Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Athabasca.
I have listened to the debate today and it has been quite informative to watch the Liberals hoist with their own petard. They have been saying that this would totally revolutionize this place, that somehow we would come under the spell of George Bush and his terrible hordes from the United States, that truly the marines would come.
I can advise the federal Liberals that it has not happened to Gordon Campbell. Gordon Campbell, the premier of British Columbia, decided to do what was in the best interests of the people of British Columbia. He took the initiative for the people of British Columbia that we have been proposing for the people of Canada. He actually set a fixed election date. The sky did not fall. The troops did not come in from Port Angeles. No, indeed, nobody particularly paid any attention.
To suggest that what the Conservative Party motion is recommending, setting a fixed election date in Canada, would somehow be totally revolutionary, that it would end our British parliamentary system and all of the affects of our British parliamentary system, is specious on the part of the Liberals.
We do recognize, at least I recognize, that there would be some substantial changes. A couple of the changes would lie in the area of a change in the cycle of how politics is done in Canada. By going to a fixed election date means that effectively, the province of British Columbia is in the process of getting ready for and campaigning for the entire legislative cycle of the British Columbia government. It is focused on the fact that it will be going to the people on May 17, 2005.
I also point out that the opposition party in the province of Manitoba, the Progressive Conservative Party, is also proposing a fixed election date.
It is very important to note that as a result of a fixed election date basically what would happen is there would be a loss of advantage to the premier in the case of the provinces, and to the prime minister in the case of Canada. Of course, in the case of a loss of advantage to the Prime Minister, he needs every advantage that he can possibly get.
I should also note that we have a model of success for what is set out in the motion by the official opposition. It did not bring the end of the British parliamentary tradition or system in Australia in the state of New South Wales nor in the state of Victoria.
As a matter of fact, I can report that in Australia, the New South Wales parliament has a fixed four year term. This is going to be earth shattering for my federal Liberal friends on the other side, but the next election will be on Saturday, March 24, 2007. Believe it or not, that has not brought the British parliamentary system to its knees in Australia.
Further, the state of Victoria, with the passage of historic parliamentary and electoral reforms in March 2003, now has four year fixed terms for both houses. The next election will be held on Saturday, November 26, 2006. This is really quite amazing. I do not think its government has fallen, nor has it seen the U.S. marines on its shores.
It is just a little bit facetious, particularly for some of the members on the other side of the House, to try to indicate that this House would fall, that somehow the British parliamentary system under which we work would be severely damaged and somehow democracy simply would not work.
In fact, we could listen to another Liberal, a person who has been referred to a couple times in the debate today, our friend Mr. Tom Kent. I will repeat what he said in January of this year.
The fount of authority is the prime minister's power to dissolve Parliament when he chooses--a fearsome discipline over his own party. The even greater offence to democracy is that other parties are put at a serious disadvantage, as they cannot be sure when and on what issue or pretext an election will be called. Will [the Prime Minister] free Parliament from arbitrary dissolution? That would indeed shift the balance of power, away from the “command-and-control systems of central authority” and toward a democracy that better reflects “the views of citizens and communities”.
That is what Tom Kent said and it is what we say. I submit that is what a majority of Canadians, who are sick and tired of being held hostage by the Prime Minister in setting the election date, would also say.
There are certain efficiencies that would occur, recognizing that there are certain costs and indeed other consequences that would flow from setting a fixed election date.
As I alluded to a couple of minutes ago, when we go through a life of a Parliament there is a phase when the government basically does all the housecleaning, does all the bad things that need to happen in the first year.
In the second year, the government tinkers around and makes sure things get repaired, that they are in better repair. The government is still working at correcting the situation.
Normally in the third year the government starts the process of putting things back together so it appears to be a lot better to the electorate.
In the fourth year, as in the case of the present federal Liberal government, it has been doling out about $1 billion in lollies to constituencies it is concerned about possibly losing.
That is the normal cycle. Unfortunately it is a cynical description of the cycle, but that is the normal cycle of events.
The difference with the present government, with the party that will be going for its fourth term at some time we know not when, in the first three incarnations, in 1993 then prime minister Jean Chrétien came to office with all sorts of ideas about how he would correct things and how things would be far more responsive.
We then arrived at a point when in his best judgment it was in the interests of himself and of the federal Liberals to not wait until the fourth year. Instead he got on with doling out all the lolly and then he went to the people in 1997 for absolutely no good reason. In 2000, after only three years in office, the government went back to the people of Canada for another mandate.
Then there was the Liberal leadership shemozzle. From that we have the incarnation of the new Prime Minister who now says, “Gee, maybe I will have an election, or maybe I will not have an election”.
What that is all about is the federal Liberal Party has had its hand caught in the cookie jar over the ad scam scandal. As a consequence, the Prime Minister is now choosing to delay and effectively hold the people of Canada ransom while he takes a look at all the opinion polls. This is a shameful way for any new prime minister who continues to lead the tired, old federal Liberals to treat the people of Canada.
Let us look at what this means in the actual election cycle. I am going to run again to hopefully succeed myself in the riding of Kootenay--Columbia.
Kootenay--Columbia is a very large riding. I am fortunate to have 1,200 members in my constituency organization, most of whom are very dedicated, hardworking people. They are completely committed to keeping the representation in this Chamber from that constituency in the hands of a party and a party representative who will take the information from the constituency and bring it to this place. They are prepared to work.
But we do not know if or when there is going to be an election. As a consequence, what do we do about headquarters as far as having a campaign office is concerned? What do we do about installing telephones? What do we do about acquiring printing and signs? There are all sorts of things involved in the election process.
This is true not only for me. Amazingly, it is also true for the federal Liberals who have been selected by their party and will be running. Their members are in exactly the same bind of trying to figure out whether or not to take summer holidays or whether they should have a coffee party or a barbecue.
What kind of efficiency does this create for people in Canada who are very interested in the democratic process but who do not get involved? This kind of shilly-shallying and sidestepping by the current Prime Minister effectively means that Canadians who would normally be interested in becoming involved in the electoral process are not getting involved. They are saying, “I don't know what's going to happen and I don't know when it's going to happen”, and it leads to the level of cynicism that only this kind of game-playing by the Prime Minister and by the federal Liberals can actually generate--