Wednesday 24 April 1996
Conduct of business
Order and decorum
STANDING COMMITTEE ON THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
Chair / Président: Arnott, Ted (Wellington PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Hastings, John (Etobicoke-Rexdale PC)
Arnott, Ted (Wellington PC)
*Bartolucci, Rick (Sudbury L)
Boushy, Dave (Sarnia PC)
*Cooke, David S. (Windsor-Riverside ND)
DeFaria, Carl (Mississauga East / -Est PC)
*Froese, Tom (St Catharines-Brock PC)
Grimmett, Bill (Muskoka-Georgian Bay / Muskoka-Baie-Georgienne PC)
*Hastings, John (Etobicoke-Rexdale PC)
Johnson, Ron (Brantford PC)
*Miclash, Frank (Kenora L)
*Morin, Gilles E. (Carleton East / -Est L)
*O'Toole, John R. (Durham East / -Est PC)
*Silipo, Tony (Dovercourt ND)
*Stewart, R. Gary (Peterborough PC)
*In attendance / présents
Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:
Clement, Tony (Brampton South / -Sud PC) for Mr DeFaria
Gilchrist, Steve (Scarborough East / -Est PC) for Mr Grimmett
Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South / -Sud PC) for Mr Boushy
Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel PC) for Mr Johnson
Clerk / Greffière: Lisa Freedman
Staff / Personnel:
Peter Sibenik, procedural research clerk, Office of the Clerk
The committee met at 1534 in room 228.
CONDUCT OF BUSINESS
The Vice-Chair (Mr John Hastings): I'd like to make a statement with respect to the conclusion of last week's situation. At the conclusion of the meeting last week, Mr Gilchrist raised a point of order with respect to the admissibility of the amendments. The issue was ruled on by the Chair at the beginning of the meeting in response to Mr Agostino's point of order on the same issue. I'd like to reiterate the ruling, which was that the amendment was not properly moved by Mr Gilchrist and was never therefore formally before the committee.
ORDER AND DECORUM
The Vice-Chair: Now we'll start on the next item, which is chapter 2 of the order and decorum. Go ahead, Peter.
Mr Peter Sibenik: Since our last meeting last week, I've had an opportunity to prepare a bit more material. It's in volume 2; there's a second volume of the briefing materials. You should have both volume 1 and volume 2 before you, and if you don't, perhaps the committee clerk could assist you in that regard.
Just very briefly I'll indicate what volume 2 contains. The first thing it contains are some transcripts of older meetings of the Legislative Assembly committee. Back then it was called the standing committee on procedural affairs, but it handled the kinds of responsibilities that this committee has. In particular, there are transcripts of meetings from 1982 and 1984, both of those dealing with the issue of order and decorum and in particular naming of members.
The 1982 meeting -- and the transcript of that is at tab 11 -- was basically about what happens if no one is prepared to move the motion that is indicated in standing order 15(b), and that is the part of the standing order that deals with the situation if the Speaker finds that the offence is of a more serious nature. That particular part of the standing order says, "But if the matter appears to the Speaker to be of a more serious nature, the Speaker shall put the question on motion being made, no amendment, adjournment or debate being allowed, `that such member be suspended from the service of the House,' such suspension being for any time stated in the motion not exceeding 14 calendar days."
One of the members indicated at the time: "What happens if no one is prepared to move the motion? The Speaker is put in an invidious position basically." It's an unfortunate kind of position, but the committee decided not to recommend any kind of change. It was just one single meeting held in one morning in 1982.
In 1984, the procedural affairs committee held three meetings and that series of meetings dealt with a concern on the part of one of the opposition members that a member who is named by the Speaker and then ordered to withdraw from the chamber almost gets off scot-free in the sense that the member comes back into the chamber the next day, particularly if that member does not withdraw or apologize.
To one of the members of the House that was unacceptable. The House referred the entire issue to the procedural affairs committee and there was a discussion back and forth as to what exactly should happen. Should there be a change that would require the member who was ordered to leave the chamber to withdraw or to apologize for the unparliamentary remark as a precondition to his or her getting his or her seat the next day or whenever the member came back into the chamber? Again, there was no change that was indicated by the committee after a series of discussions.
The other materials in there, tab 13, deal with a series of Speakers' rulings. Again, these are older rulings. The more recent rulings are in the first volume of the briefing materials, and this particular tab has some Speakers' rulings dating back to the 1970s and early 1980s.
There are references to a number of members who had been named. There's a good exposition in these rulings as to exactly the ambit of the Speaker's powers. For the most part, these rulings tend to suggest that the Speaker's power to discipline a member is contained within standing order 15, or what is now standing order 15, and as I indicated the previous day, that really has remained unchanged for the better part of a few decades, certainly up to 1970.
There are a few rulings that suggest something otherwise. They are, as some members indicated, anomalous rulings. Basically what happened in 1980, for example, is that the Speaker did not name a particular member for making an unparliamentary remark, but what the Speaker did was refuse to see that member. In fact, the Speaker refused to see that member for a period of six months, and it was only after the member withdrew the unparliamentary remark that the member was allowed to speak, to be recognized in the chamber. Not only that, the Speaker indicated as much in a formal ruling, indicated to the House that he was going to not see a particular member, and he asked all the other occupants of the chair and in addition the presiding officers of the committees not to see this particular member. The member did eventually relent, but as I say, it took six months.
That ruling was probably controversial. It was never done before and it has never been done since. Usually, the Speaker will name a particular member if the Speaker wishes to discipline that member for refusing to withdraw unparliamentary remarks. The thing in that case, however, is that the Speaker's ruling that he would not see the member was not preceded by a ruling that he had named the particular member. So there is that anomaly, if that is the proper word.
The other material, tabs 15 through to 17, were also of some concern to members of this committee, and in fact the December 13, 1995, motion of this committee indicated that the committee was interested in finding out whether it was required for a member who was present in the chamber to vote, whether the member, for example, could abstain, and the answer is somewhat conflicting.
