Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Scott Reid Profile
Mr. Speaker, on numerous occasions since learning of Arnold's passing, I thought of what the best way of summarizing him in his role as a parliamentarian would be. In some ways it is not that he stood out as being different from the rest of us, but rather that he best exemplified that which is, or ought to be, what we can bring forward in this place. In many ways he was the personification of what ought to be the best in us, regardless of our partisan stripe, notably his remarkable ability to be non-partisan in a very partisan place.
The other day the Prime Minister said that he respectfully disagreed with Arnold's assessment that he was not going to make a lasting contribution. The Prime Minister was right, of course, but I have to say that Arnold was right in the sense that he had the potential—he was a young man—to make a difference in this country had he lived longer, had he had the chance to live out a full career lasting decades, to have transformed this place in a way that unfortunately is not possible. We have all been robbed of that.
I feel a little envious that the hon. member knew Arnold for as long as he did, and the rest of us did not get the chance to develop that same friendship. I feel we have all been robbed by the fact that we will not, in the future, have the chance to develop and learn from this extraordinary man.
View Scott Reid Profile
Mr. Speaker, this spring, we debated and voted in favour of a motion dealing with the issue of Islamophobia. The provision of the law to which the member draws attention, the disturbance of religious services, was designed at a time when Protestants and Catholics were bad neighbours and would disrupt each other. Is it not the case that today those groups that are perhaps newer to our society and perhaps not as accepted as they should be, for example Jews and Muslims, who want to practise their religion in peace, whether in a mosque, a synagogue, or in a public place, where the law of trespass does not provide additional protection, ought to have some form of legislative protection for their sacred rights, even when they occur in public places? For example, funerals can happen in a public place at memorials.
View Scott Reid Profile
Mr. Speaker, I will attempt to keep my eye on you while I am asking this question. It may look like I am following a tennis match.
I had two points to raise with my hon. colleague. First, as he noted, there are three recognized parties, and therefore we have a three-person subcommittee looking at the appointments. I am assuming that this system works because there are at least three recognized parties. It would be a problem, perhaps, in an environment in which we had only two recognized parties. We recently had four recognized parties, and I wonder if it would be an issue when we faced a tie vote in the subcommittee. I will leave that thought.
Second, with regard to Madam Meilleur in particular, I have the sense that the hon. member is respectful of Madam Meilleur and her expertise, as I am as well. I wonder if the problem is not necessarily Madam Meilleur herself but the way she was appointed. It meant that any attempt to determine whether she could function according to her job description had to have the effect of an Easter egg hunt or an episode of CSI. They had to dig in, and she became effectively the opposition to that and a witness under hostile interrogation, and that whole thing wound up poisoning the well.
In other words, had she been presented in a genuine consultation that involved the Prime Minister speaking to the leaders of the two other recognized parties, at an informal level initially, saying that this was a suggestion and he would be interested in knowing what they thought, it might have been possible to find a way of causing that candidate to go through a process that in the end might have found her acceptable. I would be interested in his thoughts.
View Scott Reid Profile
Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the government House leader has misread the motion. She expresses concern that a subcommittee with three members would be able to override the will of the House, but, as I understand it, the subcommittee, consisting of a nominee from each of the three recognized parties, would meet, discuss the proposed nominee, and then report back to the House, either in favour of or against, at which point there would be either an automatic concurrence debate, or else a non-concurrence debate on a recommendation against appointing a candidate.
Let us imagine Madame Meilleur being nominated and the committee rejecting her. The recommendation would be submitted to the House, there would be a concurrence debate, and the House could then refuse to accept the report and vote against concurrence. That would then allow the government to go forward, as I understand it, but perhaps the member has read this differently from the way I have.
It would merely have some moral weight, which is not a bad thing. It would serve as evidence for or against whether the proposed nominee has broad support, and that might damage the legitimacy of the candidate's candidacy, but as I understand it, the House retains its sovereignty.
Have I read this wrong, or has she?
View Scott Reid Profile
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the last exchange. I might encourage my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley to listen in on this as well.
The government House leader, supported by the member for Mount Royal, raised concerns that this would give a kind of veto to the subcommittee. My colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley has made it very clear that this is not the intention of this motion. Rather, the motion's intention is that there would be a moral weight given to the concept of genuine consultation via this subcommittee, but its advice would only be advisory and the House ultimately would determine the outcome.
