That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, for the purposes of facilitating and organizing the business of the House and its committees in the autumn of 2013,
(a) during the thirty sitting days following the adoption of this Order, whenever a Minister of the Crown, when proposing a motion for first reading of a public bill, states that the said bill is in the same form as a bill introduced by a Minister of the Crown in the previous Session, or that it is in the same form as a bill which had originated in the Senate and stood in the name of a Minister of the Crown in this House in the previous Session, if the Speaker is satisfied that the said bill is in the same form as at prorogation, notwithstanding Standing Order 71, the said bill shall be deemed in the current Session to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation of the previous Session;
(b) in order to bring full transparency and accountability to House of Commons spending, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to: (i) conduct open and public hearings with a view to replace the Board of Internal Economy with an independent oversight body, (ii) invite the Auditor General, the Clerk and the Chief Financial Officer of the House of Commons to participate fully in these hearings, (iii) study the practices of provincial and territorial legislatures, as well as other jurisdictions and Westminster-style Parliaments in order to compare and contrast their administrative oversight, (iv) propose modifications to the Parliament of Canada Act, the Financial Administration Act, the Auditor General Act and any other acts as deemed necessary, (v) propose any necessary modifications to the administrative policies and practices of the House of Commons, (vi) examine the subject-matter of the motions, which had stood in the name of the Member for Papineau, placed on the Order Paper for the previous Session on June 10, 2013, and (vii) report its findings to the House no later than Monday, December 2, 2013, in order to have any proposed changes to expense disclosure and reporting in place for the beginning of the next fiscal year;
(c) when the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs meets pursuant to the order of reference set out in paragraph (b) of this Order, one Member who is not a member of a recognized party be allowed to participate in the hearings as a temporary, non-voting member of that Committee;
(d) the Clerk be authorized, if necessary, to convene a meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs within 24 hours of the adoption of this Order;
(e) the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to study the Standing Orders and procedures of the House and its committees, including the proceedings on the debate held on Friday, February 17, 2012, pursuant to Standing Order 51;
(f) the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights be the committee designated for the purposes of section 533.1 of the Criminal Code;
(g) the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics be the committee designated for the purposes of section 67 of the Conflict of Interest Act;
(h) the order of reference to the Standing Committee on Finance, adopted in the previous Session as Private Member’s Motion M-315, shall be renewed, provided that the Committee shall report its findings to the House no later than Wednesday, December 11, 2013;
(i) a special committee be appointed, with the mandate to conduct hearings on the critical matter of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, and to propose solutions to address the root causes of violence against Indigenous women across the country, and that, with respect to the committee, (i) it consist of twelve members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, (ii) the Chair and the Vice-Chairs shall be the same Chair and Vice-Chairs elected by the previous Session’s Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women, (iii) the routine motions respecting committee business adopted on March 26 and April 18, 2013, by the previous Session’s Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women shall be deemed adopted, provided that it may, by motion, vary or rescind their provisions at a later date, (iv) it have all of the powers of a Standing Committee as provided in the Standing Orders, as well as the power to travel, accompanied by the necessary staff, inside and outside of Canada, subject to the usual authorization from the House, (v) the members serving on the said committee be appointed by the Whip of each party depositing with the Clerk of the House a list of his or her party’s members of the committee within ten sitting days of the adoption of this Order, (vi) the quorum be seven members for any proceedings, provided that at least a member of the opposition and of the government party be present, (vii) membership substitutions be permitted to be made from time to time, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2), and (viii) it report its recommendations to the House no later than February 14, 2014;
(j) with respect to any order of reference created as a consequence of this Order, any evidence adduced by a committee in the previous Session shall be deemed to have been laid upon the Table in the present Session and referred to the appropriate committee;
(k) the reference to “September 30” in Standing Order 28(2)(b) shall be deemed, for the calendar year 2013, to read “November 8”;
(l) the reference to “the tenth sitting day before the last normal sitting day in December” in Standing Order 83.1 shall be deemed, for the calendar year 2013, to read “Wednesday, December 11, 2013”; and
(m) on Thursday, October 31, 2013, the hours of sitting and order of business of the House shall be that of a Friday, provided that (i) the time for filing of any notice be no later than 6:00 p.m., (ii) when the House adjourns it shall stand adjourned until Monday, November 4, 2013, and (iii) any recorded division in respect of a debatable motion requested on, or deferred to, October 31, 2013, shall be deemed to be deferred or further deferred, as the case may be, to the ordinary hour of daily adjournment on November 4, 2013.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of government Motion No. 2, and I look forward to the continuation of what has proven to be a productive, hard-working, and orderly Parliament.
