Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Hamilton-Centre.
We are here to debate the democratic validity of so-called omnibus bills. The term is already an old one. Many important omnibus bills have been introduced in the House over the years, as a quick search of Hansard will show. There are numerous precedents. What that search also shows is that, on every occasion, the opposition reacted as though it had been programmed in 1867 to repeat the same thing every time: omnibus bills are undemocratic.
They all claim their rights are being violated. All of them have said it over and over and over again. All of them. The Reform Party said it through the current Prime Minister, the former Progressive Conservative Party said it as well, and, it goes without saying, the Liberals have sung it in every possible octave many, many times.
In 150 years of parliamentary activity, people have expressed indignation, but no one has ever made a genuine attempt to block omnibus bills. That is why we still have them. Omnibus bills are designed, drafted, tabled and passed, and they become law.
As I noted in passing, everyone has expressed indignation. Everyone has accused the government of behaving unethically. They have also announced the death of democracy and appealed to parliamentarianism on moral grounds. Great!
The result is that life goes on; the country votes, voters punish or reward, and a new omnibus bill is ultimately introduced. And the whole rigmarole starts again.
Let us call that the march of history, or legislative bad habits, as you will, except that sometimes surprising and unpredictable consequences arise even here, in Ottawa, on what is generally rather quiet Anishnabe land.
True to their beloved excess, inspired by the tyrants of the Old Testament, the Conservatives have not skimped on the omnes reibus sub sole, orbi et urbi, all things under the sun, in the earthly city and the heavenly city.
Bill C-38, the budget implementation act, which was tabled in the spring and which I have previously discussed in the House, ran to 421 pages, contained 753 provisions and amended a series of more or less related acts.
I compared reading Bill C-38 to reading War and Peace. I apologize because I strongly recommend War and Peace to everyone. However, neo-conservative-style omnibus bills inspired solely by a raging desire to shift everything to the right without listening to or understanding anything do not make for good reading. I want to warn my colleagues because a second budget bill will of course be tabled shortly.
This time, however, we can see the theatrics coming. This document will have no fewer than 800 pages. It will be heavier than the Code of Hammurabi itself and no doubt just as modern. And why not? From now on, there will be an upward spiral. The next one may have 1,000 pages, the following 2,000 pages, and we will no doubt wind up with omnibus bills of 5,000 pages written in Sumerian cuneiform hieroglyphics on granite tablets. Dead languages are all the rage, so why not?
Of course, no consideration is given to the Canadian people in those 800 pages. They may wonder what motivates the Conservatives to act like this. It is very simple. As in everything they undertake, they are deeply convinced that they are taking action to restore Canadian society, which was languishing in perdition.
Have they asked any questions to challenge their ideas? Of course not. When you believe you have a mission, you only talk to people who tell you what you want to hear.
Knowing that they have only one majority mandate and that their days as a government are numbered, they are rushing to change things they do not like. And by “things”, I mean “everything”.
After all, the world could end next week. How will we look to St. Peter if the country is too concerned about people who do not deserve that concern? Success at any price: that is the measure of salvation.
This could be characterized as an typically medieval attitude, but that would be to overlook the fact that Europe's cathedrals were built during the Middle Ages. Apart from vandalizing and renaming museums built by others, however, the Conservatives are not doing much.
What am I getting at with all these comparisons? I am simply saying that what took 150 years to build cannot be changed in four years.
Whoever thinks that is simply a despot. However, 800-page omnibus bills are outward signs of that kind of folly.
The citizens of this country feel there is a problem with changing 1,000 acts in one fell swoop.
When we ask why, we are told that we should ask no questions and that if we object, that means we want to condemn Canada to misery.
When we resist, someone on the other side rises and unleashes a whole string of epithets: communist, separatist, terrorist or Esperantist.
Once they have calmed down, the Conservatives tell us they are doing this out of diligence. However, that is false, and everyone knows it. They are not really acting this way for my good or that of Canadians.
No, they are doing it first and foremost for their friends, the big corporations, for the cash, and to transform Canada's economy into a profit-making machine, without any scruples or long-term vision.
