House of Commons Hansard #54 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was french.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

November 25th, 2011 / 1 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to the NDP motion. And quite sincerely, I am especially pleased to speak since it directly concerns your role, Mr. Speaker, which you fulfill so well out of respect for your title in the House. I am a new member. I have the advantage of a fresh outlook, and I can say that I truly appreciate the work you do.

I have a quote here from May 2, 2011: “We must be the government of all Canadians, including those who did not vote for us [I would like to repeat that last part: “including those who did not vote for us”], and that includes the great Quebec nation.”

That is an excerpt from the first speech the Right Hon. Prime Minister, our current Prime Minister, made as the leader of a parliamentary majority.

That was how he felt on May 2, after years in opposition and years of leading a minority government. And now here we are, just a few months later, having to defend the idea of the opposition's right to speak in the House.

I would also like to quote an excerpt from an excellent column that was published in Quebec in La Presse on November 23, 2011. It does a wonderful job of expressing the opinion of a very large majority of Quebeckers and likely Canadians as well:

...sometimes, when a leader reaches his goal [in this case, a majority in Parliament for the current Prime Minister's party], blind partisanship gives way to some magnanimity [lending a compassionate ear, let us say], a word that apparently is not in the vocabulary of...[I will not quote directly, since we cannot use the current Right Hon. Prime Minister's name in the House] and his key ministers.

Do not forget that this government enjoys a majority in the House, but it was elected by only 39.6% of Canadians (16.5% in Quebec, a province particularly badly crushed by the bulldozer).

When, on the night of his victory, [our hon. Prime Minister] declared that his would be a government of all Canadians, it was apparently just empty words devoid of any real intention....

The column used the Prime Minister's last name followed by the words “the bulldozer”.

That is what the columnists who are by far the most popular among Quebeckers are saying in black and white, without mincing words. The same thing is happening in English Canada. We should be worried that things have gotten to this point and that something like this is happening in a democracy as old as ours.

It is all caused by a problem involving overuse of what is called the “gag order”. Before digging more deeply into the problem, I would first like to correct a statement by the government, which is inaccurate to say the least, in response to our motion today. It relates to Bill C-13.

I would simply like to point out that the bill is to implement certain provisions of the budget. We are not postponing passage of a budget, this is about implementing it. Bill C-13 was introduced on October 4, 2011. Contrary to what some of my colleagues opposite have said, we have not been delaying passage of a budget since the throne speech in June. That is simply not the case. We were questioning an extremely important document. One of my colleagues has said it was as thick as a phone book. It was only introduced on October 4. The budget is 644 pages long. There have been only seven days of debate in the House and there was time allocation at each stage. There was time allocation at second reading, at report stage and at third reading.

It is completely incorrect to use this example when we look at what has in fact happened and the very proper behaviour of the opposition, which was simply asking for more time to discuss the 640 or so pages of the budget.

Let us come back to the main problem. The government has the unilateral power to invoke rule 78 concerning time allocation. This is where we have a problem. Canadians already have a democratic deficit.

With our first past the post electoral system, we can end up with a House like this one, where 60 % of Canadians find themselves represented by a minority of members in the House. So we have a serious democratic deficit that has been corrected in a number of modern democracies. I could talk for 25 minutes on this subject alone, so I will not dwell too long on it.

This means we are stuck with this flawed poor first past the post system which distorts the results. What is left for the Canadians who make up that 60 % and more? There is only one thing left for them: the right for their representatives, who have been relegated to a minority, to speak, to introduce numerous suggestions by motion and to be heard. If we take away the very essence of the very little bit of what is left of democratic rights in the present system, we have to wonder what will remain of democracy in Canada. It is as serious as that.

Gagging the opposition seven times in a short time span means gagging six Canadians out of ten, seven times in a few months. If we still think that the government is a responsible government, that the House is a House of representatives, gagging this side of the House seven times means gagging six Canadians out of ten, seven times in a few months. I would like to hear it, if a single one of my colleagues opposite disagrees with this perception or this view of democracy. Can they rise in the House and say that if the opposition is gagged seven times, that is not the equivalent, in the present situation in the House, of gagging six Canadians out of ten, seven times in a few months?