This year alone, from the end of January until the end of June, Parliament passed 37 new laws, matching our government's most productive year in office. This, of course, included a budget that will help fuel job creation, grow our economy, and increase Canada's long-term prosperity. Since the last election and the 2011 throne speech, we have witnessed 61 government bills become law. On top of that, an unprecedented 19 private members' bills received royal assent, heralding a renewed empowerment of individual members of Parliament to bring forward initiatives important to them and their constituents. It is a long way from the days when a Prime Minister derisively described backbenchers as “nobodies”, 50 yards off the Hill.
Yesterday's Speech from the Throne has outlined the government's objectives as being those that matter to Canadians. As a new parliamentary session begins, we remain squarely focused on jobs, the economy, and protecting families, while taking pride in the history and institutions that make Canada the best country in the world. Here in the House, these policy objectives will be given legislative expression in the form of bills that will be introduced over the coming weeks, months, and years. As we look forward to implementing the new initiatives outlined yesterday, we also want to ensure that important, unfinished work from the previous session, whether it be bills or committee business, is not forgotten.
Government Motion No. 2 would seek to facilitate and organize House and committee business for the autumn in view of our calendar and circumstances. Government Motion No. 2 proposes that June's unfinished work, in which all parties have an interest, carry on where we left off. I stand here today asking that all opposition parties join me in taking a balanced, principles-based approach to getting Parliament back to work. The bills and committee work I am today proposing be reinstated are those that have received support and praise from members opposite. It is also work that matters to Canadians.
We are not asking that only items proposed originally by the government be reinstated; we are proposing on behalf of all parties that everybody's proposals and initiatives be restored. It is a fair approach. It is a non-partisan approach. In respect of government legislation, paragraph (a) of the motion sets out a procedure for the reintroduction of government bills that advanced in the House in the previous session. In total, up to seven bills from the first session could fall into that category.
What sorts of bills are we talking about here? They are the type of legislation the New Democrats say they are keen to debate all over again. What are they? Let us consider some examples.
As pointed out in the Speech from the Throne, we are deeply committed to standing up for victims of crime and making our streets safer for Canadians. The former Bill , was designed to make sure that public safety comes first in the decision-making process regarding persons found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. It would provide additional security for victims and would enhance their involvement in the Criminal Code mental disorder regime.
During the previous session, the NDP and the Bloc agreed with the government and supported the bill. We hope that they will continue to support this important initiative.
In order to protect families and communities, we must also eradicate contraband tobacco from our streets to ensure that children are not exposed to the dangers of smoking through access to cheap packs of illegal cigarettes. That was the goal of the former Bill , through the creation of mandatory prison sentences for repeat offenders in the trafficking of contraband tobacco. The bill will not only protect children against the dangers of tobacco, but it will also address the more general issue of contraband tobacco trafficking driven by organized crime groups.
A look at the debates at second reading in the Hansard shows that members of the NDP, the Liberal Party and the Bloc spoke in favour of sending the bill to committee. We are counting on their continued support of this initiative and we will adopt a non-partisan approach as Parliament resumes its work.
Former Bill , the prohibiting cluster munitions act, would implement our government's commitments under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a significant achievement. Over time, the enactment of this convention will save the lives of many thousands of people around the world and will help put an end to the use of a weapon that has shattered the lives of too many innocent civilians.
In the previous session, support for this bill came from the Bloc and the hon. members for , , and . We look forward to renewed support from them on this bill as part of our balanced, principle-based approach.
Our government believes in our national museums and we recognize the tremendous value they hold for all Canadians. As we approach Canada's 150th birthday, former Bill , the Canadian museum of history act, offers an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate our history and those achievements that define who we are as Canadians. The Canadian museum of history would provide the public with the opportunity to appreciate how Canada's identity has been shaped over the course of our history. Canadians deserve a national museum that tells our stories and presents our country's treasures to the world.
This bill received support from the hon. members for , , and . We look forward again to their continued support.
Our commitment to improving the lives of Canadians from coast to coast continues. In the case of aboriginals, former Bill , the first nations elections act, would provide a robust election system that individual first nations can opt into. The act will help to create a framework that fosters healthier, more prosperous, and self-sufficient aboriginal communities through stronger and more stable and effective first nations governments.
