I am prepared to make a ruling on the point of privilege Mr. Warawa raised on April 2. I'd like to begin by doing that.
I believe the cameras will be leaving. This is of course on television, but not by live camera, as members know.
After looking at this ruling, members, with the assistance of our clerks and senior clerks and getting a lot of advice about the rules—as they will be—I would like to go through it point by point. It certainly has been a learning experience for me, as well as for some other members, I think—of course taking some guidance from the Speaker of the House.
This ruling arises from the question that was raised by Mr. Warawa on April 2, 2008, regarding the proceedings of the meeting of Monday, April 1, 2008.
Secondly, during the debate on clause 10 of at the meeting of Monday, April 1, Mr. Cullen sought the floor on a point of order and moved a motion limiting debate on Bill C-377.
The chair ruled the motion out of order based on two arguments—first, that the motion was moved on a point of order, and second, that the committee was already seized with a question on clause 10—at which point Mr. Cullen challenged the decision of the chair. The chair's decision was overruled on division, and debate was allowed on the motion of Mr. Cullen. The meeting was suspended shortly thereafter, and it was agreed unanimously to resume the meeting the next day, April 2, 2008.
Next, on resumption of debate, Mr. Warawa raised a question of privilege alleging that the rules of the House had been broken. He referred to House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which on page 454 states that when moving a superseding motion it “is not in order for such a motion to be moved when the Member has been recognized on a point of order”.
Mr. Warawa argued that overruling the chair on matters that are clearly set out in usual procedure and practice constitutes disorder and misconduct, which impinges on members' abilities to carry out their duties. Other members referred to their right to debate the bill at that point.
Mr. Cullen, Mr. McGuinty, and other members expressed the view that the committee had an obligation to consider in a serious manner the bill before it and, while acknowledging that members have the right to debate, that the right to obstruct is not unfettered. Members pointed out that the committee had spent over twelve and a half hours in filibuster at that point. They further noted that the committee was not abiding by a work plan agreed to unanimously by all parties.
As your chair, I have attempted to be fair and equitable. I interpret the procedure and practice of the House and provide guidance to the committee in order to assist it in accomplishing its work. To that effect, I have ruled several times that members may not move motions on points of order, as this goes against practice, as referenced on page 541 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice. I quote: “...Members may not rise on a point of order to move a substantive motion”.
A member cannot move a substantive motion when there is already a question before the committee, as was the case with the motion proposed by Mr. Cullen. Although these are well-known and established practices, the committee has now overruled the chair on two recent occasions.
I am not questioning the right to challenge a ruling of the chair, since this is in conformity with Standing Order 117, referenced on page 857 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice. I quote: “While the Chair's rulings are not subject to debate, they may be appealed to the committee.” This is, of course, what happened.
Members, however, must weigh carefully the impact of such actions. The committee, by not following the usual procedure and practice of the House, places itself in unchartered procedural territory. These comments are echoed in Mr. Speaker Milliken's ruling of March 14, 2008, on page 4183, concerning proceedings in the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, in which he states:
||...appeals of decisions by chairs appear to have proliferated, with the result that having decided to ignore our usual procedure and practices, committees have found themselves in situations that verge on anarchy.
By its own actions the committee finds itself in a procedural conundrum. Acting against the confines of established procedure and practice, yet having done so within the confines of procedures and practice, the committee is nearing an impasse. As Mr. Speaker Milliken stated in his ruling of Friday, March 14, 2008, as found on page 4183 of Debates:
||Frankly speaking, I do not think it is overly dramatic to say that many of our committees are suffering from a dysfunctional virus that, if allowed to propagate unchecked, risks preventing members from fulfilling the mandate given to them by their constituents.
What are the options, then, for our committee? As noted on page 129 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, “the Chair of a committee does not have the power to censure disorder or decide questions of privilege”, and “The Chair...has no authority to rule that a breach of privilege...has occurred”. My role in this instance is to determine if the matter raised does in fact touch on a matter of privilege, and not a point of order, a grievance, or a matter of debate. If in my opinion the matter does touch privilege, then the committee can proceed to determine if it wishes to report the matter to the House. The report should capture the essential elements of the situation and include a motion that would form the text of the report. The motion is debatable and amendable and would take priority over all other committee business.
