Madam Speaker, I want to speak against the motion. Like my colleagues, I am very concerned about the message that this motion sends. There is a real cynicism in the country today that is caused by many factors, not the least of which is the perception, and the fact, that MPs have become very unaccountable. Governments have become very unaccountable.
That perception can only be strengthened by what the government is proposing to do, continue on with same slate of vice-chairmen that we currently have in the standing committees. It is absolutely ridiculous. To illustrate why that is so wrong it is important to go back through what happened on the committee I was sitting on when we chose a vice-chair last time to show where some of the problems are.
I was sitting on the Canadian heritage committee. It is important to remember what committee I was on. When it came time to choose a new chairman and vice-chairman the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, the chief government whip, showed up at the meeting. That never happens. When the whip shows up in a committee you know the fix is in. The whip is there to keep people in line and that is exactly what happened. The whip is there to crack his whip.
The whip came in, sat at the table and the Liberal members were sitting beside him. The chair was chosen first. The chair took his place and we immediately moved a motion asking that a Reform member be nominated to sit as the vice-chair. We were told no, that was not going to happen. The chairman was not ready despite what the standing orders say, despite what the rules say, and our motion was ignored.
The Bloc motion was recognized and subsequently a Bloc member was chosen to be vice-chair of the Canadian heritage committee, the one committee that is dedicated at least in part to helping keep the country together. Where is the common sense in that?
Madam Speaker, if you go to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Bathurst, New Brunswick, Sooke, B.C. or Brooks, Alberta and you ask people if that makes any sense at all they are going to ask what is the matter with MPs? No wonder Canadians are so cynical about this place. Should we have a separatist sit as the vice-chair of the Canadian heritage committee? That is ridiculous.
Last fall the committee was to travel across the country to hear from Canadians about how to keep Canada together. Are we really going to have a separatist chair that committee going across the country to talk about how we can keep the country together? Do you think that makes sense? Do you not think it is really contrary to what most people would regard as common sense? I certainly do.
In the wake of the referendum we heard that certain hon. members from the Bloc Quebecois were talking to members of the Canadian military about starting an armed forces in Quebec after the referendum campaign. Does it really make sense in the wake of the referendum to have a vice-chair on the defence committee from
the separatist party? That is absolutely nuts. It is crazy and yet here are these members across the way defending it.
We are sitting in Parliament, an institution that should reflect the wishes of Canadians. It should be an institution where the rules and procedures allow for the scrutiny of government, allow people to have their say through their elected representatives, first with respect to the issues, but also with respect to whom they want representing them on the various committees that are an offshoot of the House of Commons. Of course we do not have that despite the commitments that the government made in their red book.
The Liberals were elected because of the red book. They appeared in ads and said: "We have the people, we have the plan" and they flashed the red book around. In the red book was a commitment to change the way committees work. They said: "We want to make them more democratic. We want to give committees more power".
What did they do? They said they wanted to make them more democratic and wanted to give them more power, but what they did was completely different. They brought the chief government whip in, the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell who seems to have a love affair with the separatists. They sat him down in the Canadian heritage committee, and he made sure the Liberal members voted for a separatist to sit as vice-chair of the Canadian heritage committee. That is absolutely ridiculous.
There we go again, another broken Liberal promise. Just like the GST, just like the NAFTA and just like all the others, it is another broken promise. How cynical of them to sit over there and assert that we should accept that again in this session of Parliament. It is absolutely ridiculous.
Often we send delegations around the world to monitor elections in other countries as though we have some special expertise on democracy. What would happen if someone sat in on one of these committee meetings and watched how things were conducted, particularly when it is time to elect chairmen and vice-chairs for the committees? This is after we have seen the Liberal red book commitment which said that the vice-chairs would come from the opposition parties. We saw that even in the event of the debate over the Speaker's chair, but we need not go into that again. They made that kind of commitment. How ironic that we should be sitting here voting to send people around the world to monitor other people's elections. It is absolutely crazy. All we have to do is go to one of these committee meetings to see how ironic that is.
Not very long ago the Deputy Prime Minister, who is now the Minister of Canadian Heritage, argued that we needed to return to the spirit of 1967. She was referring to the year that Canada celebrated its 100th anniversary, the year when there was a great national celebration. We all felt very patriotic about our country and very sentimental about some of the things we valued in the country. That is a very noble idea. Some of the government's approaches toward achieving that are completely out to lunch. It seems to think somehow heritage flows from the government down to the people and not the other way around.
Setting that aside for a moment, I want to ask the Deputy Prime Minister rhetorically how this decision to have a member of the separatist Bloc Quebecois sit as a vice-chair of the Canadian heritage committee squares with her sentiment that we should return to the spirit of 1967.