I actually can't do better than that. Perhaps someone more eloquent than me could do better than that.
I don't know why they did this. We'd be in the same position if we had heard from the minister, who is the most eloquent person they have on this subject. She's really well spoken, she knows her file, she has coherent things to say and she has always done a really effective job of articulating the government's position. It would be at exactly the same point procedurally, so I don't get why we didn't just move on to the discussion after, as opposed to before her presentation. I really don't get it.
Now we're in that position, I am prepared to speak to it and just say that this is actually a really reasonable subamendment. Everybody is familiar with the staff handing you amendments or subamendments that are meant to just keep the ball rolling, but in this case, this is the reasonable thing to ask for.
Ultimately, the government has this goal. It wants to get its legislation through this House by.... We would start clause-by-clause consideration of anything that's left at 1:00 p.m. on October 16. Even if we hadn't discussed any clauses at that point, the motion contemplates that we're done and it's out of here a few hours after that, so by the end of the day on October 16.
That's what the government is after. Everything else here is secondary. If that's the government's goal.... It's a complicated bill. Everybody concedes that. The minister has referred to it as generational change. I don't think that just means we're catching up on a generation of having neglected things. I think they mean this is meant to be change that will be here for a generation, until the minister's baby boy is able to vote and maybe even take a seat here.
It's a bill that the government has gone back on and made adjustments to. They have amendments of their own they've put in because they recognized their first draft was imperfect in a couple of ways. That's just what happens with large bills, so it doesn't make this bill stand out from the crowd of large bills, as these things go.
All we're looking for, in an environment where we are the minority—the government has more than half the votes and can do whatever it wants—is something that amounts to a guarantee that some of the amendments we're putting forward will actually get through. Now we are saying we want the government to express a willingness to us, in whatever way they want, to consider some of our amendments. There are no secrets here. Our amendments are already filed.
If we just agree to this, what happens is that we're not going to get any agreement on any of those amendments. We want their word.
By the way, speaking of people breaking their word and so on, I just want to say that what I'm doing here is indicating that we believe when the minister and the House leader give their word behind closed doors, it means something. We actually think they are honourable people, not just in the pro forma sense as when we talk of “my honourable colleague” or “the honourable minister”, but in the meaningful sense, the real sense. That's what we're after, and if we have to talk a fair length of time in order to obtain it—if we have to filibuster in order to obtain that—that's what we're after. It's not hard to understand. After this, they can push on and get the legislation by the proposed due date.
I've been clear in my previous remarks on this that the subsidiary components of Ruby's original motion are entirely reasonable: “That the Chair be empowered to hold meetings outside of normal hours to accommodate clause-by-clause consideration”. That is a very reasonable thing to do with a large bill when you're looking at a deadline that's really only two weeks out, and one of those is a break week.
As for “That the Chair may limit debate on each clause to a maximum of five minutes”, I thought that was well worded too, in that it says “may” limit debate, not “must” limit debate. It's reasonable. That five-minute number is essentially reasonable. You can make a coherent argument on any point.
Also, if there's a genuine willingness to look at things.... For example, if there is an opposition amendment on a section or a clause where the government has indicated this—I'm not on the side that's administering anymore, but to the best of my knowledge they have not indicated this—or the government is willing to give its word that it will look at it, including, I need to be clear, not necessarily the wording we put out in our amendment but an adjusted wording to whatever amendment we propose.... On those ones, it would take more than five minutes, but there's flexibility for the chair. That's reasonable too.
I'm not even disputing the October 16 deadline, particularly given what we've heard from the Chief Electoral Officer, who is being extraordinarily helpful to us in laying out which things he can achieve and which things he can't achieve based upon a projected timeline in which the election still occurs in October 2019 as scheduled. The bill gets through the House and then the Senate and royal assent at some point in 2018.
All of these things are reasonable, but the one thing we have, the one tool at our disposal as an opposition party, is the ability to slow things down until we know that our amendments are being looked at. Look, we're not the government. We're not saying that all our amendments.... We're saying that we have some that are practical, businesslike ways of making this legislation better than the draft that is currently before the House. This would not be on the things that are the landmark issues of Bill C-23 from the last Parliament as opposed to this one, but on some really good practical ideas. That's all we're looking at. That's all we're asking for.
I'm glad I'm able to make this pitch while the minister is here. That discussion, which has to happen outside this chamber, is what we're after. That's how we would obtain it. I'm hopeful that we can get to that point.
I'm also hopeful that we can do it without me continuing to talk. I'll just find out if anybody else is on the speakers list, because I'm reluctant to surrender the floor if I know that there isn't someone else there.