I've given a lot of thought to exactly what that would mean and what that would do and what privilege is. According to a classical definition of parliamentary privilege in Erskine May's Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings, and Usage of Parliament , “Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively...and by Members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions”.
Does overruling the chair on procedurally sound decisions constitute privilege, in that by doing so members cannot discharge their functions? The answer to this question must be taken also in the context that one of the rights and powers of the House is the regulation of its own internal affairs. As I indicated, Standing Order 117 allows chairs' decisions to be appealed.
I'll just refer to a couple of things. I found very interesting the fact that on TV yesterday afternoon, Don Newman was questioning Bill Blaikie. As you know, Bill Blaikie is the senior member in our House. I thought he had some great insight into what was happening right now. He in fact suggested that rules were written for majorities, and that under majorities this sort of thing would never happen. In his opinion--and I will paraphrase--it may be time that we look at some changes to the rules in order to accommodate the kind of situation we find ourselves in at this committee and in several other committees.
I certainly found that interesting--and wish all of you had seen that--to hear from a senior member of the House.
Looking at all of that, my opinion is that although it is within the prerogative of the House to make its own rules, the use of conflicting rules may at one point impinge on members' ability to carry out their duties. To that effect, and given the seriousness of the matter, I will allow a motion--although not a motion of privilege per se--to be put to an immediate vote to report the matter to the House and recommend that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs--or possibly, as suggested by the Speaker, a special committee--consider whether changes to the Standing Orders might alleviate our current difficulties in committees.
So this goes beyond just our committee. It's all committees.
I note that the standing committee...and if I can give you a little precedence here, this has been done before. A former Standing Committee on Finance presented a report to the House of Commons on April 30, 1990, recommending that the question of rules and procedures, as they relate to the limiting of debate in cases where committee has reached an impasse, be referred to the Standing Committee on Privileges and Elections. That committee now, of course, is called the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
I also looked at the Speaker's rulings very carefully. I found that he had suggested, without actually going further, that in fact that would be a way, possibly, to solve this. Further to that, reading the comments by the chair of the justice committee, he also is suggesting that the rules need to be re-examined to allow us to get rid of this impasse that we find ourselves in--and in an increasingly serious manner.
What I would to do, then, is invite a member of the committee to propose the following motion: That the committee report to the House inherent difficulties in the practice, procedure, and rules of the House that allow procedurally sound rulings of chairs to be overruled, and that the committee recommend that this matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs or possibly a special committee to consider whether changes to the Standing Orders might alleviate current difficulties in committees.
Basically I'm suggesting a proactive move where we attempt to push the issue in order to solve the problem that we face. It is a compromise. It will require that the motion be voted on without debate. Then we would go back to where we were when I suspended to come up with this ruling.
Yes, Mr. Cullen.
Thank you for the encouragement from Mr. McGuinty across the way.
Mr. Chair, we're speaking to a motion here to limit debate, the motion being two minutes per speaker per clause. Mr. Chair, off the bat, I'll say I'm opposed to this particular motion for a number of reasons.
Mr. Chair, I think it's a bad motion for some very significant reasons, the motion to limit debate in such a draconian fashion to two minutes per speaker per clause. First of all, I think it's a bad motion with respect to the freedom of speech, which is the cornerstone of Parliament and our democracy.
Mr. Chair, if we turn to Marleau and Montpetit, page 71, I'll quote from M and M under the heading of freedom of speech. It says:
||By far, the most important right accorded to members of the House is the exercise of freedom of speech in parliamentary proceedings. It has been described as
--and he subquotes within that--
--not something corollary or periphery, Mr. Chair--
||without which they would be hampered in the performance of their duties. It permits them time to speak in the House without inhibition,
--that means with complete latitude, Mr. Chair, not being intimidated by the force of the will of a majority--
|| to refer to any matter or express any opinion that they see fit, to say what they feel needs to be said in furtherance of the national interest and the aspirations of their constituents.
