Mr. Speaker, my question of privilege arises out of a motion that the government intends to move with respect to time allocation on Bill C-15B. As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, on Friday the government House leader gave notice of his intention to close off debate on this important bill.
I must report that if the motion were moved it would be the 76th time a motion to curtail debate has been moved by the government. The last time this issue was raised with you, Mr. Speaker, the government's record was 69 times. I am aware that you were not sympathetic at that time, nor were you sympathetic on the several other occasions the issue of time allocation was raised. However I believe and I will argue that a Speaker does indeed have the authority to intervene in these matters and prevent a time allocation motion from going forward. It is not a matter of a Speaker having authority, but under which circumstances should a Speaker feel it necessary to intervene.
The government House leader should not be allowed to move his motion because the circumstances that justify an intervention exist more today than at any other time. The right of the opposition to prolong debate has not been respected by the government and one of the last tools the opposition had to slow down a majority government has been taken away. I am referring to the procedure developed by the Reform Party in the last parliament involving the report stage of a bill. Because it was so successful, the government took it away.
The right of the opposition to prolong debate is essential. Without it the public is left without an opposing point of view. We had one successful filibuster in this parliament and it was successful, not because of the opposition, but because the government allowed the filibuster to take place. Bill C-5 represents how essential it is to a democratic institution to have an opposition with the ability to prolong debate.
Let us consider the case of Bill C-5. The member for Red Deer made a good case for the virtues of a good, old fashioned filibuster that was published in a number of papers. He talked about the former Quebec Liberal Senator Philippe Gigantès, who filibustered the GST in the Senate for 17 hours and 45 minutes. Mr. Gigantès told the Hill Times that to delay legislation is the last great tool of democracy. Speaker Fraser put it this way in 1988 when he said:
It is essential to our democratic system that controversial issues should be debated at reasonable length so that every reasonable opportunity shall be available to hear the arguments pro and con, and that reasonable delaying tactics should be permissible to enable opponents of a measure to enlist public support for their point of view.
The member for Red Deer argued that if a filibuster is to be successful it must raise the profile of an issue and enlist enough public support to: put the necessary pressure on the government to back down, or make the government pay a price at the polls in the event it insists on passing the bill into law.
He described how the naval aid bill of 1913 represented the first time in Canadian parliamentary history that closure was ever used. The proposed legislation was introduced by the Conservative government of Sir Robert Borden and if adopted would have authorized the cash donation of $35 million to Great Britain for the construction of the Dreadnought class warships for its navy. Sir Wilfrid Laurier strongly opposed the bill and the Liberals filibustered throughout second reading and committee of the whole. At one point in committee of the whole they kept the whole House virtually in continuous session for as long as two weeks: the House sat from 3 o'clock on Monday March 3 until Saturday at midnight and then again from 3 o'clock on Monday March 10 to Saturday late in the evening. The naval bill was eventually defeated in the Liberal dominated Senate.
Closure was used again to close off the famous pipeline debate in 1956. Well known academic C.E.S. Franks said the pipeline debate was perhaps the most important debate in parliament's history and it had inaugurated the modern parliamentary age of both obstruction and reform.
The debate on the omnibus Energy Security Act of 1982 was made famous because the opposition caused the division bells to ring from 4.20 p.m. on Tuesday March 2, until 2.28 p.m.--