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House of Commons Hansard #158 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was report.

Topics

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

That is a matter of debate.

Remarks by Member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-MichelPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise on a point of personal privilege.

I know that there have been times in all of our lives when we have done things we wish we had not, when we have said things that we wish we had not, and there have been times when we wish we could take back the words or the actions that have caused pain or hurt in others.

However, there have also been times that have actually effected change. I believe today is that day, and I hope that through the process over the past number of days we have learned and have a deeper understanding and move forward in a way that teaches us all. Moments like these are moments of opportunity, moments of teaching, and moments of learning, and if we can all learn lessons, then we are well served.

I thank my colleague for his apology and his teaching. I would also ask that he apologize to the committee members and staff, and then I ask that we move on. This is a teaching moment for all of us, so I thank the member for providing the opportunity for growth, for understanding, and for learning.

Remarks by Member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-MichelPrivilegeOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Nicola Di Iorio Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have assured the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock more than once that in no way were my comments meant to offend or harass her and that if they did, then I was deeply sorry. I offered her my most sincere apologies. Today, in the House, I wish to reassure the hon. member once again that my comments were not meant to harass or offend her.

Nevertheless, I wish to stand before all my colleagues in the House of Commons to reiterate my most sincere apologies to the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock. I would like us to carry on working, as I have throughout my career, with the utmost respect and collegiality.

Remarks by Member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-MichelPrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I thank the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock for raising this question of privilege.

I thank the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel for offering an apology.

Certificates of NominationRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 111.1, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a certificate of nomination and the biographical notes for the proposed appointment of Patrick Borbey as president of the Public Service Commission. I request that the nomination and biographical notes be referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 23 petitions.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Geng Tan Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Parliamentary Delegation from the Canada–China Legislative Association respecting its participation at the 19th Bilateral Meeting in Beijing and Chongqing, People's Republic of China, March 28 to April 1, 2016.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Terry Sheehan Liberal Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, reports of the Canada Parliamentary Delegation from the Canada–China Legislation Association and the Canada–Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the 24th meeting of the Asia–Pacific Parliamentary Forum in Vancouver, British Columbia, January 17 to 21, 2016, and at the transfer of hosting authority from Canada to Fiji for the 25th annual meeting of the Asia–Pacific Parliamentary Forum in Fiji, April 3 to April 5, 2016.

Furthermore, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, a report of the Canadian Parliamentary Delegation for the Canada–Japan Inter-Parliamentary Group respecting its participation at the co-chairs' annual visit to Japan in Tokyo and Nagoya, Japan, September 12 to September 18, 2016.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties, and if you seek it, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, the House shall meet at 3:00 p.m. when members may make statements pursuant to Standing Order 31;

not later than 3:15 p.m. oral questions shall be taken up and, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions, the House shall stand adjourned to the next sitting day;

that any recorded division which would have ordinarily been deferred to Wednesday, April 12, 2017, immediately before the time provided for Private Members' Business, be instead deferred to Wednesday, May 3, 2017, immediately before the time provided for Private Members' Business;

that the Address of Malala Yousafzai, to be delivered in the Chamber of the House of Commons at 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, before Members of the Senate and the House of Commons, together with all introductory and related remarks, be printed as an appendix to the House of Commons Debates for that day and form part of the record of this House;

that the media recording and transmission of such Address, introductory and related remarks be authorized pursuant to established guidelines for such occasions; and

that the hours of sitting and the order of business of the House on Thursday, April 13, 2017, shall be those of a Friday;

that any recorded division deferred to Wednesday, April 12, 2017, or requested on Thursday, April 13, 2017, in respect to a debatable motion, other than an item of Private Members' Business be deferred until Monday, May 1, 2017, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

(Motion agreed to)

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House on Wednesday, June 15, be concurred in.

I am pleased to comment on the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs as a new member of Parliament and a member of the committee. One of the first things we worked on in committee was how to make this place more family friendly and how we could change the way we do business here. One of the things that is most important is that we remember we are in this place representing Canadians. Therefore, it is very important we make Parliament work better for Canadians and not necessarily ourselves.

Before I get going, I would like to mention that I am sharing my time with the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston.

