STANDING COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE
AND HOUSE AFFAIRS
COMITÉ PERMANENT DE LA PROCÉDURE
ET DES AFFAIRES DE LA CHAMBRE
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Thursday, February 10, 2000
The Chairman (Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River,
Lib.)): I call the meeting to order. I see a quorum.
Thank you, colleagues, for wedging this meeting in
between bells for votes.
Our only purpose here today is to adopt the steering
committee's report on agenda and procedure. That is
our agenda for the next while.
The draft report is in front of you. You will see the
items numbered down the list. I think there was a
consensus and no objection to the agenda items. If
you'll just take a moment to look through it and raise
any questions you have, then I would accept a motion
from someone to move adoption of the report.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes, BQ): Mr. Chairman,
with regard to the report we have before us, I would
simply like to make a comment and call on the good judgment of the
In point 6, we agree to hold meetings in response to a request
made by the Chairman, and I think it is imperative that we respond
to that request. However, we continue by saying that these hearings
should begin on Tuesday, February 15, 2000, insofar as possible.
I wish to point out to the members of the committee that when
the Sub-committee on Agenda and Procedure met Tuesday morning, we
did not yet have a specific idea of the order in which the
government plans to introduce its work. We learned afterwards that
the government intended to study bill C-2 at report stage on Monday
and possibly continue with report stage on Tuesday or move to third
reading, according to how much work has been done by the end of the
day on Monday.
In light of the interest all the members of this committee
have in bill C-2, we know... One thing is certain, that is that
bill C-2 will be examined in the House on Tuesday. Will it be
report stage or third reading? We don't know, but bill C-2 will be
debated in the House on Tuesday.
In light of the importance we attribute to bill C-2 on
electoral reform, I submit that it might be well-advised for this
committee not to hold a meeting on Tuesday, but rather to begin its
study on Thursday. I foresee no negative consequence if the
committee were to delay by one hearing the beginning of its study
in order to allow all the members of this committee to take part in
the debate that will take place in the House on Tuesday on bill C-
2, as they should, as interested and informed parties.
The Chairman: Okay, thank you.
Monsieur Bergeron has outlined a consideration in
relation to item 6. Item 6 reads, “hearings to begin
on Tuesday, February 15, 2000 if possible”. He's
addressing the “if possible” consideration there.
Colleagues have heard his suggestion on that.
Is there any other item in the list members would want
to take up at this time? I'm not walking away from
that; we'll come back to it. But are there any others?
Mr. Gar Knutson (Elgin—Middlesex—London, Lib.): When we meet
with the Irish, I think we should have
hard refreshments, not light refreshments.
The Chairman: Irish refreshments. Something
commensurate with the heritage. All right. The clerk
has taken note.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Mr. Chairman, I wish to direct the
attention of the members of the Sub-committee on Agenda and
Procedure to the fact that the use of the English expression "light
refreshments" is a euphemism. Indeed, we know full well that at
each of the meetings we held with foreign delegations, we were
served a quasi-gargantuan meal, accompanied by quite remarkable
refreshments. I'd hate to see the term "hard refreshments" used,
because I hardly dare to imagine the type of meal we would be
served in such a case.
The Chairman: Well, I think what we want to do is
enhance clarity and reduce oxymoron. Okay, that's
If someone would move adoption of the report, we could
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos (Ahuntsic, Lib.): I so move.
(Motion agreed to)
The Chairman: Now we should deal with the issue
raised by Monsieur Bergeron. We probably will be
debating Bill C-2 on the Canada Elections Act on
Tuesday. Monsieur Bergeron has been leading his party's
initiative on that bill. It might be very inconvenient
for him to be here at the committee if we are debating
that bill. I have some sympathy for that. There may
be other colleagues from other parties with the same
difficulty, including your chair. I have that same
I'm going to suggest we wait and see how the
parliamentary calendar evolves. It seems to be
changing every three or four hours. If in fact we are
debating the report stage of Bill C-2 on Tuesday, would
there be consensus then to dispense with our meeting of
that date and roll everything backwards? Is that okay?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chairman: All right. We'll make the judgment
late on Monday. The clerk will get us organized on
Is there any other business? Ms. Parrish.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish (Mississauga Centre, Lib.): Actually
I have a question of you, Mr. Chair, on Bill
C-2. You'll recall that when we were going through the
working stage of that bill I asked you to send a
letter to the Privacy Commissioner with regard to
section 110, which says electoral lists can be
used to solicit memberships for parties and funds.
