Mr. Speaker, it should be obvious to anyone watching, if there is anyone watching, that the strategy of the opposition is to try to distract me. However let me assure opposition members that they have failed for four years and will continue to fail.
I have a point to make that they apparently do not want to hear. When people stand in this place and continually assail members of parliament and say, to quote many of them, that we are trained seals or that we vote mindlessly, they know it is not the case.
There are many examples of opposition members being expelled from their own caucus for rebellious attitudes. We have seen more discipline invoked on that side of the House in the last couple of months than we have seen on this side of the House in the last seven or eight years. Free votes are the standard within the Liberal government.
The problem with the private member's issue is not so much the government. The current process is pretty standard. We have a former cabinet minister in the Manitoba legislature with us. I am sure he would agree that legislature had a similar process, although maybe not a lottery. We had a different one in Ontario. However, private members' business was never taken seriously unless it was some kind of spectacular motion, outrageous bill or wonderful solution.
I had a private member's bill when I was an MPP in Ontario. I had found out, quite to my surprise, that kids were spending their lunch money on lottery tickets for professional sports games. I found out quite by accident. I was lining up to make a purchase in a store in my community and a youngster in front of me was asking what the odds were on Monday night football. When I asked what in the world that was about I was stunned to find out there was no age restriction on the purchase of lottery tickets to bet on professional sports.
I therefore put forward a private member's bill. I asked the premier at the time to support it. It passed in three sessional days with unanimous support from all parties in the Ontario legislature. In a record vote, in record time and with record numbers, we put an age restriction on the buying of lottery tickets to gamble on professional sports.
Every once in a while an issue comes along that makes sense. Everyone was shocked by it, including Bob Rae, the premier of the day. If I had gone the normal route and had not been able to seek unanimous consent it would have taken weeks, months, perhaps never, to get my private member's bill approved.
There is absolute good sense, I hate to use the word common sense because it has been wrenched away from some of us in Ontario, in putting forth a motion like the one here today.
I will share some statistics. It is interesting that the opposition party talks about democracy in this place, allowing free votes, not using closure and all those things. I see the former leader of the current opposition party, the old Reform Party, is with us today and it is nice to see him here. When he was leader of that party five of his MPs were suspended and several others demoted from their caucus positions.
During the current leadership of course we all know of the gang of eight. It may have swollen to 12; I missed the press conference today that I was so anxious to see. Eight members have been booted out of caucus because they dared to speak out against their leader. How can they or any one representing that party stand in their places, demand openness and accountability and accuse our government of using discipline too much while that party boots out eight members?
There may be as many as 12 members if the discipline reaches some of the higher profile members who spoke out, such as the member for Edmonton North, the first Reform member elected here. The minute she spoke out in opposition to the leadership there was a pretty loud pause as party members said that maybe they should not kick the mother of the Reform Party out of caucus. They backed off but now others have joined in. In many ways it is a sad thing to see.
Opposition members might not believe that I think it is sad. However I spent five years in opposition in Ontario. I happen to think the role of Her Majesty's loyal opposition is critical and very important to the functioning of any parliamentary democracy.
The opposition spends its time setting up a firing squad, getting in a circle and shooting inwardly. I do not know what it thinks it can possibly accomplish by that. It then comes here and tell us it has the solution. It says it will allow free votes and release all its members from any kind of party discipline. It then turns around the next day and boots half them out of caucus. Obviously the Canadian people would see, shall we say, inconsistencies in that regard.