First of all, I'd like to express my gratitude to PROC for agreeing to look at this motion, to Mr. Christopherson for presenting it and to everybody on PROC who had an open mind. I understand that agreement isn't to say we accept it or we agree with everything in the motion, but that you would have a serious look at it. I'm very grateful for this opportunity. Thank you.
Two things brought me to bring this motion forward. Since I arrived here, I was shocked, and I think anybody I spoke to was shocked, at the lack of civility and decorum in the House and lack of productive debate. I don't believe any one party or one person is to blame. I think we all share a little of the responsibility.
I spent the first year or two asking people, talking to people, trying to cajole people to be a little politer or have better debates. And I realized at some point that it was no longer paying. It was better to have confrontation than collaboration. That had happened over time. There had been changes and things had progressed away from how we used to run the place to a point where now it was better to have confrontation.
We probably need to look at our Standing Orders. This phenomenon of consolidation of power into the centre is not new. It's not unique to Canada. Professors will tell you what they call the third wave of autocratization, as we heard at one of our committees with Ms. Kusie.
In any system, democracy is always in a constant battle with autocracy. As we see right now in the world, many great nations are moving toward autocracy. We can see this in one place where a leader has named himself dictator for life. We see another great nation where a leader is a dictator in all but name because they have the pretenses of elections, and we see another nation where another leader is constantly attacking the very foundations of their democracy. And we see that in so many countries.
Here in Canada we don't have a leader who's done this, but over time power has been centralized, seeped inward towards what we call the PMO or the OLO. With this pulling together of power, many things have happened. The role of the MP has been slightly modified. The role of the Speaker has been drastically changed. Citizens have been disenfranchised.
People often say to me that when we brought the cameras in, that's when it all got bad. I don't believe that for a second. I looked at many ideas. One of the ideas was if we had cameras on everybody all the time, I bet you it would change overnight. It was explained that can't be done because we have certain rules that the camera can only be on a person speaking.
I looked at how they run the audiovisuals. That rule is such that bad behaviour can go unpunished because it's never seen.
For example, the Senate moved and they now have the right to show all camera angles. They said it makes for much better, much more interesting TV, but it's also going to have an impact. One of my ideas was let's put cameras everywhere and if someone is behaving badly all the time, everybody will know that. I didn't use that idea here. Why? Because we're in politics and we look at the art of the possible.
I read all the ideas that had been presented over the last dozen years or so. Then I chewed on it; I thought about it and then I tried to say what is doable. I considered low-hanging fruit. I thought this motion was very simple.
Many people have said to me this is way too big, it's way too much. I don't think it is, and I'm going to challenge all of you in PROC to look at it from that perspective.
Serendipitously, you have just done a study on second chambers, and the majority of this motion turns around the implementation of a second chamber, so I don't think we need to do another study on a second chamber. I believe you have done a good study. If you've done a study on a second chamber, you can now ask yourselves whether you should try or not bother trying it. Or you could say, “Let's do another study again next Parliament”, but if you're going to do another study again next Parliament, I would challenge you to ask what questions you didn't ask during this Parliament, in your study right now. I believe we're ready to try something.
What is it that I'm proposing and how did I come to these packages? There are three areas where I want to take power that's been centralized over time and just decentralize it. At this point, I want to say none of these ideas are new, except for one part of one idea, and that's the one I'm getting the most push-back on. That was my idea, so I'm pretty sure it won't make the cut. Having said that, none of these ideas are mine, number one.
Number two, I didn't write most of this motion.
Here I'd like to stop to say thank you to the people who did do it. First of all, I'd like to thank Scott Reid, and especially his assistant, Dennis Laurie. They did the brunt of the work writing the whole section on a second chamber.
I'd like to thank , because he collaborated a lot and he's very knowledgeable on issues of decorum, powers of the Speaker, and how things changed over time.
