Tuesday 14 September 1993

Role of the independent member

Peter Sibenik, procedural research clerk, committees branch, Office of the Clerk


Chair / Président: Hansen, Ron (Lincoln ND)

*Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Wessenger, Paul (Simcoe Centre ND)

Johnson, Paul R. (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings/PrinceEdward-Lennox-Hastings-Sud ND)

Farnan, Mike (Cambridge ND)

*MacKinnon, Ellen (Lambton ND)

Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex ND)

*McClelland, Carman (Brampton North/-Nord L)

*Morin, Gilles E. (Carleton East/-Est L)

*Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND)

*Sterling, Norman W. (Carleton PC)

Sullivan, Barbara (Halton Centre L)

*Villeneuve, Noble (S-D-G & East Grenville/S-D-G & Grenville-Est PC)

*In attendance / présents

Substitutions present/ Membres remplaçants présents:

Akande, Zanana L. (St Andrew-St Patrick ND) for Mr Farnan

Hope, Randy R. (Chatham-Kent ND) for Mr Hansen

Jamison, Norm (Norfolk ND) for Mr Paul Johnson

Murphy, Tim (St George-St David L) for Mrs Sullivan

Winninger, David (London South/-Sud ND) for Mrs Mathyssen

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Sola, John (Mississauga East/-Est Ind)

Clerk pro tem / Greffière par intérim: Bryce, Donna

The committee met at 1032 in the Humber Room, Macdonald Block, Toronto.


The Vice-Chair (Mr Paul Wessenger): The proceedings will commence today with a review by Peter Sibenik.

Mr Peter Sibenik: Thank you very much, Mr Chair, and thank you for having me here again. What I've prepared for the committee today is a memo. It's a one-page memo and as an appendix to it there is my previous memo, which members may have reviewed from the previous meetings of this committee in June.

What I'm going to do here is get down to brass tacks and identify the specific standing orders that might be affected by the deliberations of the committee today. If you would please turn to appendix A, the very first page, we'll do this in conjunction with the standing orders. You have a set of standing orders with your materials.

The very first standing order that I want to refer to is 28(g), and perhaps I can just read that. This standing order deals with deferred divisions and it basically says, "During the ringing of division bells as provided in clause (f), the vote may be deferred at the request of any chief whip of a recognized party in the House." It goes on, but the key provision in there is that it says it has to be done by a chief whip of a recognized party in the House.

Members may be puzzled as to why this provision is included in this memo, but I think it exemplifies the fact that there are a number of standing orders that are phrased in terms of certain party officers having certain kinds of responsibilities, the chief whip in this case. The question that the committee may in the course of the next few days want to consider is, for example, whether the committee wants to go to the extent of recommending a situation where an independent member can request a deferred division. I will say, however, that no other jurisdiction in the Commonwealth, I believe, extends this particular right to any independent member. However, it's one of the more obscure features in the standing orders that I thought I would turn your attention to.

Mr Norman W. Sterling (Carleton): Are you saying that you don't have the right to defer a division or to call a division?

Interjection: To ask for it.

Mr Tim Murphy (St George-St David): Only House leaders.

Mr Sterling: Ask for a deferral?

Mr Sibenik: That's right.

Mr Sterling: One of the things that I think you've missed here is that I think the biggest problem an individual member has, an independent or not, is that he doesn't have the right to vote in the Legislature if he wants to vote in the Legislature and be recorded. I think that is a huge, huge deficiency in our standing orders.

House leaders aren't going to agree with me and parties aren't going to agree with me, because sometimes parties like to say: "Hey, we don't want to vote on this. We'll let it go on a voice vote," or whatever, "and we won't cause anybody any embarrassment. They won't have to stand up and be counted." But if one of the independent members felt very strongly on an issue and the two parties or all three parties said, "Hey, let this go and let sleeping dogs lie," which happens from time to time, the independent member is out of luck.

I can remember when I wanted to vote very strongly against the extension of separate school funding, Bill 30, and I couldn't get any of my party to stand up, because we needed five members, and it was the New Democratic Party which gave me the support in terms of allowing me to vote. The vote was 117 to 1; I was the one against. But I wanted to be recorded as voting against that, and so I have always thought, quite frankly, there should be a division when any member of the Legislature wants a division. That has always been my position, and I think it's an issue which maybe members of the Legislature or this committee might want to consider. I think five members is far too many in order to force a vote. But again, it's a weakening of the party system as such, and you have to recognize that when you go that way. I've always thought it was passing strange that you'd be elected down here and that if you feel strongly on an issue, you don't have the right to have your name recorded yea or nay. I think it's a point that should be included.

Mr Sibenik: It's an additional point, yes, that can be considered by the committee as well.

The second provision that I want to alert you to is the second bullet item in the memo, and that refers to members' statements. If you would turn to standing order 31, you will see the specific provisions that we have right now with respect to members' statements.

Standing order 31(a) says the following: "A member, other than a leader of a recognized party in the House or a minister of the crown, may be recognized to make a statement for not more than one and one-half minutes."

However, that standing order is subsequently delimited by standing order 31(b), which goes on to say, "Up to three members from each of the recognized parties in the House may make a statement during the period for `Members' Statements'." Then it goes on in standing order 31(c) to actually specify the rotation that will occur. It's these particular provisions, in particular 31(b) and (c), that tend to prevent independent members from being allowed to make a member's statement.

Perhaps at this point I should indicate that there used to be a time when our standing orders were not phrased in terms of a member being a member of a recognized party. It just said "members" or "private members" or something along those lines. However, since 1970, standing orders have been progressively amended -- it didn't happen at one time, but it happened in successive stages -- so that the members' entitlements, to a certain extent, became a function of being a member of a recognized party, and this is one of the provisions, actually, that has happened.

Mr Murphy: What's the number a member's party has to have to be recognized for the purposes of the rules? Is it 12?

Mr Sibenik: It's generally perceived to be 12, although there's nothing in the standing orders that specifically says that a recognized party is defined as 12 members. However, if you take a look at the standings of the parties since the late 1970s, I believe, all the parties have had more than 12 members, and so it's generally perceived to be 12 although there's nothing defined per se in the Legislative Assembly Act or the standing orders to that effect.

Mr Carman McClelland (Brampton North): Have we effectively borrowed that from the House of Commons? You're indicating it has more or less evolved since the 1970s. Is there a benchmark elsewhere in our system that specifies numbers with respect to official status? Quite candidly, I always believed it was 12. I just presumed, until you corrected me, that it was enshrined somewhere, and so I'm curious as to if it does in fact exist perhaps in one of the sister parliaments or in the senior House in Ottawa.


Mr Sibenik: There are different provisions in different parliaments. I'm not sure that we have borrowed from other parliaments, to tell you the truth, but it has been widely perceived to be 12, but that's only because there have been more than 12 members per party for quite a while. That poses a problem that perhaps the committee might want to address: the number of members that is required to form a recognized party. It certainly poses a problem. What happens if a party in the House has fewer than 12 members? Then everything is thrown into some kind of difficulty.

Mr Sterling: I don't think we have to worry about that.

Mr Sibenik: There are certain blocking provisions in the standing orders that specify 12 members, and that's what perhaps everybody is thinking about.

Mr Sterling: It was not 12 before; it was 20 before.

Mr Sibenik: Yes, it was reduced to 12.

Mr Sterling: That's right. It was reduced to 12 after we went to 16 after the 1987 election. I guess the upside of putting something in here is that it becomes more definitive, but the downside is that if a party falls below 12, then the House leaders can get together and make a compromise or whatever in order to strike out.

Does the Board of Internal Economy, in terms of the financing of the research departments, have a rule as to what a party is?

Mr Sibenik: I don't believe it's enshrined in any of the minutes of the Board of Internal Economy, but the board does have some kind of say in the level of funding that is given to each of the party caucuses. I believe the presumption on their part is 12 as well. I don't think the problem has ever been specifically put to the board in view of the fact that we've been going along this far, it seems to me. That's my understanding of this situation.

Mr Murphy: The reason I raised the question is that it obviously, it seems to me, frames the issue about who an independent member is. Once you fall below whatever that threshold is -- and while I recognize Mr Sterling's point about how defining a number in the standing orders may reduce some flexibility if a party goes, let's say, to 11, I suppose in theory you could none the less amend the standing orders as part of the House leaders' negotiation. It just requires a further level of amendment at some point, of agreement to all so it's not just, "Do want you want to do," as a compromise among the three parties, but you then reflect that by way of amending the standing orders.

But if we're going to debate what an independent member is or is not allowed to do, you have to define both the lower threshold and the upper threshold. That's why I raise the issue of what that is. Therefore, it seems to me we have to, if we're going to have a sensible discussion, define what we believe that upper threshold to be, of how many people may be elected under a party label that doesn't fit within a certain number qualify as independent for the purposes of our standing orders as currently drafted.

Ms Akande: Further to that, one of the things that's certainly going to influence our decisions around what powers or what abilities or what responsibilities and leverage an independent member may have will be what threshold we set as being appropriate for a party, because it certainly will influence what it is that we want to assign to them. I think that's a very important question and maybe one that we should be discussing before we discuss the others: whether or not we're going to leave it as vague and flexible as it is so that it can be redefined according to need, or whether in fact we want to put some specific number to that, because that really should preface the discussion of the other.

The Vice-Chair: Peter, I guess you can continue now, unless there's further clarification on this point.

Mr Sibenik: The third item that we could talk about is ministerial responses. If you could turn to 32(e) and 32(c), 32(e) reads as follows:

"Following ministerial statements a representative or representatives of each of the recognized opposition parties in the House may comment for up to a total of five minutes for each party commencing with the official opposition."

Here we see there's not really any place for independent members to make a comment on a ministerial statement, and the committee will want to consider perhaps the extent to which the independent members should or should not be entitled to make such a statement.

The other provision that I draw to your attention is 32(c). This provides that copies of ministerial statements are to be delivered to the opposition party leaders or to their critics at or before the time the statement is made. This is another provision, I believe, that impinges on the ability of independent members. It's related to the other one as well. I just draw that one to your attention.

In fairness, I don't think this particular provision was mentioned by any of the independent members we heard from at our June meetings. It seems to me those members were primarily concerned about members' statements, oral questions, private members' business and participation in committees. I've looked at the committee Hansard for our June meetings and it was those four particular issues that the independent members we heard from seemed to be concerned about. I don't say that they were exclusively concerned about just those four, but those are the ones I picked up, so this one here was not particularly flagged.

The next item that I have in my memo is the ability to ask a question in the oral question period. If you could turn to standing order 33, you will see how that is phrased. Standing order 33(a) sets the general parameters for oral question period. It's one that I'm not going to read, but I think members of the committee can see how it is generally structured.

Standing order 33(b), just below, is of some interest to us because it specifies the order of questions and in fact the rotation. It specifies that it belongs to the parties. It specifically refers to the opposition parties, to the leaders of the opposition parties being entitled to leadoff questions, two for each leader, and it then provides that the single questions that follow are in rotation for the parties. Again, the reference is to parties there. If the committee is going to consider some change to that, I just draw that to the committee's attention.

The next provision that I want to draw to your attention is standing order 38(c). This deals with the compendia of background information. It says, "On the introduction of a government bill, a compendium of background information shall be delivered to the opposition critics." This seems to presumably exclude this compendium being given to independent members, although I'm not sure the extent to which these are delivered to persons other than opposition critics.

If you turn the page on my memo, you'll see that the next item deals with the statutory reports. With these particular reports, if you look at standing order 39(d), it seems to suggest that independent members don't really have an entitlement to receive a statutory report. Again, they do go to the opposition critics.


The next item that I'd draw to your attention is opposition days. If you take a look at standing orders 42(b) and (c), 42(b) says, "The opposition days referred to in clause (a) shall be distributed among the recognized opposition parties in proportion to their membership in the House." Clause (c) specifies that the notice comes from "a member of a recognized opposition party." So there's another provision the committee may want to consider.

The next item that I draw to your attention is want of confidence motions. If you take a look at standing orders 43(a) and (b), those are the provisions that seem to disentitle independent members from moving a want of confidence motion or even participating in deciding when the motion is going to be debated.

The penultimate provision that I want to draw to your attention is a fairly obscure provision in the standing orders. Standing order 44(b) deals with debates on a motion for discussion of a sessional paper.

The very last item that I draw to your attention is private members' hour. If you take a look at standing order 96(d), standing order 96(d) suggests that,

"The order for consideration of the items of business for each party shall be determined by a ballot conducted by the Clerk prior to or at the commencement of each session in which all private members may enter their names for the draw."

You'll see that particular standing order is initially phrased in terms of being a party member. It says "for each party" in the first and second lines, but then towards the end of that standing order it says "all private members." That poses a certain kind of difficulty.

This same difficulty is reflected in standing order 96(c), which deals with the time allotment given to private members' hour. If you take a look at standing order 96(c)(i), it refers to "the member moving a motion." If you look at (iii) there, it says "the member moving the motion" again. However, if you take a look at the intervening item, 96(c)(ii), you will see that the standing order appears to be phrased in terms of representatives of each recognized party.

