Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking all my colleagues, on all sides of the aisle, for their overwhelmingly constructive comments today on the take-note debate as it relates to the Standing Orders.
I, along with a number of colleagues I see within the House, have the privilege of sitting on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I have been carefully taking notes from most of the members in terms of their ideas and suggestions. I know that our very able clerk, Mr. Andre Barnes, will summarize all those issues, so that we can review them carefully and present our recommendations back to this place in terms of changes to the Standing Orders.
I want to say again that the point and the nature of the Standing Orders is to provide us with clear rules with respect to our conduct in this place. However, when it comes to conduct and decorum, it really comes to each and every one of us in terms of how we comport ourselves when we are in this place. Again, I urge members to be mindful of that. Many members today have demonstrated that, with a significant generosity of spirit, as we have entered in this debate here today.
My mandate was quite different. I indicated that my purpose today on the government side was primarily to table items that were within the government House leader's ministerial mandate letter and our electoral platform that I had not heard already during the course of the debate. I think I have heard most of it. The items have been covered, in large part. The purpose of doing so was to allow the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs with the opportunity to consider those, and whether it is necessary to make rules changes to the Standing Orders in order to give them greater effect. I will cover a few of them that have not been covered and that I have not heard yet.
I am not convinced that some of these instances within the minister's mandate letter require Standing Order changes. I think it is more of a function of the practice of Parliament and the practice of the government of the day. A lot of things we had discussed in the previous election related to our sense of the conduct that occurred or what we found offensive in previous Parliaments, or the erosion of some of the traditions and practices of this place, requiring a change to the Standing Orders. I hope that is not necessary. I hope that we can respect the traditions of the British parliamentary practice and procedures, so that we do not have to use the strong hammer of amending the Standing Orders to do so. I will cover the ones that I have not heard today, and I will leave it to my colleagues to perhaps comment on them.
One of the commitments we made in the last election was related to the creation of a Prime Minister's question period. I have not heard any commentary on that today with respect to whether that would be a good practice. It is certainly a practice that is adopted in the United Kingdom. There is a dedicated period of time where the prime minister would make himself or herself available to take questions from members. I do not know whether that would change the nature with respect to our overall perception that question period is far too theatrical and far too canned, quite frankly, in terms of the give and take that takes place.
We have heard a lot of suggestions with respect to giving much greater power to the Speaker to enforce the rules of debate, and some of the other amendments with respect to suggesting that questions be tabled in advance so that a substantive response can be given, which is the practice essentially in the British Parliament. I certainly would be supportive of us moving in that particular direction. However, I do want to table the concept of whether the Standing Orders require a change with respect to a dedicated Prime Minister's question period.
The second major item I have not heard much discussion about relates to the use of prorogation and omnibus bills. Again, this was a situation that occurred in the 39th, 40th, and 41st Parliaments, with respect to a situation of prorogation and an increasing use of omnibus bills.
It has been a commitment of this particular government to try to avoid using omnibus bills. The only exception to that should be the budget bill. In the presentation of the budget, it does have the inevitable effect of having significant amendments to all kinds of consequential acts to bring the budget into effect. I do not think that even the budget itself should deal with things that fall outside of budgetary measures. I am very wary of the use of omnibus bills as a standard practice to slide certain types of items through that are not relevant to the minister responsible for moving a particular bill forward. Again, there is a question as to whether that is appropriate use within the Standing Orders, but I again want to table that.
One of the other things that rose in previous Parliaments was with respect to the estimates and whether there is consistency between the estimates and public accounts. At the end of the day, parliamentarians need to have a clear mechanism to ensure that the tabled estimates are consistent with the public accounts. This is something that the President of the Treasury Board is working on. I do not think it requires a Standing Order change, but this is something that the procedures and House affairs committee ought to consider.
Other things that go to the independence of this place, particularly as they relate to the officers of Parliament, are whether there are mechanisms and ways to ensure that officers of Parliament are properly funded, that their reports to the Speaker and ultimately to the House are appropriate, and that the government of the day does not constrain the operation of the officers of the House in doing so. I would also extend that to the parliamentary budget officer. We have seen instances in the past where that has been a challenge. We want to ensure that each of the officers of the House, and the parliamentary budget officer, have the necessary tools so that parliamentarians get the necessary information they need to keep the government to account, while by the same token providing information in a neutral manner.
I thought I heard some discussion about the disclosure of expenses. I do support the concept that the activities of the Board of Internal Economy should be more public and should be open, by default, as opposed to the current practice.
I have a couple of final points to table, and they are already incorporated within the Standing Orders. They deal with ensuring that this workplace is free of harassment and sexual violence. Again, this is something that the procedure and House affairs committee does need to periodically review, that our conduct in this place be reviewed to make sure we avoid situations we have found sometimes unfortunately in the past between members, and between members and their staff. Canadians need to have confidence that we are acting in a fashion that holds the highest standards of workplace practice and that the procedure and House affairs committee continues to review that.
We have heard a lot about family friendly. I do not have much more to contribute to that particular debate, as it has been effectively covered in broad detail. I would encourage members to constantly be open to change. The way in which we conduct ourselves here is often dealt with within historical practice, and is often ossified to a time that is long past. I appreciate that fact, for example, as it relates to the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue. Despite the fact that there is a stranger in the House, none of us has ever exercised the rule to call that matter out.
We need to continue to have that openness among us, to find new ways to accommodate and encourage more members, and a greater diversity of members, to participate and become members of the House of Commons.
I do not have much more to add. My time is up, and I am going to encourage questions and look forward to the debate as it continues today.