The bill is the product of recommendations developed by the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and a lengthy national engagement campaign with first nations leaders across the country. As we see from Hansard, that bill passed second reading without the opposition even asking for a recorded vote.
The new parliamentary session will see our government stand up for Canadian families and consumers. This includes ensuring they do not fall victim to counterfeit goods. Counterfeit goods hurt our economy, undermine innovation, and undermine the integrity of Canadian brands, and they threaten the health and safety of Canadians on occasion. This is why I am asking that the NDP and Liberal MPs who stood in the House and spoke in favour of former Bill , the combating counterfeit products act, going to committee will agree to allow that to happen again.
By allowing these bills that received varying degrees of support from across the aisle an opportunity to be reinstated, our intention is to finish where we left off on key pieces of legislation important to Canadians—not to enter into partisan gridlock, not to re-debate legislation that has already received support from parliamentarians, but to reinstate and pass bills so that we can move on to new initiatives and deliver results for Canadians.
As I made clear, government Motion No. 2 is about restoring everyone's business. That includes bills and motions that are important to everyone here and, more importantly, to Canadians.
Many of the Canadians I speak with want their elected politicians to work, make decisions, and get on with the important work we were sent to Ottawa to do. I can only imagine the reaction I would get if I told them we had to spend over a dozen days to have the exact same debates we had already had, to make the same decisions we had already taken, to have the same votes we had already voted on, in many of these cases on bills that we all supported.
It would be a remarkable waste. It would seem absurd to anyone in the real world, where efficiency and productivity count for something, but believe it or not, that is what the official opposition wants to do: play partisan games, hold debates that we have already had, and enter into the kind of unproductive and unsavoury political deadlock just witnessed south of the border.
A news article on Tuesday noted that “the NDP is fundamentally opposed” to the legislative component of our balanced approach to restoring the work of all members of Parliament, yet just a few short paragraphs later in the same article, the member for is reported to have said he is “not opposed to bringing back some of the legislation”. Which is it? Are New Democrats fundamentally opposed, or are they actually in favour? Is this a matter of principle, or is it really just a matter of partisan gamesmanship? Is it just that some people like to stand and grab attention? I think the answer is obvious.
Our approach to restoring the work of all members also includes the important work that is being done in our committees. This means continuing our commitment to ensuring that taxpayers' dollars are spent efficiently and in a transparent manner.
That is why we are taking action to reinstate the mandate for the procedure and House affairs committee's study on members' expenses, including a special provision for independent members to participate at the meetings of the committee on this issue. We ask all members of the House to support this mandate so that we can increase accountability and transparency in MP disclosures.
Our balanced, principle-based approach to making Parliament work this session will also mean the reappointment of the special committee on missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. There is no question that the deaths and abductions of these women are a tragedy that has caused deep pain for many families. By reinstating this committee's work, we are ensuring that this tragedy receives the careful attention it deserves.
Other uncompleted committee mandates flowing from House orders include a private member's motion that would also be revived.
Finally, some scheduling adjustments are proposed. They include items to reconcile some deadlines to our calendar as well as the usual indulgence granted by the House to allow members from a recognized party to attend their party's national convention.
What I have just outlined to you, Mr. Speaker, is a fair and balanced proposal to get Parliament back in the swing of hard work. Government Motion No. 2 is balanced. It is based on a principle, a principle that we will be back where we were in June and that nobody is prejudiced by our prorogation. It is a non-partisan approach, one that would restore everyone's business regardless of their partisan affiliation and regardless of which side of the House they sit on.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to emphasize that these are not mere procedural issues. Opposition members clearly do not agree with all the bills the government would like to restore to the stage of debate where they were prior to prorogation.
Prorogation by the government is not a procedural tactic. It is a tool enabling Parliament to restart debate and to resume consideration of the bills the government wants to introduce. It is a process that is normally available to the government to enable it really to resume debate when it has reached the point where a new start is necessary once it has achieved the objectives set out in the previous throne speech. The tool is there, it is available, and it can be used by the government.
Unfortunately, this government always uses this tool as a hammer to hit opposition members. We have a lot of debates, we have a lot of ideas about the bills we have before us, and we should have the opportunity to present them. The fact that the government merely wants the benefits of prorogation and does not at all want to suffer its harmful effects clearly shows it does not understand the procedural process of the House of Commons. It wants to reinvent it and reinterpret it in its own way. This is not the first time it has done so. Members will recall, for example, that this government used prorogation to prevent a coalition of members of this House from forming a government.