Basically, what I'm saying is that for both standing order 96(d) and (c) there's a bit of confusion as to how to proceed. I'm not sure that I know how this would be interpreted. I think it's really a matter for the Speaker to rule on, and I'm not really capable of giving an interpretation to a standing order that is very difficult for most people to interpret. I draw that to your attention as well.

Those eight items that I've just indicated deal with items in the House. There are certain other items dealing with the committees that members may also want to turn their attention to, and I've made a list of these.

Mr Sterling: Before we go to those, can I ask you, Peter: the one thing you haven't included here is the power an individual member now has, which we may want to trade off with an independent. For instance, a member -- not an independent member, a member, because we don't distinguish between an independent member -- can stop a unanimous consent in the House; therefore, a very obstreperous independent member may block, for instance, something they don't want.

Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): Anyone can do that. You did that yourself.

Mr Sterling: Oh, yes. That's right.

Presumably within a party there are other pressures for you to be concerned about, your colleagues and what else is going on etc etc. So you have your House leader, you have your whip, you have your other party members saying, "Look, we have to deal with this matter; we should deal with this matter," etc. An independent member sitting on his or her own doesn't have those same kinds of pressures to cooperate, and therefore we might want to consider that for unanimous consent it has to be two members who will vote. I just throw that out as one example.

The other example where an individual member has an extreme amount of power is when the bill is reported to the House and the Speaker says, "Shall this bill be ordered for third reading?" As an individual member, I can force that bill into committee of the whole House and therefore prolong the debate and prolong the legislative process by doing that.

I don't know if there are other examples that other members know about where an individual member holds significant power, but those are two that I can think of, and I think we should think about those in terms of what we're doing here.

I guess the prime example didn't happen in our Legislature but during the constitutional debate. That's where Harper in effect scuttled the whole idea of having a vote on the Constitution. Quite frankly, I don't think he had the right to stop a vote on that very important issue in that Legislature no matter how strongly he felt on it, but he used whatever standing orders were there for him to stop something. Perhaps we should consider that here. I don't know.

I just throw those two issues on the floor for consideration. I don't know if any other members have thought about that part of it, but it's the tradeoffs that we're talking about here.

Mr Murphy: I think it's a fairly complicated set of things, and I agree that there really is a hierarchy of things we're looking at. An individual member's role as an individual or private member is one set. Then you have the role of a member as a member of a caucus, which is another set. I think there are some functions in the House which are clearly part of a member's representative function in the sense of representing the riding. There are others which are clearly a member's function, generally, as part of a party, a part of a set of values, positions, whatever, that make up a party. There is -- and I think your point is well taken that it's not necessarily well thought through -- the distinction between those two functions in the standing orders.

I look at the whole question, for example, of some of what Peter has pointed out in his paper, getting compendia, opposition responses. There's a degree to which that is more, frankly, a function of the member's role as part of a caucus, as a set of values, as positions. Alternatively, for example, members' statements I can see as entirely really a private member's role and as more independent from the caucus because that's the opportunity for private members to be more representative of their riding. To a certain degree, I think questions serve two functions. One can sometimes be representing the party or caucus position and sometimes it's just representing a sole riding interest.

I think we need to have a more clear sense of which of those roles are being served in certain things identified in the standing orders, and in some cases where it's much more for a private member's role, for example, private members' hour, as it's called, the role of an independent member in that context makes a lot more sense because that's the representative function of the riding. As it gets more into reflecting policy positions in a broader sense, I think the role of the private member drops, and that also can be reflected, as Mr Sterling quite rightly pointed out, in the issue of unanimous consent provisions, where you've got to think about the representativeness from a riding level versus the representativeness of a policy or set of values level. I think we have to look at all of those issues from that sort of dual purpose of a member perspective.

The Vice-Chair: I guess, Peter, you can continue now.

Mr Sibenik: I will say, just in response to Mr Sterling's comment, that there certainly are a great deal of things that independent members can do around here, it seems to me. I guess I should say that my memo was not phrased in terms of what independent members can do but in terms of what they cannot do. There is a whole range of things, as you indicate, that they can do.


The other thing is that you mention a provision dealing with unanimous consents. Perhaps you're very well aware of the situation in Ottawa where the standing orders have evolved -- I believe the last changes to the standing orders have indicated that it requires a certain number of members to block a unanimous consent provision. If the committee is going in that direction, I think the Ottawa standing orders might be of some assistance.

Mr Sterling: You see, what we're talking about here is the right of representation, so we're talking about not only the right of people like Mr Sola, who are independents, but we're also talking about the rights of the rest of the people. Those rights may be blocked by an individual in the Legislature and I may be denied the right to vote on an issue because somebody else has decided to take a certain course.

Therefore, I'm very much concerned with the existing rights once you start to go into the realm of independent members, because when you give rights for people to intervene, you're also giving the rights to block and to delay and to prevent certain things from happening in the Legislature, which heretofore haven't been a problem because most people have been under a party mechanism and those party mechanisms have worked to convince the individuals to act in reasonable fashions; therefore, for people to step outside of that has been very infrequent.

Mr Norm Jamison (Norfolk): I think the question is an interesting one because we keep bouncing back and forth between the recognized party system and the member's individual rights as a member of the Legislature. If you were to assess that on the basis of 130 members making a statement in the House every 130 statements, that would be the fair and equitable situation at that point in time. We're starting to confuse the party representatives in committees with individual members, and they're completely different. The majority has rights; the minority has rights.

If I look at the federal situation, which could very well end up being reflected in future provincial parliaments, the potential, for an example, to have six or seven parties is out there.

If you were to look at page 82, section 110 -- before we look at that, we've talked about downsizing committees as far as saving money on travel, and there's been some talk about that -- "No standing or select committee shall consist of more than 11 members and the membership of such committees shall be in proportion to the representation of the recognized parties in the House." As far as committee work is concerned, you open a large can of worms there.

I'd just say we have to be very cautious about extending rights to individual members that would in fact exceed in some cases the rights that individual members have under party status at this point. I think that's a very significant question. I think all of us come here with a sense that we want to be fair and reasonable about things, but having said that, if you're to look at members' statements and if I were an independent, the most I could hope for would be that once every 130 statements I would receive a statement, whereas in a party system, depending on the importance of the statement within the party, you can give two or three statements in one week.

Mr Noble Villeneuve (S-D-G & East Grenville): And depending on your behaviour.

Mr Jamison: We're confusing, as I say, the party system with the individual member's rights. If the individual member's rights were weighed out, the most that individual member could expect, in fairness, would be to give one statement every 130 times. People tend to confuse the established, recognized system here when it goes to committees and so forth. If you have six recognized parties in the House, what would the committee makeup be, and then where would an independent be on that committee? I ask you to think seriously about that because that is a potential these days.

Mr Sterling: I've sat through two minority parliaments and, quite frankly, committees work better in minority than in majority parliaments. The fears of majority members, as they're put forward, are basically ill-founded. You couldn't convince me of that between 1981 and 1985 when we were a majority either.

Ms Akande: I haven't had the experience of Mr Sterling so I find his comments interesting, but more than that -- I understand the concern of my colleague in terms of numbers, but I can't argue the omission of points of view on committees because of the efficiency of fewer numbers, especially when you recognize -- and I think that we have to recognize it and we have to consider it -- that more and more those who elect us are feeling less and less represented by views and decisions that are made here. That's a reality, and if we're going to continue to espouse the principles of democracy we have to, in fact, design a system which still allows individuals to feel represented in this place and at the same time allows for the efficiency of committees.

It may well be that there may have to be some reduction in terms of government and opposition members in order to allow for -- I'm talking about proportionally -- the involvement of independents, at least on committees that are most relevant to their needs.

Mr Sterling: Can you answer this question for me today? I know that any member of the Legislature can walk into any committee. You have that right and you have the right to speak on any committee. Can a non-sitting member pose a motion, or do you know?

Mr Sibenik: No. According to standing order 126, there are certain restrictions on what a non-member of a committee can do. The member can't be counted as a quorum, can't move a motion or vote. The member can participate; however, an order of the committee can delimit the extent to which a non-sitting member can participate in committee hearings.

Mr Sterling: So the answer might be, for instance, that you might be able to move a motion but you may not have the vote.

Mr Stephen Owens (Scarborough Centre): Isn't there also a corresponding deduction of time from the particular party that that individual would represent? That seems to have been my experience in standing committees. Auto insurance particularly comes to mind, where there were some folks that were wanting to sit in and participate, and it was the view that the participation time that was taken by the members would be deducted from the government side. Is that --

Mr Sibenik: There's no particular standing order to that effect, but those kinds of things are generally worked out in the committee in consultation with members and the Chair of the committee. There's no specific provision.

I was going to head to the provisions dealing with the extent to which independent members will be implicated by virtue of their ability to participate in committees. In section C of my memo, I've indicated that there are certain things that independent members cannot do, and I will say, as I've said here, that the independent member falls in the same position as any other non-sitting member of a committee, so if the independent member is not a sitting member of the committee, then there are certain things that he or she cannot do.


The perspective that I want to take on these particular bullet items that I'm going to go through is, if there's going to be a rule that will permit independent members to sit on committees, there might be other standing orders that will have to be changed or altered, and there are a fair number of them. But I'll go through them individually, and I'll just indicate what I mean by this.

The first one is standing order 110(c). It deals with temporary substitutions. Here's the scenario that I pose: If there's only one independent member on that committee, should that independent member be allowed, by some vehicle, to have a temporary substitution for him, say another independent member? I'm not certain.

Maybe the answer is so obvious that it doesn't need posing, but this particular provision we have, standing order 110(c), is phrased again in terms of members of a recognized party. It says that "the whip of a recognized party" has the right to file the temporary sub slip. Of course, it goes without saying that an independent member does not have a whip, and therefore, should the standing order be changed to reflect the fact that perhaps independent members might want this particular right? I'm not certain about this. I just throw that out for some information, for discussion, and I just draw it to your attention.

The next provision that I want to draw to your attention is one that I've already indicated. It's standing order 126. It basically says that a non-member of a committee cannot vote or move a motion in committee or be part of any quorum. I don't think this one would really affect independent members very much because of the fact that an independent member would be part of the committee. Therefore this particular standing order would not really have to be altered in that event.

The fourth item that I draw to your attention is the estimates selection process. If an independent member is a member of the standing committee on estimates, should such an independent member be allowed to participate in the estimates selection process? If you turn to standing order 59, you'll see exactly why I pose this particular issue. Standing order 59 suggests that the estimates are "selected in two rounds by members of the committee." But it goes on to refer to the fact that the actual selection is done by "members of the party forming the official opposition," "members of a recognized party having the third-largest membership in the House" and then members of the government party. It doesn't say anything about independent members.

As I say, if we have independent members, if we have a rule that says independent members can be a member of the standing committee on estimates, this particular provision may pose some difficulty. That's standing order 59(b) that I flag to your attention.

If you take a look at standing order 59(d), that's a related provision. There are 90 hours, of course, for the selection of the estimates, and this particular standing order says how the ministries and offices are to be chosen and the amount of time for those ministries and offices, and it again refers to parties as opposed to members.

The next item that I draw to your attention is whether an independent member can be elected Chair or ViceChair of a committee, and I draw standing orders 113 and 114 to your attention. Standing order 113 says that the Chair and the Vice-Chair are selected at the outset of a session of Parliament. Standing order 114(a) then goes on and says that the Chairs of the standing committees are to be distributed in proportion to the representation of the recognized parties in the House. This poses some difficulties as to whether independent members, therefore, can be elected Chairs. Now, it doesn't say anything about Vice-Chairs being in proportion to the representation of the recognized parties; it just refers to Chairs.

Mr Sterling: Where does it say that we couldn't select an independent member? In other words, the parties could choose an independent member to be Chair of a committee, is that not correct?

Mr Sibenik: It doesn't say that in here.

Mr Sterling: Yes, so it doesn't deny them the opportunity totally.

Mr Sibenik: This is true, yes. It's just that I think that it would be ambiguous because of the existing provisions in there. That's all that I indicated.

Mr Villeneuve: The more we go along here, the more interesting it is. Should there be recognition between an independent member who is elected as such and an independent member who for his or her reasons has chosen or has been forced to become independent? Slightly different type of a politician.

Ms Akande: Slightly different circumstances.

Mr Sibenik: If you're looking for a preliminary kind of response from me, there really isn't a procedural distinction and it's not really something that I can comment on. That is something that has to be discussed by this committee. But to say that there is something in the standing orders that says that there is a procedural distinction, I don't think the standing orders indicate that.

However, the fact that it is a procedural occurrence if a member crosses the floor from one of the recognized parties and becomes an independent member, I would think that it would be a procedural occurrence as well if it happened the other way around, from independent to recognized party. However, it is a procedural occurrence, but I don't think there's anything that turns procedurally on it, and so it's something that basically has to be worked out, I think, by members of the committee.

Mr Villeneuve: I certainly think the circumstances are very different and I think it certainly bears scrutiny by this committee, and maybe we should address that initially, but I think it's time to bear that in mind as we go through the procedure.


Mr Morin: Peter, do you know how many elected independent members there were or have been in the history of Ontario?

