Wednesday 15 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 R. Johnson

Ramsay, David (Timiskaming L) for Mrs Sullivan

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 1410 in the Humber Room, Macdonald Block, Toronto.


The Vice-Chair (Mr Paul Wessenger): I think I'll call the meeting to order now. There's a quorum present. We're to continue with the consideration of discussion on the role of the independent member. Legislative research has prepared some more information with respect to dealing with Mr Morin's proposals, and I'll now ask parliamentary research, Peter Sibenik, to outline this for the committee.

Mr Peter Sibenik: Thank you very much, Mr Chair. I should point out to members of the committee that what I have done in this four-page document and the attachments is that there is a list of the proposals that were in Mr Morin's paper from yesterday together with a list of other items for discussion that appeared in my particular memo which you also received yesterday, so they are a global list of perhaps the outstanding issues that the committee may want to consider.

You'll see that two of the items in this document are asterisked. Those two proposals appear to be not contentious so I just indicated them as that, although the other ones appear to require some continuing discussion.

Certain members asked me for some additional research, and I have undertaken that research. What I have done is inserted it in the appropriate area in the so-called agenda of issues, and I can go through that and highlight the research that I've done.

I guess the very first point that I can refer to is on the first page, Mr Morin's proposal number 4. There was some discussion of the issue of unanimous consent and what can or what should be done in that particular area.

I have referred to standing order 56.1 of the standing orders of the House of Commons in Ottawa. That particular provision is attached in one of the attachments to this particular agenda if you care to read it, but basically it says what I have said there. I've paraphrased it. If unanimous consent is denied with respect to a routine motion, what basically can happen is that a minister can request that the question on the motion be put, and if 25 or more members stand up in their places, then the motion is not carried. However, if less than 25 stand in their places, then the motion is deemed to have been carried. That only applies with respect to routine motions, and as I've indicated here, "routine motions" is a defined term. They go to some length to define "routine motions," as you can see from the particular standing order, but that is their provision. That is how they get around a situation that develops when unanimous consent is denied by one or more members of the House of Commons. I bring that to your attention.

Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): Could we ourselves establish a mechanism, for instance, to prevent that type of situation? You always start on the premise that the person you're going to deal with is going to be reasonable -- I always try to start that way -- but if that person is no longer reasonable, doesn't want to understand, wants to abuse his power, then there should be an outlet, sort of a way that we can say: "Okay. We've given you all the opportunity to change your mind. You don't want to do so, and we'll use the gun."

Mr Sibenik: That particular provision can be something that this committee can consider. It is possible to draft such a standing order as in Ottawa.

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): A gun would be a little harsh, wouldn't it? Can't we start with some less --

Mr Morin: Use a sledgehammer, softly cushioned.

The Vice-Chair: Just a point of clarification, Peter: I thought we requested an indication of a list of items where unanimous consent was required. I know you say routine motions, but I thought we'd requested that list for the purpose of the committee so we'd have an indication of the items that would be involved in that. I think, for the purpose of looking at the question of unanimous consent, all of us would like to know what we're particularly referring to. If we're going to look at the question of following the example of the House of Commons, I think all members would like to know the details.

Mr Randy R. Hope (Chatham-Kent): It's in there, isn't it?

Mr Sibenik: No, there is no definition of items, of procedures that do require unanimous consent. In fact, I'm still working on that particular part of the researches, but I think members might know that it would apply to such things as a motion to divide the time equally among the parties at the outset of a particular debate; that kind of situation is when it would be required. There are other kinds of situations as well. As I've indicated, it's something that requires a little bit of thought as to the extent to which unanimous consent procedures are applicable. I'm not sure there is an exhaustive list that I could come up with, because situations do change from time to time and there is a need for some flexibility.

I can tell you that I do have some personal difficulty in coming up with lists of things, because in the book on parliamentary procedure that I'm currently working on, we discuss from time to time that, "Oh, we need an exhaustive list of things that fall under a particular kind of motion." It does pose some difficulty because we realize that we can't really be comprehensive, indicating every single possible situation in which a procedure falls under a particular category.

I will be able to get a list of the major kinds of procedures that might require unanimous consent, but I do caution the committee that there is some difficulty in ensuring that it can be an exhaustive list.

Mr John Sola (Mississauga East): I seem to recall that the Speaker has on numerous occasions, and probably even the Deputy Speaker, cautioned members in the House that anything can be resolved with unanimous consent. Therefore, practically anything we do in the House would be added to that list.

Could we just get the definition of what "routine motion" means? I understand there's a definition in the standing orders of Ottawa; if we could get that definition, that might maybe supply the information that the Chair was asking for.

Mr Sibenik: We have that list in the Ottawa standing orders and, in addition, we also have our own standing order 35, which is not an exhaustive list and it's worded in a way that is very cautious. I'll just read what it says. Standing order 35 reads as follows:

"Under the proceeding `Motions,' the government House leader may move routine motions that are part of the technical procedure of the House, such as for times of meeting and adjournment of the House, changes in membership of committees and similar non-substantive motions. These routine motions do not require notice."

As you can see, this is not an exhaustive list. This standing order is a bit more cautious than the Ottawa standing order, which is an exhaustive list, in a sense.

Mr Noble Villeneuve (S-D-G & East Grenville): My advice, when I'm in the chair, is that the House can do anything with unanimous consent. For example, Ron Eddy's on his feet and he's done his half-hour. Someone gets up and says: "I move that the member for Brant-Haldimand continue. Do we have unanimous consent?" Now, I was in the chair and I didn't hear "No." Someone apparently said no. I didn't hear it. The guy continued for another 10 or 15 minutes, could have had the floor for ever. Is that a routine motion? That's just a spur-of-the-moment thing, and when you're in the chair, you're told the House, by unanimous consent, can do anything. This is different: 25 people stand up. Sometimes we barely have a quorum of 20.

Interjection: We should cut it down to 20. They've got more members than we have.

Mr Villeneuve: We have to look at legislative consensus, which is not that everyone's in favour but there are no more than two, four or five against it, or something like Ottawa has.

Interjection: Scaled down to our size.


Mr Ramsay: We're not here to rewrite the standing orders, so all we can do is somehow integrate some rules that pertain to independent members in relation to the standing orders we have to date. That would be another exercise. I think there needs to be, probably, an exhaustive study of all our standing orders -- they're quite a hodgepodge -- but that's probably another exercise for maybe this committee at another date.

Mrs Ellen MacKinnon (Lambton): I agree with what Mr Ramsay has said, but I see underlined in several places "recognized membership of 12 or more persons," some I see, I think, in order to be a party. Is this going to exclude independent members?

The Vice-Chair: Mrs MacKinnon, I don't know whether you wish research to answer. You're referring to the Quebec rules, I'd just note.

Mrs MacKinnon: The Legislative Assembly Act.

Mr Sibenik: If I can help the member out, the Legislative Assembly Act does use the expression "recognized membership of 12 or more persons," but that really deals with the indemnities and allowances that are due to certain officers and officials associated with the third party. That is why I have that. This is the only situation in which that expression is used in the Legislative Assembly Act; that is to say, in the context of the salaries and indemnities of the whips, the House leaders, the leader of the third party. That's why I included it in this particular attachment here, this particular agenda.

Mrs MacKinnon: Mr Chair, then are you saying that an independent member is not going to get his or her indemnities if there's just one?

The Vice-Chair: No, Ms MacKinnon. I think the Legislative Assembly Act refers to the additional payments to a leader of a party. Basically, what the act says is that in order to get additional indemnities as the leader of a party, you have to have 12 or more persons in the assembly.

Mr Hope: You can be the leader, but you'd be the only one.

The Vice-Chair: That's right: You'd be the only one and you wouldn't be paid for it. You wouldn't get any payment as leader. If there were 11 members, for instance, you'd just be paid like any other member.

Mrs MacKinnon: Oh, forgive me. Mrs Mathyssen has explained it to me. I don't mean that you didn't, but now I understand. Thanks.

Mr Sola: I think 25 members, as in Ottawa, should probably be scaled down to reflect our numbers here in the House. Perhaps 12 would be a reasonable number, which is also associated with some other moves that we make.

Mr Norman W. Sterling (Carleton): In terms of dealing with the problem that we're trying to deal with here, that is, an obstreperous independent member denying unanimous consent, we may be reaching too far in terms of trying to resolve that problem. I'm not certain of all the nuances associated with a unanimous consent request and then denial thereof. I suspect, from reading standing order 45 from the House of Commons, that they bring forward of the whole notion of overcoming a denial of unanimous consent by an individual, or perhaps even two or three individuals, by saying that he can immediately place his motion in front of the House and then 25 members are required to block the motion. They do that during the question period time or immediately after the question period, when there are 25 members in the House.

I don't know whether it meets some of the problems we were talking about; for instance, trying to extend the hours by unanimous consent at the end of the day or some of the other examples that were brought forward.

Possibly, if we aren't willing to go to a fairly simple solution of saying that to block a unanimous consent request requires two members or three members, whatever number rather than just one, then we may be getting ourselves into a fairly important technical section which has far-reaching effects on all the parties and therefore, I think, would be difficult to deal with unless you can gain some experience around this.

I'm concerned about giving the government the power, for instance, to have an immediate vote on a motion in the middle of the day, somewhere along a debate, to have unanimous consent to do something. Therefore, I think we're getting into a situation where we don't know all of the nuances involved. At 5 o'clock in the afternoon, if the government House leader or a minister of the crown or somebody stood up and said, "I want unanimous consent to debate this thing," or to change some motion dealing with closure or whatever the hell it would be -- excuse my language -- I don't think you'd find 12 members in the House at that point in time or you might not find five members in the House in opposition to block an immediate vote on the motion, even though one might stand up and say, "No, we're not going to give you that." You're getting into, I think, a fairly complicated kind of thing which requires a great deal of thought in order to amend the standing orders that way.

Because we haven't experienced that obstreperous member or independent member who has taken advantage of that position, in my own view, I would rather one member still have the right to block unanimous consent, rather than start to deal in a large extent in what's happening. I suggest that if that does happen, what will happen is that all the House leaders will agree to change the rules very quickly in our Legislature.

Maybe in a House where you have 300 members, like they have in Ottawa, or close to 300 members, you may have to have a rule like rule 45 in their standing orders. I just think that we're getting into more, really, than the problem requires to resolve. I would rather pull back my concerns about unanimous consent being held back by one member than get into this kind of resolution of that kind of problem.

Mr Morin: David, did you listen to what he said about unanimous consent?

