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  • His favourite word is chair.

Liberal MP for Halifax West (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 69% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Points of Order November 8th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on November 3, by the hon. member for Carleton concerning the applicability of Standing Order 69.1 to Bill C-63, a second act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017 and other measures.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Carleton for raising this matter, as well as the hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby, the hon. member for Calgary Shepard, and the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader for their comments.

The hon. member for Carleton asked that the Chair use the authority granted under Standing Order 69.1 to divide the question on the motions for second and, if necessary, third reading of Bill C-63, as he argued the bill contained measures not announced in the budget of March 22, 2017.

He noted, for example, that the summary indicated that a measure in part 2 of the bill was implementing a change to the GST/HST rebate for public service bodies announced on September 8, 2017. He also argued that the measures concerning the taxation of agricultural and fisheries co-operatives in part 1, and those concerning beer made from concentrate in part 3, were not in the budget, nor were three measures from part 5, namely division 5 regarding the Bank of Canada, division 11 concerning judges, and division 13 regarding payments to discharge debt.

The hon. member also argued that the monies authorized in part 5, division 2, regarding the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, AllB, far exceeded what was announced in the budget.

In his budget speech, the Minister of Finance indicated that the government would be investing $256 million in the AllB over five years, while clause 176 of the bill authorizes the minister to spend $375 million U.S., or roughly $480 million Canadian.

While he indicated that he did not feel strongly about having a separate vote on each of the other measures, the hon. member for Carleton was particularly keen on having a separate vote on this measure. He thought the Standing Order provided the Speaker with such authority, given that the bill authorized quite a bit more spending than what was announced in the budget.

The hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby argued that the bill was in fact an omnibus bill, insofar as it contained measures not announced in the budget. He also noted that this was specifically the case in relation to the measures concerning agricultural and fisheries cooperatives and those concerning beer from concentrate. Furthermore, he argued that the inclusion of such measures meant that Bill C-63 could not qualify for the exemption provided in the Standing Orders for budget implementation bills and that therefore the entire bill should be treated as an omnibus bill.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader, in his intervention, sought to reassure the House that certain measures were indeed arising out of the budget. He pointed out that the plan for Canada to become a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was indeed announced in the budget, and that the bill operationalizes that plan. He also argued that the amendments to the Judges Act in division 11 give effect to the intention announced in the budget to implement the recommendations of the 2015 Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission. The changes relating to the Bank of Canada in division 5, he contended, are part of the government's plan to bolster the tool kit for managing the resolution of Canada's largest banks, as announced in the budget.

Finally, he insisted that the Standing Order does not foresee the division of a bill for the purposes of debate or committee referral, but only for the purpose of voting at second and third reading.

The hon. member for Calgary Shepard argued that in coming to a decision, the Speaker should be inspired by the procedure in the Quebec National Assembly in relation to motions to divide bills. He argued that the Chair should not confuse the principles contained in a bill with the field of legislative action it addresses. While the measures in the bill all deal with economic policy, he did not think that the Speaker should conclude that they are all interrelated. He also raised a number of points that were less specifically about Bill C-63, but concerned the mechanics of implementing a decision to divide a question, which he argued are unaddressed by the Standing Orders. In particular, he raised issues relating to amendments to the second and third reading motions, referral to committee, report stage and consideration of Senate amendments.

Yesterday, in response to a point of order from the hon. opposition House leader, I delivered a first ruling concerning the new Standing Order 69.1 on omnibus bills. This Standing Order empowers the Speaker to divide the question on the motion for second and third reading of a bill in circumstances where the bill contains a number of unrelated provisions.

The matter before us today concerns paragraph (2) of that Standing Order, which makes an exception for budget implementation bills. That paragraph reads as follows:

69.1(2) The present Standing Order shall not apply if the bill has as its main purpose the implementation of a budget and contains only provisions that were announced in the budget presentation or in the documents tabled during the budget presentation.

The question for the Speaker, then, is whether or not the measures identified by the hon. member for Carleton and the hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby correspond to provisions announced in the budget.

Let me first say that establishing such a link is not always obvious. The budget document itself is almost 300 pages, while the supplementary tax information represents another 100 pages. The Chair has done its best to review the material in arriving at this decision.

Let me first deal with the measures in the bill relating to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The hon. member for Carleton acknowledged that these measures were indeed announced in the budget. The only issue is whether or not the variance in the amount invested is sufficient to sever this relationship.

