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

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Keep going.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Should I keep going? Excellent.

I don't see that commitment here to passing this reasoned amendment that would help us do our work.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair. If there are bells, I believe you need unanimous consent to keep going.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

We're checking this to make sure it's a vote, and then we're going to suspend.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Maybe I'll try to go through the speed of voting.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Arnold Chan Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

It's a dilatory motion. We would have to adjourn.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

We have to adjourn now. It is the motion.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

We have to suspend, rather.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

We will suspend until five minutes after the vote.

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

We are resuming discussion of the amendment to Scott Simms' motion.

The meeting is televised.

Mr. Kmiec, the floor is yours.

March 21st, 2017 / 6 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'll continue from where I left off.

I'll start by reviewing certain comments made by members during the debates held in the House on October 6, 2016.

I also want to mention that, at the end, I'll talk about another article published in the Canadian Parliamentary Review. The article describes the events that occurred at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 1990s, in other words, the obstruction from the opposition. It's a perfect example of the situation at that time.

I'm first going to continue with the debate that happened on October 6, because, again, there is a reference to it in the motion. I think we would greatly assist the committee if we were to pass the very reasonable amendment that we've proposed in order to be able to follow through with and study some of the ideas that have been discussed by other members of Parliament before us—for instance, electronic voting.

Mr. Chair, you mentioned “electronic voting” during the debate. I'm looking at page 5557 of Hansard for that day. There's a brief discussion there about how we could have buttons on our desks that would speed up the vote, especially when we have successive votes to do, but those often happen because we're having a recorded vote.

At the very beginning, maybe a few hours ago, you heard me mention Bill S-201, the genetic discrimination bill, when members of the cabinet rose to have a recorded vote after they lost the prior vote that I believe indicated the will of the House to pass the bill. We could have done it “on division”—those two most beautiful words in parliamentary history. They are historic words. Saying “on division” speeds up the process. If we police ourselves, we don't need electronic voting, whether we're voting on a BlackBerry or an iPad, or with switches or dials or with ballots cast. If we police ourselves and ask for a recorded vote only when we absolutely must, I believe we could gain from it.

It's happened at committees too. Committees I have been on have done things on division, and not just for committee reports, but when there's a disagreement that's profound and the two sides can't agree, and they choose not to go with a recorded vote. I think I have asked for one recorded vote at a committee, only once in all my time serving on them. Every single other time, we just agreed to disagree. We can agree to disagree without being disagreeable. I think many committees succeed in doing that.

On electronic voting, I would hope that whatever the committee may or may not study in the future will balance the speed of voting with the understanding what we're voting on. I know that it's sometimes a challenge in the House to hear what the Speaker is saying or to fully understand exactly the motion that we've been called to the House to vote on.

For some of the motions or bills, we know ahead of time, because we get our notices and it's easy to plan around them; they're on pieces of legislation at different stages that we're moving on to committee or there's a vote at report stage. It's a fairly simple exercise to understand what we're voting on. At times, especially on estimates or business of supply votes, it can be difficult to hear. The difference between Bill C-40 and Bill C-41 is minute, and the speakers do have to read through them quite quickly. You could miss it.

If consideration is given to electronic voting—I know the government's proposal and the discussion paper's very brief mentions of it don't have very many details—I would hope that we don't just look at speeding up voting in the name of efficiency while taking away the ability of members of Parliament to fully understand how they're voting.

I think the changes that have been introduced in the past in order to vote from the backbench to the front are good. They are positive changes. I think very many of us, then, can look at our colleagues around us regarding how they vote. I know that I talk to my colleagues before deciding on how I will vote, and when I choose not to vote with my party and my caucus, I let them know. They know how I'm going to vote, because I inform them ahead of time.

I'm sure that in the government caucus the members opposite me right now do the same thing.

You have discussions, you talk amongst yourselves, and you inform those who you need to inform. “No surprises” is almost a slogan here in Parliament, but I think it applies to all of us. We don't want to surprise our colleagues. We want them to know how we're going to vote. It shouldn't be much of a secret. When people ask me how I'm going to vote on a particular motion or bill, typically I tell them exactly what I'm thinking, how I am going to vote—yes or no—and I have no problems in conveying that, but I have to know what I'm voting on. Sometimes there are last-minute amendments proposed or report stage amendments that I would like to be able to read more carefully.

