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.