Mr. Speaker, I am going to probably have little time beyond giving my introduction, but I do want to say something with respect to boundary reallocation.
What we are talking about is how many MPs we send to this House, where they come from, what region they represent and what their constituencies are. It reminds me of a story I read a long time ago entitled "How Much Land Does a Man Really Need?" It was a story about a man who, in almost a crusade, spent his whole life amassing land. At the end of the story he died and it was found that the amount of land he really needed was a plot of about two feet by six feet.
I asked myself the question: How many MPs are really needed in this place? I have come to the conclusion that we need 20 MPs. Those 20 would all be cabinet ministers. They would decide what is done and the rest would be redundant. Members may say that does not sound very good, but that is really the way it is right now.
This is a government that promised more involvement for members of Parliament. It is a government that promised more meaningful work in committees. I have observed what happens in committees. During the beginning we had some really good debates, good honest give and take and some true negotiations. However, when we came to the place where we were actually voting on the clause by clause, these poor members from the government side all came in with their little sheets of paper and were told what to do. Even though prior to that I know from the way they responded that I had persuaded a number of them on different issues, they voted against them. When I asked several of them why, they said "Well, we don't really have a choice". That is deplorable.
If that is the way this government is going to work and that is the meaning of more MP involvement then this whole exercise is really an exercise in waste. Why should we even consider increasing the number of members of Parliament from 295 to 301 when most of the members here are redundant in any case?
Added to that is the fact that we are also limited in the debate. As a member of Parliament representing Elk Island, the only way I can represent them and have their wishes influence the decisions of government is through debate. When I debate I put out my best arguments. I try to persuade the other members to
my point of view. We actually experienced this in one of the committees in which I participated, where there was a closure right in committee and we were not permitted to debate. Even if I were able to debate and persuade, if members are not given the freedom to represent their constituents, as is the practice with this present government, there is no point in having them.
My conclusion is very simple: The move of this government to increase the number of members of Parliament is truly an ill conceived notion. It is one that should not even be thought of until it is decided that members of Parliament will be allowed to truly represent their constituents. How deplorable of the Prime Minister to praise the members of Parliament who defied their constituents, who went against what even they believed, by saying to them it was wonderful that they put that aside in order to keep party unity.
This Parliament needs true representation of the wishes of the people. If we had true free votes then surely there would be meaningful give and take, meaningful debate, meaningful negotiations on different points. We would eliminate and we would amend those clauses of bills which were undesirable. We would pass bills in amended form which would be good for the country.
The way it is right now we end up with the lowest common denominator. It is forced on us. We have absolutely no say in the matter. I am speaking now of the Liberal backbenchers who are not permitted to vote according to their consciences and according to the wishes of their constituents. We need to redefine the way Parliament works.
The Senate has sent Bill C-69 back. Of course we have a little bit of a problem with the Senate because it is not elected, but the Senate has in sober second thought come back with some amendments to the bill, some of which we actually support.
This country has the potential for the best government possible. If only we would in honesty and in clarity do away with those aspects of our democracy that do not function properly. We could replace them with a true representative democracy, one in which we acknowledge that democracy works best when the wishes of the majority are considered, when the common sense of the common people by majority vote is brought into this place, where each of us as members of Parliament can represent that. If we find a consensus among the Canadian people for the views that are being put forward because we represent them, then certainly Canadians will continue to have a high regard for law and order which we so desire.
A basic fundamental aspect of democracy is the willingness of the governed to be governed. We are going to lose that if we practise the arrogance of the kind of government we are experiencing here where a small group of people simply impose their wishes on everyone else by cutting off debate, not allowing free votes, controlling and inhibiting the freedom of members of Parliament. It is time that we clarified this. We must indicate to the Canadian people that we are ready to make the needed changes. This is urgent. Really urgent.
For example, while we are going down the tube at the rate of $110 million a day, more and more people are no longer willing to participate in the tax process. Why is that? Because the GST was rammed through without the majority will of the people. It was rammed through using exactly the same system which is being used here tonight. Because of that we are losing between $7 billion and $10 billion a year, and some estimate up to $40 billion to $50 billion per year, in unpaid taxes. People are saying that if this government rams things through that the majority does not concur with, they just will not concur in practice. That is exactly what is happening.
We see the same thing in the justice system. Rules are being passed that do not bear the majority of Canadian support. Consequently there is no reflection in the laws of what the people support. There is a reduced respect for it and this country has an increasing amount of lawlessness and crime.
