Mr. Speaker, I will begin my contribution to this debate by reiterating what we have heard from a few members. I do not think the issue is that members mind sitting longer to accomplish important work. We were sent here to do that work. If there are things that need to get passed and we feel they are of value to Canadians, we are willing to do the work to get it passed. The issue is that sitting longer does come with real consequences both in terms of costs to the House by not just having MPs here, but all the staff that make debate in this place possible and that support this work. Having them come in to work overtime has a real cost. There is a productivity cost that may be incurred for some of us who stay up past midnight and then get up for eight o'clock meetings that will not get pushed back. That is fine, and it can be a reasonable choice to make. Sometimes we just have to get things done, which means staying later. Putting in some overtime is not a problem. However, the question is why we are in a situation that we have to do that.
It is important to understand how we got here. I do not think anyone would disagree with the claim that this is not ideally how one would run things around here. To ask MPs, or staff on the Hill, on relatively short notice, to stay until midnight, and then be back again every morning is not the ideal way to run the House of Commons. That is why it is exceptional and not usually done. I have not heard anyone today suggest it should.
Part of how we got here is simply. The government has been inept for a number of months. That ineptitude manifested itself when the government brought what it called a discussion paper to change the Standing Orders. It then, at the procedure and House affairs committee, where that would properly be dealt with before coming to this place, decided to move to close down that conversation. The opposition parties rightly reacted for a number of reasons. One was that it did not seem to be a good faith discussion when the government had said it wanted to have that and then moved to close it down. Therefore, it did not feel like the government was acting in good faith on that. However, the opposition members also rightly objected because all they were asking for, in order to embark on that conversation in good faith, was that the government would agree in advance to seek all-party agreement before moving ahead with changes to the Standing Orders. This was not some cockamamie scheme that the opposition parties of this Parliament came up with. It is a long-standing parliamentary tradition, which has worked to bring in significant parliamentary reform.
I grew up hearing stories of the McGrath committee at the dinner table. My father sat on that committee. It brought forth changes for the Speaker to be elected by secret ballot. That was a huge change. It also made private members' business votable, not in the way it is currently. It was the beginning of ensuring that at least some private members' business would be voted on.
These were just some of the substantial reforms that were made in the House via all-party agreement. Therefore, the idea that somehow we would never get all-party agreement, and it was just a pipe dream, is completely false. There are ample examples of that. The hon. official opposition House leader has outlined a number more, in fact, some dating back to the 14th century in Britain. Certainly, there are a number of cases where we have seen good reform come out of all-party work.
Therefore, the opposition said it did not think it acceptable for a government to unilaterally change the rules of this place. This place is meant to serve Canadians, not the government, and the interests of the government are not always the same as the interests of Canadians. Not wanting to depart too much from debate on the motion, the creation of the infrastructure bank is a good example of where the interests of the government do not align with the interests of Canadians. However, I will not get into that.
The filibuster that happened and some the time that was spent in the House, and there was a lot, was spent rightly. People were standing up to a government that thought Parliament was here to simply do whatever it wanted. We have seen that in Winnipeg with the call for an inquiry into the building of the new police headquarters. Because that project got out of hand and went way over budget, there are questions about whether the CAO of the city and the former mayor were involved or accepting money. Those questions are out there, and people are asking for an investigation. What people are rightly asking is whose hand was on the wheel, who was overseeing this and if it was not the job of backbenchers and opposition politicians to provide appropriate scrutiny.
That is what these tools of Parliament allow us to do. Standing up for those tools is part of that job. The “just trust us” attitude of the government is not sufficient. The government is not only saying “just trust us, we are doing a good job”, but it is talking about changing the rules of Parliament so we have no choice but to just trust it.
If the proposals in the discussion paper did not do that automatically, that was certainly the thrust and direction of them. The Liberals' way of doing it would set the principle and the precedent that a majority government could unilaterally change the rules of the House.
It is not our job to just trust the government. It is not our job to just help the government get legislation through the House. It is the government's job to get legislation through the House. By refusing to honour a long-standing parliamentary tradition of seeking all-party consensus, the government was at the root of the delay that happened in the House. As a result, it could not get its legislative agenda through. It is not even a very big legislative agenda, and that speaks to the magnitude of the Liberals failure as a government to work collaboratively with opposition parties.
As my colleague rightly pointed out, that was something the Liberals committed to doing. They made it a cornerstone of what they wanted to do. They said they wanted to work collaboratively and take the work of committees seriously.
How is the government taking the work of committees seriously when it presents a discussion paper on changes to the Standing Orders then moves to shut down the debate? How was it a sign of respect for the work of committees when the special committee on electoral reform came out with a proposal on how to advance the government's own election commitment? Even in the face of challenge and even though we said that we on this side of the House disagreed substantially on how we should or should not change our electoral system but nevertheless here was a path forward that we we could at least agree on, a general outline of what the process would look like, the government threw it back.
When we hear the government House leader today say that the government wants committees to do their great work and it wants more debate in the House, as if somehow we are to believe that this is really the motivation of the government, it is a challenge. It is a challenge on this side to take the Liberals at their word on those things because of what happened at PROC, because of what happened with Motion No. 6, because of what happened on democratic reform, and now with what is happening with this motion.
The government, essentially after botching its job, which is to guide legislation through the House and to work with other parties to do that, is now asking its backbench to make up for the mistakes, instead of looking at its cabinet, asking what has gone wrong, why has it been unable to advance its legislation through the House and what is that saying about the quality of the government's leadership.
These are questions the Liberals should be asking instead of asking all of us to put in extra time at the last minute to help them get through an agenda that they say is going to be positive for Canadians. That is fine. I do not believe that for a minute. Getting Bill C-44 through the House is not an important priority.
I would love to see the committee get to work on the infrastructure bank. When we proposed to separate that from the omnibus bill, the Liberals said no. They then had the audacity to stand here and say that they valued the work of parliamentarians and committees. Why not let a committee study that? The government House leader even went so far as to say that the government had the power to call witnesses and do an in-depth study. That was our point about the infrastructure bank, and the Liberals shut it down. For the Liberals to ask us to take their word that this is being done in good faith is a little much.
There are other aspects of this that would be useful to get into, but we are pushing up against the clock, not the least of which is the reforms that the Prime Minister has made within the Senate.
We have a chamber full of unelected people who are accountable to no one and it is sending bills like Bill C-4 back to the House. This is after two-thirds of Canadians voted for parties that said they wanted to see the anti-labour legislation of the last Parliament repealed. People who are accountable to no one have sent the bill back and have refused to pass it.
That has to get done. It should have been done a long time ago. It speaks volumes to the ineptitude of the Liberal Party that it has not already been done. It is a straight up repeal. It was a matter of getting it through the House and then getting it through the Senate. The Liberals failed to do that in a timely way. It is just an indication of how broken the Liberals are as a government that they cannot get such a fundamental piece of legislation passed. Granted it does not enjoy consensus because there is one party in th House that does not support legislation, but every other party in the House does, even the unofficial parties.
Four out of the five parties that won seats in the last election support the legislation, and the government still cannot get it passed. It does not even do anything new. It just restores labour law to what it was in 2012.
I will defer to questions and answers.