Mr. Speaker, in response to the member from the Bloc, let me point out that it was not the Conservative Party that proposed this motion. Motion No. 17 came from the government side. The government is asking that we sit until midnight every night, including tonight. I agree with the member that the celebrations of St. Jean Baptiste should have a lot more importance than sitting here talking about a motion to sit until midnight every night next week.
One of the things in Motion No. 17 being proposed by the government side, which makes one wonder exactly where the Liberals are coming from, is that Parliament would not come back potentially for 95 days after we recessed. If we are here all next week until June 30, July has 31 days, August has 31 days and September has 30 days. That would still leave another three days in October. The Standing Orders say we are supposed to be back here on September 19.
Does the government have something up its sleeve for not wanting us back here until October? If we sit another couple of weeks, it means we will not be back until after Thanksgiving. I think the government owes us an explanation about the 95 days. It is amazing how the Liberals have put these little quirks in the motion and we do not know what they mean.
The motion is also an amendment to the Standing Orders. I would have thought that when the Standing Orders are amended, we would have a right to send them to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for debate so it could be examined from every aspect. Every party could put their points forward. The committee could then bring a report to the House saying whether it agrees or does not agree. But no, the government just rides roughshod over Parliament and democracy. It brings in a motion with its new-found friends in the NDP and thinks it is going to ram it through. That is not democracy.
It is interesting that today we received the first annual report on democratic reform. The very day the government is running roughshod over democracy is the day that it brought out the very first report. The report does not say very much. It is only 16 pages long, including a foreword and a few blank pages. The first paragraph of the introduction states:
When the government was sworn into office on December 12, 2003, the Prime Minister made democratic reform a priority, saying, “We are going to change the way things work in Ottawa in order to re-engage Canadians in the political process and achieve demonstrable progress in our priorities”.
The report closes by stating:
Finally, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons will continue to oversee the parliamentary component of the Action Plan for Democratic Reform and work with all parliamentarians to ensure that Members of the House of Commons can effectively represent their constituents and continue to play their role in holding the Government accountable.
That report came out the very day that closure was introduced in the House of Commons. Can anyone square that circle? I cannot. The very day that this report has come out, we have had closure foisted upon us, and the report says, “to ensure that members of the House of Commons can effectively represent their constituents”. I am sorry but I find it rather disappointing that the government would present this report and closure on the same day.
We have talked about the introduction in the report. One of the headings is “Ethics and Integrity”. There is one page on ethics and integrity. Of course, this is on the day after the Ethics Commissioner released a damning report on the former minister of immigration. The Ethics Commissioner refused to look into the Prime Minister and his chief of staff and so on, but we have a page here on ethics and integrity saying that the government is going to do a great job on ethics and integrity. Well, I do not believe that.
There is another page or two on the restoration of the representative and deliberative roles of MPs. Now there is a big handle, but it means nothing on the day the government introduced closure. It is the hypocrisy that gets to us when we read these things. There is one on the expanded role of committees to shape and influence legislation, and here we have the procedure and House affairs committee being bypassed, ignored by the fact that this motion should have gone there and it has not. I could go on, but is there really any point?
Another one concerns the role of ministers and parliamentary secretaries. Last year, it was rather an unusual situation. As members know, I chair the public accounts committee and a year ago the public accounts committee was investigating the sponsorship scandal. It was rather interesting that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works during question period stand on that side of the House answering questions and defending the government. After that, we went down the hall, the committee resumed after question period and he was supposed to be investigating on behalf of Parliament. Within the space of a few minutes he would be there defending the government, answering questions from the opposition and then he would go to the committee to do the “investigation”. That is the role of parliamentary secretaries.
Anyway, I think we will just leave that report alone. It really does not say an awful lot because the democratic deficit, I think, is getting bigger and bigger. It is getting a lot bigger, not smaller. Therein is the problem. I would hope that we can deal with that soon so that we can have an election and move those guys from over there to over here, and we can really get some democratic reform in the House.
The reason we are having all of this foisted upon us is of course Bill C-48, all two pages of it. It is going to spend up to $4.5 billion with no plan. Not only is it going to spend $4.5 billion but it is going to be spent fast. It is going to be spent this year and next year. We have 18 months because we are well through the first part of fiscal year 2005-06. From April 1, 2005, we are already three months into the quarter. By the time the bill passes, gets through the Senate, we bring the Governor General back--I am sure she is going somewhere--and get her to sign this into legislation, then we start spending this $4.5 billion. We only have 18 months to do it. That is a pile of cash going out the door, but where is the money going to go?
Earlier today there was a member from Assiniboine who was talking about how Bill C-48 was essential, how it was urgent and how the dollars were required. I took a look at this document which is called “Budget Plan 2005”. It has several hundred pages, 420 pages. It is the budget plan presented in the House by the Minister of Finance on behalf of the Liberal Party.
How long did you say I had to speak, Madam Speaker, only one minute? There must be more than one minute. It was a 20 minute speech. I am just getting warmed up. I thought it was 20 minutes, Madam Speaker.