Opposition Motion—Omnibus Legislation

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I apologize to the hon. minister across the way, but I feel his speech, while fascinating in terms of the fates of European governments, strays quite far from the question before us, which is does the House not need to express itself, meet in committee and find some way to provide rules and guidelines so that omnibus bills of all manner do not stray from one single purpose. I do not hear in the minister’s speech any reflection of the question before the House.


Hon. Ted Menzies: Mr. Speaker, not very much of this speech actually reflects on the European situation. We can certainly expand on that, but I would suggest I am drawing a link. The lack of being able to pass legislation to actually react to the world economic crisis is why Europe is still having trouble and I am trying to explain that we do need the comprehensive legislation that was passed in the House in the spring. We need a second one. We have more to do yet and I would suggest that everything I am talking about is actually drawn back to why we need to table, discuss and pass comprehensive legislation.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin): I thank both the Minister of State for Finance and the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for their interventions. I understand that the question of relevance arose earlier this morning prior to my taking the chair at noon. I would like to make two points. The first is a general point and the second is more specific.

In general terms, there are rules in the Standing Orders that relate to relevance and repetition. It is fair to say that over the years chair occupants have taken a rather wide view of those two matters for the reason that the Chair does not want to unduly limit debate in the House and the opportunity for members to bring the facts that they feel are important or relevant to bear. There are times when the Chair asks members to come back to the matter at hand, but over the eight plus years that I have been in this place, I think it is fair to say that the Chair has taken a relatively wide view of the question of relevance. I think it is also fair to say that when members give a 10 or 20 minute speech, they will often use examples and make arguments that wander away from the principal matter before the House, but it is their responsibility to somehow connect it back to the question at hand.

I would encourage all hon. members to do two things.

First, when members make a presentation to the House, they be mindful of the business before the House and they be respectful of that business as well as the process. This place will function better if all hon. members make a good faith effort to do that.

Second, I would also remind all hon. members that wishing for a much narrower definition of what is relevant and wishing for the Chair to take a much narrower definition of that would have consequences beyond the matter before the House at that time.

I would ask all hon. members if they could balance those two principles. Again, it has been my experience that most of the time members do this very well. While some members take a circuitous route to come to the matter at hand, most of the time they do that.

I have a more specific comment. I have reviewed the blues from earlier today. When the question of relevance arose and when the hon. minister of state rose to speak, I listened very carefully to what he said in order to measure the relevance. Without getting into the substance of the debate before the House today, there is a question of the relevance of omnibus or comprehensive legislation and at what point that becomes inappropriate. The more specific suggestion is that the House ought to refer this to procedure and House affairs committee so it can come back with a ruling.

I heard the minister of state say that he disagreed with the motion before the House today, that he felt that omnibus or comprehensive legislation was not inherently unacceptable or inappropriate in this place. He further argued that matters such as the budget and budget implementation bills were by necessity broad in scope and that it was on that basis that he would vote against the motion.

Subsequently, my expectation is that the minister of state is bringing specific examples to light of how he feels, essentially making the argument that comprehensive legislation is in fact necessary and therefore suggesting that it is inappropriate and that the rules ought to be changed. He disagrees with that proposal. I respect the fact that there are other members in the House who would disagree with his point of view.

With that, I would ask the hon. Minister of State for Finance to continue, to be mindful of the question of relevance and to focus on the matter that is before the House, which is the opposition motion, and to move toward the end of his speech.