Mr Hope: Yes, he's pulling back because he can be euchred.

Mr Morin: No, it makes sense. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Mr Hope: The government can do whatever it pretty well wants. If you don't have the opposition members there in the last few minutes of the House sittings, let me tell you, you could do just about anything you want to do.

Mr Morin: Sure. Sorry, Mr Chairman, I got carried away.

Mr Hope: It doesn't sound too bad right now, though.

The Vice-Chair: Are there any other questions. I guess, Peter, you can continue.

Mr Sibenik: Okay. Proceeding to the second page, if we look under heading 7, this deals with committee participation rights. There were a number of questions yesterday having to do with the procedure in Quebec and in Ottawa with respect to independent members. I've quoted a few standing orders there from Quebec.


The first one is standing order 122. The first part of that particular standing order is not unlike our standing order 110(a). It says that the composition of committees must reflect the strength of the political groups in the House. The second part of it is the wrinkle they have in their standing order, the fact that it says the composition must also take into account the presence of independent members in the assembly. This particular provision, taking into account the presence of independent members, appears in quite a few other standing orders in Quebec, and I have appended a copy of the Quebec standing orders that take that into account. So that is the particular wrinkle that they have there.

Mr Sterling: What does it mean?

Mr Sibenik: It means that there is some discretion, I think, on the part of probably the House leaders to determine the slotting of independent members on particular committees. I believe that this standing order was worded in such a way so that there would be some flexibility. It seems to me that the primary aspect of it is the fact that the numerical strength of the parties has to be reflected in the committees but to also take into account independent members' presence. I don't have any indication from my correspondent in Quebec City on the exact way in which this particular standing order is interpreted, but it seems to me that that is the way: the achievement of flexibility for the purposes of the party standings and independent members.

Mr Sterling: The way I would read it would be to say that in our situation the government would still have to have a majority on any committee, but you'd have to fit in the independent members some way, and you may have to have the composition of some committee changed as a result of that.

It's negotiated now that there are three Liberals, two Conservatives and, what is it, six or seven government members. It seems to me not a bad way to deal with it. As long as you have your majority in wherever it is, presumably in a majority government that's what you're worried about. It leaves it at a bit of negotiation and reasonableness on the part of both the House leaders and the independent member. I think it's a good solution.

Mr Hope: Does that raise all the numbers of every committee?

Mr Sterling: No, no.

Mr Hope: Let's just take it hypothetically and say there are four committees running. The independent member says, "Okay, I want to be on all four."

Mr Sterling: The House leaders say no.

Mr Villeneuve: Because you can't be on all four.

Mr Sterling: I can't be on every committee; you can't be on every committee.

Mr Hope: I can be there; I just don't get paid. You just don't get compensated for that process.

Interjection: Nor can you vote.

Mr Sterling: It's the voting.

Mr Sibenik: I think there's a difference here between an independent member who is made a permanent member of the committee as opposed to an independent member who is not a permanent member of that committee. The non-member would not have any right to move a motion or to vote or to even stand as part of the quorum, it seems to me.

Mr Morin: That's the way it is.

Mr Sibenik: Yes. Any non-member has the right to participate in our proceedings, subject to what the committee decides, of course. The committee can order otherwise under our current rule. That in fact is what the next rule, standing order 132 in Quebec, has to say. It is basically similar to what we have in our standing orders. A non-member of the committee can participate, although it does say "with leave of the committee." In our standing order, it doesn't really say "with leave of the committee;" it just says that the committee can decide otherwise.

Then it says that there's no right to vote or to make a motion. In our standing order, it says that the non-member cannot, in addition, stand as part of the quorum. I'm not sure why Quebec doesn't have that particular provision in here as well. But in any event it says that. There's a specific provision dealing with the estimates that leave wouldn't be required in that situation.

Mr Morin: But he still has the power to influence by bringing convincing arguments and debate, even though he can't vote, that could sway the opinion of the others.

Mr Sibenik: Standing order 133 in Quebec is a particular provision with respect to the consideration of bills in committees. The provision in Ottawa that is germane is standing order 119, and I believe it's almost word for word like Ontario's current provision in our particular standing orders. Again, it deals with the voting, the moving of a motion and stand as part of the quorum.

I should say that I did some research into the area of the rights of independent members who are permanent members of a committee, and it appears that they have the full rights that any other member of the committee has. This is the case both with respect to Quebec and with respect to Ottawa.

Mr Morin: Who decides to give them that power?

Mr Sibenik: If there's no standing order or order of the House otherwise, then they automatically have the same rights as any other permanent member of the committee. One of the rationales, I believe, for not putting restrictions on the rights of independent members who are members of the committee is that there's a perception perhaps that we'd almost be making them second-class members of the committee if they didn't have the right to vote or move motions or stand as part of the quorum. They are members of the committee and hence they have the same rights as other members of the committee, subject to what the House says otherwise, whether in the standing orders or by order of the House.

Mr Ramsay: Do any of these referenced standing orders give some guidance to the House leaders as to how the vacancy from one of the opposition parties on a committee would be decided upon to fit in the independent members? You have the balance, as Norm talks about, of course, that the government has to be in the majority. Or is that just left to be worked out and then each party would take its turn and say, "Okay, we'll have one less Liberal on so we can put in an independent"? How is that all worked out?

Mr Sibenik: There's nothing official that's indicated.

Mr Ramsay: It would have to be worked out if you give full rights, obviously.

Mr Sibenik: It is worked out.

Mr Sterling: It's worked out in every Parliament that we've gone through in terms of the representation from the various parties. The House leaders sit down and say, "What's a reasonable way to allow a majority government to have its majority and have participation from the other parties?" That's really where you start from. The general rule, I think, is that the smallest party usually gets two members or they try to have it with two members. Therefore that is the benchmark from which you start to formulate how many people are going to sit on your committees. I think that we should take 122 of the Quebec standing orders and do that within our standing orders.

Which standing order are we talking about in ours that would have to be modified in terms of the composition of committees?

Mr Sibenik: That would be 110(a).

Mr Sterling: Can you just read that for me? I don't have mine right in front of me.

Mr Sibenik: Standing order 110(a) reads as follows: "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."

Mr Sterling: It has a max on them, eh?

Mr Sibenik: It says 11 members maximum in the standing order.

Mr Sterling: Do you know when that was changed to that or do you have a notion on that, Peter, at all? When it was changed to a maximum of 11 or whatever?

Mr Sibenik: I could find out. I don't know offhand, no.

Interjection: It was 10 during the minority.

Mr Sterling: I wonder whether we changed that. I don't know why we have a maximum number. It's not in the interests of the House leaders to have huge committees, because they have to man them. Therefore it seems to me that House leaders coming together have to come to a reasonable conclusion. I'm just wondering, because a maximum of 11 might cause a problem in our present structure if we're going to fit an independent member in.


The Vice-Chair: If I might just make a comment, if you can give me the leeway on this issue, it seems like in some of these areas we're getting into this whole problem of changing the rules, as distinct from trying, say, to accommodate an independent member. It seems like the question of members in a committee again falls within the question of a rule change. As Mr Sterling says, if you're going to change the rule, you'd have to change it to say that the select committee or standing committee shall consist of such members as the House leaders may -- I don't know, but it looks like you're getting into the whole area of changing the rules.

That's the only comment I'd have to make about it, as distinct from trying to do minimum changes with respect to accommodating independent members. It would seem that you have to perhaps almost limit your rule changes if you're going to try to avoid getting into the whole question of opening up the rules at this time, or maybe we should postpone it.

Mr Sterling: But you have to change some in order to accommodate them. We were getting into a whole other issue when I was talking about rule 45 in the House of Commons. I would change 110(a) and forget about the number of members on a committee and say that the composition of the committee must reflect the numerical strength of the recognized parties and take into account the presence of the independent members in the assembly. Leave it up to the House leaders to decide how many members are going to be on it.

Mr Hope: You would also have to change (c). Let's say you had more than one independent member and they wanted to substitute; one wanted to go from one committee to another committee. Would you allow them to make the substitution? You can't go back into the House and change the membership, but the two independents want to switch their positions. One independent might be on one committee and another one on another, and they want to exchange; they can't exchange seatings on the committee because of (c).

Mr Carman McClelland (Brampton North): It almost goes without saying that it's a small side issue, but I think it's worthy to note that human nature being such as it is, when we indicate there is a maximum, it seems we always rise to that maximum. We forget sometimes that there's no floor, if you will, either.

I think the suggestion made by Mr Sterling drawing on the Quebec model affords a little bit of that flexibility. I think there are probably committees that would be well served with having perhaps two government members and one from each opposition, by way of example, or perhaps four government members, one from each opposition and maybe a representative of an independent. We often use the subcommittees or steering committees to facilitate a lot of things that are fairly substantive. It seems to me that it might reflect really a changing methodology of government, an evolution in government that I think is sensitive to efficiencies that we all have to look for.

I don't want to presume that because you leave it open-ended -- I don't think you're going to have a huge number. I don't think you're going to see committees burgeoning into 20- and 30-person committees. I think political realities are such that it's not going to happen. I think it's self-evident to say that having set a maximum, we tend to rise towards that. It's almost implicit that by saying we have a maximum of 11, we'll have 11. Perhaps by opening it up a little bit, we might have a bit more creativity.

There may, by way of example, be committees that are better served with 13 individuals, just to pull out an arbitrary number, just because of the particular makeup of the issue. Representation would be geographical, political and so forth. There may be other committees that would be well served with five members.

I think we have to open up our minds and not get locked into the formulae that we have been locked into in the past and have some creativity in our government. I think Mr Sterling's suggestion affords that opportunity. I just want to put that on record and say, in short, I speak in favour of serious consideration and I'd be prepared to support that as a recommendation.

Mr Ramsay: I'd like to second that. My two colleagues who have just spoken make some very valid points about recomposing our committees and the way we work around here. I think both Mr Sterling and Mr McClelland make very good points, and I would support that.

I just want to say also that in the future, as the remuneration packages change, I think you'll find that the need for committees as large as we have had in the past will probably diminish also.

Mr Morin: He means the per diem.

Mr Ramsay: Mr Chairman, I'm being interrupted by my colleague here on the left. I'm very upset.

Mr Stephen Owens (Scarborough Centre): Just watch out for the tears.

