Wednesday 27 October 1993

Role of the independent member

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


*Chair / Président: Hansen, Ron (Lincoln ND)

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

Dadamo, George (Windsor-Sandwich ND)

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

*MacKinnon, Ellen (Lambton ND)

*Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex ND)

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

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

*Sterling, Norman W. (Carleton PC)

*Sullivan, Barbara (Halton Centre L)

*Sutherland, Kimble (Oxford ND)

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

*In attendance / présents

Clerk / Greffière: Freedman, Lisa

The committee met at 1541 in committee room 2.


The Chair (Mr Ron Hansen): We'll resume the hearings. This is the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly and we're discussing the role of the independent member, if the researcher will just give us a recap of where we were last week and where we're going today.

Mr Peter Sibenik: Perhaps just before going into that, I could explain the document that is currently before you. It's historical statistics on the number of independent members in Ontario. I indicated the last day that the last independent member to be elected to the assembly was before the Second World War, and in fact the actual date was 1923. However, I should indicate as well that there are a number of what I call, for want of a better expression, hybrid independents, independents who are referred to as Conservative Independent or Liberal Independent or Progressive Independent. The last such hybrid independent to be elected to the assembly was in 1955, according to the statistics.

I just provide that for your information because it was raised the last time the committee met.

To go over the recommendations, there were six items in the draft report and we got through the first two, namely, members' statements and oral question period. All that was changed in these two recommendations was that the word "should" was changed to "may" or "shall," as the case may be, in both draft recommendations 1 and 2. In addition, there was the change to the notice provision, the prior notice to the Speaker. That was the additional change to those two.

We are, I believe, now on item 3, which is private members' public business. With respect to this particular draft recommendation, of course, there's really a twofold approach that the committee may want to take, and that is, first of all, the situation of the independent member who wants to participate in the ballot for the purposes of moving a motion; that is one issue. Then the other issue is the independent member who seeks to participate on another member's ballot item, and that one can be perhaps a bit more contentious. However, I have provided some wording that the committee may want to consider. I will just leave it at that.

The Chair: Comments? Any discussion?

Mr Paul R. Johnson (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): At the last meeting, just to refresh my memory, all the members of the committee agreed that members' statements and oral question period were areas where we would recognize independent members. Is that correct?

Mr Sibenik: Yes.

Mr Norman W. Sterling (Carleton): On 3, we had mentioned, I think, that originally the intent on private members' public business was to have the Speaker extend the time allocated for speeches by five minutes at the end of the day. Is that included in this?

Mr Sibenik: Yes. It's in 3(b), actually, with respect to independent members who wish to participate in another member's motion. With respect to an independent member who wishes to participate in his or her own motion, there are the provisions in standing order 96(c)(i) and (iii). In that situation, the independent member has 10 minutes at the outset and a two-minute reply but no intervening time. In a sense, the independent member may be in a slightly disadvantageous position because all members of recognized parties have that opportunity, in the context of their party's own time, to participate a second time.

Mr Sterling: No, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fact that there are 10 plus two for the initiator of the resolution or the bill, the proponent of the bill, and then there are 15 minutes per party as you go around the rotation. That makes a total of 57 minutes.

Mr Sibenik: That's right.

Mr Sterling: When the five minutes come in, I think it was the intention of the committee when we discussed this during the recess in September that that time be extended to 63 minutes. Is that included in here?

Mr Sibenik: I believe it is in 3(b)(i).

Mr Kimble Sutherland (Oxford): Is that at the conclusion of the rotation?

Mr Sibenik: That's right, for up to five minutes.

Mr Sterling: But there is no restriction in the existing standing orders as to when the Speaker must cut off -- this is not in conflict with another rule?

Mr Sibenik: Well, it would be --

Mr Sterling: These are recommendations, okay? I would rather that when we take these to our House leaders, our caucus or whatever, it be very, very clear as to what's going to happen. Therefore, I think that even if it's not necessary to put the extra five minutes there in a technical manner, it's important that we show it in the report.

Mr Sutherland: If I may, it does say that. In 3(b) it says five minutes. It starts off, "At the conclusion of the rotation," so that's implying it's going to be in before. I don't know how you can assume anything else other than it's going to be 63 minutes or 62 minutes.

Clerk of the Committee (Ms Lisa Freedman): I have just one comment in respect to what Mr Sterling said. The only other standing order you could be conflict with is that all the questions have to be put at 12 noon.

Mr Sterling: That's right.

Clerk of the Committee: Depending on points of order or quorum calls, where the clock doesn't necessarily stop, you could lose the five minutes for the second person if we're already at 12 noon and those five minutes have yet to be allotted to the independent member. That would put you in conflict with standing order 96(f).

