The Senate

Motion in Amendment--Point of Order--Speaker's Ruling Reserved

June 18, 2020


Hon. Ratna Omidvar [ + ]

Therefore, honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That the motion be not now adopted, but that it be amended:

1.by adding the following new paragraphs 3 and 4:

“3. the Committee of the Whole separately receive one or more ministers of the Crown, to be determined by the government, accompanied by one official each, to examine the estimates as they pertain to the individual and collective responsibility of ministers to combat systemic racism;

4. proceedings of the Committee of the Whole not be suspended at 6 p.m., with the committee continuing to meet until it has completed its business, and going beyond the ordinary hour of adjournment if required;”;

2.by renumbering current paragraphs 3 to 5 as paragraphs 5 to 7;

3.by changing the words “125 minutes” to “250 minutes”; and

4.by changing the words “witnesses’ introductory remarks last a maximum total” to “introductory remarks for each witness last a maximum”.

Hon. Pierrette Ringuette (The Hon. the Acting Speaker) [ + ]

In amendment, it was moved by Senator Omidvar, seconded by Senator Woo, that — shall I dispense?

The Hon. the Acting Speaker [ + ]

I shall read it:

That the motion be not now adopted, but that it be amended:

1.by adding the following new paragraphs 3 and 4:

“3. the Committee of the Whole separately receive one or more ministers of the Crown, to be determined by the government, accompanied by one official each, to examine the estimates as they pertain to the individual and collective responsibility of ministers to combat systemic racism;

4. proceedings of the Committee of the Whole not be suspended at 6 p.m., with the committee continuing to meet until it has completed its business, and going beyond the ordinary hour of adjournment if required;”;

2.by renumbering current paragraphs 3 to 5 as paragraphs 5 to 7;

3.by changing the words “125 minutes” to “250 minutes”; and

4.by changing the words “witnesses’ introductory remarks last a maximum total” to “introductory remarks for each witness last a maximum”.

On debate.

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond [ + ]

Honourable senators, this amendment goes against the spirit of the motion before us. I don’t think it is receivable to just transform a motion — which is to have present the President of the Treasury Board to come and answer questions about the estimates in a Committee of the Whole — to speak about racism. I’m not opposed to a Committee of the Whole about racism, but let’s call a cat a cat.

What we’re trying to do here is transform a motion about estimates into a motion on racism. Unfortunately, it’s against the rules. That’s my point of order, Your Honour.

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo [ + ]

Honourable senators, the most fundamental point of accountability is the money; the way in which budgets are spent. It is the way in which ministers — through their ministries and through the appropriations given to their ministries — spend their money. And if they are ministers, and they are surely ministers responsible for dealing with systemic racism, they have to account for how they spend the money in dealing with systemic racism. So there is nothing out of order, nothing whatsoever about a Committee of the Whole to examine the estimates and to have ministers questioned on the way in which their budgets are deployed, in order to deal with this issue.

Your Honour, with respect, I ask you to dismiss this point of order out of hand, not only because it has no basis whatsoever, but because if you don’t, you will deprive us of the opportunity to question ministers on systemic racism, but also ministers on the estimates themselves. Thank you.

Hon. Leo Housakos [ + ]

Honourable senators, very briefly on the point of order. I disagree with Senator Dalphond. At the end of the day, this institution and this chamber is a master of its own destiny. At the end of the day, if we have a motion right now that wants to broaden the parameters of a Committee of the Whole, it is well within this chamber’s destiny, if they choose it to be its destiny, to broaden that parameter.

Now, if members of the government like to narrow parameters when we have Committee of the Whole and when we have senators before us, that’s their prerogative, but the prerogative of this chamber certainly has the obligation within the rules to put forward a motion as Senator Omidvar has done. What we do with it, of course, is our decision.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [ + ]

Honourable senators, I’m actually not sure whether I am supporting or disputing the point of order except to say, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, this morning we did have our daily scroll. Senator Omidvar was part of the discussions, and I’m surprised on such a substantive amendment it wasn’t even mentioned.

On that front, I would simply say if this was going to be discussed, we should have had the leaders discuss it, the caucuses discuss it and the groups discuss it, rather than have it right now in this chamber on a motion that I thought we had agreed, because it’s important. We have to examine the supply bill.

This is important information that the honourable senators should be aware of and for you to also have in your ruling. Thank you.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition) [ + ]

Honourable senators, further to what my colleague and our deputy leader has said, of course, Senator Woo is very well aware, he was part of every leaders’ call that we had. We discussed the procedures of how we are going to move forward with government legislation, and we have had numerous meetings. On that call, it was decided we would have a Committee of the Whole which would be, in fact, 125 minutes, not whatever this motion now reads. We would have the minister, the President of the Treasury Board, come here and that was going to be the substance of our Committee of the Whole on Monday.

Now, the leader of, I don’t know, whatever group he is, has decided that he clearly — again deals that are made in good faith don’t need to be honoured.

Your Honour, I’m not a legal scholar. I will yield to my colleague across the way here, who very clearly is more knowledgeable about those issues than I am, but I do know that we had a deal that we were going to have something, and now the leader of that group is somehow supporting this point of order. And you have debated already, Senator Woo.

Senator Woo [ + ]

Am I allowed to rejoin? I believe I am.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker [ + ]

Yes.

Senator Woo [ + ]

Thank you. Honourable senators. Just to clarify, Senator Plett. You said I support the point of order. I do not support the point of order. You and all senators know very well that the previous two interventions have nothing to do with the point of order. I’m sure you will be able to judge the merits of the point of order based on the rules that govern the point of order.

