Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that it is easy to solve the problem before us, and I do not understand the government's strategy at all. The idea is to make a major change to our Standing Orders official. This change has been tried over the past year or more.
Before we get to the bottom of things, hon. members need to understand that the sole purpose of the amendment that was just introduced is to delay acceptance of the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. That is its sole purpose: to make sure these amendments to the Standing Orders are not accepted within the timeframe allotted by the House, thereby giving the government the wiggle room it needs to postpone consideration of this issue by the House of Commons indefinitely.
For the benefit of those who are watching, all the amendments before us here were introduced by the Conservative Party, by Conservative members—with rallying speeches and talk of consensuses and discussions among the parties—when the Conservatives formed the official opposition. I would not want the people who are watching to think that the Liberal opposition, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP are trying to pull a fast one on the government. One gets that impression, listening to the government whip, but it is absolutely not true.
I have here a memo dated September 7, 2004, in which the then opposition leader, now the Prime Minister, asked the leaders of the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party to proceed immediately with the amendments to the Standing Orders that have been introduced. Everyone who is watching needs to understand that all the amendments before us today originated in the office of the Conservative leader a year and a half ago, when he was the leader of the official opposition.
We are not trying to turn everything upside down or put the government in a difficult position. We are trying to make permanent something that all the parties had agreed to try temporarily, at the suggestion of the then leader of the official opposition, who is now the Prime Minister. We want to implement something that was introduced by the Prime Minister.
Let us stop this hypocritical chatter suggesting that we are trying to quibble, to engineer a conflict. This is something that was done with the consent of everyone and that, I repeat, originated from the office of the current Prime Minister when he was the Leader of the Opposition. Moreover, he worked on this with the same advisors he has now. I have the advantage of being an old parliamentary leader; I have been here for a while and I have seen them at work. These same advisors are still around today. They are the ones who drafted the changes to the Standing Orders, and pleaded for the Bloc Québécois and the NDP to support them. They are also the ones who pleaded for the Liberal government at the time to approve these regulatory changes.
Today, we are hearing that it is terrible, outrageous, that the spirit of cooperation is gone and that our workings had always been perfectly harmonious. I was about to use bad language. There is a limit to spewing nonsense. These provisional Standing Orders make the life of the official opposition easier. Indeed, this change to the Standing Orders allows the official opposition to better play its role. Take for example this debate we are having today at the instigation of this Parliament's official opposition; it could not have been held had the rules not been changed.
I would like the people watching us to suggest what they would call a group of politicians who say one thing while in opposition and the opposite once in government. That is what we have here.
The very people who proposed these changes to the Standing Orders and convinced everyone to approve them are now reticent to say too loudly, for fear of ridicule, that they oppose the Standing Orders. Still, they keep looking for ways to prevent these Standing Orders from being permanently, officially adopted.
Do they think we cannot see right through them? I was not born yesterday. I am most senior parliamentary leader in this House. It is clear to me what they want to do: they want to buy time so that these provisional orders will fade away come mid-November. Then we would no longer be able to debate them here in this House or to consider this report, because it is in the new Standing Orders. After mid-November, we will no longer be able to discuss this issue. Under the old Standing Orders, only the government can put the debate back on the agenda, if and when it chooses to do so.
I doubt the government has any intention of bringing back the debate. It no longer wants to hear about changes to the Standing Orders even though it proposed them when it was the official opposition. This behaviour is unacceptable. There will be collaboration in this House once we start talking to one another.
I have been a parliamentary leader for 13 years. Never have I had such little discussion with my counterpart opposite and my colleagues in opposition about parliamentary strategy. These people talk about dialogue. They do not want anyone to talk about the strategy they themselves came up with when they were in opposition. I would like to tell the Liberal opposition, which was in power at the time, that it could have put up more of a fight against the application of this Standing Order. The government House leader at the time, Tony Valeri, was aware that we could force their hand, in a way. So he invited us to discuss a number of things, and we discussed them. This Standing Order was the result of that discussion.
This is a big improvement that, among other things, makes it possible for our friends in the NDP to have an additional opposition day and enables Parliament to vote on all opposition days. All parliamentarians, all citizens with elected representatives in the House of Commons, want motions introduced in the House to be voted on, passed, or taken into consideration by all members of the House. That is a big improvement for democracy.
In return, members of the opposition agreed to make known in advance the subjects that would be debated here in the House of Commons. Why would we not accept such a change? They want to muzzle the NDP and remove one of their two opposition days; they want to remove the right of the official opposition or the Bloc Québécois to bring motions to a vote. That won’t hold water. That is the reason why when we are in opposition, we are better parliamentarians.
Indeed, these amendments, which are all excellent and essential to the good operation of Parliament, were introduced by a Conservative government in opposition.
It appears that we will be obliged to ask them to return to the opposition to regain those qualities that they had only a few months ago. That is the reality.
I would simply like to say that my colleague, the whip, makes me blush with shame, by proposing a motion such as this one, five days instead of ten.
Do you know what we told them? We will tell you: yes, there are some details that we are ready to discuss. There are some small points that we could examine if you like, now that you want to talk. There are some little things that we can do. We are prepared to examine the amendment to five days from ten.
Let us adopt the new Standing Orders as a whole, because they are a great deal broader than this little motion, than this small change that is proposed.
This is a pretext. It smells like a pretext. Let us adopt the new Standing Orders. Everybody likes them, except the Conservatives who produced them. Nevertheless, they will have to live with them. Sorry but when you are virtuous in opposition, you can also be virtuous when you are in government. I apologize to the Conservatives. They will have to live with their Standing Orders, and we will make them swallow it because we are all agreed that this is a good standing order; it is a one from which no one gains any special advantage.
We believed that the Leader of the Opposition at that time, who is now the prime minister, had produced a good text, which we supported for that reason, and which the Liberals and the NDP agreed was a good text, and because Canadians are better served by a good text. When we have one, we adopt it; and we are going to adopt it. That is what we want to do.
If there are changes to be made, from five days to ten, or commas, or minutes to move, we will be as open as the Liberal government was at the time to accept this text. We will have the necessary openness and we will ensure that the citizens are better served than ever. We will not allow the government to prevent us from adopting what we consider to be a good text. We will vote against the motion, against the amendment that says this will be sent to committee. The government wants to buy some time. We will not allow it to buy time at our expense—and especially not at the expense of the Standing Orders. And I asked citizens, throwing it back in their face: what do you think of a group of parliamentarians who behave one way when they are in opposition and another way when they are in power?
It was funny at the time to the Leader of the Opposition, the now Prime Minister, and his group of advisors, and the whip who was leader, and the leader who was whip. It was the same clique. They thought it was funny to impose this on the Liberal minority government. They found it funny and they liked it. They were pleased and happy that the Bloc and the NDP were in favour of it.
Today, we are the ones who find it funny to throw back in their faces the Standing Orders they came up with at the time and on which we collaborated. I am sorry, but this allowed the opposition to do its work better and I hope it does not bother the government to think that if we did our work better as the opposition, this might prevent it from making the gaffes that would send it straight to the opposition benches at the next election. The Conservatives should consider themselves lucky: things are working, the House is doing well, the Standing Orders are a good text and there is unanimity among the other parties to keep what they came up with in the first place.
I call this great unanimity. They should vote with us instead of using stalling tactics to put off this motion long enough so we can no longer pass it or have the chance to force them to accept it.