Mr Sterling: Or you get to 12 noon and the Speaker hasn't put it because he's got pushed back because of the interjection of the five minutes and then somebody raises a point of order and says, "Mr Speaker, you can't put the question; that's out of order," and I presume it would be out of order, because we've frozen ourselves in on noon.

Mr Sutherland: I'll remember that. But it could be done now, correct? Right? We somehow get past 12?

Mr Sibenik: I would imagine that there could be some redrafting done to take that into account. If the committee wishes me to do that, I will in fact do that so that there is that five-minute opportunity.

Mr Sterling: I'm just concerned about the explanation part of it, so that everybody, when these are put in front of them, understands that the time is going to be expanded a little longer and it may go past 12 noon; it may be 12:05 or whatever it is when we get out of there.

The Chair: Any other concerns, comments?

Mr Sterling: I agree with it.

Mr Sibenik: Just before we leave this particular recommendation, I think I should redraw to the attention of the committee that there may be a difficulty with respect to the balloting, how an independent member is supposed to be chosen for the purpose of the ballot.

Right now, as was mentioned the previous day, there are three ballot boxes at the beginning of each session and a name is picked from each box in rotation, starting with the government side. This particular recommendation, 3(a), does not solve that problem, so I just want to flag that for your attention again, because it will develop a problem.


Mrs Barbara Sullivan (Halton Centre): I think we did discuss this aspect at the committee meeting last week. My sense is that the balloting process is not specified in the standing orders per se, that the particular procedure that's followed is one that has been adopted by tradition. The Clerk, who is the chief official of the Legislative Assembly, conducts the ballot, and if a different process is required in order to enable an independent member who wants to participate in the ballot to do so, then the Clerk should design another process that's fair and that takes into account those independent members who wish to participate. We don't have to belabour that at this committee.

Mr Sutherland: That's fine. I thought I had heard someone suggest that they could go into the lowest party, the third party, whatever, whoever has the lowest number; you just put it in that box with them so it has the same chance as the rest of those people do to come up on the ballot.

Mr Paul Wessenger (Simcoe Centre): I would agree with Ms Sullivan's recommendation. It's something the Clerk can surely work out, or the House leaders. It's not part of the rules now, so I don't see a problem. We can leave it to be worked out.

Mrs Ellen MacKinnon (Lambton): I was going to say basically the same thing as Mr Wessenger said, that Mrs Sullivan's recommendation is by far the most fair one and perhaps even the most legal, if indeed legalities come into it.

Mr Sibenik: The difficulty that the table has currently had with the balloting process and changing it is the fact that the wording in standing order 96(d) tends to be a bit on the restrictive side. Maybe I should just read into the record standing order 96(d): "The order for consideration of the items of business for each party shall be determined by a ballot conducted by the Clerk prior to or at the commencement of each session in which all private members may enter their names for the draw."

The first part of that standing order says, "for each party"; then in the second half it says, "all private members." That has been a source of confusion and I'm not sure, unless there is some kind of explicit instruction from this committee, that the problem will be resolved.

Mrs Sullivan: The Clerk might want to review precedents that have occurred where parties without official standing in the Legislature have been able to participate in the ballot for private members' business, and the independents, as a conglomerate, could be deemed to be a party for purposes of the ballot. I'm sure those precedents exist in terms of those parties that have not had adequate numbers in the past to participate. I look at 1951. The Liberals only had seven seats, would not have been a recognized party, but were clearly part of the balloting and private members' business during that period of time.

Mr Sibenik: I'm not sure that the wording of this particular standing order is the same as it was in 1951. I think this standing order came into being at approximately the same time that certain provisions in the Legislative Assembly Act were altered, some time in the course of the 1970s, when there was this expression "members of recognized parties." After 1970 and in successive editions of the standing orders, the use of the word "party" became much more prevalent when changes were drafted to the standing orders.

So this is not really a long-standing provision, 96(d), in the standing orders. That's why I think there's some difficulty on the part of the table. Back then, many years ago, I think it would be fair to say there was no reference to the fact that a member had to be a member of a party, let alone a recognized party, in order to participate in the ballot or any other part of the procedures of the House.

Mrs Sullivan: I don't believe we are here to propose specific amendments to the standing orders. We're here to make recommendations to the Speaker that will then proceed to the bodies which do make the recommendations for changes to the standing orders of the House.