Now, Mr. Chair, there are some caveats to that. It goes on to talk about things like immunity for members of Parliament, but they all build on the very cornerstone of a fundamental right, which is freedom of speech. Two minutes per speaker per clause is not what I think would be defined as freedom of speech. The opposition may find it inconvenient that they can't impose their will on the committee because the rules foster debate, not shutting it down. That may be an inconvenience to them. They may not like it, and perhaps they take that position and their opinion in the national interest and the aspirations of their constituents.
I'll get back to the motion. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I was talking of freedom of speech and that this may be inconvenient. Obviously Mr. Cullen finds it inconvenient that members of Parliament exercise their full right and privilege to speak freely.
Mr. Chair, as I was trying to make the point earlier when I was interrupted by Mr. Cullen, the members opposite may feel that what they're doing, as I read here, is in the national interest or the aspirations of their constituents in trying to enforce their will with respect to this particular piece of legislation. But they can't interpret for the benefit of our constituents or what we may regard in the national interest, and that's why we have debate. Those matters are to be settled through debate. It's to be settled through a difficult calculus where members of Parliament interact with their own constituents on an ongoing basis. And ultimately the decisions for those will be rendered at election time. All members will stand accountable to their constituents for how they exercise their freedom of speech. Did they in fact do it in the interest of their constituents or in the national interest?
That's the beauty of our system, Mr. Chair. It's one of the reasons I oppose this motion. Two minutes per speaker per clause is a serious inhibition of a member's ability to speak in both the national interest and in the interest of constituents.
I don't pretend for a moment, for example, to try to interpret what the constituents in Mr. Cullen's riding want. I don't know how to perform that calculus, Mr. Chair. I don't live there. I don't circulate through the communities. In much the same respect, Mr. Cullen doesn't represent my constituency. He doesn't circulate through my communities. He doesn't know the people there. He doesn't know what they're thinking. If perhaps a constituent or two or maybe more write or phone Mr. Cullen, he may have some idea of what those specific constituents want. But dealing in the calculus of what my constituents want or what we deem to be in the national interest is something that is between a member of Parliament and the constituents.
Now, Mr. Chair, this motion of two minutes per speaker per clause is impinging on freedom of speech. There are reasonable limits to free speech both in society and in the House. We recognize that through our rules. In terms of the House of Commons, which is the cornerstone institution nationally speaking, Mr. Chair, we have the unique situation where reasonableness is limited in a much more generous fashion than in two minutes per speaker per clause.
There are limits--for example, closure on debate, when you bring free speech to a close. We recognize that's a tool that exists, but it's a prerogative of the crown; it's not a prerogative extended to the opposition. We have other limits. We do define certain limits for each stage of debate, that only a certain amount of debate can exist, but they're not draconian. Even in invoking closure, we don't suggest that it's two minutes per speaker in any fashion, Mr. Chair.
If the opposition considers it a flaw to the system that debate can continue in such a fashion as it's been continuing here at this committee, that's a flaw on the side of free speech, and I think that's something, Mr. Chair, that is incredibly important.
This is a bad motion, furthermore, Mr. Chair, this idea of two minutes per speaker per clause, because it ignores, as well, the fundamental place of rules and the importance of rules in society, in civilization, within our institutions. I'll elaborate on that a little. For example, Mr. Chair, our important documents recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law. The importance of rules, Mr. Chair, is the preamble to everything else, and it's important.
Those who have thought long and hard in setting up the institutions of our country and the direction we would go in said we would start with the supremacy of the rule of law--with rules. That is very significant foundational stuff. We're not talking about the stuff you build on a foundation; this is foundational stuff. It starts with rules.
This motion ignores the concept of rules. The rule of law exists, Mr. Chair. It was a very radical concept in its time, because it substituted the arbitrariness of one person's will over another, or even the will of a majority over a minority. It was a very radical concept when in history there was rule by kings and rule by despots. This was a very radical departure.
Two minutes per speaker per clause ignores the foundational aspect of rules, Mr. Chair. Our civilization is built on the cornerstone of the rule of law. It's one of the things I think would define the civility within civilization.
Furthermore, Mr. Chair, when we're talking about rules, the importance of rules, and why this motion is bad, we have rules for society that go beyond the principle of the rule of law, if we bore down into that. Our Constitution, the preamble of which sets out the importance of the rule of law, is a set of rules that define relationships between levels of government so that we can serve the people, among other things, and maintain peace and order. It's why rules are important, Mr. Chair.