There are some older rulings that indicate the Speaker can in a sense say that a particular member who purports to abstain will be deemed to have voted in the affirmative. In another case, he was deemed to have voted in the negative. Those two rulings are older and it's been fairly consistent since then that Speakers have indicated that members must vote, that there is no option.
It's a rather mixed bag. I took a look at the rules in some of the other provinces and other Commonwealth jurisdictions as well. Some of the rules are phrased in terms of members being required to vote if they are in the chamber; others give the member the option that the member can abstain if he or she wishes to.
Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): When you say those two examples are very old, are you talking about 50 years ago?
Mr Sibenik: No, I wouldn't say that old. I'd say from the early 1960s and early 1970s. I'm a little younger perhaps than some of the members around the table. That's what I mean; 1969 and 1973 are the actual dates of those two rulings that I'm mentioning here.
I'd say that in terms of the majors, that is to say Ottawa and Westminster, they allow their members to abstain, if members are interested in that.
Mrs Marland: Are there other provinces also?
Mr Sibenik: Yes, there are other provinces as well. We have a full set of the rules in here as to which provinces allow abstaining and which don't.
Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): Who are they?
Mr Sibenik: Well, let's see here. It will be tab 16, I think, if you can give me a moment.
Alberta requires members to vote. British Columbia -- it's not clear from British Columbia what the rule there is. With respect to Manitoba, members are required to vote. Yes, for Quebec it's indicated here that members may abstain in that particular case -- their standing order 228. The next one would be New Brunswick. They allow abstentions, if you see their standing order 62(4). So Quebec and New Brunswick certainly.
The next one, Newfoundland -- I believe they must vote. Members must vote there according to their standing order 83. In the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, abstentions are allowed, so there's a third jurisdiction that does allow abstentions. It's not clear from the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia. Prince Edward Island -- again that one perhaps is not quite clear as to whether abstentions are allowed.
Saskatchewan, "Upon a division, the yeas and the nays shall not be entered upon the minutes unless demanded by two members." Probably again that one really doesn't indicate exactly what the situation is there. Then there's the Yukon:
"Each member present shall vote unless he or she has a direct pecuniary interest.
"Upon a division, the yeas and nays shall be entered in the Votes and Proceedings."
It doesn't indicate anything about abstentions.
Mr Tilson: And Ottawa?
Mr Sibenik: Ottawa does allow abstentions. In addition, Westminster allows abstentions as well. So there must be probably at least five or six jurisdictions in the Commonwealth jurisdictions that I've canvassed that do allow.
There's probably just one qualification I could make: In these jurisdictions that allow a member to abstain, if they don't vote yes, no or the fact that they abstain, they would probably still be named. It's just that they have three options instead of two. That's my understanding as well.
Mr Tilson: And they are?
Mr Sibenik: The options are yes, no or abstain.
Mr Tilson: Oh, I'm sorry.
Mr Sibenik: That's what I meant by that.
The Vice-Chair: Questions?
Mr Tony Clement (Brampton South): Mr Chairman, may I be permitted to ask Peter some questions? I got lost in the shuffle last week when we bounced around the oath of allegiance issue and I had some notes based on his description of things from last week. May I be permitted to ask questions relating to last week's submissions as well?
The Vice-Chair: You mean regarding our ruling?
Mr Clement: No, no.
The Vice-Chair: Sure, go ahead.
Mr Clement: I know it's hard to remember, but we actually did have a presentation from Peter last week as well. I wrote some questions about it, but I never got called on the speakers' list because events intervened.
The Vice-Chair: Okay, you're on. Fire away.
Mr Clement: Thank you. I think we're both going to be struggling with the exact context of your comments, but if you can cast your mind back to last week, I think you referenced the fact that in Australia there were extra penalties on members if they were named a second time within a period of time. I wasn't able to find that in the tabs. Do you recollect your comment in that regard?
Mr Sibenik: I believe it was Australia, and in addition Westminster, where there was a situation that if there was a second or a third kind of an offence, if a member had been named on more than one occasion, the penalty tended to increase. I'm just looking through my notes here on that. I certainly did indicate that at page M-136 of the committee Hansard from the previous day. I indicated that it was either Australia or Westminster. I find, on reviewing my notes, that in fact it is Westminster.
After the Speaker names a member, the Speaker forthwith puts the question on motion that such member is suspended from the service of the House. The period of suspension is five days if it's the first offence, it's 20 days if it's the second offence and it's an indeterminate period of time if it's a third offence. That is the order there: five, 20 and indeterminate, depending upon whether it's the first, second, third or subsequent offence.
Mr Clement: I had a specific question relating to standing order 15(b), which I believe is the 14-day suspension rule, which I understand is upon a resolution of the House, as I recall. My research of your tabs seems to indicate that really is kind of a dead letter, because it really has not been applied in the Legislature of Ontario. Is that a correct interpretation?
Mr Sibenik: I believe you're referring to the second part of standing order 15(b), and that is my recollection as well. I can't recall that in recent memory ever having been invoked.
Mr David S. Cooke (Windsor-Riverside): But then you're so much younger than anyone else in this room.
Mr Sibenik: In addition, I must say I've looked in our precedents collection, which is considerably older than any member in this room, and I haven't found anything in there.
Mrs Marland: That's a good recovery.
Mr Clement: I am going to read tab 12, but it seemed to me that one of the topics was unparliamentary language as well. It's titled "Parliamentary Language," but I suspect what they are dealing with is unparliamentary language. From your knowledge of that committee meeting, did they come to any set conclusions as to how to moderate language in the chamber?
Mr Sibenik: No, they left it hanging up in the air. Like I say, that was a series of three meetings that was at the insistence of a member who was either at that time or shortly afterwards the dean of the House. There was more in the way of a round table discussion, the pros and cons of the particular approach and the fact that it's important on the part of all members to ensure that order and decorum is maintained. That kind of a discussion was forthcoming. There were certain members who showed up in the course of those particular meetings, members who in their history in the Legislature had been named. There was a discussion as to what is the motivation for members to engage in unparliamentary remarks and whether it was in order to receive some press afterwards, to go outside the chamber doors and make some comments to the press. I recall this particular member in the transcript saying, "No, that wasn't the reason at all," but some members disagreed. There was that kind of exchange, if you will.