I'm not opposed to electronic voting, but what does electronic voting mean in this context? I do have potential issues with it.

Another comment that arose, and this is from Mr. Dubé, the member for Beloeil—Chambly, was this:

This is certainly something that we should include now officially in the Standing Orders, barring certain exceptions that can come up. It is something that we can easily formalize and seems to be something that already, despite being relatively informal and based on the motions that we have to adopt every single time through unanimous consent, has that consent. Why not make it formal and avoid having to do it every time?

He was talking in this context about the personal situations, the gruelling schedules we all have to go through. The votes being moved to after question period I think is a good change. It's done by agreement. It's not in the Standing Orders. It's simply that we have agreed, as a group of people doing work on behalf of our constituents, to have the votes scheduled at a more convenient time. We're still going to vote, but just at a more convenient time.

I also think that one of the things that Parliament could look at and this committee could really look at is studying all the unanimous consent motions that have come through in recent history. You can get staff to do that. I don't mean for all of us to start going through the pages of Hansard. We would be looking at what was the most common unanimous consent motion and potentially—

Pardon?

6 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

[Inaudible—Editor]

6 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

There might be quite a few of them.

We could consider what the most common ones were and then those could be the sources of changes to the Standing Orders. If we're having to consent unanimously to changing the standard procedure of the House many times on the same one, perhaps we should simply amend the Standing Orders.

To the amendment, though, we should only agree to that unanimously, as we've done for those. I think it would be a good idea, but you can't do that in 60 days, which I think is just about the length of this study. It might be 45 days. I think it's important to remember that this type of study and review cannot be rushed. Whatever comes out of this, we should still seek unanimous consent of our colleagues, at this committee stage, so that all of us can agree that it should be a permanent change. Perhaps there is an issue around it. We need full consideration of the impact it would have to amend the Standing Orders to make them longer and with more exceptions. The more exceptions that are created in writing and formalized within the rules, the more opportunity there is for confusion later about how the rules apply. There's a reason that the book has gotten so thick and that there's so much history and detail provided in it.

Mr. Dubé went on to say the following:

I did say at the outset that while we talk about juggling family lives and our own personal situations, we also have to talk about accountability on the part of the government. It is unfortunate that despite wanting to be non-partisan, we have to accept the adversarial nature of this place.

You've heard me mention before that I don't believe this place is adversarial. The term “adversarial” is found in the government document. I completely disagree with it. This body is deliberative. The debates that happen and at times the sharpness of them are just part of Parliament. It's how we deliberate. It's how we come to decisions. It's how we decide and adjudicate on the value or non-value of government legislation, private members' bills, motions, and other ideas being put forward.

I don't think that adversarial nature really has much impact on the juggling of the family lives in this particular situation. I have a family. I have three very young kids. My youngest was born right at the beginning of the last election. I juggled things as best I could. I've been here for three or four days now, and I've missed my Skype and FaceTime sessions with my kids. Even though they're so young, they understand that I am in Ottawa working on their behalf. When I can, I call them during the day after they have come back from school. That should be very soon, based on Calgary time.

In terms of the changes to the Standing Orders, people are going to say that language is found in the discussion paper about improving the work-life balance. Work-life balance is something which every single working Canadian struggles with. Shift workers who go up to Fort McMurray for three, four, or six weeks at a time struggle with that work-life balance as well. They don't return at the end of the day. They don't even return on the weekends. They stay in camps, separated from their spouse and their kids, typically. They also use Skype and FaceTime.

A hundred years ago, members of Parliament didn't fly to Ottawa. They used the train, their number one means of travel. That had a huge impact on the parliamentary calendar, when Parliament sat, and what type of business could be done. There were members of Parliament who were elected and never got to sit in this House. They never made it in time to be sworn in because they had passed away. That has happened. With modern travel, however, some of us are able to return to our ridings every single weekend.

I know that for you, Mr. Chair, it is a long trip back to Yukon, especially when you miss a connecting flight, as we've done together before.

