Madam Speaker, I am very glad that we were able to get to this point. I am concerned and disappointed, even in the last half-hour. I think we need to realize that, although members of the Conservative Party will say they want more debate time, in reality nothing could be further from the truth. I would argue that ultimately the Conservatives have been very much a destructive force on the floor of the House of Commons. I would like to explain why it is so important that we pass the motion that the has just presented.
The pandemic really challenged all of us. We needed to find new ways to get the job done, the job that Canadians have been very much relying on us to do. We gradually brought in a hybrid Parliament to ensure that MPs could do their job from wherever they are in the country. This was so it would be inclusive, whether they are up north, the west coast, the east coast or in central Canada, like me here in Winnipeg. We found ways for the House to debate and pass legislation that would ultimately help Canadians during the pandemic. Many bills were passed to ensure that millions of Canadians had the funds that they needed to put food on their table, pay the rent, cover mortgages and so on.
We have a number of pieces of legislation before the House in one form or another. I would like to give some examples of the legislation that are in limbo because the Conservatives are more interested in playing political games than they are in serving the best interests of Canadians. I would like to highlight a few of those pieces of legislation and then make a point as to why this particular motion is necessary.
We have seen motions of this nature previously. I have been a parliamentarian for 30 years now, and I have seen it at the provincial level and at the national level. Political parties of all stripes have recognized that there is a time in which we need to be able to bring in extended hours. In the most part it is meant to contribute to additional debate and to allow the government to pass important legislation. That is really what this motion is all about.
Looking at the last vote we just participated in, it would appear as though Bloc members, New Democrats and Greens are in agreement with the members of the Liberal caucus that we need to sit extra hours. My appeal is to the Conservatives to stop playing their political, partisan games and start getting to work.
There is nothing wrong with sitting until midnight two to four times between now and mid-June. Stephen Harper did it. He had no qualms moving motions of this nature. Yes, we will also sit a little extra time on Friday afternoons. I believe Canadians expect nothing less from all members of the House.
When Canadians decided to return the government in a minority format, it was expected that not only we as the governing party would receive a message, but also that all members of the House would receive a message. The Conservative opposition has a role to play that goes beyond what they have been playing and what we have been witnessing since November or December of last year. I would cross the line to say that it is not being a responsible official opposition.
I spent well over 20 years in opposition. The Conservative Party, with its destructive force, is preventing the government of the day and other members, not only government members, from moving the legislation forward. I appeal to the official opposition to not only recognize there is a genuine need to move this legislation forward, but also recognize that, at the end of the day, we extend hours to accommodate additional debate.
My concern is that the Conservatives will continue the political, partisan games, at great expense to Canadians. I will give an example. Bill is at report stage and third reading. We were supposed to debate that bill today. Chances are that we will not get to that bill today. We have not been able to get to other legislation because of the tactics of the official opposition, the reform Conservative Party, as I often refer to it.
The last budget legislation was Bill . The first female of Canada presented an economic update to the House back in late November, and the legislation was introduced in December. For days, the Conservatives would not allow it to pass. This was legislation that helped businesses and Canadians in many ways, yet the Conservatives saw fit to filibuster it. Bill will pass. It is budget legislation. It is not an option for the government.
Bill is the net-zero emissions legislation. If members canvass their constituents, they will find out that it does not matter where they live in Canada, our constituents are concerned about the environment and are telling all members of the House that we need to do more. Bill C-12, the net-zero emissions bill, is very important legislation. It answers, in good part, the call from Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
To a certain degree, we have seen a change in attitude by some Conservatives with their new leadership. Some in their caucus do not support it, but the leadership agrees that there is a need for a price on pollution. They seem to be coming around, even though they are five, six or seven years late. Surely to goodness, they would recognize the value of the legislation. Bill is stuck in committee.
What about Bill ? Bill C-10 would update very important legislation that has not been updated for 30 years, since 1990 or 1991. Let us think of what the Internet was like back in 1990. I can recall sitting in the Manitoba legislature, hearing the ring, the buzzing and then a dial tone. We can remember how slow it was.