Mr Sibenik: This is a difficult question. There have not been very many at all. I don't think there has been one since the Second World War. It's difficult going back to the Canadian Parliamentary Guide. I've gone through that.

Mr Sterling: I don't know what you call an "independent." Do you call an "independent" one who comes in and gets elected as one member of what he calls a party?

Mr Morin: A Liberal or Conservative independent.

Mr Sterling: Wasn't there a Communist in the late 1940s?

Mr Murphy: Joey Salsberg.

Mr Sterling: Yes. Was he Communist?

Mr Murphy: Yes, he was a Communist, I think; a Communist independent in what's-his-name's riding. Allan Grossman won the seat from him.

Mr Sterling: Yes, Allan Grossman won the seat from him, but that's the only one I know of.

Mr Murphy: I vaguely recall -- I think it was the Second World War period -- the independent Liberal-Labour members being elected.

Mr Morin: You were very young then.

Mr Murphy: I was very young then, but it's a vague memory. It's sort of a Conwayesque memory, actually. But I'm wondering, were there any rules that applied to independent members at that point?

Mr Sibenik: No, because at that particular time --

Mr Murphy: There were no rules.

Mr Sibenik: -- the standing orders were phrased in terms of members, not in terms of members of recognized parties. So there weren't any specific provisions for independent members. I will say that there were quite a few independent members who were elected some time between Confederation and about the Second World War. In that period of time, there were, I'd say, perhaps more than five members who were elected as independents. That's my interpretation from my review of the Canadian Parliamentary Guide.

But it's difficult, because there's really no paper trail that has been left for members who were elected way back when, so there's some difficulty in putting together numbers. But I would say that there's been no independent members that have been elected since the Second World War, it seems to me. There are a whole range of smaller parties, such as Communist, Labour-Progressive, Liberal-Labour, the Labour Party, the Soldier Party.

Mr Murphy: The UFO.

Mr Sibenik: There have been all kinds of small parties with just a handful of members elected at any time, but most of that occurred before the Second World War, I would say.

Ms Akande: I think this is what makes this job particularly important in that I think that according to the responsibilities and the leverage we give an independent member, we may well see differences in terms of how many of them are voted in or elected in at this particular time. That's what makes this whole discussion and issue so very important, because there is a great interest out there, as one knows, in what happens to an independent member and whether in fact there is a way of being represented by this group.

The other thing I want to ask for -- and someone made reference to it before and it was something that I was considering on the way down. I understand but don't know a great deal about the independent members' operations within the federal process. I'm wondering if there is support for our having some information around that. Is it here? Because I haven't seen it.

Mr Sterling: It's on page 3.

Ms Akande: Thanks very much.

Mr Sterling: It's in the notes at the back of the memo today.

Mr Sibenik: It's the fourth last page in the memo. I'll give you some time to read that if you still want to pose the question.

Ms Akande: No, it's all right. Go ahead.

Mr Villeneuve: The way the standing orders are written now, anyone who does not belong to a recognized party would probably be assumed to be designated as an independent, whether there's a party handle to that individual or not. We may well have that come next election. If a certain political party prior to the election gets six people elected, they will sit as independents regardless of whether they have a party affiliation or not, will they not? The way the standing orders are now written, they would not be a recognized party and therefore would be independent.

Mr Sibenik: If the question is addressed to me, they would probably still be a party. They wouldn't be a recognized party. There are certain provisions, actually.

The section on Quebec discusses this in part. What they have is political parties, but then they also have this designation "political group." It's these groups, I guess, that are the counterpart to our recognized parties.

Having looked at the Canadian Parliamentary Guide, I believe these members who had less than 12 or 15 members or even less than five were still called by the name of their party for the purposes of the guide. Whether that's in fact the case in the House would be a difficult situation. It would be difficult for me to say.

It seems to me there's nothing preventing the Speaker from saying, "We have an official opposition, we have a third party, a fourth party," even a fifth party. It can go on like that. There's nothing that prevents that from occurring, although I'm not sure that that has ever occurred in our history. We don't have any practice that specifically says that, but we could theoretically have that kind of situation if there is this kind of splintering or fracturing that members are speaking about.

Mr Villeneuve: One of my concerns here, as a member who belongs to a party, and as long as I'm going to be around here, the party willing, I'll probably continue to belong to that party -- however, if we make the position of the independent so interesting that it will attract people who may have a single issue or a lesser number of issues that they want to address, and then they really don't matter, I don't think we can create a situation whereby we promote certain elected members here to maybe become independents. We have to walk that fine line there that says they've got to be recognized, they're definitely elected, but not over and above a backbencher in the third party.

Mr David Winninger (London South): I just have a question for Peter with reference to the ability of an independent member to serve on a standing committee in the House of Commons, albeit rarely, you indicate. Would those independent members serve as voting members on committees?

Mr Sibenik: The response I got back from the House of Commons did not indicate that. It's something that I'd really have to inquire into, but I would have thought yes. If they serve on the committees, I would have thought that they would have been entitled to the rights and entitlements of any other member.

Mr Winninger: This ties in with an issue that we may have to address provincially as well. If we allow an independent member to serve on a standing committee and we don't alter the composition of that committee, we could in fact dilute the government's majority vote on a committee. This is one of the issues that needs to be addressed and I'd be interested in knowing how the House of Commons deals with that, if there is any more specific information available.

Mr Sibenik: I'll certainly make inquiries about that, but I would have thought that the composition of the committee was structured in such a way that it ensured that it was generally representative of the standings in the House, not unlike the provision that we have in our particular standing orders.

Mr Villeneuve: We also have to remember that if indeed we have only one independent, come whenever, and we allow provision for an independent to sit on all committees, this person could sit on all committees, and that certainly would be a leg up over the rest of us.

Mr Owens: I think that's a fundamental question. As a backbencher or as a member of an opposition party, what is it that we want to do with these folks? I understand and take to heart quite directly what Noble's perspective is in terms of what rights are we going to give independents that we as backbenchers and opposition members have. Are we going to put these individuals in a more advantageous position in that they will not have the loyalties --

Ms Akande: To inhibit them.

Mr Owens: To inhibit them, exactly, whether it's conscience or loyalty or the promise of other things.


Mr Villeneuve: I think the American system is a good example, where the rebel who breaks party ranks in a two-party system gets more recognition than the people who assist to make things happen. It's always been that way in the American style; the rebels seem to get some glorification.

Mr Owens: But if you look historically at the numbers of people that have ascended to that level, they're very few and very far between. Certainly their politics is clearly more populist than ours has been or will ever hope to be. But, again, in terms of your point, Noble, I understand it directly and the question will come down to: Will I, as a backbencher, stand down my question or you, as a backbencher, stand down your question, that is important to your constituents, to get your message across for your party, in order that an independent member can have that opportunity?

Mr John Sola (Mississauga East): I think there are some committees that are traditionally more non-partisan than others, this being one of them, and the regs committee comes to mind as well. I think it's those committees that should probably be targeted for independent members. I don't think it will ever get to the point where independent members will be in such great numbers that they will have to overflow into other committees but, if it does, then that is the will of the people.

As far as the question Noble posed before about how you get to be an independent member, that should probably be a criterion. At the same time, it must be remembered that however you become an independent you still represent a certain number of voters, and those voters should have representation in this House and in the committees, whether you remain a member of the party with which you were elected or whether you are no longer a member of that party. It is something that has to be kept in mind.

One other thing: We're talking about rights here constantly, but I think those rights have to be balanced with responsibility. If any member, be it independent or a member of any party, becomes irresponsible in his or her actions either in committee or in the House, there's a Chairman or a Speaker who is there to discipline that member. So I think we always have one way of controlling uncontrollable elements.

Mr Winninger: As an adjunct to what Mr Owens said earlier, aside from a voluntary regime, where a member of one of the three established parties gives up time so that an independent member can ask a question or make a statement, if you want to have a formula for that, because the sands shift -- the Liberals had a majority of 95 members and if you take away from that majority the number of members of executive council, it might have left 70 members all vying for time to ask a member's question or make a member's statement.

In our case, for example, if you say we have approximately 50 people who aren't in executive council all wanting to ask questions and make statements, your rotation might come every five weeks or so, since you only have nine questions and nine statements --

Mr Villeneuve: For party privileges.

Mr Winninger: Yes, so many per week, so you wait for your rotation. Mr Drainville, in his paper, suggested that independent members be allowed to ask a question and make a statement every two weeks. In a government with a large majority, a member of the government would indeed have less opportunity to ask questions and make statements were we to confer that privilege of asking a question or making a statement every two weeks. I think we have to analyse very carefully the consequences of the rights we might consider bestowing on independent members and measuring them against the rights we may enjoy as members of the government, opposition or third party.

Mr Sterling: I don't know how long you go before you start pointing the way towards what you want. As far as I'm concerned, there should be a definition of "party." I like the New Brunswick model, where it's not only based on the number of members but it's also somewhat to do with the proportion of vote that you received in the last election. The way our system now is, if there's a further fraction, you may get situations where -- the present government had 37% of the vote and they have 74 seats, which largely outweighs their proportion. On the other hand, I think we are likely to get in future smaller numbers in even the major parties, even though they might have received 20% or 24% or 22% of the vote. I think a combination of the two is what we should be aiming for in a party definition.

I think it should take at least two members to oppose unanimous consent. I think two members should be able to request a vote. I don't care about going into committee of the whole House; it doesn't really matter to me. I think it should be left that one member can refer it into committee of the whole House, mainly for a practical reason: Often there's only one member sitting around or awake to realize that should be done at that time. Big deal if it goes into committee of the whole House. You can kick it out of committee of the whole House if you really want to anyway.

Making a member's statement: I think we have to give discretion to the Speaker and that an approach by an independent member should have to be made to the Speaker that he wants that to happen. The Speaker can tack that on the normal nine statements that are now given so you're not really usurping anybody from giving a statement.

In terms of oral question period there should be discretion in the Speaker, but it should be related to the number of opposition members in the Legislature. In other words, if there are 50 opposition members, then you basically should have a one-fiftieth crack at it. If you want to be that directive in terms of that, I think he should have the right to get a compendium but it should be up to the independent member to ask; it shouldn't necessarily have to be presented. I think any member can get a compendium to an act if he or she wants one now; it's just the route to which he or she goes to get it. I think you can take care of that pretty easily.

The same with regard to a statutory report: On request, an independent member could have that.

I don't think he should have any rights to opposition days. I don't think he should have any right to a non-confidence motion. We definitely have to put him in the pool in terms of the private members' business.

I think each independent member should be able to select one committee each year. He should have the right to move a motion but not to vote, so it takes care of the problem of whatever, but he still is attached to a committee.

I'm also amenable to Dennis Drainville's suggestion that if you wanted to reconfigure the committee so that a majority government would never be outdone its majority, that's adequate for me as well.

I think there should be discretion at the hands of the Chair of any committee to allow debate by an individual member. I don't think you would have to be much more specific than that. Most Chairs would do it in accordance with what was good taste and fairness to other members.

If individual members wanted to participate in a meeting of the parties during a selection process for estimates, you might want to give the independent member the right to participate in a meeting. They wouldn't have any selections, but they could be there and present if they wanted to make their points in terms of convincing the other parties to select this ministry or that ministry for estimates. I don't think it's that hard. Those would be my suggestions in terms of working towards that report.


The Vice-Chair: I think we would probably just go to suggestions at a later date, Mr Sterling, but I think it's valuable you can put them on the record. When we complete Peter's presentation --

Mr Sterling: I thought we had completed it. I'm sorry.

The Vice-Chair: I don't think we've completed.

Mr Sibenik: There are two items left.

The Vice-Chair: We should allow him to complete his two items this morning.

Mr Sibenik: I'll just do this very briefly. The other thing the committee may want to consider is the extent to which independent members should be allowed to sit on a subcommittee on committee business and participate in the selection of intended appointments for review by the standing committee on government agencies.

Right now, those particular standing orders, standing order 124 and 106(g)2 suggest otherwise that independent members don't have that entitlement. The final provision is whether independent members should be allowed to designate a matter for consideration under standing order 125 and speak during committee consideration to the matter. Right now, according to standing order 125, you have to be on the subcommittee of committee business to designate a matter and, since independent members aren't represented there, that poses a particular difficulty.

That basically completes my presentation of the standing orders that are affected by the committee's consideration of independent members. There's a supplementary paper dealing with what happens in other jurisdictions, which I am not going to go through. I spoke to this briefly at our June meetings and if we want to go in detail on what other jurisdictions have provided for in terms of independent members, I'm perfectly willing to do that, but it would just basically be a review of what I've already written here. If the committee wishes me to proceed either now or some time later in the week, I'd be happy to do so, but otherwise that does complete my presentation.

The Vice-Chair: I think we should have a short discussion about how we're going to proceed with dealing with the matter before 12 and then, when we come back at 2, we can hopefully be in a position to have a method of proceeding.

Mr Sterling has already indicated a method for people to put forward proposals, but there are other ways of doing it. You might want to deal with it item by item, or deal with it in an entirely different process.

