On March 21, 2001, Government House Leader, Don Boudria,
introduced a motion to establish a Special Committee on the Modernization and
Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons. Consisting of the Deputy
Speaker as Chairman and the House Leaders of the five parties represented in
the Commons, the committee was instructed to report by June 2001. It was agreed
that no changes would be made to the Standing Orders without the unanimous
consent of all members of the Committee. Following speeches by the House
Leaders a number of private members of Parliament outlined their ideas in a
debate which lasted until well past midnight. The following are slightly edited
extracts from that debate:
The most traditional institutions such as churches and monarchies are becoming
democratic today because they realize they have to be closer to the people.
They have to live with the times. However, parliament is stuck in tradition.
Here is one small example. When
the Speaker rises, the three pages required to sit at his feet rise as well. If
he sits, they sit. What is the point of all this? think it is symptomatic of a
tradition that, today, is completely outmoded, undemocratic and does not
improve the life of the pages who come here.
I think about our colleagues
here. Do we call them by name? No. We speak of “the hon. member for
Bellechasse-Etchemins-Montmagny-L’Islet” or of “the hon. member for
Hastings-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington”.
I have been to many parliaments
where people call each other by their names. It is no sin to call someone Smith
or Tremblay. They get to know each other. The irony of this place is that in
the Chamber I am an hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis. When I get to a committee
I am Lincoln. What sense does that make? If it is good for a committee, why
should it not be good here? I find that in committee I can put a name and
a face to people. There is a certain human bond that develops. I would like to
be able to call the member for Regina-Qu’Appelle by name. It would be far
friendlier than calling him by his riding name.
As for votes, I really believe
very deeply that our system of calling all votes confidence votes, with free
votes being the exception, should be reversed. All votes should be free votes
except for confidence votes.
I will just give a few figures
from the British House which I gleaned some time ago. In the British House of
Commons, dissenting votes have been a significant fact of life for a long time.
In the seventies dissenting votes accounted for 25% of all voting divisions in
the British parliament. In the first session of 1983-1987, when the Tories were
in power, 62 divisions took place in which 137 Tory backbenchers cast a total
of 416 votes against the government.
Here that would be viewed as
heresy because any type of expression that is contrary to the wish of the
government is seen as disloyalty. I do not see it as disloyalty. I see it as intelligence.
I see it as being accountable to my conscience and to my electors. I separate
completely confidence votes, which are a fact of life and must be for the
government, from the rest of the votes where we could vote very freely and the
government would carry on all the same, and be no worse for it.
With regard to a code of ethics,
in 1997 the present Speaker, the member for Kingston and the Islands, was
co-chair of a committee that produced a code of official conduct for senators
and members of parliament. Some of the members here were part of that
committee. The report is still lying on the shelf. Why can we not institute
that code of official conduct for all members and for senators? Why can we not
make this official? Why can we not have a counsellor responsible to the
Parliament of Canada? I do not see any reason why this should not become a part
of the rules that govern our conduct as parliamentarians. That should be an
essential and a prompt reform to institute.
When we talk about private members’
bills, for six years I have had private members’ bills that have just stayed in
the draw. Recently I won. By magic my name got drawn, like the 6/49. Then I
appeared before a committee and it decided that the bill was not important
enough to be votable. So for one hour I had a little debate here and the bill
I look again at what happens in
the British parliament. The differences are striking. In the British
parliament, during the years 1983-1987, out of 415 private members’ bills
introduced in the British House, 70 of them were given royal assent, or 17%.
In our parliament, between May
13, 1991 and February 2, 1996, 428 private members’ bills were introduced. Out
of those, 163 were selected and only eight became statutes. Only 5% of bills
were selected and a mere 2% became statutes. These bills made lacrosse and
hockey national games and silly things like that. Very few items of substance
are ever made into statutes.
All private members’ bills
should be made votable. We should have enough help to put private members’
bills through. Admittedly let us have a limit on private members’ bills. It
could be one per member. I do not care. However let us have a chance to debate
I also believe that committees
should be much freer. I am quite happy as the chair of a committee today to see
my position being voted upon by my colleagues. I also believe that during the
examination of legislation committees should be very free and open.
Parliamentary secretaries should sit as expert witnesses for committees rather
than be part of a committee.
I was in the National Assembly
of Quebec as a minister. I had to appear as a minister to defend my legislation
right through. I know the task of ministers is sometimes impossible. Therefore
let the parliamentary secretary take over that function rather than sit as a
member of the committee during the study of legislation.
I also believe the Board of
Internal Economy in the House of Commons should be made more open. Certainly I
do not disparage the members who sit on the board with great diligence and
conscience. However it should be made far more open.
Committee chairs from day to day
do not quite know how their budgets will be met. Halfway through the year they
have to beg for another travel allowance. There should be far more input by
members of the committees, chairs of the committees and House members.
We have a lot of reform to do. I
would love to talk about other items such as electoral reform and the powers of
the executive office, but I sincerely believe we have to start somewhere.
Within the standing orders I think we can make reforms to parliament that will
not make me less a Liberal, less a part of a government or less a part of an
opposition if I were voted into opposition.
I will fight very hard for the
things I believe in. At the same time I will feel empowered. I will feel
dignified as a member of parliament. I will feel that the little intelligence I
have been given, the little creative powers I have been given, have a chance to
be expressed and find their way forward rather than just be there for duty
times, for votes when I am supposed to vote a certain way, and be there always
as a backbencher.
Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead,
Canadian Alliance): The
House of Commons, as far as I am concerned, has to return to the people of
Canada. The rights and responsibilities of members of parliament to represent
the views of their constituents has disappeared. The government seems much more
concerned about maintaining power than representing the will of the people.
I took my seat here only a few
short months ago and I have already come to recognize, despite the efforts of
hard-working individuals from all sides of the House, that this place is no
more than a voting machine. Last night I witnessed 16 motions being voted on in
a few minutes, rubber stamp laws that were mainly drawn up by unelected
bureaucrats from the Prime Minister’s office.
It is up to the members of
parliament, the government and the opposition to take parliament back.
I came here believing that I could
offer some constructive input on pressing legislation and engage in serious
debate on important issues. Instead, I saw an example yesterday of where we
turned our back on a very important issue, the agriculture crisis. Many members
were not even allowed to debate it. However, we can go all night tonight on
We are controlled by the Prime
Minister. My grandfather fought in both world wars. He went to war defending
the rights of democracy so that we could stand in the House today to debate. He
fought for freedom. Young men and women, aged 18, 19 and 20 years old, gave up
their lives so that we could be here to debate. It is sad for me to think that
the people of Canada have been conquered by a dictator without a shot being
We can change that by free
votes. We can work toward reforming parliament. There are a lot of things that
have been talked about today, all of them very worthy of note, but for me the
greatest change would come with the free vote of every member in the House,
because it is up to us to vote the will of the people who sent us here.
Have governments forgotten that
only four short months ago the citizens of the country elected each one of us
to our seats? In four short months we have forgotten who we represent. We need
to shift how government works and to be responsive to those who put us here.
We are bribing Canadians with
their own tax dollars, and there is wasteful spending on unnecessary programs
and unaccountable government. Cabinet is barking to the tune of the bureaucrats
and special interest groups. Free votes will set us on a path for parliamentary
reform and that is a path that we need to get on really quickly as far as I am
A real interesting concept is
that government members believe that if the government introduces a bill that
is defeated or if an opposition bill, motion or amendment is passed it would
bring down the government and they would have to resign. It is beyond me where
that idea comes from. It is archaic.
Liberal backbenchers have been
forced into something that the Prime Minister wants. He has been bullying them
around, but bullies are only powerful as long as no one stands up to them and
no one really challenges them or thinks around their bullying.
I know that the hon. members
across the way are truly hard working people. I have talked to many of them.
Now is their chance to stand up. They can do something for Canada that is
beyond anything they have done to this point.
There are 301 members elected to
the House of Commons. We have the power to implement change. We set the rules.
We were entrusted to make the laws of this country. I am not asking members to
vote for something they do not believe in, but I will not be holding my breath
that the Prime Minister will come through that door any time soon, unmuzzle the
backbenchers and allow free votes in this place.
As democratically elected
members of parliament, we do have the power to make the change. We could make
it as early as tomorrow morning, if we had the political will to do so, by
passing a motion that we truly have free votes in this place. All it would take
is 30 Liberal backbenchers to live up to their potential and to influence
government in a way they have never influenced it before. That is all it would
take. We could change Canada and never go back. That is how easy it could be.
I do not believe in blaming the
bureaucrats. I believe it is our duty. We need to do something about it and we
need to do it soon. Backbench MPs have that potential to be more than just
voting machines. I would challenge them to do it, to be more, because they owe
it to themselves and they owe it to this country.
