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House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague from Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore. This is an issue that merits debate in the House and I agree with him on that.

I am not necessarily in agreement with making it votable. My colleague has raised the debate but there are a lot of issues here. If we went back and looked through the history of this place, I suspect that every political party in the House has had members who have crossed the floor. I would not have named the bill the floor crossing bill. I would name it anything but that.

However, for lack of a better name, the bill has to be called something. Floor walkers and all kinds of other analogies can be drawn from that. Certainly we could not use those analogies in this place.

A number of things are problematic with the principle. We must raise those issues and questions. It hurts for a political party to lose one of its members, for a member to lose a colleague or for any party in this place to lose one of its colleagues. We have been through that. It is difficult and hard to accept.

Yet at the same time should we take away the rights of the House to recognize a member who is duly elected by the constituents of a riding in Canada to represent those constituents? As much as we may like to think otherwise, there are many factors that affect each of us being elected to the House of Commons: the ability of the individual, the political party he or she runs for and the political climate of the day.

The reality is that most of our constituents do not belong to a recognized political party. Most of our constituents vote for a political party most of the time but not all the time. If only 2% of Canadians belong to and are affiliated with political parties that is not saying the system is wrong. It says that all Canadians do not participate in the political party system. Not all Canadians are members of the PC/DR coalition, the New Democrats, the Liberals, the Alliance or the Bloc Quebecois. That is a fact we have to deal with.

For members of the House to tell members of parliament duly elected by their constituents that for reasons perhaps beyond their control they cannot cross the floor becomes an ideological issue. They may not agree with the ideology that the party has accepted or has perhaps changed.

The NDP went through that this past weekend. What would happen if that party changed its name? Would we expect all members of that political party to stand down and stand again for re-election if its name or constitution were changed? I somehow do not think so. That would not be responsible action as members of parliament.

I recognize the angst and the anger caused when members of a party move to another party. As difficult as it is to say, I also agree with those individual members having that right. We do not have the right to control the thought processes of a person's mind.

There are a number of other issues. The member spoke about consultation, openness and transparency. The member spoke about parties and MPs and how they stand for re-election. The reality is that every member of parliament who crosses the floor, if they run again in another election, has to stand for re-election. They are judged by their peers and by the people they represent. Whether or not they made the right decision to leave one political entity for another does have a judgment day. It may not be that week or that month but a judgment is made.

Another statement made was that everything we say and do will be held against us in the court of public opinion. It also may be held in our favour in the court of public opinion.

I have sat in this place with colleagues who have crossed the floor. I understand the bitterness that arises from that but somehow or another we hopefully have to rise to a higher level. An individual member of parliament who moves from one party to another and accepts that party's values, its leader or its ideology, and who runs again, is judged again. We cannot nor should we control that.

The member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore made the statement that 137 members have crossed the floor. I would judge they were all held accountable for their actions. Only their constituents and their immediate electorates have that right.

The other question that arises is how we account for other political systems and other jurisdictions. We work on a first past the post jurisdiction. I have heard many of my NDP colleagues in the House praise the idea of proportional representation. With that system members of parliament could be appointed to this place. I was always of the opinion that proportional representation had no place in the Parliament of Canada, yet when we look at that process and talk to people from other countries, especially the Scandinavian and European countries such as Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Germany, they all have proportional representation. It is a matter of thought. To be honest, if we had proportional representation in the House today we would not have a majority government. We would have a government that would be much more reflective and would more closely represent the thought processes of the general public in Canada.

If we had proportional representation, could we apply that process? I would argue that it would not be fair to apply that process because now we have members who may belong to a political party but are appointed by that political party to the position they hold.

I am not trying to trivialize the member's presentation. I recognize why he brought the bill to the House but I would hope that it is not brought back to parliament again. I hope we can debate it and put it to rest.

It is important for members of parliament to not only stand for our political parties, our positions and our jobs, but we also need to recognize that it is always, although it is argued by the parties that lose a player, opportunism when members cross the floor. Sometimes it is a personality conflict and sometimes it is a real issue which the member of parliament simply cannot accept.

In closing, I will summarize some of the points I have made. We are all elected to this place, not by political parties but by our constituents, and they always have the opportunity to judge us again.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, first, to put things in a proper perspective, the bill introduced by the NDP member asks us to think about something important. It forces us to think about the nature of the trust relationship that exists between those who elect us here to represent them, and what happens when members change parties during their mandate.

