Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Marilène Gill Profile
View Marilène Gill Profile
2017-06-21 14:04 [p.13083]
Mr. Speaker, on this National Aboriginal Day, the Bloc Québécois and I want to pay homage to the Métis, first nations, and Inuit peoples. This is also a day when my thoughts turn to my own Abenaki roots.
The indigenous peoples did not need Quebec, but Quebec certainly needed them. Our debt to them is immeasurable. From Notakwanon to Waswanipi, their presence defined and enabled our own. Our infinite gratitude for everything our indigenous brothers and sisters have done for us was humbly embodied in the peace of the braves.
Can the same be said of Ottawa when indigenous languages are not even respected here in the House? When communities are struggling with catastrophic rates of violence and suicide, when children still do not have access to safe drinking water or equitable education, and when women are still discriminated against, we certainly have to wonder.
Today is also an opportunity to remember everything we owe to indigenous peoples and to demand that the government follow through on everything that still needs to be done now.
Thank you. Tshinashkumitin. Meegwetch.
View Thomas Mulcair Profile
View Thomas Mulcair Profile
2017-06-21 14:31 [p.13088]
Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign, the Prime Minister claimed to be a champion of democratic reform, but that was before he won a majority government with only 39% of the votes. The Prime Minister also claimed to be an access-to-information advocate—even I believed him—but that was before his government discovered all the benefits of hiding information from the public and the media.
How can we believe this Prime Minister when he talks about principles and values?
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2017-06-21 14:32 [p.13088]
Mr. Speaker, as a government and as a political party, we have played a leadership role in openness and transparency. We introduced the proactive disclosure of parliamentarians' expenses in 2013 when we were a third party. I must admit that the Conservatives quickly followed suit. The NDP was never interested in proactive disclosure. It did not want to demonstrate the leadership and openness that Canadians expect from all parties.
We continue to demonstrate the openness, transparency, and accountability that Canadians expect from our government.
View Thomas Mulcair Profile
View Thomas Mulcair Profile
2017-06-21 14:34 [p.13088]
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister seems to believe that because the Liberals got 40% of the vote, it is okay if they only keep 40% of their promises. It is not okay.
The Prime Minister has been illegally lobbied during his cash-for-access events, and instead of ending this scheme, he tries to attack the opposition.
My question for the Prime Minister is, does he understand the problem with exchanging access to government—that is right, government—with payments to the government's political party? Please spare us the strongest-laws-in-Canada talking point for once.
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2017-06-21 14:35 [p.13088]
Mr. Speaker, Canadians expect any government and any political party to follow the strong rules we have in place, and that is exactly what we are doing. More than that, we decided, as we often do on this side of the House, to raise the bar on transparency and openness, which is why we are opening up our fundraisers, making sure that they happen in public places and that the media get to come and see what we are doing. The fact is we encourage and exhort the members opposite to have the same level of transparency with Canadians in regard to their donors and their fundraising events as we have.
View Mark Strahl Profile
View Mark Strahl Profile
2017-06-21 14:57 [p.13092]
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister was only too happy to rubber-stamp the sell-off of B.C.'s largest chain of retirement homes to Anbang Insurance to appease his friends in Beijing. With Anbang now under criminal investigation and its politically well-connected chairman Mr. Wu having disappeared, the Prime Minister continues to endorse this Chinese takeover.
I ask the Prime Minister, when the Anbang house of cards finally collapses, who will gain control of these seniors care facilities in B.C.? Are seniors about to find out that their landlord is actually the People's Republic of China?
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2017-06-21 14:57 [p.13092]
Mr. Speaker, our government is open to investment that offers middle-class jobs and opportunities for Canadians.
Cedar Tree has confirmed its strong commitment to the ongoing quality of operations in Canada and to its health care workers. It will remain subject to provincial oversight on seniors care facilities, ensuring the rules for the care of seniors continue to be followed, and will keep the current number of full-time and part-time jobs. B.C.'s regulatory regime is robust and imposes rigorous standards of care on operators of residential care and assisted living facilities.
