November 25, 1957

PC

Léon Balcer (Solicitor General of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Balcer:

They are the Speaker of the house (Mr. Michener), the Minister of Finance (Mr. Fleming), the Minister of National Revenue (Mr. Nowlan), the Secretary of State (Mrs. Fairclough)...

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LIB
PC

Léon Balcer (Solicitor General of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Balcer:

And your humble servant.

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LIB

Pierre Gauthier (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal

Mr. Gauthier (Portneuf):

Some experts!

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LIB
LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

Would the Solicitor General mind if I intervene?

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PC

Léon Balcer (Solicitor General of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Balcer:

Is it a question or an intervention?

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

I do not want to prevent the Solicitor General from making the allegations he just made, but I should merely like to point out to him that, during his absence, three of his colleagues on the government side took part in the debate and that not one of them suggested that this matter be referred to the internal economy committee of the house. On the contrary, they did not say a word about it.

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PC

Léon Balcer (Solicitor General of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Balcer:

Precisely. I wanted to give an explanation and say that this was as far as the study of this matter has gone. The best way of speeding up the consideration of this matter is precisely to leave it to the internal economy committee of the house. Referring the consideration of this resolution to a committee of the house where the debates are interminable would certainly not hasten the solution of the problem. A report could certainly not be submitted before the end of this session.

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LIB

Pierre Gauthier (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal

Mr. Gauthier (Portneuf):

Congratulations for your appreciation of the members of this house.

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CCF

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

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

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Speaker, I regret that my

knowledge of French is so limited. I hope one day to be in a position to use this language as fluently as our French-speaking colleagues use my own language.

For the time being, it is better for me to continue my speech in English.

(Text):

I am sure that if any of my French speaking colleagues understood what I have said, they will agree with that last sentence. Indeed that effort of mine may be proof that we need simultaneous translation in this House of Commons. On the other hand, it might also prove that it would sometimes be very difficult for an interpreter to figure out what had been said.

Mr. Speaker, as has already been indicated by my colleague the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Winch) some of us do have certain doubts about the wisdom or desirability of a simultaneous translation system for this House of Commons. The reason for these doubts has already been expressed- some of us fear the innovation might have the effect of making debates in this house too mechanical. We fear, also, that it might discourage some of us whose mother tongue is English from trying to learn the other official language of this country.

House of Commons

We are also somewhat amazed, as are hon. members opposite, at the great interest now being shown in this question by supporters of the Liberal party, in view of the silence they held on this issue in years gone by. However, Mr. Speaker, what is before us, while it is to a large extent a discussion of a simultaneous translation system, is only a motion that the government give consideration to the setting up of a committee to give further consideration to the matter, and it seems to me that whether one is for or against the installation of a simultaneous translation system it is only fair to have the matter looked into by a committee which could make a much better study and examination of the matter than can be achieved through the kind of discussion we are having today.

I was a little surprised at the stand taken by the government as expressed by the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Green) and also by the Solicitor General (Mr. Balcer) on this matter, namely that it should not be referred to a committee, but rather that we should trust the various departments of government which are looking into the question to go into it satisfactorily. I suppose we will have occasion many times to come back to a phrase which was used a good deal during the election campaign-"the supremacy of parliament".

As far as the arrangements of the House of Commons are concerned, surely that is something for the House of Commons as a whole, rather than for the government to decide. I realize that if the expenditure of money is involved then the government has to come into the picture, but at the initial stage, namely the studying of the question to decide whether or not hon. members as a whole will want to look further into this proposal, I suggest that parliament should be supreme, and that this investigation should be undertaken by a committee of the House of Commons rather than leave it to a department or departments of government.

You will notice that I do not speak in the same terms with respect to the fact that Your Honour is making a study of the question. You, sir, are the servant of the house and I put your study in a different category from the study being made by any department of the government. It seems to me that the very fact that Your Honour is making a study of the matter puts it down as a parliamentary question and infers that there should therefore be a committee of parliament, with Your Honour as a member, to examine into this issue.

I speak as one who is not yet convinced that a simultaneous translation system would be a good idea. I am concerned about the

House of Commons

mechanical results that might be produced. I think, too, that some of us might lose the incentive to acquire greater facility in the other official language.