Mr Ramsay: Yes. So I would think for many practical reasons, for flexibility and for some of the practicalities we'll be facing later on with efficiencies of government and the way remuneration probably will be struck in the future, that it makes eminent sense to give a little more maybe trust to the camaraderie and the ability of the House leaders to agree with each other in striking the composition of committees and to allow the introduction of independent members. I would concur with Mr McClelland and Norm Sterling that we not put a maximum on, but therefore not put a floor on either, and allow the House leaders to strike committees at the beginning of each session.

The Vice-Chair: Yes. Could I just ask a question for clarification from legislative research? In other jurisdictions, is there any sort of indication of what size committees are? For instance in Quebec, do they have committees that are of larger and smaller sizes? I think it might be of assistance.

If I might indicate why I asked the question, I'm remembering in our exchanges from the province of Quebec that I somehow get the indication that their committees are much larger when dealing with legislation. They, in effect, have most of their debate with respect to legislation occur in the committee rather than the Legislature. If you're going to have varying numbers in the committee, it certainly would open it up for having more of your debate take place in the committee, as distinct from the Legislature. That's my recollection.

Mr Morin: I think it's really healthy.

The Vice-Chair: Yes. That's why I asked the question.

Mr Sibenik: You can take a look at this in your copy of the Quebec standing orders. Standing order 121 says the following: "Each committee is composed of at least 10 members, including its chairman and vice-chairman. Members are nominated to committees for two years."

Then it goes on and discusses in standing order 122 the composition of committees, the numerical strength provision that I've already spoken to.

Then standing order 123 says, "No member may be named to more than one committee." It goes on, there's another provision with respect to that, but that's the basic rule.

Mr Sterling: What do they do for substitution there? I was interested in Mr Hope's comment. Do you know what they do?

Mr Sibenik: If you can give me one moment here.

Mr Sterling: I think to meet the objection of Mr Hope, you would just say that the whip of a party could do it or the individual member could do it. I have no objection to that.

Mr Sibenik: Are we talking about temporary substitution? That would be standing order 130: "The temporary substitution of a committee member is valid only until the conclusion of the business under consideration. The committee must be informed of the substitution on entering on the consideration of business." That particular provision doesn't say how the substitutions are accomplished here.


Mr Owens: In terms of time frames, it talks about the onset of business. Is there a time frame similar to ours with regard to having to have substitutes within the first hour?

Mr Sibenik: Thirty minutes. There's no provision here for that in this particular standing order.

Mr Sterling: I'd just change (c). If we were going to change 110(a) and say that it will be similar to 122 of the Quebec rules, I'd just change (c) and say that the notification will be signed by the member acting as the whip of a recognized party or the member of a committee -- I don't know exactly if that's the best wording or not -- is filed within 30 minutes, or whatever is required.

The Vice-Chair: Yes, Mr Hope?

Mr Hope: I've got my name on there and everybody else seems to be going. In keeping with a ceiling, if you were to say in 110(a), "No standing or select committee shall consist of more than 11 members and the membership," I'm wondering where it deals with the representation. If you made a clause there that it consists of no more than 11 but the power of the committee be established to the government side, isn't that what you usually do anyway, that the government side always holds the power? If you were just to say that you could still go with 11, that allows an opportunity for an independent member to participate, but then it would also indicate that the power of seats be allocated to the government side, that the majority of seats must be to the government side.

You shake your head, Norm, but you start getting into numbers and I'll guarantee you we're going to have some issue where we're going to sit there and we won't have it covered. We'll probably have about 40 people and we'll see who can outjockey whom on numbers. It will happen, Norm, because there are games going on all the time. I'm just trying to keep it consistent so that if you want to raise the number of 11 --

Mr Sterling: The problem with your suggestion, Randy, is that what you are in effect doing is knocking a Conservative or a Liberal off the committee, under the present scenario that we have at the present time. If that particular independent member had an interest in the standing committee on resources development or whatever and the two opposition parties did not want to diminish their representation, in particular the Conservative Party in this scenario because we only have two members on the committee, I don't think the third party in the mix is ever going to want to give up. It's going to shove the independent member to perhaps the less significant --

Mr Hope: Just wait a second.

Mr Sterling: I'm just playing with numbers in terms of what we're saying.

Mr Hope: So what if you have a special clause even dealing with an independent? For every additional independent who participates in a committee, an additional government seat will be allocated. What's the magic number? Do you put no number or do you put a control mechanism in place? If we don't have any independents, then 11 works fine. For every independent who wishes to participate on a committee, an additional seat will be allocated to the government side. That way, if you have three independents out there and they all want to participate, then there are additional seats that are put on the government side to make sure the majority stays.

Mr Sterling: I think Mr McClelland's argument makes a lot of sense.

Mr Hope: That's a matter of opinion.

Mr Sterling: For instance, in the Legislative Assembly committee here, quite frankly I think we could get away with one member from my party, the Liberals probably could get away with two members from their party, and I think that you probably could get away with four, plus the Chair. But I think because we have the maximum of 11 in the rules, that's why we're in the numbers we are here in this particular committee. That's probably the case as well on -- I can think of another committee, the regulations one, which is one of the most interesting committees one might want to serve on in this Legislature. I'm being facetious.

The House leaders might say, "Hey, rather than having to send three Liberals and two Conservatives and six New Democrats down there, let's cut this one down because their work is dealt with pretty summarily," and that kind of thing. I guess what I'm saying is --

Mr Hope: Let's use the other scenario, Norm. You're saying the understanding approach; let's use the non-understanding approach. Let's say we have a great bill out there that's a PR bill that could win a lot of popularity. Let's say I'm the House leader of the third party or the second party, whatever, and I come forward and say, "Look, I've got 28 of my members who want to sit on this committee." Then where are we at with the House leader arguments?

Mr Sterling: But you only make that decision on select committees. You don't do that on standing committees. There are so few select committees --

Mr Hope: No. If you're talking about removing the maximum of 11, no more than 11 -- let's say we just remove that. Now I come into the House leaders' meeting and we have a good bill so we're going to make life miserable for everyone because we're opposed --

Mr Sterling: But the standing committees are struck --

Mr Hope: But just wait a second, Norm.

Mr Sterling: -- before any business is on the table.

Mr Hope: Come on, Norm. You're going to sit down and you're going to remove the numbers; you're going to remove the number of the committee. Don't shake your head. Let me tell you, I'd be doing it if I were in opposition and I had a good PR bill out there and all my committee people who want to speak on behalf of the bill on my side of the House -- I'm going to say, "I need that." Where are you then with the arguments or the discussion that's going to take place around the House leaders?

Mr Sterling: The House leaders strike the committees before there's any business on the table.

Mr Hope: The process of this is to allow the independent participation in committee structures and in the House. That's what I thought the intent of this was. I'm saying the current rule that is there applies to the recognized parties. If you're asking for an independent to participate in committee, then you say for every independent who wishes to participate, an added number to the government side accompanies that so they still hold a majority.

When I began this committee my understanding was to identify the participation of an independent member, not to start changing the three-party rules that are already applied. I've been listening to the conversation. I'm saying, you want the independent to participate? Fine. The 11 holds true for all of us, but if you're going to add an independent into a committee, then an extra person is added to the government side. That's where you're allowing the independent to participate in the committee structure.

Mr Ramsay: Mr Chair, I think if we're to get anywhere in the remaining time for this committee you have to find a consensus in this committee on what the premise is of this discussion. Is it, as you have suggested, that we are to amend the rules to accommodate the participation of independent members, or do we have the mandate to do that and also actually change the existing rules of procedure? I think that has to be decided or we'll be arguing all day, because we're arguing from different premises here.

Mr Hope: It says the role of an independent member.

Mr Ramsay: One suggestion you could do if you decided on the former, which I think is the mandate here, is we also could then make recommendations that House rules should be changed to accommodate other efficiencies that we see could come from this, that in our discussions have come up. I think that needs to be decided.

The Vice-Chair: Okay. If I might just take the liberty of following up on what Mr Ramsay has said, I think what he's suggesting is we should not be trying to draft the rule change. If we're going to agree on a consensus, we agree that the committee, shall we say -- I'll just throw it out as maybe a suggestion for consensus. We agree that we should look at changing the committee structure to allow participation for the independent member and that any such changes shall not in any way adversely affect the voting rights of any of the parties within the committee. That would protect the majority situation; it would protect the minority situation. Then that leaves it up to the House leaders to come up with the language.


Mr Ramsay: My suggestion was beyond that: It was to really define the whole premise of this exercise. Are we just to be accommodating the participation of independent members without really drastically changing the existing House rules or do we go right into all the House rules? We have to decide one way or the other. Then, once we decide on the premise, I think these changes should flow fairly easily.

Mr Morin: The way Mr Sterling expressed it I think is very clear. Committees are created at the beginning of the session, they are formed that way and, of course, this would be taken into consideration. It could not be changed. The situation that you describe, Randy, I don't see how it could happen, because the committee is already created, taking into consideration the majority of the government and also based on the numbers in each party, and the independent fits there. We don't have that many independents.

Mr Villeneuve: The elected independent. The independent who comes later has to be handled in a different fashion. You have, at the beginning of a session, the elected independent. Then the independent who becomes independent through the course of the Parliament is a slightly different animal.

Mr Sterling: But the motion for the membership of the committee has to pass in our Legislature anyway. The government holds it. They can say: "No way, José, we're not going to change this. We're not going to allow this independent," or whatever.

I only say to you, Mr Chairman, the more specific we can be about what changes we might want to put in the rules, the easier it is for our House leaders to deal with. If you want to be very generic in terms and say nice things about independent members being involved and not suggest how it might be done, we might be waiting for ever in order for it to be done. It's very, very difficult for them to deal with the spinning out of what you mean unless you actually have the rule in front of you.

When I was involved in the negotiation of these rules before, on two occasions, quite frankly, I didn't trust the clerks and the lawyers to come up with the wording that I wanted. In fact, the wording in the standing orders didn't accurately reflect some of the deals we struck between parties before. I'd be much happier going to them with as close to the wording as you possibly can, because they will immediately react to what you're saying and say, "What does this mean?" and you're going to have to show them the standing order for them to agree or disagree with what you're proposing.

Mr Sola: I think we've been arguing about an ideal type of situation. We're not really looking at the real world. I've sat on countless committees in this Legislature in the last six years, some with a very high profile like Sunday shopping and auto insurance, where it seemed very sexy to be on them, but during the course of the hearings, it would be very difficult to find what one would call normally a quorum on the committee. Even the government members, but especially the opposition members, who were stretched very thin at that time, two apiece, had very difficult times in covering the province and having the committee serviced. The critic for the committee would be a member of another committee having to sit in Windsor while the committee that he was critic for was sitting in Ottawa. Quite often, you would have to have permission to start the committee without one or the other of the opposition parties present or without even a very significant showing from the government side. Let's take reality into consideration.

