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House of Commons Hansard #138 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-38.

Topics

Bill C-38PrivilegeOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, is decorum not a nice thing when it breaks out in here once in a while?

I bring forward a question of privilege, after significant work and research, with regard to the bill we have before us in Parliament. I bear your consideration, Mr. Speaker. A letter will be forthcoming to your office to outline and explain the specific details, but we believe we do have a prima facie case of privilege. We have looked at this with very careful consideration, and I would like to thank my team for putting this together under difficult circumstances.

There are many charges of contempt that go on within this place and not all of those are privilege, but every finding of privilege is in fact a contempt. The definition of this is that the powers of Parliament to do its job, to do three things in particular, to legislate, deliberate and hold the government to account, are paramount to all of our work. We know, through the very Constitution itself, that the exclusive legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to all matters coming within the classes of subjects hereinafter enumerated, “1A. The Public Debt and Property...2A. Unemployment Insurance...8. The fixing of and providing for the Salaries and Allowances of Civil and other Officers of the Government of Canada”. This will be the focus of our point with you this afternoon, Mr. Speaker.

We have also confirmed this all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in Canada v. Vaid in 2005, that the supremacy of Parliament to do its job in this regard is paramount and cannot be confined nor restricted. O'Brien and Bosc on page 59 confirm this and that this right, this privilege can be broken either individually for members or collectively for us as a group. We include very explicitly that the privileges of members of the governing side have also been infringed by the process that has been taken on through Bill C-38.

Page 61 of O'Brien and Bosc states:

The privileges of Members of the House of Commons provide the absolute immunity they require to perform their parliamentary work while the collective or corporate rights of the House are the necessary means by which the House effectively discharges its functions.

We have built our case, Mr. Speaker, and are confident that you will find in this that the breach of privilege conducted here is significant enough to warrant a decision from you, hastily, after other parties have had their opportunity to intervene.

In one of the last rulings by your predecessor, Speaker Milliken, on April 27, 2010, in ruling on the question of privilege surrounding the provision of information to the special committee on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, Speaker Milliken said:

In a system of responsible government, the fundamental right of the House of Commons to hold the government to account for its actions is an indisputable privilege and in fact an obligation.

Herein lies our privilege. We have used every available tool to the opposition through questions on the order paper, requests through the Parliamentary Budget Officer, through questions during question period and at committee directed to the ministers pertaining to this issue, to understand directly and implicitly the impacts of the legislation that the government has been moving forward through its budgets and explicitly about what the cuts and implications will be for its budget measures, cuts to either services or to the number of employees who will be affected.

Allow me to say this, Mr. Speaker, and it is extremely important for your ruling, there is no dispute from the government side that the numbers in fact exist. The government is well aware of what the impacts will be on Canadians and has in fact publicly declared that the information exists. We heard from the President of the Treasury Board himself. He said in an interview with a reporter on May 9 of this year that he would like to release more information but was held ““hostage” to parliamentary reporting procedures and labour contracts, which require notices to affected employees going out before cuts could be made”.

Essentially, the government is requiring members of Parliament to vote blind on the legislation coming forward. In our conversations with the Parliamentary Budget Officer and in his conversations with the government, he has explicitly requested the information that has been made available to him, by right, under the act that the government moved as its second act, the Federal Accountability Act. Various places in the act require the government to produce, in a timely and transparent manner, information that exists.

There are two reasons why the government may withhold this information: if the information is not accessible through access to information; or if the information is confidentially provided to cabinet. The Clerk of the Privy Council has provided neither of those reasons. Herein lies the case of privilege. In citing the reasons of confidentiality because of some obligations under the collective agreement with the various unions that make up the civil service, while I may say as a caveat is a unique moment where the government has actually cared about a collective agreement with anybody under their employ, the reason given by the Privy Council, the head of the civil service, is not a valid one.

That is not a reason that he can use to block information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer. That is not an exercisable reason under the act and it in fact impedes parliamentarians from doing their work and, as I said, makes them vote blind on the actual budget. There is no cabinet confidentiality and these are not pieces of information that have been denied through access to information. To say this is critical to members of Parliament to understand before they vote on the budget is an understatement.

The government has moved a number of measures, which will have impacts on Canadian society, through the services and programs Canadians rely upon and directly through employees of the federal government and communities across this country. I would have expected members of the government to ask this question, but they have so far been mute on this point.

In breaking the Federal Accountability Act, the government has once again shown that perhaps the act is not worth the paper it is written on. This is the response we got from the Clerk of the Privy Council, in a letter written to the Parliamentary Budget Officer on May 15. It states:

...but, as indicated in the Budget document, the Government is equally committed to treating its employees fairly and respecting its contractual obligations. This means that departments will provide information to affected employees and their unions in the first instance, as required under the applicable collective agreements. Once this has happened...the Government will then begin...to communicate accordingly.

That is, it will then offer up to the Parliamentary Budget Officer and, through him, to parliamentarians the information.

The unions have been contacted and they have publicly said to the government and to the Privy Council that this does not break their collective agreement, thereby taking away the sole reason of the government to deny MPs their privilege.

I will run through the timeline and finish with this. The first thing members of Parliament sought to do was to request the information from the government, as is our obligation under the Standing Orders as members of Parliament, that is, to find out what the impacts of the bill would be. This would apply to any bill. Certainly with a bill as broad and sweeping as this, this would be important. The government denied this, either through question period or at committee. We then sought information through questions on the order paper. That too was denied. We then sought information through the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who is legally obligated and enshrined with the right to seek this information unless legally denied, which he was not. That too was denied by the government. We are now at a place where we are being forced in some short time to vote on a bill whose impacts the government understands, but refuses to share with members of Parliament and those people whom we seek to represent. This is, by all definitions we can find, an infringement of the rights and privileges of members of Parliament.

If the House cannot hold the government of the day to account, then why have the House at all? If members of Parliament cannot do their jobs and cannot go back to their constituents with a clear conscience and understanding of the legislation that has been brought before us and its implications, then why are members of Parliament in the service of Canadians at all? They are not.