Mr Clement: I'll certainly have a good read of it. I think, Peter, you also did that very handy syllabus of the list of issues, which I thank you for.
Mr Sibenik: Yes.
Mr Clement: That one was dated January 10, 1996.
Mr Sibenik: Yes.
Mr Clement: I'm also interested in points of privilege and points of order. As a person who was ruled out of order by the Deputy Speaker recently for the improper use of a point of privilege, I'm just curious to know the ground rules that have existed previously as to points of order and points of privilege. I guess to expand the issue somewhat, or even to focus the issue, there's also the question of repetition with points of order and points of privilege and whether there is a well-grounded series of precedents in this chamber on that subject. I'd be interested in that particular topic.
Mr Sibenik: I confess that although it was the subject of the December 13 motion, I was a little puzzled as to exactly what that reference meant. I was waiting to get a little bit more direction from the committee as to what exactly it wanted to receive from me on the matter of points of privilege and points of order. It was indicated in that particular motion in a very undescriptive way, so I was waiting to hear back on that.
Off the top of my head, I would say we have some precedents in the area of repetition. I couldn't tell you offhand how many there have been and what they have said.
Mr Clement: No, I'm not asking that for today. It seems to me, and this is just my opinion, but some of the problems in points of order and points of privilege occur because of being a novice. There have been a lot of new members in the Legislature, myself among them, and we probably don't use those parliamentary points the way we should all of the time.
Then you've got the branch of points of order and points of privilege that is legitimately used by the opposition to focus in on a particular breach that they feel has been engendered by the government of the day. It seems to me that you could probably subdivide that into classes where the opposition has a legitimate point, legitimately expressed, and then there may be a line that is eventually drawn by a Speaker in previous rulings where they say: "Okay, you've made your point. I will rule on that point. I now want to get back to the business at hand." I just wanted to know whether that is a completely subjective judgement or whether there are precedents in that regard.
Mr Sibenik: I'm sure we do have something in the way of precedents, although I must say we don't classify them according to legitimate versus legitimate. Whether there's a point of order or a point of privilege or a prima facie case of privilege is a question for the Speaker.
Mr Clement: Very subjective, yes.
Mr Sibenik: The Speaker has to allow some kind of amplification on the part of the member who is raising a point of order or a point of privilege. It's a question call, I would say, as to when the Speaker has heard enough information on a point of order or a point of privilege.
Yes, there is some repetition, I would say. Over the course of years or decades, I'm sure the same point of order has been mentioned the previous day or the previous year or the previous decade. That could be the very nature of raising points of order and points of privilege.
Mr Clement: Sure. Just some background eventually on that topic would be helpful to me as a member.
If I still have the floor, I was interested in item 8 on your syllabus, if I can call it that, "Impact of television on order and decorum."
Mrs Marland: David and I can speak to that, right? We were here before.
Mr Clement: You were here before. It seems to me that you can make an intuitive case that there has been a simultaneous, greater concern over order and decorum with the length of time that television has been around, but whether those two are just symptoms or whether one is the cause of the other, I don't have any academic background in that area. Do you know of any studies, masters' theses or what not on this topic?
Mr Sibenik: I do recall that there have been certain articles in parliamentary journals on the topic of television. We have a report from 1986, I believe, of one of the committees of this Legislature that took a look into the entire issue.
Mrs Marland: I think it was this committee.
Mr Sibenik: Yes. In addition, this particular committee in its terms of reference does have the responsibility to take a look at broadcasting from time to time, so I'm sure that if I looked back over the course of the past 10 years, I could produce some of the transcripts, committee Hansards and that report as well.
Mrs Marland: If I could just interject to be helpful, it was this committee -- I was a member of it at the time -- that investigated, if we went to televising the proceedings, how best to do that. Gilles, were you on that committee?
Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): Yes, I was on it too.
Mrs Marland: We went to a number of provincial and state assemblies to see how they did it and what their rules were. We even investigated how they physically did it because we had a great challenge with the height of our ceiling and technically and that kind of stuff. We did a very thorough investigation before we made the recommendation to introduce it.
Mr Morin: Some members were opposed to it.
Mrs Marland: That's right. Actually, the discussion wasn't how to proceed; it was whether to proceed based on information that this committee of all-party members would gather from its investigation, so that is an interesting report. In hindsight, I wonder if I would vote the same way today that I voted 10 years ago.
Mr Clement: Certainly I'd be interested if there is an academic discussion of this issue. I'd be prepared to read it. I think it might be interesting. I'm not saying that we should turn back the clock on that but maybe there are some other creative things we can do.
I also noticed your item 14, in which you say, "Witnesses that the committee might want to hear from." I just remind my colleagues that you had I guess four suggestions of potential witnesses who might assist us in our deliberations on this issue. I'm quite willing to hear from any or all of those persons.
In the first go-round, if I might say so, Mr Chairman, what we should probably accomplish -- I've got my own thoughts as a member of the Legislature as to issues of importance and decorum. Obviously Mr O'Toole, who was the mover of the original motion, has his thoughts. I'm just very anxious to hear from all the members of this committee on both sides of the table. I'm quite hopeful that once we have that discussion -- airing from all sides, not just from the government side, I want to emphasize -- perhaps we can collaboratively come up with some solutions that will be helpful to all of us. With that, I would like to cede the floor.
Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): Mr Cooke and I were half joking about moving adjournment, but I'm very tempted to do that. I have to ask sincerely, what are we doing here? We've asked Legislative research staff to do a fair amount of work in bringing us together two volumes now of materials dealing with various aspects of rules and precedents and order and decorum. I legitimately ask you, as Chair of the committee, and Mr O'Toole, as the mover of the original motion on this, to either give us some sense of what people are interested in doing or, if not, let's just adjourn and go and do something more useful.
Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): If I may.