Right now, it is a very sexy topic to be on the committee. When the committees get going, and especially if they get dragged out, it becomes very sexy to get off. We should allow for participation by independent members, but also take into account the fact that sometimes the opposition parties will be happy to have somebody sitting on the opposition side, whether he's from one party or the other party or independent, just to fill out the seats. Right now, there is sufficient representation in both opposition parties that this shouldn't be a problem, but when you had 16 and 19 members in opposition, it was quite difficult to put enough members to account for the proportion that was allocated to the opposition.

Standing order 122, as I see it, touches all the bases, must reflect the numerical strength in the House and also account for independent members.

As far as substitution, I don't think independent members should be allowed substitutions. Substitutions are there to reflect the composition of the party. An independent member runs in his or her own riding. He does not have representatives throughout the province like the parties do. So therefore, if there's some issue that comes up that specifically affects his or her riding or that is of an intrinsic nature, a matter of principle, accommodation can be made that he or she can substitute for a sitting independent member. But other than that, I don't think it should be a problem.

Mr Hope: Again, when we started this conversation we started talking about the role of an independent member and what he did in a committee. You're telling me and I heard --

Mrs MacKinnon: He or she.

Mr Hope: He or she. John has just indicated that the numbers that are currently established are sufficient. I've heard Norm talk about, "Well, the House leaders and the whips will do this."

Let's talk about John's case, for instance, who wasn't part of it. He was elected but something happened, and he now is independent and now he has the opportunity and he wants to participate in a committee. It's too late; you've already announced in the House who was going to sit on it. Where's his actual role of becoming a participant in a committee structure, in a committee that he feels important to his constituents and wishes to travel across the province or wherever? Where is his role?

That's when I said that if you sit there and you clearly indicate in our rules that 11 is a comfortable number, as it is, and if during the session something happens where an individual leaves his party and decides to sit independent, but the issue over which he left is now going before committee, where is his opportunity as an individual, as an independent, to get on that committee? He has none, because it takes the House leaders to introduce a motion to get him on the committee.

Let's say, for instance, that John was to say to the Speaker of the House, "I'm serving notice to you that I would like to be sitting on this X committee to represent my constituents." He's now served the Speaker notice, the Speaker now can serve the House leaders notice and the thing is, the government will now have the right to allocate an additional person to be seated on that committee so the balance of power is there. It's fine if you're talking about somebody who got elected as an independent, but let's talk about the person who leaves, for whatever reason, during the session, over a piece of legislation, and now wants to participate. He has no participation because he has to go to each of the three political parties whips' office or House leaders and ask them for permission. It's no independents.

But if you clearly indicate that an independent will have access to a committee as long as, for whatever procedure you want to set up -- serving notice to the Speaker about what committee he wishes -- then you don't need to go back to the House. It's automatic that the government, by virtue of its position, has the additional seat to make sure it holds the majority in a committee structure.

That's what I've been focusing on, not so much the rules. The rules, as they are, for the three political parties are fine; it's the independents' participation that I've been focusing on. If you're going to make any changes, the changes you ought to make are to accommodate independents, and whenever they decide to become independent, whether it's at the election time or during the session, they have a right to get to a committee and participate in it without having to wait for the government to introduce a motion or for the three leaders to agree that the individual can participate.

We're talking about independence, and the independence would be to serve the Speaker notice so that the Speaker then can allocate an additional seat to the government side of the House so the balance of power is there with the government.

Mr Sterling: But who is the member? All our committees are struck on the basis of a motion in the House as to the membership of each committee, and I don't think we should change that process around and start having the Speaker with some kind of power to say some member is going to sit on this committee or on that committee.


Mr Hope: That's not what I'm saying. Your current rules, Norm --

Mr Sterling: Our committees are struck by a motion --

Mr Hope: Let me put something clear to you. You have to understand that the current rules that apply to the three political parties are fine, but you're talking about the independence of a member who has no party, no House leader to answer to and no whip to answer to, who now wants to participate. How? Who do they go to?

Mr Sterling: He just walks into the committee. He can participate in anything.

Mr Hope: He can walk into the committee today, yes, and he cannot vote.

Mr Sterling: That's right. I can walk into any committee.

Mr Hope: But we want to give him the opportunity to vote, don't we?

Mr Sterling: We want to give him the same opportunity as any other member has to participate in one committee.

Mr Hope: Who, then, during the session -- the motion's already been put of who all is sitting on the committee, and then two weeks later somebody leaves their political party and sits independently. Then how is that individual going to get to that committee when the committees have already been established?

Mr Sterling: Because we have a motion in the House.

Mr Hope: So we in the House are now going to have to decide whether that individual can sit on that committee or not, right?

Mr Sterling: That's right.

Mr McClelland: That's what happens now anyway.

Mr Hope: That's not allowing independence.

Mr Sterling: That's what happens.

Mr Hope: It happens now with the three political parties, but you're talking about the role of an independent. What's John going to do? If John wanted to participate on this committee today, he would have to have -- listen, don't shake your head. John would have to have somebody introduce a motion for him in the House so he can sit on this committee. Where has his independence gone? It's gone because you have to allow somebody else to introduce the motion.

Mr Sterling: As long as we guarantee in the rules that he has the right to sit on a committee.

Mr Hope: No, then you really don't truly believe in the independence of a member. You truly don't believe in it if he cannot reply to the Speaker of the House. So really what we're doing is trying to change rules for nothing.

Mr Morin: I think, Randy, what you're trying to say -- and I understand it clearly. You want the member to have an opportunity, whenever he chooses, to be able and go, first, to voice his opinion. We know that he can do that now. He can do that without any hesitation, without being a member of the committee. But what you'd like him to do is to be able to walk into a committee and have that right to vote.

You can't have both, because at the beginning of the year he's elected, he's chosen, and he will be on that committee for ever unless there is a motion in the House. This happens quite often. Remember, when members leave from one committee to another, it has to be a motion, and it passes. Why does it pass so easily? It's because House leaders got together.

If I was to be an independent member and I found a particular issue that I really wanted to be involved in, the House leaders would understand that, because I'm not there to go and create problems; I'm there to go and debate an issue which concerns my constituents. I believe in the ability of the House leaders to understand that. But to give flexibility to an independent member to go from one committee to another, to be able to vote, even I, if I want to go on your committee, on whatever committee you sit, I need an authorization and must give it to the clerk. I have the authorization to vote, but I don't need an authorization to go and talk. I can do that.

So I don't see where -- I know you're trying to give him as much power as you can, but that independent member should be no different than you, should be no different than me.

Mr Hope: That's right. I'm trying to give him equal power.

Mr Morin: He does, as long as the House agrees.

Mr Hope: I have an opportunity to present to my side of the House what committees I want to sit on and which ones I have a particular interest in, but to that independent member who wants to participate -- I'm not saying that he can be on every committee; he's entitled to one committee. But who does he answer to? He has to answer to the House leader, somebody to introduce a motion, who will probably be the House leader of the government side who has to put the motion forward. What if the cooperation is not there for that independent?

Mr Sterling: What if the cooperation is not there that I want to sit on a committee and my whip or my House leader says --

Mr Hope: But that's your party problem.

Mr Sterling: But I've still got to deal with it.

Mr Hope: Norm, I'll go right back to your own comments and I'll go back to the comments that were made yesterday talking about the party itself has to get its act straightened out about its roles, and I think Mr Morin brought that out in his speech yesterday about the parties themselves having to get themselves straightened out. If you want to belong to a party, okay, but the independent has to have an opportunity to participate and participate in a debate.

I know we're talking too many at a time.

The Vice-Chair: Yes, I know. I'm asked if we could please try to get back to my recognizing people. I don't know who's next on my list. I thought it was you, Mr Morin.

Mr Morin: Yes, it was. I will just continue one minute.

I agree with you that if we could accommodate the independent members like everybody else, that would be great, but this isn't the case. They're a minority and they have to choose at the beginning of the session which committee they want to be on, and we're agreeable to give them that. But if there is an unusual circumstance where he has to be there, surely the House leaders would be in a position to understand that and a motion could be passed, or perhaps just handing him a ticket: "Look, I've had the authorization to be there." I'm sure that could be done.

Sure, there are arguments that sometimes we've got trouble to speak to each other, but I would say that 95% of the time we do cooperate, and I think we allow each member his or her full rights. This is, I think, why we debate today, to make sure that independent members have rights. If we have any difficulty with House leaders, then what prevents us from bringing it back? They're making it tough for the members. Because procedure is a living thing. It evolves; it's fluid. It's got to change. If it doesn't suit us, we change it, and we have that power. But we've got to start somewhere.

The Vice-Chair: If I might ask a question of legislative research again: If we were to incorporate a rule in language similar to 122 from Quebec into our rules -- that is, that the composition of the committees must reflect the numerical strength of the parliamentary groups and take account of the presence of independent members of the assembly -- this of course is an interpretative question, but would it be fair to say that this would put a requirement on the House leaders to ensure that an independent member was a member of some committee of the Legislature?

Mr Sibenik: The answer is that it would not necessarily require the House leaders to place an independent member on a committee of his or her choice. However, it is taken into account. I can refer you to the situation in Alberta, where, if you can turn to my summary of what happen in other jurisdictions, I've indicated at the bottom of page 1 that independent members may serve on legislative committees, although representation on committees is in proportion to representation in the House. An all-party committee is established for each session to recommend the membership of all standing committees. An independent member would be consulted regarding his or her preference for committee service.

So I think that the Quebec standing order does give some flexibility. I think the primary consideration is the first criterion; namely, the proportional representation in the House. The secondary criterion, it seems to me, is the presence of independent members. That seems to be the ranking. That's the way that it would be interpreted, it seems to me.

Mr Ramsay: I guess it's settled, then.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Ramsay, do you want to be recognized?

Mr Ramsay: No.

Mr Morin: Does that help, Randy?

Mr Hope: I don't agree with it. No, I'm sorry. I don't.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Hope, you don't agree with the Quebec --

Mr Hope: No. I'm here to talk about an independent who's supposed to be and can be a party in himself. One person can sit over there and call himself a party; it just doesn't meet the membership in the financial end of it. Let's take it away from an independent or an individual. An independent could be two people; it could be three people.

Interjection: Or 10.

