Madam Speaker, I am thankful to have these few minutes to talk about two things. They are ideas that have been floated in my existence in Parliament and in my experience with other issues. I think we can improve upon them in the modernization of the House.
One that was thrust upon us, which I will not spend too much time on as my time is limited, is electronic voting. I am a fan of electronic voting. I do believe in coming into the 20th century, as there is technology that existed back then that we can use and are using now.
I truly believe this is going to be a benefit for all of us. It is a benefit for our family lives and is certainly a benefit for those of us who travel quite a bit, like me or members from Yukon who have to travel a bit. This certainly would make travel less onerous. I will leave it at that. We are about to embark upon that new frontier because of the situation we are in.
I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to a dear colleague of mine, the member for Simcoe North, who first brought to me a very in-depth study about the parallel chamber. The parallel chamber opens up a huge dimension, not to get too science fiction about it, for debate within the context of what is Canada's Parliament. It has been done, as other colleagues have mentioned, in other areas. The member for Yukon brought it up as well. Two parallel chambers already exist in other jurisdictions, such as Great Britain and Australia. They are the Federation Chamber of Australia and Westminster Hall in the U.K.
As a matter of fact, The Samara Centre for Democracy, here in Canada, strongly recommends that we go ahead with a parallel chamber to allow members to exercise some independence as to how they want to engage in debate and policy issues important to them and to the nation. It may not be something they bring up, but others may bring something up that they wish to comment on.
The Samara Centre for Democracy recommends creating a parallel chamber modelled on Westminster Hall in the U.K., and I could not agree more. Westminster Hall is a valuable example of how we can broaden debate in the House, certainly for those in the dimensions of what is considered the backbench who wish to bring up their own local issues and discuss national issues from coast to coast to coast. It would be a good exercise for them.
There are, however, some key notes to make about the parallel chamber. This is going back to a 2018 MP survey that Samara did. It does exit interviews with MPs once they are no longer MPs, and it discovered that debates are the least satisfying dimension of an MP's work.
Those who have been here for a while, or or others who enjoy debate, would certainly agree that in many cases we talk about canned speeches and lines we must say. I am not diminishing the role of people who write speeches and send them off to the House of Commons to be read by whichever department or minister's office. It is a part of who we are and a function of who we are. However, we need to broaden this more to help people who want to speak freely and openly about these debates, whether it is something they feel, as a parliamentarian, is dear to their heart or it is something dear to the hearts of their constituents. Sometimes that may not be caught up in a sound byte or a phrase the government or opposition wish to put out there, but it could be in their own words, which I think is very key to this. I would endorse that.
By way of example, one of the things the parallel chamber is used for in the United Kingdom, in Westminster Hall, is take-note debates on e-petitions. E-petitions have become very valuable and highly popular over the past little while, and we could debate their subject matter and issues in the House.
Right now, there is an e-petition about the Gander International Airport, which is in my riding, that sits in the roster waiting for signatures. The petition calls on the government to help it out in this particular scenario. I would love to engage in a debate not only with the Gander airport but also with airports across Canada that find themselves in a very rural, regional situation where survival is now tedious.
That would be a great example of how we could broaden the debate about regional air travel across this country and a golden opportunity that a parallel chamber could provide for us. That is huge to me. Again, I recognize the member for Simcoe North, the Deputy Speaker, for the work he did in bringing this to my attention.
Let me now go to what we normally call S.O. 31s or members' statements. In the genesis of S.O. 31s, the member could talk about their riding, a current policy issue, or they could stand up and do a one-minute political ad for their party, for that matter, which happens fairly often. If the member is in opposition, they could take swipe at the government. For someone who was in opposition for quite some time, I certainly took advantage of that. However, the key, the basis of it all, is the fact that the statement belongs to the member. That is what is so very important about this.
If the list is provided by the whip, something very dysfunctional ends up happening with members' statements. What happens is that if the whip has a statement they want to put out that is in praise of the latest government policy or of an opposition stand or something against the government, the whip will give that to a particular member, or at least show it to them and ask if they are willing to do it in the House. If that member says they are not interested and would rather do their own statement, more often than not the statement suggested by the whip will go to another member, who will be asked if they want to do it.
That is a fundamental breach of what this statement should be. The statement does not belong to the member anymore, but to the caucus, the party or the whip's office. That is not the way it was meant to be.
My suggestion would be that members' statements be done similar to private members' bills, where there is a rotating list. Members would apply to read a statement and statements would be handled by the Speaker in the rotation in which they arrive. I will leave it at that, because I think that how members' statements should be done is quite self-explanatory.
I know that some people would like to hold question period that way. That is how it is done in Westminster in the U.K. House of Commons. Their members apply to the Speaker to be in a random draw three days prior to question period, to get their question in, under Prime Minister's questions. I will not go that far yet. I walk before I run, as it were. I walk in marginal steps. That shows how long I have been there, because I know that sometimes changes like this travel at glacial speed. Therefore, I will just leave it at that.
Here is something that I proposed some time ago. It met with a lot of bewilderment in many cases, but it is something that the U.K. has done as well since 2010 or 2011, and that is the election of committee chairs, of which I am proudly one. I love being chair of the heritage committee. In the U.K., they started a process where the committee chairs were broken up in proportion to party representation in the House. As a result, the fourth or fifth party recognized in the House would get a chair or two, and the chairs would be broken down that way. Right now, I think the Conservative Party has slightly more than half of the committee chairs. The actual chair occupant is decided by the House. They have a broad vote in the House of Commons about who it should be. There could be three or four Liberals for one seat, three or four Conservatives vying for another seat, and the whole House gets to vote on who they are.
I first noticed it when I went to the U.K. and had meetings with some MPs. I noticed this pamphlet, an elections-style pamphlet, saying vote for so and so, in a riding near Wales. That member was running to be the agriculture chair. I thought it was a fascinating concept.
We should have a deep look into that. Former clerks of the House of Commons in Great Britain have said it has been a wonderful exercise, where the chair has an air of independence about them. They are able to go out and do things without any shackles of party interference. It is something we should seriously look at. Hopefully down the road we can. It is something I proposed in the last Parliament, but it never made it to a vote, unfortunately.
There is something else I want to talk about, and this is probably the more controversial one. It is called—