Mr Sterling: I agree with Mrs Sullivan. Basically, the process will be that recommendations we put forward will be considered by the House leaders, I presume, and there's going to be negotiation that takes place. Then the Clerk is usually called in and the Clerk is asked, along with legislative counsel -- they would engage them to draft some standing orders. Then the House leaders will have a look at the draft standing orders and that's when this problem will either be addressed or not addressed. I'm sure the Clerk, in the interest of clarity, will raise this issue at that time and then the House leaders will negotiate how in fact this is going to take place. Further talk about particularity I think is going to be fruitless for us, and therefore I think we should pass the recommendation as is and move on to the next.

The Chair: Is everybody in agreement? Okay. On number 4 now, "Speaking opportunities in the House and its committees."

Mrs Sullivan: I think this recommendation is a fair summary of the consensus we were approaching last week and I'm quite prepared to support this recommendation.

Mr Wessenger: I think this was one that did create some discussion last week by some of the members of our committee who are not here today, I suppose the concern that we have time allocation situations and how that's going to create a difficulty with the Speaker recognizing an independent member in those circumstances, if it's a time allocation motion or division of time equally among the parties.

Mr Sterling: Specifically, what do 24(a), 25 and 78 include, which are part of recommendation 4?

Mr Sibenik: Standing order 24(a) deals with the proceedings in the House.

Mr Sterling: Dealing with all kinds of business?

Mr Sibenik: Those particular provisions deal with the time limits, but they may be a little confusing. Actually, I wanted to refer to a particular standing order that referred to the proceedings before the House, proceedings before the committee of the House and proceedings before standing and select committees. Those were the only ones that came close to referring to those.

What perhaps might be more precise would be to say, "For the purposes of proceedings in the House, committee of the whole House and standing and select committees," instead of referring to these particular standing orders. That might be a bit more accurate, because we are not referring to the speaking limits that are contained in standing order 24(a) and standing order 25.

Mr Sterling: I think there are some specific exclusions that should be there. I guess I would trust that the discretion of the Speaker wouldn't allow an independent member, for instance, to speak on a non-confidence motion which is brought forward by a particular political party, an opposition party, and therefore -- I guess it's hard to argue that an individual member shouldn't be involved in that. I'm not sure.


Mr Sutherland: If they have the right to vote on something, they should have the right to speak to it at some point, within the discretional judgement.

The Chair: Dennis Drainville, taking him as an example of an independent member speaking on a particular bill that the government wants to put in, would need that opportunity.

Mr Sterling: I'm just trying to think of examples where I would find it strange that they would be involved.

Mr Sibenik: If it will help the committee, I have a list of things for its consideration. I'll just list the kinds of things that, according to my review of the standing orders, independent members can do.

First of all, they can engage in debate on second and third reading of a government bill; the address and reply to the speech from the throne; the budget motion; the motion for interim supply; a motion for want of confidence in the government; routine motions moved by the government House leader during routine proceedings; time allocation motions and other substantive motions affecting the business or proceedings of the House; motions for returns or addresses; consideration of or motions for the adoption of a committee report; an order of the day for the discussion of a sessional paper; and, finally, a motion to recommit a bill.

In summary, there are a fair number of things that independent members can engage in debate on. That was a list of 11 items.

Mr Sterling: Are there any more that a private member can speak to than that? I'm almost going full circle here in saying that I just think it should be a generic statement. Never mind standing order 84 or 34 or 24 or whatever; it should be general. "For the purpose of the standing orders and the proceedings of a standing or select committee, the presiding officer" etc etc. I don't know, by selecting the particular standing orders, what that does. All I know is that it could cause problems somewhere down the line that we're not foreseeing. Again, we're not dealing with the specifics here; we're dealing with general recommendations and we're not talking about drafting the orders right here.

Mrs Sullivan: I think it is more appropriate to make the recommendation more generic. I think we could say, "During proceedings in the House, the whole House, in a standing or select committee, the presiding officer" etc. I think the same wording can continue. I think Mr Sterling's right.

In terms of the time allocation, I think while the independent member is allowed to speak to the time allocation motion under this recommendation, the order of the House with respect to the time allocation itself would determine whether the independent member could participate, so that is covered in 4(b).

Clerk of the Committee: Can I just clarify one thing, Mrs Sullivan? The only thing that would appear to be missing in the generic statement you said is the right for a late show. That's actually not a proceeding of the House; the House is adjourned, but you want it to be generic enough to cover that. It's not a proceeding of the House, the committee of the whole or a committee.

Mrs Sullivan: Sure.

Mr Sterling: You can only have a late show if you have a question, and presumably in question period, if the question is controlled, then the late show is controlled. It's a five-minute inconvenience, if you want to put it that way.

