Madam Speaker, today's debate represents somewhat of a defining moment in this parliament because something unique has happened here.
I would like to go back to two months ago when the newly elected leader of the Canadian Alliance was at a press conference across the street. One journalist asked him what his number one priority would be when parliament returned. The leader of the Canadian Alliance said that the number one issue for him would be parliamentary reform.
The very first motion that the Canadian Alliance put on the floor of the House after the summer recess deals with a very important issue, the reduction of fuel prices. As members of parliament, all of us are seized with this issue and we are looking at it in its complexity.
Something unique happened on our side of the House. The backbench member of parliament for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge and many of his colleagues spent the last two years of their parliamentary lives going across the country listening to Canadians, to mom and pop gas station operators and the operators of oil companies. They studied the issue, what is the problem and how could we fix it. A report was produced. That report, as most members in the House would admit, is one of the finest pieces of work ever put out by a backbench team.
What happened in the House today is something I have never seen in 12 years. It was not a minister of the Government of Canada who led off with the government position today; it was the member of parliament for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge who said “This is our position”. Why I think this is somewhat of a defining moment is that the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, who has strong views on the issue, and I think few would challenge his understanding of its complexity, put forward a constructive amendment to the Canadian Alliance motion.
This is what the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge tried to get accepted by the Canadian Alliance: “That given the record increases in the price of gasoline, home and diesel fuel severely hurting Canadian consumers, especially those with lower incomes, this House calls upon the government to assist Canadians in coping with the rising financial burden and this House strongly urges provincial and territorial governments to consider providing similar assistance”.
The Canadian Alliance rejected to allow that motion to come to the floor. It rejected to allow members of parliament from all parties to consider that. This is significant to me because I am as passionately committed as anyone in the House to making the roles of members of parliament more meaningful and I was hopeful when the new leader of the Canadian Alliance said that his number one priority was going to be parliamentary reform. Today we had an example where parliamentary reform could have been dealt with in a constructive way for all Canadians, especially lower income Canadians and the Canadian Alliance walked away from it.
Madam Speaker, I am splitting my time with my dear friend and colleague from Ottawa Centre so please warn me when I have a minute left.
I appeal to the members of the Canadian Alliance that when their leader states that his number one priority is parliamentary reform and a government backbench team, led by the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, puts forward a constructive amendment on behalf of all Canadians, to take that as an opportunity to constructively work together on a complex issue that every single member of parliament believes must be dealt with.
The single most important point that my colleague from Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge made today was that we should design a plan where the altered formula of incomes or revenue streams do not go into the treasuries of the oil companies but into the pockets of consumers, especially low income consumers.
That amendment was repeatedly put on the floor today. In fact, today during question period the Minister of Finance challenged the Canadian Alliance to work with the government and accept the member's amendment. He did not say that we would do it tomorrow or next week. The Minister of Finance said that we would vote today and that we would make it happen today.
Canadians listening to the debate today will judge fairly that over the last two years it was not a minister or a big department of government but a member of parliament with his colleagues who developed knowledge, listened and put a report forward. The government gave members of the Canadian Alliance an opportunity today to come on board and work together on behalf of all Canadians with lower incomes and they walked away from it.
The Canadian Alliance missed a great opportunity to follow through on their so-called commitment to parliamentary reform.