House of Commons Hansard #252 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.


Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for interrupting my colleague just at the beginning of his speech on the justification for the motion that he has just presented to the House, but we have a point of order that we need to raise because I think it establishes a couple of important things for you, as Speaker, to determine before we get into the context and the particulars of this motion.

Specifically, I will be citing Standing Order 13, which says:

Whenever the Speaker is of the opinion that a motion offered to the House is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament, the Speaker shall apprise the House thereof immediately, before putting the question thereon, and quote the Standing Order or authority applicable to the case.

This is the standing order that we cite, because we have looked at the motion the government has presented here today with some notice given last week.

This motion goes against the Standing Orders and certainly the spirit of Parliament. The government is not allowed to break the rules of Parliament that protect the rights of the minority, the opposition and all members of the House of Commons who have to do their jobs for the people they represent. This motion is very clearly contrary to the existing Standing Orders.

I have some good examples to illustrate this. In my opinion, there is no urgency that would justify the government's heavy-handed tactics to prevent members from holding a reasonable debate on its agenda. I say “agenda”, but for a long time now it has been difficult to pin down what this government's agenda is exactly. This is nothing new.

The motion comes to us today at a difficult time, but just because the government held a brief caucus meeting and is facing numerous problems and a few scandals, it is not justified in violating the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. No one would accept those excuses. There is no historical basis for the government to use the Standing Orders in this way. That does not work.

There are a few important things we need to point out. One is that it behooves us to have some explanation of what this motion actually does. For those of us who do not intimately follow the rules and history of Parliament, it can be quite confusing not in terms of the intention of what the government has read but certainly in the implications. It needs some translation, not French to English or English to French, but translation as to what it actually means for the House of Commons. That is why we believe a point of order exists for this motion.

The motion essentially would immediately begin something that would ordinarily begin in a couple of weeks, which is for the House to sit until midnight to review legislation. This is somewhat ironic from a government that has a bad history with respect to moving legislation correctly through the process and allowing us to do our work, which is what we are here to do on behalf of Canadians.

I am not alone in seeing that the government has shown the intention of having some urgency with respect to 23 bills, 14 of which have not even been introduced since the last election. Suddenly there is great urgency, when in fact it is the government that has set the agenda. The urgency is so great that it has to fundamentally change the rules of how we conduct ourselves in this place in response to an urgency that did not exist until this moment.

One has to question the need. Why the panic? Why now, and why over these pieces of legislation? Are they crucial to Canada's economic well-being? Is it to restore the social safety net that the government has brutalized over the last number of years? What is the panic and what is the urgency?

Context sets everything in politics, and the context that the government exists under right now is quite telling. Every time I have had to stand in this place raising points of order and countering the closure and time allocation motions that the government uses, I am often stating and citing that this is a new low standard for Parliament. I have thought at times that there was not much more it could do to this place to further erode the confidence of Canadians or further erode the opportunity for members of Parliament to speak, yet it has again invented something new, and here we are today debating that motion.

That is why we believe that Standing Order 13 needs to be called. It is because it is very clear that when a motion is moved that is contrary to the rules and privileges of Parliament—which is what I would underline, as it is the important part—the Speaker must involve himself or herself in the debate and ask that the debate no longer proceed.

The privileges of members of Parliament are not the privileges that are being talked about by our friends down the hall to falsely claim money that did not exist or privileges of limo rides and trips around the world. The privileges of Parliament that speak constitutionally to the need for Parliament are that members of Parliament have the opportunity to scrutinized and debate government bills.

Just before the riding week, we saw the government introduce another time allocation on a bill that had received exactly 60 minutes of debate. Somehow the Conservatives felt that had exhausted the conversation on a bill they had sat on for years, and suddenly the panic was on. We are seeing this pattern again and again with a government that is facing more scandal.

I was looking through the news today. Every morning I start my day with the news and we consider what we should ask the government in question period. There are some days when the focus can be difficult and one may not be sure what the most important issue of the day is. However, the challenge for us today as the official opposition is that, as there are so many scandals on so many fronts, how do we address them all within the short time we have during question period or in debate on bills.

I listened to my friend for Langley, who has been somewhat in the news of late on his attempt to speak on issues he felt were important to his constituents. We saw him move a new private member's bill today. He withdrew the former bill, and now he is moving one again. The New Democrats will support the bill going to committee for study because we think there are some options and availability for us to look at the legislation and do our job.

Whether it is muzzling of their own MPs and the Conservatives' attempt to muzzle all MPs in the House of Commons, or using private members' bills to avoid the scrutiny that is applied to government legislation, and one important piece of that scrutiny is the charter defence of the legislation and so, in a sense, the Conservatives are using the back door to get government legislation through and move their agenda in another way, or the omnibus legislation, which has received so much controversy in Canada as the government has increasingly abused the use of omnibus legislation, or the F-35 fiasco, or the recent Auditor General's report, or the former parliamentary budget officer who was under much abuse and the new Parliamentary Budget Officer who has asked for the same things he did, or infamously, prorogation, time and time again the pattern is the same. The government has complete disdain for the House.

Whether it be the scandals in the Senate, or the China FIPA accord, or the recent problems with the Prime Minister's former chief of staff, or the employment insurance scandals, or the $3 billion missing, or the 300,000 jobs that have not been replaced, the government keeps trying to avoid proper scrutiny out of embarrassment. However, the House of Commons exists for one thing and one thing alone, which is to hold the government to account.

The government will make some claims that the urgency right now is because there has not been enough progress on legislation. Therefore, the Conservatives have to hit the panic button and would have the House sit until midnight, which has consequences beyond just being a late night, and I will get into those consequences in a moment because they support our notion that it infringes upon the entitlements of members of Parliament to debate legislation properly.

The Conservatives' record shows, and this is not speculation or conspiracy, that when they ram legislation through, they more often than not get it wrong. That is not just expensive for the process of law making, but it is expensive for Canadians. These things often end up in court costing millions and millions of dollars and with victims of their own making. The scandal that exists in the Senate is absolutely one of their own making. The Prime Minister can point the finger where he likes, but he appointed those senators.

Specific to the point of order I am raising, this motion would lower the amount of scrutiny paid to legislation. It would allow the government extended sittings, which are coming in the second week of June anyway, as the Standing Orders currently exist, to allow the government to do that, but the Conservatives want to move the clock up and have more legislation rammed through the House.

Also, as you would know, Mr. Speaker, the order of our day includes concurrence reports from committee, which allow the House to debate something that happened in committee which can sometimes be very critical, and many are moved from all sides. However, they would not get started until midnight under the Conservatives' new rules. Therefore, we would study and give scrutiny on what happened at committee from midnight until two or three o'clock in the morning.

As well, emergency debates would not start until midnight. Just recently we had a debate, Mr. Speaker, that your office agreed to allow happen, which was quite important to those implicated. We were talking about peace and war and Canada's role in the world. It was a critical emergency debate that certainly went into the night. However, the idea is that we would take emergency debates that the Speaker's office and members of Parliament felt were important and start them at midnight and somehow they would be of the same quality as those started at seven o'clock in the evening.

The scrutiny of legislation has become much less important than the government moving its agenda through, which is an infringement on our privilege as members of Parliament. The Conservative's so-called urgency, their panic, is not a justification for overriding the privileges that members of Parliament hold dear.

As for progress, just recently we moved the nuclear terrorism bill through, Bill S-9.

We also had much debate but an improvement on Bill C-15, the military justice bill, to better serve our men and women in the Forces. The original drafting was bad. The Conservatives wanted to force it forward and we resisted. My friend from St. John's worked hard and got an amendment through that would help those in the military who found themselves in front of a tribunal.

