Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate you taking the time to read the motion. It is a very important motion.
It is important that I emphasize at the very beginning of the debate on this motion that we need to recognize that this is nothing new. I have been a parliamentarian since 1988. I have gone through minority and majority governments, and I have been in opposition and am now in government. More often than not, it is likely the case that we have extended hours during the winding up of a session going into the month of June, and that is the essence of this particular motion.
We are likely going to witness the Conservatives stand up and, in some righteous way, try to say that this motion is something it is not. However, it is a very straightforward and simple motion.
The , when he stands up, will get the opportunity to tell me which governments in particular did not bring in motions of this nature. In my experience, the NDP government in Manitoba, the Progressive Conservative government in Manitoba, Stephen Harper as the Prime Minister of Canada and Prime Ministers before Stephen Harper brought in motions that enabled members to contribute more during debates, and that is the essence of what this motion is all about. People need to realize that.
We are often reminded about being in a minority government, and justifiably so. The first time I was elected, it was a minority government. I was part of the official opposition, and I remember Reg Alcock, who was then the opposition House leader, indicating that we had a role to play in being creative and assisting where we could to contribute positively to legislation. This was to see if we could make changes to legislation and ensure that legislation was ultimately getting through so we had the opportunity to have debates on some of the more important pieces of legislation.
That was back in 1988, and just eight months ago, last September and October, Canadians gave us a third mandate that was greater than our second mandate. More members of Parliament were elected in the third mandate than in the second mandate, and we recognize that it is a minority government. Canadians want us to be working for Canadians, which means that at times we have to put partisan politics to the side. As members know, sometimes I can be somewhat partisan, and I will admit to that. However, at times, it is important that we put partisanship to the side.
I welcome comments from the . He should tell Canadians in the House today whether Stephen Harper brought forward motions of this nature to extend hours. I will let the member opposite know, as I am sure he knows, that the answer to that is yes. It is important that we recognize that at the very beginning, because I can prophesize to a certain degree that we are going to hear the Conservatives note how bad this motion really is.
Mr. Speaker, when we take a look at the details of this motion, we see that the core of the motion does two things. One, it enables the House of Commons to sit later in the evenings, and that means we could be sitting until midnight. Well, why is there is a need for us to sit until midnight? It is because there is a substantial legislative agenda. There is legislation the House needs to be able to debate. To facilitate that debate, we have to extend the hours or we have to put even more limits on the amount of debate inside the House. We often see the reaction from the Conservatives when we try to say this legislation needs to pass: They will debate and debate and then argue for more debate time.
Mr. Damien Kurek: It's called democracy.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite says that it is called democracy. That is what this bill is doing: providing additional time so that members opposite will be able to debate.
We can think of the arguments they have put forward over the last number of weeks and months, saying that they want more debate on government legislation. Well, what the heck? This is the motion they should be voting for. This is the motion they should be supporting so that it passes quickly, because it is going to enable us to have additional hours and hours of debate. Is it because they do not want to put in the effort? I can assure members that every member of the Liberal caucus, due to the support from the New Democratic caucus, will give a commitment to do the work that is necessary to pass the type of legislation that Canadians expect the House of Commons to pass.
At the end of the day, the member across the way is wrong in his assertion because of what we have seen from the Conservative Party. We saw it earlier today, just an hour ago. We were supposed to be talking about the issue of how we can accommodate additional hours so that members of the opposition and government would be able to contribute to debate on important legislation. However, the Conservatives brought forward a concurrence motion, as they continue to do to try to frustrate the legislative agenda. It was difficult for me not to speak when that motion came before us, and I can assure members of that, because I did have a number of thoughts with regard to the behaviour of the Conservative Party by bringing forward such a motion.
As we have seen, the Conservatives have somewhat of a hidden agenda here. They try to tell the public that they want to co-operate, want to do things with the government and want to assist the government in doing the types of things that need to be done, but when the tire hits the road, what ends up happening is that the Conservative Party continues to look at ways to prevent things from happening.
Let me give members a good example of that. The one that comes to my mind is Bill .
Mr. John Brassard: I'm glad you mentioned that.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Mr. Speaker, the says he is glad that I mentioned it, so let me share some thoughts.
We are talking about the fall budgetary measures. Bill , the fall economic statement follow-up, is there to support Canadians in a very real and tangible way. It is hard to believe this, but it is true: That bill is still before the House. The number of days we have debated that bill is more days than we have debated the budget of 2022-23.
The content of Bill is of a substantial nature. We are talking about legislation that directly supports Canadians in a very real and tangible way. I could talk about, for example, the enhancement of school ventilation. If we think about the pandemic, that is very much needed and there is support for that. There was the first go-round of the rapid tests. We will remember that back in December and January, when people were saying they needed rapid tests, we were able to get record numbers of these rapid tests so that the provinces and territories would have them for distribution. Well over $1 billion was allocated for those rapid tests. There are also direct supports for small businesses in Bill C-8, supports that small businesses are very much depending on.
Bill is a piece of legislation that should have been passed long ago, but when the government brings it up for debate, the Conservatives look at ways to prevent it from being debated. I made reference to what happened today when the opposition brought forward a concurrence motion. It has brought forward other concurrence motions, even to prevent debate on Bill C-8. The Conservatives will go out of their way to prevent members from debating. The opposition party will often put up roadblocks, no matter what the legislation is. We have even seen that on legislation that it supports. We have an official opposition that has an agenda that says it does not want the government to pass anything, period.
