House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on Bill C-43 at second reading. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

An act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 1.30 p.m. the House will now proceed to consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

November 30th, 2001 / 1:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

moved that Bill C-218, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it has been a long time since I have had an opportunity to formally speak on this bill in the House of Commons, although I have been giving it plugs throughout my three year career.

Bill C-218 would allow the voters and our constituents a little more power over what we do in our lives and would allow a little more democracy in the House of Commons

In essence, if a member of parliament is elected as a member of a recognized party and during the mandate of that parliament decides to cross the floor to another political party, for whatever reason, and his or her seat becomes vacant, a byelection would be called in the constituency. That individual would have to run in the byelection to allow the constituents to decide whether he or she should run under that other political banner.

I have had many consultations with many people in my riding and throughout the country about this and they believe this to be a very fine piece of legislation. The reason why it is so important is that it will make all parliamentarians more accountable to people, people who put their faith in their elected officials to represent their interests in the House of Commons. When people choose to vote for members, they believe they are voting for people who belong to a political party with specific ideology.

I ran for election as a New Democrat. I told the ladies and gentlemen of voting age in my riding that this was who I am and this was what I would do in the House of Commons.

During my term of office, if I decide, for whatever reason, that I can no longer abide by the principles and policies of the party, or have a falling out with my leader or for a variety of other reasons, and feel I would serve the best interests of my constituents by being a member of another party, then I should not make that decision alone. I should go back to the constituents in a byelection and tell them that I am now a Tory, or an Alliance, or a Bloc or a Liberal member and ask them to vote for me on that premise. That is accountability and that is democracy.

Many Canadians have a jaundiced view of members of the House. In the last federal election 40% of eligible voters did not vote. Millions of Canadians have said they do not care who we are, or what we do or what party we belong. They simply have a very jaundiced view. That is unacceptable.

Canadians must be given the right to approve or disapprove of the actions of their member of parliament. That is called democracy.

Some may wonder why I am bringing this bill forward. The fact is the NDP has actually gained members over the years. Since our party's inception, we have lost four members of parliament to other parties, but we have gained nine in the process over time. Since 1867, 137 members have crossed the floor.

I have heard people say outside the Chamber that byelections would cost too much money. In the last parliament one member was given a Senate posting and another one was given an international posting. Both were Liberals. There was no hesitation to call byelections in Quebec for those members seats. There were no worries about the costs at all. In fact, the current heritage minister stepped down a few years back on a point of principle, ran again in a byelection for the same seat and was re-elected at the cost of about half a million dollars.

The government did not seem to be too concerned about the cost of those byelections, so it should not be very concerned about the cost of a byelection when members of parliament decide to do something that their constituents may question.

It is not that difficult to understand. We are elected to represent our constituents. We are held accountable by our constituents.

I have to admit that when I first came here I was extremely naive on this whole issue. When the member for Burin--St. George's was a Conservative, he sat in our fisheries committee and lambasted the Liberals every chance he got.

One day I awoke and there he was at a press conference with the hon. member for Gander--Grand Falls. All of a sudden he was a Liberal, just like that.

That is when I introduced the bill. I asked my House leader how easy it was to do that. He said I could do that within an hour. If members go to another party and it accepts them, bang they are in. Not once do they have to go back to their constituents to ask them. Not once are they held accountable. Only at the next general election down the road is that the case.

That is political opportunism at the worst. We get paid very well for what we do. It is an honour and a privilege to be in the House of Commons. We should never ever abuse the rights and privileges we have from our constituents and never be perceived to be doing that. Perception is extremely important. If we cannot set examples for our constituents there is no other place in the land that it can be done.

It is quite clear that our constituents, in fact Canadians around the country, are asking us to be more responsible and to be more accountable. They are asking us to listen to them and bring their concerns to Ottawa. They do not like flippant answers. They do not like members of parliament who take advantage of the situation. They do not like political opportunism and they do not like political cheap shots either. They want the House of Commons to work together for the benefit of all Canadians.