If you are too big a slouch to get close to the sources of prosperity, the government can do nothing for you. You can eat your shirt. But let us take a look at what we can do today to try to solve this problem.
First, I would like to put things in perspective. The gigantic omnibus bills rushed through the Standing Committee on Finance appear to be a Conservative affectation that will surely not survive them. Consequently, I will not be one of those people announcing the death of democracy. The Westminster system is built too solidly for a single government to do enough to cause it irreparable damage.
It is also obvious that no one will ever question whether the NDP, when it comes to power, will at any time act as the Conservatives are doing. We do not feel we have a mission inspired by apocalyptic revelations, and Canadians know that. We also believe in dialogue and in compromise and fairness, but we especially trust in the intelligence of Canadians. To the NDP, the Conservatives’ at-any-cost attitude is above all an obvious sign of weakness.
The Conservatives are going to keep introducing 30-pound paving stones in this House and saying, “Out of the way, coming through.” If the block falls on somebody’s head, they will not even slow down. Certainly, I will keep objecting to these kinds of crude political manoeuvres, but I can also wait them out. I will be watching and waiting, because I know this is a dangerous game. I know Canadians see what is going on and will not put up with being toyed with for very long. The public knows very well that these omnibus bills conceal low blows and schemes. There is a very real risk that the Conservatives' world will end in 2015. I will not have made them get out their Latin textbooks for nothing. Oro pro vobis—I am praying for you.
The Liberals’ solution is to use the opportunity they have today to give the impression they are doing something. They really have no other choice, stuck away as they are at the back of the House by the broom closet and the fuse box. I will give them the benefit of the doubt. They are also shocked by the legislative gall of the government, and they too want to cool its autocratic jets.
The NDP therefore has no problem supporting the motion by the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie. It will be beneficial to the conduct of parliamentary proceedings to find a way to stave off any future paving stones. And what a good opportunity, when the NDP is the official opposition and can make sure the review process is carried out with the public interest in mind.
I have no illusions, however. The Liberals are so full of a sense of self-entitlement that they are only angry because they have been outwitted by people who are stronger and bolder than them. Their indignation today is out of self-interest only. They will be happy to cite the legal precedent of the Conservatives’ 800-page omnibus bills, but as soon as they get a bit of power, it will be their great pleasure to mimic their old enemy. This motion, which seems to reflect a new-found awareness, is of course no more than the never-ending squabbling between the Liberals and the Conservatives. The sole purpose of this schoolyard quarrel is to select and crown the one that excels at enraging the other in the most underhanded way, at the expense, and to the tacit exclusion, of the Canadian public, of course.
The purpose of a Parliament is for us to talk, not just among ourselves, and not just so we can dig in our heels. It is, first and foremost, a place for dialogue with the experts who are invited to testify in committee, so that by hearing opposing opinions, parliamentarians can make informed decisions. Committees exist for that reason. A bill that amends all sorts of laws covering all different areas should not exist. Subjects and bills should be dealt with individually, so they can be examined in the proper committees. That is why we are here. We must not go on blind belief; we must understand and decide. If they do not agree with that really very simple premise, I can show them the way to North Korea.
It is crucially important that elected representatives have access to the most accurate information in order to legislate, but they must also have a minimum of intellectual curiosity, and that is unfortunately not always the case. That does not concern me excessively either, since the system is sufficiently well designed that even the biggest idiot could not do too much harm.
There is a big difference between an occasional idiot who does a bad job—and of course I am speaking hypothetically—and a party that decides in advance what is true and what is false. An 800-page omnibus bill is a case in point. It is a decree. It is a [member spoke in a foreign language], as I said last time. The czar decides and the subjects obey. All discussion is derided as a waste of time and a misplaced tendency to play the bleeding heart.
Today, we have a chance to send a message to the people who aspire to authoritarianism above all. It is plain to Canadians that decimating the machinery of government will not save them any money and will condemn them to living in a country where the guardrails have collapsed under the pressure, and Canadians will not forgive them for that.