House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments. As she mentioned, she has been an MP for 15 years. She has seen more than one government do things that are harmful to Canadians.

What is interesting is the argument about the number of hours of debate and the number of witnesses that have been heard in committee. It is somewhat difficult to make a comparison because there is nothing comparable. In fact, this is the first time that we have seen a bill of this scope, that would make so many changes to such unrelated aspects of society. As the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands said, it would require months and years of work to implement this bill and to put in place the institutions that are such a part of our identity and of the work we want to do.

What we all need to remember here is that it is not because we are not willing to work. However, we are wondering why the government is extending the hours of the House to ram through this bill, when we could be out there listening to the comments that are still being made about how this bill is bad for society.

I would just like to allow my colleague to speak a bit more about this in order to show the extent to which the NDP, unlike the government, has consulted the people who will be affected by the changes.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is entirely correct. The NDP went to extraordinary lengths to hold budget hearings, both here in Ottawa and right across the country.

When we realized that the government was intent on just pushing this measure through at any cost, we decided that we had to get out there and hear from people, and we did just that. We got a huge response from people, and I think it has helped to generate people's awareness about this bill and given visibility to what is in the bill.

I agree with the member that this is not an issue of whether we come here at 10 or 11 o'clock at night. We have shown on so many different occasions, whether on back-to-work legislation or in any debate we have had, that we are totally engaged in doing our work in this place. We take it very seriously.

What we are responding to with this motion is the intent behind it. I think it is just an illusion that somehow we are going to have more debate on this particular bill and other pieces of legislation.

This is all about creating space to then allow for more time allocation. Let us make no mistake about that. We absolutely know what the number is and we know what is going on here. I want to say very clearly that what we are calling for is substantive debate, not only of Bill C-38 but also of the other pieces of legislation that may come forward, so that we can have a thorough oversight and investigation into all of these elements, particularly in Bill C-38.

This is the most important thing that we should be doing, and the government has absolutely refused to respond to it.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I stand to speak to this motion, a motion by which I am not totally surprised. One could have anticipated it, given the record of the government and its inability to negotiate in good faith.

Let me start by saying that I do not have a great deal of legislative experience here in the House of Commons, but I do bring with me quite a bit of experience from the Manitoba legislature. I like to think that a lot of the principles are the same. There are different issues and so forth, but I have a fairly good understanding of the principles of how a chamber works and how House leaders should be working with each other to try to get through legislative agendas. I have been doing it for 20 years now.

I would like to focus my first few minutes on the fact that we need to look at why we are in the situation we find ourselves in today. The government, more than any other government, has set a record on time allocation. It brings in time allocation in order to pass its legislative agenda. It is almost becoming standard process, as opposed to sitting down with opposition parties.

The Conservatives present their legislation to the House. They pick a bill, wait a day and then bring in time allocation in expectation that it will pass. They do not have to consult. I think that is some sort of pent-up anger from the minority days or something of that nature, and we are seeing a very irresponsible, anti-democratic Reform Conservative majority government that has been destructive to process inside the House of Commons.

I have worked with majority government in the past, when there were NDP House leaders and Progressive Conservative House leaders. On all occasions, I have had the opportunity to sit in the House leader's office or in a committee room, and the government members will say, “Here is what we are looking at as a legislative agenda. Here are the important bills that we want to get passed over the next number of months”. Opposition members will then say, “We want to have x number of hours of debate on this particular bill because it is controversial legislation and we feel it needs to be debated. It has a higher priority for debate.”

The point is that there is a sense of cooperation to make sure that what is taking place on the floor of the legislative assembly, or in this case the House of Commons, is being debated fairly.

That is not to say I have never witnessed closure of some form or another inside the Manitoba legislature. That happened, and whether it was the NDP or Progressive Conservatives, it happened. It is a tool that is there, and I believe political parties of all stripes have at times had to go into that tool box.

However, more often than not I have witnessed agreements to go into extended sitting hours, and that is what this motion is all about. House leaders say they need more time to get something passed, but what has amazed me in my year and a half in the House is the lack of goodwill, the lack of trust coming from the government side in terms of trying to get things through the House of Commons in a fair and appropriate fashion.