It is simply unacceptable when members of parliament cross the floor to another political party when they ran against that party in the general campaign. If they feel they must do it, they should go back to their constituents, run in a byelection and let them decide if they are good enough to fly under another political banner.

That is responsible democracy and that is what we should be doing in the House of Commons. I could not believe when I brought this issue before my peers on the votable committee that it was not even deemed votable. In fairness to all the other bills and motions that were put forward, not one was deemed votable.

If any bill in the House of Commons should be votable, it is this one. If members of parliament are shy or nervous about talking about their individual responsibilities to their constituents, they really should not be here in the first place.

When I first became a politician I realized, as well as my other 300 colleagues in the House, that everything we say and do can and will be used against us in the court of public opinion. When we do something of this nature like crossing the floor to another political party it is a very serious decision. Some political parties win and some political parties lose, but the ones who really lose are the constituents in the voting public. They are the ones who say there goes another one and ask what else is new.

If we are to encourage the other 40% of Canadians who currently do not vote to come back to the ballot box to vote for their representatives, this piece of legislation would assist in that matter.

There are other questions about if members of parliament have a major falling out with their party whether they can sit as independents. Absolutely. Individual members of parliament, in the event of very moral decisions on issues such as capital punishment, abortion or whatever serious issues arise, may have a very serious or moral reason for not supporting the party position. That may put the individual MP in a bit of jeopardy with other concerns of that party. Then the individual should be able to sit as an independent.

It would also allow the leaders of political parties the opportunity, if a member of parliament all of a sudden decides to become a one person show or a bit of a renegade and very disruptive of their political parties, to force the person to sit as an independent.

The reality is that we ran under a political banner. There are three reasons we are sitting here today, why we were elected. The first is the leader. The second is the party and the other is the individual. We could argue about the percentages that are allotted to each one of those but those are the three reasons we were elected. If members cross the floor they basically tell their constituents that they do not honour two of them. That is simply unacceptable.

I encourage the House and all members of parliament to look inside themselves and go back to their constituents to ask them if they support this type of legislation, because I have and they do. If I go back to my riding and I tell my constituents that I am a New Democrat, a Liberal, a Tory or an Alliance or a Bloc member, would my constituents say that they do not mind? I tell members to ask them. I can save them a lot of time. They can do this by making this bill votable so we can stand in the House to debate the issue.

We could have had two extra hours yesterday to do it but we took a little nap. We had a little siesta here yesterday. We had a wonderful opportunity to debate this very important bill.

It is incredible that the bill is not votable. I will be asking at the end of the hour to make it a votable item. I encourage all members of parliament who will speak to this bill not to think just of themselves. They should think of their constituents, the taxpayers who pay our salaries and benefits for us to be here. Members should think of the constituents whom they represent.

To the nth degree I honestly believe that all members of parliament are here to represent their constituents under a certain political banner. If for whatever reason they cannot fly that political banner, they cannot fly that flag anymore, that is understandable. It happens. However members should have the decency and the honesty to go back to their constituents and ask them if they have the right to do that. The best way to do it is through a byelection.

If members did that, they would know if they were right. They would know that they had the backing and the trust of their constituents. They would know that they are being open, transparent and democratic. The reason we are all here is for democracy. That is why we represent Canadians in a democratic manner.

If a member uses political opportunism, if he or she tries to play with the rules of the game, it simply will not be effective. The member needs to tell his or her constituents “I can no longer abide by the principles of this particular party. I am going to cross the floor, but folks, you are going to have the final say. I am going to run in a byelection, put my name under a new banner and you will decide”, not the member of parliament.

Members are to be held accountable at all times by their constituents. It does not matter whom we are with or where we are from in Canada. The end game is responsibility to our constituents. That is the key to this debate.

I look forward to hearing what my colleagues from various parties have to say about this issue. We can be proven right. We can get more people back to the ballot box. We could be held in a better view by our constituents if we made this bill votable and gave it speedy passage.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague from Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore. This is an issue that merits debate in the House and I agree with him on that.

I am not necessarily in agreement with making it votable. My colleague has raised the debate but there are a lot of issues here. If we went back and looked through the history of this place, I suspect that every political party in the House has had members who have crossed the floor. I would not have named the bill the floor crossing bill. I would name it anything but that.