In my view, the spirit of the Standing Order was to provide for a separate vote when new or unrelated matters were introduced in the budget implementation bill. The fact that the amounts are higher, though I admit the variance is considerable, does not, in my opinion, make the matter of the AllB markedly different from what was announced in the budget.

I believe it is understandable that, in between the time the budget is presented and the time the budget implementation bill is introduced, a change in circumstances could produce such a variation. I do not believe it is necessary to insist on an identical amount when the overall policy initiative is substantially the same. Therefore, I do not believe it would be appropriate to have a separate vote on this matter.

Let me turn now to the other issues raised by hon. members. I am willing to accept the arguments from the hon. parliamentary secretary that division 5 of part 5 regarding the Bank of Canada and division 11 of part 5 regarding judges’ compensation flow out of measures announced in the budget. Therefore, I believe it is appropriate that those measures be included in the general vote at second reading and, if necessary, at third reading.

However, in relation to the other matters raised by the hon. members for Carleton and New Westminster—Burnaby, I have been unable to find a link between them, and what is contained in the budget documents. The parliamentary secretary did not refute the contention that these matters were indeed new and unrelated to the budget.

Accordingly, I believe that I can and should exercise the powers granted to me in the Standing Order to divide the question at second reading and, if necessary, at third reading.

Having come to this conclusion, the question is, how to effect such a division? The hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby argues that the entire bill should be subject to division. Since it does not solely implement measures announced in the budget, he believes the exemption in Standing Order 69.1(2) no longer applies.

As I stated earlier, I believe the purpose of the Standing Order is to allow such a division in relation to those matters which are unrelated to the budget, accepting that the purpose of the remainder of the bill is to implement the budget.

Points of Order November 7th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on October 31, 2017 by the hon. opposition House leader concerning the applicability of the new Standing Order 69.1 to Bill C-56, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Abolition of Early Parole Act.

I thank the hon. Opposition House Leader for raising this matter, as well as the hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby for his contributions.

The opposition House leader contended that Bill C-56 contains two parts that should be separated through the application of Standing Order 69.1. One part amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to address issues relating to the use of administrative segregation. The other part aims to amend the Abolition of Early Parole Act in relation to accelerated parole for certain offenders. She argued that these two matters were unrelated and therefore invited the Chair to divide the question on the bill.

The hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby agreed with these arguments, and indicated that dividing the question on the bill would better allow members to represent their constituents.

éAs members will recall, the House adopted a series of changes to the Standing Orders on June 20, 2017. Since this is the first time I have been asked to render a decision using this new Standing Order, I would like to elaborate on certain aspects of its application. New Standing Order 69.1 provides as follows:

In the case where a government bill seeks to repeal, amend or enact more than one act, and where there is not a common element connecting the various provisions or where unrelated matters are linked, the Speaker shall have the power to divide the questions, for the purposes of voting, on the motion for second reading and reference to a committee and the motion for third reading and passage of the bill. The Speaker shall have the power to combine clauses of the bill thematically and to put the aforementioned questions on each of these groups of clauses separately, provided that there will be a single debate at each stage.

The power of the Chair to divide a complicated question has long existed in our parliamentary practice, though it has only rarely been exercised. The second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at pages 562 and 563, describes this power and enumerates the few examples of it being used. It also makes clear that this power had never traditionally applied to bills, but only to motions.

In her presentation, the hon. opposition House leader elaborated on several of these examples. In the Flag Debate of 1964, Speaker Macnaughton divided a motion into two questions, the first concerning the establishment of a new Canadian flag and the second concerning the continued use of the Union Jack.

In 1991, Speaker Fraser divided a 64-part motion to amend the Standing Orders into three separate questions.

In 2002, Speaker Milliken divided a lengthy motion to reinstate certain items of business into two questions, while ordering that another portion of the motion be considered separately.

Though not mentioned, a similar decision was rendered by my predecessor on October 17, 2013 in relation to a motion to reinstate certain items of business, where two separate votes were held.

The opposition House leader also referred to several examples of motions being divided in British practice, dating back to the late 19th century and the early 20th century.

Standing Order 69.1 empowers the Speaker, for the first time, to divide the question on a government bill both at second reading and third reading, except where the legislation has as its main purpose the implementation of a budget. In so doing, the Chair is to consider the degree to which the various provisions of a bill lack commonality.

Where a bill contains unrelated initiatives, the Speaker may group clauses thematically for the purposes of voting, maintaining a single debate. Though there may be multiple questions put to a vote for second or third reading, there remains only one bill. This is in contrast to cases where bills themselves have been divided, either as a result of a motion adopted in the House or an instruction given to a committee.