This raises a very relevant question as to whether the meaning of the vote is altered. Are voters hurt when they vote for the candidate of a political party and, once here in Ottawa, that candidate decides to join another party?

Under the proposed bill, a member who leaves his party could only sit as an independent. If he wants to join another political party, he would have to face voters by running in a byelection to get re-elected under the new banner.

This gives us something to think about and the bill has positive elements.

There is a problem in that the public is now very cynical about politics. I am one of those who believe that elected representatives play an extremely important role in society, and that includes the role of parliament and the legislative branch. Therefore, it is in our interest to do our best to restore a degree of confidence. This is one aspect, but it is not the only one.

One criticism that we often hear, even if it not necessarily a personal one, is that “politicians are all basically the same”. When people see members change political parties, this tends to prove them right. I know that some members here did so just before the last general election, but they were members from Quebec. And that is true.

There are people who say “Yes, but someone who does that should have to face the voters anyway”. This is true but, in the context of a general election, there are so many factors which come into play.

We know that the leader, the party, the ideology, if any, are important factors which influence which party people vote for, and they are not necessarily able to pick a particular individual, as would happen in the case of a member who decided to change parties in the middle of his mandate and who would have to answer to his constituents.

I think that this raises a very important issue. All the comings and goings before the last election really bothered me. People give the impression that all they are trying to do is get re-elected, that they are checking out which way the wind blows just before an election and saying to themselves “Ultimately, with which party do I stand the greatest chance of getting elected? That is the party I will join and try to increase my chances”. These people know very well that many other variables come into play in a general election besides what the candidate has to offer in a riding. So they think they might come out on top this way.

In this regard, I can only be sympathetic to the idea that a way must be found. Is this the best one? I do not know. But at least it has the merit of showing that there is a problem and that it must be resolved.

There are other problems. Because I can also understand those who leave a political party at a particular time. It can happen, for good reasons, that an elected MP leaves a party because they feel that it is not honouring the commitments it made to the public. An MP who is a member of a political party but no longer feels comfortable in that party and feels that it is not living up to its mandate might feel the need to leave it.

From there to joining another party is another dimension entirely. During election campaigns, when I introduce myself as a Bloc Quebecois MP and my main adversaries in Quebec are from the Liberal Party, I can hardly see myself saying part way through my mandate that I have suddenly had a change of heart and am becoming a Liberal. I would understand if my constituents were to be extremely skeptical and cynical about me if ever I were to do such a thing. And this has happened.

One may think that some parties are very similar. Ideologically, some are closer than others. For example, on the Canadian right, the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance, even though there are some differences, are not that far apart. One might assume that crossing from one to the other would be somewhat more understandable. It would be less of an about face than if a Canadian Alliance member crossed the floor to sit with the Liberals or if a Liberal member joined the Bloc Quebecois.

I would really like the Quebec Liberal members to join the Bloc Quebecois but, at the same time, it would raise the issue as to whether it was the only mandate they got from their electors.

The bill says that when a member resigns, he or she may sit as an independent. They may go as far as to announce that during the next election campaign, they will be running for another party, but for the time being, they will belong to no other party than the one they ran for.

On the other hand, let us not be hypocritical; we must realize that when it comes to ballots, people say “Yes, but it is members that we elect”. How many members here would like the name of political parties to be removed from ballots? Not many. We like to know people can identify the party we belong to.

In Quebec, at the provincial level, even if it does not concern us directly, there is one party, the Action démocratique, which adds the name of its leader on the ballots to make sure people can identify the party properly.

In my riding, when people vote, they vote for Pierre Brien, Bloc Quebecois MP. The two are indissociable. They are a single entity. I cannot image myself saying “Well, I have changed my mind and I am going elsewhere”. If that were ever the case, it seems to me that the people need some other recourse than just to say “We will just wait another three or four years”. This raises that issue.

There are other variables as well. For example, improving the democratic process or the connection of trust would mean that many other variables will have to be addressed as well: the very nature of the MP's role, the real power of an MP, the omnipresence or heavy control of the Prime Minister or the executive over all of parliament.

Even if this may seem a bit theoretical, when it is reduced to such practical dimensions as the imposition of votes along party lines and the like, it gives rise to some serious reflection which might lead to a review of the way our political system operates, with its rather surprising resistance to change. As far as the public is concerned, they appear to be ready for major change. When people are in power, however, they are not much tempted to want to see change, because they came to power under the existing system.

