Mr. Speaker, as we look at the Standing Orders presently, there is no question that the calendar of this House is a fairly significant event that is agreed to, according to the Standing Orders, by the House leaders.
According to the Standing Orders, during the adjourned period when members of Parliament are in their constituencies, the House does not get called back unless there is need for royal assent on something that is of some urgency. If that is the case, the House can be called back for a short period.
The Standing Order 28(4) reads:
The House shall meet at the specified time for those purposes only; and immediately thereafter the Speaker shall adjourn the House to the time to which it had formerly been adjourned.
When we have a calendar it ought to be respected and, if it needs to be interrupted, then after the particular business is done the House needs to go back into adjournment. There needs to be a reason for the House to reconvene that is of substance.
This House could probably be guided by Standing Order 28(3) which talks about the Speaker utilizing his or her discretion to recall the House. It states:
Whenever the House stands adjourned, if the Speaker is satisfied, after consultation with the Government, that the public interest requires that the House should meet at an earlier time, the Speaker may give notice that being so satisfied the House shall meet....
Therefore there needs to be some evidence that would satisfy the Speaker. There has to be some public interest that requires an interruption of the House calendar.
I would think this House would at least have to satisfy those same principles before this House could put forward a motion that would require this House to extend itself for a further period. What is the public interest?
We have heard discussion about Bill C-48. It does not get implemented until next year. In fact, when we look at the budget implementation portion of it, it talks about the moneys actually being requisitioned or looked at in the next year. What is the urgency? This is not in the public interest. This could be debated in the fall sitting. In fact one could argue that perhaps there is something to Bill C-43 passing.
Bill C-43 has cleared this particular House and is now in the Senate chamber for approval. We have a senator saying that the Conservative senators were prepared to expedite the passage of Bill C-43, the budget legislation bill, which includes the Atlantic accord, but that the Liberal senators were refusing to pass it. He also said that they agreed to waive certain procedural steps in order to speed the passage of Bill C-43.
He goes on to say:
Two other government bills are receiving clause-by-clause consideration immediately following testimony by witnesses in Senate Committees today. The Liberal government will not permit the same procedure to be followed for Bill C-43, thus putting the bill at risk should Bill C-48, the NDP budget bill, be defeated in the House of Commons in the next few days.
We just received notice that those two bills are here for royal assent.
How is it that the Liberal government, on one hand, says that it wants the bill to go forward so the funds can start rolling on that particular bill, but on the other hand, refuses to have it passed expeditiously, as it could have? I think it is playing games with this House.
Let us look at the marriage bill, Bill C-38. Is there a public interest to have it passed or at least a public interest sufficient to call the House back to order when it ought to be adjourned? What is the public interest in that bill? In fact, a large percentage of the Canadian public do not want that bill to pass. Therefore it is definitely not in the public interest to call Parliament back for that purpose and that purpose alone.
What has the government done? It has attempted to lump and link Bill C-48 with Bill C-38, the marriage bill, in an attempt to justify, on some kind of national basis, that it is in the public interest to reconvene the House. However this is not in the public interest. It is all subterfuge. It is all playing with the rules to get their ends.
The House leader stated earlier in the press that he was prepared to not have Bill C-38 pass if Bill C-48 passed, but then he changed his mind, dug in his heels and decided to connect the two and call Parliament back for that purpose.
What is the rush? Bill C-38 is fundamentally changing the definition of marriage. It is fundamentally changing society as we know it. It deserves the time that is needed to discuss it and the public need an opportunity to participate. What we had at report stage was a sham.
During question period today the member for London—Fanshawe asked whether limiting the witnesses at the committee was really doing the job it ought to be doing. Is it appropriate to give witnesses 24 hours or 48 hours notice to appear? Is changing members of the committee appropriate? Is setting up a separate committee to ram through the committee hearings appropriate? Those hearings should have been the widest possible hearings across the country in every city with every member of the public having an opportunity to address the government before that bill completed report stage.
However the Liberals are ramming it through, despite the concerns of Canadians, despite public interest and despite our nation's interest, because they want to. They have confused national agenda and public interest with their own interest. They have confused the House of Commons calendar, which should not be interfered with easily, with their own ends and their own desires.
I think it is appalling. It is appalling to democracy and it is appalling to this institution for the government to go further and put a motion in the House that would limit debate on whether the hours and sittings of this House should be extended. How can it be in this free and democratic country that we cannot have every member in the House speak to whether the preconditions exist for the House to be extended?
We have to justify the pre-conditions of the House. That is why the Standing Order is there. That is why there are safeguards. We cannot, just on a notion, say that we will pass a motion that will change the Standing Orders and call the House back because we want to. There must be some basis for that and that basis is the public interest, because that is the basis, Mr. Speaker, that you might have to contend with.