Since the analysis and division of a bill into different parts can sometimes be complex, I am grateful that the member raised her point of order as early as she did, prior to the commencement of debate at second reading.

Where members believe that the Standing Order should apply, I would encourage them to raise their arguments as early as possible in the process, especially given that the length of debate at a particular stage can be unpredictable. If an objection is raised too late in the process, the Chair may have no choice but to allow the matter to go to a single vote at second reading or third reading, as the case may be.

When the Chair finds that the Standing Order does apply and that the question should be divided on a bill, I will indicate to the House which elements will be grouped together for the purposes of voting. As I noted earlier, legislation is often complex and such divisions are not always simple. This is particularly the case when a bill contains coordinating and consequential amendments, as well as coming-into-force provisions, which impact various sections of the bill. In presenting their arguments in favour of the division of a question, members are encouraged to indicate which provisions they feel should be grouped together.

In the event that the House rejects certain provisions at second reading while adopting others, the adopted portions of the bill will be referred to committee. In such cases, I would order that the bill be reprinted for the committee’s consideration. In our current practice, reprints of a bill are generally only undertaken upon an order of a committee following the adoption of amendments or upon the passage of a bill at third reading. I believe, however, that when a portion of a bill has been rejected by the House at second reading, it would be useful for a committee to have a new version of the bill so that the measures contained in its order of reference are clear.

In the specific case of Bill C-56, after having examined the bill, I also concluded that the bill does indeed contain two distinct measures. The first part amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to implement a new regime for the administrative segregation of inmates. The second part, essentially clause 10 of the bill, amends the Abolition of Early Parole Act, dealing with the eligibility of certain offenders for accelerated parole reviews.

I note that the Abolition of Early Parole Act is the short title of “An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (accelerated parole review) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts”. This act was enacted in 2011 and repealed the accelerated parole review framework established by sections 125 and 126.1 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. With Bill C-56, the transitional provisions contained in the Abolition of Early Parole Act will be amended so that offenders who committed their offence prior to the law coming into effect in 2011 but who were sentenced only after that date may be eligible under the previous framework.

The hon. opposition House leader argued that, in this case, the two initiatives are unrelated and that members may well support the first and oppose the second. Members will know that many bills contain a number of initiatives on a number of policy areas, some of which members support and some of which they might oppose.

The amending process affords members an opportunity to propose changes, including the opportunity to remove portions of a bill to which they object. The question for the Chair, in applying Standing Order 69.1, is whether the matters are so unrelated as to warrant a separate vote at second and third reading.

At first glance, it may appear that the provisions in clause 10 of Bill C-56 are unrelated to the rest of the bill. However, the accelerated review process envisioned in that clause, as indicated earlier, was in fact set out in sections 125 to 126.1 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the very act which is amended by the other clauses of the bill.

Since the subject matter of the bill as a whole deals with the treatment of inmates, either in the case of administrative segregation under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act or in the application of the accelerated parole review process under that same act, it is my view that the two parts are indeed related and that, consequently, the question on Bill C-56 should not be divided.

I thank all honourable members for their attention in this matter.

150th Anniversary of the First Meeting of Parliament November 6th, 2017

Pursuant to an order made on Wednesday, October 18, 2017, I will now make a statement commemorating the 150th anniversary of the first meeting of the first Parliament of Canada, after which I invite representatives of all parties in the House to proceed with their own statements.

I invite all members to the Hall of Honour for the unveiling of a decorative window commemorating this event.

Today we mark an important milestone in Canada's history, the 150th anniversary of the first meeting of the first Parliament. I am honoured that in recognition of this significant chapter in our nation's history, we have in attendance today several of our former prime ministers, speakers, and clerks of the House of Commons.

On November 6, 1867, Canada's members of Parliament came together for the first time to begin shaping their new country, writing the laws that would enable their fellow citizens to govern themselves and strengthen our fledging democracy.

On this day 150 years ago, our predecessors embarked on an ambitious journey that continues to this day, the journey towards a fair, prosperous country for all citizens.

It is difficult to imagine the enormity of the task before those first parliamentarians gathered in the chamber that used to stand here, facing the monumental challenge of governing a vast and sprawling country still in its infancy. Consider, too, that in those days, Ottawa was not perhaps the most sophisticated location for Canada's capital. A decade before Confederation, the English essayist and political scientist, Goldwin Smith, dismissed Ottawa as “a sub-Arctic lumber-village converted by royal mandate into a political cockpit”.