I'd like to thank and , because they took the ideas that had been proposed by Kennedy Stewart, who had taken these ideas from the United Kingdom about how to give citizens the right to bring matters of debate into Parliament.
I'd like to thank David Graham, because he looked at ideas for how to make it fairer for people who are doing private members' business to have their chance, because sometimes you may have people who have been elected three times and they never get up, but someone who was elected once gets up. There's a core unfairness in how we do private members' business, and he had ideas about that, which I incorporated.
I'd like to thank Scott Simms, because he studied how the United Kingdom has strengthened its committees and brought those ideas into the package.
Obviously, I'd like to thank Elizabeth May, because as everybody knows, she has been a strong voice for strengthening Parliament overall, for changing—or even, I would say, honouring—our rules. She'll speak a bit about that idea in a moment.
I thank all those people. I also recognize that none of those ideas are new; none of them have not been debated; none of them have not been studied. To hear the argument that it's too much, I tell you now, if you're going to make a second chamber today, tomorrow, in a year or 10 years from now, it'll be a big motion. You can't get around that. You have to write it.
What's inside the actual motion now? The first thing is the Speaker, powers to the Speaker. The Speaker has the name “Speaker” for a simple reason: in every Westminster system, including ours, up until the 1980s and early 1990s, the Speaker has decided who speaks. It seems pretty reasonable. He's not called “the reader of the list”; he's called the Speaker, because his job is to decide who speaks. It's that simple. I'd like him to do his job. I think we all want him to do his job. If he does his job, two things will happen: decorum will shoot up, because he'll have a carrot and a stick to let people who are behaving speak and let people who are not behaving not speak. The second thing is that debate will improve. This is how it's done in every other Westminster system. We are unique: We are wrong.
I spoke at length with other Speakers—I spoke at length with our longest-serving Speaker, Mr. Peter Milliken—and they all agree that this is a perversion of the system and it should be put back to the way it was.
How did it happen? There was a lady, Madam Jeanne Sauvé, who couldn't see very far, and she asked for help with people at a distance who might be getting up to speak, so they were giving her a few names.
There was another speaker—I won't give his name—who was not that interested in doing his job, and said, “Can you just make it easier for me? Just put them in alphabetical order, or whatever, and just....”
Then, over time, the whips decided we had more power, and the whips got stricter with the lists, until something happened in the previous government where a ruling had to be made about what the powers of the whips, the House leadership and the Speaker really were.
We need to put it back the way it was, and the way it should be. That's number one.
The second thing is powers to the citizens—a simple idea. mentioned this when he came and spoke about the second chamber. In the United Kingdom, if they reach the threshold of 100,000 signatures on a petition, it gets debated in their second chamber. Of note is that these are the debates that everybody watches. This is what people care about. This is what their citizens watch.
We took that number of 100,000 and made it 25% higher by population so that we don't have any spurious debates, and we ensured that anything that meets that threshold would still come to PROC to be looked at, to make sure it's not some silly thing, or something that's already been debated. As long as it hasn't, it would get a take-note debate in the second chamber.
That would re-engage our citizens to say, “Hey, I have a say in what goes on. It's not just once every four years that you ask me my opinion. If I really care about, say, the salmon run in B.C., and it's really important to me, and I have 70,000 other Canadians who say it's really important, then I want to hear Parliament express themselves.” They'll get a chance to do it. They'll engage themselves. Just like what happened in the United Kingdom, they'll be more engaged in their democracy.
The third thing is powers to the members of Parliament.
Again, over time there has been a degradation of power and a degradation of the role of the member of Parliament, who is a representative of her constituents. When she is elected and has to come to Ottawa, she is elected under a banner. We have to always answer the balance. I'm elected as an NDP/Liberal/Conservative/Green Party, but I'm also elected because I'm Frank Baylis, or Elizabeth May or Linda Lapointe. I have to balance what my citizens want with what I think, sometimes, is morally right, and with what the party wants.