Mrs Sullivan: Once again, we are looking to the discretion and judgement of the Speaker or the committee Chair to ensure that members of the committee who belong to political parties and who have official critic functions or other roles in the assembly have the opportunity to participate without limitation on their participation, but to ensure that the independent member also has an opportunity to bring from time to time, at the discretion of the Speaker, the points of view and argumentation that are coming from the representation of that person's riding.

Basically, what we are saying is that in all processes from time to time there should be a Speaker's discretion with respect to the participation of the independent member, and that discretion shall include the opportunities that representatives of political parties have for maximum participation in the debates.

The Chair: Any more comments or discussion?

Mr Sterling: Does everybody accept 4 with a generic statement, rather than referring to the specific standing orders.

Mr Wessenger: I think it's better.

The Chair: We'll omit that first sentence. Do you want just read it back?

Mr Sibenik: In my view, I think it would suffice if everything up to the word "committee" in the third line were deleted and just have the rest of it, because the rest of the sentence assumes House or committee of the whole House or standing or select committee.

Mr Wessenger: I agree with that.

The Chair: Then we all agree with 4 as revised.

Mr Sibenik: Should "should" be changed to "shall" or "may" in the fourth line?

Mr Wessenger: "May" from time to time rather than "should."

The Chair: We're all in agreement with 4. We'll go on to number 5, committee membership.

Mr Wessenger: I think this is a problematic area, and it should really be left up to the House leaders, basically, to accommodate. Now, if we want to make a recommendation of this committee that the House leaders should work in cooperation to accommodate some role in committee for independent members, I can certainly agree with that sort of aspect, but trying to set up a tight procedure here, as we have, about adding one more government member and so forth I think is going to get very problematic. I would either delete it or, if we're going to make any recommendation, just recommend that we ask the House leaders to cooperate in working out a role.

That's the way I think it should be dealt with, a matter of negotiation, an independent member going to the House leaders and try to negotiate with them, because they do have the right to attend committee meetings and the right to speak at committee meeting under our rules in any event.

The Chair: At the discretion of the Chairman.

Mr Wessenger: Yes, at the discretion of the Chair.

The Chair: If they're not one of the recognized parties and the time's divided, the Chair can ignore.

Mr Sterling: I think the Liberals were talking the same as the NDP on this particular motion. I believe there should be a right to committee membership by an independent member.

The Chair: I think that was agreed upon.

Mr Sterling: No, it was not agreed upon. Basically, I think it should be negotiated as to what committee, and I think we should wipe out the maximum of 11 rule on a committee and leave entirely in the hands of the House leaders the size and composition of committee. There shouldn't be necessarily a maximum.

Mr Carman McClelland (Brampton North): I recall that during the summer recess we had extensive discussions with respect to the issue that Mr Sterling has raised, and it seems to me, if I recall correctly -- and I'm not trying to make a judgement call on this one -- that all but one person who in fact was subbing at that time were in substantial agreement with that and we actually got hung up with one individual. That's the nature of the business, obviously, and that's fine; everybody's entitled to that. But I think it's fair to say that the overwhelming consensus, save and except one individual, was that we in fact move towards that, to give some latitude.

One of the points I raised at that time was that it seems to me what we do is we naturally gravitate towards that prescribed number, the maximum. It may in fact be appropriate in many instances where the appropriate number of the committee, given the scope in terms of reference of the work at that given point in time, may in fact only be, by way of example, three government members and one or two from each of the opposition parties, whatever the configuration may be.


I think that latitude would allow people with particular regional interests or issues of specific interest to expand, if necessary. But I think that in this day and age equally important perhaps -- I don't want to say more important but certainly equally important -- would be the opportunity of the House leaders to determine, in their collective wisdom, that the committee wouldn't be well served by having the smaller number of members. So in short, I'm very much in accord with Mr Sterling's suggestion.

The Chair: Any other comments?

Mrs Sullivan: My personal view is that the Legislative Assembly committee has not yet finished its real work on the role of committees. It seems to me that there are legitimate recommendations that should come forward on the way committees operate, the partisan nature of some committees, the understanding that other committees are not partisan etc.

I think, however, that that is a broader discussion than what we are doing here today, which is attempting to make recommendations to the Speaker about what the role of an independent member is on the committee and how the structure of the committee could or should be changed to accommodate that member.

My view is that the independent member is able to participate in all of the committee business but one, and that is the vote, can be recognized by the Chair, and in fact we have underlined that in the previous section 4 in terms of speaking, debating, participating in questioning of witnesses before the committee, participating in discussion with respect to the formulation of a report. In fact, isn't it interesting that there are no independent members attending this committee now, when they could have a say as members of the House.

