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Motion to Authorize Joint Committees to Hold Hybrid Meetings Until June 2024

 Honourable senators, in my capacity as Joint Chair of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, I have a direct interest in this motion being passed as soon as possible. Together with the Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament, we are the two joint committees. Scrutiny of Regulations, while relatively not well known by colleagues, is one of the most important committees in our Parliament. It happens to be co-chaired by a member of Parliament — in the particular, current case, a Conservative member of Parliament — with whom I have an excellent working relationship.

What we do, colleagues, in short, is look at the regulations that have been put in place pursuant to laws that we have passed in this chamber. We ensure that those regulations are consistent with the laws that we agreed to. This is laborious, time-consuming, sometimes tedious work, but extremely important.

From time to time, we find discrepancies in the regulations that officials have come up with and we are then in a position to question officials, question the minister, and if the answers are not satisfactory, we have the power to disallow those regulations. In fact, in our current set of investigations, there is an issue which could lead to a disallowance which has already required a request for the minister to appear before our committee.

The purpose of the motion before us is to allow senators to take part in committee meetings through a hybrid format, in the same way that members of the House of Commons are allowed to do.

You may not know that this committee typically meets on a Monday morning, which makes the motion and the hybrid option all the more important. This motion has been on the Order Paper pretty much since we returned from our break. It has been postponed. It has been adjourned. We have not been allowed to get to a vote on it for many days.

In fact, we witnessed the spectacle yesterday, when Senator LaBoucane-Benson tried to ask for the question to be called that led to the Conservatives, the opposition in this chamber, to not allow that to happen.

We heard Senator Plett say, after rejecting permission to get to the question, that somebody — in words to this effect — tried to “sneak one past us.” Colleagues, what is it that we were trying to sneak past the Conservative Party? A motion to allow a committee of Parliament to meet to do the work of parliamentarians; that is what we were trying to “sneak” past the Conservative Party.

This is yet another example of the obstructionist tactics that undermine the work of the Senate and of the Parliament of Canada. All of this is being done in the name of the so-called official opposition in the Senate. It exposes, yet again, the fallacy that a partisan opposition can be held up as some kind of special case of an opposition that deserves special rights and privileges that other parliamentary groups do not have.

Honourable senators, this is, in some senses, a timely but also sad example of the point I was trying to make just two days ago in my speech on the fifth report of the Rules Committee that the claim which is made by the opposition that what they do is somehow a better form of opposition than the rest of us and that, in turn, is the reason why they should have rights and privileges that the rest of us don’t have is pure bunk. It underscores the need more than ever for us to change the Rules.

Colleagues, I will shortly close my speech by calling the question. I hope the Conservatives will not stand in the way of the joint committee doing its work by allowing the question to be called.

They have already made the point that they have the power to obstruct and they will do so, even if it is detrimental to the work of Parliament. Point taken. But the point that the rest of us should take is a different one. It is that there is nothing to admire. There is nothing to protect in this kind of opposition. There is no reason to preserve the special privileges of the Senate opposition in the Rules of the Senate.

With that, Your Honour, unless there is someone else who wants to speak, I ask that we now call the question of Motion No. 126.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Are senators ready for the question?

Hon. Senators: Question.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): I move the adjournment of the debate.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Martin, seconded by the Honourable Senator Plett, that further debate be adjourned until the next sitting of the Senate. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Some Hon. Senators: Yes.

An Hon. Senator: No.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: All those in favour of the motion, please say “yea.”

Some Hon. Senators: Yea.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: All those opposed, please say “nay.”

Some Hon. Senators: Nay.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I believe the “nays” have it. I see two senators rising. Do we have an agreement on a bell? One-hour bell. Call in the senators for a vote at 4:17.