I will tell my Conservative friends that things have changed. Now all sorts of things take place on the Internet. This is important legislation. The NDP, the Greens and the Bloc support the legislation. The Conservatives come up with a false argument, dig their feet in and then say they are not being given enough time, yet they have no problem squandering time.
Thankfully, because of the Bloc, we were able to put some limits on the committee, so we could get it though committee. If the Bloc did not agree with the government and with that concurrence, it would never pass the committee stage. There is absolutely no indication that the Conservatives have any intent of seeing Bill pass through committee stage.
If members have been listening to the chamber's debates in regard to Bill , they have heard the Conservatives disagree with another piece of legislation. They say they do not support mandatory conversion therapy, and they are using the definition as a scapegoat to justify their behaviour on the legislation. Once again they are the only political entity inside the House of Commons that is preventing this legislation or putting it in jeopardy. The leadership of the Conservative Party might think one thing, but the reality is that the behaviour of the Conservative Party has put Bill C-6 in limbo.
I could talk about Bill , the firearms legislation. Members know that the Conservatives have been using firearms as a tool for many years. Even when I was an MLA in the mid-nineties, I can remember the Conservative Party using firearms as a tool, and nothing has really changed. The bill is still in second reading. There is no indication at all that the Conservatives are willing to see that piece of legislation pass. Members can check with some of the communities and stakeholders that are asking and begging not only the government, but also opposition parties, to let this legislation pass.
That is not to mention Bill , which is about criminal justice reform. That is another piece of legislation that, again, the Conservative Party has given no indication it intends to let see the light of day or go to committee.
Another piece of legislation that is important not only to me, but should be to all members of the House, is Bill . I understand this important piece of legislation is going to committee tomorrow, but if we apply what we have seen at second reading to the committee stage, it is going to be a huge concern. This bill would give Elections Canada additional powers to administer an election in a safer, healthier way for voters and for Elections Canada workers. It is a good piece of legislation. I am somewhat familiar with it because of my role as parliamentary secretary to the , who I know has worked very hard on bringing this legislation forward and wants to see it passed. It is a piece of legislation on which the Conservatives have said we should have more debate.
The government attempted to bring this legislation in a long time ago. It tried to get it to committee a long time ago. One day I was ready and primed to address Bill , and the Conservatives' game at that time was to bring in a concurrence motion, because if they did that they could prevent debate on Bill C-19. That is what they did, and it was not the first time. The Conservative Party does not even recognize the value of it. It is a minority situation. We do not know when there is going to be an election. It seems to me that the responsible thing to do is to get Bill C-19 passed. As I say, it is at the committee stage today. I hope that the Conservative Party will see the merits of passing that bill out of the committee stage.
At the beginning of the pandemic, there seemed to be a greater sense of co-operation. From the very beginning, the has been very clear: He and the Government of Canada have had as their first priority minimizing the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and being there in a real and tangible way for Canadians. That is for another speech in which I can expand on the particular argument the put forward.
We can do other things. We have seen that in some of the legislative initiatives that we have taken. As I say, at the very beginning there was a high sense of co-operation and the team Canada approach applied within the House of Commons. The Conservatives started falling off the track last June. One year later, there is no sign that the Conservative Party recognizes the value of working together.
I would remind my Conservative friends that, as we in government realize, it is a minority government. If someone gives me 12 graduates from Sisler High School, or any high school in the north end of Winnipeg, whether it is Maples Collegiate, Children of the Earth High School, R.B. Russell Vocational High School or St. John's High School, I can prevent the government from being able to pass legislation. It does not take a genius to do that.
We need co-operation from the opposition, and the Conservative Party has been found wanting in that. It has not been co-operative in the last number of months. I find that shameful. Obviously, the Conservatives are not listening to what Canadians expect of them. In fact, what we have seen is delay and more delay, to the point that it becomes obstruction.
Conservatives have obstructed the work of the House as it has debated Bill . If I were to draw comparisons, I would compare Bill C-14 and Bill . Bill C-14 is vitally important to all of us. Canadians needed Bill C-14 passed, but look at the amount of debate and filibustering we had from the official opposition.