To avoid hurting the feelings of Jim Watson, the mayor of Ottawa, I should add that Ottawa has come a long way since those days. It has even become a leading city, and a lot of work has gone into its development, but there is, of course, always more to be done.

Any democracy worthy of its name is always a work in progress, and it is our duty as parliamentarians to build on the foundation laid by those first members of Parliament who established the country that it is our privilege to serve.

Points of Order October 31st, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on May 12, 2017, by the hon. member for Winnipeg North concerning the possible requirement for a royal recommendation with respect to four private members' bills, two from the House of Commons and two from the Senate.

The Commons bills are Bill C-315, an act to amend the Parks Canada Agency Act, conservation of national historic sites account, standing in the name of the hon. member for Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, and Bill C-343, an act to establish the office of the federal ombudsman for victims of criminal acts and to amend certain acts, standing in the name of the hon. member for Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix. Both bills are currently in the order of precedence at second reading.

The two Senate bills are Bill S-205, an act to amend the Canada Border Services Agency Act, Inspector General of the Canada Border Services Agency, and to make consequential amendments to other acts, standing in the name of the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, and Bill S-229, an act respecting underground infrastructure safety, standing in the name of the hon. member for Guelph. Both of these bills are currently awaiting first reading.

Members will recall that on May 9, 2017, I made a statement in which I invited arguments in relation to these four bills. I would like to thank the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the hon. member for Guelph, and the hon. member for Perth—Wellington for their detailed interventions.

Of the four bills, Bill C-315, in proposing to establish a separate account as part of the accounts of Canada from which disbursements could be made, raises most clearly a question about the possible need for a royal recommendation. The other three bills, C-343, S-205, and S-229, are different. While they present schemes that could lead to new spending, all contain coming-into-force provisions designed to make such spending conditional on separate parliamentary appropriations. I will address Bill C-315 first, and then the other three.

Bill C-315 establishes a distinct account for the conservation of national historic sites, called the conservation of national historic sites account. The funds for this account are to be raised exclusively through private donations and from the interest generated from them. I should note that this fund seems to be separate from the pre-existing new parks and historic sites account, which serves a similar purpose and is also based, at least in part, on donations.

Bill C-315 also provides that the funds may be spent for specific purposes in relation to national historic sites. The parliamentary secretary contended that the creation of such a new account, and the authority to spend its funds on national historic sites, would be a new and distinct purpose that is not specifically authorized by any statute, thus clearly requiring a royal recommendation.

In making his case, the parliamentary secretary drew a parallel to the employment insurance fund. While nominally its own account, all amounts received and dispersed from the EI fund are deposited in and drawn from the consolidated revenue fund. Because these monies are part of the consolidated revenue fund, a royal recommendation is necessary to authorize any expenditure from it.

Although the situation with Bill C-315 is not entirely analogous to the EI fund, I believe that a similar principle still applies. Even if the monies are accounted for separately and raised exclusively through donations and interest generated from those donations, once collected, they become public funds deposited into the consolidated revenue fund. Any payments from this fund would also be drawn from the CRF. As the bill authorizes this spending for a specified purpose, it must be accompanied by a royal recommendation. Therefore, I find that the objections raised by the parliamentary secretary are well founded.

However, as is consistent with our practice with respect to Commons bills, Bill C-315 can continue through the legislative process as long as there is a possibility that a royal recommendation could be obtained before the final vote on the bill. Alternatively, the bill could perhaps be amended in such a way as to obviate the need for a royal recommendation. Absent one or other of these options being exercised, the question at third reading of the bill will not be put.

Let me now turn to the issues raised in the three other bills, namely S-205, S-229, and C-343. The parliamentary secretary argued that the bills in question were proposing new and distinct expenditures and that the accompanying coming-into-force provisions did not alter this fact. In support of this argument, he cited a Speaker’s ruling from November 9, 1978 about clauses in bills that seek to elude the requirement for a royal recommendation. Accordingly, it was his contention that the question could not be put at third reading on Bill C-343. Moreover, with respect to Bills S-205 and S-229, which originated in the Senate, both should be removed from the Order Paper since any bills appropriating public funds must originate in the House of Commons.

The member for Guelph argued, on June 20, 2017, that Bill S-229 is in order and should be allowed to proceed. First, he contended that no procedural authority exists to remove Bill S-229 from the Order Paper. To do so, the Chair would be relying exclusively on constitutional principles set out in sections 53 and 54 of the Constitution Act, which, in his view, is contrary to the principle that the Chair does not rule on matters of constitutionality. He also contended that even if a royal recommendation were needed, the Chair should allow the bill to continue until the end of the debate at third reading, as is done for private members' bills first introduced in the House.