An hon. member: We want accountability.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: They call it accountability. That is not accountability, my friend.
Mr. Jake Stewart: Oh, yes, it is. That's accountability.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Mr. Speaker, preventing the government from passing everything it brings into the House of Commons is not accountability. We have a different approach when it comes to accountability. That, my friend, is not accountability.
What Canadians voted for was to ensure that the government works with opposition parties, but there is an obligation for opposition parties, in particular the official opposition Conservative Party, to recognize that they too have a mandate. Their mandate is to make the House of Commons a better place to serve the Canadian people.
I would challenge members opposite to go to any sort of real forum, like maybe a university class or something of that nature, and enter into the same discussion we will be having today on this issue and talk about it. I suspect there will be no acceptance by any member of the Conservative Party to deal with that issue, because on one hand, the Conservatives will try to frustrate and prevent debate from occurring, and on the other hand, they will say they need more debate time. They want more people to speak on this bill, that bill or the other bill. They are sending very mixed messages.
Today we are going to hear Conservative after Conservative, and, as I understand, the in particular, say they do not need this motion and there should have been more co-operation. The House leader is going to talk about the support from my New Democratic friends for the motion. No doubt, he is upset with that fact.
The only time the government can get things through the House is when we have cooperation from at least one opposition party. It does not take much to stop government legislation. Give me a dozen high school students from the R.B. Russell school, Sisler, St. John's, or the Maples, put them on the floor of the House of Commons, and I could prevent any bill from being able to proceed.
It does not take much to stop legislation. It takes an effort to be able to contribute to the debate to the degree in which one can make the modifications one feels are necessary and, for those pieces of legislation that one is in real opposition to, look at ways to allow for more healthy debate in the chamber. There is not one Liberal member of Parliament who would try to support that when there is good will coming from all sides of the House to have a debate. That is why we will see, when it comes time to vote on this motion, that every Liberal member of Parliament will vote in favour of it. One does not need to even whip the vote, as this will ensure there are additional hours of debate—
Mr. Speaker, you are doing good work in the chair today. Thanks again.
Here we go again. I honestly do not know what to say after hearing the in this chamber. As I said in my question to him, what I heard was a lot of justification with little accountability on why the Liberals are introducing what I would deem a draconian motion, Motion No. 11, today, when there really is no need to do so. There is nothing under this coalition with the NDP, even up to the point and in advance of the coalition being announced, that the Liberals have not been able to put forward as part of their legislative agenda.
So far, of the 18 bills that have been introduced, eight have received royal assent. There is no question that there may be some other outstanding pieces of legislation that the government wants to put forward, but there is no reason why it cannot do that in the time specified in the Standing Orders and the schedule that was agreed to by my predecessor and the other House leaders last year.
The Standing Orders talk about the possibility of extending hours. We have seen that. I have been here for six and a half years, certainly not as long as my hon. colleague from , who has been here for 21 years and I believe is the dean of our caucus. She has seen it all, through government and now through opposition. There has never been an example like this, at least in the history of this Parliament, and I suspect in the history of legislatures across the country in all of the provinces and territories, where on April 28 we are debating a motion that gives the government ultimate power to extend hours at this particular point of this parliamentary session.
I am going to talk later on about the consequences of that, because I think there are significant consequences to the administration of this place, to the lives and the health, mental and physical health, of those who work in this place, but what I want to focus on initially is why we are at this point, a point that I believe we certainly do not need to be at.
I have heard from the and the that they are focusing on Bill as one of the reasons why they are proposing this ham-fisted Motion No. 11. The reality on Bill C-8 is that, as I said earlier, it was only introduced on December 15. It received second reading in February, went to committee in March and came back to the House at report stage. There were some other issues of debate that were required as a result of its coming out of committee. In fact, I recall having a conversation with you, Mr. Speaker, about Bill C-8 at report stage and that you expressed some concerns, not in your current role as Speaker, but in your role as a member of the Bloc Québécois. Those concerns were certainly moving through the process.
Within that timeline specifically on Bill , there are some important measures, measures that have already been implemented, such as purchasing rapid tests. The government has the authorities, when it issues a ways and means motion, to accelerate the spending within the piece of legislation. When we look back, we have had four weeks where we have been off. I am sure we all agree to that timeline. This is effectively a mismanagement of the legislative agenda as to why Bill C-8 has not been put forward.
As I said in my question to the , and this is important to understand because Liberals have been accusing us, the opposition, of obstructing this piece of legislation, it was on April 4 that the government put a notice of time allocation on the Notice Paper. That was the week of the budget. The budget was introduced on April 7. The motion was not moved.
When I asked the why he did not move the motion, the reason he gave me was that the NDP did not want to move that motion. How are we obstructing that? If the Liberals' coalition partners did not want to move a notice of time allocation, then their issue on Bill is not with the opposition but with their coalition partners, because they did not want to move the motion. If the parliamentary secretary wants to, he can confirm that with the government House leader. Hopefully he gets the truth, but that was the basis of the conversation that we had. In fact, it was brought up at the House leaders' meeting the next day.
The government suggests, specifically on Bill , that somehow we are obstructing the passage of that piece of legislation. Yes, we had some people who wanted to speak to it when it came out of committee, because there were important issues. However, I would suggest, respectfully, that it was the Liberals' coalition partners who prevented the notice of time allocation from being moved, which, as I said, was introduced on April 4. We could have been dealing with this at third stage even back before the budget in that first week.
