STANDING COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE
AND HOUSE AFFAIRS
COMITÉ PERMANENT DE LA PROCÉDURE
ET DES AFFAIRES DE LA CHAMBRE
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Thursday, April 13, 2000
The Chair (Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River,
Lib.)): Colleagues, I see a quorum, so we'll proceed
with our consideration of possible changes to the
Standing Orders along the lines we discussed at the
I have two items to point out before we continue.
First, we have again as our witnesses today Mr.
Marleau, the Clerk of the House, and
Marie-Andrée Lajoie, principal clerk, House
proceedings and parliamentary exchanges
Secondly, hopefully at some point we will deal with
the private member's bill introduced by member of
Parliament Suzanne Tremblay for a riding name change,
the matter having been referred to us from the House.
Hopefully we can accommodate that within our next hour
and a half.
Let's continue with our discussions. I don't think
there were any carry-over matters from the last day
that Mr. Marleau might want to address.
If there are, Mr. Marleau, you can do it now. There
On a procedural basis, we'll be asking questions and
debating the issues. At some point, colleagues might
find it useful to consider going in camera. We
certainly don't have to, but in the event that we do,
if we get into the kinds of back and forth discussions
where an in camera meeting might be more conducive,
where we don't need the written record, then we could
Mr. Bob Kilger (Stormont—Dundas—Charlottenburgh,
Lib.): On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I see
Madame Tremblay has just joined us, and I wonder if it
might be convenient to deal with the matter while she's
here. It would only take possibly five minutes
in terms of process.
The Chair: If colleagues are agreed to deal with
the private member's bill of Suzanne Tremblay,
we can do that now.
Please excuse us, witnesses. We'll do a slight
musical chairs here.
Bonjour, Madame Tremblay. You have introduced a
bill that would change the name of your riding,
currently known as Rimouski—Mitis. There have been a
number of other riding name changes adopted by the
House in the last few days, and we're now going to
consider the bill you have put forward. Would you like
to enlighten us?
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Mitis, BQ): Thank you, Mr.
I would first like to summarize the process. Last year, our
whip told us that all members of Parliament had until the 20th of
March to request a change in the name of the ridings. The
government was preparing a bill covering all name changes. We were
thus given until March 20 to submit our request.
Let me quote you a news release from my office dated
March 4, 1999:
Following comments made by several citizens concerning the name now
given to the riding called Rimouski—Mitis, the Member of
Parliament Suzanne Tremblay intends to ask Parliament to change the
name of the riding.
Here is the new name which is proposed:
To change Rimouski—Mitis for Rimouski-Neigette et Mitis.
In order to meet the deadline imposed, Ms. Tremblay will accept
suggestions and comments on the name change until the 20th of
Please phone in your comments as quickly as possible...
Then I gave my office's phone and fax numbers. Since I don't
want you all writing me, I will not give out those numbers.
This news release was published in the regional newspaper on
Sunday March 7, 1999 under the title: “The Member of Parliament
wants to change the name...”. The newspaper summarized the
information contained in the news release. Several phone numbers
were mentioned, including a 1-800 number.
On March 14, I opened an office at the regional county
municipality of La Mitis headquarters. Several representatives of
the municipalities were present, either the mayor, a municipal
councillor, or an employee. Several other persons were also present
at this event.
On March 15, the RCM of la Mitis met and I was sent a copy of
a resolution passed by the municipality:
It is proposed by Sylvain Dupont, seconded by Mr. Henri-Paul
Valcourt and unanimously approved, that the board of mayors of the
MRC of la Mitis give its approval to the request made to change the
name of the riding now called Rimouski—Mitis and replace it by the
name La Mitis et Rimouski-Neigette.
I also received a motion of the Sainte-Flavie municipality,
located in the RCM of La Mitis, but at the far end of it, where
Road 132 meets the beginning of the Gaspé.
On May 6, I received another unanimously passed motion from
the RCM requesting that the new name of the riding be “La Mitis et
Rimouski-Neigette”. The intent here was to make sure that the
article “La” be part of the official name of the riding since this
article is part of the official name La Mitis. The RCM was also
suggesting that the names be in alphabetical order. That was an
amendment made to the original motion.
Finally, my office received six letters of comments. One of
those letters was anonymous and four of those letters were against
the name change suggestion. Here are some of the comments made:
“Changing the name of the riding will only confuse people”;
“Changing the name of the riding is stupid”. One person suggested
that the name should be “Neigette et Mitis”. One comment didn't
make any sense. Those are the only comments I received.
Finally, I received a letter co-signed by the Mayor of
Rimouski and Mayor Ghislain Fiola from Mont-Joli, which is part of
the RCM. Those two mayors are well-known liberals. I would say that
they are liberals with a small “L” for those who know the
difference between the two. They wrote to express their opposition
to the change suggested. In a nutshell, they say that their two
municipalities are the two most important ones, the first in the
RCM Rimouski-Neigette and the other in the RCM La Mitis. According
to them, the riding should be called “Rimouski—Mont-Joli”, which
would mean that no mention would be made of the other
municipalities. They are opposed to using the names of the two RCMs
because they feel their municipalities are lost among all those
other little municipalities with very few residents.
I was convalescing at that time and Stéphane Bergeron told me
that the bill had been discussed and stopped for everyone, since
Mr. Boudria received a call about the name of my riding.
I knew very well where that call came from, because I met Mr.
Tremblay and I told him that he did not only write to me but also
dared to call Ottawa. He started laughing. I know how he reacts
with that kind of half smile when he realizes that someone thwarted
his strategy. For me, it was sheer nonsense that two mayors,
because of something they don't like, decided on their own to take
action to stop a federal bill, even without consulting their
municipality. I found it somewhat abusive.
Obviously I started to say that Rimouski and Mont-Joli were
strictly opposed to this project and would fight back together.
Then I said in the media that it was not up to them to decide
whether the name could be changed or not, that it was a decision
for the federal government. Then they replied to me. So there was
a fairly interesting debate in the newspapers about regional
The main objective was to recognize the people from Neigette
and from Rimouski—Neigette Regional County Municipality.
Initially, when the electoral map was revised, this city was called
Rimouski. Changes were proposed. I asked that the name Mitis be
added, because the provincial member is called Member for Rimouski.
It could be confusing if both members would represent ridings with
The area of my riding is somewhat larger. I have 34
municipalities, including 15 in Rimouski—Neigette Regional
Municipality. The other 14 felt excluded because of this name, and
if you added the name Mitis, which is the name of the regional
municipality, every municipality was included.
So initially, the idea behind this name change was only to use
the right names, namely “Rimouski—Neigette” and “La Mitis”, either
in this order or in the other. I had no problem with that. If it
seems preferable to keep “Rimouski—Neigette” because people are
used to saying “Rimouski—Mitis” and it would be less complicated
for the clerks and the Speaker to learn this new name, I have no
objection. But for me, this is a very democratic move. First of
all, there was a consultation, and people asked me to add
“Neigette” to “Rimouski”.
The Chair: Thank you very much for that very
forthright and detailed description of the background.
Colleagues are grateful for that. On a private
member's bill of this nature, you will understand that
colleagues would accord you, as the sitting member, a
fairly wide berth.
Colleagues may decide that they wish to hear some more
on this. I'm sure you'll be available should that be
necessary. I don't think there would be too many
questions here today. Your explanation was very
succinct and clear. But if we did hear additional
evidence, it would likely be from citizens who wish to
make a point publicly on the bill. We might hear from
them in writing, or we might hear from them personally.
In any event, that's up to colleagues here to decide.
Again, I thank you.
