): Mr. Speaker, I would like to raise a point of order in connection with your last comment. I am not in fact intervening at the special request of the government. According to the principle of rotation, a Liberal member rose first, then you recognized a second Liberal member. Since no one from the government rose, it is automatically my turn to rise.
I was standing and you recognized two Liberal members. My point of order having been raised, I inform you that I will split my time with my colleague from Hochelaga.
I am pleased to speak to this motion, in my capacity as vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. From the outset I have been involved in discussions within our parliamentary committee. I do not wish to repeat here everything that was said in committee. In order to maintain a certain credibility, we parliamentarians in this House have a certain obligation to be consistent and behave logically.
Nevertheless, regardless of their allegiance or political opinion, we note that some politicians have credibility problems. They claim one thing when they are in the opposition and, when their party is in power, they claim the opposite.
Implementation of these Standing Orders—implementation that we wish to be permanent but that has been provisional for more than 20 months—requires some consistency on the part of the Conservative Party and the Conservative government.
Let me explain. When the Speech from the Throne was adopted in 2004, following the election on June 28, 2004, discussions were held among the three opposition party leaders: the leader of the Conservative Party, the leader of the Bloc Québécois and the leader of the NDP. During these discussions about the arrival of a minority government, it was agreed that we should adopt some new rules to reflect the reality of a minority government. I will recall that the current Prime Minister, then leader of the opposition, was in full agreement with this approach.
The Conservative Party, now in power, no longer likes the rules it thought were fine when it was in opposition. The government, with its attitude and its parliamentary tactics, is preventing the provisional Standing Orders from becoming permanent. We have seen it in this file, as we have seen in many other files, such as those concerning the environment and the government’s foreign policy. I am thinking of Afghanistan and the bombing in southern Lebanon.
Fortunately this Conservative government is a minority government. Fortunately this Conservative government cannot do what it wants. Fortunately the members of the opposition parties, whose numbers are greater, can prevent the Conservative Party from doing what it wants.
I am asking the government and the Conservative Party to be consistent. They agreed to change these rules. At the time, the Liberal Party was in government and opposed the changes. Now that it is in opposition, it supports them. The Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois agree that these provisional standing orders should become permanent.
I would like to discuss one rule in particular that is really important. I am referring to subsection 106(4) of our Standing Orders, according to which any four members of a committee may, with five days' notice, convene a meeting of a standing committee.
The previous rule required ten days' notice. The Conservatives agreed with us to reduce that to five days, for the very good reason that this standing order comes into effect mainly when Parliament is not sitting and an emergency arises. As you know, most committees meet twice a week, so there is no need to convene the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. We met this morning and we will meet Thursday morning, unless some event occurs to change that. This standing order comes into effect and is used most often during the summer and winter holiday recesses.
Previously, ten days' notice was required. We agreed to reduce this to five days because of the exceptional nature of the measure. Convening a standing committee requires some unusual event, some emergency to have taken place to bring parliamentarians together as quickly as possible, hear witnesses and report to the House once the session resumes.
Given how quickly certain events progress, whatever made headlines this morning will still be an issue in five days, but it might not be in ten days.
It is a clear-cut case of the Conservatives having agreed to reduce the number of days to five but now that is one of the points of contention. Let us reread the transcripts of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. The government whip was explicit: it is one of the Standing Orders with which the government does not agree, and one that the government would like to change back to ten days.
I reminded the government whip that, as far as I could recall, we had used this Standing Order three times when we were the official opposition. We had asked, during the summer, that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade be convened to answer questions pertaining to the discovery of prisoners of war and to the JTF2 unit. We had asked for light to be shed on these matters by convening the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. The Conservatives agreed.
We asked that the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology be convened due to the rising cost of petroleum products caused by the greed of oil companies eager to pocket greater profits. The Conservatives agreed.
Furthermore, in the summer of 2004, I clearly remember being at the centre of a strategy to convene the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, chaired by the member for Edmonton—St. Albert, to examine the sponsorship scandal. The Conservatives agreed with us regarding the five day rule.
They should behave as they did when in opposition and consider the logic behind these changes to the Standing Orders.