Some hon. Members:
Subtopic: PRECEDENCE OF GOVERNMENT BUSINESS ON MONDAYS
Order. At the present time there is nothing before the house in regard to a second session. I think the hon. member might reserve his remarks on that subject until it is before the house.
I am pointing out why the business of the house should be expedited;-
-and why it would be wholly unnecessary to adopt this motion if the government really wanted to get ahead with the business. If the government does want to get ahead with its business, then let it introduce the bills it has under consideration. It is not reasonable to believe that at this stage of the session the government has not ready all the legislation it intends to introduce. Let it bring forward that legislation and move it into committee so it can be given consideration, instead of holding it back until the end of the session when there will not be adequate opportunity to examine it, as has happened so often in the past.
I iam raising these points because we have urged over and over again that the rules of the house do make it possible to deal with the bills and resolutions of private members as well as the regular business of the house, as long as the members have some idea when that business is going to be dealt with. Let no one make the suggestion by way of reply that the government has sought to expedite proceedings and that
long debates have taken place on every motion it has introduced. There have been debates, but those debates have taken place because hon. members have no way of knowing whether or not they are going to have an opportunity of raising the questions they want to raise. They do not know whether this session the government is going to change its habits and let debate follow an orderly pattern, or whether it is going to follow the practice of the last several sessions and leave the important things until the last, when the heat of the summer and the desire to get home will make it very difficult to discuss adequately the measures brought before the house.
This motion will have the effect of further limiting the rights of private members, which already have been limited greatly. During the years of war and immediately after, the habit grew of setting aside the rules; but surely now we have reached a time when we can abide by the rules. If those rules need amendment, let the amendments be introduced in the ordinary way. Instead of motions to suspend rules, let us have motions to change the rules if in fact isuch changes should be made. But at a time when we have so little before us, at a time when the Minister of Finance does not think the budget debate is sufficiently important to be here for it, let us not adopt a motion of this kind which deprives private members of the opportunity to have real debates on subjects that are of real concern to the people of Canada.
Mr. M. J. Coldwell (Roselown-Biggar):
various occasions when motions of this kind have been presented to the house I have protested on behalf of the private members who are associated with me. To a very large extent I agree with what has been said by the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) in regard to the necessity of members of this house safeguarding in every particular the rights of private members. I am not suggesting for one moment that the government with its large majority wishes to exercise some kind of dictatorship over all of us to override the House of Commons, but I do support what was said by the leader of the opposition in his concluding remarks. Bit by bit the rights of private members have been restricted, largely because of the necessities of war. Prior to the war private members' days were looked upon as being embedded in the rules of the house and were not interfered with without very good reason; and always, may I say, after there had been some discussion and consultation with the whips or leaders of the opposition parties.
Business of the House
Having watched the loss of the rights of private members in this house over a period of years-and rights have been lost-it is good that once in a while private members should assert themselves and demand that their rights be retained in every particular. Under wartime conditions private members were willing at all times to forgo many of their rights. I remember one or two regular sessions when there were no private members' days at all. That was because of the emergencies then existing, and was by agreement.
I believe those of us who from time to time criticize the conduct of the business of the house should take some responsibility for endeavouring to provide the better organization of that business. There is no question but that the manner in which we conduct the business of this parliament does not reflect much credit upon the House of Commons. The rules which have been provided very largely for the protection of those of us who are private members from time to time need to be reconsidered and revised.
I agree with the criticism of the leader of the opposition in regard to statements made outside this house and the absence of ministers when such important matters as the budget are under consideration. I think that does show a lack of regard for this parliament.
Coming now to the private members' resolutions, a number of those resolutions on the order paper are of very great importance, not so much to the private members themselves as to their constituents and to members of all parties from one end of this country to the other. These resolutions can only be moved in the form in which they are brought before the house, namely "that in the opinion of this house consideration should be given."
I have felt that from time to time the government has paid no attention to the expressed will of this parliament.
I am not going to discuss the income tax exemption for medical expenses, the milk subsidy, and so on, but resolutions concerning these matters were approved by this house, in one case unanimously, for the consideration of the government. I do say this: The only opportunity, other than by moving an amendment to the budget or the motion for an address in reply to the speech of His Excellency at the opening of the session-the only opportunity a private member has to bring before this house matters of importance not only to their constituents but to the whole of Canada, is by the filing of private members' resolutions. They do perform a useful function in this parliament. Consequently I do not like to see any attempt made to restrict the
Business of the House
rights of private members. If this privilege is to be circumscribed in any way, or dispensed with for the moment, it should be done by agreement rather than by the adoption of a motion.
