Mr. Speaker, as the member knows well, the Speaker actually did address the issue late last year in October. Let me be very specific by reading the Speaker's ruling:
I would be remiss if I looked at this matter only through the lens of just one group of members and their right to speak. Instead, I must manage all proceedings, including question period, effectively for the benefit of all members. It is the view of the Chair that the current allotment of 14 questions per week for independent members maintains an appropriate balance with respect to the management of time, the rights of independent members, and the longstanding practices of this House.
The Chair notes that recently, some of the time slots made available to independent members have not been used. I would therefore encourage independent members to consult table officers, who remain available to assist in any way necessary, with a view to ensuring that these opportunities are optimized for the benefit of all.
This is what the Speaker of the House has indicated. I would highly suggest that whether it is representatives of the independents to make the necessary arrangements with the Speaker's office to sit down and have that discussion. It might be somewhat fruitful for the member opposite to do something of that nature.
I do not know if the member would be able to indicate that there are no extra questions. Are all the questions that have been allocated to the independents used every day? That would be helpful information to bring to the Speaker's attention.
We as the government are not necessarily taking a side per se, other than to reinforce that the Speaker has made a ruling on the matter after no doubt having done a considerable amount of research. From our perspective, we have taken some initiatives to modernize the House of Commons in order to improve our democracy.
For example, we changed question period to make government and the Prime Minister more accountable. There is a new Prime Minister's question period in which the PM answers every question on that day. The Prime Minister had done more than 40 Prime Minister's question periods, answering over 1,600 questions. It is absolutely unprecedented.
We have ensured that Liberal MPs have a strong voice in the House by permitting free votes, except on matters of confidence, election promises or protections guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We have introduced legislation to ensure that the all-party Board of Internal Economy, which for years operated in secrecy, is now public. We have made Parliament more family friendly and helped encourage the next generation of women to run for office by arranging for votes at better times of the day and allowing parental leave for parliamentarians.
Over the last number of years, I have seen many different ideas from people about ways we can improve the conditions of parliamentarians, and we want to explore different options. On a couple of occasions in the last couple of years, there was the opportunity to have that sort of dialogue at the committee on procedure and House affairs, and that sort of dialogue is very healthy.
I would encourage the member to make an appointment with the Speaker's office and report back and see if some other accommodations could be taken into consideration.