Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate today on Bill C-586, Reform Act, 2014.
I, too, would like to echo the comments of previous speakers by acknowledging the member for Wellington—Halton Hills for the hard work, dedication and spirit of collaboration he has brought to this process on the bill. The spirit of collaboration is a major reason why we have reached this point today.
There have been a number of changes to the bill from its first iteration, Bill C-559, as amended, and is much different than the original version that was introduced.
I believe the changes that were made are extremely important because they recognize that parties must have the freedom to organize themselves as they see fit. What works well for one party may not work well for another. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work, which is why I fully support the bill as amended by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
With my time, I will focus on some international examples that are relevant to the content of the reform act, 2014.
It is clear that in developing this legislation the member for Wellington—Halton Hills looked at current practices in Canada and examples in other countries with a Westminster form of government.
On the review of party leadership issue, the hon. member referenced the existence of rules in other countries to empower caucuses. If we examine the international examples, it is quite remarkable to note the number of different rules that exist in different countries and among different parties. In fact, there are about as many different approaches to issues such as leadership review as there are political parties.
For example, in the United Kingdom, all of the major parties have different rules for leadership removal. For the United Kingdom Conservative Party, a vote by 15% of Tory MPs can trigger a leadership review and a leader can be dismissed upon a majority of those voting by secret ballot.
For the Labour Party, a leadership contest can be triggered if a challenger collects nominations from 20% of Labour MPs. The party leader is replaced if the challenger receives a majority of votes using an alternative vote system in an electoral college consisting of Labour MPs, members of the European Parliament, party members and members of affiliate organizations.
The Liberal Democrats take yet a different approach. A leadership contest can be triggered by a majority vote of Liberal Democratic MPs or if 75 local party organizations write to the party president calling for a leadership contest.
Political parties in Australia and New Zealand also have rules that set out thresholds for the review of party leaders. However, as is the case with the United Kingdom, the rules are different from party to party.
The rules of the Australian Labour Party, for example, require the support of 75% of caucus members to initiate a leadership review of a governing leader or 60% to initiate a review of a leader in opposition. These thresholds were increased in 2013 from the previous threshold of 30% because the party believed the threshold was too low and contributed to leadership instability.
To give an example from New Zealand, the rules of the New Zealand Labour Party provide that a leadership election is triggered upon a vote of 50% plus one of caucus members. The party also has an automatic leadership review by caucus after three months of a general election, where the votes of 60% of caucus members are required to endorse the leader.
The experiences in Australia and New Zealand, like the U.K., show that a one-size-fits-all solution does not work. It is important that parties have the flexibility to determine the rules that govern them.
Bill C-586, as amended by the Procedure and House Affairs Standing Committee, respects that important principle.
Mr. Speaker, I believe there are important lessons that can be taken from the international examples. First, there is the simple fact that while rules do exist in other Westminster systems, they differ quite a lot from party to party. The example of all parties in the U.K. shows us just how varied approaches can be to the same issue in the same country.
In some cases, the votes on leadership reviews are taken only amongst MPs, while in other cases parties involve the wider party membership in these decisions. There are also considerable differences in how those votes are conducted.
It is also important to note that the rules that govern the parties have changed over time and I suspect they will continue to evolve in the future. This is best exemplified by the dramatic differences in the threshold for party leader review made by the Australian Labour Party in 2013.
It is important that political parties have the freedom to make their decisions about what type of approach they would like to pursue. Bill C-586, as amended, would do this.
I would like to take a moment to turn to our government's strong, democratic reform record. We walk the walk when it comes to empowering members of Parliament to bring forward ideas and issues important to them and to their constituents. For instance, the Globe and Mail analyzed 162,000 votes over almost two years which showed that members on this side of the House were far more likely to vote independently from their party than were opposition MPs. As well, more backbench MPs have passed bills into law through this majority Conservative Parliament than in over 100 years, the time for which such records are available.
The bill of the member for Wellington—Halton Hills has precipitated important discussion and debate on matters that affect us all. I have listened carefully to the views of my colleagues on both sides of the House regarding the changes that have been made to the reform act, 2014. In my opinion, the changes that were made have improved the bill and take into account concerns that have been raised.
For this reason, I urge all my colleagues to support the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I am glad you told me about the time constraints on my presentation, because you know me well and my history in this place. I sometimes find it difficult to clear my throat in less than eight and a half minutes, but I appreciate the heads-up on that.
It is a pleasure for me, honestly, to stand here and speak to Bill C-586, the bill now known as the reform act, brought forward by my colleague from Wellington—Halton Hills.
I must first congratulate my colleague, as I have done before, and I mean this quite sincerely. Any time any person in this place brings forward an initiative to improve the functioning of this place or to try to improve the functioning of our democratic process, that individual should be applauded. I applaud my colleague for bringing forward this legislation, which has sparked more discussion than any other private member's bill I can recall, and I have been here for close to 11 years. That speaks to the impact the contents of the bill will have on average, or at least typical, Canadians.
When the bill was first introduced, prior to the amendments, I received phone calls, letters, and emails from people, not only within my riding but throughout western Canada, encouraging me, in some cases, to support the bill. Some would merely query me as to how I would be reacting and whether I would be voting for or against the bill and asking for my rationale for the vote I would be undertaking.
I cannot recall another private member's bill having that much impact, causing so much discussion, and creating so much attention. On that alone, I sincerely congratulate the member, because if nothing else, he has brought to the attention of a lot of Canadians what private members can do, what members commonly known as backbenchers can do.
There is so much criticism of our democratic process. There is so much criticism these days about how this Chamber operates, and that criticism is usually targeted toward centralization and party leaders, or in some cases, the centre, having too much influence over how members operate and vote and over what they say in this place.
To have a private member's bill that has sparked so much discussion and interest throughout Canada speaks to the fact that individual members who are not in cabinet, who are not in leadership roles in opposition parties, have the ability to enact positive change. More than anything else, that is the benefit this legislation will have, and that will be the legacy of the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. The member has demonstrated quite clearly to members within this place and to members of the general public that the power of one exists, that the power of individual members, whether or not they are in cabinet or in leadership roles, is still absolute. I will not go further than that.
This is a powerful piece of legislation the member has brought forward. It speaks volumes about the ability of individual members and what they can do if they have an idea that would improve the functioning of this place and democracy. I hope more members take this into account when considering private member's bills they may want to bring forward in the future. Kudos to my colleague.
When the bill was originally brought forward by the member, I had some concerns. My primary concern was that in its original form, caucuses would have the ability not only to cause a leadership review to take place but to determine the fate of a leader. I had great difficulty with that. My point then, and still is today, was that if party memberships elect a leader, they should have the ability to get rid of a leader or to at least review and vote on whether they want that leader to continue. That was my primary concern. The amendments brought forward by my colleague are certainly measures I can support now.
I was very taken by my colleague's words when he said that perfection is sometimes the enemy of the good. What he was actually saying is that he has discovered and has worked toward the art of the possible. I think my colleague is quite correct. In its original form, I do not believe the bill would have passed Parliament, but there is so much good in the original bill and this revision that it should pass Parliament.
I will point out a couple of things in the bill that, in my personal view, are excellent. One is the ability of caucuses, if they choose to adopt the suggestions contained in Bill C-586, to vote for the caucus chair. I have long held that belief. I believe that as members we should have the ability to determine whom we wish to see in that chair representing us. I think that is an excellent suggestion, one I will wholeheartedly support and encourage my colleagues to support.
The other point that I think is extremely well-intended and makes for a very, very solid bill is the ability of caucus members to determine if one of their caucus colleagues should either be expelled or re-admitted to caucus. I think every party in this place has had members of their caucuses who have left, sometimes for different reasons.
Looking at my colleagues across the floor in the the official opposition, since this Parliament was first elected in 2011, there have been six members of the NDP who have left their caucus, sometimes voluntarily, and perhaps sometimes with a little encouragement, shall we say.
In our party, we have had a number of examples as well, but the point is that many times there are issues that we have within caucus. Those issues in large part remain private, but if they were serious enough to the point where caucus members themselves believed there should at least be a discussion on whether the admissibility of a caucus member should be in question, they should have the right to do so.
I do not believe that it should be the unilateral right of a leader to make those determinations. Certainly, the opinion of party leaders will play a great role in that determination, but ultimately I believe that members of Parliament in all caucuses have the intelligence and the ability to make that determination themselves.
I have been in caucuses where we have seen caucus members leave. I have also been in caucuses where I have personally known that some of those members would like to have been re-admitted, but there was no method for me or other caucus members to have a say in that process. The bill deals with that, and I think that is a very, very positive aspect of it.
I will just say in conclusion that while I agree with my colleague and my friend that the bill may not be perfect, it is a step in the right direction, and I strongly encourage all of my colleagues throughout the House to support the bill because, as my colleague quite correctly pointed out, it is perhaps the first step in an ongoing series of reforms that will improve the functioning of this place. If that is the case, then his legacy will be forever enshrined as one of the great movers of democracy in our country.
Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased to stand today and speak on my friend's bill, Bill C-586.
Before I get to my specific comments, I want to thank the member for Wellington—Halton Hills for his hard work. I know that this has not been easy to do, and sometimes it was a case of friend against friend discussing the bill. However, he brought dedication, spirit, and collaboration to the endeavour, which is not always shown in this place. When we do take the time to listen to the views of others, we sometimes get it right, or, as the member has said, it is perhaps not perfect, but we do take steps to get there. The hon. member has shown an extraordinary openness to discuss and, some might say, compromise, but at least he worked together with others here in the House. That certainly helped the bill make it through committee.