We seek this through you, Mr. Speaker. We carefully went through all of O'Brien and Bosc, which offered us numerous points. I will mention one. On page 281 of Bourinot's Parliamentary Procedure and Practice in the Dominion of Canada, it states:

The right of Parliament to obtain every possible information on public questions is undoubted, and the circumstances must be exceptional, and the reasons very cogent, when it cannot be at once laid before the houses.

There is no such reason given by the government. The Conservatives do not deny that the information exists, that the cuts to services and programming for Canadians exist and are understood. They have said that, from the most senior bureaucrat down, the person who works with the Prime Minister. The President of the Treasury Board has also said that the information exists. Their reasons for denying members of Parliament their right to this information have also been shown to be not true. All that is left in defence of this place, in defence of members of Parliament, is you, Mr. Speaker, whose job and role it is to defend the institution, regardless of the sways of the political discourse that goes on every day. The institution requires us to have the information to both debate and vote with clear conscience and information. The government is denying us that information. While this may be a pathology with the Conservatives, it does not give them the opportunity or the reason to deny members of Parliament these key and critical data. It is absolutely essential for us to maintain, as best as we may through all of the discourse that goes on here, certain principles.

The principle that we in opposition hold dearly is that our job, each and every day, is to hold the government to account. There should be those on the other side who share that principle, because that is a principle shared by all of us. The Conservatives may heckle the opportunity to speak and they may suggest that there is not something of right and privilege here, but they know better.

I remember the days when that hon. members on that side stood for these principles. I remember the days when we in opposition worked with the government on its second piece of legislation, the Accountability Act, as we have quoted here today, which set up an institution that we agreed with the Parliamentary Budget Officer should seek and garner this information.

Now what do we have? We have a government that insists that members of Parliament should vote blind, that Canadians should simply trust them and that it is somehow good enough. This is not a right-left issue; this is right and wrong. The government knows it is wrong. The government has the information and is denying Parliament and parliamentarians and the people we represent access to information that we need.

There is much more that we could say, but I understand that time is pressing. I am therefore prepared to move an appropriate motion if you, Mr. Speaker, find a prima facie question of contempt.

Bill C-38PrivilegeOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my friend for his novel and innovative approach to this question, but I think it actually ends up being so innovative that it is far off the mark.

First, I will start by saying that I believe what he was saying was that we have to deal with this now because it is in the context of Bill C-38. I understand that is the context in which he raises his point of order.

Of course a point of order such as this has to be raised at the earliest possible opportunity. Bill C-38 was introduced into the House on April 26. We are now some month and a half later, so he is very late in raising this argument.

Second, he has not cited any particular section or provision of the bill to which he takes exception, and for which he says these important questions have not been answered. Once again, I think what he is talking about is not anything to do with any content of Bill C-38, so he is off the mark there.

Third, the kinds of measures to which he is speaking, moneys that are spent on programs and personnel, are normally reported and approved by Parliament, not by a budget implementation act but rather through the appropriations bills that appear before this Parliament. That is the appropriate point for him to raise his questions. That is the process through which Parliament would report and provide the information he is looking for.

If he is looking for more detailed information than is in one of those appropriation bills, that would be the point for him to raise those questions and points. We are not currently dealing with an appropriation bill through this House. There is no appropriation bill outstanding before this House. I expect that he may wish to return to his point of order some months hence, when we have our next appropriation bill before the House, if he feels he has not achieved satisfaction at that time, that is, if he feels that the reporting mechanisms of the government have not been sufficient. However, we certainly are not facing that situation in any way with regard to Bill C-38.

Therefore, I think his point is very far off the mark, but I would be happy to return if further submissions are required.

Bill C-38PrivilegeOral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank both hon. members for their interventions on this point. I will get back to the House in due course.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's responses to 30 petitions.

Transport, Infrastructure and CommunitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in relation to Bill C-321, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials).

The committee has studied the bill and decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 27, the ordinary hour of daily adjournment shall be 12 midnight, commencing on Monday, June 11, 2012, and concluding on Friday, June 22, 2012, but not including Friday, June 15, 2012.

Today I rise to make the case for the government's motion to extend the working hours of this House until midnight for the next two weeks. This is of course a motion made in the context of the Standing Orders, which expressly provide for such a motion to be made on this particular day once a year.

Over the past year, our government's top priority has remained creating jobs and economic growth.

Job creation and economic growth have remained important priorities for our government.

Under the government's economic action plan, Canada's deficits and taxes are going down; investments in education, skills training, and research and innovation are going up; and excessive red tape and regulations are being eliminated.

As the global economic recovery remains fragile, especially in Europe, Canadians want their government to focus on what matters most: jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. This is what our Conservative government has been doing.

On March 29, the Minister of Finance delivered economic action plan 2012, a comprehensive budget that coupled our low-tax policy with new actions to promote jobs and economic growth.

The 2012 budget proposed measures aimed at putting our finances in order, increasing innovation and creating suitable and applicable legislation in the area of resource development in order to promote a good, stable investment climate.

The budget was debated for four days and was adopted by the House on April 4. The Minister of Finance then introduced Bill C-38, Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act, the 2012 budget implementation bill. The debate at second reading of Bill C-38 was the longest debate on a budget implementation bill in at least two decades, and probably the longest ever.

On May 14, after seven days of debate, Bill C-38 was passed at second reading.

The bill has also undergone extensive study in committee. The Standing Committee on Finance held in-depth hearings on the bill. The committee also created a special subcommittee for detailed examination of the bill's responsible resource development provisions. All told, this was the longest committee study of any budget implementation bill for at least the last two decades, and probably ever.

We need to pass Bill C-38 to implement the urgent provisions of economic action plan 2012. In addition to our economic measures, our government has brought forward and passed bills that keep the commitments we made to Canadians in the last election.

In a productive, hard-working and orderly way, we fulfilled long-standing commitments to give marketing freedom to western Canadian grain farmers, to end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry, and to improve our democracy by moving every province closer to the principle of representation by population in the House of Commons.

