Mr. Speaker, this is indeed a very interesting debate. It is particularly interesting because of the apparent hypocrisy of the position that the current Prime Minister is taking.
I used the word hypocrisy once in deference to the Chair. I used that word because on one side of the coin our current Prime Minister would like us to believe that this is a brand new government. He is a brand new Prime Minister with a brand new cabinet and a brand new approach to politics in Canada. Everything is completely brand new.
We are supposed to forget that under Jean Chrétien we had 10 years of an oppressive government that rammed things through the House and consistently whipped votes. For people who are not familiar with parliamentary language, that simply means that backbenchers were treated like trained seals. They were told how to vote. We are told to forget that.
We are told that the 10 years that we had under Jean Chrétien, which had very questionable parts to them, belong to the old Liberals. The new Prime Minister is brand new; everything is new. Everything is fresh such as new Tide or new Ultra or whatever the soap of the day is. Yet the Prime Minister turns around and says that he wants to recycle all of the bills or have the opportunity to recycle all of the bills that were passed in the previous two sessions.
In the previous two sessions these bills that went through the House of Commons were whipped bills. Backbenchers were told how to vote and they voted obligingly and obediently, notwithstanding the views, wishes, desires or direction of their constituents. Their constituents did not matter. It was because the Prime Minister at the time, the former House leader, who spoke a few minutes ago, the finance minister and now the Prime Minister, as one of the senior members of the government, told them how to vote and to heck with the constituents. The bills were just forced through.
The government wants to turn around and use this reinstatement legislation to pick and choose which of the bills from the old regime it wants to bring into this new regime. The government cannot have it both ways. Either he is a new Prime Minister, and he has a new cabinet and a new agenda, or he is a retread. He is simply digging back into the past into what he himself has said is a discredited past. The government cannot have it both ways. I find this absolutely astounding.
We have learned, and certainly I have learned in the 10 years that I have had the privilege of representing the people of Kootenay—Columbia, that the Liberals are masters at managing the news.
The government has a fairly heavy day coming at it tomorrow. The Auditor General will be reporting how much taxpayers' money was actually slid through to the supporters of the Liberal Party. We know that the national news media is in something of a frenzy at this point. I can pretty well guarantee, whether it is Global, CTV, CBC or the A-Channel or any other network, that the lead item on the 6 o'clock, the 10 and 11 o'clock news will be the Auditor General's report.
Why then would the government not take advantage of the fact that it will be the big issue tomorrow, as indeed it should be--certainly with the kind of abject waste and mismanagement, and in some cases criminal activity that occurred under the previous administration--and not just slide this closure through at that point? It is a very neat trick. The Prime Minister knows that the Liberals will be paying a dear price tomorrow, as they darn well should, and so he says “Why do we not just get this through?”
Is it not hypocritical on one side of the coin to say that he is new, that his cabinet is new--almost as though we had gone through an election for people who consider themselves to be the naturally governing party in a general election--and then turn around and say that he is going to take some of these old bills that have been passed?
We noted that the government under Jean Chrétien made use of time allocation 75 times and closure 10 times. That is a parliamentary record, as my colleague from Surrey pointed out. The Liberals used it 85 times to stifle debate in the House of debate, where I and the rest of the members have an opportunity to represent the views, wishes, desires and direction that we get from our constituents when we are home.
However, in spite of that, I point out that the former Prime Minister at least had the decency, such as it was, to wait a year and a half before he moved his first closure motion. I should point out, Mr. Speaker, and you may possibly have noted, that when Prime Minister Mulroney moved closure and time allocation, there were many opposition Liberal members who raised an awful howl and it was the worst thing in the world. Well, the former Prime Minister and the former House leader who just finished speaking eclipsed anything that Mr. Mulroney did.
The current Prime Minister has waited one week. We recall that in this chamber, exactly seven days ago following the Speech from the Throne, following this all new detergent that had occurred in this chamber, this all new Prime Minister and this all new party was starting afresh. And one week later, not a year and a half, he is bringing in closure.
The Prime Minister, in bringing this motion--and it does come fully with the approval of the current Prime Minister, let us be clear--has basically done more to drive the democratic deficit problem, to which he keeps on referring, deeper down and embed it further in this place than anyone in the history of the House of Commons.
The fact is that, as I believe my colleague was just pointing out with respect to the gun registry, on one side of the coin the Prime Minister says that he will empower all the backbenchers. What a revolutionary idea. My goodness, he must have come across the same thing that I did, and that was an advertisement showing Preston Manning, the then leader of the Reform Party, saying “Who does this seat in the House of Commons belong to?”
Our whole campaign, as the Reform Party in 1997, was around the issue that I, my party, all of my colleagues, and the leader of the day--and subsequently our party policy--would represent the views, wishes, desires and directions of the people of Canada from our seats. He must have seen the same advertisement and thought to himself, “My, what a great, revolutionary idea”. It took him seven years to find it, but he trots it out and says that he will allow free votes in the House of Commons.
