even introducing a bill, and if Parliament dissolves, there goes that private member's bill.
Therefore, based on principle, this motion is intended to allow House of Commons private members' bills to be given the priority they should be given. It is fundamentally unfair for the Senate to allow its bills to take precedence over ours. I hope all members will vote in favour of this very important bill.