Madam Speaker, I am sad to see some people shifting seats now. I was hoping to get questions from them. We shall see where they sit up and take note.
I find this debate about extending the hours to finish the spring business and the concern that the opposition has expressed to be mind-boggling, quite frankly. I have been watching this particular session and I was here for the end of the previous one, and I have never seen this level of obstruction. It is the opposition's right to obstruct. It is its job to get in the way of government. I have no problem with that. However, the degree to which it has wasted time is quite remarkable. I am going to go through some of the examples that I think really show who is working hard and who is trying to work hard not to work hard.
The most popular form of obstruction right now is really ironic, considering the opposition members keep talking about how we want to take Fridays off. They have tried to effectively shut down debate more than a dozen times by moving motions of closure and by moving motions of adjournment. My favourite one was when the Conservatives could not decide which one of their backbenchers should talk, so they asked the rest of the House to come back from wherever they have been and make a decision for them, cancelling the important work that committees were doing. Sometimes up to five or six committees have had their work stopped for the entire afternoon while these games are played, yet what they want to talk about now is efficiency and working hard for Canadians inside Parliament.
The reality is that they have done everything they can to adjourn debate this session. Then the irony is that they complain about closure being moved. They move to adjourn debate and not have any debate, and then get mad when government says, “Okay, let's vote on the issue and put it to rest”. They say, “No, we wanted to debate. We were just moving motions of adjournment to show you we weren't happy.” Talk about sheer hypocrisy.
On March 21, there was a motion to have the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands now be heard. Even though he had spoken just moments before and spoke moments afterward, he needed to speak one more time in between. It was urgent, urgent enough to stop the work of 338 members of Parliament so that he could get a third shot at saying the same thing three times.
On March 22, there was a motion to return to orders of the day, again, to upend the government process and to stop the process moving through. I get it. Their job is to not let us do anything. However, the reality is that we have a responsibility to deliver government processes and deliver on the budget and deliver on a whole series of things, including sending critical legislation, sometimes even private members' legislation, to the committee so that the committee can deal with it.
We just had unanimous consent to pass a private member's motion, something which I did not see once in the previous Parliament for an opposition motion. The Conservative government voted against every single private member's motion, regardless of what it was. The Conservatives were militant about it and proud about it. We have seen unprecedented co-operation in this House, yet somehow we are labelled with this notion that Parliament is not working. I did not see a single private member's bill, save for the one on feminine hygiene products, pass in the last session of Parliament.
When opposition members bring forward legitimate motions trying to accomplish things where there is consensus, we have seen parliamentary secretaries like myself, backbenchers from across the country, given total freedom to support them, even when cabinet stands in opposition. This is parliamentary form at its finest, yet the opposition continues to see a problem in this kind of dialogue and, quite frankly, productivity.
On March 22, we had to return to orders of the day. Then, on March 23, we had a number of different motions where nine different committee meetings were interrupted by procedural shenanigans. There was a motion that was moved that yet another Conservative member be heard again.
For folks who are listening in the larger part of this country who are wondering what all the procedural ringing of bells and votes are all about, it is really about shutting down debate, slowing down Parliament. It is the opposition members' right to oppose what the government is proposing, but they do not even want Parliament to consider it, as a way of thwarting the changes we are trying to make. Again, I respect their opposition. I understand it comes from a position of ideological, parliamentary, or even electoral promises they have made, but the reality is that this is what has slowed Parliament down, not the government's ambition to get more pieces of legislation through.
Then after they move to adjourn the debate, when we move closure, they get upset that somehow we are truncating the parliamentary process and we are the ones abridging parliamentary rights. What do they think a motion to adjourn would accomplish? It would do exactly the same thing, but with no result at the end. That, to me is sheer hypocrisy.
Then, on March 23, we had another motion moved to adjourn the debate. There was a 40-minute debate after each one of these motions. They had a 40-minute motion to adjourn debate and then when we moved closure, they get upset that they wasted their 40 minutes and did not get a chance to debate the issue properly. In fact in total, I added it up and there have been almost 24 hours of debate on adjournment. Instead of debating legislation, instead of putting the views of their constituents forward for us to consider as a government, what they have been debating is their right to end debate so that they could protest the fact that the debate is ending. It is absurd.