We will continue to stand up for Canada's seniors.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister assured the House that his government had done its due diligence regarding the billion-dollar takeover of B.C. care homes by murky Chinese ownership. Now the company chairperson is in prison and investigators are looking into allegations of corruption and economic crimes.
If the company dissolves, who will gain control of our seniors care facilities? Are seniors in my riding going to find out that their landlord is the People's Republic of China?
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2017-06-21 14:58 [p.13093]
Mr. Speaker, we continue to be open to investments from around the world because we know that creating good middle-class jobs and creating services and opportunities to protect Canadians is extremely important.
We recognize that B.C. and all provinces have a strong regulatory regime that oversees and ensures that the care our seniors receive is of top quality. That is why we continue to work with British Columbia and with all of our partners to make sure that Canadian seniors do receive the quality care and support they need across this country.
View Elizabeth May Profile
Mr. Speaker, yesterday I spoke to the issue of prorogation, because we now have a historic opportunity to ensure that prorogation will never again be used improperly, and I said that the motion fails to eliminate that possibility.
I was about to close on the subject of prorogation by suggesting to the House, as I have suggested to the hon. government House leader in a paper I prepared on things we could do in our Standing Orders, the advice from Professor Hugo Cyr, L'Université du Québec à Montréal. He raised before the the Special Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform, as did Professor Peter Russell, Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto, additional reforms for democracy that we should consider making.
Professor Cyr's approach is this: amend the Standing Orders of the House of Commons so that asking for Parliament to be prorogued or dissolved without first obtaining the approval of the House of Commons automatically results in a loss of confidence in the Prime Minister. Consequently, the Governor General would not be bound by a prime minister's advice requesting the early dissolution or prorogation of Parliament without first obtaining the approval of the House of Commons.
This is a very sensible proposal. What the government has proposed is a form of improvement, but there is nothing in the government proposal that would stop the abuse of power such as we saw when Stephen Harper shut down of Parliament to avoid a vote he knew he would lose. Unfortunately, the opposition parties had just recently voted on the Speech from the Throne, mistaking what they thought was a mere formality. It actually was a confidence vote and that is why the Governor General at the time refused to deny Mr. Harper his request for prorogation, although it is historically an affront to parliamentary democracy. We need to close that door now and the proposal from the government does not do it.
Similarly, I was pleased to see the motion would deal with omnibus bills and allow them to be split, only to be crestfallen to realize they only would be allowed to be split when it came to voting on them, not for studying them. It was actually the case with one of Harper's omnibus bills, Bill C-31, which was introduced in spring 2014. I went to committee, as I was by that point mandated to do by the new motions that were passed to deny me my rights at report stage, to present amendments to various sections of the bill.
These omnibus bills were so big that when I went to committee with amendments to a section, it was the moment when members around the committee realized they had not had any witnesses on that section. It was a commercial chemical section, by the way. I wanted an amendment related to asbestos. The committee had no witnesses, had not studied it , and certainly could not take amendments, but it could pass it because it was under time allocation. When there are multiple sections pushed in the same bill, it is a small improvement to say that the Speaker can split them out for purpose of voting, but we really need those sections split out for purposes of study.
Again, the recommendation from the hon. government House leader is a small improvement but a long way from being adequate.
While we have a chance, there are a lot of things we could look at in the Standing Orders. Again, going back to the advice of Professor Peter Russell and Professor Hugo Cyr to the Special Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform, we are one of the only modern democracies that does not have a mandatory period between when an election takes place and when the newly elected government convenes Parliament. This loophole has not yet been exploited or abused, but there is no reason not to close the door on it now.
Fundamentally, what is terribly sad about this process is that we lost the opportunity to achieve a consensus on how to change our Standing Orders. This remains a historical, and not a good historical precedent, where the party with the majority of seats in this place, even though it does not have the majority of votes across the land, is able to push through this motion, because the votes are there.