I am quite sure the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) would find that most hon. members would be willing to accede to the request of the government, if the government were in a position of some difficulty regarding the business of the house. As has been said this afternoon, we do not know as yet what legislation is coming before us, and we are therefore in an extremely difficult position in attempting to make a judgment. I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that I think the organization of the business of this house must be reconsidered. I suggest that private members' days be continued until at least we have complete knowledge of the legislation that is coming before us, and until we are sure that the committees of the house are going to be at work. I am extremely anxious that the committee on agriculture should go into the matter of the foot-and-mouth disease. I cannot see any reason why the government has delayed consideration of that matter. I am sure that all members are willing to cooperate to facilitate the business of the house, provided that we know what the business of the house is, and can form a mature judgment as to the need for forgoing some rights of private members.
Mr. Solon E. Low (Peace River):
I should like to take a moment to say that we are anxious to do what we can to help the government get its program before the house and have the business completed. But at the same time we do feel we should not take any action, except after careful consideration and by agreement, that would further abridge the rights of private members. For this reason I find myself very largely in agreement with the other two party leaders on this side of the floor.
I would suggest that the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) give careful consideration to frequent conferences between the party whips to see if it would not be possible to organize the business of the house in such a manner as to speed things along. If we were given some idea of what is coming up, we could be prepared when that item of business came before the house and would thus facilitate the dispatch of business. On this matter I must stand with the other party leaders.
Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):
Mr. Speaker, I wish to say just a few words with reference to a matter which has a bearing on the motion that is now
before us. On Tuesday, April 1, when the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) moved a motion to take away Wednesdays as private members' days, a request was made by the member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell) to which the Prime Minister made a conditional reply. I feel that the substance of that reply should even yet be implemented.
It is for that reason I rise to ask the Prime Minister to give further consideration to what was asked for on that occasion.
As the Prime Minister and the house will remember, Monday, March 31, was to have been a private members' day. By unanimous consent we gave it up as a private members' day so that the government might have it for the consideration of supplementary estimates. Accordingly the next day, when the Prime Minister moved that Wednesdays be taken away, the member for Rosetown-Biggar requested that the loss of the day before might be made up in some way. In his reply the Prime Minister indicated that there were certain difficulties, but he did say this, as recorded at page 999 of Hansard for April 1, 1952:
Perhaps we might consider suspending this order a week from Wednesday, or try to make it up in some other way that would satisfy hon. members.
I would point out that the Wednesday referred to was Wednesday, April 9, but the order was not suspended on that day. Instead, we considered the Japanese peace treaty, which was government business. Thus, so far as the private members are concerned there has been no compensation as yet for the loss of that full Monday, March 31. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that whatever may be the disposition of the motion now before us, which is designed to take away Mondays as private members' days, the Prime Minister should still consider the point which he said he would consider on April 1, and arrange with the various groups in the house for the provision of at least one more Wednesday for private members' motions.
If the Prime Minister speaks now, he will close the debate.
Right Hon. L. S. Si. Laurent (Prime Minister):
I must confess I was very much surprised, though I do not suppose I should be, at the performance of the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) this afternoon. I should not have been surprised. It was merely reminiscent of many such performances and outbursts before the election of 1949. In thinking it over I recalled a number of occasions when it was the privilege of the hon. gentleman to lecture the members of this house on the way in which the proceedings of this house should, in his opinion, be
carried on, instead of being carried on as they have been in the long and somewhat fruitful years of the life of this house when the hon. gentleman was not a member of it.
It has been suggested that there should be frequent conferences between the whips of the groups. I think that is a very good suggestion, but it would be necessary for the whips of the groups to report to the leaders of the groups they represent that there had been such conferences so that those leaders of the groups might not be taking attitudes differing from the understandings that seemed to have been reached between the whips.
On a question of privilege, Mr. Speaker, I wish to state that there has been no understanding by the whips in regard to this matter.
Mr. St. Laurent:
I was unaware that the hon. gentleman was one of the whips.
Cheap; very cheap.
I happen to be one of the whips, and there was no understanding with respect to this.
Mr. St. Laurent:
I am informed, and I believe it, that on Wednesday last-and that was not the first time it was discussed- before the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Fournier) announced in the house that there was going to be a motion, he discussed it with the hon. gentleman who has just taken his seat.
The leader of the house is not-
The Prime Minister has said that he believed that one whip discussed this matter with another whip.