We have the divorce in civil marriages act, which has been sitting and sitting. It would allow people in same-sex marriages to file for and seek divorce. All we have offered to the government is one vote and one speaker each. The government refuses to bring the bill forward and I suspect it is because it would require a vote. It is a shame when a government resists the idea that a vote would be a good thing for members of Parliament to declare their intentions on, certainly something as important as civil liberties and rights for gay men and women.

I mentioned earlier why, in the infringement of this privilege, it causes great harm and distress not just to Parliament but to the country.

I asked my team to pull up the list of bills that were so badly written that they had to be either withdrawn or completely rewritten at committee and even in the Senate which, God knows, is a terrible strategy for any legislation.

There was the infamous or famous Bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill, which the Minister of Public Safety said something to the effect that either people were with the government or they were with child pornographers, which may be an example of the worst framing in Canadian political history. There has probably been worse, but that was pretty bad. The Conservatives had to kill the bill.

We have also seen Bill C-10, Bill C-31, Bill C-38 and Bill C-42, all of these bills were so badly written that oftentimes the government had to amend them after having voted for them. After saying they were perfect and ramming them through, invoking closure and shutting down debate, the Conservatives got to committee and heard from people who actually understood the issue and realized the law they had written would be illegal and would not work or fix the problem that was identified, and so they had to rewrite it. That is the point of Parliament. That is the point of the work we do.

We have also seen bills that have been challenged at great expense before the courts. Former Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act, with huge sections of the government's main anti-crime agenda, was challenged and defeated in court.

Bill C-38, arbitrarily eliminating backlog for skilled workers, was challenged and defeated.

Bill C-7, Senate term limits, was after years just now deferred to the Supreme Court. It is called “kicking it down the road”.

Also, there are Bill C-6, Bill C-33 and others, and there are those that are being crafted and debated right now that are going to have serious problems.

The essential thrust of our intention is in identifying the rules that govern us, and specifically Standing Order 13. The government has time and again talked about accountability before the Canadian people and talked about doing things better than its predecessors in the Liberal Party, the government that became so arrogant and so unaccountable to Canadians that the Conservatives threw it out of office. History repeats itself if one does not learn true lessons from history.

As I mentioned, Standing Order 27(1) already exists, and it allows the government to do exactly what we are talking about, but not starting until the last 10 sitting days. The Conservatives have said that there is so much on their so-called agenda that they have to do this early, allowing for less scrutiny, allowing for emergency debates to start at midnight, allowing for concurrence debates that come from committees to start at midnight and go until two, three or four o'clock in the morning.

This is contrary to the work of parliamentarians. If the Conservatives are in such a rush, why do they not negotiate? Why do they not actually come to the table and do what parliamentarians have done throughout time, which is offer the to and fro of any proper negotiation between reasonable people?

We have moved legislation forward. My friend across the way was moving an important motion commemorating war heroes. We worked with that member and other members to ensure the bill, which came from the Senate, made it through speedy passage.

Parliament can work if the Conservatives let it work, but it cannot work if they keep abusing it. Canadians continue to lose faith and trust in the vigour of our work and the ability to hold government to account. We see it time and again, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you have as well, in talking to constituents who say that they are not sure what goes on here anymore, that it just seems like government will not answer questions, that everyday they ask sincere and thoughtful questions and the Conservatives do not answer. Bills get shut down with motions of closure.

Let us look at the current government's record.

Thirty-three times, the Conservatives have moved allocation on legislation, an all-time high for any government in Canadian history. Through war and peace, through good and bad, no government has shut down debate in Parliaments more than the current one.

Ninety-nine point three per cent of all amendments moved by the opposition have been rejected by the government. Let us take a look at that stat for a moment. That suggests that virtually 100% of the time, the government has been perfectly right on the legislation it moves. All the testimony from witnesses and experts, comments from average Canadians, when moving amendments to the legislation before us, 99.3% of the time the government rejects it out of hand. It ends up in court. It ends up not doing what it was meant to do.

Ten Conservative MPs have never spoken to legislation at all. I will note one in particular. The Minister of Finance, who has not bothered to speak to his own bills, including the omnibus legislation, Bill C-38 and Bill C-45, which caused so much controversy. He did not bother to stand and justify his actions. I find it deplorable and it is not just me, Canadians as well, increasingly so.

This is my final argument. We cannot allow this abuse to continue. This pattern has consequences, not just for what happens here today or tomorrow, but in the days, weeks, months and years to come and the Parliaments to come. If we keep allowing for and not standing up in opposition to bad ideas and draconian measures, we in a sense condone them.

We say that Parliament should become less irrelevant. We think that is wrong. We think what the government is doing is fundamentally wrong. It is not right and left; it is right and wrong. When the government is wrong in its treatment and abuse of Canada's Parliament, that affects all Canadians, whatever their political persuasion. We built this place out of bricks and mortar to do one thing: to allow the voice of Canadians to be represented, to speak on behalf of those who did not have a voice and to hold the government of the day to account. Lord knows the government needs that more than anything. It needs a little adult supervision from time to time to take some of those suggestions and put a little, as we say, water in its wine.

It has the majority. This is the irony of what the government is doing. In moving more time allocation than any government in history and shutting down debate more than any government in history and using what it is today, it speaks to weakness not strength. The Conservatives have the numbers to move legislation through if they saw fit, but they do not. They move legislation, they say it is an agenda and they hold up a raft of bills.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I remind the hon. member that the question before the House right now and the arguments that the member has put forward are in respect to the point of order respecting, essentially, section 13 of the Standing Orders.

While members have much liberty to present these arguments in respect of the point of order, there is also a question before the House that members will no doubt have the opportunity to speak to. Therefore, I wonder if the member could perhaps wrap up his arguments specifically relating to his point of order, then perhaps we could get on to debate some of these other questions as the debate may continue.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, your role as Speaker and all the Speakers that hold your office is, as has been stated many times in our references and standing orders, to protect the role of members of Parliament and certainly to protect the minority that is in this place to allow for some fairness, to prevent cheating and bending the rules to the point of breaking.

My point is that the government has so many times abused this place and its fundamental democratic values, which are to engage in debate for the betterment of the country and to hold the government's legislation and spending to account. We have seen the Conservatives too often defer to that weak place of hiding, of using closure, of shutting down the conversation rather than opening it up to Canadians.

It will be the role of the official opposition, and I contend it is the role of the Speaker's office as well, to ensure, regardless of any political agenda or political scandals going on or any panic happening within the government's chamber, that this place, in which we seek to represent Canadians each and every day, must remain a place that is above that. It should hold the government to account each and every day with the authenticity and sincerity that are Canadians values. We, as New Democrats, will do that each and every day, regardless of the bully tactics that they use.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was surprised by this point of order, but I suppose I should not have been surprised that the NDP would pull out all the stops to try to avoid having to work hard in this House of Commons, to try to use every device it can think of and every procedure and every tactic it can think of to avoid having to work a little bit of overtime and stay here until midnight.

I suppose if we were unionized around here, maybe we would not have to work extra hard or we would demand overtime for it. I suppose that is the attitude of the NDP, as it consistently represents those kinds of views around here.

In terms of a point of order, what I heard was very thin and very lacking. First of all, on the substance of it, the entire complaint seemed to be an argument that there is insufficient debate and scrutiny of bills around here, and yet the argument is “let us not have more debate; let us have not as much opportunity for scrutiny; let us not work quite as hard up here; let us do a little bit less”. I fail to see how that is somehow a point of order.

In fact what we are trying to do is exactly the opposite, to ensure we have adequate debate, to ensure we have an opportunity to consider bills, and to ensure we do the work Canadians sent us here to do.

