Madam Speaker, before I begin my comments on this issue, which I think the members on the government side are slowly starting to forget, the member for Waterloo talked about intellectual honesty. If he wanted to be intellectually honest he would have answered the question of my colleague from Macleod when he asked whether the member for Waterloo would or would not support a member from the Bloc Quebecois as a deputy chair. He refused to answer and squirmed around it.
When someone talks about intellectual honesty and expects it, why would that person not simply answer a question yes or no? That was not a question that required a five minute conversation off topic.
The essence of this motion moved by the House leader of the government is the independence of the Chair. The person whose name has been put forward is also a person who has impeccable qualifications, is extremely qualified to sit in the position of a chair and who has worked for years in understanding the standing orders which are the rules of this House that speakers in the chair must apply when rendering decisions.
A lot of times, because of a lot of issues and the partisan nature of politics in this country, there are divisive issues and ideas and people need to have rules. The standing orders are there for us to follow. When we step out of line the Chair must rule.
This individual is the member for Kingston and the Islands. It is his name that was put forward by the House leader of the government. However, the issue is linking the two, the individual himself and the independence of the Chair.
The member for Kingston and the Islands has said that he believes in secret ballots for the election of Speakers because in that way all the members of the House can then enhance the respect and any of the rulings by the Speaker of the House.
Furthermore, the member for Kingston and the Islands was on a committee when in opposition which wrote the Liberal plan for the House of Commons and electoral reform that was titled "Reviving Parliamentary Democracy". The opposition members of that committee were the current Minister of Health, the Minister of Labour, the member for Kingston and the Islands whose name has been put forward to be the deputy chair, and the former party whip, the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell who is now also a cabinet minister of francophonie and intergovernmental affairs. These people have worked hard to earn their positions. They had ideas in opposition and even though politics is part of that sometimes we can find agreement.
In this case the Reform Party agrees with a lot of the democratic reforms that have been put forward by the Liberal members when they were in opposition. They now have an opportunity to do the things they fought for and believed in so hard in opposition.
While in opposition the Liberals said that this House was dysfunctional. They came forward with 18 recommendations, all the way from committees, taxation, new rules for question period so that it would have some meaning. They suggested things like limiting the questions and the answers, telling the government side to answer questions. The joke around here is that this is not answer
period. It is question period, so they do not answer. There are a lot of good ideas in this document.
Reformers are not bringing this forward to put the member for Kingston and the Islands down. It is brought forward to compliment the member for Kingston and the Islands and to say that his ideas and his suggestions, especially this one, have a lot of merit.
He is pushing for the independence of the Chair. That is important. When the battle is heated we do not want any partiality to be a part of the decision of the Chair. Therefore it is very important. The fact that the McGrath round of procedural reforms decided that the Speaker should be elected by secret ballot has gone a long way toward assuring members of the independence of the presiding officer. Here is the important point. We are talking about deputy chairs.
"The three deputy speakers, however, remain in effect government appointees as a consequence. When one of the junior officers is in the Chair his or her independence and authority is less well established. Their authority would be greatly enhanced and the non-partisan nature of the Chair greatly augmented if the British practice of alternating Chair positions between government and opposition were adopted". It does not say official opposition. It says opposition, as my colleague from Prince George-Peace River mentioned.
Thus if the Speaker were from the government party, the Deputy Speaker would be from the opposition, the next officer from the government and so forth, back and forth like that.
This is the principle we believe in. This is a concept that will further and help guarantee the independence of the Chair. The fact that the person who made this recommendation, who signed this proposal, is now the person being put forward it seems to me that we should have an election for that position. We should put his recommendation into practice. Rather than having the deputy chair we should have one member from an opposition party as deputy chair and not all of them from the government side.
This is the government's last opportunity to implement this recommendation, to keep one of its red book promises so that it becomes part of the glowing statistics about which the Prime Minister has been telling us. Now is the opportunity to do this. It is probably the best thing that a politician can do and accomplish in his or her career in politics. It is to bring about systemic change, to bring about changes in the system rather than just changing the faces.
How can people respect politicians and the functions of this House if nothing really changes but only the faces are changed? Here are the very people who are recommending something that we would support given the opportunity to actually make one of the deputy chairs come from the opposition parties and the government does not do it.
I would like to recommend to the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands that he now has the opportunity, as my colleague from St. Albert put forward, to say to his government because he authored this, because he is a man of conviction, because he has integrity, this is an opportunity. I know he would like to be in the Chair. I know he would like to have the experience. I know that it would be a great sacrifice on his part. The suggestion is why does he not withdraw his name. Why does he not give a speech on this issue? He has not spoken yet. Why does he not address this issue and say that he believes in that report. To help the Prime Minister keep one more promise why does he not recommend that a name from the opposition be put forward? That is the way to decide this issue.
That would be a way to help the government keep a promise. It would be a way to help restore integrity and honesty to the system of politics. It would be a way for this member to bow out of a very embarrassing situation.
The excuse from the current deputy House leader is that the government has 24 months left to keep its promises. Does that not fly in the face of credibility when everybody knows that there is going to be an election as early as possible in the spring or by June or as late as October of next year? That is not 24 months.
Talk about intellectual honesty which the member for Waterloo so proudly defends. There are a lot of discredited comments coming from the government side.
This is what is wrong with what is happening here. Once again we are continuing the form of patronage which does not take into consideration commitments and principles that the government believed in when in opposition.
The opportunity to change the system which is before the government is also before this individual. There is nothing worse than to see the government side hide behind excuses, to see the government side flip-flop on issues. The list of broken promises is pathetic on its part but a benefit to us.
We are happy and proud of the fact that the government stole a lot of our ideas which are part of our platform. We are proud and happy with the fact that when in opposition the Liberals were against NAFTA and free trade. We told them, we argued and we even had to vote holding our noses for another Conservative government just to get free trade for Canada because their former leader, John Turner, was against it. Now they sing and praise the virtues of it. The very last vote the government had when in opposition was on NAFTA and all the front benches voted against it. All of them voted against it; not one voted for it and now all they do is praise the virtues of it.