But in the meantime, because of the interest shown in the question on all sides of the house, I think that no matter what our views may be on the ultimate question we should be able to get together with regard to the desirability of having a committee look into the matter. As I indicated by the question I put to the Minister of Public Works when he was speaking, I do not feel that it is any serious objection to the motion to say that there is no time for a committee to be set up at the present session. The motion does not ask for that. The motion asks for consideration to be given to the setting up of a committee. If the motion were agreed to at this session, its intent could still be carried out at a future session, if the government were so disposed, after giving the matter consideration.

So, Mr. Speaker, I hope we will not be carried away from the terms of the motion, but, rather, that we will remind ourselves that all it proposes is that a committee be directed to look further into this matter. Surely that is a reasonable request.

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LIB

Daniel (Dan) McIvor

Liberal

Mr. Daniel Mclvor (Fort William):

Mr. Speaker, I have just a brief word to say. I have had some experience with resolutions. In 1937 I had a resolution before the house and there was a full dress debate on health insurance. I had a resolution on last session dealing with increased pensions for retired civil servants. I have one on again this session, and I expect it will be successful.

The object of bringing in resolutions is to place before the government something which is a national wrong and which ought to be corrected. No matter what party is in power we like to think that the government consists of reasonable men and women, and that it wants to correct the country's wrongs. The hon. member who has proposed this resolution has called the attention of the government to this question, which he considers to be of great importance.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, with regard to resolutions the best one can expect is that the government will give consideration to the matter raised. The hon. Secretary of State (Mrs. Fairclough) has risen and had her say. The best we can expect from any government is that they will give consideration to the matter raised. Having considered it, they can say yes, or they can say no; it is their re-sponsibilty. I congratulate the hon. member concerned for bringing in this resolution because I did not think it would keep going

an hour, and it has kept going for three hours. Therefore, it must be of national importance.

(Translation) :

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LIB

Charles-Noël Barbès

Liberal

Mr. C. N. Barbes (Chapleau):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to say a few words, very briefly, on that question. We hear more and more about co-operation and understanding between those who speak English on the one hand and those of French origin on the other.

I very warmly congratulate the hon. member for Joliette-L'Assomption-Montcalm (Mr. Breton) for having introduced a motion which will promote bilingualism, an essential factor of progress and unity in Canada.

It is very important, Mr. Speaker, that our requests be heard and understood, as soon as they are made in this house, by each and every member of the cabinet, whether these petitions be made in the French or in the English language.

The motion of the hon. member for Joliette-L'Assomption-Montcalm seems to me to promote in that way that national unity which we have so much at heart. Moreover, it should not raise any controversy and, even if the question of cost should be held against it, let us not forget that it would be much better to spend money in that way to promote national unity than to spend it, for example, for lighting around the parliament buildings, which only pleases the eyes of everybody.

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IND

Raoul Poulin

Independent

Mr. Raoul Poulin (Beauce):

Mr. Speaker, I must say that I had no intention of taking part in the debate when the motion was introduced this afternoon. It is not that I am not interested in the question, quite the contrary-and I will try to prove it to you in a moment-but I just thought that the motion had been well introduced by the hon. member for Joliette-L'Assomption-Montcalm (Mr. Breton). I also thought that the discussion was getting on fine, that everything was apparently going very well, until 1 started to wonder whether some were not-and I am not thinking of anyone in particular- repeating here the same tactics used in the past, under which an important number of members of the house speak emphatically in favour of motions and end by talking them out, as we say.

Such being the case, I believe I should say a few words, not, of course, to come to the assistance of those who might have had the same idea, but simply to mention the fact

that we did understand perfectly what has gone on before with regard to certain bills introduced in this house.

I mentioned at the beginning that I did not lack interest in this matter, on the contrary. Now if you look back in the Votes and Proceedings of this house for October the 15th, you will see that under the heading question No. 17 I asked the following:

1. What was the cost of setting up the present system for the transmission of debates in the House of Commons, by means of microphones and loudspeakers?