I will begin my comments with a brief outline of how we have arrived at this point.
The first iteration of the bill was introduced late 2013. After consultation with colleagues and many discussions among ourselves, and not even with the member sometimes, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills introduced a modified version of the bill in the spring of 2014.
Since April, many in the House have reviewed, considered, and discussed the revised bill. In its original form, the bill would have made substantial changes to the Westminster system of governance, which needed to be carefully considered. I personally spent a lot of time talking to the member for Wellington—Halton Hills and others. We talked about proposed changes, and through the summer I realized that while I might not like the bill entirely, boy there was some good stuff in it, as the member said, and so we had to work to get it here.
My colleague, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, worked with members on both sides of the House to improve the bill, and in September he announced further changes. It was also announced that political parties would remain in charge of their own nomination rules and have freedom to choose who approves candidates, which is such a large step. I do not think members recognize how large a step that is. This would allow caucuses to determine whether they wanted to opt in or opt out of some of these processes.
I think there may be some initial fears about some of the changes that have been suggested, but as the member has said, we cannot reach for the stars without taking a couple of steps forward, which is exactly how this would happen. We cannot have it all at once, but we will never finish the trip if we do not take the first steps.
I was pleased to see some of the further changes. I listened intently to the debate in the House at second reading, and then the bill came to committee. It is the changes that were made at the procedure and House affairs committee that I will focus the rest of my comments on.
As the chair of the committee, I have been there a long time, and the rules of this place, as the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor said, sometimes get in the way. People do not understand why a rule is there and why a member cannot just stand up and do something about it.
I thank the member for Toronto—Danforth for his great help at committee on this, but as he said, the procedures are what run this place, and if we write the right rules the place will run better, and if we write bad rules it will not. The member for Wellington—Halton Hills has it somewhere nearer to right, I might chance to say. However, as the chair of the committee, I must take a non-partisan role throughout all of the points I have discussed so far. When the bill gets to committee, I must help the committee move it as we can. Personally, I had some great thoughts as to what could be done, but we had to let it get there, and I thank the member for the kind comments about the work the committee did.
I will talk about some of the rules in the bill.
Regarding the role of the party leader to endorse candidates, as I said, it is a huge step forward when we can designate the person who would do that. If we take out of the law the provision that it is the party leader who endorses candidates, will that be a great change? We will see. As each party grows into the system, we will find out.
As I said, section 67(4)(c) of the Canada Elections Act currently requires candidates to have the signed approval of their party leader. That could now change, and we expressed that we hope it will.
A number of commentators have pointed out that the nomination contests represent the most fundamental element of our democratic system; that is, the people back home choose who is going to run to represent them back home. It is important that sometimes the party stays out of the way on that. This bill would help do that.
The original version of Bill C-586 would have amended the Canada Elections Act to dictate a more elaborate process, but we have now got it to where each party can choose its own and, through a democratic procedure, make that happen. I think it is important that we have that freedom.
This led to an important debate in the House about how to uphold the independence of parties and their right to decide how to function as private organizations and, in fact, function differently from other parties. I think the internal workings of parties need to have that type of flexibility.
As amended by the procedure and House affairs committee, the requirement for the party leader's signature would be replaced with a more open requirement of the signature of a person or persons authorized by the political party to endorse prospective candidates.
Those are just words on a piece of paper, but I find them to be extremely significant in this place. When we can change the rules to make the place work better, change party rules to make parties work better, we have accomplished something.
It would also remove the presumption that only the party leader has the ultimate power to endorse candidates while, at the same time, recognizing the right of parties to tailor their process to meet the unique needs of that party. Large, small, national in scope, or not national in scope, all of these things can now be taken into consideration. We would have that flexibility when we pass this bill that we did not have the moment before.
At committee, we also discussed caucus members and party leaders. The other key aspects of Bill C-586 are the provisions for the removal and the re-admission of caucus members and the removal of party leaders. These were discussions and parts of the bill.
Unlike the role the party leader plays in endorsing prospective candidates, the rules and procedures of party caucuses have never been set out in standard. There is not something we could point to and say, “That is what they are”.
In fact, we are ploughing some new ground here, certainly, in this Parliament, giving those options for a caucus to meet immediately after election and decide what rules it would be run by in the election of caucus leaders and the election of how to admit caucus members or dismiss caucus members.
Again, having spent some time in this place, I know these are extremely large decisions. We may look back on this day and say, “I remember when we allowed ourselves to have the freedom to do exactly that”.
Parties must have the freedom to organize themselves as they see fit. Again, what works for one party may not always work well for the other. However, the bill from the member for Wellington—Halton Hills would allow that freedom between those parties.
I believe there are important changes in the reform act.
I have spent a great deal of time working with a great group of people at the procedure and House affairs committee, moving things forward that are hard to do, but sometimes they are not as rewarding as I find the bill today from the member for Wellington—Halton Hills is, and would be, going forward. We have accomplished something here and I am proud to be able to do it. I am proud, now, to able to stand in the House, remove my non-partisan hat that I have to wear at committee in order to make things happen functionally, and say that I will be standing to support this bill and I hope all other members will.
Mr. Speaker, next year at this time when the government is history, it will still go into the history books for two sad records. The first will be for having had more pieces of its legislation rejected by the courts than any other government in our nation's history. Half a dozen times now courts have said that its legislation is badly botched work and have thrown it back to the Conservatives. The second, perhaps even more important, is the sad record of having some 84 time allocation and closure motions. That has never been seen before in Canadian history.
There has never been such a lack of respect for parliamentary debate and dialogue, with the results that I have mentioned earlier, of more bills bing rejected than of any other government.
The questions really are why this bill and why now? First, despite the laudable principle in creating the bill, it undermines the National Parks Act. Obviously the government wants to hide that fact from the Canadian public, which is why it is shutting down debate.
Second, why now, why this morning? Of course, we have Bill C-586 that the member for Wellington—Halton Hills has brought forward, and there were five witnesses scheduled to speak at the procedure and House affairs committee: Samara Canada, Fair Vote Canada, Friends of the Reform Act, Democracy Act, and Professor Nelson Wiseman, all wanting to speak on reform and to get their message across.
Obviously the House leader disagrees, so the real question is, why are the Conservatives trying to disrupt the procedure and House affairs committee and trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the Canadian public on Bill C-40?
Mr. Speaker, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills has demonstrated for all of us an effective approach to doing business in this place. After he produced the bill and it was in the public domain he indicated that he welcomed suggestions to improve the bill to make it more palatable to a broader number of members, and that is what he has done.
As with all private members' business, we said we would take the time to carefully review the amendments that have been proposed by the member. These amendments would keep parties in control of their nominations and allow caucuses to set their own rules.
In light of these proposed changes, the government supported Bill C-586 at second reading and looks forward to seeing it when it comes back from committee.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his intervention. This may be a brief response, not because it is not an important issue but because it is.
Democratic reform is a very serious and difficult task. I begin by commending the member for Wellington—Halton Hills for his important work in strengthening our democratic institutions and for bringing forward the reform act.
The reform act is an effort to strengthen Canada's democratic institutions by restoring the role of elected members of Parliament in the House of Commons. The member opposite said in his original question that the leaders of the three major parties threatened to kill the bill if it was not watered down. I would like to point out that, as with all private members' business, we said we would take time to carefully review the amendments proposed by the member to his own bill.
The reform act, Bill C-586, has now been read a second time and has been referred to committee, where it is right now. Of course, the committee is the master of its own destiny, but the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills proposed two changes in response to consultations held over the summer and to build support for his bill.
First, he concluded that perhaps the way it was written with respect to party nominations was too prescriptive, which would make it difficult for parties to, for example, meet diversity targets. In fact, the member opposite is from a party that is exactly 50% male and 50% female here in the House of Commons, but other parties have not reached that target yet.
The amendment the member for Wellington—Halton Hills has proposed is that instead of insisting that it be only a local decision in terms of who signs nomination papers, the party could determine who would sign these nomination papers. It could be somebody locally. It could even be the leader, but it would not be prescribed to be the leader, as it is currently in the Canada Elections Act.
The second change he is proposing is that each House of Commons caucus, after every general election, as its first item of business, in a recorded manner, could vote on whether members wanted to accept the template laid out in his bill or a different set of rules, and they would have the freedom to do so.
Quite simply, the bill takes the current unwritten convention and makes explicit in statute the rules and process for the caucus to review the party leader. Additionally, the reform act proposes that a party leadership review may be initiated by the submission of a written notice to the caucus chair, signed by at least 20% of the caucus members, and would mandate that the caucus chair make public the names of those caucus members requesting a vote.
When a majority of caucus members voted in favour of a leadership review, a second vote by secret ballot would occur, and they could select a person to serve as the interim party leader until a new party leader was elected.
Our government has continually delivered on its democratic reform commitments. More backbench MPs have passed bills into law through this majority Conservative Parliament than under any government since 1972, and we still have a year to go.
I should add that The Globe and Mail analyzed 162,000 votes over almost two years and found that Conservative MPs are far more likely to vote independently from their party than opposition MPs, as opposed to the NDP, for example, in which not a single MP voted against the party line.
As the member opposite knows, the Prime Minister and our government supported the bill, and as it comes back from committee, this House will have the privilege to examine the bill again at third reading.
