Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on this issue today particularly because we have heard a lot in the House about taking action on various issues. It is regrettable that opposition members talk about taking action but are not prepared to do anything.
When it comes to the reinstatement of government bills, there is a time honoured tradition in the House and in Great Britain with regard to reinstatement. I do not hear any alternatives from that side of the House. If we do not reinstate these bills, what does the opposition propose?
We have debated, examined and reviewed a number of bills that are at various stages. We are asking, as the government, to reinstated them so we may continue in the public interest. The public interest is not served by the delay tactics of the opposition. The public interest is not served by the opposition pretending concern about the state of the issues, whether they are environmental or public safety issues or whether it is about democratic reform.
At the same time those members do not want to act because they would rather play politics. They would rather not look at the fact that since 1970, 1972 and 1986, it has occurred in the House. Maybe the opposition has a lot more time on its hands than we on this side of the House have but when something is examined and reviewed it is brought back to the current state in which it was left in order to proceed. I assume that part of the objective would be to hopefully complete the legislation and move forward. That would be in the public interest.
The public interest is not served by delay and it is not served by politicking or continuous chatter. It is only served when we take action and move forward on legislation in which all of us have been involved.
All of us have been involved in the various bills that are now being asked to be reinstated before the House. Unfortunately we have members across the way who are suggesting that we do not need to do this but they offer no alternative. It is very easy to criticize but, unfortunately, they are not prepared to act.
One of the things that we have talked about is that we have tabled an new action plan for democratic reform. However apparently it only is supposed to work on this side of the House and not on that side. We on this side of the House want free votes but I have never seen, in all the years I have been here, free votes on that side. On that side they always vote together. Why? It is because their objective is to defeat the government.
They are not interested in true reform. If they were interested in true reform they would loosen their own whips and allow the kind of votes that need to take place.
However, that is one of the reforms that has been tabled in the House. We hear a lot of rhetoric from that side but we have not seen any action.
What is the process of government? Bills are introduced in the House and once they pass second reading they go to committee. Many of the standing committees have reviewed legislation. Ministers and parliamentary secretaries have appeared before those committees. Members have debated the issues. Canadians are saying that they want to see certain legislation go through but the people on the other side would rather delay.
I find it incomprehensible to understand why they would want to delay legislation that is extremely important for Canadians, such as animal cruelty? Why would they want to delay that bill? More than one member in the House has received calls on the issue of animal cruelty, on Bill C-10B. No, we would rather have this whole thing start from scratch, because that is the only alternative. It is utter nonsense to suggest that we review something we have already reviewed.
As a former teacher, I do not think it is very productive to do that. Some teachers might want someone to write lines on the board 100 times but that is not very productive. I would rather use the time more effectively. I am sure there are colleagues on the other side who would like to be more effective than simply rewriting what we have already done.
I know some of my colleagues across the way work very co-operatively when it comes to getting bills through the House and making sure we deal with the information but we have some who would rather delay. Why do they want to delay? It is because they have no other suggestions and no alternatives. They want to start from square one.
The particular motion before the House is to restore the role of parliamentarians. It is for parliamentarians to examine legislation carefully. This is not a time limit where we are going to suddenly say that the bill has to be passed tomorrow. However we cannot deal with the legislation if we cannot move forward. At the moment we cannot move forward because some members have said that they do not want any action whatsoever.
They cannot have it both ways. They cannot say on the one hand that they want the House of Commons to be effective, to move forward and to have democratic reform when on the other hand they would rather stay pat and not do anything. I do not know what we would be doing but according to them they want nothing done.
The interests of Canadians are not being served by simply doing nothing. The public interest is only served when we are working and when we are working effectively on legislation that we have been dealing with.
What is the issue? The issue from our side is that we want to reinstate legislation, something that has been done many times in the past, as I have said, namely the bills that were examined before Parliament was prorogued in November. This is very simple and it has been done many times before.
I am sure there are bills that members on the other side of the House are concerned about. Whether they support them or not, I think they need to be debated and they need to have a public hearings but his cannot be done if we simply freeze everything and say that we are not going to do everything because we would rather debate procedure, rather than debate the real issues.
We cannot get royal assent on a bill if we cannot get it back on the Order Paper and it dies. We do not want it to die. The Canadian public wants bills to be adopted and they cannot be adopted if we are going to reinvent the wheel, which seems to be the approach.
We will not start at zero. We will not give the same speeches or go through the same witnesses. We will not go through the same examination. It has been done and, I am sure, very thoroughly by the standing committees responsible for various pieces of legislation.
It is clear that because the committees will be established that in this case we will not be very productive if there are some bills that have been sitting around because of amendments that have not been dealt with that Canadians are saying let us move forward on, and yet we are more concerned in some quarters in the House with dealing with the issue of whether or not the government should be able to bring in closure. In fact, in Great Britain closure is automatic on every bill.
I hear about democracy. Some of the people on the other side really send me when they talk about democracy, when in fact they use the most anti-democratic means possible to hold up legislation. They say that they support free votes but do not ask them to apply free votes. Some members in certain quarters over there do not practice what in fact they preach. It is a bit hypocritical to suggest otherwise.
Of course none of this has escaped notice on this side of the House that parliamentarians are interested in getting work done. If at the end of the day a committee decides not to pass legislation, that is the will of the committee, but a committee cannot act if it is not constituted and it cannot be constituted unless we move forward. That is what we are prepared to do on this side of the House.