I would urge the government House leader and the Liberals to seriously consider adopting the NDP amendment. It will do no violence to the principles it is espousing. It would at least allow omnibus bills to be split for purposes of study. I urge this to my colleagues. I also hope that in the future we can return to some of the other proposals I made, particularly taking into account the carbon footprint created by our parliamentary schedule. I continue to maintain that we need to consider very closely changing the days and the weeks in which we sit in order to intensify our time in Ottawa and thus reduce the millions of dollars and tons of greenhouse gases as we fly back and forth to this city.
View Luc Thériault Profile
View Luc Thériault Profile
2017-06-20 11:21
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands for sharing her time with me.
Ten minutes is valuable time that will allow me to speak to the alleged intent behind the modernization of House of Commons procedure. My political party will have had only 10 minutes to express its views in the House. All the members of the House are complicit in believing that this is perfectly fine.
Since October 19, 2015, I have been experiencing Canadian-style parliamentary democracy. To be honest, it concerns me, both in terms of the inconsistencies between theory and practice and the inconsistencies between this government’s intentions and its actions. It concerns me, especially given the discrimination, as well as the complacency about this discrimination, plaguing this House. Whether we like it or not, there are two classes of members in the House. This also means that there are two classes of constituents. There are recognized parties and non-recognized parties, which make up the two classes of members. When it comes to freedom of speech, we do not have the same rights as all parliamentarians in the House.
In terms of its practices, Parliament is stuck in the 19th century. However, the mother parliament of Westminster has evolved. If you ask me, today it would have difficulty recognizing its Canadian offspring, since it grants its minority parties benefits and privileges that this Parliament does not. The aim was to undertake procedural reform. In the area of modernizing procedure, we have been excluded from all parliamentary committees since October 19, 2015.
When the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs wants to meet and seek the approval of all parliamentarians in the House to amend the Standing Orders, members who belong to a non-recognized party continue to be excluded. If this is not discrimination, I do not know what else to call it. Is this ideological segregation? This is following this government’s supposed intention to change the voting system in order to allow for a greater ideological diversity of opinions in the House. Obviously, the Liberals have tossed that in the trash, along with their intention to modernize procedure and the Standing Orders.
However, all my colleagues and I were elected, just like all other MPs, to honour the mandate given to us by the people. How is it that everyone accepts the fact that some MPs in the House do not have the same means of giving a voice to their constituents? I am speaking mostly of the contributions of MPs to committees, or parliamentary “commissions” in Quebec, which represent a large part of parliamentarian’s work.
If MPs are excluded from committees, what other means do they have left to make the voices of their constituents heard? In committee, when the debate is focused on the principle of a bill, we have the right to vote and are given ten minutes to say what we think of the bill. After that, it is radio silence. We no longer have the right to vote or intervene. Depending on the government’s mood, and if we have played nice in committee, we might be allowed to raise our hand and perhaps be given a brief two minutes to say something. However, we still do not have the right to vote. At report stage we can vote in the House, but there is absolutely no possibility of submitting any amendments that were not submitted in committee.
We do not have the right to vote or the right to speak in committee. Is this what Canadian-style parliamentary democracy looks like? Are we proud of this? I for one am not because I am not given the means to speak on behalf of constituents in the House.
However, we have a democratic principle under which voters pay taxes to the Government of Canada and have the right to be represented by MPs from the Bloc Québécois or the Green Party. These parties should have equitable means for representing their fellow citizens. Freedom of speech is a recognized principle, but an MP’s duty to speak is not respected in a fair manner in Parliament.
How could we think that this parliamentary reform of procedure would lead anywhere other than a dead end? According to parliamentary tradition, changing the rules of the game requires trying for the greatest consensus possible. In December 2015, this government gave the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, a committee that we are excluded from, the mandate to modernize how the House works, within a perspective of work-family balance. That is an excellent idea, because after having sat as a member in another parliament, I can tell you that work-family balance is pathetic here in Ottawa.
