Academic journal article Canadian Parliamentary Review

Legislative Reports: House of Commons

Academic journal article Canadian Parliamentary Review

Legislative Reports: House of Commons

Article excerpt

The second session of the 37th Parliament commenced on Monday, September 30th with the Speech from the Throne delivered by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, to both Houses of Parliament in the Senate Chamber. Reginald Belair (Timmins-James Bay, Lib.) was reappointed as Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole House and Eleni Bakopanos (Ahuntsic, Lib.) was reappointed Assistant Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole House. The six days of debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne were held over the next several weeks ending with the motion on the Address being adopted on Tuesday, October 22nd, 2002.

The controversy that raged in the early days of the session regarding alleged interventions by Lawrence MacAulay, the Solicitor General, in the consideration of applications for grants and contracts in his home province of Prince Edward Island subsided when the Minister resigned from Cabinet on October 22nd.

Several days later John Manley, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance tabled two documents entitled: Proposals to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Ethics Commissioner) and other Acts as a consequence and Proposals to amend the Rules of the Senate and the Standing Orders of the House of Commons to implement the 1997 Milliken-Oliver Report.

Other highlights during this period include a take-note debate on the international situation concerning Iraq (October 1-3), a second take-note on the state of the Canadian Coast Guard (November 6), and an emergency debate on Canadian agriculture (October 7).

Procedure

The new session began with a number of procedural stand-offs as the Government attempted to get parliamentary business underway. On October 3rd, Carol Skelton (CA) rose on a point of order and called upon the Speaker to review a motion on the Order Paper in the name of Mr. Boudria. The motion dealt with a number of items including the reinstatement of Government bills from the previous session, the reappointment, mandate and membership of the Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in Canada, the adducing of Standing and Special Committee evidence from the previous session and a proposal to empower the Finance Committee to travel for pre-budget consultations. Ms. Skelton argued that the motion was procedurally and ethically wrong because it contained four separate and distinct parts, each capable of standing on its own. She added that it was therefore impossible for Members to debate and cast their votes responsibly and intelligently on the motion. Speaker Milliken ruled on the matter the following day, and while allowing most components of the motion to be debated together, he ordered that it be split into two distinct questions for voting purposes. He directed that the portion of the original motion seeking permission for the Finance Committee to travel be dealt with as a separate item. Following the ruling, Mr. Boudria gave notice of closure on the debate on the two new motions which were subsequently agreed to on October 7th, 2002. It should be noted that for the first time since it was adopted, S.O. 67.1(1), which provides for a 30-minute question and answer period, was applied to a closure motion.

Disagreements between the Government and the Opposition on the striking of committees became the subject of the next procedural wrangle, which occupied the House over several days. The first report of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, tabled on October 21st, set out the proposed membership for standing committees. The second report of the same committee, tabled on October 29th, recommended the election of Chairs and Vice-Chairs of Committees by secret ballot. For several days, the Government and the Opposition tussled over attempts to concur in the two reports, with the Government trying to have the membership lists adopted and the Opposition holding out for agreement on the secret ballot proposal. On October 31st, the recommendations of the committee's second report were debated as a supply day motion, which itself had given rise to a test of the new rules providing for one day's notice of Opposition motions. …

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