However, for lack of a better name, the bill has to be called something. Floor walkers and all kinds of other analogies can be drawn from that. Certainly we could not use those analogies in this place.

A number of things are problematic with the principle. We must raise those issues and questions. It hurts for a political party to lose one of its members, for a member to lose a colleague or for any party in this place to lose one of its colleagues. We have been through that. It is difficult and hard to accept.

Yet at the same time should we take away the rights of the House to recognize a member who is duly elected by the constituents of a riding in Canada to represent those constituents? As much as we may like to think otherwise, there are many factors that affect each of us being elected to the House of Commons: the ability of the individual, the political party he or she runs for and the political climate of the day.

The reality is that most of our constituents do not belong to a recognized political party. Most of our constituents vote for a political party most of the time but not all the time. If only 2% of Canadians belong to and are affiliated with political parties that is not saying the system is wrong. It says that all Canadians do not participate in the political party system. Not all Canadians are members of the PC/DR coalition, the New Democrats, the Liberals, the Alliance or the Bloc Quebecois. That is a fact we have to deal with.

For members of the House to tell members of parliament duly elected by their constituents that for reasons perhaps beyond their control they cannot cross the floor becomes an ideological issue. They may not agree with the ideology that the party has accepted or has perhaps changed.

The NDP went through that this past weekend. What would happen if that party changed its name? Would we expect all members of that political party to stand down and stand again for re-election if its name or constitution were changed? I somehow do not think so. That would not be responsible action as members of parliament.

I recognize the angst and the anger caused when members of a party move to another party. As difficult as it is to say, I also agree with those individual members having that right. We do not have the right to control the thought processes of a person's mind.

There are a number of other issues. The member spoke about consultation, openness and transparency. The member spoke about parties and MPs and how they stand for re-election. The reality is that every member of parliament who crosses the floor, if they run again in another election, has to stand for re-election. They are judged by their peers and by the people they represent. Whether or not they made the right decision to leave one political entity for another does have a judgment day. It may not be that week or that month but a judgment is made.

Another statement made was that everything we say and do will be held against us in the court of public opinion. It also may be held in our favour in the court of public opinion.

I have sat in this place with colleagues who have crossed the floor. I understand the bitterness that arises from that but somehow or another we hopefully have to rise to a higher level. An individual member of parliament who moves from one party to another and accepts that party's values, its leader or its ideology, and who runs again, is judged again. We cannot nor should we control that.

The member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore made the statement that 137 members have crossed the floor. I would judge they were all held accountable for their actions. Only their constituents and their immediate electorates have that right.

The other question that arises is how we account for other political systems and other jurisdictions. We work on a first past the post jurisdiction. I have heard many of my NDP colleagues in the House praise the idea of proportional representation. With that system members of parliament could be appointed to this place. I was always of the opinion that proportional representation had no place in the Parliament of Canada, yet when we look at that process and talk to people from other countries, especially the Scandinavian and European countries such as Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Germany, they all have proportional representation. It is a matter of thought. To be honest, if we had proportional representation in the House today we would not have a majority government. We would have a government that would be much more reflective and would more closely represent the thought processes of the general public in Canada.

If we had proportional representation, could we apply that process? I would argue that it would not be fair to apply that process because now we have members who may belong to a political party but are appointed by that political party to the position they hold.

I am not trying to trivialize the member's presentation. I recognize why he brought the bill to the House but I would hope that it is not brought back to parliament again. I hope we can debate it and put it to rest.

It is important for members of parliament to not only stand for our political parties, our positions and our jobs, but we also need to recognize that it is always, although it is argued by the parties that lose a player, opportunism when members cross the floor. Sometimes it is a personality conflict and sometimes it is a real issue which the member of parliament simply cannot accept.

In closing, I will summarize some of the points I have made. We are all elected to this place, not by political parties but by our constituents, and they always have the opportunity to judge us again.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, first, to put things in a proper perspective, the bill introduced by the NDP member asks us to think about something important. It forces us to think about the nature of the trust relationship that exists between those who elect us here to represent them, and what happens when members change parties during their mandate.