Mr. Speaker, tonight, I want to talk about the state of this House.
Let us face it, Canadian democracy is in deep trouble, especially since the current government came to power. It is not just the Conservatives, though, that are responsible for this mess we are in. The leaders of the Liberals and the NDP are more interested in crushing dissent within their parties than encouraging debate. MPs are often forced to vote against their consciences and against the will of their constituents. Anti-democratic attitudes abound in party backrooms.
For the past year, we have been discussing the proposed reform act introduced by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. I truly believe that with this reform act, in its current form, we have an opportunity to transform Canadian democracy for the better.
Canadians can imagine my disappointment, but not surprise, when the three main parties waffled on their positions and criticized parts of this important bill. Canadians want change. They want democracy restored. The groundswell of support from ordinary Canadians for this bill is significant. Everyone I have spoken to has told me they are calling on their MPs to support this important legislation.
This reform act makes some long overdue changes that will make Parliament work better for Canadians again, instead of for party leaders. It would make party leaders more accountable to their MPs by establishing a leadership review process. It will end the requirement for a candidate's nomination papers to be signed by the party leader, the anti-democratic but little-known change to the Elections Act made by Pierre Trudeau in 1970.
This reform act will empower MPs to once again stand up for their constituents. It is the primary reason why I am supporting the bill in its current form. I even introduced a similar motion back in 2012. The reform act is important because it scales back the excessive powers of party leaders and restores local control over party nominations. However, recently, changes were proposed, I can only assume to placate the party leaders, that will weaken the most important parts of the bill and hand endorsement power right back to party leaders.
The reform act is only the beginning for democratic reform. Several other changes must be made to make Parliament more productive and less partisan. We must make our voting system more proportional to reflect the actual choices of Canadians. We must increase cross-party co-operation to end mindless partisan tribalism. We must take away the power of the Prime Minister to declare any bill a matter of confidence and to stop him from bullying Parliament, imposing bloated omnibus budget bills, and ignoring his own fixed election date law.
It is time we prevented parties from forcing their MPs to vote with their party. This summer the Green Party unanimously passed a resolution to ensure that their MPs would always be free to vote independently.
We must also restrict the unilateral power of the Prime Minister to appoint, without any oversight, senators, judges, parliamentary officers and many other positions.
The reform act, in its current form, is a step in the right direction. I urge my colleagues to recognize that it is time for all MPs who care about democracy to re-empower themselves and support the reform act in its current form, without weakening it further.
Will Conservative MPs, and indeed all MPs in this House, have the courage to vote for the reform act in its current form?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to lay out a bit of the timeline around the bill and some of the key issues.
Before I get into that, I do want to take a moment in this House to thank my colleagues, the member for Scarborough—Rouge River and the member for Scarborough Southwest. They have been really helpful. It has been great to work closely with them as MPs in the NDP who are right there where this park is. It has been great to get their advice from the ground to hear what is going on.
I also want to take a minute to thank some of the environmental organizations and local organizations that have been very helpful with our analysis of the bill. They include the Suzuki Foundation, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and the Friends of the Rouge Watershed. When we are here on the Hill, we try to do an analysis of legislation as it is presented, but it is hard to know exactly how it will play out in local communities. They have been very helpful to us.
There was a study at the environment committee on urban conservation. The NDP was successful in getting two days set aside to specifically look at Rouge Park. I think this was last year. That was incredibly helpful. We got an update from Parks Canada officials and we did hear witnesses. We heard about the incredible consultation that has been happening, over 25 years of consultation, and the work around this park. We heard about the great work that Parks Canada staff have been doing to try to ensure everybody is at the table and to deal with creating a piece of legislation that would create a park. That is very difficult.
This is an urban national park. Even the concept of it is challenging, because there is a highway in this park. There are farms in this park. It is an incredible gift to think that we could have a park that we could access by subway. However, with those gifts come great challenges.
Often when bills are presented in the House, we will hear from government; usually the minister will speak to the bill. Then we will usually hear first from the opposition critics to lay out a party's position and see where we are going.
I am actually speaking at the end of this debate. I have been listening to it since the beginning, with a small break for committee duty. It has been really interesting. I am not saying that the way a politician says, “This has been interesting”. It has been really interesting. There has been actual debate in this House.
My colleague, the member for Beaches—East York, sits behind me and I turned to him in the last of debate and asked, “Are you listening to this? People are talking about ideas. There's a little give, a little take.” I learned from each and every speech, regardless of whether it was a government member giving the speech, a Liberal member, or an NDP member. Why is that? I think the people who are speaking in the House to the bill have a vested interest in it. They are MPs from the area predominantly. They are MPs with expertise. They are MPs who have been engaged in this issue and engaged in the creation of the park for years.
In that debate, that honest debate that has been happening here in the House, I would say that most members have put aside their talking points and have talked about some of the real issues. I find that to be incredibly refreshing.
I think everybody who has spoken to this bill really does want to ensure that we get this legislation right, but they also want to ensure that we create this park. That is priority number one.
I will say that I will be supporting the bill, and I know that my caucus is behind that recommendation. As members know, critics make recommendations to their caucuses on different pieces of legislation. We are united and we do believe this is a good project, the creation of this park. We strongly support protecting land through creation of national parks writ large, as long as those national parks are backed with strong environmental legislation.
We also support this legislation, the creation of Rouge Park, Canada's first urban national park. That is the first thing.
The second thing is that I will come to this debate with an open mind, an open heart, and put down my talking points as well, to try to present some ideas, try to present some proposals, because I do see problems with the bill, and I am not alone on that. However, I think there are solutions, and I do believe that we as parliamentarians could work on those solutions together, alongside the community, and actually come up with a stronger bill.
A lot has happened with this bill. It was introduced in June, and frankly, I think some politics were involved in that. I think it was hastily introduced in this House, but we had some byelections happening in the Scarborough area so it is good for the government to say, “Look. We are going to hold up this bill.” That is just my assumption, but I do think it was tabled pretty hastily. There continue to be politics when we see what the Ontario government has been doing and saying via the media.
This park will be 58 square kilometres. The Province of Ontario owns two-thirds of that. The federal government owns about one-third, with some small parcels owned by Markham and Toronto. In order to create this park, we need a transfer of lands. Some 5,400 acres of parkland would be transferred from the Ontario government to the federal government. At least that was the theory we were working with in June. It is not so much the theory now.
In early September, we heard that the Ontario government was thinking about not transferring the land because of the issue of ecological integrity. I will get to the ecological integrity piece in a minute. About a week later, we saw that the Minister of the Environment said that the federal government would move ahead with this park anyway. I have a concern that we would be creating a park that we do not actually know what it will look like. We do not actually have the full parcel of land. I will admit I would rather create a very small park than no park at all, but we are in a situation where we are not 100% sure what land is going to be involved.
What is the issue with ecological integrity? This is important. The National Parks Act specifically states, “Maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks”. The first priority is maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity.
This bill says that the minister must take into consideration ecological integrity. That is a big sticking point for a lot of people.
Community groups have come out and said that this is not acceptable, that it is a lower standard of environmental protection. I understand what they are saying and I believe what they are saying.
There was actually a pretty good release put out by a number of groups, including Environmental Defence and Ontario Nature, for example. They said:
We call on the federal government to uphold its commitment to the Memorandum of Agreement. As it stands now, the draft federal legislation threatens to undermine 25 years of consultation, scientific study and provincial policy development that made ecological integrity the main purpose of the park and the top priority for park management.
That is their concern. I share their concern, but I think we can figure this out.
Listening to the debate here in the House, I have heard my colleagues, in particular the members for Wellington—Halton Hills and Oak Ridges—Markham, talk about the fact that this is an urban park and it is complicated because there are farms and there is a highway. How do we have this standard of protecting ecological integrity when Highway 401 is going through it? That says to me that maybe we legitimately need a different standard, not a lower standard but a different standard, for urban parks. I buy that. That is something worth exploring.
The problem I have right now, though, is that I have trust issues with this government.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by noting that today is the first day of the Markham Fair, which runs from October 2 to October 5. This is one of Ontario's largest agricultural fairs. It has been going on since 1844 in my community. It highlights the important role that farming and agriculture have played in the development of my community and the entire York region.
What is very special about the Markham Fair every year is the importance that the entire community places on it. Every November, I have the opportunity to attend the president's banquet at the Markham Fair, and we recognize the individuals who have volunteered their time at the fair. It always amazes me how many people have been there for 5, 10, 20, 25, 40, 45 and 50 years, volunteering at the Markham Fair. Generation upon generation of families volunteer to make this annual fair a special event for our entire community.
As I said, it is an agricultural fair. We see all the things that we could expect to see at an agricultural fair. There are ploughing matches There are competitions for things like hogs, chickens, the best homemade apple pie. There is soap carving. Obviously, there is a midway and there are all kinds of other things that highlight the importance of agriculture to our community.
Today, as they kick off another year of the Markham Fair, I just wanted to congratulate them and wish them well.
There has been a lot of difference of opinion on the creation of the park. Actually, let me take that back. I do not think that there is a difference of opinion with respect to creating the Rouge national urban park. I think that the difference is in the form that the park would take.
As the members for Scarborough—Guildwood and Wellington—Halton Hills highlighted, a lot of people for many years have been focused on trying to create a national park in the Rouge. That is something that has been talked about for many years.
