Mr. Mike Wallace (Burlington, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Motion No. 10.
Part of the presentation that I was going to make was toward the end of my speech. However, based on the comment that was just made, I would like to bring it forward first. The comments were made by the critic for finance, the former opposition House leader, about how when we all agreed, we could not seem to get anything done.
I would like to use today as a perfect example of why we are doing this. Vanessa's law was being debated in the House. Every person in the House agrees with it, in all the speeches we have heard from the Liberals, from the official opposition and from our side. We wanted to bring it to a vote today. We wanted the debate to collapse so we could have the opportunity to vote on it after question period tomorrow, based on the rules we have.
What happened today is exactly the problem with this place. The New Democratic Party put up speaker after speaker saying the same thing. They all agreed that they were supportive of the bill. This bill is not at third reading. We are not yet making it law in the House and sending it to the Senate for it to review the bill and give it royal assent. This was just to send it to committee.
We have spent hours and hours on a bill that absolutely everyone in the House agrees with. The NDP members said that they were interested in going to committee because they may have some amendments, which is fair and we should have done that.
I was prepared, when the debate collapsed, to move that the vote would happen tomorrow. I sat ready to go in front of the Speaker at the time to make that happen, but there was speaker after speaker. Then they complain that we do not put enough people up. It is because we have said what we had to say on the Conservative side. We know where we stand and we want things to move along.
I checked my notes to see how far we had gone on government bills since we had taken office and since our last throne speech. We have passed, all the way through all stages and received royal assent on, nine bills. We are praising that we got nine through, but do members think the general public thinks that is a good use of our time and their taxpayer dollars, paying us to be here every day, saying the same thing over and over again? No.
There are items like Vanessa's law today that we could have passed quickly, got to committee and got back from committee. Even if there were amendments, we have report stage to deal with those. They come back for report stage. We deal with them. There is a debate and a discussion.
Let us face it. We call it debate, but it is mostly speeches and a short question and answer period after. That is really where there is some debate on our positions on the different issues.
Members cannot come to the House and claim that we are not doing enough and that we are delaying. In the same sentence, in the same presentation, those members complain about us using time allocation. They complain when we say that this is enough time on a particular item. Then they complain when we add more time for items to be discussed. They cannot have it both ways.
I know the New Democrats think they can have both ways. They think the taxpayer pays for everything and that everything is glorious. However, that is not the reality of the situation.
We have only passed nine bills into legislation. We have 18 government bills still on the order paper. We have 18 government bills that we want—
Mr. Mike Wallace:
Mr. Speaker, thank you for the time.
I want to speak about why it is important we do this. I have been here eight years. Every year we get a calendar printed in the fall that indicates with little stars the days we can have extended hours. Extended hours are not new. This year, I will admit, we are doing extended hours about a week prior to when it normally would have happened. It is a normal process, a normal way of doing business in this House that I have experienced eight times.
My understanding is it was the process prior to that. In fact, there were years in the past when extended hours took place in the evenings throughout the year, not just at the end of the session. However, things have changed and this is a normal way of proceeding so we can get some of the work done we need to do.
We have added approximately 20 hours of opportunity for debate per week. That is 20 hours, so 40 members of Parliament could make 20-minute speeches with 10 minutes of questions and comments. Often people split their time. Technically we could get as many as 40 people of the 308, or whatever there is, of us at this particular time. There are by-elections going. That would be 40 more opportunities to get up and say what the constituents we represent feel about a particular issue or about a particular bill.
We often get complaints that there is not enough time and that more members from whatever party in the opposition want to speak. This motion provides that opportunity for them to speak.
I would be the first to agree that likely at 11:30 p.m. there would not be a lot of people in the House. Some people would have said their piece and are not interested in talking about whatever issue is before the House, but there is opportunity for other members of Parliament to say their piece. That is what extended hours do. They provide opportunity for as many as 40 members a week. If we do it for three weeks, that is 120 more spots, so almost half the House would be able to speak in those extended hours.
That does not mean we are not meeting during the day, that we are still not opening at 10 and having debate all day long with a break for question period, routine proceedings, and private members' hour. All that opportunity is still there.
We are not limiting debate. We are increasing debate. It is important, in my view. We need to do this. When I go back to my constituency and tell the folks at the local riding association that we passed nine bills, people say to me, “That's it? What did you do the rest of the time?”
