Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for allowing me to speak to this motion. I also thank my colleague for Windsor—Tecumseh for bringing this motion forward at this point. I want to look at the motion in detail because it is not just a simple statement that this is a bad sort of thing and that the government should not use time allocation as much as it does. The member provides some detail in the motion that I would like to talk about.
For instance, the motion states:
...a study and make recommendations to amend the Standing Orders with respect to closure and time allocation, such that: (i) a Minister would be required to provide justification for the request for such a curtailment of debate;
That is certainly something we ought to talk about simply because when time allocation is brought into this House we hear little justification for doing so. We are given short explanations that are basically passed over. The reason for that, on many occasions, is that there is no justification and no requirement to justify it. I agree with the member in many respects on that. I think that justification should be brought to the House and presented to all of us. A big reason for doing that is that some of the fundamental questions as to why time allocations are brought sometimes go unanswered, such as, if bills have passed over a certain period time such that members of Parliament could consult their constituents. A lot of the time, items are promised during campaigns, which is what the Conservatives go on about, and on which hey are now delivering.
In 2008, there was a basic promise in dealing with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia regarding the Atlantic Accord and some of the money that would be withheld within the province because of oil revenues. The promise was that the equalization formula would be made such that non-renewable resources would not play a factor in tabulating each provinces' ability to raise money.
However, when the budget implementation bill came out, much later than the broad principles, it was realized that the devil certainly did lay within the details of what was happening in the budget implementation. It ended up that the promise, by which 100% of non-renewables was to come out of the formula, was not in the budget implementation. Essentially, they had put an agreement that was outside of normal equalization and brought it back in. Former member, Bill Casey, was one of the members who left the party as a result of this. He voted against the budget for that and sat on the opposition side shortly thereafter.
I only put that into context because there is a certain amount of time from when the broad principles of the budget are announced by the finance minister to the time of budget implementation. Once we look at the legislation and a lot of the details that are involved, sometimes these broad principles get watered down or are not what they had appeared to be. Therefore, I think time allocation works against this principle.
The government will remark that the Liberals did this back when they were in power, but a lot of times, such as the Species At Risk Act, time allocation was brought in at third reading. At that point there had been a substantial opportunity to discuss and debate.
Canadians can review the cut and thrust of debate, enough to see what the principles are about, how the legislation is laid out and then, coming back from committee, how the proposed legislation was fine-tuned or not.
I commend my hon. colleague for bringing this motion. I think he brings up some decent questions as to how we can deal with time allocation, filibustering and the limitation of debate within the House.
We also now use the terminology “constituency weeks”. For instance, when the House is shut down for a week, people say that members have a week off. However, no, they are in their constituencies dealing with constituents and they can find out at that point how their constituents feel about certain pieces of legislation. Time allocation works against that, in my opinion.
One of the comments that was made earlier was that we have had so much time to deal with this, that the budget implementation bill has been in the House for quite some time and that we have dealt with it thoroughly, therefore, no bills, as was stated, have received royal assent. However, that is not true. At the end of June, we had Bill C-2, Bill C-4 and three other bills that received royal assent at that time. Those measures went through.
When the Conservatives say that the budget implementation bill needs to be passed in 2011 because it is budget 2011, that may be a valid point but, if it is valid, why are we spending all these hours talking about copyright legislation, the long gun registry and other measures, such as Bill C-10?
What the Conservatives could do is put that on the agenda each and every time. Every member in the House, at that point, could certainly speak their piece on how they feel about the budget implementation bill or the budget bill for this coming year, 2012.
I do want to point out that in this motion the other thing that it goes on about is that:
(ii) the Speaker would be required to refuse such a request in the interest of protecting the duty of Members to examine legislation thoroughly, unless the government's justification sufficiently outweighs the said duty....
There is a great deal of responsibility in what the Speaker must bring to this legislature, beyond the obvious, which is the running of the House. The Speaker also the responsibility of judging whether the normal legislative process is adhered to. We saw examples of that when our former speaker was here. He made big rulings, certainly rulings that made history, and will always be looked upon as a key moment in the speaker's career, because of the judgments that he brought.
Mr. Speaker, if we look at the way you do your job, one of the key responsibilities is to look at legislation that has been accepted in principle and scope in second reading, then you must decide if, within the committee, its work went beyond the scope and principle of the bill. You have the authority to overturn those amendments, even if everybody in this House, as I have said time and time again, says that they agree with the amendments that were made, you, Mr. Speaker, have the authority to turn them down despite that.
It has been done before. It happened in a private member's bill some time ago on back-to-work legislation, or what people call “anti-scab” legislation. There was an amendment to exclude essential services and there seemed to be a lot of agreement with that, certainly the majority of members agreed with that, but the speaker turned down that particular amendment because it went beyond the scope and principle of the bill.
Therefore, this brings up a good point, which is that this motion would say that you, Mr. Speaker, should have that responsibility to turn this time allocation down, if it is not justified, certainly in dealing with the history, the principles and the spirit of how this House of Commons operates. I think that is a good thing. Why can the Speaker not be involved in this and say that he or she finds that it is not a very justifiable answer as to why we have to slap time allocation on this when we are dealing with something as large and complex as the budget?
Another valid point, I believe, is the fact that following the election there seems to be a lot of new members in the House. I only say “seems to be” because I think all the new members in this House of Commons are doing a fine job. I think they are holding the bar up there when it comes to representation of their constituency.
Time allocation runs in the face of that because a lot of these new members have not had their say. It is their first time in the House and I think compassion should be given, if not by the government then certainly by the Speaker to say, “Well, just a moment”. This legislation in regard to budget 2011 needs to be done soon, therefore, new members in the House should have a chance and the opportunity to speak to that.
I think that, in and of itself, is a good reason why we should have a filter upon which time allocation is used in this House. It has been used throughout history. I cannot justify a lot of the time allocations that have been used because, in many cases, it was wrong. Does the minister not agree? Whether it was red, blue, orange or any other colour, it was wrong in many cases. Depending on the issue, depending on the people involved and depending on the fact that some people have not had their say about this legislation, and that there has not been as much consultation, time allocation is used in a very crass way.
If we look at the situation in front of us now, there are several pieces of legislation deemed important, but some more so than others. Therefore, I would humbly suggest to the House that we should support this simply because it brings a new element into the House where no one party has the authority—