"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Point of Order, Mr. Speaker

How very heartwarming to see the Speaker quoting on Monday from both the Old Testament (Beauchesne) and the New Testament (Marleau and Montpetit) of Parliamentary procedure:
On May 8, the hon. the Government House Leader raised a point of order relating to a line of questioning by the Leader of the Opposition. The Government House Leader suggested that it is not in order to question ministers about matters not within the purview of their departments.

The Government House Leader is absolutely correct. Questions directed to ministers must concern matters for which they are responsible. Marleau and Montpetit, page 426, Beauchesne’s 6th Edition, §409 and Erskine May 26th Edition, page 298. It is also the case that a question must not seek to elicit an opinion, legal or otherwise, page 427 of Marleau and Montpetit. Nor should a question seek information which relates to any other presumed functions of a minister, such as regional responsibilities - from Beauchesne’s 5th Edition, §351.

I ask all hon. members if they would bear these points in mind when formulating their questions.
Here are some other great passages from those important books:
Any Member participating in debate must address the Chair, not the House, a particular Minister or Member, the galleries, or the television audience. Since one of the basic principles of procedure in the House is that the proceedings be conducted in terms of a free and civil discourse, Members are less apt to engage in direct heated exchanges when their comments are directed to the Chair rather than to another Member. If a Member directs remarks towards another Member and not the Speaker, he or she will be called to order, and may be asked to rephrase the remarks. In a Committee of the Whole, Members must direct their comments to the Chairman. (M&M, page 513)

During debate, Members do not refer to one another by their names, but rather by title, position, or constituency name in order to guard against all tendency to personalize debate. A Minister is referred to by the portfolio he or she holds…. The Speaker will not allow a Member to refer to another Member by name even if the Member is quoting from a document such as a newspaper article. As the Chair noted, a Member “cannot do indirectly what cannot be done directly.” (M&M, page 521-22)

§484. (1) It is the custom in the House that no Member should refer to another by name. Members should be referred to in the third person as “the Honourable Member for _____”. A Minister is normally designated by the portfolio held: “the Honourable Minister of _____”. Other office holders are similarly identified by their offices. The two main party leaders are generally referred to as “the Prime Minister” and “the Leader of the Opposition”, and other party leaders are identified with their parties. Parliamentary Secretaries are normally identified by the posts the hold. The House Leaders and Party Whips may also be referred to by their offices. (Beauchesne, 6th)
And for good measure:
It is a rule of Parliament that a member addressing the house should not mention another member by name. (Bourinot, 1916, p. 356)


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