I did research on how many hours we spend on this. I think there is a better way of doing it more efficiently and effectively, and I may speak to that. We need to use our time efficiently and effectively to get changes made. Of the 18 bills that we have standing, a lot of them have not even got to committee yet, so all we need to do is move them on to committee.
Our committee right now is dealing with Bill C-13. We have had excellent panels come before us to talk about that bill. We have two more weeks of analyzing that bill, and I think it is an excellent demonstration of why it is important to get things out of the House. Each party has its say, a number of members put on the record their position and what they would like to see changed or why they support the bill, and then it goes to committee for a real discussion with debate. I think we should be doing that much faster, and maybe even providing more time for that at committee, but that does not work with the process we have here.
We are going to debate a private member's bill later tonight that talks about some changes in how we operate. It was brought forward by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. There is some real opportunity for further change. Many of us spend hours and hours having staff members change our schedules because we have to get coverage for this and we are here and we have to give a speech at committee meetings, so we have to have someone cover us here. I do not know what it is like on the opposition benches, but I know what it is like on our side of the House.
There should be a review of how we operate here. Maybe we should have all our committee meetings in the morning with the House not sitting in the morning. Members would not be missing coverage or House duty because House duty would not start. Maybe we should do that. Maybe we should start debate on different items after question period. Maybe we should have all the votes after question period. I know this motion does that, but if we were a corporation we would not be operating this way. It is not efficient. It is not effective and it does not produce results as the smart people in the chamber could do.
My suggestion is that the House leaders from all sides look at why we need to bring the system of how we operate into the 20th century, maybe even the 21st century. It has been a traditional way of doing things. I think it is time to look at all those issues.
People will ask why we need to extend. As chair of the justice committee I will give one perfect example of why we need this time. The Minister of Justice introduced the victims bill of rights, a very important bill to the House. Tonight we will start debating that issue even further. In this case, there are many members of Parliament who would like to speak to the bill because it would make some fundamental changes to how we treat victims of crime in this country. It is appropriate that it is on the agenda for this evening and it gives us an opportunity for many more members to speak to it because we have extended the hours.
I would like to see the bill go to committee. It is still at second reading. I fully understand why so many members would like to speak to it. Extended hours provide that opportunity to do. Then I hope it will come to a vote before we rise for the summer. That would provide the justice committee with an opportunity to get ready over the summer for this very important bill, to make sure we invite the right number of witnesses. A relatively large list of people would like to come and talk on what could be improved, what they like about the bill. I do not know if people understand there are only nine weeks in the fall session between September until we leave at Christmastime. Nine weeks is not a lot of time. It does not provide much opportunity for members to speak to this fundamental bill.
We also will deal with Bill C-24 this week. Many members in the House would like to speak to strengthening the Citizenship Act. There are some fundamental changes in it. If we do not get it done and sent to committee before we leave, we basically will have to start over again in September. People now are engaged in the topic and understand what is going on. There is debate in the House and then the summer comes. Members go back and work in their ridings all summer and they have to get geared up again when they come back here.
I think it is important that we get that bill through, and there are a number of other bills. The opposition finance critic is at committee tonight dealing with the implementation bill, which is a significant bill. There is a lot of discussion about what is happening with that.
We need to be able to move forward, and there is nothing wrong with working late. I heard from the leader of the Green Party and the previous speaker. I do not think there is a lot of opposition to working late on these particular items because it does provide opportunity.
We have heard a little on who can bring forward certain motions, and the opposition is not happy about that. However, the whole concept of adding hours is to make the place a little more efficient and not bogged down with procedural motions, because that is what slows us down here.
There is a place for procedure. As chair of the justice committee, I understand that there needs to be procedure and it can move efficiently and effectively. Those rules are in place for a purpose, and I believe they have a role to play here, but we need to move forward.
There are nine bills, and to be frank about it, there are 18 bills still on the order paper from the government now. We have nine weeks in the fall and then we come to the last session before we break in 2015, and we know we will not be coming back before an election. We do not have a lot of time left from the government's perspective to get the legislation through the House, through the Senate, to royal assent, and into law. Once it becomes law, it then takes time to implement.
