Mr. Speaker, my point is this. The security guards who protect us have some of the best firearms training in the country. They have training in immediate action deployment and VIP bodyguard protection. Our professional staff, the security guards who protect us, have the highest level of training. The government pretends that somehow they do not have the training that is necessary to protect us. It is simply untrue. We saw that on October 22, when through their courage and their action, with the quickness of the actions of former sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers and the bravery of Constable Samearn Son, we were protected by the security services on Parliament Hill. They have that high level of training. For members of the government to question that training is simply inappropriate and irresponsible.
The government has suddenly thrown this motion in. This was done without any recourse to the normal process for legislation. Normally legislation is presented so that caucuses can discuss it. It is presented earlier in the week. There are House leaders meetings when legislation that is coming up on the calendar is discussed. To be fair to the government, this is the first time in four years this has been done.
The motion was cobbled together on the back of a napkin. It was thrown together without any respect for opposition members of Parliament, who, as the Speaker just noted, would be profoundly impacted by these changes. It was done with disrespect and in a hurried manner. That is why the NDP, the official opposition, has done its job and has offered an amendment that actually is what the government should have presented in the first place, an approach to the integration of security that does not have the sense of a power grab that we are seeing in today's government motion.
Members of the Conservative Party may agree that the NDP amendment makes a lot of sense. It speaks to integration. It talks about keeping the separation of executive and legislative powers. It would do all the good things without any of the bad aspects of this hurriedly cobbled together government motion.
We have been told by the whip of the Conservative party that Conservative members will not have the right to vote on the amendment. There will be no free vote. There will be no ability of members of Parliament on the Conservative side to represent their constituents' interests and the best interests of the country. They are being forced to vote for a hurriedly cobbled together motion that would have profound negative impacts. Let us talk about these impacts.
First, the heroes of October 22 laid their lives on the line. This would be nothing less than a demotion of those security services. I have talked about the level of training they receive, which is some of the best available in the entire country, yet the Conservatives are saying that it is simply not good enough. Now it will be changed, and they will bring in the RCMP. It is absolutely absurd. That flies in the face of what was the real impact of October 22, which was that we saw how well prepared our security services are.
We certainly need that integration. There is no question there. We support that. That is why our amendment clearly calls for executing without delay plans to fully integrate the work of all partners. Everyone understands that. However, this would be nothing less than a demotion of our security that has done such a fantastic job of protecting us as members of Parliament.
Second, and this is a little more ominous, is that the RCMP has already stated that it is not ready to take over Parliament's security. In a memo that was obtained by The Globe and Mail, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson cautioned that there is still so much work to do before determining even what form this should take on Parliament Hill.
This hurriedly thrown together motion, cobbled on the back of a napkin, came out of the Prime Minister's Office. The Prime Minister is driving this. It is not the Speaker. It is not Parliament. There has not been any consultation whatsoever. The Prime Minister has just decided to use the strategic opportunity of October 22. These are words that come back often. In fact, the advisers around the Prime Minister were saying, as the events were unfolding on October 22, that this was a great strategic opportunity.
Instead of having the consultations, getting people together, with Senate security and Parliament and House of Commons security, to actually put in place an effective security plan, the Prime Minister is driving this through under closure, with no appropriate notice, and with no time for caucuses to even consult on this motion. He is driving it through. The RCMP indicates that it is not even ready to do this. How irresponsible is this? What kind of prime minister would drive forward with an agenda, when the agency he is trying to push into place has said very clearly that it is not ready?
There is a third and more ominous aspect overshadowing the rapid, bulldozer attempt by the government to ram this through over what is good common sense, good operational practice, and even democratic norms. Conservative senators are now openly saying that they are going to cut off access to Parliament Hill. There is now going to be new screening down on Wellington Street. They are openly saying that the front lawn of Canada, right in front of the Centre Block, will no longer be the front lawn that allows people to come and maybe actively disagree with government policies.
If the government is planning to move ahead with the process whereby people are stopped, I guess for the Conservatives it has the interesting corollary of actually being able to stop people who may actually disagree with the environment policies of the government, who may disagree with the social policies of the government, or who may say that they do not agree with the budgetary priorities of the government. This strikes to the very heart of why we are here. Canadian democracy needs to be defended.
Canadians need to be able to express themselves. What the government is attempting to do, and according to The Globe and Mail seems to be quite open about, is cut off the access of Canadians to the front lawn of Canada. I would like to tell the Prime Minister that this is not his front lawn. This is the front lawn of all Canadians, and the kind of access Canadians should have to that front lawn is something New Democrats feel is sacred and is a fundamental value of our country that the government should be respecting.
What has been the reaction? We have heard from, for example, the president of the association that represents our brave women and men, who defend us every day, in the parliamentary security service.
