Mr. Speaker, earlier today one of our colleagues from the government side referred to the fact that here on our side of the House we more or less want to break ties with the monarchy because we want fixed election dates.
I represent Canada's first city to be incorporated by royal charter. I represent the Queen here in this House probably more than anyone else, because of the position that I held in that city, and I am in favour of fixed term elections. And I am sure that if we were to agree to this, Her Majesty would have no problem with it whatsoever. I really think she is in favour of it also.
I have to say that when I look at the situation as it is today, I know that half of my colleagues on the government side are wondering if we are going to have an election in June or an election this summer or an election late in the fall. That is what they are wondering about: when we are going to have an election. And that should not be what one person can decide.
Earlier this morning, I asked a question because of the statement that was made by Tom Kent, the icon of the Liberal Party, who, in the The Globe and Mail on January 29, came out very strongly in favour of the motion that we have put forth with regard to fixed term elections.
He has worked for a number of the prime ministers. He is saying that it is time for this. He is saying that this is the democratic way. He is saying that not just one person who sits in the seat over there rules everybody in this House. We were elected by the people across this nation. The people across this nation want us to represent them.
So in preparing to speak today, I was reminded of the old saying that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. The time has come for us to take a look at this. For far too long, we have given an awesome power to the Office of the Prime Minister. For far too long, we have put our fate in those hands. Never before has that been more obvious than in the past decade and in recent weeks.
At the local level across this nation, every municipality--and I was mayor for four terms in Saint John, New Brunswick--has elections. When I was mayor, they were held every three years. The province changed that and has extended it to four years now, but elections will be held every four years.
People ask me, “Elsie, how do you feel about being in Parliament up in Ottawa?” I always say, after having been here since 1993, that local government is the government of the people, because I feel very strongly that the government, the parties, are at the other two levels. I think it is time we changed that around. We should have our local people representing us, no matter whether it is federally, provincially or locally. Right now it is locally, and I have to say that it has to be turned around, and that is because one person's office controls everything.
I remember a time when there were just two of us from our party here. Someone called me and asked, “Elsie, did you know that the government is going to break their ties with the monarchy?” I said, “They're what?” They said, “They're breaking their ties with the monarchy”. I stood in the House of Commons to ask the prime minister of the day why he wanted to break his ties with the monarchy. Then the deputy prime minister, who was seated beside him, she started screaming at the prime minister. I had never seen it happen before in all the time the prime minister was here in his lengthy service as prime minister, but he sat down, and then he stood and said, “Mr. Speaker, could the hon. member for Saint John repeat her question? I could not hear it”. Then he looked at the deputy prime minister.
I repeated my question. I asked why we were breaking our ties with the monarchy. He said, “We are not going to break our ties with the monarchy. We send a secretary over every three years to work with the Queen and I would like to know if the hon. member for Saint John would like to go. I will fly her out tomorrow”.
Our ties to the monarchy are very strong. We want to keep our ties. I think everyone in the House wants to keep our ties. Nevertheless, that does not change the fact that we should have an election date and we should have fixed term elections. I think everyone in the House knows that. I do not think that the majority of those on the government side want to have another election right now and go through that. Let us look at the costs.
Let us look at the cost of having an election whenever the Prime Minister feels he is up in the polls. I can tell hon. members right now, that being the case, we will not have an election for another year, for heaven's sake, because he is not up in the polls right now, he certainly is not.
However, polls should not determine when we have an election. It should be a fixed date. It should be an election on what we are doing, whether it is right or wrong, and the people of Canada will determine it, as they do at the local level.
The Constitution of this country was not written for the benefit of one party alone. The Constitution gives the power to the Governor General, God love her, but she only gets that power when the Prime Minister goes to her and says he will have an election and she will call it. That is not the way it should be either.
Our system has evolved to the point where the Governor General only uses that power when directed, as I have stated, by the Prime Minister. The Constitution provided this power so the government could go to the people when its time had passed or to seek their judgment on an issue of great importance. Sadly, it has now become just another card up the government's sleeve.
There are some people who oppose these measures, but the majority of people want a fixed time, like they have at the local level, as I have stated. I have to say that when we do this at the local level, the people do not elect or reject a candidate based on whether or not he or she has done something in a sponsorship program or whatever. The people look at the four years and ask what the candidate has done to build their municipality, to make it grow.
That is exactly what should be done in Canada: What has the government done that is right for the people of Canada? We do not have to worry if it is two years or three years. It is a fixed date. If the government is doing what is right, it does not have to worry about being here for that length of time.
Really and truly, I have to say that I will not get into what the government side has or has not done. I know that people in Canada are getting fed up with politicians who do not listen and who only care about the people they feel will vote for them. That is not the way it should be.
Here is what we should be doing. When I look at these young people we have here today and I look at our country, I ask what can we do for them, because they are the foundation, they are the future, and they are the ones who will probably be sitting in the House some day. I would like them to have a fixed date whereby they can get elected and be here for four years and then be elected again.
I would like to see the whole system change. I am in my eleventh year here. I have to say that when I go home and listen to my people--and believe me, they still come to me to get their roads paved and for the provincial problems they have, and I am honoured by that, I truly am-- it makes me feel good because I feel that I am representing my people.
On behalf of all of these young people here today and on behalf of those who are not here today, I have to say that it is time for us to have fixed term elections and it is time for us to vote on what is right for this country. It is not a matter of party. It is not a matter of opposition taking on the government. What it is about is what is right for this country. It is right for us to have fixed election dates and get some stability here.