This raises a very relevant question as to whether the meaning of the vote is altered. Are voters hurt when they vote for the candidate of a political party and, once here in Ottawa, that candidate decides to join another party?

Under the proposed bill, a member who leaves his party could only sit as an independent. If he wants to join another political party, he would have to face voters by running in a byelection to get re-elected under the new banner.

This gives us something to think about and the bill has positive elements.

There is a problem in that the public is now very cynical about politics. I am one of those who believe that elected representatives play an extremely important role in society, and that includes the role of parliament and the legislative branch. Therefore, it is in our interest to do our best to restore a degree of confidence. This is one aspect, but it is not the only one.

One criticism that we often hear, even if it not necessarily a personal one, is that “politicians are all basically the same”. When people see members change political parties, this tends to prove them right. I know that some members here did so just before the last general election, but they were members from Quebec. And that is true.

There are people who say “Yes, but someone who does that should have to face the voters anyway”. This is true but, in the context of a general election, there are so many factors which come into play.

We know that the leader, the party, the ideology, if any, are important factors which influence which party people vote for, and they are not necessarily able to pick a particular individual, as would happen in the case of a member who decided to change parties in the middle of his mandate and who would have to answer to his constituents.

I think that this raises a very important issue. All the comings and goings before the last election really bothered me. People give the impression that all they are trying to do is get re-elected, that they are checking out which way the wind blows just before an election and saying to themselves “Ultimately, with which party do I stand the greatest chance of getting elected? That is the party I will join and try to increase my chances”. These people know very well that many other variables come into play in a general election besides what the candidate has to offer in a riding. So they think they might come out on top this way.

In this regard, I can only be sympathetic to the idea that a way must be found. Is this the best one? I do not know. But at least it has the merit of showing that there is a problem and that it must be resolved.

There are other problems. Because I can also understand those who leave a political party at a particular time. It can happen, for good reasons, that an elected MP leaves a party because they feel that it is not honouring the commitments it made to the public. An MP who is a member of a political party but no longer feels comfortable in that party and feels that it is not living up to its mandate might feel the need to leave it.

From there to joining another party is another dimension entirely. During election campaigns, when I introduce myself as a Bloc Quebecois MP and my main adversaries in Quebec are from the Liberal Party, I can hardly see myself saying part way through my mandate that I have suddenly had a change of heart and am becoming a Liberal. I would understand if my constituents were to be extremely skeptical and cynical about me if ever I were to do such a thing. And this has happened.

One may think that some parties are very similar. Ideologically, some are closer than others. For example, on the Canadian right, the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance, even though there are some differences, are not that far apart. One might assume that crossing from one to the other would be somewhat more understandable. It would be less of an about face than if a Canadian Alliance member crossed the floor to sit with the Liberals or if a Liberal member joined the Bloc Quebecois.

I would really like the Quebec Liberal members to join the Bloc Quebecois but, at the same time, it would raise the issue as to whether it was the only mandate they got from their electors.

The bill says that when a member resigns, he or she may sit as an independent. They may go as far as to announce that during the next election campaign, they will be running for another party, but for the time being, they will belong to no other party than the one they ran for.

On the other hand, let us not be hypocritical; we must realize that when it comes to ballots, people say “Yes, but it is members that we elect”. How many members here would like the name of political parties to be removed from ballots? Not many. We like to know people can identify the party we belong to.

In Quebec, at the provincial level, even if it does not concern us directly, there is one party, the Action démocratique, which adds the name of its leader on the ballots to make sure people can identify the party properly.

In my riding, when people vote, they vote for Pierre Brien, Bloc Quebecois MP. The two are indissociable. They are a single entity. I cannot image myself saying “Well, I have changed my mind and I am going elsewhere”. If that were ever the case, it seems to me that the people need some other recourse than just to say “We will just wait another three or four years”. This raises that issue.

There are other variables as well. For example, improving the democratic process or the connection of trust would mean that many other variables will have to be addressed as well: the very nature of the MP's role, the real power of an MP, the omnipresence or heavy control of the Prime Minister or the executive over all of parliament.

