Evidence of meeting #55 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was opposition.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Anne Lawson  General Counsel and Senior Director, Elections Canada
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Andrew Lauzon
Andre Barnes  Committee Researcher
David Groves  Analyst, Library of Parliament

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

When we have these conversations and we talk about various different issues that this committee is discussing, certainly being family friendly was very important.

Like you, Mr. Chair, I live in western Canada. I live very far from Ottawa. In fact, it takes me about twelve and a half hours door to door to get home, and that's actually in the middle of my riding. If I actually went as far as where my home is in Tofino on the west coast, it would take me about fifteen and a half or sixteen hours to get home. So often when I leave Ottawa, if I leave on Thursday, I get home around 4:30 in the morning eastern time, and that's in the middle of my riding. If I went all the way home to Tofino, I'd get home around 7 in the morning. That's after driving and flying.

Mr. Chair, on Fridays when I leave, I leave here about one o'clock Pacific time, when I wake up. As parliamentarians, we typically have an event on Friday night that we have to speak at. Like Mr. Waugh and many of us western MPs, we're travelling great distances. We're already spending a great amount of time away from our families and we take a risk when we're flying for twelve hours and driving another few hours in our big ridings.

I know you certainly appreciate that, Mr. Chair. I have a riding that's 8,500 square kilometres.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

We're not going to start comparing sizes.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

No, I'm not going to compete with the chair. Actually, there are representatives of a few rural ridings here. Mr. Ruimy is here from the west coast. I know it's a long way to get to Vancouver, and with the time difference, if you add that in, it's pretty strenuous. For this conversation, I think it's very important that we talk about why unanimous decision-making and consensus is critical, Mr. Chair.

I'm from Vancouver Island, where there are no government MPs, so it's very important that we're a part of that discussion, but also that decision. I like one thing about what I've learned being in Parliament, and it was a great surprise, but it shouldn't have been, because in my community we get to know each other across political lines. I have neighbours who vote Green or Liberal, even Conservative, and I'm trying to have fun with it. They're my friends. They're my neighbours. They're my community. I care about their families. Coming here, I've gotten to know some of my colleagues, and I care about them. I care about their families. One thing we have in common is that we care about our country. We care about our country, we care about our families, and we care about the families in our communities. That's why we're here: to fight for families, to stand up for families.

When I take that into consideration, it's very important that we have that in common, we have that consensus: that we're here for families, that we're here to look out for each other. We want the same thing: a great country. How we get there is what differentiates us. That's where the debate comes in, the important debate and discussion.

I had heard about PROC. Obviously Mr. Christopherson's been a part of PROC. He had so much pride that PROC was a committee that worked on consensus, where parliamentarians looked out for each other, looked out for each others' families, and the importance of that.

When I look at my schedule, and I think about the government considering extending sitting days to more months in the year—I know that's been considered—I think about how hard that would be on my family, and on me as a western MP. Right now I go home and I come back. By the time I get home, I have a day in my riding and I have to turn around and come back. When I get home to my riding, I have to get on the road or I'm not going to see people in my communities. If we stretch out the year even more, then many of the smaller communities are going to be missed out, Mr. Chair. I'm not going to be able to see many of those communities that I want to get to. In my Canada and in my riding, everybody counts. For a community like Hesquiaht, which has 40 people in it, it takes me 15 and a half hours to get to Tofino to get to the dock and an hour and a half by boat to get to Hesquiaht to see these people who are really struggling, who are living in poverty. If I don't go and hear their story, I can't represent them in Ottawa and make sure they're being heard. Their issues are important, their story is important, and their vision is important, so that we can help contribute to the vision of our country.

I have many communities in my riding that are struggling with absolute poverty. They're very nervous when their MP can't come to their community and learn how we can bring their important ideas forward or their needs. I know that we have a crisis in my riding right now with youth suicide, and there are many children on suicide watch. If I can't go home and get to those small rural communities, I don't know their story or have those relationships and that trust. It is about trust when these dangerous situations and emergency situations are happening, and that can only be achieved in that time that we're in the ridings.

