Mr. Speaker, before I get directly involved in the debate on Government Business Motion No. 8, I just want to take a minute to offer my sincere and personal congratulations to three first nations on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island for having come together to directly take ownership of their traditional territories when it comes to managing the resources. This has been a long journey in my riding, and there have certainly been some high emotions present on the subject of old-growth forestry. It is nice to see the first nations come together and really take ownership of this issue. I just want to offer my congratulations to them for taking this important step on this journey.
I will now turn my attention to the business at hand. As my colleagues in the House know, we are here today debating Government Business Motion No. 8. This motion comes before us under the authority granted under Standing Order 27(1).
The main government motion aims to make sure that the House can extend its sitting hours. The government side would like to see us continue to sit on Mondays and Wednesdays until midnight and have the Friday sitting extended until 4:30 in the afternoon. I believe my Conservative colleagues want to see the motion changed so that on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays we would only sit until 8:30 p.m.
I cannot continue to speak about Government Business Motion No. 8 without talking a little about the circumstances in which we find ourselves, which gives me sympathy for Shakespeare’s character Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet when he cried, “A plague o' both your houses!” However, in this case, I think we can substitute the Capulets and the Montagues for the Conservatives and the Liberals. Both of these parties are demonstrating no room for co-operation and no finding of a middle ground in order to move forward important pieces of legislation, which I think many Canadians would like to see us pass.
I will start with my Conservative friends, and because of what happened yesterday and what has already happened this morning in the House, we are not actually going to see a vote on the motion before us until Monday, and so we have lost a lot of very valuable time.
Yesterday, the Conservatives were successful at prolonging the Routine Proceedings of the House by forcing a vote to move to Orders of the Day, which, of course, we as a House rejected, and that then finally allowed the government to actually introduce the motion that is before us. However, this morning, they moved a motion to adjourn the House, then there was a debate on a random committee report, which was then followed by an extended debate on a question of privilege. These parliamentary shenanigans, members can see, are very naked attempts to try to delay, and quite successfully, a vote on the motion before us.
I have been a member of the House since 2015, and experienced members should know that this is a time of year when we usually find the time to come together and usually agree in some straightforward fashion that the House does need some extended sitting hours so that we, as members of Parliament, have the time to represent our constituents and to give voice to important polices and pieces of legislation that concern them. I will never not be in favour of allowing my colleagues to have extra time to do work, which is why I took strong umbrage against the motion to adjourn the House today. It is a Thursday, and unlike a Friday, it is a full sitting day. I think our voters would be shocked to see one party wanting to so blatantly quit the business of the House while there is so much important work to do.
I will leave aside the Conservatives and now turn my eye to the Liberals, because I think it is the height of irony and hypocrisy for the Liberals to stand before us and talk about the dysfunction of the House. When we look at what has been happening in several of the most prominent committees, the Liberals have actively filibustered to prevent those committees from arriving at a point where members can collectively make a decision on a motion that is before them.
I am very lucky to sit on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. I invite my colleagues to substitute on that committee to see what a well-run committee of the House is able to do. We have differing opinion on the agriculture committee, but the one thing that unites us all is the fact that every single one of our parties represents ridings with farmers and has strong agricultural basis. We usually find a way to work together by consensus to arrive at decisions in a respectful way. It does not mean to say that we do not have our debates and our points of disagreement, but it is probably the most ideal demonstration of how committees can work.
The actions of the Liberals at various committee by filibustering are adding to the situation in which we find ourselves. I would have preferred for us to have arrived at a place where we could get a vote on Government Business No. 8, but unfortunately we will have to delay that until Monday because of the special orders we are operating under in this current hybrid system.
Standing Order 27, I believe, dates back to 1982, but even predating that year, it does reflect a long-standing practice that has existed since Confederation for Parliament, and I am sure in the provincial legislatures, to seek the time necessary to advance important legislative agendas.
When we look at why we are where we are today, we also have to identify the fact that the government needs to bear a lot of responsibility for the mismanagement of its own legislative agenda. It has left a lot of very important bills in limbo. We are not very sure if the Liberals will have the runway left for them to arrive at the Governor General's doorstep for the all-important royal assent.
We seem to be operating right now under this sort of manufactured emergency. I use that term because if my colleagues look at the parliamentary calendar, we as a House are scheduled to return on Monday, September 20. Therefore, there really is no reason for this panicked rush to try to get these bills passed or sent to the Senate. We should, under normal circumstances, be planning to have a pleasant summer in our constituencies where we get to engage with our constituents and, hopefully, as the lockdowns lift, attend limited participation in community events. Then as the summer draws to an end, we should look forward to our return to Ottawa, to the House of Commons, on September 20, when we can resume this important business.
The reason we are operating under these circumstances right now, which is quite clear to anyone who has the slightest sense of political know-how and what is quite apparent to many skilled observers, is that the Liberals are very much putting everything into place to call an election. There is no matter of confidence coming up except, of course, the votes on the estimates. There is no motion before the House, no budget, except for Bill C-30, which I believe will pass because we do not want to have an election during this third wave, from which we are recovering. The only plausible reason we would be entering into an election is because the Prime Minister will take it upon himself to visit the Governor General unilaterally and recommend the dissolution of Parliament, as the Liberals seek a new mandate. All signs are pointing toward this.