It is important to look back a little bit at where this all started and how we got to this place. A lot of the land in this area became available to the government through the expropriations in 1972 by the Trudeau government of, I think, over 18,000 acres of land for the creation of potential new airports and a second airport for Toronto. At that time, farmers in the area were evicted from their lands. Some were given leases to lease back their lands on a yearly basis, but many were evicted. That has been the reality for many of the farmers in the area since 1972.
Fast forward to 1994, when the Rouge park concept started being put into play. As it has already been noted, it really followed Pauline Browes, who was the minister of state for the environment in the Campbell government and a parliamentary secretary in the Mulroney government. A decision was made that $10 million would be set aside to help create, manage and preserve some of the natural heritage of the Rouge park. That brought in a heightened significance of how special the natural heritage of the Rouge is.
Consequently, there have been provincial governments that have also recognized its significance. Through the 1990s and the early 2000s, the Mike Harris government transferred thousands of acres of land into the management of the park. Also through that time, plans were made to manage the Rouge in a more effective way so that we could preserve and protect the national heritage of the area.
As we have got a little bit further into the discussion, there were thoughts about what could be done to protect the Rouge park. As it has been mentioned, the Rouge park falls into two different categories. There is a Toronto category, and then there is a York region part of it.
For those who do not know the area, in the Toronto category there is a large street called Steeles Avenue. South of Steeles Avenue, some of the most extraordinary natural heritage in Ontario or Canada can be evidenced through the Rouge park there. It is absolutely spectacular. I do not think anybody can question that.
North of Steeles Avenue, we start coming into more agricultural areas. A vast majority of the land to the north of Highway 7, which would be put into Rouge park, is agricultural land that has been farmed for hundreds of years. This is not just a new concept. This land has been farmed for hundreds of years. In fact, I would invite all of my colleagues in the House to look at a program called The Curse of the Axe. This program highlights the Wendat people who were settled in this area some 500 years ago. It was discovered that the Wendat people had been farming those very same lands. The extent to which they were farming completely changed how we viewed our first nations and the role that they played in agriculture and trading in the area. I would invite all my colleagues to look at the program. It will highlight again how long this land has been farmed.
North of Highway 7, it is farming. To the south, as the member for Scarborough—Guildwood rightly pointed out, we have the 401, a hydro corridor, the Toronto Zoo and, on one edge of it, there is a landfill. However, there are extraordinary pockets of incredible beauty that the Ontario government, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and what was previously the Rouge Park Alliance had been working on preserving for a number of years. We have done that with partners in the private sector. By and large, we have done a very good job.
However, when the concept started evolving with respect to a national urban park, and we knew we had some excess airport lands, that is when the debate started to change a bit. We knew, as has been mentioned by other speakers, that we could do something very special here. We could protect the natural heritage of the Rouge Valley, but at the same time we could extract those lands that had become surplus to any potential airport needs, and put them back into a Rouge park so these lands could be protected for a long time to come.
The Ontario Farmland Trust, a non-profit organization that promotes farmland preservation, said, “The new Rouge National Urban Park offers one of the most innovative opportunities for the protection of farmland resources, agricultural heritage and local food production in our generation.”
If I am not mistaken, it is only 1%. This is class 1 farmland. We have lost so much farmland in this area to development. In the park south of Steeles Avenue, pretty much all of the farming that was there is now gone. I believe that we have to do our absolute best to ensure that the class 1 farmland on the northern part of the future park is preserved and saved, and that we allow our farmers to continue to farm, using best farm practices, for a very long time.
Our farmers are sometimes condemned as not being proper stewards of the land. I disagree. These lands have been farmed for hundreds of years, and our farmers are some of the best stewards of the land. The proposal that has been brought forward by the minister would see these farmers finally get long-term leases. Bear in mind that these farmers have been working on yearly leases. It is very hard, if not impossible, for them to make investments in the land that they have been farming. They cannot make the investments that most farmers would want to make. They are forced into a certain type of farming because they are on a yearly lease. This has disadvantaged the farmers in this area for a very long time.
We have the opportunity through this legislation to do both things that are very important, to protect the natural heritage of the park, while at the same time reversing decades of poor treatment of farmers in the area.
That is why I am very excited about this. Obviously throughout this process there has been a lot of debate. The member for Wellington—Halton Hills and I have not always seen eye to eye on this. We have had a tremendous amount of debate. When the proposal first came to me as the member of Parliament for Oak Ridges—Markham to create a Rouge national urban park, I was dead set against it if it meant that farmers in my riding would be disadvantaged the way they had been and if they were to be treated the way they had been under the existing Rouge Park management.
There is a 2001 Rouge Park management plan. Part of that management plan calls for a 600-metre corridor. The net result of that corridor would mean the elimination, at a minimum, of 1,700 acres of class 1 farmland and that is completely unacceptable to me, to farmers and to my constituents. We can make sure that we work with the farmers, who are not opposed to making sure that the entire ecosystem is protected. They want to work together with government to make sure that they can do that. I want to read a letter from the York Region Federation of Agriculture, which represents farmers in the area, to the hon. Brad Duguid, the Ontario minister who has highlighted that the Ontario government does not want to transfer the land. It says:
The York Region Federation of Agriculture members are the 700 farm businesses in York Region and Toronto including the farmers in the Rouge National Urban Park. ...you arrived at your decision to not recommend the Provincial land transfers after discussions with stakeholders and local citizen groups. You did not consult with the York Region Federation of Agriculture, the farmers in the Park, or the community living in the Park. We urge you not to hold up the transfer of Provincial lands to Parks Canada.
The farming community in the Rouge National Urban Park are the same farm families that have been farming and caring for the land...for the past 200 years. The future of the farms in the Rouge National Urban Park have been in limbo since the farms were expropriated in the 1970's. The farmland in the Rouge National Urban Park is Class 1 Agricultural Land, meaning it is the best land for agriculture production. Less than 1% of Canada's farmland is Class 1. The farmers in the park have already given up 1000 acres of productive farmland in the Rouge National Urban Park to reforestation projects.
We support Parks Canada's consultation process that engaged over 100 stakeholder groups and thousands of individuals to create the Rouge National Urban Park Draft Management Plan.
It went on to say:
We believe that Parks Canada will improve the ecological integrity of the Rouge National Urban Park while maintaining the farmland in food production.
I want to reference another letter, from the Cedar Grove community group to Minister Duguid. Cedar Grove is an extraordinary community within my riding, a very historical community. This is what it has to say:
On behalf of the Cedar Community Club, we write with regard to your letter of September 2...which presents your decision to withdraw your recommendation to support transfer of land to Rouge National Urban Park.... It was shocking to learn of your decision and we strongly disagree.... With the promise of the coming Rouge National Urban Park, there was an anticipated hope for stability for the farmers and residents of Cedar Grove and surrounding communities.
It went on to support what the minister has done to bring about the Rouge national urban park.
I want to talk about what has recently transpired with the Province of Ontario.
We obviously have been working with the Province of Ontario for a number of years. Since this announcement was made in the previous election of 2011 and rehighlighted in the throne speech, we have been working closely with the Province of Ontario to bring about the Rouge national urban park in a way that respects the ecological integrity and promotes the national heritage, but also protects the farmers and gives them the stability that they have been looking for since 1972.
I do not think it is a big secret that we were close to an agreement. We had a signed agreement with the Province of Ontario that we probably would have announced had an election not been called for the Province of Ontario. Then, after the election that changed, unbeknownst to any of us. I know I picked up the Toronto Star one day and saw a letter from Liberal Minister Duguid outlining the Liberals' concerns. They were no longer going to be transferring the land because they had some concerns with ecological integrity.
Never had they mentioned this before. The province had signed an agreement with us. The transfer was to happen. We were to move forward with a management plan that was working with the province and the stakeholders in the area. Then this came. Coincidentally, everything is held up until November 2015, after the next federal election. It is truly shameful.
It is worth remembering that these are the same provincial Liberals that had before requested, not ecological integrity, but money for the lands it was going to transfer. They wanted to be bought out. Therefore, when they asked for I think it was $120 million, they had no concerns with what they were seeing then. Their concern was that they wanted to be bought out of their position in the lands; “Give us a hundred million dollars and we'll transfer it to you, no problem”.
It was highlighted by people like Alan Wells, who was the final chair of the Rouge Park Alliance, that this had never been the case. Governments had transferred lands to the Rouge Park for a very limited amount, I believe for $1. The provincial government had done that before. The provincial government of Mike Harris transferred lands to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority so that it could be managed. That was pointed out to the minister, but they needed to get their $100 million.
I really want to reiterate what the provincial Liberals' proposal would do. In his letter to the Minister of the Environment, he highlighted what the member for Scarborough—Guildwood and the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands talked about. It is worth noting that the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, the member for Scarborough—Rouge River, the member for Markham—Unionville, and I am not sure if anyone else, submitted petitions to the House supporting a 1994 framework, saying that this park could not go ahead unless the 1994 framework was supported. However, as I said earlier, the 1994 framework would cause 1,700 acres of class 1 farmland to be taken out of production. It would mean the eviction of farmers and would probably mean the closure of one of our most successful farms in the area, Whittamore's Farm.
To say that the farmers do not trust the provincial Liberal government on this is an understatement because they have seen this before. There was a park called Bob Hunter Memorial Park, where 600 acres of class 1 farmland was taken away from farmers. People who had lived there for 33 years were evicted. Trees were planted across this class 1 farmland. Millions of dollars were put into it. There was no consultation. It was done and forced upon these farmers. Therefore, the farmers do not trust the provincial government. Quite frankly, governments at the federal level have never undertaken a consultation process like we have on this, and that is all governments. The Conservative and Liberal governments in the past have never done what we have done now.