We certainly share those concerns, particularly from an agriculture standpoint as it relates to the carbon tax rebate and taxes. I know there are teachers who are waiting for that bill. It is not lost on me, and it should not be lost on anybody in the House, that it is the Liberals and their NDP coalition partners who are stopping this.
The other thing that is concerning, and I know the member brought this up as well, is the issue of medical assistance in dying and the extension within this motion on medical assistance in dying, which would push it to October 17. There was a requirement for a legislative review to be held on this bill. We went to an election in September. We were reconvened around November. However, it was not until the end of March, in the timeline that is required for this legislative review, that the government even started talking about the Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying and the requirement for this legislative review. In fact, this review was required to be done legislatively by May, so we had discussions.
I understand my colleague from the Bloc and I understand as well that there are very serious issues with medical assistance in dying that are required to be looked at, but with regard to the legislative review that was to be done in May, we actually agreed, as the opposition, to extend the timeline by another six weeks. It was not our fault that the government delayed the legislative review. It pushed it off until March, and then we agreed to go beyond the extension. Initially, I was a little concerned about it, but we do not control the legislative agenda in this place. It is not the opposition's job to sit here and determine what is going to happen in this place. It is the government's job. When we were in government, we determined the legislative agenda that was to occur in this place.
The Liberals' failure, not just on Bill but on medical assistance in dying and the required legislative review and the timeline related to that, is their fault. It is completely on them, and that is why we agreed. I respected the concern of the , and I know there are very deep and personal issues within the Bloc caucus on the issue of medical assistance in dying. That is why we agreed to extend the timeline by another six weeks and to provide the committee with what we believe was an appropriate amount of time, six weeks extra, to deal with this.
We actually also committed to having the committee sit more than what was regularly scheduled. That would have required moving resources from other committees to this committee, but we were committed to allowing that extended timeline to June 23, which all of us, including me and our party, agreed to.
Again, that is the government's prerogative. We do not control the administration of this place. We do not control committees. We do not control virtual sittings. We do not control translation. We do not control the administrative staff, nor do we control the clerks. It is all the government. We committed, in extending that deadline, to work and to be available during that timeline if extra sittings of the committee on medical assistance in dying were required. We committed to get the job done, yet here we are.
We are seeing now in this motion an extension to October 17. There had been discussions among the parties to extend it, and on behalf of our party, I said “no”. There had to have been unanimous consent, because we had already agreed to extend it by six weeks to June 23. Again, the government wasted time putting the committee in place. It took from the time we started sitting in November to the time it finally got around to talking about it in March, which it did so it would meet the requirements of the legislative timeline.
The other thing the government did was call an election last September. The House could have still been sitting. We were only 18 months into that session of Parliament. We could have still kept going. The Liberals could have dealt with medical assistance in dying, or they could have dealt with other bills, such as Bill , within that timeline, but they chose not to. How is that our fault? How are we obstructing Parliament? How are we stepping in the way of the government's legislative agenda, when its members, time and time again, fail to implement whatever is on their legislative agenda and fail to use the time and resources of the House in a manner that would allow them to get their job done?
That was the issue with medical assistance in dying. That is what happened, in case anyone is wondering why we are seeing that timeline in this motion. I understand, as I said earlier, that it was important to my colleague, the , and to those within the Bloc, to see the October 17 deadline extended beyond what we had all agreed to. Although I am disappointed by that, I certainly understand, based on my discussions with my colleague in the Bloc, why that is important to them.
I do not think we have to put it in an omnibus motion in order to do that. We could have had further discussions, but I guess this was a way of handing some sort of opportunity to the Bloc to understand this motion, and that is okay. I get that those things happen, because as I said, I realize how important this issue is to the Bloc. I know the wanted an explanation, and I just gave him one. We had all agreed to extend that deadline, and we did not see the reason, especially given the fact that we were willing to work with the committee to extend the hours.
There was some talk that, during the break in May, that week after Victoria Day, we would have eight-hour sittings. I spoke to our shadow minister about that, and it was an impossibility. It would have been eight hours a day sitting in committee dealing with medical assistance in dying when many of those resources could have been moved from other sources to deal with the medical assistance dying committee while the House is sitting. That could have been done, but we thought that eight hours a day of sitting in that break week in May was an unreasonable request, and I think it was, because there were members on our side who had made plans with their families during that week, and because it is Victoria Day weekend here in Ontario, so some plans were already made.
We certainly could have worked together, but we are actually seeing a pattern of this type of activity happen. Members will recall Motion No. 6, which the government introduced at one point. This is very different than that, because at the time there was strong consensus, agreement and alignment among the opposition parties. The Conservative Party, the Bloc and the NDP were in opposition to Motion No. 6, and we fought that vigorously.
However, because there was that alignment, the government eventually did back down from that motion, at least some of the more destructive pieces of that motion. This is different.
Motion No. 11 is different because I suspect the Liberals have the support of the NDP. Of course, the government has thrown a few nuggets to the NDP. We have seen that all that is required for NDP's support in this unholy alliance and collusion, is just need to be thrown a few little nuggets and they will leap, because the Liberal Party effectively has the NDP in its hip pocket, to implement these types of motions. It is quite concerning.
There are extremely concerning aspects of this that really play into a pattern of what I would call a democratic decline in this country. We have seen this pattern over and over. We saw it with Motion No. 6, as I said earlier. In fact, one of the first pieces of legislation introduced after the COVID crisis hit in March 2020 was an absolutely draconian piece of legislation from the government, and I am glad all oppositions fought it. Even the NDP fought it at that time because they had not yet formed this unholy alliance, but it fought this draconian piece of legislation, which would have given the government massive powers and massive overreach to suspend the activities of Parliament and tax Canadians without the approval of Parliament.
