Opposition Motion – Changes to Standing Orders

That Standing Order 11(2) be replaced with the following: The Speaker or the Chair of Committees of the Whole, after having called the attention of the House, or of the Committee, to the conduct of a Member who persists in irrelevance, or repetition, including during responses to oral questions, may direct the Member to discontinue his or her intervention, and if then the Member still continues to speak, the Speaker shall name the Member or, if in Committee of the Whole, the Chair shall report the Member to the House.

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member returning to Speaker Jerome’s 1975 ruling, because that seems to be the most authoritative piece on the responses from ministers. This should not be entirely parenthetical, but I will mention that when we look at past copies of Hansard there was not so much of a need for the speaker to regulate this matter. In other words, ministers of the crown, in previous generations in this place, were very unlikely to be found heckling and really unlikely to give a response that was in fact insulting to the questioner. If we go back to the decisions of Lucien Lamoureux, we see a House of Commons that was very different in its content.

I would like to ask the hon. member whether, given the guidance we have from previous speakers, such as the judgment he cited by Speaker Jerome and previous speakers, do we need to change the rules, or do we need to encourage the speaker to use the rules that are at hand? I do not refer only to the current speaker but to several generations of speakers, probably going back to Speaker Jerome, who did not enforce as many of the rules as they had within their powers to use.

Philip Toone: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question and it certainly is a question for debate.

What has happened in this place seems to be that the culture has changed. It had seemed rather normal and expected that if one asked a question, one would get an answer. It seemed appropriate that if one asked a question, the answer would have something to do with the question being posed. Perhaps in the past, the House treated questions with more respect. It treated the duly elected representatives of the people of Canada with more respect and actually answered questions with an answer that proved that respect. Unfortunately, today, we do not seem to be at that point.

We need new tools. The tools of the past I do not think were anywhere near as clear or necessary as they are today. I do not think that in the past the level of disrespect that we see in the House today was anywhere near as bad. This place is degrading. Question period has become more of an art than a science. We need to have some ground rules, and I think the motion is going to be the first step in that direction.