Canada, Senate Debates, “Motion for an Address to Her Majesty the Queen—Motion in Amendment—Procedure Respecting Debate”, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess (23 April 1981)
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, Senate Debates, 32nd Parl, 1st Sess, 1981 at 2324-2338.
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SENATE DEBATES — April 23, 1981
MOTION FOR AN ADDRESS TO HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN— MOTION IN AMENDMENT—PROCEDURE RESPECTING DEBATE
Hon. Jack Austin: Honourable senators, I should like to address a question to the Deputy Leader of the Government. Could he tell us what the order of the debate will be with respect to the Constitution and, particularly, at what time amendments will be brought before the chamber, and what time will be permitted for debate on such amendments? I am particularly interested in hearing the opposition members argue the position of their party on the suspensive veto and how that would work in this chamber.
Hon. Martial Asselin: In the committee you voted against the supremacy of God. Do you remember that? I was there.
Hon. Royce Frith (Deputy Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, in answer to the question asked by Senator Austin regarding, first, the Constitution resolution, the order of the Senate which honourable senators will find on page l 132 of the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Senate for Wednesday, April 15, 1981 contemplates that we will use most of our time this afternoon and this evening to discuss that resolution. It is understood—I may be corrected if I am wrong—that no honourable senator needs to feel limited by the fact that the amendments that are before the other place technically are not yet before us. In other words, any honourable senator who wishes to speak on the amendments that are being debated in the other place should feel free to do so. So we can use up our time more or less in anticipation of those items, because we know that according to our order we will be moving substantially those amendments. In fact, according to our order we will move exactly the amendment that is accepted by the other place—
Hon. Jacques Flynn (Leader of the Opposition): No, no. I think the Deputy Leader of the Governement is trying to suggest something that he really does not mean. He did not say that last week, and I hope he will retract it immediately.
Senator Frith: The order provides—
Senator Flynn: No, no. Look at what you said last week. Let us not argue.
Senator Frith: I am not seeking to argue anything. I am simply trying to point out what the motion says. I do not want to argue anything. Paragraph 4 says:
The Order to resume the debate on the main motion shall be called at 10.00 a.m. on Friday, April 24, 1981 and, notwithstanding any other motion in amendment thereto, the Leader of the Government in the Senate shall forthwith be given the floor to move any amendments to the said Address adopted by the House of Commons on Thursday, April 23, 1981, pursuant to the Special Order adopted by that House—
That is all I meant to say. If I said something different from that, then I did not intend to do so.
Senator Flynn: I think you said that I would have to move exactly the same.
Senator Frith: No, no. Let us be very clear about that. The Leader of the Opposition is not bound in any way to move any amendment; no, not at all. I meant that the Leader of the Government would—
Senator Flynn: Then I withdraw.
Hon. Raymond J. Perrault (Leader of the Government): We were speaking for ourselves. You may choose to differ from your leader.
Senator Flynn: I stand corrected once more.
Senator Frith: In terms of standing corrected, as between you and me, I would say it is two to one in your favour—at this point anyway.
Senator Flynn: I am not sure about that.
Senator Frith: In any event, honourable senators, that is what the order provides. The relevance of that is that no honourable senator, in speaking today on the Constitution resolution, needs to feel limited by the resolution in its form before us, and he or she should feel free to speak about the amending package as it has been tabled in the other house.
The next step will be at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning when, pursuant to paragraph 4, the Leader of the Government will be given the opportunity to move the amendments adopted in the other place; following which the Leader of the Opposition will be given the opportunity to propose any amendment he wishes. I then expect that the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition will be the first to speak to their proposed amendments. Senator Yuzyk’s amendment will still technically be before us at that point.
We will, therefore, spend the time between I0 a.m. and 12 noon tomorrow discussing those amendments, but, again, we can discuss them also, to the extent that we know about them, today.
If I may take the opportunity to say what I think will be happening today and tomorrow, it is that if Senator Smith is ready with his report, then before we get to the resolution on the Constitution we will hear his report and deal with third reading of the post office bill. When we have disposed of that, there is a bill, Bill C-50, that Senator Buckwold will be sponsoring, and he is ready to proceed with it, but Senator Flynn and I have agreed that we want. to give the maximum time to the Constitution, so I have proposed that that stand on the order paper, and we will continue to stand it and not deal with it at all, unless we have the time. If we do have the time, we will give it second reading.
Then we will proceed to the Constitution resolution, dealing with it in the manner we have just discussed. I will be yielding to Senator Lang, and when he has spoken we will proceed and probably use all of the time available to us to discuss the Constitution. Only when we have run out, so to speak, will we deal with other business. That is how I see the proceedings for the rest of today and tomorrow. If there is something I have not made clear, I will be glad to try to do so.
Hon. Jean-Paul Deschatelets: Honourable senators, my question has to do with the vote on the amendments tomorrow. Could you tell us clearly how you intend to proceed? Will there be a specific vote for each specific amendment, or one vote for several amendments? It is not very clear in this order of the house.
Senator Frith: The wording of the order is meant to establish only omnibus amendments in the same form—
Senator Flynn: No! No!
Senator Frith: That is, there are only three amendments that are before us for voting. There will be the omnibus amendment of the government, the omnibus amendment of the opposition—
Senator Flynn: No! No!
Senator Deschatelets: The Deputy Leader will realize, then, that if I am against one amendment, and in favour of another amendment, and if the two are put together, I will have to vote against. This is the position I will be in.
Senator Frith: That is my understanding of the order that was agreed to in the other place, the same as here. Senator Flynn: I disagree entirely with the position taken by the Deputy Leader of the Government. I suspected that he would try to pull that. I should not say that. I thought he was preparing the ground for what he is saying now, just a few moments ago.
There is nothing in this order that would permit the majority here to impose on us the necessity to vote an omnibus amendment. There is nothing of that kind here. In the house, all right, but that is their problem. It is not our problem, and the amendments have to be voted the way they are presented, and if they are presented separately, they are going to be voted separately. If you are trying to impose closure on us in this way, you had better think again.
Senator Frith: Perhaps we are going to end up with a two-two score, because I am not attempting to “pull” anything, or to have anything happen except what is in the order. The order provides that no amendments or sub-amendments may be proposed to the said motion except those moved by the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate on Friday, April 24, as provided herein. The Leader of the Government can move the adoption of amendments already adopted in the other place. We have already covered that.
—no amendments may be moved to such amendments, but the Leader of the Opposition may, immediately after the said motion of the Leader of the Government, move any amendment to the said motion for an Address; and both the amendments of the Leader of the Government and the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition may be debated at the same time but without further amendment.
Paragraph 5 says:
Every question necessary to dispose of any amendments moved by the Leader of the Government or by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate or the motion in amendment by the Honourable Senator Yuzyk, if it is still before the Senate, shall be put, in that order, no later than 12.00 noon on Friday, April 24, 1981.
I am certainly not suggesting that we propose an amendment and that no other amendment is available; but the
amendment that is proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, according to paragraph 4, I take it, need not be an omnibus amendment. It is nevertheless one amendment only.
Senator Flynn: The deputy leader has a convenient memory. When we discussed this motion, I mentioned that there was certainly an error made by using the singular in that paragraph when, in the following paragraph, the plural was used. I mentioned that, and there was no correction made by either the deputy leader or the Leader of the Government. There was never an understanding; there was never a discussion to the effect that we would have only one question on all the amendments that we wished to move. I will ask my deputy leader to support my statement that, in the discussions we had, there was never any question that we would be limited to one vote on all the amendments that we wish to propose.
