Thank you, Chair.
First of all, I'd like to express my gratitude to PROC for agreeing to look at this motion, to Mr. Christopherson for presenting it and to everybody on PROC who had an open mind. I understand that agreement isn't to say we accept it or we agree with everything in the motion, but that you would have a serious look at it. I'm very grateful for this opportunity. Thank you.
Two things brought me to bring this motion forward. Since I arrived here, I was shocked, and I think anybody I spoke to was shocked, at the lack of civility and decorum in the House and lack of productive debate. I don't believe any one party or one person is to blame. I think we all share a little of the responsibility.
I spent the first year or two asking people, talking to people, trying to cajole people to be a little politer or have better debates. And I realized at some point that it was no longer paying. It was better to have confrontation than collaboration. That had happened over time. There had been changes and things had progressed away from how we used to run the place to a point where now it was better to have confrontation.
We probably need to look at our Standing Orders. This phenomenon of consolidation of power into the centre is not new. It's not unique to Canada. Professors will tell you what they call the third wave of autocratization, as we heard at one of our committees with Ms. Kusie.
In any system, democracy is always in a constant battle with autocracy. As we see right now in the world, many great nations are moving toward autocracy. We can see this in one place where a leader has named himself dictator for life. We see another great nation where a leader is a dictator in all but name because they have the pretenses of elections, and we see another nation where another leader is constantly attacking the very foundations of their democracy. And we see that in so many countries.
Here in Canada we don't have a leader who's done this, but over time power has been centralized, seeped inward towards what we call the PMO or the OLO. With this pulling together of power, many things have happened. The role of the MP has been slightly modified. The role of the Speaker has been drastically changed. Citizens have been disenfranchised.
People often say to me that when we brought the cameras in, that's when it all got bad. I don't believe that for a second. I looked at many ideas. One of the ideas was if we had cameras on everybody all the time, I bet you it would change overnight. It was explained that can't be done because we have certain rules that the camera can only be on a person speaking.
I looked at how they run the audiovisuals. That rule is such that bad behaviour can go unpunished because it's never seen.
For example, the Senate moved and they now have the right to show all camera angles. They said it makes for much better, much more interesting TV, but it's also going to have an impact. One of my ideas was let's put cameras everywhere and if someone is behaving badly all the time, everybody will know that. I didn't use that idea here. Why? Because we're in politics and we look at the art of the possible.
I read all the ideas that had been presented over the last dozen years or so. Then I chewed on it; I thought about it and then I tried to say what is doable. I considered low-hanging fruit. I thought this motion was very simple.
Many people have said to me this is way too big, it's way too much. I don't think it is, and I'm going to challenge all of you in PROC to look at it from that perspective.
Serendipitously, you have just done a study on second chambers, and the majority of this motion turns around the implementation of a second chamber, so I don't think we need to do another study on a second chamber. I believe you have done a good study. If you've done a study on a second chamber, you can now ask yourselves whether you should try or not bother trying it. Or you could say, “Let's do another study again next Parliament”, but if you're going to do another study again next Parliament, I would challenge you to ask what questions you didn't ask during this Parliament, in your study right now. I believe we're ready to try something.
What is it that I'm proposing and how did I come to these packages? There are three areas where I want to take power that's been centralized over time and just decentralize it. At this point, I want to say none of these ideas are new, except for one part of one idea, and that's the one I'm getting the most push-back on. That was my idea, so I'm pretty sure it won't make the cut. Having said that, none of these ideas are mine, number one.
Number two, I didn't write most of this motion.
Here I'd like to stop to say thank you to the people who did do it. First of all, I'd like to thank Scott Reid, and especially his assistant, Dennis Laurie. They did the brunt of the work writing the whole section on a second chamber.
I'd like to thank Michael Chong, because he collaborated a lot and he's very knowledgeable on issues of decorum, powers of the Speaker, and how things changed over time.
I'd like to thank Daniel Blaikie and Murray Rankin, because they took the ideas that had been proposed by Kennedy Stewart, who had taken these ideas from the United Kingdom about how to give citizens the right to bring matters of debate into Parliament.
I'd like to thank David Graham, because he looked at ideas for how to make it fairer for people who are doing private members' business to have their chance, because sometimes you may have people who have been elected three times and they never get up, but someone who was elected once gets up. There's a core unfairness in how we do private members' business, and he had ideas about that, which I incorporated.
