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House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was scientists.

Topics

Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, my point of order arises out of an event that occurred today at the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

During the meeting, while witnesses were providing testimony in response to one of the members of the committee, a member of the media, Kady O'Malley with CBC, approached the member for Avalon at the committee table and requested to see an in camera report, and it was provided by the member for Avalon. I recognize that the breach by the member is an issue to be dealt with by the committee itself, but the conduct of the member of the media, in my view, very clearly breaches the procedures of the committee.

Could you please review that, Mr. Speaker, and report back to the House on the proper etiquette by members of the media and their conduct at committee?

Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I appreciate the point raised by the hon. parliamentary secretary. When events transpire at committee, it is up to the committee to deal with anything that may have breached protocol or the rules at the committee. I appreciate him raising it in the House and if there is a report presented to the House, it will be something that the Speaker can then weigh in on.

Access to InformationPrivilegeOral Questions

June 5th, 2012 / 3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. I want to bring to your attention a situation which I believe may be a breach of my privilege in that it is hindering me in my capacity to do my work as a member of Parliament.

About a month ago, I called the office of a president of a crown corporation to obtain some information. I had dealt with that office in previous years and had obtained information. This time, I was told that I had to put the request through to the office of the minister responsible for that corporation.

A couple of days later, I asked that minister in the House for a briefing. I was told that the minister would see to it and that I would hear later. This was before the May constituency week. After the May constituency week, I had not heard, so I asked the minister again in the House. I still have not heard and I need this information to do my work. I had hoped to have it by the weekend, because I am attending a convention for which the information is required.

I am asking not for privileged information, secret information, cabinet documents or anything like that. Nor am I asking for government strategy. I am asking for facts and an ability to meet with officials to ask them questions about these facts.

I am advised that another member of the House had asked and was offered such a briefing. That member happens to be on the government side, and I wonder if the fact that I am on the opposition side has anything to do with it.

I am aware that if a briefing were to be offered to me, my question of privilege would be moot. However, it has not been and I have not heard. Therefore, I am bringing this to your attention, Mr. Speaker. You will notice I have not mentioned specifics because my intent is not to aggravate, antagonize, attack or criticize. It is strictly to obtain information to allow me to do my work as the Liberal advocate for co-operatives.

If you would like to look at this, Mr. Speaker, I would gladly provide you with more detailed information in order to assist you in your determination. Should you determine that there is, indeed, a breach of parliamentary privilege or a prima facie breach of parliamentary privilege, I would be happy to move the appropriate motion.

Access to InformationPrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I appreciate the hon. member raising this. I will ask him for a little more information and then come back to the House in due course.

SyriaOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion on Syria. I move, seconded by the Minister of International Cooperation and the member for Mount Royal:

That the House continue to support measures which

(a) condemn the brutal massacre of Syrian civilians by government forces in clear violation of earlier commitments;

(b) call for an immediate end to the violence, especially the attacks on civilians;

(c) support the Joint Special Envoy of the UN and Arab League efforts to establish a ceasefire and implement the six-point peace plan;

(d) call for unrestricted access to the country for the international media;

(e) support the government's decision to expel Syrian diplomats in protest to the latest atrocities in Syria;

(f) call on the international community to speak with one voice clearly and categorically condemning the violence and working to bring about a complete cessation of hostilities;

(g) urge the leadership of China and Russia to play an active and decisive role in achieving an effective ceasefire that saves the lives of innocent civilians as well as negotiating a road map to reforms that respond to the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people;

(h) continue Canada's humanitarian aid to refugees and to internally displaced persons fleeing violence in Syria, as needed, and;

(i) stand in solidarity with those who aspire for peace, democratic governance and the protection of human rights.

SyriaOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

SyriaOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SyriaOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

SyriaOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SyriaOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I move the following motion:

That, at the conclusion of today's debate on the opposition motion in the name of the Member for Burnaby—Douglas, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion be deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred to Wednesday, June 6th, 2012, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and social science expertiseBUSINESS OF SUPPLYGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise today in support of this motion, which focuses attention not only on the massive cuts to research, data and evidence that can be found in the budget bill currently before the House, but also to speak to the government's contempt for information, research and advocacy since the beginning of its mandate.

