Mr. Speaker, I will agree with you that it is a rather unaccustomed thing, most unusual in fact, for us to be here at 7:20 p.m. Not that your company is not agreeable, or that of our colleagues, but I think our viewers need to understand what we are doing here.
If we are still here in the House of Commons at 7:20 p.m. it is because the government has done something that is in total disrespect of the opposition. This is a rather sad event, since we could have hoped, and might have expected, at a time when the Minister responsible for Democratic Reform and government House leader has released a document inviting our reflection on how to breathe new life into this Parliament, how to bring parliamentarians closer to their constituents, and how to renew the parliamentary process, that the government would be somewhat more respectful of the opposition.
What is the object of the debate we are engaged in this evening? It is a motion before the House inviting parliamentarians to reinstate all bills as they were before prorogation. Use of the term before prorogation invites us to understand that there is at least one paradox in the proposal submitted to us.
First of all, it is the present government that decided to send the members home. If we had continued with our work, as we had been sent here to do in September, we would normally have been here sitting in November and December. Thus we would have been able to pass a number of extremely worthwhile bills on which people had placed their expectations.
I am thinking for instance of the electoral reform, the marijuana issue, and the recognition of same sex partners. We might have expected to see the government introducing a bill to amend the Human Rights Act. I will come back to that point a little later.
However, instead of that, for reasons of blatant partisan politics, the government chose not to let parliamentarians sit. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, the atmosphere of democratic deficit in which we were steeped right from September on.
There were two camps. On the one side, a prime minister and MP for forty years in this House in the person of Mr. Jean Chrétien, leader of the government since 1993. On the other, a party leadership hopeful, the member for LaSalle—Émard, whose rapid ascension, and the way he became leader of the Liberal party will be judged by history.
Nevertheless, the fact is that the democratic deficit was real, so real that I hope all the members who are ministers will agree that it was an embarrassing situation to say the least. There was a government leader put into a minority position, exiled by his own colleagues. The fact is that Parliament did not sit in November and December.
And today, we have more of the same, with a chorus of scandal. The Auditor General, an officer of the House by extension, has released a report that reminds us of the common thread that ties the words corruption, nepotism, favouritism and partisan politics together, and unfortunately, it is the Liberal Party. Today the government wants us to get back to business in the same place where it earlier prevented us from sitting.
Do you think this is democratic? The opposition members, it is agreed, have a role to play in a democracy. The government is facing an experienced opposition. The Bloc Quebecois has always been extremely responsible in fulfilling its duties. We hope that when the government wants to introduce bills, it will do so with respect for the opposition and that it will present them for first reading and second reading, send them to committee for examination, and then proceed to third reading.
There are bills for which we are prepared to cooperate with diligence and speed. I am referring to the whole issue of drugs for Africa. The government chose to call this bill the Jean Chrétien bill. The lack of partisanship makes us realize that the former member for Shawinigan did a good thing. I understand that all parliamentarians wish to pass this bill.
Of course, that does not mean there will not be amendments. My friend, the former parliamentary secretary, whom I hold in great respect, knows, as a former surgeon, how important drugs are in the lives of our fellow citizens. He has spent years in relatively good health. He could use a little more exercise, he has put on a bit of weight, but for the most part he is in good health and we are glad.
The former prime minister and member for Shawinigan introduced in this House legislation that will make drugs, possibly in a generic version, available to third world countries, and not just African countries. The schedule in the bill shows that drugs could be available in Latin America, Africa, of course, but also in all the developing countries.
This is something we had to do. Without an accord, WTO rules would not allow generic drugs to be available if patents existed. The bill corrects this situation. Of course some agencies are worried about the issue of the right of first refusal. I am thinking of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, a largely federally funded agency that started in the early days of the epidemic. It is a very well informed agency that has always given this House and parliamentarians extremely good advice.
However, the fact remains that witnesses could have their say before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, but in its general composition, the bill is good. We are happy to adopt it. We are happy to pass it quickly.
Nevertheless, this is not the case for all bills. The Bloc Quebecois has serious concerns about the legislation on terrorism and public safety. Why? Because we are sons of freedom and we are not prepared to follow the U.S.
Let me tell you about the American model. The Americans have passed anti-terrorism legislation called the Patriot Act. This raises some serious concerns about potential violation of civil liberties. I think that members of this House are not prepared to follow in the Americans' footsteps.
Unfortunately, under the public safety bill, the anti-terrorism bill, civil liberties could be threatened, personal and identifiable information could be transferred to the RCMP where it is not warranted, ministers could make interim orders and parts of the Canadian and Quebec territory could unfortunately be subjected to excessive control.
Under the circumstances, it would be better to reintroduce the bill at first reading and let the opposition parties speak their minds.
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is not a bad person. She is well educated, has a PhD and used to teach law.