I know that in his bill, the hon. member could not espouse all causes at once. He focused on one specific object. I believe, however, that it would be worthwhile for us as members of parliament to have a repository for such ideas.

Parliament cannot pronounce specifically on this bill because it will not be votable, but I believe it would be a good thing if we did not lose sight of this idea and were able to discuss it within a framework in which everyone would address improvements to our political structures. I know that some are, for instance, in favour of a proportional vote system. I have a number of reservations on this, but I can understand people wishing to raise ideas of this kind.

Why not debate this, why not have some sort of forum where we could put these issues out on the table and involve members? Many groups outside of politics do this. It is as though we, those of us in politics, refuse to discuss these issues, even though we do have opinions. I am sure that most members are able to discuss these issues in a non-partisan manner. The same can be said for the democratic system. Regardless of the options before us, everyone agrees that there are some problems and that there is a way to improve the existing system.

In closing, this is about turncoats, people who cross the floor to other political parties. I am pleased that the New Democratic Party member had the courage to bring up this issue. Even if, in fact, his party has already had members switch, one way or the other, he is telling us that there is a problem with this type of situation.

Let us try not to see that in partisan terms, to look at the latest movement between parties and who was involved. Let us look at this generally, let us look at the principle, what it means in terms of our democratic values. I hope the discussion will not conclude at the end of this hour and that we may have other occasions on which to debate it and propose other measures in order to improve the variables, such improved representation of women in politics. I know there was a conference in the region yesterday that looked into the matter. It is a very relevant one and important question of what we must do to ensure that parliament better reflects society.

We need not look long to see that very often cultural communities and groups are under-represented. Women are the most obvious example. While they represent 50% of the population, they barely represent 20% of the population of our political institutions. You might say this is true in other sectors, but we are working here to improve the political system. If we are to continue to do so, we must look at these avenues and topics.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the NDP member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore for bringing forward this private member's bill. It brings a good debate to the House.

It is unfortunate the bill is not votable. I believe, as do a lot of members in the House, that all private member's business should be votable. The Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary over there is working hard with members of the House to work toward that. It would be interesting to have a vote on issues like the one we are debating.

It has been interesting sitting here listening to the debate. I was thinking of all the people who have been here during my career in politics. I remember Paul Hellyer leaving the Liberals to join the Tories. I remember Pauline Jewett, a member of the NDP party who joined the Liberals. Some NDP members today may be too young to remember Ms. Jewett.

Other parties have had the same changes. In the last parliament Tories went to the Liberals and to the Canadian Alliance. In this parliament members of my party have gone to sit as independents. I will talk about that a later.

It is a tough decision. Most members of parliament probably think we are the reason we are here. The reality is that few of us would be here if we did not have the support of the party for which we ran. People tend to vote for that.

I have watched pretty good people get defeated. They might get elected once as an independent like John Nunziata. He ran on an issue and his constituents supported him, but in the next election they quickly left him and went back to the party of their choice.

As important as members may think they are, they should realize this. Their egos might tell them they are more important than their party, especially after they have been here a while. The reality is that the party is the most important thing.

I respect the rights of individual members of parliament to change parties if need be, if they think that is what their constituents want. I imagine there are not many who have done that without first sitting with people in their constituencies to discuss their thoughts and why they were doing it.

The member of the Bloc talked about members switching. His party would probably not be here if it had not been for some Tories who started that movement. Byelections would not have been the way to start that party. It started because of the real feelings of members of parliament who could not get along with whatever they could not get along with.

We have to respect the tradition in this place that members have the right to make these decisions. The voters at the next election would be the ones who decide whether a member made the right decision.

The summary of Bill C-218 reads:

This enactment provides that a member's seat in the House of Commons will be vacated, thus precipitating the calling of a by-election, if the member, having been elected to the House as a member of a political party or as an independent, changes parties in the House or becomes a member of a party in the House, as the case may be, at any time during the term for which he or she was elected. A member's seat will not be vacated, if the member, having been elected as a member of a political party, chooses to sit as an independent at any time during the term for which he or she was elected.

The principle is similar to a former Reform caucus policy involving members wishing to cross the floor and join a party without losing their seat. It would reduce the temptation for members to experiment with other parties. If members were to jump to another party they would need to be sure they had the support of their constituents, otherwise their careers would be cut short.

The people who elect members to the House have a fundamental right to reassess their support if the member crosses the floor. It could be argued that this opportunity would take place at the next election. Not only electors would be allowed to express their opinion, but the party could do so as well. Through a candidate selection process the party would be given the opportunity to accept or reject the crossing of the floor.

