Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to talk about this important subject.
In regards to this issue, there are two things I will focus my comments on. First is the process that we have right now, because I think it is important for the member and the general public to understand how we actually proceed with parliamentary business. Second is the subject matter and the appropriateness of the issue at hand.
These issues are very important, and I am glad that the member for Sydney—Victoria has raised them. They are worth debating and discussing in our chamber, but the process that is being suggested is very surprising, because it appears that the member has not been well supported by his own party with regards to the process. What I mean by that is that when one is selected for private members' business, it is like winning the lottery so to speak. At different times in my career, I have been selected at the very top; other times, like now, at the very bottom, and so at the moment I have no hope of getting a private member's motion or proposed legislation into this chamber. However, what the member has presented, quite frankly, is something that could have been done by the Liberals at committee. It is kind of bizarre that we would be spending time on this motion on the floor of the House when it could be done at committee on any particular day or time. Therefore, to waste this opportunity by putting the motion here in the chamber for other political parties to gauge versus other work seems to be an unfortunate loss of an opportunity, especially given that committees are supposed to be their own kind of entities.
I remember the days of the Jean Chrétien regime when I was first elected, when we did not have parliamentary secretaries at committee. That practice was changed by the Liberal administration under former prime minister Martin. Thereafter, the government could access its cabinet to control or influence committees, and that continued throughout the Harper administration and now the present administration. The situation is different from what it was in the past when committees were the masters of their own domain.
To have the House direct the committees is very much like the tail wagging the dog. Committees were supposed to be a bipartisan opportunity for members to get through a number of bills, to make sure they were important and to be looked at and screened through a more professional and less partisan lens. However, I have seen that process tainted, because parliamentary secretaries, despite their best intentions, individual reflections and so forth, have access to information that is different from what other members have, as well as having political motivation, because they are part of the entity running the government at the particular time. It is just a thing that happens in the process. It is not underhanded or whatever, but just what takes place in the job of a parliamentary secretary, who is, in fact, privy to more information than other members of Parliament.
It was noted that the motion before us would take a minimum of 12 meetings at committee, and I know there is a potential amendment for it to move to the industry committee, which I sit on. However, when members look at our parliamentary schedule, they would see that we only have a few more sitting weeks left in March that would be available, and then we would be into April and May. The study the motion calls for would basically be at committee for months. At the same time, the content process calls for a further study from there, and then on top of that, it is to be reported within a year. Parliament would have to continue beyond a year for this process, and the government would then have a chance to look at the study and respond.
We are probably looking at a baked-in process here of about a year and a half, which would take the place of other issues that, in many respects, deserve a qualitative and quantitative debate right now. In fact, we would be kicking down the road other very important issues, such as buying local and labelling, which, as has been rightly noted, many of which are provincial jurisdiction. There are also language issues, which we would miss the opportunity to discuss. The motion would push farther down the line things that are important for us to talk about and decide, and might obstruct our accomplishing and completing some things in the meantime if we invited these witnesses.
We have legislation that does not go through 12 meetings. That is important to note, because the business of the House of Commons, for example the environment or industry, will be compromised by acting on a series of other things. We will not have that time. On top of that, we have reduced translation service capabilities, which are crucial right now with regard to COVID-19 in the House of Commons. We have a whole series of compounding factors taking place.
I want to credit the member for Sydney—Victoria. Despite the process elements that we have here, some of things that he is raising are important and they have to be discussed. I have worked on a number of different things that have been either differently labelled or administered differently, and we have changed our practices. I point to some of the things that have taken place that are quite significant in this chamber related to the environment, whether it was labelling on products or registering through a different type of process through regulatory means.
One motion that was passed was in regard to microbeads, something that I worked on for a long time. It passed as a motion to be listed as an item of concern, and now it is being managed. The motion helps our Great Lakes, our water and a series of things. That process was adopted by all in the chamber, and the Harper administration made it part of regulations. These are very item-specific things that can be done. I would hate to see some item-specific issues held up because we were doing a comprehensive study in another committee and that work was duplicated or stalled, or an issue was challenged later on.
Again, when we talk about labelling that we have changed over the years, an example is pesticide spraying and what can be done about that. When I was on city council, we moved to stop that in our public areas and then were challenged by the courts on it. Long story short, the country has moved in an entirely different direction now and we have reduced pesticide spraying. These things relate to some intentions of this motion, but again, the vehicle we are looking at is becoming very problematic.
There will be a lot of changes with regard to plastics and their labelling. We cannot wait to do some of those things. The NDP has proposed several strong ways to enhance consumer and environmental protection in a fair way that involves businesses. Again, these are things that should not wait, as a study might be lengthy. It seems that we end up kicking many good things down the road and tying up resources in the House of Commons during COVID-19. It would seem to be a significant burden for ourselves and for the intent of the motion.
I am going to conclude by thanking the member for Sydney—Victoria for bringing this up. I am sorry that the New Democrats are not going to support it. It is entirely tied up, with regard to the processes. I am surprised that there was not any type of coaching or support for the pitfalls with regard to this, because it is obvious that there are some good ideas here that are important. However, because the process is burdensome and fraught with potential issues of duplication, lost work and time, and also the disadvantage we lose to other matters, I cannot support this.