It looks like there may be a question.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes,
BQ): I have a very short question.
The Chair: All right, there may be one or two very
Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Canadian
Alliance): Obviously this doesn't
impact me directly, other than it affecting the
thousands of members I'm sure we have in the
honourable member's riding.
I haven't received any great number of complaints, at
least into my office, about this proposed name change,
but I think what it does highlight is that perhaps the
House should be considering a bit more formal process
of how we go about changing the name of a riding.
And by formal process I mean some avenue
whereby the citizens of the riding or the individual
municipalities are included in a definitive process
where input is sought and there isn't an arbitrary
decision by any body, whether it's us or the individual
member or whoever, upon the name change for their
Some of the problems Madame Tremblay has encountered
point to the need for us to consider a slightly more
formalized process in the future.
The Chair: We'll take your question as a
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Mr. Chairman, on the same point, I
would simply say that generally speaking, I agree. Nevertheless, we
started a process and passed three omnibus bills to adopt changes
in the names of ridings based on the good faith of the members.
They proposed names on which people in the ridings have been
consulted. As for Ms. Tremblay's bill, there is, I believe, a
limited opposition, and that's why this hearing and this
presentation to the committee were required.
My question is very simple. Ms. Tremblay, you said that the
mayor of Mont-Joli... First of all, this municipality is part of La
Mitis Regional Municipality.
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: Yes.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: I understand that the mayor of Mont-Joli
co-signed a letter with the mayor of Rimouski after a
unanimous resolution from La Mitis Regional Municipality approving
this change was sent to you.
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: Before that, on April 1. There was a
resolution passed by the RCM on March 15, approving the name
change. Then, on April 1, there was the letter co-signed by the two
mayors and after that, on May 6, the RCM amended its resolution to
have the name “La Mitis” placed before “Rimouski-Neigette”...
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Okay.
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: ... to respect the alphabetical order.
It is like KRTB. It might be what inspired people in my riding to
ask for the name “Rimouski-Neigette”. My colleague for Rivière-du-Loup
used the names of the four regional county municipalities and
my colleague for Gaspé did the same. The Matapédia—Matane riding
has the name of two RCMs appearing on the map.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: So, Ms. Tremblay, to make it perfectly
clear for our colleagues, the Mitis municipality...
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: The RCM.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: The Mitis RCM that includes the Mont-Joli
municipality has, on two occasions, unanimously passed a
motion supporting the proposal we have before us.
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: Exactly.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Then, as it was passed unanimously, we
shall presume that Mont-Joli was also in agreement with the change
you are proposing.
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: Yes.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: I must then consider this proposal co-signed
by the mayor of Rimouski as reflecting the personal position
of the Mont-Joli mayor.
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: Yes.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Thank you.
The Chair: Mr. Kilger.
Mr. Bob Kilger: Following what was just said by my colleague
Stéphane Bergeron, I wish to ask Ms. Tremblay if she could table
the text of that correspondence. It might be useful.
Then, I would like to know the status of those three
municipalities. La Mitis is a regional county municipality;
Rimouski and Neigette are...
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: Rimouski-Neigette with an hyphen.
Mr. Bob Kilger: Is it a RCM?
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: Yes.
Mr. Bob Kilger: And La Mitis is another one?
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: Yes.
Mr. Bob Kilger: There are two RCMs in your riding, if I
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: Yes.
Mr. Bob Kilger: Very well.
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: They include 34 municipalities.
Mr. Bob Kilger: With your usual openness, could you tell me
what was your constituency reaction to that name change for your
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: I can tell you... About what change?
Mr. Bob Kilger: When you suggested “La Mitis and
Rimouski-Neigette”, where they...
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: They know that I shall have to table a
private bill. The municipality and its citizens were informed.
However, people are not aware of what occurred last Friday or what
is happening today unless the two mayors have been informed by the
government leader's office.
Mr. Bob Kilger: In a general way, how did people react?
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: They think that all this fuss has been
caused by two people who contacted their political friends to
initiate a big debate on an issue that is not all that important.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Yes, but how did people react to the
new name that has been proposed?
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: They seemed to agree as there were only
four or five negative comments.
Mr. Bob Kilger: I was going to ask the same questions,
Mr. Chairman. So I have to thank my colleague as I have no more
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: I'll make photocopies for you. I can
table this file. I'll have my assistant bring it to you shortly, if
it interests you. I can give you the whole lot. You'll see.
The Chair: That would be of assistance. Thank you
Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: I'd like to make a short comment. I
certainly know the population of Rimouski—Mitis well enough to
know that they would be very shocked to find out that such amounts
of time, energy and money are being devoted to a private bill of
this type and I am the first to denounce this. I'm sure that the
population would go along with me. Thank you.
The Chair: If we're going to change the name of
the riding, I'm sure we'll do it expeditiously and at
very low cost.
Colleagues, perhaps some of you could give some
thought on whether or not we would be of a disposition to move
ahead with this bill very quickly after we return
and/or on whether we might like to have some more input
after reading the copies of correspondence that
will be distributed.
Mr. Bob Kilger: I wonder if we could bring
the witnesses who were good enough to stand down for a
few minutes so that we can get on with that business.
We can perhaps pursue this discussion after their
testimony or exchanges.
The Chair: Certainly. I'm just about to leave that
file with those words.
We'll move on from that and go back to our first item
of agenda, and that is Mr. Marleau and Ms. Lajoie.
We're getting back to a discussion of the proposed
mechanism of applying votes in the House without
unanimous consent. There are also other potentially
related issues that members might like to suggest to have
a relationship to that voting mechanism proposal. So
I'll open the floor for discussion now.
I'll go to Mr. Hill first and then I'll go to Mr. Knutson.
Mr. Jay Hill: Initially, I would just like
to know whether we are going to limit our discussion at this
stage to motion nine, or are we going to discuss the
corresponding plan, if you will, to change the Standing
Orders in relation to time allocation?
The Chair: Yes. I understand, colleagues, you want time
allocation to be part of the discussion and package.
Mr. Jay Hill: I would defer to Mr. Knutson at this
time, and then I'll have something to say about the
The Chair: Mr. Knutson.
Mr. Gar Knutson (Elgin—Middlesex—London,
Lib.): The general proposal, if I can call it that, from the
opposition that we have a mini question period is
acceptable to the
government side. We think the 45 minutes is too long.
So we've put forward counter-wording, which I passed
out informally yesterday, and we delivered the French
version just now. The gist of it is we think 45
minutes is too long. We would prefer it at 15 minutes
so there's some flexibility on that. We think our
wording is tighter and a little better, but the
general concept we're agreeing to.
The Chair: Okay.
Back to Mr. Hill.
Mr. Jay Hill: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
If we're going to get into this, then I assume
this isn't in the form of a motion, Mr. Knutson, that—
Mr. Gar Knutson: It's an aid to discussion.
Mr. Jay Hill: Okay. That at least gives us something
formal in writing we can work from, propose
amendments to and make arguments either for or against.
I have a couple of concerns, Mr. Chairman.
One is the length of the time and the other one is the
wording. Mr. Knutson has indicated that he felt the
wording he's proposing is cleaning it up
or whatever. I'll explain why I'm concerned
First of all, on the length of time, I think it was
Mr. Blaikie who revealed, due to his long and I'm sure
tremendous and great history in this place, that he was
aware that in previous days there had been a two-hour
debate that took place when time allocation was brought
before the House. When my colleague submitted the
suggestion of 45 minutes he was really already
dramatically decreasing that debate in respect of the
fact that he at least envisioned a true
question period. He envisioned question and comment
along the lines of the ten-minute and five-minute question
and comments we have after an intervention during
debate in the House of Commons.