However, today, this entire aspect has been set aside, along with the willingness to acknowledge all legislators of the House. Parliamentary procedure is controlled by executive power, which, in any case, is always looking to bypass legislative power, since hearing members speak takes too long. There are no ministers in the committees, but the government would like to give parliamentary secretaries more rights than I have. They will automatically receive the right to intervene, even if they do not have the right to vote. The executive will then be able to once again deliver its messages to the majority legislators of the governing party so that they do not deviate from the executive line of government. There is no separation of powers.
This government, however, was supposed to do politics differently. Changing the voting system, which allowed each vote to count, among other things, was thrown out. Reforming the financing of political parties was also tossed, and this could have at least allowed each vote to count, in a British system, by paying parties an allowance in proportion to the number of votes that they received. Work-family balance was scrapped along with the recognition of minority parties in the House, the fundamental right of parliamentarians of all parties to do their job in the House, freedom of speech, and the value of justice, because it is a matter of justice.
The fairness principle must be absolutely respected. However, when it is a matter of the right of only one member, one can assume that all members of the House may not be able to speak, as there are 338 members. This refers to parties. I have not heard many members, except for the member of the Green Party, agreeing with us and saying that what the members of the Green Party and the Bloc Québécois are experiencing is terrible, and that they support us because they would never want to be in that position.
I therefore ask our fellow legislators whether they support us in this interpretation of a bad reform of the procedure.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak to Motion No. 18. It is an important motion, one that impacts the way we conduct business here in the chamber. I am also pleased to split my time with my friend and colleague, the member for Calgary Rocky Ridge. I know he too has a lot to say on this matter.
I think it is fair to say that members on this side of the House strongly believe the government is trying to stifle the opposition's ability to protect the people we are elected to serve. What separates us from tyranny and revolution is our right, lent to us by the people, to stand in this place and contest ideas and demand that the government explain itself.
These are not sunny ways. These are dark days for democracy. The Prime Minister is not interested in working with members on this side of the House of Commons. The government simply wants to get its agenda through the door, regardless of the impact on Canadians. The role of the opposition, as we all know, is to hold government to account, debate ideas, and represent the people in our constituencies. It has become clear over the past two years that the opposition is just an inconvenience to the Prime Minister's agenda. He wants an audience, not an opposition.
Back in March, the government attempted, among other things, to reduce the opportunity for members to hold the government to account. The government intended to do this by eliminating Friday sittings, putting automatic time allocation on bills, eliminating the effectiveness of committees through preventing opposition parties from triggering debates on reports, and implementing closure changes to committees.
How Motion No. 18 came about, late on a Friday afternoon when members of the House were either back in their ridings or on their way there, is very suspect. The government decided it was a good time to spring these changes on the members of the House. It was not the government House leader but her colleague who gave notice to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, on which I sit, that these matters would be studied and everything wrapped up in a couple of months.
Yesterday the official opposition's House leader, the member for Portage—Lisgar, mentioned four examples in recent years when the Canadian Parliament worked together to form a consensus on changes to House procedure: Pierre Trudeau's Lefebvre committee; the McGrath committee, set up by Brian Mulroney; Jean Chrétien's special committee on modernization and improvement; and the previous Conservative government, under the stewardship of Stephen Harper, which worked co-operatively with all parties to bring in permanent procedural amendments.
I am honestly at a loss as to why the government ignored previous parliamentary traditions on working collectively on changes to House procedure. I thought this was the government that campaigned on working together.
I am very proud that both the NDP House leader and the opposition House leader worked together to suggest an alternative, a special all-party committee to work on a consensus to review our procedures and to propose alternatives. This would have been an opportunity to put aside partisanship and work in a collegial spirit to strengthen, not weaken, members' ability to protect Canadians' interests. If the Prime Minister was truly committed to working with this Parliament, he should have seen the value in that proposal.
