Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to what I believe to be a very important motion to extend the sitting hours to allow all parliamentarians, not just members on the government side but all parliamentarians, to debate legislation brought forward by this government.
Before I begin, let me just make some comments for the hon. House leader of the NDP, a member whom I respect very much and with whom I disagree fundamentally on most issues, but that is to be expected. I have just a point of clarification.
The House leader from the NDP made mention in her presentation that she believed that at the House leaders meetings the government had an inkling the opposition was not going to support this motion. We really had no such inkling. The New Democratic House leader is quite correct that at the House leaders meetings on two or three occasions we brought forward the possibility of this motion being introduced. That is quite correct, but we had absolutely no indication from any member of the opposition that the opposition was going to oppose this.
In fact, we felt that this motion would go through fairly quickly because, as the government House leader pointed out in his presentation, only one time in recent history has a motion such as this one been rejected. Even in minority governments past, when the government of the day brought forward a motion to extend the sitting hours, it almost invariably passed. Opposition parties, during those configurations of government, understood that the government certainly has a right to bring forward a motion to extend the sitting hours to allow further debate on the government's legislative initiatives.
That is all we are saying here. We have a number of pieces of legislation that we feel deserve further debate. I have not heard one member of the opposition oppose that notion. Everyone who has risen today has said that he or she believes certain pieces of legislation initiated by the government received speedy passage because they had all-party support, but also that there were certain pieces of legislation which certain parties in the opposition opposed and those bills deserved further debate.
On one hand, the opposition parties are saying, “We disagree with this piece of legislation and we think it should be debated fully”, yet on the other hand, they are denying the opportunity to do just that. It makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever why they would argue both sides of a very fundamental question.
Clearly, the government of the day, regardless of what political stripe that government may be, will from time to time introduce legislation that will not find concurrence within Parliament. The government of the day has its own political agenda. We certainly are no different. We will be introducing pieces of legislation that we feel are very important for Canadians. We are not under any illusion that everything we introduce will be accepted and agreed upon by opposition members, but we do expect that at least we will have the ability to extend hours to further debate on those pieces of legislation before we rise for the summer and go home to our constituencies.
We have heard through the media and in this House on several occasions members from each of the three opposition parties say, “We think we need further debate on this”. They chastise the government for trying to rush pieces of legislation through this House without proper debate, yet when we give them the opportunity to engage in meaningful and fulsome debate, what do they do? They vote against it. They say, “No, we do not want to extend the sitting hours. We are denying the opportunity of Canadians to listen to a fulsome debate, to understand more clearly the position of each of the parties in this Parliament”.
All I can possibly conjure up from these disjointed and contradictory arguments is that the reasons the opposition parties give for their opposition to our motion are not reasons at all. They are excuses. I would point out to all members in this place that there is a huge difference between a reason and an excuse.
The opposition parties, in my humble opinion, are merely making excuses. The reason they are opposing this motion is they do not, number one, want to sit into the evening to debate these issues, and number two, they are somewhat timid about putting forward their positions in a fulsome debate on some of the more “controversial” pieces of legislation.
I can understand their timidity because on several of the pieces of legislation which we brought forward and the opposition members oppose, they have no case. I would argue that the majority of Canadians, if they were able to listen to these debates, would readily agree with the government's position and not that of the opposition members. I can think of no other reason that the opposition would deny extended sitting hours when in fact it has been commonplace in parliaments to do so.
As the government House leader pointed out quite effectively, it does not mean that on each sitting day that we extend hours would we have to sit until 10 p.m., not at all. If the opposition parties are sincere in their comments that they want to work with the government and pass pieces of legislation that they do agree with, we could be out of here within minutes of sitting into the evening. The government House leader has offered the opportunity to debate only one piece of legislation per evening. If that piece of legislation came to a successful conclusion, at that point the extended sitting would expire. We are not even expecting opposition members to interrupt their evening's festivities by sitting here until 10 o'clock each night, far from it. If we achieved a successful conclusion of the legislation introduced for that evening's sitting, we would conclude the sitting as soon as the legislation had been successfully passed. I cannot think of a more generous offer that any government could make.
I recall in previous parliaments when we sat into the evening, when opposition parties agreed with the government motion to extend the sitting hours, we would sit until 10 p.m. come heck or high water. Regardless of what legislation was introduced, if we passed one piece, we would go on to another. We are being far more generous than that in our offer to the opposition parties, yet we do not see any acceptance.
Again, I can only conclude the obvious, that there are no relevant or valid reasons to deny our motion, only excuses. It is getting toward the end of a long parliamentary session; we all know that. In a few short weeks we will be out of here, but this is our opportunity as parliamentarians to show all Canadians that we are sincere and serious in our desire to take the due time necessary to debate legislation which is important to Canadians.
I humbly request all of my opposition colleagues to vote in favour of this motion.