Mr. Speaker, since our Parliament was founded in 1867, based on the Westminster system, there has traditionally been a free vote and debate on matters of moral conscience, especially with respect to end of life.
Today, for the first time in the history of parliamentary tradition, this government is threatening to not only take away the free vote on its side, but also to curtail free and open debate on such matters of conscience.
This is the first time in the history of this Parliament that the ancient convention of free and open debate on matters of moral conscience, as they relate to end of life ethical matters, is being curtailed. In 1968, the omnibus legislation that dealt with abortion and other end of life matters was open and unlimited. In 1976, the government bill on capital punishment was open and unlimited. In 1988 and 1989, the various bills dealing with abortion were open and unlimited.
That has been the ancient practice of this place and the motion just put by the government House leader is an unprecedented violation on the right, the prerogative, the responsibility of members to speak their conscience, to reflect the sentiment of their constituents on such fundamental matters of moral conscience.
What gives the government the sense that it has the right, for the first time in the history of this place, to violate that ancient convention?