There is a reason that the two sides of this chamber are separated by two swords' lengths. There was a time when parliamentary democracy was not as collegial as it is today. One has to but open a history book to see what happens when the people have no power or when it is stripped from them. Blood has been shed in the fight to enshrine and protect the rights of members of Parliament to fully represent their constituents. The government intends to deprive us of those rights. It will perhaps not happen all at once, but if it is successful here in this instance, make no mistake: the erosion of the House of Commons will have begun, and before long I fear this place will become redundant.
I would now like to turn to a brief overview of the changes the government is proposing in this motion.
Within 20 days of a new session following a prorogation, the government has to submit a report explaining the reasons that it prorogued. This rule is nothing more than sleight of hand. The opposition already has means to demand of the government answers to why it prorogued.
We have an opportunity to scrutinize the government. It is called question period. Unless the government's aim is to limit the availability of the Prime Minister during question period or perhaps even limit the powers of parliamentarians to debate ideas in this place, then all that is needed for scrutiny is an open question period that the Prime Minister attends for as many days as possible. Perhaps the government has more foresight than we gave it credit for.
In all seriousness, the inclusion of this item in the motion before us is nothing more than basically checking a box in the Liberal 2019 election pamphlet. If Liberals have issues with prorogation, they simply should promise not to do it and stick with that promise.
That brings me to omnibus bills. Under these proposals, the Speaker of the House of Commons would have the power to divide those bills for the purpose of voting “where there is not a common element connecting the various provisions”. As the motion reads, the exception would be budget bills.
If I recall correctly, not so long ago the current government was in opposition and would raise a hue and cry over those same omnibus budget bills. Now Liberals stand here decrying these evil omnibus bills, except that now they will allow them if they are budget bills. I guess there was one thing for the campaign and another thing for after being elected.
The most recent government omnibus budget bill included the new Liberal infrastructure bank, a bank that will offer taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees to cover the losses of wealthy foreign investors who build megaprojects in Canada. These are the kinds of bills the government has no problem passing in an omnibus bill, the kinds of bills for which it wants limited scrutiny. We are not even sure if members of the board of this $35-billion taxpayer-funded bank will be Canadians. We may see foreign directors funding foreign investors, with taxpayers on the hook for any losses. I do not understand this logic. Perhaps this is simply a means to balance out the election pamphlet that the Liberals are working on for 2019.
These first two items are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The following item is much more nefarious, and in this connection a March 26 Globe and Mail opinion piece warned the Canadian public to keep an eye on what is happening in Parliament.
According to the government, a new schedule for budgets and main estimates documents will be created so that the Treasury Board Secretariat can have time to have the main estimates reflect what is in the budget. This is not the case in reality.
I applaud that the government wishes to better coordinate the budget and the main estimates, but reducing the time the opposition and stakeholders have to scrutinize the main estimates is not the way to do it. This is an issue of time management, nothing more.
The main estimates, for the benefit of the public watching, are the instrument the government uses that leads to the eventual authorization by Parliament for the government to spend the public's money. Perhaps that is the heart of the issue. The government has never really been serious about financial accountability. I am not even sure it realizes where this money comes from. Here is a reminder: it comes from the Canadian public, the people who work hard day in and day out for their paycheques. That is who the money belongs to, and I think every Canadian would demand that there be parliamentary oversight on that procedure. The government cannot take away the right of the public to scrutinize government spending simply by reducing the time parliamentarians and other stakeholders have to examine the main estimates. It is not Parliament that is delaying the government's spending; it is the government's own internal practices. If the government wants better alignment, it should get the main estimates to us a lot sooner.
The last item I will speak to today centres on committee business. In an attempt to neuter opposition MPs, the government plans to introduce an amendment to prevent ministers from sitting on committees. Instead, it will allow parliamentary secretaries to sit as ex officio members. There is only so much time committees have, and with an extra member for the government at the table, we can bet that opposition time will be affected. These parliamentary secretaries might not be able to vote, but they will have every other right of committee members. They will be in a position to effectively steer the committee toward their ministers' agenda, and that is something Liberals directly campaigned against.
