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            • MPlibblog Scott_Simms 1040 post Amendments to Standing Orders

              Mr. Speaker, within the eight minutes, I hope to shed some light on the debate. However, many of the points that I wanted to bring up have already been covered by all three of my colleagues here in the House, including the mover of the motion, the member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

              There was certainly a lot of work involved in this proposal. The motion is quite broad in scope, with sweeping measures that would be brought in with one particular vote.

              For that reason, I share some of the concerns of my other colleagues, outside of the mover of the motion, in that once it is done, it is done, and then the changes would take place within the Standing Orders. It has been common practice here to take reforms of this magnitude before the procedure and House affairs committee to study. The committee then calls certain experts in the field, along with former parliamentarians and Speakers of the House. Once that is done, the procedure is to come back and report the findings to the House of Commons, and at that point any of the members, excluding cabinet and the Speaker, could produce a motion that picks up on it.

              I have no problem supporting some motions that would make changes to the Standing Orders. Some of the particular instances that the member has here have quite a bit of merit and I would vote for them outright, but on others I would want to have more answers before I could decide to move on them.

              For example, the hon. member from Ontario, the mover of Bill C-586— the reform act, as it was called across the country—brought in measures prior to that pertaining to question period and its function. The hon. member who spoke on behalf of the government also brought up that point. He quoted from O'Brien and Bosc and talked about how the conduct of question period is based more on precedence and tradition than on what exists in the current Standing Orders. However, my hon. colleague from Ontario was talking about the fact that at the end of question period there would be more flexibility to allow an individual member to stand up and ask a question. Most likely it would pertain to the member's particular riding, as opposed to a particular strategy or news of the day that was national in scope. That is something I would vote for outright.

              The allowance for individual members' questions is outlined here in O'Brien and Bosc and our current Standing Orders, which describe the function of question period and how it operates. The motion before us would codify some of what has been performed more by tradition than anything else, and for that I congratulate the member, because more clarity around how we behave is certainly welcome.

              The member talked about the three main measures. I spoke about the one pertaining to question period. Another measure is the constitution of certain committees.

              As others have said, and as I thought when I first read it, it is a novel concept, because people who do not have first chance at bringing private members' bills would, at least on the other end of that, have a chance to sit on the committee that they desire.

              For example, the largest industry in my sector is the fishing industry. I would love to be on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, but it is difficult because we only get one seat. This measure would give me a better chance of doing that. For that reason, yes, I would agree with it.

              However, the problem is that parties here in the House have to weigh the national interest with regional interests, gender interests, and so forth. For instance, if someone in the caucus is a member of a visible minority, that person would be beneficial on a particular committee.

              By way of another example, if a member formerly served in the Canadian Forces and has a genuine interest in sitting on the veterans affairs committee, I think it is legitimate to ask to do so. However, it is best for that member to make the case in front of people who make the decision and not do it through a draw or a lottery. That said, these are the two ways that we deal with it.

              Again, I applaud what the member is trying to do here, because the power of the individual member of Parliament has been eroded for quite some time.

              I defend what he is doing, which is why sending it to the procedure and House affairs committee would have probably been a better route. Certainly whether this motion succeeds or it does not, maybe we should consider asking the procedure and House affairs committee to go forward with a study anyway, to see how we can increase the role or the powers of individual members of Parliament.

              Again, I would turn to the example about interest: regional interests, gender, and visible minorities. This is what we do in selecting cabinet. When the governments of the day select a cabinet, they use those criteria. It is not just about a particular person who is well suited for that job; they have to consider regional interests.

              Right now there is nobody sitting in cabinet from Newfoundland and Labrador. That is because there is nobody on the government side who was elected from Newfoundland and Labrador. There are no Conservatives who have been elected there. I have always said they are a smart bunch in Newfoundland and Labrador. I have always given them credit for that, and I continue to do so, of course.

              • MPconblog Gary Schellenberger 1529 post Amendments to Standing Orders

                Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on the private members' business motion brought forward by the member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

                This rather lengthy motion would amend the Standing Orders to provide the following. House leaders, deputy House leaders, whips, deputy whips, and caucus chairs would need to be endorsed or elected by an absolute majority of party or caucus members. Each opposition member would be entitled to one question in each question period per week, with rules established for the transfer of that entitlement to another member if desired. Committees would be expanded from 10 to 11 members, or 12, if an independent member wishes to sit on a committee.

                Members would indicate their desired committee assignments, and taking into consideration the proportionality of the parties and caucuses represented in the House of Commons, the right to pick committee assignments would be based on the reverse order of the lottery of private members' business. In other words, the last person on the list for consideration for private members' business would have the first choice of committee assignment.

