April 8, 1948

BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE

PRECEDENCE OF GOVERNMENT ORDERS


The house resumed from Wednesday, April 7, consideration of the motion of Mr. St. Laurent (for the Prime Minister): That, notwithstanding any other order passed by the house in relation thereto, on and after Wednesday, the 7th of April and every day thereafter until otherwise ordered during the present session, government notices of motions and government orders shall have precedence over all other business except the introduction of bills, questions by members and notices of motions for the production of papers, and from 8 to 9 p.m. on Fridays, private bills. And the amendment thereto of Mr. Coldwell. Right Hon. L. S. ST. LAURENT (Secretary of State for External Affairs): Mr. Speaker, it became apparent yesterday, when this motion was moved, that a large number of members of the house desired that there be some time available for the consideration of public and private bills. The hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell) moved, in amendment to the motion which is on the order paper, that Tuesdays and Fridays from 8 to 9 p.m. be devoted to these bills, but he also moved at the same time that the order of priority provided for by standing order 15 be reversed. I think that would mean that there would be no time for the consideration of private bills during this session, and though no one has any special interest in private bills, the standing orders do provide that they may be introduced in the expectation that they will get consideration, and to some of us it would seem to be unfair to do something which would shut them out at this time. It may be that standing order 15 should not be in the form in which it is, but that, it seems to us, is something which should be considered not as a temporary provision for this session. Rather, it should be considered by Mr. Speaker's committee to revise the general rules; and if that change were made in the standing order, giving priority to public bills over private bills, it would be known to the public and those making applications for private bills would be aware of the risk they were taking. I would like therefore to suggest that there be these two hours on Tuesdays and Fridays for these bills but that they be considered in the order which is provided by standing order 15. My attention has been called to the fact that this is the fifty-eighth day of the session and that a similar order was made in this house last year on the fifty-ninth day of the session. There is no desire on the part of anyone to minimize the importance or the interest of the other matters placed on the order paper by private members, whether they sit in the front benches or in the back benches. That makes no difference to their rights in this house or to the consideration that should be given to their desires. But there is on the order paper a large volume of important public business which we feel it will be the desire of most hon. members of the house to have considered. For instance, this afternoon there is the bill to amend the industrial relations act, and the bill to amend the act providing for allowances to veterans. These are matters which I am sure rank in importance with any that can be placed upon the order paper. I hope therefore that members of the house will be agreeable to accepting the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar to strike out the words "the former having precedence" -that is to say, giving precedence to public bills over private bills-and substitute the words "in accordance with standing order 15," which would leave the priority as established by the general rule. It may be, though the indications at the present time do not appear to be any too hopeful, that such progress will be made with the public legislation as to allow, at some later date, other arrangements to be made. But hon. members will realize that we have not yet started on the consideration of the estimates. While we made a move yesterday to make a start in that direction, there is a matter of considerable importance which will have to be discussed and disposed of before the house can go into committee to consider the estimates. I hope that this may be regarded as a sincere effort to meet the desires of members of the house generally that there be some time for consideration of public and private bills that are on the order paper, and that public bills be not in such position that discussion on them would shut out any consideration of private bills. There is one private bill which has already been before the house on two or three occasions and on which there has been, I think, a fairly full debate. Hon. members say that they wish these matters to be brought before the house not merely for the purpose of providing an opportunity for making speeches about them, but for the purpose of getting the decision of the house with regard to them. I would hope that there would be no desire, under a rule of this kind, to talk out any of these bills, but rather that they be Business of the House



allowed to go along in the regular course and get to the stage where there can be a decision upon them. For the purpose of making that possible, I would ask my colleague to move, in amendment to the amendment of the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar, that the words "the former having precedence" be struck out and that they be replaced by the words "in accordance with standing order 15."


LIB

James Lorimer Ilsley (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. ILSLEY:

I so move, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. ST. LAURENT: I may point out that the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar is at page 2721 of Hansard.

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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I would call the attention of the house to the fact that in the main motion which was introduced yesterday, these words appear:

Notwithstanding any order passed by the house in relation thereto, on and after Wednesday the 7th of April . . .

That will have to be changed.

