Hon. Peter Van Loan:
Mr. Speaker, I will pick up where I left off. Obviously my hon. friend did not hear this and has not read the motion. I will respond to his macho riposte at the end of his comments by pointing out that the motion would do three things: first, it would provide for us to sit until midnight; second, it would provide a manageable way in which to hold votes in a fashion that works for members of the House; and third, it would provide for concurrence debates to happen and motions to be voted on in a fashion that would not disrupt the work of all the committees of the House and force them to come back here for votes and shut down the work of committees.
Those are the three things the motion would do. In all other respects the Standing Orders remain in place, including the Standing Orders for how long the House sits. Had my friend actually read the motion, he would recognize that the only way in which that Standing Order could then be changed would be by unanimous consent of the House.
The member needs no commitment from me as to how long we will sit. Any member of the House can determine that question, if he or she wishes to adjourn other than the rules contemplate, but the rules are quite clear in what they do contemplate.
As I was saying, the reason for the motion is that Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard and get things done on their behalf.
Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard and get things done on their behalf.
We agree and that is exactly what has happened here in the House of Commons.
However, do not take my word for it; look at the facts. In this Parliament the government has introduced 76 pieces of legislation. Of those 76, 44 of them are law in one form or another. That makes for a total of 58% of the bills introduced into Parliament. Another 15 of these bills have been passed by either the House or the Senate, bringing the total to 77% of the bills that have been passed by one of the two Houses of Parliament. That is the record of a hard-working, orderly and productive Parliament.
More than just passing bills, the work we are doing here is delivering real results for Canadians. However, there is still yet more work to be done before we return to our constituencies for the summer.
During this time our government's top priority has been jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. Through two years and three budgets, we have passed initiatives that have helped to create more than 900,000 net new jobs since the global economic recession. We have achieved this record while also ensuring that Canada's debt burden is the lowest in the G7. We are taking real action to make sure the budget will be balanced by 2015. We have also followed through on numerous longstanding commitments to keep our streets and communities safe, to improve democratic representation in the House of Commons, to provide marketing freedom for western Canadian grain farmers and to eliminate once and for all the wasteful and inefficient long gun registry.
Let me make clear what the motion would and would not do. There has been speculation recently, including from my friend opposite, about the government's objectives and motivations with respect to motion no. 17. As the joke goes: Mr. Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. So it is with today's motion. There is only one intention motivating the government in proposing the motion: to work hard and deliver real results for Canadians.
The motion would extend the hours the House sits from Monday through Thursday. Instead of finishing the day around 6:30 or 7 p.m., the House would sit instead until midnight.
This would amount to an additional 20 hours each week. Extended sitting hours is something that happens most years in June. Our government just wants to roll up our sleeves and work a little harder, earlier this year. The motion would allow certain votes to be deferred automatically until the end of question period, to allow for all honourable members' schedules to be a little more orderly.
As I said, all other rules would remain. For example, concurrence motions could be moved, debated and voted upon. Today's motion would simply allow committees to continue doing their work instead of returning to the House for motions to return to government business and the like. This process we are putting forward would ensure those committees could do their good work and be productive, while at the same time the House could proceed with its business. Concurrence motions could ultimately be dealt with, debated and voted upon.
We are interested in working hard and being productive and doing so in an orderly fashion, and that is the extent of what the motion would do. I hope that the opposition parties would be willing to support this reasonable plan and let it come forward to a vote. I am sure members opposite would not be interested in going back to their constituents to say they voted against working a little overtime before the House rises for the summer, but the first indication from my friend opposite is that perhaps he is reluctant to do that. Members on this side of the House are willing to work extra hours to deliver real results for Canadians.
Some of those accomplishments we intend to pass are: reforming the temporary foreign workers program to put the interests of Canadians first; implementing tax credits for Canadians who donate to charity; enhancing the tax credit for parents who adopt; and extending the tax credit for Canadians who take care of loved ones in their home.