There is a way to make it absolutely 100% clear that the fear expressed by the government House leader is not what is intended by this motion, and it is to do the following. It is to make an amendment to the motion in the following manner, and I invite the House leader to listen to this because I think this will answer her questions. I will not actually make a motion for an amendment; I will simply put the thought out there so that others can make a motion for an amendment a bit further on if it seems appropriate.
I would suggest that paragraph (4) be amended so that in the second line of paragraph (4), after the word “appointment”, the words “or the rejection of the appointment” be added in, and that in paragraph (5), where it says “(3)”, that be struck out and “(4)” be put in. What that would do is change it so that the motion would then read in paragraph (4): “Immediately after the presentation of a report pursuant to section (3) of this Standing Order which recommends the approval of the appointment or the rejection of the appointment, the Clerk of the House shall cause”, and then it would remain the same.
View Scott Reid Profile
No, Mr. Speaker, I am not actually proposing the amendment at this time. I am merely putting it out as a thought that might be suitable.
View Scott Reid Profile
Mr. Speaker, that is a very reasonable concern for you and the clerks to have. It is just a suggestion that might make sense. I do not see any point in moving forward unless the mover is agreeable to it and it would cause the government to change its direction. The government has stated that its objection to this is purely that it gives a veto to the subcommittee. I am not sure they are right in their reading of the rule, but they have indicated exactly the basis on which they say this veto exists and the amendment would allow that objection to be taken away. This would allow us to test the sincerity of the government's resolve.
As I mentioned, section (4) of the new standing order would be worded slightly differently. Section (5) would make reference to section (4), and would accomplish the goal. However, if I have mis-drafted it, because I did this very much on the fly, it gives an opportunity for others here, particularly the mover, to make a superior amendment to the one I am suggesting for the purposes of answering the concerns expressed by the government House leader. That was the purpose of what I had to say.
With that, I will move on to my prepared text. First, Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Barrie—Innisfil, so I have, at this point, six minutes left, and he will be carrying on with his own comments.
I also want to talk about the scope of the proposed amendment to the standing order and exactly to whom it would apply. There are a number of officers of Parliament: the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, the Chief Electoral Officer, the Auditor General, the Privacy Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, the Commissioner of Lobbying, and the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. All of these individuals would be covered, as well as the parliamentary budget officer who, if the budget implementation act is approved, as it almost certainly will be, will become an officer of Parliament. However, the position is named separately in the motion, just in case that does not happen. The clerk of the House of Commons and the parliamentary librarian are also covered.
These are all individuals who are acting in a manner where they are deciding upon the rules of this place. It is reasonable that there should be the support of all parties. This way of dealing with these appointments is reasonable. It is not the only way, and it may not be the best way if one is trying to conceive of the best way.
About a decade ago, when we were preparing the Conservative Party's platform for the 2006 election, I pushed very hard and was successful at getting implemented in our party's platform another system for appointing officers of Parliament. It was to be by means of a secret ballot in the House of Commons, much in the way we elect the Speaker. That made it into our election platform. After he became prime minister, Stephen Harper took up the idea with the then Liberal House leader, the current Minister of Public Safety. The Liberals said no, that we do not do that sort of thing, secret ballots, around here, and they rejected it and refused to move forward. Had that been adopted at that time, had it not been resisted by the then Liberal opposition, we would have that system in place and events like the kerfuffle over Madam Meilleur's proposed appointment would not have happened.
Is that superior to the proposal before us? Is it superior to what we suggested a decade ago? I am not sure, but what has been proposed by hon. colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley is far superior to the status quo, and it might well be superior to what I proposed a decade ago.
Going through the specific items in the motion for the proposed changes to the Standing Orders, on the whole, this is a very sensible way of covering it. Section (1) deals with all of these officers of Parliament. That is the reasonable universe that ought to be covered, so I agree with that.
The subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs is a reasonable place to put these things. The procedure and House affairs committee is the committee that deals with these kinds of procedural matters, appointments, review of appointments, and so on, so that is the right place for it to go.
A subcommittee would draw upon the senior individuals who are members of the procedure and House affairs committee, but the committee itself would not be tied up, as it can be, over some area that is going to draw it away from its other business. It has to deal with reviews of the election, legislation, items of privilege, and so on. Therefore, it is reasonable that this would go to a subcommittee.
The structure of the subcommittee involves all recognized parties, which is different from unanimity. This is, again, a reasonable level at which to set it. We can have a debate and we have had debates in the past over whether, with respect to recognized parties, the net should be cast more widely. Right now, the Bloc is left out because it does not meet the 12-member criteria. However, that is a separate debate from the debate over using recognized parties.