I'd like to thank Scott Simms, because he studied how the United Kingdom has strengthened its committees and brought those ideas into the package.
Obviously, I'd like to thank Elizabeth May, because as everybody knows, she has been a strong voice for strengthening Parliament overall, for changing—or even, I would say, honouring—our rules. She'll speak a bit about that idea in a moment.
I thank all those people. I also recognize that none of those ideas are new; none of them have not been debated; none of them have not been studied. To hear the argument that it's too much, I tell you now, if you're going to make a second chamber today, tomorrow, in a year or 10 years from now, it'll be a big motion. You can't get around that. You have to write it.
What's inside the actual motion now? The first thing is the Speaker, powers to the Speaker. The Speaker has the name “Speaker” for a simple reason: in every Westminster system, including ours, up until the 1980s and early 1990s, the Speaker has decided who speaks. It seems pretty reasonable. He's not called “the reader of the list”; he's called the Speaker, because his job is to decide who speaks. It's that simple. I'd like him to do his job. I think we all want him to do his job. If he does his job, two things will happen: decorum will shoot up, because he'll have a carrot and a stick to let people who are behaving speak and let people who are not behaving not speak. The second thing is that debate will improve. This is how it's done in every other Westminster system. We are unique: We are wrong.
I spoke at length with other Speakers—I spoke at length with our longest-serving Speaker, Mr. Peter Milliken—and they all agree that this is a perversion of the system and it should be put back to the way it was.
How did it happen? There was a lady, Madam Jeanne Sauvé, who couldn't see very far, and she asked for help with people at a distance who might be getting up to speak, so they were giving her a few names.
There was another speaker—I won't give his name—who was not that interested in doing his job, and said, “Can you just make it easier for me? Just put them in alphabetical order, or whatever, and just....”
Then, over time, the whips decided we had more power, and the whips got stricter with the lists, until something happened in the previous government where a ruling had to be made about what the powers of the whips, the House leadership and the Speaker really were.
We need to put it back the way it was, and the way it should be. That's number one.
The second thing is powers to the citizens—a simple idea. Bruce Stanton mentioned this when he came and spoke about the second chamber. In the United Kingdom, if they reach the threshold of 100,000 signatures on a petition, it gets debated in their second chamber. Of note is that these are the debates that everybody watches. This is what people care about. This is what their citizens watch.
We took that number of 100,000 and made it 25% higher by population so that we don't have any spurious debates, and we ensured that anything that meets that threshold would still come to PROC to be looked at, to make sure it's not some silly thing, or something that's already been debated. As long as it hasn't, it would get a take-note debate in the second chamber.
That would re-engage our citizens to say, “Hey, I have a say in what goes on. It's not just once every four years that you ask me my opinion. If I really care about, say, the salmon run in B.C., and it's really important to me, and I have 70,000 other Canadians who say it's really important, then I want to hear Parliament express themselves.” They'll get a chance to do it. They'll engage themselves. Just like what happened in the United Kingdom, they'll be more engaged in their democracy.
The third thing is powers to the members of Parliament.
Again, over time there has been a degradation of power and a degradation of the role of the member of Parliament, who is a representative of her constituents. When she is elected and has to come to Ottawa, she is elected under a banner. We have to always answer the balance. I'm elected as an NDP/Liberal/Conservative/Green Party, but I'm also elected because I'm Frank Baylis, or Elizabeth May or Linda Lapointe. I have to balance what my citizens want with what I think, sometimes, is morally right, and with what the party wants.
But I am not elected as a trained seal, to simply do each and every time exactly what the party demands. If so, then they don't need any of us. We have no role to play, if that is our role. If I say that all I do in my job is to vote 100% the way the party votes, every single time, well, great, they don't actually need me. They'll just take the percentages, do the math and get out of the way.
We have a role to play. We have a role to play sometimes if enough of our constituents.... And this has happened to me. A lot of them wrote to me on a certain subject, and I said, “Okay, I have to listen to them. I'm not going to vote with my party on something here, because I'm going to represent them.”
This is our role. We need to give our members of Parliament their power back. How do we do that?
We looked, first of all, at our ability to bring private members' bills forward. Right now, it's fundamentally unfair. If you're lucky, you may get one. If you're unlucky, you won't get one. If you're half lucky, like me, you might get your first hour, which you might blow; but that's another question.
There might a lesson there. I haven't found it yet.