We also want to support veterans and their families by improving the determination of veterans' benefits.
Of course, these are some of the important measures from this year's budget and are included in Bill C-60, economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1. We are also working toward results for aboriginals by moving closer to equality for Canadians living on reserves through better standards for drinking water and finally giving women on reserves the same rights and protections other Canadian women have had for decades. Bill S-2, family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act, and Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act would deliver on those very important objectives.
We will also work to keep our streets and communities safe by making real improvements to the witness protection program through Bill C-51, the safer witnesses act. I think that delivering these results for Canadians is worth working a few extra hours each week.
We will work to bring the Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012, into law. Bill C-48 would provide certainty to the tax code. It has been over a decade since a bill like this has passed, so it is about time this bill passed. In fact, after question period today, I hope to start third reading of this bill, so perhaps we can get it passed today.
We will also work to bring Bill C-52, the fair rail freight service act, into law. The bill would support economic growth by ensuring that all shippers, including farmers, are treated fairly. Over the next few weeks we will also work, hopefully with the co-operation of the opposition parties, to make progress on other important initiatives.
Bill C-54 will ensure that public safety is the paramount consideration in the decision-making process involving high-risk accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. This is an issue that unfortunately has affected every region of this country. The very least we can do is let the bill come to a vote and send it to committee where witnesses can testify about the importance of these changes.
Bill C-49 would create the Canadian museum of history, a museum for Canadians that would tell our stories and present our country's treasures to the world.
Bill S-14, the Fighting Foreign Corruption Act, will do just that by further deterring and preventing Canadian companies from bribing foreign public officials. These amendments will help ensure that Canadian companies continue to act in good faith in the pursuit of freer markets and expanded global trade.
Bill S-13, the port state measures agreement implementation act, would implement that 2009 treaty by amending the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act to add prohibitions on importing illegally acquired fish.
Tonight we will be voting on Bill S-9, the Nuclear Terrorism Act, which will allow Canada to honour its commitments under international agreements to tackle nuclear terrorism. Another important treaty—the Convention on Cluster Munitions—can be given effect if we adopt Bill S-10, the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act.
We will seek to update and modernize Canada’s network of income tax treaties through Bill S-17, the Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2013, by giving the force of law to recently signed agreements between Canada and Namibia, Serbia, Poland, Hong Kong, Luxembourg and Switzerland.
Among other economic bills is Bill C-56, the combating counterfeit products act. The bill would protect Canadians from becoming victims of trademark counterfeiting and goods made using inferior or dangerous materials that lead to injury or even death. Proceeds from the sale of counterfeit goods may be used to support organized crime groups. Clearly, this bill is another important one to enact.
Important agreements with the provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador would be satisfied through Bill S-15, the expansion and conservation of Canada’s national parks act, which would, among other things, create the Sable Island national park reserve, and Bill C-61, the offshore health and safety act, which would provide clear rules for occupational health and safety of offshore oil and gas installations.
Earlier I referred to the important work of committees. The Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations inspired Bill S-12, the incorporation by reference in regulations act. We should see that committee's ideas through by passing this bill. Of course, a quick reading of today's order paper would show that there are yet still more bills before the House of Commons for consideration and passage. All of these measures are important and will improve the lives of Canadians. Each merits consideration and hard work on our part.
In my weekly business statement prior to the constituency week, I extended an offer to the House leaders opposite to work with me to schedule and pass some of the other pieces of legislation currently before the House. I hope that they will respond to my request and put forward at our next weekly meeting productive suggestions for getting things done. Passing today's motion would be a major step toward accomplishing that. As I said in my opening comments, Canadians expect each one of us to come to Ottawa to work hard, vote on bills and get things done.
In closing, I commend this motion to the House and encourage all hon. members to vote for this motion, add a few hours to our day, continue the work of our productive, orderly and hard-working Parliament, and deliver real results for Canadians.
Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am not very happy about being here. However, I am here because we need to stand up to this government, which believes that Parliament exists only for its benefit and that it is just a place concerned with the government's problems and accountability.
It is almost as if a new party came into the House today, as we listen to the Conservative House leader speak. It certainly is not the party that moved prorogation and killed legislation time and again. This new Conservative Party is suddenly interested in not defeating legislation. It could not be the same Conservative Party that has shut down debate in the House of Commons more than any party in Canadian history. It could not be a member of the same party who was speaking here today, talking about opening up debate. The Conservatives have invented a new world for themselves that is fascinating.
I am reflecting on my friend from Langley, who sought to speak in this House on what they call an S. O. 31 statement, which happens just before question period. It is a statement that lasts for about a minute. Usually members of Parliament get up and make a statement about their ridings about some issue that is important to them. My friend from Langley, who sits in the Conservative Party, was a parliamentary secretary, I remember, for the Minister of the Environment, a chair, a well-respected member of Parliament, and a friend. He sought to stand up and speak to something he thought was important to his constituents.
It was the old Conservative Party that shut down that member of Parliament and every other one who tried to get up and speak, because this new Conservative Party talks about wanting people to speak in the House and wanting to have debate.
While it is refreshing to hear it, I do not believe it, and I do not think Canadians are going to believe that suddenly accountability and democracy have broken out within the Prime Minister's Office. It is the office of this particular Prime Minister who, rather than face any uncomfortable questions from the media or the official opposition members today, or for the rest of this week, has decided that going to South America to sit with other trading partners from other countries we already have established trade deals with to talk about trade deals that already exist is much more important than asking questions about the Senate.
It must be a new Conservative Party that suddenly has on its agenda a legislative directive that the members need to sit longer hours and work hard on something that might be quite topical today, something such as the reform of Canada's Senate, which has been long overdue and long called for by Canadians and New Democrats who said that the place was fundamentally broken. There is no accountability. Unelected and under investigation is the new Senate.
I remember the old Reform Party. You probably do as well, Mr. Speaker. It came in riding from the west, from my part of the world.
I see a member across the way, who was one of the founding members of the Reform Party, calling it a beautiful thing. While I disagreed fundamentally with many of its positions, certainly its social positions, there was something on which I could see some common ground. That was to make Parliament more accountable and to reform the Senate.
The current government has now been in power almost seven long years. Is that right? The time goes slowly. In those six or seven years, the Prime Minister made a promise as one of his fundamental commitments to Canadians. Commitments should be treated sacredly, I believe.
We all get up at elections. We have party platforms and promises we make to Canadians. If we win, that platform and those promises become our agenda. That is what we would seek to do in office. It is simple. One of his promises, one of his agendas, one of his reforms was on the Senate. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they would see those Liberal senators down there taking their money, not really representing anybody, going on trips and maybe even defrauding taxpayers. Who knows? The Reform movement came in and said it was wrong and anti-democratic.
For a party that decided to put “democratic” right in the middle of our name, we take these questions seriously. We feel that it is accountability to the people we on the orange team represent. In a sense, we are watching this Prime Minister now play victim to what is going on in the Senate with senators he appointed exclusively and explicitly to raise money for the Conservative Party of Canada. Now this same Prime Minister claims victimhood and wonders how this happened. How did his chief of staff, who sits to his immediate left every day and knows his deepest, darkest secrets, whom he put in charge of major trade files and negotiations with other countries, cut a $90,000 cheque to a senator he appointed? However, obviously, the Prime Minister's hands are clean, and he has nothing to say about this. He believes that his hands are so clean that he is not going to answer any questions about it. He is going to go to South America to be in trade talks with countries we already have trade deals with. That is the new Conservative Party, which is the old one, the same one that has forgotten its roots.