Senator Frith: There is clearly a misunderstanding—
Senator Flynn: There is more than a misundertanding.
Senator Frith: No, there is not anything more than a misunderstanding. There is a misunderstanding. The intention was to make this order resemble as closely as possible the order in the other place.
Senator Flynn: That is something else.
Senator Frith: In my opinion, one of the absolutely key elements of the order in the other place was the omnibus amendment provision. It was clearly my understanding—
Senator Flynn: No!
Senator Frith: Don’t say no to what my understanding was.
Senator Flynn: I say no.
Senator Frith: The honourable Leader of the Opposition is telling me no as to what my understanding was. Let me say what my understanding was; we already know what his is.
Senator Flynn: I challenge your sincerity.
Senator Perrault: Listen and grow in wisdom.
Senator Frith: I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition challenges my sincerity. Whether it is challenged or not, here it is. It was clearly my understanding—and, I thought, everyone’s understanding—that we were attempting to make this order resemble as closely as possible the order in the other place. It was my understanding, secondly, that a very important part—an absolutely vital part, in my opinion—of the order in the other place was the concept of omnibus amendments made by the government, the opposition and the New Democratic Party. In my opinion, that is why we used the word “amendment.”
Senator Flynn: No.
Senator Frith: I repeat, in my opinion that was why we used the word “amendment”, and it was very definite that we were operating with a view to keeping as closely as possible to the order in the other place.
Senator Perrault: Hear, hear.
Senator Frith: That is why, when I gave notice of the motion, I said that we were trying to keep it as close to the form of the order in the other place as possible. My understanding of clause 4—I suppose we will have to have a ruling on it and I am sorry about the misunderstanding—
Senator Flynn: Sorry! Spare me!
Senator Frith: There is no doubt that we do not have the ability to move any more than one amendment; the opposition has the right to move one amendment; and the amendments that are voted on, according to clause 5, are the government’s amendment, the opposition’s amendment and Senator Yuzyk’s amendment.
Hon. Duff Roblin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I am not certain that I can shed too much light on this convoluted and arguable matter, but it is perfectly clear that the government and the opposition start from different points of view in the whole development of this procedural resolution that we have before us.
As the Deputy Leader of the Government has quite correctly stated, it was his object all along to secure a resolution from this chamber which was identical in all respects to what had been agreed to as the procedure to be followed in the other chamber. However, I think it is equally correct to say that it was the clear objective of the Leader of the Opposition to do no such thing. The question was how far would we in the opposition be able to go to meet an objective with which we did not agree, but which we were willing to discuss, because we wanted to come to the largest possible measure of agreement as to how we should proceed with this matter here.
Perhaps it is not appropriate for me to dwell too much on what was said in our private discussions, but if I can by inference deal with the position taken by the deputy leader, let me say that many of us on this side of the house objected, as a fundamental matter of principle, to the fact that the government was insisting that only the Leader of the Opposition can move amendments on this side of the chamber. Many members of the caucus to which I belong wish to produce amendments of their own. I do not know whether all of the independent members of the chamber might give up their right to move amendments, but it seemed to us to be a fundamental abrogation of the rights of a member of this body to prohibit him or her from moving amendments.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Roblin: I have to admit that we conceded that point. I have to admit that it was our judgment that, in view of the time element that was involved here and the agreements that had been made elsewhere, we should concede that point. Therefore, we moved a step in the direction of the government by agreeing to the proposal that only the leaders could produce amendments, even though we received very strong and vigorous protests from members of our caucus as to the propriety of entering into such an agreement. However, for better or for worse, we did agree and we are prepared to stand by that agreement. We took that step to meet the view of the govern-
ment that we should do here exactly what was done in the other chamber.
The second proposal that was made to us was that we on this side would only produce as amendments what was produced as amendments by our counterparts in the Progressive Conservative Party opposition in the House of Commons. It was said to us that the Progressive Conservative caucus in this house was to produce, through the mouth of its leader, the resolutions and amendments—and nothing but the resolution and amendments—introduced by the opposition in the other house. To that we took exception. It was our view that no doubt in many respects we will be producing resolutions which are similar to those in the other place, but we in no way wish to be bound.
We could not concede the constitutional propriety of agreeing that the opposition in this house should be bound to do precisely what was done by the opposition in the other house, because it was not our view that such a process was in conformity with our understanding of the role of the Senate or, indeed, of any independent. democratic body, as we are so fond of telling people we are.
We said to the government, “You can do what you like.” We could see, from a procedural point of view, their problem if they did not produce amendments consistent with those in the other chamber. We had no difficulty with that. However, it did not seem to us that we should be bound in the same way here, nor was it ever agreed by me—and it was certainly not agreed by my leader, as you have heard most emphatically from him—that any resolutions that we produce should be dealt with as a basket case. I think that is a rather appropriate expression to use at this stage in our proceedings, because a basket case is certainly what this constitutional debate has become at the present time. At no time did we agree to that proposition. It may have been assumed that we agreed to it. Obviously, this assumption was made, because the Deputy Leader of the Government is a man of probity and he would not have said that that. was his view if he did not sincerely believe it. I give him full faith and credit in that respect. I accept his assurance without any doubt, but I have to say that it is not my view of the matter.
The point is underlined because I said to my leader, having read over this resolution, that the word “amendment” in paragraph 4 is in the singular and it ought to be in the plural, if my understanding of the procedure was correct. Accordingly, the Leader of the Opposition made the point—and you can find it at page 2307 of the Senate Hansard of April 15—that the word “amendment” should be in the plural so as to avoid any possibility of doubt or the kind of debate we are having here. No objection was taken to that. No one said to us, “That is not right. You have got the wrong end of the stick.” As far as I could see, that was accepted by those on the other side of the house as being a correct, accurate and acceptable statement of the position.
You can imagine, then, my interest, if nothing else, when I read the Hansard of that day in which that correction had not been made, and in which the word still exists in the singular form rather than in the plural form. It seems to me that it would be quite wrong for us to agree that we had given any undertaking that the basket approach to amendments would be appropriate.
I have to say that, apart from any procedural matter, I have the strongest objection in principle to dealing with amendments to the Constitution in this way. Honourable senators on the other side of the chamber may want to deal with a miscellaneous group of amendments which have no relation to one another, logically or inherently, except that they are part of a very lengthy constitutional resolution, but how on earth can members of this house express an opinion? We are shackled.
If, for example, this package contains amendments dealing with the powers of the Senate, rights of women, the amending formula and all these various matters which have no logical, intrinsic connection one with the other, how in the name of goodness can people logically and in good conscience stand up and vote yes or no. It is not a question of giving a bill second reading when one is confronted with the dilemma of deciding whether there are more pluses or minuses, and voting accordingly. We are dealing with the Constitution of the country and with most fundamental principles. If we are being asked to consider resolutions on fundamental principles that have no relationship one with the other, all together, hugger-mugger in a basket, I believe it derogates from the probity of the people who sit here. I, for one, would not be prepared to support such a proposal.
I fully agree with the position taken by the Leader of the Opposition, that we are unaware of any understanding that this side of the house was obliged to submit resolutions in a basket and vote on them holus-bolus. We take the view that it is a matter of good judgment, common sense and prudence in discussing the affairs of the country, and in dealing with the wide group of disparate matters which one can expect will be moved from this side of the house, that we should be able to test in this chamber, separately and one at a time, these matters of principle as they are discussed. I believe that to do anything else makes a joke of the entire proceedings.