I will get into what is in the report and then I will comment on what is not in the report.

We had a number of witnesses. We held a number of meetings. For the most part, we agreed on a number of the proposed changes, but there were areas that we did not agree with. I will comment on that in a moment.

Predictability was one that we agreed on. Predictability on when votes can happen was one of the main issues we looked into. On how to make this more family friendly, we came to an agreement that the House leaders should work together and maybe schedule votes after question period or immediately after certain events that would bring us all to the House. If members have family, have children, they would be better able to work it within their schedule. If we are here anyway, we might as well have votes after question period. That actually sounds like a good idea and was something we all supported in the procedure and House affairs committee. House leaders on all sides have done a great job in trying to make that happen, to make it work better for those with families here. That was one thing we did agree on, and I supported it.

As far as efficiency is concerned, we talked about the work calendar, about how many weeks we sit and how many weeks we are back in the riding, and making sure we do not go longer than three sitting weeks in a row. We allow for that break week or constituency week, when we are back in our ridings. We could maybe see our families, work on behalf of our constituents, and do local meetings there. That was a very important one that we all supported, again, because it made sense and made sure we would all be more efficient in our duties. It also helps Canadians as well, so we were in agreement.

On modernization, we looked at ensuring that child care facilities were available for those with children, that there was better access and that hours were modified to allow those members with children to access those services. What we found out in the committee when we did our study was that a lot of the day care hours were basically office hours and did not allow for those with children to attend a vote in the evening or attend meetings or a reception.

I was happy to learn that the Parliament of Canada did create a position within House operations so that there is now child care service provided in those off-hours. That was a good thing, because in our jobs as parliamentarians we want to encourage as many Canadians as possible to run for these positions, to run for nomination and election. It is very important to have a very diverse group in this place as we represent Canadians.

We also talked about the Board of Internal Economy examining the House bus service. We noted that those who may have injuries or disabilities were not always able to make it up to Centre Block without the help of the bus service. We agreed that we would look at the bus service and how that service is being provided and that we would also ensure the timeliness of that service during certain events that have limited its access to Centre Block. As an example, when President Obama was in town and came before Parliament, the bus service was limited, and sometimes members were not able to access this place. Especially for those we are not able to get up by their own means to Parliament Hill, that is a very important piece to remember. We always have to be thinking a couple of steps ahead in ensuring that there is that access for all members of this place. That was unanimously agreed on.

We also talked about work-life balance, and here is where I will get into the most important part. It is not only about reuniting the family, allowing members to be with their family and looking at how we do what is called “travel points”. Those watching TV probably will not have too much knowledge in that field, but for us it is a system we use to get back and forth to our ridings and also to bring our families either to the riding or to Ottawa to better do our jobs. Of course when we see our family more often, that is the most basic principle. As father of a young child, I try to ensure that I see my child as much as possible among my duties either in Ottawa or back home.

One of the things that was not included in the report was the elimination of Friday sittings. When we examined the procedure and House affairs report, we questioned witnesses, brought in experts, and other members of Parliament. It was agreed that cancelling Friday sittings and extending the workday Monday to Thursday had negative effects as well. Because of that problem, it was determined by the committee that we continue the calendar as was, five days a week in Ottawa during sitting weeks. What we noticed when we did the family-friendly initiative was starting earlier and extending the hours later actually caused a number of problems and some negative unintended consequences. It was agreed by members, even those who had to travel to British Columbia and had pretty rigorous travel schedules, that the Friday sittings remain in place.

I will also take a quick snippet from my friend from Chilliwack—Hope when he spoke about the Standing Orders and talked about military families. They are not the ones asking for work-life balance. They are working hard defending our rights and freedoms across the world. They are not the ones asking for Fridays off. In our ridings we have truck drivers and business people who travel. They are not asking for Fridays off. They are not asking for a shortened workweek. They are not asking for less accountability. That is where it is so frustrating.

There is a historic precedence that when changes to the Standing Orders are made, that it is done by unanimous consent. This is where the government is going in the total opposite direction. The way the Liberals are ramming this through, using their majority to make life better for them while taking away from the opposition, is totally ridiculous.

