House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …
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4. The House of Commons and Its Members

For examples of Members changing parties, see Debates, March 13, 1972, p. 745; March 7, 1979, p. 3910. On April 20, 1977, an Opposition Member, Jack Horner (Crowfoot), crossed the floor to the governing party and was appointed Minister without Portfolio the following day. The decision of Members to leave the party under which they were elected to form a new group has occurred on at least three occasions since Confederation. In February 1943, three Members from Quebec left the Liberal Party to form the Bloc populaire canadien in response to the introduction of conscription (see Debates, February 10, 1943, pp. 309-13; February 18, 1943, pp. 532-7, 542-5). In 1963, members of the Quebec wing of the Social Credit Party broke away to form a new group called the Ralliement des Créditistes (see Journals, September 30, 1963, pp. 385-8). In 1990, in response to the failure of the Meech Lake Accord, eight Members of different political affiliations formed a new party, the Bloc québécois (see Debates, May 18, 1990, pp. 11615-7; May 22, 1990, pp. 11631, 11662-4; June 26, 1990, pp. 13087-8, 13121-3).
Franks, p. 87. For additional information on the role of the Member, see Fraser, pp. 58-63, and Supporting Democracy, Commission to Review Allowances of Members of Parliament, Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Vol. 2, 1998, pp. 59-83.
See Standing Orders 15 to 23. The Standing Orders contain provisions requiring Members to attend the business of the House, register foreign travel in certain instances, and disclose any pecuniary interest in a question before a vote. A number of other obligations, including dress code and decorum, are discussed in Chapter 13, “Rules of Order and Decorum”.
R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1 as amended by c. 31, 42 (1st supp.), c. 38 (2nd supp.), c. 1 (4th supp.), S.C. 1991, c. 20 and c. 30, S.C.1993, c. 13 and c. 28, S.C. 1994, c. 18, S.C. 1996, c. 16 and c. 35, and S.C. 1997, c. 32. For example, the Parliament of Canada Act prohibits Members from entering into a contract directly with the Government of Canada or from receiving any benefit under contract with the Government of Canada.
R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46 as amended by S.C. 1995, c. 22, s. 6. The most serious breaches of ethical behaviour are dealt with in the Criminal Code by making offences of bribery, influence peddling and breach of trust.
Standing Order 15: “Every Member, being cognizant of the provisions of the Parliament of Canada Act, is bound to attend the sittings of the House, unless otherwise occupied with parliamentary activities and functions or on public or official business”. Prior to 1994, Standing Order 15 read as follows: “Except as otherwise provided in these Standing Orders, every Member is bound to attend the service of the House, unless leave of absence has been given him or her by the House.” This Standing Order had remained unchanged since 1867. During the early years of Confederation, a Member who wanted permission to be absent from the House sought the necessary leave through another Member, who moved a motion to that effect. The usual reason for seeking leave was illness, but other family and personal reasons were commonly given (see, for example, Journals, May 8, 1868, p. 301; February 15, 1871, p. 10; April 13, 1877, p. 257). The last time a Member was granted a formal leave of absence was in 1878 when it was done by means of a resolution (Journals, April 26, 1878, p. 220). After 1878, the rule was no longer applied; the House chose to rely instead on statutory provisions which provided for monetary penalties for non-attendance (see An Act respecting the Senate and the House of Commons, R.S.C 1884, c. 10, s. 26). In 1994, this Standing Order was considered by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Members of the Committee expressed concern that the Standing Order was obsolete and did not reflect that Members are often prevented from attending a sitting of the House because of committee meetings or other parliamentary or constituency commitments. See Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, March 24, 1994, Issue No. 5, pp. 32-4; May 24, 1994, Issue No. 12, p. 6. See also the transcript of the meeting of May 3, 1994, pp. 1-10. On June 10, 1994, the House concurred in the Twenty-Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which included the amended wording for Standing Order 15 (Journals, June 8, 1994, p. 545; June 10, 1994, p. 563). See also Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, June 9, 1994, Issue No. 16, p. 3.
Debates, April 3, 1987, p. 4875. See also Debates, February 18, 1994, pp. 1553-4; June 21, 1994, p. 5674; December 5, 1995, pp. 17207-8.
R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 57(1).
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C.1985, c. P-1, s. 65(1).
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, ss. 57(3), 58 as amended by c. 31 (1st supp.), s. 61.
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 57(1).
R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 59.
Journals, July 17, 1973, p. 485.
Journals, November 27, 1974, p. 149; December 10, 1974, pp. 183-4.
Journals, June 10, 1975, pp. 615-8.
Journals, October 16, 1978, p. 22.
Journals, March 8, 1979, pp. 454-5.
See Report of the Task Force on Conflict of Interest entitled Ethical Conduct in the Public Sector (the Starr-Sharp Report) tabled on May 28, 1984 (Journals, p. 484).
Journals, November 25, 1985, pp. 1266-7.
Journals, March 26, 1986, p. 1926. See also Standing Committee on Management and Members’ Services, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, March 19, 1986, Issue No. 4, pp. 5-7.