The government got elected on its word that it would restore integrity, give more meaningful work to members of Parliament, and increase the importance of committees. The government having been elected on those words is missing a great opportunity by not delivering on them. It is a terrible thing that the government is thumbing its nose at the people of Canada by engaging in these practices.
I am appalled at the fact that the government persists in doing things like pushing this bill through for purely political reasons. There is no excuse that would warrant changing the political boundaries simply because after the process had started, a number of members felt they were being threatened.
If we wanted to do the honourable thing, we would say that perhaps there is a problem. In order to provide for continuity and stability in the political process, we would simply begin our work and the rules which are presently in place would stay there until the next election in order to remove the political motivation from the process.
This is a tremendously important era we are embarking on. The government talks about representing the people. It comes up with that theme so often. Members of Parliament are saying that if they have 25 per cent more in their ridings they will be unable to represent them properly. With all due regard, those are empty words from members of Parliament who persist in ignoring the wishes of the very constituents they are concerned about. We need to be honest about this. We need to do what we are sent here to do, which is to represent our constituents.
With respect to the bill before us, we would do well to give it some serious second thought. We would do very well to think soberly and carefully about the ramifications of it. With all of the push and rush of the last few days I am not sure that we are making good decisions.
I cannot believe that raking members of Parliament over the coals as we have been doing for 14 hours a day yields any good thought. It does not give us the best ability to think clearly. Putting through bills such as the MPs pension plan without looking at the long term effects of it and ramming through other bills such as Bill C-41 and Bill C-68 have tremendous implications to our population.
The government rams this through by saying: "We are only going to talk for so many hours and then we are going to vote. You are going to vote the way you are told. We are the majority. We will get it through". That is not the way to provide good democracy and good decision making.
Many members of this 35th Parliament will look back. They will then recognize how grave the errors were because of the lack of thought and the lack of integrity in the democratic process. There is no adequate debate, no freedom to vote, so what can we expect?
The only thing I can do as a member of Parliament is to try to persuade. In most of the committees on which I sat there were two and sometimes four opposition members, but there were always more government members. If I wanted to get my point of view across to influence a change in the legislation we were contemplating I had to persuade.
I challenge government members to be brave, to stand up for what is right and to put aside the years and years, almost a century of a tradition which is taking us down the wrong road. I challenge members of the Liberal Party, who in majority can do whatever they want, to think independently in terms of what is good for their constituents and what is good for Canada. Without disrespect to their leader they should simply say: "I stand on a high principle. I will do what I know is right". I am sure that if members of Parliament from whatever party followed that principle they would be applauded by the people who really matter, the people who elected them.
On the other hand, I would probably be better off politically speaking if I were to encourage Liberal members to continue to do what they are doing. The more they do that the more cynical Canadians will become and the more seriously they will think about alternatives. Canadians had it up to here with the Conservatives because of their arrogance. If we continue to have this kind of behaviour from the Liberal government Canadians will be more likely to look at an alternative in terms of a true democratic system which will represent them.
I also want to say a few words to Bloc members and to the Quebec members of the Liberal Party. These days we are facing the challenge of having our country torn apart. A group of people is saying that Canada as it exists no longer works and that group wants out. Of course, they do not want to opt out of the pension plan; they want to opt out of Canada but not out of the pension plan. These people are saying that Canada does not work.
It is an easy and simplistic response for the government to say that it is Quebec's problem. It would be much more honest to say: "Let us look at what part of it is the Ottawa problem". When will the federal government wake up to the fact that the people of Canada are tired of having somebody in distant Ottawa controlling every aspect of their lives? It is no wonder that some of them would come to that conclusion, although we disagree with it.
All Canadians, not only the people in the west, or in Ontario and eastern Canada, but also the people of Quebec should be made an offer which says: "Let us stay together in a democracy, in a federation which truly works because the people who come here to represent the constituencies are free to represent them". If we were to practise that and if we were to go back to the principles of our Constitution, in which the members of Parliament represent their constituents and guard the rights of the provinces, we could all live together in harmony. We could all survive, look after our own domains and do so very efficiently. No one would be so disgruntled with the country that he or she would feel it necessary to leave.
The electoral boundaries issue is but a symptom of a much larger problem. We need to look at what is causing the problem and correct that. It is in that area that we will maintain the unity of the country.
To all people in Quebec, and they may not have thought of this before, I urge all in la belle province, to consider what we say. We want to be one with them. We want to reconsider. We want to look again at the Constitution of the country. We want to build it in such a way that respect of all Canadian citizens is maintained and that all provinces can live in Confederation in unity and in harmony.
This bill is very important. I urge members to vote against it so that it will die and we can look at this more seriously in a better way later.