Subsequent to that, much subsequent to that, we got a
letter back from him; he was clutching his throat and
saying this was really not reasonable. Are we going to
do anything about that?
The Chairman: We're at liberty to do what we think is
best. That letter should be made available to
colleagues on the committee, if it hasn't been already.
The Clerk of the Committee: I
believe it was sent just before Christmas.
The Chairman: Yes.
Mr. Robertson suggests that we include this particular
issue in the draft report, that we will be considering
dealing with Elections Act issues that were not in the
bill. It's our follow-up report, if you recall. That
draft has not yet been circulated. There is a draft in
existence, and it will be circulated. Let's agree now
that reference to that issue will be included.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: I'd like to ask a further
question. If the bill passes on final reading and it
goes into law, is it too late to change that?
The Chairman: Barring unanimous consent in the House
at this time, it would not be possible to change the
bill in the House, that's correct. I wouldn't say we
could never get unanimous consent on something like
this, but perhaps we should roll that issue to the top
of the list.
I should tell members that there are about half a
dozen to ten separate, very minor amendments that I've
been advised the government would like to see made in
the bill before it proceeds beyond report stage. Those
amendments would all require unanimous consent in the
House. I haven't yet shown the list to colleagues
opposite—I haven't even shown the list to colleagues
on the government side.
They're all very minor, and colleagues who were with
us on the bill will recognize each very quickly, as to
what they involve. They're very technical. But I
think it's fair to say that if there were consensus
among members who served on the committee and generally
in the House to try to do an amendment at report stage
that would accommodate the concerns of the Privacy
Commissioner, then in theory it could proceed when we
debate the bill at report stage.
Maybe, Ms. Parrish, you'd like to carry that one.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: I wouldn't mind at all. I
disagreed with it when we did it, and I knew he would
come out with that kind of response. I think it's
outrageous. So if you give me direction, I will take
The Chairman: We have to be careful about doing
legislative amendments without our colleagues
throughout the House knowing about it. Just because we
think there's a mistake doesn't mean everybody else in
the House thinks it's a mistake. So with that in mind
then, perhaps you and I could collaborate on how that
might be circulated as an issue.
It's a little bit more than just a technical issue,
and I will be discussing this with colleagues opposite.
It's not a short list. There are about ten technical
items. If there is resistance in the House to
unanimity to correct them, we'll have to live with
In theory, as well, although some of us don't like to
pay too much attention to it, there's always the other
place, just in case we have made a mistake and there's a
need for sober second thought. I know some us like
to think we always get it right the first time.
Are there any other issues?
Mr. Hill, and then Mr. Bergeron.
Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Ref.): Mr. Chairman,
I guess it's unclear at this point in
time whether we'll be meeting on Tuesday, but in any
event, if the first order of business is going to be to
deal with the referral by the Speaker in regard to the
100-signature issue, we still haven't discussed who
we're going to be calling as witnesses. I wonder how
we're going to proceed with that.
Are we going to discuss it now and come up with a game
plan, or are we going to wait until the first meeting
and do it then? I have some opinions on that, as
I tried to express at the subcommittee.
The Chairman: Quite customarily we would call the
clerk to provide us with the clerk's view of the
procedure, the history, and suggestions for any
modifications, and that would have been our first
witness. So there's one meeting.
If you have a short statement you'd like to make or
want to address issues now, if colleagues don't mind
listening for a couple of minutes, then go ahead.
It won't hurt if we do it now.