However, in the past year our efforts to focus on the priorities of Canadians have been met with nothing but delay and obstruction tactics by the opposition. In some cases, opposition stalling and delaying tactics have meant that important bills are still not yet law. That is indeed regrettable.

In the case of Bill C-11, the copyright modernization act, a bill that will help to create good, high-paying jobs in Canada's creative and high-tech sectors, this House has debated the bill on 10 days. We heard 79 speeches on it before it was even sent to committee. This is, of course, on top of similar debate that occurred in previous Parliaments on similar bills.

It is important for us to get on with it and pass this bill for the sake of those sectors of our economy, to ensure that Canada remains competitive in a very dynamic, changing high-tech sector in the world, so that we can have Canadian jobs and Canadian leadership in that sector.

Bill C-24 is the bill to implement the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. It has also been the subject of numerous days of debate, in fact dozens and dozens of speeches in the House, and it has not even made it to committee yet.

Bill C-23 is the Canada-Jordan economic growth and prosperity act. It also implements another important job-creating free trade agreement.

All three of these bills have actually been before this place longer than for just the last year. As I indicated, they were originally introduced in previous Parliaments. Even then, they were supported by a majority of members of this House and were adopted and sent to committee. However, they are still not law.

We are here to work hard for Canadians. Adopting today's motion would give the House sufficient time to make progress on each of these bills prior to the summer recess. Adopting today's motion would also give us time to pass Bill C-25, the pooled registered pension plans act. It is a much-needed piece of legislation that would give Canadians in small businesses and self-employed workers yet another option to help support them in saving for their retirement. Our government is committed to giving Canadians as many options as possible to secure their retirement and to have that income security our seniors need. This is another example of how we can work to give them those options.

In addition to these bills that have been obstructed, opposed or delayed one way or another by the opposition, there are numerous bills that potentially have support from the opposition side but still have not yet come to a vote. By adding hours to each working day in the House over the next two weeks, we would allow time for these bills to come before members of Parliament for a vote. These include: Bill C-12, safeguarding Canadians' personal information act; and Bill C-15, strengthening military justice in the defence of Canada act. I might add, that bill is long overdue as our military justice system is in need of these proposed changes. It has been looking for them for some time. It is a fairly small and discrete bill and taking so long to pass this House is not a testament to our productivity and efficiency. I hope we will be able to proceed with that.

Bill C-27 is the first nations financial transparency act, another step forward in accountability. Bill C-28 is the financial literacy leader act. At a time when we are concerned about people's financial circumstances, not just countries' but individuals', this is a positive step forward to help people improve their financial literacy so all Canadians can face a more secure financial future. Bill C-36 is the protecting Canada's seniors act which aims to prevent elder abuse. Does it not make sense that we move forward on that to provide Canadian seniors the protection they need from those very heinous crimes and offences which have become increasingly common in news reports in recent years?

Bill C-37 is the increasing offenders' accountability for victims act. This is another major step forward for readjusting our justice system which has been seen by most Canadians as being for too long concerned only about the rights and privileges of the criminals who are appearing in it, with insufficient consideration for the needs of victims and the impact of those criminal acts on them. We want to see a rebalancing of the system and that is why Bill C-37 is so important.

Of course, we have bills that have already been through the Senate, and are waiting on us to deal with them. Bill S-2, which deals with matrimonial real property, which would give fairness and equality to women on reserve, long overdue in this country. Let us get on with it and give first nations women the real property rights they deserve. Then there is Bill S-6, first nations electoral reform, a provision we want to see in place to advance democracy. Bill S-8 is the safe drinking water for first nations act; and Bill S-7 is the combatting terrorism act.

As members can see, there is plenty more work for this House to do. As members of Parliament, the least we can do is put in a bit of overtime and get these important measures passed.

In conclusion, Canada's economic strength, our advantage in these uncertain times, and our stability also depend on political stability and strong leadership. Across the world, political gridlock and indecision have led to economic uncertainty and they continue to threaten the world economy. That is not what Canadians want for their government. Our government is taking action to manage the country's business in a productive, hard-working and orderly fashion. That is why all members need to work together in a time of global economic uncertainty to advance the important bills I have identified, before we adjourn for the summer.

I call on all members to support today's motion to extend the working hours of this House by a few hours for the next two weeks. For the members opposite, not only do I hope for their support in this motion, I also hope I can count on them to put the interests of Canadians first and work with this government to pass the important bills that remain before us.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, regrettably, it comes as no surprise to hear the government House leader move this motion today for extended hours over the next two weeks. It is also no surprise that New Democrats are going to oppose it. Time is at a premium in this place and is a very powerful commodity.

I listened very carefully to what the government House leader had to say. He called on all members to work together in a constructive way. However, it seems to me that the process for doing that has to come from the government. There has to be a trustful relationship and a sense of goodwill about how the House agenda is managed. There are House leader meetings that take place every week to do that.

I find ironic that we have a government that is intent on restricting the amount of time for debate, whether on Bill C-38 or many others. About 24 bills have had time allocation or some sort of closure applied to them. On the one hand, the government is restricting the time for debate, but, on the other hand, wants more time. Why? It is because it wants to ram these bills through.

The government House leader gave an indication of some of the bills that the government is looking at. It seems to me that the proper place for that, where there is agreement, is at House leader meetings which are for that purpose. We now know the motivation for doing that, which is to push these bills through very quickly, as we are seeing with Bill C-38. If we allowed that to happen, we would be derelict in our duty. It would not be members working together, it would be the government acting in a very high-handed manner.

I would ask the government House leader on what basis he believes he has the authority to ram these bills through. I know he can move this motion, but in terms of proper process, is this not another example of ramming through government legislation?

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Not at all, Mr. Speaker. The authority for doing this is in the Standing Orders, which provide that on one day a year, we can move to have extended hours for the last two weeks of our sitting. We have been adopting the approach of running Parliament in a productive, hard-working, orderly fashion, where there is certainty and we actually come to decisions.

Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, is a perfect example. Through our measures and the use of time allocation we have been able to ensure that we had the longest debate ever on a budget implementation bill, certainly the longest in the past two decades but probably ever. Similarly, we have also had the longest consideration in committee, not counting the subcommittee that was established. We are not interested in limiting debate. We are happy to have lots of debate and we have ensured that for some of the bills, some of the priority ones I listed like copyright. There has been far more debate in this Parliament to get to the same stages of bills than in previous Parliaments when the bills passed much sooner.

This is not our concern. Our concern is that we make decisions. That is what we were sent here to do. Canadians voted for us and said they wanted us to go to Parliament, address the important questions, debate them and make decisions on them. That is what we are asking the House to do: actually make decisions on the bills before us so that Canadians can benefit from those changes.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I found it interesting that the government House leader, in his remarks, asked us to do what he believes is in Canadians' best interest. The Liberal Party of Canada has been doing just that.

One could ask why the government House leader is not behaving in a fashion fitting for this House. When he asks us to do what is in the best interest of Canadians, how would he, for example, defend the government's approach in dealing with Bill C-38, the budget legislation?

He complains that the opposition wants to debate the bill and have it in committee. However, it should come as no surprise to the government House leader that this is the single largest budget bill ever presented to this House. It is indeed unprecedented. The amount of legislation that is being brought into the bill through the back door is unprecedented. That is why it needs to be thoroughly debated.

The work ethic of the members of the Liberal caucus is second to no other caucus inside this chamber. We are prepared to debate the bill and other bills that are important to Canadians. We are prepared to challenge the government through amending legislation and forcing votes, to try to get the government to recognize the responsibility that it has to Canadians.

I do not shy away from work in this House. I wonder if the government House leader would make a commitment in this chamber to sit in this chamber as long as I do in order to see this bill pass. Surely to goodness he would be open to sitting as often as I do in the chamber to ensure the issues are being addressed and that Canadians are put first. Will he make a commitment to sit in the chamber as long as I do?

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, when Canadians reflect on the opposition parties in Ottawa today, the reason that they often conclude what we see mostly are partisan games from the opposition is that normally the member would be standing up complaining that he does not have enough time to debate. Now, faced with a motion to provide more time for debate, the opposition parties, both of them, indicate that they have a problem with that motion. I find that irony tells us everything we need to know about the motives of the opposition party members in how they approach things.

Our approach, as the hon. member talked about C-38, is to take a look at what is important for Canadians. What they are concerned about most these days is job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity. We brought forward a legislative agenda, including our budget implementation act, to deliver on things like a tax credit for small business job creation; additional investment in skills development, research and innovation; additional opportunities to harness our natural resource advantages; a way of making sure that we continue to have the most skilled workforce in the world; and bringing forward that comprehensive economic plan, subjecting it to the longest debate in decades in Parliament, the longest committee consideration, but also ensuring that we move forward with real decisions.

The opposition's response is to look for delay and obstruction tactics. It is not to talk about the substance of it, but simply to delay and play games. However, we want to deliver real results and focus on the substance of the economy for the benefit of Canadians.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, in answer to one of my colleague's questions, I think the hon. colleague on the other side said that Canadians send us here to make decisions. That is true. However, Canadians also have an official opposition which is an important feature of our British parliamentary system to hold the government to account and to make sure that decisions that are not well considered or that may be wrong can be caught. That is why debate is so important.

Government members keep saying over and over that we have had 70 hours of debate, the longest debate in decades. Of course, the difference is that this is an unprecedented type of budget bill. Canadians have not seen a bill like this that would amend 70 different acts. We are talking about one hour of debate for each act. That is 60 minutes of debate for each act that would be fundamentally altered, changed or in some cases abolished. That is not a lot of debate. It is not sufficient debate.

The decisions that would take protecting fish habitat out of the Fisheries Act, or raising the age of old age security from 65 to 67, or changes to EI that would profoundly affect people who live in rural areas, are the kinds of decisions that Canadians want us parliamentarians to take in a measured, thoughtful way.

The Prime Minister said on April 18, 2005, “When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid dissent is frankly when it's rapidly losing its moral authority to govern”.

Does the member see any applicability of that comment to today as his government tries to ram through a Trojan horse budget bill with insufficient debate?

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member just spoke about the merits of more debate. I trust that he will support this motion, because that is what this motion is about, allowing more debate until midnight every night in this House.

We talked about accommodating dissent. What will that mean? It will mean a lot of opportunity for him to put his dissent on the record. That is what we want to see, but we also want to see decisions get made, and that has been our approach in governing.

We also want to see that the decisions that are made are made, most importantly, on the priorities for Canadians, and that is the economy, job creation and economic growth. That does not lend itself to simply the budget implementation act, which has been the subject of the longest debate in decades of such a bill in this House.

It also extends to other important economic measures we would like to see passed, things like opening new markets to Canadians goods and services, things like our free trade agreement with Jordan and our free trade agreement with Panama. I suspect that member does not support the free trade agreement with Panama. I suspect he wants to see it opposed. I suspect that is why he does not want to see more hours for debate on that item in this House, even though it will mean jobs for Canadians.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that we have this debate today about extending hours, because we cannot look at this particular motion in isolation from everything that has happened in the past year since the election, under this Conservative government.

I would begin my remarks by saying that I think a measure of a government is how it represents and respects the institution it operates within. By and large, certainly a majority government controls that institution. Therefore, how the government actually operates on a day-to-day basis and operates overall in terms of respecting the opinions of opposition, of members of the public, of committees, of the structures and the vehicles that we have, is a very important criterion in terms of how one looks at how a government is performing, whether it is the current Conservative government, a majority government or former governments. One has to look at this motion today in that context.