Mr. St. Laurent moves, seconded by Mr. Usley, that the amendment be amended by striking out the words "the former having precedence" and substituting therefor the words "in accordance with standing order 15". The question is on the amendment to the amendment.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. M. J. COLDWELL (Rosetown-Biggar):

Just before you put the amendment to the amendment, Mr. Speaker, as mover of the amendment may I say that the government has met the purpose of the amendment at least in part, and to that extent I think it is satisfactory. I wish to point out to the leader of the house that certain of the standing orders have been set aside this session, and while standing order 15 does give precedence to private bills, that is no reason why it should not be set aside again.

I am going to suggest still another variation. We now have the two hours for private and public bills, one on Tuesday and one on Friday. I am going to suggest that we give one of those days to private bills and the other to public bills-say, on Tuesday, private bills and on Friday, public bills. I cannot see why private bills should have complete preference over public bills. As I say, the house has varied the standing order considerably this session, and I do not think there should be any objection to varying it to this extent in order to give hon. gentlemen who are interested in public bills an opportunity of proceeding with them forthwith.

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LIB

James Sinclair

Liberal

Mr. JAMES SINCLAIR (Vancouver North):

I should like to say a word or two on this matter, Mr. Speaker. The Secretary

of State for External Affairs (Mr. St. Laurent) mentioned the fact that if public bills preceded private bills, as is suggested in the amendment of the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell), there would be no opportunity in fact for private bills to be discussed. Those are his own words. My obvious answer to that is that if private bills precede public bills, then there is equally no opportunity for the discussion of public bills.

The second point was that when the sponsors of these private bills presented them to parliament they expected that the bills would be discussed and voted upon. May I say to him through you, Mr. Speaker, that when I introduced my public bill I expected that it would be debated and voted on; and I am quite sure the other sponsors of public bills had the same expectation. I had always understood, in my own political philosophy, that the general interest came before special privilege. If private bills and the interests of private corporations and individuals are placed ahead of public bills, I certainly do not think that principle has been followed out.

I agree, however, that some compromise should be effected. The present situation is that there may be, at tag end of either of those two evenings which have been referred to, five minutes left over, in which case somebody might be able to speak for a few minutes on a public bill; but the debate, if any at all, would be a series of tag ends. So far, with regard to private bills, we have had all the time taken on just one, with little expectation of that debate being closed. Therefore I suggest, as the very least sort of compromise, that the suggestion made by the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar be adopted and that at least on one occasion in the week public bills and members' resolutions have precedence over private bills.

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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GORDON GRAYDON (Peel):

I am amazed, Mr. Speaker, at the stand taken by the hon. member for Vancouver North (Mr. Sinclair), because I think he is settling for less than he should settle for if he is anxious to get his legislation before the house.

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LIB

James Sinclair

Liberal

Mr. SINCLAIR:

I certainly am anxious to get it before the house.

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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

All right, then; I think the hon. member ought to have stood out a little more strongly against the government with respect to the amount of time he would require.

I want to make clear our position with respect to this matter. Everyone seems to have overlooked the fact that on the order paper there are other things than public and

Business oj the House

private bills. There are thirty-five private members' resolutions, many of them dealing with major points, to be debated and brought before the government. We are rapidly reaching the position of piling precedent upon precedent, and that is what alarms me. I do not want to be rising in the house day after day quibbling over small matters-

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

Oh, yes; anything coming from here of course has not the magnitude it would have coming from the intelligentsia over in that corner, but I am glad to know you assess your worth at least somewhat higher than some other people do.

This is more than simply a question of what we are going to do for the rest of this session. If w'e keep on with this procedure session after session, with a wartime complex being carefully carried year after year into the peacetime period, we are going to reach the point where someone will say: Well, the days of private members' notices of motion may as well be forgotten, because they are only gathering cobwebs on the order paper as things stand.

The hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar has made one constructive suggestion. I think it is constructive because I was going to make it myself, and I suppose it is only natural for one to feel that his suggestion is a little more constructive than that of the other fellow. Now, however, we are to have all the private bills put ahead of everything else for two hours, under the government's motion. To my way of thinking that is not right. On the other hand we have the amendment moved by the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar yesterday under which public bills would be considered to the exclusion of all private bills. Neither should have the monopoly, as the hon. member for Vancouver North said. There should be a fair division of the time in that respect. I would be in favour of asking the government to make that change, because at least that would be something.