                The 40th and 41st Parliaments have seen a number of proposals to reform the Standing Orders. There have been proposals to reform question period, the rules on time allocation and closure, the means for electing the Speaker of the House and the chairs of committees, and the system of petitions.

                I would like to speak first to the motion's proposal to reform question period. On April 24, 2013, the House debated a Liberal opposition day motion concerning the reform of members' statements. The proposal would have changed the Standing Orders to require an alphabetical rotation, subject to an exchange mechanism respecting each party's share of members' statements.

                The key points that were raised during the debate on the above-mentioned opposition day motion applied to the debate on the motion before the House today. First, the proposal appears to fetter the Speaker's authority and discretion to recognize members. At pages 594 and 595 of O'Brien and Bosc, it states:

                There is no official order for the recognition of speakers laid down in the Standing Orders; the Chair relies on the practice and precedents of the House in this regard. The Standing Orders simply authorize the Speaker to recognize for debate any Member who seeks the floor by rising in his or her place. [...] Although the Whips of the various parties each provide the Chair with a list of Members wishing to speak, the Chair is not bound by these. [...] While the Speaker has complete discretion in recognizing Members, the Chair may follow such informal arrangements as may be made...

                The motion seeks to establish rigid rules on the operation of question period. The vast majority of the rules for question period are not established in the Standing Orders but rather in other practices of the House. The rules governing question period have developed through traditional and practice, and occasionally have been clarified through a Speaker's ruling.

                For example, the current practices for the length and order of questions were developed in 1997 after consultations between the Speaker of the House and House leaders of the recognized parties, and are renegotiated at the beginning of each Parliament. Specifically, the motion's proposal to reform question period would provide each opposition member with the right to ask at least one question per week, and members could exchange that right with another if they so desire.

                The result would be considerably less control over question period by parties. It would thereby reduce an opposition party's flexibility to manage questions by its members as part of its role of holding the government to account, including limiting the central place of party leaders and critics in an opposition party's question period strategy. If adopted, the proposal could create an uncoordinated and possibly ineffective series of unrelated questions to the government, with little to no opportunity for supplementary questions.

                Further, the motion does not contemplate any extension of question period beyond 45 minutes, as is the current allocation. This would have the effect of limiting or, worse, reducing the time allocated to party leaders and recognized parties more generally.

                The proposal would appear to hamper each party's ability to manage its internal affairs and could potentially disrupt the effective functioning of the House of Commons. Of course, these points are directly applicable to the opposition parties, so I will be listening attentively to see what views they will be sharing on these matters after I sit down.

                The first point to make with respect to the effect of this motion on the effective functioning of the House of Commons is that two hours of debate is not a lot of time to assess the implications of the motion. As we have seen with other private members' business motions concerning changes to the Standing Orders, those motions have called on the procedure and House affairs committee to study proposals.

                Let me turn next to the portion of the motion related to the participation of independent MPs at our committees.

                The Standing Orders provide that any member may participate in the public proceedings of any committee but may not vote, move motions, or be counted for the purpose of quorum. Moreover, independent members have had increased participation at committees. For example, each of our standing committees has adopted a motion that allows independent members to submit their recommended amendments for consideration during the clause-by-clause study of a bill at that committee.

                Last year, when the procedure and House affairs committee was given an order of reference to study the role and mandate of the Board of Internal Economy and its potential for replacement, the House made special provisions to allow independent MPs to participate in that study, given that the changes to the arrangements for members' offices could have had an unforeseen impact on those MPs who do not sit in a recognized caucus.

                Political parties have also made arrangements to accommodate independent members. For example, in the 39th and 40th Parliaments, the Conservative Party gave one of our committee spots to André Arthur, the then independent member for Portneuf—Jacques Cartier.

                Motion No. 535 also provides, as mentioned earlier, that membership of committees should be determined by using the reverse order of the list for the consideration of private members' business. However, parliamentary secretaries are ineligible, by virtue of their offices, to move private members' business items for debate in the House, pursuant to Standing Order 87.1(a)(ii). As a result, Motion No. 535 appears to prevent parliamentary secretaries from being members of committees. Maybe that was not the mover's intention, but it seems to be the effect of his motion. If it was not his intention, that goes to my earlier point about major changes to our rules being proposed yet being subject to only a two-hour debate.

                This seems odd, since parliamentary secretaries perform the important role of assisting ministers in the discharge of their parliamentary duties. They also serve as a key conduit for information from parliamentarians, especially opposition MPs, to the minister. Certainly the conversations between parliamentary secretaries and opposition critics, collectively the subject matter experts, help inform the conversations that take place among our House leaders.