In Ontario, I talk to a grade 5 civics class and a grade 10 civics class. They ask how long it takes to get a law through. I am honest with them. I tell them that the reality is it takes at least a year. Some bills are a little faster than others, but in a normal process, from the start when a minister introduces it in the House to royal assent, it is approximately a year. Then, it depends on what kind of law it is, but let us say it is on the Criminal Code, it takes a while for it to get implemented. Also, there are often regulations in other areas that have to be added before it actually comes into force. It is a slow process to begin with.
With the process we have here, in my view, as a city councillor who advocated for the council to go from 17 to 7 for improved efficiency and effectiveness of the councillors, I think we can do a much better job here in the House of Commons for efficiency and effectiveness. We need to look at that in the future, but in the meantime, extended hours help us get our legislation through this House.
Ms. Françoise Boivin (Gatineau, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, what an odd debate. I listened with interest to the speech by the hon. member for Burlington. He is the chair of the committee and I am the vice-chair.
I found some of his statements peculiar. The fundamental problem with the motion presently before the House is not the fact of staying until midnight. The NDP team has a reputation for hard work. Anyone who wants to entertain themselves by visiting my Facebook page would see that the people of Gatineau are actually advising me to slow down because they are worried about my health. Perhaps they are right, considering the flu I have at the moment. We in the NDP work very hard. A number of bills, for example, are before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, so that they can be debated in the House or in committee. It is not the work we are afraid of.
The cat is out of the bag. There are issues that our Conservative friends want to talk about, and they want to speak about them at length. Had I been asked, I would have said—before they even rose to speak—that I expected to see a great many Conservatives rise to speak in the House about Bill C-32. Why? Because it is an opportunity for the Conservatives to give Canadians the impression that they have been dealing with this issue—and this issue alone—for weeks, months and even years. They are the ones who stand up for victims. We are all deadbeats and have washed our hands of the problem. That is not true, though. Now, when workers’ rights were at stake, the Conservatives wanted to cut debate short.
The member said that nine bills had been passed and that he is embarrassed to return to Burlington. What I would say to him is that he is absolutely right to be embarrassed; the Conservatives did nothing with their majority aside from getting nine bills passed, and they had to resort to time allocation motions to ram the bills through. There is something not quite right with this government. The Conservatives are averse to debate. They do not like hearing opinions that do not coincide with their own. When the Conservatives too often hear something they disagree with, a red light suddenly goes on. We have had to debate many a time allocation motion. I do not know how many times I have taken part in debates in the House or how many speeches I have made expressing my dissatisfaction with the fact that we have been stripped of our right to speak.
The Conservatives made mention of Bill C-13. I am fortunate to be the NDP justice critic and to have had the opportunity to voice my opinion regarding this omnibus bill, right after the minister spoke. This is no small bill; on the contrary, it is approximately 50 pages long and has an impact on numerous other pieces of legislation. It does address the issue of cyberbullying, as the government likes to point out, but it goes much farther, so far that the committee is being flooded with requests for meetings. We hear all manner of experts warning us to be careful. That is what is missing in the House.
The Senate is referred to as a chamber of sober second thought, but we were not elected to this place in order to abdicate our duty to think. Members have a responsibility to be present in the House to voice and stand up for the opinions of their constituents. Canadians expect us to go about our work in an intelligent and thoughtful manner, to take the time to properly analyze bills. I am in favour of debating this bill in the House and referring it to committee for further consideration. More often than not, bills are analyzed at lightening speed.
The Conservatives will say that the House was given an opportunity to debate Bill C-13, the bill on cyberbullying, and thank God, especially given the time allocation motion that was foisted upon us so as to ram the bill through to committee.
Suddenly, things became urgent. Why urgent after the death of Rehtaeh Parsons, and yet not after the death of Amanda Todd? That was a question a witness asked us. The notion that the government would somehow need to act urgently does not really cut it with me; these things are more politically driven than they are concrete. It is a bit worrisome.
Bill C-13 is large and contains a number of disturbing provisions. When considered alongside the remarks made by the Conservative committee members, it leads me to believe that the Conservatives will not be very receptive to the many amendments proposed by expert witnesses. If past events are any indication, I am not very optimistic. Still, I am an optimistic woman by nature.
In light of this, I have trouble believing it when the government tells us, hand on heart, that its goal is to work harder. Working harder, for a Conservative, does not necessarily mean working more effectively and harder. It simply means that members end up working until midnight in order to discuss all the bills before the House, including those bills that have not been studied for an eternity.