Crossing the floor is part of our history. It is sometimes cause for procedural debate in the House. Our practice accepts members changing parties. Sometimes a change occurs voluntarily when a member simply crosses the floor. Sometimes it is involuntary and involves double crossing.

The confusion over our most recent crossings in the House may be properly compared to cross-dressing. Like gender identity disorder, some members of the House have party identity disorder. Politically it is no longer clear if they represent the right or the left. I am not sure how the bill would address such dressers. It is not always clear if they joined another party.

I am talking of course about the status of the PC/DR coalition. The PC/DR claimed party status as a party of 20. The speaker ruled it was a group of eight independents and a party of 12 and could only be afforded the resources to which a party of 12 was entitled.

How would Bill C-218 treat members of the DRC? Technically they are independents so no byelection would be required. Ethically DRC members, particularly those who were once Reform members and believed in this principle, should support subjecting themselves to a byelection. They were elected Alliance members and are now trying to be recognized as a separate party while working in a coalition with another party.

Another question that needs to be answered is how the bill would deal with Reform Party members who became Alliance members in the last parliament. They technically changed parties, but I do not think the intent of the bill is to cause over 50 byelections to take place as a result.

These are the issues that are important in Bill C-218. I will use the cost to the taxpayer as an example. In the last parliament over 50 members changed parties. If we had forced a byelection in all those areas it would have been at great cost to the taxpayer. We must think carefully about the ramifications of a bill like this one if there is major political change. We may see it happening in the country now. It happens once in a while to a great degree.

I thank the member for bringing the matter to the House. It is an interesting debate and one that deserves discussion. I hope in the future we can have a vote on something like this so it can go to committee and we can work together.

That is what parliament is all about. We are here to work together for the benefit of all Canadians. Sometimes certain members feel the urge to do something different. It is a good debate for the House to have. It is unfortunate there will not be a vote on it.

Let us remember that we are here because of our parties. Crossing the floor of the House of Commons is a serious decision, but it is the right of members to make that decision after consulting their constituents.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Leeds—Grenville Ontario

Liberal

Joe Jordan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak today to the bill which provides that a member who wishes to cross the floor of the House of Commons to join another party must vacate his or her seat so a byelection can be called.

I thank the member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore for his interest in the matter and for his interest generally in matters of parliamentary reform. He quite rightly pointed out that this place was sometimes viewed with jaundice by the general public.

We all have a responsibility to look at the rules and procedures of this place and the methods by which we arrive here to see if we cannot constantly improve them to engage and re-engage with our constituents.

We finished a debate after question period on some technical amendments to a bill. The debate essentially turned into a discussion and a spin of what the government business was yesterday in terms of having a two hour break where there was no business before the House.

Members stated some of the facts, but the fact that they did not give the whole story leaves people with the wrong impression. They said we adjourned for two hours and that we have adjourned early nine times.

That is true, but we have added hours to debates in a number of cases. I do not know how many take note debates we have had to increase the opportunities of members to speak. In this case we offered the opposition a take note debate on the bill but it refused.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I can understand the government's excessive and obvious defensive positioning regarding the waste of time yesterday, but--

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

That is a point of debate and not a point of order. I would reiterate on behalf of all members that we should be sticking to the subject at hand.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, my point was simply that the member of parliament who put his sweat into getting this bill before the House of Commons pointed out that one of the reasons was to address that disconnect in the attitude that exists among Canadians. I am speaking to the root causes of why that attitude is there.

The opposition members forgot to mention in their ramblings that the government had legislation yesterday. However out of courtesy and convention in this place, we do not bring legislation before the House until the opposition agrees so its critics can be in place. That is not a rule; it is a courtesy. That did not come out in the press conference which the opposition scheduled this morning.

The opposition also forgot to point out that time allocation--not closure; we want to get the terms right--was brought in not to clear the legislative calendar but to get the bill into the Senate so it could be law to protect Canadians before Christmas. It had nothing to do with the government's agenda.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Moving on to the topic.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

This is an important topic to Canadians.

This particular bill deals with the tendency of people to change party affiliation and whether or not there should be implications for members when that happens.

One thing which struck me when I looked at the bill was that under the old rules, when political science was taught or books were written on political theory, political party parameters were very clear. Parties existed on the left, the centre, and all across the political spectrum in Canada. They generally held their ideology whether it had to do with fiscal policy or social policy. There was a lens through which they saw public policy. That set of parameters existed for a number of years in Canada.