The Vice-Chair: I've been waiting. Your points are well taken. We have a motion made to this committee by Mr O'Toole from last December 13, I believe is the date. I think it is an appropriate time to deal with this motion one way or the other, since we've had all this research done by the research officer of the committee. I think we have to proceed with dealing with some of it or disposing of it, one way or the other. Your remarks are well noted. Let's proceed, then.
Mr O'Toole: I agree that there has been considerable time spent on this issue. Substantially, there are two particular areas that could easily be expedited dealing with amendments to the standing orders, or recommendations from this committee: One is the whole issue of naming a member and some actions that could be taken and the other is the vote.
In the discussion, I suspect even in the early discussion, there were suggestions made by other members of the committee in a really honest attempt to improve the standing orders and the conducting of the business of the House on behalf of the people of Ontario. I don't want to defer to further debate, but M. Morin made several suggestions in the early discussions that as Deputy Speaker in the House he supported, or appeared to support, that the intention of the motion was to avoid unnecessary and frivolous activities in the House and give the Speaker some authority to move conclusively.
We could move the thing right now -- let's get it out of here -- but I felt there was a fair amount of resistance from that side.
The Vice-Chair: Do we have a motion on the floor, Mr O'Toole?
Mr O'Toole: We're still talking, in my view, on the original motion.
The Vice-Chair: Is it precisely your motion from --
Mr O'Toole: Back from December. It was supposed to be dealt with long ago.
Mr Silipo: With all due respect, sir, the original motion just says let's look at these issues. All right, so we've had research staff do some work and bring us back lots of good information. I'd ask Mr O'Toole or someone from the government side, what are you intending to do? Do you want to change the rules? If so, do you have a motion? Do you want to give us some indication as to what you want to change it to so that we can discuss something? Simply to have a discussion about decorum and rules in a kind of vacuum, I'm not sure what purpose we're serving here.
Mrs Marland: I just want to ask Mr Silipo to look at --
The Vice-Chair: Excuse me, Mrs Marland. Mr Cooke was ahead of you.
Mrs Marland: On a point of order, Mr Chair: Mr Silipo has just said that we were only asked to review. Actually, the wording of the motion that I'm looking at from the December 13 Hansard of this committee says: "I move that the standing committee of the Legislative Assembly be authorized to review and report."
I don't want to start debating it, in fairness. I'm just asking you to look at the wording because it isn't just to review; it's to report. In order to do that, we've had the review by our research officer, and now I think we have to decide on reporting on this subject.
Mr Silipo: On a point of order, Mr Chair: I couldn't agree more with Mrs Marland on that. That's exactly the point I'm making. What do we want to report on? Do you simply want to report on the research that's been done? I'd be quite happy. We can ask legislative staff to put together a report and that will be fine; that will be the end of it.
If that's what you want to do, that's fine. If there's more to be done, I think we need to have some sense of what people are interested in doing. If not, let's go and do something else.
The Vice-Chair: As Chairman, I'll give you some direction. My suggestion would be that members of the committee ought to be taking the review motion of last December and shaping it into specific motions as to what direction you want to give me so we can get on with a vote on whatever you have in that motion.
Mr Cooke: I think the committee is operating in a way that has never occurred around this place in the past. The information that's been pulled together is interesting but rule changes around this place, and Mrs Marland knows this, don't take place in the Legislative Assembly committee. They take place among the House leaders. That's where they're discussed. It's a very political thing.
We're not going to be able to analyse the rules and come to unanimous consent among the three parties about how the rules should be changed. That's just not how this place works. That's not even how I believe the government House leader would want to see the rules changed.
I think we're wasting time, because nothing is going to come out of here that is going to result in rule changes. I think that an attempt by government members to use the Legislative Assembly committee to promote rule changes as a result of something that happened in the House before -- Mr Clement can ask for all the precedents he wants. I think he worked in Mr Harris's office when a lot of precedents on how points of order and points of privilege and introduction of private members' bills and all that stuff were abused and probably was part of the strategy team, when they were in third place, that developed some of those strategies, so we know some of the things around here.
The matter is that rules being put together are a very delicate, difficult issue. There is nothing that will bring this committee and the entire Legislature to a more screeching stop, halt, end than an attempt in this committee to change the rules. With that in mind, because I think Mrs Marland wants a report, I would move that volume 1 and volume 2 be reported to the House and that we dispense with this issue.
The Vice-Chair: On Mr Cooke's motion, Mrs Marland.
Mrs Marland: Your experience in this place, Mr Cooke, would indicate that the motion you have moved does not do justice to your own experience. It would be absolutely absurd to move these two volumes as a report from this committee. You know full well that reports to the Legislature always have a conclusion and recommendations.
Mr Cooke: Not true.
Mrs Marland: Then you're going to have to cite some examples, because you also made a statement that this committee has never made recommendations for rule changes. I would beg to differ with you on that issue also.
Mr Cooke: I said rule changes haven't been decided in this committee, and they're sure not going to be now.
Mrs Marland: You said that rule changes in the House have never come from this committee, and I would suggest to you that is not accurate. I would rather see rule changes decided by an all-party committee of the Legislature than by three individuals.
I have the greatest of respect for the three individuals who are House leaders in this place, the government House leader, the official opposition House leader and, interestingly enough, yourself as the third party House leader, but I think it is far too serious and onerous a responsibility to pass off to three people what will affect how 130 people function in our chamber or in our committee rooms.
Frankly, because I've had both the pleasure and the privilege of chairing committees, there are some things from time to time that I frankly think are as equally absurd in committee as in the chamber. One of those things that is clearly demonstrated is the inability of a member to abstain. Particularly, it manifests itself in committee when we're going through clause-by-clause of a bill and you're chairing the committee up here and someone cannot abstain from voting on a clause in a bill and in fact cannot even push their chair back from their desk -- that member has to leave the room. They can't even sit in the public gallery seats. They have to absent themselves from the room in order not to be counted in that vote. Frankly, I think that's ridiculous.
Mr Cooke: You're elected to be counted.
