Mr. Speaker, I would like to say it is a pleasure to rise to be part of this debate today, but obviously, given the heavy-handed attempts of the government to try to ram through changes that would make it less accountable, I cannot say it is a pleasure. It is something I have to do, something we all have to do, to try to stand up for the rights of Canadians to make sure the government is held accountable. I am proud to do that, but I certainly wish I did not have to be doing it, because the government should not be taking this heavy-handed approach in trying to ram through the types of changes it is trying to ram through.
The government would obviously eliminate some of the accountability that is built into the measures put in place in the House by ensuring the prime minister only has to be, essentially, held accountable by Canadians for 25 hours in the entire year, by making sure there are less days members have to be here in the House of Commons to be held accountable, and by taking away some of the ability of the opposition parties to draw the attention of Canadians to important issues so the government can be held accountable by Canadians.
That is really why I am standing up today. I am doing everything I can and I know my colleagues across the opposition benches are as well. This is one of those rare moments when we see all the opposition parties standing united. That means something, because we are standing up for democracy. We are standing up for Canadians and their right to hold the government accountable through their members of Parliament whom they have elected. That is something too fundamental for us not to stand up and fight for all the way.
I listened to the government House leader give a speech that tried to deflect away from a lot of these things.
Before I get to that, Mr. Speaker, I will mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. I cannot forget to let you know that.
The government House leader talked and used a lot of time to try to deflect away from the real issues here. She tried to claim that somehow this was going to make things more accountable, that somehow they really wanted to have this discussion, which no one seems to have heard is actually happening. The Liberals have had all kinds of time to have a discussion, but there does not seem to be one. They only want to have a discussion when they can be sure they are going to get their way. If they cannot have their way, they do not want to even start the discussion.
That is where we are. The opposition parties are saying these kinds of changes have always been done with the unanimous consent of the parties. That is to ensure that changes are not being made to simply benefit the party in power, which is what the government is very clearly trying to do. I think the Liberals are hoping and expecting that maybe Canadians will not pay attention to this. Maybe they think Canadians will not be smart enough to realize what they are trying to do. However, Canadians are not stupid, and they will not stand for this kind of garbage that we are seeing from the government. They will not stand for this kind of heavy-handed approach. They will not stand for a government that is trying everything it can to be held less accountable. They will not stand for a prime minister who refuses to answer questions of Canadians in the House of Commons.
As proof of that, I would like to just spend a little time reading some emails. Being a member of the committee that is looking at these changes, I have received hundreds, into the thousands, of emails over the last 10 days or so. I know Liberal members of the committee have been sent these as well, because I can see they are copied on a lot of these. In fact, it is usually me being copied on some of the ones being sent to them.
I hope this is something government members are listening to. I see the government members are having a conversation over there. Maybe they can have a conversation among themselves. It would be time they had a conversation with the opposition parties about actually getting down to work in trying to ensure that the changes being made are not being made by them and them alone to benefit them and them alone. It is time they actually benefit Canadians. They need to learn that. They need to listen, because this is Canadians speaking, and I am going to share their words with those Liberals right now and hope they will actually do some listening.
I will start out with some of the comments I have received here.
The first is from someone named Marilyn Raible. She says, “As a Canadian citizen and a taxpayer, it is with total disgust to hear the Liberal Party once again is trying to sneak something past the people of Canada that once again would only benefit the Liberals. All of those elected and now sitting in Parliament must be accountable to the Canadian people and the democratic principles. You were put in these positions to work for and represent the Canadian people and Canada as a whole.”
She goes on to say, “As a democracy, we have the right to have elected officials sit in Parliament from Monday to Friday and debate and scrutinize bills for the good of the people. The Liberal Party has no right in shutting down Parliament on Fridays and permanently limiting debate or scrutiny on their bills. Men went to war to fight for these freedoms that we experience in this great country of Canada. This is what democracy is all about, the freedom to speak up and debate and to work for the good of the Canadian people. I say no to shutting down Parliament on Fridays and no to limiting debate on bills.”
I have one from Hugh Freeman, who says, “This is in respect to the committee that you are currently participating in concerning the debating of the rules of the House of Commons. Be advised that I disagree with the formation of, the terms of reference of, and the timing of this to put it in conflict with the coincidental budget hearing, with the apparent purpose of trying to hide your committee from the Canadian public. I also disagree with the PM trying to shirk his own responsibility by trying to no longer attend Friday House sittings and have advised him separately of that.” The Prime Minister is hearing about this, too. He continues, “Although it seems clear that the intent was to hide this committee hearing behind budget matters, be assured the public has indeed noticed your nefarious behaviour and will endeavour to ensure you pay a price for this at the polls.”
I have read a couple of emails so members can get a sense of the pattern here, and I will read some others as well, but I think what we are hearing is Canadians saying, “We won't be fooled. We are not stupid. We see what this government is trying to do. We see they're trying to benefit themselves and themselves alone. We see that they're trying to make sure they're not held accountable. We see they're trying to avoid question period so that opposition members, on behalf of Canadians, can ensure they're held accountable.”
People are using words like “nefarious”. I can read a number of comments in here that refer to the Prime Minister as a dictator. Those are the kinds of comments Canadians are making, because they are so upset about what is being done here. They see it as akin to those kind of things. When people are seeing it and speaking about it in such strong terms, that means something. That means Canadians are seeing what is going on here. They understand what the government is trying to do and they are upset and they will not tolerate it. They are making threats even to the point of saying that the Liberals will pay the price for this at the polls.
Liberal backbenchers will see no benefit from this, because the Prime Minister is the one who is going to benefit in that he will not have to be held accountable. I hope some of those backbenchers are saying, “You know what, Mr. Prime Minister? My constituents won't stand for this and I can tell you I'm going to pay a price for this at the polls. I don't think it's acceptable and it's also not right.” I hope they speak up, maybe when they go to their caucus meeting on Wednesday, and let the Prime Minister know that this is completely and utterly unacceptable and it will not be tolerated by the Canadian people. Maybe some of them will have the guts to tell the Prime Minister that.
I will continue with some other emails. There are so many of them it is hard to choose which ones to read. I will read this one from Corey Smith. It is addressed to the Liberal members of the committee, and says, “Please stop the proposed changes to Parliament. I encourage you to keep the ability for debate and accountability available to both members of your own party and the opposition. I encourage you to encourage the Prime Minister to show up to work and be accountable more than one day a week. I understand the need to get home to your ridings, but working a half day on Fridays is not too much to expect. I personally work five to six days per week. I understand that you work long hours. I worked road construction. Often we worked until dark Mondays to Thursdays and we would finish early on Fridays to allow for travel, but not before noon. Is this a case where the Prime Minister is not capable of answering questions due to lack of experience and this is a good way for him to avoid this? Would you have allowed this from Mr. Harper? If things are getting to be too much for Prime Minister Trudeau, Parliament can be prorogued. This has happened. However, debate and accountability should never permanently be removed through limitations of this nature. Show how much you love Canada and stop this. You may be in the opposition in the future wishing you had the ability to debate and hold people accountable. It would be a shame if it is lost.”
There are hundreds more emails like these where people are telling the Liberal government that they will not stand for this, that they will not tolerate this, and it is time that the Prime Minister understood that he cannot just do whatever he wants. He has to be accountable to this House of Commons and accountable to the Canadian people. I can say that as the opposition, we will ensure that he does exactly that.