Right after the election of
November 27, 2000, I came to Ottawa with a few MPs for orientation. They were
from all sides of the House. We were excited. We had just been given the
opportunity to change Canada, to lead Canada, to make a difference in this
country. As I talked to the other MPs, they said they were excited about the
concept of a free vote. They thought it was something they could and should do.
It is interesting now to see how they have fallen victim to the system and have
thrown away their ideals and their principles.
I am calling on every member of
the House to live up to the vision of the founding fathers and to vote for a
motion to allow free votes, because members owe it to this country. It is the
greatest country in the world and we need to protect it. We can do it and we
should do it now.
(Verchères-Les-Patriotes, BQ): I am very pleased to take part in this debate pursuant to
Standing Order 51(1). Its purpose is to ensure that we are able to debate in
this House any matter relating to the reform of the standing orders,
consolidate the achievements that we deem appropriate and make the changes we
feel advisable to make so that this House can be a modern parliamentary
institution and meet the expectations of our fellow citizens.
In that regard, I would say that
we are becoming increasingly aware of a certain cynicism among the public, a
loss of confidence in political institutions and, more generally, in the men
and women chosen to sit in this very House.
On April 21, 1998 a similar
debate was held in this House under the same Standing Order 51(1).
Unfortunately, however, it did not result in any changes to the standing orders.
This time I trust the debate will not be in vain, that it will not be
pointless, and that we will be able to see a sensible outcome leading to
substantial amendments to the standing orders so that they will be brought more
into line with the expectations of the people of Canada and of Quebec about
what a representative political institution should be.
Unfortunately, we have not used
the standing orders to make the changes to the electoral and parliamentary system
we ought to have made. It is to be hoped that the process put in place through
this committee will produce some results. I hope that this committee on
modernisation of the rules will show the necessary transparency to enable us to
achieve results fulfilling not only the expectations of our fellow citizens but
also the wishes expressed here in this House.
I will just go quickly through
my shopping list, in the light of comments I have heard from both sides of the
First, with respect to committee
chairs, if we want to ensure that committees can operate in as non-partisan a
manner as possible, with the maximum consensus, something must be done to
eliminate to the greatest extent possible partisan comments within committees.
Obviously, I would first
recommend that there be a better distribution of chairs and vice-chairs between
the opposition and the government, and that it not be exclusively government
members who are assigned as committee chairs.
There are many examples of
committees that operate this way, including the National Assembly in Quebec
City and the House of Commons in London, and all signs are that this approach
is very useful, very productive and very positive.
Ultimately, the current standing
orders notwithstanding, the Speaker of the House will have to be able to
intervene when a serious problem arises in committee. Unfortunately, when
decisions taken in committee run counter to the standing orders, common sense
and the very interest of democracy, members need to have a court of last appeal.
In the circumstances, I believe
that the Speaker of the House would be ideal for this purpose, because he is
elected by all members of the House. He could therefore not be accused of any
favouritism. He should therefore be an impartial judge, who could, as need be,
produce a final ruling that is both equitable and just.
I think the public expects
members of the House of Commons to be able to vote more often according to the
interests of their riding and according to their conscience rather than along
party lines. Too often, the public has the impression that their members have
become more instruments of their political party than representatives of their
riding in the House of Commons, in parliament.
Members will have to be allowed
more flexibility, so that they can vote freely not only on moral issues, but
also on a host of government management issues. To do so, the notion of
confidence must be redefined. Every time we vote, the government must not
necessarily feel that a vote of confidence is being held.
Apart from budget issues,
perhaps we could create a mechanism whereby, if the government were defeated in
the House, the very next day, it could put a motion to the House to find out
whether it still enjoys its confidence. In such a case, the government would
not fall automatically when it is defeated on a particular measure. It would
simply be required to ask the House whether it still enjoys its confidence.
We have seen a harmful and
unfortunate tendency in recent years, which the government follows increasingly
frequently, that of imposing closure and time allocation motions. A mechanism
has to be set to require the government to justify and explain its reasons for
the measure, which should be exceptional.
The standing orders provide for
this. Indeed, Standing Order 78 provides that it must be as a last resort. Just
as the standing orders refer to the concept of abuse of parliamentary practice,
perhaps we could allow the Speaker to rule whether House practices are being
If the Speaker is considered
able to rule on the repetitive, frivolous or vexatious nature of amendments
introduced by members, I think it should also be provided that the Speaker may
rule on the vexatious nature of the government’s excessive use of time
allocation and closure motions.