We all were elected knowing what we were getting into. We all knew what the job entailed. There are ways to make this place family friendly. That is where the report clearly identifies a number of initiatives Parliament can take to help those with young families. However, as it said in the report, we all agreed, based on the evidence we listened to from the witnesses and experts, that getting rid of Fridays was not the right way to go about it. As I mentioned, the Liberals have decided that does not really matter, that they agreed at committee, but they will go through with this anyway because they have a majority. They will ram it down everyone's throats and we will have to live with this.

This is not how Canadians expect democracy to work. There is historical precedence that unanimous consent is agreed to. I know the committee is adjourned until Wednesday at 4 p.m. and we will see what comes of that, but I really hope the Liberals take a step back, realize what they are doing and come into a debate with the opposition. There are number of initiatives they have proposed that we are willing to discuss. We might not agree with them all, but we are willing to discuss them. Let us have this conversation that the government House leader says needs to happen. We are happy to have it and are ready to do that. However, we cannot take away the opposition's role in this Parliament.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is important to recognize that we need to have this discussion. That is the reason the government House leader brought forward a discussion paper.

Let me pick up on one point the member referenced. He argues and articulates about Fridays. I can assure the member that I work seven days a week. I technically work on Sundays. Whether I work in Ottawa or in Winnipeg, both are of great value to me and the constituents I represent. If we could take the three hours of the half day we work on Friday and add them to Tuesdays and Thursdays, that would then allow me to attend many different events and functions in my riding of Winnipeg North.

It does not mean there are fewer hours. It would allow members of Parliament to work more in their constituencies. I would think all of us would welcome that, unless MPs are in fear of going to their constituencies. I would welcome the opportunity.

Would the member not, at the very least, acknowledge that it is important we have this discussion? For some members of Parliament, working seven days a week is very real. If we were allowed the opportunity to work a little longer on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I am in favour of that. It would give me more time with my constituents.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, we all go back to our ridings, for the most part, every weekend to attend events and engage with constituents. However, the point is, like I said in my speech, we want to have the conversation. Ramming it through without engagement from the opposition is not the way to do it. It is not in historic precedents that the government uses its majority to ram something through, changing the way this place works, so it better suits its members. Opposition parties are united upon this. We are not going to give up on this fight. We have said that we will have this conversation. We are happy to have this conversation.

The procedure and House affairs committee had an investigation, a report, and a discussion on how to make this place more family friendly. As I mentioned in my speech, it was agreed, whether we talk about staff, current members of Parliament, or people behind the scenes who worked to make the House operate, that eliminating Friday sittings would have a number of unintended consequences that the Liberals members want just because it would benefit them.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Hope, BC

Mr. Speaker, the part of the debate that has been shocking to me is that the Liberals have elected a bunch of new members who have suddenly come up with the idea that we need to radically change Parliament.

I know the member was elected for the first time in 2015, so I have a few questions for him. Was he shocked to learn that the House of Commons, the Parliament of Canada, sat 25 or 26 weeks a year, that he would be required to travel to Ottawa to do that work, and that Parliament sat five days a week when in session? Also, was he forced to run?

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to think we all knew what we were getting into when we ran for election. I would like to think that we all did some research, found out how many days we had to be in Ottawa, how many weeks, and what the job entailed before we made the decision on whether we would seek the nomination.

I will quote my friend from Chilliwack—Hope, from his speech before Parliament. He stated:

Members are asking about taking Friday off, getting back to their ridings, and being here only Monday to Thursday. What would happen in most situations is that we would all go to work on Friday. We would be working in a different location, and there would be less accountability here for the government, with one fewer day for question period and one fewer day for legislation to be examined. It would do nothing for work-life balance.

That is an important point to note.

I should also point out that the Prime Minister is trying to attend only one day a week. Attending question period for 45 minutes is the Prime Minister's idea of a job well done, that he will show up to work in Parliament, be accountable to his peers for 45 minutes a week, and then call it a day. That is unacceptable.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of questions I would like to put to the member.