I think we all have much better things to do. Unfortunately, today we are taking up the entire day talking about whether we should reinstate bills. This is a waste of the taxpayer dollars. People on that side of the House, particularly those in the Conservative Party, always talk about whether money is well used. I think it is a misuse of taxpayer dollars to talk about whether we should move forward on legislation that has already been before parliamentarians. I would certainly commend the fact that we move forward as expeditiously as possible.
As the House knows, this proposal would allow ministers, within 30 days after the start of the session and after the motion is adopted, to apply to the Speaker for permission to reinstate bills from the previous session. That, in fact, is what we are trying to do.
As members know, when the last session ended we brought forward a motion to simply say that we wanted to reinstate bills, as was done before, and that we would do it in in a way that would not come as any surprise to my colleagues, either on this side or the other side of the House.
However it is not new. Perhaps some of the members on the other side were asleep, but it clearly has been a procedure that has been done many times. It was done in 1970, 1972, 1986 and 1991. In fact it is something that is there and it gives us the opportunity to deal with very legitimate legislation. Even in October 1999, the House adopted a similar motion to the one before us today.
Clearly the proposed motion is similar to the Standing Orders that allow private members' bills to be reintroduced following prorogation. I know dealing with the issues of private members is of concern to members on this side of the House and I am sure to my colleagues on the other side of the House.
What we are dealing with today is nothing new. It is nothing radical. It is nothing surprising. It is simply trying to get the business of the nation moving forward, and we cannot do that with the delaying tactics from the other side.
We need to get on with it. We need to ensure that legislation moves forward. As to what the result will be, that is up to the committee and ultimately to the House. However, we cannot do it if we cannot start immediately.
There has been derogatory comments made on the other side, for example, on Bill C-49 which sees the enhancement of the democratic character of our nation by having new boundaries. Clearly, some of the members on the other side would rather us have boundaries which reflect population changes which have not been seen in 10 years.
I come from a riding that is the second or third largest in Canada by population; close to 200,000. I think it reflects the fact that in a fast growing community, such as mine, need to have these changes. It may be all right for some members on the other side, but the reality is that we want to be up to date.
We believe these changes are important and Canadians have said they are important. If we are to have a census and we do not take action on what the census has told us, why have a census? If we are to truly represent British Columbia, which will get two new seats, or Alberta with two seats or Ontario with three seats, we have to be much more responsive. As I say, we will simply respond to what the census has told us.
Bill C-34 deals with an independent ethics commissioner reporting to the House of Commons. Who could argue against that? Again, this is something Canadians have said they want to see. It is something we said we are prepared to act on quickly. Yet every day we hear the other side complaining about why the ethics counsellor is not reporting directly to Parliament. We have a bill that will do just that and the opposition members are still complaining.
I do not understand for the life of me how they think they can have it both ways. Either they want an ethics commissioner who is independent, who reports to the House and they are prepared to vote on it and move forward, or they are not. They cannot simply say one thing and do another, although some of them obviously have Ph.Ds in that regard because they have mastered this to such a degree that they say one thing and do another.
As the former parliamentary secretary to the finance minister, I remember that. On one day members of the opposition would say that we should spend $2 billion. The next day they would say that we would have to cut $3 billion. Only Harry Houdini could probably do that. However, the reality is that we had to balance the books on this side and we could not take, and thank goodness we did not take, the advice of some of my colleagues on the other side.
There is the issue of public safety. We have the public safety act of 2002 and amendments to the Criminal Code. Some of our friends in the Conservative Party continually talk about the Criminal Code. Who could argue against protecting children and other vulnerable groups of people, which is the public safety act? Apparently some members can because they do not want this legislation to go forward.
To me the protection of children is paramount. Why we would even waste any time wanting to debate whether that bill should go forward? It is disgraceful to suggest that the protection of children should take second place to the procedural wrangling of the opposition. It makes absolutely no sense to me.
The Westbank First Nation self-government act is another example. Again, that has been debated and discussed, and the opposition would rather drag its feet.
We want to ensure clean water, a good environment and a strong health care system, issues that really need to be debated in the House. They need to be debated in committee. Unfortunately, the opposition is more interested in procedural wrangling.
I would suggest that the time has come to move forward. The time has come to put people first and to put the workings of this Parliament ahead of the politics across the way. If the members opposite do not support the legislation, fine. However, unless we have the debate on that legislation, we will be unable to do the business of the nation. We cannot do the business of the nation under the current situation.
As I said before, even Great Britain, which of course we model ourselves after, has closure. The opposition uses the word closure as if somehow it is a dirty word. That is done for every bill in England. The parliamentarians have a discussion on one day, then they move on. Here, we talk about different issues. Sometimes a long discussion is good. Unfortunately, the group on the other side is only interested in dragging its feet. It is not interested in dealing with the nation's business. Whether it is cruelty to animals, or protection of children, other than concern, these are hardly issues which I would think there would be much to say about. Let us put those things first and move forward.
Unfortunately, we continue to have to do this once in a while, and it is regrettable. However, we do not have the support of our colleagues on the other side because they play politics. I know they are obviously concerned about other things, but we are not afraid on this side of the House to talk about the issues. We are not afraid on this side of the House to deal with the issues. We are not afraid on this side of the House to let the chips fall where they may. However, we cannot do it if we are going to spend hours and hours wrangling over whether we can move forward with legislation, which every member in this House has been involved in, whether it has been examining or discussing it in the committee.
Let us move forward and let us get on with the business of the nation.