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Point of Order

Speaker’s Ruling Reserved

June 2, 2022

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Your Honour, I rise today on a point of order regarding Question Period. Actually, it’s probably more of a request, Your Honour, for clarification around the parameters around Question Period.

Lately, some senators have taken the habit of asking questions to chairs of committees. That is certainly within the rules and we have no problem with that, as it is a useful tool to learn more about the work of committees. But I think, Your Honour, that you need to remind us and this chamber of the rules regarding those questions.

Yesterday, as you know, Your Honour, we had two senators asking questions of committee chairs, and it’s our belief that in both cases the Rules of the Senate were not followed with those particular questions.

After Senator Black asked his question to the chair of the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, you did remind him and the rest of the senators that questions should not be asked of subcommittee chairs and, in fact, by the rules cannot be asked of subcommittee chairs. I do regret the fact that you allowed, however, the question to be answered after ruling that it was out of order. This incident clearly showed us, Your Honour, that clarification around the rules of these types of questions are needed.

As well, during yesterday’s sitting, Senator Bovey asked a question of Senator Boehm in his capacity as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. While this particular question was on the business of the committee, which, of course, is required by the rules that the question needs to be placed on the business of the committee, the supplementary question was asked of Senator Boehm, which was asking him for a personal opinion. While I have the highest regard for Senator Boehm and his opinions — and a personal opinion from him would always be valuable — Question Period is not the moment or the place for senators to share our opinions.

The next concern that I have about Question Period is centred, in our opinion on this side here, on the length and time of the questions and the answers. As you know, we have established a mechanism whereby the time granted for questions and answers are limited when ministers come to this chamber, and I think it has worked very well. I think we can all agree that this allows for better rhythm and for more senators to be able to get involved and ask their questions.

I am not, at this point, suggesting that we start using a stopwatch each time a senator stands to ask a question. However, some senators’ questions are getting borderline close to making Senators’ Statements. And with the highest regard and respect for our government leader — and, indeed, for chairs — the answers, or non-answers, are equally long. That is unfair to senators who would like to ask a question, are at the bottom of the order and can’t get to their questions.

Your Honour, I do not want this to be a debate in this chamber. I simply thank you in advance, Your Honour, for any consideration you might give to this request for clarification and simply ask, Your Honour, that you clarify for all of us the rules and parameters around Question Period and these types of questions. Thank you, Your Honour.

The Hon. the Speaker [ + ]

Thank you, Senator Plett, for raising this important issue. I will take the matter under advisement.

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