The government used this tool as a hammer. However, this tool should only be used with considerable reservation. This government has shown itself incapable of reservation. Although we agree with some bills, it wants us to accept the bills with which we do not agree. This is not a negotiation. This is not an effective way to conduct the business of the House. It is a method of legislating that the majority of Canadians probably do not support. However, the Conservatives want to have these bills passed without the debate necessary to expose their deficiencies. The members here present must have the opportunity to state their opinions.
We want to state our opinions about the striking of a committee to study violence against aboriginal women in Canada. We definitely want to do that. We want to let the Conservatives hold their convention at what they consider the appropriate time. In exchange, however, we are not prepared to allow all the bad bills they introduced in the last session of Parliament to be reintroduced in the House without debate or to resume consideration at the stage where they were without members having the opportunity to debate them.
The problem we have here is that the government insists on having the benefits for itself alone. This is not a mere procedural issue here. This is an opportunity for the representatives of the people to state their opinions on the bills and to assert the views of all Canadians in this House.
The government would have us believe that this is just about failed negotiations and that the opposition is delaying proceedings in this House. This is not just about procedure. It is about democracy and being able to speak our minds, as we are supposed to do. We are the representatives of the people. We are not here to rubber-stamp the Conservative government’s bills. Even Conservative members should be able to speak to their own bills. Unfortunately, even they will not have the opportunity to do so. Every member of this House, regardless of political party, should have the right to speak out.
The motion the government has set before us today was presented following negotiations over a matter of weeks. Unfortunately, the negotiations went nowhere. It was absolutely necessary to request that the Speaker intervene to look for House customs and precedents.
The government seems to believe that its motion should be adopted merely because it has set it before the House and that it automatically falls within the procedures and traditions of the House.
Time and again, these days, the government has been unable to proceed with its motions, because the Speaker has had the simple common sense to look at House customs and precedents and take into consideration the very foundation of Canadian democracy as represented by House procedures. However, the government seems to be trying to set them aside, to the detriment of both opposition members and those on the government side.
Members must have an opportunity to debate bills in order to express themselves with regard to those they agree with and those they disagree with. In response to the motions the government proposes, it is not possible to express oneself clearly. That is the danger with omnibus bills. Sadly, this is not the first time the government has offered us doorstop-sized omnibus bills. Now it is moving omnibus motions. We know what the result is: they are poorly constructed. This often leads to harmful consequences that impact the Canadian people.
For example, omnibus Bill , which was imposed on the people, is spreading suffering across Canada. Unfortunately, it was passed. Members will recall that it amended 70 statutes at one stroke. We are unable to debate efficiently in the House when a single bill amends 70 statutes. It is downright inefficient.
When the tells us that the opposition is generating inefficiencies in the House, we really have to wonder what sort of inefficiency he is referring to.
In my view, the inefficiency is to be found in bills and motions that are badly drafted and put together and require such devices as raising questions of privilege and points of order to the Speaker. That takes time. Normally, what is presented in the House should have been resolved and negotiated.
We wanted to negotiate in good faith on motions and bills that could benefit all Canadians in a full and comprehensive House of Commons debate, but unfortunately, the insisted on an omnibus motion.
We are now debating that issue, whereas we should instead be debating issues that are of more interest to Canadians, such as a commission of inquiry on violence against aboriginal women or a request that the Standing Committee on Finance initiate a study on income inequality in Canada.
There are many bills we could genuinely begin to debate in full. To do that, however, the government insists that we accept its opinions and its interpretation of prorogation, whereby we should ignore the very outcome of prorogation.
Let me remind you that prorogation terminates government bills. The government knew this. It is not as though the effect of prorogation was something hidden. It was known. Then the government insisted on changing tack and saying that prorogation does not mean that but means an opportunity to spend millions of dollars on a new throne speech in the other chamber. It makes no sense! It is an absolute waste.
Generally speaking, the Senate is quite definitely a waste. We saw that well enough in the debates and in question period today. There is an absolute need for the government to stop trying to convince us that its interpretation is the only valid one. The traditions of the House have been formed precisely to enable full and comprehensive debate, a discussion that sheds light on shortcomings that may exist in the government’s bills and motions.
It is to the government's advantage to allow a debate. It is in no way detrimental to the government to allow Canadians to express their opinions on its bills and motions. That is precisely why we have a parliament rather than a dictatorship.