Dear Mr. Manning is still with us, so he is not spinning in his grave, but he is definitely spinning. He was asked recently whether the Conservatives have lost their principles. He said, no, they have maintained their priorities. It is an interesting dodge of a question. Mr. Speaker, you have been around politics a bit. You know when a question is put directly and someone answers it indirectly.
I find it incredible that we have before us a motion that continues to abuse Parliament. This motion is designed simply to restrict debate and demonstrate to members of the House of Commons that the only reason Parliament exists is so that the government can do what it wants.
I remember a comment made by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. When we were debating a time allocation motion, he said that their intention was not to put an end to debate or to censure it, but just to control Parliament.
It is incredible that a minister is admitting that the Conservatives just want to control the Parliament of Canada. It also reflects the Conservatives' esprit de corps. They want to control everything, not just the opposition and Parliament, but their members, as well as the media and the public.
The current vision of the Prime Minister and the government leaves the public with no choice and no voice. It is all about the kind of country that the Prime Minister wants to build.
We see a government moving this extraordinary thing, which will see, big deal, members of Parliament sitting until midnight.
New Democrats have been known, sometimes to our detriment, to be willing to force the calendar to the very last minute and sit all night, such as when the government moved anti-worker legislation against a very profitable Canada Post, which, I might add, in a parenthetical way, then lost money.
After the lockout by Canada Post, the government imposed wage contracts on those workers that were less than what the company was willing to offer. Then it said that it needed to shut down Canada Post offices around the country, as Canada Post was losing money because of the lockout it allowed them to do. The logic is inherently twisted on that side.
Remember the omnibus debates and the voting we had. I remember my friend from the Green Party moving a certain number of amendments to the bill, which forced the House to sit all night and vote, hour after hour. I remember some of my friends from Surrey who stayed in their seats for 22 hours.
No one has ever accused New Democrats of not being willing to come to work and work on behalf of our constituents. We may do some things wrong. We may sometimes fall short in some areas, but hard work has not ever been one of those things.
There is such irony in hearing a Conservative House leader who, with his Prime Minister, has prorogued Parliament, shut it down, and killed their government's own legislation time and time again, say to the Speaker that the problem is that they cannot get their legislation through.
It had been there for 12 months. After eight months, they killed it themselves and prorogued the House.
One prorogation was quite notable. The government looked to be in a bit of trouble. It was in a minority position. The world was entering into a very deep recession. The Minister of Finance, who claims to be the best in the world, ignored the recession and introduced what the Conservatives called an austerity budget at the very moment when the rest of the world, realizing that the economy was coming to a virtual standstill, was introducing budgets that did the opposite.
The finance genius we have sitting in the chair said, “Never mind what the rest of the world thinks about what is going on in the global economy; we know that Canada is not going into recession”, even as we were in the midst of a recession. He introduced an austerity budget to cut back billions in job creation, in grants and in all the things the Conservatives take credit for, such as unemployment insurance for a bunch of Canadians who were just being thrown out of work.
The opposition said that it was not a very good budget and suggested that we vote against that budget. The government panicked and prorogued. Canadians got a civil lesson in how Parliament works. They had never heard the word “prorogation” before. Then we got to learn.
The Prime Minister had to go to the Governor General. He sat there for a number of hours, perhaps being lectured about how undemocratic it was, when facing a non-confidence vote, to head down the road to the Queen's representative to ask for permission to shut it all down before he was thrown out of office. He was more worried about his job that day than about Canadians. That is for sure.
That is a government that killed its legislation in order to save itself, and did it time and time again.
Here is the trend that we worry about with today's motion. For a government that has broken the record by shutting down debate more times than any government in Canadian history, it has refused 99.3% of all the amendments that the opposition has brought to its legislation.
Let us look at that for a moment. The way a bill is supposed to work is it comes into the House and gets debated. There is a pro and con and the real coming together or clash of ideas to improve the legislation because no one is perfect. The drafters of legislation do not get it right. They are sometimes hundreds of pages long and very complicated. The House is meant to debate that. Then we send it to committee and hear from experts, not just members of Parliament who are not often experts in these areas, but people who work in the field. They are the social workers, the financial experts, the crime experts and the police. We hear those suggestions and write amendments based on those ideas. That is the way this place is supposed to work.
