Mr. Speaker, as we have said before, we have spent a long time on this. This has been more than about passing a law. It has been an actual grand national discussion on parliamentary reform, one that I welcome.
Everybody here should welcome it, whether they vote for this or not. It is something that opened our eyes to many things. Many Canadians have asked me about this in my role as critic for democratic reform. They always ask me what brought this on and how bad is it. I said that it was bad when it started in 1970. As the mover of the bill pointed out, in 1970 the signature of a leader was required. That has caused angst in backrooms and front rooms, in all political parties, for quite some time. Former prime minister John Turner made mention of that. It was a very valid point.
In the very beginning, some people said that it may have been overly prescriptive, to the point where it quashed the rights of a political party to decide itself who their leader would be and that its rights were diminished as a result of this legislation.
I thought that was being a little excessive. Some people wanted to amend it so it would be less so, and it has been amended to a great degree. There is that option at the very beginning, once Parliament reconvenes.
I share some of the concerns of my colleague from the NDP about the fact that beyond that one vote after an election, we have the same process where we do, by secret ballot, elect our chairs. There is some concern there, but not too much. The process is that we have a secret ballot to elect the caucus chair. That is a great concept, and I agree with that.
There was not only a movement and discussion here, it was also discussed through social media. Just a short time ago, there was a tweet from TheReformAct. A Twitter account was set up around this, and that fuelled a discussion. I enjoy the comments on this, whether people were talking about the stage the bill was at or what was being debated. It was very illustrative, and I congratulate the authors of this for doing so.
I will go back to some of the comments from my colleague, the mover of this bill, as amended. The amendments remain true to the principles of this bill in many instances, which is why I recommended to the leader from the beginning that we should have a free vote on this.
Although some people might not think this is a dramatic change, if the parties do not elect to do the things that are recommended in this bill, then people will ask what is the point of all this. There is a point to this.
It is not just about the legality. It is not about the written rule on the legislation paper itself. This is a narrative, the spirit of which is parliamentary reform. I am going to quote the mover of the bill once more. He talked about the balance of MPs and leaders. He said that perfection was the enemy of the good.
People watch us on television. A lot of people tell me that they try to watch, but that we get bogged down in details about this and that subamendment, and so on and so forth. I agree.
As one person once noted, and I cannot remember who said this but it is a good quote, that law-making is like sausage-making. People like to eat sausages but they certainly do not want to know how it is made.
In this particular case, despite all the details we have brought out, the fundamental debate was about a balance achieved and the importance of the House that we are in right now. On the prominence of the House of Commons, it is less prominent than it once was among the public. When television was introduced here many years ago, back in the 1970s, it was supposed to shed a light on what went on here, because it is the most powerful institution in the country. Over that time, it has not.
I assume that people back then talked about what happened in the House of Commons a lot more than they do today. One of the reasons is because of the things that this bill is trying to change.
The member earlier mentioned that the cabinet is no longer responsible to our colonial fathers but to the legislators here, and the executive power that resides in here as well is answerable to this institution. We battle over certain bills time and time again over that very issue, but a lot of people in the public are not aware of this right now. What this debate has done is bring it out before the public for them to see how the House operates and, more importantly, how the role of the House has been diminished, as well as see who chooses us to come here, how we behave once we are here, and how a lot of the conventions that we have here are codified as well.
We have the Standing Orders. These are the large books that we have, which we call Standing Orders, but a lot of the other stuff is based on convention. In other words, things that we have done in the past and are now accustomed to are not codified, but we practise them now because we have in the past.
I mentioned the reform of question period in my question to the member, and I hope that it comes up again. This is my own personal opinion, but in the spirit of parliamentarians here, I like to put my personal opinion on the record. Question period desperately needs to be reformed. The rules of question period are not as much codified as they are a tradition.
We have a list, which the whips provide, and we go down the list for 45 minutes. It is the same for statements by members, which precede question period for 15 minutes. Where is the flexibility by which we can rise in the House and ask about our own riding or own area of expertise, or announce something that has happened in our riding based on that?
There was a kerfuffle earlier last year about that, based on the subject matter, but the debate was such that the public started to take notice. They started to take notice by saying that they always thought that in the House of Commons, once someone is elected, they can pretty much stand up at any time and be recognized by the Speaker. Well, that is not always the case. Really, the only time is when they call for questions and comments after a debate. Other than that, it is according to a list that is provided.
In some cases, that is fine. If there is a debate, there is the minister and the critic, and others fall into line, depending on their interests.
Quite frankly, though, sometimes we should consider the fact that we need to be far more flexible in the House. It is the spirit of this motion to do that, so I want to applaud the member for doing this and for the changes that were made, such as replacing the party leader in paragraph 67(4)(c) with a person to be designated by each registered political party. Before, it was problematic. I again congratulate the member, because he listened to some of the concerns, even from our own party, about the fact that we would have a person in the riding, and only that person. Now we could designate a person that we desire. That was accepted, if not by the vast majority of our party, at least by the majority, who said that it would be fine and that we would do that following the election.
There is also the review and removal of the party leader. That is something that we can elect to do after the election. There is the election of the interim leader and the election and removal of the caucus chair, as I mentioned earlier, as well as the expulsion and readmission of a caucus member.
That is more codified than it ever was before, and it is overdue. Hopefully, we can keep changing it—not drastically, but so that when something comes up in the future, what we can do as a Parliament is change certain rules here, maybe even some of the things that were brought up by the member and the critic for the NDP. Some of them were valid.
That is the point of this whole debate. The narrative is that in 1970, they brought in a rule that they felt was necessary, but it was incredibly restrictive. Although some people think that this private member's bill is overly prescriptive, the narrative is one that is sound and just, and I respect the member for bringing this in.
This is a free vote, but I am proud to say that as the member of Parliament for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, I will enthusiastically support it on third reading.