I am not comfortable, this committee not having completed the review of the entire committee structure, in making further recommendations with respect to the place of an independent committee member when we are not yet prepared and have not done the work with respect to restructuring or reshaping or giving a new culture to our committees at Queen's Park.

The Chair: Any other comments?

Mr Sterling: We've got to decide, are we going to make a recommendation on the committee or not? Where are the government --

Mr Wessenger: I'm not prepared to recommend item 5. I think I agree with Ms Sullivan. I'm quite prepared to look at the whole question of committees, how they function, but that's a separate item.

The Chair: So committee membership, as I hear it, just leave it the way it is.

Mr Sterling: In other words, there's no right of participation on the part of an independent member.

The Chair: Oh, okay.

Mr Sterling: I want a recorded vote on this.

I move that we make a recommendation that independent members have a right to sit on a committee of the Legislature.

The Chair: Okay. Debate on that?

Mrs MacKinnon: Question: The way this 5(a) reads, the "independent member seeking appointment to a committee should submit a written request" -- are you saying that should be taken out?

Mr Sterling: I'm in favour of the recommendation; your party is against it. I am trying to clarify the issue here in saying that I want a recommendation of the right of an independent member to sit on a committee of the Legislature. You'll basically be on record against this. That's what the purpose of my motion is.

Mrs Irene Mathyssen (Middlesex): You want voting status for these independent members on committees.

Mr Sterling: Yes, I do.

Mrs MacKinnon: I'm sorry, I'm not very clear on this at all because the way this recommendation reads --

Mr Sterling: I'm not dealing with the recommendation; I'm dealing with my motion. My motion is --

Mr Wessenger: The motion's for approval of this recommendation, is that correct?

Clerk of the Committee: Can I just clarify what I understand the motion to be on the floor? No one has moved 5 at the moment. We put 5 aside for a second and Mr Sterling has moved a motion that independent members have a right to sit on all committees of the Legislature. That's the only thing that's on the floor at the moment. If that passes, I suppose we could then go on to recommendation 5, which is one mechanism for implementing that, but we're one step back from that; we're just voting on the philosophy. The motion reads, "Independent members have a right to sit on all committees of the Legislature."

Mrs MacKinnon: Thanks.

Mr Sterling: "On a committee."

Clerk of the Committee: "On a committee"?

Mr Sterling: Yes.

Clerk of the Committee: "On a committee." And there's discussion.

The Chair: Okay, discussion on the motion.

Mr Sterling: I think it's self-evident. All I'm trying to do is get the generic principle. There's no sense in discussing the details of 5 if the generic principle is not agreed upon by the members of the committee.

The Chair: Okay. Are we ready for the recorded vote?

Mr Paul Johnson: No, I think we need more discussion.

The Chair: Okay. I didn't see any more hands go up there, so --

Mr Paul Johnson: Well, I was just giving everyone a bit of a chance to get their breath.

The motion is very simple, as I understand it. It's just allowing independent members to sit on committees; is that right?

Clerk of the Committee: I have the motion. Mr Sterling moves that independent members have a right to sit on a committee of the Legislature.

Mr Sterling: That implies full membership on a committee.

Mr Paul Johnson: Yes. I would like to say a few things. I think that it would only be reasonable that any member of the Legislature have an opportunity to sit on any committee. I don't know that it's an absolute that they sit on every committee --

Mr Sterling: No, I said "a committee."

Mr Paul Johnson: Which one?

Mr Sterling: We'll deal with that after. I think we're at a point of principle here as to --

Mr Paul Johnson: That's right. I can't imagine anyone would disagree with you, quite frankly.

Mr Sterling: Look behind you.

Mrs Mathyssen: I have no objections to them participating in discussion because I'm quite sure that from time to time an independent member would have valuable insights to bring to a committee in terms of decision-making. However, I am very concerned about the ability of an independent member to vote on a committee inasmuch as again you get into a situation where the government of the day has an obligation, through the committee, to promote legislation that it has prioritized as important and this independent member could very well skew that inasmuch as committees would require more government members in order to ensure that the work before the committee was done in the way the duly elected government of the day envisioned it be done.

I have some difficulty here. I think committees here are too large. I understand that this is something that's quite recent, but I see people spread too thinly as is, and if an independent becomes a member of a committee with voting rights, then that makes it even worse.

The Chair: Mr Wessenger.

Mr Sterling: Could I respond?

Mr Wessenger: Okay, if you wish.

