MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily routine.
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege and one that I had hoped or never dreamed in a million years that I would be rising on in this Chamber. What we saw happen down in the Red Room during the Law Amendments process was contemptuous of the rules and practices of this House and an affront to all members in this House.
Mr. Speaker, the rules of our book - and I have raised this with you before and it was raised, I believe, on Wednesday, about the decision that was made by the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee saying that the Rules of the House don't apply. Despite the fact that Rule 1 of our Rule Book says that "The proceedings in the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia and in all committees of the House shall be conducted according to the following Rules" and then they are listed.
One of the most fundamental rules of course is practice, tradition. What has been the tradition in this House is a guiding principle. Today, in the government's haste to deny democracy and to railroad Bill No. 68 back into this House, the chairman, our Attorney General, refused to allow the member for Richmond to conclude, to speak for what is his right, one hour in that committee and, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that I, personally, not that the chairman of the committee at the time liked it, have spoken for three or four hours in that committee on different amendments and the bill did not come back during that day's sitting of the House.
The chairman of the committee refused to recognize a point of privilege, of personal privilege, which is always in order, that our colleague for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage was attempting to raise. I have rarely been this angry; it is very difficult I am finding right now to speak calmly. The minister, the chairman, refused to allow for a recorded vote when he was asked. The chairman refused to allow members of the Opposition even to advance the amendments that they were going to propose for that legislation. They not only were not prepared to debate them, they weren't even prepared to allow them to be entertained.
There is no justification for that. There are terms that I would use to describe it that might be called unparliamentary. It is not the kind of thing that one would expect to find being led by the Minister of Justice in the Province of Nova Scotia, the oldest democracy in this country.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Shame. Shame. Shame.
MR. HOLM: That is an absolute disgrace. Not only should you rule that the minister has violated the privileges of a member of this House, I would suggest to the Premier that he should fire a Minister of Justice who would act in such an undemocratic and unparliamentary manner. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South. (Applause)
MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I also rise on a point of privilege, a point of personal privilege and also, I believe, a point of privilege on behalf of all Nova Scotians.
As far as I am concerned in the chambers opposite, the Red Room tonight, democracy died in Nova Scotia. Democracy died, Mr. Speaker. But I think perhaps our final appeal might be to the Speaker of this House to investigate just what happened over there in the Red Room the last few hours.
The rules of the committee were outlined before. Rule 1 in this place is the same rule that is in the Red Room. Those rules, to be kind, Mr. Speaker, would be violated. That would be saying it kind. I can't believe, as House Leader of our Party, I have never been to a
committee where no amendments from either Opposition Party were allowed. Not one amendment was allowed to be presented and voted on to that committee. The only committee vote that took place, the member for Halifax Bedford Basin moved a motion to try to get the government out of there before 8:00 p.m., and all the chairman of that committee could do, all he could do, was glance over at her every two or three minutes and wonder when she was going to call the question or get up and intercede on his behalf. But she didn't do it because she thought better of it, so he did it himself.
He got up and he accused both Opposition Parties of grandstanding, not in there in a democratic forum trying to have some amendments put to the committee, not in a democratic forum, but accused because (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, I want to appeal. I want to appeal the entire process that took place in the Law Amendments Committee regarding Bill No. 68. The process was flawed and the process was unparliamentary. The process was not in keeping with the rules and traditions and precedents of this House. That particular committee was an outlaw committee run by one person, the Minister of Justice, who kept looking at his watch and saying, I don't care what happens here, I am getting this draconian bill back to the House tonight when this House sits at 8:00 p.m.
Mr. Speaker, democracy flew right out the window when he said that and then, when we tried to introduce amendments, both Parties, he accused both Parties of grandstanding. We are in there representing the people of Nova Scotia and all that man can say is that we were grandstanding. I am appealing to you, Mr. Speaker, because we did not have a chance to introduce our amendments to that committee. I implore you to make a ruling that we suspend this session, immediately make a ruling and go back to the Law Amendments Committee and have us present our amendments. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please.
The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.
MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, in responding to the point of personal privilege from the member for Cape Breton South, the Liberal House Leader, I know as a Speaker that you know full well that a point of personal privilege is something that is rarely ever recognized prima facie and then also imposed. But if there were ever a time that we recognize that the privileges of the members of this House have been violated, that the privileges of the members of this House have been removed - this isn't a frivolous motion, let's be clear. Let's look at the fact this - you know, maybe there has been heightened emotion for the last few hours or the last week or the last two weeks, but let's look at this right now.
What the Minister of Justice did in the Red Room as the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee is an absolute affront, not only to democracy, but to our privileges. We have the right to speak. We have the right to use due process in this House. That is what personal privilege is all about. I implore you, this is not something that can be taken and referred back and come back tomorrow. It is of such vital importance, it is of such necessity that our privileges have been violated, that we need this dealt with right now. If that means the House has to be suspended for 5 minutes or 10 minutes or what have you for you to consult with the Clerks, then so be it. But let us be clear: our privileges have been abused. They have been violated. They have been trampled upon. And the Minister of Justice looks so sheepish right now, Mr. Speaker, probably because he knows he did something wrong. He knows what he did to the people of Nova Scotia over there. He knows what he has done to democracy and we are not going to stand for it and I encourage you to suspend this House and make a decision, please. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond. (Applause)
MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I, too, rise in my place to speak on the motion of privilege. I can tell you right now that it is called a motion of personal privilege. The fact is, what you are hearing today and what you are seeing is that what happened at the Law Amendments Committee violated the privilege, not only of the members of the Opposition, it violated the privileges of every single member of this House. Because it may have been in their favour today, but one day, if this is the precedent set, they will come back and they will say that their rights have been violated as members of this House.
You have said before and you have ruled before that a point of personal privilege is always in order. Never before have I seen you, Mr. Speaker, in this Chamber when a member was speaking on a government amendment or a government motion, unless they had spoken continuously for one hour, tell that member or cut them off in mid-speech and to move to a different speaker. That is what was done to me this evening - not once, but twice.
Mr. Speaker, what the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, what the member for Sackville-Cobequid and what the member for Cape Breton South are telling you is, the function of this House cannot continue tonight until a decision has been made on this question. (Applause) Because, Mr. Speaker, you know yourself, it is not the first time that this was brought to your attention. In fact, I rose on a point of personal privilege to indicate that the Minister of Justice had made it clear in the Law Amendments Committee, regardless of Rule 1 of the Rules of this House, he indicated that the Rules of the House did not apply to the Law Amendments Committee.
Mr. Speaker, we appeal to you immediately, without delay, for you to make a ruling on that question and to immediately put an end to the infringement of the rights of members which was taking place. Considering the fact that the Minister of Justice is a colleague of yours, I would have hoped that you have been able to convey to him what that decision was so that would immediately come to an end.
Mr. Speaker, not only tonight, was a question of privilege not recognized, the members of the committee made it clear that they were going to request a recorded vote and they did request a recorded vote on the motion that was being proposed. The Minister of Justice asked the member for Halifax Bedford Basin to put forward a motion which because of the noise that was taking place in the chamber from all sides, we could not even hear what the motion was. The votes recorded were votes only from the government side because the Opposition members did not even have the right to vote on that motion.
You know yourself that that is a violation of the rights of this House. You have been asked on numerous occasions to read motions before the vote took place to make it crystal clear that every member of this House knew exactly what they were being asked to vote on. Not only did that happen once, it happened first to pass the first government amendment, then the minister asked the member for Halifax Bedford Basin to make a motion invoking closure and ending debate in the committee.
Once again, Mr. Speaker, the record of the Law Amendments Committee will show that there were only government members who voted on that motion . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. SAMSON: . . . because Opposition members (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Richmond has the floor. (Interruptions)
MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as I said, not only one vote took place that Opposition members did not have the opportunity to vote on, the motion to close debate and to report the bill back was not even voted on by Opposition members because, before we even knew a vote had taken place, the Minister of Justice and the Tory members on the committee were up, leaving the Chamber and we were still left wondering what just happened. The vote wasn't even taken.