We should have the time when we return on September 20 to effectively deal with a lot of this. We scheduled a take-note debate next week to give MPs who are not running again the opportunity to give their farewell speeches. The Liberal Party has implemented an emergency order so it can hand-pick preferred candidates instead of letting local riding associations democratically go through the process of selecting their own people. The signs are all there.
When I look at the House schedule for March and April, and the government's completely scattergun approach to how Government Orders were being scheduled at the time, there was really no rhyme, reason or logical pattern to the government bills that came before the House. The Liberals are paying the price for that right now. At the time, they should have identified maybe two or three key priority pieces of legislation and put all their efforts into seeing those across the finish line. Instead, they wasted a lot of time on bills that really were not going anywhere. This is why we see this rush right now.
The Liberals have to realize that this is a minority Parliament. Yes, they are the government, but they were elected to that position with only 33% of the vote in the 2019 election. By virtue of the quirks of our first past the post system, even though the Conservatives got more Canadians to vote for them, the Liberals still ended up with more seats. Therefore, they have to realize that if we are in fact going to have government legislation passed, they have to do so with the consent of another opposition party, and that is a good thing. As an opposition member who sat across the benches from a Liberal majority government, it is good policy and gets more Canadians involved when we have more voices at the table and we try to reach that kind of consensus.
I am proud of how the parties have worked during the worst of the pandemic. If we look back at the history of how we were able to work together in the 2020, I am really proud of the accomplishments that New Democrats were able to provide for Canadians. The major amendments we made to pandemic response programs, such as the Canada emergency response benefit, increasing the Canadian emergency wage subsidy from the initial 10% to 75%, getting those improvements to programs for students and persons with disabilities, putting pressure on the government to fix the much-maligned commercial rental assistance program and ensuring that it was turned into a subsidy that went directly to the tenants instead of having this complex process that involved landlords, are good accomplishments and really demonstrate how minority parliaments are able to work. Again, we are not scheduled to have an election until the year 2023, so theoretically we could have two more years of this, where more voices are at the table for important legislation.
I would like to turn my attention to some of those important bills that will be well served by the extra time we get as a Parliament to debate. I am very proud of the fact that Bill C-15 has made its way to the other place. I want to take the time to recognize Romeo Saganash who brought in Bill C-262, which served as the precursor to Bill C-15. I am glad to see that important legislation seems to be on its way to becoming one of the statutes of Canada and that we will finally have in place an important legislative framework to ensure that federal laws are brought into harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
I had the opportunity to speak to Bill C-6 earlier this week. It is incredibly important legislation. It is a very important use of federal criminal law power. It is high time the House of Commons, indeed the wider Parliament of Canada, made this very significant and important amendment to the Criminal Code to ban this practice. It has been rightly criticized by many professional organizations around the world and we know it has done incredible harm to people who have been forced through it.
It is sad to see members of the Conservative Party trying to hold up this legislation. They are clinging to the belief that the definition of conversion therapy in that bill is not specific enough. Those arguments have been discounted. They have been refuted effectively through debate in the House. I look forward to us having the required number of hours to get Bill C-6 passed so we can get it on its way to the Senate. It is incredibly important for us to get the bill passed into law.
The other bill that we hope will be affected in a positive way by the passage of government Motion No. 8 is Bill C-12. I would agree with some people that Bill C-12 still leaves a lot to be desired, but the important thing to remember is that this is a Liberal government bill and improvements have been made. The amendments made at committee have made it a stronger bill from what was initially on offer at the second reading stage. We need to see that bill brought back to the House. We need to see it passed at third reading and passed on to the Senate.
We are in a critical decade for properly addressing climate change and we need to have those legislative targets put in place. I think of all the years that we have lost since Jack Layton first attempted to pass a bill to put in place those legislative targets. I think about the damage that has been done by climate change since then, about how much further Canada would be ahead if we had taken the steps necessary all those years ago.
We see Bill C-12 as an absolute priority and we want to see it positively impacted by the extension of sitting hours. I want to take the time to acknowledge the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley and the member for Victoria for their incredible work on the bill, helping to shepherd its way through the committee process and for their sustained engagement with the Minister of Environment in laying out our priorities. I want to take the time to acknowledge that.
With Bill C-6, I would be remiss if I did not mention my hon. colleague and neighbour, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, for his incredible advocacy on this issue over the years. He has done yeoman's work on the bill during debate, standing and refuting some of the Conservative arguments against it. He deserves special recognition in attaching importance to that bill and in trying to get it through to the finish line.
I want to reiterate that I was elected to come to this place to work. We all knew when we signed up to be members of Parliament, when we were privileged enough to be elected, that this job would sometimes require us to sit extended hours, to work those long hours, to do the work on behalf of our constituents. We certainly have a lot of stuff pulling at our attention these days. It is a careful balancing act between our critic role, our constituency work and what goes on in the House. However, we all know that this is the time of year when we have to roll up our sleeves, get to work, find a way forward to identify the pieces of legislation that are important to us all and work together to get it done.
I appreciate this opportunity to weigh in on Government Business No. 8. I look forward to us having those extended hours next week so we can attach the priority to those bills I spoke about.