For example, there is Bill C-2 on safe injection sites; Bill C-3 on marine transportation; Bill C-6, which implements the Convention on Cluster Munitions; Bill C-8 on counterfeit products; and Bill C-10 on contraband tobacco, which we finished studying in committee such a long time ago that I will have to reread all my material. Indeed, since then, we have studied so many other topics that I have almost had enough time to forget all about it. We will resume studying this bill at report stage. We could have covered it a long time ago. I have been waiting for some time for this stage to be completed in the House. Everything will have to be done over. It is a colossal waste of time for everyone concerned. There is also Bill C-11 on the hiring of injured veterans. If there is a category of people in our society who have huge needs, it certainly is our veterans.
Suddenly, the Conservatives are going to try and push all this through at once. The member for Burlington has done the math when it comes to the number of hours, and the government is going to try and give us a few hours for each bill. Then the government turns around and calls itself a champion of hard work. Well done, champion.
There is also Bill C-17, Vanessa’s law, about drug safety, an extremely important bill that must be debated; Bill C-18, concerning farm regulations; and Bill C-20, concerning the Canada-Honduras agreement, which is at report stage. I no longer even remember when I gave my last speech on that subject. It has already been a heck of a long time. The Conservatives have been in no rush, but all of a sudden, they are in a rush.
We will examine Bill C-21, concerning red tape for small businesses. The junior Minister of Tourism is travelling all over Canada to talk about the importance of eliminating red tape everywhere, while this bill is stuck in some office or other. It could have been debated a long time ago.
There is Bill C-22, concerning oil, gas and nuclear liability, and Bill C-24, concerning the Citizenship Act. These are bills that are announced to us with great fanfare at big press conferences, but then they stagnate and we do not see them again.
There is Bill C-26, about sexual predators. I expected that one would move quickly, because the Conservatives told us we had to work on this issue quickly. There is also Bill C-27, about hiring veterans in the public service. It is extremely important, I repeat, because it concerns a category of people in our society who have needs that are just as important.
Then there is Bill C-32, about the victims bill of rights. I think it is the reason why this government’s Motion No. 10 has no credibility at all. For a full year, I was treated to one press conference after another. If it was not the Prime Minister, it was the Minister of Justice with his senator from the other side. They told us they were going to work very hard, listen, set up panels and do everything we could wish for, and then they brought forth a charter that was denounced by many people, starting with victims, because they expected a lot more. That may be why the Conservatives kept their charter hidden for some time.
Apart from the minister, one Liberal and myself, no one has yet spoken on this subject. I am going to make a wager with my colleagues in the House. I expect there will be a time allocation motion on this. The Conservatives are going to rend their garments and plead that it is urgent, that it is extremely important and that it must be passed immediately, or the opposite will happen, because they will want to talk to us about it for hours on end. It becomes part of their narrative.
Every Conservative member wants to go back to their riding and have their householder and the excerpt from their speech in the House, which they made to show that they are protecting victims’ rights.
In the NDP, we want to talk about important issues and show that we could do even better than Bill C-32, specifically by amending it. We want to talk about the proposals made by the federal ombudsman for victims of crime. In fact, Bill C-32 does not contain a large percentage of her recommendations. A balance has to be struck. For every Conservative who speaks, the New Democrats will also speak.
When we want to talk about something, it is not important. That is the message we constantly get in the House, and, perhaps because we are approaching the end of the session, it is becoming extremely annoying, to put it mildly and stay within the bounds of parliamentary language.
It is appalling to see that people who are elected to represent the residents of their riding are silenced as often as we are by this government. We get told they are not interested. I have also heard the member for Burlington say—and I am going to talk to him about it again, in fact, at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights—that sometimes we just need to go and read because members all read pretty much the same thing.
If the people of Gatineau think the same thing as the people of Laval, I think it is important that this be pointed out. Who has more right than whom to speak in the House on a particular bill? There is something indecent about wanting to constantly silence people.
Sometimes, I tell the members opposite that they should stop imposing time allocation motions and motions to get things done, as they like to say. I very much liked the expression my colleague used yesterday, when he talked about motions that are “a licence for laziness”.
This is unpleasant. If they had taken the time spent on debating those motions and instead used the time to finish the debate on the bill that they were trying to stop from being debated, we would probably have finished. The fact is that not all members in the NDP caucus or the Liberal Party or the Green Party or whatever colour you like necessarily wish to speak.
