Madam Speaker, I appreciate the chance to participate in the debate on Bill C-38. The theme of my remarks is “How have the mighty fallen”.
Those of us with some sense of history and memory can recall the spirit that brought Reform into this House. It was the spirit of parliamentary accountability. It was the spirit of free votes. It was the spirit of constructive dissent. It was the spirit of recall. It was the spirit of bringing the executive to heel. It was the spirit of letting Parliament be free and letting Parliament be sovereign and letting Parliament be powerful.
How have the mighty fallen on that side of the House, from those basic premises of a Reform Party led by the likes of Preston Manning, who stood in this place, not in the front row but among the members because he did not want to be seen as any different or better than any of the other members.
I say to my colleagues that they should look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves “Where was the Reform Party spirit in this legislation, an omnibus bill that, like a Mac truck, drives through parliamentary sovereignty, drives through the power and ability of Parliament to control the public purse, ignores any scrutiny by committee and denies the rights of members to dissent?”
The poor member over there from Kootenay—Columbia had four hours of freedom, four hours of conscience, four hours of power, where he told his constituents that if he had his way he would split the bill. We can only imagine the woodshed to which that member was taken. We can only imagine the number of young enthusiasts in the Prime Minister’s Office who tied him up to a chair and made him watch the speeches by the Prime Minister over and over again. They would not have taken the masking tape off his mouth until he had promised that he would never express independence or dissent again.
On this side, we say “Shame on the Conservative Party.” Shame on a party that has lost its way, that has lost its principles, that has tied up its members and denied them the right of conscience and the right to speak. That is the great irony of ironies.
Who would have believed that it would be the spiritual successors of the Reform Party that would in fact be denying Parliament, tying it up in knots, insisting on our voting on 70 different pieces of legislation, totally gutting all of the environmental legislation, passing a brand new environmental assessment act in just one clause.
It was the greatest conservative, who is also a great liberal, Edmund Burke, who reminded us that society is a contract not only of the living but also between those who have died, those who are living and those who are yet to be born.
When we look at the importance of the environment to a genuine conservative movement, a movement that wants to conserve, contrast that with those who want a pipeline in every backyard without any kind of environmental hearing, who have a Minister of Natural Resources who takes off after individuals who appear before an environmental inquiry, where we have legislation that takes away the protection of the fish habitat from the basics of our legislation, and that also, as has already been said by my distinguished colleague from Cape Breton, deprives the poorest of seniors in the future of access to old age security and the guaranteed income supplement.
That is what has happened to the Conservatives. They are not real Conservatives because they do not want to conserve the thing that matters most to us: our environment, the thing that we have to pass on to the next generation. That is what they are changing.
This government is prepared to deny Parliament all the rights we have had for years: the ability to study a bill, the ability to change it and the ability to amend it. Above all, in this Parliament, every MP should have the right to his or her own conscience, the right to make decisions and the right to act independently.
I can say that that is what the Liberal Party of Canada is committed to.
If we are serious about democracy, then we have to be serious about the environment.
By way of contrast, regarding the comments made over the past several weeks by the leader of the official opposition with respect to the question of the environment, with respect to the so-called Dutch disease, and with respect to the issue of how we need to go forward, I want to make this very clear: The Liberal Party is committed to sustainability. We are committed to the principle of sustainability over time. We are also committed to the principle of development. Nothing is gained for Canada when we pit one region of the country against another. Nothing is gained for Canada when we say that those provinces that are rich in resources are somehow responsible for the difficulties and challenges facing those provinces with less.
I have been in this House for a while and I can recall and know the impact these divisions can have on this federation of ours. It will do nothing for us as a country if we say, even as a momentary proposition, that the success of one region of the country or one province is somehow being purchased at the expense of others. That is never going to be a way to build a country. A country cannot be built on resentment. A country cannot be built by way of saying that those who are successful must somehow be torn down. We do not agree with that. We do not share that perspective.
That is why I believe that at this moment in Canadian history, there has never been a time when the message of the Liberal Party has been more important for all the people of the country. I am very proud to say that this message has to come through loud and clear. Yes, we want development, and we want it to be sustainable.
I can say to those people who are being laid off at the Round Table on the Environment and the Economy to come to us. We want to talk to people about these issues. When I talk to the leaders of the business community in Alberta, they want a clearer price for carbon. They want to have a clear indication of what it is going to cost them to build and to rebuild. They know that perfectly well.
This is an issue where we need to bring people together, where we need to reason together.
This is an issue we need to unite the public on. There has been enough division. We do not want any more division. We do not want a world where the Leader of the Opposition sees the Prime Minister when he looks in the mirror and where the Prime Minister sees the leader of the official opposition when he looks in the mirror.
Are the members of the official opposition free to express themselves? I doubt it. Are they free to have an opinion that differs from their leader’s? I doubt it.
In contrast, I can say that my MPs are free to make their own decisions. They are free to choose how they will vote. They are free to speak. I can assure everyone that all our caucus meetings are a great expression of the principle of democracy, a profound, open and, I must say, liberal democracy.
Therefore, when we see Bill C-38, it is impossible in 10 minutes to go through all of its aspects and all of its different parts. It is grotesque in the way it attempts literally to drive a truck through basic principles and institutions that have been critical to the good governance of the country. Whether it is the round table, the inspector general for CSIS, or whatever the institution may be, a genuine conservative does not drive a truck through these institutions. One protects and preserves and improves them.
One does not cut down, one does not destroy and one does not divide simply for the sake of division. One does not polarize simply for the sake of polarization.
This country needs to come together in an important way.
I want to express my appreciation to the Speaker tonight and my dear colleagues who are speaking so well on this issue and have provided leadership. We will be voting not just once, not just twice, not just three times, but 160 times against this terrible piece of legislation.