Research is a core driver of economic competitiveness, environmental protection, and health and safety. Objective, publicly funded research and statistical data is necessary for our public service to be able to serve all Canadians, especially since service provision is the majority of the work of the federal government. The government has made it its mandate to obscure objective facts in favour of controlling and privatizing information to create narratives that suit its priorities.

It is crucial that research be credible. In order for it to maintain this integrity we must be sure that private funding of our research respects the autonomy and independence of our researchers in their objectives and in their methodologies. Yet this last budget has proposed refocusing the National Research Council to be “business-led”, and is increasingly concentrating on targeting post-secondary research to meet “business needs”. I know that research often relies on private funding, as much as private interests rely on the research provided to them.

I know that much innovation comes from these partnerships, but this is not what the government is proposing. What it has done is increase the control that it and private interest have on what research is being done and how it is being done. That is a frightening move for the credibility of Canada's research.

By increasingly removing critical financial supports and increasingly correlating research to demand-driven funding models in order to service profit-driven demands, we are systematically inhibiting our research integrity and competitiveness.

We have seen many instances of the government obstructing research before. One of the first things the government did in 2006 was slash $5 million from the Status of Women agency and make a series of changes to its purpose. The independent research fund was abolished, and the mandate of the women's program was changed to explicitly exclude any project having to do with research and advocacy. While the funds themselves have since been recommitted to the agency, the independent research fund has not reappeared and the mandate of the agency continues to forbid research and advocacy. The purpose of this is clear. The government is ignoring the deeper, systemic injustices that women repeatedly encounter because the injustices do not fit the government's world view. Effective, long-term planning and investment in social programs, while proven to be in the best interests of women and the economy at large, are something the government fears.

As a member of the status of women committee, I hear every week from expert witnesses who are still suffering from the long-term effects of this strategic shift.

Carmela Hutchison is president of the DisAbled Women's Network Canada, which is the only organization that represents disabled women, the largest minority group in Canada. She wrote to me to say:

We could write volumes about the health and safety consequences to millions of women and girls with disabilities in Canada which are due to the lack of publicly funded research and statistical information already! How can this Government propose any further cuts to research and data collection when this information is essential to informing your honourable Members and all Canadians about the health, safety and the economic well being of millions of women with disabilities in this country, who continue to be the poorest citizens of this country!

When we look at Bill C-38 and its anti-information cuts, which are overwhelming in their scope, we see that what happened to women in Canada will happen in almost every community and sector, from first nations to academia. It is most acute in the field of environmental science. The fact of climate change is something that the government needs to suppress as quickly as possible in order to serve the corporate interests of its friends.

However, the ethically repugnant muzzling of scientists is certainly not all we are facing. The cuts to Library and Archives Canada, Statistics Canada, the National Council of Welfare, the First Nations Statistical Institute, and even the CBC are moves against the cultural identity of Canada.

Our heritage and history are deeply affected by these cuts. There is a relationship between dismantling Library and Archives Canada, discrediting Statistics Canada and disabling the CBC, which becomes clear when one considers that the government is aggressively pursuing a mandate to create a Canadian narrative that suits its interest rather than reality.

If it targets Library and Archives, we will have fewer resources available that describe what Canada once was. If it utterly destroys our ability to produce credible statistical data, we will not know who we are now. When it entirely abolishes the National Council of Welfare and the First Nations Statistical Institute, it is preventing social scientists from understanding trends and finding solutions. Couple this with the witch hunt we are witnessing against the CBC and the subsequent slashes to its budget and we see a weakening of the only mainstream Canadian broadcaster that is mandated with communicating our diverse heritage and cultures.

I was alarmed when the Minister of State for Science and Technology announced this past March that he was planning on refocusing the National Research Council and in May announced that he was changing the direction of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in order to strengthen its ties with the private sector. SSHRC, like the NRC, is a public research-funding body that is mandated with funding innovative research that benefits all Canadians, not just the business sector. Yet, in his own words, the Minister of State for Science and Technology said that this is a great opportunity to focus the NRC more toward the business end to be “a one-stop, 1-800, 'I have a solution for your business problem'.”

Coming from an academic background, I know that privately commissioned research where the objectives are determined by private interests and not the researchers themselves is simply not credible. As an MP, I have witnessed the fact that our public service providers require our research councils to conduct research on behalf of all demographics and communities, not just businesses. As a citizen, I do not agree that my taxes be spent to subsidize the needs of businesses before the needs of families.