Mr. Speaker, clearly you have seen not one, not two, not three, but numerous violations of the rights of these members. In your position, you have been very independent as the Speaker of this House. I think a number of members have said that in the past. In fact, we have seen occasions where the Government House Leader has tried to suggest to you rulings
and you have made it clear that you were going to make rulings on your own, independent of what your colleagues in the government might suggest.
Here is another opportunity where you have a chance to say I will not allow the infringement of members' rights to take place, whether it be in this Chamber or whether it be in any committee of this House. Mr. Speaker, you know yourself and you have referred to Beauchesne on a number of occasions, in fact, I believe the handbook that we are all given as members says that the Rules of this House are governed by Beauchesne and by other leading authorities. On Page 22, under the title of Privilege, it says FREEDOM OF SPEECH, and under Section 75. It says, "The privilege of freedom of speech is both the least questioned and the most fundamental right of the Member of Parliament on the floor of the House and in committee."
You know yourself that the rights of Members in Parliament are extended to members in this House of Assembly. What we saw today, and, Mr. Speaker, as much as the Minister of Justice might call it grandstanding, you know yourself from the debate that has taken place in the House, from the presentations that have taken place, 556 Nova Scotians asked to appear before the Law Amendments Committee. I would suggest to you, that that is a record number for the Law Amendments Committee. Yet, what have they said time and time again? They have made it quite clear that this bill is of tremendous significance. Historical writers, constitutional writers, labour writers have said that this is the most oppressive bill seen in the history of Nova Scotia for at least the last 100 years, if not more, not only the Opposition has said that.
Whether the Minister of Finance disagrees with that, that is the fact. It was written down. That is what Nova Scotians are concerned about. To say that a bill such as Bill No. 68, that each member of this House should not be given the opportunity to speak at length and to use their full privilege in addressing such a bill, it would be an abrogation of our responsibility as elected members of this House. Each and every one of us was sent here to represent our constituents to our best abilities; in fact we took an oath, when we were sworn in as members of this House, that we would uphold the rules and the privileges of this House and that we would represent our constituents as much as possible. Our daily prayer says that we will uphold and we will respect the Rules of this House.
If there is not a decision made immediately on this, to show that there has been a breach of privilege, I want to assure you that if the government members are going to breach the Rules of this House and not show respect for the Rules of this House, then that is a two-way street. I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, the last thing we want to see is that all members of this House show disrespect and do not follow the Rules of this House. That is why I am telling you as clearly as possible why it is essential you make a ruling immediately, whether it be you need a recess, whatever, but I am telling you right now . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. SAMSON: . . . that the Law Amendments Committee should be recalled and it be allowed to finish hearing the presentations of all members on that committee who wish to make a presentation, and to address amendments that are put forward by the government or by any of the Opposition Parties, and the idea that the amendments put forward by both the NDP caucus and the Liberal caucus not only were not even considered, there was no vote taken.
I would submit to you that the motion to adjourn that committee was out of order, was unparliamentary and is a violation of the Rules of this House, and that regardless of whether you rule on privilege or not, on procedure, I would also submit to you that the vote taken violates the procedures here. It was out of order, and I respectfully plead to you to make the ruling on privilege and make the ruling on whether that motion to adjourn was proper procedure and whether it was in order. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Any other interveners or members who wish to take part in this debate? (Interruptions)
One honourable member mentioned that I had mentioned before, and I do take very seriously, as I indicated before, a question of privilege of a member as a very serious matter. Before I make the statement about how I want to proceed with this, I do want to say one thing about the committee, because one of the members mentioned about last evening, actually, there was something brought forward, about the procedure itself as it takes place and whether, in fact, Rule 1 actually applies in all cases in regard to committees.
I just want to read Rule 61(2), "All decisions of the committee may be appealed to the House and such appeal shall be dealt with without debate." I want to emphasize that in regard to the process of order of what happens in the committee. Even though Rule 1 says the same procedure that takes place here would take place there, I would question whether it is even possible. This is in regard to a point that was brought forward last night by the honourable member for Cape Breton West. I was hoping I could explain that to him this evening.
