House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was infrastructure.


The House resumed from February 24 consideration of the motion.

Election of the SpeakerPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me stand in my place today to speak in favour of Motion No. 489, in the name of my colleague, the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington.

Before I begin my remarks, it would be useful for members of this House to understand a couple of points about the motion. Number one, it is a motion, as opposed to a bill; so it is merely a motion that, if passed, would instruct the procedure and House affairs committee to study the possibility of changing the way in which we now elect Speakers of the House.

I believe that the proposal and suggestions contained in Motion No. 489 are extremely worthwhile and certainly worth a study from the procedure and House affairs committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to interrupt my own dissertation, but I noticed my colleague from the Liberal Party who came into the House a little late. I believe he was supposed to be the first speaker on the motion today.

If you wish, Mr. Speaker, I would certainly give leave to my colleague to start—

Election of the SpeakerPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I appreciate the intervention by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. I think there will be some time so that we can accommodate the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor and we will be able to get him into the rotation in the time permitting.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Election of the SpeakerPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, as I said, this is a motion rather than a bill, so it would simply instruct the procedure and House affairs committee to look at the possibility of changing the way we now elect Speakers. As most members in this place know, the election of the Speaker is a relatively new phenomenon, because for the first 80 years or so that Parliament was established, there were no elections for the Speaker of the House. The Speaker was basically appointed based on nominations brought forward by the sitting Prime Minister. However, in 1986, Speaker Bosley changed all that, and the rules of the House in the election of Speakers were changed.

Since that time, elections of Speakers have been done by secret ballot. While that system has worked well for the last 30 years, it is a very cumbersome process, in the minds of many people. If we looked at the voting patterns since 1986, we would find that the average length of time taken to elect a Speaker at the start of each Parliament is over seven hours. Some would suggest perhaps that is not a bad thing; it allows all members at the start of each Parliament to get together to renew acquaintances and basically enjoy the electoral spirit that comes around elections of any kind. However, from my standpoint and in my view, I would like to see perhaps a more efficient use of time. That is why my colleague's Motion No. 489 suggests that a preferential ballot be established to change the existing rules of electing a Speaker.

Most members here understand how a preferential ballot works, but for those who are perhaps a little unsure, let me try to clarify as much as I can how an election would be held using the preferential ballot.

Currently, if there are several members who wish to run for the position of Speaker, all of those names would be included on a ballot, votes would be counted, and only if one member received over 50% of the vote would an election be completed. We have seen over the course of the last 30 years that getting that 50% threshold is not an easy thing to do, and that is why we take such a length of time to elect a Speaker. It has taken several ballots in most cases. Currently, the system is that after the ballots are counted after the first vote, any candidate who receives the least amount of votes cast or, in the event of a tie, two or more members who receive the least amount of votes, or any member who receives less than 5% of the total votes cast, would be eliminated from the ballot. The remaining names would then continue to be placed on the ballot, votes would take place and be counted, and only when one name on the ballot receives over 50% of the vote would a Speaker be considered to be elected.

Starting in 1986, we have seen several ballots occur almost every time there has been an election of a Speaker. Only once in the last 30 years has there been an acclamation, and that is when former Speaker Milliken was elected in the early 2000s, perhaps 2005. However, every other time, there has been a contested election with several members seeking the position of Speaker. Again, with the number of ballots cast and the number of times the table officers had to count the ballots, the amount of time it took to elect a Speaker averaged over seven hours. A preferential ballot would streamline that process quite considerably.

A preferential ballot means that, at the start, all members who have put their names forward to be considered for the Speaker of this House would see their names on one ballot, and instead of just marking an x under a preferred candidate, all those people who would be seeking the position would be ranked as number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on. In other words, if there were seven people seeking the position of the Speaker's chair, they would be ranked numbers one through seven. When the ballots are then counted, the same process takes place whereby they would need 50% plus one vote to be elected Speaker. However, if no name or no candidate on that ballot received more than 50% of the votes cast, those who are administering the election would go down the ranking, and the person who received the least number of votes would be stricken from that one ballot.

Members, however, would not be then compelled to vote again. Those who are administering the count would merely look at that one ballot. In the case of seven candidates on the ballot in the example I am using, the seventh place candidate would be eliminated from the ballot. The voters who voted for candidate number seven with their first-place ballots would obviously not see their candidate elected. On the ballot, however, those who marked an x under preference number one would also have marked a second-place preference. Those second-place preferences would then be reapplied to the candidates remaining on the ballot and votes would be counted again.

If one of the members then got over 50% of the vote, he or she would be elected Speaker. If not, the last-place candidate's name would be removed, an examination would take place of where the preferential ballot votes were cast, votes would be reapplied, so on and so forth, until at the end of the count, there would be one name that received more than 50% of the vote.

What this means is that, quite simply, members would only have to vote once. In other words, members of this place would only have to fill out one ballot. It might take several counts within that one ballot to determine a winner, but we would not see the process of having to mark ballots, fill out names as preferred candidates, wait for the officials to recount, and go through that process over and over again. I would suggest that, by doing it this manner, we would see the time spent on electing Speakers cut back from seven hours, on average, to probably less than two. Whether that is a good thing would be up to members of the procedure and House affairs committee to determine, but I certainly think it is worthy of discussion and review, and that is why I will be supporting this when it comes before this place for a vote.

