I do like it. I just do not see the urgency for any of it.
My hon. colleague from the NDP said that he thought I would like that. Of course I like it. Anything that would bring any degree of financial credibility to the government and to its spending habits would be a good thing. I think it is great that the Liberals cannot spend themselves into deficit, although I wonder whether that is exactly the route we are headed for now, despite their pleas to the contrary.
Here we sit today and Bill C-43 sits in the Senate while the government holds us to ransom and tries to blame it on the Conservatives. Conservative senators are ready to expeditiously pass the bill so the money can start flowing to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador for the Atlantic accord and to municipalities all across the country for badly needed improvements to infrastructure, but it just sits there because the government wants to, as I have said, hold us to ransom until it gets this piece of legislation through.
Why it wants to is completely beyond me, when the bill will not come into effect until we know what the financial situation of the country is almost a year from now. The fiscal or financial year end for our country is March 31. Until we get to next April fool's day, we will not know whether there is enough money to spend on these so-called priorities, so what is the urgency?
Why would Bill C-48 be the urgent legislation that the government House leader states it is? Here is what he has said about Motion No. 17. If it fails, if we vote it down, if there are sufficient members of Parliament in the chamber who say it is not urgent enough to extend the sitting into July, with the accompanying costs--and why would it be?--he has actually said that he will go to the Speaker and request that Parliament reconvene after its adjournment. Let us just think about that.
There is a mechanism in our democracy whereby, if it is necessary, a government can recall Parliament in times of great peril when the House is in a recess period. Every Canadian would support this, because we do not have a crystal ball with which to look into the future.
We do not know what would happen if suddenly we were in a situation where some country declared war on us or if there were some horrendous natural disaster, like an earthquake or something, that required the urgent and timely intervention of Parliament. All sorts of crises might occur and they might not be so accommodating as to occur when the House is in session, so, of course, we need to have that mechanism in place. No one disputes that.
However to have a government demonstrate the arrogance that this legislation, along with Bill C-38, the same sex marriage legislation, are of such urgency that it would go to the Speaker and request that he recall Parliament to deal with it, is nothing short of unbelievable. I have never heard of such a thing.
If this unfolds, think about the precedent this sets. I would suggest that there is then no need to even worry about having a calendar whereby members of Parliament of all four parties can try to plan their lives, their commitments to their constituents and the events in their ridings.
As I said at the outset of my remarks, I know there are many members in all four parties who have important events planned in their ridings that allow their constituents personal access to their member of Parliament.
All too often we become so taken up with events in this place that it is all too easy to forget about how important that personal interaction with our constituents is. There are a few people who forget that at their peril and they will be reminded at the time of the next election. All of us have seen that happen.
I cannot and would not want to downplay how important this upcoming recess is for members of Parliament to be able to interact with their constituents.
While I am on the subject of this urgent nature, I just want to briefly refer to Bill C-38, the other piece of legislation that the government says is of such urgency that it has to get it through before we recess for the summer.
One of my colleagues makes a good point. Why did the Liberals not bring it through earlier if they wanted it? Why was it that in the entire month of May, the only day that we had for an opposition supply day was the last day of May. However in order to fulfill the requirement for the supply period, the government was forced to do exactly what I said it would be forced to do when it started down that road in late April, which was have all of the remaining six opposition supply days in early June. It took up a lot of time in the chamber but the government had to give those days to us finally, otherwise it could not have gotten its supply, which is its funding for the upcoming year. It had to complete that.
Now we are in a situation where the Liberals have determined that these two pieces of legislation are urgent: Bill C-48 and Bill C-38. I have already addressed the so-called budget companion bill, Bill C-48, so I will now turn to Bill C-38.
The reality is that we on this side believe that Canadians have some very deep reservations about enacting into law for the entire country same sex marriage. We believe the majority of Canadians have some very serious reservations about a government that is proceeding down that road. Many of these reservations came out in the debate that took place in the special legislative committee that was struck to deal with the legislation following second reading in the House.
The committee, however, certainly did not do the job that my colleagues, led by the member for Provencher who I know tried to ensure that the committee would travel to give Canadians better access. I spoke earlier about access to members of Parliament. He wanted to ensure that Canadians had access to discuss that face to face with the committee.
The Prime Minister promised at one point that the committee would ensure that Canadians did have that access and yet they did not. For my colleagues, the four Conservative members of Parliament who sat on that special legislative committee, it was a huge fight for them to even get the reduced list of witnesses who would appear. The government just wanted to fast-track Bill C-38 through that process. I say shame because there are some reservations.
However, even in that short period of time, it belatedly became obvious to the government, at the 11th hour, that there were some real legitimate concerns about the protection of religious freedom in this country. Even then, the government missed the deadline for putting forward its amendments at committee. This is how inept the government is; it missed the deadline for putting forward its amendments.
It had to be through negotiations with the Conservative members on that committee that concessions were made. However we have very serious reservations about the strength of those amendments and whether they will really do the job of protecting religious freedom and freedom of religious expression in this country.
We heard again today, in his brief remarks to Motion No. 17, the government House leader reading an editorial from the Globe and Mail that said that there had been enough talk about this, that it should just go to a vote and get it over with. In other words, we should just rush it through and never mind that there may be people hauled before courts or tribunals and punished if they question homosexuality. We constantly hear that there is enough protection. We have heard those words before, as have Canadian.
Why is there this urgency? Gays and lesbians are getting married in Canada. What is going to change if Bill C-38 passes through the House? I would seriously doubt it will pass through the Senate before the Senate rises for the summer. What difference does it make to the government whether Bill C-38 sits in this place for the summer or sits in the other place for the summer?
Only one thing comes to mind and it is that Liberal members of Parliament, when they know that the majority of their constituents are opposed to same sex marriage, do not want to hear about it all summer as they are out in their ridings interacting with their constituents. They are hoping that if we can deal with it, pass it and get it shuffled over to the Senate, that somehow that will take it off Canadians' agenda.
It might come off the agenda of the House of Commons but I can say that there is no hope in hell that it will come off the agenda for real Canadians in the real world. However supposedly this is of great urgency.
What is our position? We are not opposed to hearing an hour or two of report stage of Bill C-38. I conveyed that on behalf of my Conservative colleagues over a week ago to the House leader but the government wants the bill completed.
My position and the position of the Conservative Party of Canada was that given the very serious reservations that Canadians have about the protection of religious freedom of expression surrounding the bill, why would we not want to take those amendments, the ones which we and many others believe are too weak, out into the real world and ask Canadians what they think? What would be wrong in doing that for the summer if the bill is still here at report stage?
For those Canadians watching today, report stage is that stage of the legislative process where a bill can be amended. It can be improved and fixed. That was our position and it remains our position.
The majority of us do not believe that the bill is fixable but we do believe that at a minimum it could be improved before we send it on to the other place. We would like to get the opinion of Canadians over the summer as to whether they feel any cold comfort whatsoever with the amendments that have been put forward, both at committee and now put forward for report stage, if indeed those are not ruled out of order the way the vast majority were when it was at the special legislative committee.
The two pieces of legislation that the government says are so urgent that they require either the passage of Motion No. 17 or the extraordinary step that has only ever been taken in times of national emergency of going to the Speaker this weekend and telling him that we must reconvene Parliament next Monday, I would argue that I have just successfully disputed whether there is any urgency whatsoever.
In the lives of real Canadians outside of this place, nothing is going to change whether we pass Bill C-48 or Bill C-38.