Mr. G. H. BOIVIN (Shefford) moved:
That the First and Final Report of the Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament, appointed to consider:-
1. The forms of Bills and the best means of affording information and assistance in the consideration thereof at aill stages of legislation in both Houses of Parliament;
2. The better distribution of the work of legislation between the two Houses;
3. The practical operation of the provisions of The Senate and House of Commons Act, Revised Statutes of Canada, 1906, chapter ten, respecting the attendance of Senators and Members of the House of Commons, and the expediency of making any alterations in those provisions,-which said report was presented to the House of Commons on Thursday, June 14th, 1923, be now concurred in.
He said: Before the motion is put to the House, I should like to say a very few words concerning the report which was presented on Thursday last as the unanimous finding of the Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament concerning the matters which were referred to us. Let me say at the outset that this report is nothing more than a recommendation to parliament and to the government concerning the matters therein mentioned and that any action which the House may take to-day will be merely a direction to the government, and will have no effect in changing the law as it now stands upon our statutes until it is implemented by legislation introduced by the government.
The first matter referred to the committee was the form of bills and the best means of affording information and assistance in the consideration thereof at all stages of legislation in both Houses of parliament. I do not desire to take up much time in my remarks on this subject, because the report is very complete and any hon. member reading
it in the Votes and Proceedings of Thursday last will see that the committee recommends that when an opportunity presents itself, the rules of the House of Commons be amended for the purpose of altering the form in which bills are now printed for presentation to the House. At the present time, bills merely show enactments and amendments which it is proposed to have approved by parliament, and there is no explanation whatever of the changes which are made in amending acts. The committee unanimously considered that, if it were possible to print on the opposite pages of the bill, the full section or subsection which it is desired to amend, showing in brackets or in italics the changes to be made, and also to print in a parallel column the section or subsection as amended, it would be a great time-saver and would avoid the necessity of many members asking the minister in charge of the bill: What is the present form of the section?
What is the nature of the change?-Why is the change being made? -and a great many questions which are very essential to a proper understanding of the bill, but which could be dispensed with if all this information were included in the bill when it was presented to the House. However, this is merely a recommendation. The rules of the House of Commons, as we all know, are made by the House itself, and it was not thought by the committee that the rules should be amended at this late stage of the session, but it was hoped that our recommendation might be given consideration and that the rules might be amended at the opening of the next session of parliament.
The second matter referred to us was the better distribution of the work of legislation between the two Houses of Parliament. There was a long discussion concerning this matter in committee, and while some members thought that rigid rules should be enacted to the effect that all private legislation should be divided equally between both Houses, it was pointed out by the majority of the committee that this might work a hardship upon senators and members of the House of Commons who might be requested by
their constituents to take charge of a bill at the time of its introduction, and to see that it was safely piloted through its initial stages in that house in which the hon. member occupied a seat. For that reason, in order not to deprive any member of parliament or any senator of the right of introducing a bill which might be specially confided to his care, it was decided merely to recommend that the distribution of all Private Bills be regulated by the Speakers of both Houses jointly, so that as far as practicable, all private legislation should be divided equally between the Senate and the House of Commons. The hon. members of the Senate who were members of this committee seem to be very anxious to do their share of work. They claim that during the opening weeks of the session they are often obliged to adjourn the Senate while waiting for legislation from this Chamber, and that if private legislation was introduced equally in both Houses-with the exception of divorce bills, which of course must be introduced in the other House-the time of parliament could be saved and that many days which are now devoted to private bills by the committees of this House could be better devoted to such government legislation as is sometimes referred to special committees.
The third, and perhaps the most important natter which was referred to the committee, is the practical operation of the provisions of the Senate and House of Commons Act 1906, respecting the attendance of senators and members of the House of Commons, and the expediency of amending these provisions. Let me say at once in this connection that I would not have considered it necessary to make any reference to the report had it not been for certain statements and editorial articles published in the press on Friday and Saturday of last week intimating that it was the desire of the committee to make it easier for senators and members of parliament to earn their sessional indemnities. This idea was far from our minds, and our only desire was to correct certain inconsistencies and anomalies existing in the present act. It will be found that section 32 of the amended act provides that
For every session of parliament which extends beyond fifty days there shall be payable to each member of the Senate and the House of Commons attending at such session a sessional allowance of $4,000 and no more.
Section 38 provides:
That in each session of parliament of less than fifty days there shall be allowed to each member of the Senate and House of Commons attending at such session $25 for each day's attendance.
This means, if the law is to be strictly interpreted, that in the event of a session lasting exactly fifty days, no indemnity whatever shall be paid to any member of parliament. This anomaly can be corrected by amending section 32 to read:
For every session of parliament which extends over a period of fifty days or more,
Another anomaly which we desire to have corrected is the following condition which now exists. If a member of the House of Commons is called away from the House on Thursday afternoon and does not return until the following Monday, he is penalized for three days' absence. If he leaves on Friday afternoon and does not return until the following Tuesday, he is penalized for only one day's absence. We believe this to be unfair and we recommend that in both cas'es, the member should be treated in the same manner.
Another inconsistency requires correction. If a member from western Canada is called home in the month of March owing to the serious illness of a member of his family, and is absent for fifteen days, but is regularly in attendance throughout the remainder of the session, he receives his full sessional indemnity. If an hon. member for some distant constituency is obliged to return home during the month of June by reason of family sickness, even if he has not been absent during the preceding months of the session, he is fined $25 for each day that he is absent. We recommend that in both cases, the member should receive the same treatment.
The press in some of its articles has led the public to believe that our desire was to allow any member to leave this House during the last fifteen days of the session without being fined. That is not the spirit of our recommendation which is merely to extend the same rule from the beginning to the end of each session. We consider that important legislation may be introduced in the first part of a session as well as in the last days, and that a member who is called away by any matter of urgent importance in his constituency or for any well recognized personal reason should be treated in the same way whether he is absent during the first or the last days of the session.
There is only one other important change proposed. It has been pointed out that under our resolution we have done away with the clause in the amended act which provides that a member must be present for at least three-fourths of the sitting days of the session in order to be entitled to his full sessional indemnity. It is stated that in certain sessions this may operate to the advantage of
a member. It must also be said that in many other sessions it will operate to his disadvantage. In the ease of a session lasting eight or nine weeks, under the law as we propose to amend it, every member must have at least fifty days of attendance in order to receive his full sessional indemnity. If not he receives only $25 for each day of attendance. Under the old law if the session lasted more than fifty days, and the member was present for three-quarters of the sitting days, he received his full indemnity. We did not find this to be absolutely just and right, owing to the fact that the entire membership cannot receive its indemnity unless the session extends over a period of fifty days, and we considered that like under the old act, the individual member should be treated the same as the entire House. This amendment would certainly not relieve a member from any hardship in earning his sessional indemnity and in many instances, it would necessitate a longer attendance than that which is necessary under the present law.
May I be allowed to repeat that the finding of the committee in all these respects was absolutely unanimous. I submit the report to the House in the firm hope that it will be adopted with equal unanimity. When concurred in, this report will not be binding upon the government but I feel sure the government will be directed by the unanimous voice of the House, and that as requested by the committee the required legislation will be introduced during the present session to correct and do away with the anomalies and inconsistencies to which I have briefly referred.