Madam Speaker, today's debate arose from a situation the government created. It was the straw that broke the camel's back when the government failed to give the customary 48 hours notice of the motion it brought forward regarding the junior chair. If the government had not done that today, we would probably not have had this opportunity to talk about the broken promise that we have on the other side.
I would reiterate that this is definitely not an attack on the member for Kingston and the Islands, although by his own admission in this House he does not read the bills. Perhaps if he were the Speaker it would be an opportunity for him to read the bills, to follow every debate in great detail and to assist us with his knowledge of the rules.
If it had not been for the fact that the government had failed to keep a promise and then exacerbated the situation by not giving 48 hours notice, we would not be discussing this situation today.
The plain fact is it is a real mystery to the majority of Canadians why this government continually supports or seems to act in ways that support the official opposition instead of recognizing the contribution that is made by the Reform Party of Canada which represents a greater number of provinces and a greater number of interests across the country. There is a good case to be made for having a member from the Reform Party as one of the deputy speakers. It would be a good idea to put it to a vote in this House.
I know it is not the motion before us, but support seems to be gathering as we go through this debate today to have an election as we did for the Speaker. Because it was done by a secret ballot, whoever was elected through that process would have no idea who cast the ballots that elected him or her and it would be guaranteed to be impartial. Because of that, he or she would rely upon a good relationship with the members in this House to retain that position in to the future. I strongly support the idea of an election and I hope we will move to that, if not in the short term, certainly in the long term.
I refer to the report "Reviving Parliamentary Democracy: The Liberal Plan for House of Commons and Electoral Reform". In fact, the member for Kingston and the Islands was one of the authors of the report. I have it here and I know I cannot use props so I cannot hold it up. I quote from a passage on page 9 which is headed "The Independence of the Chair":
- In order to enhance the independence of the Chair and in an effort to reduce the level of partisanship, when the Speaker is from the government party, two of the junior Chair officers should be from the opposition, so that the four presiding officer positions are shared equally by government and opposition.
That position is actually supported by the member for Kingston and the Islands.
It is a shame that this government has not put itself in the position of keeping this promise. It is very disturbing and if the government had not irritated us by failing to keep this promise, we would not be in this debate today.
Perhaps in the long run it will turn out for the best because it has brought attention to the issue. The government side has been unable to put up any speakers to counter the arguments. It has been incapable of defending its position and it has now done the disgusting thing of moving notice of closure on this discussion. The government is going to close us down so that we cannot have a decent debate on the issue. Frankly, the government members do not want to discuss it.
We have heard about the terrible reputation of the Mulroney government in moving closure and closing down debate in this place. This government that talked about more free votes, talked about appointing junior chairs from the opposition, has moved
closure four times as often as the Mulroney government. It is striking out for new records in that respect.
The Prime Minister loves to claim during question period that he is only adhering to the well established traditions of parliamentary democracy. Maybe he has not bothered to take a look at what is happening in other parliamentary democracies in the 30 years he has been here. He is still working under the same rules he learned 30 years ago.
If he had bothered to take a little look when he was on one of his trips to the U.K., he would have noticed that it is quite common in the mother of Parliaments for members to vote with members on the opposite side. It happens a couple of hundred times a year. There are no penalties for that. People do not get tossed out of caucus. It is one of those things that has developed as Parliament matured.
Unfortunately the Canadian Parliament is mired in the old ways of doing things. It has not caught up with the information age. It really is one of the most backward institutions in the world today.
As many members know, I am from New Zealand and there have been dramatic changes there in the parliamentary system. It would not be faced with a debate about filling junior chair positions from the opposition benches. In New Zealand the government introduced the initiative and referendum. It has a mixed member proportional system of electing members and it has really shown creativity in adapting the parliamentary system to the information age.
Meanwhile, here in Canada we remain mired in the ways of the past, in what the Prime Minister likes to call tradition. "More free votes" he said. I guess if we had one he could say that he had fulfilled his promise of more free votes. I do not think that is what the Canadian people thought he meant by more free votes. Certainly it has been a major disappointment.
I write a weekly column for a newspaper in my riding, the North Shore News . I had already put together the material for next week's report. It is just by pure coincidence that it dealt with promises that had been made by this government. It is very appropriate that I raise it today.
The promise that has been broken today by refusing to allow the appointment of a junior chair from the opposition benches is just one of a long list of broken promises. My colleague for Kootenay East actually put together a list of the top 10 broken promises. I think it is probably appropriate that there be some exposure of those right here in this Chamber.
Obviously number one on the top of the list would be the jobs, jobs, jobs promise which is in chapter 1 of the red book. Instead of jobs, jobs, jobs we are stuck with 1.4 million unemployed, 500,000 Canadians looking for work, youth unemployment at 18 per cent or higher, and polls showing one in four Canadians to be worried about the security of their jobs.
Second on the list from the member for Kootenay East is preserving and protecting medicare. We have already heard some discussion in the debate today about the tremendous cutbacks there have been in the transfers in support of medicare across the country. Meanwhile, members of the government stride around the country saying what a wonderful job they have done, paying lip service to the protection of medicare while they busily cut the funding, creating longer wait lists, probably creating the possibility that people die while on those waiting lists.
If we look at the figures, by the 1998-99 fiscal year the present government will have cut $7 billion from social transfers to the provinces, completely contradictory to the promises made on page 74 of the red book.
It is just like the promise made about appointing deputy or junior chairs-broken promises. As much as the Liberals try to say they have kept their promises, even the ones we can kind of give them some credit for keeping, are only kept in a sort of halfway manner.
When they talk about keeping their promises on the debt and deficit, if we really look deeply we would find that they have cut the heart out of some programs in order to give the appearance of making progress, while at the same time increasing our total debt by almost $100 billion in three years.