The president of the association that ...represent[s] the Commons Protective Service, under the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, said in a prepared statement which members of the service distributed to some journalists, said RCMP command over security within the Commons would threaten the independence of Parliament.
“In the view of the association, the RCMP taking operational control of the security within the House of Commons of Canada would threaten not only the perception that Parliament makes it laws without interference, but would also have such an effect in practice,” the statement said.
“Such a possibility would be, in the view of the association, an indefensible and dangerous interference of government into the independent legislative function, as well as a solid breach into one of the foundational pillars of our democratic system; the principle of separation of powers,”...
That was said by the brave women and men who defended us on October 22. That is a statement of profound implications, because it goes beyond what we have been hearing from the government, which I think has been dismissive of the fine training of our security guards in uniform, the fine training that is among the best training available in Canada, and that exists now. It goes beyond the issue of whether the RCMP is ready. The RCMP has said that it is not.
The Prime Minister wants to just drive it through in the same way he has wanted to drive through so many other things that have turned into chaos and catastrophe.
We need only look at the record levels of budget deficit. We see the number of bills rammed through the House that later have been overturned by the courts. The Prime Minister has very poor judgment. When he wants something, when he has a pet project, he does not seem to care about the impact on ordinary Canadians. He does not seem to care about anything but his own little personal political agenda.
Here we have security guards, who have been willing and, particularly on October 22, proved that they are willing to lay their lives on the line every day, saying that this is a dangerous interference of government that would breach a foundational pillar of our democratic system. None of us can say that more eloquently. It is even more eloquent when it is from men and women who prove every day how fundamental our democracy and the freedom and ability to speak is for them. It is so profound for them that they are willing to lay their lives on the line for that. We should heed their call because they have proven with their bravery how strongly they adhere to our democratic principles. We should be thanking them every day for the courage and bravery they have shown.
Instead, we have this motion. It is a slap in the face to those men and women. As well, we have had these comments, first from the whip on the government side, and following that from the member for Yukon, who denigrate the level of training that those men and women have. We know they have the best level of training available, and it is often given through the RCMP. We are not talking about people who have not received adequate levels of training. We are talking about people who have some of the best training, in VIP bodyguarding, immediate action, rapid deployment, and firearms.
The final false argument thrown out by the Conservatives on this, and they have very little to stand on, is that somehow this is something that everybody is doing. I can say right now, the mother of all parliaments and the Australian parliament have their governments work with the opposition to make these kinds of decisions. It is not unilateral. It is not imposed. It is not on the back of a napkin, and it is not in the despicable way that the government has introduced it today. That is something that the government should take as an example. When there are discussions on this, it should involve all caucuses; it should involve all parties. There should be time given to members of Parliament to actually discuss this. Instead, it got a bulldozer approach.
Let us look at our closest partners, our neighbours and friends, the United States. This is something that no Conservative member has mentioned. All of them should be aware of it, but obviously it is not in the notes from the Prime Minister's Office that they are reading from. The United States has had the same discussion in the past and decided to do exactly what the NDP amendment has proposed on the floor of the House of Commons today. The Americans had those discussions, and they decided that the danger, the breach in the fundamental pillars of democracy, was simply too serious. In the United States, they actually abide by the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed in their constitution. What they decided to do was exactly the opposite of what the Prime Minister is trying to ram down our throats today. What they proposed and put into place is the United States Capitol Police, a federal law enforcement agency created to oversee the protection of Congress, legislative processes, members, employees, visitors, and facilities.
Who, on the Conservative side, would be willing to stand up and say that somehow the threats to the United States are less than they are to Canada? There is not a single Conservative who would be willing to say that because he or she would look silly. Yet, for any of us who have been to the Capitol building, we know they have ensured that protection of rights and freedoms but ensured an integrated security system, and they are doing it without destroying the separation of powers. The Americans have managed to do that. Instead of having a Prime Minister ram things through, there was actually discussion in the Senate and the House of Representatives. They decided a century ago that the way the Prime Minister is proposing was a stupid way to go, an irresponsible way to go.
That is why the Americans put together the United States Capitol Police. It provides for those effective protections in an integrated model. It ensures, as well, that those constitutional separations of power are actually maintained.
It is no secret that Canadians fundamentally believe in their democracy. They believe that our business here is to speak to government legislation and opposition proposals, and to have that back-and-forth debate that is so fundamental to Canadian democracy.
They also believe, and they hold very strongly to this, that they should have access to the front lawn of Parliament when they disagree with the government or the opposition. Regardless, they should have access to that front lawn and should be able to speak truth to power without being stopped, or having line-ups that last hours while security clearance is going on away from Parliament Hill. They fundamentally believe that it counts to have democracy and that ability to speak out in Canada.
That is not what we are seeing today. Rather, we are seeing a rapidly cobbled together motion that profoundly contradicts anything that has been said in defence of it by the Conservatives. It demotes a talented and highly trained security team, and ensures—