On the actual merits of the point of order—and I noticed there was nothing there—let us go through what the rules actually say. The green book, O'Brien and Bosc, is quite clear. It says, at page 257:

Besides the permanent Standing Orders, the House may adopt other types of written rules for limited periods of time.

That is what we are doing here. The House can do that. The House can do that on a government motion. The House can do that by a majority vote. That is fully within the rules of this place. That is how it has been practised for many years, decades—centuries one would say—in the Westminster parliamentary system. We are masters of our rules. We make them. That is what the green book says. That is the practice and procedure of this House.

That is what government motion no. 17 says. There is absolutely nothing that I heard from my friend opposite to the contrary.

Further, at page 258, it says:

In addition to the Standing Orders and provisional and sessional orders which form the collected body of written rules, the House may also adopt special orders.

That is what we are doing right now under this motion. It goes on to say:

A frequently used instrument for the conduct of House business, special orders temporarily suspend the “written” Standing Orders.

It goes on to say:

They may apply to a single occasion or to such period of time as may be specified.

This is the normal practice of the House, something that is done quite often. It is codified to the extent of the last 10 days in the Standing Orders right now, but none of that takes away the ability of this House to set its own rules by a majority vote anytime on a motion.

That is exactly what we are seeking to do here under the rules for presenting motions in this House, and that is what government order no. 17 proposes to do.

Again, I heard absolutely nothing, not one scintilla of contrary argument or evidence. What I heard was a long speech on the NDP's messages of the day. I will get to that in a minute.

I would also go to another one of our authorities, Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms at page 5, very early on, under the heading “Written Rules”, it says:

Standing, Sessional and Special Orders are the rules and regulations which the House has agreed on for the governance of its own proceedings.

That includes special orders, special orders that are reflected in government motion no. 17, that are reflected in what O'Brien and Bosc refer to.

Further on, in paragraph 8 on that page, it says:

A Special Order may have effect for only a single occasion or such longer term as may be specified.

Again, that is what this motion seeks to do.

It has become the custom in modern times to apply the term Special Order to all rules which have only temporary effect.

Again, that is what we are seeking to do to the end of this parliamentary sitting when we rise before the summer.

It further goes on in Beauchesne's to say:

All rules are passed by the House by a simple majority and are altered, added to, or removed in the same way.

Again, this is what we are seeking to do, fully contemplated by the rules, 100%, and as I said, generations of experience, and yet you, Mr. Speaker, are being asked, for some reason, to toss out all that history and simply say “Nah, we do not want to work late.” That is what the NDP is asking.

Furthermore, in that paragraph, it goes on to say:

There is no procedural reason why any Member cannot introduce a motion to alter the rules...

In the next paragraph, paragraph 10, it says:

Sessional and Special Orders are normally moved by the Government...

Anybody can move it if they can gain favour with the House, but it is normally done by the government.

Clearly, what we are engaging in here is a point of order over whether something that has been accepted forever exists and is allowed and contemplated by the rules. I have gone through citation after citation of where they are specifically contemplated by the rules. Everything within government motion no. 17 complies fully with that.

What I found troubling about my friend's comments is that he did not have any citations to the contrary, rulings to the contrary or evidence to the contrary. In fact, he did not even have any arguments to the contrary other than arguments on the merits on the motion itself, which we are debating.

Basically, what he got up and did, under the guise of pretending it was a point of order, was make a speech on the motion itself and its merits. It is his place to do so—after the government finishes presenting its arguments for it. The rules contemplate that.

In fact, if there is a point of order to be raised or a privilege that has been offended, through this device, he has actually offended the privileges of other members of the House, the government and myself. I am the one who has a point to complain about. He has reversed the order, contemplated by our Standing Orders, in which a debate should proceed here.

Mr. Speaker, you picked up the exact same thing and alluded to it in your remarks. I would not be the least bit surprised if you were to say to him, after I have my finished my comments on the main motion itself, that he has already discharged his right of reply and has in fact done so in a fashion that has offended my privileges, has prevented me from presenting my arguments, and presented his arguments himself, first, on the merits of the motion. That is highly improper. I find this an unusual and ironic situation.

The fact remains that he raised not a single citation, historical example or reason in the rules why this motion is not in order. However, every single thing we see in historical practice, in the citations I quoted and in the footnotes that point to earlier examples is that the House has the full right to consider a motion of this type, governing its rules and processes. It is decided by a majority vote. There shall be a debate on it in this fashion if the House wishes to have such a debate and people wish to speak to it. It even outlines the fashion in which that will happen.

I am not personally hurt that he wanted to trump me and go first. I suppose it was a clever way of trying to do that and getting his message out. I am not offended that he did not speak to the merits of the motion, but rather wished to speak to the communications messaging of his party for the day. That is his right as well.

However, the fact is that, on a point of order, one has to look at the evidence and the rules that are in place, and decide it that way. It is quite clear that this motion is entirely in order and properly put. There really is very little to respond to out of his arguments to the contrary.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Does the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition have something additional to add to the debate on this point of order?

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is in response to something my colleague said.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

If it is new, the hon. House Leader of the Official Opposition has the floor.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member raised it, not I.

I realize that my friend perhaps has short-term or near-term memory loss. However, if you recall, Mr. Speaker, in the times that the House sat all night as the NDP opposed, through vote after vote, the government's draconian omnibus legislation or its anti-worker legislation with respect to Canada Post, hard work has never been a problem for New Democrats, and sitting long has never been a problem for New Democrats when the cause has been right.

My only point is this. He suggested, Mr. Speaker, and I put it through you to him, that he is into long hours and hard work. I may have heard a commitment from him in his comments that the government is expecting to use the full calendar, all the way through to the end of June.

As he will well know, New Democrats throughout Parliament's history have always pursued the calendar to its end, even as other parties have sought to get out of town and hit the barbecue circuit, if that is the commitment my hon. friend is making in reply to my point of order,

I would also suggest to him that perhaps it works that way on his side, but I did not actually check with my communications office or any central command today before I made my point of order. I checked with myself, and I checked with the record as to what the government has done. There is no trumping of his particular message. There is no message of the day on this. This is a message today, and this is a message tomorrow, and this is the message for weeks to come that when they are being anti-democratic and abusing Parliament, we will stand here and resist it.

If he would like to sit until the end of June and use his privilege, which he has demarcated today about midnight sittings, and that is the commitment he is making to Canadians—to work hard, as he said—we will take him at that commitment and we will see him at the end of June.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I thank the hon. government House leader and the hon. opposition House leader for their interventions in this matter. I will take those comments and arguments under advisement and get back to the House if necessary.

Resuming debate, the hon. government House leader.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will pick up where I left off. Obviously my hon. friend did not hear this and has not read the motion. I will respond to his macho riposte at the end of his comments by pointing out that the motion would do three things: first, it would provide for us to sit until midnight; second, it would provide a manageable way in which to hold votes in a fashion that works for members of the House; and third, it would provide for concurrence debates to happen and motions to be voted on in a fashion that would not disrupt the work of all the committees of the House and force them to come back here for votes and shut down the work of committees.

Those are the three things the motion would do. In all other respects the Standing Orders remain in place, including the Standing Orders for how long the House sits. Had my friend actually read the motion, he would recognize that the only way in which that Standing Order could then be changed would be by unanimous consent of the House.

The member needs no commitment from me as to how long we will sit. Any member of the House can determine that question, if he or she wishes to adjourn other than the rules contemplate, but the rules are quite clear in what they do contemplate.

As I was saying, the reason for the motion is that Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard and get things done on their behalf.

Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard and get things done on their behalf.

We agree and that is exactly what has happened here in the House of Commons.

However, do not take my word for it; look at the facts. In this Parliament the government has introduced 76 pieces of legislation. Of those 76, 44 of them are law in one form or another. That makes for a total of 58% of the bills introduced into Parliament. Another 15 of these bills have been passed by either the House or the Senate, bringing the total to 77% of the bills that have been passed by one of the two Houses of Parliament. That is the record of a hard-working, orderly and productive Parliament.

More than just passing bills, the work we are doing here is delivering real results for Canadians. However, there is still yet more work to be done before we return to our constituencies for the summer.

During this time our government's top priority has been jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. Through two years and three budgets, we have passed initiatives that have helped to create more than 900,000 net new jobs since the global economic recession. We have achieved this record while also ensuring that Canada's debt burden is the lowest in the G7. We are taking real action to make sure the budget will be balanced by 2015. We have also followed through on numerous longstanding commitments to keep our streets and communities safe, to improve democratic representation in the House of Commons, to provide marketing freedom for western Canadian grain farmers and to eliminate once and for all the wasteful and inefficient long gun registry.

Let me make clear what the motion would and would not do. There has been speculation recently, including from my friend opposite, about the government's objectives and motivations with respect to motion no. 17. As the joke goes: Mr. Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. So it is with today's motion. There is only one intention motivating the government in proposing the motion: to work hard and deliver real results for Canadians.

The motion would extend the hours the House sits from Monday through Thursday. Instead of finishing the day around 6:30 or 7 p.m., the House would sit instead until midnight.

This would amount to an additional 20 hours each week. Extended sitting hours is something that happens most years in June. Our government just wants to roll up our sleeves and work a little harder, earlier this year. The motion would allow certain votes to be deferred automatically until the end of question period, to allow for all honourable members' schedules to be a little more orderly.

As I said, all other rules would remain. For example, concurrence motions could be moved, debated and voted upon. Today's motion would simply allow committees to continue doing their work instead of returning to the House for motions to return to government business and the like. This process we are putting forward would ensure those committees could do their good work and be productive, while at the same time the House could proceed with its business. Concurrence motions could ultimately be dealt with, debated and voted upon.

We are interested in working hard and being productive and doing so in an orderly fashion, and that is the extent of what the motion would do. I hope that the opposition parties would be willing to support this reasonable plan and let it come forward to a vote. I am sure members opposite would not be interested in going back to their constituents to say they voted against working a little overtime before the House rises for the summer, but the first indication from my friend opposite is that perhaps he is reluctant to do that. Members on this side of the House are willing to work extra hours to deliver real results for Canadians.

Some of those accomplishments we intend to pass are: reforming the temporary foreign workers program to put the interests of Canadians first; implementing tax credits for Canadians who donate to charity; enhancing the tax credit for parents who adopt; and extending the tax credit for Canadians who take care of loved ones in their home.

We also want to support veterans and their families by improving the determination of veterans' benefits.

Of course, these are some of the important measures from this year's budget and are included in Bill C-60, economic action plan 2013 act, no. 1. We are also working toward results for aboriginals by moving closer to equality for Canadians living on reserves through better standards for drinking water and finally giving women on reserves the same rights and protections other Canadian women have had for decades. Bill S-2, family homes on reserves and matrimonial interests or rights act, and Bill S-8, the safe drinking water for first nations act would deliver on those very important objectives.

We will also work to keep our streets and communities safe by making real improvements to the witness protection program through Bill C-51, the safer witnesses act. I think that delivering these results for Canadians is worth working a few extra hours each week.

We will work to bring the Technical Tax Amendments Act, 2012, into law. Bill C-48 would provide certainty to the tax code. It has been over a decade since a bill like this has passed, so it is about time this bill passed. In fact, after question period today, I hope to start third reading of this bill, so perhaps we can get it passed today.

We will also work to bring Bill C-52, the fair rail freight service act, into law. The bill would support economic growth by ensuring that all shippers, including farmers, are treated fairly. Over the next few weeks we will also work, hopefully with the co-operation of the opposition parties, to make progress on other important initiatives.

Bill C-54 will ensure that public safety is the paramount consideration in the decision-making process involving high-risk accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. This is an issue that unfortunately has affected every region of this country. The very least we can do is let the bill come to a vote and send it to committee where witnesses can testify about the importance of these changes.

Bill C-49 would create the Canadian museum of history, a museum for Canadians that would tell our stories and present our country's treasures to the world.

Bill S-14, the Fighting Foreign Corruption Act, will do just that by further deterring and preventing Canadian companies from bribing foreign public officials. These amendments will help ensure that Canadian companies continue to act in good faith in the pursuit of freer markets and expanded global trade.

Bill S-13, the port state measures agreement implementation act, would implement that 2009 treaty by amending the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act to add prohibitions on importing illegally acquired fish.

Tonight we will be voting on Bill S-9, the Nuclear Terrorism Act, which will allow Canada to honour its commitments under international agreements to tackle nuclear terrorism. Another important treaty—the Convention on Cluster Munitions—can be given effect if we adopt Bill S-10, the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act.

We will seek to update and modernize Canada’s network of income tax treaties through Bill S-17, the Tax Conventions Implementation Act, 2013, by giving the force of law to recently signed agreements between Canada and Namibia, Serbia, Poland, Hong Kong, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

Among other economic bills is Bill C-56, the combating counterfeit products act. The bill would protect Canadians from becoming victims of trademark counterfeiting and goods made using inferior or dangerous materials that lead to injury or even death. Proceeds from the sale of counterfeit goods may be used to support organized crime groups. Clearly, this bill is another important one to enact.

Important agreements with the provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador would be satisfied through Bill S-15, the expansion and conservation of Canada’s national parks act, which would, among other things, create the Sable Island national park reserve, and Bill C-61, the offshore health and safety act, which would provide clear rules for occupational health and safety of offshore oil and gas installations.

Earlier I referred to the important work of committees. The Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations inspired Bill S-12, the incorporation by reference in regulations act. We should see that committee's ideas through by passing this bill. Of course, a quick reading of today's order paper would show that there are yet still more bills before the House of Commons for consideration and passage. All of these measures are important and will improve the lives of Canadians. Each merits consideration and hard work on our part.

In my weekly business statement prior to the constituency week, I extended an offer to the House leaders opposite to work with me to schedule and pass some of the other pieces of legislation currently before the House. I hope that they will respond to my request and put forward at our next weekly meeting productive suggestions for getting things done. Passing today's motion would be a major step toward accomplishing that. As I said in my opening comments, Canadians expect each one of us to come to Ottawa to work hard, vote on bills and get things done.

In closing, I commend this motion to the House and encourage all hon. members to vote for this motion, add a few hours to our day, continue the work of our productive, orderly and hard-working Parliament, and deliver real results for Canadians.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend in particular for the final offer he made. I hesitate to negotiate in public what we often try to spend our time at House leaders' meetings doing, as brief as that time sometimes is.

Opposition members have consistently gone to the government with bills that we were interested in supporting, even in an effort to, as my friend says, work hard for Canadians, limit the amount of debate. A bill I mentioned earlier talks about the allowance of civil marriages, so-called gay marriages, a law that was passed by Parliament and opposed by the member's party, allowing for the closure of a loophole in the law to permit those who are married to also seek divorce, which seems a reasonable thing to do.

All we have asked for, in the expediency of the passage of Bill C-32, is one vote, which takes about seven minutes, on average, in this place. We allowed the government to introduce a motion, if it saw fit, to allow one speaker per party. Doing the quick math on that, that would be about an hour and a half. We could see a bill that has been sitting for about 18 months, give or take, to pass completely in this place in an hour and a half, two hours at the outside if we did something slowly. The government has refused it every single time.

The government then claims it has great urgency in the world and that there are other bills to pass that opposition parties have offered to the government. We just passed a technical amendments bill recently and there is an instruments bill that we are looking to pass as well. There has been progress, but what we have seen time and again is an attitude in breaking the historical—and he cannot answer this one, by the way, Mr. Speaker. A majority government, within two years, used time allocation to shut down debate, something Conservatives used to rile against when Liberals did it. The Conservatives have used that same tactic more than any other government in any four or five-year mandate in Canadian history. The Conservatives did it in two and are now turning the bully into the victim and saying that they are somehow victimized by the will of the minority.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I would remind the hon. member we are in questions and comments.

The hon. government House leader.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the question of Bill C-32, as I said, we are willing to go even further. We have said in the House in public many times that we are prepared to pass that bill if it is supported by the opposition at all three stages by unanimous consent. It could happen by unanimous consent in the House. Apparently, that is not good enough for the opposition members. As a result, that bill has not yet been passed because they simply have not accepted that offer.

In terms of our overall legislative agenda, there is, as I indicated, a lot of work that needs to be done in the House that we are very pleased to do. One thing we have tried to do in the House is change the approach where time allocation is brought in as a form of shutting down debate, which used to be done in the past, to using it as a fashion to ensure a productive, hard-working approach. For example, on the second-last budget implementation bill, we provided for the longest debate ever in Canadian history on any budget implementation bill in that time allocation motion. This was to allow for full debate but also to allow for certainty that the measures would come into place.

That has been our approach throughout: to give the members the fullest opportunity to participate, to allow a full opportunity for debate, but also to do it in a businesslike fashion where people know that we are going to debate it for a period of time, for a number of days, five, six, seven, whatever the case may be, on a particular bill, and then allow a matter to be voted on. That is why time allocation, of course, has been moved usually at the start of our debates and not toward the end, not after days and days, but, rather, in order to have certainty of scheduling. This is has been the approach of our government, one that is aimed at working hard and delivering results, being productive, hard-working, orderly, and doing the job that Canadians sent us to do by giving people a chance in the House to actually vote on measures before the House.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

May 21st, 2013 / 12:55 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully just now to the bills that the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons enumerated in his speech. I noted that he did not include Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act, which was introduced at first reading on October 17, 2011, and which we have heard nothing about since.

I was wondering why it was not part of his list.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been encouraged to be reasonable in what I request. In order to identify our priorities, we have focused on the priorities that we believe are the priorities of Canadians.

First and foremost is the priority of the economy. We will see economic bills come front and centre because Canadians want to see that there is a government and a Parliament that is seriously engaged in doing what is important to encourage job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity. Bills that match what is clearly at the top of our agenda have been the focus of our activity.

Another priority, of course, has been bills to ensure we build a safer and stronger Canada, safer communities. That issue of tackling crime, of making our communities safer, is again one reflected in the bills that we wish to see brought forward, debated and passed by this Parliament.

Then, of course, there are important questions of our national identity.

Unfortunately we cannot pass everything. We heard the opposition House leader complaining that we want to get too much done, that he does not want to work that hard, and that we are pushing too many things through. Unfortunately, we have to be reasonable. We have to find the appropriate balance and choose the priorities that reflect those priorities of Canadians, first and foremost, delivering on the economy.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, all these debates are rather interesting.

With respect to the point of order raised by my colleague, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, and Motion No. 17, I would like to reiterate that we work from morning until night, and even into the wee hours. It is the government's bizarre and twisted rhetoric, not the fact that the sitting hours of the House will be extended, that is cause for concern.

The government is proposing to act on bills that, all of a sudden, are absolutely essential. Time is of the essence. Yet for two years the bills have languished, nothing has been done and the Senate has been on the agenda. Now, with a majority, the government is puffing itself up and proposing to introduce amendments and change things.

My colleague, the House Leader of the Official Opposition, asked a question and I did not hear a specific answer from our colleague opposite. Can the government assure us that the motion moved, Motion No. 17, is not an exercise designed to have the House adjourn earlier because the government is starting to get embarrassed and does not know what else to say to the media outside the House and its members are eager to go and hide in their ridings? Will we be here to work and to do even more, between now and the date set for the House to adjourn for the summer?

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member need only read the motion that is in front of her before she gets up to ask a question about it. Before she gets up to participate in the debate, I encourage her to read it. She will see on its face it would do nothing to change the Standing Orders with regard to the question of the calendar, in terms of when we are sitting here in Ottawa. If she understands that, she understands the answer to that question.

There is nothing in the motion that would provide for a different adjournment date from the Standing Orders. Oddly, I find it very strange that she would get up and ask a question not having actually read the motion right in front of her.

However, that is not surprising, again, from a party that is standing here, saying, “We don't want to work hard. Please don't make us stay late. Please, God forbid, we actually have to read the motion in front of us, because that's too much work. So, I'll just ask you what it says.”

What it says is very simple, “Let's get things done for Canadians. Let's do the work they sent us here to do. Let's focus on the economy. Let's create jobs for Canadians. Let's deliver economic prosperity for Canadians. Let's do our jobs here in the House of Commons that Canadians want us to do.” They want hard-working parliamentarians. We are trying to deliver that. If the opposition members agree with us, I suppose they will vote for that. If they do not agree that Canadians want hard-working parliamentarians, I suppose they will oppose the motion.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to be very clear. It is interesting. The government House leader talks about getting to work and putting in the time. The Liberal Party is not shy of putting in the time. We are prepared to work as hard, if not harder, than this particular government House leader. In fact, I would challenge the government House leader to be here half the amount of time that I am here, addressing legislation and so forth. That would surprise me.

The government needs to recognize that it is also the responsibility of a majority government to be somewhat—I would argue a whole lot—more democratic in terms of dealing with legislation that comes before the House.

My question for the government House leader is, is he prepared to work hard for Canadians and allow for appropriate debate on the remaining legislation that is on the legislative agenda; in other words, not continue bringing in time allocation and preventing us hard-working members of Parliament from being able to contribute to the debate?

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have never heard a legitimate complaint from that member that he has not had ample opportunity to participate in debates. I will respond to his challenge by saying that I will speak when needed in the House, and I will allow other people an opportunity to speak from time to time as well. I will use that to guide my approach.

In terms of our approach, the member heard my answer. Our approach is to provide time for debates to occur to allow for the full participation of members, but also, importantly, to allow votes to happen and to let decisions be made. Debate is important. However, this should not be a talk shop where all we do is debate. It should also be a place where decisions are made. Canadians sent us here to do work, and that includes the work of actually making decisions. That is what the votes are when we vote in the House of Commons. We will continue to ensure that those votes take place so that bills can be decided upon and progress can be made, for the benefit of Canadians, on the economy and on having safer streets and communities.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not very happy about being here. However, I am here because we need to stand up to this government, which believes that Parliament exists only for its benefit and that it is just a place concerned with the government's problems and accountability.

It is almost as if a new party came into the House today, as we listen to the Conservative House leader speak. It certainly is not the party that moved prorogation and killed legislation time and again. This new Conservative Party is suddenly interested in not defeating legislation. It could not be the same Conservative Party that has shut down debate in the House of Commons more than any party in Canadian history. It could not be a member of the same party who was speaking here today, talking about opening up debate. The Conservatives have invented a new world for themselves that is fascinating.

I am reflecting on my friend from Langley, who sought to speak in this House on what they call an S. O. 31 statement, which happens just before question period. It is a statement that lasts for about a minute. Usually members of Parliament get up and make a statement about their ridings about some issue that is important to them. My friend from Langley, who sits in the Conservative Party, was a parliamentary secretary, I remember, for the Minister of the Environment, a chair, a well-respected member of Parliament, and a friend. He sought to stand up and speak to something he thought was important to his constituents.

