Ellen Louks Fairclough
Subtopic: MOTION TO SIT THIS DAY WITHOUT INTERMISSION OR ADJOURNMENT AT TEN O'CLOCK
Is tfye hon. member announcing a pair? *
Mr. Speaker, unless hon. members are announcing pairs I propose to speak on the motion now before the house.
Mr. James Sinclair (Coasf-Capilano):
move, seconded by the hon. member for Montmagny-L'Islet (Mr. Lesage):
That the hon. member for York South (Mr. Noseworthy) be now heard.
I was quite willing to extend the courtesy to hon. members who wished to announce pairs, but I claim the privilege to speak on this motion.
There has been a motion by the hon. member for Coast-Capilano, seconded by the hon. member for Montmagny-L'Islet, that the hon. member for York South be now heard.
I think I have the right to be heard. There was some confusion in the house due to some hon. members announcing their pairs.
I refer hon. members to standing order 35, which reads:
When two or more members rise to speak, Mr. Speaker calls upon the member who first rose in his place; but a motion may be made that any member who has risen "be now heard," or "do now speak" which motion shall be forthwith put without debate.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I should like the member for Coast-Capilano (Mr. Sinclair) to withdraw the motion.
I shall be happy to withdraw. The only reason I made it was that the hon. member was obviously on his feet, and you were not looking in his direction.
The motion has been withdrawn, and I call upon the hon. member for Hamilton West (Mrs. Fairclough).
Mrs. Ellen L. Fairclough (Hamilton West):
Mr. Speaker, first of all may I thank the member for Coast-Capilano (Mr. Sinclair) for withdrawing his motion, and also the member for York South (Mr. Noseworthy) for requesting that the motion be withdrawn.
I realize that in the confusion of the voting and the subsequent announcing of pairs there was some doubt who had first claimed the attention of the Speaker. I do thank these gentlemen most sincerely for giving me this opportunity.
I should like to speak now to the motion which is before the house concerning the extension of hours. Much has been said already this day concerning the consideration of matters which are now before this house. Inasmuch as several piembers have already announced personal reasons for voting for or against this particular motion, I think I might also state the position in which I find myself as an individual member of this house.
I happen to be one of those who, during the past month, have been sitting continuously on committees, on two committees at one time. On more than one occasion this has been the cause of some embarrassment to me because I felt that my place was in both committees. Both of these committees were considering matters which were of great interest to me, and upon which I wished to make representations. We were sitting from 9.30 in the morning, adjourning at 10.30 to go to the second committee, and sitting there until one o'clock. Then we would come into the house at two or 2.30, as the case might be, leaving the house again at three or 3.30 to return to the committee. We would sit there until six o'clock or later, and then often be called upon for some duties after that. We were still expected by our constituents to answer their letters, to look after matters which they had asked us to look after for them.
Personally I am quite willing to work all night. It would not be the first time I have done it. I have been doing it all my life, and I have managed to live through it. But there is a limit to the hours during which
Business of the House
you can transact business in the departments of this government; there is a limit to the hours during which you can receive secretarial assistance. It is a physical impossibility to sit in committees for those hours, and still attend to the work which a member is required to do outside this house. So far as I am concerned personally, if this house decides to sit all night I shall be here. It will be very interesting to see just how many members of this house will be here. There are certain considerations, of course.
I wonder what plans are going to be made for restaurant services, because you cannot sit all night long without food.
I have sat in committee meetings until the small hours of the morning, both in organization work and in municipal councils.
I have full knowledge of the type of thinking that is done in the small hours of the morning. Tempers are frayed and judgment is poor. Here, in the highest tribunal in this country, we are asked to pass upon some of the most important legislation that has come before this house for some time, and to do so at a time of the day or night when human vitality is at its lowest ebb. I claim, Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely contrary to the best judgment of the members of this house. I do not think any man or woman in this country would want his personal affairs decided by a group of people who had been considering a matter for twenty-four hours. I would not want anyone making any decision on any matter affecting my personal affairs after they had been considering them for twenty hours. I would doubt very much the wisdom and judgment of the wisest man in the land after the expiration of that period of time. I feel, Mr. Speaker, that if this house persists in sitting all night long tonight, they are sabotaging the people of this nation who depend upon them to use wise and considered judgment in the matters which are before this house.