This motion ignores the importance of rules.
In society we also have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We have a lot of talk about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Mr. Chair. The Charter of Rights and the bills of rights that preceded it established inviolable relational rules for individuals as they interact within society. Mr. Chair, it's extremely important that we understand the importance of rules and why this motion is so bad.
Let's bore down even deeper into that. It's not just about the preamble to a constitution or the founding documents such as a constitution or, later, bills of rights or charters of rights, but about statute laws, Mr. Chair. They function within the charter framework and bore down into the details of what these relationships should look like.
Here parliamentarians enter into debate and enjoy free speech. They do these roles after elections with the consent of the people, not with the arbitrariness of imposing one's will or the majority's will over another.
Mr. Chair, it's important, even further down from that, that regulations bore down more deeply and more specifically into the rules that govern relationships. We have the court system to interpret these rules and the police and other law enforcement agencies to enforce the rules.
Rules aren't something peripheral to our civilization, Mr. Chair; they're foundational. They permeate every aspect of our institutions. They permeate every aspect of society, governing the relationships of people within society.
Mr. Chair, we have rules within Parliament. Your ruling earlier discussed the importance of rules within our parliamentary institutions. We have Standing Orders that define the rules of engagement and debate within our institutions. The committee also has rules, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, can we have a little bit of order at the committee, please?
Mr. Chair, I'll answer the member opposite by saying “Stay tuned”.
Mr. Chair, when we talk about the importance of freedom of speech and rules, I don't think the member opposite would ever suggest that his brother, who is the Premier of Ontario, shouldn't have the same rights and privileges as well. That's what our system is based on. These are important things—as if the rights of one aren't the rights of all.
We were talking about the institutions of Parliament and the importance of rules and how the “two minutes per speaker per clause” motion ignores the importance of rules. We were illustrating it with the discussion of how rules apply in Parliament. I said earlier, Mr. Chair—just in summation, so that I can get back to where I was—before we talked about the Standing Orders, that we talked about rules existing at committee.
Those rules are to facilitate debate. Our rules, for example, don't allow for the calling of a question until such time as debate has been exhausted. That is in defence of freedom of speech. It is a very important rule that we have. It helps to establish and maintain order when we debate matters.
There's no levity to this particular issue, Mr. Chair. We take these things very seriously, because they're fundamental.
You alluded to a speakers list. We allow that to be replenished so that we have a fullness of debate, Mr. Chair. Two minutes per speaker per clause is a bad motion. It goes against the whole idea of the importance of rules, even at this particular table, Mr. Chair.
I'm going to bring this around to my third point, then, Mr. Chair. This is a bad motion not only with respect to its draconian limits to free speech and to the fact that it doesn't recognize the foundational importance of free speech—that's a debate—to the passage of laws and the functioning of relationships within society; it's a bad motion because it ignores the rules and the importance of rules. But thirdly, this is a bad motion—two minutes per speaker per clause—because it doesn't allow us the ability to speak without inhibition or to express our opinions and elaborate upon them sufficiently.
For example, Mr. Speaker, two minutes per speaker per clause isn't enough time to talk about the bill's fundamental flaws and to spell out how dangerous this particular bill is and what it means to working families in transition to the green economy. Two minutes is not nearly enough time to elaborate on that, Mr. Chair. Two minutes per speaker per clause doesn't allow members the opportunity to talk about the profound impacts of this particular bill, Mr. Chair.
This bill has some very profound effects. Let's start with the government; it has profound effects on the government. It attempts, for example, Mr. Chair—something I wouldn't be able to say in two minutes per speaker per clause—from the opposition side of the House to intrude into the prerogatives of the crown within our system, setting the policy direction, setting limits that ultimately will affect the fiscal framework of the government, and to do so without quantifying the costs that will arise from any of the particular measures contained within the clauses, let alone the overall impact to the Treasury, from the bill's full implementation.
Further to that, Mr. Chair, two minutes per speaker per clause isn't enough to elaborate how the opposition intends to force an exorbitant cost on the government without bearing the responsibility for that cost.
