Mr. Speaker, it is amazing how easily shocked the Liberals are to see New Democrats stand up and oppose anti-democratic measures.
They talk about a breath of fresh air. What that means is that when we are pushed by a bully, the real reaction and the proper democratic reaction is to stand up and resist that bully, rather than roll over and pretend that it is not important. I say to my Liberal friends that if we want to correct the abusive behaviour by Conservatives in the House, we must stand up to that abusive behaviour from time to time. That means being here. That means asking questions. That means debating legislation.
At least we can agree with my Liberal friends on this next point, and I will end on this point and then turn my attention to the motion.
The Conservatives put forward absolutely atrocious pieces of legislation, often under time allocation. That technique limits the amount of debate that is allowed to take place on any bill, and those bills were so fundamentally flawed that when they attempted to enact those bills into law in Canada, they not only caused Canadians millions of dollars in real terms but also hundreds of hours of grief.
The laws are designed very badly, yet they are rushed through this process. The Liberals can belittle all they want, but the fact of the matter remains that the Conservative government has used time allocation and closure, which are techniques to limit and shut down debate in Canada's House of Commons, more often than any government in Canadian history.
Let us rest on that moment for a second. Let us rest on that fact just in passing. No government under any other circumstances—times of war, times of peace, depressions, recessions, all of those things—has shut down debate in Parliament more often and with such latitude as the present Conservative government has.
What strikes me as passing strange is that when in opposition, the Conservatives, many of whom are now sitting in cabinet, used to hate when the Liberals did this very same thing. We have all the quotes from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, from the Prime Minister, from the government House leader showing that when the Liberals had a majority government and used these same techniques, it was the Conservatives who were holding up democratic rights and showing some flame for the hopes and aspirations of all Canadians when they look at our Parliament. It was Conservatives, along with New Democrats, who said it was wrong.
However, what they actually took from those days in opposition were the wrong lessons.
They said they were going to use the techniques that the Liberals were using when they were in a majority government and that they were going to expand on them. They were going to put them on steroids and shut down debate more often. As a result, on average, we see two members out of the whole Conservative caucus stand up and speak to any government bill.
One could say that they do not have a lot to say about these pieces of legislation. That is worrisome, because some of them are incredibly complicated and affect the lives of millions of Canadians in some cases. We find Conservatives simply uninterested in speaking and representing.
Liberals may say that nothing that happens here matters, and the Conservatives may join them. One would then question why they ran for office in the first place, if they did not want to speak in the House of Commons or did not think that what happens in this place matters. I join my New Democratic colleagues and say that what takes place here does matter, that our words do matter, and that our words should effect change for the positive.
Hopefully, when we all signed our nomination forms way back when and decided to run for the various political parties here, there was some hope in that exercise. Hopefully there was some belief that we were going to stand in this place and speak on behalf of others, because when we take this place to its fundamental principles, that is all it is. The design of Canada's Parliament is simply to hold the government to account on spending and legislation. That is not solely the responsibility of those of us in opposition, as we are as New Democrats right now; it is also the responsibility of all of those not in cabinet. That includes the majority of my Conservative colleagues across the way.
How are we doing on that account? Conservatives and, I suppose, Liberals support the actions by the government House leader in Motion No. 10. The motion will unilaterally offer all of the tools of Canada's House of Commons, but exclusively to those in cabinet. It will then again extend sitting hours, which is fine. If we look at the attendance records and those who speak to motions at 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock, or 12 o'clock at night, we will see that New Democrats are taking the majority of those opportunities to address the legislation before us. That is because we believe in the process.
I am sorry to offend any of the real-world sensibilities of my friends across the way, and now of my Liberal friends as well, by pointing out that New Democrats are so naive that they believe that contributing to the debate in the House of Commons means something. We are naive enough to believe that our best ideas, our best hopes, and our best research should mean something to legislation before Parliament.
Heaven forbid that the job of MPs should not just be to say whatever the Prime Minister's Office tells them to say but to speak on behalf of our constituents with our best guided intelligence and the best information that we have. Heaven forbid that the House of Commons should be that place once more in Canada's life.