However, if the government limits the speaking time of a single member who wishes to speak, we cannot claim to be living in a democratic system. That is what is known as the tyranny of the majority. I believe we have to stand up against that, loud and clear. Every time that happens here, we are going to speak out against it, in every way possible.
We are told that we could perhaps go faster. I listened to the Minister of Foreign Affairs say that, and what he said made sense, in some respects. The way that Manitoba and the NDP government operate makes sense. Those consensus-based approaches make sense.
Quebec managed to pass a bill on a very sensitive issue, end-of-life care, with the agreement of all parties. There was an election, and the members all agreed to reinstate the bill once the election was over. That is being discussed.
The problem here is that the people on the Conservative benches are not talking to the opposition parties. All they talk about is strategies. We keep wondering who is going to pull a fast one on us. They use roundabout tactics such as counting how many MPs are in the House, catching them off guard, and forcing a party leader to go testify before a committee. This is unprecedented—and they say they are democratic.
Then the Conservatives get all offended when we say that Motion No. 10 is total nonsense. This is not about giving us more time. This is about taking all of the bills—there are more on the agenda than have already been passed, and that took much longer than the amount of time we have between now and June 20—and making us think they are giving us more time. They are not giving us a thing. I do not believe in Conservative gifts, and nobody in Canada should believe in any Conservative gift whatsoever.
The truth is that the Conservatives are going to shove their agenda down our throats because they could not get through it in a mature, parliamentary, by-the-rules way. They could have said that the House leaders would discuss it and try to see if some of the bills were more palatable or if we could agree to pass some of them more quickly. Then the real committee work could have started.
It is true, for Bill C-13, we had a lot of witnesses. However, I am not yet ready to give a seal of approval to the government in power, indicating that the bill has been studied in depth, because we still have the entire amendment stage. I believe that what the other side wants to accept is under so much remote control that the committee is not really doing the work. Instead, the higher-ups are dictating to our colleagues opposite what they have to do, while at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, we are trying to bring out the best in the bill.
I have not even mentioned the upcoming Bill C-35, dealing with service animals. Bill S-2 deals with statutory instruments and may not seem like much. However, it is a very significant bill that is going to change an entire way of doing things in terms of regulations. We know that regulations have an impact on the everyday lives of our fellow Canadians in all kinds of areas: the environment, transportation, health and what have you. This is a real concern. I bet that we will analyze it very quickly. That concerns me.
The fact that we are extending our hours until midnight does not encourage any belief on my part that we will be having constructive debates followed by more productive work in committee. That is why the Conservatives have this problem with credibility. We are not the only ones saying so. When their measures are challenged in court, the Conservatives get slammed.
I will take a deep breath and take a little time to say that perhaps we should review our way of doing things. Our friends in the House may not know this, but the bill on prostitution may well be coming our way next week. We hear whispering in the corridors that the government wants the bill passed. It is huge, though, since it comes as a response to a Supreme Court of Canada decision. Everyone in the House knows that passing the bill will not be easy because there are people on all sides of that issue. I would bet that we are going to have just a few hours of debate before they pitch it—to put it very nicely—to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We can expect a hot and heavy summer on that one.
Extending the sitting hours until midnight just to work harder is one more tactic that is just like their time allocation motions, closure motions and any other kind of motion they can think of. It is part of the Conservatives' bag of undemocratic tricks. They will force these tricks on the House, but not on themselves, as ministers. Based on how the motion is written, I think it will be quite humourous. It will be interesting to see how many of them will be here in the House to happily participate in the debates on all the topics I mentioned, instead of at a cocktail party. That is why it is extremely important that we amend this motion.
Seconded by the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, I move:
|| That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “place” and substituting the following:
||(b) when a recorded division is demanded in respect of a debatable motion, including any division arising as a consequence of the application of Standing Order 61(2), but not including any division in relation to the Business of Supply, Private Members’ Business, or arising as a consequence of an order made pursuant to Standing Order 57,
||(i) before 5:30 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, it shall stand deferred until the time immediately before the time provided for Private Members’ Business at that day’s sitting,
||(ii) after 5:30 p.m. on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, it shall stand deferred until the time immediately before the time provided for Private Members’ Business at the next day’s sitting,
||(iii) after 5:30 p.m. on a Thursday, or at any time on a Friday, it shall stand deferred until 6:30 p.m. on the following Monday.