Mr Morin: This afternoon, I'd like to make a presentation of what I feel are some of the proposals that could be presented. I would prefer to wait this afternoon instead of doing it this morning. I don't think we're at the stage yet where we can really make recommendations. There are too many issues involved. I don't expect we'll be able to solve that issue this week; there's too much involved. But at least, if we all have the opportunity of making our point of view known, perhaps this will help the debate at a future date.

The Vice-Chair: So, Mr Morin, you're suggesting we open this afternoon with general statements from discussion in general on these issues.

Mr Villeneuve: We just got Peter's report this morning and I certainly appreciate the fact that he's covered other provinces and the federal government, which I have not had the opportunity of reading. I think it would be very helpful for members of the committee to maybe set up some sort of a thought process based on other provinces and the federal government which I will attempt to go through rather quickly over the lunch-hour. I think it would certainly help my decision-making process.

The Vice-Chair: It seems, by consensus, that we just resume with general discussion this afternoon.

The committee recessed from 1145 to 1412.

The Vice-Chair: I believe we left off with the procedure of members to speak in general, and the first one who indicated he wished to speak was Mr Morin.

Mr Morin: Yes, Mr Chairman, and I have a statement and I'd like to distribute it so that you can read it with me and hopefully retain 50% or 60% of it. The average is normally 10%. If you retain 10%, you retain a lot.

Mr Villeneuve: Mr Deputy Speaker, only you could get 100%.

Mr Morin: If you don't have enough copies, I have another one here.

I think it saves a lot of discussions. The purpose of it, of course, is to stir further discussions, because I think it's a very important topic and something has to be done.

We're here today to determine the role and function of the independent member of Parliament. There have been independent members in the past, but in the last few decades, most elected members of Parliament have been affiliated with a political party. The present standing orders of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario acknowledge only members from recognized parties. Independent members do not enjoy any specific rights. In this respect, House rules vary from one province to another. Some are drafted from the perspective of the member; others do not distinguish between independent members and those belonging to a political party; yet other rules place some limits upon the independent member's prerogatives.

What is clear from these different approaches is that most provincial legislatures and the House of Commons in Ottawa have made some provisions to accommodate independent politicians. This is only right, because whether one is affiliated with a party or not, one is elected on behalf of a riding and is thus entrusted with the mandate to represent its constituents. This is a key point that we must consider when determining the role and functions of independent members.

What status do we wish to give independent members? Are all members to be considered equal, irrespective of party affiliation or absence thereof? If the pre-eminence of parties is to be favoured, then it has to be explained. We will have to justify the limits we are placing upon independent members' roles.

This situation forces us, in essence, to define representative democracy in Ontario. Do we, or does this committee, have the right to prevent members from exercising their legitimately acquired mandate of popular representation simply because they are not, or no longer, affiliated with any political party? Quite frankly, I don't think so. Any move in this direction can only diminish the principles which uphold our system of government and would be neither representative nor democratic. For this reason, our chief concern should be to enhance the democratic process to ensure the effective representation of all Ontarians through their elected member of Parliament.

As everyone here is aware, the level of dissatisfaction of the Canadian population has reached unprecedented levels. Whether or not it is deserved is a different matter. The point is that today many persons believe that government is out of touch with reality. They feel that they have no say in how they are governed, and in light of this, undue restriction of the parliamentary means by which independent members represent constituents will definitely not send out a positive message.

Clearly, then, this matter is one of fairness, but not toward the elected independent member as much as toward the electorate. Constituents are entitled to the proper representation and defence of their interests. Representative democracy is based upon that premise. To deny them, through their elected representative, participation in the legislative process is to deny them a fundamental democratic right.

We might want to put ourselves in the shoes of an independent member and try to see how we could represent our constituents with the limited means presently available. How would we wish to be treated? Would we not be frustrated by the silence and inaction that is imposed upon us?

As you can gather from the thrust of my speech, I do not support the status quo. This committee must find a way to include independent members in the legislative process. We are dealing here with the principle of fair and equal representation. To allow political considerations to rule is simply unacceptable.

This is why I would recommend that any changes regarding the role of independent members be set out clearly in the standing orders so as to avoid any misunderstandings. It is preferable that the exercise of members' prerogatives not be left to the consideration or goodwill of any party, be it the Speaker or the House leaders. I am not suggesting that these individuals would be unfair or unwilling in any way to protect the rights of independent members, but politics, as we all know, tend to get in the way. It would, therefore, be better to set out the new rules clearly in a language that is not subject to interpretation, as much as this is possible.

I would like to clarify the following point, as it has been raised a number of times. In my view, it should not make a difference whether a person was elected as an independent or became independent during the course of the session. A variety of reasons may prompt a member to declare himself or herself independent. Regardless of these, however, that person is still the elected representative of a riding, and as such, requires the tools necessary to carry out his or her mandate. Any one of us could, through some twist of fate, become independent. Let's treat those who are presently in this position as we would like to be treated.

Another point has also been raised which should not be dismissed: how to justify the fact that independent members get guaranteed time in the House for statements and questions while others do not. I want to start by stressing that the object of this exercise is not to create inequities among individual members. All members should enjoy the opportunity to make statements and ask questions in the House, especially when their riding or their constituents are affected by a particular issue. Members must have a say on behalf of their constituency.


Rev Drainville made an interesting remark about the point. He noted correctly that the allocation of question time is a party decision. As we all know, questions are often asked by the same persons. Perhaps individual members would be less frustrated if there was more fairness within their own caucus. Independent members might not then be perceived as enjoying unfair privileges.

I have prepared a list of proposals that this committee may wish to consider.

Proposal 1: that independent members be entitled to the following support: indemnities, allowances and benefits, private accommodation, access to legislative services and other such means that allow them to fulfil their duties as an elected representative.

I realize that this is not a problem at the moment and that independent members do share these privileges, but it should be included in the rules if this is not already the case.

Proposal 2: that each independent member has the right to make a statement and to ask a question and supplementary of a minister once every four weeks.

I think we've calculated this a minute ago: 130 members, you divide this by four -- 38, so 38 questions and you'd come to about once a month, every four weeks.

As the average backbencher apparently speaks in the House once every three or four weeks, this proposal does not grant independent members any privileges that backbenchers do not currently enjoy. Again, it is up to party leaders to ensure equal opportunities for speaking in the House to their members. I don't believe that independents should be given a collective right to make a statement and ask questions.

This matter raises the issue of time allocation in the House, as question period takes place within 60 minutes. Must we allow extra time to compensate? Perhaps we could consider limiting the time allocated to questions and responses in order to try to fit extra questions in a 60-minute time frame. This would force questions to be brief, concise and direct. It might help to diminish the level of acrimony which characterizes current House proceedings. If this is not acceptable, then increasing question period to, for example, 70 minutes may be better.

Proposal 3: that independent members have the right to raise matters of privilege or points of order.

I believe that independents can exercise this right, but again, it should be specified in the House rules.

Proposal 4: that independent members have the right to vote in the House and to withhold unanimous consent, contrary to what my colleague Norm Sterling mentioned this morning. But again, it's for us to debate it, to decide how we should make it.

It goes without saying that independent members should be allowed to vote in the House on any matter. They are acting on behalf of their riding. To deny them this right is to deny a voice to their constituents. This is anti-democratic and offensive.

Some of you may object to granting independent members the right to withhold unanimous consent, yet this is a right that all members enjoy, even though they may not exercise it for a number of reasons. But as we all know, it tends to be invoked for political if not petty purposes. There is no reason to assume that it will be misused by independents.

Proposal 5: that independent members have the right to introduce private members' bills, to debate these and to vote during private members' time.

Since the order of private members' bill is decided by a ballot system, and since one's possession is thus determined by chance, the process can be deemed fair and objective. It does not give independents any special status. Giving independents the right to speak on a private members' bill does not mean that they will do so continuously or take much time away from other members. They should be given a portion of the time allocated to parties in this case. This may entail reducing each party's time or adding a few minutes to the debate. No party would be disadvantaged by this measure. As for the right to vote, it does not take anything away from other members. There is no reason why they should not vote.

Proposal 6: that independent members have the right to speak out on government bills.

Again, independents may be given a portion of the time allocated to parties. As I mentioned earlier, no party need be disadvantaged by this measure.

Proposal 7: that independent members have a right to sit on a committee, to vote, to receive documents, to ask questions of witnesses, to stand for election as Chair and to be part of the quorum.

Committees play an important role in the legislative process. In the absence of a Senate, they act, to a certain extent, as our second chamber by considering legislation at greater length, in greater detail. They do a great deal of work that cannot be accomplished in the House, such as receiving expert witnesses and so on. Ideally, they should be devoid of partisanship. In reality, this is not the case. Nevertheless, the presence of an independent member on a committee, with full privileges, does not take anything away from other committee members. If it unbalances the committee in any way, as membership is allocated according to party standings, then an extra member can always be named to guarantee the government side's majority.

I realize that these proposals may appear quite generous to some of you, and not acceptable for that reason. However, I think that they are necessary, for they enhance the representativeness of our democratic system. These reforms guarantee that the voice of all constituents is heard and that each elected member participates fully in the legislative process.

If one can seriously justify, for non-political or non-partisan reasons, why independent members should not enjoy the abovementioned rights, then limits may be placed upon the prerogatives of these members. In my view, however, any undue limits will serve only to undermine the principles which uphold democracy in Ontario.

I think the province of Ontario, ourselves here, we're given a chance, we're given the opportunity to come up with something which I think would be fair, which would be democratic and which would enhance also the image and the opinion of what the House really is. The public is waiting for us, to know exactly what we plan to do. Don't forget, someday you yourself may become independent. How would you like to be treated? Let's make sure that we treat our colleagues -- they're our colleagues -- the same way as we treat each other.

Mr Winninger: I certainly have to commend you for putting this all down on paper so concisely and framing a lot of the issues we were struggling to come to grips with earlier this morning. I don't disagree with some of the points you made which might, in the end, expand the role of the independent member, but certainly on one of the points -- and I'll study your other suggestions a little more closely -- I wish to play devil's advocate with you for a moment, and that's the suggestion that an independent member, however he or she became independent, could withhold unanimous consent.

I feel it is a very dangerous precedent to set, that one member could, for whatever reason or motive, hijack the proceedings of the House without being accountable to a party, and furthermore, in the case of a member who became independent following his or her election, without accountability to the electorate. I appreciate your point that it's their democratic right to represent their constituencies, but here, if we're dealing in the case as Mr Villeneuve mentioned, where a member has left his or her party and become independent, hasn't decided to resign and run in a by-election as an independent, where is the real accountability?


For example, a member could run on a particular platform that reflects a party ideology, then for reasons of his or her own decide to defect from the party and become an independent. That very platform of his or her party that likely got that candidate elected could then be placed entirely in jeopardy because that individual chooses to withhold unanimous consent. I don't care what the issue is. That particular member, having left his or her own party, could hijack the House and perhaps take a position that's entirely contrary to what the majority of the electorate voted that person into office to do. I think there's a clear danger in that and I raise that with you at this point as a devil's advocate.

Mr Morin: My approach and my feeling on that issue is that I treat everybody equally and I respect the opinion and the intelligence of everyone. I know for a fact that an independent member we had used that issue as sort of a -- he didn't use it as a threat, but he knew that he had the power to do it, that he could vote against anything. But that individual was a decent person, in my opinion, and did not use that prerogative. It could have created havoc. I know there are reasons to be concerned that someone could be elected and then use that power to stall everything. Norm touched on it very lightly this morning, making a proposal to the effect that perhaps you may need three or four unanimous votes in order to accept it. That is an approach, if we have any doubts, that could certainly be used. I don't know; it would have to be, if there are three parties in the House, that unanimous consent has not been granted by one from each party. There could be a rule that could be established. I know that it could create some problems, but this is the reason I brought it, to make you discuss it, to come out with some ideas so that we can respond to the need. Where is my friend?

Ms Akande: I am afraid he is not here. I will be sure to convey it.

I too am very impressed with the fact that you've been able to put this down as concisely as you have and capture a point of view that I very much respect, and that is the point of view of the electorate. As I spoke briefly this morning, it was to say that we have to be aware of the fact that the electorate today has a view of the goings-on in this House which may in fact cause us all to look again at their affiliations to parties.

I recognize the point that Mr Villeneuve made this morning, the distinction between an independent member so elected and a member who has decided to leave his or her party, and I also was listening to your response. I think we have to emphasize the electorate in this more than the party member because, while you are talking about a situation where a member may have been elected because of the policies held by a particular party, we must also be aware of the fact that governments' and parties' policies do change during a term of office, and the actual --

Mr Villeneuve: We all agree.

Ms Akande: Let me be diplomatic here. The actual relationship that some of the constituents had with particular policies may in themselves cause the member to become independent. I think you have to focus, as I think is done well in this paper, on the electorate and our responsibility to it.

I might say that, though this is here to promote discussion, and I certainly recognize this is what we're going to have, I would be very careful, personally, about positioning myself in a way that tended to undermine the rights, and the democratic rights, of the individuals out there in the constituencies, because they in fact are not happy with what they see.

