Mr. Speaker, I suspect there are those who have a real keen interest in rules and procedures and how the House operates, whether it is here, in provincial legislatures, or anywhere in the Commonwealth. I for one have always been fascinated by it. At times I see that we move forward in a positive way, and sometimes, unfortunately, I have seen us slip back. I am someone who really enjoys the privilege of being able to represent people, and I appreciate the opportunities that have been afforded to each and every one of us as a direct result of an election.
Engaging in debates is something I take very seriously, so when motions of this nature come forward, I always take an interest because it has to do with the functionality of what I would argue is the most important democratic institution in the land. Canada is often referred to by other Commonwealth countries as the country to turn to in terms of how our democratic system operates. I do take it very seriously.
Today has been a very interesting day for me, because the leader of my party made what I would suggest is a very progressive policy announcement that details a lot of changes in trying to fix what many perceive as a broken Ottawa, if I can put it that way.
Looking at the motion before us, which is a fairly detailed booklet, I see three points that come to my mind. One is making every vote count. What is referred to in this package is the need to change the system from first past the post and a commitment of 2015 being the last election, from a Liberal Party perspective, if it were in government, that there would be a first-past-the-post system based on what we currently have.
Another part deals with stronger parliamentary committees. That is relevant because we are talking about electing the chairs of our parliamentary system. We even have a motion on that.
Then there is another area that highlights more free votes. This is a good one for me. Even though this package or proposal is a lot more detailed, I would encourage members to read the full context of the report that was released by the Liberal Party earlier today. It deals with reform, both inside the House in Ottawa and abroad for all Canadians. What we are talking about today would be a significant change.
During the 1990s, I was in the Manitoba legislature, where Speakers were appointed. Then, in 2003, I was involved in a process where the Speaker was being elected and I can say from first-hand experience that electing a Speaker versus appointing one does make a difference. That is something I see as a very positive step forward.
What we have today does not necessarily change the fact that we are going to have an elected Speaker. The motion deals specifically with the manner in which we elect a Speaker. There are really two ways that are being talked about. There is the current system. The current system is first past the post, and that process continues until a candidate acquires the 50%-plus. This can be fairly exhausting. In the 1980s, 11 votes took place, which would indicate there were a number of hours of voting, the trade-offs, the pros, the cons, and so forth.
That was the system. They actually had 11 separate occasions. Members had to go and cast a ballot. They call that an exhaustive ballot, and that is what it would have been on that particular vote.
We then have what is being proposed through this motion, and that is referred to as a preferential ballot. Members vote once, but that ballot is not just a simple X beside the individual they would like to see as the Speaker; it is a listing of their choices. Members before me have given detailed explanations as to how those preferential ballots would actually be counted.
The point I would like to make is that we are fortunate that we have an elected Speaker. This is just about how we elect the Speaker. Is the current method the way to continue, or should we look at making a change?
I am a member of the procedure and House affairs committee, where it was talked about, whether by me or by the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, who did a fantastic job, not only on PROC but also in our caucus, in making sure that everyone understood what was being proposed.
At PROC the determination was that we did not want the membership of PROC to make the decision. We felt it was more appropriate that it be made by all 308 members of the House, minus what vacancies there might be, of course. PROC did not make a recommendation to the House as to which way to vote.
As for me, I would find it difficult in terms of the status quo, but Liberal members of the House have been told that this is a free vote. I suspect that members will be consulting with others in regard to how they might vote. However, from the Liberal Party's perspective, on issues of this nature we believe there should be a free vote.
With those few words, I understand that there is a will to allow a vote to occur.