Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands for sharing her time with me.
Ten minutes is valuable time that will allow me to speak to the alleged intent behind the modernization of House of Commons procedure. My political party will have had only 10 minutes to express its views in the House. All the members of the House are complicit in believing that this is perfectly fine.
Since October 19, 2015, I have been experiencing Canadian-style parliamentary democracy. To be honest, it concerns me, both in terms of the inconsistencies between theory and practice and the inconsistencies between this government’s intentions and its actions. It concerns me, especially given the discrimination, as well as the complacency about this discrimination, plaguing this House. Whether we like it or not, there are two classes of members in the House. This also means that there are two classes of constituents. There are recognized parties and non-recognized parties, which make up the two classes of members. When it comes to freedom of speech, we do not have the same rights as all parliamentarians in the House.
In terms of its practices, Parliament is stuck in the 19th century. However, the mother parliament of Westminster has evolved. If you ask me, today it would have difficulty recognizing its Canadian offspring, since it grants its minority parties benefits and privileges that this Parliament does not. The aim was to undertake procedural reform. In the area of modernizing procedure, we have been excluded from all parliamentary committees since October 19, 2015.
When the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs wants to meet and seek the approval of all parliamentarians in the House to amend the Standing Orders, members who belong to a non-recognized party continue to be excluded. If this is not discrimination, I do not know what else to call it. Is this ideological segregation? This is following this government’s supposed intention to change the voting system in order to allow for a greater ideological diversity of opinions in the House. Obviously, the Liberals have tossed that in the trash, along with their intention to modernize procedure and the Standing Orders.
However, all my colleagues and I were elected, just like all other MPs, to honour the mandate given to us by the people. How is it that everyone accepts the fact that some MPs in the House do not have the same means of giving a voice to their constituents? I am speaking mostly of the contributions of MPs to committees, or parliamentary “commissions” in Quebec, which represent a large part of parliamentarian’s work.
If MPs are excluded from committees, what other means do they have left to make the voices of their constituents heard? In committee, when the debate is focused on the principle of a bill, we have the right to vote and are given ten minutes to say what we think of the bill. After that, it is radio silence. We no longer have the right to vote or intervene. Depending on the government’s mood, and if we have played nice in committee, we might be allowed to raise our hand and perhaps be given a brief two minutes to say something. However, we still do not have the right to vote. At report stage we can vote in the House, but there is absolutely no possibility of submitting any amendments that were not submitted in committee.
We do not have the right to vote or the right to speak in committee. Is this what Canadian-style parliamentary democracy looks like? Are we proud of this? I for one am not because I am not given the means to speak on behalf of constituents in the House.
However, we have a democratic principle under which voters pay taxes to the Government of Canada and have the right to be represented by MPs from the Bloc Québécois or the Green Party. These parties should have equitable means for representing their fellow citizens. Freedom of speech is a recognized principle, but an MP’s duty to speak is not respected in a fair manner in Parliament.
How could we think that this parliamentary reform of procedure would lead anywhere other than a dead end? According to parliamentary tradition, changing the rules of the game requires trying for the greatest consensus possible. In December 2015, this government gave the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, a committee that we are excluded from, the mandate to modernize how the House works, within a perspective of work-family balance. That is an excellent idea, because after having sat as a member in another parliament, I can tell you that work-family balance is pathetic here in Ottawa.
However, today, this entire aspect has been set aside, along with the willingness to acknowledge all legislators of the House. Parliamentary procedure is controlled by executive power, which, in any case, is always looking to bypass legislative power, since hearing members speak takes too long. There are no ministers in the committees, but the government would like to give parliamentary secretaries more rights than I have. They will automatically receive the right to intervene, even if they do not have the right to vote. The executive will then be able to once again deliver its messages to the majority legislators of the governing party so that they do not deviate from the executive line of government. There is no separation of powers.
This government, however, was supposed to do politics differently. Changing the voting system, which allowed each vote to count, among other things, was thrown out. Reforming the financing of political parties was also tossed, and this could have at least allowed each vote to count, in a British system, by paying parties an allowance in proportion to the number of votes that they received. Work-family balance was scrapped along with the recognition of minority parties in the House, the fundamental right of parliamentarians of all parties to do their job in the House, freedom of speech, and the value of justice, because it is a matter of justice.
The fairness principle must be absolutely respected. However, when it is a matter of the right of only one member, one can assume that all members of the House may not be able to speak, as there are 338 members. This refers to parties. I have not heard many members, except for the member of the Green Party, agreeing with us and saying that what the members of the Green Party and the Bloc Québécois are experiencing is terrible, and that they support us because they would never want to be in that position.
I therefore ask our fellow legislators whether they support us in this interpretation of a bad reform of the procedure.