Mr. Chair, the consideration is of shutting down sittings on Fridays, that it's going to make it easier. It's not. As to extending the days in Ottawa, how are we going to extend the days? How are we going to work longer? We're here, and it's 11 o'clock at night. If I wasn't sitting at this committee having this conversation, I'd likely be in my office phoning people in British Columbia, because it's suppertime right now and people are getting home from work. To add hours to the day would be very difficult, especially Mondays. When we come in on Sunday, we get home in Ottawa at about two in the morning. We have to get up early and get to work. And there's a three-hour time difference. We're sleeping for about five hours, if we're lucky, and then we have a long day on Monday, and we're exhausted. I just can't imagine making it longer. If we make Thursdays longer, we can't fly out Thursday. That means we can't get home to British Columbia. We'd be definitely going home on Friday.

Then we look at the importance of being in the House on Fridays. Canada is such a big country. Things happen every day. They happen seven days a week. We have situations that arise in our country on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Taking Friday away, of making sure we are asking questions of government, is a big problem for us because often it's an opportunity for us to ask a question before the weekend should a crisis arise. With the limited amount of questions that we do have in question period, it could be challenging, especially for the new MPs who might be sitting on the backbenches. It's an opportunity for us to ask a question; and we value Fridays, being able to get that opportunity to ask that question.

There are only so many questions, and there are 338 MPs in the House. We all want to make sure we have a chance to ask those really important questions on behalf of our constituents. Taking away Fridays, taking away that opportunity is like taking away so much from my riding and my community, and we're already feeling alienated. We're already feeling far away from Ottawa and people are already feeling ignored. To make them feel even farther away and that their voice might be limited, or their MP might not be able to visit them is very nerve-racking for people in my community.

When we talk about being family friendly, we all care about each other. We care about our country. We care about our families and our communities. It should be consensus-based decision-making when we're talking about our families and how we're going to take care of each other, as parliamentarians, so that we can represent the people in our communities. I can't imagine making a decision that might affect one of your families and not having consensus-based decision-making, especially in a region that isn't represented by a government member, Vancouver Island, where we have even further to go than Mr. Ruimy, for example.

I just want to state that. I want to make it clear that people in my community want me in the riding. They also understand the importance of my being in Ottawa. When I'm in Ottawa I want to be here and I want to make sure that we don't try to do something we can't do, and right now it is very difficult for us. When we were asked for suggestions to make it more family friendly, I certainly didn't expect we would start talking about taking away Friday sittings and making longer days for us. We're already working really hard. I see everybody here, and they are here because they work hard. We have that in common.

To consider making us sit more months of the year and taking away the opportunity to get out into our communities and listen to our constituents...I think a lot of people are going to get lost, Mr. Chair.

I'm happy just to leave it there in terms of sharing my concern around that and on the importance of consensus-based decision-making. We care about our families and we care about each other.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you for that very important point and your perspective from a distance. I know what that's like.

Mr. Simms.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

I was going to launch into a different topic but I do want to address the Friday situation. I have known Mr. Johns now for a while and I deeply respect where he's coming from. That's not a throwaway statement to start this whole thing. I sincerely mean it.

I'll start by telling a story about my family situation. My father worked in a mill, a paper mill, for about 43 years. When it comes to family friendly, one of the things that he complained about vociferously was that because we lived in a rural area, in order for us to spend a weekend doing something different with the family, we had to travel long distances.

In order to do that though, he worked five days and then two. They were eight-hour shifts, two days off. His union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers—and I say that with a great deal of passion because they are a fantastic union—treated my father well. He was a member with them for 40 years and I salute them. They're a great union. They went back to the company and they said, one of the things that we want is flexibility in the work schedule. They said fine, we're open. Tell you what, instead of doing eight-hour shifts, why don't you do 12 and that will give you up to four days off? You do rotation that way. It's a little more complicated than what I'm saying here but essentially my father got four days off. We went camping. We went to see more relatives. In the span of two years following that, we were able to take advantage of the things that my father wanted to do. To me, that was family friendly.

I'm not saying right away that without Friday, and longer hours in the week days, that would suit me but it may not suit you. What I'm saying is that we need to address the flexibility in this. What bothers me is the throwaway statement that we don't want to work on Fridays. It is ground zero for the worst argument you can put forward. It's just too easy to do. You're a member of Parliament who doesn't want to work on Fridays.

Let me go from there. Today we had the speaker. I say speaker but that's not his official title. He is basically the person in charge, speaker-like, of the Scottish Parliament. We asked him, we said, how does your week work? He said, we sit Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. How dare you do that now? Well, we didn't say it that way. We said, why would you do that? He said, Scotland's not that big, and it's very important for us to be within our constituencies as we are direct representatives of the people.