I am a member on PROC. Essentially, the motion before PROC is to start the discussion. This is to have a discussion about how we can make this place more effective and more efficient, how to bring it into the 21st century, so we can use our time better. As a a new member, there are definitely ways we can make our time better here, and that is the discussion ahead of us now. How are we spinning this into certain conclusions, running to conclusions that this is about Fridays off? It is not about Fridays off. Let us have the discussion to determine whether we will be here all day Friday. We are in a position now where we cannot even enter into the dialogue, we are being stopped.

What does the member have against opening this up, having a discussion, bringing evidence in so we can make this place more efficient and more effective? Because we can do better than we are currently.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments and her work on the committee. The member opposite is on step B and we are on step A. We are happy to have this conversation, but the first thing is that we as the opposition need some assurances that the Liberals will not just ram those changes down our throats. They want to have the Prime Minister here for only 45 minutes a week and us here for only four days a week when Parliament is sitting. We want to have discussion on that, but we may not agree on it.

One thing I should point out for the member opposite is none of that was in the Liberal campaign platform. If the Liberals ran on a campaign of working four days a week during parliamentary sittings, I do not think they would be sitting on that side of the House.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 3rd, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, a committee on which I have served for over a decade. I am currently the longest-serving member of that committee. I am rising to speak to this not because of anything intrinsically important in this particular report. It is the 11th committee report. We have had a number of other committee reports before and since, and this one is of just average importance. I am doing it because this is our way, on the opposition benches, of drawing attention to the fact that the committee, and indeed this entire place, operates with the sword of Damocles hanging over its collective head.

The Liberals have proposed a motion in committee, a motion my colleague from Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas mentioned just a moment ago, a motion that, far from opening up debate actually ensures that debate will be shut down by a definable, very brief deadline on all the Standing Orders, which is that the committee will report back to the House on all matters dealing with the Standing Orders by June 2.

As a practical matter, no committee ever comes to an agreement without having procedural meetings that take some time on the day it makes its report, so we are actually looking at meetings that would have to wrap up, in practice, in terms of the new substance, some time much earlier than that, probably a week or two weeks at best.

The report would be imposed using closure within the committee, something committees do not normally do, something that is not normally tolerated in committee. That closure or guillotine or termination of debate is the reporting deadline of June 2. It is very brief. That is the fundamental issue here.

We hear talk from Liberal members here of a discussion paper that was produced. We have a discussion paper. Let us just discuss what is in that discussion paper. We have a discussion paper that is, I believe, 12 pages long, put out by the government House leader on March 10, right before our most recent break week but one. The very same day, the member for Bonavista introduced it.

I actually checked by going back and finding out when the paper was submitted by the House leader and when the motion was submitted to the committee clerk by the member for Bonavista. One hour and 11 minutes later, it might have been two hours and 11 minutes, but you will see my point, Mr. Speaker, the member for Bonavista produced a motion to impose closure. It is a motion that is almost a page long. It contains five subsidiary points, one of which has a subordinate list. We are to believe that the member for Bonavista produced this motion, all on his own, after he brought forward the government's paper, and got it translated, because the member is not bilingual, and got it to the clerk all in the space of a couple of hours.

What was really going on was that there was a great rush to ensure that this could be submitted two sleeps, as we say, two government business days, prior to the return of the committee to business so that it could be introduced at an in-camera hearing and the government could then push through this profoundly undemocratic motion at that committee hearing.

I raised the issue in the House and said that the Liberals were about to push this through at an in-camera meeting, and to his credit, the deputy government House leader said he would like this meeting to go in public, and in public we were able to raise our concerns, thereby forestalling this way of doing things.

However, if that motion were withdrawn, the dialogue could begin. The dialogue can begin, in fact, if the government will instruct its members on the committee to vote in favour of an amendment I put forward, and that amendment says, simply, “Nothing will come out of this committee as a recommendation to the government without the unanimous consent of all the members of the committee”, which in practice means without the consent of the New Democrats and the Conservatives as well as the Liberal Party members.

If the government members really want a discussion, if their words are sincere, the government has a number of options.

First, the government could agree to the motion, the amendment I proposed in committee, saying that we will not move forward anything without unanimous consent. That would allow us to get something done by June 2. As a practical matter, I think we would need a great deal more time to go through all the Standing Orders. We could start that work now, if that is the government's choice. That is the first thing it could do.