However, the government is saying that in 99.3% of those cases those experts are wrong and the government is right. It will not change a period, a comma, not a word in any of the legislation. Then lo and behold, time and time again, the legislation is challenged in the courts successfully. The legislation does not fix the problems identified and costs Canada and Canadians billions.
We all remember well Bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill that would allow the state to look in on the Internet searches and emails of Canadians without any warrant. The government decided in its vigour for its tough on crime agenda that it would pass a law that said that at any point, at any time, Canadians anywhere could have their BlackBerrys and iPhones tapped by the government, that web searches on home computers could be looked at by the government and the police. There is no country in the world, outside of Iran and North Korea, that would even consider doing this. The Conservative government thought it was a fantastic idea. In trying to argue the case, it said that if we were not into exposing our Internet searches and our emails then we must be in support of child pornography.
Has any more offensive or stupid an argument ever been made on the floor of the House of Commons? It is offensive to basic civil liberties and decency, to the role of members of Parliament trying to do our jobs and to the Canadians who said that they were not sure they wanted the government looking at their email?
I look at the member for Yukon right now. I do not know what he is searching and I do not want to know. It is his privacy to look on his computer and do as he sees fit. That is a civil liberty I am sure he defends as well, but not his government.
Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill, was the flagship. The government rammed it all into one bill and said that it was such important legislation it would shut down debate on it too. Then whole sections of the bill were taken out. Why? It was because they were unconstitutional.
Now we know where that all comes from. Canadians actually pay for a service. Many members of Parliament may not know this, but when a government introduces a bill it goes to constitutional legal experts to determine if the new legislation goes against our constitution, our foundation as a country? If it does, it is a good idea to modify the law to ensure it does not get challenged in the courts, which costs upwards of $3 million to $5 million to taxpayers every time there is one of those challenges. The government did not check on Bill C-10. We know that because the people who work for the Government of Canada, who do this work, are no longer receiving references from the government.
The government is not even asking anymore. It is choosing ignorance. This is incredible. It is saying that it does not want to know whether the laws it writes are constitutional, whether the laws it writes as a government are for or against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is incredible. This is not a mistake. It is by intention. Therefore, we have these lawyers sitting in their offices, being paid every day, waiting for the government to refer the bills it introduces here to ensure they can survive a constitutional challenge. The government does not ask anymore.
Bill C-38, the first omnibus bill and Bill C-45, the second omnibus bill, were both challenged in the courts as unconstitutional. First nations are challenging it. I need to address this because the government House leader mentioned two bills that are being moved, so-called, on behalf of first nations. They are Bill S-2 and Bill S-8. One is matrimonial property rights. It sounds pretty innocuous. Most Canadians would say that matrimonial property rights for first nations women on reserve maybe protects their rights. Who is opposed to it? It is not just us in the opposition, but aboriginal women, every first nation women's group in the country. My friend across the way shakes his head, but I can show him the testimony that says the bill is no good for aboriginal women.
However, the Conservatives know better. With their shameful record on aboriginal rights and title in the country, suddenly they know better than aboriginal women, than first nations women. Bill S-8 is a bill to help first nations have clean drinking water because the record has been shameful.
Government after government has failed first nations communities. Thirty-five per cent of the people I represent in northern British Columbia are in first nations communities. The water conditions there are incredibly bad. We have to do something about it. There are fixes and there are ideas coming from those communities.
Instead the government moves the bill, handing all responsibility down to first nations in terms of cleaning up their own water mess, but none of the resources to do it. Are first nations supportive of it? No. Nor would any municipality or any province in Canada be supportive of legislation that rams down responsibility without any of the support, money or help to get that done.