To avoid the very unpleasant and
embarrassing situation in which we found ourselves during the last parliament
at third reading of the reform of the Elections Act, we should allow at
least one representative from each recognized political party in this House to
speak, at each stage of the review of a bill, or during each debate. We must
not find ourselves in the situation where only two of the five political
parties in the House are allowed to express their views through their
In my opinion, all the issues
brought to the attention of parliamentarians should be votable items. I am
referring here to private members’ business, to emergency debates and to take
note debates. Of course we will have to devise a new process to select the bills
that will be reviewed by the House. However, once the House looks at a bill or
a motion, particularly a bill or a motion proposed by parliamentarians, it
would be more than appropriate for members to vote on them.
We must design a process whereby
the House would be asked to formally ratify international treaties signed by
the Government of Canada, as is done in most democracies. Canada is an
exception to the rule and not necessarily a good one. Under the current system,
the government does not have to ask parliament to ratify the treaties it signs.
This is an anachronism that should be corrected.
It is also important to change
the parliamentary calendar. The government House leader likes to pick and
choose when deciding which Westminster rules are important or relevant for the
House of Commons in Canada. There are a number of practices in London that do
not necessarily suit his needs, so he does not talk about them.
The parliamentary calendar was
modified in London some years ago. They took a number of factors into
consideration and lightened the calendar. Doing so would not mean that we would
sit any fewer hours; they would just be distributed differently. Friday
sittings would not necessarily be abolished, but they would be changed. We
could, for example, look at Private Members’ Business on Fridays. We could, as
they do in London and in Quebec City, have an inquiry mechanism which would
require us to go into a specific matter in greater depth with the minister
It is important to realize that,
with the exception of Ontario, all ridings represented by the members of this
House are larger than their counterparts in the provincial legislative
assemblies. They are, therefore, ridings with far larger populations. The fact
is that the members of the House of Commons sit far longer, and far more often,
than their counterparts in the various provinces. As a result, we have far less
time to cover our far larger ridings and to serve our far greater numbers of
I think we ought to address this
reality, particularly since we need to take increasingly into consideration the
expectations of our fellow citizens in this respect, as well as the fact that
members of parliament have families. We need to be able to reconcile politics
and a family life, particularly if we want to attract more women to politics.
There are grounds for
reassessing the parliamentary calendar, reworking things so that all members,
or at least most of them, can spend at least one day a week in their riding,
not including weekends of course, to do the work of their riding office and
look after the needs of their fellow citizens.
Thought needs to be given to
making the prescribed form for the presentation of petitions more flexible.
This poses a serious problem with our constituents-who are not necessarily up
on all the parliamentary jargon-who may spontaneously circulate a petition on a
matter of public interest and submit it to their member, only to be told that
it is not in the prescribed form and cannot be presented in the House.
This goes against the very
principle whereby citizens should be able to submit petitions to the Parliament
of Canada. Something must therefore be done to make this prescribed form
naturally accessible to citizens.
In order to avoid embarrassing
situations such as those we saw prior to 1994 and those we have seen in recent
years, the rules must be changed to make opposition motions non-amendable, if I
may put it that way.
Something has to be done so that
committee work may be televised much more easily, in keeping, naturally, with
the guidelines set by the House Standing Committee on Procedure and House
The rules for allowing emergency
debates must also be made more flexible. Very often, we have different
experiences in the various regions of Canada and Quebec, which we would like to
draw to the attention of the Chair. It may, for a variety of perfectly
legitimate reasons, not recognize the importance of issues raised by members.
Accordingly, it would be important for us to be able to ease the rules on
emergency debates, especially since they do not impinge on regular hours set
aside for the business of the House.
I was first elected in 1968. This is my ninth mandate having missed the period
from 1993 to 1997. I have seen a lot of differences, and I think many of the
differences are negative in terms of the lack of seriousness and respect the
present government shows toward parliament.
A friend said to me a few
minutes ago in the lobby that the government does not really have respect for
the House of Commons. I think there is a lot of truth in that. In 1968, for
example, there were a lot of great parliamentarians. I remember John
Diefenbaker, Allan MacEachen, Ged Baldwin, Stanley Knowles, Tommy Douglas,
David Lewis, Réal Caouette, and people of that sort.
In those days there seemed to be
more respect for the House by the government and a lot more real debates would
take place. I do not think a serious announcement was made by the government in
the late 1960s and early 1970s that was not made on the floor of the House of
Commons. The minister would come to the House, he or she would make a
statement, and the response would come from the opposition parties.