Mr Sterling: I don't think the control of the majority party is an issue. That is an issue only when you combine it with the fact that you are inflexible with regard to the size of committees. If you are inflexible with regard to the size of committees, then you do have a problem inserting an independent member in a committee. I think that the size of a committee is not nearly as important as the right of an independent member to sit on a committee.

Mrs Mathyssen: But then does that not come back directly to what Mrs Sullivan said about reviewing the entire committee process in terms of being able to make good recommendations and decisions about this?

Mr Sterling: Not really, because all we're talking about are numbers basically and perhaps the right of an independent to inject himself in the debate of the committee. But he's going to have that trouble regardless of whether he's a member of the committee or not a member of the committee.


Basically, what you have to do is increase the number on one committee, or whatever number of independents there were on whichever committees -- you'd have to increase the number to 12 or 13, so the governing party would have at least a majority in every case. That varies from Parliament to Parliament. It depends on the balance that exists in that particular Parliament.

How the balance is normally arrived at is based on the smallest party. The smallest party usually wants to have two members on every committee just because of the nature that one member may not be there, as Mr Villeneuve today is. I don't know whether he's in the Chair in the House, but he's otherwise occupied. In the smaller party you need a little bit more flexibility because you just don't have the number of bodies to be there.

Generally, the negotiation which takes place as to the number on the committee takes place after an election and the House leaders get together and say, "How is the split going to come down?" The majority party must have a majority on the committee. Everybody understands that. The smallest party usually wants two members. So then the second party, being the official opposition in our structure, wants to have something greater and somewhat in proportion to what the others are. That's how it's arrived at.

The 11, which is included in our standing orders as a maximum, is an arbitrary figure that somebody came up with. Quite frankly, I find arguments about the number of politicians on council or the number of politicians involved in a particular committee rather specious and really not of much substance.

I don't think it matters whether you have a committee of 25 or you have a committee of five. If you can do it with five and get away, I think it's better, but if you have to go to 25 to have equity reached in terms of what's happening and include everybody, then I say you have to go to 25.

Mr Wessenger: Putting it as, do we believe in principle that independent members ought to have an opportunity to participate in a committee, I think we can all agree yes. I would assume that all of us here agree with the principle. I think the difficulty is that some of us don't want to, at this stage, come up with a specific proposal dealing with only the question of how you can accommodate an independent member on a committee.

I think Ms Sullivan has put it very well. We should look at the whole committee structure. I'd be quite prepared to pass a motion that we include in our looking at the committee structure how to accommodate the independent member in that committee structure as one of the items of consideration. I'd be quite prepared to support that.

I just want to make it clear that I don't think our concern here is with the principle; it's with the question of how we approach this problem, and I don't think the specific proposal is particularly workable when it's there. We need to, as I said, look at the whole question of the committee structure and how we deal with legislation. Of course, my interest is in looking at the whole question of parliamentary reform, which I think could be much more interesting to look at and deal with.

I don't see the particular problem right now under the rules with respect to an independent member. I think independent members would be able to negotiate with the House leaders to get on some committee if they wish to, and I don't think it would be an insurmountable challenge to find a role on a committee for an independent member. I would assume the House leaders would be reasonable in trying to negotiate that. I would have confidence in that, because otherwise I think the independent member would have a political issue to raise.

Mrs Sullivan: I still am confirmed in my view that the committee process has not been examined yet appropriately. However, I do think we might be able to come to a compromise here with an amendment to Mr Sterling's motion that would refer to the House leaders. Mr Sterling's motion says an independent member should be able to seek appointment to a standing or select committee, and a process to that end should be included as part of the negotiations by the House leaders with respect to changes in the standing orders of the House.

That doesn't preclude any other recommendations this committee may formulate with respect to committee operations also going to the House leaders. Let's make no mistake about it: It's the House leaders, through negotiation, who determine where and how standing orders will change, and the government has more clout. The government, as you know, has imposed its will on more than one occasion with respect to the standing orders, and many members feel distinctly chagrined about the nature of changes that are made without consensus.

The one difficulty about the independent member not having full status as a committee member is that if a committee is travelling, the independent member only sees what's happening around Queen's Park and is not a participant in the deliberations of the committee when it's on the road in other areas. In my view, you cannot be a good member unless you understand something beyond downtown Toronto.

I think the way to go is to give a signal to the Speaker that this committee is interested in further reviewing the role of the independent member; that we feel the House leaders should be looking at this situation. We can also signal to the House leaders that we are prepared and interested in looking at other changes to the committee functions here.

Mr Sutherland: I want to call the question on Mr Sterling's motions.

Mr Wessenger: As amended?

Mr Sutherland: No.