Second, the Liberals could withdraw the motion put forward by the member for Bonavista. After I do not know how many hours of debate in committee, it should be apparent to them that there is not all-party support for that motion, to put it mildly. Therefore, it could be withdrawn.

Third, the Liberals could move forward with some other motion. I actually submitted another motion to be ready to go in case the government did decide to withdraw its motion. It is a motion that calls for the discussion, on a piecemeal or subject-by-subject basis, of the various items on the government's agenda. There is nothing wrong with discussing Friday sittings. To the government's credit, it not only says that it thinks we should consider getting rid of Friday sittings. It also says it wants to consider the possibility of having the House sit all day long on Friday, making it a full day. There might be a willingness to move in that direction. However, to make the obvious point, we cannot do both of those things at the same time. Presumably, there needs to be a discussion of both of those.

Also, with regard to the Prime Minister's question time, changing the times of votes, and all the other issues that are discussed in the House leader's proposals, if we go through them, we see that they include topics as disparate as sittings of the House; electronic voting; the House calendar and sitting further into the end of June and starting earlier in September and January; how routine proceedings are conducted; and changes to private members' business, an item which, on its own, in 2003, occupied a similar committee of the House long enough for it to produce several reports over the course of a year. It includes prorogation, something that would be a vexed question to deal with, because it deals with crown prerogatives, so that would take a fair bit of time, some nuancing, and some expert testimony to deal with. It also includes time allocation, how question period is done, omnibus bills, and the management of committees. These are all topics. There is no way we could discuss these things by June 2.

That would be true even if it were not also true that our committee has been charged by the Minister of Democratic Institutions to, by the middle of May, complete its hearings on the Canada Elections Act. The Minister of Democratic Institutions spoke very eloquently to us on March 9, one day before this paper was released, explaining why it was important for us to get this done. She said that Elections Canada could not respond to the recommendations we would be making and that she, the minister, would be incorporating into government legislation, on a short-term basis. They need to have enough time before the 2019 election to put these things in place. The minister needs to introduce legislation in September. That means that we need to report back to her by the end of May, or the beginning of June at the latest, exactly the same deadline that has been foisted upon this committee by the motion from the member for Bonavista.

Therefore, the most sensible thing of all would simply be to withdraw the motion. Having said that, I want to make an amendment to this motion.

I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“The 11th Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented on December 16, 2016, be not now concurred in, but that it be recommitted to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs with instruction that it amend the same to clarify that in all of its reviews of the procedures and practices of the House, the committee will only make recommendations to the House that enjoy the support of all the members of the committee.”

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. The amendment is admissible. We will now go to questions and comments.

The hon. member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, I congratulated the hon. member several years ago. He did something that does not happen very often. He managed to change the Standing Orders in this House with a private member's motion. It was on the election of the Speaker. I voted for it at the time, but over 40% of the people in this House did not.

The member just moved an amendment and alluded to the fact that any changes to the Standing Orders require unanimous consent. When he changed the rules in this House, did he seek unanimous consent? Yes or no.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I stand corrected. It was, in fact, June 15, 2016. My apologies for that. I hope that correction is accepted.

The other thing I did wrong was that I got the member's riding incorrect. I said it was Bonavista. Of course, I would have said Coast of Bays had I been keeping up on riding names. Unfortunately, as I know from bitter personal experience, even someone as elevated as the Speaker of the House of Commons can occasionally get the names of ridings muddled up. The people of the County of Lennox and Addington, who I formerly represented, were frequently the ones who suffered because of that.

Turning to the question the member raised, he has an interesting point. He is saying that the motion I proposed, which was adopted by the House, under which the Standing Orders were changed to cause the Speaker to be elected by preferential ballot, was not done by unanimous consent. He is quite right. There were members opposed in the then governing party, the Conservatives, my party. There were members opposed and in favour in the NDP and likewise in the Liberal Party.

In fact, that was the only vote I am aware of in the last Parliament that was done without any party discipline at all. That is actually a very healthy way of dealing with something that comes via the novel approach of private members' business.

