Mr. Speaker, before turning to the remarks I have prepared, I have to offer a brief editorial comment on what just transpired. The novelty of watching a Liberal member attack the New Democrats for lack of backbone given, in this Parliament, the voting records of the two parties and the level of consistency, or indeed of ability to turn up for votes in the House.
The fact is that one of those parties has been consistent and one has been, put honestly, very hard to figure out exactly what it stands for. Anyone other than the member would have no trouble distinguishing which of the two parties actually has had a backbone in this place.
I want to pick up where my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons left off. He had quite a bit of fun dealing with the fact that the motion proposed by the Liberals today is so obviously, indeed comically, redundant. I will not go through all the things he pointed to, but the motion, at least in its unamended form, calls for a deadline and report back to the House six days from now, deals with subject matter which is being looked at extensively by a sitting committee, and seems to have been put forward without any actual re-reading of its content and the datedness of its content by the Liberal House leader who put it forward.
I want to take some time today to talk about the rest of the Liberal motion because it is a very lengthy motion and contains in addition to a call for a new special committee reporting back on June 23 and then adjusted to November 2. It also calls for particular attention to be devoted to a proposal put forward several months ago by the Liberal leader. I will come back to that in a second.
Looking at that, the first thought that occurs to me is that when it comes to putting forward a motion on this subject and trying to claim leadership on the issue, a candid observer would say that the horse has really left the barn on this one.
The House did vote on March 17 on a motion put forward by the leader of the New Democratic Party, the member for Toronto—Danforth, on this very subject. I will read the wording of the motion:
That, in the opinion of the House, the Prime Minister shall not advise the Governor General to prorogue any session of any Parliament for longer than seven calendar days without a specific resolution of this House of Commons to support such a prorogation.
Just to be clear about this, I actually voted against the motion. The record will reflect that. However, it actually passed 139 to 135 votes and that includes a good number of Liberals. So I am a bit at a loss as to why, having dealt with the subject matter in this way, a different and really, if we get into the meat of it, a contradictory motion would then come forward.
It is not just a motion about studying prorogation, it is studying it, and taking into account and giving a special privileged place to another motion which could have been brought forward by the Liberals, but they chose not to bring forward. That is a vexed question.
It does point out something interesting. On the first available opportunity to deal with this issue, the New Democrats on their very first opposition day brought it forward. The Liberals, on their very last opposition day, are bringing it forward and one cannot help but think they just did not have anything else in their quiver they could haul out and in an act of desperation or absent-mindedness, they reached in and pulled this out, and produced it to deal with an issue which at the very least would not involve them taking a position on anything new. I think that is a fair comment, although it may seem a little tough.
There is a second problem, which is the presupposition that the Liberal leader's proposal is one that ought to be privileged, put ahead of others. Remember this is a series of proposals that he developed prior to the hearings that have taken place in the procedure and House affairs committee. We ought now to take this and essentially take his proposals and use them to supercede all the information that has been gathered by all the parties.
I might just take a moment to read what is the meat of this motion. Again, a special committee is called for to engage in a study, and then:
--that, as a part of this study, the committee take into account the specific proposals for new rules pertaining to prorogation offered by the Leader of the Opposition, including: (a) a requirement that the Prime Minister give Parliament written notice in advance of any request to prorogue, together with his/her reasons therefore; (b) a requirement that there be a debate in the House of Commons after any such notice is given, but before any request for prorogation is made; (c) a requirement that the express consent of the House of Commons be obtained at the conclusion of any such debate if (i) fewer than 12 months have passed since the last Speech from the Throne, (ii) the requested prorogation is for a period of more than 30 days, or (iii) an issue of confidence is outstanding before the House; and (d) a provision that allows committees of Parliament to continue to function during any prorogation;--
So, that is the substance of it.
Two things strike me about this. First, we have been engaged in a lengthy study for several months now in the procedure and House affairs committee and, as the member for Hamilton Centre has observed, it is been a very fruitful discussion.
This effectively says, let us reset the clock to the Leader of the Opposition's proposals, as if we had not moved beyond that point through the work of members of all parties and of many Canadian constitutional experts coming forward and presenting thoughts on the various aspects and considerations for taking into account on prorogation. That is the first thing.
Second, the people who have been submitting testimony to this committee, and there are some very impressive individuals, I will name some of them in a moment, have taken the time to go back and examine the various proposals that have been put forward, both the Leader of the Opposition's proposal, the one that was actually passed in the House of Commons in March, and others that were booted at the time that the prorogation was under way and in its aftermath, and have come back with comments on these things.
So, there is already a considerable body of commentary on what the Liberal leader has proposed and some pretty fair criticisms of it.
All of this is ignored and a fairly arrogant assertion is made that we ought to reset the clock and go back and take these ex cathedra pronouncements of the Liberal leader as being, not really our starting point, but as our presupposed finishing point, which is something that, I think, speaks very strongly to arrogance. The preordained conclusions are certainly one thing to think about.
I want to turn now to the proposed special committee and the amendment that was rushed through by the Liberal deputy leader, I think, after the Liberals realized that they had goofed in putting this motion forward.
She proposed several things. First, there would be a delay of the date to November 2. Obviously, June 23 is just preposterous. However, November 2 is, again as my colleague from Hamilton Centre has noted, itself a problematic date in that it is conceivable that our committee will not have reported back by that time.
If it has reported back by that time, the report is likely to have been so freshly done that there would not be time to create the new committee, have it engage in anything, in any work at all other than, I suppose, to agree to adopt the testimony of the previous committee into its records. So, we would have essentially a make-believe committee or, certainly, an extraneous committee producing a report after really no consideration whatsoever.
There is a second interesting possibility. Perhaps given the short timeline, and this is not such a danger. However, if this committee were actually to meet and had enough time to conduct its own hearings all over again, the possibility would exist, in fact, I think the possibility is highly likely, that the committee would come to some different conclusions, unless it simply produces a report to the House that says, “We endorse everything the last committee said”. Maybe they can just have a report that just says, “What he said--”