The member then turned to more substantive arguments about the bill, claiming that the coming-into-force clause ensured that it did not appropriate any part of the public revenue, as such appropriations would have to be granted through subsequent legislation. He further contended that it was not a “money bill”, but, and I quote, “merely contemplates the minister entering into an agreement but does not directly involve any expenditure”.

The hon. member for Perth—Wellington, on September 19, 2017, made a similar argument in relation to Bill C-344. In his view, it was clear that no money could be spent for the purposes set out in the bill unless and until such funds were appropriated by Parliament in a separate measure. He argued that the bill merely established the machinery under which some future expenditure might be made and that for this reason it did not require a royal recommendation.

As Speaker, I am mindful of my responsibility to provide members with the widest amount of latitude possible in bringing forward measures for consideration as long as these conform to our rules and practices. Their proposals may take the form of either motions or bills. The Chair would only intervene to prevent consideration of such items when they are clearly defective in some procedural way. One of the most important tests when it comes to bills that authorize spending is that they must first be introduced in the House of Commons and must be accompanied by a royal recommendation prior to final adoption. The key question in relation to these three bills is whether they authorize any spending. That is to say, would their adoption result in public funds being appropriated for new and distinct purposes?

The Parliamentary Secretary pointed out measures in each bill that he felt required a royal recommendation. Bill C-343 provides for the appointment of a federal ombudsman for victims of crime, with remuneration and associated expenses for the appointee, and the hiring and remuneration of the necessary staff.

As the member for Perth—Wellington mentioned in passing, this office already exists as a program within the Department of Justice and the ombudsman is appointed as a special advisor to the Minister of Justice pursuant to the Public Service Employment Act. What Bill C-343 proposes, I would argue, is different, insofar as it seeks to establish the ombudsman as a separate and independent office outside of the department. In such circumstances, a royal recommendation would be needed to properly implement the creation of this office and authorize spending to this end.

Bill S-205 proposes the appointment of a new inspector general of the Canada Border Services Agency, the appointee's remuneration, and associated employment benefits. These provisions, if implemented, would require new and distinct spending not currently covered by existing appropriations.

Bill S-229 seeks to authorize the designated minister to make regulations allowing for, among other things, the establishment of a funding program to enable notification centres and damage-prevention organizations to exercise the functions assigned to them under this act, potentially involving new expenditures not currently authorized. Excepting that certain clauses of each bill seem to involve potential spending for which a royal recommendation would ordinarily be required, the critical question is the impact of the coming-into-force clause.

The hon. member for Guelph and the hon. member for Perth—Wellington cited certain authorities and precedents to justify why a royal recommendation is not required. Beauchesne’s Parliamentary Rules and Forms, sixth edition, at page 186, citation 613 reads:

A bill, which does not involve a direct expenditure but merely confers upon the government a power for the exercise of which public money will have to be voted by Parliament, is not a money bill, and no royal recommendation is necessary as a condition precedent to its introduction.

The same publication, at page 185, citation 611, addresses the issue of Senate bills containing a clause that states that no money will spent as long as the necessary parliamentary appropriation is not secured. Specifically, it states:

A bill from the Senate, certain clauses of which would necessitate some public expenditure, is in order if it is provided by a clause of the said bill that no such expenditure shall be made unless previously sanctioned by Parliament.

All three bills explicitly provide that they cannot be brought into force until funds are appropriated by a subsequent act of Parliament, which would have to be initiated in the House of Commons and be accompanied by a royal recommendation. The adoption of these bills, then, does not authorize the appropriation of any funds from the consolidated revenue fund. They would establish a framework in law to establish the new offices proposed by Bill C-343 and Bill S-205, or to develop the system proposed by Bill S-229.

However, the crown is in no way obligated to spend money for these purposes. If, in the future, Parliament granted the necessary funds for these purposes, it would be doing so in the full knowledge that it would allow these measures to come into force. Such a granting of funds would have to be done pursuant to our normal financial procedures. This being so, the financial prerogatives of the crown and the privileges of the House of Commons are entirely respected.

It must also be recognized that the House has not had to deal with bills providing for conditional spending in recent years and certainly not since the significant changes to our practices surrounding private members' business made in 1994.