I am not saying that Parliament must not renew and review its parliamentary procedures from time to time. I am on the procedure and House affairs committee and I get it, but we are talking about consensus by all parties to come to an agreement on how this place works.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. It must be said that his party has always been quite clear about its rather stubborn desire to lead the country without worrying much about details. In the 10 years that the Harper government was in power, we often saw the same kind of approach.
While Canadians have the unpleasant surprise of seeing that the Liberal government, after promising true blue, even “obamaesque”, democracy, is adopting its own preferred agenda, does the member enjoy seeing the Liberals taking a governing approach that somewhat resembles that of his own government, which at least had the merit of not hiding it?
The Conservative government did not care that people were not happy and did what it wanted. As for the Liberals, they give nice speeches on a great positive democracy and sunny ways, but in the end their agenda is rather dark. They decide everything and we must keep quiet.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
Mr. Speaker, my friend is absolutely right. I think that goes to my point about the Globe and Mail article, which basically focused on encouraging Canadians to pay attention to what is going on in Parliament. I know Canadians are busy and it is our job to get the message out, but I think that was the focus: be aware of what is going on in Parliament, because the Liberal Party, through its draconian measures, is stripping members of the opposition of any power they have to hold the government to account.
So far we have been successful at pushing back at that, and I thank the members of the NDP for their co-operation. It was a good working relationship and we do appreciate it, but it is only the fact that we have been able to push back.
We look at Motion No. 6. We look at the Standing Order changes proposed. I believe it was March that it came out, and now there is this latest batch of changes, none of which are using consensus to change the procedures on how this place works. I wish they had used a historical precedent, because there are previous governments and previous prime ministers who did just that.
View Pat Kelly Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure, as always, to rise in this place and add to the debate, this time on Motion No. 18, a motion to amend the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.
Here we are. We are on the second day of debate on this motion and we are on the fourth-last scheduled sitting day of the session, under extended sitting hours, and talking about the changes to the Standing Orders. How did this happen and how did we get here? In order to explain the position that I am going to take on this motion and how I am going to use my vote and my voice on behalf of my constituents of Calgary Rocky Ridge, I am going to explain a bit of the context behind this motion for the benefit of constituents watching at home.
At the time of dissolution of the last Parliament, the Liberals were the third party in the House. They had 30-odd seats. They had a new untested leader. They had little to lose and they came up with an idealistic platform that included many promises that were designed to capture the imagination of Canadians, in contrast to a government that was very familiar to Canadians by virtue of its having won three consecutive elections and governing for nearly 10 years. Therefore, one might go so far as to say that the Liberals' 2015 platform perhaps was designed more to improve from the third-party status than to be a serious platform under which to govern.
It contained a lot of promises, including a modest deficit of $10 billion, and a stimulatory and not structural deficit that would result in immediate GDP growth and a swift return to balance. Obviously that did not happen. It also contained a promise to change the voting system within the first 18 months. That also did not happen.
The Liberals also had a promise to modernize the House of Commons, and what that meant was fairly vague. They threw out some idealistic buzzwords and mused about whether the House of Commons could be made more family friendly, a worthy ideal for many of us. I am a husband and a father of three children, so I am all for family friendliness.
The Liberals really only had four specific promises related to the Standing Orders. They promised that they would amend the Standing Orders to prevent omnibus bills; they promised not to use prorogation; they promised they would instill a British-style prime minister's question period, compelling the Prime Minister to answer all the questions one day a week; and they promised that they would change the estimates process so that the main estimates would reflect the current budget.
We know that Canadians took the current government at its word in the election and elected them on the strength of these and many other idealistic promises. However, soon enough the Liberals began to discover that reality is a tough place, an unforgiving place, and, once elected, reality is inescapable. One by one, the Liberal promises have been broken, set aside, or just plain abandoned. The Liberals' first attempt at what they called modernizing the House of Commons could be more properly called muzzling the opposition and disenfranchising the millions of Canadians who elected the 154 members of the opposition parties on this side of the House. It happened last year when Motion No. 6 tried to impose limits on debate and give members of the government additional powers over the House. That motion fortunately was abandoned on the night of the long elbows last May.
