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Actually, sorry; I am interested in saving time. Could I suggest that if everybody is in favour of something, then we actually just skip the recording of those votes, and if there's any opposition we then start the recording?
The Chair: Mr. Lukiwski, you need to move this, but before you do, I'll suggest that amendment G-1 is consequential to amendments G-2 and G-5, and a vote on amendment G-1 will also apply to amendments G-2 and G-5.
We're perfectly happy with the government amendments, except we would like to supplement them.
Within the current amendments, what would end up being subsection 67(5) in G-1, at the bottom of the page, would have to be renumbered as subsection 67(6) so that we could insert the following as a new subsection 67(5):
Within one month of the convening of a new Parliament after a general election, the chief agent of every political party shall report, in writing, to the Chief Electoral Officer the institutional position or positions of the person or persons who will be authorized by the party under subsection (6) to endorse prospective candidates.
I circulated a document giving the rationale. The rationale is simply that under the government amendments, which are welcome, it's still the case that nobody will know who is to endorse the candidates until this very late stage in an election process. The only requirement is to name a person, a human being, or more than one person. Our view is that a party should know well in advance what positions within their party structure are the ones that will be assigned this role, and therefore that can be named well in advance. Then the government's provision kicks in for naming who those persons are 25 days before polling day.
The way the bill is now written, I'm assuming that the link between the officer who approves prospective candidates and individual ridings has been separate, that is, it's not one person per riding. Am I correct in that, Mr. Scott?
Yes. It's now made completely general and optional. Each party indicates which person. Because of the government's amendment, “or persons”, it could well be that the party will decide that there's going to be a person per riding. They could decide that there's one person for the party as a whole, or they could decide that there's a panel at the national level, but the old system, Mr. Chong's system, has been entirely removed by this.
Well, this is the problem. In the event that it's still possible to do it by riding, and it may be the preferred system for some parties, as a practical matter it's impossible to do it a month after a Parliament, such as the current Parliament, has been convened, because we have no idea what the ridings are in fact going to be under the redistribution. That's an issue.
I would suggest that while I appreciate the intention here, I think this particular subamendment is problematic. Based on that, I will be voting against it.
I think that much about the Elections Act or the Parliament of Canada Act will take into account the norm of a riding association's continuity. When redistribution comes in, that then can be attended to if it causes any consequential problems.
The principle here is the important one. Let's put it this way. Implicitly, for those riding associations that continue to exist, as they will after an election, this is what they have to do. At a minimum, then, everybody knows that when it comes to riding redistribution, where these two side-by-side ridings have been assigned the role, when redistribution happens, something has to happen to combine them. I actually don't see it as a barrier.
I'll ask for a quick clarification. What you're doing here then, the substance of it, which is to say that you can nominate any person or persons, is not going to change under your subamendment. What you're doing is that you're doing it in advance of the convening of a Parliament. To do that well in advance, obviously, it will be well before 25 days.
It gives further clarification on, in the event of a tie, who actually will be presiding over the vote. There's a little bit more precision in case there are two members. For example, if both have the same length of service and you don't actually know which one shall take the chair to preside over the proceedings, it's the one who appears first in the Gazette. It just closes a loophole in case there were any problems with determining exactly who should be the one to preside over the—
What this is meant to deal with is it's inserting four words. At new subsection 49.8(1) in the government's amendment G-4, where it starts “At the first meeting” it should read, “Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions, the first meeting”. The reason for inserting the words “Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions” is it's technical in the sense that what we have here is a structure designed by Mr. Chong to have a bunch of prescriptive rules and they read like prescriptive rules. Now we're shifting into a structure that makes them optional, and what makes them optional is that each caucus votes on them. They're sitting at a very juxtaposed, almost contradictory, way and just as a matter of legislative drafting to create the sense of a transition, I would suggest adding those words so that we're signalling that everything that's gone before is now being governed by what's coming after.
I recognize that the government amendment does include subsection 4. You see that on page 5 of government amendment 4. It says, “The provisions referred to in each of paragraphs 1(a) to (d) apply only if a majority of all caucus members vote in favour of their applicability”. One could say that's indirectly an application clause. It basically says none of those rules beforehand apply, but really it's written as a rule to say what kind of majority is needed. It's not written as an application clause. Rather than inserting an application clause trying to figure out where that would be, we're on the record; we all know these are going to be optional rules, but I would just suggest a technical amendment that would link the two sections better than the current drafting does.
Very briefly, we don't believe the subamendment is necessary, Chair, specifically because the statute needs to be read as a whole, and it's certainly clear in the circumstances the provisions at issue apply when read in the statutory context.
The other thing I want to point out, Craig, in lieu of all of your subamendments, and I appreciate the spirit in which they were made, but quite frankly, we have spent an awful lot of time with Michael on this. We all want to see his bill passed, but we've spent an inordinate amount of time with him on some of the amendments that we brought forward. Michael has appreciated that. We worked with him very closely and we brought forward a package with which Michael is satisfied. To that end, frankly, I don't know if he's been made aware of any of your subamendments whatsoever.
I've discussed my subamendments extensively with Mr. Chong, and he is supportive of all of them, more supportive of some of them than others. The transparency ones he believes add to his bill. He would want to see them adopted.
Just to continue with the previous conversation, because this is a collegial process and because it's a private member's bill where one has to take the sponsor seriously, as the government is doing as well, I am aware of Mr. Chong's wanting to see a subamendment like this. We will be supporting it.