I thought, there's a novel idea. We asked him, what about the sitting days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday? He said they are elongated to the point where they can accomplish the committee work, so on and so forth.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Did you ask him how many weeks a year they sit?

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

I'm getting to that. We asked him then, obviously you must do extra weeks, and so on and forth. He said, yes we do. I said, that's interesting. Because I'll be quite honest with you, I'm not saying we get Mondays off, I'm just saying that if you look at Fridays themselves for a day to travel like we do, and ask me would I be willing to say yes to an extra week or two or three weeks around the year, I think I would, but I want to be greeted by a serious discussion about this.

I don't want Fridays off for the sake of a having a day off. I think it is an absolutely insincere argument to my own. It is easy and it's just not fair. Canadians do work on Fridays. Canadians go to work at nine o'clock in the morning. We go to work at 10. Canadians work in January. We don't, according to this logic. Canadians work in September and we don't. Canadians work in the summer and we don't. All that I've just said to you is false because we work.

Every other parliament in the world now acknowledges what it is like to work in your constituency, to be that direct representative. Earlier today, Mr. Johns' colleague, Randall Garrison, actually came back at me about working on Fridays with what was probably the most legitimate of all the arguments I've heard. His reasoning was this: because I work long distance, I would rather work on the Fridays and not have those two or three weeks added on, so I get a full week in the riding. That's an intelligent discussion. That's a valid point.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

I 100% agree with him. Mr. Simms, that's what I was trying to say, as well. Also, one thing to consider is that, if you look at the Scottish model, if they sat for three days a week, then we'd all be flying back to B.C., and the odd time we'd stay. Mr. Bagnell, I imagine you don't stay ever.

I try to stay once in a while—better for the environment—especially if I'm working late on a Friday and I'm back early on Monday. I think that's very important, and also saves costs to the taxpayer. If I'm going all the way home and by the time I get home, the way flights go, especially in the winter.... Often my flights are bumped and I stay in Calgary or wherever I am when I'm switching planes. It happened three times this winter that I got bumped because of weather. The reality is that, for a lot of MPs who live very far, a few of us stay on the weekends once in a while.

When you look at three days, for example—and I know you come from far away, Mr. Simms, from Gander—imagine coming all the way from Vancouver Island to work for three days and then flying all the way back. It doesn't make sense for us to even consider three days. I know if we go to four, then we're going to go to three. This decision-making just doesn't seem to be looking at people coming from great distances, as far as I am concerned.

I don't support the idea that we work four longer days. Imagine if you have children who came to Ottawa to live with you, like some of our colleagues. They're going to be working longer days from Monday to Thursday, they're not going to be in their ridings as often because they're going to be sitting in Ottawa, and that's very important. Family is important. People do make a decision to bring family here because it's important. When they have young children, they need to do that, especially single parliamentarians who have to make that difficult decision.

I know there are a lot of scenarios to talk about, but the most important thing is that we decide with consensus when we make decisions that are going to impact families around this table and the function of Parliament. Our great concern on this side is that the government is listening and wants to have a conversation, but it's going to make a decision regardless of what the other parties say. That's the fundamental problem.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Before we get into that part of it, may I retort to what you were talking about?

Again I congratulate both you and Randall for giving me a legitimate reason why we should be working on Fridays. I am not suggesting we only work three days a week, by the way—

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

And we want to ask you questions on Fridays, too.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

I would retort that it doesn't work for me because I represent a riding with about 165 communities. Some of these communities have events, say in the middle of November; it's the only event they will ever have. It's the best chance for me to meet the constituents of Ming's Bight. That's a town; I didn't make it up.

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

You can even say a bunch more names, because I know you shared a few names with me.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

The thing about it is that they have an event in November, and I go there. There are so many towns that have these single events that it's much more necessary for me to get home on weekends. What I'm saying to you is this, and I'll conclude because I see Mr. Nater's back. I didn't want to exclusively talk about Fridays but so be it, enough said. Let me sum up by saying this.

You and I have a different perspective about Fridays, but it's a healthy debate. I think we should move on to having.... We may not be unanimous, but it's a debate worth having with witnesses who also do that as well.

Thank you for the time.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

If I may, I would like to make a couple of comments on the Friday, family friendly, etc., as well.