Even if this may seem a bit theoretical, when it is reduced to such practical dimensions as the imposition of votes along party lines and the like, it gives rise to some serious reflection which might lead to a review of the way our political system operates, with its rather surprising resistance to change. As far as the public is concerned, they appear to be ready for major change. When people are in power, however, they are not much tempted to want to see change, because they came to power under the existing system.

I know that in his bill, the hon. member could not espouse all causes at once. He focused on one specific object. I believe, however, that it would be worthwhile for us as members of parliament to have a repository for such ideas.

Parliament cannot pronounce specifically on this bill because it will not be votable, but I believe it would be a good thing if we did not lose sight of this idea and were able to discuss it within a framework in which everyone would address improvements to our political structures. I know that some are, for instance, in favour of a proportional vote system. I have a number of reservations on this, but I can understand people wishing to raise ideas of this kind.

Why not debate this, why not have some sort of forum where we could put these issues out on the table and involve members? Many groups outside of politics do this. It is as though we, those of us in politics, refuse to discuss these issues, even though we do have opinions. I am sure that most members are able to discuss these issues in a non-partisan manner. The same can be said for the democratic system. Regardless of the options before us, everyone agrees that there are some problems and that there is a way to improve the existing system.

In closing, this is about turncoats, people who cross the floor to other political parties. I am pleased that the New Democratic Party member had the courage to bring up this issue. Even if, in fact, his party has already had members switch, one way or the other, he is telling us that there is a problem with this type of situation.

Let us try not to see that in partisan terms, to look at the latest movement between parties and who was involved. Let us look at this generally, let us look at the principle, what it means in terms of our democratic values. I hope the discussion will not conclude at the end of this hour and that we may have other occasions on which to debate it and propose other measures in order to improve the variables, such improved representation of women in politics. I know there was a conference in the region yesterday that looked into the matter. It is a very relevant one and important question of what we must do to ensure that parliament better reflects society.

We need not look long to see that very often cultural communities and groups are under-represented. Women are the most obvious example. While they represent 50% of the population, they barely represent 20% of the population of our political institutions. You might say this is true in other sectors, but we are working here to improve the political system. If we are to continue to do so, we must look at these avenues and topics.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the NDP member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore for bringing forward this private member's bill. It brings a good debate to the House.

It is unfortunate the bill is not votable. I believe, as do a lot of members in the House, that all private member's business should be votable. The Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary over there is working hard with members of the House to work toward that. It would be interesting to have a vote on issues like the one we are debating.

It has been interesting sitting here listening to the debate. I was thinking of all the people who have been here during my career in politics. I remember Paul Hellyer leaving the Liberals to join the Tories. I remember Pauline Jewett, a member of the NDP party who joined the Liberals. Some NDP members today may be too young to remember Ms. Jewett.

Other parties have had the same changes. In the last parliament Tories went to the Liberals and to the Canadian Alliance. In this parliament members of my party have gone to sit as independents. I will talk about that a later.

It is a tough decision. Most members of parliament probably think we are the reason we are here. The reality is that few of us would be here if we did not have the support of the party for which we ran. People tend to vote for that.

I have watched pretty good people get defeated. They might get elected once as an independent like John Nunziata. He ran on an issue and his constituents supported him, but in the next election they quickly left him and went back to the party of their choice.

As important as members may think they are, they should realize this. Their egos might tell them they are more important than their party, especially after they have been here a while. The reality is that the party is the most important thing.

I respect the rights of individual members of parliament to change parties if need be, if they think that is what their constituents want. I imagine there are not many who have done that without first sitting with people in their constituencies to discuss their thoughts and why they were doing it.

The member of the Bloc talked about members switching. His party would probably not be here if it had not been for some Tories who started that movement. Byelections would not have been the way to start that party. It started because of the real feelings of members of parliament who could not get along with whatever they could not get along with.

We have to respect the tradition in this place that members have the right to make these decisions. The voters at the next election would be the ones who decide whether a member made the right decision.