Most of these first nations communities are living in abject poverty. Where does the government think they are going to get the money from? The government will not settle treaty with them in the west. First nations are having mining, oil and gas exploration and pipelines put everywhere and are receiving none of the royalties, none of the compensation and the government will not move treaty forward.
I was just in Gitxsan territory, speaking with the Gitxsan and the Wet'suwet'en, talking about basic child services, kids who are being abused in their homes and setting up a program that the federal government said that we should enact 20 years ago to allow first nations more rights and responsibilities to rescue those kids and help them kids integrate back into their communities.
Who is not coming to the table? The Conservative government. This is the government that on Bill S-2 and Bill S-8 suddenly said that it had first nations rights and title and priorities at heart, when it did not.
The place can work. Members can sense a certain amount of frustration in my voice, because Parliament can work. It is actually designed to work. I love our system. It is so superior to many other systems I have studied around the world, that have consistent congressional gridlock on legislation and on budgets. We can make things happen here.
However, with the power that is afforded a majority government, which is a lot, comes a certain amount of responsibility to use the power wisely and not abuse it. Yet time and again we have seen the government House leader and other ministers get up and say that they are not looking to limit the debate; they just want to control it. They reject virtually 100% of all the amendments and all the changes and suggestions they hear at committee because they know better and they have the votes to push it forward.
It is at such a point that the control has extended deeply into the government's caucus. Some of the more socially conservative members of the Conservative caucus are no longer free to speak, or are only free to speak on certain things, in certain ways, if the Prime Minister's Office allows for it.
In a small program that we run in northern B.C., initiated a number of years ago, I hold a conference call with all the detachment commanders from all the RCMP outposts that exist in my riding. It is a very large riding facing a lot of tough, difficult situations with policing. Once every two or three months I get on the phone with 12 detachment commanders and we talk about what is going on. We talk about what is happening in crime, what the drug use is like, what legislation is moving through the House that will help or hinder these hard-working, hard-serving officers.
I am not allowed to have that conversation with these RCMP officers anymore. I am not supposed to talk to them. As a sitting member of Parliament, I am not supposed to go to them. A number of them have come to me because they are friends and we have known each other for years. They offer good, on-the-ground advice about what is happening.
They say that they are sorry, that they cannot talk to me. They tell me that I have to phone the Prime Minister's Office in order for them to talk to me about what is going on in Prince Rupert, or what is going on in Dease Lake or Bella Coola.
It is insane. This is wrong. Government officials at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who I have known for years and who I phone just for an update to see what is going on with our fish on the west coast, tell me that I am a member of Parliament from the opposition and that I need to phone the people in the Prime Minister's Office and that they will give me permission as to whether they can tell me what is going on in Canada's fishery.
This is not their government. This is not a Conservative government. This is Canada's government. We pay for these civil servants. We pay their salaries to do work on behalf of Canadians. Whether it is silencing scientists, shutting down access for members of Parliament to basic conversations, or shutting down debate in Parliament, the consistent voice from the government is that it will not be held to account.
This is bad. This is not just about the privilege all members of the House need to do their job. The government says there is some urgency, but there is not. There is no urgency when it comes to the government's mandate or agenda.
It is very strange for the government to say it is very open, when we see what is going on in the Senate.
We have senators like Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau. All current senators have potentially stolen money from Canadians. These are the same senators that the Prime Minister says are very good people. These are the same senators using money from the Canadian people to travel during an election and raise money for the Conservative Party. That is the new Conservative Party. I do not understand.
I remember the Reform Party of Canada and some reforms that Mr. Manning wanted to make. With the current party, it is the same story as with the Liberal Party and the Gomery commission and all the rest. I am both angry and sad.
The majority of Canadians did not vote for this government, which has a majority, but does not have the majority support of Canadians. Close to 60% of Canadians voted against this agenda, against this sort of arrogance. They voted not to have the kind of government that now uses brutal tactics, not against the New Democratic Party, but against Parliament.