I had some thoughts as I listened to both my colleagues. I appreciate their perspectives. Some parts of what they said I agree with and other parts maybe I disagree with.

I'll start by saying that I have a bit of a challenge believing the motivation behind the Friday sittings, because there have been a couple of attempts to remove them. The first time we were going to study family friendly and maybe getting rid of Friday sittings was supposed to be family friendly. That was the argument the government was making at that time. There were many people who made the argument that maybe it wouldn't be so family friendly, and I'll get back to that in a second. Now it's in this context of modernizing Parliament and we will just change how the hours and the structure work. It seems there is this constant, “Well, that one didn't work, so we'll try it this way.” There's always some other argument for why we need to get rid of them.

A lot of people believe, and I would put myself in this camp, that it really seems the idea is more of this attempt. I don't want to make the characterization that someone wouldn't work on Friday just because Parliament is not sitting or anything like that. What it does mean is that there's one less question period that week. I know the idea is to add 10 minutes to the other days and we'll do all these things, but at the end of the day, we all know that question period is kind of that one hour of the day—we know how much work happens in committees and these other things—that is picked up by the media. Constituents watch it. They don't watch anything else that goes on, generally, but there are more who watch question period.

Let's be honest. We know there are probably not too many people watching this feed right now, but with question period there are more watching. I know they aren't huge numbers, but there are a lot more who do watch it. That's the news people get about what happens in Parliament, rightly or wrongly, but those are the facts. When we talk about all these opportunities that exist for these things to be raised so Canadians can become aware of issues, question period is the best opportunity that is provided to opposition members and government backbench members to do that. To take 20% of those opportunities away.... We all know that adding 10 minutes is not the same thing. If an issue popped up tonight, tomorrow there wouldn't be a question period, so it would have to wait until Monday. By then it's old news, and it's forgotten. I get that there are weeks when we don't sit, but during those weeks that we are sitting, having the extra question period is important to the opposition, and it's important to Canadians.

To me, the idea that by doing that we can lengthen the other days doesn't really solve that problem. The idea that we can have more weeks may solve that problem to some degree, but I think it creates a new problem.

Mr. Johns has alluded to the idea of travel, the cost involved, and the cost to the environment as well. These are all things that should be considered.

Mr. Simms, you talked about flexibility, that it is good to have different types of families and the different ways people structure things depending on where they live or what their family situation is. When I start to think about the different ways we can change things, the way we have it set up now does provide the most flexibility for people. I would certainly be more inclined to be persuaded by the argument to make Fridays a regular day than I would be to get rid of it.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

I totally agree.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

I would be more inclined to be persuaded by that, but I think the situation as it stands now still allows that question period. It still allows some private members' business to be conducted, which gives more people the opportunity to do their private members' business, but it also makes it easier for those who need to make a choice to get home for things if they have a long way to go.

I fly to Calgary. It's about a six-hour trip by the time you do the flight, with getting to the airport, and so on, and I'm close to the airport. I can think of colleagues who fly with me to Calgary and then wait a couple of hours and take another flight for a couple of hours, and then they drive six hours after that. They leave Ottawa on a Thursday night or a Friday morning, and it's Saturday before they get to their riding. Then they have to turn around less than 24 hours later and come back.

I think that gives the maximum flexibility for someone to be able to say, “Okay, I'll give someone else the opportunity for question period that day, and I don't have any need to be there for that particular private member's business.” That partial day allows them to have that flexibility.

The same thing goes for the people who have their families here. If they bring their families to Ottawa and we add more weeks, it makes it more of a challenge for them to make that decision.

I could go on and on about that. What we have now gives the most flexibility. I'm not saying we can't have a discussion about a change, but I just don't think that removing a question period every week is a starter for me, and it's the same for many of my colleagues in the opposition.

Can we have a conversation about whether that Friday is different, and those kinds of things? Yes, I think those are conversations we can have. I'd be happy to get to that discussion. However, it's easy to understand when we've seen these different attempts and different rationales provided for doing that, that it's one example where I think there's a lack of ability for the opposition to say they can feel comfortable with having that discussion when they feel as though something is going to be forced on them.

I don't know what the agenda is. Is it to get rid of the question period, or what is it? It seems as though there is one and we don't really seem to have been told what it is.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Very quickly—

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

I'm about to conclude.