The summary of Bill C-218 reads:

This enactment provides that a member's seat in the House of Commons will be vacated, thus precipitating the calling of a by-election, if the member, having been elected to the House as a member of a political party or as an independent, changes parties in the House or becomes a member of a party in the House, as the case may be, at any time during the term for which he or she was elected. A member's seat will not be vacated, if the member, having been elected as a member of a political party, chooses to sit as an independent at any time during the term for which he or she was elected.

The principle is similar to a former Reform caucus policy involving members wishing to cross the floor and join a party without losing their seat. It would reduce the temptation for members to experiment with other parties. If members were to jump to another party they would need to be sure they had the support of their constituents, otherwise their careers would be cut short.

The people who elect members to the House have a fundamental right to reassess their support if the member crosses the floor. It could be argued that this opportunity would take place at the next election. Not only electors would be allowed to express their opinion, but the party could do so as well. Through a candidate selection process the party would be given the opportunity to accept or reject the crossing of the floor.

Crossing the floor is part of our history. It is sometimes cause for procedural debate in the House. Our practice accepts members changing parties. Sometimes a change occurs voluntarily when a member simply crosses the floor. Sometimes it is involuntary and involves double crossing.

The confusion over our most recent crossings in the House may be properly compared to cross-dressing. Like gender identity disorder, some members of the House have party identity disorder. Politically it is no longer clear if they represent the right or the left. I am not sure how the bill would address such dressers. It is not always clear if they joined another party.

I am talking of course about the status of the PC/DR coalition. The PC/DR claimed party status as a party of 20. The speaker ruled it was a group of eight independents and a party of 12 and could only be afforded the resources to which a party of 12 was entitled.

How would Bill C-218 treat members of the DRC? Technically they are independents so no byelection would be required. Ethically DRC members, particularly those who were once Reform members and believed in this principle, should support subjecting themselves to a byelection. They were elected Alliance members and are now trying to be recognized as a separate party while working in a coalition with another party.

Another question that needs to be answered is how the bill would deal with Reform Party members who became Alliance members in the last parliament. They technically changed parties, but I do not think the intent of the bill is to cause over 50 byelections to take place as a result.

These are the issues that are important in Bill C-218. I will use the cost to the taxpayer as an example. In the last parliament over 50 members changed parties. If we had forced a byelection in all those areas it would have been at great cost to the taxpayer. We must think carefully about the ramifications of a bill like this one if there is major political change. We may see it happening in the country now. It happens once in a while to a great degree.

I thank the member for bringing the matter to the House. It is an interesting debate and one that deserves discussion. I hope in the future we can have a vote on something like this so it can go to committee and we can work together.

That is what parliament is all about. We are here to work together for the benefit of all Canadians. Sometimes certain members feel the urge to do something different. It is a good debate for the House to have. It is unfortunate there will not be a vote on it.

Let us remember that we are here because of our parties. Crossing the floor of the House of Commons is a serious decision, but it is the right of members to make that decision after consulting their constituents.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Leeds—Grenville
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak today to the bill which provides that a member who wishes to cross the floor of the House of Commons to join another party must vacate his or her seat so a byelection can be called.

I thank the member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore for his interest in the matter and for his interest generally in matters of parliamentary reform. He quite rightly pointed out that this place was sometimes viewed with jaundice by the general public.

We all have a responsibility to look at the rules and procedures of this place and the methods by which we arrive here to see if we cannot constantly improve them to engage and re-engage with our constituents.

We finished a debate after question period on some technical amendments to a bill. The debate essentially turned into a discussion and a spin of what the government business was yesterday in terms of having a two hour break where there was no business before the House.

Members stated some of the facts, but the fact that they did not give the whole story leaves people with the wrong impression. They said we adjourned for two hours and that we have adjourned early nine times.

That is true, but we have added hours to debates in a number of cases. I do not know how many take note debates we have had to increase the opportunities of members to speak. In this case we offered the opposition a take note debate on the bill but it refused.

Parliament of Canada Act
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I can understand the government's excessive and obvious defensive positioning regarding the waste of time yesterday, but--