While I agree that the southern part of this extraordinary ecosystem needs to be protected, and that is what our legislation does, I do not agree that means sacrificing thousands of acres of class 1 farmland in order to create a Rouge national urban park.
I hope that members of the House will work with us to create a park that we can all be proud of and give the millions of people who live in this area access to a treasure that we will be able to brag about because we helped create it.
Mr. Speaker, I thought it was interesting that the parliamentary secretary affirmed, and we heard from the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, his intention to vote for it. The hon. member in his remarks I believe said that he was planning to vote against it. He is nodding his head yes. However, just a little while ago, his boss, the government House leader, moved a motion that this question be now put.
We understand, of course, that vote will be first. If that vote is first and fails, then the motion today would not be put and the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills would be denied his right to express his opinion on this motion, as would the parliamentary secretary. I am sure what I am describing is not true because it would be so against the spirit of what we are talking about: rights, respect and privilege.
I would like the hon. member to stand and clarify, clear the air for us and assure us that he will be voting against the motion to put the previous question so that the original motion can be put and we can all vote on it, including him and his colleague.
I would ask him to clarify that it is his intention, and I would think the intention of the caucus, to vote against that motion so that we could have the right and the respect to vote on the motion that is actually before us today.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join today's debate on the opposition motion to make reforms to question period by changing the Standing Orders. As is my custom, as I am sure most members in the House are well aware, I never read from a written speech. I do not believe, frankly, in that. I particularly do not like the practice that seems to have become common in this place whereby members come into this place and read a speech, which someone else has written, not even knowing the content of the speech. They are just reading words. It is almost like white noise.
I can appreciate the fact that some members, in order to collect their thoughts and give them a coherent stream, do write their own speeches, as did my colleague the Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification today, and a good speech it was. I have no real objection to that. However, I take a different view. If members have knowledge of a particular subject, they should be able to speak here for 10 to 20 minutes, at least, and converse with their colleagues to impart their views and opinions on the subject at hand.
While my thoughts today may be somewhat random, I hope I can connect them in a way that will be somewhat understandable to my colleagues opposite.
I have been listening to the debate throughout the day. That is why it has taken until now for me to formulate my thoughts. I will start by saying that I will be opposing the motion, as opposed to my colleague and good friend from Wellington—Halton Hills, who will be supporting it. I am going to be opposing it for a couple of reasons.
First and foremost, I do not believe that Parliament should be changing the Standing Orders in a one-off manner, as the NDP is trying to do here.
I have been involved for the last two and a half years, believe it or not, at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, in examining potential changes to the Standing Orders. I have been absolutely frustrated, not because we have not had goodwill on all sides of the House to try to make changes that would fundamentally improve the functioning of Parliament, and that is the objective we all had, but because we keep getting interrupted. Much of this is outside of our control. There are pieces of legislation that come to our committee that take precedence. There are private member's bills or matters of privilege and those types of things. We have always been interrupted.
I point that out because I believe that if we finally get to a point where we have members from all sides of the House on a committee dealing with reviewing the Standing Orders to see if there are things we could do to improve the functioning of Parliament and the House, whether it be in question period, at committee, or otherwise, it would benefit us all.
As I mentioned to a few of my colleagues today, when we were meeting again about the Standing Order review, when I leave this place, whether willingly or because of ill health, that being, of course, because my voters get sick of me, and someone asks me years from now what difference I made in Parliament, I would like to be able to answer with something substantive. If I could say that I was part of a committee that changed the Standing Orders in Parliament and improved the way Parliament works, I would be one happy individual. I hope we can actually do that. That is primarily why I have opposition to this one-off approach the NDP takes.
I have a few other problems with it. I feel that question period as identified and as illuminated by some of my colleagues on the opposition benches is primarily an opportunity for the opposition to question the government of the day. I have no issues with that whatsoever. However, I also feel that opposition members must also follow the principles and guidelines as established in O'Brien and Bosc. I do not even know if most members here realize that there are principles and guidelines governing questions asked of the government, but there are. There are clear guidelines.
We have heard before that we cannot be repetitive. Today one of my colleagues told me he thought there were 12 questions in a row on ISIL. They were all the same question. The Minister of Foreign Affairs was giving a proper response, saying that there will be a vote in Parliament and a debate in Parliament if it is the government's view that we should be entering into a combat mission.
One question, when answered, should have sufficed, yet we had the same question 12 different times. There were 12 different variations, but of the same question and receiving the same answer. Does that benefit anyone? Of course not.
We have to look at not only how the government responds to questions but how questions are posed. Rather than this one-off on the relevancy of questions or answers, I would like to see a more comprehensive review of Parliament as a whole. That is something I am still going to try to spearhead over the course of the next few months. Perhaps it might even go into the next Parliament.
All of us need to be accountable to Parliament, and it is not just question period. Most of the members of the opposition when debating the motion today have focused in on question period. I understand that. It is their 45-minute opportunity each and every day to try to question the government, to try to score partisan points for themselves and to get public opinion on their side. I understand that. Similarly, a lot of the answers we give are obviously going to try to make the government look in its best light. That is the nature of adversarial politics. That is the nature of Parliament. However, we cannot view that in isolation. We have to look at a larger picture.
I have also heard members of the opposition say it is the role, and only role, for opposition members to be questioning government. I disagree. As expressed by my colleague, the minister of western economic diversification, every single member here needs to be accountable.
For example, while members of the opposition question the government on its future plans to deal with ISIL and other terrorist threats, I have yet to hear in Parliament an articulated view from members of the opposition parties, both Liberal and NDP, of what their plans would be. Do they, or would they, support combat missions to join with the United States and allies, if that in fact was what the request was? I have not heard that, not in this place at least.
I have heard outside of Parliament some news reports saying that the NDP has said it does not agree to any mission, combat or non-combat. I have heard outside Parliament members of the Liberal Party saying they would not support a “boots on the ground” movement but would perhaps support limited air strikes. I have not heard them say that in here. Therefore, there is a need for accountability by even members of the opposition in dealing with issues that affect Canadians.
I know my next few comments will not be viewed with any delight by members of the opposition, but I do want to point this out because my House leader mentioned it in his intervention this morning. An issue that is before Canadians is the issue of illegal mailings and satellite offices by the NDP. What I do not think most Canadians are aware of, however, is the background to that. I want to spend just a few moments on that because, frankly, there is a need for accountability from the NDP when it comes to these very issues, because we are talking about a lot of taxpayers' dollars here.
Most Canadians who may be watching this are aware that most members of Parliament, hopefully all members of Parliament, send out communiqués to their constituents on a regular basis. They are usually in the form of ten percenters or householders. Ten percenters is an inside baseball, inside politics term. Basically, for those Canadians who many be watching this debate, it is a small brochure that one could fit inside a coat pocket. They are sent out by members of Parliament at various times throughout the year, sometimes half a dozen times or more. Householders are a larger format, more like a newsprint. They are sent out usually four times a year. I say this as background.
The issue at hand is that the board of internal economy stated that the mailings the NDP sent out last fall during a time there were three by-elections being held in Canada, one in Bourassa, one in Provencher and one in Brandon—Souris, were illegal. Why is that? It is because the rules quite clearly state that these communiqués that members of Parliament send out should not be political in nature. They should not be there to promote elections or anything like that.
In the case of the mailings in question, the NDP did a couple of things, which on the surface would appear to be extremely strange.
As members know, and as most Canadians know, all of the ten percenters and householders that I was referring to are normally printed by House printers and they are paid for by the good taxpayers of Canada. They allow us to communicate with our constituents, to give information to our constituents about what is happening.
I found it extremely odd that the tens of thousands of brochures that were sent out by the NDP during the time of these three by-elections were not paid for by the House and were not printed by the House. The New Democratic Party went to an outside printer, paid for them itself, and then mailed them out in franked envelopes, franked envelopes meaning taxpayer paid-for envelopes. The NDP did not have to incur the cost of postage.
Why would those members do that? The answer is quite simple. They knew if they put the content of those brochures before House administration, House administration would say they could not be mailed out because the content of the brochures did not fit the guidelines we have to follow. Why? Because they were campaign documents. They were documents meant to promote the candidacy of the NDP candidates in those three by-elections.
The NDP went to an outside printer to get them printed, and there is nothing wrong with that. The New Democratic Party paid for those brochures itself, and there is nothing wrong with that. The New Democratic Party should have paid for those brochures because they were campaign documents. Then that party used—
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Wellington—Halton Hills for the support he is obviously going to show for this motion. I appreciate that.
I agree with him that we should be debating the substance of this motion, not using it for partisan purposes. The ability of a minister to respond is of utmost importance to Canadians.
With his five-minute right of reply, the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to rise and speak to the reform act, 2014, brought my colleague from Wellington—Halton Hills.
My dear friend from Edmonton—Leduc gave a little history about governments and the Westminster type of government. I have travelled all over the world and have seen numerous forms of government across the world, not only the Americans but we have the French. We have military regimes and we have dictatorships and we have all kinds of other governments. However, what is very clearly important is the form of democracy that we have elected here in Canada, the Westminster style of democracy, which has stood the test of time coming from U.K.