In conclusion, without credible research all Canadians will see a decline in the quality of their service provisions the way women have over the past eight years. Innovation will be stalled by the control of private interests over what it is we study.

I seriously urge this House to consider the long-term effects of these cuts and I urge us to ask ourselves this. Who does the suppression and rewriting of information benefit? When did the needs of big business supplant the needs of citizens? Where will Canada be in 5, 10, 20 years without credible statistical data upon which we can base future planning?

If there is one thing the now abolished National Council of Welfare has taught us through its research, it is that short-term investments in human capital and communities reap long-term economic gains. It is frivolous, short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible for the government to be dismantling these institutions.

I hope that this debate enlightens the members opposite as to the dangers they are precipitating in the budget bill. I hope that they will support the opposition motion.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and social science expertiseBUSINESS OF SUPPLYGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on her very thoughtful and well considered speech.

During our budget consultations, I met with residents of Vancouver and spoke to them about the budget, this Trojan Horse, since the Conservatives do not want to consult Canadians. One scientist told me that he did not want to reveal his views on the environment for fear that this government would arrange for him to lose his job.

Could the hon. member respond to that comment? What does this tell us about the academic community in general when a scientist is so afraid of talking about his information and his research? What message is being sent to the scientific community?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and social science expertiseBUSINESS OF SUPPLYGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville for this excellent question.

In fact, the government is sending a message to Canada's scientists that it does not want their research to be credible. It wants them to reflect what it wants to show and what it is doing. It wants to be able to say that it is investing a great deal of effort in the environment, even though that is not true.

In order to do so, the government consistently prevents scientists who are conducting innovative research from showing their results. It is trying to control the research being done, in all academic fields but especially the environment.

It is clear that the government is not concerned about the Canadian environment and it does not want to show that a problem currently exists.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and social science expertiseBUSINESS OF SUPPLYGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, over the last while we have been raising the issues of scientists and scientific research to Statistics Canada. We think these issues are fundamental in terms of being able to make sound decisions. We need to have the background information necessary in order to make policy decisions.

Could my colleague tell the House how important it is for us to have statistical information that is well researched prior to making good policy decisions that will have an impact on things such as our environment and social programming? Without having the research necessary in order to provide evidence that certain things work and certain things do not, is the government putting itself into a bad position going forward in terms of public policy?

Opposition Motion—Scientific and social science expertiseBUSINESS OF SUPPLYGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, if we do not have valid and specific data, we cannot make correlations with what is going on in society. We cannot correlate, for instance, a woman being in poverty and her experience of violence when we do not have that kind of data. The national household survey, which was implemented by the Conservatives, is not valid because does not give us valid information because we are not getting an adequate sample of what Canadians are experiencing and the situation of Canadians.

As a result, we do not know where we need to be targeting policies. We do not know the effect of certain policies. We do not know how to solve problems and move forward as a country.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and social science expertiseBUSINESS OF SUPPLYGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise again in the House to talk about some of the initiatives that our government is taking with respect to arts and culture and, more specifically, to Library and Archives Canada.

As I said in question period, our government understands the importance of arts and culture to the Canadian economy. That is why, as part of our economic action plan, we made a conscious effort and decided that, while other governments around the world were cutting funds to arts and culture, it was important to the Canadian economy that we continue to invest in arts and culture. We understand how many jobs that represents and how much economic activity it generates. It generates literally hundreds of thousands of jobs and some $80 billion worth of economic activity.

Our economic action plan not only increased the budget for arts and culture but we worked with our provincial and municipal partners across the country to make significant investments in the sector. In my own riding, I just had the good fortune on Saturday to work with my mayor, the town council of Stouffville and the provincial MPP to cut the ribbon on the expansion of the Stouffville Museum. It was a wonderful day. The entire community came out to celebrate the expansion. It followed on an earlier ribbon cutting of the expansion of the Markham Museum, another initiative that came through Canada's economic action plan.

We have announced investments in the Markham Theatre. Investments were made in the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. On every matter that counts, be it supporting artists or the Canada Council for Arts, we have continued to support that community because we have always understood how important it is to Canadians that their government support their artists and do everything in its power to preserve, protect and enhance its heritage. Our government will continue to do that into the future.