As a last word, I will simply say this. Any time there are changes to the Standing Orders, there should be a note of caution. The wise men and women who developed our Standing Orders well over 100 years ago, did so with great thought, intelligence, and anticipation. I would suggest that many times there are unintended consequences when one starts changing Standing Orders. I mention that only because the procedure and House affairs committee right now has undertaken a review of the Standing Orders and is certainly looking at a number of ways to improve efficiency within this place. This motion may be one of those places.

This is certainly a motion that is worthy of review and consideration, not only by the members of the procedure and House affairs committee but by members throughout the House. With that, I will let people here know that, since I am a member of the procedure and House affairs committee, I am looking forward to conducting this review. In all probability, I will be casting a vote in favour of Motion No. 489.

Election of the SpeakerPrivate Members' Business

April 7th, 2014 / 11:10 a.m.


Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Motion No. 489 which requests that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs study the possibility of adapting a first past the post preferential ballot for the election of the Speaker of the House.

I would like to congratulate the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington for this motion, which I am supporting.

I would also like to thank the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for all his hard work, on this and other issues. He is an outstanding member of Parliament, and I am very proud to call him my colleague.

I am glad to say that I support this motion, and I support it for two reasons. First, the motion itself has considerable merit. Second, it adds to the spirit of reform that is about this place these days. There are a number of discussions, as the previous speaker mentioned, that are being considered in the House and at the procedure and House affairs committee, and this motion adds to that debate in a positive way.

It is an exciting time in the House of Commons. I am a first-term MP, proudly representing Burnaby—Douglas. It has been a great pleasure to be part of the debates about reforming or abolishing the Senate, changing our electoral system to perhaps proportional representation, establishing electronic petitions, changing our committee system in how we choose committee chairs, and giving members more power over their leaders.

It has been a great pleasure to be part of these debates. However, I must say that my excitement does not extend to Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act. It is an abomination by my count, roundly denounced by all election experts and democratic protectors right across the country.

However, I will not dwell on Bill C-23, but will focus more on the positive efforts that are before us today. As mentioned by the previous speaker, Motion No. 489 proposes that the PROC committee study the possibility of adapting a first past the post preferential ballot for the election of the Speaker. This would change us from our current practice of having members vote several times, with each round having members with the least of votes being eliminated, and one member receiving the majority of vote eventually elected.

This motion proposes a preferential balloting system in which members would only have to vote once, except in the event of a tie. They would do so by voting for the candidates of their choice in order of preference. This is a common system that is used around the world, and there are plenty of examples for us to draw upon, whether it is through an electoral system or through a selection of speakers.

This morning I was reading the hon. member's speech from the first hour of debate, and was very interested to note that between 1867 and the 1980s, Speakers were elected by an open show of hands, with the Speaker being chosen by the prime minister of the day. It was only in the mid-1980s that the Speaker was elected by a secret ballot vote by members of Parliament.

When we think about how large a change that was, from the prime minister of a majority government essentially hand-picking a Speaker, until now, where we have lessened the power of the prime minister and broadened it to all members of Parliament electing a Speaker by a secret ballot, that is a much better way to go.

That spirit of what was happening in the mid-1980s, to where we lessened the power of the prime minister and put more power in the hands of regular members, is what is creeping into the discussions we have been having in the House during the weeks and months that we have been debating various motions and bills coming before Parliament. Members are proposing adjustments to our parliamentary procedures in an attempt to improve the process, and in some cases lessen the concentration of power in the hands of a prime minister.

I think there is a range of bills and motions that are being discussed here. Some are more on the housekeeping side, making sure that we tidy up our procedural matters, and some are much more radical in nature. I will get to those in a second.

I noted from the speech by the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington in the first hour that he feels these changes are necessary because the current process takes too long, there is no mechanism currently on the Standing Orders for resolving ties, and he thinks it is important to destroy ballots to preserve the dignity of contestants who do not happen to win the contest.

These are all very good reasons for why we should support this bill. It is a tidying sort of measure, and of course PROC will go through it to make sure that we get the details right. However, from first glance, it does look like a good thing to do. It is something that would tidy our procedures here, save time for the members, make sure that we have written down the procedures for resolving a tie, and make sure that we preserve the dignity of all people who put their names forward to stand for leader.

However, also in his speech, the member mentioned Motion No. 431, the motion that was put forward by the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt. He does not say that he supports the motion outright. Rather, he said that if both motions survive a vote in the House, which Motion No. 431 did, that they would not only draw upon the same pool of experts to discuss the preferential ballot proposals before us today, but also as to how we might select committee chairs. The member suggested that we should study efficiency, which is what is on his mind here, because he suggests that this pool of experts could be used to look at both motions to inform PROC as to whether they should go ahead. It is a good suggestion that we draw upon the expertise that we develop for one motion to look at the other and perhaps save some time.

I would like to make a larger point. The motion before us is not only similar in nature to the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt's efforts to reform how committee chairs are elected, but it is also similar in spirit to my motion, Motion No. 849, with respect to electronic petitions, and perhaps Bill C-559, the reform act, put forward by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. I look at these as a kind of range in terms of how much they would change the structure of how we do business in the House of Commons.