Mrs Marland: It doesn't enhance the proceedings of the committee, nor does it give any of us -- and when I served on the Legislative Assembly committee, I have found this with all of the members I have worked with, you're generally trying to do something that's representative for all members, and generally we try to make decisions that make this place work better.
Frankly, when I'm in a position where there have been sections of a bill, some parts I've agreed with and some I haven't, or some clauses for and against, when I first found out that you couldn't abstain -- I must admit that coming from municipal politics where we used Robert's rules, we were allowed to abstain. I did not know until very recently, and it's been reconfirmed again today by Peter's research, that the very Parliament on which our parliamentary procedure is based does permit abstentions. If Westminster permits abstentions, I don't know how we ever got around in our Legislature to not permitting abstentions during votes.
So for me, it would make eminent good sense for us to make a recommendation that abstentions be permitted. Isn't it interesting that we have other provinces that are more sophisticated than our great province of Ontario on that issue alone?
We now have a motion on the floor to report two volumes of research to the House. I would be terribly embarrassed to see that go from this committee -- for what purpose? I mean, we would look like very lazy, non-committed members, in my humble opinion, to say: "Okay, we've got two volumes of research here. We've looked at this. Let's just report these two volumes to the House." Obviously at this point, I have no choice but to both speak and vote against the motion that is on the floor.
Mr Morin: Perhaps I could make a suggestion. First of all, I want to congratulate Peter for the excellent work he has done. I don't know if you realize that the amount of work in this is totally unreal. I've never seen that since I'm here. The research involved is just tremendous.
The suggestion I'd like to make is that each party reports to its own caucus what has been said, what is being proposed, and then either come back and come out with a format of some sort how we should approach that. But consult your caucus. We'll consult ours, because a lot of our own members are going to be interested in that.
I would go further than that, perhaps later on. It's a heck of a big job. We could have -- not procedures, we could have guidelines, because try to recall when you came here. I recall when I first came here in 1985, the direction I was given was not that elaborate what were the procedures of the House. First of all, there's a language that exists here in the House that you don't hear anywhere else in the province. It's like an insurance man, you know, when you talk about endowment, you talk about amortization. It's language which is not familiar to everyone.
If there were to be some guidelines, sort of a booklet, that each member is given -- not procedures. Here's the way. Here are the parameters that you should abide by. Here are the things that are -- it's a no-no. Here are the things that you know if you do this or if you say that, you're going to attract the ire of your colleagues, or the Speaker will bring you to order. Again, not procedures, a guideline book. Like, for instance, the farmers have a guideline book. They're not laws, they're not legislation.
Given that, here's the way you should behave in the House, and if you don't, here's what the procedure is. It's a big task but at least you would have something you could consult.
All of this discussion stems from the fact that Bill 26 came in, and people really got upset, people really got angry, and John came out and said, "Well, look, we can't go on that way." There were some political reasons why this was done, but at the same time, it attracted, it brought in another issue, another problem.
I think if we were to go back to our caucus, let our members know what came out here -- and perhaps also I look at David who has had a lot of experience; Jim Bradley has had a lot of experience; your House leader has had a lot of experience, let them discuss together what is the right approach, what approach do we take. Because let me tell you, if we pursue that here in committee too far, we're going to get angry. We're going to say things we'll regret. So why not just take a breather? Let people know what it's all about; let's discuss it, and let's come back. Let's give some real support to John's motion and say, "Well, look, this is the way we're going to do it," then we all work at it, because the decisions we'll make today -- you're in power today. Tomorrow you may not be in power, and we've got to be careful that we do not penalize each other and we can no longer move.
This is democracy. It's normal for people to get angry, to get carried away in issues they really believe in. But at the same time, it's got to be done with a certain decorum, respect of the House, dignity, and all of these things. This is the suggestion, Mr Chairman, I would make if it would be acceptable.
The Vice-Chair: Okay. Thank you M. Morin. Before we go any further with speakers, might I suggest then, Mr Cooke -- I'm at your disposal -- would you be prepared to withdraw your motion; we simply have the two reports go back to each caucus; we discuss it, and come back with a position for the next meeting of the Legislative Assembly committee next Wednesday or some time frame within it?
Mr Cooke: We need a little more time than that, maybe, but I'd be prepared --
The Vice-Chair: Two weeks? Say two weeks from today.
Mr Cooke: We have to get the schedule in front of our caucus, and there might be a lengthy discussion so we'll need to block off some time in caucus. But I'd be prepared to do that, as long as we're being given a few weeks to do it.
The Vice-Chair: All right. Let's go to the other speakers, I guess. Before, I had Mr Clement -- you're the next speaker?
Mr Clement: I am. Let me first of all thank Mr Morin for his very wise remarks. I really think he put a lot of this in a wider context. I would like to say -- I don't think I'm speaking out of turn -- that the issue of decorum has come up in our caucus already. Just talking to my fellow members even informally, there are some strong views, particularly by those of us who are new to this chamber, about the comportment of all of us. I'm probably as bad as anyone in terms of how we comport ourselves and how that is conveyed and portrayed to the general public who are watching or listening in or in the public chambers.
We have had an ongoing consultation with our own caucus which, along with Peter's excellent report from last time, has animated me to have a couple of suggestions that I'd like to propose at some point in this process, perhaps sooner rather than later. They're my points of view, but they're based on some discussions with people who are either caucus members or people who have been watching this whole session and the previous session unfold.
Secondly, I would like to just say for the record, from my own perspective I've actually been more upset this session than at the cessation of the previous session. I would like to put forward the argument that perhaps the decorum problems of the previous session were symptomatic of a wider problem. They weren't just focused in on a particular piece of legislation, but perhaps they were indicative of the times in which we live -- and I'm trying to be fair to the opposition by saying that. I think you feel as strongly as you do, as much as I feel as strongly as I do, on the public policy issues that we face. So that's fair. But I think there are other, wider, systemic problems that have devolved over time that perhaps we might want to turn our minds to.
