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Speaker's Ruling
James Walding

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 Manitobans.

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 prorogation.

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 the issue.

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 committee.

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.

Canadian Parliamentary Review Cover
Vol 6 no 4

Last Updated: 2020-09-14