Senator Perrault: Honourable senators, one might have hoped that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would have spoken in these terms of outrage and concern to his own caucus, to the leader of his party or to this chamber several weeks ago, days ago or even hours ago. Senator Roblin should be reminded once again of the unique situation we have here. This unusual situation has been admitted by all the national parties and their leaders.
Senator Flynn: No.
Senator Perrault: The Right Honourable the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the New Democratic Party have agreed that in view of this unique situation, in view of the fact that any address to Westminster from the Senate and the House of Commons must go forward in identical form, because it must be a joint address, and in view of the many days and weeks of
debate and discussion regarding the constitutional proposals, together with a decision to hear from the Supreme Court of Canada before any final vote, a unique format was warranted in order to expedite the passage of this measure through Parliament. More specifically, it was agreed that the amendments passed by Parliament should be made known to the Supreme Court by April 24. It was agreed that the Supreme Court must know the ideas of Parliament before it renders its judgment.
Honourable Senator Frith spoke very eloquently on this point several days ago when he reported upon the historic agreement achieved by the political parties and the leaders of the parties. This is not a matter of a wilful Prime Minister or the government unilaterally imposing a procedure upon both houses of the Parliament of Canada. We have an agreement made by the Leader of the Liberal Party, the Leader of the Conservative Party and the Leader of the New Democratic Party on behalf of both chambers of Parliament. We have been informed of that—
Senator Asselin: No, impossible.
Senator Perrault:—through representatives of all the parties in the other place. Yet today we have a situation where the leadership of the official opposition in the Senate is telling us that this agreement is contrary to all principles of democracy, where the opposition leaders feign outrage and condemn a procedural agreement which their own national party leader has affirmed is suitable, and to which every Progressive Conservative member of Parliament in the other place has agreed. Here is a party which the other day entered into a solemn agreement that two hours would be set aside to dispose of the various amendments in grouped form and now claims that the entire procedure is wrong and undemocratic and that it tramples on the rights of Parliament. Where were these speeches a few days ago—
Senator Flynn: They are there in Hansard, if you would just read them.
Senator Perrault:—when we had our discussion on the resolution? There is an element—
Senator Flynn: I said that last week.
Senator Perrault:—of absurdity here.
Senator Flynn: Only in what you say.
Senator Perrault: The opposition has initiated a spurious debate. A few days ago, the government in this place stated that it would not wish to restrict the right of the official opposition to move its package of amendments. We agreed that the package need not to be the same as the package in the other chamber.
Senator Perrault The Leader of the Opposition knows that. We did not agree to some procedure which would trample on the rights of the opposition in this house We did not say that the opposition here must march in lock step with the views of the Progressive Conservative members in the other chamber.
Senator Roblin: Bravo; so it doesn’t need to be the same. But we did agree that, in view of the time available to us and in order to make certain that these matters were given fair consideration, amendments proposed both by the government side and the opposition side would be grouped together in order that they may be debated and in order to make known the mind of Parliament. These are the facts.
Senator Flynn: Come to the point and try to be objective and practical.
Senator Perrault: I was party to the negotiations, and the Leader of the Opposition is aware of that fact. Senator Flynn: You are aware of what I told you in your office.
Senator Perrault: Not once did the honourable senator ever express this view during any of the negotiations. We talked in terms of amendments—
Senator Flynn: Never.
Senator Perrault:—and in terms of the omnibus package produced by the government.
Senator Flynn: No, I never said that. I challenge you. I say you are lying.
Senator Perrault: Honourable senator, you disgrace the rules of Parliament by popping up like a jack-in-the-box.
Senator Flynn: I do not care; I should not have to listen to your saying things which are lies.
Senator Perrault: Please maintain your calm. Let us have some order.
The Hon. the Speaker: Order, please.
Hon. Allister Grosart: His Honour is on his feet. Sit down.
Senator Perrault: There is no disorder on this side.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I suggest that we calm down and discuss this very important point in an orderly fashion.
Hon. G. I. Smith: Honourable senators, I have—
Senator Perrault: Honourable senators, I had the floor. Is the honourable senator raising a point of order?
Senator Smith: What are you saying here? I did not get up to speak to you.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is the honourable senator rising on a point of order?
Senator Smith: I rose because I thought the honourable senator was finished.
The Hon. the Speaker: If the honourable senator is not rising on a point of order, then the Honourable Leader of the Government should be allowed to continue.
Senator Smith: I want to make it very clear that I thought that the honourable senator had finished, otherwise I would not have risen.
Senator Perrault: I took my place because His Honour the Speaker was on his feet. If the honourable senator has a point of order, I would be pleased to sit down.
Senator Smith: I am not asking you to sit down. I thought that you were finished.
Senator Grosart: Or that it was time that he was finished.
Senator Perrault: Honourable senators, in my view, the negotiations with the official opposition in this place have proceeded with uncommonly good grace. There have been none of the disagreements such as have emerged this afternoon, to the surprise of all of us on this side. We are proposing, in view of the fact that these omnibus packages must be produced at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning, and the vote must be at 12 o’clock, that the most efficient way of handling the matter is to have the amendments grouped as has been done in the other place.
Senator Flynn: No.
Senator Perrault: You may disagree with your party’s philosophy, but there is still this accord which was achieved by the leader of your national party.
Senator Flynn: No.
Senator Perrault: But in this place the opposition is saying that such a proposal is undemocratic, and that it tramples on people’s rights. The position taken by the Leader of the Opposition here is clearly illogical and ludicrous.
Senator Flynn: What a joke, coming from you.
Senator Perrault: What we want is an orderly debate. We would like to listen with interest to the amendments proposed by the Leader of the Opposition and get on with the job.
Senator Flynn: I would like to correct two things. As reported in Hansard at page 2307, I said the following: Of course, I must say right away that we on this side of the House had not given any mandate to that effect. Legally we do not consider that we are so bound—
That statement is very clear. When the Leader of the Government said that he spoke of the omnibus amendment, he never used that word in the conversations that we had—never; a clear “never”.
Senator Perrault: That is not accurate at all.
Senator Frith: Honourable senators, to try to further clarify the situation, there is no question that during the conversations the Leader of the Opposition, as pointed out here in the chamber, made it very clear that he was not bound by the order of the other place or by the decision that was made. Clearly, the position taken by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, regarding some aspects of the agreement made in the other place, was also quite sound. I remember it exactly that way.
The difference that we have is clearly, in my view, a total misunderstanding on something we took for granted. I assumed that when we used the word “amendment” we meant amendment. I assumed we were bringing it together with theall party agreement in that omnibus sense However, Senator Flynn seems not to have that understanding amendment.
I do want to take the opportunity to remind honourable senators that the position I took here in the chamber was consistent with the position that I am now taking. I quote from my introductory comments on the motion for the Senate order, at page 2281 of Hansard, where I said:
Honourable senators, the purpose of this motion is to implement in the Senate the all-party agreement that Parliament should not vote on the motion for a joint address until the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled on its constitutional acceptability—
We referred to that purpose. I then said:
Next, I wish to explain the key elements of the all-party agreement that was reached a couple of weeks ago. The first element is that the Supreme Court should have before it the form of the resolution to be voted upon—
Next, the procedural corollaries to the purpose, and to those key elements, are as follows: In the House of Commons the foregoing historic agreement found expression in a unanimous house order that meant an end to amendments except omnibus amendments proposed on behalf of each party by the party’s house leader. Each member of the House of Commons, for this exceptional occasion, subordinated his or her individual right to propose amendments to the right of his or her party to do so; so that he or she had to work out his or her individual wishes in the party caucus for eventual expression in the house by the party leadership.