Gradually that practice changed.
I think it changed more radically after the election in 1993. Even in the days
of Brian Mulroney and the Tories there seemed to be more give and take in this
place. In those days I sat on the finance committee which was chaired by Mr.
Blenkarn. It was one of many committees that had a semblance of independence
about it, a certain arm’s length relationship with the government.
There should be a certain amount
of creative tension between the executive and parliament. Parliament should
hold the executive to account. We do not have that today. That is one reason
our politics have descended into a vortex of great negativity which is getting
more and more negative all the time.
It was not any less partisan in
those days. If we ever want to see somebody partisan, watch a John Diefenbaker
or a Tommy Douglas or an Allan MacEachen. They were really partisan individuals
and great parliamentarians. However there was great debate in those days and
parliament really meant something. It was the centre of activity in terms of
public policy in the country. Much of that is gone now.
We are heading toward a crisis
in terms of this institution and the respect that it does not have across the
country. Today we are having a debate in the House. As I speak I hear about 10
to 12 members speaking in the House, and that is normal. Even the members do
not take this place very seriously. During the day, of course, committees are
meeting at the same time. This place is getting more and more irrelevant in
terms of decision-making and in terms of having a real impact. We need to take
a serious look at real parliamentary reform.
In addition, we need electoral
reform. We must look at the idea of bringing in a measure of proportional
representation. We must do something about the Senate. I believe we should
abolish it. A lot of people believe we should reform it. In the polls only 5%
of the Canadian people support the existing undemocratic, unelected Senate, yet
parliamentarians have continued decade after decade to support that institution
across the way. We must do some of these things and do them soon.
In the House we start with the
idea of confidence votes. We have far too many confidence votes in the House of
Commons. We are the most handcuffed parliamentary system in the world. We model
ourselves after the British parliament. It is common to have a bill defeated in
the British House of Commons.
The Blair Government was
exceedingly popular in its first three or four years and is still popular. It
has had many bills defeated by its own backbenchers. It was the same in the
days of the Thatcher Conservatives. Margaret Thatcher was extremely popular,
had great control over the country in terms of her agenda and her vision, and
changed that country dramatically. Despite that, there were several occasions
when she lost votes in the House of Commons on certain bills. I say so what?
All the better. All the more democratic.
I meet government backbenchers
every day who are horrendously frustrated. At least in opposition one can get
up and make a speech and criticize a policy or advocate a new vision or
direction. Government members cannot do that to the extent they should because
of the power of the Prime Minister’s Office. The PMO and the PCO have the power
to appoint cabinet ministers, committee chairs and parliamentary secretaries.
They decide different trips, appointments and positions of influence.
That system must end. It must
change if parliament is to be more relevant in the future. We need fewer
confidence votes. The only confidence votes should be on budget bills, money
bills, and things of importance like the throne speech which lays out the
vision of the government for the next parliamentary session. Those things must
Committees must have more
independence. We elect the Speaker of the House of Commons by secret ballot and
the whips are not on. We have now had at least two Speakers who were probably
not the favourite of the Prime Minister of the day. Members voted freely for
the person they thought could best fill the duties of the Chair.
We cannot even take that
principle to committees of the House of Commons and freely and secretly elect
the person we think should chair the committee. My God, how timid we are in the
House of Commons.
I will give another example. In
the finance committee we were studying Bill C-8 the financial institutions Bill
—the most voluminous bill in the history of the country. It has 900 pages and
affects about 1,400 pages of statues. One of its recommendations is to set up a
new consumer agency. There is supposed to be a commissioner of that consumer
agency appointed by the Minister of Finance.
I moved a tiny amendment that
said before the appointment of that commissioner of the agency, the name should
be referred to the finance committee to have a look at that, not to ratify it,
but to have a look at it and express an opinion. Every single government member
voted no. Every single opposition member voted yes. We could not even empower
ourselves to have a look at the minister’s suggestion before the minister
appointed that person. What a minuscule almost irrelevant piece of
parliamentary reform, and yet we have the stupidity in this place to be so
The only way it will change is
if government backbenchers empower themselves and if we opposition
parliamentarians empower ourselves and say no to the government from time to
time, like they do in Great Britain and like they do in almost every other
democratic country around the world.
