Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments of the member for Halifax West. I think he misconstrues the intent of the amendments in Group No. 2, which is to protect existing small businesses.
I fully concur with his remarks concerning the little restaurant, the great service he gets and how hard the owner works. Full marks for that lady and full marks for the business. These amendments are aimed at preventing somebody from moving in and setting up another restaurant right beside it and getting a government loan which would allow it to unfairly compete and put that poor woman out of business. We have seen that happen in Saskatchewan. It is not an uncommon phenomenon.
In my part of Saskatchewan and in that part represented by the hon. member for Souris—Moose Mountain the towns and villages are dying. The small businesses that remain are hanging on by their fingernails. When another business moves in to a place where there cannot possibly be room for two, and that business has a small business loan or a government grant, the business that is already there and just barely hanging on goes down first. Then the business that came in with government help usually goes down within a couple of years because it does not have the feel for the market nor does it have the skills of the business that had survived in that place for two or three generations. Instead of having one struggling business making it on its own, we end up with nothing, thanks to the beneficence of our government in backing these loans.
That type of interference with the marketplace is not good for society. I am not here to get into a long ideological harangue about the free market. We can debate that at another time and in another place. I am sure the hon. member for Halifax West and I could have a wonderful time debating that. We are debating a specific government bill and some proposed amendments to it which, in our eyes, would make it a better bill.
I know there are men and women in small business on the benches opposite. I have talked to some of them and they appear to be very reasonable folks. I think that in their hearts they understand what we are talking about in these amendments.
I would be surprised if there is a member in this House who has not had someone say to him or her “A new business has opened just down the street from an existing business providing a similar type of service in my hometown. It looks like the new business is going to put the old one out of business. We think it must have got a small business loan or a grant”.
There is this cynical outlook. Whenever anybody starts a business in a place where conditions do not look good, the public immediately concludes it was done with government help and by George, I think that 90% of the time the public is right. That is not the way to run a country. However when push comes to shove and the big shepherd holds up his staff, those people over there who understand this phenomenon and who are small business people all say “baa” in unison and the bill passes. This is not parliament as it was intended to be, which brings me to the matter of time allocation.
We are now debating with a gun at our heads. In the 35th Parliament the government used time allocation 32 times and closure three times. In this the 36th Parliament the government has already used time allocation nine times.
Instead of calling this the House of Commons, perhaps we should rename it the Dumas or the Reichstag because this is not parliament as parliament was intended to be. This is contrary to 300 years of tradition. It is contrary to the way that this parliament operated for the first half century or more of its life.
I believe closure was first used in this House by Borden. It was used extremely sparingly right up until the Trudeau administration. Then they started to lay it on heavier. Even that administration did not use it as many times in the several incarnations that it had as this government has used it in the last five years. The Mulroney government used it more extensively and with a heavier hand than the Trudeau administration but it was still a piker compared to this administration which is now routinely using it. The government uses time allocation time after time after time, no pun intended, and for no reason.
If there is an extremely important bill in the hopper and the opposition is being a little obstreperous and the bill has to get through or the country will collapse the next day at six o'clock in the morning, then yes. The technique was put in for a reason, but it was not put in to be used frivolously or habitually.
This is an affront to the traditions of parliamentary democracy. It is an affront which is practised routinely by this government. That is wrong. We have to get back to the tradition that parliament, not cabinet, but parliament is the overall authority in the country. Regardless of what the cabinet wants, parliament should be free to debate the issues of the day for as long as parliament wants and in any way it wants.
The heavy-handed manipulation has to stop. The whole institution is falling into disrepute. Unfortunately, people outside this place do not take us very seriously any more. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you have run into comments of this nature in your riding.
About three or four years ago I was severely taken to task by a clergyman in my riding for having made a comment to the effect that under the system of parliamentary democracy as it has evolved in Canada, we now have a system of an elected dictatorship somewhat akin to what there was in certain periods in ancient Rome. He was irate. He said that was disrespectful of the country and its traditions. A few weeks ago I met this gentleman at a function and he said “You were right”. And I was right. This place is decaying because we no longer observe the democratic traditions.
It is a sad thing for me to have to stand and make these remarks about an institution of which I am a part, but I think it is time for a little honesty and a little truth. I am not alone in my views. This view is widely held outside this place. It is hurting us, it is hurting the institution, and it is severely damaging Canada.