There is an absolute need for the government to consider enacting legislation with some flexibility and working with those other Canadians who are not represented by members who are also ministers. I would also like Conservative members to have an opportunity to express themselves on the government’s bills and motions.
We have seen the result of a lack of transparency on the part of this government: it is losing its own members, who have to sit as independents, because they are not able to express themselves fully and completely. It is difficult for people who voted for someone who no longer represents the banner under which they were elected. We are ashamed of this procedure, and these problems in the House of Commons. I do not understand why the government cannot see that a full and comprehensive debate benefits all Canadians.
From the start, we told the government that we were prepared to allow this debate without opposition, provided that the motions were split. We suggested it yesterday, as soon as Parliament reopened after the prorogation that was forced upon us. We suggested that by unanimous consent of the House, the members concerned be allowed to attend the Conservative party convention.
I do not understand why Conservative members did not find this a realistic offer. Unfortunately, since the government refused to negotiate with the opposition parties, we had to waste an entire day just to see whether the motion for consideration could be split. It is now split—or at least, the vote is split.
This shows that the opposition is frequently right. Opposition members looked into the matter and genuinely considered the consequences of the motions the government proposed, whereas the government seemed to want to act like a bulldozer and break down walls, completely ignoring the will of Canadians, as represented here by the members. It is a fairly dire problem for the government. Its members are unable to let the light of House debate illuminate their bills and motions.
I hope the Conservatives will start seeing this House more positively and will start debating in good faith, or at least in better faith. The Conservatives seem to find this very hard to do. The Conservatives say they are here to protect Canadians, but it is the opposition, frankly, that plays this role. In fact, Canadians unfortunately have no voice in this House, given the way the government treats us. The Conservatives cannot have a clear idea of what Canadians want if they do not allow their representatives to express themselves at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place. The appropriate time and place is here, now, in this House.
We should have been able to resolve this during the negotiations held before the House resumed. Concurrence in some of the motions that were put forward yesterday would have allowed for full discussion and debate. Now we are still having debates on omnibus motions. We are still trying to deal with this problem.
In view of recent history with bills and and the 2008 prorogation, after such a close call, the Conservatives were afraid of what Canadians wanted. They hid behind prorogation. For the Conservatives, prorogation is not an opportunity to start the parliamentary cycle over again and allow for full debate on new bills and a new vision for Canada.
For the Conservatives, prorogation is a hammer with which to beat Canadians and force them to accept its will and its view of government. The Conservatives really should have held a lot more consultations than they did. Obviously, they do not want to consult the House of Commons. The Conservatives are trying as hard as they can to subvert the will of Parliament. They are trying as hard as they can to sabotage parliamentary procedure, which exists specifically in order to safeguard our democracy. The Conservatives do not want to have full and broad consultations with Canadians.
I will give some recent examples. The government wants to reform Canada Post services and may get rid of home delivery. For two months, there was only one website where people could express their opinions. There was no publicity about it. If people stumbled upon the website by chance, they could click a button and give their opinion, but unfortunately no one was informed that this consultation was going on. Now the consultation has ended. There was no notice. All of a sudden the website disappeared. I called Canada Post, while the consultation was going on, and I asked how long proposals could be submitted. I was told that the website would always be up and would never be closed. Nonetheless, about three weeks later, the website no longer existed.
The government seems to be afraid of consulting people. It avoids consulting with Canadians. When consultations are to be held, there is no publicity. The government does not want to consult members of Parliament.
I want to know where the Conservatives get their ideas from. How can they think that their bills are going to be worthwhile if they do not listen to ideas that come up during debates or to expressions of the will of the people?
There are other situations. The Commissioner of Official Languages recently issued reports that said that the Maurice Lamontagne Institute library should not have been closed because there was no consultation about it. Take the employment insurance reform. In the House, the Conservative government admitted that it had conducted no studies and had not consulted Canadians. Then it put forward a huge reform package that coincidentally created a surplus of a few billion dollars in the employment insurance fund. Coincidentally, that money, taken from the least fortunate Canadians, will help pay down the deficit, a problem the Conservatives are bragging about solving. Congratulations to the Conservative government for taking money from the Canadians who are least able to afford it to pay down the deficit. In my view, it is a disgrace.
Once again, if the Conservatives had consulted Canadians, Canadians would have been able to tell them that the way to get rid of the deficit is to increase taxes on the wealthiest companies in Canada. They did not consult Canadians. There is no consultation. The Conservatives do not want to consult Canadians or their representatives in the House. We have seen this time and time again, and the motion before us today is proof of that fact.