Let's look at the work-life balance in terms of the Standing Orders. Let's say we do away with Friday or Monday sittings—or any day, really—and we potentially reapportion the hours to another day, which is what the government House leader said today. Mr. Simms has said that it's not necessarily cancelling Fridays; it's maybe making them a full day. That would have a significant impact on the work-life balance of parliamentarians and whether or not they choose to be here or in their ridings.

There are members who will miss a day during the week because they have a speaking engagement, or they have a constituency event or a conference to attend. I went on parliamentary business to Toronto to attend a clinical trials conference. I missed a day in the House in order to do parliamentary business to learn about the way in which clinical trials function. It's an area of interest. I have no background whatsoever in medicine or law, but I was interested in it because it has a substantive relationship to the private member's bill I would like to table, and without understanding it, I can't do it. I chose to forgo that one day, and then I returned to continue the work I do here in Ottawa on behalf of my constituents.

If you take away one day and reapportion it to other days, the problem would be that some parliamentarians, senators, members of the House of Commons, with an extra hour or two added per day, may not make it on time to have dinner with their families. That's for those who have chosen to move their families to Ottawa. Likewise, there may be some who might miss that FaceTime or Skype call with their kids back home.

It has an impact for all sides. I don't think you can simply change the rules “just because”, and impose that on members and on their families, without getting it unanimously agreed to, as our amendment to the motion is trying to do.

Still on the issue of Fridays, here in Canada eight out of 13 provincial and territorial legislatures have opted for the four-day week, and two others sit on Fridays only in exceptional cases. I can think back to my experience when I worked at the Alberta legislature. We had a four-day legislative week. What would happen is that near the end of the session, we would have to add late sittings every single year. Let me remind you that this was with a majority Progressive Conservative government at the time, which had been there for 44 years, with experienced members who knew how to operate within the confines of the standing orders in their house. What happened is that at every single end of session, they added late sittings to add in the required hours to pass the required pieces of legislation.

I would not want to see that happen here. We would have to return to late sittings once again, something that was a common practice in the 1950s and I believe in the 1960s. I could be wrong on that and I stand to be corrected, but I would not want to see late sittings again. Ms. Mendès is indicating that there were late sittings in the 1990s as well. That would not be an improvement to this place. I don't think members who are sleep deprived debating into the wee hours of the morning can have the deliberative debate, the quality debate, that we can have at 10 o'clock in the morning.

The other thing about the Alberta legislature is that it starts much later than even our Parliament does. Some of these things could have changed with the New Democratic government, which is there provincially. I'm just speaking to my experience from about five or six years ago.

Those types of changes should not be considered in a rush. Again, the sessional calendar that we have, that we come to an agreement on between the House leaders and I believe the whips as well, comes from trying to reach consensus among them. We can get consensus here at this committee if we agree to pass the very reasoned amendment that we've proposed to the motion—a consensus to move forward and then study.

I think the study period is still too short. You could have much debate, with interesting witnesses from every single legislature. They could come here and tell us how it has impacted the work they do. That could include former members of the legislative assemblies which exist provincially, because obviously they'll have a different viewpoint, not being in it anymore. I don't believe you'll have enough time to review all of that information with this model right now.

Mr. Graham talked about a film, Guibord s'en va-t-en guerre.

It's a very good Québécois film directed by Philippe Falardeau. It was released on October 2, 2015. I had the chance to watch it on an airplane. I think it gives a very good overview of the type of parliamentary work done by federal members for their ridings and constituents. I understand the film is a comedy and satire. Regardless, I think it provides a representative view of our profession. I really liked the film. I even showed it to my wife. I think I even bought it on iTunes. I believe the film reflects how the ordinary Canadian voter perceives the role of members. They are men or women who fight for their ridings and constituents. That's what people think we're doing here.

In the film, Mr. Guibord tries to understand how to represent his constituents and the people in his riding. At the same time, he faces many conflicts, including family conflicts and conflicts with interest groups in his riding. His biggest conflict is to determine whether he'll vote for or against the idea of Canada going to war.

I think that mention by Mr. Graham during the debate was interesting, and I see that it goes on. I understand that this was filmed in his riding, so I'm guessing that he's doing a bit of free press for the movie. It's a great movie. He says that it is “a pretty accurate description” of his riding. We were talking about it before committee. It is a pretty accurate description—

6 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

It's a beautiful riding.