But I am not elected as a trained seal, to simply do each and every time exactly what the party demands. If so, then they don't need any of us. We have no role to play, if that is our role. If I say that all I do in my job is to vote 100% the way the party votes, every single time, well, great, they don't actually need me. They'll just take the percentages, do the math and get out of the way.
We have a role to play. We have a role to play sometimes if enough of our constituents.... And this has happened to me. A lot of them wrote to me on a certain subject, and I said, “Okay, I have to listen to them. I'm not going to vote with my party on something here, because I'm going to represent them.”
This is our role. We need to give our members of Parliament their power back. How do we do that?
We looked, first of all, at our ability to bring private members' bills forward. Right now, it's fundamentally unfair. If you're lucky, you may get one. If you're unlucky, you won't get one. If you're half lucky, like me, you might get your first hour, which you might blow; but that's another question.
There might a lesson there. I haven't found it yet.
Voices: Oh, oh!
My point here is that every person elected within reason, for whom we can see how to do it, should get the chance to get heard. That's just being fair.
Then, if we have a shortened schedule, like let's say, for example, not everybody gets up because there is a minority government and we don't have a four-year cycle, the people who were last and didn't get up should be brought over. It's a very simple thing, a simple idea, but it makes total sense. Someone I talked to who was elected three times and not once had a private member's bill would get one. That just seems fair.
The second thing is the way our system is supposed to work is if it sounds like a good idea we vote to say let it go to committee and let's listen to what the committee has to say. We bring in experts and experts are supposed to tell us you should change this, you should fix that, this is why you brought us in here. Then we report back to Parliament to vote yes or no for these changes.
Committees should be reporting to Parliament, not to the whips, not to the ministers. The idea here is, as was done in the United Kingdom, to say let the committee chairs be elected by Parliament. It's a simple idea.
This set of changes gives the Speaker back his powers, gives the citizens some powers, and gives the MPs some powers, all within reason. How do we do this? This is where the second chamber comes in. I want to point out here do not think for an instance that we are charging or leading the way if we put a second chamber in place. For 25 years they've had it in Australia, and for 20 years they've had it in the United Kingdom. We are not ahead of the curve here. We're not taking a risk here. The whole idea is to implement a second chamber.
Then I took an idea...as said, and he said even here in the committee, when they brought these in there was skepticism. People said, you know, I'm not sure. So what they did is they said, let's give it a two-year trial period. That's written right into the motion, try it for two years. If you don't like it take it away, undo everything, nothing ventured nothing gained.
Lastly, if we bring in a second chamber we have to look at the schedule. I looked at the schedule and said, okay, when will it sit? What happens if there are votes going on? What happens if there's something that has to be decided? It doesn't get decided in the second chamber.
The second chamber is there to ensure that private members' business gets done, that members of Parliament get more chances to speak, and with the changes to the Speaker and the Speaker's powers to ensure that the whips don't take that over as well, so that the private members' business gets heard. That's why the package is 19 pages. That's it. It's a simple package. It's nothing in there other than one little thing, which I put in and I'm going to take out, because what I've been doing as well is I've been asking a great many people and I've gotten a lot of great suggestions, little things I didn't think of. For example, when I changed the schedule I said we're going to do away with overnight voting. We don't need it. We should start treating ourselves like human beings, not like animals. If you did what we do to ourselves to an animal, someone would be knocking on your door for animal cruelty. It's true.
Then I spoke to one member of Parliament and he said to me, Frank, the most important thing I think I do as an MP is vote. To vote is my most important thing. You've changed the rules so that there would be no voting overnight, but still from 9:00 to 10:30 straight I've got to go to the bathroom. They said to me that in the labour codes of our country you can't make someone work for four hours without giving them a break. I thought, you know, I didn't think of that. That's an example of a change that I'm going to suggest here, and I brought other ones like that. People have said to me, “Have you thought of this, have you thought of that?” It's a small change, but it's a totally reasonable change and it matches just our labour codes. On this entire package, I've heard from many people who say, too much, too big, too late in the game.