That's the context in which I find myself. I like very much the idea of guidelines, as well as set procedures, but in my own mind and based on my own speaking with individuals both in and outside of my caucus, I think there is a need for -- I'll say it -- some procedural changes. These are my points of view. I think if we as a group consult some more with our caucuses as well we can come up with a whole list of changes in either procedure or the way we do business that are important to our respective caucuses.
Quite frankly, in response to Mr Cooke and his motion, I think that although we are not the end point of that discussion -- he is quite correct -- nor would I want to usurp the power of the House leaders or the power of the chamber itself to be the end point of that, I think we can be a very useful beginning point of that discussion. I think that quite frankly is what our role is. The beginning point is not the House leaders per se, it is the caucus members who sit on this committee. The House leaders have a very integral part to play in this and they will in turn mould what we come up with and something of some sort will eventually appear in the House. But something has to get this process going perhaps and maybe our points of view will enlighten the House leaders.
Mr Cooke: That's because you think the process has to go on. The opposition doesn't necessarily agree with you.
Mr Clement: Yes, you're absolutely right. That's a good characterization of my point of view, that this process does have to go on, that we have something potentially positive to add to the process and that's what I would like to do.
In response to the original motion, I would also speak against it. In response to what Mr Morin has had to say, I encourage members opposite to consult with their caucuses. I could be talked into allowing that to take place, so that we could perhaps, if the members opposite feel very strongly about it, adjourn for today, but I think we have to have an ongoing discussion. It's not just a one-off discussion, so I really do think we have to meet next week and continue our discussions. I've got some thoughts, I know other members of my caucus have some thoughts, I'm sure you have some thoughts on this, so let's get those out on the table at some point and start discussing them, and maybe that will help focus the discussions in our respective caucuses as well.
Mr Tilson: I'm surprised that the amendment by Mr Cooke was made at this particular time, before we've really had an opportunity to properly debate the motion and individual members been given an opportunity to digest the material that's been presented to us. You've given us two volumes. One volume none of us has had a chance to look at because it was just given to us today. To simply adjourn the proceedings and report to the House on a volume that I haven't even read, I must say I can't see the merits of that.
I would say that I congratulate Mr O'Toole for bringing the motion forward at this time, particularly with the number of concerns that have come forward from the public who have watched these proceedings in the House on television, from teachers and students who see the proceedings from the public gallery. I personally can say I've had a number of letters from people in my constituency being very concerned about the conduct of members in the House, on all sides of the House.
That has not just gone in this session, it has gone on in the previous sessions, and in fact, tab 7 that you presented for us certainly outlines that the issue of members being named shows that we clearly have a problem with decorum. When you show the members being named from 1970 to 1996, this process of the Speaker having no control over certain members is on the increase and continues to be on the increase. Letters have come from different Speakers, from Speaker Warner and Speaker McLean, indicating concerns that have been addressed to him from members of the public.
The whole issue of decorum has become more and more apparent and to say that this committee shouldn't be looking at it -- this committee most certainly has the jurisdiction to look at it and, with the problems we have, most certainly should look at it. There's the topic of members being named, there's the increase of remarks that are being made by speakers not through the Chair; in other words, comments that are not being in the third person and comments that aren't addressed to the Chair. Certainly the House of Commons, as I know, opposes that practice, and if members are interested in topics, that's a topic that could be raised.
The issue that came today, the topic of points of order during question period, we could discuss that type of topic. A member stood up -- in fact, I think it was Mrs Marland stood up -- and the question was whether that was the appropriate time to make a point of order or whether it should be after question period -- the clock continues to run -- the issue of points of order, whether that takes away time from question period. There is, quite frankly, the issue of legitimate questions of points of order, so that's an issue that needs to be dealt with.
There's the issue of challenges to Speaker's rulings and the rulings of Chairs. Once the Speaker and the Chair of a committee have made a ruling, those rulings should be adhered to. There seems to be some challenge of that. At one point a number of weeks ago, I can recall a debate, I couldn't believe it, a debate that seemed to develop on a Speaker's ruling. There is the issue that questions during question period should be legitimate questions involving the practices of the government and shouldn't become personal, and in some cases, I believe, not just during our government but the former government, can become very personal and sometimes outright nasty.
There's the issue of the dress code in the House. Need we discuss that topic? There is the issue of camera angles, the whole issue of camera angles on television.
Then of course there's the issue that developed prior to Christmas where one member of the House refused to vote and essentially brought the place to a standstill for whatever reason. The opposition would comment that it was another tool that they had to express a concern they had as to an action of the government and the government would make remarks back and forth and away we go, but that certainly is a topic. There's the issue of whether or not members should be allowed to abstain or whether they should be forced to vote or whatever and the respect of rulings from the Chair.
All of these topics are topics that haven't come forward in any formal type of motion, and they may or may not. I don't know how much time this committee wishes to spend on these topics, but all of them have been discussed by all members of this place at some time or other, informally or indeed formally. A member had a private member's hour -- I can't remember whether it was last week or several weeks ago -- on a topic which was never voted on, I might add, but it was an issue. It expressed a concern. So the concerns of members have been expressed from all sides of the House privately and formally in the House as to the concern of decorum in the House.
I must confess I don't have any problem of a committee debating these topics. I don't have a problem with individual caucuses meeting and discussing what their particular philosophy should be from each individual caucus, whether that comes from a caucus or an individual member, but I certainly don't have any problem of a committee such as this debating the various topics that I have listed and many of these have been dealt with in the research and some of them haven't been. It may well be that further items will have to be researched.
The last time of course we had rule changes, there was the inference of a backroom deal, and I say that with all due respect. The media wrote about it to a certain degree, of all of a sudden "a deal," and I put that in quotation marks. It was arranged between the House leaders of all three parties -- in fact, I don't think it was a unanimous deal, if I recall -- with respect to the change of the rules, and I can't remember what year it was; 1992 or 1993, I can't recall, but the rules were changed and that was by the three House leaders in consultation with their respective caucuses. That's perhaps fine, but there's nothing wrong with an all-party legislative committee discussing these topics in the open and getting reaction between members.