The motion before us, Motion No. 489, is probably the most modest change that we could make. My idea for electronic petitions, which is currently in front of PROC, would adjust our processes a little more radically. Then, when we move to Motion No. 431, with respect to selecting committee chairs from Parliament, that again changes things a little more radically. Finally, Bill C-559, the reform act, would make the most change. Therefore, I would put my motion, Motion No. 489, more in the category of what the member is suggesting here today, a minor change to modernize our processes and make them more efficient.

One of the questions is on why we do these things. Why do we take the time? I only have one motion or bill that would come forward for a vote in the House, as does the member who is putting this motion forward today, as do the other members I have just mentioned. What we are trying to do is to think of ways to make this place better, how we can improve our processes, and how we can make our democracy better for Canadians. Then we look at what is feasible in the House.

The member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington has hit the nail on the head. He has suggested a change that would be palatable to all members of the House, providing it has proper study. I think it is wise of him to do so. What I tried to do with Motion No. 489 with respect to electronic petitioning is to pick something that would perhaps please many members of the House. Hopefully, PROC will see that through.

As we move to the other motions and bills that I have mentioned, they are more radical. We will require considerable debate on those motions in order for them to pass.

What it shows is that there is a genuine spirit of reform in this place. We are trying to figure out how we can debate these things and come to a consensus, more or less, on what changes are appropriate. I support this motion because the member has correctly calculated that his changes would more than likely be adopted. He would succeed in reforming this place, maybe not quite in the current form that his motion suggests, but after a discussion at PROC there is something that would happen.

Again, I feel positive vibes in this place from various speeches. I am hoping that the member will assist the rest of us who are interested in reform in this place, just as we are assisting him. It is only through this co-operation that we can move the democracy of Canada forward. I think we are all interested in making Canada a more democratic place.

I thank you for the time, Mr. Speaker. It is a pleasure to speak to this motion.

Election of the SpeakerPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have been in this House now for approximately 10 years. In that decade, I have witnessed a couple of Speakers being elected, all by private ballot, and I thought the exercise was certainly necessary. It was revised back in the mid-1980s, as research tells us, and I would like to reflect back on the history of this House.

One of my Conservative colleagues mentioned earlier that we should never change the Standing Orders lightly. Even though the motion seems fairly modest in its reach, at the same time we have to be very careful. However, there is a long history to this.

In the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, the version by Marleau and Montpetit, we can see the history of the election of the Speaker from 1867 up until 1985. Typically the convention was that a name was proposed by the prime minister and everyone voted. We could see who voted for whom in the election for the Speaker. Normally the nomination put forward by the prime minister, which in the early days was seconded by a leading minister, was usually accepted. Granted, there usually was a majority, but even in cases where there was a minority government, it seemed that the recommendation put forward by the prime minister and seconded by the leading minister of the day was accepted by the House and there was no tumultuous debate that followed.

In later conventions, although not written down, there was a consensus as to who the Speaker should be. The name was still brought forward by the prime minister, but by this convention it was seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, which is a far more beneficial way to bring respect to the House, and for all members, despite what party or caucus one might sit with.

This method made it much clearer as to who the Speaker should be, and there was no debate. If it was seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, then the vast majority of the House, not just the simple majority of the House, were in favour of a particular Speaker. However, we must bear in mind that this was all done through a recorded vote. Everyone was able to see where their member of Parliament or their colleague was on a vote.

In the 1980s, we realized that a vote would be better among colleagues as to who would be the most unbiased person and could administer the House as Speaker. It is not just speaking in the House and making sure the Standing Orders are followed, but there is the administration of the House over its functions and employees.

At the time it was thought that there should be a secret ballot, that we should not be coerced into voting because of what the leader of any particular party felt about who the Speaker should be. Therefore, the institution of secret ballot was brought in, and I think that was all for the better.

Recently there have been talks about having secret ballots for other positions, such as committee chairs, which by extension have the same type of job description when it comes to being unbiased. Members can see the pattern here. Any position that is assumed by a member of Parliament, such as the Speaker of the House, assistant Speaker, Deputy Speaker, or in the case of committees, the chairs or vice-chairs, it is the same sort of function. One cannot be biased towards any particular policy, and certainly not biased towards any particular party represented in this House. Therefore, a secret ballot is apt.

There was also a bill put forward and tabled in this House on the election of committee chairs by the same method, and I support that as well. I mean, if we are going to have a function of electing the Speaker by secret ballot, which has been our practice since the mid-1980s, then obviously the committee chairs, by extension, should have the same sort of thing.

History tells us that over the past while, we have not had a lot debate, but as my colleagues have pointed out, there has always been an election, with the exception of 2005, I think it was, when Speaker Milliken was acclaimed. We have had these elections, and they go on for a period of time. In the last election, when our current Speaker was elected, there were four candidates. It went on for quite some time, with the counting.

The procedure by which we do it is if a candidate does not gather a simple majority of the votes, another vote takes place. The person who finishes last, or who has the least number of votes, is dropped from the ballot. It is similar to the way parties elect leaders.

Speaking of parties, that has been the function of electing the leader of a party for quite some time, where someone needs a majority vote to attain the leadership. In positions as important as that, a simple first-past-the-post system would not suffice. There has to be a situation where someone gets the majority of the votes, which is more than 50%. That is a responsible way of looking at it.

