Interventions in Committee
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View Arnold Chan Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Thank you, Minister. I really appreciate your presence. I simply want to put it on the record that it is an honour to work with you and your entire House team on moving the government's legislation forward.
I want to follow up on some of the very early line of questioning from Mr. Dubé related to when you first issued your discussion paper that proposed changes to the Standing Orders. He raised the issue of consensus. One of the motions that was brought forward before this committee, in response to Mr. Simms' original motion that had tried to move that discussion forward within this particular committee, was the notion that all of the recognized parties actually needed unanimity for any changes to move forward in the Standing Orders.
I wanted your thoughts on that particular concept between the notion of consensus and unanimity, on whether it is in fact appropriate that no changes can move forward unless all recognized political parties agree to those particular changes in the Standing Orders. I find that this kind of threshold would be exceptionally difficult to meet, and that it would ossify the Standing Orders. They are, from my perspective, a living document that needs to evolve with practices in the reality of the House in modern times. I wanted your thoughts with respect to the difference between the notion of consensus and the notion of unanimity. I think the latter in fact suggests that it essentially grants a particular veto to one political party, which I think is a very high threshold to meet.
View Arnold Chan Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Minister. I appreciate your kind comments.
A large part of your opening statement dealt with the subsequent aftermath after things sort of fell.... As I said, I think there was probably a willingness to discuss substantively the aspects of the discussion paper, because even during the filibuster much of the conversation centred on the issues we were trying to engage members on. The only unfortunate part was that we had wanted the opportunity to bring expert witnesses, particularly from other jurisdictions, who I think could have helped inform this committee, with respect to different ways in which we could approach the operation of the House and the operation of committees. But whatever happened that...whatever occurred, it subsequently occurred.
What I'm more concerned about, Minister, is that we subsequently moved to a discussion about the areas that we were committed to in the electoral platform. It is your position that we have a mandate to move forward on those issues, regardless of whether there is consensus or unanimity among all of the political parties, because we were elected on that particular mandate. You eloquently laid out the different aspects of those items—the prime minister's question period, prorogation, estimates, omnibus bills, and the operation of committees.
Many of those aspects, with the exception, I think, of estimates, do not necessarily require a change to the Standing Orders. They can basically be done by practice and by convention. Do you have a particular view on why it's important, for example, for there to be codification of these other aspects in the Standing Orders—like the prime minister's question period, like prorogation, like omnibus bills, and like the operation of committees—that would strengthen and improve accountability of future parliaments?
View Arnold Chan Profile
Lib. (ON)
I sat in that 41st Parliament. Let's just say that it was part of my living experience with respect to some of these aspects. I've found that at least in most aspects—maybe not in the last few months, but certainly in large part—we've tried to be far more open in terms of our approach and to allow for more fulsome debate.
I don't really have a critical question left with respect to any of the other elements, but I do want to note an example this past week with regard to the New Democratic Party. One of the opposition motions that had been tabled in the House dealt with changes to the Standing Orders, and yet there was complaining about the fact that we shouldn't be able to move a motion to change the Standing Orders without consent from this particular committee. I found there was a little bit of an ideological disconnect taking place this week.
Do you have any other further thoughts on what you think might change the actual approach and tone of the House? One of the other things you ultimately did when you issued your second letter, after it was clear that the filibuster would go on indefinitely if we didn't change tactics, was indicate that we unfortunately would have to use more time allocation motions. Unfortunately, that has had to take place. Those are, of course, the rules that we have at the moment in terms of advancing the government's legislation. Is there another way in which we could do this without the necessity of that particular process? I'm like everyone else; I find it unfortunate that this is the mechanism we have to use, but it's the only mechanism the government has if there is a complete stalemate between the political parties.
View Arnold Chan Profile
Lib. (ON)
Members are automatically in.
View Arnold Chan Profile
Lib. (ON)
It doesn't matter. If you're in the chair, you're automatically in.
View Arnold Chan Profile
Lib. (ON)
I thought you would appreciate that.
View Arnold Chan Profile
Lib. (ON)
Commissioner and Mr. Chénier, I want to thank you both for appearing today.
I want to follow up on some of the comments from my fellow colleagues about a particular recommendation, B27, inducements by non-residents. I want to deal with a very specific example in my mind, and I want to get your thoughts about it.
I have within my riding a fairly large number of schools that provide services for foreign students, international students, who come to Canada often in order to complete secondary school and prepare potentially for continuing their education in Canada at a post-secondary level.
One of the things that often comes up, and it certainly happened in my election, is they're interested in participating in the Canadian political process. One of the requirements they have, for example, is to get enough volunteer hours, which is a requirement for graduation. In Ontario, they need 40 hours. They often come banging on my door saying that they would like to help me in my election and asking if they get any volunteer hours. These are essentially non-resident international students.
Do they breach the act under the current provision of section 331 by participating in a Canadian election?
View Arnold Chan Profile
Lib. (ON)
These are non-residents, so they're here on a temporary basis. They're residing in Canada but they're not.... They're temporary residents so they're non-residents. They don't have status in the sense of being a Canadian resident. Technically, are they fine because they have this temporary status?
View Arnold Chan Profile
Lib. (ON)
Again, I was just concerned about that particular.... I know the current recommendation is the repeal of the section, and I agree that the most difficult part related to this normally is enforcement, particularly for those who reside wherever they reside. If you're blogging about the Canadian election and you're living in Burma, it's hard to actually have any kind of a.... You can say that, yes, they are intending to influence our election, but there's no real practical enforcement mechanism.
I'm sensitive to the issues that Blake and others have raised with respect to foreign influences, but in the world of social media, I just don't know how we effectively, other than as it relates to actual resources like monetary, have any kind of regulatory control over this type of activity in this day and age.
View Arnold Chan Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would propose that we get a couple of minutes of committee business in. I know we are pressed for time, but I would like to at least table the government's position with respect to managing the way we deal with committee business on Thursday.
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