Peter Van Loan published this item when he was an opposition member during the time Paul Martin was Prime Minister of Canada’s Liberal government. Van Loan’s subsequent behaviour, and that of the government he supports, demonstrates he is well versed in the hypocrisy of Conservative Party politics.
As the session wound to a close, I was hoping to find myself writing to you about the uplifting state of Canadian democracy, and fondly recalling the high points of my first year in the House of Commons.
Instead, I feel compelled to write with sadness about the remarkable arrogance with which the government treated parliament in ramming through the NDP budget and the same-sex marriage proposal.
The night of Thursday, June 23 was the momentous occasion. That evening, with the House sitting on what was its last scheduled night, before the St. Jean Baptiste Day holiday, the Liberal government had a motion on notice to extend the sittings of the House into the summer. Already we had been sitting until midnight each night for weeks. The objective was to get through the NDP budget and the re-definition of marriage.
I was very concerned with the financial recklessness of the NDP budget. Taken together with the other Liberal fiscal announcements with which it was made in April, the Liberal-NDP spending plan will cost $26 billion – or $3030 for a typical family of four in York-Simcoe. That’s $3030 that family must pay to prop up the Liberals in office for 8 or 9 months.
After the vote to extend sitting into the summer (at about 8:45 p.m.) many of my colleagues began heading home to their ridings. Something in my subconscious told me not to leave. Although I faced a 4 ½ to 5 hour drive home, I went up to my office and worked on some correspondence that could easily have waited until after the weekend.
After less than an hour, the bells (signaling a vote in the House) started ringing. I returned to the Chamber where we were faced with an extraordinary closure motion to shut down debate – made late at night, before a holiday weekend.
The vote passed.
As a result, the third reading of the NDP budget took place that night, and had only two speakers in a one hour debate – one Liberal and one New Democrat. The parties opposing the bill were not permitted a single speaker – an outcome about as offensive against the principle of democracy as one can get.
A handful of Conservative MP’s missed the surprise, late night motion to shut down debate. The Liberals – usually quick themselves to get out of town – pounced on this.
In fact, it emphasized the extent of Liberal deception. Earlier in the day, we had the “Thursday Question” – a ritual after Question Period wherein the Opposition House Leader inquires as to the legislative agenda for the next week.
The government answers, to let MP’s plan their affairs. That afternoon, in answer to the question about next week’s business, the Liberal House Leader, Tony Valeri, told us we would deal with the NDP budget and then the marriage re-definition. He clearly was misleading all Members, as the government secretly planned to deal with the budget that night.
What’s more, the only way this extraordinary shut down of debate could be done was with the support of at least 3 parties. As a result, the Liberals entered into a signed, written agreement on a legislative agenda with the Separatists – a first in Canadian history. In itself, this first-time agreement to co-operate with the Separatists should have been big news. But because it involved also moving to shut down debate on the marriage bill and get it through quickly, the national media chose to turn a blind eye and did little to report on the Liberal-Separatist written agreement.
A major reason I became politically active was because many in my family (I’m Estonian) lost their lives, or freedom at the hands of the Soviets or Nazis. I believe our democracy is fragile, and something we must cherish and defend. Thursday, June 23, 2005 was a sad day for democracy in Canada