Madam Speaker, I listened with great attention to the hon. parliamentary secretary about this very important subject, but there is something that comes to mind. That is this: there are conflicting principles in all of this.
I have, how should I say it, a little less hair and a few more years than some members around here, meaning to say that I do not have children who are young. I have grandchildren. The issue of the March break is not nearly as important to me as it is to some hon. colleagues. I do not deny that it is important, after many months in winter of sitting and working very hard, which members on all sides of the House do, to have that period off in winter with their families.
Now of course if we have a longer period of time to consider the estimates, in my opinion that effectively means to do away with an innovation of recent years whereby we have given time for members to go to their constituencies to be with their families during the March school break. We cannot do both simultaneously. We cannot produce the estimates earlier. We all know that. That is pretty well fixed. Also, of course, the school districts across the entire country are not going to change the March break because we are sitting. The two principles conflict.
How can we possibly do all this, in other words, give many, many more days to consider the estimates when for instance this year I think we only sat something like five days in the entire month of March? That is the difficulty I have.
I was the leader of the government in the House for many years around here, to date I think the second longest serving one in Canadian history, as a matter of fact, and that was a problem when I was there. I have had colleagues say to me that they needed more time to study estimates. When I said to these same colleagues, “Okay, let us take less time off in March”, they said, “Oh no, we cannot do that”.
How can we possibly do both at the same time? That is the contradiction as I see it. I wonder if my hon. colleague, the parliamentary secretary, sees this problem as I do. How are we going to possibly reconcile that, given the pronouncements of members at House leaders' meetings and every other informal venue when they say very forcefully that they want to be with their families--and there is nothing wrong with that--during those periods in March?