I would argue that lately those lines have become blurred. Parties will sometimes be right of centre fiscally and left of centre socially. That is a natural evolution of the fact that globalization is putting pressure on national governments. We have to show a certain amount of flexibility.

There is a geopolitical aspect to this as well. It depends on where someone is in the country as to what the labels sometimes mean. A Liberal in Atlantic Canada may mean something else in British Columbia and something else in Ontario. I look around the Chamber for examples.

The member for Port Moody--Coquitlam--Port Coquitlam if I am not mistaken was a card-carrying member of the executive of the Young Liberals of British Columbia. It is a free country. The member for Calgary Southeast, the Alliance finance critic was also. People go through choices and transitions in Canada.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

To the hon. member for Port Moody--Coquitlam--Port Coquitlam, I know what is coming but I think it is a point of debate.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister almost dislocated my jaw with that slap in the face by saying that at one point I was a young Liberal. In fact, I was not. For the record, it should be known that I have never been a member of any other political party except the Canadian Alliance.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I apologize to the member. I mistook him for the member for Calgary Southeast.

The issue is that the bill seems to put us at the top of a rather slippery slope where we are addressing the freedom of members to act in this place. I would point out that other major countries do not force their party members to resign if they switch parties between elections. In the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill was a member who switched parties. I would not want to think of the consequences if it had a law like this one which would have forced him into a byelection that he would have lost and we would have gone into the second world war without him.

Canada has a precedent for the concept of going back to the constituency to validate changes. It used to be that if members were appointed to the cabinet, which generally took place in a matter of weeks after a general election, they were called upon to hold a byelection to reaffirm their constituents' belief that they should assume that position. In fact, Sir Wilfrid Laurier lost a byelection under those conditions. I think it was deemed through second thought that perhaps that regulation, and I would say this one, was unnecessarily restrictive.

The member talked a bit about costs. I think elections officials have said that a byelection costs about $480,000. I do not think we should be driven by those costs but it is a factor. Let us take, for example, the member for Saanich--Gulf Islands. I just did a quick calculation. He started with the Reform then switched to the Alliance. I must say that my tendency was to be against the bill but I had second thoughts when the Leader of the Opposition said that it would cause all the Alliance members to go to a byelection. We may want to re-think this.

The member for Saanich--Gulf Islands started off as Reform, morphed into Alliance, spun off into a rebel caucus, for which we had no exact definition, and then he sort of attached himself to the PC, which then turned into the PC/DR. He is back in purgatory and is not done yet because I assume he will go back to the Alliance. Not only would that little journey have cost the taxpayers of Canada $2.5 million, but his constituents would have been without a member for 240 days, which is the writ period for each election. This is assuming that he won.

A number of very interesting arguments have been put forth but I do not think there is a consensus. It has been a very interesting topic to debate. I will not be supporting the bill but I will continue to support the member who put it forward with what I think was a sincere attempt to critically examine the rules of this place.

I will end on the issue of the votability of private members' business. Not a private members' debate goes by without motions being put to the floor on whether a motion or a bill should be votable and it is usually framed in rather partisan language about the Liberals deciding not to make it votable. In actual fact the private members' subcommittee on procedure and House affairs is one of the few committees in the federal system that does not have a Liberal majority. It is a committee of backbenchers. It is a committee of our peers.

There is a system in place essentially because the number of private members' bills and motions exceeds the number of hours available for debate on those topics. There is a system in place that has to make some very tough decisions but they are tough decisions that have been made by all parties. It is not a process that is controlled by the government. We are in the process of reviewing that but I would hope that when people talk about votability of private members they keep in mind that it is certainly not the long arm of the government. It is our peers. If a motion or bill has been determined non-votable then a member may want to take that up with his or her peers.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, I have been told that less than 2% of Canadians have a membership in any given political party. Therefore when we represent our political party we put ourselves in a very small select group of people. When we put our political party ahead of the views of our constituents in any way we are in a sense misrepresenting the wishes of our constituents, not representing them.

I understand what is behind the proposal and I understand the nature of it. I accept and share the member's desire to see types of electoral democratic reform advanced. My personal bias would be more toward a system of a transferable ballot rather than a proportional system but I believe the key concern is that we get the view of the majority of people more closely attuned to its representation in the House. I think that is a worthwhile goal.

