Madam Speaker, I take the opportunity to speak to this motion very seriously. I begin by recognizing some of the things my colleagues said earlier this afternoon, things which I think are very appropriate, particularly those by the member for Calgary Southeast.
I liken this House and this parliament to a situation I encountered not long ago in my riding. I was visiting a fellow in Smithers, British Columbia looking at his pasture and his horses. There was a beautiful horse running through the field. I told the fellow it was a beautiful horse. It was running free and the wind was blowing through its mane. It was obvious that it had a lot of spirit. He said there was a problem with that horse. He said he had to have it gelded so that it does not produce any offspring.
I look at this parliament. It has all the appearances of a fine institution but in fact it is like that horse. It is neutered. This parliament is neutered. MPs have no opportunity to really influence or affect what goes on in this House of Commons. We are, except for the executive branch, an impotent institution.
It has been said before and it is an often quoted parable by Lord Aitken that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is easy to say that. Most of us probably agree that that is the case at least to a certain point. Let me give a graphic example of this truism in action.
What did members of the government on the other side, Liberal members, say in opposition in the 33rd and the 34th parliaments when the subject of private members' business came up? They fought and they argued and they said that private members' business ought to be votable, that when private members, backbenchers, take the time, the trouble and the initiative to come up with legislation they want to bring into the House that at the very least it should be votable. What did the members opposite say when they were in opposition in the 33rd and 34th parliaments when it came to the authority of committees?
What a joke it is being on a committee in this parliament. It is an absolute embarrassment to me as an MP. I sit on a committee as an opposition member. I go there with my ideas. I try to represent not only my party but my ideas and put the best that I can forward in that committee. Other members do that as well, including members of the Liberal Party. The committee attempts to decide for itself what it ought to do and ought not to do, what recommendations it should make to the minister and what recommendations ought to go forward, for example what changes ought to be made to legislation when we are dealing with legislation.
The parliamentary secretary to the minister sits on the committee and guess what. At the end of the day in that committee which is dominated by Liberals, and in the previous parliaments when the Tories were in power it would have been dominated by Tories, the Liberals do what the parliamentary secretary instructs them to do. It is an absolute sham. It is an absolute waste of taxpayers' money. It is an absolute waste of my time as a member of parliament. When I go to the committee I am wasting my time.
Why is it so difficult for the House leaders to get their respective members to show up for committee meetings? I will tell you why. It is because the people who show up are not doing anything useful and they know it. Most of the people in this room, whether they are on the government benches or in other opposition parties, I happen to believe have something to contribute, even if I do not agree with their particular philosophy. But we are not able to contribute. We are closed off.
Our parliament is neutered in a hundred different ways. It is designed that way and is kept that way to make sure that people like me, opposition members or Liberal backbenchers, cannot affect or influence the outcome of the government's decisions.
The only way I have any opportunity to influence what goes on here is to hope that in question period I will catch a minister off guard or catch a minister on a bad day and end up getting a newsclip that night on CTV or CBC or maybe in the Globe and Mail . That is going to be my one opportunity as a member in this House to achieve something. Other than that I have no opportunity. I have no avenues.
The prime minister and the cabinet do not want to hear from me. I am the last person they want to hear from. The committee system is just a way to keep us busy. It is a way to keep us tied up so that we are not actually doing something which might interfere with the operations of government, so that we are not actually doing something which might get in the way of the plans and the intentions of the various cabinet ministers. It is an absolute sham.
Canadians may not know every rule. They may not know everything that this House of Commons does. They may not know everything about the committee structure. They may not know everything about private members' business. Many of us had to learn a lot of that after we were elected. I submit to this House that Canadians by and large know that their parliament is a neutered and ineffective organization. It is incapable of operating properly under the present rules. That is why the issue of procedure is so important. It is one way of getting at the root cause and one way of making change.
I further submit that there must be a real intention to open up the doors and allow power to be shared in this House. If the intent on the part of the executive is to maintain control over power, then we are not going to achieve any forward progress on this matter. We can talk about rules, we can talk about procedures and we can talk about all the wonderful niceties but it is not going anywhere. Again it is just a waste of our time.
If the House will bear with me for a minute, I would like to quote some of the things that members who are now cabinet ministers had to say while in opposition. This is what the Liberals said on time allocation when in opposition.
The member for Winnipeg South, who is now a cabinet minister, said while in opposition that using closure “displays the utter disdain with which this government treats the Canadian people”.
The member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell said “I am shocked. This is just terrible. This time we are talking about a major piece of legislation. Shame on those Tories across the way”.
The member for Kingston and the Islands said “What we have here is an absolute scandal in terms of the government's unwillingness to listen to the representatives of the people in this House. Never before have we had a government so reluctant to engage in public discussion on the bills brought before this House”.
I have another quote by the member for Kingston and the Islands. While in opposition and talking about the use of closure and time allocation he said “I suggest that the government's approach to legislating is frankly a disgrace. It cuts back the time the House is available to sit and then it applies closure to cut off debate”. That is a quote from the member for Kingston and the Islands. He is still a member of the House but now he is on the government side and guess what? His opinion has changed. It is now fine to use time allocation.
That is what Lord Aitken meant when he said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Once the Liberal Party became government and got its hands on the lever of power its principles changed. I do not believe it is the people. I believe it is the whole philosophy behind the government in this country going right back to 1867. It has to change. The people of this country are demanding that it change.
We can talk about changing the rules and procedures which is fine and well, but until we develop a real will to change the system we will not have MPs satisfied with the jobs they are doing in this House. We will not have a real sharing of power. We will not have legitimate debates that mean anything in this House that will actually change the course of legislation.
In the end what we will have is democratic dictatorships where we elect a new dictator once every four or five years. Frankly, I do not think going into the 21st century that Canadians are going to find that very acceptable.