Library and Archives Canada has been mentioned in the motion. A lot is happening at Library and Archives Canada. It is moving forward with its modernization initiative that will improve and expand access to Canada's documentary and cultural heritage for all Canadians, regardless of their interests, profession or location. In fact, just last week, Library and Archives Canada announced the launch of its portrait portal, which showcases the largest collection of portraits in the country, including works acquired since the 1880s. This collection, made up of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, caricatures, medals and other works, represents historical figures who played an important role in Canada's development as a nation. This digitization initiative makes available to Canadians across the country many thousands of works by renown Canadian artists, ranging from portraits by Yousuf Karsh to those of William Topley. Hockey fans across Canada can even find rare hockey cards from around 1910.

The portrait portal gives Canadians the ability to access their national portrait collection at the time and place they want, wherever they are. For millions of people across the country, this will be an exciting first step in the discovery of the wealth and diversity of Canada's documentary heritage.

Library and Archives Canada is committed to posting over 2,000 digitized portraits every month for the coming years. This project illustrates its commitment to adapting to the new digital environment by making the national portrait collection more accessible to all Canadians from coast to coast. This is important because in communities across the country people want to have access to the collections, which we sometimes take for granted as members of Parliament, that we have right here at our doorstep.

It is not just Library and Archives Canada, of course. I know my community museums are doing a heck of a lot of work in order to digitize their own collections. We are very proud of that. Across the country, small and local museums have very impressive collections. We will continue to work with them to ensure those collections are preserved and protected.

Additionally, the government has sought to move forward with commemorations for the War of 1812. It is, of course, the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, which, as we have said, was an incredibly important war in what was the foundation and creation of Canada.

The War of 1812 helped preserve the French facr here, and it led to a unified Canada. We are very proud of Canada's participation in that with our allies, the British and our first nations people. I know that people in communities across Ontario to Quebec to New Brunswick will be celebrating their local contributions to the War of 1812. Library and Archives Canada is also doing a part. Members will be interested to know that it will provide access to over 73,000 new images of the War of 1812. That is an incredible opportunity for Canadians to learn more about the War of 1812, a war that was so fundamentally important to the foundation of this country.

Last year, Library and Archives Canada also launched the Canadian feature film index. This index was created in 1972 and is now available as an online database that provides information on over 4,300 Canadian feature films produced from 1913 to 2009. This database is an important resource for filmmakers, students and researchers, as well as those who are interested in Canada's cinematic history. It ensures that this key part of Canada's documentary and cultural heritage is accessible to everyone.

We can trace Library and Archives Canada's commitment for enhanced accessibility to 2010 when it decided to expand the Lest We Forget workshop program to include students from across Canada. Military service files were selected from the vaults where they were stored. They were digitized and made available online, along with a step-by-step teachers' guide to organizing a workshop.

In the first year of this online program, Library and Archives Canada began with 200 military service files and the participation of our public library systems. This year, in the second year of digital outreach, students will be able to access more than 5,000 military service files of Canadian soldiers, doctors, nurses and chaplains who served during the First World War or who were killed in action during the Second World War. The number of participating public library systems doubled so that now LAC's Lest We Forget workshops are offered from coast to coast to coast. In the first six months, approximately 20,000 downloads of military service records were conducted by the Lest We Forget section of the Collections Canada website.

Our latest example is Library and Archives Canada's development of the new digital projects to help Canadians access their documentary heritage online. Library and Archives Canada recently launched discover blog. It contains information on military and genealogical records where Canadians can discover their family connections. These new initiatives showcase what great work Library and Archives Canada has done to enable Canadians to become more knowledgeable and to experience our historical and documentary heritage.

Again, this is good for Canadians. They will be able to access historical content regardless of their interest, profession or location. The modernization initiative means LAC is becoming an institution that promotes democratic access to Canada's documentary heritage for all. It means changing LAC's points of access to reflect the tremendous opportunities that advanced information and communications technology provide.

Library and Archives Canada has made some strategic choices to ensure that funds invested will yield tangible, sustainable results for Canadians.

It is clear that Library and Archives Canada's long-term plan to modernize and virtualize services in order to reach the greatest number of Canadians more easily and to provide Canadians with better service is actually working. More services in historical content are available to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Library and Archives Canada's long-term plan includes the introduction of video conferencing tools, like Skype, to extend front-line services to clients across Canada. Clients will be able to book an appointment on site or by using Skype or the telephone. This allows the right experts to be at the appointment and it allows the experts to prepare, therefore providing better services.