I can recall the Canadian Wheat Board legislation that was put through in this session. This huge piece of legislation impacted 30,000 or 40,000 prairie farmers. We have a law in place that says that the Prime Minister has a responsibility to ensure a plebiscite for the farmers. The plebiscite is still in the court process, but the government brought in legislation that it expects MPs to pass without the farmers even having the plebiscite, a right that the law in essence guaranteed them. It guaranteed that they should have a vote because of the changes to the wheat board.

We in the Liberal Party opposed what the government was doing. We opposed the fashion with which it was bringing in legislation. What did the government do? As it has done 20 other times, which is a record, the government brought in time allocation. It has brought in time allocation 25 times, I believe.

What does time allocation do? In essence, it prevents debate and allows the government to rush through legislation. By doing that, the government is doing a disservice to Canadians and it is not respecting the House.

I do not know what the tradition has been—three, four, five times a year?—but I do know that no other government has brought in time allocation 25 times in one year. That has to be record. It could be a Commonwealth record, as far as I know. That is what is wrong with the Conservative government.

I am not fearful of sitting until midnight. I have sat around the clock before. I have sat in committees before.

The government House leader says we have had eight or ten hours of debate. This is a budget bill, and we are spending over $250 billion. The Manitoba legislature had 240 hours of line-by-line debate on estimates to spend $6 billion. That was only on a $6 billion budget at that time. Those 240 hours have been reduced somewhat, and the amount of money that the province of Manitoba spends has changed , but everything has to be put into its proper perspective.

Bill C-38 has been termed the “Trojan Horse” as a budget bill because 70 laws would be changed, amended or deleted, and all through the back door. Is there any wonder that all these little red flags are shooting up all over the place the more Canadians find out about it? Canadians realize that what is happening here is wrong.

It goes beyond the NDP and the Liberals. I saw the YouTube clip in which a Conservative backbencher was sharing with an intimate group of constituents that a number of Conservatives have some trouble with the legislation but that they do not have any choice. I would suggest that there is a choice, and that choice needs to be looked at.

This is unprecedented. The size of the legislation and its profound environmental impact are significant.

The motion we are dealing with does not deal just with Bill C-38. It deals with a wide variety of pieces of legislation. There is no secret here. We know the government's intentions. It is going to bring in more time allocation, because the government House leader has not been able to negotiate. He has not been able to sit down and work things through.

The budget bill would have a profound impact on the environment. Why did the government choose to put something like that in a budget bill?

I do not know how many of my Atlantic colleagues have raised the EI changes in question period to try to get the government to wake up on the employment insurance issue. This is costing industry in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and all over Canada. We have industries that are being put in jeopardy because of what is being sneaked through the back door with this legislation. There would be reforms to EI and pensions.

I have never had as much interest for signing petitions as I have had on the pension issue. Whether here or in my previous life as an MLA, I have submitted a few petitions over the years, but never with as much interest as on the pension issue. Canadians feel very passionate about our social programs. Increasing the retirement age from 65 to 67 is just a dumb idea and Canadians do not support it.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Yes they do.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

A member from across the way says that they do. He better canvass his constituents because it will become an election issue. The Liberal Party will take that issue to the polls.

At the end of the day, the residents of Winnipeg North, and I do not think they are too far off from those in the rest of Canada, are very upset and concerned about the pension issue. They want to have that option to retire at age 65. They believe in that program.

Let us take a look at the micro-scales on the impact of the budget bill.

We have immigration offices that are being closed down, hundreds of CIC workers are being taken out and individuals who are in need of these services are impacted.

We can talk about search and rescue and the impact the budget bill will have on it, with offices being relocated or closed down. There are many different issues.

Earlier today I received some correspondence regarding the Riel House in the city of Winnipeg. Louis Riel was one of the founders of Confederation as far as many Manitobans and Francophone are concerned, but that house is now in jeopardy.

There are so many issues that are related to Bill C-38. We have to look at all the other issues. The government House leader said, the Conservatives had other legislation that they wanted to get passed, and he then started to list off more legislation. We welcome the opportunity to debate and have proposed legislation go to committee.