Mr Hope: That's right, as long as it's under the 12 number, before you're considered status. You've taken away their rights -- or you haven't taken away, because they don't have any to begin with. That's why I'm saying if you use the current rules that apply to our committees and then allocate -- I'm only looking for ways. I don't have the legal terms; I'm sure we could come up with them. But I just believe that the independents, whether it be two people, should not be dependent on the three political powers that are in the place but also just to allow them the opportunity to participate in a committee.

Let's say that if there was an independent group out there, and I say "group," which is under the 12, but there happen to be four of them, and all four of them want to sit in a committee, you don't want that to happen for the simple fact that the Tories are only allowed two on a committee. So they can't be outpowered --

Mr Sterling: That's right, and you don't want to have them --

Mr Hope: Right. And you can't --

Mr Sterling: They don't have the staff --


The Vice-Chair: Mr Sterling, you're creating problems for our transcribers.

Interjection: He needs to be closer to the mike.

Mr Hope: It's all right. We don't want to hear him anyways.


Mr Hope: I don't want the opposition to be outnumbered and allow the independents -- and I use that in the plural form -- to have more rights. But at the same time, I would like an independent member, if one is in the House, to have an opportunity to participate in a committee without having to go through a motion in the House. Let's say he chooses to be independent while the House is not sitting. Where's the right of the individual?

Mr Sterling: Where's the right of the House to appoint a committee?

Mr Villeneuve: Exactly. You can't forget that.

Mr Owens: Gilles Morin yesterday talked a little bit about discretion of the Speaker, and the more I think about this, the less I like the idea of enshrining things in the standing orders.

Mr Hope: I think you better read this piece that Gilles gave yesterday, because that's what I've been moving off of; it's philosophy which Gilles had put forward and it seems like everybody's ignored it.

Mr Owens: I'm concerned in terms of appointing extra bodies to committees and in terms of what happens at the end of the day with respect to the government's agenda and maintaining the balance of power that people clearly have voted for. I'm sure when Dave Peterson was the Premier, he certainly liked to get his agenda through, just as Bill Davis and just as Bob Rae do as well. So how do you maintain that balance in terms of numbers if all of a sudden today we decided, well, we will appoint an independent member because this member has a burning issue that he has a passion for? I don't want to undermine that concern, because it's valid. From time to time you see business taking place in other committees that you would truly like to participate in, but for reasons beyond your control, you can't.

I have some trouble in terms of balancing what I see as a legitimate request to have independent representation on a committee, just as we discussed yesterday with regard to the ability to withhold unanimous consent. You know, is it possible for that individual to hijack the proceedings of a committee or derail the business of that committee as opposed to the democratically elected majority of Parliament that we would have to exercise our right to govern? I have some trouble with this.

So in terms of looking at enshrining versus discretion of the Speaker -- and I'm sure Mr Morin, in his role as Deputy Speaker, would be quite judicious in his allocation of that right, but I think there still needs to be some further thought in terms of maintaining the balance of power and enabling the government to do its business.

As the chairperson of the government caucus, and Norm, as the chair of the third-party caucus, we're going to have to go back to our respective caucuses and say, "Listen, folks, this is what we've recommended." I think there's going to have to be enough latitude within the report that people are going to be able to feel that their right, for instance, on the government side to have an agenda move through is not going to be affected by the allowance of independent members, whether it's in committees or votes in the House or whatever the direction that we may head off on in this particular committee.

Again, I think that we should be looking more at discretionary authority as opposed to codified. Gilles, you mentioned something about the House leaders and the agreement that House leaders could come to.

Mr Morin: Would you like me to answer that?

Mr Owens: Sure.

Mr Morin: If I can make a suggestion, because I can see your fears, Randy, and I can also understand your fears, I don't want to pass the buck, but why don't we ask Peter if there is a way that you could take into consideration what has been said today, and if there is a way that you could alleviate these fears -- if I were in government, I'd have the same fears you have; I'd want to keep control; I've been elected and I have that power -- to make sure, first, that the government will not be affected, that it will always have the majority. That is important. We rely on you to tell us that.

Secondly, is there also a way that if we accommodate the independent member that we don't give him more privileges than any others but also that he has privileges?

If you could look at that and come back to us and say, "No, the way it's presented, there's no problem for the government itself," because we don't have the last say. It's going to be brought to the House. They may say, "We don't like it," but we may ourselves like it, and then it will be up to us to sell it, and say, "Look, no, there are no fears." Does that make sense, Mr Chairman?

The Vice-Chair: Yes, I think that's a good --

Mr Hope: While you're thinking about that, refer to page 5 of Gilles's comments yesterday. It says: "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?"

I've taken those words that you said yesterday, Gilles, and I've said, "I'm going to put myself in the place of an independent member." I don't ever expect to be there, but I want to do that, and I'm sitting there saying, "Should I have to be accountable to the other two or three political parties?" Meanwhile, I'm not getting along with any of them. I've left one and I'm not going to get along with any of them. It's that frustration where you can go to the Speaker -- and that's why I said the Speaker -- who is supposed to be non-partisan in his nature of acting as a job and allowing true, democratic process of the individual.

I heard comments the other day talking about how the role of the Speaker has diminished and rules have been coming in. You guys made all those comments. I wasn't here, so I'm reflecting and I've been listening to what you've been saying. I'm saying that now is an opportunity to maybe restore some of that.

With the scriptures that you have provided me with, Gilles, your expert long-time knowledge in this House that I've been listening to -- and I seem to be the only one who's listening, because I don't think you're listening to yourselves with some of the comments you've made about allowing the role of an independent member.

Mr Morin: To come back to the Speaker, and you have to be in the chair to understand and Noble will be there to support what I'm saying, there are so many ways that you can be crucified.

Mr Hope: That's what you get when you make those big bucks.

Mr Morin: To be put on the spot and to feel so alone, I wouldn't add on to his responsibilities, that's what I feel, to decide for instance should an independent member be on a certain committee. I believe in the good cooperation of the House leaders. We've gone through some periods where, yes, it's difficult but, at the same time, if it's straight common sense, to help an individual to go and debate an issue. What I'm saying is, put yourself in his boots, so that you have some rights but don't expect the same rights as everybody else. That's what I'm asking Peter, to make sure that the independent member has that protection.


Mr Owens: In terms of what's a minimum standard of acceptance that we're looking at, maybe Mr Sola can respond to that. Let's get down to brass tacks here. What do people want?

Mr Sola: I think Gilles touched on it. This committee should be here to try to give independent members equal rights to what members of parties have, not special privileges. Therefore, if they have equal rights, they should have to go through the same process as people in parties.

For instance, at the beginning of every session, your whip passes out a paper and says, "State the committees you'd like to sit on in the order of preference, one, two, three." If it's the case as with me, I always got number 4, the one I never even chose, so why should it be different for an independent? If there are three independents, by coincidence they might all have the same three committees in the same order of preference. Well, then, because they don't have a House leader -- they are each their own House leader -- they would have to depend on the House leaders to allocate them in such a way that they would sit on one committee, and they would have to be satisfied with that just as much as they are satisfied or dissatisfied with their allocation within the party system. You don't always get what you want.

The fact that you're an independent would probably mean you'd have to have more initiative. In a party system, you'd give the paper back to your whip or your House leader and he or she does all the work for you. Now, in this instance, I don't know what the process would be like, whether they would give it to the government House leader or to the Speaker, but whatever it is, we set up the process, he or she gives his order of preference to the person designated to receive it and then he or she is satisfied with the allocation of committee.

If a special circumstance arises where a certain committee is hearing a topic of interest to the member, either because of a matter of principle or because it directly affects his or her riding, well then, just as in the party system where party members will come and say, "Can I sub in for anybody on the committee sitting hearing such and such a topic," if there's an independent member on that committee, maybe he or she could switch with them. Otherwise, maybe special accommodation could be made.

I don't think we should be setting up a set of privileges for independent members; just a set of equal rights so that they can have the same fair chance of being on any committee as anybody who belongs to a party.

Mr Sterling: We're going around here in circles and circles and circles. I want to make a motion that we include the following in our report of this committee:

I move that we recommend that we change standing order 110(a) of the standing orders, which reads, "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,"

To a new 110(a), which would read, "The membership of a standing or select committee shall be in proportion to the representation of the recognized parties, and take into account the presence of independent members."

Further, I would recommend that we include in section 110 a clause (b) which would say:

"There shall be no substitutions for an independent member."

My submission to you, Mr Chairman, is that that would allow participation of independent members in our committee structure, that it would be done through some negotiation with the House leaders of the existing parties in the Legislature, and that it would allow our House leaders the flexibility of adjusting numbers that are in accordance with the necessities of the various proportion of membership in our Legislative Assembly at any time, either in our present circumstance or in the future.

It would allow an independent member like Mr Sola to go to the House leaders and say, "I would like to sit on the whatever committee." The House leaders, in my view, would have to react to him. If this was in the standing orders, they would have to say, "Well, you can either sit on this committee or we may have to offer you another one because there's already another independent on that committee," and they would have to negotiate that out. I'm sure that those negotiations would be done in good faith by at least the three House leaders in our present situation. Perhaps the party the independent has left would not be as willing, but I would think they would all be willing because, quite frankly, adding one member, in the case of our present structure, would necessitate at least the addition of two members because the independent would go on it and the government would also have to have another member as well.

I think, quite frankly, they would basically give an independent member the choice. I think House leaders would not be so kind as to say to an independent member, "You can change on a week-by-week basis and there's going to be a motion in the House each time you want to change." As you know, at the end of most sessions before we go into our summer recess or the winter recess, there's quite a change in the membership of our committees and I don't think it would be out of line for an independent member, at that point in time, to approach those House leaders if he or she wanted to go on another committee, wherever that would be.

I don't think we have to change that much in order to to accommodate independent members in committee. I suggest that, to me, would be the easiest way to do it and would give, I think, independent members the kind of access to committees that they would like to have.

The Vice-Chair: Do we have any debate on the motion?

Mr Owens: I don't know if the comment is germane or not, but probably not a lot of what has been said around the issue is germane to one comment or another. I think the issue of committees is one that requires examination as an issue unto itself. I think tinkering with the committee structure with the addition or the ability of an independent member doesn't particularly address the issue of committees itself.

I know that at some point in my life since coming here the Speaker had referred a request down to this particular group to take a look at committees and the functionality of the numbers. I'm not quite sure -- I believe the number 11 is a fairly artificial number that was agreed to probably somewhere after September 6, 1990, to give representation the numbers.