So in light of that, rather than a more formalized
debate, he thought 45 minutes would be a compromise
you will. Therefore, especially with
this situation we have in the House right now, with four
recognized opposition parties, I find this 15 minutes would
not provide sufficient time for an adequate discussion
of why the government and this particular
minister would feel it necessary to impose time
allocation on a piece of legislation.
I guess that's at least my initial response to the
15 minutes. We can discuss whether it should
be an hour or 45, 30, or 15 minutes, or in blocks of 15
minutes or five or ten. We can get into all sorts of
lengthy discussion about what would be the most
appropriate amount of time. Perhaps the witnesses
would have some opinion on that as well, although I
don't know that they would.
The second issue is in response to the actual question
period itself, whatever we decide the length
of time is going to be. I would submit that we
come up with the final wording of the standing order
change, and I would certainly favour having some
reference to Standing Order 43(1) in the actual
standing order we're going to be putting forward.
The reason for that is because of a concern that
whatever length of time we come up with for the
question period, it has at least the potential to be
abused by either side, Mr. Chairman. It would solely
fall to the chair to try to keep it even and keep it
rolling and keep as many people involved as possible.
A reference to Standing Order 43(1)—and I'm referring to the
Annotated Standing Orders
of the House of Commons—would bring into play the following.
I'll just quote from it:
The basic 40-minute rule remained unrevised until
November 1982, when the Special Committee on Standing
Orders and Procedure recommended in its Third Report
major changes to the time limits on debate:
first, that limits on speeches
be shortened in the majority of cases to
20 minutes in an effort to introduce greater spontaneity
and “cut and thrust” into the debate; second, that a
10-minute period be made available following each speech
for questions or comments to the Member who had spoken.
When I refer directly to the third report of this
Special Committee on Standing Orders and Procedure,
November 4, 1982, I find the following, Mr. Chair:
Your Committee envisages that exchanges which would
take place would be short and sharp. More than one
Member should be allowed to take advantage of the 10
minutes available, and the member whose speech is the
subject of a question or comment should be given the
time within the 10 minutes to reply to the points
raised. No specific rules should govern the length of the
interventions, this being left to the discretion of the
Chair. However, your Committee would not wish to see
one member monopolizing this 10-minute period in cases
where there are several members who wish to intervene.
Furthermore, the Chair should control the interventions
to promote a series of exchanges to enliven the debate
and add a constructive element lacking in a debate
simply consisting of a series of set speeches.
The Chair should give priority during the 10-minute period
to members representing parties other than that of the
member who has just spoken. Your Committee emphasizes
that it sees these 10-minute periods as being used for
questions and answers and critical exchanges.
Without going on at any greater length, Mr.
Chairman, that's the whole point of why I would like to
see a specific reference to Standing Order 43(1) put
into this, regardless of what time period we decide
upon, so that there's clear direction to the chair that
this is the format we would be using for this
questioning of the appropriate minister, and that we
wouldn't see a situation potentially develop whereby
one member of whichever party could get up and make
some long dissertation and utilize that period instead
of having it perhaps evenly spaced between the parties
and individuals who would be seeking some serious
clarification of why time allocation was viewed as
being necessary by the government and by the specific
The Chair: Mr. Blaikie.
Mr. Bill Blaikie (Winnipeg—Transcona, NDP): Mr.
Chairman, I think we have the beginnings of an
agreement here, and I think that is good.
I have a
number of concerns, first of all, with respect to the
time. As Mr. Hill has already indicated, I was
referring the other day to the two-hour debate that
used to follow on a motion of time allocation. So I
saw the 45 minutes being proposed by the Reform Party
as already very much in the spirit of compromise with
that two hours.
The other day I was arguing for a two-hour question
period of some kind, and I can see that it's not on.
But I would certainly urge the government to consider
some kind of compromise. It's been suggested that 30
minutes might be appropriate. My problem with the 30
minutes is if we institute it in such a way as to
suggest that this is going to come in ten-minute chunks,
it doesn't provide opportunity for all the opposition
parties who may be opposed to the time allocation to
have their opportunity to question the minister.
So if we're going to have a short period of time, say
30 minutes, then it seems to me we need to have some
description of it that doesn't allocate it in big
enough chunks that the smaller parties get left out.
And that's my only concern with the Alliance proposal;
I think the spirit of what is in that committee
report that you read is good. I was on that committee
in 1982. But to the extent that it's tied to the
question and answer period and has this
five-minute, ten-minute implication, that's my only concern.
I'm not sure how we deal with that, but it seems to
me we could word it appropriately so that it's clear
that these interventions are not ten-minute
interventions followed by five-minute answers or
whatever, but that they're short and sharp, to use the
language of the committee report at that time.
The Chair: Mr. Hill had a point of order of some
Mr. Jay Hill: Yes, I was hoping to clarify that.
My intent wasn't that it would be divided up ten
minutes—whatever we have—for each party, but just
that the very nature of what Mr. Blaikie is suggesting
A reference to Standing Order
43(1) would govern the fact that it be allocated to
members wishing to question, from whichever party, and
that the entire time would be divided up, hopefully,
into one- or two-minute segments so that even members
of the Liberal Party, if they chose, who might perhaps
question why time allocation was necessary, would be
allowed a time to stand and raise their question.
Just while I have the floor, Mr. Chairman, I'd like
The Chair: Mr. Hill, we all love you dearly—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Jay Hill: Well, I appreciate that.
The Chair: I just wanted to say that.
It wasn't a point of order and you really don't have
the floor for discussion or debate; however, go ahead.
Mr. Jay Hill: Only because I feel so loved, Mr.
Chair, I'll continue.
My understanding is that the clerk does have a revised
submission, which I was referring to and which does
make a reference to Standing Order 43(1). I believe
they have it in both languages. I wonder if that could
be distributed as well as the submission from Mr.
Knutson, so that at least everybody would have the same
information and would be able to compare the two—if
The Chair: Colleagues, prior to the meeting, the
clerk and research had attempted to generate some
things along the lines of what we were speaking of, so
there is some printed material here along the lines of
what Mr. Hill has mentioned. I was reluctant to
distribute it until we had achieved a critical mass of
consensus here on anything, but if it's the will of the
committee to distribute the drafts, that's acceptable
to the chair. They're marked “confidential” because
it was the anticipation that we would be in camera by
the time we got to discussing them.
If you wish to go in camera now, we can. It might
simplify the discussion. Is there any disposition on
Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.):
I'd like to speak on the record, as others have done,
The Chair: Okay. We're still on the record.
After Mr. Blaikie, I have Mr. Bergeron and then Ms.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Mr. Chairman, at the outset I want to
say for the record that in a democracy, closure is always, always
inappropriate. The government uses the argument that closure
becomes necessary as a tool to thwart the stalling tactics of the
opposition. They claim that closure somehow counterbalances the
power of the opposition.
First of all, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to note that this
argument is fallacious on at least two scores: on one hand we know
full well that in the British parliamentary system, the government
has far greater powers to control the parliamentary agenda than the
opposition; moreover, experience has shown that the government does
not only make use of closure to obstruct the stalling tactics of
the opposition since we have seen recent examples of how the
government makes use of it when there are no opposition parties
resorting to dilatory measures. For political reasons the
government wanted to accelerate the passage of a bill and in order
to do so resorted to closure, which in no way counterbalances any
tactics or power of the opposition.