We are interested in those important issues on which Canadians want parliamentarians to work. It was the Liberal Party that first raised the issue in last fall's session that the number one priority for Canadians was jobs, jobs, jobs. Unemployed people are concerned about being able to provide for their family and themselves. We have recognized the importance of the economy.

We are prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that we move forward in a positive way and that we let the government know what the concerns are. Last fall, I spent a lot of time talking about jobs. However, in the last few weeks it seems I have been talking more and more about process because I am concerned about what is happening inside the House. Many may see process as being somewhat of a dull issue, but it is far from that.

This is about democracy. This is about the rights of members of Parliament to really engage in discussion that is necessary, whether it is on the floor of the House of Commons or after a bill passes and goes to committee. We have to ensure that those rights are protected. There is an expectation, and I do not know about other members, I would assume so, that when we knock on doors and tell our constituents we are prepared to go to Ottawa to ensure their concerns are addressed, that we do so. I have always added that I want to bring Ottawa to Winnipeg.

The point is to ensure that the concerns of our constituents are addressed. That is why in this very short of period of time, when we talk about the extension of hours, I raise the issue of the budget and the seniors issue. I can talk about how this budget will impact health care. It has always been a very important issue, not only for residents of Winnipeg North but, I believe, all Canadians. A big issue has always been crime and safety in our streets, something that I have argued may even likely be the number one issue for Winnipeg North in the minds of a good percentage of my constituents, and for just reason. This is one of the reasons why I talk about that a great deal, and will continue to do so.

However, the motion that we ultimately will be asked to vote on is if the House should extend its sitting until midnight for the next period of time. I would feel so much better if the government House leader and the government's House leadership team would work with the opposition House leaders and their teams to see if in fact we could come up with some sort of compromise so Canadians would be served first and foremost.

It is interesting. The government House leader concluded his opening remarks on the motion by saying that we should put Canadians first. This would be a challenge that I would put to him, to put Canadians first.

I was provided with a quote that the government House leader actually made back in July 2005. It states:

A major reason I became politically active was because many in my family...lost their lives, or freedom at the hands of the Soviets or Nazis. I believe our democracy is fragile, and something we must cherish and defend.

This was something he apparently had on a website on July 5, 2005. He was talking about what was a sad day in the House of Commons.

I, like the government House leader, like to think I am a defender of our democratic system and our institutions. I believe it is important that as a House we work together to try to address the important issues of all Canadians.

The House leaders of all political parties inside this chamber play a very important role. If the House leaders do their job, then we are able to have an orderly ending to a session. There will be bills that will be opposed and the opposition will want to voice those concerns. We should not try to tie their hands. We have to allow, for those controversial bills, the opportunity for the opposition members to express themselves. That means not bringing in time allocation as often as the current government has. It means to allow the committees to do the work they need to do so these issues are addressed in a timely fashion.

I look forward in the future to the government House leader working with opposition House leaders in an attempt to have more orderly windup sessions.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4:35 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, I was listening intently to many of his remarks. Since I will be addressing this place in a few moments on the government side, much of what my colleague mentioned I will be addressing as well, particularly the working relationship among House leaders of all political parties. Although I dispute some of the analysis done by my friend, I certainly will speak to the relationship that I believe needs to be a healthy one for a good, functioning democracy in this place.

I want to point out one mistake, hopefully an inadvertent mistake, in some of the comments made earlier in his presentation, and that was about the Canadian Wheat Board. The member for Winnipeg North continues to say, as do many of his colleagues, that the government was obligated to hold a plebiscite before changes made to the Canadian Wheat Board. That, in fact, is not true. Section 47 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act specifically states that if a government were planning to eliminate either wheat or barley from the Canadian Wheat Board, then a plebiscite would be needed. We did not do that. We simply changed the act so the Canadian Wheat Board is now a voluntary mechanism. It controls both wheat and barley. Canadian farmers, being some of the smartest businesspeople in Canada, know that if they will get a better product at a better price by going through the Canadian Wheat Board, they will continue to use it. That is all we have done.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Before going back to the hon. member for Winnipeg North, I would remind all members of the matter that is before the House. The hon. member for Winnipeg North raised this matter and it has been questioned, but I would encourage all members to make comments relevant to the matter before us.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat relevant in the sense that we are now dealing with a motion to extend sitting time. The bill that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons made reference to was in fact a time allocated bill because the government wanted to rush it through.

