Fun and games with parliamentary procedure

Speaker forced to consult instant replay

As the House stumbles to an ignoble end to the spring sitting—yesterday’s QP was a particularly dim 45 minutes—we are at least getting another seminar in parliamentary procedure.

At 10 o’clock last night, the House of Commons still sitting until midnight in the pre-summer rush to pass legislation, NDP deputy House leader Phil Toone stood during debate on the government’s immigration reformed. Shenanigans ensued (some of the highlights are in the video above).

The fun starts here, with Mr. Toone, perhaps just to see if anyone on the other side was paying attention, moving that the chamber adjourn for the day. When a motion such as that is proposed, the Speaker first asks the House whether the member has unanimous consent to move the motion. If the members present in the House voice agreement, the Speaker then asks whether it is the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion.

For whatever reason, no voice of objection was raised when the Speaker (Joe Comartin, in this case) took that first step. Objections were voiced to the motion itself and so a vote was suddenly going to be necessary.

Government House leader Peter Van Loan, saying that he had reviewed the tape, quickly complained that the Speaker had moved two quickly to the second part and that the House translators had been slow in translating the first part (Mr. Comartin was speaking en francais), so that Conservatives did not properly have a chance to object. At that point, Comartin actually suspended the House for 24 minutes so that he could review the tape himself.

After going to instant replay, Comartin determined that no mistake had been made. The Conservatives tried to throw a question of privilege at the situation, but Comartin dismissed that and the House was thus compelled to take the time to go through a standing vote, on which the motion to adjourn was defeated by a count of 63 to 20. Nonetheless, NDP House leader Peter Julian celebrated a kind of victory over his Conservative counterpart (the New Democrats had previously objected to what was included in the motion to allow for the extension of sitting hours this month).

Meanwhile, responding a complaint registered by Mr. Julian, the Speaker ruled yesterday that the government’s use of an obscure standing order to force NDP leader Thomas Mulcair to testify at a parliamentary committee was improper. Mr. Julian’s objection came too late to do anything about what has resulted from the government’s move, but it does at least add a footnote to the affair.