Mr. Chairman, I want to make it very clear that the imposition
of closure in a democracy is something I consider to be unfortunate
That being said, in an ideal world the parliamentary system
would not allow for closure. We do not live in an ideal world and
we certainly do not have an ideal government because it resorts to
closure time after time. Thus we can assume that this government
will be imposing closure in the future and therefore it is
important for the opposition, in view of the government's desire to
restrict its powers through motion 9, to attempt to limit this
In this respect, I am fully in agreement with us being able to
question the minister. I also think that 15 minutes would not be
enough. I agree with Mr. Blaikie when he says that we must
absolutely avoid these set time slots of 10 minutes for comments
and five minutes for answers. We should operate with short and
precise interventions during this half hour or 45 minutes. In my
view, 15 minutes would not be enough.
I also want to say that this question period should by no
means be part of the period for government affairs. I also want to
add, and I beg my government colleagues to listen and understand my
argument, that the government must accept that when closure is
imposed, the normal hours of the House should be extended.
Let me explain. There were two quite shocking cases when
closure was imposed in third reading on fundamental bills:
Bill C-2, the Electoral Act, and Bill C-20 on the actual membership
of the provinces in this Federation. Closure was imposed on third
reading, in the case of Bill C-2—if you can imagine, the Electoral
Act of Canada!—it prevented three out of the five political
parties from saying a single word in the House on the Electoral Act
in third reading. That is completely unacceptable. It is mind-boggling.
How is it possible in a democracy to prevent the majority
of the political parties present in a Parliament from expressing
their views on an electoral Act?
Mr. Chairman, if closure is to be used, the government must
agree to extending the hours of the House so that the debate can at
least be concluded with all political parties having a chance to
express their views, something that was not possible in the case of
C-20 and C-2.
Mr. Chairman, I beseech my government colleagues. I implore
them to accept an extension in the sitting hours of the House when
closure is imposed so that we can have a reasonable debate and have
at least some chance to speak.
It is certainly a very successful gag when you don't have a
chance of putting in a single word. It is described as a debate on
third reading when only two members of Parliament take the floor,
a government member and a member of the Official Opposition, on the
Electoral Act of Canada. I don't call that a debate on third
reading but rather two monologues on third reading. That's it, it's
over. That's how the Canada Electoral Act was passed on third
The hours of debate must be extended, the hours for government
orders, whenever closure occurs.
The Chair: Ms. Catterall.
Ms. Marlene Catterall: I hope this doesn't become
a habit, Mr. Chair, but I think this is the second
meeting in a row in which I've agreed that Mr. Hill has
put forward a very useful suggestion.
I think it is important. If the purpose of changing
the standing order with respect to the imposition of
time allocation is to allow questioning of the
minister, I think it is very important to make it clear
that it's a questioning; it's not a time for anyone to
get up and give speeches, except with respect to the
normal questions and comments and the way we normally
handle that. It's very important that the Speaker
understand that the intention
here is an exchange.
I did have one question as to whether we might want to
consider.... When we're asking a minister to justify
time allocation, often the reason isn't only the
particular bill but the government's schedule of
government business. We've all agreed in the past that
the opposition has an important role, but the
government is also elected to govern and has to be able
to get its business done eventually. It seems to me
that often the reason for time allocation has to do
with the total package.
I wonder, therefore, if perhaps the amendment
shouldn't refer to the minister or to the minister who
is the House leader of the governing party, because
sometimes in fact it is the total load of government
business that's the reason for the time allocation.
I've mentioned this briefly to Mr. Knutson. He
suggested that we might want to discuss that as an
option, rather than it being only the minister
responsible for the particular bill.
The other thing I want to say is that, like Stéphane,
I agree that the imposition of time allocation, and of
closure even more so, is always regrettable and always
unfortunate, but I don't always agree that it's
inappropriate, because when the government has a clear
indication that the opposition—one party or
more—intends to prevent it from doing its job of
governing the country, then I think its
democratic responsibility is to
make sure it can carry out its legislative agenda.
As I look over bills for which time allocation has
been used, it seems to me that it has been used by and
large appropriately, to forestall an attempt to simply
obstruct by one or the other opposition party. I
wouldn't accuse a particular opposition party of doing
that, and I'm not trying to do that, Mr. Chair. I just
think that people need to understand as well why the
government uses time allocation from time to time, and
I don't have a problem with the government having to
stand up and justify that, frankly.
I support the recommendation that's made by Mr. Hill.
I think we are talking, in the amendment Mr.
Knutson tabled, about extending the time of the House
to allow for this to happen without cutting into debate
on the issue, and I'm not sure if that's not adequate.
Mr. Bill Blaikie: This is in the draft that
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: In the...?
Ms. Marlene Catterall: It's in the draft,
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Where?
Ms. Marlene Catterall: I'm not sure—I'm getting
so many drafts in front of me. It said “provided that
the time of sitting of the House”.
Mr. Jay Hill: Ours is right at the end. In our
submission, which is on this page that was just
distributed, in the last sentence on the second
suggestion, “That Standing Order 78(3) be amended as
follows...”, the last sentence in English—I don't
know what it says in French—says “any proceedings
interrupted pursuant to this section of the Standing
Orders shall be....” Oh, no, that's not what we
were looking for.
Ms. Marlene Catterall: In the
proposal of Mr. Knutson it says
“shall put the question...forthwith, provided that the time
taken for questions and answers”—i.e., to the
minister—“shall be added to the time provided for the
consideration of Government Orders that day.”
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: May I ask a question, Mr. Chairman?
The Chair: Yes, Mr. Bergeron.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: It is just a short question. Can you
tell me, Mr. Hill, whether the proposal we have before us states
that the hours for government orders will be extended, in the case
of closure, to allow for a reasonable amount of time for debate? I
gave the example of Bill C-2 where only two political parties out
of five were able to express their views.
I would like us to be able to bring an amendment, with the
collaboration of government members, to this proposal to allow for
an extension of hours, should the situation arise. It will not take
anything away from what we have. At the end of the day, you will
have your bill through the appropriate stage but at least it will
have been possible to debate. I would like us to be able to make an
amendment to this proposal.
The Chair: That was introduced to all of us by Mr.
Bergeron as a very short question to Mr. Hill.
Mr. Jay Hill: And the very short answer is no. In
reading this, as Ms. Catterall just did, I see that the
proposal would only extend the hours to make up for the
time that was lost for the questioning of the minister.
It wouldn't extend the hours of the day beyond that, so
the answer is no.
The Chair: Mr. Kilger.
Mr. Bob Kilger: In the spirit of the discussion, I
think it might be worth our consideration of the
following. And this is without any prior consultation
with anyone else, so please understand that I'm
thinking out loud here, but—
Mr. Jay Hill: That's okay; your leader is doing
it in the Middle East too.
Mr. Bob Kilger: Well, you might have your
interpretation of that—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Bob Kilger: —but I'm sure it's probably
not quite accurate. Anyway, it makes for political
Notwithstanding the intervention from my colleague
from the official opposition, whose party name escapes
me at the moment....
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Bob Kilger: But more seriously, having
worked for five years on the other side of the House—I
might add I never want to go back, but some day I'm
sure it will happen, although maybe not for quite a while yet—I
think there's a great deal of merit in considering that
at the very least, every official party should have the
right to have one spokesperson in the House speak to
whatever matter to which time allocation is being
I'd like to hear comments from my own colleagues on
The Chair: Just to clarify that, Mr. Kilger,
you're suggesting that in the debate that would follow the
adoption of a time allocation motion, every recognized
party in the House should have at least one opportunity
to make an intervention on the matter before the
House—not the time allocation, but the matter before
I've had indications from Mr. Blaikie and Mr. Harvey.
I'm not too sure which one got to me first. I'm sorry.
