Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to challenge our moving to the orders of the day this early in routine proceedings, a procedure that seems to be used habitually by the government when it is poised to close debate on important issues.
In this case, the government has already limited debate on the third reading stage of Bill C-26, which is scheduled today. One day is the minimum number of of days that can be allotted under the Standing Orders, and the government House leader chose as that one day, the shortest day in our calendar. I will not take up more of the House's time on that point before I get back to my procedural intervention, but I do want to say one thing. The House expected more than a minimal effort from this so-called new tone government House leader and we are very disappointed.
Back in the spring, the government moved and adopted motions to proceed to the orders of the day four Wednesdays in a row, skipping over all rubrics of routine proceedings. That was done on April 20, May 4, May 11, and May 18. Most recently, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons moved such a motion on Thursday, November 17, and today the government is proposing to do it again for the sixth time.
I would argue that the government House leader is continuing where her predecessor left off in misusing this procedure. I refer to a Speaker's ruling on April 14, 1987. In his ruling on a similar matter, the Speaker stated:
Routine Proceedings are an essential part of House business and if they are not protected the interests of the House and the public it serves are likely to suffer severely.
He referred to a ruling of November 24, 1986, in which a motion having the effect of superseding a number of items under routine proceedings was inappropriate and excessive and was disallowed. However, the circumstances on April 14, 1987, were dramatically different and the Speaker allowed the government to move its motion.
I will compare those circumstances to today's circumstances and let you, Mr. Speaker, and the House draw its own conclusions. The Speaker observed that the opposition was significantly obstructing the progress of Bill C-22. He noted that seven divisions took place prior to the introduction of the bill, most of them resulting from the moving of dilatory motions under routine proceedings. Fourteen more divisions, with most of them again resulting from the moving of dilatory motions during routine proceedings, took place before the bill reached second reading on December 8, 1986. The bill was referred to committee and reported back to the House on March 16, 1987, after 24 meetings and 82 hours of debate. Numerous amendments were proposed at report stage and the House debated those amendments for four days.
On April 7, the minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs gave notice of time allocation. Unlike the opposition in 1987, we have negotiated openly and honestly with the government. Since this Parliament began, only two dilatory motions have been moved by the opposition. In contrast, five such motions have been advanced by the government. Today will be the sixth. The Speaker in 1987 noted that in the British House of Commons, the Speaker has the power to refuse a dilatory motion if he believes it to be an abuse of the rules of the House. He also noted that the Speaker is empowered to allow them if he believes they are justified.
In comparing Bill C-22 in 1987 and any bill the Liberal government has proposed to the House in this Parliament, the opposition has not given the current government justification to proceed in this manner. The scale of obstruction in 1987 was extreme according to any standard, and only under those circumstances was the government permitted to move its motion. The government should not be allowed to routinely skip over all rubrics during routine proceedings without just cause.
As Speaker Fraser pointed out, routine proceedings are an essential part of House business and they should be protected as a vital component that serves the interests of the House and the public. There is no moral ground or rational reason here for the government to proceed in this manner. Speaker Fraser, in his 1987 ruling, added:
It is essential to our democratic system that controversial issues should be debated at reasonable length so that every reasonable opportunity shall be available to hear the arguments pro and con and that reasonable delaying tactics should be permissible to enable opponents of a measure to enlist public support for their point of view.
Clearly, the 1987 case involving Bill C-22 demonstrated unreasonable delaying tactics. This House has never seen such delaying tactics, and the government has never experienced this sort of sideshow from the opposition. The government's problems are self-inflicted and are not due to the opposition. The government has had the privilege of working with a generally co-operative opposition in this Parliament and has frittered away that goodwill. It has foolishly squandered it through its mismanagement of the House, mean-spirited tactics, and its minimalist efforts to make Parliament work.
While the government house leader was marketed as new, we now discover that we did not get “new and improved”.
Mr. Speaker, I ask that you consider my arguments and not allow the government to move its motion to proceed to the orders of the day until it has at least demonstrated that an unreasonable obstruction has taken place.