The Liberals chose not to allow every member in the House to speak. Since when does a government decide that closure is the way to go on an issue so important as whether or not this House should sit in the summer to deal with the marriage bill, Bill C-38.
This is not a national crisis. This is not a national public interest that requires us to do it. The Prime Minister and the government confuse their own interests with the interests of the nation.
When the Prime Minister appeared on television I thought he was going to speak to something that was of national interest or of some national crisis, or even perhaps proroguing Parliament or calling an election.
What was the purpose of that particular television address? At great expense to this nation and every taxpayer of Canada, the purpose of that television appearance was to protect the hide of the Prime Minister and his government because they were on the ropes of losing in a possible election. He used the media and the resources of government to bolster public opinion and that is shameful.
Even the NDP leader acknowledged that. In question period he said, “First, let me add my voice to those who are concerned about the televised address this evening. This is a Liberal crisis; it is definitely not a national crisis.” The government is confusing its own interests with those of the nation.
In the next question, the hon. leader went fishing to see if he could change the government's budget. He said, “Putting aside the issue of corruption, let me see if I can be bought”. How could he do that? He was speaking about the sponsorship scandal and the things that have happened. People were paid for doing little or nothing with Canadian taxpayer dollars for which many people worked very hard to put in the coffers of the government. Some people work 12 hours a day, six days a week, only to lose half of their money to the government to spend on projects and programs.
However we find the government using and abusing those funds to pay ad agencies for little or no work and then having some of that money filter back to the party to fund an election. It was buying votes at $250 million per member to get another party's support to cling to power and giving people positions to cross the floor. Those are the kinds of things that should not happen in the House but it gets worse than that.
The House raised a motion of confidence, if not directly, certainly indirectly. At that point, constitutionally, the Prime Minister and his government had an obligation to Canadians and to the House to raise the issue of confidence themselves and they did not have confidence. They did not have confidence for a week.
The House should have been closed shut. There should not have been one order of business happening until that issue of confidence was settled. For that week we were without a government because it should not have been exercising the powers of government, the levers of government, the position of government to advance its own interests.
However all the while we had ministers and the Prime Minister travelling across Canada signing deals, committing money, spending money, campaigning at public expense and doing the kinds of things that would be shameful in a third world country that is run by a dictatorship.
We should have closed the House down and went to the wall to prevent that from happening because it was an injustice. It was illegitimately trying to legitimize government. It waited until it had the numbers and then it put forward an issue of confidence, and that is wrong.
What is wrong with the government is that it confuses its own interests with the interests of Canada.
We expect far better. We expect to have a government with vision. We expect to have a government that is prepared to take a loss, prepared to sacrifice on behalf of the country and one that puts the country's interest above its own, above its own greed and its own temptations, not a government that tries to shove a bill through the House when the public of Canada does not want it.
We need a government with backbone and a government with the courage to lose if it has to. An election should have been called and that confidence vote should have been respected. The public would have made a decision on Bill C-38.
Now the Liberals are trying to ram it through. It would not surprise me if they would put closure on Bill C-38 and Bill C-48 to get their will, despite the will of the people of Canada. That is wrong and the people of Canada will pass judgment. Believe me, it will not end in this session and it will not end in the summer.
I am prepared to stay here in July, all of August and into September to preserve the democratic right of the people of the country to express their views through members of Parliament on Bill C-38 because what is happening here is wrong.
One could ask whether I was looking at this objectively. I would like to make reference to an article in the Toronto Sun . Chantal Hébert said, “One thing we have learned from the tape affair is that precious little stands between the Prime Minister and a repeat of the sponsorship scandal. It is a culture that's wrong. It is what permeates government that's wrong. It is the thing that says the end justifies the means. It doesn't matter how we get there, it just matters that we get there. Our objective is to stay in power and we'll do whatever we have to, twist and bend every rule we have to stay in power”.
Supply day motions happen once a week every week and it was during that time that a confidence motion could have been put by any one of the parties, including our party. The Liberals took those supply days away and the ability to make a confidence motion until the end of May.
Why was that? To me, that was something I expected to happen every week. It was tradition. It was something the House had as a constitutional kind of arrangement that happened week after week. The Liberals took it away for the sole purpose of preventing confidence because they knew they would lose. They then put them at the end of May. Why? So any election would take place in the middle of summer.
They wanted to have the opportunity to continue to buy, pay, promise, and get to the position where they could win and then call it. There is something fundamentally wrong with that. There is something very wrong with that. That is why the country is going astray. It needs some direction. It needs some commitment. It needs someone with some backbone who says there is a right, there is a wrong, that this is right and we will do it, regardless of whether it costs us or not, and not what we see here.