Prior to coming to Ottawa I ran a business and people worked from 9:00 to 5:00. They didn't stop at 4:15 and say the day's over. There's time for you to look at this. You've already done most of the looking at it. You've already done the big part of it, which is the second chamber.
I think there's time. I'm asking you—and this is my ask—to go through it. Do your job. Rip it apart in whatever way you can, but give the members of Parliament and the House of Commons the right and the opportunity to vote on it.
PROC's here to look at these procedures, to study them. I don't think it's hard to say we trust our own members of Parliament enough to express themselves on this package. If they don't like it, that's their right. If they do like it, that's their right. It's how we run ourselves, how we choose to run ourselves.
I say to this too. If you have a family, if you have young kids, if you have a health problem and you don't look at this seriously, don't complain. Don't go home and say to your wife or your husband or your kids, “Well, you know what? I didn't vote for it because my leadership didn't want me to”, or, “You know, that's just the way it is. You don't understand Parliament, but let me tell you, we're going to be voting all night, but don't worry about my illness.” I've talked to a lot of people who had serious illnesses who were aggravated by that overnight voting. It's unacceptable.
It's unacceptable. We are elected here as members of Parliament. We have a say. We are not trained seals. I'm asking for this: any change that's reasonable, anything you see in error in here.... I am not perfect, but I did not write most of it. I do not want to take credit where it's not due. I'm truly asking you, please, before the Parliament's done, to send it up and let our members, our fellow colleagues, express themselves.
With that, I'm going to say thank you very much for hearing me out. I'm very appreciative of that.
I'll pass it over to Elizabeth.
This is such a really wonderful opportunity to have a chance to talk to PROC about some of these fundamental issues. I'm deeply grateful for the chance, and I thank Frank, and there are a lot of you around the table who also helped in working on these proposals.
Frank asked me to speak to this one specific piece, which is around the Speaker and questions and identifying who speaks, and the roles of the whips. I'm just going to back up by saying that I find, now that I'm on the brink of turning 65, that I'm sometimes cursed with a really good memory. I also have the benefit of oral history from MPs who have passed on, so forgive me for being somewhat of a storyteller. Thinking about the continuity of our Parliament and actually knowing how it used to be is something that vanishes very quickly. A newly elected MP has no idea that it wasn't always like this.
I have the great good fortune to have worked in the Mulroney administration—I wasn't a member of the party that was in power at the time—as a senior policy adviser to the minister of the environment. I was frequently in the House and working with the Speaker of the House at the time, John Fraser, to try to see if there was a way to get all-party support for something that we were doing. On a marvellous day, we got unanimous consent through to save the lower third of what was then called the Queen Charlotte Islands but is now Gwaii Haanas National Park in Haida Gwaii.
I have a bit of institutional memory, and I find myself often feeling that I wish I didn't have such a good memory; it would make it easier to tolerate what's going on.
In any case, I also want to share with you a reminiscence about Flora MacDonald, because I adored Flora MacDonald. She was my role model and hero. For those of you who don't know, she was the Progressive Conservative member for the Kingston area and served in the government of Joe Clark briefly. She would never have tolerated heckling around her, that's for sure. I said to her, Flora, do you think so-and-so is doing a good job as Speaker? She said, “Ha. We haven't had a good Speaker since Lucien Lamoureux.” I went back to figure out who Lucien Lamoureux was and when he was Speaker. It was from 1966 to 1974.
So someone who had an even better memory than mine, but who has now passed on, had that view. When you go back and look, you realize that the history of our Parliament and our democracy in terms of the role of MPs and what we do when we come here to serve is one of a continual progression...I wouldn't say that it's democracy versus autocracy, but there is an element of that, of diminishing the role of the member of Parliament at the cost of the rise in the power of organized political parties. Organized political parties, and particularly back rooms, decide that what we actually do in Parliament is just a precursor to when we go back to fighting with each other in election campaigns, so the business of Parliament gets overtaken by the party whips or backroom party people in a way that didn't happen in the 1980s, for example.