After careful consideration, I am of the view that a royal recommendation is not required, and that these three bills may continue along the usual legislative process. With that said, I believe it might be useful for the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to consider the matter of private members' bills that contain what I would call, for lack of a better term, non-appropriation clauses. The House would likely welcome any views that the committee would have to offer on this subject.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Privacy Commissioner September 21st, 2017

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Privacy Commissioner on the application of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Privacy Act. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(h), this report is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

House of Commons June 21st, 2017

I wish to echo the comments of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, the hon. member for Beloeil—Chambly, and the hon. member for Joliette.

To reiterate what I said before question period, I want to thank all my colleagues for their great work.

I also want to thank all of the staff who work on Parliament Hill and provide the many services, from the cleaners to those who move furniture to the procedural staff to the interpreters, and the many people in so many areas who provide such great assistance to us. I know colleagues will have other suggestions of who I should add to that. I know I have not listed all of them, and I am sure I will forget some. However, I thank all of them, because we are grateful for the wonderful work that they do.

Of course I particularly want to thank the pages, to whom we are saying “so long”. I hope they will all come back and visit us regularly. We have enjoyed having these wonderful pages with us. They have done such great work for us.

I want to wish all members a healthy and very relaxing summer. I can say that I am looking forward to some tranquility over the course of the summer at some point. I know members will come back refreshed in the fall and get back to work.

However, I particularly want to urge members, all those who work on the Hill, and all Canadians to be careful this summer when on vacation or travelling. It is particularly important. I know members spend a lot of time on the road, and over the years we have lost a couple of members because of accidents, so I urge members to be extra careful. Obviously, if they become tired, they should not drive but should get some rest, please.

I wish all the best to everyone.

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni, Taxation; the hon. member for Chilliwack—Hope, Standing Orders of the House of Commons.

Privilege June 20th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on June 8, 2017 by the honourable member for Winnipeg Centre concerning the right of members to use indigenous languages in proceedings in the House of Commons.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre for having raised this important matter.

The member began by explaining that, despite having provided documentation to interpretation services 48 hours in advance, simultaneous interpretation was not provided when he made a statement in nehiyo, the Cree language, on May 4, 2017. Unable to be understood by his fellow parliamentarians and those viewing the proceedings, he felt that he had been effectively silenced and his privileges violated. The member asked for not only the right to use indigenous languages in the proceedings of the House but also for minimal resources to enable him to participate and interact fully with other members in the proceedings and them with him in turn.

The issue raised by the member for Winnipeg Centre speaks to the very core of what members need when they come to this chamber, that is, not only to be free to speak but also to be understood. To be clear, the sacrosanct right of members to speak is not what is now being questioned; rather, it is the right of members to be understood immediately when they speak in a language other than one of the two official languages that is being raised.

This acknowledge of the need to bridge understanding between languages was surely at the root of the introduction of simultaneous interpretation for Canada's two official languages in the House in 1958. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at page 287, explains the intentions of members at that time:

Members were of the opinion that this would give further expression to the Constitution, which provides for the equal status of the official languages and for their use in parliamentary debate.

This critical service, which began by way of an order of the House when members unanimously agreed to a government motion on August 11, 1958, continues to provide integral support to members as they search to understand and participate in parliamentary proceedings.

The fact that interpretation is provided in our two official languages was not designed or intended to prohibit members from speaking other languages in this chamber. Acting Speaker Kilger confirmed this on June 12, 1995, at page 13605 of Debates, when he stated:

At this time, there is nothing in the standing orders preventing anyone from using, as you say, a language that is not one of Canada's two official languages.

Members have availed themselves of this opportunity on many occasions, speaking not only indigenous languages but others as well. However, given the House’s current limited technical and physical capacity for interpretation, if members want to ensure that the comments they make in a language other than French or English can be understood by those who are following the proceedings and are part of the official record in the Debates, an extra step is required. Specifically, members need to repeat their comments in one of the two official languages so that our interpreters can provide the appropriate interpretation and so that they may be fully captured in the Debates. By doing so, all members of the House and the public will be able to benefit from the rich value of these interventions.

The Chair understands fully how some members could find this to be woefully inadequate. Perhaps there is some merit to that view. Perhaps being able to speak in other languages without the benefit of simultaneous interpretation is not good enough for some, even as the Chair reminds members of the impact that inherent physical limitations of the chamber have on the capacity for interpretation.

To offer something more, something different in terms of interpretation services, that is a decision that belongs to the House. As the member for Winnipeg Centre made a passionate argument for the improvement of interpretive services offered simultaneously in the House, I invite him to raise this issue with the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which has a mandate for reviewing the procedures and practices of the House and its committees. As the member for Winnipeg Centre noted, other legislative bodies in Canada have had some experience with this issue, perhaps experiences from which the committee could draw upon should it undertake a study on the matter.