I mentioned in my remarks earlier that we have seen the government now bring in time allocation possibly 20 to 24 times on different bills. Time is a very valuable commodity. It is something by which we all operate. We understand the importance of it. I do find it incredibly ironic that, on the one hand, we have a government that has been doing everything it can to restrict the time we have for debate, for example, on Bill C-38, but on the other hand it is looking for an expansion of time in the next two weeks because it wants to get everything else through. This is really very disrespectful of the process we have in Parliament and is disrespectful of the engagement that members of Parliament want to have.

Bill Blaikie, who was the former member for Elmwood—Transcona, actually was the dean of the House. He was a very long-standing member of the House of Commons for more than 20 years. I remember speaking with Bill Blaikie on many occasions and getting a sense of how much the procedures had changed in this place, how much the rules had been bent, managed and finessed to basically minimize and restrict what members of Parliament can do.

We have to look at this issue over the longer term. We have to look at how much has been cut out already. Whether it is the right to have ongoing debate or the rules of the House generally, there has been so much undermining of the democratic process in this place. When we look at this motion today and we look at the underlying intent that motion has, which is to basically control the government agenda and to do everything it can to push through what it believes is necessary, then we can see that this place begins to be diminished. Its role and the role we have as individual members of Parliament begins to be diminished.

I remember, back in 1998 or 1999, the Reform Party of the day bringing in 472 amendments on the Nisga'a treaty. It is curious though that the Conservatives seemed to have no problem then in insisting that there had to be proper debate and a proper process. In fact, they used it. They were very opposed to that treaty. I remember voting. I think it was about 48 hours straight when we voted on those 472 amendments to the Nisga'a treaty in British Columbia. They seem to have forgotten all of that. They seem to have forgotten the process and the need to have some sort of equilibrium in this place. It has now become a very heavy-handed measure that it uses. That is what we are seeing today with this motion.

If we add on other examples, such as gag orders to employees, this is no longer a place where even people who work in different departments of the federal government are free to express an opinion. The gag orders are out there to shut down, to be silent and to self-censor. It all speaks to a pattern of incredible control. It speaks to a pattern of undermining the democratic process.

All opposition parties have a responsibility to hold the government to account. My hon. colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley, the NDP House leader, in his earlier intervention on a point of privilege made the point well that by blocking information to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, by withholding information to parliamentarians, we are impeding the proper functioning of a democratic process.

When we put all of that together, we can begin to see we have a government that is arrogant in its approach and dismissive of any opposition. That speaks badly to our democratic process as a whole.

We have seen unbelievable opposition to Bill C-38. We heard the governement House leader say earlier that this is the longest debate we have ever had. Seven days at second reading on a bill that would have so much impact on almost every aspect of anyone's life in Canada, amending more than 70 pieces of legislation, is the equivalent to having one day of debate for 10 different pieces of legislation. I do not think anybody could characterize that as any kind of adequate or substantive debate.

We are not only opposed to the motion and all of the processes that are unfolding in such a high-handed way by the Conservative government; we are also dealing with the substance. We are also opposed to the process of ramming through all of these bills because the substance of what is contained in the legislation is critical. It is important that people understand what all of these changes are about. We have been pressing that day after day in question period and in committee, where our team did an incredible job of bringing forward amendments.

The list of changes and their impacts is just unbelievable. We have heard about changes to food safety inspection and EI. The government is basically rewriting the way EI will operate. What is worse is that it will be under the complete control of the minister.

We are debating changes in Bill C-38 that would give the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development huge powers to make regulations and unilateral changes to the employment insurance system. This is particularly offensive because, as we know, the employment insurance system is based on contributions from workers and employers. It is a system that people rely on when they need it. Yet the wholesale changes that we know are coming, with respect to what is considered suitable employment, how far one has to travel, the wages that are involved, are all substantive changes. The ability to examine even that one piece in Bill C-38 has been minimal.

We also heard earlier today from the member for Halifax, who raised a question in question period, as she has done for many days both here and in committee, about the changes to environmental assessments. Today in question period she noted that Bill C-38 would, with one clause, change the whole environmental assessment procedure in Canada. The bill would basically bring in a whole new system. In normal terms over the history of Parliament, these are changes that would have intense scrutiny, each and every one of them.

Scrapping the director general of CSIS, what is all that about? Why is that being allowed to happen? What about the gutting of the Fisheries Act?

What about weakening foreign ownership rules on telecommunications? People who work in this industry, not the big corporations, are hugely concerned that buried in Bill C-38 are significant changes to foreign ownership rules that would make it much easier for corporations from abroad to come into Canada and take greater control over our telecommunications industry. That is something that requires substantive examination, but it is buried in the bill.

We have the cuts to health services for refugees. This one only came out more recently and now there is a huge outcry across the country about what the impact would be for refugees. We hear the talking points from the government members saying that refugees will not get anything more than anybody else. However, the loss of some of these medical services would have a significant impact upon people's lives.

However, do we get time to examine this? I do not think so because again this is something that is being rammed through.

The governement House leader mentioned some of the other legislation that his government wants to move through if the motion to extend the hours passes, which, of course, it has the votes to do. It is very possible that, with some of these bills with which other parties in Parliament agree with, there may be some agreement to have a good debate and to see the passage of those bills. That is something that we have done for many years where there is co-operation, where there is some dialogue, conversation, that we can actually come to an agreement. It seems to me that is the way we should be conducting our business. We should be allowing the House leaders to meet to figure out, where there is some agreement, which bills can go through, because there may well be agreement that there has been adequate discussion and that would be a timely and proper thing to do.

However, I think it is wrong to lay down a whole list of probably 15 or more bills and say that in the next two weeks we will sit until midnight, that we will ram all these bills through no matter what anybody thinks and no matter the length of debate. I know the Conservatives will use the argument that we can debate it all we want but I think the central point that we need to make about this motion is that it is not intended to allow substantive debate on these bills, whether there are 6 or 10 or 15. The purpose is to allow the government to , ram them through. I will bet my bottom dollar that it will now accompany this extension of hours, if it gets it, with time allocation.