Senator Flynn has an honest misunderstanding about what happened; obviously, I have too. I want to underline that I did not, in any way, I hope, mislead honourable senators as to what my understanding was when I said, quite clearly, that the very thing that Senator Flynn feels he was not agreeing to was, I thought, what he was agreeing to. That was the point I was trying to make at that time.
How can we settle this matter? We cannot debate it forever, when there is a misunderstanding. There must be a way of settling it. If Senator Smith has a compromise solution to this problem, let us hear it before I propose anything else.
Senator Smith: I think I have a solution. I do not profess to understand what has passed between the four participants in this debate so far. However, I got one clear impression as a result of the agreement in this house, and that was that we were committed to finishing the debate by a certain time, but I did not get any impression that this had to be achieved in a certain way, so far as amendments were concerned.
Whether I was right or wrong in that impression, may I suggest that, after all, as I understand it, the main objective of all concerned is to finish the debate by a certain time. Can we not proceed on the basis the Leader of the Opposition suggests, namely, that we deal with the separate amendments, as opposed to the omnibus amendment, as long as we can stick to the fundamental issue of finishing by I o’clock tomorrow? Is that not all we need?
Senator Roblin: That is all we need.
Hon. Martial Asselin: Honourable senators, I have a personal problem to submit to the Deputy Leader of the Government. Of course, I was not here last week and I find that the arrangements which the Deputy Leader of the Government claims to have made with the Leader of the Opposition are very surprising.
In any event, I suggest that one or the other of the parties has misunderstood; they have misunderstood one another. But here is my personal problem: if you force me to give an omnibus vote you are going to affect some of my personal privileges, and here is why: it is quite possible that the government may include in its package, in its omnibus amendments, certain amendments which I would support, which I would like to support, but that the package as a whole may not interest me. Should he want to proceed that way, the Deputy Leader of the Government would force me to vote against principles which I would support in relation to a certain item contained in the package. The same thing goes for other members of the opposition.
It is quite possible as well that the Leader of the Opposition may include in his package certain amendments which I do not like, which I would not support, but that I find nothing repugnant in the package as a whole. You are then forcing me to forego my privilege to vote according to my conscience and you are forcing me to vote for the package which will be presented by the Leader of the Opposition. We have never been in such a situation. I have been in the House of Commons and the Senate for nearly 20 years but never have I seen such a situation. I have never seen the privileges of the members of the House of Commons or of the Senate affected in such a way. That is why, conscientiously, I fail to understand how it can be that you, the Deputy Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition, have thought of denying me this personal privilege.
Senator Frith: Senator Asselin was perfectly right when he explained the situation which derives from the agreement made in the other place.
Senator Asselin: I am not talking about the other place, I am talking about this place.
Senator Frith: Oh yes, here, agreed.
Senator Asselin: We are not sitting in the House of Commons, we are sitting in the Senate and we have to take our own decisions.
Senator Frith: You are quite right. As I said here in English on Tuesday, and in French on Wednesday, there are exceptional circumstances, and the privileges referred to by Senator Asselin were suspended in the other place.
Senator Asselin: I cannot accept that my privileges be suspended.
Senator Frith: That is exactly what I said. That is why I do not understand how come this question was not raised during the debate and before the vote. I did say that there were exceptional circumstances and that we were, so to speak, suspending our privileges, as the honourable senator says. We made our own decision. It was not the decision of the other place; it was our decision to comply with the same principles. That is why, as I explained here and not there, that we find ourselves in the situation described by Senator Asselin.
Senator Asselin: That is not possible.
Senator Frith: It is more than possible. It is not something we made up, that I can assure you!
Senator Asselin: On a point. of order. My leader cannot take away my privileges as a senator. I have the privilege to vote on an amendment or another, according to my conscience. Now, you are forcing me to vote against my views and my conscience.
Senator Frith: That is what the Senate has decided.
Senator Asselin: I cannot accept that. Those are my privileges. My privileges have been suspended, and I cannot accept it. I cannot understand how my leader could have accepted—
Senator Frith: Honourable senators, let us say that I put the motion and that the Senate decided.
Senator Langlois: Let him blame his leader.
Senator Frith: I put the motion and, as I clearly said, the results are just as described by Senator Asselin. It eventually became an order of the Senate. I am not the one who made the order. What does this mean then? You say no, that it was not an order? But it was an order! However, I have explained that this does not go against the explanation I gave in English on Tuesday and which I repeated in French later. This explanation can be found as I gave it twice. Have these facts been invented by someone?
Senator Asselin: I do not know, I was not here.
Senator Frith: Well, what do you want if you were not here? I explained this clearly, I hope. I said that what we were going to do was to apply the principles approved in the other place, since these are quite exceptional circumstances, as I clearly explained.
In the house of Commons the house order meant an end to amendments. Each member of the House of Commons, for this exceptional occasion, subordinated his or her individual right.
And then I said that this was what we wanted to do here. It is unfortunate if this is not clear and if Senators Asselin and Flynn do not see my explanation in that light. In any case, it is true—
Senator Asselin: It is a shame, it is absurd. You are not going to persist in trying to have us admit that—
Senator Frith: No, it is not absurd. It seems to me that there is nothing absurd at all. It is only that these are very exceptional circumstances, as I have explained twice—not once, but twice.
Senator Perrault: Your leader agreed to it.
Senator Asselin: No, he said that he did not.
Senator Frith: In any case, what can you say? You say no! For my part, what I want to say is this: this idea has been explained twice in Hansard, in French and in English. Even though I explained twice the same principle which is now causing us a problem, there seems to be some misunderstanding; we must therefore try to settle this matter. However, I believe that all this is quite clear in Hansard.
Senator Flynn: Do you have a conclusion?
Senator Frith: There are two possibilities.
Senator Grosart: Honourable senators, it seems clear that there is a misunderstanding here. I would think there would be general agreement that. if there is a misunderstanding, there was no agreement.
Secondly, we are confronted with what is an order of the Senate. There are differences of opinion as to what that order actually says. I was not a party to any of the discussions, so I cannot, in any way, say who said what at any particular time, but I am surprised to hear it repeated over and over again that something that was decided by the party leaders was binding on the Senate or on members of those parties in the Senate. I do not believe that that is so. I am not bound by any agreement made by any leader of any party, any place.
I rise—if the time comes when I can have the attention of the Deputy Leader of the Government—to suggest that it is important that there now be agreement as to how we shall proceed. I have to say that, in my view, the whole problem has been caused by ineptitude and, perhaps, inexperience in the handling of this matter.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh.
Senator Perrault: That is disgraceful.
Senator Grosart: I beg your pardon? I am perfectly entitled to say that I think the matter has been ineptly handled.
Senator Buckwold: By whom?
Senator Grosart: By the leadership of the government in the Senate There is nothing new in this This has been said over and over again with respect to bills What is everybody getting so excited about? I say that it has been handled ineptly The reason I feel it has been handled ineptly is that the suggestion was made earlier that the normal way to proceed was for us to wait until we received a message from the House of Commons That is the normal practice when a proposition is before Parliament that there be a Joint Address to Her Majesty The decision was made that we would not proceed that way I repeat that I think it was inept to make the decision not to proceed in the normal way, and that that ineptness has caused the problems that are before us now.
I suggest that it is possible to resolve the matter. I see no objection to dealing with these motions one by one, expeditiously, and under whatever agreement may be necessary to meet the time limit. Then, if it is the wish of the leadership of the government in the Senate, we should match up, if I may use that phrase, the decision taken in the Senate on the resolution with the decision taken in the other place. Of course, I can see that that is desirable. I fully understand that.