Now, focusing on the issue of the Speaker's authority and how we can enhance decorum, improve the quality of debate and restore more power to the individual MP, we can serve a lot of goals all at once by observing a rule that we already have. I want to cover this off very quickly because I know that we all want to talk about these things.
When Lucien Lamoureux was Speaker, the Speaker's control over who was recognized in the House was the Speaker's alone. He also had powers—as the Speakers continue to have, but they have fallen into disuse—and members who ignored the Speaker in the way that happens on a daily basis now would have been named, expelled from the chamber and not allowed to return for a period of time, at the Speaker's discretion—a week, a couple of months, six months.
The Speaker was also massively impartial. One of the things for which Lucien Lamoureux is known is that he tried to follow the British practice. He had been elected as a Conservative. Once he became Speaker of the House, which wasn't then a position that we voted for, he ran for re-election as an Independent. The Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives stood down and did not run against him as an Independent. The NDP did run against him. He was re-elected as an Independent. The next time he ran as an Independent, all the parties ran against him. Over time, he gave up on his effort to replicate what happens in the U.K.: the Speaker should be 100% impartial.
As for what happened under Jeanne Sauvé, who was Speaker from 1980 to 1984, she did have eyesight issues. It was legitimate.
She couldn't quite see. You're supposed to catch the Speaker's eye. That's our rule confirmed by former speaker in his ruling on 's question of personal privilege when he was denied his S.O. 31. We know that the rule is that you catch the Speaker's eye. According to former speaker Scheer, there is no party list that must be observed by the Speaker. You just catch the Speaker's eye. You couldn't catch Jeanne Sauvé's eye. She said she couldn't see everybody well enough to know who was standing at the far ends of the chamber. She asked for the list from a party whip just to make it easier for her. That has now become so entrenched that the Speakers don't want to go back to just saying that they don't have to follow the party list.
What happens in the U.K.? John Bercow is Speaker in the U.K. I'm sure we've all watched him for great entertainment. He receives a request to ask a question in writing from a member of Parliament earlier in the day. He decides what questions will be asked. You're not quite catching the Speaker's eye—of course the Parliament of Westminster has over 600 MPs; they can't fit in the space—but you know ahead of time you're going to be able to ask your question. It's the Speaker's call.
Where does power reside, then? With the Speaker. Are you going to thwart the Speaker, break protocol, break the rules or act contemptuously towards the Speaker or the decorum of the House? No. The power in that House resides with the Speaker.
I think we all want to talk about these issues and how you feel about the proposals that we've put together as a group. In closing, I just want to thank some other people who have informed this process. I was very much educated by and enjoyed working with Brent Rathgeber when he was the Conservative from Edmonton—St. Albert. He really stood on these principles of defending the rights of an individual member of Parliament in this place. There's also Kennedy Stewart, who took the lead working with a number of us. I won't list everybody in the book; proceeds go to Samara. Of course, Scott and were involved. We all played some role in turning Parliament inside out.
Out of that book effort—just to share this because this is on the record and Canadians may be interested to know—we actually have an all-party democracy caucus. The thing that brings us together is how we make progress, despite our party affiliations, to reduce the power that political parties have over individual MPs. I think it's a fascinating project. is the current chair of the democracy caucus, but we are all-party, so anybody who wants to join who hasn't already.... We're already thinking about what we do after the next election, depending on who's re-elected and who isn't. How do we keep this going?