I think, taking a look at the committee structure, we clearly have to ask ourselves, in particularly this economic period, whether or not it's truly feasible to have the kind of show that we take out on the road to the tune of somewhere in the neighbourhood of I think 10,000 bucks a week or something like that to put a full committee on the road with per diems, staffing, accommodation and all the rest of the stuff.

I think there's a broader issue here in terms of committees and, again, in terms of tinkering with the process. I don't think it starts to solve the problem. I think the concerns about downsizing committee is something that we should take a look at, maybe having smaller committees, having committees that look at different areas of concern, which would, again, broaden the ability for members to participate and not perhaps be stuck on one or two or, I guess, in the case of the opposition members you probably have your committee duties more onerous simply because of the numbers within your caucus.

I'm not sure that I can necessarily support the motion as it stands because I don't think it addresses what I think is a fairly integral issue within how this place functions around committees.

Mr Sterling: Could I just respond to that, Mr Chairman. I had the sincere hope that we would be able to provide independent members in the Legislature in the fall some access --

Mr Owens: Can you speak up, Norm, we can't hear you over here.

Mr Sterling: I had sincerely hoped that we could come to some conclusions in this committee so that we could provide independent members with some hope of participation in the fall. To hold forth the notion that you're going to consider all these other dealings or issues involved with committees, as to whether they should be bigger or smaller, I think is a straw issue. I don't think it is has anything to do with the participation of independent members in committee.


The fact of the matter is that our House leaders now have the opportunity within our standing orders as they are, 110(a), to reduce the size of committees if they so wish. That would not be determined by this committee or by anybody else. It's a maximum of 11. They can have committees with three people if they want to have them that way. That's the bottom line.

I just think it's incumbent upon this committee to come to some pretty clear conclusions, as they see the evidence and the rules of other places, to some kind of practical suggestions that can be put in place on September 27 when we return to the Legislature, so these people can participate and represent their constituents. I don't think you can say with any kind of credibility that we're going to put these issues off until we restudy the world in terms of standing orders. I just don't think that's a valid argument at this time.

Mrs MacKinnon: With all due respect to all that's been said in regard to representation of the independent member on committees, I came to this particular committee for this particular proposal feeling that there was more than committee work involved here for the independent member. If we go through the honourable Mr Morin's presentation, there are a lot of things involved here other than committee. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that we're speaking about the right to vote, the right to debate, the right to participate in question period. I'm having a problem figuring out if we can deal with it.

Mr Sterling: I think the only way we can deal with them is to deal with them one by one.

Mrs MacKinnon: I was just going to say, can we really deal with it in one fell swoop? Do we start with committees? In other words, are we getting the cart before the horse? There comes the farmer again. Don't grin at me like that.

Mr Sterling: We were discussing committees this afternoon, so I thought, well, let's deal with the thing we're talking about and not continue to go around in circles and try to come to some kind of conclusion. If somebody's got a better idea, I'm quite willing to listen to it.

Mrs MacKinnon: I don't mean any disrespect. Please don't get me wrong.

Mr Sterling: No, I'm not talking about that, Ellen. But I think that we have to deal, one by one, with how we're going to include these people by changing the rules.

Mrs MacKinnon: I can agree on that, yes.

Ms Zanana L. Akande (St Andrew-St Patrick): Could we have a copy of the motion that was presented?

The Vice-Chair: Yes. I would ask that we have it photocopied so members could see it. I think it's fair we should all have a copy of the motion.

Mr Sterling: Perhaps we could defer the discussion of this and move to another matter and try to find some resolution.

The Vice-Chair: Okay, are we agreed that we can defer discussion on the motion? Is that agreed? Agreed. Good.

Mr Ramsay: The independent member just voted in here. Is that right?

Mrs MacKinnon: Mr Chair, I didn't mean to throw anybody off track.

The Vice-Chair: Do you wish to proceed to another matter?

Ms Akande: Yes.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Sterling, do you have anything else you wish to raise?

Mr Sterling: The other ones that we have to deal with are the rights in question period and in members' statements. I don't know how Mr Sola feels about responses to ministerial statements. I have viewed the five-minute response to ministerial statements as a party function rather than as an individual function, and my position would be that individual members would not have the right, as backbenchers on the government side do not have the right, to respond to ministerial statements. I believe that's a party function, as are the ministerial statements. Does anybody disagree with this?

The Vice-Chair: Does anybody disagree with that?

Mr Sola: I would just add a proviso. I agree with that except in certain circumstances. For instance, if I were representing Bruce and the reduction of hydro came up and would devastate my community, I think I would want to get up and respond to that ministerial statement. I guess maybe it could be done on unanimous consent, but normally I agree that responding to ministerial statements is a party function and independents represent only themselves. That would be the only circumstance I could see. That's fine.

Mr Sterling: I just say to Mr Sola that I think that kind of situation would arise so infrequently that I don't think you should really contemplate it in the standing orders. I think you should hope that the House of the day would recognize that and that there would be some kind of accommodation. I think there would be, quite frankly, from our groups --

Mr Owens: I think it's very rarely that unanimous consent is withheld in terms of responses. People have stood up and made statements. You made a stunning statement about the Ottawa Senators or something --

Mr Villeneuve: That they were smoking in the dressing rooms.

The Vice-Chair: Yes, we could always use points of order to get on.

Mr Sterling: Okay, so that's agreed upon.

The Vice-Chair: Yes, that's agreed upon, that is not to be changed.

Mr Sterling: On unanimous consent, my preference would be to up that to two, but I hear other members saying that they would rather that not be touched, that an independent member -- how do you feel on that, that it should just remain as it is?

Ms Akande: I feel that unanimous consent should remain exactly as it is. My point yesterday was that to deny it is to deny the existence of the member and his or her constituents.

Mr Villeneuve: I think that's one we can possibly leave in limbo, leave it that way now until we see that it's not working. I think this committee can be reconvened. I think we may have to look at legislative consensus, which would be a consensus with maybe two or three exceptions, and at that point we could go from there. I think we have a back door here if the Legislature stops working because of a person who has decided to hijack the place.

The Vice-Chair: Right. So I gather we have consensus that there'll be no change with respect to the rules concerning unanimous consent? Okay.

Mr Sterling: The other one, I guess, and I'm looking at Peter's response, is the right in private members' hour. First of all, I believe that an independent member should have the right to be involved in the ballot and have his or her item as a matter of discussion once a year, or whatever time frame that is. I don't think anybody objects to that.

The Vice-Chair: No, I don't think so.

Mr Sterling: I guess the difficult part comes on how the independent member gets involved in the debate, because, as you know, the standing orders divide up the debate in a party fashion. I would favour some kind of discretion on the part of the Speaker to allow an extension of the time --

Mr Villeneuve: Five minutes, 15 minutes.

Mr Morin: Nobody last 30 minutes, so five minutes.


Mr Sterling: If you want to put a time frame, I don't mind putting a time frame. I would trust the Speaker to allocate the time as he saw fit. But I can't imagine the Speaker wanting to drag the private members' hour into 12:30 or whatever. It would depend. For instance, if somebody had brought up a non-smoking matter and I was an independent member had been very much involved in that issue, I think that a Speaker might say to me: "Because this member has had such an interest in it, five minutes may not be enough. We'll give 10 minutes," or whatever. So I hate to cut him down. I trust the Speaker enough that he's not going to --

Mr Hope: No, you don't. You don't trust him for the committee stuff. Why would you trust him for allowing the 10 minutes? It doesn't make sense, Norm.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Sterling, perhaps we could ask a question here: Under our existing system and under our rules, could the Speaker use his discretion to allow an independent member to participate in private --

Mr Morin: It states very clearly that the debate must last 30 minutes: 10 minutes for introduction and after that the time is divided equally among all the parties. I think it will need a change in the procedure itself. That's not that difficult. Perhaps, as Norm said, it should be left it up to the discretion of the Speaker to include an independent member. But should the independent member speak at every debate? If this is the case, it should always be 25 minutes.

Mr Villeneuve: The problem I have there is that if there are three independent members and all three want to speak at every debate, then we're looking at half an hour more, and that's the problem.

Mr Sola: Then they would have more privileges than the party members.

Mr Sterling: I don't think the Speaker is going to do that. I don't think a Speaker worth his salt is going to say, in terms of dealing with the length of time of speaking, that -- one of the weaknesses of our standing orders is that we give such a small amount of discretion to the Speaker on how the House runs and the heat or the energy of the House or feeling of the debate. Sometimes I have always have felt that our standing orders don't give him that opportunity to deal with it in the most reasonable fashion sometimes. He has to ask for unanimous consent in order to do some things. Normally he gets it or whatever. So I'd like to get a feeling on what people feel is reasonable. Do you want it discretionary or do you want a time frame?

Ms Akande: I think discretion would be fine. I don't think anyone's going to be unreasonable about it. Let's face it: We're on television. We look like idiots -- I don't care what anyone says -- in chopping off someone's inclusion. The message that goes out there is really going to be negative. So I can't anticipate that any Speaker would not be reasonable.

Mr Owens: Just in terms of some pragmatic questions, I don't have a difficulty with this at all. A private member is a private member is a private member. I guess I would like to have an understanding of what kind of notification the Speaker would require. Would quorum then be an issue as well if you were putting a time on at the end of a session or the end of private members' hour and there fewer than 20 people remain in the House? Would that be deemed as loss of quorum for the purposes of the rest of the legislative day? Would it be deemed loss of quorum for the purpose of private members' hour? The procedural questions I'd have to have an understanding of as well.

Mr Sterling: I think you're trying to anticipate too many problems.

Mr Owens: Listen, Norm: We've already had one example of loss of quorum during private members' hour, so it's an issue that has occurred during the life --

Mr Morin: You remember that?

Mr Owens: Exactly, and my name, the member for Scarborough Centre, is in the Hansard as being in attendance, by the way. But I'll tell you that in terms of these kinds of issues, yes, there needs to be an anticipation, because I don't want to have Monsieur Morin as a Speaker on Thursday morning and Mr Sola, for instance, as an independent who has been granted time and there is not quorum in the House and then all of a sudden we've lost quorum for the day. No, that's a procedural issue that I need to have an understanding of.

Mr Sterling: You'd lose the quorum for the day. You'd have to keep your guard up on the government side to have a quorum till 10 after 12 instead --

Mr Owens: Unless we're all going to agree we're going to be jolly good fellows and say that it doesn't count.

Mr Sterling: I don't think you go into changing your quorum rules in order to deal with allowing the discretion of the Speaker to allow somebody to speak for five minutes. I think that you're getting into trying to provide for every contingency in the world.

Mr Owens: I'm a socialist, though. That's what makes a socialist.

