Filomena Tassi, MP for Hamilton West—Ancaster— Dundas,
House of Commons, April 3, 2017.
Procedure and House Affairs: Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings: Moving toward a modern, efficient, inclusive and family-friendly Parliament
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Brampton North.
I came to this place to serve. I have had two previous occupations. I served as a lawyer for six years, and following that, I had the privilege of serving as a chaplain to a community for 20 years. I love the idea of serving. I felt that there were greater challenges ahead of me, and I wanted to use my gifts to the best of my ability. That is really what brought me to this place.
I know it sounds idealistic, but that is exactly why I stand in this place today. It is really to serve. I do not say that to brag. I know there are many members in this House who have come to this place for the same reason, and those members and I share the belief that we do not need any credit because we get our fulfillment in seeing the difference that we can make for Canadians.
I have to admit that there are parts of this job that take me out of my comfort zone. When I first came to this House and stood up in the House to speak, it was not something that I would say I was immediately comfortable with, but the greater interest for me is serving the people who put me here, and so, I have become accustomed to it, and I stand up when I know that I am standing up for the right thing.
I need to stand up today as a member of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee. I am happy that I have this opportunity. I am honoured to have this opportunity, because I want Canadians to know about what the government is putting forward.
There is no question that everyone in this House works hard. Although I have been involved in politics all my life, working in the background, I have never truly known and appreciated how hard members work. However, the topic today is not about working harder. It is not about that at all. We all work hard. It is about how to work better. The analogy I think of is a mouse on a treadmill, working hard, running on that treadmill, going all day long, not really going anywhere but working hard at it. That is not what we want.
We want our efforts to be used so that we can serve Canadians to the best of our ability. That is what we are trying to do with the motion. What we are trying to do is get a discussion going about how we can better serve Canadians. Let us be more efficient. Let us do it better. I think we all share that. However, we have to get to the discussion before we can embark on the ideas of how to get there.
Let me give an example of committee work. This was new to me. What happens in the House currently is we are called to committees. We go to those committees where very important work is done. It is probably the most important work. Witnesses come to those committees to testify. Those witnesses are flying in from all over the country to testify. With all due respect, it is the taxpayers who are paying for the witnesses to get here, but that is money well spent. To get those witnesses in front of committees is money that is very well spent.
I will tell the House what is not well done. The bells ring and all of a sudden we jump up from committee. We jump into shuttle buses. We come over here. It is a 30-minute bell. Thirty minutes pass, and then we get up and vote. We are lucky if we get back to committee. Usually we do not get back to the committee. What happens? All those people who came to present at the committee go home. They fly home. That time cannot be made up.
We have to do better. Those witnesses want to give testimony. We want to hear their testimony. How are we going to do that? We are going to do that by having this discussion, which everyone in this House can contribute to.
I want to read from the discussion paper, because it is very important we set straight a lot of the things that are being misconstrued.
Let me start with Friday. One of the members mentioned that there was nothing in the paper about Friday. Let me read from the government House Leader ‘s discussion paper what it says about Friday:
“Should Friday sittings be reapportioned, it would be important to reallocate any lost time to the remaining four days, including time lost for Question Period and Private Members’ Business. This could be accomplished by having the House meet earlier on certain days. Alternatively, if Friday sittings are retained they should look like any other sitting day…”
What does that mean? That means a full day.
I am going to tell the House something about my own experience and I am speaking completely honestly. I want Canadians at home to know. If I need a rest because I am exhausted, I am better here on Friday. Why? Because I put in a half day here and the rest of the day I travel home. That travel home is a rest for me. However, if I am not here on Friday, I leave here late Thursday night. I am getting home late on Thursday night and Friday morning at 7 o’clock I am at my constituency office. Friday is the day we currently sit. It is one or the other. We either make Friday a full day or we do what is in the discussion paper, and that is reapportion the hours.
This discussion paper is the start of the discussion, not the end. This business of ramming through legislation is not the way it is. This is a discussion. This is where we start.
Let me go to electronic voting, which is in the discussion paper, too. There has been talk about it for 32 years. We are not saying that it is going to happen. We are asking to have a discussion on it. Why is a discussion timely? Because the West Block is being reconstructed. Therefore, if we are to have electronic voting, it might be a good idea to have the discussion now in order to accommodate it so we can follow through with electronic voting. This is not a done deal. Nothing has been decided. It is to be talked about.
Let me move to the House calendar. Everybody is talking about the Liberals wanting to make life easier, that they want to work less. If we want to work less, then why do we say in this discussion paper “having the House sit earlier in January”, which is more days, “later in June”, which is more days, not less, “and earlier in September”. We are talking about what to do to get the work done, to follow through on our commitments to get legislation passed. How do we use the time in the House more effectively?
Let me now talk about time allocation, which has been mentioned in the House many times. In the 41st Parliament, time allocation was used 100 times. Do members know the time that took for time allocation votes? It was used 100 times. If that happened now, it would 338 x 100 x an hour for each time, or whatever it would take. Is that the best use of our time?
The British House of Commons has used programming motions to allocate time. Some have said that this is a terrible thing. The British House has made it permanent now and the opposition, which first was against it, is now in favour of it.
I have a hard time listening to this question. The suggestion is that we want to limit the Prime Minister’s questions. We have a Prime Minister who goes across the country answering questions from Canadians at an open mic. This is not about less accountability but rather about more. This is about giving more time in addition to the questions that the Prime Minister already answers.
To be honest, I am tired of it. This is about using our time to the best of our ability. This is about using taxpayer money, taxpayers who are paying our salaries. This is about better serving them.
I am going to suggest a fourth option for the honourable member who had three options, and that is to approve the motion that we put through at PROC.
— Filomena Tassi, MP Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas