Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Kootenay—Columbia, with whom I have the honour of working on the justice committee. It is also an honour to know him as a former RCMP officer. I have a tremendous amount of respect for his thoughts on a number of justice issues, and he does a fantastic job on our committee.
It is also my pleasure and honour to speak today to the Liberal supply day motion. To be frank, I appreciate today's motion. We have had a number of supply day motions recently that have been less about what Parliament should be engaged in, in terms of discussion between parliamentarians. However, this one certainly goes to that point, and I do appreciate it. I also believe that this is a non-partisan issue, and the discussion has been very respectful, as it should be, on this particular tough issue.
I am going to spend most of my time talking about the procedural issues. In my view, this is a motion to deal with procedure on a policy issue. The Liberal motion today puts out a direction for, or a way of tackling, the issue. It recommends that this be done through a special committee. The Liberals have highlighted the membership of the committee, which would be roughly 60% Conservative, 30% NDP, and 10% Liberal. I made the point earlier about how the committee structure now is for a standing committee of 10 members. This would be for 12, which is the old way of doing things. It really does not matter. It is still a percentage. The new way would give the Liberal Party a little more presence on committees, with two fewer opposition members there, but that is what the Liberals have chosen to present today.
Here is why I do not think this is the right approach to this very important issue. I have been here nine years and have sat on a number of committees. I have been the chair of the justice committee for the last couple of years. In my view, the best use of time at committee for members of Parliament is to deal with actual legislation. That is when there are words on paper about the direction of the government or a member, depending on the type of bill. The wording is there, the clauses that we are dealing with are there, and the changes are all there.
Dealing with legislation is a better use of members' time. I have been on a number of committees that do studies, and they are interesting. Sometimes they are useful, and sometimes they are not. This particular item needs a very broad consultation before it goes to committee.
The committee that the Liberals are highlighting in today's motion is would be a special committee that would not deal with an actual piece of legislation. The Liberals are saying, let us study it and have it back by July 31. I assume that out of that study, they are thinking that there would be a piece of legislation that would come after the election. The public still would not know what Parliament's direction would be, based on the study that would be done by July. It would be an overview of the issues and a number of questions might be asked. There may be directions and recommendations coming out of it, but there would be no piece of actual legislation. Of course, there are a number of options that will be available to Parliament, including not doing anything. That is one of the options.
The motion would not really advance the issue to a point where people would think that by July, they will have an answer on where the Government of Canada and Parliament of Canada are going on this particular issue. Based on today's motion, that would absolutely not be the case.
It would have recommendations. No committee study can compel the government to do anything. That is standard, whether it is a standing committee or a special committee. A study cannot compel the government of the day to do anything. Even if, God forbid, after October 19, there is a change in government, the study could not compel that next government to do anything at all.
Today's motion does not do what I think the Liberal Party thinks it would do and wants to present it as doing. It is a reasonable approach, and I am not saying that what the Liberals are doing is wrong. I do not think it is what the public is anticipating based on this particular motion.
The other issue is that when I consider broad consultation, I think of a variety of different groups. At present when we call witnesses to committees, as chair of the committee I try to achieve a balance. We get submissions from all parties. Normally we try to accommodate everyone's witnesses, and that has happened 99% of the time. On some occasions, we cannot accommodate everyone. Then the witness list is based on the size of the committee membership. Approximately 50% of the witnesses then would be from the Conservatives; approximately 40% from the NDP, the official opposition; and approximately 10% or so from the Liberal Party.
The record of the justice committee shows that the number of witnesses from the Conservatives is much less, maybe 45%, and that witnesses from other parties fill in that space. We deal very little there with legislation that is a matter of life or death. If we do something right, it is great. If we do something wrong, normally we can change it, or the next government changes the policy or legislation to improve it or to make changes.
The hardest vote for me thus far has been when we commit the men and women of our armed services to foreign conflicts, whether in Afghanistan or to what is going on in the Middle East right now, because we know there is the potential for a Canadian to die. In this case that is what it is all about, someone having the option to proceed in that manner.
The consultation with Canadians needs to be broader than the witnesses we pick to come to committee. There is a whole basket of opportunities. We should all be able to contribute those we consider to be experts. There are experts in this area who have different opinions in their particular fields, but there needs to be a broader way of consulting the public.
To my view, and I might be a bit biased, I think this issue should go to the justice committee and, based on the broad consultation at committee, the government should bring forward a piece of legislation. The justice committee, in its current form, has been working very well on a number of very difficult files, including the prostitution bill. The prostitution bill only really affected a small portion of the population, but this affects everyone, so we need a broader approach.
I am not supporting the motion today, because the process gives a false image that we will have legislation by July. The leader of the third party, the mover of the motion today, indicated that this does not create legislation. He said that directly to the House, that it is a study, a consultation. I do not disagree with him that we need broad consultation. I am not sure that the committee structure in the House of Commons is the appropriate structure to use to get that consultation, to develop legislation that should go to the standing committee process and result in witnesses being called to talk about actual legislation that will be developed.