Having dealt with these motions, even with a limitation on debate on each one, we would deal with each motion separately and then have an umbrella motion, if you like, which would deem the Senate to have passed a similar motion to that passed by the House of Commons.
I have not discussed this with my leader, and he may not agree with me, but I think it is of the utmost importance that this matter be resolved. I would even suggest, if it is necessary, that the Senate adjourn at this point so that discussions can take place in an attempt to resolve this matter in a way that would be a credit to the Senate; and I believe that that is possible.
Senator Frith: Honourable senators, I will not make any comments on the adjective used to describe how we came about this. It is not the adjective I would use. There were long and careful negotiations undertaken, and I must say that they were undertaken in good humour. Senator Flynn, in particular, as well as Senator Roblin, Senator Perrault and myself worked long hours over the period of a week or so to settle this matter.
I believe that the purpose—
Senator Grosart: I rise on a point of order. When I used the adjective “inept”, I was not referring to what went on in the discussions. I was referring to the original decision which I and others protested. That is all.
Senator Frith: I understand. As I said, the decision and the wording of the order were meant to reflect two things: to adopt, as far as possible, the decision made in the other place; and to reflect the agreement reached by Senator Flynn, Senator Roblin, Senator Perrault and myself. It went through many versions. I tried to explain clearly what its consequences were when I introduced the motion, and I believe that the order expresses that intent and that it does so clearly. I believe that the only way out of this difficulty, since we treat an order of the Senate the same as a rule, is to have a ruling on it from His Honour. We can debate further to try to persuade His Honour as to how he should rule, but in my view the wording is clear and I have nothing to add to my position that there is an intention to establish both here and in the other place, the principle of omnibus amendments with all the undesirable, or, at least, unusual consequences that flow from it. This is an exceptional situation in which the three parties reached this agreement.
The agreement that was reached in the other place we tried to implement here. One of the key elements, as I explained, was this omnibus feature, and I believe that that is what the order means and what His Honour will rule it provides.
Senator Smith: Honourable senators, I rise on a point of order. I wish to raise one point with respect to a comment made by the Deputy Leader of the Government to the effect that the only way to deal with the order was to have a ruling from the Chair. While I quite agree that an order should be treated in the same way as a rule, it seems to me that it is perfectly proper—and there is no reason why it should not be done if it is desired—to amend that order so that we can lay out some course of action to enable us to get out of this difficulty, about which I make no comment as to who or what is to blame.
Surely, our main task now is to find a way to get out of this difficulty and to comply with what I still think is the fundamental objective of everybody, namely, to finish this debate by a certain time tomorrow. If we can amend the order in a way which will meet the general wishes of the Senate and not impede the effort to reach that objective of time, then it seems to me that that might be considered as an alternative to asking for a ruling from the Chair.
Senator Frith: The reason I do not wish to amend the order is because I believe the order accomplishes what it was meant to accomplish, namely, as nearly as possible the implementation of the all-party agreement in the other place, which included the omnibus principle.
Senator Flynn: Not here.
Senator Frith: Senator Flynn does not agree with me on that, but I have to be honest by saying that is what I understood we were doing, and that is why I do not want to amend because I think it says what it is supposed to say.
Senator Flynn: You were afraid to tell me that.
Senator Frith: Not at all.
Senator Smith: Honourable senators, in further discussion of the point of order, I am not suggesting, by my course of action, that the Deputy Leader of the Government is wrong or that the order is wrong. In fact, when I suggest amending it, I must implicitly be suggesting that it is right; but, right or wrong, it does not seem to meet with general approval. All I am suggesting is that instead of arguing whether it is right or wrong, can we not amend it by agreement so that we can get on with what we need to get on with, that is, the attempt to reach the end of the debate by 12 o’clock or one o’clock tomorrow, whichever it is? I am not clear in my mind what time it is. That is not any aspersion on the deputy leader, my own leader or anybody else, but merely an effort to suggest the way in which we may resolve the difficulty.
Hon. Heath Macquarrie: Honourable senators, as one who is not involved in any discussions and, therefore, I am procedurally as virgin as the driven snow, I was impressed by the suggestion of the very senior legislator, Senator Grosart, that when this honourable house gets into any difficulty there is a very useful venue, and that is to have free and informal discussion, like the British used to say, “behind the curtains,” rather than pushing it towards something. I think Senator Grosart’s suggestion is a very wise one, and the wisdom of this senior legislative body is something that we could trust in this regard.
Senator Frith: Honourable senators, there is no question that more than one amendment could be proposed. There is no question about that.
Senator Flynn: Then there is a misunderstanding. I was going to suggest following the idea put forward by Senator Smith, that all the amendments would be dealt with, not in one vote but at the same time, and we would ring the bell only once. If the Leader of the Government wants to put the amendments which have been adopted by the other place separately—for instance, the supremacy of God, in one question; the equality of women, in another question; and so on—we would vote from 12 o’clock on without interruption. The vote would be called, and we would vote on each question as proposed. The Leader of the Government would separate his amendments the way he wishes, and I would move my amendments one by one the way I wish. The question would be resolved without the interruption of the bell ringing for each vote, and we would be able to deal with the amendments in a very orderly fashion. That was my understanding.
Senator Frith: Honourable senators, I guess the misunderstanding is wider than I thought. I could not believe there was any question about any misunderstanding. I am saying what I said, and Senator Asselin shakes his head as if I did not say it and perhaps this was made up by somebody, but look at what it says in paragraph 2:
No amendments or sub-amendments may be proposed to the said motion except those moved by the Leader of the Government—
Senator Flynn: That’s right.
Senator Frith: And I am still quoting:
—and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate of Friday, April 24, 1981, as provided hereinafter.
Senator Flynn: I do not know if Senator Frith understood what I meant.
Senator Frith: I did not.
Senator Flynn: I said the amendments will have to be moved by the Leader of the Government and by the Leader of the Opposition, but it will not be an omnibus amendment by the Leader of the Government. If he wants it to be so, that is his own business.
Senator Olson: He says what he has to move.
Senator Flynn: Yes. Suppose I have five amendments. We will vote on all those amendments without having the bell rung between each question.
An Hon. Senator: Separately.
Senator Flynn: Yes. You can take a stand on any question, and by one o’clock we will be through. That is the objective. That you should want to vote on apples and oranges at the same time seems ridiculous. It may be that in the other place
they wanted to do that; but that is no concern of ours. If the deputy leader and the Leader of the Government do not want to accept my proposal, I will ask His Honour to rule on this question, but I must point out that nowhere in the order is there any mention that there will be an omnibus amendment.
An Hon. Senator: Nor in the other place.
Senator Flynn: You do not change the rules of normal practice—that of being able to move separate amendments, for example—without spelling out the fact, and you cannot interpret the order that was passed as changing that fundamental principle of orderly parliamentary debate. If that were to be the decision, I think I would simply despair of this place.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators—
Senator Perrault: Honourable senators—
The Hon. the Speaker: I want to give my opinion on it, but if you have something to say, please proceed.
Senator Perrault: Honourable senators, may I briefly add this: I do recall, in the course of our discussion in the chamber, that the Leader of the Opposition made what he felt was a valid point, and I know those who support the opposition must have felt the same way. He said, “We want to have the option to have in our package of amendments perhaps different features than those advanced by our party in the other place.” All honourable senators recall that discussion.
Senator Flynn: Sure.