As I argued previously already, there is nothing more germane to a Committee of the Whole studying estimates than to ask ministers responsible for portfolios that have to do with a variety of issues that are covered in the budget — to have them come and to ask them questions on those issues.

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson [ + ]

Honourable senators, I don’t have the text of the motion in front of me, although I listened carefully to it being read.

Of course, it’s very difficult to appear in any way to be opposed to discussing the critical and current issue of systemic racism in the country, but I would just like to say what came to my mind when I heard Senator Omidvar’s motion, and that is how is this actually —

Point of order.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker [ + ]

It’s not a point of order.

I know, but he’s not speaking on a point of order.

Senator Patterson [ + ]

Actually, I am speaking to the point of order if you will let me continue.

How is this actually going to work? When the Senate calls for a Committee of the Whole, there are witnesses identified and we have clearly signalled to the government that Minister Duclos will represent the Treasury Board. That is the source of all the money. Any questions can be asked of Minister Duclos, including questions about this very issue of systemic racism. But the motion, as I understand it, seemed to talk about separately examining other ministers. I don’t know who those ministers are, and I wonder if the government knows who those ministers are to be, because, of course, systemic racism covers a very large —

The Hon. the Acting Speaker [ + ]

Senator Patterson, you are debating on the motion in amendment per se, and we are now debating on a point of order. I will take issues on the point of order.

Senator Patterson [ + ]

The point of order is one I agree with. I believe that the amendment will cause confusion in the Committee of the Whole on Monday, because it will not be clear which ministers are accountable for the new subject that has been introduced to the amendment. I don’t think it is going to work. Therefore, I think the amendment is, in fact, out of order because it is contrary to the spirit of the motion and contrary to the substance of the motion. I think it is going to be very confusing for all concerned. If we accept this amendment, which is in conflict with the plan for the Committee of the Whole, it is going to cause confusion.

The other problem is that the Committee of the Whole is to discuss a staggering amount of expenditures. I think there is over $80 billion. I am concerned that we may well lose focus on our important responsibility to demand accountability for how that money is being spent if we engage in a subject that is broad and covers a vast number of federal departments and ministries.

Hon. Raymonde Saint-Germain [ + ]

Senator Housakos is not a legal scholar. He was the former Speaker of the Senate, and he is very savvy with the Rules of the Senate. This is why I concur with him.

I would like to make some additional points. First, the discussions within the leaders’ meetings are not eligible to a point of order, and the scroll is not binding on the Senate. It is the government who determines who speaks for it, not the Senate. This is why the amendment allows for some flexibility for whose minister may come here.

I will conclude by stating that the amendment is in order because it concerns the agenda of the Committee of the Whole, which is the subject of Senator Gagné’s motion. It is within the scope of the original motion, so it is in order.

Senator Martin [ + ]

I have a question that is relevant at this time. I thought of it as Senator Patterson was speaking to the substantive motion, which we do not have copies of in either language. I am wondering: Should we have a copy of this motion? There is quite a bit in it; is that forthcoming?

The Hon. the Acting Speaker [ + ]

We will make more copies immediately, senator. Copies of the amendment will be distributed to everyone in both official languages.

Senator Housakos [ + ]

On the point of order, I will reiterate what Senator Saint-Germain has said. Agreements between leadership caucuses are guidelines for this chamber. They don’t supersede any senator’s right to dole in on the scroll at any time. It would be setting a terrible precedent to hinder any senator’s ability, at any given time, to put forward an amendment to a motion, or a new motion regarding any issue. I concur with Senator Saint-Germain. It’s up to the government whether they want to accept the invitation or not. We can’t be binding any ministers of the Crown or the government to come before us. It’s just an invitation.

Senator Omidvar [ + ]

I would like to respond to a few statements that have been made; I hope they pertain to the point of order.

Senator Martin referred to the collegiality at the scrolls, and yes there is collegiality, but there have been moments that I can remember when that collegiality has been set aside for motions and amendments on the floor. I think she knows what we are talking about.

Senator Patterson talked about confusion. Sir, if you are confused, I ask you to look into the lives of —

Senator Martin [ + ]

We are on a point of order.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker [ + ]

We are on a point of order.

Senator Martin [ + ]

Senator Omidvar is refuting me, saying something unparliamentary to a colleague rather than talking about the point of order itself. I would ask Senator Omidvar to speak to the point of order.

Senator Omidvar [ + ]

I was referring to statements made here during the discussion on the point of order. If my comments are not appropriate, then those comments should also have not been appropriate during the discussion on the point of order.

Senator Plett [ + ]

This is clearly an attempt by Trudeau appointees to work against other Trudeau appointees to debate the supplementary estimates — this is speaking to the point of order — the finances of the nation, by restricting the topic to racism as opposed to the bill. Will that mean that we cannot question — when the ministers are here, the focus will be on racism and not the supplementary estimates.

The Committee of the Whole is for study of Bill C-18 and Bill C-19. That is the reason for the Committee of the Whole. This is not amending it. This is going against it and saying we will now discuss racism. We have a motion dealing with a Committee of the Whole on racism. We have an emergency debate and an inquiry. Now they are trying to somehow supersede Senator Mégie’s motion on a Committee of the Whole by bringing that topic into discussing supply, and this completely takes us away from the topic that we need to discuss on Monday in Committee of the Whole.

The Hon. the Acting Speaker [ + ]

I think I have heard most of the arguments on this issue, and we will come back on a decision on the point of order that was raised.

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