It was the old Conservative Party that shut down that member of Parliament and every other one who tried to get up and speak, because this new Conservative Party talks about wanting people to speak in the House and wanting to have debate.

While it is refreshing to hear it, I do not believe it, and I do not think Canadians are going to believe that suddenly accountability and democracy have broken out within the Prime Minister's Office. It is the office of this particular Prime Minister who, rather than face any uncomfortable questions from the media or the official opposition members today, or for the rest of this week, has decided that going to South America to sit with other trading partners from other countries we already have established trade deals with to talk about trade deals that already exist is much more important than asking questions about the Senate.

It must be a new Conservative Party that suddenly has on its agenda a legislative directive that the members need to sit longer hours and work hard on something that might be quite topical today, something such as the reform of Canada's Senate, which has been long overdue and long called for by Canadians and New Democrats who said that the place was fundamentally broken. There is no accountability. Unelected and under investigation is the new Senate.

I remember the old Reform Party. You probably do as well, Mr. Speaker. It came in riding from the west, from my part of the world.

I see a member across the way, who was one of the founding members of the Reform Party, calling it a beautiful thing. While I disagreed fundamentally with many of its positions, certainly its social positions, there was something on which I could see some common ground. That was to make Parliament more accountable and to reform the Senate.

The current government has now been in power almost seven long years. Is that right? The time goes slowly. In those six or seven years, the Prime Minister made a promise as one of his fundamental commitments to Canadians. Commitments should be treated sacredly, I believe.

We all get up at elections. We have party platforms and promises we make to Canadians. If we win, that platform and those promises become our agenda. That is what we would seek to do in office. It is simple. One of his promises, one of his agendas, one of his reforms was on the Senate. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they would see those Liberal senators down there taking their money, not really representing anybody, going on trips and maybe even defrauding taxpayers. Who knows? The Reform movement came in and said it was wrong and anti-democratic.

For a party that decided to put “democratic” right in the middle of our name, we take these questions seriously. We feel that it is accountability to the people we on the orange team represent. In a sense, we are watching this Prime Minister now play victim to what is going on in the Senate with senators he appointed exclusively and explicitly to raise money for the Conservative Party of Canada. Now this same Prime Minister claims victimhood and wonders how this happened. How did his chief of staff, who sits to his immediate left every day and knows his deepest, darkest secrets, whom he put in charge of major trade files and negotiations with other countries, cut a $90,000 cheque to a senator he appointed? However, obviously, the Prime Minister's hands are clean, and he has nothing to say about this. He believes that his hands are so clean that he is not going to answer any questions about it. He is going to go to South America to be in trade talks with countries we already have trade deals with. That is the new Conservative Party, which is the old one, the same one that has forgotten its roots.

Dear Mr. Manning is still with us, so he is not spinning in his grave, but he is definitely spinning. He was asked recently whether the Conservatives have lost their principles. He said, no, they have maintained their priorities. It is an interesting dodge of a question. Mr. Speaker, you have been around politics a bit. You know when a question is put directly and someone answers it indirectly.

I find it incredible that we have before us a motion that continues to abuse Parliament. This motion is designed simply to restrict debate and demonstrate to members of the House of Commons that the only reason Parliament exists is so that the government can do what it wants.

I remember a comment made by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. When we were debating a time allocation motion, he said that their intention was not to put an end to debate or to censure it, but just to control Parliament.

It is incredible that a minister is admitting that the Conservatives just want to control the Parliament of Canada. It also reflects the Conservatives' esprit de corps. They want to control everything, not just the opposition and Parliament, but their members, as well as the media and the public.

The current vision of the Prime Minister and the government leaves the public with no choice and no voice. It is all about the kind of country that the Prime Minister wants to build.

We see a government moving this extraordinary thing, which will see, big deal, members of Parliament sitting until midnight.

New Democrats have been known, sometimes to our detriment, to be willing to force the calendar to the very last minute and sit all night, such as when the government moved anti-worker legislation against a very profitable Canada Post, which, I might add, in a parenthetical way, then lost money.

After the lockout by Canada Post, the government imposed wage contracts on those workers that were less than what the company was willing to offer. Then it said that it needed to shut down Canada Post offices around the country, as Canada Post was losing money because of the lockout it allowed them to do. The logic is inherently twisted on that side.

Remember the omnibus debates and the voting we had. I remember my friend from the Green Party moving a certain number of amendments to the bill, which forced the House to sit all night and vote, hour after hour. I remember some of my friends from Surrey who stayed in their seats for 22 hours.

No one has ever accused New Democrats of not being willing to come to work and work on behalf of our constituents. We may do some things wrong. We may sometimes fall short in some areas, but hard work has not ever been one of those things.

There is such irony in hearing a Conservative House leader who, with his Prime Minister, has prorogued Parliament, shut it down, and killed their government's own legislation time and time again, say to the Speaker that the problem is that they cannot get their legislation through.

It had been there for 12 months. After eight months, they killed it themselves and prorogued the House.

One prorogation was quite notable. The government looked to be in a bit of trouble. It was in a minority position. The world was entering into a very deep recession. The Minister of Finance, who claims to be the best in the world, ignored the recession and introduced what the Conservatives called an austerity budget at the very moment when the rest of the world, realizing that the economy was coming to a virtual standstill, was introducing budgets that did the opposite.

The finance genius we have sitting in the chair said, “Never mind what the rest of the world thinks about what is going on in the global economy; we know that Canada is not going into recession”, even as we were in the midst of a recession. He introduced an austerity budget to cut back billions in job creation, in grants and in all the things the Conservatives take credit for, such as unemployment insurance for a bunch of Canadians who were just being thrown out of work.

The opposition said that it was not a very good budget and suggested that we vote against that budget. The government panicked and prorogued. Canadians got a civil lesson in how Parliament works. They had never heard the word “prorogation” before. Then we got to learn.

The Prime Minister had to go to the Governor General. He sat there for a number of hours, perhaps being lectured about how undemocratic it was, when facing a non-confidence vote, to head down the road to the Queen's representative to ask for permission to shut it all down before he was thrown out of office. He was more worried about his job that day than about Canadians. That is for sure.

That is a government that killed its legislation in order to save itself, and did it time and time again.

Here is the trend that we worry about with today's motion. For a government that has broken the record by shutting down debate more times than any government in Canadian history, it has refused 99.3% of all the amendments that the opposition has brought to its legislation.

Let us look at that for a moment. The way a bill is supposed to work is it comes into the House and gets debated. There is a pro and con and the real coming together or clash of ideas to improve the legislation because no one is perfect. The drafters of legislation do not get it right. They are sometimes hundreds of pages long and very complicated. The House is meant to debate that. Then we send it to committee and hear from experts, not just members of Parliament who are not often experts in these areas, but people who work in the field. They are the social workers, the financial experts, the crime experts and the police. We hear those suggestions and write amendments based on those ideas. That is the way this place is supposed to work.

However, the government is saying that in 99.3% of those cases those experts are wrong and the government is right. It will not change a period, a comma, not a word in any of the legislation. Then lo and behold, time and time again, the legislation is challenged in the courts successfully. The legislation does not fix the problems identified and costs Canada and Canadians billions.

We all remember well Bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill that would allow the state to look in on the Internet searches and emails of Canadians without any warrant. The government decided in its vigour for its tough on crime agenda that it would pass a law that said that at any point, at any time, Canadians anywhere could have their BlackBerrys and iPhones tapped by the government, that web searches on home computers could be looked at by the government and the police. There is no country in the world, outside of Iran and North Korea, that would even consider doing this. The Conservative government thought it was a fantastic idea. In trying to argue the case, it said that if we were not into exposing our Internet searches and our emails then we must be in support of child pornography.