Senator Perrault: It was construed, at one point, that the effect of the house order under discussion was that the opposition amendment package here would have to duplicate the Conservative initiative in the other place. The government agreed that variations should most certainly be permitted in the Conservative motion. Certainly it was assumed by most honourable senators that the Conservative senators in caucus would meet together to determine and to decide the amendments that they felt to be appropriate—
Senator Flynn: No.
Senator Perrault:—and because of time constraints and debating constraints, that these would be voted upon as a package.
Senator Flynn: “Time constraints”? I am suggesting to you that we can deal with it in half an hour.
Senator Perrault: We have listened to you very carefully, and certainly the Deputy Leader of the Government has described our understanding of the situation, and that remains our understanding We felt that it was a rare accord achieved in the spirit of goodwill in a unique parliamentary situation
Senator Flynn: Hah!
Senator Perrault: I want to assure honourable senators—
Senator Flynn: I agree with you that there was goodwill then but there isn’t any more
Senator Perrault What surprises me is that a procedure which has been approved by his own national leader—
Senator Flynn: That is not the question.
Senator Perrault:—and a voting procedure which has been endorsed by the party in the other place—
Senator Flynn: That is not my concern at all.
Senator Perrault: Honourable senators in opposition surely attend the national caucus meetings of their own party, yet we have the surprising situation where they have disowned the agreement—
Senator Flynn: Blah, blah, blah!
Senator Perrault:-they have condemned the procedures—
Senator Flynn: Blah, blah, blah!
Senator Perrault:—and surely it is a cause for some mystification, to say the least.
Senator Asselin: So this place deserves to be dissolved and abolished.
Senator Roblin: Of course, we have not disowned what is going on in the other place. It is not our business to disown it, either in caucus or out of caucus. It is their business. We are just concerned with our interest here. If His Honour is going to take the matter under review, there is a textual interpretation which I respectfully direct his attention to in clause 5, where it says:
Every question necessary to dispose of any amendments—
The word “amendments” is in the plural.
—moved by the Leader of the Government or by the Leader of the Opposition—
That might have some bearing on the question of the number of amendments that might be expected to be moved by the Leader of the Opposition. It does not say he can only move one.
Senator Frith: The word in the preceeding clause is used in the singular twice.
Senator Flynn: I corrected that.
Senator Roblin: That is why we corrected that.
Senator Frith: Where?
Senator Flynn: In my speech.
Senator Roblin: The deputy leader asks where we corrected that. It is found at page 2307 of Hansard of April I5, in the second-last paragraph from the bottom. It says: Those are the essential points. There were a few diverging opinions about the text, perhaps Senator Macquarrie did notice them as well, including at the top of page vii the fact that the Leader of the Government may propose “amendments”, but that the Leader of the Opposition may propose “an amendment”. Obviously, this is a grammatical mistake, but I believe that the plural should be used both for the Leader of the Government and for the Leader of the Opposition.
Senator Perrault: Those are the component parts of the amendments.
Senator Roblin: That is what the argument is all about, is it not? I believe Senator Smith has given us a practical suggestion. The main thing the government wishes to do is to make sure the Senate stays in step with the House of Commons and has the numbers to do that. The second thing they want to do is to ensure that no one drags his or her feet and that we settle the matter within the time frame previously agreed to. No one is walking away from that. What we are really saying is that we would like the opportunity to present our several amendments seriatim, one at a time, and vote on them one at a time in an expeditious manner at 12 o’clock tomorrow; and if it takes another 12 or 15 minutes beyond 12 o’clock, I should expect that to be the maximum. I do not see anything wrong with that, and I hope that His Honour the Speaker might find that to be a sensible arrangement.
The Hon. the Speaker: I would ask the honourable senator a question for my own enlightenment? He has spoken of a correction that has been made. Where can I locate that correction?
Senator Roblin: I am speaking of a correction that was requested. I refer you to page 2307 of Debates of the Senate for Wednesday, April 15, 1981. It was a request made by the Leader of the Opposition in his reply when the matter was first discussed. No objection was made to his request for a correction at that time.
Senator Deschatelets: Would the honourable senator please read it?
Senator Roblin: I have just finished reading it, but I will read it again. Towards the end of the first column on page 2307, where it starts to get interesting, it says:
—the Leader of the Government may propose “amendments”, but that the Leader of the Opposition may propose “an amendment”. Obviously, this is a grammatical mistake, but I believe that the plural should be used both for the Leader of the Government and for the Leader of the Opposition.
No response was made to that. No objection was taken to it at the time, and I should think it was quite natural for the one who made the statement, and those who listened to him, as I did, to assume that the proposal was accepted; and I was rather surprised to find that the correction was not made when Hansard came out originally.
What is the point I am trying to make? My point is that we on this side of the house foresaw the nature of this discussion here today, in the sense that our position would be the one that is expressed here, and we would wish to make sure that the resolution accommodated the position we are trying to take. Had we been told on April 15 that we were going to meet some opposition to that, I daresay there would have been more argument on it at that time; but apparently our position, from our point of view, appeared to be accepted. So we were quiet; we were satisfied; we sat down. Now we find that such is not the case.
Hon. George van Roggen: Honourable senators, I would ask you to bear with me for a moment while I try to deal with this matter. It appeared that we were on the verge of resolving the business of this week in an amicable fashion, as apparently is happening in the other place. It seems to me that the principal point being made by the opposition is that indeed the order refers to a single amendment, in the case of the amendment to be moved by the Leader of the Opposition in paragraph 4— and indeed it does. They make the case that later, in the course of the debate, the Leader of the Opposition said exactly what Senator Roblin has just read to us—namely, he took objection to this word being in the singular rather than the plural.
Senator Roblin puts great weight on the fact that no response or objection was made from this side of the house when that was said. If we are to place much weight on response or objection being made to a statement, then we might look at what responses and objections were made by the Leader of the Opposition—or, for that matter, members on the other side—to Senator Frith’s description a day earlier of what this order was designed to do.
It was not an order designed simply to limit debate to a given time, namely, noon of Friday, tomorrow. That would have been an easy order to draw. It was an order much more complex than that. In his statement on April 14 explaining the order to this house—I am reading from page 2281 of Hansard—he had already referred to some of his remarks on that day. But I want to refer to further remarks that he made, which I do not think he has yet touched on. They go over to page 2282.
While I do not think the order is ambiguous-and, if it were, Senator Flynn would not have been constrained to raise objection to the use of the word “amendment” in the singular—if the document—I do not want to get into too deep an argument with my legal confreres in this chamber—
Senator Flynn: You had better not.
Senator van Roggen: If the document is ambiguous, as he claims it is, perhaps we need to go to the surrounding evidence that exists. His surrounding evidence is one remark that “amendment” should have been plural, and that the government side did not respond to that. Let us consider what they did not respond to when this whole process was being explained by Senator Frith on the day before. They made no response to all of Senator Frith’s repeated assertions that this was a most unusual circumstance—
Senator Perrault: Right.
Senator van Roggen: It is a very exceptional order, an order to meet very exceptional circumstances.
Senator Flynn: Come on!
Senator van Roggen: It is all there.
Senator Flynn: There was no text before us at that time. Try to be decent.
Senator van Roggen: I am being perfectly decent, thank you. I am saying—
Senator Flynn: Slave of the majority!
Senator van Roggen: I do not need any instructions from the Leader of the Opposition.
Senator Flynn: I should not have to listen to stupidity of that kind.
Senator van Roggen: I am perfectly capable of being decent, just as much as the Leader of the Opposition.
Senator Flynn: Go ahead.
