Mr. Chair, there was actually another point from the Muslim Canadian Congress. Ms. Hassan said, “Even for women who believe that it is a religious requirement, they would not practise it as rigidly, and if they were asked to comply with a certain regulation, they would. So it's not an issue.”
Again we have, in a different statement, a comment saying that even if it were.... It is interesting that she says, “Even for women who believe that it is a religious requirement”, because earlier she was saying that requirement is not necessarily there, but she's trying to accommodate that in saying that they would not practise it as rigidly, that they would comply with a certain regulation, and that it's not an issue. It only seems to be an issue with Elections Canada. It does not seem to be an issue with the Muslim community. It does not seem to be an issue for the rest of Canadians. So that's why this matter must be addressed, and addressed as a priority issue.
Chair, it's important that Bill C-6 not languish. It's important that Bill C-6 be given the attention it deserves as a bill that has been passed by MPs in the House. Again, this gets--not “again”, actually; this is the first time I'm mentioning it--to the crux of the matter. What gets to the crux of the matter is that MPs are elected by Canadians, and so it is truly right and correct to say that they are the representatives of the people of their constituency. As MPs representing Canadians, we have brought forward this bill concerning the electoral process and the identification of voters.
It is somewhat disconcerting to realize that if the opposition were really sincere in their intention to move with Bill C-6 in this committee--in which we are outvoted--it could have been done a long time ago, and we in fact could have had this out; we could have had it passed into law, and it would beneficially impact elections.
Instead, what we've had to endure is partisan posturing, partisan motions, partisan politics, in trying to take advantage of a situation in which there truly is no advantage. When we tried to level the playing field and tried to say we were acting both according to the letter of the law, which is important, and in the spirit of the law, and that all parties were acting that way, they rebuffed that. They've taken something that could have been addressed in a very efficacious manner and instead have drawn it out into a long process, a process that I think has been detrimental to addressing these more important issues, such as Bill C-6.
I mentioned it is not just Bill C-6. I do have this concern that we actually have a statutory requirement to review the provisions of Bill C-3 by May 11, 2008, so we're talking about a statutory requirement to move ahead. Instead, we're being stalled as a committee in terms of doing what I call real work. This is real work, a statutory obligation. It is real work. We're being stalled by the opposition, which is moving forward with partisan manoeuvres to take advantage of a situation in which all parties have acted in the same manner and in accordance with the law.
There is other work, of course, in front of the committee. There is this one here, the conflict of interest code for members of the House of Commons. There were forms on November 2, 2007; the commissioner sent the committee draft forms for its approval, if you can imagine. We're talking over three months ago. The commissioner also requested the approval of the committee before posting online the public registry. The committee sent a letter to the commissioner regarding the forms under the code, and the commissioner appeared before the subcommittee.
But this is still an open item of business, Chair. Here we have an officer of Parliament who has asked the committee to do some work. And instead, we've been floundering, with opposition motions and subcommittee reports.
Again, to clarify, really to underline what my good friend and colleague Joe Preston was saying at the last meeting, the steering committee itself is quite biased. I respect your presence there, Mr. Chair. But you know, and committee members know, and I hope Canadians will now know after I make this statement--although they could have read Mr. Preston's testimony--that you do not play an active role in terms of determining the business of the committee. In fact, you can't even vote. So it's a very lopsided, one-sided affair on that committee.
Mr. Chair, I'm just pointing out the fact that future work.... Bill C-6 is future work. I'm pointing out that there is other future work and that the steering committee, where some of this other work comes from, is dominated by the opposition. If they really wanted to get some real work done--the important work of the committee--they could do this, they could accomplish this, at the steering committee. Instead, they're launching these partisan-type attacks and trying to take advantage of the process and procedures of the committee for their partisan advantage. This is not to the advantage of Canadians. This is not to the advantage of Parliament. This is to their own partisan advantage.
We have proposed a change to that subcommittee, Mr. Chair. We feel that we should have a voice, not just a body on the committee who can't participate in determining future business and who cannot vote in terms of future business. We feel that we should have an active participant in the subcommittee process, because the subcommittee plays a key role in determining the future business of the committee.