Mr. Chair, it will be very clear that when the significant impacts bore down to the human level that those impacts will be enacted by the government, not by the opposition. Therefore, the blame for job loss or the other social ills that result will be levelled at the government and not the opposition. This is the most irresponsible kind of government possible. Two minutes per speaker per clause doesn't allow sufficient time, Mr. Chair, to even begin to elaborate on issues like this.
It doesn't allow enough time, for example, as we noted in our last meeting when we looked at the effects of one particular aspect of clause 10--this just transition fund--and what that would mean. Two minutes per speaker per clause is not nearly enough time. As it turned out, that presentation took about an hour and ten minutes, or maybe an hour and twenty minutes, to elaborate. Those are three words within a clause within the entire bill, Mr. Chair.
There are very significant things contained in this bill with very significant impacts. Two minutes per speaker per clause is just not enough time to talk about, for example, issues that aren't contained in the bill but should be contained in the bill.
Two minutes per speaker per clause doesn't allow us to elaborate on measures the government is taking and to be able to compare those to the measures that are being proposed within the bill itself. Two minutes doesn't even begin to allow us to open that discussion and air it out fulsomely. The government is taking a number of initiatives. It would take an awful lot of time to elaborate on them, certainly more than two minutes per speaker per clause.
As well, two minutes per speaker is not sufficient time to begin to bore into the witness testimony and the evidence that we've heard. We've had a number of witnesses appear at this committee table. We've had climate change scientists. Our Canadian scientist who participated in the UNIPCC's fourth assessment report did some very valuable work and presented a wealth of information to this committee. Two minutes wouldn't even begin to unpack the discussion we had there. That's important testimony.
We didn't just have scientists, Mr. Chair; we had economists who appeared here. We had a panel of businesses and economists who themselves presented testimony. Two minutes isn't sufficient to begin to unpack the numbers, for example, by Mr. Sawyer, who appeared before this committee and said that this bill could have some very serious costs. It could have some very serious regional impacts. In his terminology, it could have some very significant competitiveness impacts for industries. These are all incredibly important things, Mr. Chair, that two minutes is simply not sufficient time to begin to explore.
We had evidence as well from environmental groups here. It's important testimony as well that they bring in terms of their perspective to the issue at hand, their thoughts and their opinions. Mr. Chair, two minutes wouldn't begin to assess and evaluate the impact of what their testimony is all about and how it bears on this particular bill.
Mr. Chair, we had constitutional experts, who got into some very important issues. We had jurisdictional issues covered here, the impacts between federal and provincial governments, which are very foundational to our Confederation. Two minutes is not nearly enough time to begin to unpack how unconstitutional the bill is, why it is, and all the things that we heard from the constitutional experts.
Mr. Chair, why is it important to begin to explore the witnesses' testimony? It is because we need to begin to evaluate whether this bill hits the mark or not. The discussion about that, which we're having at clause-by-clause consideration, has to take more than two minutes. You simply can't do it in two minutes per speaker. The ability to evaluate....
We know the bill doesn't hit the mark per se. Do the amendments hit the mark? Those things have to be evaluated. That's why we have our witnesses here; otherwise, it's just a show to have witnesses if the opposition simply wants to present a bill, enforce its will, try to cut off debate, and simply ram legislation through. That would be a mockery of the witnesses who appeared here. So it's important that we have sufficient time--and two minutes per speaker, Mr. Chair, is simply not enough time to do that.
Our system is a good system. When we function according to the rules, when we respect freedom of speech, the system works extremely well. We are set apart from others at the end of the day by doing things the right way and by not simply imposing the will of the majority. It is the right thing to do, because in civil democracies, Mr. Chair, we engage with words, and not with physical force. It's what separates us from others.
It's entirely foundational. This is not peripheral stuff here. It's why I'm not ashamed, Mr. Chair.... I've said before at this meeting, in front of a microphone, that I'm not ashamed to exercise my full privileges in speaking to this motion or any other motion.
I find, Mr. Chair, every time I'm getting close to wrapping things up, there are all kinds of folks jumping in over here. The record will show, Mr. Chair, that I was very near the end of my comments in the last meeting when they started interrupting to ask how long I was going to speak. That's why I always say to stay tuned. We could be close to finishing up here.