I will say this. That approach is not remotely like the approach the member's government is attempting, of ramming through changes with the absolute opposition of the other parties. That is the big difference here.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I share the concern of the member for Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston that we need consent, that is a consensus, preferably unanimity, in this place for changing the Standing Orders.

I would not blame some Canadians if their eyes glazed over at the notion that it matters how we vote or how much time we have for debate. However, I think it is fundamental to this place when we are changing the rules with basically a very wide range of changes. I have opened them up with further changes this day. I tried to send to members' personal emails a paper suggesting that we consider the climate impact of our schedule in this place, something I think the current government would want to think about, and that we consider the role of individual MPs and not just political party power. This place, our Parliament, is fundamentally about members of Parliament who, at least in theory, are equals.

Does my hon. colleague think the growing role of political parties undermines the role of individual members in representing their constituencies?

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the time left is short, I will avoid the elaborate analogy I was working on between this process and electoral reform. I was going to provide a colourful illustration of just how people can be engaged in an apparently technical issue by pointing to that issue and citing the hon. member's extensive experience in this.

I am not sure I am answering the member's question exactly, but I think this gets to the nub of what she is getting at here. There is a process we have had in place. It was there during the Harper government. It was there during the Chrétien government. If we look back, we can find elements of it going back as far as November 1867, when the very first Standing Orders of the House of Commons were adopted.

What happened at that time was that an all-party committee was struck. It brought its report back to the House. The report was not adopted by consensus. Rather, the leader of the opposition raised concerns about the report. Those were then put into the report, and amendments were made. That was adopted by unanimous consent.

This practice has allowed us to have increased openness and flexibility for members, opposition parties, and also people who are treated as independents in this place. Moving away from that is always a bad idea. I would strongly say that in this case, it is a very bad idea indeed.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to stand here to do this. I appreciate what my colleague from Bonavista—Burin—Trinity said about our riding names and how they have changed and evolved over time. I no longer represent beautiful Bonavista.

Speaking of evolution, let us talk about how we have evolved in many ways, but we have much further to go in order to modernize our Parliament as it is right now. This has been a discussion for quite some time. In certain cases in a miniscule way we have crept along inch by inch on certain individual initiatives. The member who just spoke talked about how we changed the election of the Speaker. We had a member from the NDP who instilled e-petitions, which I think was one of the best things that I voted for regarding motions to change the Standing Orders over the past little while.

By way of illustration, as the president of Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, I hosted several members of the European Parliament. They were here from 2 p.m. until about 3:30 p.m. and managed to take in several things, such as Standing Order 31 statements and oral questions. They also took in voting, because we had a vote after question period. I asked the member from the Netherlands what she thought of the whole 90 minutes. She said it was a contrasting tale of two stories. She said, “You debate like it is the 21st century, but why do you vote like it is still the 19th century?”

Most legislatures around the world have some form of electronic voting or modernized voting. The vote of each individual member is recorded. In some places they have an ID card and members press a button “yes” or “no”. In the British Westminister system, members line up in different aisles as to which way they are voting. Voting is done electronically in the American Congress. Not very many have a way of voting such as we do. If it is a legislature of about 20 people, that is fine, but when it is a legislature of 338 members, it is time-consuming. I know Canadians want to see how their members of Parliament vote, but some may say there are better ways to do it. That being said, during the current process that we have introduced in the motion, we have heard from several people, even members of their own party, conflicted as to how they feel about it. There is nothing wrong with that, because that it is how it should be.

I use the example of electronic voting only because I have enjoyed the discussion so far and I want this discussion to continue. Let me illustrate my current frustrations with this, and I hope that we get beyond this impasse, this filibuster and get into the study itself.

Let me clarify by saying this first and foremost. If I were to stand in the House and look at my colleagues in the NDP and say how dare they do this filibuster, I would be very insincere. After 10 years in opposition dealing with the fair or unfair elections act, I know first-hand that doing a filibuster is a right of every member in the House, to the point where I even would say a lot of it I have been enjoying, quite frankly. I just wish we could take some of this debate that has been playing out in this filibuster and move it into the study, because I want to hear from witnesses from the outside.