This essentially says the major players would be involved because, let us face it, we are mostly elected as members of parties. We all understand that it is very difficult to get elected as an independent. Nobody, in fact, was elected to this Parliament as an independent. It is reasonable to say that this is a way of aggregating the various interests, the legitimate interests that are involved. I agree with that, as well.
On the issue of a report that comes back, on the whole, the way in which the report comes back, either positive or negative, is very reasonable. That is section (3) of the proposed change to the Standing Orders. The subcommittee reports back to the House. Presumably, the actual report would come from the chair of the procedure and House affairs committee, not from the subcommittee chair, but that is a reasonable way of sending it back. Then the House makes the final decision.
We cannot override statute here. The fact is that with the way the statutes are designed, the House of Commons and the Senate are the two bodies that make the decision to approve an appointment. That would not change. I suggested an alternative wording as a possibility and I leave that for others to discuss as we go forward.
View Scott Reid Profile
Mr. Speaker, I too am anxious to hear from the government side, so I will be very brief in my response in order to leave the Liberals time to ask a question or offer a comment.
I would simply say that the wording I came up with was done very much on the fly. I was trying to speak to my hon. colleague and it turned out my time to speak had started and I was unable to run the suggested wording past him. It is purely a suggestion. It is the end I am seeking, which is to ensure that the committee does not have a veto, that the government can, in fact, if it has a majority, override it and cause the appointment to have the consideration of the House of Commons. I am sure that wording can be found that accomplishes that in such a way as to relieve all the concerns expressed by the government House leader.
View Scott Reid Profile
Mr. Speaker, we are not allowed to sing in the House of Commons, but the best answer to my colleague's question comes from the animated film The Lego Movie.
The words from The Lego Movie are, “Everything is awesome, everything is cool”. Everything is not awesome. This is not the be-all and end-all. There is a requirement for consultation. Clearly consultation involves the ability to say no. We all understand that, and that has to happen.
This has happened in other areas. The Speaker was at one time appointed with pro forma consultations with other party leaders. That changed into real consultations and finally to elections. We are clearly on our way through that process. I would be happier if the government did not have to be dragged along, kicking and screaming. It would be more dignified, but I am hopeful that in the end we will achieve genuine consultations on the appointments of officers to Parliament.
View Scott Reid Profile
Mr. Speaker, next week, the Falkland Islands will be on the agenda at the General Assembly of the Organization of American States.
In 2013, the people of the Falkland Islands voted nearly unanimously to remain part of the United Kingdom. Representatives from the Falklands were in Ottawa this week seeking reassurance that the Liberals will follow the lead of the Harper government and stand up for their right of self-determination.
Will the government stand up for the self-determination of the people of the Falkland Islands at next week's General Assembly, yes or no?
View Scott Reid Profile
Mr. Speaker, this legislation could be understood in three steps. Step number one, the Liberals come up with a fundraising system that is profoundly profitable. Step number two, the public finds out about it and it becomes profoundly unpopular. Step number three, the Liberals attempt to develop a piece of legislation that would provide ethical cover for continuing this unpopular practice because it is so darned profitable.
This legislation is the Liberal Party's attempt to legitimize and normalize the practice that is sometimes referred to as pay to play, and sometimes referred to as cash for access. Either of those two descriptions makes a point. If one wants to play in this game, if one wants to have access to ministers, then pay up, and one can have access to the cabinet minister of choice, in particular, the Prime Minister himself or the finance minister, although every minister is a part of this game.
The goal of Bill C-50 is to legitimize this process. The Liberals are getting attacked. They can say it was the expressed will of Parliament that this practice be continued, because they will publicize some information about these enormously profitable events in which only the Liberal government can participate.
This is an issue here. It was a huge scandal for the Liberal government in Ontario, which has quotas for ministers to seek out great events at which access would be provided only to those who paid up to the Liberal Party of Ontario. This has been a huge issue in British Columbia. It may very well have been the issue that will cause the Liberal government out there to ultimately lose power, but that remains to be seen. There is a hung parliament in British Columbia, but this is a big scandal out there.
I want to give some examples of what the federal Liberals are doing, not the provincial Liberals in B.C., or the Liberals in Ontario. I want to give some examples of how this works and what it is about. I am going to give some examples of actual pay to play or cash for access events over the course of the past year or so.