In fact, Mr. Chair, I was making the point before all of these interruptions that what sets us apart is that in a civil democracy, in a civil society, we engage with words, not with force. Think about what that means to Zimbabwe. Think about what that means to Sudan. Think about what it means to an emerging democracy in Afghanistan, Mr. Chair.
I hear chuckles from some of the young folks who are in the audience here today watching. Those are freedoms that they're going to hope for down the road, Mr. Chair, and they're the freedoms that young people in other parts of the world, in third world countries, don't enjoy.
It is important. It is extremely important. It's so important that it's foundational. It's a cornerstone. It's what allows us to enjoy the type of prosperity and freedom and openness, and freedom from war. Civilized countries don't often go to war with each other, Mr. Chairman. There's peace that comes with civil society, and that's an important thing. If you want to chip away at the foundational stone with two minutes per speaker per clause, a draconian limit on freedom of speech....
I have to remind Mr. Cullen, who's chirping in once again, that this is not the trade committee, Mr. Chair, and this committee can set its own destiny.
I want to thank for his intervention. I found it heartfelt and hopefully it will enlighten some members of this committee. I found it interesting.
Chair, the motion that we find right now is a motion to limit the opportunity for us to speak. This started in our clause-by-clause debate, discussions, over . I think we would not be where we are if Bill C-377 was a good bill. If Bill C-377 had been supported by the witness groups, we wouldn't be where we are. What happened was that the witness groups said very clearly that there were some significant problems with Bill C-377. We heard from numerous witness groups, and every one of them said it should be costed.
What is suggesting by his motion is that we limit all critique to two minutes, and it's not realistic. So one would ask why Mr. Cullen would want to limit members of this committee from speaking for only two minutes.
Chair, there was another issue that came up on , which was that it was not constitutionally sound and that it would be challenged and likely defeated because it would give unlimited powers to the federal government over the provinces and territories. Do we need more than two minutes to talk about that? Absolutely. And for Mr. Cullen to attempt to stop all discussion after two minutes is beyond comprehension, actually.
Mr. Chair, it was who introduced the bill, and after Mr. Layton was done speaking, it was Mr. Bramley who spoke to this committee. Both of them suggested that the government do a costing of . Can you do a critique, a costing, with two minutes? Well, not a very thorough costing.
I found it quite ironic in the questions we've also heard in the House--and there are definite timeframes in the House, because we have, for question period, approximately 45 minutes, Monday to Friday. There is approximately 30 seconds for a question to be asked and approximately 30 seconds for an answer, because of that timeframe.
Now it's actually 35 seconds, as Mr. McGuinty points out, but we try to aim at 30, because sometimes with the noise and the exuberance in the House, if you aim for 30, sometimes it's 35 by the time you actually start talking from when your light comes on. So it's very important that we have timeframes, depending on the circumstances.
Bills are debated in the House and sent to this committee to be properly debated. In that process, for example, is sent to this committee to hear from witnesses and then to be debated. As I pointed out, we heard from witness group after witness group, and every one, including Mr. Layton and Mr. Bramley, said that the government needs to do the costing.
What we heard in question period, yesterday actually, was a question on the quality of our water. It was an NDP member from Vancouver Island North, Ms. Bell, who asked about the number of boil orders over a number of years--actually 1,760 boil orders. Well, that's a very serious problem, Chair. And this government is committed to cleaning up the water in Canada.
On one hand, we have members from the NDP—with time limits, appropriately, within a question period—who asked this 30- or 35-second question about boil orders, and then we had a subsequent answer. It was Minister Baird who answered the NDP member very clearly that the government is helping communities to clean up waste water treatment facilities with $8 billion.
Now, the NDP knew about that, but they voted against it. That's the difficult irony I have. On one hand, in question period they're asking questions about why we aren't cleaning up water. Well, we are, yet they voted against it. To be able to deal with that takes more than two minutes. To be able to share that takes more than two minutes.
