Mr. Speaker, I listened with careful attention to the opposition on the motion before us. It seemed as if they were replaying question period and bringing out a litany of accusations, accusations of all types levelled at the Prime Minister.
I think it would be fair to ask the question that Canadians who are listening to us right now would ask us. They would ask what is our function here if it is not to legislate and to enact laws for the public good? Who would dispute that Canadians expect us to spend our time in Parliament productively and proactively, and to pass the laws necessary for improving the lives of Canadians right across the country?
The opposition is treating the motion to reinstate government bills as if it were an unusual, unfair and inappropriate measure, yet it has been a common practice in the House for well over 30 years. The same procedure has now been adopted by the House to apply to private members' bills. That was the wish of all members of the House. The same practice has been used for a long time by the Parliament that served as the model for ours, the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.
We should make it clear exactly what the motion intends to do, what it will do and what it will not do. It will not in any form derogate from the powers of members to debate. It will not in any way prejudice any of the prerogatives of the members and of the House itself.
What the motion really seeks to do is to allow ministers to apply to the Speaker within the first 30 days of a new session to have bills that died on the Order Paper reinstated at the same stage they were at when the old session ended. It is then up to the Speaker to decide if a given bill is the same as the one that existed in the old session and if it is, the Speaker can, if he wants, order it to be reinstated.
Reinstatement will not apply automatically to all bills, but only to those bills that have reached committee stage, that is to say, bills that have undergone a significant amount of study and debate prior to prorogation.
Reinstatement will not be automatic. Obviously there will be situations in which a minister may decide not to request reinstatement, or where he or she may decide that it was best to reintroduce the bill from the very beginning, or perhaps not reintroduce it at all. This is the reason the motion allows for all these possibilities and it is up to the minister to decide if an application for reinstatement will be made.
I mentioned earlier that the practice covered by the motion before us goes back more than 30 years. Indeed in 1970, 1972, 1974 and 1986 the House gave unanimous consent to motions to reinstate bills. It adopted a similar motion under a previous government in 1991. Similarly in 1977 and 1982 the House adopted amendments to the standing orders to carry over legislation to the next session. In the more recent past, in March 1996 to be precise, the House adopted a similar motion. As well, in October 1999 the House adopted a motion similar to the one before us today to allow it to carry on its work from a previous session.
Let us examine whether certain bills which are contemplated by the motion deserve to be reinstated or not. Can the opposition challenge the worth and necessity of the following bills?
There is the bill to create an independent ethics commissioner and Senate ethics officer. This is a measure that has been loudly clamoured for time and again by all opposition parties.
Another example is the bill dealing with the changes to the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act. The bill would make it easier for people in the developing world to get low cost pharmaceutical products to tackle malaria, HIV-AIDS and other epidemics. I ask members of the opposition if they are ready to challenge the necessity for a bill of this urgent nature to speed through the House as soon as it can. Should we put a bill of this urgent nature back into the system and reintroduce it from the beginning rather than pick it up where we left off before prorogation?
Another example is Bill C-49 which sought to speed up the implementation of new electoral boundaries so our constituencies would better reflect the social, cultural and demographic realities of a fast changing country, including additional ridings in places like B.C., Alberta and Ontario. This again is a measure the official opposition has clamoured for very loudly.
There are a number of other bills aimed at enhancing the security of our most vulnerable citizens.
Let me ask also, by insisting that we hold up these bills and reintroduce them from the very beginning of the parliamentary process, are we really helping the common good? Would it not be for the common good to speed the passage of these bills by reinstating them at the stage they were at when the last session of Parliament ended? The answer is obvious.
I started my political life in the opposition. I was in the opposition for nearly five years, so I know how it works. The opposition is there to probe, to criticize and to challenge the government at every facet of the government's day. That is what the opposition does and I think it is fair game that the opposition should do it.
At the same time, Canadians also have a right to hear the other side of every story. In this particular case Canadians who are listening to us should know that the other side of the story is that certain important bills such as the institution of an ethics commissioner responsible to Parliament and the special legal provision to accelerate getting pharmaceutical drugs to people with HIV-AIDS in developing countries, in Africa and elsewhere, are bills that need to be passed as soon as possible.
The irony is that these measures, especially that of the ethics commissioner, have been clamoured for the most loudly by the opposition who have been criticizing the ethics counsellor now responsible to the Prime Minister. When we want to institute it and we want to accelerate the passage of this bill through this motion, the opposition says no, that the motion is unfair, that it is a delaying tactic.
People will have to decide for themselves what is best, the delaying tactic of not moving the bills forward, or passing a motion that will reinstate bills which Canadians in all fairness would judge as appropriate, necessary and even urgent.
I leave the people who are listening to us to decide. I know they will decide that the motion is fair and that it is necessary to pass it as soon as possible.