Chinese billionaires have been attending Liberal fundraisers even though they are not allowed to donate because they are not Canadian citizens. One of these individuals Zhang Bin, who is also a Communist Party apparatchik, attended a May 19, 2016 fundraiser at the Toronto home of Chinese Business Chamber of Canada chairperson Benson Wong according to this report in The Globe and Mail. A few weeks later Mr. Zhang and a business partner donated $200,000 to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and $50,000 to build a statute of the current Prime Minister's father.
Here is a second example. On November 7, B.C. multimillionaire Miaofei Pan hosted a fundraiser at his West Vancouver mansion, and made the case to the Prime Minister, at this event that he had to pay to get into and that he also hosted, to allow Chinese investment in seniors care and real estate developments, and ease rules for rich immigrants from China. What better way to get preferential access than to have it in your own home? This took place as the federal government had been reviewing a $1 billion bid by China's Anbang Insurance Group to buy one of British Columbia's largest retirement home nursing care chains.
Here is another example. An event scheduled for September 29 was actually cancelled, but was organized by senior business executive Geoff Smith, CEO of the giant construction firm EllisDon, which was involved in a scandal in Ontario over very similar events, and Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Linamar, Canada's second largest automotive parts company. Both companies could benefit from government decisions concerning infrastructure and automobile policy.
Here is another example of pay to play as exercised by the Liberal government. The finance minister was scheduled to attend a fundraiser that cost $1,500 to get in the door in Calgary on November 2 at the home of Shaw Communications Inc. President Jay Mehr. The telecom firm has directly lobbied the finance department eight times. Is there a conflict there?
Here is an example of an exclusive event. On November 7, the finance minister attended an event in Calgary, and the Prime Minister attended an event in Toronto. This was an exclusive event held at the Toronto condominium of philanthropist Nancy Pencer and funeral home executive, Michael Benjamin. Helping to sell tickets were Barry Sherman, the chairman of generic drug manufacturer Apotex and Joel Reitman, who runs global venture firm Jillcy Capital. Apotex is the company whose executives had civic-minded children, I believe under the age of 10, who decided to make contributions to the leadership campaign of Joe Volpe, when he was running for the Liberal leadership. That is the kind of company the cabinet over there runs with.
Another event is a corporate law firm in Toronto with interests in Ottawa lobbying the federal government, hosting an event where the justice minister was the guest of honour, for goodness' sake. The finance minister was the star attraction at a $1,500 per person Liberal Party fundraiser in the home of a wealthy Halifax developer. Another event was $500 per person. That is a bargain price for the finance minister.
Members get the idea. This is a sample of the kinds of activities the cash for access activities in which the federal cabinet members have all been involved. The Prime Minister, the finance minister, the justice minister, and the whole crew met with people who do business with the federal government, and who now get to speak face-to-face with these ministers, when no one else gets that kind of access.
Pay to play is the backbone of Liberal fundraising. To make this point, I want to say how much the Liberals raise when they have these kinds of events. In this report, they would not actually say, but attendance figures had suggested that the party brings in between $50,000 and $120,000 per event, when either the Prime Minister or the finance minister is the star attraction, and the ticket price is $1,500. That is how much they bring in at an event in an evening. There are paying very special attention, and it has had a big impact on their bottom line. This is the backbone of their financing.
The pay to play process for raising funds started early last year, but it really took off in the final quarter of last year. Liberal Party finances went from $4 million, substantially behind the Conservative Party in the first quarter of 2016, to $5.8 million, well over $1 million ahead of the Conservative Party in the final quarter of 2016.
This was going to be the ace in the hole for the Liberals. This was how they were going to finance the next election. Let us be clear about this. When our party was in government, we did not do this stuff, but even if there were no ethical considerations holding back other parties in this place, only one party can deliver cabinet ministers, people who can, with the stroke of a pen, make someone's company tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars richer, at the expense of the Canadian people. Only the government can do that. There is an inbuilt incumbency advantage. This is an inbuilt way of ensuring that the governing party can raise funds in a way that is simply impossible for other parties.
That in itself is an outrage. Any system that is designed to give the incumbent party an ongoing, perpetual systemic advantage is inherently morally wrong. That is leaving aside the fact that giving preferential access to cabinet ministers, when the average Canadian does not get this chance, is absolutely contemptible.
