Mr. Speaker, it is with some pleasure I enter into this debate because both on form and substance the New Democrats have pointed out what often fails the government on the process that has been used on this very important bill.
As my colleagues have said, the official title of Bill C-15, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, allows for some improvements that are long overdue with respect to the men and women who serve in the Canadian Forces when they face any kind of charges or penalties and how those are then carried out by court martial or other services that the Canadian Forces provide. That is what the act seeks to do.
As I said in my question to my friend from Hamilton, this is not the first time the House has seen the bill. We have seen it a number of times. In the two most recent presentations of the bill, it was by the Conservatives' own hand that the bill was killed, once through prorogation, when the Prime Minister was worried much more about his job than the jobs of Canadians. By proroguing Parliament, the government clearly knew it would wipe out all legislation that was on the table at the time. That was the consequence of the Prime Minister's action. That was his choice and his choice alone.
The second time the bill was introduced into Parliament it was killed by a second act of the Conservative government. That was forcing an early election upon Canadians, breaking the Conservatives' own fixed election date laws.
I remember back in the Reform Party days when the Conservatives believed in a reformed Senate, for example, rather than stuffing it full of one's friends and cronies, which, by the way, the Conservatives have also done. The Reform movement that came predominantly out of the west, but also from Ontario and other parts, believed in the idea that fixed election dates were important. It took some of that enormous power away from the sitting government to determine when the election would be called because that was fundamentally an undemocratic power that the government, under our system, held. Therefore, fixed election dates were promoted and campaigned upon.
I remember the Minister of Justice campaigning upon this as something very important for Canadians to rely upon and that the government would introduce legislation that would allow Canadians to know when the next election would be called and that it could not be manipulated by the sitting government to play to its favour.
I remember the member for Peterborough, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, also talking about the importance of having that assuredness so democracy would be given a fair shot every time, that every party and all Canadians would know when the next election would come.
That was inconvenient for the Prime Minister. He wanted an election at a different time, so he called it early and killed this exact legislation for a second time.
Most recent the government actually tried a tactic, a trick if you will, Mr. Speaker, in the House that tried to force and extend the hours of sitting so Parliament would suddenly sit all night to get through debate on the bill because it was now in such a panic over these reforms that were so essential.
The undemocratic tendencies of the government have been well documented. The Conservatives have introduced more motions of closures and shutting down of debate than almost any government in Canadian history, which is passing strange to Canadians. After all, they have that coveted majority they narrowly won in the last election. We would think, with having the most votes in the House, it would allow them a certain level of maturity and calm on that side, to not have to abuse Parliament's rules to constantly invoke closure, time allocations and shutting down debate in Canada's centre of democracy in Parliament.
Yet the Conservatives get impatient. They get frustrated. They get a little incompetent from time to time and that incompetence then forces them to hit the panic button, shut down debate one more time and then try to blame somebody else for their own failures.
On Bill C-15, we have talked a bit about the process that we have reached on this point. One last note on that, and it has been well made but it has to be driven home for my Conservative colleagues who ask us why we simply cannot trust them. They have said that the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Public Safety have made comments and that those comments should hold that they will fix the mistakes still in the bill.
It gives us pause because we went through that process as good members of Parliament, going through the committee stage, hearing the witnesses that came forward. We rely upon expert testimony on this side. We rely on people who are actually professionals and base their testimony on science and things like evidence.
I know the Conservative government has a certain allergic reaction to facts and figures being presented before it, but we relied on key testimony in making amendments to the legislation, which I will get into in a moment. These amendments were absolutely critical to improving the safety and certainty of our men and women who served in our services throughout Canada and around the world.
In relying on those expert witnesses, we found that there were some fundamental failures as the legislation was then put and we amended the bill. Parliament is supposed to make legislation better by finding the mistakes, look for corrections and fix them.
You will know that, Mr. Speaker, through your experience and vast knowledge of this place. I think you are regularly voted by your colleagues as one of the most, if not the most, knowledgeable members of Parliament consistently. You are even getting cheers from the Conservative benches and a standing ovation from the minister.
However, when legislation is done poorly, to then go back and correct the legislation is both very expensive within Parliament, with the amount of time we have to spend to fix it, and it can also be very expensive in human terms for the Canadians who are affected by bad legislation and rules. Therefore, could there be anything more serious than what happens under a court martial situation? If the rules and guidelines that are meant to both serve the defence and prosecution are badly designed, as they are in the bill, then clearly that will have some real human impact.
The Conservatives and the minister have said that we should not worry as they will make those corrections, which were already made a year or year and a half ago. However, it is confusing and concerning to us that the Conservatives have promised to fix a bill that was already fixed.
When the Conservatives reintroduced the bill for the third or perhaps fourth time now, all those improvements that were made last time around were suddenly gone. It is as if they pulled the old broken one off the shelf and reintroduced it. We are confused because we fixed that old broken one and made it better for the Canadian Forces, our troops and the process for any allegations that might be made.
The government said that it agreed with all those changes, but it did not put it in the legislation. The Conservatives so much agreed with the changes that they would reintroduce them into the legislation when the bill went to the committee stage. What lunacy is that? That does not make any sense at all.
One has to wonder. This is coming from a government that is going through the final stages of its second omnibus bill this year, which is a massive piece of legislation that traditionally ranged from 15 to 20 pages and affected 3 to 7 pieces of legislation. However, the Conservative omnibus bill affects upwards of 60 to 70 different laws of Canada all in one bill and sometimes strips the law down to virtually nothing, as was done to the environmental assessment. It takes out key pieces of the Fisheries Act such as habitat protection, which suddenly does not matter when it comes to protecting Canada's fisheries.
The massive omnibus bill two had to fix the mistakes made in the spring omnibus bill one, which the Conservatives rushed through the House. They did that by shutting down debate and invoking time allocation. They rushed things through and got it wrong. Now we are back taking up Parliament's time with the fixes to their first mistakes, and they have done this repeatedly.
I remember the Internet snooping bill. Canadians will remember this one well because it was so badly explained by the Minister of Public Safety. He said that we should support this bad legislation that the government had and allow the police to look at one's email traffic and whatever website one happened to be looking at without any judicial supervision at all.
I am sure the Minister of Justice had some pause when he saw the drafting of the legislation. The basic idea of invasion of one's privacy requires that there be some sort of oversight, that the police cannot take the discretion to go into a home, business or someone's email account without some judicial oversight. However, the Minister of Public Safety said to us that we were either with this bad legislation that allowed people to snoop into our emails and websites or we must be with the child pornographers.
My goodness, if there has ever been a lesson on how not to convince the public of one's initiatives, it was done by that minister, and the bill seems to have disappeared.
Therefore, on key things such as taking out more minor offences that are now in this judicial system, the grievance committee that is obviously flawed because it does not have enough civilian participation, the Military Police Complaints Commission that does not have enough oversight with these new powers that are given, on the substance of the bill, the Conservatives got it wrong again.
Of course the New Democrats will stand up when Conservatives get it wrong. The New Democrats stand up often because it is often that Conservatives get it wrong.