Mr Sterling: I know.

Ms Akande: Would it be safer to have that included?

Mr Owens: Ramsay used to do that too.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Hope.

Mr Hope: I listened to the comments that were being made and I guess it puzzles me a bit. Noble brought it up very clearly: Let's deal with the independents on a non-singular; let's deal with the independent on a plural aspect, which we currently have in our Legislature today, independents on a plural. Everybody seems to be missing that and that's why I raise the question.

The other stuff -- now you want to entrust the Speaker and before you didn't. I guess that's worth questioning. But I just say, what do you do when is more than one independent member who wishes to participate? What's the time allocation? How long does the House go beyond 12 of the clock? When does the debate occur? Does the debate occur during the debate process and then after the vote or do you wait till just before the vote to allow that independent to participate?

I think we have to look at the plural aspect. If we were looking at everything as a singular, it would be very easy. But we have to give consideration to more than one individual who chooses, which is a current situation in our House today. We have to accommodate because we're not talking about one individual now. You're talking about possibly three individuals whom you are going to have to accommodate.

Mr Sterling: So what's the solution, though?

Mr Hope: I gave some, Norm; you don't agree with them.

Mr Ramsay: I would suggest that the solution for this might be to include in the standing orders to give some discretion, but also with some guidance to the Speaker, some sort of statement such as: "From time to time, the Speaker shall" --

The Vice-Chair: May.

Mr Ramsay: I guess "may," but I'm saying from time to time -- "from time to time shall or may accommodate the inclusion of an independent member into the private members' bill discussion."

Mr Villeneuve: To a maximum of?

Mr Ramsay: To a maximum of five minutes.

Mr Hope: So that could be possibly 15 minutes in total?

Mr Ramsay: No -- "of a member." I've done it that way and you're allowing some discretion. Then "not to exceed in total," if you want, 10 or 15 minutes. I've included the language and I haven't put it in this, that it would actually only mean the inclusion of one independent member per private members' morning or bill debate, I guess. Maybe there's a possibility of two, but I think it should be one per bill or motion on Thursday morning.


Mr Ramsay: I don't think so but I guess this maybe just satisfies Randy's --

Mr Villeneuve: I think that makes sense.

Mr Ramsay: Why doesn't that do it, Randy? You did shake your head at that.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Hope, do you have any comment?

Mr Hope: Yes. I'm shaking my head because I'm still stuck on the committee and now we want to give the Speaker an opportunity for decision when we wouldn't give the Speaker --

Mr Ramsay: The committee has nothing to do with the Speaker, that's why.

Mr Hope: Well, it does, because there has to be a gatekeeper somewhere in this process for an independent member. You can't depend on the three political parties to be the gatekeepers for an independent when you're talking about --

Mr Ramsay: You're going back now.

Mr Hope: I'm taking the whole thing in context; I have to when I listen to Mr Morin's comments. He did put them very clearly. I've kept a copy of them and I have them sitting right in front of me. When we're talking about the right to introduce a bill, that's easy: He just goes in to the Rolodex and away we go; if his number comes up, he can introduce a bill. It's the participation in the debate, and now I'm looking beyond one member. I'm looking at the multiple members who might be out there who are independents. How can you participate in a debate and keep --

Mr Ramsay: Well, I just gave a suggestion of how.


Mr Hope: But keeping in mind that there are other members. Remember now I have to refer back to my rights as a normal member who wishes to participate in the debate, but unfortunately I can't because time is just not there. I'm just shaking my head because I don't feel comfortable with what's being said of creating the balance between allowing the independents the right to participate and also not to allow more rights than a party member who is now sitting in that House, and trying to balance those two out. That's why I was shaking my head. It just doesn't seem to be a balancing out between --

Mr Ramsay: Mine was too open-ended in possibly extending too much power, you're saying now, to the independent.

Mr Hope: Yes, it could be just too much. I'm trying to find a comfort level. Listen, if I'm going to be voting on stuff I have to find a comfort level.

Mr Ramsay: Would you want to restrict it to how many motions or bills a private member can speak to during a year or a session or something? Do you want a cap?

Mr Hope: I was trying to see if there is stuff in here, but one of the comments that Mr Morin got me with was that he's not stuck to the status quo in the comments. Then I said, why am I looking here? Should I be looking at something unique instead of staying with the status quo? There's nothing that I see in here that allows the participation in private members' debate. I don't know if it was just an oversight, if they even have it in this stuff. I'm just trying to find a comfort level to balance between the member of an identified party and the independents.

Mr Ramsay: So you want inclusion but with some sort of limitation.

Mr Hope: Yes. They should have a right to participate in the debate, but what's the balancing act?

Mr Ramsay: Okay. Do you have a suggestion for the limitation then?

Mr Hope: That's why I was seeing if there's other stuff that might have been missed in here.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Hope, I think you're asking legislative counsel if --

Mr Hope: Did we get everything that's here?

The Vice-Chair: Do other jurisdictions have private members' hour, and if so, is there any guidance that can be given with respect to treating independent members fairly with members of recognized political parties?

Mr Sibenik: Mr Chair, in response to the question, I did receive correspondence from all the other jurisdictions in Canada, but none addressing that specific point, unfortunately. It just tends to say that there shall be discretion in allowing independent members to participate in various aspects of the procedure. Sometimes my correspondent will say that the Speaker will exercise some discretion in allowing independent members certain rights and in other cases these rights are spelled out, but it doesn't really come to the question of private members' hour. That specific point wasn't addressed in the responses that I got from the other jurisdictions.

I can go back and find out the exact situation, even if it's sort of an unwritten rule that they have around there, an unwritten practice, and find out what the situation is there. That might be of some guidance.

Mr Hope: While you're finding this stuff out, we should also be asking the pros and cons of situations. I'm reading rules of other jurisdictions, but you don't give me a whole picture; you never tell me the pros and the cons of a situation. Somebody might have a rule sitting there, but if we were to talk to them, they'd probably tell us the rule stinks. We could be falling into somebody else's trap and we don't have that balancing act of whether the rule is good or not. I know we talk about number 122 dealing with the composition of committees; you've said the rule is there and it does allow, but nobody has asked for the pros and cons of that rule. If we're going to fall into somebody else's trap or follow somebody else's legislation, I want to make sure it's good, that I'm not picking up somebody else's problem.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Owens or Ms Akande?

Mr Owens: We have an intracaucus disagreement.

Mr Ramsay: I say to Mr Hope that I don't think, as Mr Sterling has said, this should be as complicated as we're making it out to be. This is not something that, once decided upon, as far as recommendations that may be agreed upon by the House, cannot be changed again tomorrow if we find that a private member is now abusing, say, the right that we would establish through this discussion that an independent member could partake in a private members' session.

All we've got to do is take a stab at it to enlarge the rights of independent members, and if we see some abuse or whatever, we can be back here in a couple of weeks and say, "This hasn't worked; we need to refine this rule today."

Ms Akande: The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

Mr Villeneuve: Where is the Lord when we need him?

The Vice-Chair: As Chair, could I make some suggestions here? I think we're having some difficulties. My suggestion is that we should ask legislative research for just a draft motion so we have something in front of us with respect to this issue of private members. I hope I'm not overstepping myself, but he might want to provide a couple of options. I think one of the options, clearly, that's been set out is to make it vague at the discretion of the Speaker to accommodate in private members' hours a fair, shall we say, participation in private members' debate.

Mr Morin: That sounds very good the way you said it.

The Vice-Chair: If that's agreeable, I would suggest that we ask. I don't think we should vote on anything today; I think we should just give some instructions and come back.

Mr Ramsay: Could I just make a suggestion to legislative research that maybe the inclusion be capped in a way to accommodate the inclusion of one independent member per one private member's ballot item or resolution to a maximum of five minutes. Only one person would be in there and the maximum speech would be five minutes, so there is some capping there.

The Vice-Chair: Okay. I have no objection to that.

Do we wish to continue? I would suggest we continue the process. If we do continue, we will give instructions to legislative research to come back with drafts for us to look at.

Mr Sterling: What other issues do we have to deal with? We have to deal with debate on a government bill.

The Vice-Chair: They have that right now, the discretion.

Mr Villeneuve: Then there's time allocation that's a problem. That's the only other one I can think of.

The Vice-Chair: The Speaker has the discretion to recognize, doesn't he, right now? Mr Morin, if I might ask you, presently in debate on legislation, if an independent member wishes to participate in the debate, you have the discretion to recognize him, right?

Mr Morin: That's what we have observed. This is what we've respected so far. Sometimes certain members didn't like it, but the Speaker had to be firm and say, "Yes, it is his turn," in rotation, so you try to be fair. Let's say for instance just on the introduction of bills -- there are always so many -- what I try to do, and Noble does the same thing too, is to recognize an independent member when we feel it is the right time. As Norm said, you have to judge the mood of the House. In a debate it's the same thing, but in a debate you should never refuse a person to debate.

Mr Hope: Don't the rules clearly state that you go in rotation? Rotation doesn't necessarily mean by identified party.

Mr Morin: It does. You see, Randy, there was an understanding with the Speaker and the House leaders that he would recognize them at his discretion, and the House leaders accepted that.

Mr Hope: Do the rules currently, as printed today, stop you from even recognizing them? All it says is that you go in rotation, but does rotation mean by identified party?

Mr Villeneuve: The only way you can stop that is to get up on a point of order and ask the Speaker for unanimous consent to have this independent speak. If you do that and if you don't get unanimous consent, the way the rules are now, the guy doesn't speak.

Mr Morin: That's right, and you wouldn't do that.

The Vice-Chair: If I could take my prerogative as Chair here to suggest that since that is the way it's presently working, we ask legislative research to draft a rule change to accommodate the present situation, the House leaders' agreement.

Mr Villeneuve: The one area of concern, when it's under time allocation, is the agreement of the three House leaders that the time be evenly split with the three parties presently in the House. The independent members are locked out.

The Vice-Chair: I understand that.

Mr Owens: Again, Noble comes to the point of the ability of the government to get its agenda accomplished. We raise the spectre again in terms of the kinds of rights that we want to have recognized for the independent member. I'm not sure I could agree to anything that would take away from the ability to have that three-party agreement. I think that's usually, or most widely, utilized as we move towards the end of the session to get through the business.


I don't have a difficulty in terms of the previous remarks with regard to Gilles recognizing, whether it's Mr Sola or Mr Drainville of past tense, if he wanted to speak, but again, I think there's still that line that I have to be cognizant of in terms of my ability as a government member to get my agenda through. In terms of the ability for the government to operate, I'm concerned that if we start again allowing the independent member to have equal to rights of a member within an organized party, we're going to run into some difficulties around that kind of issue.

