Minister, thank you very much for coming. We very much appreciate it.
I have to tell you, you being here is a complete shemozzle. I am so confused. I am further confused as to why you're here talking to us about this bill.
The fact of the matter is there's only so much I can say in terms of our in camera talks, but there are smart people in this room, such as Kady O'Malley, who can look very carefully at the chronology of what has happened to get some idea of why you're in front of this committee. I can assure you that it wasn't to talk about the pleasantries of Bill C-33.
The fact of the matter is you say things such as “eagerly awaiting”, “walk the same path”, “if we all work together”, and “collegial”. The fact is that we started an excellent process of working together on this committee to review the recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer. We were going along working, and we have dual tracks and lots of stuff. We're doing good work; we thought we were doing good work. We're feeling good about it. That's not to say we've agreed on everything, but in terms of process, we were working as a team trying to come up with rules that everybody thought would be fair. Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, thump, and Bill C-33 lands in the middle of the floor of the House of Commons on the very same day that we're about to meet and continue working. We're left, or at least I was left, wondering what the hell? What is going on?
On the one hand, we have a committee that's working together. Your government, Minister, promised that you were going to treat parliamentary committees with the respect they deserve, that you were going to bring back the importance of parliamentary committees, yet all we've seen are insults, especially with this committee as a result of Bill C-33. Then, I won't dwell on it but I have to say, we watched the absolute disgrace of the government's response to the electoral reform committee's tabling of that report, where you were on your feet apologizing.
Again, I'm kind of stuck here because I can't talk about what was said in camera, but I can say—and if somebody wants to hold me for telling tales out of school, fine, but I think I'm walking the line carefully—that Mr. Graham, to his credit, came to me immediately afterwards, when we were seized of the bill being tabled, and said, “How can we fix this? What can we do?” I said my goal was to get us back to work, that after all these decades in public life I didn't need another headline, and that what I wanted to do was some good work.
Then I happened to bump into you, Minister. I won't talk about the full conversation, but I think it's fair to say that we actually bumped into each other twice in the hallway on that day, and you were asking the same as Mr. Graham, “How can we fix this?” My response was the same, that an apology would be a good way to start. I still haven't heard one.
You go on and on about Bill C-33. We didn't call you in here, Minister, to talk about Bill C-33, because it hasn't been referred to us yet.
What I as one member of this committee want to know is how do we continue to do the work that we're doing—which is supposed to show the respect and importance that this government was going to return to committees—when you drop that bill on the floor, looking for all intents and purposes as nothing but a diversion to get you and your government out of trouble for the heat you were taking on the broader file that was going down in flames?
If it's not that, at best it's a lack of respect or consideration for this committee. At worst, it's a total disregard for committee work, which happens to have been reinforced by the comments. I accept that you've apologized; nonetheless, it happened. I happened to walk into the House as you were beginning and I couldn't believe that was the response.
Minister, I am still angry about the process. At least the previous government didn't pretend to want to make the committees important. They at least were clear about their disdain for parliamentary committees and the work they do. Fair enough; that has been dealt with. Those chickens came home to roost, and that's why you, Minister, are sitting where you are sitting, in large part because of that attitude. You can say you're going to do something different, but so far we hear talk, talk, talk, but none of the walk.
So, Minister, I need a couple of things from you, starting with an apology to this committee, as you apologized to the last committee, for the way you have treated the work of this committee. Second, I'd like to get some idea of how you think this parliamentary committee is going to continue to do its work in light of you dropping bills on the floor that cherry-pick issues we're working with.
I'll end on this final point. When you say things such as, “When will your report be ready,” it is a very good question, but that is the kind of question that should be asked at the beginning of the process of our work if your ministry is serious about coordinating it with the work of your government. Right now, there's a disconnect.
I need to hear from you, Minister, how you think we are going to respond and get back on track, or are we not going to be able to? Are we just going to continue to have this government pitted against its own parliamentary committees?