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Point of Order

Speaker’s Ruling

June 29, 2021

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Honourable senators, I am ready to rule on the point of order raised during yesterday’s sitting with respect to the question being put on Motion No. 79.

Colleagues will recall that, after Senator Housakos had exercised his right of final reply, I started to read the question on the motion. When I asked if there was leave to dispense with reading the entire motion, there was a senator who said “no.” This created some confusion. In order to ensure clarity, we restarted the process, and this time there was leave to dispense. I then put the question on the main motion, and, as has been the case throughout our hybrid sittings, I asked senators who were opposed to the motion to say “no.”

It soon became evident, however, that some honourable senators were not entirely clear as to where we were in the voting process. On the video recording of the sitting, a senator can be heard to say “We’re having a vote,” even when, to some, it seemed that the Senate had passed that point in the voting process. Senators Moncion and Lankin explained that, because of their internet connections, there is sometimes a lag in what they hear, and they had not appreciated the stage the Senate had reached in the voting process.

Honourable senators, in all our proceedings — and especially during our hybrid sittings — good will and cooperation are necessary to facilitate the conduct of business. In this case, there clearly was confusion about dispensing with reading the question. While this was compounded by the technical challenges some honourable colleagues faced, this was not the only cause, since some senators in the Senate Chamber also expressed a level of misunderstanding as to what had occurred. We ought to take our colleagues at their word when they say that, for various reasons, they did not realize how far the process had advanced.

Senators, as members of this house, must have a clear understanding as to what we are voting on. We must be very cautious about making significant decisions when some senators clearly, and for perhaps understandable reasons, had not realized how the process was proceeding and the stage that had been reached. When we sit in person, such misunderstandings become apparent much more quickly, and we can deal with them as they arise. Such is not always the case when we sit virtually.

Honourable senators, let me be clear that this ruling, as in all my rulings, is not influenced by comments about an appeal. This ruling is based on the particular circumstances of the situation we faced yesterday and is solely driven by a desire to be as fair as possible to all senators, in light of the misunderstandings. While all senators are welcome to engage in debate on a point of order, they should limit their comments to arguments on the merits.

This being said, in this particular set of circumstances, I am forced to come to the conclusion that we should consider the process of putting the question on Motion No. 79 to be incomplete. All other proceedings on the motion have concluded. In light of these unusual circumstances, we will now deal with the motion, following through with the voting process in an orderly manner.

Before we continue in this way, I again thank honourable colleagues for their cooperation and understanding.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Your Honour, I want to echo at least one of the comments you made in that there should be goodwill and cooperation.

I thank you for taking the matter under advisement. We appreciate your ruling, and we fully accept and support that ruling. We are prepared to move on.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Thank you, Senator Plett.

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