Mr Morin: There's also a role, I think, that the independent member will have to play: that he keeps in very close contact with the House leaders at all times, that he gets to know them. If the person is reasonable, if the person is not nasty or malicious, I'm sure that the House leaders will be there to accommodate.

I think Norm mentioned, when you deal with an independent member, if two House leaders agree, then that should be the ruling; instead of unanimous consent, if two agree. So it could be one government member with one of the official opposition or vice versa. That could be one rule.

Understand me, because a lot of things that we're saying now, the things that we're discussing now, will have to be left to discretion. You cannot write everything down. You can't. And if the independent member also shows cooperation with the House leaders and he has an issue which is really of concern to him and if there is some time -- look how difficult it is as a backbencher within your own caucus to have the floor.

Mr Sola: Tell me about it.

Mr Morin: I think if the independent member keeps a good relationship with the House leaders and comes to them when it is necessary, when there is an emergency, the House will understand. Maybe I'm naïve to see it that way, but I think --

Mr Owens: I don't think it's naïveté at all. I guess in watching the House over the last two years and moving into the session, I just have some real concerns about the ability of the government to get its agenda through, and not for want of talent or energy on the side of the government but in terms of the kinds of procedural things that as an opposition you're certainly entitled to exercise. We certainly probably taught you a few tricks in that respect as well, but in terms of putting yet another opportunity to -- maybe I'm looking at it from a different perspective. You're seeing it as an opportunity to participate. I'm looking at it as a potential as a block at 11:45 pm the night we're adjourning before Christmas and we have family support legislation, for instance, that's critical to provide money for moms and their children and some individual gets up and stalls and that legislation is not able to go through.

I have a real concern about that. I think we've seen some fairly interesting examples of stall tactics, and while on one hand I say fine, I don't have a problem with participation, I think that there has to be some kind of a -- I don't know whether it's a limitation or some type of way that the member is not totally unfettered in the way he or she can conduct themselves in the debate.

Mr Morin: Is there a way, Peter -- is it my turn? Sorry.

Mr Ramsay: This is my colleague again, Mr Chair. Is there any way to get disciplinary action?

Mr Owens: Mr Morin is the dean of the Legislature. Come on.

Mr Morin: No, no.

Mr Ramsay: To be consistent with my last suggestion, and it takes in Mr Hope's concern about freedom balanced with some sort of cap, I would suggest that, in whatever language the legislative researcher wants to use to describe the situation, but we're talking about a situation where there's so much time remaining in a debate, whether it's through time allocation that has been forced through a time allocation bill or just an all-party agreement and the time will be divided equally between all the parties, again, accommodation shall be made or may be made for the inclusion of one independent speaker to a maximum of 10 minutes as part of that time, the time to be divided after that equally between all three parties. Something like that that would spell that out would give the opportunity for one inclusion per debate where there's time allocation.

The Vice-Chair: It wouldn't affect the total time allocation; it would only take away from all three parties.

Mr Ramsay: That's right.

The Vice-Chair: I don't think that would be any problem for Mr Owens. I think it would accommodate.

Mr Owens: Sorry, I missed your point.

The Vice-Chair: I think Mr Ramsay indicated that it would not in any way extend the time allocation, the participation of an independent member. It would come off all three parties' times.

Mr Owens: I hear what you're saying. I'd like to see how it plays out in terms of written --


The Vice-Chair: Mr Morin?

Mr Morin: Are you through, Mr Ramsay?

Mr Ramsay: Yes. I could allow Mr Morin to speak now.

Mr Morin: Is there a way, Peter, that we can establish, let's say, new procedures without implementing them immediately? We bring them in and then we reassess them in five or six months and we fine-tune them if they don't work properly. Is that possible?

Mr Sibenik: Are we talking about provisional standing orders?

Mr Morin: Yes.

The Vice-Chair: With House leaders' agreement maybe.

Mr Morin: You know, we would try them out --

Mr Sterling: We've done that.

Mr Morin: We've done that many times, that's right. We can try them out. If they don't work, we come back and fine-tune them so that they work properly, and then we include them.

Mr Owens: I think, though, Gilles, again the problem I face as a member of the committee and also as the chairman of caucus is that in order to do something like that I'm going to have to go back to my caucus, along with my colleagues on the committee, and sell this, as you or Dave or Carman will have to do for your caucus and Norm and Noble will have to do for theirs, and I guess John can talk to himself.

Mr McClelland: You should hear the arguments between John and John.

Mr Owens: There's no arguments, I'm sure, at your meetings. But this is a political reality in that we may be thinking that we're establishing a new standard of libertarian thought, but I think that in terms of what I have to do to do my politics and my political reality is that I'm going to have to take this back to my caucus before I can agree to any kind of implementation strategy. I think it's only fair that I put my cards on the table here.

Mr Villeneuve: We thought you had all kinds of power, Steve.

Mr Hope: Yes, but I'm on this side and he's got go by me in order to get it approved by my caucus.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you, Mr Owens. There may be debates on whether we pass these motions, but I think we're proceeding in the correct way to get down a number of motions for consideration.

Any further discussion on this aspect?

Mr Sterling: I think the discretion of the Speaker in allowing the participation of independent members should be tempered by including some kind of words which indicate that the independent members are allowed to participate somewhat in proportion to the representation in the House so that the Speaker is not faced when exercising the discretion with one constantly harping independent member of four or whatever it is wanting to be involved in this non-confidence motion debate and taking time away from the parties, and then he wants to be involved in the next debate the next day. He's constantly at the Speaker to exercise his discretion and he only wants five minutes or whatever it is, and then some of the other members, particularly on the government backbench side, who have had their whip and their House leader say, "Look, you can't speak today because we want to get this bill done," and some of the backbench members reluctantly agree and then they see this independent guy get up day after day and whack away.


What I think should be put in is some measure or some way giving the Speaker the excuse to say to an independent member who wants to participate in every debate: "No, you have to be cognizant of all of the other members in this Legislature. It has to be somewhat in relation to the fact that you're one 130th of this organization." I don't know how you'd do that, Peter. I don't know whether it is in any standing orders.

Mr Sibenik: Nothing that I've ever seen. If the committee wishes me to make a stab at such --

Mr Sterling: I'd like to see what you can --

Mr Villeneuve: It would protect the Speakers. I think what Norm touches on is very important.

Mr Sterling: I think it also would say to an independent member that when he was going to make a speech or a request, that it wasn't just sort of off the top of his head but said, "I'm really concerned about this topic or this area." And then I think everybody would treat the request with a lot more respect as well, so they'd be forced to focus on the fact that if they got up this week and talked about the employment equity bill, it may be a couple of weeks before they have the opportunity to speak again. So they might say, "Well, I'll not enter into this debate but I'll save it for the casino debate coming up, or whatever, which I feel much more strongly on." I'd like to see if you can develop some kind of fudge words for the exercise of the discretion of the Speaker.

Ms Akande: It would seem to me that would be part of the discretion of the Speaker. I understand what you're saying in terms of concern. For me, and I must say as an individual, that concern is not as great, though I recognize why it's there and I recognize that it's there. I would think that if in fact someone has decided to give over that right to make decisions to a party by running or being a part of a party, then of course you have to play according to the party's decisions and rules.

I think this whole discussion, of which I'm so happy to be a part, and consideration about the independent member is going to lead to, hopefully, a whole other discussion about the individual member, period, and where priorities should be and shouldn't be. I'm not as certain as perhaps some of you are -- I don't know -- that tradition will hold or that they'll have the support of the populace generally that tradition should hold.

At any rate, that's not what we're discussing at the moment. What I really did ask to speak to say is that I really do think the discretion of the Speaker is an important issue around here, and the reasonable attitude or approach of the independent members in recognizing that the attempt to give them as wide a berth as possible but yet within the framework of a team sport, hopefully soon to become other.

The other thing, though, that we have to recognize is that I think it's extremely important for us to be looking at this in the framework of yes, we will come back and fine-tune, we will see how it operates, and then we will discuss it again. I think that will give other members -- because I know some of us are very anxious to have something to start the new term with, or soon after -- a sense of, oh, yes, this is okay because we're really just trying to see how it operates, and then if it doesn't operate in the way that we think is appropriate, we can all get back together again and change it.

I think that way of presenting it and that kind of discussion with the caucuses will in fact help us to implement something more quickly, recognizing that it isn't written in stone.

I wanted to say one last thing very briefly, and that is that part of the monitoring of this person's approach, behaviour, as well as ours, will be done by the public. I'm sincere in my belief that they will not be too swayed by the notion of it being excessive to contribute the finances of one other person being on a committee if in fact it provides for the views of constituents. At least I would hope that that's what they would feel.

Mr Hope: I've had the opportunity to read the rules dealing with rules of debate, and nowhere does it mention "party." It talks about, "Every member desiring to speak must rise in his or her place and address the Speaker, in either English or French.

"When two or more members rise to speak, the Speaker shall call upon the member who, in the Speaker's opinion, rose first in his or her place."

I don't see anything where it already restricts the member. If we look at all the documentation that we have before us, it refers to where it used to be "party" they've now put "member," so it allows the independent to participate.

Interjection: In rotation.

Mr Hope: It doesn't even say "rotation." I haven't seen the word "rotation."

Mr Villeneuve: Step out of line and see how fast somebody snaps you back.

Mr Hope: But I just ask: Have I missed something?

The Vice-Chair: No, you haven't missed something. I think legislative research could answer, and the answer they're likely to give is that we're talking about practice here. You're quite right: We'd be making a recommendation on practice rather than a recommendation with respect to a rule change, because the rules just do not --

Mr Hope: The rules currently do provide for a private member to participate in a government debate. That is there and I haven't seen anything -- I was looking under "opposition day" whether it permits, but I believe it restricts the participation in that part. But I'm looking here and listening to the arguments are going on, and I guess what we have to do is start following the rules where it says that whoever rises first in their position, in the opinion of the Speaker, is identified and has a right to speak. This is the way it is. The rules are there. The only question I have is if it's opportunity to participate.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Hope, I'm just thinking we've had a long afternoon and maybe we're all getting a little tired.

Mrs MacKinnon: Do you want a motion, Mr Chair?

The Vice-Chair: Yes.

Mrs MacKinnon: I move to adjourn.

The Vice-Chair: Okay, thank you.

The committee adjourned at 1628.