Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to join in the debate. I would like to start by coming back to the focus of what is actually on the floor, which is a report from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. It just happens that this report is on the family-friendly Parliament changes. My friend from Elmwood—Transcona made a great deal about the fact that the problem we have right now is not whether we agree with electronic voting, or Wednesdays with the Prime Minister, and Fridays off; our problem right now is on process.
We pride ourselves in being a sports nation. Most Canadians have had some kind of attachment to some kind of sports. We all know that the first thing to do is to decide on what the rules are going to be. When the committee did this report, the one that is actually in front of us right now, I cannot say—and when this motion came up, it was not on the agenda, and I did not have time to look at Hansard to see whether an express statement was made—that there would only be things included in this report—I was there, I was part of this—but only if we all agreed.
I can certainly say, if we look at Hansard, that that was the working assumption. The proof positive would be that the government was very much pushing its idea of Fridays off at that time. It was the Conservatives and New Democrats who made it crystal clear at the beginning, the middle, and at the end of our discussion on that subject that there was no way in heck that there was going to be unanimity. Liberals can make all the speeches they want. They can have the floor; we would not dream of denying them that. However, they should understand that as it is right now, neither opposition party is willing to accept that.
When one turns to this report, one would start looking through to see what happened to the Fridays. I know every member has read every page and word of this report, because we are voting on it. However, I would remind people, in case they have forgotten since they read it, there is no reference to Fridays because everything in the report was agreed upon by the entire committee.
My friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, said if there were only one agreement, how would we guarantee that there would be tangible results? This very report shows that we can do it. That speaks to how we run Parliament, which is why we all work under the implied understanding that if we did not all agree, it does not go in the report. That is exactly what happened, and the report is here now because it was approved with all-party agreement. There were things that members did not agree with that are not in the report. What is agreed to goes in the report and what is not agreed to does not go in the report.
As we talk process, as I share some side comments with the former government House leader, what is really interesting is again harkening back to my friend from Elmwood—Transcona talking about process. I am not showing everyone some arcane documents, but the document that is actually the focus of what we are doing, and it is only here because we all agreed.
Not only that, but on the process of how this was approached, again, I was here. Do members know how this started? It started when the previous government House leader, the current government's previous House leader, wanted us to undertake this study. It sounds familiar, right? That is exactly what the current House leader asked us to do, except the previous House leader did not just drop a document out there in the public domain, in the middle of a constituency week, with really no comment and no consultation. It was just, “There you go”.
The previous House leader, when the government wanted us to undertake a study, showed the respect the government said it was going to show more of to committees. He showed the respect of coming to the committee, presenting his thoughts, and making reference to his mandate, which I would like to underscore and which is on the front page of the report. The mandate letter the previous Liberal government House leader had stated:
Work with Opposition House Leaders to examine ways to make the House of Commons more family-friendly for Members of Parliament.
The first thing that veteran House leader did was come to the committee, have the respect to present what the government wanted us to do, and ask us to undertake it, which we then did, under the assumption that we would only put things in the report that we all agreed on, which we did. We had quite a number of significant changes that are going to make things better for the work-life balance of members of Parliament.
What is the problem? Why are we not doing the same thing? In this case, it was the official opposition formally asking the government, since it brought papers and we were not really sure what was going on, because we did not get the courtesy visit we got from the previous House leader, when we could ask questions. We just had this thing kind of dumped out there. The first thing that happened was, guess what? There was an amendment on the floor calling on the government to acknowledge that it will not make any changes unless there is all-party agreement.
Normally, what should have happened, if we followed the process we did with this, is that the government would have said, “Of course. What's the big deal?” We would have had a fast vote.
Now, as we are wasting all this time, we would have been discussing the very issues the government has asked us to undertake. Instead, look at the mess it has got us into.
I wish I had more time. I only have two minutes? That is what happens when we are having fun. I will do this as quickly as I can.
The government is the one that did not and would not adjourn that committee meeting, which pushed us into 24/7. Technically, in parliamentary la-la land, down the hall in one of the committee rooms it is still only a week ago last Tuesday. That is the bizarre situation we are in. The government amped that up, not the opposition. The government decided that it was going to take it from a filibuster in committee to a filibuster that overtook the committee.
All we are asking is to recognize that we cannot have honest and free give-and-take negotiations, or discussions, that are actually equal and fair and are going to get somewhere as long as the government still maintains that it has the right to ram them through afterwards. We cannot have that kind of discussion. I have been at the negotiating table. It is like saying to a company when at the table, “No matter what you offer, we are going to strike”. The government is basically saying, “We are going to negotiate with you, we are going to listen to you, we are going to be fair-minded, until you want to do something we do not agree with, and then we are going to utilize our majority and ram it through anyway”.
That is why we are in this jam. It is the government's doing. The same government, a year ago, did it the right way, and we did not have any problem. There were no filibusters. There were no accusations of a power grab.
The very report that we are looking at here now is the result of the same process that we should be undertaking, and yet the government is still, to this moment, refusing to accept the fact that it does not have the moral right to change the rules of the House unilaterally, without the agreement of the other participants. That is not on.