Additionally, Library and Archives Canada is using social media. The use of social media has been working to achieve a comprehensive presence on the web in five key areas.

First, in 2008 Library and Archives Canada launched its Flickr account to provide systematic images around the institution and from the collections. To date it has approximately 400,000 views.

Second, Library and Archives Canada has a Twitter account. It was launched at the end of February and is gaining new followers every day. It provides information to stakeholders and citizens, allows the organization to reach new audiences and facilitates access to Library and Archives Canada's services and collections.

Last week Library and Archives Canada also launched its streamlined YouTube channel in order to raise awareness about its holdings and activities. Also last week, Library and Archives Canada launched its official Facebook account. In addition to institutional messaging and news about events and new products, Library and Archives will initiate original features to engage with Canadians, such as “Today in History” and “What Have We Here?”

The fifth element of Library and Archives Canada's expanding web presence is the release of podcasts that highlight significant collection items and share expertise and knowledge. Each podcast episode will feature different content and will maintain a common focus on engagement with the collection and accessibility.

Podcasts have recently been launched on Project Naming, which enables Nunavut youth to connect with elders and to better understand their past. It also helps bridge the cultural differences and geographical distances between Nunavut and more southern parts of Canada.

Upcoming podcasts will feature the War of 1812 and the “Double Take: Portraits of Intriguing Canadians” travelling exhibit. This new way of promoting our heritage will facilitate discovery, access and engagement among Canadians, Canadian users and their collections.

In addition to the modernization initiative, Library and Archives Canada has also created a broad pan-Canadian network for the preservation of the country's documentary heritage. This emerging network now involves a wide range of stakeholders from the library and archival fields from across Canada. In so doing, Library and Archives Canada continues to serve communities across the country, but in a more efficient and effective manner, using partnerships with the documentary heritage network.

As I mentioned earlier, we on this side of the House have consistently understood the importance of arts and culture. Unfortunately, we have been placed in a position such that each time we make an investment in this sector, the opposition has voted against it.

As part of our economic action plan, we said quite clearly that we wanted to invest not only in arts and culture but also in a wide range of activities that are important to the Canadian economy. Of course, that included investing in roads and bridges. It included working with our provincial partners to make sure we could invest in colleges and university campuses across this country. Unfortunately, what happened? Again, the opposition voted against that.

What did it mean for my community? What did the opposition actually vote against in my community? It voted against the Stouffville museum. It voted against the expansion of the Markham museum. It voted against an emergency operations centre for the town of Markham, this following what was a terrible summer tornado in Vaughan, where the need for an emergency response system became clear and evident. It voted against improvements to our sports facilities.

For the town of Markham in the riding for the hon. member for Markham—Unionville, it meant voting against a skating rink, the largest outdoor skating rink in the GTA. It meant voting against tennis domes for the community that the hon. member for Markham—Unionville and I share.

One of the things that has been so important about the economic action plan is that it invested in communities across this country. It invested in all of these communities. Back in 2008 and 2009, we sat down with our provincial and municipal partners and asked, “What do we need in order to get the economy moving?” They told us we needed to invest in infrastructure, so that is what we did.

How did the opposition respond? It voted against.

Every single time the opposition members get up in this House, they consistently talk about an initiative they would have liked to see the government do as part of our economic action plan. They talk about infrastructure; we have already talked about how they voted against that. They talk about a national housing strategy. This government invested in housing for our seniors and for those who are less advantaged as part of the economic action plan. How did they vote? They voted against it.

When we talked about seniors and expanding opportunities for our seniors, the first thing we did was allow for income splitting for seniors. How did they vote? They voted against it.

They talked about increasing the supports for our vulnerable seniors. What did we do? We increased funding for GIS—

Opposition Motion—Scientific and social science expertiseBUSINESS OF SUPPLYGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. The hon. member for Vaudreuil—Soulanges on a point of order.

Opposition Motion—Scientific and social science expertiseBUSINESS OF SUPPLYGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Madam Speaker, I fail to see how the voting record of the official opposition pertains to the debate at hand today in the House. I would hope that the member across would get to the point and return to the subject of the motion.