Lastly, I think we need to have a referendum, which may not happen until the next election.
It bears some comment, not only with respect to the Senate scandal but even the motion today.
I watched the government House leader and the Prime Minister on television earlier. He actually allowed the media into his caucus room for a second, which was bizarre. The bully turns into the victim, that somehow this is put upon them, that they are somehow being victimized here.
What frustrates me is not just the work that we have to do as parliamentarians that is constantly thwarted by the government at committee stage, and my friend laughs, but how can it be possible that 99.3% of all amendments were rejected? The evidence is clear.
My friend can shake his head and laugh and treat this with disdain or heckle out what seems to be a favourite tactic of some of my friends who cannot win the debate, but can simply sit in their seats and heckle, yell and try to put down a comment that hurts a little too much, that being that 99.3% of all amendments were rejected, that the witnesses were all wrong, that the government was always right and that the courts must be wrong too. Soon the Conservatives will call them activist courts like the Republicans do in the states. Members should watch for it because it is coming.
We believe this motion is fundamentally flawed in its abuse of this place and of all members. I do not speak just for the New Democrats or the folks down the way. I speak for the backbenchers who have been rubbing up against some of the limitations. What is sad about most of it and is most concerning is those who are not agitating against the Conservative government's control over its backbench and accepting it. I lament the most for those who are so comfortable reading the script from the Prime Minister's Office and repeating it like robots, feeling that is their work and whose expectations of what it is to be a member of Parliament are so diminished that they simply accept it, not those the media have called rebels who have stood up and stated that they want to have their own statement but the Prime Minister's Office has shut them down. They run under the blue banner, which is their choice.
I lament for those who seem so happy to get up and repeat the mindless dribble that is put to them by the Prime Minister's Office day after day. When they first ran for office, I wonder if they said that they wanted to be a member of Parliament to represent people and get to Parliament to speak with a strong voice of conviction on behalf of the people they represent and that in order to do they would read whatever was put in front of them by the Prime Minister's Office, written by a 24-year-old intern who types out some sort of nonsense and makes up policies that the NDP does not have, making personal attacks on a regular basis as a substitute for honest and sincere debate? Was that really their expectation?
I wish I had some video evidence from some of those early debates because I know that is not what those members ran on. I know their nomination meetings did not look like that, nor did any of the debates they attended during the campaign. That is not what they said. They said that they would speak on behalf of their constituents, fight for them and still raise their voice, even if that meant it was contrary to what their government suggested.
I am sure that is what my friends across the way said. They are very nice people. I know a lot of these folks, as we have spent some time together. I know some of their inner thoughts about the way Parliament ought to be, and some of them lament it. However, it is the ones who do not who worry me. They are the ones who so comfortably slip into that straitjacket day after day. Maybe they just get used to it, but they are able to rationalize that there is some larger agenda that is more important than their having an independent and free voice.
They can keep yelling and you can allow them to if you wish, Mr. Speaker, but the truth often hurts, and the truth of the matter is that with a majority government, this member and his colleagues have chosen to vote for closure more than any government in Canadian history. With a majority, the Conservative government has refused the evidence, has refused the science time and time again, and that government is bad government.
The Conservative government appointed senators, and I am sure some fundraising went on for some of my friends. Maybe Ms. Wallin, Mr. Duffy or Mr. Brazeau came by and raised a few dollars, shook a few hands and got a few votes for my friends. Maybe there is a little bit of a tarnish on my colleagues, which is why they are calling out and why they are worried. It is because their base hates this. They hate the idea of entitlement and of an insider's game that goes on in Ottawa all the time, and that friends of the Prime Minister's Office get some sort of special treatment.
Talking about special treatment, how about a $90,000 personal cheque just cut off the back and handed over to somebody who may have defrauded taxpayers? Where is the Reform Party now? Where are the original Conservative intentions now? They are gone, bit by bit, eroded piece by piece. That is where it has gone, and it has all been subjugated to some idea that there is a better and bigger cause, that this grand scheme they are involved in somehow makes all of it justifiable.
Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, what these guys would sound like if the roles were reversed? If it were a Liberal government with senators getting cheques from the Prime Minister's chief of staff or a New Democratic government acting the way the Conservatives act, could you imagine the hue and cry and the calls for resignations every second minute? They would be losing their minds.
Now the Conservatives play the victim, saying that these senators were put upon them, that they didn't know what they were doing, that it is terrible. They only have a majority, both here and there. The Prime Minister has appointed more senators than any Prime Minister in Canadian history. How many did he say he would appoint? None, but he had to appoint some, and then it had to be justified. These are small and slow slippages, and this motion is a continuation of that.
This motion says that Parliament matters less and that those Canadians who have grown cynical about the role of MPs are justified in their cynicism. We say that is wrong. How do we turn to the young voters coming up? How do we turn to people who come to us and say that they might want to run for office one day? How can we say that their voices will matter when the government moves motions like this time and time again, shutting down debate?
As my friend the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development said, the Conservatives do not want to shut down debate; they just want to control it. Is this is how one entices people into a life of politics? Is this how one encourages young people to vote? Do we say, “Welcome to Parliament, where we are going to control debate and shut it down time and time again”? This is the Conservatives' call to action.
It is not a call to action, but a call to inaction. It is a call to cynicism. It is calling to people, “Do not look over here; nothing is happening here in government. Go on with your lives and other things that are more important and distracting.” The government is counting on people to have an attention deficit rather than realize that the decisions we make here in Parliament every day affect Canadians in every way.
If members of Parliament cannot do their work, as this motion suggests, and hold the government to account, it is bad government. It is bad government when it cannot find $3 billion that may be under a mattress or in a banana stand or wherever it happens to be, and when senators rip off taxpayers with no consequence whatsoever. We think the RCMP might have a role to play here.
What would happen if any of the Canadians in our gallery today or watching on TV defrauded the Canadian government of $500? They would get charged. However, if it is a Conservative senator, what happens? Oh, they just recuse themselves from caucus. Wow. They still get paid, they still have all of their privileges, but they cannot go to caucus meetings on Wednesday mornings.
Mr. Speaker, do you think that maybe that punishment is a little severe? I mean, having to recuse oneself from a two-hour meeting on Wednesday morning for defrauding taxpayers—boy, that seems pretty harsh.
Why the double standard? We used to call that the culture of entitlement. I remember a colleague of mine in this place, Ed Broadbent, asking a former Liberal minister who became head of the mint and was claiming packets of gum and coffee on his receipts, “Are you entitled to your entitlements, sir?” This person took a moment of authenticity and said, “Yes, I am entitled to my entitlements.”
The Conservatives railed at the Liberal entitlement, the culture of entitlement, the Gomery inquiry and all those terrible things that went down.
History repeats itself if one is not a student of history, and it seems that the Conservative Party has not looked at the history of this place or of other parliaments.
The fact of the matter is that debate in and of itself is not a bad thing. The exchange of ideas is not in and of itself a bad thing. Being wrong from time to time is not of itself a bad thing; learning happens in those moments, and the government needs to learn, because I can read off the list of the bills it had so fundamentally wrong that it had to withdraw them. The Conservatives had to say that they got it so badly wrong because they listened to none of the amendments that they have to fix it now, at the very last minute, or wait until it gets to the Senate and let the unaccountable, unelected and under investigation senators deal with it. That is no form of democracy worth defending, and the Conservatives know it. They know it better than most.
I will move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after “Fridays” and replacing them with the following: “(b) when oral questions are to be taken up pursuant”—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Nathan Cullen: Mr. Speaker, my friends have not heard the motion. Maybe they do not understand it yet. How could they? They have not heard it yet.
Allow me to finish—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!