The gag was applied in the case of Bill C-18 on wheat management, a foundation of the economy, a foundation of Canadians’ food supply, which is a somewhat important question. The gag was applied twice. The gag was applied in the case of Bill C-10. It was even done in committee, even in that separate kind of place where we are supposed to be able to hear experts and speak with them. Even there, the gag was applied. And we still have to point out over and over again in the House that Bill C-10 is opposed by the Canadian Bar Association, by the lawyers’ organizations in all provinces and by a majority of the provincial governments. And the gag was applied.

I want to come back to the speech by the Right Hon. Prime Minister about governing for all Canadians. He had a perfect opportunity to prove that between his words and his actions, there might one day be some consistency. We moved a very simple motion more than six times to introduce a Bill C-10A on everything to do with sexual assault against minors. The House would have stood up the next day and adopted the motion. Those six motions were never once considered by the current government, led by a prime minister who began, on the first evening of his first-ever win as a majority government, by saying he would govern for all Canadians.

The first definition that appears after a simple little search on the Speaker's site is as follows:

To ensure the orderly flow of business, the House of Commons observes parliamentary rules and traditions, both written and unwritten. It is the Speaker's duty to interpret these rules impartially, to maintain order, and to defend the rights and privileges of Members, including [the first right mentioned in black and white] the right to freedom of speech.

What the motion is calling for is quite simple, Mr. Speaker. It is to give you this responsibility, which is part of your role, and to give you more powers. We are not playing with something here that does not exist in other countries or inventing a very complex democratic mechanism. We are simply saying that the role of Speaker is indeed to be impartial—a role that the current Speaker is fulfilling very well in the House—and that we are all giving him the role to address this antidemocratic abuse of Standing Order 78 to gag debate to no end, and to ask why there needs to be a gag order.

We have to ask if there are excellent reasons to gag debate and why the government should quickly silence the official opposition, which, in our system, represents the majority of Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Jonathan Tremblay Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his speech. At 11:35 a.m. today in question period, the member for Beauce said it is very important that bills be studied thoroughly. I wonder if my colleague could comment on that statement. Why does this government seem to have so many double standards?

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for raising this particular issue. I would like to quickly read a quotation that is even more to the point:

After limiting debate in the House on the first day of debate, after limiting committee hearings to two days and giving witnesses 24 hours notice, the government now informs us it wants to make a major change....Will the government admit that it should properly consult Parliament, affected parties, experts and Canadians...?

Who said these words of wisdom? It was none other than the current Right Honourable Prime Minister on December 8, 1995. How is it that this was so important in 1995, yet it is so trivial now? Our colleagues across the floor are the ones who should be answering that.

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let us just make sure we get one thing straight here.

While the NDP members are complaining that they are not given enough time to debate a piece of legislation, they are not really interested in debate. Their motive and their rationale is to try to defeat government legislation. That is it.

They do not want to debate; they just want to kill the bills. They have tried to kill so many bills, Quentin Tarantino would be impressed. That is what NDP members are attempting to do here.

I would simply ask the member, does he not think that over 100 speeches and over 50 hours of debate on bills like Bill C-10 is adequate?

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague even more for raising this issue than the previous issue. It is absolutely absurd to claim that having a debate on a bill would be useless simply because the opposition is likely to vote against it. To take that reasoning a little further, why do we not just shut down the House of Commons tomorrow and be done with it? We could play a recording that simply repeats, “Canadians gave our government a strong mandate for the economy” and we could all go do something else. If we take that reasoning a little further, Canadian parliamentary life would look a little like what I just described.

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order.

It being 1:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the motion.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the division stands deferred until Monday, November 28, 2011, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you see the clock at 1:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Opposition Motion—Closure and Time Allocation
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.