Unfortunately, for example, in the 1997 federal election two-thirds of the members of the House were not supported by a majority of voters in their own ridings. In fact, we have displaced the principle of majority will from the reality of the representation in the House. That gives Canadians the sense that their votes do not matter as much. I think that is part of the root cause of the declining participation in elections in Canada.

Another cause of course is the unjustified majority government that we have and the fractured opposition on this side.

What we need to do is make every effort possible to search for common goals. We in the opposition have an obligation to present a more unified front whenever possible to present an alternative to the government. I accept the goal that many of us have to do that.

In the final analysis, we are more accountable to our constituents than we are to our party. The reality is that any decision any of us make as individuals will be one that is judged by our constituents, as has been the case in the past and as will be the case in the future.

Edmund Burke said that as public representatives we owe people in our constituencies more than a blind allegiance to political organizations, that we owe our constituents our very best judgment. If we understand that principle and abide by it, then I think that supremacy of idea must take priority over blind loyalty to any given political organization at any political time.

The price of being out of touch with the views of one's constituents will be paid in a following election. However, if one understands the dynamic nature of Canadians' decision making processes and the fact that the vast majority of Canadians do not have blind loyalty to one political movement or another, then one must understand that our first obligation is to reflect the shifting dynamics that exist within our riding and to be sure we are in touch with those more so than in touch with any consistent loyalty we may have to certain colours, certain symbols or certain possessions of any given political movement at any given time.

Canada has been governed for the past eight years by a political party that has certainly not been reflective of any significant consistent principle. The reality is that we have a broad spectrum of beliefs, very divergent from one another, represented by one political party. I do not think we need another party like that in Canada. We need another political organization that clearly stands for certain fundamental principles and values and that would juxtapose nicely and give Canadians a real choice.

People who choose to go to the Liberal Party do so for their own good reasons and they should be respected. If they choose, however, to leave that party and go to another, their judgment should be respected as well. In the final analysis, their constituents will make the judgment on whether that was the right step to take.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I thought the debate was fairly straightforward. If one gets elected as a member of a political party and decides during the mandate to cross the floor to another political party, the seat would then become vacant, a byelection would be held and the people would decide.

It would not stop a member from crossing the floor. Maybe some of the other members of parliament in the House are confused. This bill would not stop a member from crossing the floor. It says that if a member believes that what he or she has to do is right, that person should go back to the constituency and let the people decide on it in a byelection.

It is obvious that the PCs or the Liberals would not support something like this as the status quo works in their favour. They love the status quo. However, I am more than shocked to hear members of the Alliance Party, of the Reform Party that came here in 1993 and said it would change things and be more accountable, say that they would wait for the next election. That argument could be used in every case. I am quite surprised at the fact that the Alliance Party of Canada would not support this type of initiative.

I also have to say for the member for Leeds--Grenville that I think he is the only one in the House of Commons who could bring Churchill and World War II into this debate and that my parents were liberated by Canadians and that if this bill had been in effect that may not have happened. It was hysterical at the very least, but I do respect the member's opportunity to speak even if he was off topic.

This is not that difficult. The bill does not say anything about what happens if a party changes its name. That is not part of the discussion. The discussion is about if one is elected under a political banner and decides to leave that banner and go somewhere else.

I ran against Liberals, Tories and Alliance members in the last election and I think of Bruce Stephen, a good guy who ran for the Liberals and gave us a very good fight. He was a good challenger. What would he think if I woke up this morning and decided to cross the floor and be in the Liberal Party? What would his executive think? What about the people who supported him? What would he do? It absolutely flies in the face of democracy.

I ran as a New Democrat and will stay a New Democrat. If I felt I could not do it any more, if I were going to cross the floor to the Tory-Alliance coalition or the Liberals, I would at least have the decency and honesty to go back to my constituents and ask them if they would give me the permission to do that. I would ask them “Am I right?” and then I would say let us call a byelection and do it.

When the member for Leeds--Grenville talked about another member and how a byelection would cost $2.5 million, it simply was stretching it to the extreme. The fact is that if he had to run once, I suspect he would have lost that election and we never would have heard from him again. That little journey the gentleman was on is quite adventurous, there is no question, but the reality is that I think his constituents would have spoken loud and clear about his actions.

It is unfortunate that this is not votable. If possible, I would like to move a motion to ask the permission of the House to seek unanimous consent to make Bill C-218 a votable bill.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is there unanimous consent?

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Parliament of Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item, the order is dropped from the order paper.

It being 2.30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2.30 p.m.)