Maybe. Instead of getting at the meat of the issue on democratic reform, we send letters to the House leader saying that we love the idea of a more democratic Parliament, but there is no time to do it. It is just a farce. We should be working on that. If we had a four year cycle, this charade would not be going on.
Last night we debated an important bill on aboriginal accountability. Members on our side of the House spoke our peace and sat down. Members on that side of the House started ragging the puck. Everybody over there started to talk. They finished the day. They dragged it out for as long as they could so we could not vote on the bill. Why? They do not have any other legislation because there is no fixed election date. If that bill had been passed, they would have had to talk about something else, but they have nothing else to talk about. The Liberals started to talk about something that we on this side of the House had finished talking about and were ready to vote on it.
The government does not have a four year fixed election date. It is governing poorly right now. The House is not working well. That is why we should do it. It allows the government to do its job. It should do it for four full years and then get on with it instead of this farce where we are wasting months and months of time when we should be doing proper and good things for Canadians.
Although it binds the government to a four year cycle and it does tie the hands of the Prime Minister, what is democratic reform unless it takes some of the power away from the Prime Minister? The Prime Minister decried when he was in his wilderness time that it is who you know in the PMO. That is the trouble around here. There is too much power concentrated in the Prime Minister's Office, but as soon as he has to give up some of that power, the brakes come on.
Democratic reform and democratic deficits are only addressed if the Prime Minister says, “I have this power right now but I am going to give it up willingly”, in this case to a set election date, or in the case of a committee, to allow it actually to deal with something. For example, let the committees deal with the estimates and give us a good budgetary recommendation.
Instead, the very first thing I asked the House leader who was before a committee was whether there would be free votes now and could we have a free vote on the budgetary allotment for the gun control legislation. He said, “Actually, no you cannot. That is a three line whip,” or whatever it is called where members have to do as they are told, because he had decided that is what it would be. In other words, he has not given up any control. He has maintained the control in the Prime Minister's Office and the whip and the House leader, and is not allowing his backbenchers to vote as they really wish.
It does take away some of the power from the Prime Minister. Just as Premier Gordon Campbell has given up some of his power by saying there will be a fixed election date. People in B.C. think it is a good thing. There are no ifs, ands or buts. People who come forward as candidates know when they are going to be running. They do not have to put their lives on hold for a couple of years while they figure out whether the Prime Minister has seen the light, gone for a walk in the snow, taken a shower, or whatever it is he does to decide these things. It is done properly. It is done decently. Candidates, parties, provinces and business people all plan accordingly. There is no problem whatsoever. It is easy to do.
To address the suggestion one more time and knock it in the head, that it takes a constitutional change to have a fixed election date is nonsense. It is the same argument that his predecessor used when I suggested free votes in the House when I was a House leader. What came back to me was that we could not do that as it would contravene the Constitution, the government would fall, it would be a travesty of constitutional law, and other stuff that he dreamed up, none of which is true. It is all false. It is a dragon, an imaginary fearsome beast they put out, that somehow this would contravene some long held constitutional provision or it would require the unanimous consent of the 10 provinces. It is just nonsense.
I wish he would deal with the issue. The issue is he just does not like the idea, which is fair enough, but he talks in such circles.
The other argument the Liberals are using is that they need the freedom to go to the people because the Prime Minister they have right now has only been elected by the party, not by the actual people out there. An illegitimate Prime Minister is apparently what we have.
That will be the argument if we have to go to an election this spring, but if we hold them off until the fall, the argument will be that he has to govern to show his stuff. If we wait for another year, the argument will be it is a necessity for the good of the nation and the legislative package. In other words, whatever. Today his feelings may be that we need to go to an election because he needs a mandate. If he waits six months, he did not really need a mandate after all, he just needed permission. If he waits a year and a half, his argument will be that he had a full legislative package and could not go, it would not have been right.
The arguments against this motion are nonsense. The private member's bill drafted by the leader of the Conservative Party says there should be a fixed election date. He promises upon forming government that the first thing he will announce is the date of the next election. He has followed that up by a legislative bill that actually describes how it would be done. He has furthermore said that the confidence measure convention will not be contravened. It is well thought through. It is precise. It is in legislative form.
I encourage the Liberals to look at it, to adopt it and put it forward. It is something I think Canadians would welcome as a positive change in addressing, at least in part, the democratic deficit.