Mr. Speaker, I am always delighted to be received with such enthusiasm by my colleagues across the way. It is particularly interesting today how we are all just getting along so wonderfully well.
The debate we just listened to would have to be considered a pretty historic debate in this place and in this country. I would not even call it a debate. Perhaps it was a coronation, a very justifiable and proud moment for all Canadians. This place, which is the representative body for all Canadians, and the government have made the decision to confer our citizenship, something that we all believe in so deeply, to Nelson Mandela.
It is particularly interesting to see the carryover. I will try not to spoil the glow of euphoria which seems to be here because it is close to the break in session. However, there are some things I feel I must point out in relationship to this motion.
Let me also say right at the outset that I am delighted to vote in favour of the motion. I made that decision, contrary perhaps to the beliefs of some members opposite, before I discussed it with anybody in my caucus or in my government. I looked at it and said that it made sense.
I had one private member's bill in four years drawn out of the lottery, which is very frustrating. That one was drawn in the first three years of the parliamentary session, and I have yet to have another one drawn in the first year of the new session. In four years I have submitted eight or so for consideration. It is a lottery and I have never been very lucky at those kinds of things like gambling or buying lottery tickets, so it carries over to getting my private member's bill brought to the front.
When my name was drawn, the private member's bill I picked was one that would have created national standards for apprenticeship training from sea to sea to sea, in every province and in every territory. It seemed to make a lot of sense.
In fact we do have a program called the red seal program, which recognizes apprenticeship programs across the country. However it does not recognize the different categories of apprenticeship or provinces and the territories. People may be qualified to work in a particular trade in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, but they are not qualified to work in that same trade with that same training in Ontario or Quebec.
There are numerous examples of that. It just seemed to me to be awfully silly when one of the roles of the national parliament was to fund post-secondary education. Where we have perhaps gone off base is that we do not look at apprenticeship training as post-secondary education, and we should.
A ticket to practise as a carpenter, an electrician, a plumber, a pipefitter or any of those is as equally important and valuable, and in many cases more so, as a university degree. When people need a plumber, they do not care if that person has a university degree as long as he or she is capable of fixing whatever the problem happens to be.
It was astounding to find out that our standards were all over the map. I thought the best way to address this would be through a private member's bill, so I drafted the bill and put it forward. I waited patiently for my name to be drawn from the lottery and after three years it finally was.
I was then told that I had a five minute opportunity to go before a committee, which would then make a decision, after hearing from me, on whether my motion would be votable in the House of Commons. There was never a question about having a debate. As we know, a member is given the opportunity in private members' hour to come here and line up speakers.
By the way, I had support in just about every corner of this place, with the exception of the official opposition, because it transcended provincial boundaries. This is one of the fundamental problems when dealing with private members' bills.
The basic policy during the selection of private members' bills to be votable is that priority is given based on the fact that they should transcend purely local interest, not be couched in partisan terms and cannot be addressed by the House in other ways. They also should not be part of the government business or the normal, ongoing routine that the government might be undertaking.
In my case it was not. In fact I attempted to have the government adopt my private member's bill as government legislation. There were problems in the bureaucracy. Why? Even the bureaucracy thought that I was transcending provincial boundaries and interfering in the jurisdiction of the provincial governments.
Think about that. It is extremely frustrating. My private member's bill was a bill which, if this motion were in place, would have come on the floor of the House of Commons for a vote. In my opinion, notwithstanding opposition from the official opposition, I think it would have carried.
I am not asking that we take over apprenticeship training. I recognize that in the province of Ontario, for example, apprenticeship training works extremely well with our community colleges. It is a very successful and fundamental program. I believe more and more people should be, and I hope are, encouraging their sons and daughters to look at this as an opportunity for a different career.
Lord knows, we do not need more lawyers. We have plenty. We also know that only a certain segment of our society perhaps will be doctors. However we have a terrible shortage of skilled tradespeople within the construction industry across the country.
For the foreseeable future, the boom appears to be very lively for construction, whether it is something as fundamental as new housing or whether it is in infrastructure and trying to repair the damage which has occurred in our large communities as a result of the neglect in funding infrastructure over the last several years, as we all worship at the altar of tax cuts and reduced government. We have seen a deterioration in the quality of life as a result of all levels of government. The federal government, I admit, and provincial governments have cut back on the things that are fundamental and necessary to build good communities.
If my motion had been allowed to come here perhaps we would be seeing more people entering the trades and more qualified people. We would have had an opportunity to increase this priority and provide information to young people on their opportunities. The red seal program works to a certain degree and national building trades across the nation have instituted some good educational programs. However even they are having difficulty in getting their message across.
By the way, my private member's bill had the support in writing of many unions across the country that thought it was about time the national government established national standards.
Why would something as seemingly sensible as national standards for apprenticeship training fail to survive? It failed to survive because of the attitude, perhaps not partisan but certainly parochial, taken by members of the committee. I cannot, will not and would not name names because the process has been internal and I respect the fact that those people work on the committee. However the committee interfered in provincial jurisdiction.
I hope that by passing the opposition day motion we can move away from the attitude which permeates the caucus, what is left of it, of the official opposition. It has an attitude that if it is federal it is bad and that if it is Ottawa it is too big and interferes with what it wants to see happen in Alberta or British Columbia.
We all know that the weekly caucus meetings of the Alliance, the official opposition, are modelled after the show The Weakest Link . We understand that they are having a problem. We understand also that The Weakest Link appears to be their leader. I do not want to be unfair but I want to talk about the fact that the members have become very myopic.