Mr. Speaker, this is a historic day in this Chamber in that a proposal is before the House that could bring all parties together in a spirit of compromise in a minority Parliament to achieve a number of key shared objectives. When that happens it is a salutary moment in this chamber. It is one that we need to consider very seriously. We need to examine the arguments why such a course of action is not only sensible, in the sense of being very much a common sense proposition, but also serves the interests of Canadians which is after all why we are here.
The objective is to get things done for Canadians over the next number of weeks and then move into an election after the holiday season in January for a voting day in the middle of February.
Three parties in the House have indicated that spirit of compromise in coming forward with this proposal. The only party so far that has refused to exercise that spirit of compromise, that sense of working together to find a common sense road ahead in order to achieve important objectives for Canadians, sadly is the very party whose unethical conduct has created the situation that we are in today.
The fact is that nothing, but nothing, prevents the Prime Minister from setting an election date on the advice of Parliament. It is, if I may say so, typical Liberal arrogance that a majority vote of Parliament is seen somehow to be irrelevant or an obstacle.
Just because something has not been done before does not mean that it might not be in fact a very good idea. The Prime Minister promised transformative change and suggested that it was required in order to fix the democratic deficit. We agree. However, now he refuses to compromise even though a majority of the House is going to be voting in favour of this advice. In other words, the Prime Minister will not be respecting the will of Parliament.
That does not sound to me, nor do I believe it will sound to Canadians, as though the democratic deficit is being addressed in a positive way. In fact, what it does is it leaves us with a sense that the democratic deficit is growing. We have a political party that received only 37% of the vote wishing to ignore the views of the House as expressed by parties representing almost two-thirds of Canadians. That, I would submit, is not the appropriate conduct for a Prime Minister of this country or for his political party.
Let us examine some of the issues here. First, we have been told by the Prime Minister and members of his party that what we are talking about is “only eight weeks”. In other words, the difference between the date that the Prime Minister has already set. He has already taken the view that there needs to be an election to determine whether his party can carry on in government as a result of the findings and recommendations of a respected justice who has examined a scandal and reported on it.
The Prime Minister has said that Canadians need to have the opportunity to judge on the findings, the recommendations, and the political party about which the investigation was conducted. We agree. The only question is when.
His proposal is on or about March 1. Our proposal, which will be coming from the majority of members in the chamber when we see the vote next week, suggests the beginning of January. Those are the eight weeks that we are speaking about.
What is to happen in those eight weeks? First, the House is not sitting for five of those weeks. In other words, the democratic process of members rising in the House to propose actions on key issues affecting Canadians, the process of questioning the government on its actions and holding it to account, the idea that we should be considering spending or legislation to correct the many unsolved problems that have been left to fester for 12 long years, is simply unable to be conducted during five of those weeks.
Is the Prime Minister suggesting that somehow those five weeks in particular are irrelevant to Canadians? We submit that by having the election in March those weeks are lost as working weeks for parliamentarians to work for Canadians. Therefore, there is no effective and good argument not to be having an election because during those five weeks we are literally shut out of this place in any event.
Of course, there will be something going on during those five weeks. We can be sure that vehicles such as the Challenger will be regularly booked, that there will be a number of press releases and announcements, probably from coast to coast to coast in this country, all paid for, by the way, by the taxpayer. These announcements and spending decisions will already be made by the House of Commons. As a matter of fact, what will be happening during the five weeks that we are talking about is a public relations campaign, not the actions of anything relevant to this particular House.
We will be having a publicly financed public relations campaign. Then the House will return for three more weeks. What is to take place in those three weeks? A budget will be tabled on which a vote will not be able to happen because the Prime Minister has said there will be an election on or about March 1, a budget which will not precipitate or produce any positive action whatsoever and will dominate the three weeks.
Our proposal is simply that this business of the eight weeks being somehow significant or relevant to addressing the issues of Canadians is false. The work that needs to be done by the House should take place between now and the holidays, and that is what we want to see.
There is a solution to the situation confronting Parliament today. It is a matter of common sense.
In the spring, we managed to keep Parliament going because the Liberals agreed to some of our good ideas. This fall, we submitted proposals, but unfortunately the Liberals chose to not work with us to obtain results beneficial to people.
The Liberal Party cannot decide when it will be judged. The people did not elect a majority government, and all parties must be prepared to make compromises.
I believe there is a reasonable solution. There are options other than an election during the holiday period, which no one wants. In addition, no one wants a Liberal Party that thinks it alone can decide when its comportment should be judged.
With this motion, we are requesting an election be called in early January and the vote held in mid-February. This proposal will thus permit Parliament to pass housekeeping legislation, including some very important bills, and will make it possible for the first meeting between first ministers and native leaders to be held. It will also provide an opportunity for the clean-up in Canadian politics that is needed in order to get back to basics, to produce specific results of benefit to the public.
The difference between last spring and this fall is this. In the spring Liberal corruption created a parliamentary crisis. When the NDP offered good ideas to get things done for people, the Liberals were forced to agree. In the fall, Liberal corruption again created a crisis, but this time the Liberals refused to get things done for people, as the NDP suggested, such as protecting public health care in this country.