As a matter of fact, I do not mind going on the record to say that maybe that is something we should consider for democratic reform. As the critic for democratic reform, something I support is the preferential ballot idea.

A lot of people ask what the preferential ballot is and how it works. The preferential ballot is something we have been using for years, but we have never used it in a preferential ballot way. Allow me to explain. We have always voted, and voted again if necessary, to achieve a simple majority, which is 50% plus one. Doing it by preferential ballot, however, means that we are doing all of our voting up front. For example, in a typical party leadership election, if someone does not get more than half the vote, whoever gets the fewest votes is dropped from the list, and we vote again. Once that person is dropped, we vote once more, so back to the ballot box we go to cast our vote. If our candidate is still in the race, chances are that we will vote for that candidate again. If our candidate has been dropped because that person finished last, we now have to vote for someone else, or we may choose not to vote at all. In most cases, obviously, we would vote again.

On a preferential ballot, we rank the candidates. If we were asked who we wanted to be the leader of our party, we would say, “I want this person. She is my choice”. If that person is not elected, is not successful, and is eliminated from the ballot, who would we like to be the leader after that? Basically, we are saying that if our preferred candidate, or first choice, is eliminated, we would choose the person who is our second choice.

Doing that saves a lot of time, because there is no going back to the ballot box, which takes quite some time. Even in a national election, it takes 12 hours. What we are saying is that all of this being done up front would save us a lot of time. In many cases, one's vote would not change. Does it mean that we would have to go over our second, third, and fourth choices? We could simply indicate one choice if we wished, but if our candidate were eliminated, our vote would no longer count. That is exactly what we have here.

I would like to congratulate the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington for doing this. Some would say that it is a mild measure, but it is a measure that is necessary. Preferential ballots are becoming very popular within the scope of parties, so why can it not be within the scope of this House? By amending the Standing Orders, we would be allowing preferential balloting to take place.

I would like to say that we will be voting in support of this. Again, I thank the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington for bringing it forward.

Election of the SpeakerPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the motion moved by the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington seeks to amend Standing Order 4 regarding the election of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

We in the NDP are always in favour of examining any parliamentary process that promotes democracy. That is why, like my colleagues, I support Bill C-489 going to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

The committee will therefore be mandated to examine the possibility of instituting a single, preferential ballot for the election of the Speaker of the House. I would like to go over the key elements of the proposed preferential ballot system.

Members would receive a ballot paper that contains the full list, in alphabetical order, of the names of those members who are candidates for the position of Speaker. Rather than voting for a single candidate, members would vote for their preferred candidates, in order of preference. The Clerk would then count the number of first preferences recorded in the ballots, and if a candidate had received a majority of first preference votes, then that person would be declared elected.

If, after the first count, no candidate had received a majority of first preference votes, the Clerk would eliminate the candidate who received the least number of first preference votes from further counts. The Clerk would distribute the eliminated ballots based on the second choices, third choices, and so on. This process would continue until a candidate had obtained a majority of the votes. In the event of a tie, another vote would be held with a list of the remaining members.

At present, members vote several times in each round, and the members who received the fewest votes are eliminated, until one member receives a majority of the votes. Ultimately, both methods require that one member obtain the majority of votes in order to be elected Speaker of the House.

However, the preferential ballot system has the advantage of being faster. The election in 2011 took six rounds for a candidate to get the majority of votes. I would remind the House that the Standing Orders require at least an hour to pass between ballots, and the process of balloting itself takes a certain amount of time. As it stands, the election process takes quite some time. With this system, we would have only one round of voting, except to break a tie, which would make the process much more effective and efficient.

However, I would like to qualify my support for the preferential balloting system. Each new federal election brings new MPs to the House of Commons. As a newly elected member in 2011, I can attest to the fact that we have to learn the rules and procedures of the House and become familiar with them very quickly.

The preferential balloting system is very easy to understand; there is no doubt about that. My concern is about the fact that new members do not know the candidates. To vote in order of preference, one has to know something about the candidates. The committee must take that into consideration. How can MPs rank candidates in order of preference if they do not know them very well? For virtually all of us, electing the Speaker at the beginning of each parliament is our first task as parliamentarians. This cannot be taken lightly.

Another concern I have is about the impartiality of the Speaker of the House of Commons. It is always helpful to revisit Parliament's democratic practices and assess which procedural methods are the most democratic. However, we need to ensure that the Speaker of the House of Commons remains impartial, which is why it is important that the committee carefully examine changes to the voting process.

To conclude, I would like to point out that Bill C-489 would instruct the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to study the possibility of adopting a preferential ballot to elect the Speaker and to table a report on the issue within six months of this motion being adopted.

The motion takes a similarly logical approach. It aims to make the process of electing a Speaker more efficient. That is why I am supporting it, and I look forward to reading the report by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Election of the SpeakerPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate? No.

Accordingly, I invite the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington for his right of reply. The hon. member has five minutes.

The hon. member.

Election of the SpeakerPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all members who participated in the debate. I am very grateful that we appear to have widespread consensus in the House on the virtue of going forward to look at this issue in committee.

Following up on my colleague the parliamentary secretary's comments, I took a moment to do a little math. He pointed out that, on average, seven hours have been consumed in electing a Speaker in each of the Parliaments since the procedure was introduced back in the 1980s. I did a little math. Seven hours times 308 members equals 2,156 hours.