Has any more offensive or stupid an argument ever been made on the floor of the House of Commons? It is offensive to basic civil liberties and decency, to the role of members of Parliament trying to do our jobs and to the Canadians who said that they were not sure they wanted the government looking at their email?

I look at the member for Yukon right now. I do not know what he is searching and I do not want to know. It is his privacy to look on his computer and do as he sees fit. That is a civil liberty I am sure he defends as well, but not his government.

Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill, was the flagship. The government rammed it all into one bill and said that it was such important legislation it would shut down debate on it too. Then whole sections of the bill were taken out. Why? It was because they were unconstitutional.

Now we know where that all comes from. Canadians actually pay for a service. Many members of Parliament may not know this, but when a government introduces a bill it goes to constitutional legal experts to determine if the new legislation goes against our constitution, our foundation as a country? If it does, it is a good idea to modify the law to ensure it does not get challenged in the courts, which costs upwards of $3 million to $5 million to taxpayers every time there is one of those challenges. The government did not check on Bill C-10. We know that because the people who work for the Government of Canada, who do this work, are no longer receiving references from the government.

The government is not even asking anymore. It is choosing ignorance. This is incredible. It is saying that it does not want to know whether the laws it writes are constitutional, whether the laws it writes as a government are for or against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is incredible. This is not a mistake. It is by intention. Therefore, we have these lawyers sitting in their offices, being paid every day, waiting for the government to refer the bills it introduces here to ensure they can survive a constitutional challenge. The government does not ask anymore.

Bill C-38, the first omnibus bill and Bill C-45, the second omnibus bill, were both challenged in the courts as unconstitutional. First nations are challenging it. I need to address this because the government House leader mentioned two bills that are being moved, so-called, on behalf of first nations. They are Bill S-2 and Bill S-8. One is matrimonial property rights. It sounds pretty innocuous. Most Canadians would say that matrimonial property rights for first nations women on reserve maybe protects their rights. Who is opposed to it? It is not just us in the opposition, but aboriginal women, every first nation women's group in the country. My friend across the way shakes his head, but I can show him the testimony that says the bill is no good for aboriginal women.

However, the Conservatives know better. With their shameful record on aboriginal rights and title in the country, suddenly they know better than aboriginal women, than first nations women. Bill S-8 is a bill to help first nations have clean drinking water because the record has been shameful.

Government after government has failed first nations communities. Thirty-five per cent of the people I represent in northern British Columbia are in first nations communities. The water conditions there are incredibly bad. We have to do something about it. There are fixes and there are ideas coming from those communities.

Instead the government moves the bill, handing all responsibility down to first nations in terms of cleaning up their own water mess, but none of the resources to do it. Are first nations supportive of it? No. Nor would any municipality or any province in Canada be supportive of legislation that rams down responsibility without any of the support, money or help to get that done.

Most of these first nations communities are living in abject poverty. Where does the government think they are going to get the money from? The government will not settle treaty with them in the west. First nations are having mining, oil and gas exploration and pipelines put everywhere and are receiving none of the royalties, none of the compensation and the government will not move treaty forward.

I was just in Gitxsan territory, speaking with the Gitxsan and the Wet'suwet'en, talking about basic child services, kids who are being abused in their homes and setting up a program that the federal government said that we should enact 20 years ago to allow first nations more rights and responsibilities to rescue those kids and help them kids integrate back into their communities.

Who is not coming to the table? The Conservative government. This is the government that on Bill S-2 and Bill S-8 suddenly said that it had first nations rights and title and priorities at heart, when it did not.

The place can work. Members can sense a certain amount of frustration in my voice, because Parliament can work. It is actually designed to work. I love our system. It is so superior to many other systems I have studied around the world, that have consistent congressional gridlock on legislation and on budgets. We can make things happen here.

However, with the power that is afforded a majority government, which is a lot, comes a certain amount of responsibility to use the power wisely and not abuse it. Yet time and again we have seen the government House leader and other ministers get up and say that they are not looking to limit the debate; they just want to control it. They reject virtually 100% of all the amendments and all the changes and suggestions they hear at committee because they know better and they have the votes to push it forward.

It is at such a point that the control has extended deeply into the government's caucus. Some of the more socially conservative members of the Conservative caucus are no longer free to speak, or are only free to speak on certain things, in certain ways, if the Prime Minister's Office allows for it.

In a small program that we run in northern B.C., initiated a number of years ago, I hold a conference call with all the detachment commanders from all the RCMP outposts that exist in my riding. It is a very large riding facing a lot of tough, difficult situations with policing. Once every two or three months I get on the phone with 12 detachment commanders and we talk about what is going on. We talk about what is happening in crime, what the drug use is like, what legislation is moving through the House that will help or hinder these hard-working, hard-serving officers.

I am not allowed to have that conversation with these RCMP officers anymore. I am not supposed to talk to them. As a sitting member of Parliament, I am not supposed to go to them. A number of them have come to me because they are friends and we have known each other for years. They offer good, on-the-ground advice about what is happening.

They say that they are sorry, that they cannot talk to me. They tell me that I have to phone the Prime Minister's Office in order for them to talk to me about what is going on in Prince Rupert, or what is going on in Dease Lake or Bella Coola.

It is insane. This is wrong. Government officials at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who I have known for years and who I phone just for an update to see what is going on with our fish on the west coast, tell me that I am a member of Parliament from the opposition and that I need to phone the people in the Prime Minister's Office and that they will give me permission as to whether they can tell me what is going on in Canada's fishery.

This is not their government. This is not a Conservative government. This is Canada's government. We pay for these civil servants. We pay their salaries to do work on behalf of Canadians. Whether it is silencing scientists, shutting down access for members of Parliament to basic conversations, or shutting down debate in Parliament, the consistent voice from the government is that it will not be held to account.

This is bad. This is not just about the privilege all members of the House need to do their job. The government says there is some urgency, but there is not. There is no urgency when it comes to the government's mandate or agenda.

It is very strange for the government to say it is very open, when we see what is going on in the Senate.

We have senators like Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau. All current senators have potentially stolen money from Canadians. These are the same senators that the Prime Minister says are very good people. These are the same senators using money from the Canadian people to travel during an election and raise money for the Conservative Party. That is the new Conservative Party. I do not understand.

I remember the Reform Party of Canada and some reforms that Mr. Manning wanted to make. With the current party, it is the same story as with the Liberal Party and the Gomery commission and all the rest. I am both angry and sad.

The majority of Canadians did not vote for this government, which has a majority, but does not have the majority support of Canadians. Close to 60% of Canadians voted against this agenda, against this sort of arrogance. They voted not to have the kind of government that now uses brutal tactics, not against the New Democratic Party, but against Parliament.

Lastly, I think we need to have a referendum, which may not happen until the next election.

It bears some comment, not only with respect to the Senate scandal but even the motion today.

I watched the government House leader and the Prime Minister on television earlier. He actually allowed the media into his caucus room for a second, which was bizarre. The bully turns into the victim, that somehow this is put upon them, that they are somehow being victimized here.

What frustrates me is not just the work that we have to do as parliamentarians that is constantly thwarted by the government at committee stage, and my friend laughs, but how can it be possible that 99.3% of all amendments were rejected? The evidence is clear.

