Mr. Speaker, there is a fairly substantial amount of activity going on around here, but I will try to focus on this particular debate.
The interesting thing about this motion in one sense is where it comes from. The motion comes from the New Democratic Party, which all of a sudden, in this place at least, seems to have discovered something on the road to Damascus: that perhaps there is a better way of getting elected. I can certainly understand why the NDP would want to look for a better way to get elected given the lack of success that it has endured over the past many years.
I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.
I can understand why the NDP would want to make changes and I can understand why members of the official opposition might want to support those changes. This issue of representation and how people arrive at this place is something that generally occupies the minds and time of those who cannot succeed under the current system.
The proof of that would seem to be in the fact that when the New Democrats have enjoyed power for some number of years in British Columbia there is no talk of proportional representation or changing the system. I suspect that after the next provincial election the NDP will be reduced to a rump of their current status and of course the first thing on their agenda will be to change the way the NDP gets elected in British Columbia.
The other example would be the province of Ontario, where Bob Rae enjoyed five years in office. The rest of us did not, but he did. During that five year period when I had the challenge, shall we say, of serving in opposition with the Liberal Party of Ontario, I do not recall the government of the day, the New Democratic government of the province of Ontario, leaping forward, standing up and shouting that it would have to find a new way to get elected.
Clearly this only occurs when someone is either bitter or confused or is looking for something that might work because the current system simply will not work.
The other issue that I find curious coming from opposition parties is this constant feeding frenzy about reform in the House. The denigration of members of parliament, particularly on the government side, I personally find offensive. I know the great work that many of my colleagues have done and continue to do. I have talked about it in this place so I will not go there today.
I would suggest that is another example of the bitterness that a political machine or a party has when it arrives in this place and realizes that over 90% of the Canadian public did not vote for it, that it is not the government and that it does not get to make the decisions about how the country runs, whether it is the budget or whatever it happens to be. These parties can only try to put some pieces of metal into the spokes of the wheel of the governing party to see if they cannot trip it up.
Frankly that is what is happening here. This is the second time we have had an opposition motion. We have not had a motion here that deals with the substantive issues Canadians are concerned about, such as the changes in our health care policies that are occurring at the provincial level, such as upholding the Canada Health Act and the role of the national government. I have not seen a position come from the opposition saying that the government should do that, even though that indeed is what we do. I have not seen concern expressed by the opposition with great indignation about the two tier health care systems that are on the verge of occurring in the province of Alberta and, who knows, possibly even in the province of Ontario.
I do not see an opposition motion coming forward dealing with the recent decision that perhaps should be debated in this place, the decision of George W. Bush to bomb Iraq. I do not see anything coming forward. That is an issue that I think Canadians care about. Canadians care about what is happening in that part of the world.
I do not see an opposition motion coming forward to deal with the government's recent announcement to put $120 million into clean air in the province and the country to meet the standards we committed to at Kyoto.
What do we hear from opposition members? We hear them saying let us find a different way to get elected, because it did not work in 2001, it did not work in 1997 and it did not work in 1993. All they want to do is talk about how they can change the electoral system.
There are perhaps some areas where reform could and should be looked at. The Lortie commission was started by this government and reported here. There were bills adopted and there were changes made. It makes sense. We should not just say everything we do is right.
Surely to goodness there are other areas of concern that parliamentarians should be putting their minds to. I am sure that the Canadian Alliance would get somewhat nervous if we were to have parliamentary reforms that dealt with the referendum policy we all heard about with such fondness during the last election, about how if 3% of the people would submit a petition there could be a referendum on any particular item. Then the leader of course distanced himself from that particular issue and said it was not necessarily 3%, that it could be greater, that the party members were not sure. In fact at one point, I think, they were going to conduct a referendum on what the percentage should be so that they could then determine when and where they should hold a referendum.
Maybe we should have a look at reforming policies like that, at reform in the electoral system and making it more transparent. How about releasing the names of people who contribute to leadership campaigns? Would that not be interesting?
We do that. We have no difficulty with it. Members opposite do not seem to want to do that, yet we see as recently as yesterday and today the Leader of the Opposition trying to respond, in a rather feeble way, to questions put by the media about a $70,000 contribution to the Canadian Alliance Party made by a member of a law firm that was paid some $300,000 or $400,000 to defend the Leader of the Opposition in his defamation suit. Interestingly enough, the payment of that $300,000 or $400,000 came from Alberta taxpayers. Maybe there should be some way for us to investigate that.
Is it appropriate in electoral reform that when a leader of the opposition or a leader of any party in the House is elected at a party convention that the party then has the moral and legal authority to write a cheque for $50,000 to a sitting member so that person will vacate a safe seat, in the case of the Canadian Alliance, obviously, to allow the leader to run in that seat? Is it proper? Is that appropriate?