Mr Sterling: It depends on what the amendment is. I don't think you can call a question once it's been amended. I think you have to call the amendment first.

Mr Sutherland: Yes, I understand that.

Mr Sterling: Can you read the amendment?

Clerk of the Committee: I'll read both. We have Mr Sterling's motion that says "independent members have the right to sit on a committee of the Legislature," and Mrs Sullivan has amended that by adding, "and that a process to that end should be included as part of the negotiations by the House leaders with respect to changes of the standing orders of the House."

Mr Sterling: The Speaker can't change the standing orders anyway. It's got to be a vote of the House, and therefore the government party is going to control this in the end, but after negotiation.

Mr Paul Johnson: Who makes the decision which committee the independent member sits on?

Mr Sterling: Basically, you get into recommendation 5 when you start talking about that. My thoughts were that an independent member would have to go to the three House leaders and say, "I want to sit on a committee."

Mr Paul Johnson: To affirm the right of an elected representative of this Legislature to sit on a committee, as your motion suggests, again I say I can't understand why anyone wouldn't support that. That's a very simple premise that we're going to have to follow up with a lot of debate among all the parties and the House leaders to come to some consensus on how we deal with it, is that not right?


Mr Sterling: There are only one or two questions as to how you have to deal with it, and that's why I can't understand why the committee can't get their hands around this. I don't understand the complexity of it.

The one issue we've got to deal with is the maximum of 11 members on a committee. My view is that you do away with that rule and you allow the House leaders to figure out how many members they're going to have on a committee. They may decide, in their wisdom -- in this Parliament it's 11; in some cases 12 or 13 to accommodate an independent member. In the next Parliament it may be six.

Mr Paul Johnson: If I may, your motion simply affirms that we agree that independent members of the Legislature have a right to sit on committees. That's all your motion does. Beyond that, there are other issues.

The Chair: Then we go on to the amendment.

Mr Sutherland: Mr Chair, I'm trying to bring this issue to a vote. Mr Sterling's motion is very straightforward, very clear. It says that independent members will sit on the committee. It has nothing to do with how that process will be done. What's been stated is that how that process is done would have to be negotiated by the House leaders at some point anyway. We all believe something should be worked out. I know the intent of Ms Sullivan's amendment, but my intent would be to just defeat Ms Sullivan's amendment and vote on Mr Sterling's motion.

Mrs Sullivan: I want my amendment passed because I want a signal to the Speaker that it is not the Speaker who will initiate changes; it will be the House leaders, who are representatives of the political parties, and not the Speaker who initiates those changes. That is an important signal to come from this committee.

Mr Paul Johnson: Cannot that signal be arranged through another motion rather than --

Mrs Sullivan: Well, we could also whisper in his ear. I think it will be quite clear with that amendment.

Mr Sterling: Why don't you call the amendment, Mr Chair.

The Chair: All those in favour of Ms Sullivan's amendment? Passed.

All those in favour of Mr Sterling's motion, as amended? Carried.

The Chair: Recommendation 5. Do we drop 5?

Mr Wessenger: Yes.

Mr Sutherland: This replaces 5.

The Chair: Fine; we go to 6. Do you want to read the relevant standing orders?

Mr Sibenik: Standing order 38(c) reads as follows: "On the introduction of a government bill, a compendium of background information shall be delivered to the opposition critics. If it is an amending bill, an up-to-date consolidation of the act or acts to be amended shall be delivered to the opposition critics unless the bill amends an act amended previously in the session."

Standing order 39(d) reads as follows: "The minister concerned shall distribute copies of all reports to all members of the House and copies of any background material to the opposition critics."

Basically, those two standing orders entitle opposition critics to certain information, and the issue is whether the committee wants to extend the access to information to independent members.

Mr Paul Johnson: Maybe it should be "made available upon request."

Mr Wessenger: That's what it says.

Mr Paul Johnson: I see. It's not just automatic.

Mr Sterling: There was some concern by some members, particularly my colleague Mr Villeneuve, that an independent member not be given special rights that other members don't have. Therefore, I would change the wording of this and say, "Any member of the Legislature should, upon request, be provided with information specified."

Mrs Sullivan: I agree with that.

Mr Paul Johnson: Straightforward.

The Chair: Everybody in favour of that change? Yes. Any other discussion on 6?

Mr Sterling: I just want to bring to the attention of the committee an incident which took place yesterday in the Legislature. As many of you know, we had first, second and third reading and royal assent of a piece of legislation dealing with the Lambton school strike. During that particular process, an independent member was quite aware of his ability to stop that from occurring. It required unanimous consent for us to deal with all of those three stages in one day; according to standing orders, I don't think a government has the right to have first and second reading, nor second and third reading, in the same day.