I want to see a government that is able to conduct consultations and that is not afraid of its own people. This is not true of the Conservative government, nor was it true of the Liberal government. The Liberals also had fun proroguing whenever they wanted to.
It is about time we had a government that was prepared to accept the will of the people, prepared to consult with others and prepared to pass bills that address the needs of ordinary Canadians, less fortunate Canadians. It is about time we had a government whose work in the House of Commons would benefit Canadians, who should not be afraid and always wondering what other surprise the government is going to bring in without any consultation.
The government has to trust the Canadian people. This government does not want to consult Canadians because it is afraid of what Canadians want.
We know what happens to governments that are afraid of the will of the people. Usually they do not last very long. This is what I hope to see in two years’ time, the next time Canadians are consulted.
I would remind the House that the Constitution does not allow the Conservatives to govern after 2016, because they only have five years, under the Constitution. I would not be surprised if they wanted to stay in power longer. Luckily, the Constitution has fixed the maximum life of a government. At that point they will not have any choice and will have to consult the people. I think perhaps they are probably right to be afraid of consulting the people. The next election will show that the people no longer support this government.
If the people were consulted today about the bills and the motions before us, we would see that Canadians also have a great deal of difficulty with what we are being asked to do.
In the throne speech, instead of finding out that they would be allowed to take beer and spirits across provincial boundaries, Canadians would rather have learned that they could stay in their home region and be supported by a government that would bring wealth to their communities. Instead of this, the government creates situations where the remote communities in Canada are not consulted. The government does not know how to help these places. Unfortunately, that can lead to a situation where remote communities will have no choice but to disappear. The people will have to move to other areas of Canada. This is no way to treat people. This is no way to ensure that families in this country are healthy and people can reach their full potential.
The government did not consult communities and imposed rather substantial changes with regard to wealth in Canada.
Then we saw the telling people not to worry, if they were in difficulty during the winter because, for example, their employment insurance was cut off, all they had to do was move to Alberta.
It is truly shameful to say this sort of thing without having consulted Canadians about the type of reform there should be to employment insurance. The Conservatives pushed through a radical reform without consulting, without considering the consequences and without doing any studies. Now they are telling people it is too bad for them and they can always move.
Canadians deserve better than this. The Canadian government should have more confidence in the Canadian people and should consult them.
I return to today’s motion. This is not consultation of the Canadian people; it is the imposition of Conservative tactics to force the passage of government bills and the adoption of the government’s vision of Canada.
If we had had the chance, we would have wanted to get a resolution passed fairly quickly to have the standing finance committee conduct a study on income inequality in Canada and the growth of that inequality. Unfortunately, such a resolution cannot be passed quickly because the government has put a price on it. We will have to allow all bills that did not get to third reading and were not passed in the House to be picked up where they were left off prior to prorogation.
It was not possible to quickly strike a committee to study the violence being done to aboriginal women in Canada.
It was not possible to allow the Conservatives to go ahead with their plan to hold a convention. It is fine to move forward and consult their members, but this might have been an opportunity to consult Canadians at the same time on the issues of real concern to them, including financial issues: how are they going to pay their rent? What kind of job will they get?
We heard in the House today that half the people in Toronto do not have permanent full-time employment. That is truly shameful. One can understand the stress that can affect a person who does not know whether he will have a job next year. That is the situation of half the population of Toronto. Clearly, they are going through a very difficult time.
I am hearing this sort of thing from many parts of Canada. People feel abandoned by this government, which is afraid of Canadians, which is afraid of consulting the people. Perhaps it is right to be afraid.
In recent months and years I have met with many Canadians who have lost a great deal of confidence in both the Conservative Party and the Conservative government. The Conservative government might have been able to keep that confidence if it had consulted them. It would be good if it could prove here, in the House, that it is prepared to consult the people’s representatives. Unfortunately, once again, the government seems to be incapable of this.
Today we are debating an immense omnibus motion.
We have seen it so many times: omnibus bills and motions can only lead to disaster. Often they are poorly drafted and they do not get the benefit of thorough debate.
I also want to point out that in this bill the government also wanted to allow the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to proceed with its study on the Standing Orders. That way the government will have the opportunity to closely examine the Standing Orders, to explore House practices, and to see why and how the rules are in place. This might give the government occasion to read with attention the practices and procedure in O'Brien and Bosc.