However, in what I am saying, it is dreadful that our Senate is not an elected Senate. Having said that, the House of Commons indeed is an institution that, for all everybody says whatever they want to say, is a very respected institution giving good governance to Canada, based on my own experience travelling around the world.
I have been a member of Parliament for close to 17 years now. Through this process, I have gone through a tremendous amount of political flux that has taken place in this country. I started as a Reform MP, then a member of the Canadian Alliance, then the old Progressive Conservative Party, and then the new Conservative Party. As I like to say, I never crossed the floor, the parties crossed on me.
Going through all this system over here, we learned one thing: where is the basic situation. Sure, there are always ways and room to improve, but the main basic thing I learned from all this here is that our process has checks and balances, not through legislation and that discipline but through practice. Let me give an example of that. My friend from Leduc talked about the crisis we had during the time of the Canadian Alliance. I went through all of that and I must say I give great credit for what happened over there to Stockwell Day, who realized that the caucus was not with him at that given time and took the right step, but went back out there to seek the leadership again from the members. These are the kinds of decisions that are in practice, which we have as part of us. However, I do want to commend my colleague here for trying to formalize it.
Where I had a very strong objection to his bill was where I felt that membership's voice was being taken away by giving more power to the caucuses, to Elections Canada, and so on. However, to his great credit, he heard all of our objections, and I want to commend him for bringing in the amendments that he did, which address many of the concerns we have had. I must say that gives back, in my opinion, the powers to the membership as, for example, in his first amendment by letting the parties decide who is going to be the person in charge. It does not matter who is the person in charge, whether it is the Prime Minister or whoever, but it is the membership that will decide, and that is part of his amendment.
I want to thank the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, who worked throughout the summer with the others in bringing in a lot of amendments that have now made us feel very good, so that I feel I am in a situation where a lot of positive things are now coming out of this bill. One of those positive steps that I am quite comfortable with is the election of the caucus chair. A democratically elected caucus chair is an absolutely good idea. Also the caucus would have the ability to admit or re-admit people who have been removed from caucus. That should be a caucus choice, which makes it a democratic institution. So that is excellent.
However, I do still have some little problems over here, which he has of course addressed. Again that comes to the issue of the leadership, which he said caucuses can update. What I am saying now is that it is a bill that we can all debate and all talk about. There are some positive aspects to it that we can move forward. When the bill goes to the committee, we can talk about other areas where we have concerns. I will talk to him again about concerns that I do have, and see how best we can bridge that gap. It can allow us, at the end of the day, to make a bill that is acceptable to all of us, which will strengthen the democracy in this country.
I want to give him credit for bringing it forward. We are waiting for this. We will vote for the bill to go to the committee, and then at the committee we will bring further amendments.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise to speak very proudly in favour of the reform act introduced by my friend and colleague, the member of Parliament for Wellington—Halton Hills.
At the outset, I would like to commend him for the substance of this bill and the substantive debate that he has caused both here in the House of Commons and across the country, as well as the manner and the process that he has followed in presenting his reforms. He presented a first version of this bill last year and sought meaningful input from members of Parliament and Canadians across the country. In fact, I can personally attest to the fact that he came to my constituency and engaged directly with many people in the riding. It was an excellent example of real citizen engagement, and I want to thank him for that.
After receiving all of the input, he proposed two different sets of amendments. One he proposed as reform act 2014 and the second, I believe, he proposed on September 11. It is my understanding that the government, as well as members of the opposition, will be supporting the bill. He made a real effort to hear constructive criticism of the bill. I know there are people who were supportive of this legislation and wished that he had kept it in its original form, and I say to him that he has shown some courage and real flexibility in trying to get a piece of legislation that can be supported by a majority of the members of this House and, hopefully, a majority of the members of the Senate as well.
To review the reform act itself, it proposed three main reforms: restoring local control over party nominations, strengthening caucus as a decision-making body, and reinforcing the accountability of party leaders to their caucuses. The purpose of these reforms is to strengthen Canada's democratic institutions by restoring the role of elected members of Parliament in the House of Commons.
The proposals in the reform act would reinforce the principle of responsible government, something I will return to over and over again in this speech. It would make the executive more accountable to the legislature and ensure that party leaders maintain the confidence of their caucuses, something that has existed since Parliament began.
If one wants to review, especially on the Conservative side of the House, an excellent example of party leaders having to maintain the confidence of their caucuses, one only has to go back to perhaps the greatest parliamentarian of all time, Winston Churchill, who became prime minister during World War II, a period in which someone else held a majority of the seats of the House of Commons. A Conservative government had the majority of seats in the House of Commons and Churchill was not party leader, but that change was made, and I think for all of our sakes it was much better. That is certainly a historical example, especially for Conservative parliamentarians.
Responsible government, as we know, is the principle that the executive council, the cabinet, is responsible and accountable to the elected legislative assembly, the House of Commons, not the appointed governor. This was a change that was made in Canadian history.
Much of this debate has focused upon the present-day situation or the concentration of power that has occurred over the past 40 years, but I want to commend the member for Wellington—Halton Hills because he has tried to say that this is a fundamental realigning of Parliament, that one has to go beyond the present personalities and circumstances of today. We all have our present-day debates, but we need to think fundamentally of the relationship between the executive and the legislative. This is something that has, frankly, perplexed political thinkers since the advent of political activity and political organization, since people started distinguishing between the different roles that the executive and legislative, or those who dispense funds and those who raise funds, ought to have.
Why is it so important to restore the proper balance between the executive and the legislative? Why should we care about responsible government? In my view, democracy is the best form of government, to turn around one of Churchill's phrases, and parliamentary democracy is the best form of democracy. However, in order to truly be a parliamentary democracy, it must be both representative and responsible. It must be representative in that the legislative branch, members of Parliament, must be duly elected and accountable to their constituents. It must be responsible in that executive branch, the cabinet, the government, must be accountable to those legislators. It requires those two absolute functions.
If one surveys the early histories of Parliament, as I have done recently, especially excellent works like J.R. Maddicott's The Origins of the English Parliament, which I recommend to everyone in this place and across the country, one will see that the powers of the executive, meaning the king or queen, during the early Parliaments actually existed outside of Parliament.
Parliament started as sort of a council of advisors, some from the property classes, some from the ecclesiastical classes, and even at that time they started two important functions that we continue today. That is, they started challenging the sovereign with respect to the raising of money, taxes, most often to fight wars, and with respect to the review of spending.
These two essential functions that Parliament still fulfills today, in terms of ways and means motions and the estimates process, actually started centuries ago in these early parliaments. However, at that time the executive power actually resided outside of Parliament with a king or queen. What happened over time was that these executive powers moved, in effect, from the crown to the advisors of the crown, the privy councillors, as they are still called today, and over time to ministers of cabinet and the prime minister within the legislature.
This was a very fundamental change that occurred over many years. Is this wrong? Some may perceive there is an actual problem with this. In fact, the Americans, in my view, saw this as a problem and chose a different system. They opted for a different system and very formally separated the executive—the president and the administration—completely from the Congress, which is the Senate and the House of Representatives.
It is very straightforward to ensure formal responsibility between the executive branch and the legislative branch. It is also simple to ensure that American citizens have more than one vote and can split their votes. They split the votes between a vote for the president and a vote for a member of the Senate or a member of the representatives.
As we know, Canadians have one vote. They have a vote for their member of Parliament at the federal level. I do not see having the executive within the legislature as a problem. In fact, I think it is a benefit. I think one of the beauties of the parliamentary system is that it is organic. As Edmund Burke would say, it's one of the advantages of the parliamentary system. It can respond to situations. It is a benefit to have the executive residing within the legislature.
What needs to happen then is responsible government. All parliamentary democracies must ensure, with this real transfer through the history of executive power from the sovereign to the privy council, the cabinet and the prime minister, that we have responsible government where the executive resides within the legislature and is responsible to the legislature. It is much more complicated than the American system. I think it is better than the American system, but we must ensure that responsible government applies.
In my time remaining I want to address some of the concerns that have been raised. It is very difficult to do so because some of the concerns were raised by people who have raised issues about political parties. I think members of all political parties have raised concerns about MPs possibly usurping some of the role of political partisans in terms of selecting or deselecting leaders. However, the role of caucus, in terms of having responsibility for the leadership, has always been there throughout history. My view is caucus members will respond to it in a very meaningful way.
I was in a situation in my first term in Parliament where we had a very destabilizing situation. It would have been helpful in fact to have a set of rules to guide us in how to deal with that in a much quicker way.
Second, I appeal to those who say the bill has been amended too much and not enough has been retained from the original bill to pass. The member for Wellington—Halton Hills has introduced a piece of legislation and has tried to be as constructive as he can to get support from all political parties so it has near unanimous support to pass in the House.
I therefore ask all members of Parliament to support this important bill to redress the imbalances that have occurred over decades in our country. The powers of the executive have grown and the strength of the legislative branch, unfortunately, has diminished. We need to restore the proper balance between the executive and the legislative. A true parliamentary democracy requires representative institutions, but it also requires responsible government. We need to honour these fundamental traditions of our parliamentary democracy.
Mr. Speaker, I am taking this occasion to rise on this bill, titled the reform act, 2014. I would like to thank the member for Wellington—Halton Hills for presenting us with the occasion to debate that very subject before this chamber. This debate allows us to highlight the important improvements we have witnessed under this Prime Minister and this government in the area of democratic reform.