Mr Villeneuve: To my colleague, with whom I have the privilege of sharing the Speaker's chair from time to time, congratulations and thank you on a well-thought-out presentation.

Proposal 1: I have no problem with it at all. I think that is already in place.

Proposal 2: I would not like to see a specified four-week period. If I were an independent and a matter affecting my constituents were very much at the forefront, I think the Speaker should have the ability and the power to decide on the importance of the matter. If I make a mistake when I'm questioning and I know I'm going to have to wait a month to follow up, the potatoes get pretty cold. It's a matter of, some degree of flexibility upon the Speaker and the, Speaker would know. Let's go back to a situation at hand that we've experienced, the casino gambling issue where, without being a one-issue thing, it was one member's prime reason for doing what he did. I think he should be allowed maybe a little more than one question every 30 days. He may well not have any questions for 60 days on issues that are not nearly as important.

Proposal 3: I have no problem at all.

Proposal 4 I have a major problem with, because any independent member who chooses to leave the party to which he or she was elected may well have an axe to grind. I think the words "unanimous consent" will now be a misnomer. I think we will have to call it "legislative consensus," which may mean two or three people can object and yet we have legislative consensus. "Unanimous consent," and I am no connoisseur of the English language, says that everyone's happy. Everyone will not be happy and will be allowed to express their unhappiness and we will still have legislative consensus, which may be a better choice of words. I cannot accept that one individual can hijack the House. That individual may well have his or her personal reason; I do not think we can stop the process because of an unhappy individual.

The rest of my colleague's presentation I have no great problem with. The one thing I must caution the committee about is that we cannot make an independent member more high-profile, more important than backbench party members, be they with the government or with opposition. We have to be careful of that.

Mr Randy R. Hope (Chatham-Kent): I'm sorry. I don't agree with a lot of the stuff that's here. There are two phases, ever since TV cameras came into the Legislature. Let me tell you it's the greatest soap opera I've ever seen being performed, and I'm saying that as a member who is newly elected, came in here in 1990.

When I see question period, I think it's theatrics. You want to talk about the member representing his or her community? It's not done through question period. I agree with allowing him participation in the debate of a piece of legislation, but through the question period process I believe is nothing but a soap opera, and I'm speaking very seriously here.

I know that what some people are trying to do is raise the profile of it, but I'm looking at it in the real terms, and the real terms are about the voting process. I think it's important to reflect your community. I believe in debating pieces of legislation as a part of that process.

As far as asking questions in the House is concerned, I find that's the most theatrical part of the legislative process today, ever since we put TV cameras in there, because everybody wants to get their name well known and see who can get the headlines in the paper. Right after question period the reporters leave, and away they go.


If you want to be very clear about the role of an independent member representing his community, then that individual should run as an independent member, not as somebody opting out from a political process, because all the caucuses have their processes which they go through, whether to endorse something or reject something.

But when I'm sitting here and listening to some of the comments that have been made -- and granted, they are well put together -- just looking at the private members' time, allowing an independent member the opportunity to participate and speak at private members' time, you're gracious enough to put that in as far as questioning of ministers is concerned, but there is nothing about the governance of private members' time. There's many a time I would like to speak at private member's time; because of its restrictive hours I'm not able to do so. Mr Villeneuve pointed out that we don't want to give that independent member more opportunity than those who sit with a political party or one of the organizations that happen to be in the House.

I respect what you've done to try to allow the independent member a role and responsibility in the committee. I would not agree with increasing the numbers on committees. If anything, I think they should be decreased, in the committee work atmosphere. But to allow them participation on pieces of legislation, to debate and speak on something that might be important to their community, I believe that opportunity should be there.

I'm looking at this, and I'm not using this as part of a ploy. That's why I say we have to have serious debate on this, making progressive changes in this. If you're saying to me that we would give these rights to individuals, the opportunity to ask questions of ministers that you pose in question period, I would say that would be most appropriate for those individuals who run as independent members and are elected as independent members with no political ties. But somebody who leaves one of the designated parties and moves from a designated party to being an independent because he didn't get his way in the caucus process or whatever process, whatever might have happened during that process, giving him the opportunity to have more rights than I as backbencher I have serious problems with.

I've aligned myself with a political party. I support my political party, but no way am I going to let somebody in that Legislature have more rights than what I would have.

Mr Murphy: If I can just ask you a question of clarification, what do you see is the difference, in terms of question period, between an independent member who runs and is elected as an independent and someone who discontinues being a member of a political party after being elected? What's the difference that's relevant to question period that's not relevant in other areas of exercising a private member's rights?

Mr Hope: You're asking the question. What I see as the difference is that the clear direction of the individual has been laid before the electorate who have elected that individual. There is no political affiliation whatsoever. The individual has chosen to run on his individual beliefs and to run and reflect his community. He has done that democratically through the process.

When you are aligned to a political party and you get elected and you come to this Legislature and, for some reason, whatever it might be, you have chosen to leave that political affiliation, you have not clearly laid your intentions to the electorate. If you were to say we'd call a by-election and have a by-election in the process, then it becomes different. Then you have been re-elected as an independent.

Mr Murphy: Are you saying that distinction should apply across all of the suggestions?

Mr Hope: I'm only making comment on some areas. I'm saying that in some of those areas we have to clearly define the rights of an individual, an independent member who has been democratically elected as an independent. Those who have left their allegiance to a political party would have to have another set of rules.

Mr Sola: I would like to get back to Mr Morin's statement. I think we have to keep in mind two reasons that he has stated for giving independent members more say.

It says on page 3: "For this reason, our chief concern should be to enhance the democratic process." I think we should keep that in mind. Then on page 4, he says: "Clearly then, this matter is one of fairness, but not towards the elected independent member as much as towards the electorate." I think we should never let the electorate out of our minds.

As far as democracy is concerned, it is the rule of the majority; it is not the tyranny of the minority. Therefore, in giving additional rights to independent members, we will have to balance them with responsibility so that they don't abuse those rights. But if our objective is to enhance the rights of independent members to the point that they can be more effective in the job of representing the concerns of the citizens in their ridings, then we must change our rules. Right now, that is not quite possible for an independent to the same extent as even backbenchers, whether it's government or opposition.

At the same time, we must not allow them to become one-person filibusters. Therefore there has to be some way, whether it's giving more discretion to the Speaker, or whatever, but when one person abuses the system, he or she should be able to be stopped by somebody.

To point out one thing, that does not prevent, under the present system, under the party system, one person hijacking the system. I have been party to that, being on the receiving end, and it's from one member of the present governing party.

As far as party members being elected on a party platform is concerned, in most cases that is true, but quite often the reverse is true as well. Quite often party members get elected despite the party they represent or the platform the party holds. I can serve as an example of both cases.

In my first election I won because David Peterson was very popular and it didn't matter who was wearing the colours of the Liberal Party. In 95 ridings of the province, a lot of unknowns as well as previous members were elected. In the next election, the one in which the present government took over, most of us who survived from the Liberal Party won despite the party. I think in the next election the governing party may feel the brunt of the disaffection of the electorate the same way.

We cannot say that an independent member, one who became independent during the course of the term, does not represent his or her constituents, because if he or she survived a landslide or survived a backlash, there had to be a reason for it. We cannot just disregard independent members, for whatever reason, becoming independent during the course of a term, not serving either their voters or the views of their voters.

For instance, suppose, for whatever reason, somebody who represents a remote area of the province became an independent; for instance, Kenora, where Winnipeg is closer than most Ontario cities. Are we to assume that somebody who represents a riding in downtown Toronto, from whatever party, can represent that riding to the same extent that somebody who lives and breathes and knows what the constituents in that riding want, how they feel and how they are affected by legislation created here?

In my situation with Mississauga there are three other MPPs who can provide the coverage if I am muted, but for instance somebody from a remote area of the province where there is nobody within hundreds of miles, you are putting them in a very bad situation. We have to keep that in mind.

For that reason, I would support all of the points that Gilles has raised, but I would also like to add the proviso that as far as posing questions is concerned, there should be some flexibility, because something may arise in a remote area that is of urgent and extreme importance to that riding which has to be raised and which perhaps cannot be presented properly by somebody who is not proximate to the area.


Mr Sterling: I think I put forward a couple of suggestions this morning. I find these arguments somewhat amusing -- I guess amusing; I don't know whether amusing or almost odd -- in terms of us trying to categorize members who choose to sit as independents, for whatever motives they chose or how they ran or whatever, because I think part of the argument we're forgetting is that a member basically has the opportunity to switch parties. If he switches parties, then all of those arguments you made about him running for one party and then going to another are lost because --

Mr Hope: Let's put a rule in that stops that too.

Mr Sterling: -- he's left one party and gone to the other. I might even make the argument, quite frankly, Mr Hope, that I would venture to guess that most people to whom I would talk would say that, for instance one independent, Mr Drainville, more accurately reflects the party platform of the NDP than those who remain in the party. How do you argue that?

Mr Hope: Come on, Norm. Are you getting into individual cases, or are you going to speak about the role of a private member? If you want to get into theatrics, we can do that right in this committee.

Mr Sterling: It's not theatrics.

Mr Hope: It is so; it's clearly theatrics. If you want to talk about Tory policies and Liberal policies, I can do that too.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Hope, Mr Sterling has the floor. Would you like to be on the list?

Mr Hope: Certainly. Then I'll decide whether I want to speak after.

Mr Sterling: I think you have to keep the rules somewhat simple and there has to be a certain amount of discretion involved. I think Gilles is perhaps trying to spell out in too accurate terms, or whatever, what the participation of a member should or should not be, because a lot of that, I think, depends upon how that particular member represents his area, the personality of that representative, the issues of the day.

I don't think you can allow an independent member one question every four weeks or one piece of debate during a period of time. My preference would be to leave the Speaker to have some discretion, in a larger sense, in saying the independent member shall have the opportunity to ask questions, to represent his constituents, as equally as anybody else in the Legislature.

I think you can work out those kinds of words both in the question area and in other areas. For instance, I firmly believe that question period is a key part of representing my constituents. It probably is the most important part of representing my constituents. Let's face it: Politics is theatrics. If you don't understand that, I don't think you've observed the same things that I have.

Mr Hope: Then I'm not the old-fashioned politician, right?

Mr Sterling: A politician's job, in my view, is to get the issue relating to his constituents to the highest level of platform and public notoriety that he possibly can. He or she has to utilize whatever methods are available to him or her in order to get it there. That style of representation is extremely important to the people you represent. They want to know that their view is put forward.

I have debated a lot of things in the House and in committees and in question period, but I can tell you, it doesn't matter how logical or reasonable my argument might be on a particular subject; if no one's listening, if that's not reported, then my constituents' view has not in effect been put forward in an adequate way for them to grab the attention of the minister or the people who have the power to make those decisions. That's part of the game. Therefore, I think you have to allow an independent member all of those same tools, the same platforms that each of us has the opportunity to utilize as individual members within the party system.

I think the other thing you have to remember in this: I've heard a lot of parliamentarians under our system talk about the role of the individual member, that we must enhance it, that there should be more free votes. We hear this in the Reform Party and we hear it across -- this is a team sport. That's the way I always look at the British parliamentary system: It's a team sport. The fact of the matter is that the participation of individuals in that system to a very large degree depends upon the leadership of the party that you are associated with.

If Mike Harris chooses to use his members in a certain fashion and allows them certain kinds of platforms or power in making decisions, so be it. If Lyn McLeod, the Liberal leader, doesn't see it that way or sees another way of doing it, that's part of the system. Usually the Premier of the province, if he or she sees the necessity to keep very strict control, which is the normal way it has worked in the past -- I'm not just talking about the present government; I'm talking about when we were in power and when the Liberals were in power and all the rest of it -- that's part of the game.

I don't think you can ever get away from the fact that we are involved in a system which basically embodies the fact that it is a team kind of system. You can't ever hope to elevate an individual member to the same kind of freedom, the same kind of power, that they have for an individual member in the United States. You just can't. You can't have it both ways. You can't have the idea of a team and the tremendous power you give to the winning team and have the same individual power to the individual members.

I look at these suggestions and I think they're fine. I have very, very strong objection to number 4. As I mentioned this morning, I do not believe you can give the opportunity for an individual member as freely as we have in a system where there are more and more independent members.

We have never really addressed the issue of allowing an individual member to block unanimous consent. I don't think it would happen so often that there would be a problem, but I'll tell you where I think the greatest problem would arise in this whole issue. That would be where unanimous consent was required to extend a session or whatever. Someone is not up to date on what's happening because he or she is independent, and at 6 o'clock on a Thursday evening, instead of extending it to Friday, because of that person's schedule on Friday, he says, "No, I'm not going to allow this thing to go over for an extra day. I'm going to call everybody back on Monday or Tuesday of next week," or prolong the session, whatever it is, instead of there being some kind of responsibility by that individual to some of his other team players.

