In light of the special order that was agreed to by the House earlier today, I would like to take this opportunity to share some information on the process for taking of recorded divisions that members may find useful.
As we learn to adapt to constraints brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that while many of the House's rules and practices can be adapted to allow for the remote participation of members, votes appear to require a departure from established practices.
At the request of each of the parties, the House administration conducted a simulation and, following comments received on the occasion, made a number of adjustments.
Applying certain rules and practices, such as ensuring that members hear the question and remain present until the result is announced, has proven to be challenging when used through virtual means. In addition, while every effort has been made to create a reliable and robust system, system and Internet connectivity issues beyond the control of the member or the House Administration can occur.
What happens when a member, for technical reasons, is unable to join the video conference in time, but hears the question through other means, such as CPAC or online webcasting, and is ultimately able to vote when his or her name is called? In such instances, the Chair has no way of determining if a member did indeed hear the question and would have great difficulty refusing a member's fundamental right to cast his or her vote.
In other instances, other members joining in virtually late after encountering technical difficulties would indicate that they did not hear the question and abstain from voting. Either affirmation would be accepted by the Chair, in keeping with the convention that the House accepts as true the word of the member.
In an effort to strike the proper balance between the integrity of the decision-making process and the participation of all members who wish to vote, and unless further decisions are taken by the House, the Chair proposes that votes proceed as follows:
When a question is put and a voice vote follows, we will not proceed with calling yeas and nays, nor will we require five members to ask that a recorded division take place. Instead, I will follow the normal process of reading the motion and ask if it is the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion. At that point, any one representative from a recognized party present in the chamber may request a recorded division. I will then call in the members or defer the vote, as the case may be.
All members will be admitted to the sitting by video conference at any given time, knowing that the Table will have the list of members who were in attendance when the whips take their seat;
Members on the list will then be called in alphabetical order, by party, to indicate how they are voting. I will intervene if we cannot see the member;
Once all the names on the list have been called, I will invite members whose names were missed or who encountered technical difficulties to identify themselves by using the “raise hand” feature. By then, IT ambassadors will have provided to the table a list of members who encountered difficulties and contacted the support team for assistance. As well, cameras must remain on during the duration of the vote.
It is possible that some members will be unable to connect and vote. In reading the special order, they would not be counted unless measures are taken to allow them to communicate with the Table before the end of the vote. I invite the representatives of the parties to carefully consider and perhaps provide some guidance to the Speaker on how best to address this issue.
Finally, decorum is certainly a challenge. I would ask that members uphold the dignity of the House when voting or participating in proceedings, including being judicious in the backgrounds they choose and how they dress.
In preparation for remote votes, members are invited to take part in a simulation of the voting process tomorrow, Thursday, September 24, at 7 p.m.
I want to thank members for their attention to this somewhat prosaic statement, as we navigate our new reality together. I believe it is important for us to acknowledge that the ongoing pandemic has altered the way we fulfill our role as members of Parliament. It is, however, equally important to take heart in the fact that we are adapting to those changes, and that our shared goal remains the same, to serve the people of Canada.