February 17, 1953 (21st Parliament, 7th Session)


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

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

Mr. Knowles:

I will accept that for the purposes of this debate at any rate, but I would point out to you that what hon. members are permitted to discuss on that occasion is not just the question as to whether or not Mr. Speaker should leave the chair. They 68108-130
Farm Improvement Loans Act are permitted to discuss any grievances which Your Honour allows as in order which they care to raise on that occasion.
Similarly I would point out that on Thursday night of this week the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) will make what is known as the budget speech. Then other hon. members will follow. What will they speak to? They will speak to the motion that Mr. Speaker do leave the chair for the house to resolve itself into committee of ways and means. Hon. members will not be required to confine themselves to the question as to whether or not the Speaker should get out of the chair; they will be permitted to discuss the whole matter of government fiscal policy, indeed they will be permitted to discuss almost anything under the terms of that debate.
The point I am making is simply that it is hardly correct to say that because the motion before the house is that Mr. Speaker leave the chair for the house to go into committee of the whole we must direct ourselves just to that specific language. As I say, we have these other debates which through custom, if for no other reason, have become vehicles for recognized debates. I accept Your Honour's suggestion that there are certain limitations, but certainly they go far beyond the question of just whether or not Mr. Speaker should get out of the chair.
I want to come now to the problem which it seems to me was created by Mr. Speaker Glen's ruling in 1942. I should like to say a word about the circumstances that led up to that ruling, and then I want to ask the house to consider very carefully just how the house of that day considered Mr. Speaker Glen's ruling. I shall give what I think is most conclusive evidence as to what was the view of the house of that day with respect to that ruling.
The ruling was given on February 23, 1942. The house was then discussing a very contentious issue, namely the proposal for a plebiscite on the question of conscription. Mr. McLarty had moved the motion, Mr. Hanson, then leader of the opposition, Mr. Walter Tucker, the hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Johnston), the hon. member for York South (Mr. Noseworthy) and others had spoken. They did not speak in that order, because the speaker whose action produced the issue was the hon. member for Bow River, who moved an amendment to the motion.
At that point the then prime minister, Mr. King, raised two points of order. One was
Farm Improvement Loans Act as to whether or not an amendment of any kind to that motion was in order, because after all it was a motion the terms of which had been agreed to by His Excellency the Governor General, and the other point of order was as to whether any debate was allowed at that point. The then prime minister did not attempt to restrict the extent of the debate, he simply argued' that there should be no debate at all despite the fact that it had gone on for some considerable time.
Discussion followed in which Mr. Hanson, the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Maclnnis) and one or two others took place. As a result of that discussion Mr. Speaker Glen considered the matter during the recess between six and eight o'clock, and. then gave his ruling after coming back at eight o'clock.
It seems to me that that incident is far enough back in history for us to be able to say with great respect that it was a considerable problem with which Mr. Speaker Glen was faced on that occasion. Here was a most contentious issue, and feeling in the house was quite high over this question. The then prime minister had raised those two points of order and presented the Speaker of that day with a real problem.
Mr. Speaker Glen was able to agree without question with the prime minister on the point that the motion was not amendable. I am inclined to agree with that aspect of the ruling that was made on that occasion. But on the other point, Mr. Speaker Glen brought forth a compromise. Let us be fair with ourselves. It is now eleven years later, and surely we can look back at this in the perspective of history, and realize that it was a compromise.
Mr. King had argued that there should be no debate. Mr. Speaker Glen had said, "I cannot go that far; I have to rule that the motion is debatable." He quoted standing order 60 and he quoted standing order 38. He pointed out that if there was any doubt, if there was any conflict between them, standing order 38 was passed in its present form after standing order 60 and would govern. So he ruled that the motion was debatable.

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