I cannot feel that the members of this house are really serious in pursuing this course. I know that within the last few hours we have debated at some length, and at times with some heat, on this question. But I would ask the members to reconsider, and in order to give them an opportunity for reconsideration I propose to move, seconded by the hon. member for Lanark (Mr. Blair):
That the motion be amended by striking out all the words after "That" to the end of the question and substituting the following:
"for this day's sitting the house shall after the dinner recess sit from 8 p.m. to 12 p.m.
Mr. George A. Drew (Leader of ihe Opposition):
Mr. Speaker, the motion that has just been put offers to the house an
Business of the House
opportunity to express itself in regard to the proposal that was made, that the time of sitting be extended tonight until midnight, and that this added opportunity be given for the consideration of the measures that are before us. Having regard to the fact that we have already been sitting much longer hours than usual, and that most of the members of this house have been sitting on committees as well during these longer hours of the house, I submit that what the hon. member has said in support of this motion is amply demonstrated by the fact that so many of the members already have shown their inability to continue to sit the present hours, without extending them into an all-night session.
I believe the proposal which has been made is reasonable in every way. I think twelve o'clock midnight is the very latest the members of this house should be asked to sit t.o consider extremely important business affecting not merely thousands or hundreds of thousands but millions of Canadians in their daily lives.
When the vote was taken on the amendment it was perfectly clear that no matter to what extent the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) might indicate that, as head of the government, he was not asking his followers to follow a particular course, there was no doubt about what course was being followed by the members; and that course was consistent with the warning he gave as to what would be done unless the house carried through with this resolution.
I do not intend to enlarge upon the remarks which might justifiably be made and which will be made in regard to what this really means unless the government is prepared to accept a reasonable offer to extend the sitting hours tonight. I can only repeat to the leader of the house, who is in his place, that there is before us legislation of the utmost importance. Let me refer to simply one measure which calls for extensive discussion. I refer to Bill No. 23, to amend the Government Annuities Act. That is an act of vital importance to scores of thousands of Canadian workers. Right at this time agreements are under negotiation which depend upon certain features of this measure. It should be recalled, however, that this measure contains a section as to cash surrender provisions which has been opposed by the members of the Conservative party in the committee because of the effect these would have, quite apart from the provision of annuities. In fact, the opinion has been expressed that the inclusion of that section actually defeats the basic purpose for which this act was introduced. That alone is a subject which
calls for extensive discussion and consideration. I have mentioned the others that are before us.
I suggest that the leader of the house indicate that he is prepared to support this amendment. If he gives that indication, I know perfectly well there will not be much doubt about the way the members of the party opposite will vote. Still better, I would hope that following the discussion that has taken place, the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) would seek the concurrence of the house either in support of this amendment or in the withdrawal of the motion itself. I ask the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, who has been one of the most assiduous students of the rules, traditions and procedure of this house, to recognize what really was the effect of the Prime Minister's statement when he referred to this matter this morning. I suggest to him that he consider this motion not alone in the light of the way it originally stood but in the light of the statement made by the Prime Minister this morning. I took down what the Prime Minister said in the discussion of this subject. He said:
Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to debate this motion, but I do intend when the house is in session tomorrow, if the business has not been concluded, to give notice und&r the closure rule that it will be applied on Thursday, December 27.
I hope the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre will recall that there was no break, and that that was one sentence. In other words the Prime Minister is going to take no part in this debate, but he wants to know that if we do not submit and simply let everything go through tomorrow, he is going to introduce closure on Thursday, December 27. I would ask the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, who has been so greatly concerned about the freedom of the members of this house to express themselves, to recognize the fact that what we are discussing now is not a question of when we close but of whether this parliament is still the supreme authority or whether we are going to have the whip cracked over our heads by the Prime Minister of Canada in this way.
Will the leader of the opposition permit a question?
He does not know it is Christmas.
I wonder if the leader of the opposition realizes that, as a result of the announcement made by the Prime Minister this morning, it becomes even more imperative that my motion pass so that members
of the house can get all the time they feel they need to discuss the business before us.
We have been informed by the Prime Minister that this session will come to an end at two o'clock on Friday morning, December 28. That is the effect of his closure announcement. It is up to us as to how many hours between now and then we are to debate the measures before us. If my motion does not carry, or if the amendment of the hon. member for Hamilton West (Mrs. Fairclough) carries, we limit ourselves to a few hours today, to the hours laid down for tomorrow and to the time on Thursday, December 27, from eleven a.m. to two a.m. the following morning. But my motion would add to that period of time whatever number of hours we want to take between now and 10.59 tomorrow morning.
Mr. Speaker, I greatly regret-