That isn't to put it on anyone sitting across the table from me right now. I'm not accusing any of you of having a hidden motive or agenda, but I think somewhere maybe there is. Maybe it is what I think it is, that they want to see a question period removed. It could be that. Maybe it's something else that I don't know, but that would seem the most logical one.

By no means is that the only issue here. I think there are some things in the discussion paper that are worth having a conversation about. There are some other things that I do have challenges with. The conversation would be good to have, but it has to be had in a way where we can expect that both parties will listen to the other. I don't really get a sense that the government has any motivation, or there's nothing that causes them to have to listen. I've seen some signs that would indicate that maybe that won't happen. For us to feel comfortable, we need to have that assurance.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Blake, as a final point, when I hear every day in the social media and even through the sabre-rattling that we partake in here in the House of Commons, the five-second sound bite was always that the Liberals want Friday off, a day off. However, I will say that what you just said about your rationale just then in regard to question period, one less question period, that's a far more legitimate argument against what I'm saying than just saying we want a day off.

Thank you.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Hold it. We have a list here.

Mr. Ruimy.

March 21st, 2017 / 5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Thanks.

I didn't know if I was going to want to say anything today, but I'm here, and we're talking about Fridays, so I want to throw in my two cents.

In the two and a half years that we've been here, I've actually lived the no Fridays, because I've traded off virtually every single shift. Every House duty on Friday I have given away or traded, or done something to get rid of it, because I need to be back to my riding. Whether I get back at 10 o'clock at night or two o'clock on Friday morning, my staff has scheduled a whole day for constituents to come and see me, or for me to go and see them. It's the same with Saturdays.

I want to echo what Mr. Simms is saying. It's annoying when we keep hearing that we only want a four-day work week, because literally, my only day off is the day that I fly back to Ottawa on Sunday mornings. We came into this knowing full well that this is what the job is, but there's nothing wrong with trying to understand and trying to change. One hundred and fifty years ago somebody made up these rules, but they lived here. They had booths in the back of the House. This is what they did here. They didn't want to go home. They didn't pay attention to their ridings. Come on, let's call it for what it is.

Today we have a more educated constituent who, with social media, with all sorts of 24-hour news, is on top of the situation. Now, mix in alternative facts; mix in all sorts of crazy non-news. We have to be able to talk face to face with our constituents. If we don't, we lose an opportunity. Remember, I got into this whole race late. I own a coffee shop, and for five years I listened to people in my coffee shop. I was the barista, and I heard every single day what people said about our government, what people said about politicians. The reason I ran as a politician is I thought we could do something different. I thought I could do something different.

I'll tell you about one of the things that made me run. On the day of the shooting here, it was on the TV in the coffee shop, and a young gentleman walked in and said, “What's going on?” I said, “Well, there's apparently been a shooting on Parliament Hill.” He said, “Did any politicians get shot?” I said, “No, we haven't heard of anything like that.” He said, “Too bad. They should kill them.” He was a 17-year-old guy. I looked at him and asked, “Why would you even say that?”

What is it about politicians that conjures up that nastiness, that we're all corrupt, that we're all bad, that we're all pigs at the trough? That's not true. None of us around this table that I know of is like that, because we are generally here for a reason. I decided to run because I think in my riding I can change that belief. We are not like that, and as politicians we can contribute more to our ridings and our communities and our people. We can't do that if we're showing up on Saturdays. I'm not saying get rid of the Friday sittings. Whether it's a full day or whether it's no day or whether it's an extra week, that's the discussion to be had, but the reality is our constituents want to see us. If they don't see us, they're making up their own minds on what's going on: we send out our householders; we're spending money; we're wasting money out there.

We can do this better. There is a better way to do this, but in order to do that, we actually have to have a debate. When I look at the discussion paper, and I look at the filibuster, and I chair a committee, really, I don't want to listen to somebody talk for two hours about when he was a little boy and crossing the bridge, because that doesn't encourage anybody to try to solve a problem. It makes people tune out the words and ignore the person on the other side. With all we're doing, we're not even coming close.

I looked at the discussion paper, and it reads, “limited to 10 minutes”. You're not going to lose your filibuster, because you can come back and take your 10 minutes, but by your talking for 10 minutes, and then giving the floor to somebody else to talk for 10 minutes, what's happening? What I am watching over here is not what I expected, by the way. I thought one person was going to talk for five hours on end. I'm glad there is stuff happening going back and forth. That's how you start to solve problems. When you have healthy dialogue, it goes back and forth. If you can't do that because one person has the floor for two, three, four, five, or six hours, you'll never get to a consensus.

I wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to say that. I don't want to take up any more time on that. These are the things we're talking about. It's not just us in this House, but it's how people view us. We need to bring integrity back to this House, back to what politicians should be, not what they are right now.

Thanks.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you.

Mr. Waugh.

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Mr. Chair, I would like to pick up on Mr. Richards' comments.

It's been proposed that we lose 20% of question period. If I look at the House of Commons, when I was elected in October, there were over 200 people who had never been members of Parliament. When I look across, many of the ministers struggled in the first year. At the same time, with the 20%, if we keep it the way we're doing it now, it would give the parliamentary secretaries a chance to improve their skills.

I'm a broadcaster. I can talk all day in the House of Commons.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Hear, hear!

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

When I look across the way, and I look at our...this is succession planning. You've had two or three very experienced cabinet ministers leave in the last two months. The parliamentary secretary had that first year to be there on Fridays when McCallum wasn't there, when Dion wasn't there. Now that person has fit into that role. That's succession planning. We don't have that.

I listen to people every day in the House of Commons. Yes, it's maybe a 10-minute or a 20-minute speech, but that 30 seconds when that light is on is the most important time because it's showtime. You know that. It's showtime, and it's also succession planning. I look at the back. Will some of the members ever get a chance to speak? Probably not when you have a big caucus, but will they ever get that chance on a Friday to ask maybe even one of the ministers a question? Yes, there's a pretty good chance that would happen.

Parliamentary secretaries need to be groomed to be ministers. That's why when you have question period for five days, you can do that. You need question period. It cannot be cut down. You know and I know the experience when the light is on is different from when it's off. We all need time to get used to the surroundings and to the cameras. I watch people in the House of Commons and they have no idea which camera they are pointing at, but after question period, I sit down with them and say that's the first thing they must see, whether it's that camera or that camera. The next Friday they might get the question. Guess what they do first? They say, “Mr. Speaker”, because it's that camera.

Succession planning in government is hard. We have seen many rookie cabinet ministers of any party and any Parliament struggle because of the 45 minutes to an hour in question period. It would be a grave mistake if we lose 20% of question period. We need to nurture our parliamentary secretaries when they are on the carpet. They need that experience when an opposition member asks a question. You're on your feet. What are you going to say? You don't get that opportunity if you're doing four days because that minister may be there Monday through Thursday, but guess what. You might get that opportunity on Friday.

I think we all need succession planning. I've seen it. If you want it to be gender...that's good. We've had struggles in the last year and a half because of it, and now we can bring the parliamentary secretary to have that opportunity on a Friday question period. It may be rough the first time, but over time that person.... I saw it in the first sitting. When McCallum left, when Dion left, you had capable people to come to the front bench, and they had the experience because they actually had to stand on Fridays and answer questions. At first it was tough, but they learned.

You know, yourself, Mr. Simms. The more you do it, the better it becomes. I don't know how much experience you have on TV, but I've had 40 years of experience and I nurture rookies all the time, but we never get the chance. I don't know how many MPs actually look to see where the camera is. That is the first thing. Yes, the microphone is on, now where is the camera? That's what you're taught. With only four days of question period, you might get one question as a parliamentary secretary for the whole Parliament, the whole session, because the minister is there Monday through Thursday.

Succession planning is something that's important. This is why we have to talk about this. Your front bench is going to change. There are people who are going to move on. We're having that issue now in our party. Some of our long-term members are leaving. We've had a lot leave since the last election. To be honest with you, we had very capable ministers in the front row. Have we slipped because we don't have the experience? You're damned right we've slipped. It's hard to replace a cabinet minister just like that, but over time, if you have....

I think that's where the parliamentary secretaries are so important, because you're giving them that opportunity to advance to the front row. However, having question period on four days or lengthening question period will not do that.

It's important that we nurture young MPs because that 45-minute to one-hour period, Mr. Chairman, could spell the demise of the career of a member of Parliament. We have to realize that. We're dealing with lives in that 45-minute to one-hour question period. There are a lot of things said—and especially today with social media—that can absolutely ruin a member of Parliament's life.

It is important right now to put them in a position to start on the backbench, then go to parliamentary secretary, have a couple of issues for which they have to stand up and think on their feet, and then eventually, hopefully, move to the front bench, whatever party is in power.