I hearken back to some of the discussion we had in September vis-à-vis unanimous consent. I only want you to know that one of the independent members in our Legislature was quite aware of his power during that time.

I had suggested at one point in time that we make it two, rather than one, to object to unanimous consent. We went away from that and got involved in a long debate as to how it's done at the House of Commons. The decision was that it's not a big enough problem and therefore we should forget about dealing with that issue and wait for something to happen. I'm glad something didn't happen yesterday, because I think that would have been very detrimental to the settlement of the Lambton school strike. I don't know whether members of the committee want to revisit that issue or whether they would just leave it as we have.

Mr Wessenger: I'd just like to get some clarification. I understand there's something in the federal rules that would allow a motion of the House to override a situation such as that. Perhaps we should ask for a report from a researcher with respect to what they do in the federal aspect, and we could look at that with respect to a possible recommendation.

Mr Sterling: I think we have had a report already on that, presented in September.

Mr Sibenik: I did indicate to the committee in September the provisions in standing order 56.1 in the Ottawa standing orders. That is a provision that deals with a situation where unanimous consent has been denied. What happens after that is that the government House leader can request that the Speaker put the question on the motion. If 25 or more members rise in their places, then the motion is deemed to have been withdrawn, so the situation is that 25 members are required in that particular situation. In fact, I have the provision right before me, and it reads as follows:

"In relation to any routine motion for the presentation of which unanimous consent is required and has been denied, a minister of the crown may request during routine proceedings that the Speaker propose the said question to the House....

"The question on any such motion shall be put forthwith, without debate or amendment."

Then the key provision is as follows,

"When the Speaker puts the question on such a motion, he or she shall ask those who object to rise in their places. If twenty-five or more members then rise, the motion shall be deemed to have been withdrawn; otherwise, the motion shall have been adopted."

So there is a deeming provision, in a sense, with respect to overriding the absence of unanimous consent.

Mr Sterling: So the individual member can stop it for a day, because they've got to go to the routine proceedings of the next day before there's a call.

Mr Sibenik: That's right.

Mr Sterling: I don't know. I'm just happy that saner heads prevailed yesterday in terms of what went on, but it frightened me a little in terms of --

Mr Paul Johnson: Well, we all have that power. It's not just the independents, of course. Any disgruntled labour person could have jumped up there and said no.

Mr Sterling: But when you're under the party structure, you have to answer to --

Mr Paul Johnson: You have to suffer the wrath of your colleagues.

Mr Wessenger: I'd certainly be willing to consider looking at it. I think 25 is a pretty high standard.

The Chair: No, you'd have 12.

Mr Wessenger: Even 12 might be too high for our circumstances; maybe five would be more appropriate for our circumstances.

Mrs Sullivan: You'd need 12 to block a vote?

Mr Wessenger: Yes, 12 to block a vote. If you want to bring a recommendation, I'd be prepared to ask the researcher to prepare for us a suggested rule change, if that's what you're suggesting.

Mr Sterling: Either that or we try to deal with it in a generic way: We say in the report that we recognize there's a problem with unanimous consents and dealing with independents, and then we draw perhaps the example of what the House of Commons does in order to meet that problem, and just leave it at that. Rather than us trying to hash out what is a reasonable kind of thing, I think the recognition of the problem is important.

Mr Wessenger: Yes, I would agree.

Mr Sterling: If everybody agrees, why don't we just say that we recognize there's a problem in terms of party discipline with an independent being able to utilize his voice of dissent when unanimous consent is called and that we recommend to the House leaders that they look at the standing orders of the House of Commons dealing with this matter.

Mr Wessenger: I'd support that.

The Chair: Everybody in agreement with the suggestion by Mr Sterling? Okay, that's number 7. Any other business of the committee?

Mr Paul Johnson: I'd just like to bring to the attention of all the committee members and legislative counsel the "Composition of the Legislature following Ontario General Elections" sheet that was given to all of us. I think it has an inaccuracy in it.

Mr Sterling: It sure does.

Mr Paul Johnson: I'm sure I'm not the only one who noticed it. When you go to the 1990 numbers, those aren't the numbers I remember from the 1990 election. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it was 74 for the New Democrats, 36 for the Liberals and 20 for the Progressive Conservatives. I know that's not your mistake.

Mr Sibenik: Maybe I should pass that on to the appropriate authority.

Mrs MacKinnon: I think you should.

The Chair: How many copies of this have you had out already?

Any other business of the committee? We're adjourned.

The committee adjourned at 1643.