Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the government, in proposing this motion today, has chosen once again to maintain its habitual lack of consultation and reluctance to attempt a collaborative approach to organizing the business of the House.
On more than one occasion, as I think the Chair will remember, I asked directly whether the government intended to make use of Standing Order 27. As other House leaders can confirm, the reply was, “probably not”. I do not think we would be off base in the opposition in expecting that if that were no longer the case, if the government had in fact changed its mind, that it would have decently given us a heads-up that it was going to propose this motion today, at least given us that notice some time earlier than around one o'clock this afternoon.
Frankly, as we saw the government House leader making his travels across the floor of the House, I will not say where he went, the heckling and yelling as he departed the chamber obviously indicates the kind of demeanour of which we have to deal.
I do not see what there is on the order paper at present that this motion will get through the House any more quickly than would have otherwise been the case. I presume, judging by the government House leader's remarks, that the government is principally concerned with Bill C-52, the budget bill.
It has represented to the House and to the public that the government is now extremely concerned the bill will not receive royal assent in time for certain expenditures to be booked in the appropriate fiscal year. Let us be clear. The fiscal year the Conservatives are talking about is 2006-07, and that is the point.
The issue is retroactive fiscal bookings for the last fiscal year, not the future fiscal year, as members would have gathered from the remarks of the government House leader. If there is concern about the lateness of the date, the government really has only itself to blame.
Usually federal budgets are delivered in or about the third week of February, which then permits the introduction of a budget implementation bill by the end of that month. If things are properly managed, this would permit the bill to be in committee before the end of March and to be passed at all stages by the end of May or, at the very latest, the beginning of June.
This year the government chose, for its own partisan reasons, to delay the budget until the third week of March. We did not even see it until then. Then it unilaterally interrupted the budget debate. Then having finished that, belatedly, it interrupted, again, the second reading debate on the budget implementation Bill C-52. That interruption lasted for three full weeks, getting the bill to committee only in the middle of May.
As a consequence, the government then bulldozed the bill through the committee, breaking procedural agreements, denying many interested and informed citizens and groups the right to testify on the bill. Let it be clearly understood that any procedural issue on Bill C-52 is a direct result of government breaking the agreement on the process, which had been fully settled by members of the committee.
Nevertheless, the bill is now only in its third day of debate at third reading and there is every indication that the third reading and final stage would come to an end in debate in the House by the end of business tomorrow at the latest.
It is important to underscore what these dates are with respect to the budget. Remember that the House resumed in the final week of January. The budget was not presented to the House until March 19, fully eight weeks into the parliamentary sitting. That was followed by a ways and means motion and the introduction of the budget bill, but that was delayed because the government interrupted its own budget debate on the financial principles of the government.
Its budget was late, the budget debate was unilaterally delayed by itself and then it finally got around to introducing the budget bill on March 29, which was debated at second reading for the first time on March 30. It was then debated in a haphazard, sporadic fashion, brought forward to the floor by the government, until April 23, and then it was hoisted altogether. The House did not see it again until May 14, full three weeks later.
Finally, it went to the committee, not as a result of any filibuster by the opposition or any party in the opposition. The delay was entirely the procedural mismanagement of the government. It was there for less than two weeks and one of those weeks was a break week when Parliament was not even sitting.
It finally passed through the committee, rather expeditiously, thanks to the cooperation of the opposition, and it was brought back to be debated at report stage on June 4. For how long? One day, that is all the report stage took. Now it is at third reading where there have been three days of debate, and probably a conclusion could have been arrived at very easily by the end of the day tomorrow.
This is why I made the point at the beginning of my remarks that there really is nothing on this order paper that could not be dealt with in the ordinary course of business without the measure the government House leader has introduced. Obviously it is a tactic to blame the opposition for the delays that lie entirely within the control of the government.
What is it then? If it is not Bill C-52, what is it that causes the government to move the motion today? Despite frequent requests for the government to outline its realistic legislative priorities before the summer, all we have heard repeatedly from the government House leader and from others on the government's side is a flow of partisan rhetoric. Legislation has in fact been moving along through the House and through committees, despite the government's erratic management of its agenda.
In fact, the most controversial bill on the order paper, and this is what gives me perhaps a little hope here, is probably Bill C-30, the clean air act, as it has been revised by members of Parliament. Significantly, only the government has been stalling it up to now. However, now we will have some extra time, some extra hours of sitting every day beginning on Wednesday.
Can we then conclude that the extra time the government is seeking is to facilitate the work of the House in consideration of Bill C-30? I certainly hope so. It is in this fervent hope that I indicate to the House that my party, the official Liberal opposition, will support the minister's motion for the extension of hours.
In the time available, in addition to Bill C-52, which will probably be done tomorrow, and in addition to Bill C-30, which I hope the government has the courage to recall and put before the House once again, the official opposition also looks forward to making progress on Bill C-11, lowering freight rates for farmers, on Bill C-14, dealing with foreign adoptions, on Bill C-23, dealing with criminal procedure, on Bill C-29, dealing with Air Canada and the use of official languages, on Bill C-35, dealing with bail reform, on Bill C-47, dealing with the Olympic, on Bill S-6 and Bill C-51, dealing with land claims and on Bill C-40, the private member's legislation that would provide free postage for mail from Canada to our troops in Afghanistan.
Then there is an item that was referred to in question period today. This is the bill we are anxiously awaiting to see, the one dealing with wage earner protection. I hope the government will follow through on the commitment given in question period, that it will table the bill in amended form so it can be passed at all stages and brought into law before Parliament adjourns for the summer recess.
Let me mention one other matter, which is outstanding and which should be dealt with by the House, or at least dealt with by the government when the House is sitting. This is the examination undertaken a few weeks ago by Mr. Brown in connection with the matters that have been of great concern to Canadians in respect of the RCMP pension fund.
As we understand it, there is a report due from Mr. Brown on June 15. That was the original undertaking given by the Minister of Public Safety. It would be very important for us to know that the examination is on time, that we will hear from Mr. Brown on time, and that the Minister of Public Safety will take the step that he promised to take and make that report public immediately.
Perhaps the government might also consider, in whatever time that remains before the summer recess, reforming its approach to the mood in the House. The mood could be improved if the government would refrain from certain of its more hostile practices. For example: no more gratuitous attack ads, no more broken agreements on how witnesses will be heard, no more manuals about dirty tricks for disrupting parliamentary business, and no more devious games to misuse Standing Orders of the House. A little good old fashioned good faith could change the mood for the better.