Anyway, PROC is the official committee of democracy, our rules and how we conduct ourselves in this place. I want to thank you for this opportunity to make a public plea in this committee for you to encourage the Speaker to not be afraid of the wrath of the party whip. The Speaker could just decide to say, “I don't need your lists; I can see everyone just fine from where I'm sitting; I know everybody by name and I will decide as Speaker”, or we could go to the U.K. practice of submitting the questions to the Speaker in advance and seeing which ones the Speaker chooses.
It would certainly serve multiple goals of improving the independence and the power of individual members of Parliament. It would certainly improve decorum in the House and it would serve the very salutary purpose of rebalancing through no change in the rules because these are our rules. Respecting our rules, I'd love to add “don't read speeches”, but that's not part of our current package.
I'd love to dig into this and see what we can do in the remaining days of this session of Parliament to advance the noble effort of respecting the fact that no one gets elected to be a member of Parliament in this country if they haven't already done considerable work of service in their community. I think all of us are people who care about our communities and have a head on our shoulders. We really don't need to check our brains at the door the minute we become a member of Parliament because of the power of the back room.
Thank you, Ms. Lapointe. That's an excellent question.
I would add this: not only will this promote courteous behaviour, but it will also increase productivity. Those will be two positive effects.
I would like to point out one more thing about bad behaviour or lack of respect during the oral question period. According to all the surveys, this is the main reason why women do not run for office. They do not understand all the work of members of Parliament and do not see what we do in committee. They look at the oral question period with horror and say to themselves that they will never be MPs.
I brought my two daughters to a session of the House, and I was ashamed. One of them has no qualms about telling me when she doesn't like something. She was shocked to see what was happening. I personally never get into this game. You know me well enough to know that, Ms. Lapointe. Never in my life would I behave like that, because I always keep in mind that one of my daughters or my father might be watching me from the gallery.
How will this encourage members of Parliament to be courteous? There is a whole series of things.
We talked about co-operation, as opposed to confrontation.
First, inappropriate behaviour will not help members to obtain the consideration of the Speaker of the House, as the Speaker will prevent them from speaking. If I am a new member of Parliament and I start yelling in the House, the Speaker will ask me to calm down and I will not have the right to speak. That is one thing.
Second, if I'm always yelling at members, they will not support any private member's motion or bill I may have introduced; they will not even talk to me. I will not be able to co-operate with them. If I want their help, it's best if I stop yelling.
Third, we will be freer to support measures by following our conscience, without fear of being punished.
A whole series of things can encourage members of Parliament to act with courtesy.
Members are not stupid; when they come to the House, they see that it's more advantageous to yell than to co-operate, and that is why they do it.
We must consider the whole package that will allow us to change that.
I have absolutely no doubt that that's the case. Again, I had the benefit of speaking to you before, a number of months ago. I was impressed by the fact that you were using your private member's spot to improve Parliament.
It was one thing for me to do it, but I'm not running for re-election. If I were running for re-election, make no mistake, I would have been looking at how I could use it to make sure that I was messaging to my constituents that I have their backs, that I'd be a good choice to stay here for them. However, you are going to run again, and you gave that up because you believed in the importance of this.
Mr. Chair, it also speaks to the challenge.
I have to tell you, colleagues, that I thought—and it's not the fact that it was mine—the notion of our taking back control was pretty straightforward and was motherhood. Do you know what stopped it? The very power structure that I was trying to break through.
I wasn't surprised. It just indicated that I failed. To me, that also means that there will likely, and I would hope—hope springs eternal—be another colleague who runs and comes into Parliament, or a veteran who has been around and has a vested interest in this, who would grab it and run with it. I have to tell you that, in terms of the low-lying fruit for democratic reform, taking back control of what is already ours is as easy as it gets. We don't need to pass a new law. We don't need to amend the Constitution. All we have to do is say, “Yes, we will take control of this process.” That's it.
