Thank you Mr. Speaker. The Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures is pleased to provide its Report on Matters Referred to the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures. In a letter dated January 15, 2008, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the Hon. Paul Delorey, referred a request from Mrs. Jane Groenewegen, Chair of the Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning, to the Standing Committee
on Rules and Procedure. The Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning expressed concern with regard to the government’s response to formal motions made in the House in response to direction from a standing committee.
The Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures is tasked with reviewing such requests and may offer recommendations, including changes to the rules of the Legislative Assembly.
In a letter to the Speaker dated December 6, 2007, the Priorities and Planning Committee pointed out that in most cases it has been the practice of previous governments to respond to motions made by standing committees by corresponding directly with the appropriate committee rather than providing a public response in the Assembly. The members of the Priorities and Planning Committee believe that a formal motion passed in the Assembly requires a formal response tabled in the Assembly. They refer to Rule 42(10), setting out the government’s responsibility to respond to petitions as a suggested course of action.
In discussing the issue, members of the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures recognize that any correspondence received by committees from the government in response to a motion would be considered privileged and in many cases confidential. It would therefore be a breach of the rules of the Legislative Assembly to share that response with the public.
In their discussion members of the committee felt it would be advantageous to have the government respond publicly through a motion adopted by the House. The committee felt that this would provide the public with a logical conclusion in situations where a motion was adopted by the Assembly after public debate on the floor of the House.
It became clear to the committee that it would be necessary for a motion to be worded in a manner that would require the government to table a response. In those cases, where a motion is adopted that offers general support to a principle or organization or which is outside the responsibility of the Government of the Northwest Territories, there would be no requirement for a response included in the wording of the motion.
The Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures offers the following recommendations for the consideration of the Members of the Legislative Assembly:
The Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures recommends that Rule 49 of the rules of the Legislative Assembly be amended by adding the following as section 49(3):
A motion adopted by the House and requesting a response from the government will require the government to table such a response within 120 days or at the earliest opportunity subsequent to the passage of 120 days.
In a letter dated March 27, 2008, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, the Hon. Paul Delorey, requested that the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures review Rule 39 of the rules of the Legislative Assembly and provide some clarification and recommendation on the length, format and procedure that should be used in putting forth written questions.
The Speaker requested clarification in order to provide proper direction to the Members of the Assembly and to ensure that the business of the House can proceed in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
It was agreed by the members of the committee that the purpose of a written question was to pose a question which would be likely to require a detailed or complex answer or an answer that would not reasonably be assumed to be within the present knowledge of the Minister. A written question is intended to obtain information for the Member, not to supply that information to the House.
Examples of written questions that were discussed by committee members included such things as detailed statistical analysis, information requests on specialized or technical matters and requests for information that would require input from regional offices.
It was noted by the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures that there are presently no rules governing the length and format of written questions and that there have been instances of members improperly posing written questions in an effort to extend debate on issues or asking a written question that should more properly have been raised during oral questions.
There are ample opportunities for Members to pose their questions in question period or to ask their questions on a subsequent day.
Members agreed that the use of written questions has strayed from the intended purpose and offer the following recommendations for consideration by the Members of the Legislative Assembly:
Recommendation No. 2
The Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures recommends that Rule 39 of the rules of the Legislative Assembly be amended by adding the following:
39(3): The Clerk shall ensure that the written
question conforms with the Rules and practices of the House.
39(4): A written question may only contain the
one initial question and four supplementary questions.
39(5): A Member may only have five written
questions on the Order Paper at any one time.
Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Yellowknife South, that this Committee Report 2-16(3) be received by the Assembly and moved into Committee of the Whole for consideration.