2. Since the system was set up. what has been the annual cost of its maintenance and operation?

On October 18 the house received the following answers given by the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Hodgson). The first question was as follows:

What was the cost of setting up the present system for the transmission of debates in the House of Commons, by means of microphones and loudspeakers?

Here is the answer:

The second part of that question was the following:

Since the system was set up, what was the annual cost of its maintenance and operation?

Here is the answer:

Maintenance and operation, $20,000 per annum. Rental, $7,500 per annum.

That is $27,500 a year. To put it briefly the present amplification system cost $33,529 and its present maintenance cost is $27,500.

I also asked the following question which will be found in the Votes and Proceedings for October the 15th:

Did the government put into operation a system of simultaneous translation of the debates in the House of Commons, on the occasion of the international postal congress recently held in the parliament buildings? What was the maintenance and operation cost thereof? Were the results obtained satisfactory?

Now then, seven days later, on October 22, I received the following answer. Of course, I spare the house the reading of the whole answer, which is rather long, and I summarize it thus: the cost of installation was $50,000.

To the question:

During how many weeks was the system in operation?

the answer was:

Seven weeks and two days.

To the question:

What was the maintenance and operation cost thereof?

the answer was:

Approximately $11,500.

House of Commons To the question:

Were the results obtained satisfactory?

the answer was very precise, concise and unequivocal, namely:

Yes.

This afternoon, the Postmaster General (Mr. Hamilton) gave us a fairly good explanation-I would even say a very good explanation-and said that the installation made for the postal congress this fall was a temporary one. I notice here that, according to the report, the results were excellent. This means that if the results were excellent with a temporary installation, there can be no doubt that they could not be inferior with a permanent installation. To my mind, that seems clear enough and, though we are not experts and need a committee which could no doubt cast light on all these problems, I believe I can say that those are indisputable conclusions.

And now, Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Winch) has, if I understood him rightly, given us some indication of rather astronomical figures with regard to the probable cost of setting up or maintaining such a system as the resolution before us calls for. Well, if we refer to both answers to my questions, we might conclude that the installation and maintenance cost for the proposed system would perhaps not differ very widely from the installation and maintenance cost of the present amplification system now operating in this house.

For instance, we find, in comparison, that the cost of our present amplification system amounted to $33,000, whereas the installation of the system for simultaneous translation used last fall during the Postal Congress, cost $50,000. I might be told that between $33,000 and $50,000 there is a considerable margin. I admit there is. For an individual, an amount representing the difference between $33,000 and $50,000 is something considerable, but I submit that for a government, it is a relatively small amount, especially when it is for setting up a system which should promote the mutual understanding which already prevails, but which no doubt we should be interested in furthering still more.

As for the maintenance cost, it was, as I pointed out, $11,500 for a period of about 7 weeks and 2 days, which comes to about $6,000 a month. If we agree that the operation and maintenance cost of the suggested system would represent a very small amount when the house is not sitting, if we agree also that

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our sessions last from 6 to 7 months a year, we must conclude that the maintenance of that system would cost $35,000, $40,000 or perhaps $50,000 a year, an amount which is not yet exceedingly far from the $27,700 spent on the present amplifier system.

I may quite possibly be wrong, Mr. Speaker, the more so since I have never been an expert nor a wizard at figures, but this may be another reason for us, the humble members who are but laymen in that field, as has been said a moment ago, to urge that this house be given a committee in which we, the laymen, of course, could appear and also question experts who would no doubt be very glad to enlighten us.

It is the hon. member for Roberval (Mr. Villeneuve), I believe, who so aptly said this afternoon how important it is that the people who wish to attend our debates from time to time in the galleries should understand what is going on in the house. Everyone knows that people come occasionally from each of our constituencies either on business trips or simply on pleasure trips. They are very glad to take advantage of the opportunity to visit the house in order to see what is going on here, but many of them do not understand what is being said.

I know very well that the ideal for all Canadian citizens would be to understand both of Canada's official languages; the ideal would be that all English-speaking Canadians should speak and understand French and that all the French-speaking Canadians should speak and understand English. We must face the fact that there are exceptions on both sides. There are people of English origin who do not understand French and, on the other hand, French-speaking citizens who do not understand English, but they have the same right to come here as anybody else. It seems to me that it would be logical that those people who come here, many of whom, as I have said a moment ago, travel considerable distances to come and see what is going on, should understand the members and get somewhat into the atmosphere of the debates which they attend so that they may go back home with an excellent impression of what goes on in the parliament of our country.

