Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to lend my voice to this very important debate. May I ask you to remind me when there is just about a minute left in my presentation as I have an amendment to the current amendment to the motion which I want to bring forward.
Before I begin my remarks on privilege and how it affects each and every one of the members of this place, I want to go back to a few words that my colleague, my friend from Perth—Wellington, mentioned when he brought forward the motion, seeking a Speaker's ruling on the prima facie case of privilege. That is when he applauded the Speaker's ruling that came down, saying that yes, in the Speaker's opinion, there was a prima facie case of privilege when the government of the day prevented a vote on two members' privileges being impugned by not being allowed to vote, by being denied access to this place.
That ruling within the last hour has been called by some as historic. I would concur in that. I think some would also perhaps suggest it would be courageous. I will stop short of calling it that, but I believe this ruling today underscores and reaffirms in the eyes and the minds of many Canadians the total impartiality of the Speaker.
I think most Canadians understand when a Speaker is elected to the chair in this place, he comes with a background of partisanship. He comes obviously from a political background and represents a political party, not necessarily in the chair but back in his home constituency.
I believe there is a tendency for some Canadians to believe that because of the background of political partisanship, that a Speaker, once elected to the chair, would find it almost impossible to separate his political allegiance to his duties to be impartial to all members.
I must applaud the Speaker of this Parliament because he did exactly that. He made a difficult ruling, but he underscored the fact that his role was to be impartial, to represent all members of Parliament. He did that today, and for that ruling, I applaud him, and I applaud him mightily.
We are here to talk about this motion and the fact that the initial motion of privilege, the debate on the privilege brought forward from two of my Conservative colleagues, was in fact not only delayed, but it was snuffed out by the government of the day. That in itself was unprecedented.
It is so ironic that the privilege debate was being conducted because two members were prevented from voting in this place. What was the response of the government, the great irony? It prevented 338 members from voting on the privilege. It is truly something I have never seen before, and I sincerely hope I will never see again.
Madam Speaker, you have also admonished some of us, very slightly, very gently, to try to speak to the motion before us today and not get off track with what is happening in procedure and House affairs, with the filibuster over the government's attempt to unilaterally change the Standing Orders of this place. I would suggest that there is a lot of commonality between what is happening in procedure and House affairs and what we saw the government do just a few days ago by shutting down debate on privilege.
The commonality obviously is the fact that the government is acting in such a ham-handed, heavy-handed, mean-spirited way that it is disallowing and disenfranchising members of this place to exercise their ability, not only to debate but to vote. That is a very dangerous precedent.
For the benefit of members who may perhaps be minor historians on procedures of this place, I would like to point out something as an example of why this is so dangerous. I do not believe many Canadians and perhaps many parliamentarians understand the history of time allocation and when time allocation was actually introduced into the Standing Orders in this place. I believe it happened in the mid-1960s, although I do not know the exact year. It was brought in unilaterally by a Liberal government.
Now we consider time allocation to be a normal procedural tactic used by governments of the day to ensure that legislation is debated and passed speedily. However, because time allocation was brought in unilaterally, without the consent of opposition parties in the 1960s, it was almost entirely not used until at least two decades later.
Why was that? It was because Parliament itself recognized it as being almost illegitimate. Since the rules of this place, the rules that govern us all, were brought in unilaterally, without the agreement of other parliamentarians, Parliament itself did not utilize the provision of time allocation for at least two decades. Why? It was because Parliament knew that it was wrong to bring in any change to a standing order in that fashion.
That is what the present government is trying to do right now. It has shown its unwillingness to co-operate with members of the opposition. Despite the government's utterances to the opposite, its actions have proved that it is absolutely unwilling to co-operate or even discuss issues of fundamental importance to all of us. I find that to be not only disappointing, but a very dangerous course of action and path that the government is taking.
As was exhibited by my example of time allocation not being recognized as a legitimate standing order or parliamentary tactic for at least two decades, what the government is attempting to do now by unilaterally changing the Standing Orders would have the same effect. It would poison the well, in other words. Members of the government may not recognize that now, but as surely as time allocation was recognized as such over half a century ago, any changes that the government wants to bring down without the co-operation and consent of members on the opposition benches will be viewed similarly. I do not want to see that happen. I simply do not want to see that happen.
I made reference to the fact that in the last Parliament I chaired an all-party committee on proposed changes to the Standing Orders. My friend and my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, was a member of that committee. In fact, he was vice-chair of that committee.
I will get back to the privilege connection in just a moment, but my final point on that for now is that the member who is now arguing that the government should have the right to unilaterally change the Standing Orders was an unabashed and enthusiastic supporter in the last Parliament of the idea that unanimous consent should be a requirement before any change is made. That—