6 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

The second most beautiful in Canada—

6 p.m.

An hon. member

After Pontiac.

6 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

I think the movie is edifying for us regarding the role of a parliamentarian. We would all like to think that our constituents think that's the role we have. The challenges he faces are the challenges which I think most Canadians would hope that we have, one of which is that this is not an easy job both for family and for making decisions about how we vote. At the end of the day, how we vote is the most unique thing about our job, and it's not just the standing and sitting for recorded votes, but the substance of our work is to vote.

I'm afraid that with this motion, without the amendment, some of the changes to the special orders and the Standing Orders, the provisional Standing Orders, could result in our not being able to have a vote on certain things, in our being unable to have an opportunity to speak on behalf of our constituents to the fullest extent that we want to, or to move a motion at committee in the way that we want to, perhaps a dilatory motion or perhaps not. That's my concern, that without this, some of us may lose our ability to represent our constituents to the fullest.

Sometimes that requires us to do things that obstruct others, to slow things down and make this place less efficient, but again, that efficiency concept, as I mentioned before, is all about doing things faster.

I see that Mr. Simms is enjoying that one.

6 p.m.

Liberal

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

That's right. I just have this habit of—

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

6 p.m.

Liberal

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

It comes out once in a while. My apologies.

6 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

It comes out once in a while.

6 p.m.

Liberal

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

Yes.

6 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Collectively, we know there has to be a government legislative agenda. The opposition's job is always to react to what the government is doing. You set the agenda. You, in a sense, are the executive—not you as individual members—because you are members of the government caucus. It's about ensuring balance, and about understanding which bills are considered controversial, which ones need more debate, which ones could use less debate, and how we can afford additional debate. What are the mechanisms by which both the government and the opposition can let it be known that they choose to have more debate on a particular issue, or want to have that debate? If you introduce the kind of programming that this proposal has in it without sufficient review, without sufficient study, and I believe without sufficient witnesses coming in, then I'm afraid you will not strike that right balance and you will lose as parliamentarians, not as members of the government caucus. It may not be in this Parliament, but in the Parliament after this one, and the one after that.

There are bills that are not controversial. We have seen our ability in the House to quickly pass bills, such as the Marrakesh treaty bill, because we were in agreement. We agreed with the contents and the principles. When we do that, we move it forward. Likewise, debate has collapsed at times on particular pieces of legislation, such as Bill C-6 in the House of Commons, because no member chose to rise and speak to it or debate it further. It simply proceeded to the next stage in the House.

We don't have to be geniuses to realize that a single member can cause a lot of havoc for any government or opposition on any bill. What we do need, though, is a sense of co-operation. We can build that co-operation at the committee level especially. That's why we didn't simply vote against the motion. We proposed a reasonable amendment that would improve the original motion, one that we could move forward with in terms of its contents. I still believe it's reasonable. The contents of our amendment are pretty reasonable.

We saw with Bill C-14 that the government used time allocation several times. On that particular bill, I disagreed with time allocation being used, because it was an issue of conscience for many of us. Our constituents, or many of them, thought it was an issue of conscience. That bill in itself was a response to a Supreme Court decision, so we as parliamentarians were being asked by the government to respond to it. That was their proposal, to implement what they thought would be a means of abiding by the strictures of the Supreme Court decision. We were free, then, to deliberate to the fullest extent possible on behalf of our constituents. I think it was an error to use time allocation in that situation. Again, that was the government's call to make.

There was some debate, and in my opinion not enough debate. At the committee stage, I'll give great credit to Mr. Housefather, the chair of the committee at the time. He made it possible for every member there to have their amendments considered. I know that he gave me consideration for my amendments that I proposed at committee. To his credit, he allowed me that opportunity.

I don't know what the outcome will be of this report, nor should I know. There should be a study of some of these ideas here. Our ideas on the changes to the Standing Orders have been debated before, but I would caution you about changing the way in which committees work too readily, too quickly, and surrendering your rights as parliamentarians to be heard at committee. We moved it from the House of Commons in 1969 into the committees to have freewheeling debates, to move from generalists to specialists on specific issues. If you allow the types of rules that exist in the House of Commons to be moved into committee, you will lose on that. You will lose the ability to differ with your party when you need to, to be independent thinkers in general, because potentially there could be limits on the type of debate you could have. There could be limits on the types of motions you could put forward. They could program the committee so that it works a certain way, so that when every member has spoken, it simply moves on to the next stage. I don't think we win when we do that.

