Mr. Speaker, I know my time is limited so I will try to refrain from going into the hyperbole that we have heard from the hon. member from the NDP. I want to stick to the facts in the limited time that I do have.
The facts are simply these. Since 1982, every single year we have had extended sitting hours at the end of the session before we rise for the summer. I would also point out that in the 26 years since the Standing Orders have been changed to reflect the fact that the government House leader can introduce a motion to extend sitting hours, it has passed. During those 26 years we have had a series of governments, sometimes minority but also a number of majority governments.
The reason that is germane to this conversation, in my estimation, is that in a majority government, that government can basically pass whatever legislation it wants. It has the votes in the House. There is going to be no opportunity for the opposition to really stonewall a bill if the government of the day wants to get it passed. Yet even in a majority situation, during those years of majority governments, the House had extended sitting hours. What does that say? Quite simply it says this. Under no circumstances have I ever seen in the last 26 years any government, whether it be minority or majority, come to the end of the spring session with an opportunity to pass all the legislation that is introduced in that session. That is why we need additional sitting hours.
The opposition is trying to make the case--and let me make it perfectly clear that it is not a reason, it is an excuse--that our government has somehow delayed passage of bills purposely, that we have somehow obfuscated in committees on legislation. That is simply not true. Again, I point out that if a majority government needs extended sitting hours, that means this is something that should be taken seriously. Unfortunately we have a situation here after moving the same motion that has passed for 26 straight years, that every opposition party in this place is now saying, “No, we do not want to sit the additional hours. We do not want to deal with the legislation that is on the government's agenda”.
Why is that? It can only be one of two reasons: one, they want to get out of here early and they do not want to do the work; or two, all they are trying to do is obfuscate and delay with petty politics the government's attempt to bring legislation forward and get it passed in the House. There can be no other reason.
I wish I had more time, but just for a moment, I want to point out a number of inaccuracies that all members of the opposition have brought forward today in this debate in talking about delays in committees. I had been a member of the procedure and House affairs committee. It is true that that committee has not met for a number of months now, but it is simply not true that it was because of delaying tactics by the government. The facts are this. The opposition parties put forward a motion at the procedure and House affairs committee to examine the in and out advertising, what they call, scheme of the Conservative Party in the last election.
Originally the Law Clerk of the House of Commons rendered an opinion and said that the motion is outside the scope and the mandate of the committee, that it should not be presented and should not be received. The chair of the procedure and House affairs committee ruled accordingly. He said, “That motion is out of order”. At that point in time the opposition parties combined to overturn the ruling of the chair.
I would suggest that if the Law Clerk of the House of Commons examines a motion and deems it to be out of order, that ruling should be respected. Our chairperson respected that ruling. He made his ruling according to the opinion of the Law Clerk and yet from there things went straight downhill. The opposition parties disagreed. They overturned the chair's ruling and ultimately kicked the chairperson out of that committee. The only reason was for petty politics.
I have heard a number of times this afternoon the opposition members say that when the Conservative Party was in opposition, it did the same thing with the sponsorship scandal investigation. I beg to differ.
The Auditor General of Canada in her report first identified the problem which ultimately lent itself to the biggest political scandal we have seen in the history of this country. Because the Auditor General, an officer of Parliament, made a report, that gave the public accounts committee the perfect to right to say it wanted to investigate the charges that the Auditor General has levied.
What do we have in this case with procedure and House affairs? There is a dispute between Elections Canada and the Conservative Party. Did the Auditor General reference that? No. Did the Law Clerk say it would be appropriate and in order to investigate that, to discuss that at committee? No. So, we have absolutely apples and oranges here in comparison to what the opposition is trying to say.
An investigation into the sponsorship scandal at the public accounts committee was completely in order. Even the Law Clerk of this House agreed it was because the issue was first raised by the Auditor General in her annual report. The issues that the opposition members are trying to investigate have never been raised in such a fashion. As we all know, the opposition Liberal Party, particularly, has been trying to create scandals where none exist. The only reason the Liberals are trying to delay Parliament's work is because they want to concentrate on imaginary scandals rather than do the nation's business.
I want to say that for the first time in 26 years we have combined opposition parties refusing to sit late to deal with the nation's business. Not only is that disgraceful and unconscionable, eventually the members in opposition will have to answer to the electorate why they do not want to do the work that the nation sent them here to do.