If you or I sit in the Legislature and we say, "Gee, I don't care whether we come back next Monday or Tuesday or whatever instead of sitting late tonight, Thursday evening, to wrap this thing up," or wrap the session up, or whatever -- there's a lot of coercion and a lot of discussion that takes place near the end of every session in this place. I've experienced it for 15 or 16 years. There's a lot of debate within your own caucuses as to whether you want to stay on or you don't want to stay on or whether it's worth staying on, and all the rest of it. Usually, you come to a pretty reasonable conclusion and the three House leaders usually come to a pretty reasonable conclusion in wrapping this thing up and going home at a reasonable time. There's usually a debate as to how much business is going to take place before the end of the session, and that's usually negotiated out by our House leaders. I really have a bit of a concern on that end of it, on the unanimous consent.


I have to tell you, the Elijah Harper thing makes me very, very nervous. I don't believe Elijah Harper or any individual member of any legislature has the right to cut me off on my vote, in terms of a constitutional resolution dealing with the change of our Constitution, on the basis of a technical rule in that area. I think that was very harmful to it. If I were Elijah Harper and I was sitting there, I might have used that if I felt as strongly as he did about that particular issue, but I don't think it was right for the system that he was able to do that. I really don't believe that it was right that he, as an individual member, could cut it off like he did.

I think with three or four changes which basically give the right of an individual member to be involved in question period, to have a statement, to be involved in debate on bills, to be involved in the private members' draw, perhaps for him or her to make an occasional request to be involved in debate on a private member's bill -- we could amend our rules to allow perhaps a five-minute intervention or something of that sort for an independent member at the discretion of the Speaker. I think a Speaker would be pretty careful that he wasn't allowing an independent member to be involved in the debate at excessive times, and that kind of thing.

I think one of the things you have to take into account is that because independent members don't have a party to speak for them, in essence they are a little bit like an opposition member; they have to be more involved in putting forward their position. Because there are less of them, they are less forceful. Government backbenchers have the luxury, if they want to call it that, of having the government put forward their position, so that if you are a member of a government, the public pretty generally knows where you stand on an issue. Once you find yourself transferred into the opposition benches, then it's less clear because the press and the media don't put the opposition parties on the front page. They don't tell you where people stand on a particular issue.

As an independent member, I would imagine it would be even more difficult to get out to the public you represent where your position in fact might be. Notwithstanding what Noble is saying in terms of not enhancing the position of an independent member, I don't think you really have to worry about enhancing the role of an independent member. I think an independent member has a terrible cross to bear in terms of having to formulate a position on basically all of the issues that his constituency asks him about.

You and I, who are members of parties, have a huge crutch to lean on. All we have to do is say, "Well, what's the party line on this?" and therefore you can answer your constituents and say, "My party is this way," or, "My party is that way," even if you're not that way or you don't agree with the party position. But it is a huge crutch to rely on and, quite frankly --

Mr Murphy: Sometimes a thin crutch.

Mr Sterling: Yes, it's sometimes a thin crutch. But it also gives you an opportunity to hide when you don't want to express exactly where you are. As an independent member, number one, you don't have those resources to ask somebody, "Where do we stand on this?" or, "Where do we stand on that?" If somebody asks you a difficult question on a complex issue, you might not have any interest or any knowledge about that issue, but in answering your constituent, when you have a good research department, which my party has and I presume other parties have, you can go to them and ask them, "Where do we stand on this?" or, "Give me a position on it," and that kind of thing.

I think the idea that you're concerned that you're going to enhance the role of these independent members to such a degree that they are going to be threatening to the other three parties is illusory and I don't think it will in fact happen.

In summary, I'd just like to say I would like to in some ways modify the rules but leave very, very much of the meting out not in hard, defined terms like "once every four weeks" or whatever, but leave that at the discretion of the Speaker, with some kind of general understanding that the Speaker would allow participation as either a normal member of the opposition or a member of the Legislature who is not a cabinet minister. I'd rather leave it that way than say it's this amount or that amount or once a week or twice a week or whatever it is. The system just doesn't work that way. Sometimes a member has to ask, and should be able to ask, three questions in a week, whether he's an independent or he's not an independent, but he may not have another question for another three, four or five months.

Mr Murphy: I just want to follow up on John's comments. I guess there's a third category of person elected, which is a person who is elected in spite of himself. Some would say that I fit into that category.

I do want to say that I agree with Norm that it's important to put it in a more general, discretionary way. What I've been hearing around the table is a sense that what we want to achieve is an equality of participation, that the independent member has a right to participate much to the same extent as any other member does in terms of their private member capacity.

You talked about the concept of it being a team sport, and I think in fact we really wear two hats here. To some degree we wear the hat of a member of a team and in other circumstances wear the hat of a member serving a constituency. I guess my view is that where the equality should come in is in those circumstances where you're wearing the hat of a representative of the constituency and not so much in the team sport aspect of this place. That may come more into play, for example, in things like responding as a party to government statements of policy and a few other instances. But there may be areas of discretion -- where, for example, a member leaves a party for a particular policy concern -- where it may be very appropriate for that person to respond to the government's announcement in that circumstance.

I guess you cannot, as a general rule, lay down rules that are going to provide for every circumstance. If you can't do that, then you should go in the other direction, which is to say that what we want to achieve for independent members is an equality of participation in representative matters related to their constituencies, an equality of participation, and leave that to the discretion of the Speaker.

You could give examples if you wanted. It may very well be that in matters of members' statements and questions, you could say so many a session; for example, three statements and two questions a session to be used as the member wishes, subject to being recognized by the Speaker. But then that's putting some particular detail. That's the kind of thing you can leave, really, to the Speaker. Maybe we can make a recommendation that because we think this is how often a private member participates, that's how often an independent member should participate.


There are two particular circumstances that come up. One is the question of participation in a committee. I actually think that participation in committee is different than in the House, because in a real sort of way each of us here represents about 12 people. Your vote counts for a lot more in a sense in this setting because there's only 11 of us here plus the Chair, so an individual's participation as a committee member is much more significant than it would be in the House where you're one of 130. So I would have a problem, I think, with a general voting right floating free in committees for independent members. But I think they should have the right to move motions, to speak, to put the issue forward and then leave it to the opportunity for the debate and vote in the committee. It may spread out, but I think that I do have a problem, because there is that sense of being larger than one person in a committee sense because you have other people you're trying to represent. The six government members represent their government caucus here.

The other issue is the unanimous consent issue. I guess at the end of the day I don't really have a problem with it staying as is in the sense that I understand the argument that says that members who are members of parties have that other rein on the exercise of their power that they have to vote to deny unanimous consent and an independent member doesn't, but I would think that if 129 people in the House are saying, "Yes, we should do this," and one person stands up and says no for an arbitrary or irrational reason, the discipline of media attention for that irrationality might be sufficient to make it otherwise.

Now, there may be some people who will deny unanimous consent because of an issue that comes up, and obviously the Elijah Harper example is one. I'd be a little concerned about painting too much into that, because if I remember correctly, and maybe I'm wrong, but as much as anything else, the opportunity to exercise that much power came because the Legislature in Manitoba timed itself so that unless they provided unanimous consent, they couldn't have the vote in time for the time imposed by the Meech Lake agreement. So it was partly because the Legislature did itself in, frankly. There are those who theorize that perhaps it was set up that way on purpose, but far be it from me to ascribe motives in that way.

I think there are ways to police unanimous consent. If it's abused, I think that would be a rare circumstance, and there are other ways of policing it. So I would just leave that rule as is.

I would recommend a general statement of principle that you want a quality of participation of independent members, and I do disagree with Mr Hope. I don't think, actually, it matters whether they leave a party or are elected as independents, because what you're trying to do is focus on their rights and responsibilities as private members representing a constituency. You're trying to make that part of it equal, and if you do that in a general sense and leave it to the discretion of the Speaker, that's probably sufficient.

Mr Hope: Say you don't agree with me. Then for those who choose to go independent, call a by-election and we'll see if you get elected back on your own merits of and how you're standing up for the principles of your riding. That's how you respond to that one.

Mr Murphy: That's a separate issue.

Mr Hope: No, it isn't.

When I was listening to the remarks by Mr Morin, for whom I have the greatest respect, he brought it out quite clearly, which I've been hearing quite frequently from my own constituents, that they're tired of politicians. They want us to get down and start doing some constructive work. That's why I made the comments about question period. I have people who comment all the time. Those who have the opportunity to watch the Legislature say it's one of the best soap operas they've ever seen in their entire lives, that it's more theatrics and your next profession would be in acting.

Where I believe that a member does have a positive role in participating and representing their community or their constituents is through the legislative process, because that's what the Legislature is all about. It's dealing with legislation, changes that will affect their community, their constituents, and I believe through that process -- I'm not totally harsh to what you're saying. Allowing an individual the opportunity of a question once every four weeks sounds legitimate.

I find it very interesting to listen to Mr Sterling and Mr Murphy just now. I guess I have to get a copy of Instant Hansard, because I thought this morning during the conversation they were talking about clear roles and guidelines, and this afternoon they're talking about vagueness. I guess I have to get a copy of Instant Hansard whenever possible, because I would like to interpret both the comments that were made this morning and the comments that are made this afternoon about the legislation in itself.

Mr Morin, you have done an excellent job in this part, but what I'm trying to do is really constructively deal with the issue about politicians playing their strong political roles now and representing their constituents. I believe that is through the legislative process.

I separate the time we debate legislation, when everybody turns the TV off, from the actual time of question period and all the statements and all that. I separate those two parts of the legislative process.

During the legislative process, when we deal with actual pieces of legislation and debate legislation, I believe that is the opportunity for an individual to put before the rest of the 130 members who are in the Legislature their community's concerns about a piece of legislation and the impacts it might have or pluses it might have. Not only is it of the negative fashion, but it's also of the positive.

I believe through that process, allowing an independent member that opportunity to fully participate, as everyone else does have the opportunity -- yes, if my caucus says, "Look, we want to keep the speakers down so we can get through this a little quicker," that's understandable; we have more people on our side. If you let all 130 talk on a piece of legislation, it'd take for ever. But I do believe in allowing that independent member the opportunity to express his viewpoint on the act itself, the legislation we're dealing with.

In terms of the roles and responsibilities in a committee, I guess that is one structure that is being talked about on a frequent basis; What are our roles and actual responsibility during the committee process? I have my own opinions about what I feel the committees are, and I believe that they have to probably be downsized more than increased. I only share that. I haven't given it much detail, because most people would probably prefer to be in their riding versus sitting around in a lot of these committees listening to presentations unless their community is directly affected. If there is a community representative speaking on behalf of my community before a committee, I always make the important point to being there to listen to the presentation that is being made before a legislative body.

But when we get into the whole issue about the actual roles of a member, your first part I guess is already covered under the financial part of it, the compensation aspect.

I guess the role is the allowing of a statement. I feel you've become very lenient with your proposal allowing them to question ministers, your time allocation. I have no problem with that; it's something I can live with. But to start expanding more and more the roles and their opportunities for independents -- and that's where I separated the two. If you run as an independent and get elected, then you are truly there representing your riding.

I listened to some of the comments, "I got elected with David Peterson, and after, I didn't get elected with David Peterson." You got elected by a colour of association. That's how you get elected in most legislatures, and if anybody tells me any different, then I ask you to please step down now, call a by-election and see if your popularity gets you re-elected on your individual name in that riding, because you'll have a tough time.

Mr Morin: René Fontaine proved that.

Mr Hope: I'm not going to prove it, because I'm --

Mr Morin: No, René Fontaine, the former Liberal member, proved that argument. He proved that in a by-election. He went to run and the Conservatives did not bring in a candidate and he ran strictly on his name and he was elected.

Mr Hope: But that's what I'm saying. If somebody chooses to be an independent and thrive on extra privileges of representing his community, then withdraw; and I know what Conservative you're talking about. Drop your name out of it and then re-present yourself back to the public and see if they agree with the ideas you have, because if you stood as an independent on a policy or separate yourself from one of the organizations that are currently identified in this Legislature, you'll have a tough time telling me that you represent the majority of your community. That would be left up to the community itself to determine whether you actually represent. In my own view, and maybe one day I'll eat these words, I'm saying if I ever chose to be independent, I would let my public decide.

Mr Murphy: Be careful.

Mr Hope: Listen, I have no problem. If I ever chose to leave this party, I would leave it up to the discretion of my own community to decide that. That's the way I've always believed. I've got elected by a political party. I never got elected as Randy Hope into this Legislature.

Mr Sterling: Those are the election laws. We're dealing with a separate --

Mr Hope: No, we're talking about actually representing your community; you're talking about the roles of an independent.

Mr Sterling: The election laws as they are now, which allow a person to change.

Mr Hope: No, no, you're talking about two different issues. You're talking about actually representing your community. You're talking about speaking on behalf of your constituents. Isn't that what you're talking about here?

Mr Sterling: We're talking about independent members.

Mr Hope: You're talking about cutting out the frivolous stuff, that I read in the opening remarks of the statement that was made by Mr Morin, to restore public trust back into the politicians.

I'm sitting here saying there are two distinctions between what we're trying to do here: There is the an individual who runs as an independent on his or her name and is elected to represent that community; also you have then the dissidents who wish to choose a different flow of the way they wish to express their viewpoints, for whatever reason it may be. When you sit here and you talk about the roles of individual members, I believe those who have chosen and are democratically elected should be given some special status in the Legislature, and those who have decided to leave a political party fall under a different category.