Our government is very concerned about the environment, and that's why our target is the toughest in Canadian history: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with absolute reductions of 20% by 2020. That's why we're already seeing positive results within the community and industry, with even a carbon market through the Montreal Climate Exchange.
With these signals of action on the environment in Canada, we're already seeing the positive signals that would not be happening with , particularly if everyone on this committee were limited to two minutes to debate Bill C-377. That's why Canada has a plan already in place—the Turning the Corner plan—that is providing these positive results.
But the topic at hand is whether we should be limiting all discussion about to two minutes. Chair, I would suggest it's not fair and it's not right.
The environment is very important to me. I have been impassioned about the environment for most of my life. I live in British Columbia, one of the most beautiful parts of Canada, in the Fraser Valley, in my riding of Langley. The environment is very important. I have a responsibility, Chair, to work hard for my constituents and to represent them, and a moral obligation to work hard for a cleaner environment, and not only for the health of just this generation—and hopefully, Lord willing, I'll be living a lot more years. I want a cleaner environment for my wife and myself, but also for my family—my children and my grandchildren—and my neighbour's family and our community. That's why I've taken this to be so important.
I've found, Chair, that is a very empty and hollow bill that will not achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. What we would end up seeing is dramatic costs for energy, dramatic increases in the cost of gasoline, natural gas, electricity—dramatic increases in cost to Canadians. Chair, that's not what Canadians want.
Canadians don't want a sin tax. They don't want increased taxes. They don't even want increased gasoline prices, to the point where two days ago the NDP again rose in the House and asked a question about rising gasoline prices. The irony is that would cause dramatic increases in gasoline prices. And how can we share that in two minutes, Chair?
Chair, the motion is that Mr. Cullen would like to see the members of this committee limited in their speaking time to two minutes. Chair, I don't believe that's proper. It would limit the opportunity for us to share with Canadians the concerns--and they are legitimate concerns--about . It would not hold the NDP accountable if we limited our comments to two minutes, comments that I need to make about the impact would have on the environment--which is nothing--and the impact that would have on the economy of Canada, which would be dramatic. There would be dramatic increases in the cost of energy and increases in the cost of gasoline. They're speaking against these increases on one hand, and then, in the committee, they're speaking in favour of them.
Chair, it's not possible to talk about this in two-minute limitations. We need to have thorough debate, and what we have from the NDP is attempts to limit debate.
It's quite ironic, Chair, that it would be the NDP, a party that has a long history in Canada. Tommy Douglas worked hard for Canadians, and now we have an NDP that has evolved to the point where it's limiting debate. That's their attempt. This is a party that has done very little in Parliament, and now they're trying to limit debate in Parliament. Chair, I don't think it's appropriate. Maybe they need to change the name of their party, because what we're seeing happening here is not democratic.
Chair, as I said, I have had a passion for the environment for years. A number of years ago in my riding there was a serious issue of an energy plant that they wanted to build, called SE2. I fought against that vehemently, as did our community. We had opportunities to go to EFSEC and we had opportunities to go before the energy board, and you cannot share properly the concerns of the committee in two minutes, Chair. It's example after example, Chair; you cannot limit thorough debate to two minutes. It has to be appropriate debate.
What I am speaking against in the motion is the limitation to two minutes.
Chair, let us think back to my parliamentary model, and then I'll get back to the immediate issue. My parliamentary model was a man by the name of William Wilberforce. He was in the British Parliament in the late 1700s. Chair, he spoke in the British Parliament over approximately 40 years, fighting for the abolition of slavery. Could he have done that, Chair, if he had been broken and limited to two-minute speeches? He would not have been able to.
Throughout history, Chair, people have been fighting for freedoms, and the basic freedom of democracy is the freedom of speech. Chair, what we see from the NDP here is an attempt with this motion.... Chair, I gave Mr. Cullen the opportunity to do the right thing and remove his motion from the table, and he refused to do that. He wanted to forge ahead and have speech limited to two minutes, so here we are dealing with this motion.
As I said, Chair, under Canadian constitutional law, freedom of expression is incredibly important.
Paragraph 2(b) of the charter states that everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media communication. Chair, it's part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and this is a direct attack against that freedom. Two minutes is not an adequate amount of time to share in this committee and fulfill my responsibilities representing my constituents in the beautiful community of Langley, to speak and share my concerns about .