Mr. Bill Blaikie: Well, you mentioned me first.
The Chair: We'll go in alphabetical order.
Mr. Bill Blaikie: I'm just trying to deal with the
matter Mr. Bergeron raised. I don't recall in detail
what happened on the occasion of Bill C-2. Are you
suggesting that not all parties got to speak on
the bill, or they didn't get to speak after time
allocation had been moved?
It depends on what you're
getting at here.
If you're saying that after time allocation is moved
we want to guarantee that all parties have an
opportunity to speak, then we would make one change to
the standing order. But if we are suggesting time
allocation shouldn't be moved until all parties have
had a chance to speak—I can't remember what happened in
Bill C-2—that would require a different kind of
amendment to the standing order.
Perhaps I could just ask for clarification. Without a
long explanation, what happened on Bill C-2? Are you
complaining about the fact that not all parties got to
speak after time allocation, or that some parties
didn't get to speak at all on third reading, either
before or after time allocation?
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Mr. Chairman, in the case of Bill C-2,
there was double closure: closure at the report stage and closure
on third reading when the bill was passed.
Once the report stage was over on Thursday, I believe, third
reading took place on Friday. On the same Friday, during routine
proceedings, the Reform Party moved the adoption of a report,
resulting in a lot of time being wasted, something that I consider
to be perfectly legitimate, but a lot of time was wasted because of
the discussion on the motion to adopt the report.
As a result, only Mr. Boudria and Mr. White from the Reform
Party were able to speak on Bill C-2 during third reading. No
speaker from the Bloc Québécois, the New Democratic Party, or the
Conservative Party were able to speak on the third reading of the
bill on the Canada Elections Act.
The Chair: Okay.
Mr. Bill Blaikie: It seems to me—
Mr. André Harvey (Chicoutimi, PC): Mr. Chairman, we could of
course spend a long time discussing the justification for the use
of closure during the debate on the last bill. We lived through
I think that for the time being, we are working fairly
constructively to attenuate the negative effects of closure. In my
view, 15 minutes is quite insufficient, particularly when all the
parties must be given a chance to express their views on the
We must realize that this question period cannot be compared
to the usual 45-minute question period. A period devoted to
questioning the minister is undertaken in quite a different spirit.
Different points of view will be expressed by the opposition
parties on that matter. Fifteen minutes is totally inadequate for
a substantive debate when the discussion of such matters has
already been obstructed by closure.
I don't think we should be afraid of allowing sufficient time.
It will give us a chance to speak. Even certain members of the
government will have an opportunity to speak.
Now, how are we going to manage the time for each party?
Should we impose a maximum on each of the parties? Should we decide
that each of the parties will be given 10 minutes to present their
case or should we follow our normal habit of each taking turns? I
do not have a definite opinion on this but I don't think we should
be afraid of devoting time to questioning the government on the
reasons for closure. At the same time, we could also speak on the
substance of the bill.
It would be something quite different from the usual
stereotyped pattern of the question period in the House of Commons.
We know the style adopted in question period, very short questions
followed by short answers. This would be something quite different.
We would have to discuss the substance of the bill and express our
views on that. Thank you.
The Chair: Colleagues, if I could just make an
intervention, I see the concept of this 15-minute or
45-minute question period drifting or mutating a little
here. I originally personally conceived of it as
being equivalent to question period, where a member would
ask the minister a question and get an answer. Now
some of you see the question period proposed as a
question and comment period.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: From the minister.
The Chair: Mr. Harvey, in his discussion of it, is
now looking upon this period more as a debate of the
time allocation motion.
I never personally viewed it as a debate of the time
allocation motion. The Standing Orders now say there
is no debate of the time allocation motion. I thought
there was a sense that we wanted an opportunity—and
I'm thinking of this as a government member now—where
the minister would be invited to justify the moving of
the time allocation motion.
The only way they would get a chance to do that would
be if they were asked a couple of really good
questions. They could stand up and give a one-minute
or two-minute explanation, but it would be very useful
to have some good questions to clarify and vet the
For a question and answer period, I thought 15 minutes
was enough. There's no big difference between 15
minutes and 20 minutes, or 25 minutes and 30 minutes,
but if you're getting into 45 minutes and we're going
to suggest to colleagues that we will have to extend
the day, then we'll be getting into substantially more
I wanted to say that, just in a personal way, to bring
us back to the way I conceived of the question period.
We will have to turn our minds to that. Will it be
questions and comments? We will certainly have to give
some direction to the Speaker as to what this will be.
We just can't throw it out there and say “Here's a
chunk of time to deal with the time allocation issue”.
I see the minister jumping up and down several times,
responding to questions. I don't see the need for a
five-minute preamble to the question. If we don't give
better direction to this, that's what we're going to
get, in my view.
Going back to the list, we have Mr. Hill and Mr.
Mr. Jay Hill: I want to make a couple of points
and perhaps pose a question to the witnesses, who up to
this point haven't said anything.
First is in reference to Mrs. Catterall's suggestion
that either the minister responsible for the particular
bill that will be time-allocated or the government
House leader be allowed to field the questions. I can
see the rationale she put forward having some validity,
but my concern is we could find ourselves in a
situation where whenever time allocation was used, the
government House leader would get up and say it's
necessary, and that's all there is to it.
What I think all of us were hoping
was that there'd be a more substantive exchange than
might come forth from that type of exchange with the
government House leader.
I would strongly recommend, then, that the proposal
we've put forward still stand, that the minister of the
crown in whose name the bill appears on the Order Paper
is the one who fields the questions.
Second, I think the whole idea of having an exchange a
bit different from question period is that all of us
recognize that through very recent negotiations we've
come up with a way to arguably enhance question period
insofar as the opposition has 35 seconds to pose their
questions and the minister has 35 seconds to answer.
In an exchange about time allocation and the need for
time allocation, in fairness to the minister, I don't
think that's appropriate. I would certainly be seeking
an answer that would probably take more than 35 seconds
to do it justice as to why he or she is taking this
very arbitrary form of forcing legislation through the
In light of Mrs. Catterall's comments about the
government House leader, I envision that, if the time
period was sufficient enough, the House leader might
himself rise and during this 45-minute period put
forward his explanation, be recognized by the chair and
be allowed to do that, to say, you know, it's not just
this particular bill but also the fact that we have our
agenda. They could go into it at some length—perhaps
not be allowed to use up ten minutes but be allowed to
put forward some explanation that might help all
members in the House understand why the government is
By way of explanation, that's how my thinking
has evolved on the issue, but I would ask our
witnesses, Mr. Chair, through you, to perhaps offer
their thinking on how this might work, in particular
our proposal about utilizing or having actually written
in a reference to Standing Order 43(1).
Would that constrain us too much, along the lines of
Mr. Blaikie's concern about ten-minute intervals, if you
will, or more along the lines of just keeping it short
and to the point and giving that direction to the chair
to ensure that one person doesn't utilize a big block
The Chair: Mr. Marleau.
Mr. Robert Marleau (Clerk of the House of Commons):
Specific to that question, the way it's drafted, I
would interpret it—and I think the chair also would
read it this way—in the context that you are deeming
the minister to have spoken a 20-minute speech.
It therefore kicks in the question and comment period.
In this case, it's 45 minutes instead of 10. The
Speaker would try to manage it globally rather than in
chunks, by party. Within the 10 minutes, as it exists
now, if there are several members rising, sometimes on
both sides, you will hear the Speaker say “Okay, I have
six or seven members rising here, so I'll try to limit
it to one minute apiece so that everybody gets on”.
