Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in this debate on the extension of hours. I take the government House leader at his word. I believe he is sincere when he says he is disappointed that he is not able to speak at greater length. However, I did not see that same degree of disappointment on the face of his colleagues.
I think we can frame the debate this way. As a hockey nation, Canada is seized by the playoffs. We are in the midst of the finals right now, and we are seeing a great series between the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
I know the people in Cape Breton—Canso are watching this with great interest, as Marc-Andre Fleury, formerly from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, who had a rough night the other night, and Sidney Crosby, from the Cole Harbour area, are still in the thick of things. They are looking forward to seeing the outcome of tonight's game.
I am going to use the hockey analogy. If we look at the last game--and I know the member for West Vancouver is a big hockey nut--with a five to nothing outcome, what the government House leader is asking to do would be similar to Sidney Crosby going to the referee after a five to nothing score at the end of the third period and saying, “Can we play overtime?”.
The die has been cast on government legislation through this Parliament. Pittsburgh did nothing in the first two periods that would warrant any consideration for overtime. Maybe if they had done the work in the earlier periods, they could have pushed for a tie and overtime, but there was nothing done. Certainly there was every opportunity for the government to bring forward legislation, and it missed at every opportunity.
Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said, “You know, they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”.
If there is such importance now in passing this legislation, we can look back, even to last summer, when every Canadian knew, every economist knew and every opinion rendered then was that we were heading for a tough economic downturn and the Prime Minister took it upon himself, with total disregard for his own law that he advocated and passed, that elections are to be held every four years, to drop the writ and go to the polls in the fall.
During that period, the economy continued to sputter, Canadians lost jobs and hardship was brought upon the people of Canada. It was an unnecessary election. Nonetheless, we went to the polls and a decision was rendered by the people of Canada.
We came back to the House. We thought at that time that the government would accept and embrace its responsibility and come forward with some type of measure that would stop the bleeding in the Canadian economy. We understood that there were global impacts. We felt it was the responsibility of the government to come forward with some incentive or stimulus, a program that would at least soften the blow to Canadians who had lost their jobs.
However, it came out with an ideological update, and it threw this House into turmoil and chaos. I have never seen anything like it in my nine years in the House.
It is not too often that we get parties to unite on a single issue. However, the opposition parties came together because they knew that Canadians would not stand for the total disregard for the Canadian economy exhibited by the government through its economic update. Canadians had to make a strong point.
In an unprecedented move, the NDP and the Liberal Party, supported by the Bloc, came together and sent the message to the government that this was not acceptable, that it was going to hurt our country and hurt Canadians. We saw the coalition come together.
There were all kinds of opportunities for the Prime Minister. The decision he made was to see the Governor General and to prorogue Parliament, to shut down the operation of this chamber, to shut down the business of Canada for a seven-week period. For seven weeks there was no legislation brought forward. If we are looking at opportunities to bring forward legislation, I am looking back at the missed opportunities. That was truly unfortunate.
The House leader mentioned that there has been co-operation. I do not argue that point at all. When the budget finally was put together and presented in the House we, as a party, and our leader, thought the responsible thing was to do whatever we could to help as the economy continued to implode and sputter.
Jobs were still bleeding from many industries in this country. We saw the devastation in forestry. We saw the impacts in the auto industry. People's entire careers and communities were cast aside. Time was of the essence, so we thought the responsible thing was to look at the good aspects of the budget and support them. There was ample opportunity to find fault in any aspect of the budget, and it could have had holes poked in it, but we thought the single best thing we could do was to make sure that some of these projects were able to go forward, that some of the stimulus would be able to get into the economy so that Canadians' jobs could be saved and the pain could be cushioned somewhat.We stood and supported the budget, but we put the government on probation at that time.
We continue to see the government's inability to get that stimulus into the economy. The evidence is significant. The FCM, the mayors of the major cities, premiers of provinces, groups advocating for particular projects for a great number of months are looking for the dollars to roll out and they are wondering when that will be. It is just not happening. There is great concern.