I'm obviously not in favour of the motion to report at this time. We have not had an opportunity to debate any of the issues that I have raised. Some of those issues have been mentioned by the research people, but there are a number of issues that haven't been raised at all and I would like to raise them.
If members are interested -- they've been searching for topics to talk about -- there are about half a dozen at least that I'm sure the committee would find interesting to discuss, and if they don't find it interesting to discuss, then woe on them when members of the public call up and are concerned about decorum in this House and how we're doing business in this place.
Mr Silipo: First of all, can I be clear? My understanding was Mr Cooke indicated his willingness to withdraw his motion.
The Vice-Chair: I heard that.
Mr Silipo: That's been done. We then had Mr Morin's -- I think someone characterized it -- very wise suggestion as to how we should proceed on this issue, and I would just want to reiterate that as a suggestion as well. I think it would be very wise for us, having received this information, and I appreciate Mr Tilson's point that there may be other issues that he or others may want further research or information on. I think that's quite understandable.
Also, I just want to say that I also would agree very much with the point that Mrs Marland made that it is useful, if there are going to be discussions about rule changes, that they also clearly involve all of us as MPPs and not just the three House leaders, but I have to also say that whenever there have been rule changes, my understanding has been that they've never happened in a vacuum. They've always happened as a result of discussions within each of the caucuses, certainly primarily through the House leaders but obviously always with reference back to the caucuses, and there's been agreement on some changes and disagreement on others.
The frustration I have with this issue -- and I think we all would agree that the question of decorum and order in the House is something that concerns all of us whether we're in opposition or in government -- is that I think that it's necessary for us as a committee to be useful in this process, to be a little clearer about what it is we want to tackle. With all due respect to my colleagues on the government side, I don't have a clear sense of what it is they are proposing to do. I have a clear sense of some concerns that have been raised, I hear those, so that's why -- it was almost half facetious earlier, Mr Chair, but I think it was actually also serious when I made the point that if what we want to do is to simply relay the information -- I understand the point about not doing it, simply sending the volumes, but if what we want to do is relay back to the House a sense of the information we have from research, that, in and of itself, I think, would be of some use in terms of giving us some comparison.
If there is a yearning for us to do something more specific, then I think that's something we can only deal with if we have at some point in front of us some specific proposals, and my serious advice, following on what Mr Morin has said, is that before that happens -- I don't hear any of those specific proposals here, even from government members who have said they would like to see some changes; I haven't heard anyone come forward and say, "This is one change that I'm proposing we look at" -- I would suggest very strongly, as Mr Morin suggested, that if people are interested in making some specific suggestions, that is something that would be useful for everyone's sake for us to do in some kind of an orderly fashion. That should be done by pausing at this point; reflecting on the information that we've received; if there's more information that we want research staff to get, I would have no trouble with agreeing to whatever that is, that you want more research to be done, but then I think we do need a pause.
We do need to sort of go back to our respective caucuses, have some kind of a discussion around this whole issue, get some sense from that whether in fact our colleagues want us to pursue any of these areas in a more specific way and, if so, then it seems to me it would be wise for that discussion to take place also with our respective House leaders, and as a result of that, determine what the best route might be, because then there might be an accommodation found in terms of saying, "Yes, let's have this committee take a look at suggested rule changes in areas (a), (b), (c) and (d)," or "Let's have the House leaders have some discussion around that and bring forward some proposals we could look at.
I'm not sure what the best way is, but I don't think we're going to get there by simply continuing to talk in a general sense, which is what we're all doing right now, because all we're doing is expressing concerns about issues with nothing specific in front of us about whether we're prepared to do anything about them and, if so, what. For us to answer that, understanding that while there are a number of us here from all three caucuses, there are a whole bunch of other colleagues out there from all three parties who may or may not have been party to some of these discussions, and I think it would be wise, before we did anything further, for us to have that discussion with our respective caucuses.
I reiterate Mr Morin's suggestion that we just basically at this point pause, go back, reflect, talk with our caucuses, talk with our House leaders, and only after that has happened, with adequate time -- a couple of weeks -- then determine what next step should be taken.
Mrs Marland: Mr Chairman, you do not have a motion on the floor at this time, correct?
The Vice-Chair: Yes, we do. There are two things. I heard Mr Cooke make a motion that this stuff be reviewed and then shipped back to the assembly, reported back; and then, as we got into debate, I asked him specifically whether he would be prepared to consider withdrawing it or putting it aside, and that's when we got into whether to go back to the caucuses. But I would rule that we do have a motion on the floor, his motion, even though he indicated, I think in an informal sense, that he would withdraw. He didn't specifically say that --
Mrs Marland: I thought his --
Mr Silipo: I understood he was withdrawing.
The Vice-Chair: Okay, I had asked him that. All right, then --
Mrs Marland: If we don't have a motion on the floor, I would like to place a motion on the floor.
The Vice-Chair: No, I made a ruling that we did have a motion on the floor.
Mrs Marland: I'm down to speak and I'm asking --
Mr Tilson: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: What is the motion on the floor?
Mrs Marland: That's what I want to know.
The Vice-Chair: We can handle it this way. If I could get unanimous consent from all members of this committee we could have the motion set aside and then you can proceed with whatever motion you want.
Mr Clement: Mr Cooke's motion, Mr Chairman?
The Vice-Chair: Yes, if there's unanimous consent to postpone consideration of it.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): Mr Chair, I think, if my understanding is correct, Mr Cooke said he would withdraw his motion if there was concurrence around the table that we bring this back to the respective caucuses. Is that not correct, Mr Chair?
The Vice-Chair: Yes, that's true.
Mr Bartolucci: Then do have concurrence that we will bring this back to our respective --
Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): You can't conditionally withdraw a motion. You have to withdraw it and then put a new motion forward saying -- or Mr Morin would.
Mr Bartolucci: Mr Chair, I challenge that procedure because I believe that you can ask for concurrence before withdrawal of a motion.
The Vice-Chair: If there's unanimous consent.
Mr Bartolucci: Am I correct? Then maybe we can get a ruling from Lisa.