The one submitted by the Alliance, or the hybrid one
from last week, describes what I think is a global
debate, to a maximum of 45 minutes.
Mr. Jay Hill: Okay.
The Chair: I have Mr. Kilger, Mr. Blaikie, and Ms.
Parrish. Mr. Kilger.
Mr. Bob Kilger: I'm a little confused as to
whether we want to use this period of time to debate
process in terms of why the government is using time
allocation or whether the questions are going to be, in
fact, on the substance of the bill. If we want to
leave the option for both, if the opposition wants
both, then I think it gives a great deal more credence
to the intervention by my colleague, Mrs. Catterall.
That's fine. I understand that. But I think our
response should be, and would have to be, that we'd
have to have the flexibility to answer from both
perspectives also, not to expose....
I mean, ministers, in fairness, don't always have the
same knowledge and up-to-date information on this. The
House leader does have discussions in terms of process,
after all, with other House leaders and whips that
sometimes do, when they break down, lead to time
allocation, as we well know.
So I would submit that the government would want to
also have the same flexibility in terms of answering.
If the flexibility is going to be offered to those
questioning, if it's on process, the government would
be able to have the House leader speak to those. If
it's on substance, then obviously the minister would
have to be there to answer any of those questions.
I understand the view, and I accept that it should not
be acceptable for the opposition to have only the House
leader answer questions on both process and substance.
But if we're going to have the flexibility on one side
of the House, I think we should also respectfully have
it on the other side.
Mr. Bill Blaikie: As long as you have the minister
there. You wouldn't want to have the House leader all
Mr. Bob Kilger: I have one last comment. I
understand that 15 minutes might appear to be
restrictive, or to have certain limitations. I don't
know what the magic number is, or whether in fact it's
20 minutes. I don't know. I wait for my colleagues
to.... But there seems to be a sense that we're going
in the right direction here, that it's a matter of
finally arriving at a number that is manageable for
both sides of the House.
The Chair: Mr. Blaikie, Ms. Parrish, and Mr. Harvey.
Mr. Bill Blaikie: I thought I would try my hand,
Mr. Chairman, at trying to describe what I think there
might be a consensus around: that we have something
longer than 15 minutes, such as 30 minutes; that we
understand that both the government House leader and
the minister would be present for this period of
questions; and that questions could be directed to
either of them, or either of them could respond to
The idea would be very clear in the drafting that the
minister is to be there, available to answer questions
about the bill, or for that matter about the urgency
of the bill itself as opposed to the urgency of time
allocation in the context of the government's whole
Mr. Bergeron's concern, seconded by Mr. Kilger, was
that there be something in the Standing Orders that
would say that all parties would have to have an
opportunity to speak after time allocation had been
introduced, at a particular stage. Yes, at least all
parties, not just one from each and then that's it,
In terms of the timing, I think maybe we could have
some kind of general rule.
What is the late show now, three?
The Chair: Two and four.
Mr. Bill Blaikie: We could make it something like
that, something to give some guidance rather than make
it be a stopwatch-type thing. It would just give some
guidance to the Speaker. That would give everybody a
chance, if everybody wants in. Not everybody's always
going to want in on this, I would presume.
So that would give some guidance to the Speaker. But
maybe that's a little long. You could look at one
and three, or whatever. We could work on this.
I don't know whether one and three would be
the kind of package we could work on.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Short and sharp.
Ms. Marlene Catterall: For questions and comments
it's pretty good.
Mr. Bill Blaikie: That's what I mean. But
on the questions and comments sometimes people speak
for a long time.
Ms. Marlene Catterall: And then the Speaker
Mr. Bill Blaikie: Sometimes. But I think we'd
have to be very firm or very articulate in our
instructions to the Speaker that we don't want people
giving long speeches. They have to be able to give
their point of view, but....
The Chair: Okay. We appear to be looking for a
formula that would give better direction to the
Speaker, possibly, although we're reluctant to make
anything too hard and fast. So we're still looking for
Mr. Bill Blaikie: Yes.
The Chair: I'll go to Ms. Parrish, and then Mr.
Harvey and Ms. Catterall.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish (Mississauga Centre, Lib.):
Mr. Blaikie is moving in the right direction. I am
actually very pleased with the way this is going. We
seem to be coming up with something that's quite
I think leaving it longer than 30 minutes is undue
stress. You have to remember, you're going to have
only one minister responding. When you have question
period, things flash through many ministers. This time
you have one minister on the line, so I think 30
minutes is probably enough.
The other thing is that I don't think all the
opposition members are going to invent a new concern. I
think some of the concerns in the opposition will be
shared and some of the questions will be similar. I
also like the idea of picking some format that seems to
be working now, so you don't develop a whole new
pattern. It could be the questions and comments, the
timing, or the late-show timing—something that seems
to be working already, that's been tested, rather than
some new invention on numbers. I think if we come out
of here with this ironed out, we'll have done a
remarkably good thing.
Unlike Mr. Kilger, I haven't been in opposition. I'm
absolutely convinced I would have had a ball there.
Ms. Marlene Catterall: You would have loved it.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: I would have loved it. But it
may happen to us sometime in the future, so we should
all be working here as parliamentarians for a system
that's fair to everyone. As I say, I'm very pleased
that it's becoming non-partisan and we seem to working
together well. I'm sure this does produce good
legislation. The fact that it has a death clause at
the end of this term forces us all to make sure it
works, because then it will come in for the next term
as well. I'm really pleased—not that anybody cares if
Mr. Hill doesn't care when I'm vexed, so he doesn't
care when I'm pleased.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Jay Hill: I care when you're pleased.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: Okay.
The Chair: The insertion of a sunset clause on
this, so it would be seen as an interim or trial
period, is something that had not actually come up
previously. We haven't had much discussion of that, but
it's obviously on the table.
Mr. Harvey, then Ms. Catterall, and Mr. Hill.
Mr. André Harvey: Mr. Chairman, I realize that we will not be
able to come up with a final draft this morning on the way the
Speaker is to manage this period and the amount of time to be given
to each party. I think it is an exceptional situation where we
would be inclined to give a bit more time. It does not happen often
and I think that we should consider this period in a constructive
way since it allows for a direct exchange for a longer period of
time between a minister and members of the House of Commons.
Ms. Marlene Catterall: Yes.
Mr. André Harvey: I would recommend the procedure followed in
the National Assembly. I believe it is every Friday, isn't,
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Yes, it is the Friday inquiry.
Mr. André Harvey: I wonder whether this practice resulting
from the use of an exceptional measure such as closure will not
lead us one day to generalizing this practice and applying it to
the study of all bills on Friday. I am convinced that this period
would be very different from the oral Question Period where the
debate is much livelier. Here the debate would be more on matters
of substance. That is why I suggest you should not be too finicky
about time, Mr. Chairman, and I would propose from 45 minutes to an
hour. Mr. Chairman, it is obvious that if we agreed on having this
last 15 minutes, as chairman of the committee, your instinct would
be to protect the government and you would be inclined to support
us. But I don't think that this is how we should see this inquiry.
It should be seen as a constructive exchange between the opposition
and the minister presenting the bill. I'd even go so far as to say
that one day all bills will receive an hour or two of direct
exchange in the House of Commons between MPs and the minister
sponsoring the bill. So I repeat that 15 minutes would be quite
unacceptable and that any period of less than 45 minutes would not
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Forty-five minutes at the most.
The Chair: Okay. Mr. Harvey, you're aware the
debate on the bill does continue, it just isn't at the
question format yet.
Ms. Catterall, Mr. Hill, and Mr. Blaikie.