Having said that, where the member is wrong is that if he were to canvass the 20,000-plus prairie farmers who voted in a referendum, he would find that the vast majority of them believed that they had a right to a plebiscite. In fact, it is in court today. It is not as simple as he tried to portray it. There is a valid argument that thousands of prairie farmers have made that the government did not have the right to bring in that legislation.

It makes my point in the sense that there is legislation that is brought through the House and there will be controversial legislation that has to be thoroughly debated and sent to committee. This is critically important. When House leaders negotiate, they recognize that, but they equally recognize legislation that is not as important, does not require as much debate and will pass through the system more quickly. The key is that House leaders need to be prepared, in good faith, to sit at the table and set a legislative agenda so things can happen in a more timely way. If they cannot do it in year one after an election, they will find it more difficult in the years to follow. Now is the time for us to be trying to build a sense of co-operation going forward.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the comments he just made. I sit on a committee with him and really appreciate his thoughtful approach. The fact is that he does come across as one who wants to find solutions. I heard that in his speech today. This is not about not wanting to sit until midnight or 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. We have done that in the past. I have an incredible capacity to stay up, day in and day out, for quite a number of days and still sound semi-coherent. However, that is beside the point.

The question I have for my colleague who just spoke is: What are some of the key concerns he has with this Trojan Horse bill? What are the key elements that give him cause for concern that have not been debated in as fulsome a way as they should be? We feel that this new process that the government is suggesting is just another attempt at ramming things through rather than a thoughtful debate.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the simple answer is that, instead of being 400-plus pages that affect 70 acts and in some cases delete some of them, Bill C-38, the budget bill, likely could just as easily have been 14, 15, or even more substantial pieces of legislation. That is why Canadians need to be concerned with where the limit is. If the government says it is going to have a “long live Canada” budget bill, that means it could incorporate every piece of legislation it wants to put in in any given year and say it is now the budget implementation bill, and it could affect even more than this one does. It is a very dangerous direction we are going in today with Bill C-38.

What offends me most is that the government somehow accumulated the courage, and courage is probably not the right word on this. I would never have thought it would bring in a bill like this that incorporates so many changes in so many different ways in one bill, a budget bill. I believe it is dishonest and anti-democratic. I truly believe there are a number of Conservative members in the House who would be voting against Bill C-38, if there were a free vote.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Before we resume debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for St. John's East, National Defence; the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé, Canada Revenue Agency; and the hon. member for Western Arctic, the environment.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

4:40 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, it is an honour for me to stand here and debate some of my more learned colleagues on the motion we have before us, which is of course to extend debate until midnight over the course of the next two weeks.

Standing Order 27 is the standing order we are talking about here. I should say that this standing order, of course, has been utilized many times in the past. In fact I recall when we first formed government in 2006. I believe the first opportunity we had to utilize Standing Order 27 and extend debate was in 2007. Since that time we have not had extended debate.

We have not had extended sitting hours for the last two weeks of a Parliament, but that is due to a number of different factors. For a couple of years, 2008, 2009, I believe it was just an agreement made between parties that it would not be required. I also believe there was an implied threat from members of the opposition during those minority government years that, in fact, if our government had brought the motion forward it would have been defeated.

There is a reason why Standing Order 27 was incorporated to begin with, and that is to allow the government of the day to bring forward pieces of legislation in an attempt to get them passed before that Parliament rose for the summer. It is always in the last two weeks of a parliamentary session, heading into the summer months, that this ability of a government to bring forward a motion for extended sitting hours is there.

I find it interesting that members of the opposition, particularly members of the official opposition, the NDP, have stated that they will be opposing our motion for extended sitting hours. In fact I always find that disingenuous on behalf of the opposition members, because they have consistently stated that they want more debate time. On almost every single piece of legislation we have introduced in this Parliament and previous parliaments, the NDP has consistently stated it wants more debate time.

