Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order today to ask you to revoke the illegitimate final vote that took place last night on the report stage of Bill C-45. The motion put to the House was moved by a member who was not in his place and was, therefore, indisputably out of order, preventing a legitimate vote from being held.
Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, motions form the basis of all debate and all decision making in the House. Without them, we simply cannot function.
The House of Commons Procedure and Practice second edition, is clear on this matter. It states:
The most basic components of this process are the “motion” and the “question”—the motion being a proposal that the House do something or express an opinion with regard to some matter; the question being the mechanism used to ask the House if it agrees with the motion.
It goes on later to say, “Without a motion and a question, there can be no debate”. I would add that neither can there be a vote, which is a decision on that motion.
The admissibility of a motion is a rule that is fundamental to the proper order and practise of our work. There are clear rules set out for all members to follow in terms of how motions must be constructed and proposed so that we are all working on a level playing field. Those rules even apply to a Minister of Finance.
Parliamentary Rules and Forms, sixth edition, states clearly:
Every motion that is duly moved and seconded is placed before the House by the Speaker as a question for the decision of the House.
The logical result of this rule in the negative is that a motion that is not duly moved cannot be placed before the members of this place for a decision. If a motion “finds no seconder”, it is dropped immediately. That is the result in the absence of a seconder. Therefore, the result for the absence of a mover can be no less severe. I am sure you will agree, Mr. Speaker.
O'Brien and Bosc, on page 556 and 557, states:
...the Speaker will first ensure that the Member wishes to proceed with the moving of the motion. If the sponsor of a motion chooses not to proceed (either by not being present or by being present but declining to move the motion), then the motion is not proceeded with and is dropped from the Order Paper, unless allowed to stand at the request of the government.
No such request was made last night by the government. When the member is not present and a motion is not moved on his or her behalf, the Speaker can have no option but to conclude that the member no longer wishes to proceed.
Erskine and May clarifies this process in Parliamentary Practice, twenty-first edition, where it states in chapters 17:
A motion of which notice has been given may be moved by one of the Members in whose name it stands....
But a motion standing in the name of a Minister may be moved by any other Minister in accordance with the constitutional practice which permits the Ministers to act for each other on the grounds of the collective nature of the Government.
There is no problem with this rule, to be perfectly clear, and had one of the colleagues of the Minister of Finance moved the motion on his behalf, there would be no problem at all. However, this did not happen last night. The theoretical procedural possibility of something is not the same as it actually happening itself.
I was witness to what happened and I have reviewed the tape from last night and the facts are 100% correct. The Speaker moved the motion for report stage on Bill C-45, unamended, in the name of the Minister of Finance, but he was not in his place to move that motion. If the Minister of Finance had bothered to stay for the last few votes, this would not be an issue. If he had bothered to arrange with a colleague to move the motion in his name, this would not be an issue.
I have two final things to say. I note that Journals from yesterday reads that the government House leader did in fact somehow move the motion on behalf of his absent colleague. If you review the video, Mr. Speaker, and the Hansard from last night, the official record of Parliament, I am sure you will agree with me that it is not the case. Journals is not correct.
I am aware of my obligation to raise such questions at the earliest opportunity. To be clear, my colleague, the chief opposition whip, raised this with the Table as soon as was possible last night. She could not interrupt the Table during the vote and the House then moved to adjournment proceedings immediately after the vote because of the late hour.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, when the House entered the adjournment proceedings, there was no longer an opportunity to raise this issue and, therefore, this is my first chance to do so.
The government has been let off the hook for not following the letter as well as the spirit of too many rules too many times in Parliament: systematic curtailing of debate using time allocation; the absurd creation of a flawed system for more than one committee to study Bill C-45; the total denial of opposition amendments to all respects of its bills; and finally, the minister responsible for a bill could not be bothered to sit with his colleagues in the House while his motion on report stage was being dealt with.
The remedies are a few. The concern is that, in a few moments, debate will begin on the next stage of the bill.