Ms. Marlene Catterall: I think we're getting
close to a conclusion here, and I hope we bear in
mind that this is an interim thing. I think we
should be very clear about that, along with applying
votes. It's an interim thing. The committee will be
undertaking its full review of the Standing Orders.
It's a good opportunity, and that's why I'd like to
leave it a little flexible.
I like the model of questions and comments. To me
that is the best part of the day in the House to
participate in, because there is a back and forth
exchange. If we can leave it as flexible as that, if
we have a problem with how the Speaker's implementing
it, then we can deal with it again. But let's leave it
flexible for now.
I raised the issue, and Mr. Hill responded, and I did
suggest that we might change the wording of the motion
that's before us from the government—or whichever one
we want to start with, Mr. Chair—to “shall permit
Members to question the Minister or the leader of the
government in the House of Commons”. Then it leaves
it to the discretion of the person asking the question
who they want to answer. I guess it also leaves the
minister responsible for the bill to say “Look, that's
not really the question. The question to be asked is
really more a House leader's question, and it would
refer to him.” But it still leaves it in the hands of
the person asking the question.
The Chair: Okay.
Mr. Hill, then Mr. Blaikie.
Mr. Jay Hill: The suggestion is that the questions
would be directed to the minister responsible for the
bill or the leader of the government in the House. I
guess I could go along with that as long as the
discretion was left in the hands of the member, or if
that were the understanding. I don't think you could
write it in, but if the understanding were that—
Ms. Marlene Catterall: A member may ask a question
Mr. Jay Hill: Yes. And I guess it would work as
long as we were under the guideline, under Standing
Order 43(1), which was what I was arguing to have
inserted there, because then it would be very clear
that we're working on the same basis as questions and
comments following a speech, which is the way we wanted
it worded, rather than question period. We all know
that in question period any member of the government
can get up and answer, whether it's a parliamentary
secretary or whoever. I think we would want it
nailed down so that....
I think that could work, as long as it was
under that understanding that it was either/or and that
it was up to the member putting the question, rather
than the government, to decide who they wanted to
I have a few other comments. I disagree with Ms.
Parrish—not surprisingly, I guess—that anything
longer than 30 minutes would put a minister under too
much stress. I think we've seen in this session of
Parliament—some might say unfortunately—the minister
for HRD under intense questioning throughout the 45
minutes, day after day. What we're talking about here
is one period of questioning, potentially, where all
the questions would be directed at one minister for a
45-minute period for—
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Two ministers.
Mr. Jay Hill: Yes, now we're debating having it go
to two ministers. And then that's it. It's not as if
we'd come back the next day and do it, and the days
after, in the way poor Ms. Stewart was subjected to.
So I think a minister could withstand stress of more
than 30 minutes—with all due respect—if that was the
decision the committee reached.
I think that rather than.... My concern following Mr.
Blaikie's suggestion of looking at potentially building
it upon the late show and having it regimented—similar
to Mrs. Catterall's—is that perhaps, especially
considering this is—
Mr. Bill Blaikie: I'm more with the question and
comment thing. I thought that was—
Mr. Jay Hill: Okay, because my concern is that if
we make it too regimented—especially in light of the
fact that we are, at this point at least, building this
thing as temporary, to see how it works out—we
potentially would restrict it too much. I would rather
see something like I was referring to and that you were
involved in, Mr. Blaikie—a report that would be the
guideline—rather than actually having to change a
whole bunch of standing orders to try to make it
airtight, if you will.
The last comment—and I'd ask the witness to refer to
it—would be for further clarification if.... And
again, I apologize for not speaking or understanding
French, so I can't propose the same change to the
French text of my proposal, but on the back
page, at line 11, where we're saying “at
the expiry of time provided for such questions”,
we could insert
“brief questions” in there just as further
clarification and guidance to the Speaker that the
questions and comments are to be brief and kept brief,
if he thinks that might be appropriate.
Mr. Robert Marleau: Well, it certainly would be
more direction to the Speaker, particularly in the
context of many members rising to ask questions. When
there are only two members on the floor, Speakers have
been known to look at the word “brief” with, I
suppose, a different eye. But certainly it would be
more clarification for the chair.
Mr. Jay Hill: Okay.
Finally, I don't know at what point we're due to
break, Mr. Chairman, but I wonder if it would be
appropriate to suggest that our clerk, in light of the
conversation—and of course he's been privy to it all,
he's been here all throughout this discussion—could go
away from this meeting and come back with some
suggestions that basically encapsulate the consensus
we've been working on, perhaps with the sole exception
of the time period, because I'm not quite as prepared
as Mr. Blaikie seems to be to capitulate to the 30
I still think that 45—
Ms. Marlene Catterall: We're still at 15. What
do you mean, capitulate to the 30 minutes?
Mr. Jay Hill: That's the last of my thoughts.
The Chair: All right. We're all thinking out
Mr. Blaikie and then Ms. Parrish.
Mr. Bill Blaikie: First of all, I want to set
the record straight on who's capitulating here. I
was the guy who said two hours when the Reform guy came
up with 45 minutes. So these
guys gave up on an hour and
fifteen minutes before we even started to talk.
The Chair: Okay, your point is made.
Mr. Bill Blaikie: Anyway, in terms of the time,
I think the suggestion
is good that somebody should go away. We should all go
away. In fact, we all are going to go away and try to
draft something that reflects what we've come up with
here, and then of course we can decide, where it has
numbers, whether it should say 15, 30, or 45 minutes or
two hours. If we weren't
worried about stressing out ministers, but we were just
worried about time, I wonder whether we couldn't look at a
shorter bell for time allocation.
There's 30 minutes now...go to a 15-minute
bell, get another 15 minutes there. If time is the
problem, there are ways around this.
Also, just with
respect to the report you referred to, one of the
ways to do it is to make a report that then becomes part of
this. On the basis of my own
experience, I would say that we have to have some kind of compulsory
reading of the report by the chair. Mr.
Marleau will vouch for me when I say
that since that report was reported I've had to get up
many times when the
chair recognizes someone from the same party as the person who just
spoke and when someone from a different party from the person
who just spoke is on his feet.
I don't know how many times I've risen on a point of
order to say to the chair—
Ms. Marlene Catterall: I know which chair.
Mr. Bill Blaikie: —“You're not following the
recommendations of the report that said you
should recognize somebody of the opposite party”. And a
couple of times I've been told that it's not in the
The Chair: By the chair you were told this?
Mr. Bill Blaikie: Yes. So it's not in the
Standing Orders, but it's in the report adopted
by the House of Commons.
I would just say that when we do
this we need to be clear. We need to recommend
some compulsory training or something for the chairs so
The Chair: Perhaps we could invite the chairs to
this committee, just in case they thought the only rule
book was the Standing Orders. We all know differently.
In any event, I don't want to be disrespectful to the
chairs. They're doing a wonderful job for us 24 hours
Mr. Bill Blaikie: I don't mean just in this
Parliament. I mean even back in Tory years.
The Chair: Colleagues, we're getting close to the
end of this particular meeting period. We're actually
quite close to a general consensus on the
change. There are some details to be
worked out. I don't think it would be helpful to go
around the table and simply identify the hard edges; we
could probably do that after the meeting informally.
Keep in mind that this particular rule change would be
accompanying the other proposed rule change in relation
to the application of votes. We haven't had much
discussion on that today. Mr. Kilger had—
Mr. Bob Kilger: What was the last subject
you just mentioned?