In case members are wondering, a person working 40 hours a week all year long, with no holidays, would work fewer hours than that, so essentially, it is an entire work year gone.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that we returned to the worst-case scenario, 12 hours of balloting, in the next Parliament, when there will be 338 members, math dictates that we would spend 4,056 hours doing this, which is about two work years.

Not all of this time would be saved, but if we brought it down to the member's estimate, two hours, and I think that is about right, we would be saving the better part of a work year for a body of people who, I think, without engaging in undue self-praise, are engaged in important alternative activities carrying on the nation's legislative business.

Last summer I had the chance to read Boswell's biography of Dr. Samuel Johnson. At one point in the book, he mentions that Dr. Johnson once observed that nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of being hanged in a fortnight.

By the same token, there is nothing like a month of free time between the first and second hour of debate on a motion to give one a chance to refine one's thinking. Having had that month, I have had the opportunity, with the assistance of my staff, to continue our investigation into the various alternative methods used by different parliamentary bodies in the Commonwealth to elect their Speakers.

It has come to my attention that I had, in the first hour of debate, overlooked the fact that one of the most prestigious bodies in the entire Commonwealth, the House of Lords, in the United Kingdom, has, since 2005, had the practice of electing its Speaker by means of a preferential ballot. It is very similar to the system I am proposing here.

The exception, the difference between its system and the system I am proposing, is that in our system, we would retain the practice of keeping the vote totals confidential. They would not be revealed to anyone, including the candidates. That is, of course, our current practice.

In the British system, the vote totals are revealed at each count. It turns out that not only are they revealed and made public but that there is actually a Wikipedia article discussing them. There is a Wikipedia article on everything.

There is a Wikipedia article on the Lord Speaker election in 2006. If we were to go to Wikipedia and look that up, we would get the vote totals at each part of the count. There is a separate article on the Lord Speaker election in 2011. These are the two elections that have been conducted under this system. They reveal certain things that I think may be useful in guiding us as to how much of a change engaging in this electoral process would produce.

One of the questions that arises is whether we would see radical shifts among the candidates between counts, as candidates are eliminated from the ballot. The answer to that question is, apparently, that we would not, at least based on this experience.

In the 2006 Lord Speaker election, which involved eight counts, as candidates were dropped from the ballot, no candidate shifted position.

Baroness Hayman, who wound up winning, led on the first ballot and also on the eighth count. Lord Grenfell, who was in second place on the first count, was still in second place at the end of the process. The third candidate was still in the same position, and so on.

The same thing happened in 2011. Therefore, we are not looking at a radical change in that respect. However, in a different respect, it seems to me that we would see a change, I think, and one that is very positive.

I notice, looking at the 2006 election, that Lord Grenfell, who was in second place, rose from having 103 votes on the first ballot to 236 on the second, which was more than a doubling, whereas Baroness Hayman, who started off with 201, barely rose, going up to 263.

This is significant, because Lord Grenfell was an independent member of the House, whereas Baroness Hayman was a member of the governing party.

Looking at the 2011 election, we see that the leading candidate, the one who led on the first ballot and won on the end, Baroness D'Souza, was a cross-bencher—that is, not a member of either party, but what we would think of as an independent. This suggests to me that this process would likely produce the person among the candidates who is the least partisan and the most independent in their thinking, which I have to think is a profitable and beneficial change to what we have had in the past.

Election of the SpeakerPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Election of the SpeakerPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


Election of the SpeakerPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Suspension of SittingElection of the SpeakerPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There being several minutes left before noon, the House will suspend until noon, at which time we will carry on with the regular orders of the day.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:48 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

The House resumed from April 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-31, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1Government Orders



Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear the enthusiasm of my colleagues across the way.

It is my honour to stand and bring the voices of my constituents in Parkdale—High Park, but I believe my remarks will also reflect the views of many Canadians across Canada. I have heard nothing but complaints from members of my community about the fact that the government is once again bringing in an omnibus bill, cramming all kinds of measures into one very large so-called budget bill, making significant changes that would fundamentally affect the lives of Canadians, and then, for more than the 60th time in the House, restricting the time available for Canadians to look at the bill and for parliamentarians to effectively debate the contents of it. This bill is over 300 pages in length and seeks to legislate many distinct areas of the lives of Canadians. It is not simply on the economy.

I have to say that I am also very concerned about what it is not in the bill. There is nothing in this bill that would address the growing number of part-time jobs without benefits that are replacing good-paying, full-time, secure jobs that Canadians are losing and have lost, both during and since the recession. There is nothing for a generation of young people unable to find stable work and start their lives without massive amounts of student debt. There is nothing to address the apparent use of EI funds to balance the budget, as opposed to giving the majority of unemployed Canadians access to benefits that would help them make the transition from one job to another without an economic calamity taking place in their lives. This is the case for far too many Canadians, and it is certainly affecting many in my community.