It has been said-I am not the first one to say it-that a certain number of these good Canadian citizens whom we cannot blame for not knowing both official languages, return home with a bad impression of their visit of the capital of their country and particularly of parliament.

If the resolution before the house were adopted, it would no doubt be an excellent means of answering the legitimate expectations of those Canadian citizens; it would be, as has been said and as I repeat, a means to promote understanding.

Mr. Speaker, during the debate which followed the introduction of this notice of motion, I have been happy to find that all English-speaking members of the house have been very kind towards French Canadians; they have shown much goodwill and understanding. This is encouraging for the future of national unity. I am glad to emphasize that fact and I repeat that if we accept this motion for the establishment of a committee, we will have made another step towards understanding.

Now, I am not qualified to decide whether a committee of the house such as is proposed by the resolution would be in a better position to study that question than our own internal economy committee.

I have no doubt, Mr. Speaker, that since you are heading that committee yourself the discussions are proceeding rapidly and that highly qualified experts must have come before it. In fact I should think that committee already has a fairly good idea of the situation and would even be in a position to tell us exactly the point it has reached in its examination of the matter.

But would it not be a good thing if some members of this house, in a house committee, were provided with an opportunity to take part in this fine debate, to put forward their suggestions, express their own views as well as those of their constituents? Mind you, I have every confidence in the qualifications of the ministers who sit on that committee but still I think that I would not be exaggerating were I to say that these ministers might not be in a position to express in that committee the exact thoughts of the electors of the various constituencies of this country. I submit then that a much better way of arriving at the results proposed would be to set up a committee of the house to study the matter and to hear the opinions of the taxpayer in that regard.

In any event, Mr. Speaker, I see that I have spoken longer than I wanted to. I might repeat at this point that having noted the strange turn taken by the debate, I felt I should take this opportunity of adding my humble voice-I should not say to bring to the house my humble lights since those hon. members who have already spoken in

this debate have been displaying most incandescent lights indeed, but, still, I did want to state my humble opinion on this matter.

(Text):

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LIB

Joseph Gérard Yves Leduc

Liberal

Mr. Leduc (Verdun):

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Section 29 of the Standing Orders reads as follows:

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.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I do move, seconded by the hon. member for Saguenay (Mr. Brisson):

That the mover of this motion, the hon. member for Joliette-L'Assomption-Montcalm (Mr. Breton), do now speak.

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PC

Howard Charles Green (Minister of Defence Production; Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

Mr Speaker, on the point of order, there is already a motion before the house by arrangement this afternoon. In addition to this being a very strange motion, it is not in order.

My hon. friends across the way talk about closure and accuse us of trying to bring about closure. Here we have the position where the mover of this original resolution has already spoken. While there are other members who wish to speak one of his friends on his side of the house rises in his place and moves that he must now be heard for a second time. I submit that that is completely out of order. As a matter of fact, nobody is permitted to speak twice in a debate unless it may be that the mover can speak in closing his debate. Certainly, there is no rule which says a person can introduce a motion and then, after the debate has gone on for a certain length of time one of his friends can get up and move he is to speak again. If those were to be the rules under which this house were to conduct its business, then the whole process would become a farce. I suggest the hon. member's motion now is out of order.

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Official Opposition House Leader; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

On the point of order, may I say this. I object to the use of the word "closure" by my hon. friend the house leader because I think I could return the compliment to him. His attempt this afternoon was more an attempt at closure than anything done by the hon. member here.

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PC

Daniel Roland Michener (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

Order.

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PC

Howard Charles Green (Minister of Defence Production; Minister of Public Works; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Green:

On a question of privilege-

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PC

Daniel Roland Michener (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Speaker:

Order. I think the remarks made by the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Green) were not strictly to the point of order, but that does not excuse the hon. member who is now departing from the point of order. There is a point of order before the house and I will hear the hon. member on that.

House of Commons

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November 25, 1957