Question of Privilege – The unequal rights of MPs from smaller parties

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Montcalm. He stated his position, and I completely agree with him.

As members, we are all equals here in this place. Our constituents, the people who live in our ridings, are equals, and it is only fair that we all have the same rights and freedoms here in the House. We are treated differently only because of a law that was passed in 1963. I think that was the year that Parliament passed the law that granted money to parties with more than 12 members.

In 1963, it was about giving parties with more than 12 members some money. Over time it has morphed, without any specific law ever passing, to say that members of legitimate elected parties, in my case a party that runs nationally, and in the case of the Bloc a party that runs very strongly in one province, should have, and would have in other parliaments within the commonwealth system, the same rights. For the matter, independents should have the same rights, as their voters have the same rights.

In this case, we do not have those rights, because as we know, over the years we have adopted traditions in which parties with more than 12 members have more rights. It has not been reassessed since 1963. In the early 1990s, a former member of Parliament for Winnipeg—Transcona at the time, the hon. Bill Blaikie, made a brilliant argument as to why the NDP, with nine seats, should have the right to sit on committees. At the time, with all due respect to my colleague from the Bloc, that was objected to by the Bloc, because it had more than 12 members, and they were mad, because when they had fewer than 12, the NDP had not supported them.

It would be wonderful to review what has happened by accretion, without any actual decision ever rendered in this place, and go back to the question of why members of Parliament who happen to be in parties with fewer than 12 members should have fewer rights. I set aside the issue of money. Why should we have fewer rights than any other MP?

Kevin Lamoureux Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, given what has been said, we would like to review Hansard and we will get back to you in a relatively short time span.

The Speaker Geoff Regan

I thank the hon. member for Montcalm, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, and the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons. I will await the government’s comments. Then, the Chair will take it all under advisement and get back to the House with a ruling in a timely manner.