Journals, September 1, 1988, p. 3508.
Journals, November 9, 1989, p. 842.
Journals, November 22, 1991, pp. 715-6, 717-8; June 10, 1992, p. 1677. See also the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on Conflict of Interests, Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence, June 9, 1992, Issue No. 17.
Journals, March 11, 1993, pp. 2618-9.
Journals, March 30, 1993, pp. 2742-3.
Journals, June 3, 1993, p. 3107.
Journals, June 19, 1995, pp. 1801-3.
Journals, March 12, 1996, pp. 83-4.
Journals, March 20, 1997, p. 1325.
See the Second Report of the Special Joint Committee on a Code of Conduct (Proceedings, March 20, 1997, Issue No. 6, pp. 7-21).
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, ss. 32-3 as amended by R.S.C. 1985, c. 1 (4th supp.), s. 29.
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, ss. 34-5, 38, 40. The contracting provisions in the Parliament of Canada Act date back to the days when a major activity of the government was the construction of public buildings.
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, ss. 34-36(1).
R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, ss. 121, 122, 124, 125.
Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, s. 748 as amended by S.C 1995, c. 22, s. 6.
See Maingot, 2nd ed., pp. 187-90. See also Chapter 3, “Privileges and Immunities”. Since 1960, a number of Members have been charged under the Criminal Code with either fraud, bribery, influence-peddling or breach of trust in their official capacity as a Member. In many instances, the charges were either dropped, the Member was acquitted, or the Member was found not guilty. In the few cases where a Member was found guilty of one of these charges (in some instances only after the Parliament in which they were charged had been dissolved), only one Member resigned his seat (see Debates, May 30, 1989, p. 2321); the others chose either not to seek re-election or were defeated in the following general election. See also Debates, May 24, 1989, pp. 2095-7.
The first conflict of interest code was issued by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in the early 1970s, while another version was introduced by Prime Minister Joe Clark in 1979. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney issued The Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders in September 1985 (see Debates, September 9, 1985, pp. 6399-402), and it was modified by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in 1994.
In 1994, a Reform Party Member, Ed Harper (Simcoe Centre), raised concerns in the House that a Parliamentary Secretary, Herb Dhaliwal (Vancouver South), had not complied with the conflict of interest guidelines for public office holders because a company in which he was part owner had government contracts. Mr. Dhaliwal denied the allegations and claimed that he had resigned as an officer and director of the company when he was named Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Speaker Parent ruled that this was a disagreement as to facts which did not fulfil the conditions of parliamentary privilege. See Debates, June 13, 1994, pp. 5217-8; June 16, 1994, p. 5437.
See Press Release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on June 16, 1994. Prior to June 1994, the Assistant Deputy Registrar of Canada performed the functions of the Ethics Counsellor.
Standing Order 23(1).
Journals, November 3, 1873, pp. 134-5; November 7, 1873, p. 142.
Debates, April 27, 1964, pp. 2582-3; April 28, 1964, pp. 2645-7; Journals, June 15, 1964, pp. 425-6. A related example can be found in Debates, February 20, 1984, pp. 1559-61, where the Speaker ruled on a question of privilege in which a Member alleged that a Canada Post employee had attempted to influence the Member’s actions in the House by way of threats and insults. The Minister of Labour had investigated the matter and determined that there was no foundation for the allegation. Because there was a conflict of opinion as to what had happened, the Speaker found that there was a prima facie question of privilege. The motion to have the matter referred to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections was subsequently defeated.
See, for example, Journals, April 5, 1886, pp. 112-5; May 28, 1886, p. 322; May 11, 1891, pp. 55-60; August 20, 1891, pp. 422-4. In each of these instances, the allegations were referred to a committee. In the first case, the committee reported back but its report was not printed (see Journals, May 18, 1886, p. 283); in the second case, Parliament was dissolved before the committee reported back; the August 20, 1891 allegation was not substantiated (see Journals, September 15, 1891, pp. 507-11). In the May 11, 1891 case, Thomas McGreevy (Quebec West) was expelled from the House (see Journals, September 29, 1891, p. 561). This matter is discussed in greater detail later in the chapter. In 1976, a former Member was quoted as saying before a court that a substantial number of Members of Parliament received bribes. A Member raised the matter as a question of privilege. The Speaker ruled that it was a prima facie matter of privilege and the House adopted a motion to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections (see Debates, May 7, 1976, pp. 13269-71 and 13280-1). The Committee invited the former Member to appear before it. In its report to the House, the Committee concluded that the former Member’s comments were “intemperate and irresponsible”. The Committee recommended that “the dignity of the House of Commons would be best served by giving the matter no further consideration”. See Journals, May 21, 1976, pp. 1305-7.
R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 41(1).
Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, s. 41(2).
R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, s. 119.
Standing Order 21. This topic is also discussed in Chapter 12, “The Process of Debate”.
Bourinot, 4th ed., pp. 387-8.
See, for example, Debates, June 4, 1900, cols. 6607-8.
The only time this was ever attempted, the question was not proposed to the House (Debates, May 22, 1956, pp. 4244-5).

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