We are now offering more debate time on several bills that are on our legislative calendar, yet faced with the opportunity for increased debate, enhanced scrutiny, the NDP says no. The NDP members do not want to sit the extra hours each and every night to debate bills.

I do not know if we have heard nothing but loose lips talking in previous months and previous years, from the NDP, if in fact it really did not want increased debate all these years, or if the NDP is actually telling the truth right now when it says it opposes the increased debate because it disagrees fundamentally with the government on Bill C-38.

I find it strange that the NDP uses that argument when we in fact have been debating Bill C-38. The opposition obviously has seen enough of the bill to be able to introduce more than 1,000 amendments originally, pared down to 871 amendments.

On one hand, again, we see this disconnect between reality and what the official opposition is stating publicly, and that is simply this: if it did not have enough information about Bill C-38 to begin with, how in the world could it have then brought forward 1,000 amendments? It does not seem to make sense to me that it would have a lack of information about what is contained in Bill C-38 but still have the ability to bring forward more than 1,000 amendments. It must have some knowledge of what is contained in Bill C-38, or else how could it have brought forward any amendments?

We know, of course, that the reality is simply this: opposition members, both on the NDP benches and the Liberal benches, are not looking for more reasoned debate on any piece of legislation that our government has brought forward. They are simply trying to delay implementation of each and every piece of legislation we bring forward.

That is readily apparent, and not only on Bill C-38 but on some of the other pieces of legislation in which we wish to engage the opposition in debate over the course of the next two weeks. There is Canada-Jordan free trade, Canada-Panama free trade and the modernization of the Copyright Act.

All these legislative initiatives were brought forward not only a few weeks ago but, in some cases, years ago. We have been engaging the opposition in debate on some of these matters for literally years, but to no avail. Something I find very troubling is that I hear members of the opposition state that they wish to have meaningful debate and they want to have co-operation with all parties in this place, yet they consistently go out of their way to try to inhibit legislation from passing.

I understand. I get what an opposition does, and I certainly agree that it is there to hold the government to account. I understand that the opposition members' primary function is to oppose government legislation. However, they cannot then say they want to work with the government to bring legislation to fruition if in fact their primary motive is simply to kill the bill, with apologies to Quentin Tarantino.

The government is attempting to bring forward legislation in a timely fashion and to ensure we have adequate debate. However, members of the opposition have consistently demonstrated that they wish nothing more than to delay, obfuscate and do anything in their power, through procedural tactics like hoist bills and other delaying tactics, to prevent our government from passing legislation. That is okay. If that is what they consider to be their primary function in this place, we will deal with that.

However, that is the reason, more than anything else, that we have brought forward time allocation on a number of occasions now. I will also point out to those who may be paying attention to this debate, who are not completely familiar with parliamentary procedures, that time allocation is a function used by many governments in previous years. It is a part of our Standing Order package that allows the government of the day to put a certain time allocation on a respective bill before it comes forward for debate at either second reading, report stage or third reading.

However, I will point out differences between our approach and those of governments in past years, particularly the previous Liberal governments who used time allocation and closure far more frequently than our government and used to have a standard one day of debate on bills that they used to time allocate. Members of this place will know, if they have been paying attention, that is not the approach we have been taking. When we have brought forward time allocation, we have done so in a fashion that would allow for several days of debate after the time allocation motion has been brought forward. Again, contrast that with the previous Liberal government, which would bring forward time allocation motions and restrict the debate to one day and sometimes, as the record would show, to as few as three hours in some cases.

So the only reason we have been bringing forward time allocation on a number of bills is that the opposition members have demonstrated that they will do everything within their powers to delay implementation. If any government is faced with a situation where it has been demonstrated that the opposition will delay and obfuscate to the point of never allowing any legislation to pass, then the government has no recourse and no other option but to bring forward time allocation motions, and that is what we have been doing.