I believe that there is some work we can do on Mr Morin's proposal. He has given a lot of thought to what he's done here. I'm not going to say I totally agree with what he's done, but I believe there is a lot of constructive thought here. As a member of a party, I'm concerned also about my rights.

I would love to speak more, and you did touch on the fact that the leaders and about a number of people always stand up in question period and a lot of other people don't get the opportunity to. I believe that's something that has to be addressed not in this forum but in the forums of the political parties.

Mr McClelland: I read Mr Morin's submission and want to ask him a question. Mr Morin, I wonder if you had given some thought -- I appreciate the thought you have put into this -- with respect to your recommendation 7, how you would envisage members accessing committee membership.

Let me try and flesh that out somewhat. There are obviously a number of standing committees. I hesitate to speak in hypothetical terms, but perhaps to use it as illustrative of the problem, if we have a situation where, for argument's sake, there are five independent members and each of those women or men chose to sit on a series of committees, how would you, if it is the appropriate word, restrict their access to that committee, or do you propose that it would be by right? You use the word that they should have the right. Would the individual, in your mind, just simply advise the Chair, advise she or he that they had a desire to appear on a given day on a particular issue, or would you propose that they had a right just to sit and vote on an ongoing, open-ended basis, if you will? I'd appreciate any assistance you can give me in terms of your thoughts related to that.

Mr Morin: The purpose of my presentation, as I think I have stated at the beginning, was to stir discussions, and I think we're achieving that. That is the main thing, to have an open discussion. There are different points of view. What I presented is not the ideal solution, I know that, but the message I tried to convey is that if there is political will among ourselves, we'll be able to find a solution to accommodate these people who have decided all of a sudden to become independent.

We have no regulations at the moment, none whatsoever, and I'm positive that we can accommodate these people. We can accommodate them in such a way that we will respect, first, the people he or she represents and, secondly, also to be able to voice those opinions that these people pass on to him. That is the main thing.

How do you elect these people on committee? I don't know the rule. I don't know the solution. But at least I know that if there is political will among ourselves, among the parties -- because this should be looked upon as a non-party issue. It could happen to you, it could happen to me, and how would you treat me?

The traumatic experience of that individual to decide to leave his party must be horrible, must be horrendous. You were elected yesterday for a team you believed in and then you decide to leave them. It's a divorce. It's a separation. It's a denying of all the ideals that you had, and you leave that group behind, and you know that. It's like in a family, and if you decide in a large family to go against the will and the spirit of your family, you're rejected. In French we say mouton noir, you're the black lamb. They don't want to see you any more.


Mr Morin: I'm sorry. I apologize. You make the smile so I know that you understand. I'm sorry.

You're rejected. You're not looked upon as part of a team.

This is the reason I think we must be able to show some compassion for that individual. We must be able to help that individual to continue to fulfil his or her responsibilities in such a way without denying the rights of the others. That is important to me. This is why I prepared this.

How do we arrive at a decision, a formula? Let's talk about it. I think we can do that.

Mr McClelland: Just by way of follow-up, I notice in the brief prepared by Mr Sibenik, on page 4 of your attachment you make reference to Quebec. I wonder if you could provide us or provide me -- I presume my colleagues on the committee might want it -- some more detail or some assistance in amplifying the second bullet point under Quebec's proceedings whereby the standing orders provide a mechanism; as you set out here, independent members are taken into account in the establishing of the membership of committees and the rules for participation. If there was something that you might be able to add to that, or is there some detail you could subsequently provide, perhaps a copy of the standing orders or the sections that make reference to that, I'd appreciate receiving that.

Mr Sibenik: I can get you a copy of the standing orders if you give me a few minutes to get them.

Mr McClelland: No rush; perhaps tomorrow or sometime at your leisure. I would just like to review it and reflect upon it. I might add that the one issue I have of concern is simply, if any proposals were forthcoming, how one would put handles on it, if you will. I like the spirit; I understand where Mr Morin's coming from. I see some difficulty in arriving at some accommodation and dealing with it in a concrete fashion.

Thank you, Mr Chairman, and Peter, thank you for the work you've done on this.

Mr Hope: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: Just to Peter, it says here without the right to vote. That's currently the rules that we have: Anybody can participate in a committee without a right to vote. If anybody has more and he raised a good point -- to give us more in-depth process is on page 3 with the House of Commons. It says, "serve on standing committees" and "if chosen as a member of the committee, stand for election as Chairman, be part of a quorum" process. That would probably give us more detail than the Quebec model, which doesn't give the right to vote.

Mr McClelland: Maybe we should look at both. I would still like to see the Quebec one, and I presume Mr Hope wants to see the Ottawa one.

The Vice-Chair: Yes. I'll take that as a direction to see both.

Mr Winninger: I think essentially Mr Murphy addressed a point that I was going to make at the time concerning Elijah Harper. My recollection of the events was that there were certain standing orders, if you will, in the Legislature of Manitoba, and Mr Harper was simply enforcing and complying with those terms rather than the abbreviated and expedited terms that the Meech Lake process was calling for, so I don't think we could criticize Mr Harper for complying with the House rules of the day. Certainly history has proven him to be a hero in the eyes of many Canadians.

Mr Sterling: Could I just make a comment? I'd just like to clarify. I hope you don't take what I've said as a criticism of what Harper did, but what I'm saying is that Harper took advantage of a unanimous consent issue in order to put forward what his position on that issue was. As I understand it, regardless of the shenanigans involved -- because, as I say, if I was Harper, in the same position as him, I might have very well done the same thing as he did. But notwithstanding that, what he did was prevent the Legislature of Manitoba from voting on that issue. I have difficulty with taking that away from the other members.


Ms Akande: I'm really glad to be a part of this committee that's discussing this issue. I must say that though Mr Morin has offered his suggestions as a point of discussion, I actually have to be frank with you: I see none to which I take exception.

I recognize that there's a tradition in this place, a tradition which is most upheld by those to whom it relates, and some of us are not enamoured with the tradition. But we do believe that if you always do what you've always done, you always get what you always got, and that's not necessarily what we want.

Mrs Ellen MacKinnon (Lambton): What a mouthful.

Ms Akande: Well, I'm sorry. My analogies are a little folksy, but then so am I at times; so it's a point I don't apologize for.

Mr Murphy: You were known as the folksy principal.

Ms Akande: Yes, that's right. Oh, oh, we're at it again.

I want to talk about some of the issues that have been raised. One is that we have a concern about making the actual possibilities of representation for the independent more effective than the members of a caucus. Isn't that an interesting way of monitoring caucuses and their proposed policies?

We've also talked about the responsibilities that have to be assumed by this individual in doing their own research and gathering their own data and collecting information that they might need to respond to issues that are brought to them by constituents. If in fact, in spite of these responsibilities, or within those responsibilities, they manage to represent their constituents in a way that seems "more effective than others who are somehow regulated by a caucus point of view," I would commend them, not criticize them or feel that they had to be reduced in rights, because they've been able to do that. It speaks to us who are perhaps not independent to then say, well then, what is it that controls or limits or influences our points of view and our perspective and our response to constituents' needs in a way that limits our effectiveness?

We talked about downsizing committees and I certainly want to talk about that. I'm concerned about that because so much of government's business is done here. People really think that it all happens in the Legislature, and the former principal taught that for many years, as a former teacher. I want to go back and meet all those people and tell them that I lied, and that in fact the real work of government is done in the committees. I would consider it dangerous -- I know that that's a very serious word to use, "dangerous" -- to limit the size of the committees. It's usually done in a way that says: "The government members or the opposition members or the third party members are representing a point of view. How many of them does it take to represent a point of view?"

I find it very difficult nowadays to go into any constituency, and I have been in many, as guests of various people, to talk to a group of people where I could say that the point of view is so singular, so narrow, so well-identified by any political party that we'd be safe to say that the three, if we have three parties or whatever, points of view that are represented by those members are actually it. I think that, if anything, the discussion would be made much more realistic and much more representative if we included the views of some independent members whose views would be different from all three of those parties.

We have a tendency, too, in our language to talk about the independent member as perhaps being a rebel and to associate words like "arbitrary" and "irrational" and sometimes to use as examples the singular step that was taken by Elijah Harper; I know it was used in a general example. But the point I'm trying to make is that Elijah Harper's view, though he had to grandstand to take it, was really reflective of many constituents out there. That is why he is a hero, not because he did what he did but because he seized an opportunity to say what some of the political parties that were there were not saying and represent those of us, and I identify myself, who felt in concert with his feelings.

We talked too about the crutch of the party, which allows us perhaps not to be as well prepared as we individually should be because somebody else is willing to do our thinking for us. I wonder if we should be here if we are willing to allow somebody else to do our thinking for us. I personally sometimes feel somewhat limited in being able to express some variation of the policies assumed by my colleagues, and yet I struggle on.

So we're talking about tradition versus change. We're talking about the independent member being seen as being more representative of particular points of view. We're talking about the kinds of power he might have in preventing unanimous consent. I tell you, I think that's only logical. If there are 130 members and one of them says, "Hey, I disagree," it is not unanimous. To say that it's otherwise and to find some kind of terminology that skirts around it is to deny the existence of that one member or the relevance of that one member to what we're discussing and so the input of his or her constituents.

Democracy is an important thing to me. It's one of the things that keeps me here and brings others to this place. Any time we can widen it, broaden it, any time we can champion a person who can stand there and say, "I'm going to represent my constituents to the best of my ability even if it means that I'm not in a political party," I would champion their rights and fight to extend them.

Mrs MacKinnon: I hesitate to speak after my colleague who finished, as she does it so eloquently. First of all, I'd like an explanation. In proposal 1, "indemnities," is that our paycheques?

Mr Morin: Anything that has to do with finance -- your salaries, your pension plan, name it -- should be there.

Mrs MacKinnon: All right. I don't have any problem with that. What's this about access to legislative services? Do the independents have that now or not?

Mr Morin: Sure. Yes, you can go to the library, you can go to a clerk, you can go to a researcher.

The Vice-Chair: I understand that every member has the same access to the legislative services.

Mrs MacKinnon: So nothing is being changed there? Not that I'm against change.

The Vice-Chair: No. I think Mr Morin's concept here was to put in the rules what in fact exists, the right of all members.

Mr Morin: So that they don't take it away.


Mrs MacKinnon: I do have a problem with proposal 4. I realize what Ms Akande said, that when one dissents and everybody else consents, that's not a unanimous vote. It depends on how you interpret it, I guess. But I do have a problem with number 4, "to withhold unanimous consent." I refer it back to something that Mr Hope said. If a person is elected to come here as an independent, I think that perhaps he or she should be accorded and afforded the same privileges I get as a backbencher. But if somebody comes here affiliated with a party and then chooses to sit independently because he or she cannot agree with the party's policy -- of course, you've got two types of independents: You've got the independent who was elected to be an independent; you've got somebody who was elected to a party and then, perhaps for reasons that he or she had absolutely had no control over, had to become independent until other processes took place.

But I have a problem with somebody who becomes independent just because, to put in plain language like my mother would do, they can't get their own way. I have a problem with that type of person, with that individual becoming independent because he didn't get his own way on one particular issue and then he wants all the goods and services. I have a problem with that, I really do.

I suppose maybe there are those who are going to say, "Boy, she's not very democratic." I don't know whether that person was democratic in the first place or not, because in democracy we say the majority rules. If a party, no matter what colour the stripe, chooses to have a certain type of philosophy and is in the majority, then why would a member become an independent because everybody else voted for it?

Maybe I'm running around in circles and catching my tail as I come back, I don't know, but I see a whole bunch of problems here. If people get elected to represent any party, the constituents must have felt they wanted that person to represent the philosophy of that party; then they come here and they choose to sit independently because they didn't get their own way. I have a problem with them having that many privileges. However, persons who, as I said before, through no fault of their own, find that they must sit independently because of perhaps some law or rule or regulation, whatever it might be, then I think they should be accorded some rights and privileges. I'm not very eloquent, but I'm trying to put it in language that I understand, and that's farmer talk.

The Vice-Chair: I don't have any more speakers. I'm wondering if we should have some discussion, at this stage, of the next process. There have been some issues raised. Maybe we need some answers and some further exploration of some of the issues raised before we come back with any recommendations. For instance, there have been issues raised by the various members. Using Mr Morin's paper as a basis for discussion, which I think we can all agree is a good basis for discussion, what I might suggest to expedite matters is that we look at some of the aspects that may require further exploration of the proposals. Obviously proposal 1 is the existing situation.

I hope you don't mind my summing up here. It seems that in proposal 2, the issue is whether it should be an arbitrary aspect or should be discretionary. I think we need to take a look at that issue and have an issue for discussion tomorrow, and perhaps the research officer can give us some further --

Mr Sterling: I think there are three levels you could reach on this: One would be to have a definitive role, as Mr Morin puts it in proposal 2; the second would be sort of an unfettered discretion on the part of the Speaker; and the third would be discretion with direction. There are three levels you could talk about.

The Vice-Chair: I appreciate that. If that's agreeable, I think that's a good approach. If we go to proposal 3, I don't think we've had anybody raise any concerns with that at the present time.