We all know that there is a lot of reason for cynicism and despair on behalf of the Canadian people. They look at the unfair elections act, to take one example of one bad piece of legislation. The government seems to be unable to find one expert witness anywhere to defend its act. At any point in this conversation about our democracy and the way in which Canadians will vote, the government was unable to find anyone who would support it outside of the Conservative Party of Canada. Despite that, it rammed this bill through as well. It rammed this act through that will make it easier to cheat and harder to vote.
Conservatives stand up day after day and suggest that they are the holders of all wisdom when it comes to voting. They suggest that all the experts, such as the head of Elections Canada, the former head of Elections Canada, and the former head of Elections B.C., whom the Conservatives hired to give them advice on how to run elections, are all wrong. Sheila Fraser is wrong. She must be partisan, biased, or ill-informed. Conservatives understand how elections should work.
Maybe they do for Conservatives, but not for Canadians. Unfortunately for us, the Conservatives too often offer those Canadians who are losing faith and hope in our democracy even more reason to become cynical and even more reasons to turn away from the ballot box. What does that say to young Canadians in particular? All parties have talked about encouraging young people, or at least New Democrats have. I cannot speak for the others in terms of their efforts to get young Canadians out to vote. Young Canadians in particular are watching the actions of a government that has completely lost its moral compass.
I believe that Reformers and Conservatives used to believe in things aside from just power, but now power is their exclusive view on the way things should work, and we see it again here in Motion No. 10.
It says that the government is not content to just use time allocation, closure, and all of the different tools to shut down debate, and I love what the government House leader said earlier today. For those colleagues of mine who missed it, he said that it was the economy that made them do it. In terms of becoming fundamentally undemocratic, it was the crisis in Europe that forced the Conservatives to shut down debate in Canada's House of Commons.
This is the same Conservative Party that, as the world was entering into the great recession, introduced an austerity budget. The Conservatives said that the solution to caving financial markets was to bring in a budget that would severely cut government spending. As Europe, the United States, and the entire G20 all moved in the opposite direction, the sages in the Conservative Party said that they knew better. On these global recessionary talks that are going on, I remember one Conservative pundit in this place saying that these rumours of a financial crisis are overblown and what we need to do is bring in austerity.
If we set the record straight and clear, it was only when the Prime Minister's own job was threatened—not the jobs of hundreds of thousands of Canadians that were on the line—and his own government was on the line and he feared for the loss of that government, did the Conservatives flip and suddenly introduce a new budget and go all “Keynesian”. As the finance minister said at the time, “We're all Keynesians now”. That was when they actually believed in the role of government in having some sort of influence over what happens within a country's economy.
The Conservatives introduced a stimulus budget, and they were dragged kicking and screaming into the conversation. It was only that near-death experience for the Conservative Party that opened them up to the idea that there could be an actual reason and role for government.
This is a government that, in its legislation, has decided that omnibus bills are the new answer to governing in Canada; that is, hundreds and hundreds of pages of legislation rammed into one bill. The debate around that legislation is completely shut down. When the opposition introduces amendments based on what we hear from experts who actually know what they are talking about—not from my friends across the way—the government refuses and rejects all of them. I do not mean most of them, I mean all of them. They are rejected from those government omnibus bills.
Then, the mistakes show up. The Supreme Court and other such important bodies show the legislation to be unconstitutional. What does the government do? It introduces another omnibus bill to fix the mistakes from the last omnibus bill, and the Conservatives say that this is good governance. Well, it is atrocious, and we see it here again.
The government wants to introduce a motion to extend hours to which government members will not show up, will not speak to the bills that they say are so important, that Canadians need to have and have yesterday. Then they introduce a set of rules that would allow them, and exclusively them, to alter what happens in the place just for cabinet members, as if they were better.
This is going to be opposed by New Democrats. It should be opposed by all right-thinking members in this place. We will stand proudly for Canadians.