Can members imagine a government thinking it could take that on and actually affect that within a democracy like Canada. When I speak about this democratic decline, there are numerous examples over the course of not just during COVID but also prior to that, even with Motion No. 6, where we have seen the government really overreach and overextend its powers and controls over this place, diminishing not just democracy but also our institutions. It is diminishing faith in our institutions and the respect that people have for our institutions, separating our institutions in a way that keeps them away from government politicization and government influence, yet the government continues to do that. The government is certainly doing this with Motion No. 11.
I want to go through and talk about some of the more concerning parts of the motion. It does not just concern me as a parliamentarian seeing this diminishing of democracy happen in this country. There are examples, much like in some of the countries in eastern Europe where we are seeing it on a scale that is being measured, of the decline of democracy in this country. There are measurements, and I will speak about that in a few minutes.
I would suggest that Motion No. 11 adds to that decline in democracy. When we go through the motion, we see some of the things that the government has proposed. The motion reads:
On the day of the adoption of this order, the ordinary hour of daily adjournment shall be 12 a.m., that until Thursday, June 23, 2022, a minister of the Crown may, with the agreement of the House leader of another recognized party, rise from his or her seat at any time during a sitting, but no later than 6:30 p.m., and request that the ordinary hour of daily adjournment for the current sitting or a subsequent sitting be 12:00 a.m....
Now let us think about what that means. A minister of the Crown, and it does not have to be the House leader, although the House leader is classified as a minister, but a minister could go to another party at 6:29 p.m. and say, “We want to extend the hours, will you agree with us?”
They need just one party, one recognized House leader, to agree. I wonder who that would be. I know that the said that I could agree to that, but there are certain provisions in this motion that I could never agree to, so why would I agree at 6:29 p.m. to extend the sitting of the House.
The government House leader or a minister of the Crown will walk over to his coalition buddy in the NDP and say, “Look, we are not moving forward on things quick enough.” It would not be up for open, vigorous debate, or for oversight or scrutiny, which is what this place is designed to do. Instead, we can sit here, and they can walk over and talk to their NDP buddy to say “Look, we want to extend the hours until midnight.” I will tell members what is most concerning about that, but the least of it is the impact the lack of planning would have on families in this place.
Here is the scenario: The House is set to adjourn at 6:30 p.m. At 6:29 p.m., the two of them are in cahoots, and they say that they want to extend the sitting until midnight. What does that do to families? What does that do to MPs who perhaps have plans? It is one thing to do it during the normal, set schedule in the Standing Orders, but it is another thing to start doing it on April 28, which is today, because this would take effect if this motion passes.
What does it do to the administration of this place? What does it do to the clerks? They work hard, and they know they have to work hard, but one minute before the House is set to rise, the government and its buddies in the NDP can say that they want to keep everybody here. They would want to keep the clerks here, the administration here and the pages here.
Have people not been through enough throughout the course of this crisis? We have had to go through the extensions of the long hours in this place, the uncertainty and the impact on mental health, on families and on people's lives, yet one minute before the House is scheduled to rise, they can suddenly extend it until midnight, and they can do that every single night if they want to.
How is that fair? How is that fair to a mom who works here who has kids at home who she needs to get home to, or to a father who works here who has kids at home who he needs to get home to? How about a husband and wife who work together, the partners and spouses who work in this place, having to work those long hours because the government is mismanaging its agenda and is not using its time effectively in this House?
What about the mental health impacts this would have? What about the drivers? What about the security guards? They will effectively be given a one-minute notice that they have to stick around this place. Come on. How ridiculous is that? The government can do it, as I said earlier, from the point this motion passes right through until June 23, or earlier if they decide that they are going to adjourn the House.
Of course, another part of the motion is talking about proceedings on any opposition motion. So, when it is government business, it is okay, we will extend the House, but not on opposition motion days. These are very valuable supply days that we get. The official opposition gets five days in the supply period, the Bloc Québécois gets one and the NDP, I believe, gets one as well.
However, on those days, we would rise at the appropriate time. There would not be any opportunity for us to extend beyond the normal sitting time, but there would be for government legislation. Perhaps we have an issue that is important to Canadians. Perhaps it is a geopolitical issue, financial issue or an issue affecting the health of Canadians that we want to bring forward and get consensus on in the House. We would not have an opportunity to extend beyond the normal sitting time, but the government, with a one-minute notice and the help of its coalition buddies in the NDP, could extend the sitting time of the House every single day, including Friday.
On Friday, we do the business of this place for this country and the House adjourns at 2:30 p.m. However, at 2:29 p.m., the two parties can get together and say that we will be extending until midnight.
We can talk about the impact that this can have on families and the family unit, and the impact on the mental health and physical health of those who work to support this place. This includes MPs, many of whom make travel plans on Fridays so they can go home to their constituencies. When they go home to their constituencies, they are going out to events on Saturday and sometimes on Sunday, then working their way back here to Parliament by getting back on an airplane. Now the Liberals are suggesting that members of Parliament have to cancel their travel plans on a whim because they are not good at dealing with their legislative agenda and the schedule of the House, and they are going to keep us here until midnight on Friday.
