Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to further debate this particular issue that the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London has brought forward today. I congratulate him for the initiative, although he knows, and I have spoken to him privately, there is one serious flaw in his initiative and I will debate that as we go on.
I have had a bill very similar to this, in some ways maybe a little better but we will discuss that as well, since 1998 in the House of Commons. I have had two elections and at three different times I entered the bill in order to get it debated in the House of Commons. Two weeks ago we had the first hour of debate on it and when we come back on November 17, we will have the second hour of debate, barring any unforeseen elections, of course. Then on the November 22 or 23, the House will actually get a chance to stand up and vote for democracy.
My hon. colleague and one of the most senior statesmen of the House of Commons, our colleague from Ottawa Centre, has given all of us an opportunity to change the morality and the ethics of this place with his code of ethics, which has seven points. Number one in his code of ethics is “Thou shall not cross the floor”.
If the hon. member from Edmonton, who represented Oshawa for many years, one of the most respected politicians and human beings in this country, honestly believes with all his political experience that the time for crossing the floor has to stop, I think it is time that we, not only as members of Parliament, but as Canadians, stand up and take notice.
I simply cannot comprehend for a second how somebody can go to the electorate in a general election under a political banner, get elected under that banner, come to the House of Commons and, for a variety of reasons, decide to walk across this very expensive broadloom, which costs a lot to clean, by the way, to move over to the other side to join another political party in the middle of their term, saying “I can no longer justify being with this political party under which I was elected. I now have to join another one”.
We do not own these seats. They do not belong to us. In my case, this little square that I have and this really uncomfortable chair belongs to the 90,000 people I represent in Sackville—Eastern Shore in Nova Scotia. They are the ones who determine what I should or should not do.
If I were to decide to cross the floor and become a member of another political party because I had a falling out with my own party, that would be fine, but I should do the honourable thing and quit. Once we quit, we can do whatever we want. However the premise would be that we would seek the mandate of the new political party, go back to our constituents in a byelection or a general election and tell them our reasons for flying under another political banner. We should allow our constituents the final determination of what we do and whether they want to be represented by another party. That is called democracy.
I noticed in the first hour of debate on my bill, unfortunately, that the Liberals, a Conservative representative and the Bloc all said no, which is not too hard to understand because when it comes to democracy, sometimes those parties need to be, for lack of a better term, knocked on the head a bit to figure it out.
It is quite simple. I encourage every member of Parliament to go back to their riding and ask their constituents whether they should have the final say on whether he or she should cross the floor? I guarantee that the results would be almost unanimous throughout the entire country. In most cases, if not in every case, the majority of people in our ridings would say yes.
I do want to tell the member that I support the premise of the bill going to a committee, but that is it. In committee I will rip it apart and we will fix it for him. The New Democrats are good at doing that. We take very flawed legislation and fix it.
If the New Democrats had introduced it in the first place, which we did in this case, there would not be a problem. However that is okay. He is a new member of Parliament and we will help him get along.
In the meantime, I agree with the premise of the bill and hopefully it will go to a committee where we can debate and discuss it. We can get people from across the country, a lot of constituents to debate it, which is democracy, and let the people of Canada have the final say on this. We should not be deciding this on our own.
However, the flaw in the member's bill, as my hon. colleague from the Bloc said, is that it gives too much power to the leader of a political party. If, for example, the hon. member who brought forward the bill were to have a major fallout with the leader of his party over a particular issue, the leader could tell him that by the next day he would be sitting as an independent and in 30 days there would be an election.
There is also a thing called the employment or job aspect of it. Why would we give the leader of any political party that much power? It is a huge mistake. I know he is listening to me and writing this all down and understanding that he should be corrected on this one. I know the hon. member well enough to know that he will do that.
The reality is that we should never give the leader of any political party that much clout. Members should be able to sit here and make decisions based on their constituency. However I do believe that there comes a time in our political life when we can no longer sit with our party and we may choose to sit as an independent. I believe members should have the right to do that or, if one is being a real rabble-rouser within one's party and is not a team or caucus player, then the leader should exercise the right to make the member sit as an independent, but we should not go to an election immediately because of that.
Our hon. colleague from Churchill, Manitoba, a wonderful woman who I really miss not being in our caucus, but we have a democratic process, we had a nomination and, unfortunately, she was defeated, so she decided to sit as an independent. Should she go into an election right away? No. She has the right to sit as an independent.
Another member from the Liberal caucus was being a bit of, I guess, a hard-nose within her caucus and the Prime Minister said that she could no longer sit as a Liberal. Should she lose her job because of it? No. She can sit as an independent until the next election.
The member from Juan de Fuca, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, did it right. When he left the Conservative Party after it became the Conservative Party, he said that he could no longer sit with the Conservatives and decided to sit as an independent. He said that in the next election he would make his intentions known to run as a Liberal. That is the way it should be done.
Sitting as an independent in this House is not the easiest thing to do. Independent members have no committee work, have very little say with regard to what happens and are isolated with very little press coverage in that regard unless we are in a minority situation. I know some people do not like going to committee so maybe that would be a good thing but the reality is that they are isolated, on their own and no longer part of a team. I think it is important to be part of a team when we are here, regardless of our party affiliation.
Our bill will come up on November 17 for its second hour of debate. We would hope to continue on with this debate and we would hope that other members of Parliament will understand that crossing the floor is no longer acceptable.
I can give the classic example of how bad this is. There was a member of the Alliance Party who ran in Richmond, British Columbia in the 2000 election, Joe Peschisolido. He sought the nomination of the Alliance Party and won it. He ran against a cabinet minister at that time and beat him fair and square. The hon. member at that time accepted his defeat because he knew that was how things went.
Within six months, that Alliance member got an epiphany and decided he could no longer be an Alliance member and became a Liberal. What about the member he defeated? The Liberal Association of Richmond wanted nothing to do with Joe Peschisolido but the prime minister told the association that it did not have a choice. What kind of democracy is that? That is unbelievable.
The one thing I will give Preston Manning a lot of credit for is that he believed the constituency aspects were the way we dictated our lives, which is the way it should be. We represent the people of our riding. We also represent a political theme or ideology and that is why we are here. The reality is that we should go back to our constituency if we decide to cross the floor and run under another political banner.
The hon. member's bill is severely flawed. I would like to see it get to a committee so, as we said before, we can fix it for him. We could make his life a lot easier by getting his party to vote for our bill and Bob's your uncle after that.