Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by congratulating the member for Vancouver Granville and the member for Markham—Stouffville, who have announced they will be running as independents in the federal election to be held this fall. They stood up to the Prime Minister and for judicial independence and they paid a terrible political price, being banished from the Liberal Party. Both of them are putting the future and the final decision in the hands of the voters of Vancouver Granville and Markham—Stouffville, which is as it should be.
I would like to mention the last time we sat for four weeks in night sessions. The New Democrats are no strangers to hard work. We believe our job is to be here and fight as hard as we can on behalf of our constituents and all Canadians.
Statistics were kept of the last time we sat for four weeks until midnight. Canadians know there is a rotation. The Liberals get a chance to speak, then the Conservatives, then the New Democrats. Then independents and non-recognized parties occasionally will have their opportunity as well.
The last time we sat late for four weeks, I am proud to say that not a single speaking spot was missed by the New Democrats. Every time it came to the NDP, and that was frequently, the New Democrats rose in the House and spoke on behalf of their constituents and of Canadians.
Sadly, that is not the case with the Liberals and the Conservatives. The last time we sat for four weeks of midnight sittings, the Liberals and the Conservatives failed to show up over 200 times. A Liberal speaker would be called and not a single member of the Liberal caucus rose to speak on behalf of his or her constituents or on behalf of anybody.
I find it a bit rich when the government House leader talks about the Liberals wanting to work harder. The opposition House leader said the same thing, all be it more eloquently. The reality is that this happened 200 times over 20 days. Over that period, or 10 times a day, the Conservatives and the Liberals failed to stand and speak on behalf of their constituents.
The New Democrats have a record of wanting to work hard and we believe all members of the House of Commons should work equally hard on behalf of their constituents. Therefore, our problem is not the midnight sittings. To the contrary, we have proven over the years that the New Democrats are here to work and work hard, and we will continue to do that.
The problem with the motion is that it strips away all the tools that opposition members can use to hold the government to account, and this is no small matter. When we look at the mandate letter the Prime Minister provided to the government House leader in 2016, it speaks very clearly to what the government told Canadians it wanted to bring as far as a new spirit in the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister wrote in the mandate letter:
I made a personal commitment to bring new leadership and a new tone to Ottawa. We made a commitment to Canadians to pursue our goals with a renewed sense of collaboration.
He said further in his mandate letter, which directs the government House leader on how to work with members of the opposition in the House of Commons:
As Minister, you will be held accountable for our commitment to bring a different style of leadership to government. This will include: close collaboration with your colleagues; meaningful engagement with Opposition Members of Parliament...
He went on to say:
Parliamentarians must have the information and the freedom to do their most important jobs: represent their constituents and hold the government to account. It is your job to help empower all Members of Parliament to fulfill these essential responsibilities. .
The Prime Minister went on to say that the government House leader should be changing the House of Commons Standing Orders to end the improper use of omnibus bills. We have seen some of the most egregious examples of omnibus legislation in our history as a country and our history as a Parliament under the Liberal government, the most recent being the incredibly inappropriate use of trying to gut immigration legislation through the use of an omnibus budget bill.
My colleague, the member for Vancouver East, has spoken eloquently, as have dozens of organizations across the country, about the cutting off the ability of refugees to apply for refugee status in Canada, something that has been applauded by white supremacists and has been derided, quite legitimately, by organizations that are very concerned by the government's incredible shift to the right on this. This should never have been put into omnibus legislation, given that the Prime Minister committed to ending the improper use of omnibus bills. It is just another commitment that has been left by the wayside.
The Prime Minister asked and directed the government House leader, in her mandate letter, to “Work with Opposition House Leaders to examine ways to make the House of Commons more family-friendly for Members of Parliament.” Nothing in the mandate letter that was given to the government House leader is reflected at all in the motion the government has brought forward, which strips the opposition of rights and imposes on the government no obligation whatsoever with respect to how it runs through the next few weeks of Parliament.
We know from history, as I cited earlier with my sad example, that on over 200 occasions, the Liberals and the Conservatives failed to show up to work in the evening up until midnight. Shift workers, nurses, firefighters and police officers show up to work. People who work in plants, as I did on the shop floor, work 12-hour shifts, from midnight to noon. We showed up to work. Canadians show up to work, yet it is sadly the case that more than 200 times, in only 20 sitting days, the Liberals and the Conservatives failed to show up to speak on behalf of their constituents.
In the motion, which strips the opposition of all its rights, there is no obligation at all on the government side to do anything in particular. There is no obligation for the government to accept the many amendments that NDP members and other opposition members provide to improve legislation.
As we saw in the Harper years, on almost a dozen occasions, legislation that was passed after being railroaded through the House of Commons was rejected by the courts. Parliament exists to ensure we get legislation right the first time, not to have to rely on the court system to override egregiously bad legislation that has been pushed through the House of Commons.
However, this is what the Liberal government has done. In complete repudiation of its commitment to be a different government and in complete repudiation of the mandate letter I just cited, the Liberals have rammed through bad legislation that is now moving to the courts as well. Under the Harper government, legislation was rejected a dozen times.
It is a bad practice, yet there is nothing in the motion that obliges the government to listen to witnesses in committee. There is nothing in the motion that obliges the government to entertain the amendments that help to make legislation better. There is nothing that actually improves parliamentary procedure in this place.
That is the fundamental problem and that is why tomorrow, when I have a chance to speak a little more to the motion, I will speak about what the government should have done and how it should have been approaching this, doing so in that spirit of collaboration, which now seems so remote and removed.
Four years later, all of the promises of sunny ways that we heard from the Liberals belong on the trash heap of history. We have had a very mean-spirited government that has tried to railroad the rights of Parliament repeatedly. Ultimately, I think the Liberals will pay a price for this on October 21.