I have sat here for six and a half years and have heard the NDP talk about a family-friendly environment in this place, about attracting more women to Parliament and about making sure that the lives of the people who work here and the lives of MPs are balanced so they can spend time with their families and can spend time in their constituencies. However, if this motion passes today, the Liberals will push to extend the timelines to midnight every single day that the House is sitting with a one-minute notice, just one minute, including on Fridays. I have no problem working Fridays. It is part of my job as the opposition House leader to be here on Fridays. However, I think it is absolutely unreasonable for anyone to expect, with one-minute notice, all of the administration, all of the support staff and the interpreters who work in this place to be here until midnight every single day, when the House starts at 10 o'clock in the morning, because the government mismanages its legislative agenda.
I have not even touched on the interpreters. At the Board of Internal Economy, we have been hearing about the impact that these virtual or hybrid sittings are having on our interpreters. We have seen an increase in injuries. Reports have been published that note a marked increase in the physical injury impact that this hybrid setting has been having on our interpreters. I have also talked about some of the other people who are going to be impacted by this. If the government is that concerned about the health and wellness of the people who work here, including the interpreters, why would it even suggest extending until midnight every single day? It is because of its failure to impose its legislative agenda within the timelines that have been prescribed in the Standing Orders.
This is also going to have an impact on committees, which I am going to touch on a bit later. This will have an impact on the ability of the committees to do their work because of the shuffling of resources that will be required. It stands to reason that if we are going to go to midnight, we will have to take something away from somewhere, and the important work that is being done by committees will suffer. Maybe that is the intent. Maybe that is what the government wants. Maybe it wants to take that work away from committees so it can further avoid accountability and transparency and we can further see the democratic decline that is happening in this country.
This is a beauty. As I said earlier, after 6:30 p.m., with one minute to spare because the House normally adjourns at 6:30 p.m., a member or minister of the government can go to the NDP and say, “We are going to extend.” Here is the impact of that, and it is a joke. It has to be a joke; there is no other way to explain it. The motion states:
the Speaker shall not receive any quorum calls or dilatory motions, and shall only accept a request for unanimous consent after receiving a notice from the House leaders or whips of all recognized parties
That is just on unanimous consent. At least they have included the House leaders of recognized parties on some sort of unanimous consent motion that can be passed. However, what is interesting here is the constitutional obligation to have quorum in this place. What Liberals are saying in this motion is that after 6:30 p.m. there will not be a requirement for quorum.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: That's never been done before.
Mr. John Brassard: Mr. Speaker, the just said to me that this has never been done before. It has never been done in a circumstance like this, and it has always been done with the agreement of all recognized parties through unanimous consent. This is a motion the Liberals are ramming through Parliament, so yes, this has never been done before without the expressed unanimous consent of all the House leaders. This does not take that into account; it imposes that on us.
Let us think about how ridiculous this is. There is no quorum call, and members of the opposition take their responsibility and role as members of Parliament very seriously. Just as it is a constitutional right to have quorum in this place, it is still a constitutional obligation on the part of the opposition to hold the government to account. We take that role very seriously. The fact they are not allowing for quorum in this place means, effectively, that we can be here as an opposition and the Bloc can be here as an opposition to ask questions and debate government legislation, but government members do not have to be here. They can literally be sitting at home doing nothing, watching This Is Us or the Blue Jays, while we and our colleagues in the Bloc, as opposition, are sitting here debating government legislation. The way this reads right now, when questions and comments come up we could be the only ones asking questions of ourselves on government legislation.
This gives an indication of the programming of this place as a result of the motion. It means, as we know because of the agreement we have all seen that the NDP and the Liberals have signed, that things are already programmed in this place. Government members do not want an opposition; they want an audience, and they are going to get it because they do not have to be here. They could be sitting at home in their pyjamas watching CPAC while we are here doing the work of the country and debating their pieces of legislation. That is what this part of the motion means. With no quorum calls, there is no obligation for the government or the NDP to show up.
I suspect the only two parties that will be showing up are the official opposition and the third party, the Bloc, because we are the ones who want to work. I am looking at my colleagues in the Bloc. Am I the only who thinks it is ridiculous that the government and the NDP can be sitting at home while we are debating their legislation and, in questions and comments, asking ourselves the questions the government should be asking in debate? How ridiculous is that? That is what the motion calls for.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Are you trying to con them to support you?
Mr. John Brassard: Mr. Speaker, the hon. member just asked if I am trying to con them to support us. I think Bloc members are actually smart and see how ridiculous this motion is. I think they do. I have dealt with the member for and he is a pretty smart guy. He understands exactly what government members are doing, as we do. They do not want an opposition; they want an audience. That is what they want.
We have seen this pattern over the six and a half years that I have been here, since 2015, and I have highlighted some of that stuff, whether it was Motion No. 6 or the first bill that came through Parliament after the COVID situation. The government members seem to think they can ram anything through.
We did have an election in September and the Liberals formed a minority government. At the time, I believe the thought two things were going to happen. Number one, he thought people were going to throw rose petals at his feet for the way he handled COVID. That did not happen, obviously, by the results. Second, the Liberals knew very well what was going to happen in this country. They knew the economic crisis was looming. They knew the affordability crisis was looming, and the only way they could find cover from that was to hope for a majority government in September. How else can we explain the fact that 18 months into his term, the Prime Minister was willing to call a $600-million election? Of course, they were trying to provide cover for themselves, a cover that only a majority government would provide.
