Madam Speaker, it is an honour to be able to enter into this important debate. I was curiously interested in the comments of other members who thought that we as official opposition would have used this occasion, the last supply day motion before summertime when we go to work in our ridings, for a substantial debate on some big issue.
One of the issues listed was the splitting of Bill C-15 into its component parts so that we could deal with problems important to Canadians and to parliamentarians in a reasonable manner. Those problems could be solved instead of playing political games with them as the Minister of Justice is prone to do. Other issues were mentioned as well.
I have a reasonable response to that charge. With the passage of this bill I hope it will do something very important for parliament so that the work of members will be enhanced and all those problems will have another avenue in which they can be addressed through private members' business.
The way private members' business is run right now is disgraceful. We spend many days in the House. Today is the 77th sitting day of the House since the election. During that time we have spent most of the time debating government bills but some time on supply day motions and some time on private members' business.
As a member who spends a lot of time in the House paying attention to what goes on here, I have observed that probably the best ideas and the ones that are most relevant to ordinary citizens come from private members' business.
Many times the government brings forward legislation which obviously is designed simply to facilitate the work of government bureaucrats. Ideas bubble up through the departments to the minister. The minister says to go ahead and draft a bill to be presented in the House. With the government having a majority, we go through the motions of debating it but it is automatically passed. Many of those things are administrative in nature.
Then there are others where frankly the government totally misses the boat on the aspirations of ordinary Canadians with respect to everything from taxes to the justice system, to the way parliament works.
The debate we have brought forward today will further the work of parliament. Hopefully it will enable us as parliamentarians to do a much better job than we have been able to do because of the restrictions placed upon us.
Members of the public who may be watching television today should know that private members' business is not a very high priority of the government. As a matter of fact, the present standing orders relegate private members' business to the least desirable hours of the day.
On Monday it is the first item, the assumption being that it is difficult for members to get back here after having been in their ridings on the weekend. Thus private members' business is considered while there is nobody here. I resent that because it is very important. Members should be here to hear the arguments and the debates.
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday private members' business is taken up in the very last hour of the day when members are off to receptions and other meetings. They are tired and finished for the day, so there is not a very great number of members who pay attention to private members' business on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
On Friday it takes place again in the very last hour of sitting. That is the day when anyone who happens to be left in Ottawa, not having gone home on Thursday, might be here for a debate. In any case members are eager to go and most of them are totally unaware of private members' business.
I have made it a point to pay attention every day to the goings on in the House, including private members' business. As I have said, my observation is that the best ideas, the most relevant to Canadians, are brought forward by ordinary members who go to their ridings on the weekends. During the weeks when we are able to meet with our constituents we get ideas and bring them back as private members' business.
I have an issue which I have not yet formulated a private member's bill on. I do not know whether there is any point. Not long ago a person said that he had to quit his job to look after his ailing wife. If it were his handicapped child he would get a tax credit, but because he is doing it for his wife there is no tax credit. Would that not be a perfect private member's bill? We could include a recognition that some people have to do this for members of their family who are ill.
I did a little mathematics, as I am prone to do. I looked at the total number of bills and motions introduced during the time I have been in parliament. I was first elected in the fall of 1993. Since then, according to the numbers I was given, there have been 4,136 private members' bills and motions introduced. Some of them were repeats. Many bills and motions are prepared which are never selected in the random draw, so members reintroduce them after prorogation of the House or after an election. Of those 4,136 private members' bills, only 11.8% were selected in the random draw.
I would like to say something about the random draw. When I was a kid at camp many years ago we had a rule. When we went for meals no one was allowed seconds until everyone had a first. I think we should use that principle here.
I have been here since 1993. I have had private members' bills in the hopper. My name has been there but I was not one of the lucky ones to have my name drawn. Therefore I have not been able to put forward a private member's bill.
I propose that the system should be changed. At some point in time all currently elected members of parliament should be put on a random order list. I would be willing to provide the computerized process to do that, if necessary. Everyone would be on the list and no one would get back on it until he or she gets to the bottom. It would go sequentially.
If we are interrupted by an election or there are members that resign for some other reason, their names would be taken off the list and be replaced by other members' names being added to the bottom of the list as they are elected. I would like very much to support that notion.
I also believe that every bill should be votable. I do not have the fear of some that the House of Commons will become irrelevant or that members will waste their time. If we had a rule that each member could only have one bill or motion before all other members have had one, we could be assured that no member would waste that opportunity. They would put up their very best bill, their very best motion, to have it debated and voted upon. If it is a dumb motion or dumb bill the House would rule on it and it would be defeated, provided that we have a free vote on such things.
I have another concern. If every bill is votable I fear the government will start interfering and will start pushing party discipline on the outcome of the votes on private members' business. Some private members' bills could serve to be a slight embarrassment to the government.
I have used up my speaking time, but I look forward to questions and comments which I am sure will come after question period today.