I again come back to my first point, which is that on the one hand, the government is both restricting debate on Bill C-38 and other bills and it is also creating time for further debate so that it can also restrict debate to get the bills through. This is what we have come to. I have been in this Parliament now 15 years, through six elections. I have seen minority Parliaments and majority governments. I have seen how this operates. I know that if there is that process of some dialogue, goodwill, respect and trust, having been a House leader for eight years as well, we can arrive at a consideration and an agreement about the House agenda. We have the capacity to do that.

However, when the government y is so disrespectful of both the process and the substance and has an agenda that it just wants to ram through in the closing weeks of Parliament, all I can say is that we need to do our job and our job is to hold the government to account. Our job is to ensure that there is substantive and proper examination of all the bills before the House. We owe that to our constituents and to the public in general. I can tell from the emails that I am receiving and the stuff that is on Facebook that people are truly alarmed at the government's method of dealing, in particular, with Bill C-38.

People are only just beginning to understand the comprehensiveness and the far-reaching impact that the bill would have. This notion that it has had the longest debate ever is just nonsense. We need to look at what is in the bill. We need to know all of the legislation that it is trying to change. We need to know that none of that has been properly examined.

I do find that the government, in putting forward this motion today, is, regrettably, just a continuation of the arrogance it has displayed. It is a continuation of a disrespect of this place. It is a pattern of just wanting to get something through at any cost.

I feel very proud that the NDP, the official opposition, has spoken out very strongly. All of the amendments we have for Bill C-38, which will be voted on this week, are a reflection of the opposition that exists in this country. They are not just spurious amendments. These amendments are a reflection of what it is we are hearing from Canadians.

It is incredibly disappointing that the government is refusing to budge even an inch to look at splitting the bill or to look at ways to manage the bill so that there is proper debate. We have not seen the government willing to move anything on that front. That is a real indication, unfortunately, of where the Conservatives are at.

We will not be supporting the motion, not because we do not want to be here at night to debate. We are quite happy to do that. We are good at it. We would be happy to debate until midnight. However, we need to look at the intent of the motion and we know full well that the intent of the motion to extend the hours is so the government can bring in further time allocation to ram through Bill C-38, plus a dozen or more other pieces of legislation.

That is offensive. It is disrespectful of this Parliament. It is something that we do not think can be unchallenged, and it is for that reason that we oppose the motion.

I would like to move an amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by replacing the words “Friday, June 22” with the following: “Thursday, June 21”.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The amendment is in order.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, over the weekend, I was in Winnipeg. I have found that as more and more Canadians become aware of what Bill C-38 is all about there is a great deal of resistance. We are starting to see its quite significant presence on the Internet as more and more Canadians are starting to react to finding out what the government has done with regard to that specific bill.

I would ask my colleague from the New Democratic Party how she feels Canadians as a whole are reacting to Bill C-38 specifically.

My interpretation is that the more people find out about it the more upset they are. I think the government would do well to recognize how offensive the bill is to our democratic system and to Canadians as a whole. The government would be well advised to go back to the drawing board, in essence, on this bill and to bring in a normal budget implementation bill that would take away a lot of the amendments proposing to significantly change legislation, such as our environment act.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is just no two ways about it. The more people find out about Bill C-38, the omnibus budget bill, the more they hate it and the more the government is intent on getting it through the House and out of the way. This is what this is about.

I attended a public forum with some of my colleagues in Regina a couple of weeks ago and that was when information about the bill was just beginning to come out in a way that people were asking what was going on in Ottawa and what was all the stuff in the bill. When we started listing for them all the different pieces of legislation and the issues they would impact, whether it was pensions, the environment, health care or first nations, people's jaws were dropping.

There is a critical mass of people across the country, whether in organized groups or individuals, who are aghast at the methodology that the government is using, which, of course, is why the government now wants extended hours. It wants to finish things off and get the bills through, something that we oppose.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I find it somewhat curious and almost passing strange that the deputy leader of the official opposition would bring forward an amendment calling for debate to be curtailed by a full day. I say that because, in almost every other parliamentary session I have been in, along with the member opposite, the NDP has consistently tried to promote a narrative that it is here to do the work on behalf of all Canadians and will work here until the very last moment. Now it seems to be saying that it wants to get out early.

I would also point out for my colleague and friend that, as she well knows having been a former House leader herself, in years past this has been a practice among the House leaders. The House leaders would determine if there were pieces of legislation that the government had that the opposition might find its way to support and, if such an arrangement could be made, then perhaps there could be an accommodation to allow Parliament to rise a few hours or a day early.

I find it curious that, with this amendment, the NDP is trying to force Parliament to curtail debate. I wonder if the member would comment on that. Why has the NDP suddenly changed its mind about debating until the bitter end and now, seemingly, wants to get out of this place at least a day early?

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my remarks earlier, I mentioned that it was very important that there be good faith discussions and agreement among the House leaders. One hopes that is what happens so that we would not be in a position of having this motion. However, that has to begin somewhere and it is with the government, which has the majority, showing that it is willing to work in good faith with other parties. However, that has now become very difficult.

In terms of the amendment, I would point out that it is the government's motion that we are responding to and the government's motion does not include Friday, June 15. We are not saying that we will not be here until the end of the session. Of course we are. This is about the extended hours. The government itself has said that it does not include June 15 and we put forward an amendment on that basis.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the government House leader claims that the government is suddenly providing additional hours for debate and proper study of the bill, at least in the case of Bill C-38, his mouth should feel as though it is full of ashes to say something like that. We have seen the torching of environmental legislation by it being rammed through at second reading and the committee process that followed.

I heard the hon. member on the Conservative benches say that this bill has received more study than ever. I worked on the passage of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that, by Bill C-38, would be repealed. It was taken through the Privy Council Office in 1987 for permission to draft. It was finally tabled before the House and passed but did not get royal assent until 1994. In my experience, it takes years to bring forward good environmental legislation and it takes weeks to bring out a wrecking ball.

I do not see how, at this point, being told that sitting until midnight for the two days left at report stage provides any real content to the debate.