All of us were elected within a political party. There are no true independents in this House. Even Mr. Tootoo was elected as a member of the Liberal Party of Canada, although now he is free to pursue whatever objectives he has as a parliamentarian. That is his right.

I don't think it suits us to so readily and so quickly change the way these committees work without getting unanimous agreement among ourselves.

I see that Mr. Garrison is here for the New Democrats. I know they would agree with me that we fight hard at committee for the other members of our caucuses who may not be able to sit through the committee because of scheduling reasons. We do this on their behalf, not just for our constituents. There are also our fellow caucus members who may have an interest in a particular issue. We need mandates from our caucuses, because when we speak there, we don't speak just for ourselves and our constituencies. We also speak on behalf of our fellow caucus members.

Again, from the Debates, at one point, one of the members said, “Trust me, if a debate collapses on a particular bill, it might be because there is no one who wants to talk about it.” That is very true.

When we are allotted our 10 minutes in the House of Commons, you don't need to use the full 10 minutes. I've seen members use less than that. They rise, make an excellent point, sit down, and then do a Q and A with a member who chooses to pursue a line of questioning or make a commentary. If we policed ourselves more often, we could find opportunities like that to be faster and more efficient, but you won't achieve that by changing the rules just because sometimes people don't police themselves.

Here's what we should do. Let's try to get some substantial rule changes in our Standing Orders without resorting to forcing it past the opposition. We are opposed to making changes without being sufficiently consulted and without being able to say to not do A, B or C, because it will constrain us as an opposition from being able to fulfill our constitutional obligation to loyally oppose.

As I mentioned before—and will now, maybe for the benefit of some of the members who have joined us this afternoon—you are not my adversaries. You are not my enemies. You are fellow parliamentarians. I am not here to win political points at your expense. I am here to debate you and to deliberate with you. You will disagree with me and I will disagree with you. At the end of the day, in terms of your political affiliation, you will likely vote with your caucus. I accept that, but we can have that deliberation between us. Don't take away all the tools I have to make a point on behalf of my constituency, or on my behalf if I have an issue of conscience I need to raise, or on behalf of my caucus members who may not be able to sit around the table.

There are proposals in here to add members of other parties as ex officio members so they could question witnesses. Right now, we have two hours. Typically, most committees meet over a two-hour period. I've actually asked why the meetings are two hours. I don't know if anybody has ever wondered why we have two-hour committee meetings. Why are they scheduled in two-hour blocks? Is there something about three hours or two and a half hours that doesn't work? In the business world, a two-hour meeting would be called a two-hour waste of time, typically. It would have to be pretty substantial business to have a two-hour meeting with multiple presenters. Engineering companies may do it if there's a complicated project with drawings on the table.

What I have been told—maybe this is apocryphal—is that the two-hour scheduling was done before we gained the buildings that were added to the precinct, and the two-hour windows allowed for every single committee to be scheduled during the day. They would schedule them all in a row. There weren't as many committee rooms as there are now, so they scheduled them one after another and the two-hour blocks made it all work.

Do we need two-hour committee meetings all the time? I know that at times the chairs have finished meetings early. Chairs obviously have longer meetings at times. Small changes to the rules like that are worthy of consideration, but we should come to them by unanimous agreement.

Making this place more functional doesn't require us to surrender our ability as parliamentarians to keep the government accountable, which you want to do also. I've been told by many experienced members, veteran members, and even members of the government and previous governments, that sometimes when considering the main estimates, and even during debates on supplementary estimates, they have discovered things in the documents that they didn't even realize were contradictions or errors.

I remember doing estimates at the provincial legislature in Alberta. Sometimes there would be inaccuracies. There would be typos that would have to be explained. Sometimes the civil servants had not removed a certain thing that they had specifically been asked to remove because it was no longer part of the agenda of the government, and it was only realized through considering the main estimates. The committees are the opportunities to review those estimates. If we program the committees to limit how much we can speak, we'll lose that opportunity. We really do very little of it in the House.