I sometimes wonder whether the Conservatives know their way around the Standing Orders. Not everyone does. Sometimes even a good parliamentarian will not be fully knowledgeable about the rules of this House. That is a fact. That is why we have to consult the clerks of the House, the experts and their assistants. Do the Conservatives do this? It seems to me they do not.
The result tells me that they have not had the benefit of consulting their own employees. If they did, we would have seen the evidence. The motion would have been divided right from the outset today. After the good-faith negotiations we had with the , one would have thought that common sense would pay off and win the day.
Unfortunately, it is clear that the government seems incapable of seeing common sense when it confronts it. It is capable only of going on with its wrong-headed way of proceeding; this has been proven in the House of Commons. That way of proceeding runs counter to the Standing Orders of this place. Has this been done deliberately? One dare not think so. However, I think that the government sometimes considers itself shrewder than other people. It believes itself capable of going ahead and creating new practices and procedures in the House, without ever thinking that other people may realize that something is not quite right.
Unfortunately, we could have had this debate here a month ago, but the government decided, once again without consultation, that prorogation was the way to go and that it was more important to avoid question period for a month.
As the Senate scandal continued to simmer, boil, then overflow, the government decided that Parliament should not sit while it was negotiating a free trade agreement with Europe, failing to consider the fact that Canadian farmers would suffer rather extreme and adverse consequences under that agreement.
If the government had taken the time to explain to the House, and thus to Canadians, the scope of this free trade agreement with Europe, people might not be stressed and worried today at the thought of possibly losing their farm. Would it not have been possible for Canadian farmers to unite to assert that there is a big problem with the fact that the government wants to proceed with a free trade agreement with Europe without adequately consulting them?
All of this might have taken place had there been no prorogation. We would have had a month for debate and a month for the government to explain its intentions and the direction it wants to take. We have not had that opportunity, which is most unfortunate.
The government is running around in all directions. During prorogation, before the Speech from the Throne, it announced that it would put forward a bill to allow people to select the television channels they want through the cable companies.
I want to point out that back home, in the Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands, we were forced to get cable services. Until last year, we had free access to CBC television, like all other Canadians.
That is no longer the case. CBC television is no longer available in the Gaspé or on the islands. The only way to get it is through cable packages. Now the government is saying that it is helping us save money by allowing us to get pick-and-pay channels. I want to make it clear that before we did not have to pay anything. Should we thank the government for saving us money after imposing a fee on us? This really shows a lack of common sense and, once again, it is the result of a lack of consultation.
This summer we heard that the government wanted to increase civil liability for companies engaged in offshore oil development. Currently, these companies are liable up to $30 million. The government arbitrarily decided to raise that limit to $1 billion. This bill would have been a worthwhile piece of legislation if the government had taken the time to table it. If Parliament had not been prorogued for a month, we might have soon been debating this legislation.
People living in eastern Canada, on the Atlantic coast or the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in the Arctic or even on the west coast of British Columbia would really like to know the ins and outs of this bill. Unfortunately, this will not happen for a while because Parliament was prorogued for a month. We lost all this time and we still cannot figure out the government's vision.
Those who listened to the Speech from the Throne yesterday did not get a better understanding of the direction taken by the government. The speech had many words but very little content. The government said it will allow the movement of wine and beer for people living in various regions. That is fine, but these people are concerned about the fact that they and their families must move to other areas to find jobs—and the government is bragging about creating jobs.
If we look at immigration levels in Canada, we realize there is nothing to brag about when it comes to employment, the percentage of the population and job creation. Despite what we hear repeatedly from the other side of the House, we are far from being the best among the G7 or G8 countries. We may in fact be one of the worst.
The government simply did not explain its vision. This government failed to show up and even face Canadians to explain its vision. It is afraid of its people and of Parliament. It is afraid to follow Parliament's procedures in a manner respectful of all parties in the House. It wants to impose its will, but that is why we have rules.
When the government brags about being the law and order party, it should remember that it is also subject to law and order, which also ensures equality among all Canadians. It is a reminder that everyone enjoys the same rights and that the government is not above the law. The government cannot think that it will simply do what it wants and that Canadians will say that it did a good job, even though their income is lower than it was in the previous year, they no longer know whether they will have a job, or whether they are paying for scientists who have been muzzled and whose views they can no longer know because they cannot have access to their reports. That is all true.