This is also a government unwilling to protect our environment, even with international governing organizations, such as the UN, calling on Canada to be a leader in reducing climate change. In fact, as parliamentarians and a growing number of Canadians well know, the government has used these omnibus budget bills to erode and attack environmental provisions that would protect our environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

I want to speak about jobs. Good jobs have been lost under the current government, but year after year there is nothing to help Canadians get back to work. This bill fails to renew the NDP's tax credit for small businesses, a tax credit that we know creates jobs. It would also nullify the existing agreements that identify which jobs are essential and which will effectively disrupt bargaining that is already under way. Over 1.3 million Canadians are still unemployed, and the government has chosen to waste its time legislating measures that were never mentioned in the budget speech rather than taking real action to help Canadians get back to work.

The vast majority of jobs created by the government have been part time, including almost 70% of the jobs created in March alone. As a result, Canadians who were able to recover employment after the recession often find themselves working two or three part-time jobs to try to make ends meet instead of working the one job they used to be able to work in order to support themselves and their families.

It is no wonder that we are seeing growing levels of income and wealth inequality in this country. A report that came out just last week showed that the wealthiest 86 individuals in this country control the same amount of wealth as the poorest 11.4 million. If that is not inequality, I do not know what is. This bill fails to address that growing inequality and, frankly, Canadians deserve much better.

I am pleased that the government has finally accepted the NDP's proposal to cap the amount that wireless carriers can charge other suppliers.

However, this is too late for many Canadian start-ups. This delay has increased convergence in the wireless market. Consumers have few options, which results in price increases.

We hear this concern over extremely high rates for telecom services from Canadians across the country.

I also want to raise the issue of FATCA. This may be something the majority of Canadians do not know much about, but for Canadians who hold dual Canadian-American citizenship, the bill is very troubling. An entire bill about FATCA is enclosed in this omnibus budget bill. It would impose the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act amid questions in the United States about the constitutionality of the act. However, the government does not seem to care if FATCA would be found to be unconstitutional because it is not bound by the U.S. Constitution. It is one of the only governments happy to give out the private details of its citizens' financials. In other words, Canadians' private banking information is to be made available to the U.S. for tax reasons to comply with—wait for it—American law. The bill would give the Minister of National Revenue the power to make any regulation necessary to carry out this highly controversial act.

It is entirely inappropriate for the government to present this legislation by burying it in an omnibus bill with time allocation so that we do not get adequate time to study and debate this bill within a bill. The government is just hoping Canadians will not notice, but I suggest that Canadians are taking notice and are very concerned about these tax changes.

I also want to speak a bit about rail safety and transparency. The government does not seem to care about keeping legislation transparent, but it also seems cavalier about Canadians' safety. For example, the bill would allow the government to change and repeal a wide variety of railway safety regulations without even informing the public. Any cabinet decisions that change the safety requirements for the transport of dangerous good would now become secret.

This includes changes to the classification of dangerous goods, the training and qualifications of inspectors, and rules regarding the importation and transport of dangerous goods. The public would have no way of knowing the government has weakened safety measures because it does not have to be made public. The bill would even prevent experts from advising the minister before the changes would come into effect.

So much for allowing big data to inform our government policies, as the hon. member for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam promised yesterday.

As well, the bill demonstrates to Canadians that the government thinks that our parents and grandparents are a burden. It would make it more difficult for families to reunite in Canada, and new Canadians would have to live an extended period in Canada before receiving GIS or the OAS survivor's allowance. Not only would sponsors be financially responsible for new Canadians for a significantly longer period of time, but this measure would also clearly set a distinction between those Canadians who were born here and those who were not.

Employees in the private sector work hard, whereas those in the public sector twiddle their thumbs.

Apparently wealthy single-income families deserve $3 billion in tax breaks while the other 86% of Canadians do not. New Democrats believe the government has a responsibility to all Canadians, no matter what their income, where they work, or where they were born. That is why, despite the cherry-picked New Democrat policies included in the bill, my hon. colleagues and I cannot support it. We believe Canadians deserve better, and New Democrats are going to keep fighting every day to ensure Canadians get the better treatment they deserve, despite this government.

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12:10 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question to the member is related to what I and we in the Liberal Party believe is a critically important issue to all Canadians, and that is our health care system.

As we know, at the end of March the health care accord expired. That was signed by Paul Martin back in 2004. It was the way in which we ultimately ensured that the national government played a significant role in health care through all regions of our great country.

Unfortunately, the budget and the government have failed in terms of being able to deliver a replacement for the health care accord, which raises a lot of concern about the commitment the Conservatives have toward a national health care program.

I am wondering if the member might want to provide some comment on how important it was for the government to have found a replacement for the health care accord, which actually expired at the end of March.

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12:10 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, health care remains the top priority of Canadians. Especially with an aging population, Canadians want to ensure that our publicly funded, publicly delivered, regulated health care system remains in place and is not eroded and does not face death by a thousand cuts.

Unfortunately, the government has not renewed the health accords with the provinces, and more than that, it will erode funding for health at a level of 6% less per year. That is going to create great hardship, and the provinces are going to have to manage that reduced amount of money they are receiving for health care. That cannot have any other impact but to affect the health care services Canadians want and need.

It is another great omission in this budget and this budget implementation bill that the Conservatives have not stepped up to the plate and provided security for health care funding that Canadians want.

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12:10 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan


Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular)

Mr. Speaker, I just want to make a correction. Canadians are not treated differently, as the member tries to suggest in her speech.

One of the areas we are working on with taxes is enhancing reporting and verification, trying to combat international tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance. That is something I believe the NDP would want to support.

