Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this motion. It is interesting that it is the appointment of a replacement for one of your deputies that has sparked this very interesting debate in the House.
I am pleased to speak regarding the appointment of my hon. colleague from Kingston and the Islands to the position of Assistant Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole.
I have the honour of knowing the member. I worked with him on the procedure and House affairs committee when I was first elected and served as Reform's House leader. As a parliamentarian, of course, I have no objection whatsoever to the hon. member's holding the position of the Assistant Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole. I would hope that the hon. member is following the debate. I am sure he is watching this debate with great interest.
In a report released in January 1993 regarding the independence of the Chair, the authors firmly stated that the assistant deputy speaker should be alternated between government and opposition parties, citing the Westminster model as an example. By using this model, they said that their authority would be greatly enhanced and the non-partisan nature of the Chair would be greatly augmented.
Most ironically but not surprisingly, the report is titled: "The Liberal Plan for the House of Commons". The authors are the current Minister of Health, the labour minister, formerly the government whip and the opposition whip before the last election, the Minister of International Co-operation, the former government whip who was recently appointed to cabinet, and even the hon. member who is being considered for the appointment, the member for Kingston and the Islands.
The member for Broadview-Greenwood paid quite a tribute to the hon. member and suggested that somehow Reform was going beneath the dignity of the House to even have a debate on his appointment to the Chair.
He talked about the wonderful qualities of the MP for Kingston and the Islands and what a great parliamentarian he is. I do not quibble with those observations.
Then he went on to somehow suggest that we should not review the hon. member's statement here, his paper, about opposition members being appointed as deputy chair.
He got into the whole issue of question period and my leader's statement that we wanted to make this House work better, that we want to be a constructive opposition. We are still a very constructive opposition.
I want to talk about the early days, because I remember them very well. I remember coming into the House and at times even giving the minister opposite previous notice of what the question would be, in good faith, in an honourable way. We would ask a minister of the crown a question and the minister would get up in shock and dismay and ridicule the questioner. He would be very undignified about it.
I suddenly realized it takes two to be honourable and to function in a very dignified manner in the House. We found it did not matter how we asked the questions, what our decorum was. The Liberal respondents, ministers of the crown, were lacking in respect and dignity when they answered our questions; very seldom did they answer our questions.
Then he talked about the tacticians. He said question period is run by a bunch of tacticians. Opposition people sit in their little rooms planning their questions and then unfortunately the government has to respond with its tacticians. It just so happens that one of those tacticians was the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands when he was parliamentary secretary to the government House leader. I knew he was because we would talk about it. He would tell me they were in their rooms cooking all this up.
This is same hon. member who the hon. member from Broadview-Greenwood said is above all of this and here he had been involved. The picture that the member for Broadview-Greenwood painted was not an accurate picture whatsoever.
I hope that the member for Kingston and the Islands is paying close attention to this debate. He has been very aggressive in debates in the House and we have had a good time debating many issues. Every once in a while he will take the opportunity to quote from the New Testament. He did it very recently.
I would like to remind the hon. member-because I am sure he is listening-about a story where a father had two sons and he asked the two sons to go out and work for him. One son said sure he would go do it. That son went out, forgot about obeying his father and did not do the job he was told to do. The other son said he was not going to do it but then he thought carefully about his decision
and he said, yes, he would obey his father and carry out the task he was given.
I hope the member for Kingston and the Islands reads the report he authored some time ago that said opposition members should have two of the four chair positions. I hope he is the son who said he would go sit in the chair. I do not care about promises made in the past. I hope he will reconsider. I hope he will do the honourable thing tonight as he thinks about his commitment to democracy in this place and he will say that he will not accept that. It is not the right thing to do until the Liberals have kept their promise to make sure that two opposition members are appointed as deputy speakers sitting in the Chair. I trust he will do the right thing.
If the hon. member does not he is open to criticism. I guess we cannot use the h word in the House but we can certainly talk about the h word outside the House. That is what the member for Kingston and the Islands will be if he accepts the position that has been offered to him by the government.