Mr. Speaker, I am rising of course in opposition to the government motion, the motion tabled by the Liberal government, a Liberal party which was outraged against a similar motion by the Conservative government in 1991.
The Liberal government has tabled Motion No. 1 which allows a minister, during the first 30 sitting days, with a mere statement when proposing a motion for first reading, to restore that bill to the same stage in the legislative process as it was during the previous session. The bill needs only be in exactly the same form in every detail as it was in the previous session. That is the rule.
The government has incorporated into the motion amendments concerning the period for examination of the Main Estimates for the fiscal year 1996-97. These amendments are related to prorogation of the House and are of a technical nature. There is no precedent for such a motion. The only precedent that exists dates back to 1991, when the Conservative government tabled a motion for debate on March 28 and moved closure on May 29.
Prior to 1991, Parliamentary precedent required such a motion to have unanimous consent of the House, and this was democratic. If all parties were in favour of this motion, there would be no problem in proceeding case by case.
It is interesting to review the speeches made in 1991 by various Liberal members, who were then in opposition. I will begin with the member for Cape Breton-East Richmond, today a government minister, who stated that they were opposed to the government motion because "the motion attempts to place before the House five separate and distinct legislative matters which do not lend themselves to being considered together. The government should have given notice of five individual motions and this motion seeks to circumvent, indeed to subvert, the normal legislative process of this House".
The hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, who often rises to speak in this House, not so much since prorogation but during the past two years at least, said in 1991 "They have to be reinstated in the usual course, but they ought to have been introduced and dealt with as new bills in this session". That is the tradition, the rule, the custom. He added that "any irregularity of any portion of a motion renders the whole motion irregular. For this House to adopt a bill without any debate, without any discussion at any stage is completely irregular and improper".
In 1991, the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell said "The implications of ruling this motion in order would be such that I fear we could render-if a government wanted to-this House of Commons totally irrelevant and redundant".
The member for Cape Breton-East Richmond, whom I already quoted today added, on pages 657 and 659 of Hansard: "The motion before us today in its substance is totally unacceptable-[and] is designed for the sole purpose of subverting the legislative rules of the Parliament of Canada". What the hon. member said at the time was pretty significant and fairly serious. Today, however, they are doing an about face and are saying the total opposite. Really coherent.
He went on to say: "-trying to reinstate legislation which has fallen dead as a result of the government's own ineptitude and subsequent action with regard to proroguing this Parliament". This is exactly what is happening today. The Liberal government decided on February 2 to prorogue the session. It knew where the bill was at. Why was it not debated in the previous session? Why did it not decide to prorogue at some other point?
The member for LaSalle-Émard, now the Minister of Finance, said, again in 1991: "We find ourselves in the situation we are now in. The bill died on the Order Paper. In its supreme arrogance and lack of understanding, this government comes to us and says: `we would like to reinstate it"'.
Next, I would like to quote the member for Halifax, who said in 1991: "The government should be ashamed. We are wondering today why there was a prorogation-the House leader is presenting us this pernicious motion-and I emphasize the word-in order to speed up the passage of five bills, in total disregard for the traditions of the House and the British parliamentary procedure and in disregard for the Canadian people".
The former fisheries minister, influential member of the Liberal Party, the member for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, now the Premier of Newfoundland said, again in 1991: "Parliament is being systematically destroyed by the government-in hundreds of years of evolution of parliamentary government, such a motion has never been put before any parliament-because [such a motion] is a form of executive dictatorship-Parliament belongs to the people-[government] uses the tyranny of the majority-to deny the elected representatives-[their responsibility] to be heard in the proper examination of bills".
I come back now to the member for Kingston and the Islands, who said: "The government wants to impose a new definition of democracy on Canadians, one of the greatest affronts to the House in years. It is immoral for the government to introduce this motion. The government is short-circuiting the legislative process to consider five bills. This behaviour is reprehensible. The government knows it. It has not produced a single tittle of evidence to support this gross breach of our practice, and I suggest that it is totally inappropriate".
Next, I would like to quote the member for Winnipeg St. James, who said: "No government would want to resurrect a bill that was
deemed dead some time in the past-if the government in effect says to heck with this House, to heck with the opposition, to heck with precedent, if that is the view of the government, how much more down the road can it go?"
Finally, to quote the member for Saint-Léonard, the riding neighbouring mine, and now the Minister of Labour: "If the government really intended to examine these bills, it should have done it before the prorogation of the House and that should have been negotiated."
In my opinion, this motion is anti-democratic. It runs counter to the rules, customs and traditions of British parliamentary procedure. I see no reason whatsoever for the government's decision to introduce this motion when two opposition parties are against it.
This motion will affect several bills, bill C-111 in particular. This bill on unemployment insurance I described in a previous speech as a bill on poverty insurance or destitution insurance, since its ultimate objective is to reduce benefits to the unemployed and to attack the jobless rather than joblessness, contrary to the Liberal red book's promise of "jobs, jobs, jobs".
Instead of creating those jobs, it has tabled Bill C-111 which is also anti-union and anti-worker and has been criticized across Canada. We have witnessed demonstrations in New Brunswick, in Quebec, in Ontario, and last week in British Columbia. The unemployed from the Outaouais region came here to demonstrate against the bill. I personally took part in a regional demonstration against the bill held in Montreal by three labour federations. Everyone felt that the bill would be considered to have died on the Order Paper. But now with this motion we find ourselves faced with the bill at the same stage, as if there had been no prorogation. This is unacceptable to all those who have worked against this bill, which is anti-worker and anti-union.
For all of the foregoing reasons, I am vigorously opposed to this government motion.