Mr. Speaker, we are having an interesting debate today and it is absolutely vital for me, as a new member in the House, to be able to speak to it.
The House of Commons, as far as I am concerned, has to return to the people of Canada. Parliamentary reform has taken far too long and is long over. The rights and responsibilities of members of parliament to represent the views of their constituents has disappeared. The government seems much more concerned about maintaining power than representing the will of the people.
The House of Commons is the people's parliament. It is the voice of the common people of Canada. We must make it responsive to the people of Canada.
I took my seat here only a few short months ago and I have already come to recognize, despite the efforts of hard-working individuals from all sides of the House, that this place is no more than a voting machine. Last night I witnessed 16 motions being voted on in a few minutes, rubber stamp laws that were mainly drawn up by unelected bureaucrats from the Prime Minister's office.
It is up to the members of parliament, the government and the opposition to take parliament back. We must take parliament back.
I came believing that I could offer some constructive input on pressing legislation and engage in serious debate on important issues. Instead, I saw an example yesterday of where we turned our back on a very important issue, an economic fibre of our country, the agriculture crisis. Many members were not even allowed to debate on it. However, we can go all night tonight on this one.
The mechanism of government was inherited by a proven British parliamentary system created by the Fathers of Confederation. They answered the great question: Should the chief power of the country be the king or parliament? They determined that they would be governed by the people and not by the will of one man. It is an illusion if one thinks that Canadians live in a democracy. We are controlled by the Prime Minister.
My grandfather fought in both world wars. He went to war defending the rights of democracy so that we could stand in the House today to debate. He fought for freedom. Young men and women, aged 18, 19 and 20 years old, gave up their lives so that we could be here to debate. It is sad for me to think that the people of Canada have been conquered by a dictator without a shot being fired.
We can change that by free votes. We can work toward reforming parliament. There are a lot of things that have been talked about today, all of them very worthy of note, but for me the greatest change would come with the free vote of every member in the House, because it is up to us to vote the will of the people who sent us here.
Have governments forgotten that only four short months ago the citizens of the country elected each one of us into our seats? In four short months we have forgotten who we represent. We need to shift how government works and to be responsive to those who put us here.
As I see it, we are bribing Canadians with their own tax dollars, and there is wasteful spending on unnecessary programs and unaccountable government. Cabinet is barking to the tune of the bureaucrats and special interest groups. Free votes will set us on a path for parliamentary reform and that is a path that we need to get on really quickly as far as I am concerned.
A real interesting concept is that government members believe that if the government introduces a bill that is defeated or if an opposition bill, motion or amendment is passed it would bring down the government and they would have to resign. It is beyond me where that idea comes from. It is archaic.
The Prime Minister coerces backbenchers into believing that voting the will of the constituents would bring the government down. That would not bring the government down at all. Voting for their constituencies and constituents would make the government stronger and Canada stronger.
Liberal backbenchers have been forced into something that the Prime Minister wants. He has been bullying them around, sort of like a schoolyard bully, but bullies are only powerful as long as no one stands up to them and no one really challenges them or thinks around their bullying.
I know that the hon. members across the way are truly hard working people. I have talked to many of them. Now is their chance to stand up. Not many of them but a few of them are in the House right now. They can talk to their colleagues and do something for Canada that is beyond anything they have done to this point.
There are 301 members elected to the House of Commons. We have the power to implement change. We set the rules. We were entrusted to make the laws of this country. I am not asking members to vote for something they do not believe in, but I will not be holding my breath that the Prime Minister will come through that door any time soon, unmuzzle the backbenchers over there and allow free votes in this place.
As democratically elected members of parliament, we do have the power to make the change. We could make it as early as tomorrow morning, if we had the political will to do so, by passing a motion that we truly have free votes in this place. All it would take is 30 Liberal backbenchers to live up to their potential and to influence government in a way they have never influenced it before. That is all it would take. We could change Canada and never go back. That is how easy it could be.
I do not believe in blaming the bureaucrats. I believe it is our duty. We need to do something about it and we need to do it soon. Backbench MPs have that potential to be more than just voting machines. I would challenge them to do it, to be more, because they owe it to themselves and they owe it to this country.
I am proud that I can represent the people of Yellowhead who have chosen me to be here as their representative in the House of Commons. They trust me to inform them of the problems, seek their opinions and vote their will. After being in parliament for only a few months, I have already realized that my ability to represent my constituents has been hampered by the Prime Minister's obsession for power. If he were really interested in creating the legacy he talks about, he would implement parliamentary reform himself. However, we do not have to wait for the Prime Minister. We can implement it now. We have the power to do it and we should.
Right after the election of November 27, 2000, I came to Ottawa with a few MPs for orientation. They were from all sides of the House. We were excited. We had just been elected. We had just been given the opportunity to change Canada, to lead Canada, to make a difference in this country. I was excited about it and I am still excited about it. As I talked to the other MPs, they said they were excited about the concept of a free vote. They thought it was something they could and should do.
It is interesting now to see how disappointing it is that they have fallen victim to the system and have thrown away their ideals and their principles. If these walls could speak, they would tell us about the great leaders who have sat in these same chairs and who have fought for a better Canada, who have done what was right for their constituencies.
I am calling on every member of the House to live up to the vision of the founding fathers and to vote for a motion to allow free votes, because members owe it to this country. It is the greatest country in the world and we need to protect it. We can do it and we should do it now.