There are several bones of contention. Let me address the unanimity aspect of this. The opposition members cite the McGrath report. I am going to pick on the McGrath report because it is a shining example, as they have said, of how it should be. I agree that it should be that way in this report. We should be able to come out with a unanimous report citing several ways to make major changes. However, my motion is to start the study by which we can get into a unanimous report, which I hope we can. The McGrath report which is from 1984, the way the motion is written, it is very complex. It never asks for unanimous consent; it just asks for a report to modernize the House of the day.

The result of that motion was a unanimous report, thank goodness. If we had to pin this down to unanimity, I am not sure that we would have a full debate.

I could debate the idea about the June 2 deadline that I put in my motion. I am willing to talk about that. I have not reached that point yet, but I certainly would like to.

I want to put to rest right away one of the other points which the member brought up earlier. She said that my motion was developed within two hours of reading or tabling the discussion paper. That is not true. Three days prior to the release, the minister showed me the discussion paper. I read it, took it in, took my notes from the take-note debate in October with my own views, and in that period I was able to draft a motion. It was not a two-hour episode. Yes, I saw it before other members. That is true. I am being honest about it.

I want the committee to study this and I want it done quickly so that we can provide the House with what we have discovered through our own testimony, which was far more robust than I had figured because of some of the input from the Conservative Party, the NDP, and from my own party. I have rather enjoyed it. For goodness' sake, for two hours we talked about the Magna Carta. To say that I was absolutely enthralled and gripped with it would not be entirely true but would be pretty close. I forget the name of the riding of the individual who brought it up. I only know him by name. I must say it was a good discussion which I enjoyed very much.

There were several discussions about how other parliaments, particularly the Westminster model in Australia, New Zealand, our own of course, and other jurisdictions, managed to get through the day when modernizing their parliaments.

I talked about electronic voting. I would like to talk about another aspect that was not brought up during the campaign but was in the discussion paper for a very good reason. This was brought to my attention some time ago. It is all about programming.

Some people looking at this would say that I was just defining what the debate is going to be. What happened is that back in the late 1990s there was a great deal of frustration about debate. Debate would go on for so long and then it would end on time allocation. The U.K. MPs call it the guillotine, which is probably a more apt description. Debate would go along; the guillotine would drop, and then it was done. It is frustrating for those in the opposition because they do not know when it is going to happen.

The U.K. decided that after second reading, the debate would be programmed such that they would know how long they would have for report stage, the third stage into the vote. That way each party would be able to present its arguments the way they want to. However, there was a frustrating part. Let us say there were three elements to a debate, with number three being the important one. Members want to build narrative into their debate by saying, “This is bad, and this is bad, but this is really bad.” By the time they got to the second point, all of a sudden the debate would be guillotined and over.

The U.K. has brought in programming, and surprisingly, even a vast majority of members on the opposition side agreed that it was a sensible way to handle legislation. It was not automatic. It required a discussion among the House leaders and if they agreed, debate would be programmed after second reading.

One of the other issues in the discussion paper is about omnibus legislation. Could the Speaker have a more active role in dividing up the omnibus legislation to make it more palatable, certainly to make it more discernible in several ways or in certain areas? For example, a particular topic would be cleaved off into this type of legislation and another topic would go another way.

My hon. colleague from the Conservatives brought up a good point which I think is a precursor to this study, and asked, is that possible? Does the Speaker have the authority? Maybe he or she does; I do not know. It is worth discussing, because as we know, omnibus legislation was a factor that weighed heavily among parliamentarians in the last Parliament and we discussed it quite a bit.

Those are a few elements of the discussion paper that we got into.

There were several aspects that we campaigned on as a party, and we would like to go forward with them, obviously. It is something we campaigned on and something we would like to do.

One of the issues brought up was Fridays. It seems pretty rich when we say to the House, “We don't want to work on Fridays, but if you look at the situation, we never said we wouldn't.”

Here is my problem with Fridays, and I hope the opposition can hear this. It is a half day. It is not a very effective day. Let us take effective hours in this Parliament and apportion them either to other days or make Friday a full day. Those are the options that we wanted to put in front of the committee. They said, “Canadians show up to work on Friday.” That is true. Canadians show up to work at 8:30 in the morning. We show up at 10 a.m. Canadians go to work in September. We do not, according to that logic. Canadians show up to work in January. We do not. Why not? Why can we not apportion some of these hours to those months?