It did not take long for them to find that majority government, did it? By throwing a few little crumbs to the NDP, giving them this and that to get support for at least the next four budgets, they have found that cover. I have stood up here before on this, and I cannot express my profound disappointment in our friends in the NDP for giving the government the cover it sought in September during the election. I just cannot believe it. I sit here in question period and hear some of the questions coming from NDP members and just shake my head. How can they realistically say they are holding the government to account when they are supporting every aspect of what it does?
A climate change report that came out the other day called the government's efforts on climate change a sham. It was the environment commissioner who said that, yet NDP members, who talk about being the guardians of climate, are sitting here criticizing the very people they are in cahoots with, the very government they are aligned with. It does not make any sense, unless the only thing they can buy is a few little crumbs, which apparently is the case.
I have talked about quorum and dilatory motions. The motion also reads:
(iii) motions to proceed to the orders of the day, and to adjourn the debate or the House may be moved after 6:30 p.m. by a minister of the Crown, including on a point of order, and such motions be deemed adopted,
(iv) the time provided for Government Orders shall not be extended pursuant to Standing Orders 33(2), 45(7.1) or 67.1(2)
Again, the fact that the Liberals are mismanaging the legislative agenda in the House is the reason they have decided to take a fly off everyone's forehead with an axe using this piece of legislation.
The motion goes on:
(i) during consideration of the estimates on the last allotted day, pursuant to Standing Order 81(18), when the Speaker interrupts the proceedings for the purpose of putting forthwith all questions necessary to dispose of the estimates,
(A) all remaining motions to concur in the votes for which a notice of opposition was filed shall be deemed to have been moved and seconded, the questions deemed put and recorded divisions deemed requested
Again, this is just to accelerate or fast-track pieces of legislation. Much of that is power the government already has, but it is certainly more prescriptive in this motion to make that happen.
The motion continues:
(B) the Speaker shall have the power to combine the said motions for voting purposes, provided that, in exercising this power, the Speaker be guided by the same principles and practices used at report stage
That is fairly self-explanatory. Then, of course, this is quite interesting:
(ii) when debate on a motion for concurrence in committee reports is adjourned or interrupted, including on the day of the adoption of this order, the debate shall again be considered on a day designated by the government, after consultation with the House leaders of the other recognized parties, but in any case not later than the 35th sitting day after the interruption
Reports that come out of committee come to the House for concurrence. As I said in a recent article that I was interviewed for, there are wide eyes on this place. There are people who watch the House of Commons who normally may not be engaged in committee processes or other processes.
A perfect example of that was this morning, when we moved a concurrence motion on the WE Charity scandal. The member for moved a motion that it be referred back to committee, so the witnesses who had been deemed in contempt of the committee and a minister could come back to the committee, because that is what we want. We want to get down to the bottom of the WE scandal and not obstruct, but make sure we are putting the government in a position of being accountable and transparent. The Liberals are actually moving that part of the procedural process into the 35th sitting day after interruption, which effectively means that we would not be able to move any of our concurrence reports on committee recommendations until after September.
On the issue of accountability and transparency, again we see the government providing itself with cover. Certainly its coalition partners in the NDP, by supporting this motion, are helping it to obstruct not just the work of committees, but also the work of Parliament, which again is seeing a further democratic decline in Canada. We are seeing it again, so again there is this pattern.
The other thing the motion says is: “a motion for third reading of a government bill may be made in the same sitting during which the said bill has been concurred in at report stage”. As ridiculous as some of the other stuff is, this is the icing on the cake: “a minister of the Crown may move, without notice, a motion to adjourn the House until Monday, September 19, 2022, provided that the House shall be adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28 and that the said motion shall be decided immediately without debate or amendment”.
What does that mean? It means that if things heat up for the Liberals, and they are, because there are brewing scandals out there, not the least of which is the RCMP investigation into the 's admission that he did not give himself permission to accept an over $200,000 vacation to a private island, they can simply pull the plug on Parliament. They can do this at any point from the day that this motion is adopted. It could be next week if things really start heating up.
I look back at some of the scandals that the government has been involved in, particularly the , and by extension and by involvement everybody on that side who has provided cover and has continued to support the Prime Minister on all of these scandals, whether it was SNC-Lavalin, the WE Charity scandal or the invocation of the Emergencies Act. It effectively means that if the committee gets to a point where there is no justification or rationalization for the government to impose the Emergencies Act, if things get too hot, the government can simply say “we're done, we're going to go home”. It could happen the day that this motion is adopted.
What it does is allow the government to prorogue Parliament without implementing prorogation. That is what it does. Let us suppose the RCMP decides that it is going to investigate the . I think it should, because the missing piece of its initial investigation was admitted by the Prime Minister in this place the other day: he did not grant himself approval, as the head of government, to take that trip. What if the RCMP decides that it is going to investigate? What if, speculation, on May 15 we get a report from the RCMP, or furthermore the Prime Minister is charged with fraud? Think of the political heat of that issue. It may be something else. There are other things that I know are brewing, with respect to the government and the potential for scandal.
As I have said many times in this place, when they get $567 billion in spending and $1.3 trillion in debt, among many of those zeroes, we know, as has been documented but we know there are more, there are many Liberal-connected insiders and cronies who have benefited as a direct result of this pandemic. Members know that. I can say that there are many people who are looking for those connections. What if a scandal like that hits? What if there is another WE Charity scandal?
The invocation of the Emergencies Act is a perfect example. The Liberals are very good at couching things. As a former prosecutor, the is very good at using his words. However, the government has already indicated that under the Emergencies Act, both at committee and through the judicial review that is legislated, the Liberals are going to sit there and are not going to allow cabinet confidentiality to be moved. They are not going to allow those documents to be viewed. What if there is a brewing scandal with that?