After that, the government expended enormous amounts of political capital, committee time, public money, and teasing the activist base whose support they stole from the NDP in the last election on their failed electoral reform agenda. Following that, the government then took its second stab at fulfilling its election promise on Standing Orders reform with its absurdly called “discussion paper”, delivered after hours on a Friday in March, followed by a motion with a deadline at the procedure and House affairs committee the next week. That motion and the so-called discussion paper called for all kinds of draconian and thoroughly undemocratic measures, including limiting debate through giving the government the power to pre-allocate time in the House of Commons, limiting debate at committees; and reducing the number of sitting days each week, thus reducing the number of days that the government would be compelled to be accountable to Canadians by facing the opposition in the House, especially during question period.
The reaction by the opposition parties was swift and predictable. Recognizing what was at stake, the Conservatives and the NDP used every means available under the existing Standing Orders to prevent the government from proceeding. At the height of the Standing Orders debacle at PROC, The Globe and Mail wrote an editorial that pointed out that in a majority Parliament when a government can pass any law or motion it wants, the opposition really only has two weapons at its disposal: moral suasion and the power to delay.
Both of those weapons were used to maximum effect, and eventually the government realized that the opposition would go to any lengths to prevent it from changing the Standing Orders without all-party consent, something that no other government has had the arrogance or contempt for the opposition to attempt before. That perhaps is wherein lies the rub. The Liberals seem quite sincere in their belief that whatever makes it easier and more convenient for the government and limits the ability of the opposition to hold it accountable is somehow democratic.
Members on the government side seem to sincerely believe that the opposition should merely act as spectators. It has been said before by me and by many of my colleagues that we are not an audience. We are the opposition. We were elected to this place just as each member on the other side was. We were elected by people who do not support the government's agenda and expect us to speak on their behalf. They expect us to demand accountability. They expect us to examine proposed expenditures. They do not expect us to simply act as mere spectators. They expect vigorous debate and robust daily question periods attended by the Prime Minister. They certainly do not expect us to surrender the very limited tools that we possess to do the job we were elected to do.
This brings me to the present and the details of the motion before us.
At first glance, the motion might appear not unreasonable, a compromise perhaps compared with the outrageous Motion No. 6, with the machinations that happened at PROC and the absurd statements that the government House leader has been making for months. In fact, one might for a moment be tempted to even give credit to the government for abandoning nearly all of the draconian changes signalled by its March so-called discussion paper and its Motion No. 6 of last year. Before doing that, however, let us consider what the motion would do and how it stacks up to the Liberals' supposedly sacrosanct commitment to delivering on the specific election promises related to Standing Orders and so-called modernization of the House of Commons.
With this motion, the government has abandoned its promise to change the Standing Orders for a prime minister's question period. Perhaps it has finally realized that this is something it could have done all along without a change to the Standing Orders, or perhaps it has realized just how poorly the present Prime Minister performs, so it is no longer so keen on the idea of a prime minister's question period.
The motion's so-called modernization of the estimates process would reduce the amount of time for committees to review the estimates, thereby reducing accountability.
Giving the Speaker the power to split a bill, not a budget-related bill and only for this Parliament, really is a joke within the context of the Liberals' promise and their past objections to omnibus legislation. The number of omnibus bills they have already tabled makes this part of the motion hilariously cynical.
The requirement to table a prorogation press release is also ridiculous, given the Liberals' promises and their past statements on this subject.
In short, despite the fact that this appears now to be merely token lip service to Standing Orders reform, I could never support the motion, because to do so would be to reward the government for its cynicism and for its spectacular incompetence. There is no way that we will let the Liberals claim that their grotesque mismanagement of this file has somehow ended in all-party support, all-party support that they have never seriously tried to obtain.
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