The next day he was asked by my very competent colleague from Yorkton what he would do about the gun registry, the gun registry that has blown away $1 billion when it was only to cost $2 million, the gun registry which the government actually has ended up penalizing and registering law-abiding citizens, but on the other hand it will not register sex offenders. He was asked what he would do about that. Clearly we know there are people who are representing the views, the wishes, the desires and the direction of their constituents; there are people on the backbenches who want to do the right thing and abolish this crazy boondoggle gun registry, so the member asked the question.
It did not take the government a week to flip flop on that one as it has on closure. No, it took the government a bit less than 24 hours to flip flop on that one. Now when people come around and say that the member for Kootenay—Columbia and the member for Brandon—Souris have been around for 10 years, and would it not be nice if there were a government member on their side, then at least they would be getting proper representation, they should not believe it, because the Liberal backbenchers will continue to be whipped into shape.
I believe it was the House leader I just saw in news reports saying, “Actually, probably what the Prime Minister was referring to was that we could have free votes on private members' business”. How shallow is that? Unless the government decides that it will cherry-pick from private members' business, as my friend from Surrey has pointed out, and actually extract pieces of private members' business and put them into its own legislation and claim them for its own--and gee, that is something I have never heard of the Liberals doing before--unless we are talking about that, private members' business basically is nothing more than the ability for private members to give the government a bit of a push.
This is revolutionary. We will now have free votes in the House of Commons on private members' business. Guess what. We have had that for the last two sessions. What is new? Nothing is new, except in the Prime Minister's mind. He is talking about being new.
Let us take a look at some of the pieces of legislation that we have passed and which he does want to bring in. The one I am thinking of in particular, because I have some familiarity with it, is what is now called Bill C-2. It is a bill that will penalize people who are involved in bringing electronic equipment into Canada for the purpose of getting under the CRTC rules and by getting under the CRTC rules they can then make a profit by literally stealing signal from the providers of the satellite signal that is beaming down on earth.
As we debated earlier in the day, the Liberal approach is to say “Let us penalize. Let us go after them. Let us control it”. What a tremendous idea: let us control electronic innovation; let us control technology. I do not know what planet the Liberals come from. Certainly it does not have anything to do with this century or with the revolutions that are occurring electronically with computers, with satellites, with our ability to communicate. It borders on being impossible even to keep up with what is going on.
The Liberals are bringing in rules to try to control something that is uncontrollable, but it makes them feel better. We need a fresh approach on that bill. The legislation as it is presently written, technologically is simply not feasible.
Let us take a look at another one, the legislation on human reproduction. There was a bill that if there was ever any whipping going on, it would have gone on with that bill.
I recognize that the member is the former House leader and does not speak for the current government. He has raised that bill as an example of bills where the votes of the House of Commons have been done and therefore we should not be turning our backs on those votes. Clearly he has chosen to forget how he, as the government House leader giving direction to the whip of the day, had people quaking in their boots.
I do not know what kind of pressure the Liberals can put on their backbenchers to make some of them certainly appear to me to be voting against their most closely held personal values. I do not know what kind of pressure that is, but it is that pressure that has given us the raft of legislation that we presently have at various stages in the House or at stages in the other place. That legislation was all brought about as a result of a regime that the current Prime Minister claims to reject. He claims to reject it. How shallow is that? It is amazingly shallow.
In taking a look at the procedures that the House has at its disposal, I recognize that the former House leader, the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, is probably a master of those procedures. Certainly he used all of his background and knowledge, his trips around the world and his time at Westminster to put pressure on his backbenchers and to use that kind of pressure within the House to push those bills through.
I therefore wonder how genuine it is for him to say that these bills have been passed and therefore we should be making sure they have the opportunity to be handled. He did not answer the question of my friend from Surrey. When my friend put it to him that this is the first time in British parliamentary history that a new prime minister has simply reached back into an old prime minister's grab bag of bills, he did not answer that question. I am sure my friend noticed that.
With the amount of background, understanding and knowledge that the former House leader has of the historic British parliamentary system around the world, it becomes very clear to me that we have probably hit on something. The new Prime Minister is actually creating history not only in Canada but in the British parliamentary system.
It is absolutely unconscionable that the Prime Minister and the government would bring this notice of closure to the House. It is unconscionable in itself. I am going through the dictionary in my brain and I am not capable of coming up with a word that would be creative enough perhaps to get past the Speaker's excellent chairing of this session. Let me just say I find it unbelievably amazing that the Prime Minister has the chutzpah to turn around and say that he is dealing with the democratic deficit in this way. He is saying that he is new. How can he say that with a straight face? The democratic deficit is real and its dain belongs to the Prime Minister.