The next thing that happened was the concurrence motions. These have enormous length of debate. There is sometimes up to three hours of debate when a concurrence motion is moved, and it is moved, as I said, not to actually deal with the legislation but to try to not deal with the legislation. Again, that is the opposition stalling tactic.
On April 5, we did not sit. On April 6, we came back and what happened? Another motion to adjourn, another 40-minute debate about the value of not talking about things as the opposition pretends to defend the value of talking about things. Again, a lot of these had to do with and circulated around the point of privilege that was raised around the budget process. One went for about 36 hours. That is almost two weeks of debate. We debated whether somebody was on a bus or not on a bus, capable of walking or not walking to vote, in comfortable shoes or not in comfortable shoes. We debated effectively a red herring. Instead of dealing with the opioid crisis, instead of talking about transit, instead of dealing with the fisheries, instead of dealing with softwood lumber, all these lofty goals that this government is hard at work trying to achieve, what we had was effectively a unanimous vote on a question of privilege.
We all understand the critical importance of getting to the House, being allowed to vote, representing the views of our constituents. None of us disagree with the elevated point of privilege that was raised. We all agreed that if anything impeded a member, they had the solemn right, a fundamental duty and privilege, to be in the House. We all agreed with that, but we debated it for 36 hours anyway. Then it turned out that the story that was delivered to the House about the interrupted vote was not necessarily the way it was initially presented. There was no motorcade blocking somebody on a bus to get here. The facts of the matter were completely different.
What we had was a filibuster, and I get it. It was a filibuster because we were trying to change the rules to make this place more efficient. The opposition thinks there should be unanimous consent to that. We disagree, and we will try to find a way to get forward on that issue and find ways to modernize this Parliament.
I understand that the opposition has a fundamental duty and rights and privileges in that conversation, and we will get to some point of future amendments to the House procedures that modernize this place, but the processes and the delays and the tactics and the sanctimony in which the opposition often wraps itself is just not founded.
What do we end up with? A wasted number of days, hours, and weeks debating something that actually did not happen, all over some fantasy of a point of principle that quite frankly is about whether or not the government has the right to limit debate, and the government does have the right to limit debate in order to make its presentation of legislation and its passage of legislation more efficient. We have a majority rule Parliament, and Parliament's will sometimes is to move on to the conclusion of the debate rather than to sustain debate until all 338 members are heard. That is part of our tradition here, and the previous government was criticized for it, by myself sometimes on critical issues where quite clearly there was a need for more debate, but on other issues, we understood the efficiency and we went along.
In this Parliament it has been different, but let us get back again to what happens when the party opposite pretends it wants to have a debate. In fact, again, on April 10, because one of our members wanted to speak and a Conservative stood up and said that they should have the chance to speak, we had to vote on that issue. There was a 40-minute debate on April 10 as to which MP should be allowed to speak, even though it was a Liberal turn.
That was the priority for the Conservative Party, which one of its MPs got to interrupt a Liberal. The fundamental priority was not softwood lumber, not what would happen on international trade deals, not the situation in the Middle East with Daesh, not the issue of the opioid crisis and safe injection sites and how we protect the lives of Canadians who have that medical condition, not the provision of more affordable housing, not the establishment of the infrastructure bank to deliver the infrastructure this country needs for the next century. None of those things were priorities, but what had to be sorted out was which Conservative got to speak next.
For that 40 minutes, the time of 338 parliamentarians was held up while we waited for everyone to come in and cast their ballots. People who travelled across the country to present their views to parliamentarians in committee were told to go home and not even talk to parliamentarians about it. That money was completely wasted, and what happened? The Liberal whose right it was to speak was allowed to continue to speak.
Members may think that is protective. They may think it is good politics. They may think it is good opposition. I understand that from the opposition's perspective, anything they can do to stop things is good politics, but it is bad parliamentary procedure and it needs to be fixed and modernized.
We have to get to that question and deal with those issues, but at the same time we have to get to that other list I just referenced. We have to deal with this budget. We have to deal with the delivery of infrastructure dollars to the cities. We have to deal with a move to legalize marijuana so that we can start to regulate this country's situation with good, strong legislation, and not simply talk about it in Parliament forever. It is time to move on some of these issues.