In conclusion, while the Chair understands that the current offering of interpretation may be not be seen as ideal by some members, I cannot find that the member for Winnipeg Centre has been prevented from conducting his parliamentary functions.

Therefore, I cannot find that a prima facie case of privilege exists in this case.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

Privilege June 8th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on May 17, by the hon. member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek concerning the alleged premature disclosure of the contents of Bill C-49, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and other acts respecting transportation and to make related and consequential amendments to other acts.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek for having raised this matter, as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona for their submissions.

In raising this question of privilege, the member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek explained that the media had made public specific details contained in Bill C-49 before it was introduced in the House. By drawing comparisons between what was revealed in several news reports from Monday, May 15 and the contents of the bill which was introduced in the House on Tuesday, May 16, she alleged that the required confidentiality before the unveiling of the legislation in the House was simply not respected and members' privileges were breached as a result.

The member stated her belief that this was not due to a simple accidental leak but, rather, was the result of a systemic advance briefing of the media.

For his part, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader contended that at no time had the government prematurely divulged any details of Bill C-49; rather, it had simply held extensive consultations on the review of the Canada Transportation Act, as is the government’s prerogative. He added that the minister and his staff were clearly aware of the need for confidentiality, declining to comment on any specifics of the bill when asked by the media.

The right of the House to first access to legislation is one of our oldest conventions. It does and must, however, coexist with the need of governments to consult widely, with the public and stakeholders alike, on issues and policies in the preparation of legislation. Speaker Parent explained on February 21, 2000, at page 3767 of Debates:

Although the members of the House should always be the first ones to examine legislation after it has been introduced and read the first time, this rule must be balanced against the need for the government to consult both experts and the public when developing its legislative proposals.

When ruling on a similar matter on November 1, 2006, Speaker Milliken concluded that the government had not divulged confidential information on the bill, nor the bill itself, but rather had engaged in consultations prior to finalizing the legislation in question. At the same time, he explained at page 4540 of the House of Commons Debates:

The key procedural point...is that once a bill has been placed on notice, it must remain confidential until introduced in the House.

In acknowledging this important nuance, he made room for both consultation and confidentiality, but also saw the distinction between the two.

In the case before us, the Chair is asked to determine if the level of detail reported upon by various media outlets in advance of the tabling in the House of Bill C-49 constitutes sufficient proof of a leak of the contents of this bill, and thus constitutes a prima facie breach of the member's privileges. In examining the bill, and noting the obvious similarities to the information cited in the media, the Chair can appreciate the seriousness of the matter raised.

When ruling on a similar question of privilege on April 19, 2016, I found a prima facie case of privilege in relation to the premature disclosure of Bill C-14, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to make related amendments to other acts (medical assistance in dying). In that particular case, the government had acknowledged the premature disclosure of the bill while assuring the House that this had not been authorized and would not happen again. In other words, the facts were undisputed.

That is not the case with the situation before us. The parliamentary secretary has assured the House that the government did not share the bill before it was introduced in the House but conceded that extensive consultations were conducted. Nor is the Chair confronted with a situation where a formal briefing session was provided to the media but not to members.

Finally, it is a long established practice to take members at their word, and the Chair, in view of this particular set of circumstances, is prepared to accept the explanation of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

In the absence of evidence that members have been prevented from conducting their parliamentary functions due to the premature release of the bill itself, I cannot find that a prima facie case of privilege exists in this case.

Points of Order June 7th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on May 19, 2017, by the hon. member for Carleton, related to the government response to written question No. 954, originally tabled in the House on May 18, 2017, and for which a revised response was tabled on May 29, 2017.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Carleton for having raised this matter as well as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader for his comments.

When raising this point of order, the hon. member for Carleton indicated that the response provided to written Question No. 954 contained inaccurate information falsely suggesting that the Hon. John Baird made a sponsored trip while he was minister of foreign affairs.

On May 29, 2017, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons tabled a revised answer to question No. 954 and explained that the original response contained inaccurate information due to an administrative error in producing the response.

On September 27, 2016, I told members of the House, at page 5176 of Debates:

Access to information, accurate information, is one of the cornerstones of our parliamentary system. Members must be able to rely on it at all times. The integrity of many of our procedures, especially those relating to written questions, rests on the rightful expectation that ministers, and the public servants who support them understand the value and utility of providing, not simply technically accurate but also complete and transparent, answers in the written responses that they provide to members of the House.