To misrepresent any of our clauses in the budget by saying we are treating the American Canadians differently is incorrect, and I just want to put that on the record.

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12:10 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, in fact that is exactly what is happening. Those Canadians who hold dual Canadian-American citizenship are in fact going to have their bank records turned over to a foreign country, which is the United States of America, which is treating Canada as though we are a tax haven.

New Democrats certainly want to go after legitimate tax havens where there are tens of billions of dollars being squirrelled away around the world. It was this party that fought for a study of tax havens at the finance committee, but it was the government that then subsequently laid off CRA staff who are the people who actually collect that money.

We would rather go after the real tax havens, the real tax evaders, than honest, hard-working Canadians who happen to hold Canadian-American dual citizenship.

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12:15 p.m.


Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of FATCA, there are probably hundreds of thousands of accidental American citizens who will also be found in this great schism of sending their data to the U.S.

Those are the children who were born in Canada, who have never lived in the United States, who have never been a United States citizen, who the U.S. is now declaring are United States citizens as a result of their parents having been American. Those children would now be subject to having their banking information sent to the U.S.

It would create a divide. Two children born on the same day in the same hospital in Canada, one with American parents and one with Canadian parents, would be treated differently. Maybe the member would like to comment.

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12:15 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are all kinds of people who are just discovering that, in fact, they hold dual Canadian-American citizenship; and the member is quite right that even if they have never worked in the United States, the fact that they are American citizens because they hold dual citizenship scoops them into this net of FATCA.

My office has been deluged with calls from concerned citizens since this initiative by the U.S. was first announced. We do not believe that the government has effectively protected the interests of Canadians.

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12:15 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta


Michelle Rempel ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and speak on one specific component of this bill, which is often not discussed in this place but is one that is really dear to my heart, which is the protection of intellectual property. The protection of intellectual property has a strong correlation to how we see the commercialization of innovative products in this country, as well as the economic growth and prosperity of our country.

I would like my hon. colleagues to pay attention to division 25 of this bill, which would make amendments relating to international treaties on trademarks. This is a discussion I had been following in my professional career prior to entering politics. Prior to entering politics, I did a lot of work dealing with intellectual property management and protection.

This particular issue has been consulted on by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. I give a shout-out to the staff there from the House of Commons. A lot of hard-working staff there deal with this issue on a daily basis. I believe there was a consultation conducted in the 2005-06 period, roughly, and then another one in 2010. Additionally, the industry committee on the House of Commons side conducted a study on intellectual property, I believe, last year.

It has been interesting to follow this discussion and then see the changes reflected in this bill today. I want to speak in favour of them.

For those of my colleagues here who are not familiar with what a trademark is, the current definition, according to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, is:

Trade-marks may be one or a combination of words, sounds or designs used to distinguish the goods or services of one person or organization from those of others in the marketplace.

I am just going to talk a little bit about the rationale for division 25. The amendments contained therein would create the necessary authority to develop regulations that would implement the Madrid protocol. The Madrid protocol offers trademark owners the ability to obtain protections for their trademark in a number of countries through a single international application.

They would ensure consistency with the standards and rules established by the Singapore treaty on the law of trademarks. The Singapore treaty seeks to harmonize and streamline national trademark registration systems in ways that are user-friendly and reduce business compliance costs for trademark owners.

The amendments would adopt the Nice classification system that is used by most countries to categorize goods and services for the purposes of the registration of trademarks. The Nice system facilitates searching for and comparing different marks, which promotes the efficient administration of the trademark system, and effects other consequential amendments arising from adherence to the Madrid protocol or the Singapore treaty, such as simplifying the requirements for obtaining a filing date, eliminating the need to declare the use of a trademark before registration, which would greatly reduce the time it takes to obtain registration, and requiring use of a trademark in the Canadian market in order to seek injunction relief from the courts.

What does that mean in simple terms? If individuals are owners of a trademark or have something they want to trademark, they have to make the decision on where they want to file for that protection. This applies to other forms of intellectual property protection as well, including patents.

A lot of the time, people think that when they have a trademark, it means it is valid the world over, but that is not the case. They actually have to register it in separate jurisdictions. Usually, when people discuss whether or not they are going to do it in one jurisdiction or another, there are a few things that come into play. Are they going to sell their product in that jurisdiction? Do they need to have that trademark there in order to enforce their ownership of that?

They also have to consider the cost. When I was working in the university system, oftentimes when we had researchers come to us to ask whether or not they should seek patent protection, one of the things we had to look at was the cost of doing so. There is the cost associated with registering intellectual property protections with the various countries, but often the big cost is related to legal fees, because the owners have to use the appropriate agent or lawyer to do that.

In Canada, because we have not had adherence to these types of protocols—we are actually one of the few developed countries that has not signed on to some of them—some of our inventors and innovators are subject to more costs.

I would like to read a note. It was submitted to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office on February 2, 2010, in relation to the consultation I mentioned earlier, and it is specific to the Madrid protocol. It was submitted by somebody named Rupi Badwal.

