Inadmissability of Identical Motions,
Speaker James Walding, Manitoba Legislative Assembly, August 10, 1983
The background: By midsummer of 1983 debate on a government
resolution proposing changes to the French language provisions of the
province's constitution had come to the fore. On July 22, the government
introduced a resolution which sought to refer the subject to the Standing
Committee on Privileges and Elections in order to solicit the views of
The resolution proposed that the committee
report during the current session. The opposition favoured referral but
rejected the proposition that the committee report at the current session on
the assumption that this would likely allow only two to three weeks for public
hearings as the session's business was nearing completion. Accordingly, the
opposition moved an amendment proposing that the committee sit after
When the government expressed its opposition
to this amendment, the opposition moved a sub-amendment proposing that the
committee report before December 31, 1983. The date was significant in that it
was stated by the government to be the deadline by which the province had to
transmit any constitutional proposals to Parliament. Twenty-one out of
twenty-three opposition members spoke to the sub-amendment.
This sub-amendment was defeated but on
August 3, another sub-amendment was introduced proposing that the committee
report before December 30, 1983. No one challenged the propriety of that motion
and twenty-two opposition members spoke to it. On August 6, after nine hours of
bell-ringing, this sub-amendment was also defeated and the opposition moved yet
another sub-amendment which sought to require the committee to report by
December 19, 1983.
The acting Government House Leader claimed
that the third sub-amendment was out of order on the grounds that it
contravened Manitoba Rule 58 which states, "A motion shall not be made if
the subject matter thereof had been decided by the House during the same
session". Beauchesne (5th ed.) citations 430 and 432 dealing with the
inadmissibility of substantially identical motions were also cited. The
Opposition House Leader rebutted that the essence of the sub-amendment was the
date itself and, since it differed substantially from earlier dates, the
subject matter of the motion was therefore substantially different. The Leader
of the Opposition argued in support that, having accepted the second
sub-amendment, the Speaker should also accept the third.
The ruling: (Speaker James Walding): On Saturday, August 6th, the Honourable Member for
Sturgeon Creek (J. Frank Johnston) moved to introduce for debate. a
sub-amendment to the amendment to the Language Resolution of the Honourable
Attorney General. When the admissibility of the sub-amendment was questioned
and several members had spoken to the matter, I took it under advisement in
order to review Hansard and the remarks of members. I have perused Hansard and
have reviewed our rules, Beauchesne, Erskine May, and past rulings.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
Conference, presently in session in Winnipeg has given me the opportunity to
seek the advice and counsel of other Speakers and parliamentarians. I thank
them for their wisdom and advice given so generously and for their interest in
Although there is considerable interest in
this matter amongst members who may be anxious to receive a ruling in order to
proceed, I have given this ruling the same thorough review and careful
consideration given to all rulings.
1 am not unaware of the deep political
differences that exist on this issue and of the steps being taken to utilize
the opportunities permitted within the parliamentary system.
However, I have tried not to be influenced
by what the consequences might be, but to consider the proposed sub-amendment
on the basis of its merits.
The decision has not been an easy one to
make and I will freely admit to being constantly preoccupied with the problem
since last Saturday. I will not review the arguments advanced so eloquently at
the time of the proposed sub-amendment.
The key to the problem is the question of
whether the second sub-amendment constitutes a precedent governing further
subsequent calendric amendments.
There is no doubt that both our rules and
Beauchesne clearly prohibit consideration of a matter previously decided by the
House at the same Session.
A sub amendment to an amendment is one which
modifies an amendment and must refer to the amendment and not to the main
motion. See Beauchesne Citation 416. Thus, a second sub-amendment was in order
by this limited definition, in that it proposed a new date differing by one day
to the first proposed sub-amendment, although no member objected on the grounds
of reviving debate.
If the proposed sub-amendment is not to
infringe on the prohibition mentioned above, it is clearly incumbent on the
supporters of the sub-amendment, to demonstrate that a difference of one day is
substantially different in seeking to limit consideration by an inter-sessional
1 listened carefully to the debate on the
December 30th sub-amendment to hear the arguments in favour of a one day
reduction in the limit on debate, but did not hear one member make that all
important point. Since it had not been shown that the one day difference is
substantially different, it follows that the value of the December 30th
sub-amendment as a precedent is considerably reduced or even non existent.
Thus, since the supporters of the proposed
sub-amendment have not dem onstrated the need for any further restriction of
the time required for inter sessional hearings, although given ample time to do
so, the proposed sub-amendment amounts to substantially the same proposition
which has already been decided upon by the House. I must therefore conclude
that the proposed sub-amendment is not in order.
Editor's note: The ruling of the Chair was
appealed by the Opposition but sustained by a vote of 23 to 15. The Government
and Opposition subsequently concluded an agreement whereby the House would
adjourn until the Committee hearings were completed. The amendment was defeated
and the referral resolution was adopted on August 12, 1983.