Of course, from a political standpoint the narrative that the opposition members, particularly the NDP, have been trying to weave is that if they can force our government into bringing forward time allocation motions it benefits them politically, by allowing them to stand up in this House and to go to political meetings and say, “This government is restricting debate; look at all the time allocation motions it brought forward”. However, what the opposition members are trying to do is run up the score. They are trying to force our government to bring forward time allocation motions on almost every piece of legislation because it feeds their narrative. That is the reality. Is it good politics? Perhaps. We will find that out.

What Canadians expect of any government is that legislation be passed and that it be passed in a timely fashion. That is what we are doing, more than anything else.

If we look at the number of days of debate, the number of hours of debate, the number of speeches presented in this House on debate with various pieces of legislation that we have time allocated, we would find on average that there has been more debate on a bill-by-bill basis than with any government in the last 20 years. The opposition members do not like that because it is the truth, but if they took the time to actually research what I am saying, they will find it is absolutely true.

We have many new members in this place, so I do not expect them to know all of the parliamentary history, but I would encourage them to please go back and look at legislation that previous Liberal governments brought forward and look not only at how many times time allocation was used but also at closure. I am assuming that the members opposite know the distinction between time allocation and closure.

The reality is simply this, that Canadians expect governments of the day, regardless of their political stripe, to pass legislation, because without that ability, no government can function.

One of the problems in a minority government, which we all saw from time to time, is parliamentary gridlock. We reached an impasse where legislation simply would not pass because of the combined forces of the opposition blocking any attempt by this government to pass legislation in a timely fashion.

Obviously the dynamics have now changed: we have a majority government we are getting legislation through. Yet more needs to be done.

I will give four quick examples of what I consider to be critical pieces of legislation that Canadians would like to see our government act upon. I have mentioned them previously. One is the copyright modernization act, an act that has not been modernized for far too many years. We are on the cusp of finally passing that bill, but we need additional time to do so.

We have two more free trade agreements, one with Jordan and one with Panama, that will greatly enhance our economic ability to create jobs, to create wealth within our country. We need time, however, over the course of the next two weeks to get those bills properly debated and, hopefully, passed.

Of course, we have the pooled registered pension plans act that will provide, for the first time, to Canadians who are self-employed and do not currently have pensions the ability to opt into a pension plan, which will affect hundreds of thousands and actually millions of Canadians.

These are all extremely important pieces of legislation that Canadians want to see passed, which is all that we are trying to do, to ensure that over the course of the next two weeks before we rise for the summer, that at minimum these four pieces of critical legislation are passed.

Do we expect to get cooperation from the opposition? I will not prejudge that; I simply will not do that. I hope that the members opposite who have been speaking today in this debate, stating that they wish to cooperate with the government, are sincere in their comments, but time will tell.

I do want to mention the relationship, as I mentioned to my colleague, my friend from Winnipeg North, that should exist among House leaders. I, too, have been involved with the House leaders management team for the past number of years. In fact, I have been the parliamentary secretary to five different House leaders since we were first elected to government in 2006, and I can assure the members opposite, all members, that from time to time, while there may be acrimony and some hard feelings, I believe that on most occasions the House leaders of all parties, opposition and government together, do work together in a fairly collegial atmosphere.

There will also be times when all opposition parties and the government, through their House leaders and their House management teams, can agree on certain pieces of legislation that can be passed.

I will not tell any stories out of school, or break any confidential pact, because House leaders meetings of course are in camera and are confidential, but I can assure members opposite that I have been involved in previous years in negotiating when sessions end.

I do not want to give the impression to any Canadian that parliamentarians want to get out of here early and do not want to do the work they have been elected to do. However, from time to time, as we get close to an end of a parliamentary session, there is the opportunity for all parties to come together to try to agree on what legislation might be available for quick passage.

It is not uncommon, for example, for opposition parties to come forward during House leaders' discussions and ask what priority pieces of legislation the government has on its agenda. That is code of sorts, quite frankly, for what pieces of legislation the government wants passed before we get out of here for the summer. Maybe we could have some discussion; maybe we could find some common ground, some agreement. It has always worked well and I anticipate, or at least I certainly hope, that this opportunity over the course of two weeks will not disappoint me and that we will find common ground again.

