Mr. Speaker, I understand that in a few moments, the government will be moving motion No. 635 on the Order Paper to appoint, pursuant to Standing Order 111.1, the new Clerk of the House of Commons. I believe you will find, Mr. Speaker, upon review of the evidence, that this motion should be ruled out of order at this time.
As you know, the ancient rule of anticipation is one that is little employed in its application to this body, but nonetheless, it is instructive to the operation of the House. I would suggest that in the matter at hand, the application of this rule is appropriate and necessary.
The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is presently seized with the proposed nomination and has met for barely 45 minutes on this matter, but it has not yet reported back to the House either in the affirmative or the negative. It is for this reason that the rule of anticipation would apply.
I would note that House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 560, accurately notes:
While the rule of anticipation is part of the Standing Orders in the British House of Commons, it has never been so in the Canadian House of Commons. Furthermore, references to past attempts to apply this British rule to Canadian practice are inconclusive.
However, it goes on to note:
The rule is dependent on the principle which forbids the same question from being decided twice within the same session.
In this circumstance, I would submit that going forward with this motion at this time anticipates that the procedure and House affairs committee would not submit a report to the House in the negative.
I draw your attention to Beauchesne's sixth edition, which is instructive on this point. Page 154, citation 514(2), states:
Debate on a government motion effectively blocks debate on a notice of motion for the consideration of the report of a committee which deals with essentially the same subject. Had the motion for consideration of the committee report been moved, it would have had precedence over the government motion and blocked debate on it. Once a motion has been transferred for debate under Government Orders it becomes the government's decision and the government's responsibility to decide whether it will proceed with its motion. It is at that point that the anticipation rule might become operative in the sense that the government motion, if proceeded with, might block consideration of the committee report.
It further states, at page 154, in citation 513(1):
In determining whether a discussion is out of order on the grounds of anticipation, the Speaker must have regard to the probability of the matter anticipated being brought before the House within a reasonable [period of] time.
The circumstances previewed in Beauchesne's are precisely the scenario in which we find ourselves today. The matter is very likely to return to the House in a more appropriate form, that being a report from the procedure and House affairs committee, the committee to which the matter was referred, pursuant to the Standing Orders, and the matter can and will be brought to the House within a reasonable period of time one way or another. Either the matter will be reported back by the committee within 30 days, or the 30 days provided by the Standing Orders will have expired. Either way, the matter will have been dealt with conclusively within a reasonable period of time, as envisioned by the authorities.
Further, last Thursday I filed with the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs a certificate to obtain evidence from particular persons, pursuant to Standing Order 122.
Mr. Speaker, you are both the Speaker of this place and a lawyer. The analogy I would use is one of a legal nature. In this case, judgment is being sought prior to the evidence being presented. I know you would not accept this in a court of law, and neither should it be accepted in this place.
I am well aware that the Standing Orders of the House do not explicitly state the rule of anticipation. However, I would draw to your attention, Mr. Speaker, Standing Order 1, which states:
In all cases not provided for hereinafter, or by other Order of the House, procedural questions shall be decided by the Speaker or Chair of Committees of the Whole, whose decisions shall be based on the usages, forms, customs and precedents of the House of Commons of Canada and on parliamentary tradition in Canada and other jurisdictions, so far as they may be applicable to the House.
On this matter, I would submit that the rule of anticipation is evident in comparable jurisdictions but has also become a usual practice of the House, particularly in dealing with the subject matter at hand.
Standing Order 28 of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom states:
In determining whether a discussion is out of order on the ground of anticipation, regard shall be had by the Speaker to the probability of the matter anticipated being brought before the House within a reasonable time.
I would draw your attention to Erskine May, 24th edition, at page 390, which states:
In determining whether a discussion is out order on the ground of anticipation, the probability of the matter anticipating being discussed within a reasonable time must be considered...and recent practice has been to interpret the rule so as to not, in the current circumstances, to impose what might risk being unreasonable restrictions on debate.
For greater clarity, I would interpret the 30-day period envisioned by Standing Order 111(1) of this place to be reasonable time. Further, as you know, Mr. Speaker, the proposed motion was put without amendment for debate. Therefore, allowing the motion to go forward at this time would effectively eliminate any potential for further debate, analyses, witnesses, or discussion at the only venue open for such action: the procedure and House affairs committee.
Erskine May goes on to note, at page 398:
...the rule against anticipation...as strictly enforced earlier times, was that a matter must not be anticipated if it were contained in a more effective form of proceeding by which it is sought to be anticipated...
Again, it is the established practice of the House, as noted in Beauchesne's, that a motion on a committee report would have been a more effective means rather than government action.
Further to this, Mr. Speaker, I would draw your attention to a Canadian authority on the matter. Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, edited by John George Bourinot, is one of the accepted authorities of this place. At page 339 of Bourinot, it is stated:
The old rule of Parliament reads: “That a question being once made, and carried in the affirmative or negative, cannot be questioned again, but stand as the judgment of the house.
This is an echo of Erskine May's 1844 A treatise on the law, privileges, proceedings and usage of Parliament, at page 186, which establishes the same principle.
As both Bourinot and May would foresee, were this motion to go ahead, it would forestall a committee report and concurrence in that report, thereby, the rule of anticipation would be offended.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would submit to you that a report from procedure and House affairs committee prior to the question being put on the nomination is clearly the established practice of the House.
I would draw to your attention the 47th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, 38th Parliament, 1st Session, in which the committee recommended to the House that the House ratify the appointment of Ms. Audrey Elizabeth O'Brien to the position of Clerk of the House of Commons.
I would note that the now Clerk Emeritus's appointment was the first made under the provisions now contained in Standing Order 111(1). That report was prior to a vote in the House of Commons.
While the Clerk of the House of Commons has only been appointed once prior pursuant to current rules of this place, it is nonetheless instructive to the process and vision by those who have sat in this place before us.
I well recognize there may be instances in the past where a government has moved in a similar way as the current government is now moving. I know of none off the top of my head. However, the fact that there were no objections in those cases may imply the agreement of the House. This is not the case here. Objection is being stated.
In light of the foregoing evidence presented, I would encourage you, Mr. Speaker, to rule this motion out of order until such time that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has reported back to the House of Commons or the expiration of the 30 days, as provided for in Standing Order 111(1).
I might add as well, Mr. Speaker, that there are rumours around this precinct that you yourself were not consulted on this proposed nomination. If this is the case, and I hope it is not, it is shameful and an offence to the position that you hold and the great respect in which we hold you in this place, as the defender of the rights and privileges of this place.