Does my hon. friend from Vancouver East get any sense that the Conservatives are willing to negotiate to bring Bill C-38 to a conclusion that includes taking on amendments?

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her comments and for giving us some idea of how long it took to deal with the original Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in 1987 and what a substantive process that was.

The member is entirely correct that what are seeing here, basically with the stroke of a pen or a majority vote, is that these things are just gone. They are just cut out. I think that is what makes us so concerned and why we challenge so much of what is going on.

I would say that I am not privy to all of the discussions, but nothing that I have seen or that any of us has seen has given us any indication that the Conservative government has been willing to step back a little, reflect on what the bill will do or hear what Canadians have been saying.

In fact, it is really disturbing that the government has not consulted anybody, whether on EI changes or environmental changes. It has not consulted the people who are going to be impacted. It is just ramming it through, and that is completely wrong.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments. As she mentioned, she has been an MP for 15 years. She has seen more than one government do things that are harmful to Canadians.

What is interesting is the argument about the number of hours of debate and the number of witnesses that have been heard in committee. It is somewhat difficult to make a comparison because there is nothing comparable. In fact, this is the first time that we have seen a bill of this scope, that would make so many changes to such unrelated aspects of society. As the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands said, it would require months and years of work to implement this bill and to put in place the institutions that are such a part of our identity and of the work we want to do.

What we all need to remember here is that it is not because we are not willing to work. However, we are wondering why the government is extending the hours of the House to ram through this bill, when we could be out there listening to the comments that are still being made about how this bill is bad for society.

I would just like to allow my colleague to speak a bit more about this in order to show the extent to which the NDP, unlike the government, has consulted the people who will be affected by the changes.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is entirely correct. The NDP went to extraordinary lengths to hold budget hearings, both here in Ottawa and right across the country.

When we realized that the government was intent on just pushing this measure through at any cost, we decided that we had to get out there and hear from people, and we did just that. We got a huge response from people, and I think it has helped to generate people's awareness about this bill and given visibility to what is in the bill.

I agree with the member that this is not an issue of whether we come here at 10 or 11 o'clock at night. We have shown on so many different occasions, whether on back-to-work legislation or in any debate we have had, that we are totally engaged in doing our work in this place. We take it very seriously.

What we are responding to with this motion is the intent behind it. I think it is just an illusion that somehow we are going to have more debate on this particular bill and other pieces of legislation.

This is all about creating space to then allow for more time allocation. Let us make no mistake about that. We absolutely know what the number is and we know what is going on here. I want to say very clearly that what we are calling for is substantive debate, not only of Bill C-38 but also of the other pieces of legislation that may come forward, so that we can have a thorough oversight and investigation into all of these elements, particularly in Bill C-38.

This is the most important thing that we should be doing, and the government has absolutely refused to respond to it.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I stand to speak to this motion, a motion by which I am not totally surprised. One could have anticipated it, given the record of the government and its inability to negotiate in good faith.

Let me start by saying that I do not have a great deal of legislative experience here in the House of Commons, but I do bring with me quite a bit of experience from the Manitoba legislature. I like to think that a lot of the principles are the same. There are different issues and so forth, but I have a fairly good understanding of the principles of how a chamber works and how House leaders should be working with each other to try to get through legislative agendas. I have been doing it for 20 years now.

I would like to focus my first few minutes on the fact that we need to look at why we are in the situation we find ourselves in today. The government, more than any other government, has set a record on time allocation. It brings in time allocation in order to pass its legislative agenda. It is almost becoming standard process, as opposed to sitting down with opposition parties.

The Conservatives present their legislation to the House. They pick a bill, wait a day and then bring in time allocation in expectation that it will pass. They do not have to consult. I think that is some sort of pent-up anger from the minority days or something of that nature, and we are seeing a very irresponsible, anti-democratic Reform Conservative majority government that has been destructive to process inside the House of Commons.

I have worked with majority government in the past, when there were NDP House leaders and Progressive Conservative House leaders. On all occasions, I have had the opportunity to sit in the House leader's office or in a committee room, and the government members will say, “Here is what we are looking at as a legislative agenda. Here are the important bills that we want to get passed over the next number of months”. Opposition members will then say, “We want to have x number of hours of debate on this particular bill because it is controversial legislation and we feel it needs to be debated. It has a higher priority for debate.”

The point is that there is a sense of cooperation to make sure that what is taking place on the floor of the legislative assembly, or in this case the House of Commons, is being debated fairly.

That is not to say I have never witnessed closure of some form or another inside the Manitoba legislature. That happened, and whether it was the NDP or Progressive Conservatives, it happened. It is a tool that is there, and I believe political parties of all stripes have at times had to go into that tool box.

However, more often than not I have witnessed agreements to go into extended sitting hours, and that is what this motion is all about. House leaders say they need more time to get something passed, but what has amazed me in my year and a half in the House is the lack of goodwill, the lack of trust coming from the government side in terms of trying to get things through the House of Commons in a fair and appropriate fashion.

I can recall the Canadian Wheat Board legislation that was put through in this session. This huge piece of legislation impacted 30,000 or 40,000 prairie farmers. We have a law in place that says that the Prime Minister has a responsibility to ensure a plebiscite for the farmers. The plebiscite is still in the court process, but the government brought in legislation that it expects MPs to pass without the farmers even having the plebiscite, a right that the law in essence guaranteed them. It guaranteed that they should have a vote because of the changes to the wheat board.

We in the Liberal Party opposed what the government was doing. We opposed the fashion with which it was bringing in legislation. What did the government do? As it has done 20 other times, which is a record, the government brought in time allocation. It has brought in time allocation 25 times, I believe.

What does time allocation do? In essence, it prevents debate and allows the government to rush through legislation. By doing that, the government is doing a disservice to Canadians and it is not respecting the House.

I do not know what the tradition has been—three, four, five times a year?—but I do know that no other government has brought in time allocation 25 times in one year. That has to be record. It could be a Commonwealth record, as far as I know. That is what is wrong with the Conservative government.