I particularly want to point out that I agree with a comment by my friend from Winnipeg North a little earlier, that surely to goodness there could be the type of relationship among House leaders that allows for some legitimate debate on the length of time that bills need to be debated. I have had this conversation with the House leaders of both the Liberals and the NDP in months and years past. In a perfect world I would love to see a situation or the type of dynamic in play where on a relatively normal bill, a non-controversial bill, we could agree on an average length of debate. If we could agree, whether it is five days or ten days or so many hours, that would be the standard we would try to hold ourselves to.

Obviously there would be times where legislation that any government introduced would be opposed vigorously by the members of the opposition. We have clearly seen some of those in this session of Parliament, such as on the long gun registry and the Wheat Board, and there will be others. I can understand that, and I believe that the opposition members understand that those are the types of legislative initiatives where the opposition and the government will never find common ground. That is okay. That is the nature of democracy; that is the nature of Parliament. In those cases though, I still think that we could find some common ground to agree that if we are going to encounter vehement opposition, then what is a legitimate timeframe we can put on that debate. Perhaps it would not be as short as some of the more non-controversial pieces of legislation, but can we at least find some agreement to limit debate after a certain period of time, if we know that we will never find agreement between the opposite sides of the House?

That has been attempted. At times it has proven to be successful. I would like to see more of that type of dialogue between parties. However, where we cannot bridge that impasse, then we will find that the government has to use the levers at its disposal. We have been doing that, but I believe we have been doing that in a judicious manner.

I invite comments from opposition members to see if there are ways they would suggest for us to find even more enhanced co-operation between all parties in this place.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

June 11th, 2012 / 5 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened attentively to the hon. member's presentation, with some admiration for his experience, his eloquence, and his ability to pass off half-truths as the whole truth. What more evidence do we need than this extension of sitting hours that we are being asked for? We are now being asked to believe that, finally, additional time is being allowed for debate in this House. But the list of bills that we are going to have to study keeps getting longer.

Let me do some simple calculations for those who are watching. Imagine we have one hour to debate one bill or two hours to debate five bills. In my opinion, the math can be done quite quickly, and everyone understands quite well that what is actually being proposed is once more a reduction in the time in which to debate each one of the bills that the government wants passed before the summer recess.

However, I am ready to listen to the proposals for a possible compromise on the amount of time allowed for various bills. I feel that there would be more chance of that if we had the feeling that we were listened to on at least one occasion. But really, that is extremely rare.

Is there a specific proposal on the table?

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

I am not sure, Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite feels that I have been speaking in half truths and trying to portray them as truths, and if he is willing to listen to anything I might say.

The reality is this: how can the member opposite say that the number of bills and the opportunities for debate are going to decrease when in fact we are increasing the hours per day for the next two weeks? We are proposing an extra five hours per day for the next two weeks. It seems to me that that would allow for more meaningful debate and more opportunities for compromise, or at least for some agreement. Frankly, I find it astonishing and quite confusing that the opposition would stand and say it is opposing increased hours for debate when it has in fact been saying for the last several months that it wants more time for debate.

There is a disconnect. I cannot see how it could possibly be bridged other than if the members of the opposition recognized what is known to all Canadians, that they are simply trying to delay legislation and not work together.

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of quick comments and then a question.

First, I cannot resist commenting with regard to the time allocation debate. It is important to note that when the Liberal Party was in government, time allocation did not occur immediately after the introduction of bills, but often days after bills were introduced. When we take a look at the number of time allocation motions, I suspect that the entire Chrétien government, in its 10-plus years, did not bring in time allocation more than the Conservative government has in this last session since it acquired a majority. I am going to push that to the side right now.

The member offered a challenge. I love the idea. How do we pass, in a timely fashion, controversial legislation? Other jurisdictions, as an example, say that a controversial piece of legislation has to be introduced x number of days into a session and if it is not introduced before that time, time allocation is not allowed. Members have to make sure that it is done far enough in advance of the session winding down, for example, and then a minimum number of hours are established for debate before time application could be applied.

The point is that if there is a will among the House leaders and the House leadership team to sit down and negotiate in good faith, bills can get through the legislature, even the controversial ones, in which—