Senator van Roggen: Senator Frith has read some of these remarks. He has explained that this had to be an exceptional order when it was drawn up and agreed to, that it was an order to meet very exceptional circumstances. Then, honourable senators, towards the bottom of the second column on page 2281 it says:
—I shall not read every word of the motion. Essentially, the first paragraph sets aside those two days next week for dealing with the motion. The second paragraph provides that in this chamber, as in the other place, no amendments or sub-amendments may be proposed to the said motion except those moved by the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
A most exceptional provision. There is no question about that, I would say to Senator Asselin:
The third provision is that the question on the amendment to the motion moved by Senator Yuzyk on March 26, 1981, not be put—except as herein provided—and we provide for that; that the order to resume the debate be called at 10 o’clock in the forenoon on Friday and, at that time, the Leader of the Government in the Senate be given an opportunity to propose to the Senate a motion in the wording adopted by the other place on the previous day.
Again, a reference to the other place and their procedure:
We will then proceed to have the Leader of the Opposition propose any amendments in an omnibus form. Those amendments may be debated at the same time but without further amendment.
Where is the objection from the Leader of the Opposition at that time? Where is the objection from the other members of the opposition at that time? If we are to pay so much attention—
Senator Flynn: From which page are you reading?
Senator van Roggen: I am reading from page 2282.
Senator Flynn: Poor guy.
Senator van Roggen: It is the whole of the explanation of this order; the whole discussion in this chamber—
Senator Flynn: Pitiful.
Senator van Roggen:—was on a special order, imposing special restrictions on us, much more than just the limitation of debate, so that we would have the vote on a given day, and so that we would come as close as possible to the procedure in the other place. I was here that day and I was certainly left with the impression that that was the objective we were seeking.
Senator Asselin: You are happy with that?
Senator van Roggen: Whether I am happy or not, the leader of my party, the leader of your party, and the leader of the New Democratic Party in the other place, arrived at an exceptional deal between them.
Senator Asselin: But we are not in the other place. Senator van Roggen: It does not bind us, but it was a deal made by the three party leaders—not by the house leaders. We should keep that in mind.
Senator Flynn: The Honourable Senator van Roggen has quoted selected. parts of the debate on that date. He should have read what I said following that. I said: I confirm that the intention of the government is to have an agreement here that will reflect the agreement made in the House of Commons, but I also wish to confirm that we have not necessarily agreed to what is being proposed in this motion and that we reserve our right to contest the proposal, at least in principle, if not in practice.
Later, on page 2282, I said:
This having been said, with the proposal duly corrected and placed on the order paper tomorrow, honourable senators will be able to assess exactly what is proposed, the position of the government, and, with the reservations that we have made, the position of the opposition.
There was no agreement. You say that we did not have any reservations, but we did have reservations. I did not want to start the debate and antagonize the deputy leader. We were at that time consulting on the proposed text, and we made several observations.
I may say that there were several changes made to the text in the course of our discussions. There were three or four proposals. The last one was not exactly the same as the first, but the intention, as far as we are concerned, was very clear: that we were not bound by what was done in the other place. Secondly, the idea of an omnibus amendment was never mentioned, and was never accepted. If you, Senator van Roggen, want to follow the line of the government, with the object of imposing closure on us, I think it is shameful.
Senator van Roggen: You say the word “omnibus” was never mentioned. It was mentioned right here in this house.
Senator Flynn: In the other place, but not here.
Senator van Roggen: Right here in this house.
Senator Flynn: Yes, but about what was done in the other place. Where do you find it in the text? I said that we had reservations.
Senator van Roggen: I would be very interested in hearing from Senator Frith if the changes which you negotiated with him subsequent to April 15—
Senator Flynn: Why do you want to impose closure on us? Why? What are your motives? Why do you want that?
The Hon. the Speaker: Order, please.
Senator Grosart asked to speak before.
Senator Flynn: Why? Why do you want to prevent us from—
Senator Grosart: Honourable senators, it seems to me most important that we resolve this matter. Some suggestions have been made. I do not think that they are suggestions that would cause anybody to lose face on either side. This has been going on for a very long time, and I feel confident that we can reach a conclusion.
Senator van Roggen took one side, but did not mention, of course, one aspect of it, which is that we are dealing with motions from both sides, so that to worry about whether something was in the plural or singular does not matter very much, because the principle that we have been debating applies equally to the government amendments.
Just to clarify, could I ask the Leader of the Government or the Deputy Leader of the Government, what objection there would be—assuming that we would have what are called omnibus amendments on both sides—to taking a vote seriatim on the component motions? My understanding is that that is all we, on this side, asked for. Then the purpose of matching what has happened in the other place could still be achieved, very easily.
What objection would there be to accommodating the Leader of the Opposition when there is an admitted misunderstanding as to what was decided? I ask again, what objection can there be to accepting this suggestion, that as the omnibus amendments come before us, a vote is called on each one, without debate or any restrictions? I would be fully in favour of that, and I believe the Leader of the Opposition would also be. We would just vote on them, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, with no bells or divisions. We would vote on each and resolve the whole problem. Why not?
Senator Perrault: Honourable senators, that suggestion is totally contrary to the order which was passed by a majority, on division, the other day in this chamber. Then both the government and the opposition spoke in terms of an omnibus package of measures.
Hon. Richard A. Donahoe: Not in the order, you didn’t. Senator Perrault: Let me continue. The reason for some of the puzzlement, perhaps, in parts of this chamber, is this. When I spoke on April 15 on this matter, I said:
After six months of debate and discussion in committee, in this chamber, and in the other place, it is obvious that a parliamentary consensus has been developed to make provision for the orderly disposition of the resolution on the Constitution and, perhaps, the Constitution issue itself.
But now listen to the words of the Leader of the Opposition. Listen to what he said, as reported at page 2306 of Hansard:
We are dealing here with quite an exceptional and unusual situation, one which will not recur very often, at least I hope not.
Then he went on to say:
The recent settlement reached in the Commons had changed our perspective. Now it has been suggested to us in the other place, as we usually call it, that agreement should apply to us as well. . . . But I must admit that the Leader of Opposition in the House told me that we should implicitly comply with the conditions agreed to in the other place to dispose of this resolution.
Then he said:
Of course, I must say right away that we on this side of the House had not given any mandate to that effect. Legally we do not consider that we are so bound, but perhaps to a certain extent we consider that we are morally bound.
Senator Flynn: Not to the omnibus proposals. Come on!
Senator Perrault: Please, with your usual patience, hear me out.
Senator Flynn: No. I will not listen.
Senator Perrault: Here we had a Leader of the Opposition, who accepted the fact, after being contacted by representatives of his party, that this was an unusual situation, and urged upon the Conservative members of this Senate the practice being followed in the Commons today, and that is for each party to advance its proposed amendments in omnibus fashion with the house leadership, government and opposition, moving the amendments. He conceded in this statement, which I have quoted, that in view of a unanimous all-party agreement achieved in the other place his perspective had changed. Where is that changed perspective today?
Senator Flynn: Quote the paragraph before that.
Senator Perrault: Honourable senators, I invite any honourable senator to read Senator Flynn’s entire speech.
Senator Flynn: Quote the paragraph before that.
Senator Perrault: There is no doubt about the spirit and intent of the agreement which we achieved, and today, obviously, certain members of the opposition are trying to unlock that accord, whatever their motives may be.
Senator Flynn: I want to quote from page 2306 a passage that the Leader of the Government did not quote:
We agreed that two things had to be agreed to. First, that the Senate would not come to a decision before the House of Commons; second, the duration of the Senate debate after the Commons decision. On that point, we had come to some agreement which was not finalized but which was accepted by both sides.
