That, although thePrime Minister has a mandate and should be able to end it as hechooses, given the democratic imbalance that currently prevailsand that results in the government's decision-making occurringoutside this House, and more broadly outside any publicinstitution, this House calls upon the Prime Minister to leaveoffice as soon as possible after November 14, 2003.
Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I want to stress the fact that the issue now before the House is extremely important, since it deals with the very foundations of the democratic system in place in Canada, in Quebec and all the other Canadian provinces.
Indeed, those who are watching this debate should realize that, with a government where the powers are concentrated in the hands of one man, the Prime Minister, the opposition is there to provide the necessary checks and balances.
That being said, everyone knows how important it is to have, in a properly balanced Parliament, a strong opposition that is able to debate public policies, make suggestions and monitor government action, an opposition that stands up for those who do not share the government's position.
Our system needs proper balance to function, since the government speaks for a huge segment of the population, has all the power and spends all the money, and basically does whatever is needed to reach its goals.
Nevertheless, with all that concentration of power, our role in the House of Commons is to provide balance. The opposition members have a responsibility to prevent the government from going too far in using public money or from considering only one point of view when making its policy decisions.
Among the excellent mechanisms that enable the opposition to play this role are the parliamentary committees, which are extremely important and whose role I certainly would not deny, and in particular there is the oral question period every day in Parliament.
There is a reason why question period attracts so much interest from journalists, the media as a whole and the general public. It is not because of its more spectacular aspects, but because of the importance of what happens at that time. The government's actions often come under scrutiny during question period.
For example, take the sponsorship scandal; how often were the government's decisions and approaches, which we thought reprehensible, pointed out to the public by opposition questions?
How many people have had to give an accounting of themselves to the public during question period? And how many government policies have been changed or modified because of opposition insistence during question period? Question period is the best opportunity our fellow citizens have to be heard in Parliament. It is time set aside for all those who do not share the government's views to be heard through the opposition members. The government knows that and has a great moral obligation.
It has an obligation to give an account of its mandate to the other elected representatives who have the time to dig, to research, to look, to challenge points of view. That is democratic balance.
All this rests on the basic concept that the government is responsible. The government makes decisions. The government is responsible for its decisions. The government can change its decisions. The government can consult the people. The government can reverse itself. The government can launch an inquiry. The government can decide to proceed further with any of its policies.
The government has all the powers, but they are kept in check by the opposition, particularly in Parliament. During the summer or Christmas recess, there is a democratic deficit, to some extent, because this process does not work as well. As a result, the media, conferences and press conferences are used by the various parties. This ensures balance, but one that is not as perfect or as complete.
So all this power is concentrated in the hands of the government, particularly the Prime Minister's. The Prime Minister has the power of political life or death over each member of his caucus. He has the keys to the limousines. He has enormous power to influence his ministers. Everyone knows the role of the Prime Minister's office. For example, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration wanted to get involved in the matter relating to the Montreal Grand Prix and was told by the Prime Minister's chief of staff, “You, shut up”.
We know the importance of the Prime Minister's office and the Prime Minister when it comes to government policy. No one has a problem with that. Everyone knows that the opposition members are not subject to that pressure. The government members are unhappy. They are fighting for a spot in cabinet, but once they get picked, the Prime Minister is the one who set the policies.
But what is happening now? The problem raised by this motion is that the person with the keys to the limousines is now outside Parliament or hiding behind the curtain. That is the current problem. In a few months this individual will have the ultimate power to tell the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, “You are the minister and you accept or do not accept those responsibilities”. That person is hiding behind the curtain. He is not sitting in the Prime Minister's seat. No need to be partisan to understand that this gives enormous clout to an individual designated in advance, who will be in place in a few months and who can therefore influence all the ministers interested in keeping their jobs.
The Prime Minister, who usually holds the power, now finds himself in the back seat because everyone knows that he is on his way out. I can hardly see him shuffling his cabinet in October when his successor will be chosen in November. The Prime Minister is powerless. The person who is supposed to be holding the power in a parliamentary system like ours is now powerless. Everybody knows that he is leaving.
At least, if there were a real leadership race, things would be different. But no, the successor is known. There is not a single member in this House, not a single reporter in the press gallery, not a single person in all of Canada who does not know that the member for LaSalle—Émard will become the next leader of the Liberal Party. It is a done deal. The delegates are known, and the ratio is 90 to 10. The event itself no longer has any significance for anyone.
So we know who the successor will be. The man who is supposed to have the most power has become powerless. His successor is known, he is a member of this House and he exerts his terrible influence on the government from behind the curtains. This is what is unhealthy for our system.
Allow me to give some examples, like the prebudget consultations, a key step in the preparation of the government's budget. We are talking about billions of dollars in taxes that belong to our fellow citizens, to those who are watching us. They pay those taxes with their hard-earned money and want their tax dollars to be managed in the best interests of the community. What is happening? The Minister of Finance is holding consultations. However, our next prime minister—at least for the remainder of this mandate, after that, we will see—is not taking part in these consultations.