Could we just knock off the subcommittee report? We
did adopt it, sorry. That's done. All right, go
Mr. Jay Hill: The point I was making in the
subcommittee was that I really don't see any benefit in
calling the two individuals who were involved in the
point of privilege on this issue. My fear there is
that especially in light of the subject that we'll be
discussing—private members' business—which all of us
certainly hope is as non-partisan as possible, were
they to be called, it could basically devolve into a
more partisan discussion than is necessary.
I refer directly to... I'll quote from the Speaker's
ruling, just a couple of quick points. He said:
There are no previous rulings to which the Speaker can
turn for guidance in such a case, nor were comments
made in the House prior to the adoption of these new
Standing Orders which might be of assistance.
And then later on he said:
“...the exact meaning of placing a signature on the list is
not clear”. And further:
If our new procedures to
increase the opportunity of Members to present their
own initiatives are to be a success, we must ensure
that we proceed on the basis of a common understanding
and agreement as to how the rules governing them are to
I think that basically encapsulates what these
meetings are about, to try to decide on a clear rule on
the process. The issue between Mr. Chatters and Mr.
Bryden is just an example. I don't think that either
one of those gentlemen would be able to enlighten us as
to the problems more than they've already done in
the debate that took place in the House.
Therefore, I certainly agree that the obvious choice
would be the clerk as our first witness. And further,
perhaps we should consider the chairman of the
Subcommittee on Private Members' Business, who was
present at the time this new order came in—I wasn't
aware that it was my colleague across the way, but
perhaps she would have some views that would help to
enlighten the committee—as well as some of the other
committee members who agreed to that process, in terms
of what they intended. I think that's what we're
really dealing with: what was the intent of the
fast-tracking that could take place by gathering 100
The Chairman: That's fine.
Ms. Carolyn Parrish: I also suggest that we make
sure we distribute that report, because there was tons
of background information on exactly why that
regulation came in and how we came to it. So I think
that's very helpful, and that report's on file. If you
don't have it, I've got it in my office.
The Chairman: I was just going to say the chair
doesn't disagree with any of the principles enunciated
by Mr. Hill at all, but given that our report back to
the House may deal lightly or radically with Mr.
Bryden's bill, I think we have to allow him an
opportunity to speak to us. And if we allow Mr. Bryden
to speak to us, then Mr. Chatters may also wish to.
I wouldn't want to actually do something that deals
directly with a member's bill that would help or hurt
it without allowing the member to speak to us. That's
only one consideration. But I agree with trying to
keep it procedural and non-partisan here.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: On that point, Mr. Chairman, perhaps we
could begin our work and decide later whether or not our two
colleagues should come. If we feel it is appropriate, we can then
determine when we would like to have them here. That was my first
Secondly, although we have moved off that topic to a certain
extent, I would like to come back to the point raised by
Ms. Parrish. I think she is raising an important point which she
had already raised when the report was studied in committee. She
had asked that we get in touch with the Privacy Commissioner to
obtain his advice on the possibility of parties using the electors'
list to recruit members.
For one reason or another, it seems that no one from the
department or the committee, no members of the committee, took the
initiative of passing on that inquiry to the Privacy Commissioner.
Consequently, perhaps we should look into it.
I want to add in this regard that regardless of practices or
procedures put in place by our party in the House because of
circumstances we are all familiar with, we are entirely ready to
co-operate with all other parties in order to see the Electoral Act
amended in any way that might improve it; it is the fundamental law
underlying Canadian democracy and it explains our presence here
today, each and everyone of us. So in that connection, have no
I would prefer that we do it, even if this means that we might
have to be a bit more flexible on certain matters, such as the
following: that the non-elected members of the other House have the
opportunity of expressing their opinion on the Electoral Act, which
in fact allows the elected members of this House to be here doing
what they do.
The Chairman: Okay, thank you for that.
If there are no further comments or business, we've
done our job. We've used the 30-minute bell very well
and efficiently. Thank you very much.