It says as follows:

I have been registering trade-marks in Canada for my clients, the majority of which are small to medium-sized businesses. Many of them have success in Canada and wish to enter other markets. In facilitating their trade-mark applications in Canada, I am often asked if I can register the mark in the US or Europe or Asia on their behalf. When I advise that we cannot do so without use of a local agent, the cost for which can be quite substantial, many of them decline. Acceding to the Madrid Protocol would permit my clients the opportunity to obtain the protection they seek without paying inordinate legal fees.

So first, I have to speak in support of the intellectual property profession in this country. In Canada, we have an enormous wealth of knowledge, people who act as patent agents both in house with legal firms and at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, et cetera. However, at the end of the day, we have to look at ways in which we can reduce barriers to entry into the marketplace for Canadian innovators. The changes we would make to the Trade-marks Act in this bill would actually be quite significant, and I believe they would make it a lot easier for Canadian innovators to protect their intellectual property.

I know this is something that is a bit technical, but it is something that I hope a lot of my colleagues will support because it is a common-sense, practical change that a lot of people have been predicting will come to pass in this country. It is nice to see this finally happen. It is a great pleasure to be able to speak to it in the House, as someone with some domain expertise on this, because I do think it is a very good change.

This change was also recommended by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in its June 2013 report. I am looking at the government response to that, but one of the recommendations from that report was:

...that the Government of Canada (in order to support Canadian businesses on the global stage and ensure the administration of Canada's IP regime is internationally compatible and streamlined) ratify the following key international agreements: the Patent Law Treaty, the Madrid Protocol and Singapore Treaty for trademarks, and the Hague Agreement for Industrial Designs;

...that the Government of Canada work with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office to introduce regulations and legislations that will reduce the time it takes to grant IP rights and bring Canada in line with other countries.

Division 25 of this bill would do exactly what was recommended in this report. Looking at the list of speakers and folks who contributed to this study, we see that it crosses the range of people, from the IP profession, to people who work in law offices, to people who are in-house, to investigators themselves.

I also looked at some of the other comments that came in during the original CIPO study. A letter from Intel Corporation states, in part:

The Madrid Protocol of 1995 (in conjunction with the 1891 Madrid Agreement) enables trademark owners to obtain a single International Registration that can extend protection to any country that has signed the Protocol by a single filing in one language, under one procedure, with the payment of one fee. The Protocol also allows for 10 year registrations and a single renewal filing. Outside of Canada, Intel often utilizes the Madrid Protocol for cost savings and efficiencies in its trademark prosecution. Canada is the only developed country not yet a party to the Protocol. Its accession to the protocol would allow trademark owners to more easily and cost effectively secure and maintain trademark protection in Canada.

If we talk to a lot of the innovative companies, many of which are small and medium-size enterprises in this country, we will see that this is a common theme. I have a strong passion for seeing innovation in Canada—certainly the work that Western Economic Diversification is doing, the ministry I am responsible for—and to see that innovation spur. However, we need to have the appropriate intellectual property regime in this country—modern and standardized with other countries—to allow that intellectual property to be protected and translated into the marketplace and, more importantly, bring us into alignment with some of our key trading partners as we seek to look at other trade agreements.

Therefore this is a very good response. While this might be something that is not top of mind for many of my colleagues, I hope they will familiarize themselves with this particular part of the bill.

Also, anytime we can talk about intellectual property protection in this place, it is a good thing. It is a signal to innovators and to small and medium-size enterprises that, when they take a risk and innovate and when they take a risk as a business and say they are going to spend time and resources on developing new products and new technologies, which are the drivers of long-term economic growth in this country, that the government gets it and that we have protection that is well in alignment.

I am happy to take questions from my colleagues.

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12:25 p.m.


Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's comments. However, this piece of this budget implementation bill is actually 52 pages or more of fairly detailed, fairly complex material that, generally speaking, according to the parliamentary secretary, is good for Canada and good for Canadians and good for people who have trademarks. However, it is buried in a 350-page bill, which renders it almost impossible to have the kind of scrutiny and analysis that would be possible if this were introduced as its own bill.

We are now facing time allocation on this bill. We have another one and a half days of debate available to us, including debate on what may well be a very interesting piece of legislation were it to stand on its own. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have chosen to introduce it as part of something else, so it will not get the scrutiny it needs.

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12:25 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that my colleague brought this up today. It is incumbent upon us as legislators to pay attention to a wide variety of topics that are important to our constituents. That is why I talked about the long road to seeing this legislation come into place. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office has consulted on this twice. All of its responses are available online. It was also reviewed by the standing committee on industry.

I did this on my own time. I used Google and found all of the responses from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office consultations. As well, I read through the committee report. Accordingly, I was able to come to this place and engage in a relevant discussion on a particular topic that is long overdue.

I am glad to see this legislation included in this bill and I hope to see it pass.

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12:25 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, to pick up on the debate here, I appreciate the hard work that the parliamentary secretary has done to inform herself about the changes to trademarks. As my NDP colleague said, they may well be positive changes, but that is the parliamentary secretary's job. She is the parliamentary secretary for an economic portfolio and her stakeholders would be interested in this.

The point remains that an omnibus bill is not supposed to be for introducing new policy elements into law. Until the current government came into power, the convention in this House was that changes that were substantive and of interest to a broad range of Canadians should be debated in their own bill, not slipped into an omnibus bill. This is a brand new area of policy. It has little to do with the budget. Hiding it in this bill is simply not appropriate and is anti-democratic.