This minority Parliament is unusual in that the governing party's unethical conduct has hung over it throughout its life, creating an artificial limit to Parliament's life as established by the Prime Minister. Nothing will happen after the holidays except an expensive taxpayer-funded Liberal pre-election campaign. Let us just formalize when the election will begin. It will be underway, at taxpayer expense, so let us have it conducted under the rules of Elections Canada, with a formal initiation of the electoral process in January.
In the meantime, let us get Bill C-55 passed, a bill to protect workers' wages and pensions when there is a bankruptcy, something our party has urged for many years. It is a bill that three straight Liberal majorities did not produce. It only has come forward in the context of a minority Parliament because the NDP gets things done for working people.
Let us get Bill C-66 passed to get energy rebates to people. Parties from all sides have called for action from the government dealing with the energy price crisis.
Let us let the public transit money and energy efficiency money flow. I remind the House that this money is only there because of the NDP proposals with regard to the budget last spring. That is when we took out the corporate tax cuts and replaced them with precisely these investments that people need.
Let us allow the first ministers meeting with the aboriginal leaders to occur. Twelve years of Liberal government have left aboriginal people often living in third world conditions, and it is about time something was done about it.
The culture of entitlement to which Justice Gomery referred is, unfortunately, alive and well. The Liberal Party thinks that 37% of the support of Canadians entitles it to 100% of the power. There is no sense that there is any need to work with the representatives of Canadians from various other parties who, collectively, have the support of 63% of Canadians.
The common sense compromise that we have proposed would allow people to hear the second Justice Gomery report, which will arrive before voting day. This would enable Canadians to incorporate the recommendations in their thinking and parties would be speaking about those recommendations. In fact, some parties already have advanced proposals for reform. I am very proud of the proposals that have been brought forward by the member for Ottawa Centre, just to name an excellent example of what is before us.
However, the proposal from the Liberal Party to set the date on March 1 essentially establishes a timeline that is in the hands of the Liberal Party to be in charge of pretending to fix its own scandal and then graciously allowing people to vote.
It is true that the common sense compromise is exactly as originally promised by the Prime Minister last spring. He was under the impression at the time that Justice Gomery would deliver his final report on December 15. Our proposal would have an election taking place exactly when the Prime Minister promised Canadians it would.
The Prime Minister is taking advantage of the fact that Justice Gomery has asked for some extra time to prepare his recommendations, and the House will not be sitting during this extra time period. This simply would provide a free opportunity for Liberals and their cabinet ministers to fly all over the country, at public expense, and talk about how terrific they are. There would be no work done in that period because the House would not be sitting.
It is shameful. What we call for is the spirit of compromise.
I ask this simple question, and I have asked it in this House before. Why, when three party leaders of the four in the House are willing to compromise, as one should in a minority Parliament situation where no party has a majority of the support, is the fourth party is withholding that consent and sense of compromise?
It is not that the Prime Minister cannot compromise because of some rule that exists. We hear this spurious notion that somehow the motion is not constitutional. Those who would take a look at it now that it is written and before the House will realize it is. I can cite some sources. Members do not have to take my word for it.
Julius Grey, a prominent constitutional lawyer, says that there is nothing that prevents this from happening.
Here are some quotes from Hugo Cyr, a constitutional law professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal.
There is nothing unconstitutional in this motion.
Parliament may be dissolved for a number of reasons following a vote of censure, a vote of non-confidence and a decision by the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister or simply because the end of the five-year period has been reached. In other words, loss of confidence is not the only reason for the dissolution of Parliament.
Since nothing prevents the Prime Minister from announcing ahead of time the date he will ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament, something the Prime Minister has done on a number of occasions, nothing prevents him from stating ahead of time in a motion put before the House the date on which the request will be made.
Nothing prevents the House from telling the Prime Minister what it considers the appropriate time to ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament.
I also can quote a law professor from the University of Alberta, one who is also the former attorney general of the country, now the Deputy Prime Minister of our country, who indicated that there was no obstacle to the Prime Minister accepting such advice.
I simply draw the attention of the House to the fact that we have an historic opportunity in a minority Parliament to do what Canadians and the Prime Minister have said that they want to see happen: first, get work done during the fall; second, avoid an election over the holidays; and third, have in the hands of voters the findings and recommendations of Justice Gomery about Liberal corruption. All these things are worthwhile objectives.
There is much work that can be done this fall. It would be better for Canadians not to have to participate or pay attention to electioneering in a season where their children are at home and they are able to spend time with family, thinking about values and about the future in ways that are celebratory and important.
The compromise suggestion respectfully submitted in the House would accomplish those objectives. The only objective that would not be accomplished is one that has never been stated publicly. The government has never referenced or submitted the business it would do in the wintertime. This is period of time when the House would not sit and when no meaningful business could be conducted. The only plan we have had is a plan for the fall. We propose that we work on that plan together. The Liberal Party and its leadership has suggest they do not want to participate. They would rather simply be on their own in January to sell themselves at our expense. We will not have it.
We want this compromise adopted and we call upon Canadians to urge the government to abandon its arrogance of 12 years and to begin to work with the members of Parliament whom they elected.