So we have the Minister of Finance, who moreover is apparently not in the good books of the next prime minister, trying to hold consultations. He is apparently preparing the budget. While these consultations are being held, the present PM and finance minister indicate to us that the government should invest in social programs. In the meantime, a single obscure adviser to the future PM says that 10% should be cut from all departments, so everyone realizes that the entire prebudget consultation process is a farce.
I would go so far even as to say that the present prebudget consultations, which are an important exercise for our fellow citizens as well as for MPs, are of no greater importance than if I personally decided to hold them all across Canada. If I did, the public would at least be assured that the opposition would bring back to Parliament the policies they had asked for.
The only thing people can be sure of now with this headless government is that any policies they might ask for will be systematically brushed aside by the person who is going to take over, he who is locked in an internal struggle with the others.
The Kyoto protocol is one issue that stirred up members of this Parliament, and in fact all over the world. The government finally signed the protocol, to our great satisfaction moreover. Objective as we are, we congratulated them on this. We encouraged it, pushed them to do it. It is a fine example of what we have been able to accomplish here. They signed it, and we agree.
Yet the man who is now experiencing his finest hours behind the curtains of this Chamber, and in the corridors of this Parliament, has always expressed some strong reservations about the signing of the Kyoto protocol. What would happen to the budgets allocated to Kyoto implementation in order to protect the environment, when we know that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Environment, and all the ministers of this government, agreed to sign, to invest funds, and to move on this issue?
But he whose presence is occasionally felt in this Chamber does not agree. As members of the opposition, we would love to see him seated here so he could answer our questions, answer the questions of the people through us, in this House, questions the government has a duty to answer.
In the present situation, and given the fact that the principle of responsible government is not being upheld, we now have before us a government that is not responsible because of the Liberal Party, because of the ambition of the present Prime Minister and because of the ambition of his successor, whose presence is felt in the House. That is the problem.
We have more recent examples that are unfortunate. I would like to draw the attention of those who may think this motion is irrelevant to a story in La Presse dealing with the Prime Minister. I will change the names in my quotation in order to stay within the rules:
The Prime Minister said, “[The public works minister] speaks on behalf of [the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard]. He does not speak on my behalf. I am not the one who will prepare the next budget. This is none of my business. I will lead the government up to a certain day, and there will be a new government on the following day”.
This is a serious matter when the Prime Minister of a country like Canada, who is carrying out his duties abroad, has to declare from a distance to a minister,e the public works minister, “What you have just said is not correct, since you are the spokesperson for the next PM. I am the Prime Minister, and as long as I am, for the next few months, this is not going to happen”.
Is the Prime Minister of Canada himself not telling us that the motion of the Bloc Quebecois is more than relevant? It is necessary.
This is terribly disturbing. Put yourselves in the citizens' shoes. Who do they believe when the Minister of Public Works and Government Services announces that cuts will be made in all the departments? People are worried, but they know that opposition members can do nothing, because members on the other side of the House are part of a irresponsible government. This is a government that no longer has a real leader. It no longer has political strength.
It is disturbing to a society when the future prime minister, supported by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, tells us that cuts will be made. The current Prime Minister is forced to say from Asia, “Just a minute; perhaps it will be true in four months, when I decide to retire or when my international farewell trip is over, but it is not true at this time”.
Everyone knows this is the case and that we cannot discuss these policies. We ask questions to the government and it tells us, “This is not our policy”. However, we know that its policy will apply as long as the Prime Minister decides to remain in his darned seat. This is an indication of how long the current government will last and how real much power it wields.
As a result, is it not logical for us as democratic people to demand a government that can provide answers? Is it not normal to demand a real Prime Minister, one who has the authority he needs to manage the affairs of the state?
All the ministers of this government are worried and are no longer making any decisions. The administrative machinery is in neutral and everyone knows it. Senior officials no longer want to move projects initiated by this government forward, because they know the government is counting down the hours. That is the reality.
I know this hurts the other side of the House. Those who are listening to us know that none of the current ministers, who are looking at us and making comments, can bet on their future. In four months, they might be backbenchers and, in six months, they might be defeated in the election, because people are going to turf out this irresponsible government.
If the government does not exercise self-discipline, if the Liberal Party and the Liberal government continue to use Parliament to stage the black comedy unfolding with respect to the leadership of their party, they will be harshly judged by the public. Those who are listening to us cannot accept announcements as important as a $7 billion surplus, cuts in all the departments and uncertainty for a number of programs, knowing that we are unable to ask a single question to those responsible.
To quote my friend, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, the current member for LaSalle—Émard, who will become prime minister, currently has all the advantages of being prime minister without having the courage to take the risks that come with this position. We do not accept this either. We want this man to face us in Parliament. We want the public to know him, we want to question him and we want him to be faced with democracy here, which is where it is exercised.