I lost. I got maybe five—I'm being generous to myself—non-New Democrats on the main motion, which really wasn't even as effective as the amendment because it spoke to the vacancy that's now created by the untimely death of Michael Ferguson. I'll be honest: I thought I could play on the idea that if I couldn't play to the respect that members should have for themselves as parliamentarians, maybe I could play to their heartstrings—that we could do this in Michael's memory. There are documents that aren't that old—from over the last few years—that have been signed by every agent of Parliament saying, “Take back control, Parliament, please.”
And yet, the power structure that.... The reason that I'm tying this in, Mr. Chair—I know that you know why—is that the challenge of what's in front of my colleagues is enormous. If anybody has any doubt, just look at the vote result last night. I don't believe that there's a single parliamentarian in the House who gets up every day and says, “How can I give away my relevancy today just a bit more?” In fact, I think most parliamentarians get up thinking, “I'm going to try to make the world a better place. I'll start by making sure that Parliament is a better place.”
However, the power of the current whip-House leader structure is such that I couldn't break through except for a very small handful of courageous members who felt strongly enough that they were going to take their stand.
I was very pleased to move the motion. Like you, I appreciate the gratitude of my colleagues for allowing this to be aired and talked about. Oftentimes what happens with these kinds of things is that they don't even see the light of day. You snuff it out early so that you don't have to deal with it. It's now getting an airing. Again, I'm an optimist. I do believe that, over time, we'll get there.
This is a major challenge. If the motherhood issue of hiring our own agents isn't enough to do it, I'm not sure about the good arguments that are here. It's going to take a political shift of enough parliamentarians who don't just want to talk the talk of reform, but are actually prepared to put their asses on the line to defend that principle. That's easier said then done—just go look at the recorded vote last night.
I see Madam May squirming in her seat, anxious to join in this discussion. I would just invite her thoughts. I've done a good job of saying how difficult it is, so it's not so much to do that, but to maybe affirm that it exists.
Give us your thoughts, Elizabeth, on why you remain optimistic. You're running again, and I think there's a really good chance that you're going to come back.
I want to talk about catching the Speaker's eye. This goes to Ms. May's thing, but before I get to a question, there comes a point when it becomes so obvious that something is wrong here that it behooves us to actually look at this and say, “Come on; this is a bit much.”
I spoke about this when we had a press conference about what Frank is doing here.
Frank, thank you for being here.
I'll give you one example in the day, which is called S.O. 31s. We all call them S.O. 31s. People come me and they say, “Oh, you mean members' statements.” No, I mean party statements, because that's what they are, right?
Now, I have no problem with any recognized party or non-recognized party stating it's where we're all in the House. Obviously the party mechanism is really what controls the functions of government and it's how we relate to each other. It's even a part of my proposal on committee chairs. But for 15 minutes of a day, can we not have the freedom by which I get to say, “I represent my constituents, and here's what I have to say”? The retort to that from the office is this, “But we balance it: we do this, we do that”, and I can say congratulations, but that's not the point.
The point is this. If Ms. Kusie wants to do a one-minute statement about carbon pricing and anti-government, then that should be her choice. If somebody comes to Ms. Kusie and says, “I want you to do this nasty little bit of work toward the government”, and she says no, that slot goes to Mr. Nater or Mr. Reid or or whoever's next. That's not a member's statement, is it? Not at all. Ms. Kusie has every right to stand up and hammer the government in a one-minute statement. She also has the right to talk about a local charity in her riding, and so on and so forth.
That's 15 minutes of the day. This goes to what Ms. May said about the proliferation of control from a centre that exists within this Parliament more so than any other parliament around. We can't even get 15 minutes.
In saying that, let me go back to catching the Speaker's eye. There's also another side to that as well. Let's say you catch the Speaker's eye for members' statements, question period, government debates. There comes a point where there's going to be a little bit of chaos in there because you do have this dilatory motion that a member be now heard. You've heard that before. We've had motions where, when someone gets up to speak, someone gets up, moves a motion that someone else be heard, the whole thing shuts down, we vote. It's a delay tactic, but it happens.