There is a provision that the estimates are automatically passed at a certain point, debated or not and considered or not. There, we have already surrendered part of the core job of a parliamentarian, which is to review how the government spends money.

The President of the Treasury Board is proposing changes to when and how the estimates are considered, so I know that it's already being considered by the government in its proposals to Parliament. This is something that parliamentarians have talked about in the past. The main estimates are done on a cash accounting basis. The government does accrual accounting. The fiscal years don't match.

I remember being at the chamber of commerce when we invited the deputy parliamentary budget officer to come to Calgary and explain this problem to us. He made a fantastic presentation to our tax and economic affairs committee and really convinced the people who were there, business people, about the errors and mistakes that could occur and the difficulty in tracking how government spends money.

Earlier, I mentioned the second chamber. I am moving on to page 5571 of the Debates. I won't go through all of them, because I'd like to move on to a few more articles and the debates from 1991, when there was an attempt to force through changes to the Standing Orders without unanimous agreement, and go through how adversarial it became at that time between members of the government and members of the opposition.

There are two last points I'll make on the debates. This concept of a second chamber, like they have in the United Kingdom, I think is unnecessary. What we need to do is fill the chamber with the members we already have. The best debates I have seen have happened when there were more members in the chamber who got engaged because there was an engaging speaker making a point that perhaps someone hadn't made, who was perhaps doing it in a tongue-in-cheek way, or who perhaps grabbed the attention of another group of parliamentarians. Then there is an easygoing back-and-forth, a flow of conversation and debate.

I don't believe that we need a second chamber. I know that it was mentioned by some members in the debate on October 6, and I know that part of this original motion is to consider what members have mentioned.

Here's what I signed up for. No one forced me to run. I wasn't forced into this by my wife—definitely not my wife—and I wasn't forced into this by constituents or by the local Conservative association. We've all signed up for a job that involves gruelling travel. We have all heard people talk of working 15-hour days and working on weekends. For some of us, it's a very long trip back home. We all campaigned for 78 days in the last election for people to grant us this: to earn the privilege to sit here as parliamentarians and serve in the House. I try to keep my complaining about the work-life balance to a minimum.

I campaigned vigorously against New Democratic and Liberal opponents in my riding who wanted to do exactly the same thing. They were signing up for exactly the same type of job. What I don't want members of the cabinet to say is that to save our work-life balance they're going to reduce our sitting time by 20% and reapportion the hours to another time. I don't think that would help this place work. I don't think it would improve debate. I don't think it would improve work-life balance. How about they let parliamentarians decide about their work-life balance?

If I remember correctly, it was this committee that did not pursue recommending doing away with Friday sittings, but it reappears here for consideration. I know that Mr. Simms has offered a different perspective, which is to do a full normal day on Friday. I've offered my perspective that perhaps what we could do is bring back committees of the House to take their debates to the House for a day. They would be automatically pre-scheduled so that everybody would know that the foreign affairs committee would come in for three hours and the members of the committee would be expected to be there, perhaps on a motion to debate a report or an issue.

It's an option, but I haven't studied it enough. I haven't considered it enough to understand the ramifications of doing that. I don't think you have enough time to complete a report by June 2 and get consensus at this table without passing our amendment to the motion. You will need that done in order to get that across.

There are many people who work in different occupations, such as the military, or who work in Fort McMurray, who travel quite a bit, are away from their families, and don't get a say in their work-life balance. It's imposed upon them by their employers. Our employers are our constituents, the taxpayers of Canada. In a group, they pay us to be here to work on their behalf as parliamentarians first, not members of our caucuses first.

I defend the interests of my constituents because nobody else here exists to do that. As I've mentioned, I have the second largest riding in Canada. Nobody else is going to represent it here but me. That's the best I can do on their behalf. Within five years—and likely within four years, because that's the law—there will be an election, and I will be held to account for my performance in the House. A great thing about our democracy is that individual voters can use whatever metric they want to rate us. They can ask us if we have missed a lot of votes, if we have been present in the House, or if we have spoken enough. I hope they will feel that I have spoken enough.

6 p.m.

Liberal

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

Today you did.

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!