Furthermore, I want also to reiterate, as successive Speakers have before me, that the Standing Orders do not empower the Speaker to rule on the quality of responses to written questions.

Given that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader has tabled a revised answer to Question No. 954, which addresses the error as raised by the member for Carleton, I am satisfied that the current case reaffirms that all members clearly understand the importance of an accurate exchange of information meant to enable members to properly fulfill their responsibilities as legislators and representatives.

I thank hon. members for their attention, and I consider this matter closed.

Privilege June 6th, 2017

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on May 4, 2017, by the honourable member for Montcalm concerning the effect of the proposed changes to the Standing Orders on the rights and privileges of members from unrecognized parties.

I would like to thank the hon. member for having raised the matter, as well as the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, and the member for Joliette for their contributions.

In raising this question of privilege, the member for Montcalm alleged that the government’s proposed approach to parliamentary reform will violate the rights and privileges of members of unrecognized parties. Specifically, he argued that their freedom of speech will be violated by any discussions held in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, as members of unrecognized parties are not entitled to be members of committees, and that the proposed increased use of time allocation in the House will likewise affect these members disproportionately. In addition, he decried the government’s expressed intent to bring into effect rule changes without a consensus, as well as the inequitable treatment of members of unrecognized parties who were notified of the government’s parliamentary reform proposal later than members from recognized parties.

In response, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons enumerated opportunities that members of unrecognized parties have to participate in committee deliberations, as well as the fact that debate time in the House is limited for all members, which in any case, is beyond the Speaker's purview to judge. He also challenged the belief that changes to the Standing Orders should be made only with the consent of all parties, citing instances of rule changes achieved without the support of opposition parties.

As the member for Montcalm rightly suggests, as Speaker, I am the custodian and defender of members’ privileges, regardless of their political affiliation. The member is looking to the Chair to ensure that there will be no abrogation or willful disregard of the rights of individual members as the House determines if and how it should change its rules.

The privilege of freedom of speech is undoubtedly the most important right accorded to members of this House. At the same time, there is an important distinction to be made between the right to freedom of speech and the right to participate in the proceedings of the House and its committees. Asked to rule on the right of members to make statements in the House pursuant to Standing Order 31, my predecessor stated on April 23, 2013, at page 15800 of Debates:

…there are inherent limits to the privilege of freedom of speech. Aside from the well-known prohibitions on unparliamentary language, the need to refer to other members by title, the rules on repetition and relevance, the sub judice constraints and other limitations designed to ensure that discourse is conducted in a civil and courteous manner, the biggest limitation of all is the availability of time.

This very same limitation, time, which is a limit for all of us in this life, is equally relevant to other proceedings, including those that may be involved in any review of the Standing Orders.

As has been well established, the Speaker has no authority to judge the adequacy of those time limits agreed upon by the House, nor decide when and if an issue has received sufficient debate; that authority rests solely with the House.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, states, at page 648:

When asked to determine the acceptability of a motion to limit debate, the Speaker does not judge the importance of the issue in question or whether a reasonable time has been allowed for debate, but strictly addresses the acceptability of the procedure followed. Speakers have therefore ruled that a procedurally acceptable motion to limit the ability of Members to speak on a given motion before the House does not constitute prima facie a breach of parliamentary privilege.

The honourable member for Montcalm has asked whether or not the Speaker should be empowered to determine which procedure the House must use to effect parliamentary reform. The rules and practices of the House provide different approaches, procedurally speaking, to changing the Standing Orders. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, whose permanent mandate includes “the review of and report on the Standing Orders, procedure and practice in the House and its committees”, has frequently been the originator of Standing Orders changes. The House has also tasked special committees in the past to study the Standing Orders and report recommendations back to the House. In other cases, the House has been seized of motions to change the Standing Orders that have been sponsored either by the government or by private members.

Regardless of the means chosen, ultimately the Standing Orders can be amended only by way of a decision of the House. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, at pages 256 and 257, states:

Such a decision is arrived at either by way of consensus or by a simple majority vote on a motion moved by any Member of the House.

The Chair has been asked to determine if potential or future courses of action with respect to the review and reform of the Standing Orders will negatively impact the privileges of individual members. As the member's claims are more speculative in nature at this point, it would be premature and presumptive for the Chair to rule based on assumptions of what might transpire.

I can assure the member for Montcalm, and the whole House, that the Chair has found no evidence that the rights of members from unrecognized parties have been breached nor that they have been impeded from fulfilling their parliamentary duties. Therefore, I cannot find that a prima facie question of privilege exists in this case.

I thank members for their attention in this matter.