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Alberta Legislature: April 18, 2016: PC Motion Affirms Parental Choice, NDP Amendment Proposed

April 18, 2016

Alberta Legislature: approx 5:00 pm April 18, 2016

Today, Apri 18, 206, in the Alberta Legislature, MLA (PC) Ric McIver made a private member's motion: "Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to affirm its commitment to allowing parents the choice of educational delivery for their children, including home, charter, private, francophone, separate, or public education programs."

MLA (NDP) Ms. Luff proposed an amendment to the motion: “Be it resolved that the legislative assembly urge the government to support public education including francophone and separate schools, while affirming its commitment to allowing parents the choice of education delivery for their children, including home, charter and private education programs in such instances where they offer alternatives not available in the public system.”

MLA (WR), Dr. Starke then made a point of order, "it’s extremely unusual and irregular for a private member’s motion to be amended. ... Second ... is that it is the mover's opinion, and it's certainly my opinion as well, that this amendment substantively changes the intent of the motion. Of course, an amendment is not allowed to do that. An amendment can, you know, make changes or alterations, but this substantitively changes the intent of the mtion. I would suggest to the Hon. Member, with all respect, and certainly to you, Mr. Speaker, that this amendment to this motion is out of order and should be disallowed at this time. "

MLA (WR), Mark Smith, and MLA (PC), Dave Rodney both stood and spoke their agreement that the amendment was a substantive change to the intent of the motion.

Speaker Bob Wanner then made his ruling stating, "Now, I’m advised that in Beauchesne’s, sixth edition, page 175, paragraph 567 states that an amendment to a motion may seek to “modify a question in such a way as to increase its acceptability or to present to the House a different proposition as an alternative to the original question.” At paragraph 578 the same book notes that “an amendment proposing a direct negative . . . is out of order.” It is argued that this is what is happening with this amendment. In this case, however, I find that the purpose of the proposed amendment is to modify Motion 504 to present the House an alternative to the original question. The amendment is not a direct negative. Accordingly, I find that the amendment is in order as moved."

It appears that when the amendment was being handed out by the pages to MLAs, a second document was also handed out. This second document was entitled 'Ruling on the Admissibility of Amendment to Motion 504."

This document outlined, near verbatim in parts, the ruling that Speaker Wanner made. It was handed out to MLAs before debate had occurred on the topic and before Speaker Wanner spoke his ruling.

Dr. Starke spoke to this irregularity: Dr. Starke: Mr. Speaker, point of clarification. I rise under Standing Order 13(2), which reads, “The Speaker shall explain the reasons for any decision on the request of a Member.” I’ve also received a copy of the notes that you’ve liberally quoted from just now. I’m fascinated and puzzled, actually, that we should have such a completely drawn-out set of notes here given to us that clearly anticipates the challenge to this amendment. I guess my question as an hon. member to you as Speaker under 13(2) is to explain to the House, sir, when you first became aware of this amendment. You must have known ahead of time in order to have prepared the notes for this ruling, which was distributed to us before the ruling was actually even made. In fact, our first word of any amendment was just actually as the hon. member introduced it.

The ruling document was created and handed out before the arguments and evidence were presented in the house, and thus the ruling, which is to be reflective of the arguments made, was not, and was prepared and distributed in advance of debate occurring.

As Speaker Wanner was replying to Dr. Starke's comments, MLA (PC) McIver rose and spoke:

Mr. Speaker, no. You made the ruling before you heard people make their arguments. That’s a fact. This was printed out before people stood up in this House and made their arguments. I know because I had it in my hand, and it’s in Hansard. This is not the way you run a Legislature. I’m sorry. I know you’re unhappy with me, but I’m unhappy with you. When you make a ruling before you hear the evidence . . .

The Speaker: Hon. member, would you please sit down?

Mr. McIver: No, I will not, not unless you reverse your ruling, Mr. Speaker.

A debate ensued between MLA McIver and Speaker Wanner. In the end, MLA McIver refused to sit and the Speaker had the Sergeant-at-Arms escort Mr. McIver out of the house.

Debate then continued, and it centered around whether there would be parental choice in education. The house adjourned before a conclusion to the debate on the amendment.

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