What was said by the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. St. Laurent) is quite true; this is the fifty-eighth day of the session. We have sat something like three hundred hours since this session of parliament opened. Now, though private members have not had any opportunity worth speaking of to do anything in those three hundred hours, at this stage of the session-and this is what I want to point out to the hon. member for Vancouver North-we are giving up nine hours a week, I say without enough protest, for a measly one hour on Tuesday evening. That is not good enough. We cannot afford to play

around with this business and not make a strong protest with respect to the position of the government.

I want to make it clear that I still think our suggestion of yesterday, that right of way be given for a week or two to urgent government business, is good; but then let us take a couple of weeks or longer, if necessary, during which we may have our Mondays and our Wednesdays to deal with these matters which are so important from the point of view of private members. I protest against people taking this so easily and being willing to settle for one hour a week instead of nine hours. Either this is a principle worth fighting for or it is a principle not worth discussing.

I realize that probably the best the government will do is to give us one hour a week. On the basis that half a loaf is better than no bread we may have to accept that; but if they are going to leave the resolution as it now stands, with this subamendment, I am afraid we shall have to vote against it. It is not good enough if it leaves out public bills altogether, or if it gives no consideration at all to notices of motion. I want to say to you, Mr. Speaker, with all the effectiveness I can summon, that the government should alter the motion along the lines I have suggested.

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LIB

James Sinclair

Liberal

Mr. SINCLAIR:

I rise to a question of privilege, Mr. Speaker, because of the inference just left by the acting leader of the opposition (Mr. Gray don) that my opposition to this motion has lessened because I concurred in the suggestion of the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar. I can assure the hon. gentleman that my opposition has not lessened, but I am supporting a practical amendment, which is more than the hon. gentleman put forward yesterday. He put forward nothing but suggestions, and now, after criticizing me, in the next breath he goes on to say that he is going to support the position taken by the government.

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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

On a question of privilege, Mr. Speaker, I did not say I was supporting the motion brought in by the minister. I told the house I was voting against it.

Mr. ST. LAURENT: In spite of these questions of privilege, Mr. Speaker, I hope we may come to a unanimous decision on the best way to serve our respective constituents with the time that remains at our disposal. If that can be achieved by accepting the suggestion of the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar, concurred in by the hon. member for Peel, I would ask that the subamendment now before you be withdrawn and that it be replaced by one which would read in this way-and I think I carry out the suggestion of the hon. member

Business oj the House

for Rosetown-Biggar: by adding thereto the following words, "on Tuesday, and the latter having precedence on Friday." That would make the order read as desired by the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar. It would provide for the consideration of public and private bills on Tuesday and Friday, the former having precedence on Tuesday and the latter having precedence on Friday.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

That is all right.

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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

That is, private bills on Friday?

Mr. ST. LAURENT: Public bills would have precedence on Tuesday and private bills would have precedence on Friday.

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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

Does that mean we are to leave out completely any reference to notices of motions by private members?

Mr. ST. LAURENT: I did not want to make this statement, but I do not think the hon. member for Peel has been left out of very much. I had a tabulation made showing how the time of this house has been occupied up to the present time. So far 1,522 columns of Hansard have been taken by members of the party of the hon. member for Peel, while 1,148 columns have been taken by members on this side of the house. That is to say, 125 members have taken 1,148 columns and 66 members have taken 1,522 columns. The C.C.F. members have taken 858 columns. I am not complaining about that, but I am just bringing to the attention of the house the way the time has been occupied. I am not suggesting that it has been wasted, or that anyone has taken more than he should. I am sure every hon. member who spoke felt that it was desirable for him to do so in order to carry out his mandate from his constituents. But I hope that since we have had these discussions on many of these public issues, the actual business that has to be disposed of before prorogation can come about will not take as much time, and a little later on there may be opportunity to make provision for bringing in these notices of motions, which are very important but which after all do not result in legislation but merely in expressions of opinion.

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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GRAYDON:

I would ask the government to give us some assurance that as the session progresses we shall again have an opportunity of debating this question, and, before the session ends, again opening up the two days to private members. I am not satisfied with the present arrangement, and I do not think it meets with the approval of the house, even though temporarily, for a few weeks, we may have to accept it.

Mr. ST. LAURENT: The suggestion of the hon. member for Peel can be discussed on any of the days when we are going into supply, and will receive consideration in the light of the development of the work of parliament at the time the question is raised.

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. KNOWLES:

About the fifth of August.

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April 8, 1948