On the other hand, Bill was also a very important piece of legislation. All parties supported it. In fact, the initial idea came from the former leader of the Conservative Party, Rona Ambrose. Everyone supported it. We spent many hours and days debating that piece of legislation, when we could have been debating other legislation. Not that the other legislation was not important, but we all know there is no time process outside of time allocation to get government legislation through. That is in a normal situation, when we have an opposition party that recognizes the value of actual debate of government agenda items that they should pass through, but they did not. Instead, they would rather debate it.
We have moved motions to have extended sittings in the past to accommodate additional debate. I say, in particular to my Conservative friends, that if they are going to behave in this fashion they should not criticize the government for not affording time to debate bills. What a bunch of garbage. They cannot have it both ways. I appeal to the Conservative Party to recognize true value. They should work for Canadians and let us see if we can make a more positive contribution and start working together for the betterment of all.
Madam Speaker, I would like to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the chief whip of the official opposition in the House of Commons.
Let us be clear from the start. We have no problem with extending work hours at this time of the year, as in fact our standing orders provide.
However, we are extremely concerned about the motion introduced by the government and voted on a few moments ago, because we know that facilities are limited, given the current pandemic situation. A lot of technical efforts are being made and government officials have made generous offers to co-operate with us, and we greatly appreciate that. However, when we get to this time of year, there is a kind of bottleneck. That is why we have to strike a very fair and reasonable balance between extending the work hours in the House of Commons and keeping parliamentary committees running. That is where there is a disconnect with the motion put forward by the government.
I would remind members that the House of Commons is part of Parliament, and as its very name suggests, Parliament is a place for parley, in other words, for discussion. We in the official opposition discuss things with our counterparts on the government side and with the other opposition parties. I would never, ever go into the details of those discussions. However, one thing is certain and indisputable, that is, that we had honest, good-faith discussions with our counterparts and could not come to an agreement. That is the point.
As we saw, when my colleague, the chief whip of the official opposition, asked the a very specific question, that good man, whom I like and respect a great deal, was unable to give anything even remotely resembling the merest hint of an answer. As parliamentarians, we cannot give carte blanche in terms of which committees will survive this proposal and which will not.
It should be immediately obvious why we have some very serious concerns about the lack of clarity on the parliamentary committees. We need only look at this government's track record over the past few months in terms of parliamentary work.
However, it was funny to hear my Liberal colleague for talk about everything being in limbo because of Conservative opposition members, that their tactic on a daily basis is to delay, delay, delay, and that there is a filibuster each and every step of the way on each and every bill. This is anything but true.
When we talk about filibustering, I think that the king of filibustering is the Liberal Party of Canada, especially in this session, and there is a record of that. I do not think that the member for and his colleagues would be very proud of what they have done in committee.
Let us look at what the Liberals have been doing in parliamentary committees over the past few months. They were the ones who accused us earlier of filibustering, as in talking for hours and hours in order to waste time rather than get to the bottom of things.
We can look at the Standing Committee of Procedure and House Affairs where the Liberals had filibustered for 73 hours.
The Liberals filibustered for 73 hours, preventing the committee from doing its work. Why?
It is because we wanted to get to the bottom of things and allow witnesses to appear and explain why the government prorogued Parliament. The Liberals filibustered for 73 hours to prevent witnesses from testifying. Now they are the ones accusing us of being the bad guys holding up the works. It is ludicrous.
However, it does not end there.
We can look at the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics where the Liberals filibustered for 43 hours. Why? It was to block getting to the truth about the WE Charity scandal.
There is a common thread in all this, however. When we want to get accurate information on Liberal scandals, they filibuster. They are very unhappy about that and accuse us of wanting to delay parliamentary work, when we are just doing our job.
These are concrete examples, but it does not end there. At the Standing Committee on Finance, the Liberals filibustered for 35 hours, once again to prevent parliamentarians from getting to the bottom of the WE Charity scandal.
At the Standing Committee on National Defence, the Liberals filibustered for over 16 hours. The committee chair, who is a member of the government party, unilaterally suspended the meetings 23 times.