This is not actually illegal right now. It is not unlawful, but it is a violation of the Prime Minister's ethics code, his open and accountable government code, put in place in 2015. Let me read the fine words the Prime Minister put at the front of this code. I do not know if he writes his own stuff, but there is a unique sanctimonious tone to whatever he puts on paper.
Mr. John Brassard: He had his hand over his heart.
Mr. Scott Reid: As my colleague suggested, Mr. Speaker, he probably had his hand over his heart when he put this down. It reads:
To be worthy of Canadians’ trust, we must always act with integrity.
He gets breathless, too.
This is not merely a matter of adopting the right rules, or of ensuring technical compliance with those rules. As Ministers, you and your staff must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.
Those Liberals have the highest standards. They stand above anybody else. They are demigods of integrity. Now, specifically, this is the injunction they place on themselves with regard to lobbyists and those who seek out special access to them.
There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.
Those are the Prime Minister's words.
Of course, the Liberals have completely violated this, but they have not broken the law. The thing is, though, that they have broken their word, absolutely, completely, and flagrantly broken their word. Their words mean nothing, as we can see. On top of that, they have also violated the norms of acceptable behaviour. Even if the Prime Minister had not put that sanctimonious bumph down on paper, the fact is that they violated what everybody thinks are the norms of acceptable behaviour. There is a crime called influence peddling and while this does not meet the technical description, it is clear that is exactly what is going on. The influence of the Prime Minister, the finance minister, and the justice minister are being peddled like so much soap.
This is why so many people have had the incorrect impression that the law was being violated. John Ivison wrote a piece for the National Post last November condemning the Ethics Commissioner for not having cracked down on the Prime Minister and the other members of cabinet for their outrageous behaviour and the commissioner was forced to write back to explain. I have her response from her website on November 30 of last year, entitled, “Response to a column in the National Post: the Commissioner sets the record straight”.
What she sets straight is that she cannot do anything because, outrageous as this behaviour is, it does not violate the actual rules. She goes through the various sections of the law and says, “It is a strange section. It fails to prohibit all preferential treatment, which should be the rule.” This is section 7 of the conflict of interest legislation. She says it should be the rule, but “Section 7 only prohibits preferential treatment that results from the intervention from a third party.” Liberals found a way around the rules, which is another signature of the government. If there is a way of violating the spirit of a rule but not violating its letter, they are all over that.
To be clear, everybody thinks this is either illegal or is astonished to discover that it is not unlawful, and yet it is not. As The Hill Times summarized it:
So [the] Justice Minister...wasn’t breaking any rule by being the guest of honour at the pricey fundraiser organized by a Bay Street law firm. It just smells really bad and violates the spirit of the government’s own code of conduct.
This also explains why, when Nanos, the polling organization, asked Canadians what they thought—
View Scott Reid Profile
Mr. Speaker, last November, the Nanos polling organization asked Canadians what they thought of cash for access or pay to play. I will just read from The Globe and Mail coverage, what the answer was. It says:
A Nanos public-opinion survey, conducted for The Globe and Mail from Nov. 26 to 30, shows that 62 per cent of Canadians disapprove of the Liberal Party’s practice of charging people $1,500 a ticket to meet in private with Mr. Trudeau and senior cabinet ministers who oversee major spending or policy-making decisions.
Canadians strongly do not approve. There we go. Number one, it is a profitable way of raising money. Number two, Canadians strongly do not approve. Sixty-two per cent were against this and 33% approved, so 2:1 Canadians think this is a bad idea. Therefore, the Liberals need cover and their cover is to say, “We have this legislation that is going to still allow all these things to happen, but there will be public notice that the events are occurring”. Of course, there is public notice anyway. They are selling tickets, so that is not a change or an innovation.
It would be on a website now, which is nice. They would not be in a private residence. That was their promise that they subsequently backed off from. Members will notice how many of those that I cited were in private residences. I think the reason they took that out is that this is a key component. The really special access to the PM, to the finance minister, and to others comes from being the host.
As well, there would be a reporting afterward. The fact is that everything gets reported anyway, because donations are reported in Canada. They get put up on the Elections Canada website. We could go back and track every single donor who contributed more than a relatively paltry sum to my riding association or my campaign or any of the leadership campaigns we had going on for the Conservative Party. There is simply no new meat here.
This is simply a way of having it so that the next time someone like John Ivison thinks of writing a story, he will say, “Wait a minute, they passed a law about this; I guess it is now okay”. The next time the Ethics Commissioner has something to raise, she could say, “After the issue came up, Parliament passed a law, so it is the expressed will of Parliament that this sort of practice be permitted”. This is all about regularizing this practice. The legislation is all about legitimizing this practice. This is all about saying, “Yes, influence peddling is okay. Influence peddling is just the way we do business here in Canada.”