My friend can shake his head and laugh and treat this with disdain treat this with disdain or heckle out what seems to be a favourite tactic of some of my friends who cannot win the debate, but can simply sit in their seats and heckle, yell and try to put down a comment that hurts a little too much, that being that 99.3% of all amendments were rejected, that the witnesses were all wrong, that the government was always right and that the courts must be wrong too. Soon the Conservatives will call them activist courts like the Republicans do in the states. Members should watch for it because it is coming.

We believe this motion is fundamentally flawed in its abuse of this place and of all members. I do not speak just for the New Democrats or the folks down the way. I speak for the backbenchers who have been rubbing up against some of the limitations. What is sad about most of it and is most concerning is those who are not agitating against the Conservative government's control over its backbench and accepting it. I lament the most for those who are so comfortable reading the script from the Prime Minister's Office and repeating it like robots, feeling that is their work and whose expectations of what it is to be a member of Parliament are so diminished that they simply accept it, not those the media have called rebels who have stood up and stated that they want to have their own statement but the Prime Minister's Office has shut them down. They run under the blue banner, which is their choice.

I lament for those who seem so happy to get up and repeat the mindless dribble that is put to them by the Prime Minister's Office day after day. When they first ran for office, I wonder if they said that they wanted to be a member of Parliament to represent people and get to Parliament to speak with a strong voice of conviction on behalf of the people they represent and that in order to do they would read whatever was put in front of them by the Prime Minister's Office, written by a 24-year old intern who types out some sort of nonsense and makes up policies that the NDP does not have, making personal attacks on a regular basis as a substitute for honest and sincere debate? Was that really their expectation?

I wish I had some video evidence from some of those early debates because I know that is not what those members ran on. I know their nomination meetings did not look like that, nor did any of the debates they attended during the campaign. That is not what they said. They said that they would speak on behalf of their constituents, fight for them and still raise their voice, even if that meant it was contrary to what their government suggested.

I am sure that is what my friends across the way said. They are very nice people. I know a lot of these folks, as we have spent some time together. I know some of their inner thoughts about the way Parliament ought to be, and some of them lament it. However, it is the ones who do not who worry me. They are the ones who so comfortably slip into that straitjacket day after day. Maybe they just get used to it, but they are able to rationalize that there is some larger agenda that is more important than their having an independent and free voice.

They can keep yelling and you can allow them to if you wish, Mr. Speaker, but the truth often hurts, and the truth of the matter is that with a majority government, this member and his colleagues have chosen to vote for closure more than any government in Canadian history. With a majority, the Conservative government has refused the evidence, has refused the science time and time again, and that government is bad government.

The Conservative government appointed senators, and I am sure some fundraising went on for some of my friends. Maybe Ms. Wallin, Mr. Duffy or Mr. Brazeau came by and raised a few dollars, shook a few hands and got a few votes for my friends. Maybe there is a little bit of a tarnish on my colleagues, which is why they are calling out and why they are worried. It is because their base hates this. They hate the idea of entitlement and of an insider's game that goes on in Ottawa all the time, and that friends of the Prime Minister's Office get some sort of special treatment.

Talking about special treatment, how about a $90,000 personal cheque just cut off the back and handed over to somebody who may have defrauded taxpayers? Where is the Reform Party now? Where are the original Conservative intentions now? They are gone, bit by bit, eroded piece by piece. That is where it has gone, and it has all been subjugated to some idea that there is a better and bigger cause, that this grand scheme they are involved in somehow makes all of it justifiable.

Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, what these guys would sound like if the roles were reversed? If it were a Liberal government with senators getting cheques from the Prime Minister's chief of staff or a New Democratic government acting the way the Conservatives act, could you imagine the hue and cry and the calls for resignations every second minute? They would be losing their minds.

Now the Conservatives play the victim, saying that these senators were put upon them, that they didn't know what they were doing, that it is terrible. They only have a majority, both here and there. The Prime Minister has appointed more senators than any Prime Minister in Canadian history. How many did he say he would appoint? None, but he had to appoint some, and then it had to be justified. These are small and slow slippages, and this motion is a continuation of that.

This motion says that Parliament matters less and that those Canadians who have grown cynical about the role of MPs are justified in their cynicism. We say that is wrong. How do we turn to the young voters coming up? How do we turn to people who come to us and say that they might want to run for office one day? How can we say that their voices will matter when the government moves motions like this time and time again, shutting down debate?

As my friend the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development said, the Conservatives do not want to shut down debate; they just want to control it. Is this is how one entices people into a life of politics? Is this how one encourages young people to vote? Do we say, “Welcome to Parliament, where we are going to control debate and shut it down time and time again”? This is the Conservatives' call to action.

It is not a call to action, but a call to inaction. It is a call to cynicism. It is calling to people, “Do not look over here; nothing is happening here in government. Go on with your lives and other things that are more important and distracting.” The government is counting on people to have an attention deficit rather than realize that the decisions we make here in Parliament every day affect Canadians in every way.

If members of Parliament cannot do their work, as this motion suggests, and hold the government to account, it is bad government. It is bad government when it cannot find $3 billion that may be under a mattress or in a banana stand or wherever it happens to be, and when senators rip off taxpayers with no consequence whatsoever. We think the RCMP might have a role to play here.

What would happen if any of the Canadians in our gallery today or watching on TV defrauded the Canadian government of $500? They would get charged. However, if it is a Conservative senator, what happens? Oh, they just recuse themselves from caucus. Wow. They still get paid, they still have all of their privileges, but they cannot go to caucus meetings on Wednesday mornings.

Mr. Speaker, do you think that maybe that punishment is a little severe? I mean, having to recuse oneself from a two-hour meeting on Wednesday morning for defrauding taxpayers—boy, that seems pretty harsh.

Why the double standard? We used to call that the culture of entitlement. I remember a colleague of mine in this place, Ed Broadbent, asking a former Liberal minister who became head of the mint and was claiming packets of gum and coffee on his receipts, “Are you entitled to your entitlements, sir?” This person took a moment of authenticity and said, “Yes, I am entitled to my entitlements.”

The Conservatives railed at the Liberal entitlement, the culture of entitlement, the Gomery inquiry and all those terrible things that went down.

History repeats itself if one is not a student of history, and it seems that the Conservative Party has not looked at the history of this place or of other parliaments.

The fact of the matter is that debate in and of itself is not a bad thing. The exchange of ideas is not in and of itself a bad thing. Being wrong from time to time is not of itself a bad thing; learning happens in those moments, and the government needs to learn, because I can read off the list of the bills it had so fundamentally wrong that it had to withdraw them. The Conservatives had to say that they got it so badly wrong because they listened to none of the amendments that they have to fix it now, at the very last minute, or wait until it gets to the Senate and let the unaccountable, unelected and under investigation senators deal with it. That is no form of democracy worth defending, and the Conservatives know it. They know it better than most.

I will move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after “Fridays” and replacing them with the following: “(b) when oral questions are to be taken up pursuant”—

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, my friends have not heard the motion. Maybe they do not understand it yet. How could they? They have not heard it yet.

Allow me to finish—

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. opposition House leader is moving an amendment. He does not need unanimous consent to move an amendment at this point.

There will be an opportunity for members to express their opinion on the amendment, but let us allow the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley to move the amendment before we do so.

The hon. member.

Extension of Sitting HoursGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I will preface it a bit to contain the catcalls.

The government is eventually going to shut the House down early, as many suspect, due to the context and the scandals going on right now. We are going to move an amendment that would allow question period to be one and a half hour, 90 minutes, to allow the government to be held to account.

It is a simple amendment. I will read it, and then we can debate it. I know the Prime Minister has seen an urgency to suddenly go to South America, but we believe that a 90-minute question period would be a good idea.

I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all of the words after “Fridays;” and replacing them with the following:

(b) when oral questions are to be taken up pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), they shall last for a period of 90 minutes.