This is starting to really add up: 63 hours at one committee, 43 hours at another, 35 hours at a third, 16 hours at a fourth. I have not even mentioned the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, where the Liberals filibustered for 10 hours, between February and April, on the study we wanted to conduct on the COVAX facility, which was created by rich countries to provide poor countries with access to vaccines. Sadly, members will recall that Canada, a rich country, helped itself to the supply for poor countries because it did not have the vaccines that the had announced at his December dog and pony show. That is the reality.
I hear government members accusing us of being the bad guys and filibustering, when they are the ones who filibustered for 63 hours at one committee, 43 hours at another, 35 hours at the Standing Committee on Finance, 16 hours at the Standing Committee on National Defence, and 10 hours at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.
In light of the Liberals' dismal parliamentary record, we feel it is perfectly valid to want to be sure of what is planned for the committees before we give the government carte blanche to extend the committee and House sittings. However, the government refuses to tell us its plans and instead demands a free hand. We think this is unacceptable.
I heard my colleague from explaining the status of some bills, so we will take a look at that assessment.
He talked about Bill C-3, regarding judges, which is modelled on a bill originally introduced by the Hon. Rona Ambrose. We are very proud of that legislation, but the Liberal government used the strongest weapon in its arsenal to delay its passage or concurrence, namely prorogation.
Let us not forget that last summer, when the Liberal government was in a real jam over the WE scandal, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics met day after day in July and again in August. The official opposition members strenuously challenged the government's moral authority, because it had adopted a despicable strategy for dealing with this scandal.
What did the government do when it was in trouble? It prorogued Parliament. This was the worst thing it could do to slow down the work of parliamentarians. Once Parliament is prorogued, everything goes back to square one. That is what happened with Bill .
What about Bill ? I heard the member for Winnipeg North say how important this legislation is, and he is absolutely right. I even remember the member and calling out the Conservatives on Twitter in February, accusing us of delaying Bill C-11 and saying that it was awful.
I quite like the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, who is the minister responsible. I have a lot of respect and regard for him, but when I saw that on Twitter, I found myself thinking that I had not seen Bill C-11 in a long time. When I checked, I saw that the last time the government had brought Bill C-11 forward in the House was on November 24, 2020. The bill then sat around for three months, through November, December, January and February, before the government brought it forward again. However, the government went after us in February, claiming that we were delaying it. That is completely absurd.
The member also mentioned Bill , on the economic statement, since there was no budget. The government accused us and is still accusing us of filibustering it, when two-thirds of the official opposition members did not even speak on it.
I am proud to be the House Leader of the Official Opposition. Our caucus has 120 members who duly represent eight Canadian provinces and regions in the House of Commons. We are the only truly national party. I am very proud of the calibre of people I work with, and that is why, when they ask to speak, I am happy to add them to the political debate. However, it is utterly ludicrous to accuse us of filibustering when two-thirds of our caucus did not even speak.
That is why the motion, as currently presented, is unacceptable to us. We are ready and willing to work longer hours as long as the parliamentary work in the House of Commons can be done without compromising the work of the committees, but that is absolutely not the case with this motion.
Madam Speaker, before I get to what I see as the government's real motives, I would like to speak to why we are here. We have a government that claims it needs extra time. Why does it need extra time? I suggest, to begin with, one of the reasons would be that it prorogued Parliament. That was time that could have been used to put forward its agenda.
The government waited two years to put forward a budget, and now the budget implementation act is not passed. It seems a bit rich for it to claim that it needs extra time when it had all that time. It took two years to present a budget and prorogued Parliament during that time. I do not know if it is just me, but if Liberals did not work for a while and now want to work overtime, it seems to me they could have done it during the time they chose not to come to work. We are here partly because of prorogation.
Ironically, one of the filibusters is tied back to the prorogation itself, but we are also here because the Liberals chose to filibuster in parliamentary committees. One of them was the procedure and House affairs committee, which was trying to get to the bottom of the prorogation. Liberals on the committee filibustered for hours upon hours. It went on for weeks and weeks. It was to try to prevent the from having to appear at committee to answer for why he prorogued Parliament. These are some of the reasons.