I am not fearful of sitting until midnight. I have sat around the clock before. I have sat in committees before.

The government House leader says we have had eight or ten hours of debate. This is a budget bill, and we are spending over $250 billion. The Manitoba legislature had 240 hours of line-by-line debate on estimates to spend $6 billion. That was only on a $6 billion budget at that time. Those 240 hours have been reduced somewhat, and the amount of money that the province of Manitoba spends has changed , but everything has to be put into its proper perspective.

Bill C-38 has been termed the “Trojan Horse” as a budget bill because 70 laws would be changed, amended or deleted, and all through the back door. Is there any wonder that all these little red flags are shooting up all over the place the more Canadians find out about it? Canadians realize that what is happening here is wrong.

It goes beyond the NDP and the Liberals. I saw the YouTube clip in which a Conservative backbencher was sharing with an intimate group of constituents that a number of Conservatives have some trouble with the legislation but that they do not have any choice. I would suggest that there is a choice, and that choice needs to be looked at.

This is unprecedented. The size of the legislation and its profound environmental impact are significant.

The motion we are dealing with does not deal just with Bill C-38. It deals with a wide variety of pieces of legislation. There is no secret here. We know the government's intentions. It is going to bring in more time allocation, because the government House leader has not been able to negotiate. He has not been able to sit down and work things through.

The budget bill would have a profound impact on the environment. Why did the government choose to put something like that in a budget bill?

I do not know how many of my Atlantic colleagues have raised the EI changes in question period to try to get the government to wake up on the employment insurance issue. This is costing industry in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and all over Canada. We have industries that are being put in jeopardy because of what is being sneaked through the back door with this legislation. There would be reforms to EI and pensions.

I have never had as much interest for signing petitions as I have had on the pension issue. Whether here or in my previous life as an MLA, I have submitted a few petitions over the years, but never with as much interest as on the pension issue. Canadians feel very passionate about our social programs. Increasing the retirement age from 65 to 67 is just a dumb idea and Canadians do not support it.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Yes they do.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

A member from across the way says that they do. He better canvass his constituents because it will become an election issue. The Liberal Party will take that issue to the polls.

At the end of the day, the residents of Winnipeg North, and I do not think they are too far off from those in the rest of Canada, are very upset and concerned about the pension issue. They want to have that option to retire at age 65. They believe in that program.

Let us take a look at the micro-scales on the impact of the budget bill.

We have immigration offices that are being closed down, hundreds of CIC workers are being taken out and individuals who are in need of these services are impacted.

We can talk about search and rescue and the impact the budget bill will have on it, with offices being relocated or closed down. There are many different issues.

Earlier today I received some correspondence regarding the Riel House in the city of Winnipeg. Louis Riel was one of the founders of Confederation as far as many Manitobans and Francophone are concerned, but that house is now in jeopardy.

There are so many issues that are related to Bill C-38. We have to look at all the other issues. The government House leader said, the Conservatives had other legislation that they wanted to get passed, and he then started to list off more legislation. We welcome the opportunity to debate and have proposed legislation go to committee.

We are interested in those important issues on which Canadians want parliamentarians to work. It was the Liberal Party that first raised the issue in last fall's session that the number one priority for Canadians was jobs, jobs, jobs. Unemployed people are concerned about being able to provide for their family and themselves. We have recognized the importance of the economy.

We are prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that we move forward in a positive way and that we let the government know what the concerns are. Last fall, I spent a lot of time talking about jobs. However, in the last few weeks it seems I have been talking more and more about process because I am concerned about what is happening inside the House. Many may see process as being somewhat of a dull issue, but it is far from that.

This is about democracy. This is about the rights of members of Parliament to really engage in discussion that is necessary, whether it is on the floor of the House of Commons or after a bill passes and goes to committee. We have to ensure that those rights are protected. There is an expectation, and I do not know about other members, I would assume so, that when we knock on doors and tell our constituents we are prepared to go to Ottawa to ensure their concerns are addressed, that we do so. I have always added that I want to bring Ottawa to Winnipeg.

The point is to ensure that the concerns of our constituents are addressed. That is why in this very short of period of time, when we talk about the extension of hours, I raise the issue of the budget and the seniors issue. I can talk about how this budget will impact health care. It has always been a very important issue, not only for residents of Winnipeg North but, I believe, all Canadians. A big issue has always been crime and safety in our streets, something that I have argued may even likely be the number one issue for Winnipeg North in the minds of a good percentage of my constituents, and for just reason. This is one of the reasons why I talk about that a great deal, and will continue to do so.

However, the motion that we ultimately will be asked to vote on is if the House should extend its sitting until midnight for the next period of time. I would feel so much better if the government House leader and the government's House leadership team would work with the opposition House leaders and their teams to see if in fact we could come up with some sort of compromise so Canadians would be served first and foremost.

It is interesting. The government House leader concluded his opening remarks on the motion by saying that we should put Canadians first. This would be a challenge that I would put to him, to put Canadians first.

I was provided with a quote that the government House leader actually made back in July 2005. It states:

A major reason I became politically active was because many in my family...lost their lives, or freedom at the hands of the Soviets or Nazis. I believe our democracy is fragile, and something we must cherish and defend.

This was something he apparently had on a website on July 5, 2005. He was talking about what was a sad day in the House of Commons.

I, like the government House leader, like to think I am a defender of our democratic system and our institutions. I believe it is important that as a House we work together to try to address the important issues of all Canadians.

The House leaders of all political parties inside this chamber play a very important role. If the House leaders do their job, then we are able to have an orderly ending to a session. There will be bills that will be opposed and the opposition will want to voice those concerns. We should not try to tie their hands. We have to allow, for those controversial bills, the opportunity for the opposition members to express themselves. That means not bringing in time allocation as often as the current government has. It means to allow the committees to do the work they need to do so these issues are addressed in a timely fashion.

I look forward in the future to the government House leader working with opposition House leaders in an attempt to have more orderly windup sessions.