Mr. Speaker, I am glad you told me about the time constraints on my presentation, because you know me well and my history in this place. I sometimes find it difficult to clear my throat in less than eight and a half minutes, but I appreciate the heads-up on that.
I must first congratulate my colleague, as I have done before, and I mean this quite sincerely. Any time any person in this place brings forward an initiative to improve the functioning of this place or to try to improve the functioning of our democratic process, that individual should be applauded. I applaud my colleague for bringing forward this legislation, which has sparked more discussion than any other private member's bill I can recall, and I have been here for close to 11 years. That speaks to the impact the contents of the bill will have on average, or at least typical, Canadians.
When the bill was first introduced, prior to the amendments, I received phone calls, letters, and emails from people, not only within my riding but throughout western Canada, encouraging me, in some cases, to support the bill. Some would merely query me as to how I would be reacting and whether I would be voting for or against the bill and asking for my rationale for the vote I would be undertaking.
I cannot recall another private member's bill having that much impact, causing so much discussion, and creating so much attention. On that alone, I sincerely congratulate the member, because if nothing else, he has brought to the attention of a lot of Canadians what private members can do, what members commonly known as backbenchers can do.
There is so much criticism of our democratic process. There is so much criticism these days about how this Chamber operates, and that criticism is usually targeted toward centralization and party leaders, or in some cases, the centre, having too much influence over how members operate and vote and over what they say in this place.
To have a private member's bill that has sparked so much discussion and interest throughout Canada speaks to the fact that individual members who are not in cabinet, who are not in leadership roles in opposition parties, have the ability to enact positive change. More than anything else, that is the benefit this legislation will have, and that will be the legacy of the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. The member has demonstrated quite clearly to members within this place and to members of the general public that the power of one exists, that the power of individual members, whether or not they are in cabinet or in leadership roles, is still absolute. I will not go further than that.
This is a powerful piece of legislation the member has brought forward. It speaks volumes about the ability of individual members and what they can do if they have an idea that would improve the functioning of this place and democracy. I hope more members take this into account when considering private member's bills they may want to bring forward in the future. Kudos to my colleague.
When the bill was originally brought forward by the member, I had some concerns. My primary concern was that in its original form, caucuses would have the ability not only to cause a leadership review to take place but to determine the fate of a leader. I had great difficulty with that. My point then, and still is today, was that if party memberships elect a leader, they should have the ability to get rid of a leader or to at least review and vote on whether they want that leader to continue. That was my primary concern. The amendments brought forward by my colleague are certainly measures I can support now.
I was very taken by my colleague's words when he said that perfection is sometimes the enemy of the good. What he was actually saying is that he has discovered and has worked toward the art of the possible. I think my colleague is quite correct. In its original form, I do not believe the bill would have passed Parliament, but there is so much good in the original bill and this revision that it should pass Parliament.
I will point out a couple of things in the bill that, in my personal view, are excellent. One is the ability of caucuses, if they choose to adopt the suggestions contained in Bill C-586, to vote for the caucus chair. I have long held that belief. I believe that as members we should have the ability to determine whom we wish to see in that chair representing us. I think that is an excellent suggestion, one I will wholeheartedly support and encourage my colleagues to support.
The other point that I think is extremely well-intended and makes for a very, very solid bill is the ability of caucus members to determine if one of their caucus colleagues should either be expelled or re-admitted to caucus. I think every party in this place has had members of their caucuses who have left, sometimes for different reasons.
Looking at my colleagues across the floor in the the official opposition, since this Parliament was first elected in 2011, there have been six members of the NDP who have left their caucus, sometimes voluntarily, and perhaps sometimes with a little encouragement, shall we say.
In our party, we have had a number of examples as well, but the point is that many times there are issues that we have within caucus. Those issues in large part remain private, but if they were serious enough to the point where caucus members themselves believed there should at least be a discussion on whether the admissibility of a caucus member should be in question, they should have the right to do so.
I do not believe that it should be the unilateral right of a leader to make those determinations. Certainly, the opinion of party leaders will play a great role in that determination, but ultimately I believe that members of Parliament in all caucuses have the intelligence and the ability to make that determination themselves.
I have been in caucuses where we have seen caucus members leave. I have also been in caucuses where I have personally known that some of those members would like to have been re-admitted, but there was no method for me or other caucus members to have a say in that process. The bill deals with that, and I think that is a very, very positive aspect of it.
I will just say in conclusion that while I agree with my colleague and my friend that the bill may not be perfect, it is a step in the right direction, and I strongly encourage all of my colleagues throughout the House to support the bill because, as my colleague quite correctly pointed out, it is perhaps the first step in an ongoing series of reforms that will improve the functioning of this place. If that is the case, then his legacy will be forever enshrined as one of the great movers of democracy in our country.