Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that. I was expecting the cautionary note. Quite frankly, I was getting as close as I could to the line in terms of language I could use to refute the language of hypocrisy that, unfortunately, is allowed in this place. That is a word that should not be allowed in this place, but the hon. member used it, and I wanted to refute it without crossing the line. I appreciate that you told me I did not cross it, Mr. Speaker, although, of course, I would have apologized immediately if you had called on me to do that. I wanted to clear the air on that.
If the Conservatives continue that argument, we will continue to give the government a civics lesson on how this place actually works. The hon. member should be concerned about his reputation, because there are enough Canadians who know the truth to know that this is just games. This bill, this issue, our election laws, deserve better than just games.
What we are talking about here is a 244-page bill. In the past, the government of the day, when it wanted to make changes to the elections laws, first consulted with the Chief Electoral Officer, which this government did not do. One “Hi, how are you? Nice to meet you” meeting does not constitute consultation on bringing in a 244-page bill that completely revamps the way we hold elections in this country. That is not consultation.
In the past, the government would not only consult with the Chief Electoral Officer—this is pretty shocking in a Conservative House of Commons—but would actually talk to the other parties. Why did they talk to the other parties?
We have the Olympics going on right now. One of the first things they do before hitting the ice or the snow is decide what the rules are going to be. Then they make sure that everyone affected by those rules gets an opportunity to have a say. In the absence of that, one does not have an electoral system that is supported by all the participants in the system. This is not rocket science.
I have to say something, just in passing, about the minister who introduced the bill. I know the minister well. I have worked with him for years and years. He is very smart. He is a good guy. I like the minister. However, let us be honest. He is probably the most partisan attack dog the Conservatives have ever had over there. That is saying a lot, given the role the foreign affairs minister played before. That is quite an accomplishment. They took the most super-hyperpartisan person in their entire caucus and gave him what is supposedly the most statesperson-like role in the House, which is to bring these kinds of rule changes into our elections act. Right off the bat, that was the person who was asked to carry the bill in the name of the government. The government did not even talk to the Chief Electoral Officer. Give me a break. There is no partisanship in this at all? Let us find out.
The government members have been saying that the reason they support shutting down debate in this place, and a number of them have said it, even today, is that they are going to send it to committee, because that is where House of Commons work gets done. That does not justify it totally, in our view. However, if that is the position of the government members, then something certainly needs to happen at committee that would give people some confidence that they really meant it when they were standing here.
The official opposition brought forward a very reasonable motion, with no games, no politics. The cards are all on the table. In fact, our motion on how the committee should deal with this actually states the day we would begin clause-by-clause. It would be May 1 of this year. It is not our intention to delay or obstruct in any way the ability to pass this law and have these new rules in effect for the next election. That is not our objective. What we are asking for is to use the months of March and April to travel the country to give people an opportunity to have their say.
My friend, the member for Western Arctic, stood and said on the vouching issue that it would impact his members. The minister stood and said that this is not true. I live in Hamilton. How do I know? It makes a whole lot of sense that we would go there and give people an opportunity. It is a huge country. It is almost a continent in and of itself. We have such different environments for voting procedures because of where people live, the weather, and distances. We have all the urban issues they have in any G7 country that holds elections.
For all of those reasons, what I would like to hear from the government is that it is prepared to give us countrywide public hearings. Allow people to come and make their cases and to send submissions to the committee.
We would spend two months to give Canadians and experts an opportunity to have their say. We would start here in Ottawa with experts and the minister giving us a briefing on all the details. Then we would go out across the country to find out what the issues were. We would then come back and have another few days in Ottawa to bring back some of those people to put to them what we had heard and found.
We commit that no later than May 1, if this motion passes at committee, we would begin clause-by-clause, knowing that the government majority is going to carry the day. That is fine. It has a majority, and it will win the vote. It will win every vote on every amendment. However, we need this time. If the government is truly honest about wanting to give Canadians their say on this 244-page document that changes the fundamental foundation of our democracy, our election laws, then at the very least, Canadians should be given an opportunity to have a say. This law belongs to them, not to the Conservative government.