I understand that in politics, one of the idiosyncrasies with which we must be faced is that sometimes narrative departs a long way from the facts. People have a tendency to confuse, for example, strength with centralization, competence with control, and so it is when many critics in the public sphere judge the degree of central power in the various parties that are in the House today.
I think we should examine the facts to see how the parties actually add up on this very question. Let me examine some of those empirical facts.
The Globe and Mail published an analysis of 162,000 votes cast on the floor of this House of Commons by individual MPs. It found that during a two-year period, between June 2, 2011, and January 28, 2013, the Liberal Party voted as a unanimous block 90% of the time, with no difference of opinion whatsoever.
The Conservative Party had independent votes; that is, members of the caucus voted differently than the leadership in one in four votes on the floor of the House of Commons.
The NDP whipped 100% of its MPs 100% of the time. That is to say, in that two-year period, there was literally not one MP who dared disagree with their leader even once, which is an exceptional statement of the centralization of powers that has occurred in the NDP.
We move to the subject of the Senate. I think all of us are frustrated with the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling on that question. However, it is important to note what was at stake. The reference to the Supreme Court on the question of the Senate was actually very ironic.
I am not aware of another occasion in our history when a Prime Minister has gone to court to ask judges to take powers away from him. He actually went to the court and asked the court to allow him to give the people authority over who would represent them in the Senate. He agreed that if provinces held elections, he would respect the outcome and he would oblige himself to do so in federal statutory law.
Equally ironic was that it was the courts that actually refused to let him give away the powers he wanted to cede, but no less, it is interesting to note that he wanted to cede them in the first place, an action and a motive that is not normally part of the constitution of any leader of government, but with this Prime Minister it is, as I will further elaborate when I come to our position on this particular bill.
On the question of private members' bills in general, I should note that under this Parliament, with a majority Conservative government, and this Prime Minister, we actually have had more private members' bills passed into law than at any time since 1972. In that Parliament, many of the bills were just name changes to constituencies.
In terms of legislating, this Parliament, under a majority Conservative government, led by this Prime Minister, has had more backbenchers enact legislation than at any time in history.
Some have become cynical about this fact and have said that it is actually just the government putting private members up to passing legislation. They offer no proof of that except that the government actually voted for the legislation.
There is the Catch-22. If the government had voted against this backbench legislation, they would say that the government was blocking it, but with the government having voted for it, they now say that it cannot be that independent if the government supported it at the end of the day. Members will see that with these critics, there is no winning.
However, Canadians are winning. They are winning because of the democratic action of members of this House, such as the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, who was able to introduce legislation to protect vulnerable people from human trafficking, and the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, who was able to amend legislation from the Prohibition era that prevented Canadians from transporting wines and other spirits across borders. The legislation now allows Canadians to actually drink Canadian-produced wines and beers. We also had the member for Kitchener—Conestoga, who succeeded in passing suicide prevention legislation through the House of Commons. This was serious, substantive legislation passed by backbench MPs under this government.
We now have another bill before the House of Commons, the reform act. That bill would address the 45-year-old requirement in law that a leader sign off on the candidacy of every single person who is on the ballot for the party. Since 1970, it has been a requirement in law that a party leader sign off on every candidate. Without that signature, one cannot be a candidate. Even parties that would prefer to have another form of approval for their candidates cannot do so, because the statutory law in paragraph 67(4)(c) bans them from doing it.
When my friend in the Liberal Party, whom I congratulate on giving his maiden speech, said that these matters should not be codified in law, I point out the fact that they already are codified in law in this instance. That statute forces parties to give leaders veto power over their candidates, even if the party constitution disagrees. The treasured party autonomy of which he is in pursuit does not exist in the current law.
The member for Wellington—Halton Hills seeks to change that by removing this veto power from the leaders and allowing parties to select any officer or officers they think fit to approve their candidacies.
I suspect the Liberal Party would oppose that idea. The leader of their party has abused that power in order to prevent numerous people from running for the Liberal Party. Just today, six former MPs for the Liberal Party spoke out against their leader and said that he was abusing his veto power to impose his ideology on every single candidate who runs for the Liberals. He has further had preferences for friends whom he wanted to have on the ballot for his party. He has basically used the legal authority embedded in the Elections Act to hand nominations to those friends at the expense of other people who would probably have more merit and be able to win the nominations if they were held democratically.
In our party, that decision is left to local party members, the grassroots. In practice, our leader has not used his whip, his legal power, in an abusive manner.
Furthermore, in another instance of this Prime Minister acting in a manner more democratic than any of his predecessors, he becomes the first leader in half a century to declare his support for the removal of the legal veto power of party leaders over candidates. Once again, that speaks to his willingness to cede power to the Canadian people and to grassroots political participants so that they can exercise their own will. That gesture on behalf of our Prime Minister demonstrates that he is ahead of his predecessors on the question of democratic reform and certainly ahead of his competitors in the House of Commons.
The member who brought forward this legislation has congratulated the Prime Minister for creating a space in which this kind of debate can occur. The member is absolutely right that there is no other party, no other caucus, under no other leader, in which this kind of debate would ever have been permitted, because only on this side of the House and under this Prime Minister can we openly discuss the nature of our democracy and propose substantive reforms to improve it.
For that I thank our Prime Minister. I look forward to continuing this debate.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand up as the deputy critic for citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism on behalf of the official opposition to speak to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
I would like to start by making a few introductory comments and observations about citizenship.
There are a lot of things we debate in this House that we can have varied opinions on whether they are a matter of policy and philosophy, but there are certain issues that I think are foundational. They go to the very fabric of who we are as a country. Our democratic system and electoral system is one. We saw a vigorous debate over the Conservative government's attempt to change the rules about our democratic elections in this House, and how they were forced to back down when Canadians saw the Conservatives trying to use politics to bend the rules of the system to benefit themselves. I think we are seeing a bit of the same thing with citizenship.
Citizenship is something that invokes a feeling of pride in Canadians. There are a number of values that Canadians want to see surrounding the concept of citizenship. One of those concepts is equality. Fundamentally, I think Canadians believe in the equality of all Canadians. It is something that is a benefit of citizenship, and something that once one becomes a citizen, whether it is by being born here or naturalized here, a person aspires to and receives an equality that ought not be taken away from them.
People want to see integrity in our citizenship process. They want to see fairness. Canadians are known around the world, and in our self image, we quite rightfully like to think of ourselves as being a people who believe in the fundamental concepts of fairness and due process. It is something that attracts people to this country. When I think of why people immigrate to Canada, some of what they are attracted to are the concepts of democracy, equality, and fairness.
Canadians also want due process. Fundamentally, we believe in the rule of law. I hear the phrase “rule of law” tossed around and used in this place a lot. I am not sure that we have a lot of discussion about what that means. Rule of law means that decisions that affect people's rights are not taken precipitously or capriciously. Rather, they are done by independent people in accordance with rules that are independent, objective, and impartial. They do not want politics injected.
Another reason that a lot of people like to come to Canada is because a lot of states around the world are marked by corruption. If people want to get their utilities, water or lights, hooked up, they have to know someone or to pay money to a government official. That is the most egregious example of the mixing of politics with the rule of law. That leads to the separation of politics and the judicial/quasi-judicial process.
I have heard successive Conservative ministers of immigration rise in this House repeatedly and say that it is inappropriate for them to rule on or decide individual cases. They will not even talk about them in the House. They talk about having arm's-length, independent, professional civil servants make the rulings on individual cases that deal with immigration or citizenship. The reason I bring this up is because I think this bill contains some things that are worthy of support, but it offends a fair number of the concepts I have just raised.
About eight months ago, I had a conversation with the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. He decried the use of what he called dog-whistle politics. Dog-whistle politics are where we raise a political issue to send a message to people that is not really what we are saying, but it is the message it conveys. I hope it is not the case, but I fear that this bill has underneath it some dog-whistle politics. Messages are being sent to the Canadian public that sow fear, division, and distrust.
When we start introducing concepts that introduce two-tier citizenship, and when we are being invited to judge who is a real citizen and who is not, who has bona fides and who does not, who can be a Canadian citizen forever and who can lose it, these are fundamental questions that involve the fabric of our country.
This bill does a lot of things, some of which I will speak positively about, and some that I think are problematic.
On February 6, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration tabled Bill C-24, which includes sweeping changes to Canada's citizenship laws. The minister stated that it represented the first comprehensive reforms to the Citizenship Act since 1977. He claimed that it “will protect the value of Canadian citizenship for those who have it while creating a faster and more efficient process for those applying to get it”.
First, it is news to me that we have not had valuation of Canadian citizenship. People in my riding of Vancouver Kingsway do now value Canadian citizenship and always have. This is a solution in search of a problem. I have never heard a Canadian in our country who has said that they do not value Canadian citizenship.
In terms of a faster and more efficient process for applying to get it, with respect, I see very little if anything in Bill C-24 that would speed up the process of citizenship, which, by the way, has been a problem under the current government and the previous Liberal government as well. Wait lists in our country across the board in the immigration system are unacceptably long, and they are getting longer.
Bill C-24 would do a number of things. It would put more power in the hands of the minister, including the authority to grant or revoke citizenship. It would provide no real solution to reduce the growing backlog and the citizenship application processing delays.
It would eliminate the use of time spent in Canada as a non-permanent resident to count toward the residency requirements before one could apply for citizenship. It includes an “intent to reside” in Canada provision whereby an official in government could make a determination of people's intentions to reside in Canada and strip them of their citizenship if they believed that the intent was not there.