That was the essence of our understanding, and again I say that the word “omnibus” was never used.
Senator van Roggen: It was used in the other place.
Senator Flynn: It was not used in the other place either.
Senator van Roggen: Not in the order, but in debate.
Senator Flynn: Since when do you change the rules without mentioning it? I ask you again: Why do you object to the decision of the Senate being made in an orderly fashion and quickly on each and every amendment that we want to propose? Why, if it is not for partisan motives, and simply to avoid embarrassment to the government? Shame!
Senator van Roggen: We should stay with the agreement that was made. That is my point.
Senator Flynn: Very well, I stick to my agreements, and the agreement is as I have described it.
Hon. Paul Lucier: I hope the amendments are as important as this argument. We have been at this for two hours, and have not accomplished a thing yet. I would like to ask a question that I hope Senator Flynn or Senator Grosart can answer for me. Every time you vote you must assume that you have a chance of winning it, or you would not be putting amendments forward. What if one of them is different from what has been passed in the House, and they have adjourned? Where do we go from there?
Senator Flynn: Do you suggest that the Senate should never say anything different from what the House of Commons is saying? If so, then maybe you don’t belong here. Senator Lucier: Whether I belong here or not is not really your choice. What I am suggesting is that you answer a simple question. If an amendment goes through here that is different from the ones passed by the House, what happens then? It is a simple question. I do not know how that has anything to do with how I got here or whether I should be here or not.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Grosart.
Senator Grosart: The question was addressed to me, and I think there is a simple answer. The answer is what would happen if the vote here on the omnibus bill was different to what it was in the other place. The question, I think, is irrelevant. We can all understand that the government has a majority here. The government, no matter what the vote might be, can bring in a motion to pass an amendment exactly the same as that in the House of Commons at the final stage.
I repeat my question to the Leader of the Government, which he has not answered. What harm would be done if we just split this as we would an omnibus bill? We have had many omnibus bills here, and, when we go into committee of the whole we can move an amendment to one clause in a bill. Surely that is more cohesive than a group of motions put together for an exceptional purpose. I agree with everything that has been said to the effect that this is an exceptional situation, but I would like to suggest that, at this point, what was said earlier does not really matter now The important thing it seems to me, is the recognition that there has been a misunderstanding I do not believe that there was a deliberate attempt on either side to mislead, deceive or misunderstand. However, we are talking about an agreement amongst senators, gentlemen and ladies, and there has been a misunderstanding. A simple solution is offered. I will repeat my suggestion to the Leader of the Government, that he adjourn the Senate at this moment and see if the four very reasonable people here can reach a decision. I believe that a decision could be reached in the corridors or elsewhere in half an hour. After all, it is teatime.
Hon. Sidney L. Buckwold: Honourable senators, this has been going on for some time. As a backbencher, I suppose I speak for all of us in expressing the hope that we can resolve what obviously is some confusion or misunderstanding on an order of this house. Earlier in the proceedings we asked for a ruling from the Chair. I believe His Honour was on his feet, ready to give that ruling. Perhaps that would be the solution at this time. His Honour was asked to rule on whether in fact this was a legitimate order of the house, and, if so, to rule on it. I am wondering whether that could be the next step, so that we can get on with the more important part of this debate.
The Hon. the Speaker: If you will allow me, honourable senators, if ever you require me to make a decision, unless you convince me that I am wrong, the only thing I can decide on is the order as I read it here. Unfortunately, I cannot refer to things which are not reflected in this order—such as, what happened between the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Government, what happened in the other place, the possible outcome of a debate to the effect that, “Well, this is what we had in mind,” or even—and I regret this, Senator Roblin—the grammatical error, which is a little more serious than it first appears. If I come to a decision, I will explain exactly what I understand to be in this order.
Do we agree, honourable senators, that I have to decide on the meaning of the order as it appears here, and not on the basis of discussions that took place between the representatives of the political parties and what happened in the other place? If you ask me to do that, I will tell you to find somebody else. I cannot make a judgment on that basis, because I am not aware of the facts. The only thing I know for certain is what is written here. I can read it and I can tell you what I understand from it. Therefore, I want to indicate to you that any debate outside this order, though it might be a very interesting debate, is one that I unfortunately cannot take into account in my decision.
Senator Asselin: Mr. Speaker, before you rule I think that our representatives both on the government and on opposition side ought to make an effort. Whatever decision the Chair may take, I have the impression of course that one side of the house will not be satisfied and that the debate will grow more acrimonious. I feel that the whole thing will end up in the air.
I call upon the generosity of our leaders on both sides of the house. As it has been suggested by other honourable senators, let them meet for a few moments while we continue the debate
here, then they can come back with a solution. If they cannot agree then we will ask the Chair to make a ruling.
But before we ask Mr. Speaker to rule, I think an effort should be made in that direction. Since Senator Langlois pointed out that I was not here last week I admit it is true, but I think I am seldom absent from the Senate. I can put my attendance record up against anyone else’s here. One thing for sure is that if the Leader of the Government and his deputy were to meet with the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy chances to reach an agreement would be better.
Senator Frith: Honourable senators, the issue does not really require a ruling until a motion in amendment is proposed. The question then is whether it is in order. I make this suggestion. The meaning of the order will have to be interpreted when Senator Flynn proposes a motion that is thought to be out of order because it is contrary to the provisions of the order, and that will not happen until tomorrow. In the meantime, we will have an opportunity to see if we can work something out. I think we have debated this matter thoroughly; each senator has said virtually everything that he wanted to say about it.
Senator Roblin: And more!
Senator Frith: Perhaps a little more, and I suggest that we leave it at that. We will have two opportunities to talk in the meantime. Let us get on with it and cross that bridge when we come to it. We can hope, in the meantime, that we may be able to find a way around the difficulty.
Senator Flynn: I think that is an excellent suggestion, and it will give His Honour time to prepare a ruling, if one must be made.
The Hon. the Speaker: Do we all agree on this?
Do you rise on a point of order, Senator van Roggen?
Senator van Roggen: I am not continuing the debate with our honourable friends opposite. I only wish clarification on the remarks His Honour has made. I wholly support the view His Honour has expressed—
Senator Asselin: Do you challenge His Honour’s ruling in advance?
Senator van Roggen: Just let me speak; I will only be a moment. I understood His Honour to say that he could only deal with what was written here in our proceedings. I wanted to be clear in my mind that, by that statement, His Honour meant not only the order itself but also the statements made publicly in this chamber, as reported in Hansard, immediately surrounding the order, which I think are relevant. I may have understood from His Honour’s words that he thought he could only look at the order itself. I would simply like to put forward the view that, while he cannot consider what went on in private between the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Government, or between the deputy leaders, or agreements made in the other place, it is proper for him to consider the order itself and the debate relative to that order which took place in this chamber.
Senator Grosart: I rise on a point of order. His Honour has already clearly ruled, if I heard him correctly, that he will only deal with the order as it stands. It is improper for any senator to discuss the decision made by His Honour.
The Hon. the Speaker: In order to clarify my thinking, I will say that if there is an agreement made among all members of the house as to the interpretation of the order, then, of course, I have to take that into account. If, however, you ask me simply to refer to the debate dealing with matters on which there was no agreement, even if there were some statements made in the house, those statements do not necessarily modify any decision of mine. An agreement could modify it. If you can show me that, for example, paragraph 3 was interpreted by everybody in the house as meaning a certain thing, I will take that into account. However, I cannot go further.