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.