Mr. Speaker, as I begin, I would like to make a few comments about the air Egypt disaster. Our hearts obviously go out to all of the victims. We do understand from the news that there may have been a Canadian onboard. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families.
I rise today in response to the question of privilege raised by my hon. colleague, the member for York—Simcoe in relation to the Prime Minister's behaviour last night.
Let me begin by saying that it is troubling that we are having this debate. What happened last night was very unsettling for everyone in this chamber. It is troubling, but it is our duty to have this debate if we take seriously our obligations to uphold the respect for one another required in this House to do our jobs.
The Prime Minister's behaviour in the chamber last night was a violation of that respect. His behaviour was unbecoming of the leader who has the privilege, and let us never forget it is a privilege, bestowed on him by the people of Canada, to sit as Prime Minister in this place, just like every one of us has the privilege to sit in this place.
In the nearly 12 years I have been here, I have never seen such disrespectful behaviour.
We started this Parliament with a promise of sunny ways, but what we have seen, in particular in the last few weeks, is the furthest thing from that.
It would be instructive to recap some of the events that brought us to this point. As you know, Mr. Speaker, since you cast the breaking tie, the government came very close to losing a vote on a piece of its own legislation earlier this week. Now on a Monday at 12:30 p.m., most Canadians are at work and so were the rest of us, but many Liberals were not. That may have been embarrassing for the government, but the government's arrogance and dismissiveness toward the work of this House nearly caught up to them at that moment.
Instead of learning a lesson from that, the government and the Prime Minister have actually now doubled down. Out of spite, and spite is pretty much the only explanation that I can find, the Liberals put a motion forward in this House that would, as my colleagues in the NDP aptly stated, put a “straitjacket” on Parliament, or as my colleague, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle said, is an attempt to “unilaterally [disarm] the opposition”.
We had already witnessed the government's move to cut off debate on other occasions in this Parliament, but this motion goes much further. It is as if the Liberals sat at the table with one another and asked themselves, what are all the tools that the opposition has to slow down our agenda, and how can we get rid of them?
It is as if the Prime Minister and his Liberals did not want a government and an opposition; they just wanted a government and an audience.
That lead us to last night's events. Let us not forget why we were in this chamber to vote last night. We were here to vote on how much longer we, as members of Parliament, would be allowed to speak on the government's assisted suicide bill. On a fundamental matter of conscience for millions of Canadians, including all of us in this chamber, the government had moved, once again, to shut down debate.
That, in itself, was unprecedented. On the opposition side, we were here to vote, and we knew would certainly lose the right to speak up any further for our constituents on this bill.
However, the vote was just not moving along fast enough for the Prime Minister. Why should he be expected to wait patiently in his seat like the rest of us for a vote to begin? I watched him. He had just entered the chamber a few seconds after I did. He was not here for very long when he strode across the aisle.
I watched him as he grabbed the official opposition whip, my good friend, by the arm. I also watched him as he yelled something so out of line that I will not repeat it in the House.
I watched him as he bumped into the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé, who was clearly shocked by his behaviour and left the House, unable to vote on behalf of her constituents.
He was out of line. He had no business on this side of the House. He had no business anywhere but in his own seat.
Everything he did from the moment he rose from his seat was unnecessary and it was unsettling. It flies in the face of any of the promises that the Prime Minister made about decorum in the House. It was nothing less than an affront to every member of the House.
Let us just imagine for a second that other Canadians experienced something like their own workplace, that they were about to sit down for a meeting, but it was running a little late. So the boss stormed into the room, swore at people, and then grabbed another colleague and pull them over to the table by the arm forcefully. What would happen? I think we all know what would happen.
From the beginning, from the very first day, in fact, we have all had the sneaking suspicion that the Prime Minister thinks that the opposition is a bit of an inconvenience, or perhaps an annoyance and in the way of his plans. I would like him to re-evaluate that view because I and we, just like him, were elected to be here.
The House belongs to the people, not us, not me, and not him.
The behaviour that we have seen displayed over the last few months, whether it is the eye rolls, or the mocking of some of our members, or the sticking out of the tongue or what happened last night, it is unbecoming. It is unbecoming of all members, but obviously unbecoming of a Prime Minister. His actions last night and behaviour are worthy of the strongest condemnation of the House.
However, beyond that, only six months into its existence, the entire government's approach to this place and its members need a serious re-evaluation.
I implore the Prime Minister to now take a step back and work with all members of the House to ensure that our privileges are respected, that our voices are heard, and that our votes are counted.
Nothing can change what he did last night, the offence he caused all members, and indeed all Canadians. How he chooses to conduct himself from this point forward will determine the result of this Parliament.
What happened last night is not for us to fix, it is for him to fix, and he can do that. I have no doubt that we will see another apology, but those words have to be backed by action, action that demonstrates there has been a lesson learned.
It would be a good time to let members speak on the very few pieces of legislation that the government has, without the threat of closure over their heads.
It would be a good time for the Liberals to withdraw their extreme and aggressive motion to strip the opposition of any tools to hold the government to account.
More important, it would be a good time to show some respect for the democratic voice of Canadians when it comes to changing the way we vote in our country.
I know the government has repeatedly dismissed the idea of a referendum, using the absurd reason that a referendum somehow does not include every Canadian.
It is insulting. When the Prime Minister shows arrogance or dismissiveness or the disrespect that he showed us last night, there should be no surprise when the government follows.
This is an opportunity for the government to reverse course.
It is time to put an end to this dismissive, arrogant, and disrespectful attitude toward members, right here and right now.
The Prime Minister has two options. He can continue on his current path of an unprecedented, unilateral takeover of the House, to which I can assure him we will not be intimidated into submission or silence, or he can work with us. He can work with the House to ensure that we take the appropriate time to study and debate what comes before us by respecting the important role that the opposition plays in our parliamentary democracy rather than brushing us off as an inconvenience to his agenda.
It is our sincere hope that he chooses the second option and restores the dignity and humility to the office that he holds.