Then there is the Winnipeg lab scandal. What happened there? It was kind of funny yesterday that I got a call from the . There was no indication from him that he was going to do what he said he was going to do. We found out last night that, with or without the Conservatives and with or without the Bloc, the government was going to have the Liberals and the NDP form a committee to look at the documents from the Winnipeg lab scandal and determine whether anything was untoward in that. It is like having the wolves looking after the hen house. They are already in cahoots. They are working together.
The government House leader called me yesterday and I said to him to let me circle back, because I was not the House leader at the time that this happened. I said, “Let me talk to my group about this.” From the time that conversation happened, which was after caucus yesterday, until three o'clock, I found out that the Liberals had already made this announcement and that it was embargoed in the media.
There was no discussion. There was no opportunity for us to work together to try to come up with some solution. The referred to a situation back in January, which I was being briefed on at the time that I found out this agreement had been made between the NDP and the Liberals, the wolves looking after the sheep, on this document. I found out at that time that this was already a fait accompli. It was going to happen anyway, whether we agreed to it or not. The Liberals accuse us of the very thing that they engage in. That is obstructing the constitutional obligation of the official opposition party on the Winnipeg lab document.
The point is that, at any point from the time that this motion is introduced, the government can pull the plug on this place if things start getting bad or if it starts feeling the heat. If there is a political reason for the government not to allow Parliament to function, to not allow the opposition parties, and there are two of us that are holding the government to account, to do their constitutional obligation to hold the government to account, the Liberals can end that at any point if it gets too hot for them.
If that does not cause a concern or a problem, it is prorogation without prorogation. Members recall what the government did back during the WE Charity scandal. Things were getting close. Things were getting tight. The Liberals were feeling it. What did the do? He did the very thing he promised in 2015 he would never do, and that was to prorogue Parliament. He did it. Everything died at that point: all of the work of the committee and all of the reports.
That is why the concurrence motion this morning is so important. We have already asked, through a question of privilege, whether we can reintroduce the issues of contempt from the Prime Minister's Office staff and, at that time, a minister of the Crown. We asked if we could reintroduce that, and through a point of privilege you ruled that it was not appropriate. I respect the Chair, and I respect the rulings. That is fine.
What other course of action do we have to hold this government to account? We tried this morning, through a concurrence motion of a committee report, to bring those people back to the committee, and why not? What is wrong with being accountable and transparent? To the Liberal government, there is a lot wrong with it. This is why we are seeing this Motion No. 11.
The heat starts to occur as things start ramping up, and they typically do when Parliament is sitting. I will say that the issue of Public Health Canada using mobility data to determine process and health issues of Canadians without their knowledge happened during the Christmas break, but it is very rare in this place that during a two-week break period we are going to start seeing scandals. It is only when we start getting down to the business of the House, when we are getting Order Paper questions back or we are getting access to information papers back, as is the case with the RCMP investigation. It was only because of the ATIP that we found out what the missing part, or the missing link, of the RCMP investigation was not to charge the with fraud over his multi-hundred-thousand dollar, illegal luxury vacation.
It was only after we got that ATIP back that we realized there was one missing element to the RCMP investigation, and that was whether the Prime Minister deemed himself the head of government, and whether he, as the head of government, gave himself permission to go on that trip. As the , in her line of questioning the other day, determined in a pointed question to the Prime Minister, he said “No.” That was the only missing link to this.
Now, we have requested that the RCMP reopen the investigation, because it now has a piece of the puzzle that was missing at the time this was investigated. I know, because I sat here yesterday and I listened to the talk about these personal attacks. It is never about being accountable. It is always about justification with this Prime Minister. There is no statute of limitations on fraud charges. If the Prime Minister committed fraud, with this new piece of the puzzle that has been found, then it is up to the RCMP to determine whether in fact those fraud charges should be laid against the Prime Minister for his illegal vacation, which the Ethics Commissioner already found and deemed to be against the Conflict of Interest Code. That will be up to the RCMP.
That is done because the House is sitting. It is not done because the Liberal Party and their coalition partners are sitting at home, because there is no quorum call. They are not even participating in the role of Parliament, and not even debating their own pieces of legislation. They are letting the opposition carry the water on all of this stuff. It is effectively a war of attrition: That is what this motion is all about. That happens when this place is functioning, when democracy is functioning and when we are not seeing a decline in our democracy, which is the pattern we have seen over the course of the last six and a half years.
That is what causes me some great concern, when “without notice, a motion to adjourn the House until Monday, September 19”, which is when we are regularly scheduled to come back after the summer break, could occur.
If things get really hot and the government is feeling a lot of pressure, it could prorogue without prorogation. I know what the is going to say and I know what his cabinet would say. They would be out there saying, “We did not prorogue.” They made that promise in 2015, despite the fact that they broke it. The reality is that this is giving them exclusive and unnecessary power to basically take this place and shut Parliament down.
There are a lot of issues, there is no question about it. There are a lot of issues that we are dealing with, not the least of which, as I mentioned earlier, is the affordability crisis. There are some geopolitical issues going on around the world. There are issues related to our economy, inflation pressures, the housing crisis and the opioid crisis. All of those things are important issues to Canadians.