Mr Murphy: We've had legislators' consensus on number 3.

The Vice-Chair: Yes. Proposal 4: I think it would be useful for the committee to know the instances in which individual members can prevent the process of the House by withholding their unanimous consent. I think it would be useful to now have those set out individually, a list for us to look at. I think Mr Sterling raised a very interesting aspect: Maybe there are some of those instances that we ought to consider amendment on and see if it's all appropriate that all of these continue to have unanimous consent. I would suggest that would be one way of looking at it.

Mr Sterling: The one that is skipped in here and that I raised: Should we still have the rule of five members forcing a division -- or is that not considered relevant to the independent members -- in order to force a division in the House; in other words, to have a recorded vote in the Legislature? In a committee any member can just ask and it is done.

Mrs MacKinnon: When did it get changed from seven to five? I always thought it was seven. You've been here longer than I have, so I'm sure you know.

Mr Sterling: I don't know how long it's been five. I guess the question is, should the threshold be lower in order for the independent to be able to force a vote on his or her own, or should it be --

The Vice-Chair: Okay. I certainly would be agreeable to have that item on the list. Might I throw out a suggestion and take some prerogative here and suggest that we look at whether there is another way for a person to indicate that he wants his vote registered against, without having a division. There might be a way a person could indicate, by notice in writing or something, or require it to be put on the record that he had voted against an item if he wished to do that. I can see the problems with respect to --

Mr Murphy: Forcing a division.

The Vice-Chair: -- forcing a division, so I think we should look at other alternatives. What I'm suggesting is just to look at other alternatives, and what I suggest is one of those other alternatives.

Okay. The next item, proposal 5: I don't think anyone had any difficult with that.

Mr Murphy: I think Mr Hope rightly raised the issue more of -- and this may be a discretion issue again, but something we think about -- the equality of participation of members in the debate being the issue because of the limited time to debate private members' bills. This may be one where you set out x number of times per session in a strict way, or you leave an unfettered discretion to the Speaker, or again, the discretion with guidelines.

The Vice-Chair: Yes. I think that's fair enough.

Mr Sterling: Peter, you might also want to put in that alternative, does that take away from the other debate of the other members or do you just add time on to private members?

The Vice-Chair: Any other suggestions? Mr Winninger, did you want to add some suggestions here?

Mr Winninger: No. My comment was more general in nature. Perhaps you want to go through the proposals first.

The Vice-Chair: Okay. We'll go through the proposals and then I'll ask. Then we go to proposal 6. I think there is general consensus on the principle of it, but I think that's going to require some fleshing out of details.

Mr Sterling: I think it's the same issue as the debate on the private member's bill, that is, whether the House is speeding along or if there is --

Mr Murphy: A time allocation motion or closure.

Mr Sterling: I'm not sure how you write the parameters into this one.

The Vice-Chair: It really has to be discretionary.

Mr Sterling: Again, I don't know whether you would allow or you should allow an independent member to speak on every bill. It's pretty hard to say no, I guess.

Ms Akande: They probably won't want to even when you come to them.

Mr Sterling: Yes, I think you're right.

Interjection: Maybe it should be on the more significant bills.

Mr Sterling: Yes, I think you're right.

The Vice-Chair: If we move now to proposal 7, this is obviously one of the more problematic aspects. Obviously, one of the issues is, should the individual member have the right to vote on the committee, and how do you determine criteria for selection to committee? There are a lot of issues that have to be dealt with in proposal 7.


Mr Sterling: Not only voting but being allowed to move a motion, in number 7, is another issue as well in a committee. You see, right now I guess our standing orders say if you're not a member of the committee, you can come in and talk but you can't vote, most importantly, but number two, you can't move a motion. What I was suggesting this morning was that you may want to say to an independent, "You can move a motion in a committee but you can't vote."

The Vice-Chair: Yes. I think we need a lot of discussion on this.

Mr Sterling: It's another option we can consider.

The Vice-Chair: I would assume that an independent member wouldn't have the option of jumping into committees day by day; it would have to be --

Mr Sterling: I agree. I think he should be required to pick one every year that he wants to attach himself to, and then if he wants to pop into another committee and speak on it, fine and dandy, but on the one committee he would presumably sit during the summer --

The Vice-Chair: The full right of participation except perhaps voting.

Okay. I think we've dealt with the proposals. There may be some additional items we want to consider, and I assume that's what you want to speak to, Mr Winninger.

Mr Winninger: I just wanted to speak to these proposals in a more general sense and then we'll analyse them further, I'm sure, tomorrow.

If I were a cynical person, I would conclude that there's never more interest in expanding the rights of independent members or backbenchers than when a party is in opposition.

Mr Sterling: Mr Chairman, before we get to the general, could we just add any more?

The Vice-Chair: Yes. Would anybody like to add any more issues?

Mr Winninger: I'm sorry, I thought we were through with that analysis.

Mr Sterling: There were a couple of minor points in Peter's paper this morning. One was about the compendium and the background material on the statutory report, and I suggested that any member of the House be able to get those on request as a matter of right.

There were also other issues, about opposition day, about a confidence motion, about response to ministry statements, that were not addressed in Mr Morin's paper. Quite frankly, I don't believe those should be rights of an independent member and I'm quite willing to omit them, but I'm not sure that any other member wanted to raise them or didn't want to raise them.

The Vice-Chair: Perhaps we can leave those outstanding items to be dealt with tomorrow. We'll just add those to be disposed of on the agenda.

Ms Akande: Will they be added to the list?

Mr Sterling: I think they should be.

The Vice-Chair: That's what I said, to be added.

Mr Sterling: Are there any other points that anybody else would want to raise?

The Vice-Chair: If I might interrupt, there's a suggestion, if we could have unanimous consent. It's going to take Peter some time to do that, so if we could do a switch tomorrow and have security here at 10 am from the Sergeant at Arms, would that be agreeable?

Mrs MacKinnon: I agree, if they agree.

The Vice-Chair: Then we'll start at 2 in the afternoon tomorrow on the role of the independent member. It is obviously going to take some time.

Mr Sterling: Why don't we go back to this on Thursday and just do security tomorrow morning, and then it will give Peter all day tomorrow?

The Vice-Chair: If that's agreeable to members, I have no problem with that.

Mr Morin: The only difficulty, Mr Chairman, is that I cannot be here Thursday. But it doesn't mean that the discussions cannot continue; on the contrary.

Mrs MacKinnon: I have the same problem. I can't be here on Thursday either, but that doesn't need to stop discussions.

The Vice-Chair: What have we agreed to? The Sergeant at Arms in the morning anyway; I guess we've agreed to that.

Mr Winninger: Since I can't be here Thursday, I'd love to hear back from Peter some time tomorrow, even if it's in the afternoon. He does not look unduly inconvenienced by that.

The Vice-Chair: At 10 o'clock we'll deal with the Sergeant at Arms and at 2 o'clock, if possible, we will resume with the role of the independent member. Is that fair enough, Peter?

Mr Sibenik: Yes. That's fine.

The Vice-Chair: By the way, we'll be in closed session tomorrow with the Sergeant at Arms.

Mr Winninger: Okay. Just to pick up my train of thought again, I suppose this may seem a partisan position to the other parties, but I think it might be a position that would be articulated by any government of the day. Quite clearly, as I said, interest seems to be more developed in expanding the role of an independent member or backbencher when one is in opposition, but I hear people in the constituency who are very concerned that members should exercise a little more independence of thought and not always toe the party line on every issue.

I also know from this excerpt from the Canadian Parliamentary Guide that there have been many, many members over the years who didn't fit within the confines of the major parties. In fact, there were independent members in the past, and I'm not sure how they were dealt with by the government of the day.

I'll share with you what my concern is. I'm told, and I have no reason to dispute the fact, that in this particular government we seem to spend at least two and a half times as much time on debate of any particular bill as has been the case in past governments. No matter what the government of the day is, that government has to have an agenda and it has to be able to proceed with that agenda in a fairly timely and expeditious manner.

The thrust of expanding the rights of independent members and possibly backbenchers may indeed serve to increase the time that's taken to debate certain bills. This may in fact be a good thing, but it may make the process even more unwieldy. Instead of having, say, a dozen different parties each with its opportunity to debate the bill, parties that are perhaps more accountable than individuals, you could ultimately have half a dozen independent members each with rights that would be enshrined to debate bills, ask questions, participate in committees.

The net effect of this, unless you somehow diminish other people's rights in debating time, for example, is to prolong the time it takes to get legislation passed. Frequently, members of government give up their time to speak in order to get a bill through and give the opposition, which isn't in power, full latitude or as much time as can be made available to debate bills and put forward their points of view. That makes sense in a democracy. But I think we have to be very careful in weighing the effect, whatever the government of the day is, in augmenting the rights of independent members.

If I were in the position of an independent member, as Mr Morin pointed out earlier, I might be seeing this in a slightly different light, but as a government member -- any member of the other party could be in government in the future; we don't know that; we can never foretell -- governments need to be able to get their agendas proceeded with, as I said, in a timely and expeditious manner. If indeed the effect of these reforms would be to slow down that process even further and make it even more turgid than has been the case over the past few years in my humble experience here, then I think we need to know that, and if we're trading off the so-called democratic rights of members for timely and expeditious passage of bills, I want to know that too.

I don't know how easy it is for our legislative researcher to find out how independents were being dealt with in the dim, dark past or how small minorities were being dealt with -- for example, in 1929, there was one member of the UFO, which I believe stands for United Farmers of Ontario -- and how other such members perhaps more recently were dealt with, what privileges they were accorded by the Speaker and the government of the day. I don't know if it's possible to find this out, but while we're in the process of taking some rather bold strides forward in expanding these rights, I think we need to be a little cautious about what the effect will be on what is now very scarce legislative time.


Mr Sterling: I don't think looking back to 1929 will have any relevance to today at all. Quite frankly, what's happened over the last 20 years -- and I've been here for 16 of those 20 years -- has been a further refinement of the rules. It's a little like our constitutional process that we've gone through in the last 20 years in this country as well, that we've continued to define rights, privileges and jurisdictional areas. We've tried to define them to such a fine sense that we get ourselves into problems when the odd situation arises.

In the past, I would guess that if you go back into the 1960s or the 1970s, the Speaker had control. He basically wrote the rules on a day-to-day basis and ruled by precedents and carried on.

It's only since the 1970s when we started to invoke these ideas of the power of the parties and the rules and as politicians became a full-time occupation that these issues arose. You go back into the late 1960s and we sat for six weeks a year. Everybody used to come down here for six weeks, stay at the Royal York and everything would be done. That would be it. And because everybody was anxious to get back to their constituency and their real job, then sanity prevailed.

Mr Winninger: Can we recommend that?

Mr Sterling: Well, I'd certainly recommend it.

Mrs MacKinnon: Oh, but our population was only a tenth of what it is now.

Mr Sterling: But notwithstanding, I'm just saying that going back in history, I don't -- I just say to Mr Winninger that what I have proposed and I believe what Mr Morin is proposing is not a great enhancement of the independent member's rights. It is pretty mild. It's not so much a debate that the government party is only involved in. It's always a debate between leaders and the parties, because that's the real breakdown.

There's no more interest in Mike Harris having stronger independent rights than there is Bob Rae having stronger independent rights, because control is always an issue that every party in here has to deal with. Therefore, while you have to worry more about a time frame and you cite an existing problem with this government, I suggest that is a bit of an anomaly in terms of the fact that we just can't accept what you're doing as being the problem.

Mr Winninger: You don't accept our right to govern. You're finally admitting that.

Mr Sterling: No, no, no, but I think it's such a radical departure from what government has been in this province before. Notwithstanding the rules or whatever rules you might have, I think you'd face the same problems. To independent members who always come up to me and say, "We've got to have more rights as independent members," I say: "Look, take a look at the standing orders. Learn what they're about and, boy, there's lots of opportunity if you want to exhibit power. If you want to show you're powerful, there's lots of ways to do it. All you got to do is find the right platform at the right time and do it."

I don't think what we're proposing here is radical or whatever. Notwithstanding that, whatever we propose, we know what will happen. The House leaders are going to get together and negotiate this in the final sense, so if we are in fact giving over a huge amount of power to somebody else, it's the government House leaders who are going to agree to it, and the leaders aren't going to agree to it.

I think what we're coming up with is that we'll probably pretty well accept it. I know my party leader wants a tradeoff on this: He doesn't like the unanimous vote, the right of a single member to hold up a unani- mous vote. You're probably right in sync with that, although I noticed another member of your party is not.

I guess that basically states where it is. I think you can get overplayed on these roles, that they are the only thing and the end-all. They aren't the end-all. The end-all is what is negotiated in the House between the House leaders as well.

The Vice-Chair: Shall we adjourn this meeting?

Mr Hope: Yes. I've absorbed too much information. I need time to filter it out.

The Vice-Chair: I must say the Chairman had great difficulty restraining himself in comment. Normally, sitting on the government --


The Vice-Chair: I hope you'll be patient with me with my interventions. I'll try to restrain them. Thank you very much.

The committee adjourned at 1606.