If was a bill that was well written, that ensured that we would see reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, then I think you would have a totally different atmosphere in this committee, but we've heard from every witness group that it will not accomplish a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It was not costed, and they have every opportunity to cost it. It doesn't include talking about carbon capture and storage. Bill C-377 does not deal with absolute reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
If you look at the actual rules.... We're talking about a very broad topic—we're talking about this motion—and I've asked members to refer to it. I believe they're doing that. They are, of course, giving all of the reasons why two minutes isn't long enough to cover whatever particular topic it is, and they're developing that point. I believe that's within the realm of this motion.
I guess the thing that's probably delaying us as much as anything is the constant heckling back and forth. I would ask that you stop doing it.
Let's carry on, Mr. Warawa. I'm trying to keep order here. It's getting less and less easy.
And of course, once again, remember that the consequence is simply that we suspend to the call of the chair. I guess I throw it back to you guys to go somewhere and sort it out. When you come back, when you want to call the chair and say, “I'm ready now for you to call the meeting”, we'll call the meeting. Whether that's next week, next month, next year, I guess is up to you. But that's where we're heading.
We have a motion that we're going to take to the House, where I'm going to lobby and push to try to get this problem solved for all of us so that we can all move on. We have now passed it unanimously; I'm really pleased about that. I'm going to really try to push it. You've given me the mandate, I guess, to do that.
But it surely doesn't help if we have to shut down the committee. That's not what I want to do. Some may want me to do that; I don't want to do it. I want to carry on with this committee. I want to get clause 10 done. I'm thinking of that in my sleep: “Shall clause 10 pass?” And here we are—
I am quite opposed to the motion that Mr. Cullen has put before this committee limiting the speaking times on Bill clause-by-clause to two minutes per member of committee. Chair, we need to have thorough debate, and as I said before, we've heard every witness group raise concerns about Bill C-377. We have had amendments from the Liberals, from the Bloc, and from the NDP. Every party in opposition presented a major rewrite of the bill.
I had suggested to Mr. Cullen, and I think it was Mr. Bigras also who recommended, that Bill be rewritten. Well, in essence, it was. But we don't know--it's still missing so much and we haven't heard back from any witnesses since this attempt to rewrite--whether it is a good bill or not. I believe genuinely that Bill C-377 is not a good bill, but we already have a good bill.
What Mr. Cullen is attempting to do in this motion now is stifle healthy debate. Chair, freedom of expression is a cornerstone of a functioning democracy. Freedom of expression promotes certain societal values, as noted by Professor Emerson in 1963:
||Maintenance of a system of free expression is necessary (1) as assuring individual self-fulfillment, (2) as a means of attaining the truth, (3) as a method of securing participation by the members of the society in social, including political, decision-making, and (4) as maintaining the balance between stability and change in society.
Our constitutional commitment to free speech is predicated on the belief that a free society cannot function with coercive legal censorship in the hands of persons supporting one ideology who are motivated to use the power of the censor to suppress opposing viewpoints. That's what I see happening right now with this motion.
They do not want to see an opportunity for members achieving self-fulfillment, members of this committee being able to share their moral concerns of Bill , commitments to see a clean air environment. Bill C-377 will not achieve that. What this motion attempts to do is stifle self-fulfilment, an opportunity to share with this committee the importance of a bill that will accomplish reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
We all in this committee know the importance of doing real actions, real things on cleaning up the environment, the environmental mess left by 13 years of Liberal inaction. Maybe that's why the Liberals also want to stifle this opportunity for healthy debate, limiting it to only two minutes, because they're ashamed of their track record and our opportunity to remind Canadians of that--that for 13 long years they made a lot of promises, a lot announcements, but emissions continued to rise. So if they can keep members of this committee stifled to only two minutes, two minutes per clause, then we're not going to have the opportunity to be able to tell Canadians what happened.
Chair, we need, as Professor Emerson said back in 1963, the importance of individual self-fulfillment, and the attempt now of the NDP to stifle that is wrong. It should not be happening.
Point two was a means to attaining the truth, and Canadians need to know the truth of what is Bill --