Mr. Speaker, after what the hon. Leader of the Government in the House said earlier about the opposition leaders and especially about the Leader of the Official Opposition, I should return the compliment. I also want to underline the leadership the hon. Government House Leader has exercised-in co-operation with the opposition-and his always pleasant dealings with us regarding the agenda of the House. It is easy to understand, when we look at the actions of the Government House Leader, why he has survived a 32-year career in politics.
Now that the compliment has been returned, allow me to have a slightly different vision from that of the hon. Leader of the Government, especially with respect to the business of the House.
We in the Official Opposition were elected on October 25. After the election writs were returned in the following days, we asked that Parliament be summoned immediately because we saw our friends waving the red book and demanding action.
As early as mid-November, we were ready to meet here to consider government policies, initiatives and bills, and to implement the program they were elected on.
Despite repeated requests, we had to wait until January 17 to meet. Of course, we worked in our ridings, met with our constituents and prepared our arguments, but we could not deal with any legislation because the government had decided not to convene the House.
I must say that, when the House first met, it looked like a larger, more visible Spicer Commission. It introduced motions on various issues which we debated, but where was the legislative agenda? Where was the beef then and where is it now?
We then had bills without deep significance which generated little debate because many or all members could easily agree to them. We are now coming to the end of the session and they table a motion to extend sitting hours. It is standard parliamentary procedure. It gives the public, the voters, the people of this country and of both countries, the impression that there is much to be done in the home stretch in this country.
If the parliamentary agenda had been planned differently, if we had started sitting last November, we would not have to extend sitting hours during the last two weeks, so that members will have to work for 12 hours in the House and the committees, respond to their constituents' requests and lead rather hectic lives here.
However, we will do it. The Official Opposition does not at all intend to oppose the motion tabled by the Leader of the Government in the House, but it must be recognized that the planning of our agenda could have been done in such a way that this motion would have been unnecessary, especially since the government is announcing, somewhat hastily and at the very end of the session, bills which have not yet been tabled.
The Government House Leader referred to the Young Offenders Act, an omnibus bill which should be tabled shortly. He also announced legislation on lobbyists, as well as a bill on sentencing. Moreover, the government may want a second reading vote on these bills, some of which are not even on the agenda yet. As you know, it is not always a good thing to take on too much, because you sometimes end up not being able to do everything.
We must dispel the impression that we have to hurry because we have not done anything so far. The opposition is at the mercy of the government's agenda. Every day, we have worked with what the government put before us.
The government, through its House leader, referred earlier to Bill C-18, which we will look at for the last time this afternoon. This legislation on electoral boundaries readjustment and its impact is another example of bad planning. Indeed, Bill C-18 was tabled a bit late, with the result that, in some cases, provincial electoral boundaries commissions had to redo some of their work, while others had to start from scratch. This is an example of the mess we are in.
Mr. Speaker, what really surprised me, in a pleasant way, was to hear the Government House Leader say that he wanted us to have full dress debates, and that this House was the place to have such discussions. I am pleased to hear this from a person who has so much authority, because I was somewhat perplexed
yesterday when I read and heard that the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, who is the Deputy Government Whip under the Government House Leader, was encouraging people to sign petitions to keep us from debating the real issues for the two countries which are to be found in Canada.
I am therefore reassured and pleased to hear the hon. member for Windsor West and Government House Leader say that he has absolutely no intention of setting aside major issues so as to avoid a debate on them.
Mr. Speaker, the Official Opposition will do its job to the very end, and will work the extra hours required to fulfill the mandate given to us by our constituents, in spite of the disruptions to our daily schedule.
Consequently, if there is a vote, we will support the motion tabled by the Government House Leader.