We do know that part of the problem is the Prime Minister's and the government's inability to recognize the severity of the problem. When we look at some of the comments over that period of time that we were thrust in the midst of an election, a TD report, on September 8, 2008, said, “...we believe the global economy is on the brink of a mild recession”. Scotiabank forecasted recessions in both U.S. and Canada.
The Prime Minister was denying it back then and saying there was going to be a small surplus. In November he said we were going to have a balanced budget. Then with the budget, he said maybe there will be a small deficit. With the ability of the Conservatives to calculate and their ability with numbers, we can see how far the government has fallen short, because the week before last we saw that a $50 billion deficit is now anticipated this year.
For the people at home, people who pay attention to these issues, that $50 billion is significant.
Just to get our heads around it, I remember three weeks back there was a very fortunate group from Edmonton who threw their toonies on the table and bought some quick picks and the next day they won $49 million. They won the lottery and that was great. If they were feeling charitable and brought that $49 million to the Minister of Finance to apply to the deficit, and then the next day they bought another bunch of tickets and won another $49 million and gave it to the finance minister, if they were to do that day after day, week after week, month after month, and if we factor in that we do not charge interest on this deficit, it would take 20 years to pay off that $50 billion deficit.
That deficit was supposed to be a small one. Two months before that, it was supposed to be a balanced budget; and two months before that, there was supposed to be a small surplus.
We have done our best. We have worked with the government as best we can to try to get that stimulus into the economy, to try to help generate some kind of economic activity within this country so that jobs can be saved and Canadians can continue to work. We know that we have had some successes here. Some 65% of the legislation put forward by the government has been passed.
We have worked with the government. We supported the war veterans allowance and the farm loans bill. Bill C-25, one of the justice bills, came through here the other day and was passed unanimously on a voice vote. We had Bill C-15 last night and we had the budget.
Regarding extending the hours, disregarding whether it was incompetence or whatever the political reasons and the rationale were to call the election and to shut down government through the prorogation, there were plenty of opportunities to avoid that and bring forward legislation.
I thought the government House leader was generous in his comments last week when he himself recognized in his comments on the Thursday question:
...I would like to recognize that, to date at least, there has been good co-operation from the opposition in moving our legislative agenda forward, not only in this chamber but in the other place as well.
That shocked a lot of people on this side of the chamber.
I want to thank the opposition for that co-operation.
We have certainly done our part over here, but we have great concern about the extension of the hours and the additional costs with that. We think the legislation that is coming forward now in various stages can be addressed during the normal times here. Certainly on this side of the House we want to make this chamber work. We want to make this Parliament work and will do all in our power to do so.
As of last night, seven of eight bills originating in the House, for which the government wants royal assent by June 23, have been sent to the other place.
Bill C-7, on the Marine Liability Act, passed third reading in this House on May 14. The transportation and communications committee in the other place is holding hearings on that now, so that is fairly far down the road.
Bill C-14, concerning organized crime and the protection of the justice system, passed third reading in the House on April 24, and it is in committee right now in the other place.
Bill C-15 just passed third reading. That is on the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Bill C-16, An Act to amend certain Acts that relate to the environment and to enact provisions respecting the enforcement of certain Acts that relate to the environment, passed third reading on May 13, and committees are already being held in the Senate.
We want to try to continue to work in these last days of the session. Certainly we want to continue to nurture and support the relationship on legislation that we can believe in, that is not totally offensive. In a minority Parliament, sometimes all parties have to put a little bit of water in their wine. We are certainly willing to do that. In our past record we have demonstrated that we are willing to do that and we will continue to do so.
However, we have a great deal of difficulty with regard to the extension of hours. We are not sure about the other two opposition parties, but just judging by the questions that were being posed today, I would think they are probably like-minded in this area and they are concerned about this proposal being put forward by the government.
We will be opposing the extension of the hours, and that is how we will vote on this particular issue.