The Vice-Chair: If there is unanimous consent to postpone it, then that would put it aside and then proceed with --
Mrs Marland: Can't we do anything --
Mr O'Toole: Just put the question and defeat it.
Mr Clement: I don't feel comfortable with that, Mr Chairman.
Mrs Marland: I think I have the floor in trying to clarify where we are. First of all, can the motion be withdrawn when the person who moved it isn't here? If the answer to that is, "Yes, with unanimous consent," then the only thing we can --
The Vice-Chair: No, you can't. I'll let you answer it, Clerk.
Clerk of the Committee (Ms Lisa Freedman): The only person who can withdraw a motion is the person who moved the motion. What the committee can do by unanimous consent is postpone consideration of the motion. So the motion would not technically be withdrawn; it would still be before the committee and we would just move it out of the way for the time being. But in order to withdraw it, only Mr Cooke can withdraw it.
Mrs Marland: If there is unanimous consent, then you could accept another motion?
The Vice-Chair: If there's unanimous consent by members here. So I'll put the question: Is there unanimous consent to postpone Mr Cooke's motion --
Mrs Marland: Yes, we would agree to that.
The Vice-Chair: -- which is to take both chapters, both reports, review them and report back today? That was the first motion.
Mrs Marland: We would agree to that.
The Vice-Chair: So the motion on the floor right now is, if there is unanimous consent of the members of this committee, postponed and put aside; then we can proceed with other motions.
Mr Silipo: Trying to be helpful, perhaps it would be useful if we could get some indication, either from Mrs Marland or someone on the government side, as to what would you intend to do if we agree to postpone that motion. What do you have? There have been other suggestions made by Mr Morin, certainly that I've supported and I thought were being supported by Mr Clement. Let's try to get out of this wrangle.
The Vice-Chair: Yes. Mrs Marland?
Mrs Marland: I think this is sort of getting silly. It's getting into horse-trading, like, "I'm going to continue to withdraw my motion after I find out what your motion's going to be," and that's not the way we conduct business. I heard Mr Cooke say that he would be willing to withdraw his motion.
The Vice-Chair: Because I had asked him at that time.
Mrs Marland: That's right, you did.
Mr Bartolucci: You only heard half of what he said, Mr Chair. If that's all you heard, you only heard half.
The Vice-Chair: It would go to caucus, I said. Go ahead, Mrs Marland.
Mrs Marland: The point is, I don't think that I can conditionally place a motion, nor can I conditionally remove a motion. I think if Mr Cooke is removing his motion -- better still, why don't we deal with the idea of simply setting aside his motion?
Mr Silipo: Why don't you tell us what you want to do? That's what we've been asking all afternoon.
Mrs Marland: Okay. If you have clarified that you need unanimous consent --
The Vice-Chair: I do.
Mrs Marland: -- then I'm going to call the question on his motion.
The Vice-Chair: Okay. This is a non-debatable motion. All those in favour of putting the question on Mr Cooke's motion that the report go back?
Mr Gilchrist: Mr Cooke's question?
The Vice-Chair: Yes. Those in favour?
Mr Clement: We're putting the question so we vote on --
The Vice-Chair: Yes. All those in favour of the question being now put? All those opposed? Carried.
Mr Cooke's motion is that reports 1 and 2 be reported to the House. Those in favour?
Mr Bartolucci: Before we take the vote, is there debate?
The Vice-Chair: No. Both elements are non-debatable.
Those in favour of Mr Cooke's motion? Those opposed? Defeated.
Now we'll go back to where we were in the order of speakers. We left off with Mrs Marland. Did you have any further comments? You were interrupted, and I don't know whether you want to proceed. You may if you want to.
Mrs Marland: I might like to ask for five minutes to have a discussion about my motion with my colleagues.
The Vice-Chair: Okay.
Mrs Marland: It's five minutes to 5. If we could reconvene at 5, I can have had that discussion.
Mr Bartolucci: Mr Chair, before we break, did Mr Morin not have a motion on the table?
The Vice-Chair: Not specifically.
Mr Morin: It was a suggestion.
The Vice-Chair: He had made a suggestion but he hadn't actually put it in the form of a motion. That's still one route we could walk down.
I declare a five-minute recess. We'll be back here at 5.
The committee recessed from 1654 to 1658.
Mrs Marland: Mr Chairman, I think I have the floor.
The Vice-Chair: Yes, you do.
Mr Morin: Mr Chairman, we still have two members who are gone. Can we wait a few minutes?
Mr Gilchrist: I remember a certain incident involving Bill 26.
Mrs Marland: I think you'll be able to live with my motion. If you still want to call your members for the vote, we can do it then; you could still call for the members before the vote.
The Vice-Chair: Proceed.
Mrs Marland: The second volume of information that we have received this afternoon is very extensive. As Mr Tilson accurately and eloquently referred to it, it's not something that most of us, and certainly speaking for myself, wish to try to assimilate during a committee hearing. I feel that because of the research and the work that our researcher, Peter, has done on this very important subject of order and decorum in the House, I would like the opportunity to read this volume before I start to debate and make comments on all aspects relating to the list of issues that was compiled on January 10, 1996, which is also in our binders.
For that reason, I would like to move adjournment of the committee for today so that we can all consider the information we've been given this afternoon.
The Vice-Chair: All those in favour --
Mr Morin: Do you want to call in the members?
The Vice-Chair: Call in the members for this vote coming up.
Mrs Marland: Sorry, there's wording you have to use, M. Morin. You have to make a request to call in your members, and you request either five minutes or 20 minutes.
Mr Morin: I request to call in the members, Mr Chairman.
Mrs Marland: How much time do you need?
The Vice-Chair: Are you requesting 20 minutes, M. Morin?
Mr Morin: Sure.
The Vice-Chair: Okay. We'll reconvene at 5:25.
The committee recessed from 1701 to 1708.
The Vice-Chair: We have a motion on the floor to adjourn. All those in favour of the adjourning motion? Opposed? There being none, I declare it carried. This meeting is over until next Wednesday.
The committee adjourned at 1709.