If there is a theme other than sanctimoniousness about the current government, a theme other than finding ways of violating the spirit of the law over and over again, a theme other than abandoning conventions of behaviour, whether it is about unilateral changes to the Standing Orders in the House of Commons or the unilateral breach of the practices that we have all had regarding fundraising, if there is a theme beyond those it is this: that we need to go back to the good old days. I do not mean the good old days of Trudeau senior. I mean the good old days of the 19th century, with no restrictions at all on the practice of power. Far from moving ahead to a new age or a new era, the current government is the most retrograde government.
I have been here since Jean Chrétien's day, and I was not the biggest fan of Jean Chrétien but the current Prime Minister is so much worse. In fact, I think it was a surprise to him that our prime minister, despite his vast powers, is not actually an elected dictator. There are in fact careful restrictions in this place and out there in public, some of them in law, many of them simply in conventions and practices and usages.
The Prime Minister frankly regards all of these as an impediment and would like to see them swept away. He is not our elected dictator, but it is my belief that he thinks he should be our elected dictator. Every four years we will go back and the people will decide whether they want to keep him on, but that is not what the Prime Minister of Canada is. He needs to learn that, and I can assure members that the Conservatives will be voting against Bill C-50.
View Scott Reid Profile
Mr. Speaker, I think this is one of these situations where the Liberals were saying, “We're not claiming we're ethical. We're just saying you're as bad as us.”
First, nobody buys tickets for appreciation events. The way an appreciation event works is that the people have already paid, typically, the maximum donation and the appreciation event is then held for the Laurier club in the Liberal Party and for the leaders' circle in the Conservative Party at a convention, and they get to have wine and cheese and hobnob with some cabinet ministers, for sure, when they are on the government side.
I will just make this point. If those are as bad as the parliamentary secretary is implying, and I think he was saying that we are hypocrites for not opposing them, then I have to ask why there is a specific exemption for those events in Bill C-50, so that those events can continue. The leaders' circle events will continue, and so will Laurier club events. I am mystified why he even brought that up at all.
View Scott Reid Profile
Mr. Speaker, I think that a vote by the government party will suffice in this case.
With regard to the member's other question about the change to the electoral system, in committee four out of five parties came to a consensus. We came to a consensus on the fact that it would be possible to hold a referendum on a proportional system created by the government party, by the Liberals, before the 2019 election. It is entirely possible, and I do not know why the Liberals broke their election promise, unless it is to ensure they will have a political advantage in the next election.
View Scott Reid Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would not go so far as to say that this is the worst government we have ever seen, if we are going back through Canada's entire history, because I have only been a member a Parliament for the last sixteen and a half years. I was merely commenting in comparison to the Chrétien government and the Harper government.
I think the behaviour in the House in general has been gradually improving over that time. I do not mean that the government is better here. I am talking about the actual practice of decorum in the House. I think that has improved.
The easiest story in the world for a reporter to write is how things are so much worse than they were in the golden age of, and then they name something that is just receding over the horizon, such as the golden Trudeau versus Mulroney years. The golden age has always just disappeared over the horizon. I do not agree with that. I think the opposite is true. That is not to the credit of the Prime Minister. It is to the credit of all of us, in particular the new crops of MPs we had in 2011 and 2015.
With regard to prorogation, I will make the following observation. The prorogation of the House in 2008 to avoid a non-confidence vote was indeed very unusual. The test of a political convention is this: how do the Canadian people respond in the next election? Conventions are not enforced by the courts. They are enforced by popular will, as expressed in an election.
The House was prorogued for a while. The House came back in early 2009. The other parties, the Liberals in particular, said they would defeat the Conservatives if they did not follow the new plan. However, they did not defeat the Conservative government. They could have at that point defeated the government. They did not do so, because they realized they would lose an election under those conditions, which makes the point that the convention actually shifted to accept those circumstances. Although it was at that point unprecedented, it is in fact a practice that has defined what the convention is vis-à-vis prorogation.
There was a second prorogation that was actually more controversial. I have a feeling that it may be the one the hon. member was referring to. I would have to think about how I feel about that prorogation. The one she mentioned I think was entirely conventional. In fact, it was a definitive conventional prorogation because of its outcome.
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