We should not give the government the power to be able, if it feels the political heat, to shut this place down. We have a schedule that has already been approved by the parties, although I am finding out around this place, in my short time as House leader, that agreements with some of the other opposition House leaders are not even worth the ink they are written in. Because of the agreement, they just do whatever they want to do now. They give us a call as a courtesy call. Why do they call us? They call just so that they can say they called us, but the decision has already been made by this unholy alliance between the Liberals and the NDP and that is not the way it should be. That is not the way this place should operate.
In a functioning democracy that is not in decline, a government should not put itself in a position in which it is dropping the hammer and effectively making the opposition an audience, not an opposition.
Again, on the motion,
notwithstanding the order adopted on Thursday, November 25, 2021, and Standing Order 45(6), no recorded division requested after 2 p.m. on Thursday, June 23, 2022, shall be deferred, except for any recorded division requested in regard to a Private Members’ Business item for which
That is a procedural thing.
Notwithstanding paragraph (j) of the order made Wednesday, March 30, 2022, the deadline for the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying to submit to Parliament a final report of its review, including a statement of any recommended changes, be no later than Monday, October 17, 2022, provided that an interim report on mental illness as a sole underlying condition be presented to the House no later than Thursday, June 23, 2022
I spoke earlier, at length, on this particular provision and the extension. Just to recap, as I said, the government had a legislated timeline on which it was to provide this review. That was to happen in May. It was not until the end of March that discussions officially started on this. Seeing the reasonableness of the request, particularly from my colleague, the House leader of the Bloc and the member for , we all agreed to extend that deadline to June 23, six more weeks, in order to do this job.
The government understood that this legislated timeline was to occur. It was the government that held off on this happening until the end of March, until discussions even started taking place, so I am not going to apologize for not agreeing to this particular provision to extend that deadline to October 17. I think there is enough time from now until June 23. As I said earlier, we asked that the government allocate resources so that there could be extended sittings of the committee to do this important work, because it is important work. There are many Canadians right now who are concerned about the process of medical assistance in dying, and they want to have their voices heard.
I understand that. I just do not think that extending it to October 17 should happen. Given the reasonableness of what was agreed to initially and the government's mismanagement of the timelines on this, I think we should be able to do the work by June 23, as we all agreed to.
The other part of this, and I talked about this a little this morning in the point of order I made, is about separating what is effectively an omnibus motion. That relates to the issue of Standing Order 28, that:
The House shall not meet on New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, the day fixed for the celebration of the birthday of the Sovereign, St. John the Baptist Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Thanksgiving Day, Remembrance Day and Christmas Day. When St. John the Baptist Day, Canada Day or the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation fall on a Tuesday, the House shall not meet the preceding day; when those days fall on a Thursday, the House shall not meet the following day.
There is one critical element to this particular part of the motion and one that I suggest would be important to traditionalists but is not as critical. That is the change of reference from “Dominion Day” to “Canada Day”. We all acknowledge that July 1 is now Canada Day. The traditionalists would like to keep the term “Dominion Day”, but that is less important than the issue of the day recognizing truth and reconciliation.
I spoke about that this morning in the point of order that I brought up, and I asked for the Speaker to consider carving out at least seven parts of this omnibus motion, not the least of which is the issue of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. By putting it in this motion, which is effectively a procedural motion, the government is doing two things.
The first is taking away, in my view, the paramount importance of what that day will mean to reconciliation with indigenous people in this country. I would like to think that there are more than enough speakers in this House who would like that to be carved out, so that they can talk about the importance of that day and about what reconciliation means as one of the many recommendations that came out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
To put this in an omnibus procedural motion like this causes in me, and I hope in many Canadians and indigenous Canadians as well, a sense of cynicism in the sense that it would be put into a procedural motion. I suspect, with the give and take negotiations with the NPD, maybe that is the reason this is in there, but I think it is important to carve this out and have it as a stand-alone motion or piece of legislation.
We have passed pieces of legislation in this place that deal with truth and reconciliation. We have done that, so I am not sure why the government feels like it should put it in here, when it is important for parliamentarians and Canadians to have their say on this.
If this is put into a piece of legislation, I would find it awfully difficult not to support, but I would like to see it go through the normal process rather than being put in an omnibus, because I think it deserves, at a minimum, the attention it requires. At a minimum, it requires the attention of Parliament, separately from this. It requires the attention of committee. It requires respect in having indigenous leaders and communities come in and speak to committee about how important this day is toward reconciliation, yet it is almost like the government put it in an omnibus motion so that we could vote against it.
I am not happy with this motion. I think I have spelled out many of the reasons, but on this particular issue, if the cynical intent is to have the opposition not support the motion and in effect not support the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a national holiday, nothing could be further from the truth. We would support it if it was carved out of this and dealt with separately.
The Liberals are going to force us to vote against this motion to further wedge, to further stigmatize and to further divide. Worse yet, they will use this as a political wedge against the Conservative Party. I will remind members that it was former prime minister Stephen Harper who started the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They are going to use this omnibus motion to wedge us politically and go to indigenous communities and say that the Conservatives did not support this.
I think I can speak on behalf of every one of our members when I say that we support the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, so there is only one reason the government would put that in this motion. Therefore, I hope that in my point of order from this morning, for the sake of the reasons I have given now and that I gave this morning, you will carve out this particular part so we can deal with it with the respect, honour and dignity it deserves.
I want to now focus on some of the other things that have come up during the course of this debate.
Obviously, the work of committees is going to be severely impacted as a result of this motion, as we take those resources away and apply them to the extended sittings. However, I had a little fun as I was researching this issue of the government's imposing what is effectively a sledgehammer on Parliament to do the things it is failing at. There have been lots of times—