Mr. St. Laurent (Quebec East):
To the prejudice of the government's position. With respect to the procedure in the house the Minister of Finance, as leader of the house, had drawn Your Honour's attention to this disregard of the rules and practice, first in the 67509-296
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afternoon and then in the evening of Thursday. On neither occasion had Your Honour seen fit to rule on the point of order raised by the Minister of Finance. When on Friday Your Honour put to the house the question that the house, which is the master of its own proceedings, should be placed in exactly the same position it was when you resumed the chair on Thursday to submit the chairman's ruling, you were met by very strong objections and there occurred the incidents which we all deplore.
Now I recognize, sir, that strong feelings and great heat have been demonstrated in this debate. I recognize that hon. gentlemen opposite felt, and probably still feel, that the government has applied standing order 33 with undue severity. We do not feel we have done so. We have acted within the rules to protect the rights of all hon. members on both sides of the house to express their opinion by their vote on this measure in time to be effective. There is a legitimate difference between two sides of the house; it is the normal working of our parliamentary system. On Thursday, I will not deny we were disappointed at the manner in which the rules had been applied, but we created no scene. We made no manifestation. We submitted to that.
On Friday Your Honour, having examined the situation and having come to the conclusion that you should at the first opportunity put the appeal that normally should have been put at five o'clock on the day before, without nullifying any proceeding, you proceeded to submit to the house the question as to whether that should be done. The house having approved that course, you did so.
There was, and still is apparently, the suggestion that in doing so you were subordinating the rules of parliament to the will of the government. Well, we absolutely repudiate any such suggestion. We do say that proceedings of the character of this motion would constitute a very serious precedent that would enable any factious group that was opposed to any bit of legislation to resort to it, and thus prevent the normal operations of the House of Commons in the progress of its business. I should like at this point to refer very briefly to something that was said by an hon. member who was the then hon member for Vancouver East, as recorded at page 41 of Hansard for January 28, 1949:
Surely this is a question of orderly procedure in parliament, and whether we agree with it or not is a matter to be decided by the vote of parliament.
It has been stated, and we must all recognize it, that if there are hon. members who are prepared to vote for this motion
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there are very many more on both sides of the house who are prepared to assert by their votes that they still have confidence in the presiding officer of this house. Such a vote would not be a happy situation. It may be an inevitable situation. It is one about which those who have spoken for the other three groups in the house have made their positions clear.
I feel that, on this side of the house, we are entitled to some time for the consideration of what should be the ultimate disposition of this motion. It is not a situation which cannot be cured. It is not a situation which is going to destroy this parliament; and there should be in the minds of reasonable men, after they have had an opportunity of expressing their views, the feeling that, after all, something has to be done to allow parliament to continue to operate in the true traditions of British institutions and to carry on its work effectively. This would not be achieved by the adaption of this kind of motion, and is not apt to be achieved by the repudiation of this kind of motion, no matter what the majority opposed to it.
I therefore move at this time, seconded by the Minister of Finance (Mr. Harris):
That the debate be now adjourned.