Mr. Speaker, people watching at home may want to turn up the volume. I do not think I can match the projection of the hon. member, though I hold as passionately to my views as he does. I respect the experience that he brings to this debate, having been a member of the Ontario legislature and having witnessed many legislative moments.
Speaking of legislative moments, I recall how the session of Parliament ended in June, with all night voting. I have been in the House for almost eight years. I had never experienced an all-night voting session. It was really something. We were part of history that day and night. In fact, I was not sure if people at home were paying attention to what was going on in the House or if they understood we had been voting for 24 hours. However, when I got home the next day, I ran into people who said that they could not believe I was there, that I was up and awake as I had been voting for 24 hours. Everyone knew about that episode.
That 24 hours of voting did more for our democracy than many of the speeches that have been given in the House, even the excellent speeches, like the one given by the hon. member before me. In some way it alerted Canadians to the fact that we were dealing with a government that was uncompromising.
Canadians did elect a majority government, but they did not expect that the Canadian parliamentary tradition of compromise would just evaporate and go out the window. They expect the government to work with the opposition. In this regard, I remember seeing a video not too long ago. It was a video of the very first televised question period in the House of Commons. It was in 1977, October I believe. The prime minister at the time was Prime Minister Trudeau. We had a Progressive Conservative opposition, and Joe Clark was the leader of the opposition.
The very first question in the very first televised question period was quite riveting. I would invite my hon. colleagues to Google that question. The economy was top of mind back then, as it is today. I believe the Trudeau government was in the process of preparing a budget.
Mr. Clark got up, and he was quite eloquent, quite reasoned and quite forceful. He basically called on the government to do more, to present some kind of plan to would help combat unemployment. In fact, the problem at the time was stagflation. It was a stagnating economy combined with price inflation.
It was a tough and well-reasoned question. The prime minister got up very calmly, thanked Mr. Clark for his question and basically invited the opposition to make suggestions that could be incorporated in a financial plan or in a budget.
I found the tenor of that exchange much different from what we witness here every day. It was an invitation to compromise on the part of Mr. Trudeau even though he had a majority at the time. I think this is what Canadians want to see. They want to see compromise. They want to see parties working together.
When my constituents asked me about the all night voting, I told them it was because the government had stuffed everything imaginable into one piece of legislation, variously called a Trojan horse bill and a kitchen sink bill. They were not pleased. Nor were they amused. They started thinking about just what kind of government they had elected a year before.
Canadians want us to work together. How do we know that this was not just any kind of omnibus bill, that it was an especially flagrant kind of omnibus bill that was introduced and voted on in the spring session?
When Canadians hear the word “budget”, they think of a financial plan for the next year or maybe the next two or three years. However, what we voted on in the spring was not just a financial plan.
As I said before, 625 scientists wrote a letter to the Prime Minister to say that that he should not weaken the Fisheries Act using a budget bill to do so. The fact that 625 scientists, environmental scientists and biologists, wrote to the Prime Minister to ask him not to amend the Fisheries Act gives us an idea that maybe the budget bill was not just a financial plan, maybe it was much more.
Former fisheries ministers, Liberal and Progressive Conservative, also wrote the Prime Minister arguing against weakening the Fisheries Act and adding that they were very concerned about the process.
I will quote a letter from Thomas Siddon, a Progressive Conservative; David Anderson, a former Liberal fisheries minister; John Fraser, a former Progressive Conservative fisheries minister; and Herb Dhaliwal, a former Liberal fisheries minister. We have two from each party. They wrote, “We are especially alarmed about any possible diminution of the statutory protection of fish habitat”. They were saying basically the same thing as the 625 environmental scientists. They went on to say, “With respect to process, we find it troubling that the government is proposing to amend the Fisheries Act via omnibus budget legislation”.
Here we have former ministers, two Progressive Conservatives and two Liberals, coming together united in their opposition to the government's approach to democracy to say that this is not the way to revamp environmental legislation in this country.
We know we have a problem when the budget bill does much more than cut programs that should not be cut. Of course, we are upset that the government cut the world renowned Experimental Lakes Area program. Quite frankly, it is the greatest laboratory in the world for freshwater research. We are upset about that, but it was a budget decision. Any budget bill by a government intent on destroying water science would include that kind of measure.
One can understand a budget measure within a budget bill, but when a government starts amending the Fisheries Act and changing environmental assessments, it is way outside the realm of creating a narrow financial plan for Canada.
I know the Prime Minister is an economist. I studied economics as well. There is a term in economics called “money illusion”. If one has taken a macro economics course, one would know what that means. It is a situation where people are not aware of the impact that inflation is having on their real standard of living. When I think of the government's omnibus bill, I think of the fact that it is really creating smoke and mirrors. It is trying to hide certain facts from Canadians, certain changes to immigration policies and environmental policies. It is creating an illusion like the Wizard of Oz with lots of smoke and mirrors. We have a couple of people, maybe in the Prime Minister's Office, changing the face of the country. It reminds me of the concept of money illusion.
The government's approach also reminds of telecommunication companies that sell cellphone plans. The other day my wife and I were talking about what kind of plan we should get. She said that she called and that we could save so much a month, but I really did not believe it. It is all smoke and mirrors. We will save here but end up paying more there. These plans are so complex one just cannot understand them.
That is essentially what the government is doing with democracy. It is making legislation so broad, so complex, that is very hard even for hard-working parliamentarians to wrap their minds around the many aspects of omnibus legislation.
Does it make any sense that changes to the Fisheries Act would be studied by the finance committee of the House of Commons? Does it make any sense that the experts, the financial experts, the great members of Parliament with all kinds of financial expertise on the finance committee are going to discuss, for a limited period of time, changes to one of the most complex pieces of environmental legislation in the country? No, it does not.
I sincerely hope the government understands that Canadians do not appreciate the smoke and mirrors, that they want a bit more democracy in this place, that they want a bit more compromise and that they are very serious about they want.