The Canadian system we work within has delivered us a majority to allow us to do that as an elected body. We have to do it with Parliament and we have to do it with the opposition in as respectful a way as possible, but at the end of the day, our responsibility is not just to make Parliament work but to make the country move forward as we make decisions here in Parliament. That is a responsibility that we take just as seriously as the opposition's opportunity to obstruct us.
On April 10, immediately following the 40-minute debate over who should talk next, even though the Conservatives wanted to talk, apparently, they brought a motion for adjournment. Therefore, we had a Liberal member standing up who wanted to talk, and the Conservatives said that they wanted to talk, and as soon as the Liberal member had the floor, someone stood up and said, “Let's adjourn the whole debate because we're really upset about closure and the fact that we don't have a chance to talk. If we can't talk, nobody should talk. Let's shut the whole thing down.”
Again, that had nothing to do with the issue on the floor. It had nothing to do with the serious issues confronting us on an economic, international, or domestic level. It had nothing to do about the quality of life in any one of their constituencies. It was simply a move to stop the process of Parliament moving forward. I think that most Canadians watching this, and looking at it on a point-by-point factual basis, will understand that this is obstruction and complaint for the sake of complaint, and though it is opposition that may be loyal, at the end of the day it is not really accomplishing anything.
Later that day, as soon as we got back from that debate and as soon as five committees were once again disrupted, what did we do? We had another 40-minute debate on adjournment. As if the decision of the House a half an hour earlier was not good enough, the Liberals had to go back and reprosecute the question of adjournment. That was two adjournment motions in one day debating whether or not Parliament should be allowed to close quickly when we had legislation to pass. Therefore, the party that claims it wants to work hard keeps trying to go home continuously, almost on a daily basis, while the party that is trying to govern is sitting here methodically, carefully, moving forward with its agenda.
I understand that the opposition will criticize it. I understand they will vote against it. It is the opposition's prerogative to play politics the way they are playing politics, but in reality, what they are accomplishing is simply delay and more delay. That is fine. If that is what they want to be defined by, if that is their contribution to this Parliament, that is fine. It is motions of adjournment, and that is that.
On April 11, we again get into a very important debate on the status of women. We have great work being done by this committee, an all-parliamentary committee, with some extraordinary work coming out from the NDP around pay equity, and pushing us to make sure that gender-based analysis actually changes the outcomes of women's lives in this country and moves us forward toward a more equitable society.
We are engaged in that debate, the NDP is engaged in that debate, but there is one party that is absolutely upset that anything like that might happen, so what happens? A motion for adjournment of the debate is once again introduced by the Conservatives, not because they are trying to force a decision on the issues raised by the member of the NDP, not because they are actually trying to change the lives and the yardsticks on this issue, but because they want to go home again. They need to leave. They need to protest the lack of debate by having no debate.
My mother used to say to me at times that lots of people are accused of cutting their noses off to spite their faces, but we rarely see someone without a nose. In this case, I am beginning to think that the nose may be coming off the bloom.
This is another fascinating one. After we get through that 40-minute debate, a motion is moved to tell the human resources committee effectively how to do its work on a maternity benefits bill, a bill that will allow women in dangerous occupations to get support so that they can continue to earn income while they deliver their child and start their family, a bill that has unanimous consent in committee. What happens? They move to stop all of the debate, and move a motion to instruct the committee to do something the committee is already doing and that the members at the committee had already consented to do. In other words, it was a redundant motion, but it was felt that it had to happen.
That was another 50 minutes of debating something the committee had already agreed to do. The person who moved this was a member of that committee, so they knew that the committee had already said yes. Then they came back here to say, “Could you make sure the committee says yes? We would like to debate telling the committee to say yes, even thought the committee has already agreed to say yes. This is our idea of efficiency and progress.” That is the party opposite.
It is their prerogative to try to oppose us. They sit here and say that they did not get time to debate the budget bill or did not get time to debate the important legislation in this House and represent the views of their constituents. If they had not wasted 15 minutes at a time day by day, week by week, trying to help us help them decide which one of them should talk next, they could have actually debated the issues of the day that have been tabled as legislation in this House. Instead, they chose not to do that, and that, to me, is the fallacy of the whole argument they present to us. They want to talk about the issues—