Yes. The reason is that subamendment 4, although it may be consequential in the sense of a necessary technical ruling from the legislative clerk, does add something significant. I'll read what subamendment 4 says. We'd be inserting a proposed subsection that would state: “For each caucus vote required after paragraphs (1)(a) to (d) where the caucus decides the relevant sections or subsections shall not be applicable in respect of that caucus”—for example, the caucus votes to reject the rule that says you elect your caucus chair—“the chair of the caucus shall inform the Speaker, in writing, what rules do apply within that caucus to the matters that are the subject of the rejected sections or subsections.”
I think that for everybody listening the reason for this is obvious. Without that clause, the transparency function of Mr. Chong's bill, having gone from prescriptive to spotlighting, will disappear. First, all that we'll know officially is that a caucus voted against a rule. We won't know in any official way what caucus rule is in place of it. Does this caucus still elect their chair? If so, how? Does this caucus have the chair appointed by the leader? We don't know.
The point is that the whole purpose of Mr. Chong's exercise has been to try to create the right kind of normative pressure and spotlighting, let's call it, on parties to make sure their rules on these points are transparent so that civil society, the media, and general political debate can pass judgment on whether each party is doing something that's democratically justified in terms of the rules of caucus governance.
Without this provision, we'll end up with a very stripped-down bill, as opposed to a bill which really plays the spotlighting role that going to an optional rules approach should require. That's why those two are together.
Yes, just quickly, we'll be voting against that. The whole intent of amendment G-4 is to provide some flexibility. Frankly, just by saying “in writing”, it denies the ability of the caucuses to determine by themselves which method they want to communicate by, both to their own members and to the Speaker.
Your subamendment says that it has to be done in writing as opposed to a caucus chair simply rising in the House and informing the Speaker of the outcome of the votes. We're saying that we're going for more flexibility as to this prescriptive “in writing” clause.
We're saying that's highly inadequate and that transparency is not served in the context of this bill if a record isn't created. This also will line up with our amendment asking that the Speaker cause the decisions of each caucus to be published on the parliamentary website.
Because of the requirement that we would have wanted to see to report to the Speaker in writing what rules do apply, whether you're accepting, let's call them the Chong rules, or you have your own rules, because that has now been voted against, this would have to be modified with reference to the information: “Once the Speaker receives the information in subsection (5)”—it couldn't say subsections (5) and (6)—“she or he shall cause to be published in an accessible manner on the website of Parliament the sections and/or subsections accepted through caucus votes as well as, if any of those sections or subsections have not been accepted, the rules that apply in their stead." Because we lost the vote earlier, the words “as well as...” are going to have to be struck just to be consistent.
Yes, and it now reads: “Once the Speaker receives the information in subsection (5),”—which each party has to tell the Speaker, apparently not in writing. Hopefully, as Mr. Lukiwski said, it at least will be somebody rising in the House to tell the Speaker so it will be in Hansard—“she or he shall cause to be published in an accessible manner on the website of Parliament the sections and/or subsections accepted through caucus votes.”
Here I really would like to appeal to the government. We now have a rather minimalist approach which is that each party does have to vote. They then have to tell the Speaker which ones they've accepted, effectively, what the result of the vote was, and all the information that the Speaker, under this provision, would be required to have put up on the website with respect to each recognized party caucus is literally did the party accept this, this, and this. It's still transparency, but really stripped down. I hope they would go with that.
(Subamendment negatived: nays 5; yeas 4 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
In this one I should say that as I tried to make clear earlier, and having consulted Mr. Chong, this is not one that he particularly feels all that strongly about because he's had lots of back and forth with the government and has not prevailed when the government inserted the clause that says, “The outcome of each vote is binding on the caucus until the next dissolution of Parliament.” So, he supports the fact that we're moving this but it's not one that he finds crucial. I want to be up front about that.
What we would like to do is, instead of saying the outcome of each vote is binding on the caucus until the next dissolution of Parliament, we would want to say, “Each caucus shall decide whether the outcome of each vote is binding on caucus until the next dissolution of Parliament”. There are provisions here to indicate that whatever that decision is also has to be communicated to the Speaker. There are a couple of reasons for this.
One reason is pure consistency. The government is kind of going to the wall here on this being a completely optional process where Parliament is not reaching inside parties and telling them what to do, and yet this clause tells each caucus what to do. It basically means that a caucus is prohibited from revisiting its own rules. I see that as completely inconsistent with the government's position.
For example, what if the Conservative caucus voted and all the MPs come back and a whole number of them are at sea because they've just been elected and they go with the flow and agree to continue with the rule that the leader of the party can appoint the chair, but a year later, they realize it might be better to elect a chair. This precludes that. I don't see it as keeping in the spirit of either Mr. Chong's bill or the government's philosophy that we should not be mandating what parties do.
I apologize for not getting to all of the amendments. Except for this, we had provided those to you before. This is a last-minute one. We've had discussions again with the sponsor. It's a very minor one.
There was one other item, now that we've finished Mr. Chong's bill. I congratulate him on his work and the committee on its work in getting it done within the period of time that Mr. Chong wanted to see it happen.
To go back to Mr. Stewart's e-petition motion and the report we're generating for it, can I ask the members if we can send it to you the paperless way?
I know that you're going to do the Christmas wishes to everybody, but I want to say, and I think I reflect what all of the Conservative members here feel, that not just the staff but the opposition members here are a real pleasure to work with, and it's an honour to have had the last year to work in their company.
Agreed. There are times when we differ philosophically, but this committee always seems to be able to leave the room with a smile on its face. We did some tough legislation this year when you consider the finishing of redistribution and the Fair Elections Act, so I thank all of you for that hard work.
I thank you for making your chair's job about as easy as it could possibly be.
Did you notice that we came second as best committee in the Hill Times survey? We tied with the defence committee, but they're far less than us anyway....