However, the government seems unable to face its own population and allow a full and comprehensive debate. Whether it is in the House or anywhere in Canada, the government is simply not there. It does consult, but on the Internet and it is quiet about it. No one knows about it. If one happens to stumble on the appropriate website, that is fine. Otherwise, it is too bad for those who were not consulted. This is no way to hold consultations.
Allowing debates in the House is another way to consult. Unfortunately, there are closures and gag orders. The government does not allow full and comprehensive debates. It does not give all committee members the right to propose motions without going in camera. Parliamentary committees are the ideal place to debate the details of bills and to allow Canadians to come and express their views on federal legislation.
All committee proceedings now happen in camera. It is very unfortunate. Once again, committees should be able to express themselves fully and completely.
What is happening in the House of Commons is also happening in parliamentary committees. Everything is done by stealth, under the watchful eye of the office of a who thinks he is omnipotent. The evidence shows, of course, that he is not. A government should be able to debate fully and completely, both with its allies and with the opposition. This government seems to have a very hard time understanding that.
Omnibus motions have no place in Parliament. Omnibus bills do not allow for a full and thorough debate. The government should allow such debates, as almost all other parliaments do. Here, unfortunately, it is really hard to get the time needed for a proper debate. When members have something to say, they often do not get the time needed to express themselves. The debate is already over, because the government has imposed a gag order.
Today we could have easily gone through three-quarters of this motion very quickly if the government had had a bit more common sense. It could have allowed the parliamentary housekeeping matters to pass unanimously and the committees to be formed quickly and easily, since everyone agrees on that. Unfortunately, in order to do so, we absolutely had to swallow the government's pill and allow all the bad bills that did not pass last time to be reinstated in this new session, without debate, without the opportunity to clarify the bills and without a full and thorough debate.
I find it very difficult to acknowledge that a government seems incapable of taking the time to listen and believing that it does not necessarily have all the answers. A government must have a certain sense of humility. It cannot be better than the people it represents. The people's humility is often impressive. First of all, the people are always right. They should have the opportunity to express their opinions about all bills put before them. They must be able to make suggestions that could improve the bills and motions. Unfortunately, the government does not seem to want the people to have a say. Consultation every five years is fine, but bills brought forward one at a time benefit from evidence, the viewpoint of experts and the representation afforded by members of Parliament.
Unfortunately, bills do not seem to benefit from being sent to the Senate where the people's will is often not well represented. We know that senators are appointed by the Prime Minister's Office and are not given a direct mandate by the people. However, senators take the liberty of slowing down and even destroying bills from this House with a nod from the government.
Where was the government when the bill on transgendered rights was slowed down and killed in the Senate? If the bill was passed by the House of Commons, why did the government not criticize the Senate for defeating it? The Conservative government is now saying that it is very green and that it is controlling greenhouse gas emissions. Where was the government when the bill to control greenhouse gases introduced by the NDP and passed by this House went to the Senate and was defeated? The will of the people was not represented. I repeat, the government seems to have a great deal of difficulty understanding the will of the people.
The government may even be very pleased to manipulate the people's will.
However, I do not think the government would be prepared to accept the will of the people if there were a real consultation on employment insurance reform, on not moving forward with Kyoto, or on the issues that concern people the most. People are generally concerned about jobs, being able to feed their families, being able to pay their rent and being able to send their children to school the following year. That is what people are really concerned about.
I do not see anything in yesterday's throne speech that tells me everything is fine. The government said that it would establish a job creation program. This is the same program that all the provinces have already rejected. I do not see how the government will be able to move forward with this idea.
If the Conservatives are consulting the provinces, perhaps they could give the House an idea of how the consultations are going.
In the throne speech the Conservatives said that they wanted to move forward with a job creation program. However, the negotiations with the provinces show that things are not going well, and it seems as though the program will not happen. If that is the case, why not say so? Why would the government announce in the throne speech that it will move forward with a proposal when it knows very well that it will not be able to? If that is the case, it should be honest and explain to the House where things stand.
Today we learned that, once again, the government is moving forward with European free trade negotiations. It appears to be a done deal, if we are to believe what has been said in the House.
There is a lack of consultation. How is that possible? The Conservatives claim that the agreement will create jobs and stimulate investment. They say that farmers should not be afraid because they will have a huge market in which to sell their products. Did it ever occur to anyone that it might not be possible for a farmer from the Lower St. Lawrence, in Quebec, to take his goods and send them to Europe?