The laid out a number of other committees. He mentioned a committee where there were 73 hours of filibustering by the Liberals and other committees where the Liberals, the government members, filibustered for dozens and dozens of hours. It seems to me that they could have managed their time, but instead they were trying to cover up for a Prime Minister who is, frankly, corrupt. They were trying to cover up their misdeeds and incompetence. That is why we are here.
Beyond what I just said about the Liberals covering up their own incompetence, misdeeds and corruption, they are trying to ram through legislation. It is understandable that a government would try to get bills through. For example, right now Bill is before the House. It is a censorship bill. It seeks to censor everything that Canadians do on the Internet. It would censor the free speech of Canadians on platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter, places Canadians go to engage in discussions and debate. The Liberals are trying to ram through a bill that would censor all of that. It would censor Canadians' right to free speech. It is disgraceful and shameful that they would seek to do that, but that is what they are doing. They are trying to ram the bill through with a motion such as this.
Members of the opposition are here to ensure that Canadians maintain the right to their free speech. We are here to fight against the censorship that the government is trying to put in place. We will be opposing it all the way. If the Liberals manage to put it in place, Conservatives will repeal it when we form government, which I am sure will not be very far into the future.
The other motive of the Liberals is to stop committees from meeting. I will explain why that is. The effect of the motion they have put forward means that for every day there are extended sitting hours, it causes the cancellation of a couple of the parliamentary committees that meet. For Canadians who do not know, parliamentary committees play a very key role in this place in terms of studying in detail legislation that is put forward. We saw, not that long ago, mistakes that were made by the government in its legislation. When parliamentary committees take the time they need to study legislation in detail, they are able to uncover mistakes. They are able to propose amendments to that legislation to ensure that it is right, correct and does what it is intended to do in serving Canadians.
When the ability for committees to meet is removed, it also removes the ability for those kinds of things to happen, for that proper scrutiny to happen. It removes the ability for Canadians to get answers to important questions through their elected representatives, and it removes the ability to sharpen up legislation and to get to the bottom of things. In some cases, with some of the filibusters that we have seen from the Liberals, they would have been able to get to the bottom of some of the misdeeds or incompetence of the Liberal government.
By cancelling those committee meetings, which this motion would effectively do, the Liberals are covering for themselves, but they are doing that at the expense of Canadians. I will give a couple of examples. Members do not have to take my word for the effect of what this will do, because the Liberals are already trying to do it now, before the motion is even passed. They are trying to cancel committees.
They are trying to cancel a meeting of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. That meeting was to talk to under-represented groups in our society and businesses. We are talking about indigenous businesses that would have come to speak at committee about the fact that they feel under-represented in some of the programs and services that are provided by government. I find it shameful that the Liberals would want to prevent indigenous business owners from being able to speak to some of the issues they have with the government. That is what they are already trying to do, prevent indigenous business owners in this country from being able to speak about the problems they are experiencing because of the Liberal government.
We were able to prevent the Liberals from doing that. Instead, they decided they would cancel a meeting of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. New immigrants to this country, some of them possibly refugees fleeing persecution, were going to speak about the services that are provided to them in some of our smaller municipalities and outside of major cities, so those voices will be silenced by the Liberal government.
That is the effect that a motion like this has by preventing committees from doing their work. It prevents the voices of indigenous Canadians and new immigrants. That is the effect that we see from this motion. I think it is shameful that we are actually discussing this idea. It would shut down the voices of Canadians across this country and prevent new immigrants, indigenous peoples and others from having the chance to have their voices represented at committees. That is why we are fighting this motion. That is why we are fighting against this. That is what we are doing.
They also cancelled a meeting of the transport committee to avoid finalizing a report there on the Canada Infrastructure Bank. We are all well aware of the Liberal government's failures in regard to infrastructure. They are very good at making announcements and very terrible at delivering results.
Given that, I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “commencing” and substituting the following:
“on Monday, June 14, 2021, and concluding on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, the House shall continue to sit on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays until 8:30 p.m.”
That way we can get business moving but not cancel very important committee meetings of this Parliament.