My father was an electrician in a mill for 43 years. Many years ago the company came to him and said, “Instead of working eight-hour shifts, why don't you work 12, and that way you can spend more time with your family on the other four days? Instead of two days off, you get four.” What an idea. The difference here is that my father had some time off on those four days.

Let us be quite honest. There is another part we are missing. I do not know about the other members, and I am not presupposing they do because I know we all do, but my time away from Ottawa is spent working, attending meetings and constituency events, which is where we get our feedback. In many cases, trying to get from here to Newfoundland, I might as well just be going to Iceland, for goodness' sake. It takes about the same amount of time to get there. There is the travel that is involved. Instead of calling them break weeks, they truly are constituency weeks.

I saw the Twitter feed from my hon. colleague from Avalon last week. My goodness, I do not think he slept in four days. It was just a constant ream of work. The man is seven feet tall but he should be five foot two he ran around so much in his riding. It is unbelievable. He is a hard-wording member.

I just wanted to bring these points to the fore, but I will conclude with this point. This is a motion to do a study. All the things that members have been saying about unanimity, we want and desire, but what if we put out this report and it has to be unanimous and only one thing is agreed upon? It is a report of just one thing to do. There is so much discussion that can be had. There is so much to talk about that would not be included in this report. That is the unfortunate part. They might not agree with the logic, but in the past, as I have said before, from the very beginning, if we are going to use a report that has received unanimous consent, the motion did not call for unanimous consent and I wonder why. The member who changed the Standing Orders, who just talked about unanimous consent, not once asked for unanimous consent when he changed the rules.

There was a member from the NDP who also changed the rules on e-petitions. He did a good job and I supported it, but he did not ask for unanimous consent.

To achieve unanimous consent is the aspirational goal for which we strive. I understand the politics of this. I understand the Facebook stuff. I understand the filibuster. That is one of the privileges of serving both sides of the House, not because we think we can argue out of both sides of our mouth, but because we have a different perspective of both sides. We know what it is like to govern and we know what it is like to be in opposition. I stand on both principles. I participated fully in a filibuster, and I will sit here and sit in front of a filibuster against me. I even spoke in the filibuster. It is my motion that they are filibustering, and I spoke to it. I do not know if we would call that a “counter-buster” or what the heck we would call it. The reason I spoke to it is we had several hours of fantastic information that was put forward, even in a filibuster. Now go figure that.

Here is why I want to get to the study. There are so many people out there who are not sitting in this House and who can give us great information as to how we can modernize this place. This discussion paper is not a motion in front of the House saying that the majority rules, we vote for it or that is it.

That is what happened before. The perpetrators of the unfair elections act crawled on this high horse and said, “You can't do that.” We are not putting something in the House to vote on now; we are putting a motion to study the possibility of changing the Standing Orders.

I ask members this. At what point does that involve ramming things through? It is not. This is discussion. If opposition members do not like the programming that I just talked about, well, I like it. If they do not like it, they should not support it and should argue against it. I have already acquiesced, on many occasions, about some of the arguments that were put forward, such as omnibus legislation and all of that.

Again, if we take into account what we have done in the past, here is what I like. I liked the McGrath report, because it was unanimous. It was not required, but it was unanimous. We had a take-note debate, started by the Liberals. We did not ram through anything; we said we should have a debate and discuss these ideas. Now we have this motion, together with the discussion paper, some of which we may not even support, but it certainly is worth talking about. This is nowhere near what it used to be.

If we want to talk about precedents, opposition members say they have always acted this way. That is not so. In the early 1990s, Brian Mulroney slapped a motion in this House saying that the Standing Orders needed to be changed. Did he do a motion? No. Did he do a take-note debate? No. Did he do a discussion paper? No. It was, “Here are the changes. Vote for it. We have the majority, so good luck.”

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

David Christopherson

That sounds familiar.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

That is not what we are doing now, Mr. Speaker. That is an absolutely insincere argument.