Mr. Bill Blaikie: I think the implication was that
we can agree on this. Motion nine is—
The Chair: Yes. We're looking at least at
two separate rule changes running in tandem
here. So it's been suggested that we attempt to
generate a wording—we can ask our researcher and our
clerk to collaborate on this—and some proposals
in accordance with our discussions. It would be very
useful if either the House leaders or the whips of the
parties had some discussion in some fashion among
themselves between now and when we come back.
The chair will try to facilitate that.
Mr. Gar Knutson: There's one point of order.
The Chair: There are a few points of order still
to go. The speaking list included Ms. Parrish and Mr.
Knutson. In fairness to them, perhaps they want to
briefly get to their points.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: I just want to clarify
something. I'd like to disagree without being
disagreeable. I was not defending the ministers. The
longer they're on their feet, I think the better they
can get; their train of thought builds. I think the
point I was trying to make is that there are just so
many questions you can hammer one minister with. I
wasn't trying to protect their delicate souls.
The Chair: And Mr. Knutson.
Mr. Gar Knutson: On this report, I'm not sure if it's
being drafted by Mr. Marleau, but perhaps we could get that
the Monday before the Tuesday meeting so it's not....
The Chair: I'd love to have it as an Easter present.
Mr. Jay Hill: I have a point of order.
The Chair: There are still a couple of things to
Mr. Jay Hill: My suggestion earlier, and I don't
know whether I have the support of other committee
members on this, would be to involve Mr. Marleau in the
drafting of this. With all due respect, all his
experience might come in handy. In light of your
comments, Mr. Chair, this confidential
document that was circulated did have both proposed
changes on it. Whatever the next proposal
is, perhaps it would come out
with similar, with both...so that we know what we're
agreeing or not agreeing to.
Mr. Bill Blaikie: The whole package.
Mr. Jay Hill: Yes, it's the package that includes the
one about buying votes and the changes we've been
The Chair: Yes. Certainly the chair would never
consider our going public without having run the
matter by the Clerk of the House. We would never want
to do that, I'm sure.
Mr. Jay Hill: Perfect.
The Chair: So that's fine.
Mr. Knutson, did you...?
Mr. Gar Knutson: No.
The Chair: You're okay.
And Mr. Blaikie was....
Mr. Bill Blaikie: I'm done.
The Chair: The only other item goes
back to Ms. Tremblay's
bill. Did we decide what we wanted to do? Should we
be looking for some avenue of inviting input from the
parties that originally wrote, without their appearing, or
should we invite a witness?
Mr. André Harvey: I don't think it is necessary, Mr. Chairman.
It's a matter of trust.
The Chair: Do you want to leave this in
the hands of the chair? I'll consult with the parties.
Mr. Bill Blaikie: Just let her do it.
Mr. Jay Hill: I would move that it be reported back
to the House unamended.
The Chair: Mr. Kilger.
Mr. Bob Kilger: Respectfully to my colleagues,
there has been of course some communication from other
elected officials, as already stated by Suzanne. I'm
just wondering if on the first Tuesday we're back
we could consider extending the
invitation to those two elected officials who
they accept or not.... If they don't accept, then obviously
they think the matter is closed.
I would submit
respectfully through Mr. Bergeron to Ms. Tremblay
that she might have someone she could recommend who
might be able to present, I suppose, the other side of
that, if that's helpful. I don't see our needing more
than one meeting, but certainly we should give
the opportunity to....
Mr. Bill Blaikie: Do we not want to deal with the
The Chair: I did want to get some direction
from colleagues on Ms. Tremblay's riding name change
bill. I think if you just leave it with the chair
we'll find a solution that will suit everybody.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Aside from the fact that Mr. Hill has already officially moved
the adoption of the bill without amendments, I'd simply like to
suggest an intermediate formula in light of the comments made by
Ms. Tremblay, relating to costs among others.
We could invite people who want to communicate to do so in
writing during the Easter recess. We could then meet on the
following Tuesday, with those documents in hand, and make a
decision based on the input of those people, whether they dissent
or agree with the bill as drafted. We could come up with a decision
on that Tuesday.
The Chair: Okay, there's a suggestion.
Mr. Bob Kilger: Mr. Chairman, when we read those views, we
might come to the conclusion that we should invite those people as
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: We will cross that bridge when we come
Mr. Bob Kilger: If we want to set up Tuesday, May 2, as the
final date to close that matter, we could invite them to appear on
that same day. We could also make our decision at the end of that
meeting. I think there's a chance that we may want to question them
after reading their views on the matter. I just wanted to make sure
that we can meet the Chief Electoral Officer's deadlines. We would
then be in a position to close this file on Tuesday, May 2.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: With all due respect to Mr. Kilger, Mr.
Chairman, I would simply say that we may end up deciding that we
need to have another meeting, but that we may also come to the
conclusion that such a meeting would not be necessary. In the
latter case, we would not be spending taxpayers' money to call
those witnesses to testify before our committee if we are
satisfied, after reading the views of those who are in favour of
the bill and those who oppose it, that there is no need to bring in
any other witnesses. We could close that file on the week after we
return. On the Tuesday, based on the statements that we will have
read, we will make a decision and if we decide that we need to hear
more witnesses, we will hear them on the Thursday and complete our
study on that same week.
The Chair: Mr. Harvey.
Mr. André Harvey: Mr. Chairman, I support Stéphane's
suggestion. When you want to determine the merits of an objection,
you ask the dissenting person to submit his or her views in
writing. That person will usually do so if he or she feels that the
objection is substantial, and will abstain if it is not. Since the
Mont-Joli issue was resolved with a unanimous vote by the RCM, I am
quite confident. Let us ask people who object to write to us, which
they will probably not do.
Mr. Bob Kilger: This is just a suggestion. I'll
abide by the committee's wishes.
The Chair: Clearly, the chair or the steering
committee will have to make a value judgment on this
over the next couple of weeks, before we come back. I
will attempt to make a decision that will meet
everyone's needs. We're not in a position here....
I've heard your views, Mr. Bergeron, and Mr. Harvey's
and Mr. Kilger's.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: I understand Mr. Kilger is willing to
support my suggestion. So let us do it that way, and if there is a
need to hear witnesses, we will hear them. I am quite willing to do
so, but there is no need to overdo it. I think we are in agreement
and we can agree to follow that approach.
Mr. Bob Kilger: If it helps the committee, I'll
accept the wisdom of my colleagues and the testimony in
writing of the dissenting witnesses, as we know them
today. I'll be ready to proceed with that information
on Tuesday, May 2, when we return, if that helps the
The Chair: Okay, that's fine. We have a consensus
on how we'll handle it. We'll be taking it up when
we come back.
Colleagues, I want your general approval. The staff
have also put together a review or recap of some of our
deliberations and reports on electronic voting. I'm
going to ask them to make that available for the
Tuesday when we come back, in the event that colleagues
wish to make comment on it or fold it into our final
decisions on the rule changes. There may be some
progress we can make in that regard. Is that okay?
Mr. Bob Kilger: Can I just introduce, in the same
vein of the Standing Orders, a completely different
subject, and simply ask if the witnesses may be able to
provide us with some background information on this?
Over the years I've often asked myself about the
necessity, the validity, of 40-minute speeches by
anyone from any party. I'd just like to know the
history of it. Mr. Hill brought us up to date today on
the history of issues going back to the early 1980s.
I'd like to know the history of the 40-minute speech.
Where did it come from and for what reason? Then it
might interesting to discuss whether it's time to
review that matter.
The Chair: Okay. Mr. Kilger has advertently or
inadvertently opened up the door to all the other
rule changes we're going to be looking at. One
thing may flow into another as we go through them, but we
certainly have an agenda for Tuesday when we come
There being no further business, we'll adjourn until
then. Thank you.