                Finally, speaking of House leaders, that brings me to the aspect of the proposal in the motion that would provide for the election of House leaders, whips and their deputies, and caucus chairs.

                The member wrote to all members of the House to inform them of his motion and to seek their support for the motion. In the member's letter, he characterized this element of his proposal as an election. However, the way the amendment to the Standing Orders is worded, it is unclear that an actual election would be required. Specifically, the proposal would add a new standing order to require an absolute majority of party or caucus members to endorse the appointment of the party's House officers by co-signing a letter, with the party leader, to the Speaker naming that party's House officer.

                Therefore, the election process contemplated in the motion would effectively provide a veto power to party or caucus members, as opposed to directly requiring an actual election. I would add that the election process for House officers would not prohibit parties from conducting elections if they wished.

                I would like to draw to the attention of the members the situation that could arise through such an—

                • MPconblog andrewscheer 38 post Ministerial Statements

                  Does the hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia have the same unanimous consent to answer?

                  • MPnews news Gazette Midday: Lac-Mégantic report due Tuesday; Bloc woes continue - Montreal Gazette (blog)
                    Following the departure last Tuesday of Jean-François Fortin, the Bloc's Member of Parliament for the Quebec riding of Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, weekend news reports suggested that MP Claude Patry, who represents ... read more
                    Aug 18, 2014 8:48 am> |
                    • MPnews news Rumours swirl of two more Bloc MPs resigning - Montreal Gazette
                      Following the departure last Tuesday of Jean-François Fortin, the Bloc's Member of Parliament for the Quebec riding of Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, weekend news reports suggested that MP Claude Patry, who represents ... read more
                      Aug 17, 2014 6:09 pm> |
                      • MPconblog BarryDevolin_MP 16 post Canadian Heritage

                        The hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

                          • MPconblog BarryDevolin_MP 78 post Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1

                            Before I go to questions and comments, I want to remind all hon. members that you ought to stand when questions and comments are called, not just stand for an extended period hoping to be recognized many minutes before there is an opportunity.

                            The hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

                            • MPlibblog ScarpaleggiaMP 186 post Nancy Charest

                              Mr. Speaker, it was with great sadness that we learned of the sudden death of Nancy Charest.

                              A lawyer, tax expert and member of the National Assembly from 2003 to 2007, then the federal Liberal candidate in Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, Nancy was an intelligent, exceptional, energetic and congenial woman with boundless love and pride for her region.

                              In 2010, I had the pleasure of meeting Nancy during a visit to Mont-Joli to talk about water issues.

                              We spent the day meeting her constituents and then finished off with a visit to the Maurice Lamontagne Institute research centre. I was immediately struck by her curiosity about the research conducted at the centre.

                              Nancy always wanted to learn more in order to help her region and promote its interests in Quebec City and Ottawa.

                              Through her passion and her dedication to the public interest, Nancy Charest was an ambassador unlike any other for the Lower St. Lawrence.

                              • MPconblog andrewscheer 63 post Intergovernmental Relations

                                Order. The question was asked, and it was answered. We are moving on to the next one. If members have follow-up questions, they can try to get recognized by the Chair in a supplementary, but not by just yelling across the aisle.

                                The hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

                                • MPconblog bruce_stanton 125 post Northwest Territories Devolution Act

                                  I would remind hon. members to direct their comments to the Chair.

                                  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 Laurier—Sainte-Marie, International Cooperation; the hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, Sealing Industry.

                                  Resuming debate, the hon. member for Labrador.

                                  • MPconblog bruce_stanton 183 post Canadian Museum of History Act

                                    I thank the hon. member for his intervention.

                                    We have been down this path before in these types of debates where these time allocation motions have been debated. I remind hon. members that the actual subject, the bill the time allocation motion is the subject of, invariably does become part of the debate, because members use the elements in the bill to argue their points either in favour of or opposed to the very motion before the House.

                                    It is very difficult to separate the two, but I am cognizant of the member for Timmins—James Bay's intervention in this regard and will listen carefully to make sure that we keep the questions in front of the House pertinent to the question at hand.

                                    The hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

                                    • MPconblog bruce_stanton 34 post Economic Action Plan 2013 Act No. 2

                                      Order. The hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia has the floor.

                                      • MPconblog bruce_stanton 66 post Business of Supply

                                        Before moving on to questions and comments, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, Intergovernmental Relations.

                                          • MPconblog andrewscheer 129 post Motions for Papers

                                            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 Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, the Supreme Court; the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, Employment Insurance; the hon. member for Québec, Taxation.

                                            The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands.

Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia

The electoral district of Haute-Gaspésie--La Mitis--Matane--Matapédia (Quebec) has a population of 73,140 with 59,340 registered voters and 190 polling divisions.

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