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Business of the Senate

March 3, 2022

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Your Honour, I rise to ask for your indulgence, and I apologize for doing so this late in the evening.

A few minutes ago, we dealt with Motion No. 50 on the Order Paper, a motion by Senator Dean that Senator Wells inadvertently did not adjourn and it moved on. He asked to go back so he could adjourn this. You graciously asked the chamber whether they would allow that. A few members of the chamber did not and, of course, you need leave for something like this to happen.

I want to draw the attention of the Speaker and the chamber to a few instances this evening that occurred either as a result of wearing masks, not hearing properly or the changing of procedures. We had two instances earlier this evening, Your Honour. One was on Senator Patterson’s amendment to Bill C-12. When the question was called on whether people were in agreement with the motion there were a few “nays.” You declared that the amendment did not pass. You never asked for any “yeas” to the motion.

If I recall, Your Honour, we would have voice votes first, and you would declare whether the yeas or the nays had it. Senators would then be able to rise. Two senators rising would then trigger a standing vote. You didn’t do that with Senator Patterson’s motion.

Subsequently, they were caught somewhat off guard and failed to stand when they very much wanted a standing vote. I believe the scroll notes indicated that there would be a standing vote with a 15-minute bell. These are items that are discussed at scroll ahead of time, decisions made, negotiations had, and we try to have collaboration and cooperation in the Senate in that regard.

The same thing happened, Your Honour, on Senator Gold’s motion with regard to the special committee. Senator Gold was trying to do the job based on conversations and agreements we had. He was not trying to sneak anything by us. He had wanted to be able to speak later in the day but, because of the Order Paper, was impelled to speak to it at the time.

The same thing happened when you asked whether the motion should pass. I got up — a little late — because I realized you were declaring the motion passed, and said I would like to adjourn the debate. You graciously agreed and allowed me to do that. There was a senator who challenged whether you should have allowed me to do that because the vote had taken place.

Your Honour, the fact of the matter is, had you not done that, we would have gotten into an acrimonious debate over a motion that we now passed with virtually no debate, and by agreement from everybody, because you allowed us to go back the way you did. The other Senate leaders were able to come, and we collaborated very quickly.

After Question Period, I withdrew my request to adjourn. Senator Gold then presented an amendment and we could pass a motion that the government clearly wanted passed tonight, and that was only as a result of collaboration.

When Senator Dean moved Motion No. 50, I was watching it on television. It was somewhat muffled. I credited that possibly to being the television. Then I heard Senator Wells indicate that he had had the same difficulty in hearing and that he actually had wanted to adjourn, which again is clearly indicated in block letters, “Senator Wells to adjourn.” I’m not sure, Your Honour, whether you have access to that or whether it’s there. I believe the table has it. It was evident that Senator Wells wanted to adjourn this.

In fairness, Your Honour, on two occasions you asked whether senators would give leave for Senator Wells to do that. Ironically, they were the same senators who initially, when I wanted to adjourn Senator Gold’s motion, challenged you about allowing me to do that.

We have meetings going on. We spend a lot of time at scroll discussing these things, sometimes with good collaboration and sometimes with acrimony. But if we want to develop a culture of getting along in this chamber, then I think we have to allow for some mistakes, certainly during this time when we’re still wearing masks like you, Your Honour, when you speak.

We have people on Zoom to whom we are constantly giving the benefit of the doubt when their internet goes down. You allow them to start over again with their speeches because we have not been able to hear them, and rightfully so.

During this type of debate we are having, if we aren’t going to forgive each other’s mistakes and allow us to go back a minute later — not an hour, not half an hour, not 15 minutes later — at the next motion; that’s when Senator Wells got up and asked the Senate’s indulgence to go back and adjourn a motion that is clearly on the scroll. Every leadership person, every person on scroll here has that.

I find it a little perplexing that possibly the leadership teams of the groups that denied leave wouldn’t have said to their senators, “Listen, it’s right here. Senator Wells was going to adjourn it.” No one jumped to the defence.

Your Honour, I am asking that we go back and do the right thing and allow Senator Wells to adjourn a motion that everyone at scroll knew. The Deputy Leader of the Government knew, I’m sure. The scroll people in other groups knew. If we don’t allow Senator Wells to adjourn this, we are making a mistake here.

Mistakes have been made. I’m not pointing fingers at anybody. These are mistakes that have been made. But these are mistakes that are serious to people. Senator Patterson was serious about wanting to at least have a standing vote on his amendment that he felt was important.

Your Honour, I’m asking for the indulgence of this chamber to go back and allow Senator Wells to adjourn this. If this is the type of thing that we want to have happen, we will have to constantly default to adjourning and then going back.

I think that when we make deals before we come into this chamber, those deals should be honoured. Your Honour, I accept the fact that you’re not party to those deals. You’re not there. Again, I don’t know what you see there, but I’m sure the people assisting you see this. Somebody should have pointed out to you that Senator Wells wanted to adjourn this. Yes, you did hesitate. No question.

I am often accused of having a loud voice. I don’t often hear, “Well, I couldn’t understand you, Don.” Not everyone in this chamber is the same, Your Honour. You have a softer voice; it’s a little more difficult to understand. It is possible that we don’t have our hearing aids on.

I’m going to stop here, other than asking again for the indulgence of the Senate to go back and allow Senator Wells to adjourn Motion No. 50.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

I’m not going to ask anyone to speak on this.

Before telling the Senate that I would normally take this under advisement, I’m going to put the question to the chamber.

Senator Plett is asking again that we revert to Motion No. 50 and we give Senator Wells an opportunity to adjourn it. However, it will take leave. I’m asking the chamber now again, after Senator Plett’s speech, if you will give leave. If you are opposed to leave, please say “no.”

Leave is granted. Senator Wells.

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