It would prohibit the granting of citizenship to persons who had been charged outside of Canada with an offence that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offence. In other words, we can strip Canadians of their citizenship if they commit an act abroad that is an indictable offence if they have dual citizenship.
It would increase residency requirements from three out of four years to four out of six years, and it would clarify the requirement of physical residence in Canada prior to citizenship.
It includes stiffer penalties for fraud.
It would extend citizenship to lost Canadians.
It would expedite citizenship for permanent residents serving in the Canadian Forces.
It would also implement stricter rules for fraudulent immigration consultants.
It would require applicants aged 14 to 64 years old—previously 18 to 54 years old—to pass a test demonstrating an adequate knowledge of French or English.
Although it is not in Bill C-24 but concomitant with the bill, the Conservative government has tripled the application fees for citizenship.
Everyone agrees that Canadian citizenship is something of enormous value. I do not think anyone wants to see an approach that plays politics with this issue. It is something that we have seen all too frequently from the Conservative government.
With respect to the bill, it is high time that the issue of lost Canadians is addressed. This has been a very unfair situation that has gone on for far too long, and I am pleased to see it addressed in the bill.
However, other parts of the bill are, of course, increasingly and very seriously concerning. For example, the question of revoking citizenship in various scenarios has raised significant legal concerns. We are always concerned about and opposed to the concentration of more power in the hands of a minister of the crown, inherently a political figure.
We were hoping that the minister would commit to working with us to bring real improvements to our citizenship laws, but again, the government has opted to go with a bill that is, in many people's view, likely unconstitutional. The amendments that the official opposition brought to committee were, again, par for the course for the Conservative government, as every one of them was rejected out of hand.
Since March 2008, more than 25 major changes have been made to immigration methods, rules, legislation, and regulations by the government. More and more changes have been made since the Conservatives formed a majority government. These have included a moratorium on parental and grandparental sponsorships, reducing family reunification, punishing vulnerable refugees and increasing the number of temporary foreign workers to meet the requirements of the business sector in our country. However, the extensive changes to the Canadian immigration system have not made the system more effective or fair.
As an MP with a riding that is fundamentally made up of new Canadians, I say we should be making citizenship more valuable. We should be making it more streamlined and faster for those honest, hard-working people who seek it. The bill before us has been rightly described as a bill that makes citizenship harder to get and easier to lose.
People come to our country so they can get a passport, vote, and to participate fully in a democratic society. However, the bill would not do that. When we give the minister power to make decisions on a balance of probabilities that someone has obtained citizenship in a way that the minister does not like and we do not have a court process to check it, that is worrisome. It has no place in a country with the rule of law.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for the time.
I want to speak about why it is important we do this. I have been here eight years. Every year we get a calendar printed in the fall that indicates with little stars the days we can have extended hours. Extended hours are not new. This year, I will admit, that we are doing extended hours about a week prior to when it normally would have happened. It is a normal process, a normal way of doing business in this House that I have experienced eight times.
My understanding is it was the process prior to that. In fact, there were years in the past when extended hours took place in the evenings throughout the year, not just at the end of the session. However, things have changed and this is a normal way of proceeding so we can get some of the work done we need to do.
We have added approximately 20 hours of opportunity for debate per week. That is 20 hours, so 40 members of Parliament could make 20-minute speeches with 10 minutes of questions and comments. Often people split their time. Technically we could get as many as 40 people of the 308, or whatever there is, of us at this particular time. There are byelections going. That would be 40 more opportunities to get up and say what the constituents we represent feel about a particular issue or about a particular bill.
We often get complaints that there is not enough time and that more members from whatever party in the opposition want to speak. This motion provides that opportunity for them to speak.
I would be the first to agree that likely at 11:30 p.m. there would not be a lot of people in the House. Some people would have said their piece and are not interested in talking about whatever issue is before the House, but there is opportunity for other members of Parliament to say their piece. That is what extended hours do. They provide opportunity for as many as 40 members a week. If we do it for three weeks, that is 120 more spots, so almost half the House would be able to speak in those extended hours.
That does not mean we are not meeting during the day, that we are still not opening at 10 and having debate all day long with a break for question period, routine proceedings, and private members' hour. All that opportunity is still there.
We are not limiting debate. We are increasing debate. It is important, in my view. We need to do this. When I go back to my constituency and tell the folks at the local riding association that we passed nine bills, people say to me, “That's it? What did you do the rest of the time?”
I did research on how many hours we spend on this. I think there is a better way of doing it more efficiently and effectively, and I may speak to that. We need to use our time efficiently and effectively to get changes made. Of the 18 bills that we have standing, a lot of them have not even got to committee yet, so all we need to do is move them on to committee.
Our committee right now is dealing with Bill C-13. We have had excellent panels come before us to talk about that bill. We have two more weeks of analyzing that bill, and I think it is an excellent demonstration of why it is important to get things out of the House. Each party has its say, a number of members put on the record their position and what they would like to see changed or why they support the bill, and then it goes to committee for a real discussion with debate. I think we should be doing that much faster, and maybe even providing more time for that at committee, but that does not work with the process we have here.
We are going to debate a private member's bill later tonight that talks about some changes in how we operate. It was brought forward by the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. There is some real opportunity for further change. Many of us spend hours and hours having staff members change our schedules because we have to get coverage for this and we are here and we have to give a speech at committee meetings, so we have to have someone cover us here. I do not know what it is like on the opposition benches, but I know what it is like on our side of the House.
There should be a review of how we operate here. Maybe we should have all our committee meetings in the morning with the House not sitting in the morning. Members would not be missing coverage or House duty because House duty would not start. Maybe we should do that. Maybe we should start debate on different items after question period. Maybe we should have all the votes after question period. I know this motion does that, but if we were a corporation we would not be operating this way. It is not efficient. It is not effective and it does not produce results as the smart people in the chamber could do.
My suggestion is that the House leaders from all sides look at why we need to bring the system of how we operate into the 20th century, maybe even the 21st century. It has been a traditional way of doing things. I think it is time to look at all those issues.
People will ask why we need to extend. As chair of the justice committee I will give one perfect example of why we need this time. The Minister of Justice introduced the victims bill of rights, a very important bill to the House. Tonight we will start debating that issue even further. In this case, there are many members of Parliament who would like to speak to the bill because it would make some fundamental changes to how we treat victims of crime in this country. It is appropriate that it is on the agenda for this evening and it gives us an opportunity for many more members to speak to it because we have extended the hours.
I would like to see the bill go to committee. It is still at second reading. I fully understand why so many members would like to speak to it. Extended hours provide that opportunity to do. Then I hope it will come to a vote before we rise for the summer. That would provide the justice committee with an opportunity to get ready over the summer for this very important bill, to make sure we invite the right number of witnesses. A relatively large list of people would like to come and talk on what could be improved, what they like about the bill. I do not know if people understand there are only nine weeks in the fall session between September until we leave at Christmastime. Nine weeks is not a lot of time. It does not provide much opportunity for members to speak to this fundamental bill.
We also will deal with Bill C-24 this week. Many members in the House would like to speak to strengthening the Citizenship Act. There are some fundamental changes in it. If we do not get it done and sent to committee before we leave, we basically will have to start over again in September. People now are engaged in the topic and understand what is going on. There is debate in the House and then the summer comes. Members go back and work in their ridings all summer and they have to get geared up again when they come back here.
I think it is important that we get that bill through, and there are a number of other bills. The opposition finance critic is at committee tonight dealing with the implementation bill, which is a significant bill. There is a lot of discussion about what is happening with that.
We need to be able to move forward, and there is nothing wrong with working late. I heard from the leader of the Green Party and the previous speaker. I do not think there is a lot of opposition to working late on these particular items because it does provide opportunity.
We have heard a little on who can bring forward certain motions, and the opposition is not happy about that. However, the whole concept of adding hours is to make the place a little more efficient and not bogged down with procedural motions, because that is what slows us down here.
There is a place for procedure. As chair of the justice committee, I understand that there needs to be procedure and it can move efficiently and effectively. Those rules are in place for a purpose, and I believe they have a role to play here, but we need to move forward.
There are nine bills, and to be frank about it, there are 18 bills still on the order paper from the government now. We have nine weeks in the fall and then we come to the last session before we break in 2015, and we know we will not be coming back before an election. We do not have a lot of time left from the government's perspective to get the legislation through the House, through the Senate, to royal assent, and into law. Once it becomes law, it then takes time to implement.
In Ontario, I talk to a grade 5 civics class and a grade 10 civics class. They ask how long it takes to get a law through. I am honest with them. I tell them that the reality is it takes at least a year. Some bills are a little faster than others, but in a normal process, from the start when a minister introduces it in the House to royal assent, it is approximately a year. Then, it depends on what kind of law it is, but let us say it is on the Criminal Code, it takes a while for it to get implemented. Also, there are often regulations in other areas that have to be added before it actually comes into force. It is a slow process to begin with.
With the process we have here, in my view, as a city councillor who advocated for the council to go from 17 to 7 for improved efficiency and effectiveness of the councillors, I think we can do a much better job here in the House of Commons for efficiency and effectiveness. We need to look at that in the future, but in the meantime, extended hours help us get our legislation through this House.
The electoral district of Wellington--Halton Hills (Ontario) has a population of 111,241 with 80,378 registered voters and 216 polling divisions.
This action requires you to be logged into Politwitter. No regisrtation is required, just authenticate using your Twitter account.