There is no reason why
parliamentary committees should not have more independence to initiate
legislation. There is no reason why a parliamentary secretary has to come to a
standing committee as a member of that particular committee and dictate how to
vote on each and every single amendment.
Members should ask how long it
took the finance committee to consider C-8. It took maybe an hour and a half.
It was a futile exercise, because every single amendment that the opposition
proposed, the parliamentary secretary, who was the first person recognized,
would say no. All the government members voted no. All the opposition voted
yes. The only amendments that were accepted were government amendments. Again,
only the parliamentary secretary spoke to them. What kind of parliamentary
system is this?
We should look at more permanent
membership on parliamentary committees. We see this revolving door on these
committees, mostly on the government side but not exclusively on that side. We
need more permanent membership so people develop some expertise, some
independence, some backbone and some gall.
In my last minute I want to talk
about the whole question of appointments. I do not think there is any
democratic country in the world where the prime minister has so much power. The
Prime Minister appoints the head of the national police, the RCMP. He appoints
all the justices of the supreme court. He appoints the head of the military. He
appoints all the cabinet ministers. He appoints all the senators. He appoints
all the heads of the crown corporations. He appoints all the heads of the
important boards and agencies. He appoints all the lieutenant governors. In
addition to that, he appoints thousands and thousands of people to boards and
As a result, we often get a lot
of people who should not be sitting on those particular boards and agencies.
There is no vetting or venting of the process by a parliamentary committee. In
many cases a parliamentary committee should have the authority to either ratify
or reject the nomination of the Government of Canada. What is so radical about
that? At the very least, the Parliament of Canada, through a relevant
committee, should review many more of these appointments.
Parliament itself should have
more timetables. We should have a timetable to set throne speeches, set budgets
and a fixed election date to take that power away from the executive and the
Prime Minister of Canada, and put more power back into the hands of the people
through their elected representatives, the people elected in all parties in
(Cumberland-Colchester, PC): From my point
of view as a member of parliament who has been here on and off since 1988, the
first and most important thing that could be changed is the committee system.
We have a circus in committees right now. The chairs are predetermined and
selected by ministers. Voting is distorted and contorted. It is set up so that
only one person can win the chair of a committee. That in itself sets the tone
of the committee and makes it far less effective.
Committees would be much more
effective if we had secret ballots in the same way as we choose the Speaker. It
is just as important to have secret ballots on the agenda.
On the transport committee in
the last parliament we went through a series of determinations of important
issues to be discussed. We went from 15 issues to 8 to 6 to 2. Just as we were
to decide which one we would take up next, the minister announced that he
wanted us to do something else. All government members agreed with him and that
is what we did. It was not on the list. It was not what we were to do. If the
agendas of the committees could be set by secret ballot they would be much more
effective and productive.
Parliamentary secretaries are
like policemen at committees. They are there to ensure government members fall
in line and do exactly what they are supposed to do. They should not be there.
If they are there, they should be there as witnesses.
We should have the power to
initiate legislation and the freedom to make amendments much more in line with
what is appropriate for the particular issue.
We should have transcripts from
committees much faster. It takes weeks and weeks for the public to get a
transcript from a committee, at which time the bill could have gone through
final reading in the House and have been passed. What is the point of having a
transcript so much later? In Britain there is a limit of two weeks for
transcripts to get out to the public, and that is the way it should be here.
There is no reason it cannot be done.
Access to information is a thorn
in my side. I have seen my ability to do my job weakened by changes in the
access to information application and government policy. When I apply for
access to information I usually get a number of pages, half of which have
nothing on them and some of which are all blanked out, with the important parts
taken out. It distorts the whole purpose of the access to information system.
It could be extremely effective and helpful to us in doing our job. First we
are stalled. Then we get abridged versions and distorted versions. In fact, in
many cases they are just simply useless.
Another thing that is happening
is that as the government divests operations we are losing access to
information. A good example is NavCan, the system that controls air traffic
control. When it was under Transport Canada we could access information on air
traffic controller incident reports, their complaints and concerns. We could
access structural reports on air traffic control towers. We can no longer do
that because it is divested to NavCan.
Confidence votes are almost the
rule and they should not be. We should have free votes on many more issues than
we have. Everything is confidence now, even trivial issues. Government members
are told to stay in line or they will pay a huge price.
Questions on the order paper take
too long to get answered. We could use questions on the order paper much more
to our advantage and to the advantage of the Canadian people if there were a
shorter time limit. Why does it take more than seven days to answer a question
on the order paper? There is no reason. That is something that should be