If we had the entire day, do you think that would happen?
I have a quick aside. I did read up on, “You're not allowed to read.” You can have notes. I decided not to put it in here. I do think we should go there, but we need to bring all of our colleagues along. They're not going to be trained to do that.
I want to challenge one other thing, before I answer your question, Scott. Our constituents care. Don't doubt that for a second. I challenge you, please: If any of you knock on doors over the next couple of weekends, ask, “Do you care about civility and the carrying on in the House of Commons? Does it matter to you?”
I had constituents talk to me about it, and I mentioned to them that I'm working on something. I name-dropped Michael Chong, because he's very well known and respected. I said to a guy, “Mr. Chong is collaborating with me,” and he was two thumbs up on that.
What do I hope comes out of it? I started, I have not deviated and as Mr. Nater asked me, I'm really hoping that you choose to bring this up to Parliament now, so that we start the next Parliament with these changes in place.
Written into the motion is a two-year trial period for the second chamber. If, after two years, you don't like it, and you want to change or get rid of it, you can unwind everything. It's very simple. I don't think we're asking for a lot. I know you say it's a big motion, but this turns around a second chamber. If you pull the second chamber out, the private member...has to go away and the citizens' rights for take-note debates have to be taken away, because there's no time in the main hall. All these things get unwound.
I will still go around and talk to any colleague who will talk to me about it. I'm asking you, as PROC, to let your colleagues pronounce themselves on it. If they say, “No, it's not good enough,” or, “We don't like it,” that's their right.
I don't think PROC should say, “We're denying the right of colleagues to speak.” I think your job is to say, “This is no good, and we're going to radically change it, or just update or tweak it.” Whatever you choose to do, that's your right, but I don't think it's your right to say, “Ah, you know what, we're just going to stop it from going up, because we don't want it.”
That's my hope, and I'm not entertaining other thoughts, honestly, Scott.
Okay. I will try to honour tradition as opposed to making up for everybody else.
Some things being suggested I think are utopian. I want to spend a minute on reading speeches. I know that's not part of the proposal.
Tonight is the night of my private member's motion. I've been waiting for almost four years. It's very exciting. And I have 15 minutes to talk about why January 29 should be a national day of solidarity with victims of anti-religious violence.
I happen to have my speaking notes here, which I will be reading word for word. You will notice there's a little 9 and a little 10. That indicates it takes me a minute to get from there to there. I have it timed so it's exactly long enough. If I don't use a script, I won't get all the information I packed in there. I can't do it extemporaneously, even though I am a big fan of extemporaneous talk when available. I even have little notes here because it turns out that when I redid it I forgot to edit some material and my numbers were off and I've got to go back and... I'm not going to keep on adjusting, partly because I read more slowly in French than in English.
A mechanistic application of the no-reading rule would have some consequences that I don't think those who advocate it had in mind. That's a concern to me.
I know S.O. 31s didn't originate here; they originated with Scott, but I think we've identified a real problem.
Right now as I understand it, the theory, which has been abused, is that whoever catches the Speaker's eye will give an S.O. 31, but it has come to be divided up fairly among the parties, and the parties have used it to assign to us. I only know my own party, but I think every party has adopted a process of saying the last couple are reserved for party business, and the rest are on some kind of rotation. I just checked with my staff. I am up on our rotation for an S.O. 31 on the Tuesday after next.
I think the only way we could make sure the S.O.31s are 100% about private members' business would be to make it a formal rotation; private members' bills are a lottery. You get put in there, and then after that you go through it. It's systematized that way in the Standing Orders.
Now that I've thought it through, your instigation to try putting that in I think is not a bad idea. It would resolve the problem. I think the reason my side puts in partisan attacks, and your side puts in partisan attacks and the NDP does too in all fairness is we're in an arms race with each other. If you create a situation where we're all disarmed, I think the problem would go away and return to its original purpose.
I wanted to get that one on the record.