Madam Speaker, I would like to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the chief whip of the official opposition in the House of Commons.
Let us be clear from the start. We have no problem with extending work hours at this time of the year, as in fact our standing orders provide.
However, we are extremely concerned about the motion introduced by the government and voted on a few moments ago, because we know that facilities are limited, given the current pandemic situation. A lot of technical efforts are being made and government officials have made generous offers to co-operate with us, and we greatly appreciate that. However, when we get to this time of year, there is a kind of bottleneck. That is why we have to strike a very fair and reasonable balance between extending the work hours in the House of Commons and keeping parliamentary committees running. That is where there is a disconnect with the motion put forward by the government.
I would remind members that the House of Commons is part of Parliament, and as its very name suggests, Parliament is a place for parley, in other words, for discussion. We in the official opposition discuss things with our counterparts on the government side and with the other opposition parties. I would never, ever go into the details of those discussions. However, one thing is certain and indisputable, that is, that we had honest, good-faith discussions with our counterparts and could not come to an agreement. That is the point.
As we saw, when my colleague, the chief whip of the official opposition, asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons a very specific question, that good man, whom I like and respect a great deal, was unable to give anything even remotely resembling the merest hint of an answer. As parliamentarians, we cannot give carte blanche in terms of which committees will survive this proposal and which will not.
It should be immediately obvious why we have some very serious concerns about the lack of clarity on the parliamentary committees. We need only look at this government's track record over the past few months in terms of parliamentary work.
However, it was funny to hear my Liberal colleague for Winnipeg North talk about everything being in limbo because of Conservative opposition members, that their tactic on a daily basis is to delay, delay, delay, and that there is a filibuster each and every step of the way on each and every bill. This is anything but true.
When we talk about filibustering, I think that the king of filibustering is the Liberal Party of Canada, especially in this session, and there is a record of that. I do not think that the member for Winnipeg North and his colleagues would be very proud of what they have done in committee.
Let us look at what the Liberals have been doing in parliamentary committees over the past few months. They were the ones who accused us earlier of filibustering, as in talking for hours and hours in order to waste time rather than get to the bottom of things.
We can look at the Standing Committee of Procedure and House Affairs where the Liberals had filibustered for 73 hours.
The Liberals filibustered for 73 hours, preventing the committee from doing its work. Why?
It is because we wanted to get to the bottom of things and allow witnesses to appear and explain why the government prorogued Parliament. The Liberals filibustered for 73 hours to prevent witnesses from testifying. Now they are the ones accusing us of being the bad guys holding up the works. It is ludicrous.
However, it does not end there.
We can look at the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics where the Liberals filibustered for 43 hours. Why? It was to block getting to the truth about the WE Charity scandal.
There is a common thread in all this, however. When we want to get accurate information on Liberal scandals, they filibuster. They are very unhappy about that and accuse us of wanting to delay parliamentary work, when we are just doing our job.
These are concrete examples, but it does not end there. At the Standing Committee on Finance, the Liberals filibustered for 35 hours, once again to prevent parliamentarians from getting to the bottom of the WE Charity scandal.
At the Standing Committee on National Defence, the Liberals filibustered for over 16 hours. The committee chair, who is a member of the government party, unilaterally suspended the meetings 23 times.
This is starting to really add up: 63 hours at one committee, 43 hours at another, 35 hours at a third, 16 hours at a fourth. I have not even mentioned the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, where the Liberals filibustered for 10 hours, between February and April, on the study we wanted to conduct on the COVAX facility, which was created by rich countries to provide poor countries with access to vaccines. Sadly, members will recall that Canada, a rich country, helped itself to the supply for poor countries because it did not have the vaccines that the Prime Minister had announced at his December dog and pony show. That is the reality.
I hear government members accusing us of being the bad guys and filibustering, when they are the ones who filibustered for 63 hours at one committee, 43 hours at another, 35 hours at the Standing Committee on Finance, 16 hours at the Standing Committee on National Defence, and 10 hours at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.
In light of the Liberals' dismal parliamentary record, we feel it is perfectly valid to want to be sure of what is planned for the committees before we give the government carte blanche to extend the committee and House sittings. However, the government refuses to tell us its plans and instead demands a free hand. We think this is unacceptable.
I heard my colleague from Winnipeg North explaining the status of some bills, so we will take a look at that assessment.
He talked about Bill C-3, regarding judges, which is modelled on a bill originally introduced by the Hon. Rona Ambrose. We are very proud of that legislation, but the Liberal government used the strongest weapon in its arsenal to delay its passage or concurrence, namely prorogation.
Let us not forget that last summer, when the Liberal government was in a real jam over the WE scandal, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics met day after day in July and again in August. The official opposition members strenuously challenged the government's moral authority, because it had adopted a despicable strategy for dealing with this scandal.
What did the government do when it was in trouble? It prorogued Parliament. This was the worst thing it could do to slow down the work of parliamentarians. Once Parliament is prorogued, everything goes back to square one. That is what happened with Bill C-3.
What about Bill C-11? I heard the member for Winnipeg North say how important this legislation is, and he is absolutely right. I even remember the member and Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry calling out the Conservatives on Twitter in February, accusing us of delaying Bill C-11 and saying that it was awful.
I quite like the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, who is the minister responsible. I have a lot of respect and regard for him, but when I saw that on Twitter, I found myself thinking that I had not seen Bill C-11 in a long time. When I checked, I saw that the last time the government had brought Bill C-11 forward in the House was on November 24, 2020. The bill then sat around for three months, through November, December, January and February, before the government brought it forward again. However, the government went after us in February, claiming that we were delaying it. That is completely absurd.
The member also mentioned Bill C-14, on the economic statement, since there was no budget. The government accused us and is still accusing us of filibustering it, when two-thirds of the official opposition members did not even speak on it.
I am proud to be the House Leader of the Official Opposition. Our caucus has 120 members who duly represent eight Canadian provinces and regions in the House of Commons. We are the only truly national party. I am very proud of the calibre of people I work with, and that is why, when they ask to speak, I am happy to add them to the political debate. However, it is utterly ludicrous to accuse us of filibustering when two-thirds of our caucus did not even speak.
That is why the motion, as currently presented, is unacceptable to us. We are ready and willing to work longer hours as long as the parliamentary work in the House of Commons can be done without compromising the work of the committees, but that is absolutely not the case with this motion.