Anyway, the matter of privilege was brought forward and, indeed, I do take that very seriously because, as I said before, it indicates in Beauchesne that a matter of privilege should only be brought to the Legislature floor on the very rarest of occasions. For me to ultimately make a decision based on just what I have heard to this point would not be fair to any members in this House. (Interruptions)
Order, please. According to Rule 29(a), "Whenever any matter of privilege arises, it shall be taken into consideration immediately, but the Speaker may, if he thinks fit, delay giving his ruling on a question of privilege raised with him." I want an opportunity. I am not going to suspend the House. I want to have an opportunity to review the facts of what happened in the committee tonight, particularly if it is taped proceedings, and I will report back to the House.
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hear what you are saying and I appreciate, and I am a little bit calmer at the moment. I apologize if I was angry before, but I don't think I have ever been as angry in this House when I have been on my feet before. If you are going to take this under advisement and render a ruling at a future time, I think it is only fair then that you instruct that the committee report from the Law Amendments Committee cannot be given this evening, that they cannot report back, because this all hinges around the fact the rules or decisions were made by the chairman of that committee in an attempt to rush to get that back to the floor of the House before there was an opportunity for amendments to be heard.
Mr. Speaker, I do respect and understand your wish to take this under advisement, however, it would be inappropriate, I suggest, and a meaningless ruling if, in fact, the government were to benefit by violating the traditions and practices of this House and be permitted to report it back. I am respectfully requesting that you recognize the special circumstances and refuse to recognize or to allow the Minister of Justice or anybody else in the Law Amendments Committee to report back that bill this evening.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South.
MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the House Leader of the New Democratic Party. I believe that any ruling that would come after that bill is reported back to this House would be a useless ruling in terms of the issue at hand here. It would be, quite simply, redundant; there would be no need to make a ruling. I want to remind you, Mr. Speaker, as I reminded the Clerk a few moments ago, that the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party had duly constituted motions of amendment that were put to this committee by both caucuses and circulated as required by this committee, and expected to debate those motions, those amendments on this bill, Bill No. 68. We expected to have an opportunity to debate the amendments that we, following the procedures of this House, put those amendments to the committee on Law Amendments for discussion. We did not have the opportunity to discuss those amendments.
I think it is irrelevant at this point whether or not the committee would accept or reject the amendments. The problem is that the bill is being reported back here without any amendments because we didn't have the opportunity to debate any amendments in this House. I believe that is an abuse of the rules and privileges of this House, and certainly an abuse of the Justice Minister on this House and on the people of Nova Scotia. I would ask that, perhaps, I agree with . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Thank you.
I think I have heard enough to say at least that I am going to take a recess until 8:45 p.m.
[8:31 p.m. The House recessed.]
[9:57 p.m. The House reconvened.]
SPEAKER'S RULING: Applicability of Rules of House in Committee
MR. SPEAKER: I will call the House back to order. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid rose on a point of personal privilege. After I have had an opportunity to review the facts, it is my ruling that the matter brought forward by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid that there is a prima facie case of privilege. I ask for the consent of the House that the matter be referred to the Internal Affairs Committee to deal with the matter.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
In regard to Bill No. 68, Bill No. 68 will be referred back to the Committee on Law Amendments and I would ask the honourable Government House Leader to give the hours.
HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would move, with the consent of the House, that the bill, as you say, be referred back to the Law Amendments Committee for deliberations between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon on Friday, tomorrow, and that at 12:00 noon, the bill be referred back to the House. Mr. Speaker, I would further move that the House sit tomorrow beginning at 12:00 noon until the completion of business, which would be the referral back to the House of Bill No. 68.
MR. SPEAKER: Is everyone clear on the motion?
The honourable member for Cape Breton South.
MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Okay. Maybe after that, he could give the hours for Monday?
MR. SPEAKER: Yes. Is everyone clear on the motion for the hours of the Law Amendments Committee and, as well, the House for tomorrow?
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon. The timing has been requested for next week. The House will sit for Committee of the Whole House on Bills on Monday, commencing at 12:15 a.m. on Monday and it will sit until 11:59 p.m. on Monday.
Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed. (Applause)
We are adjourned.
[The House rose at 10:02 p.m.]