Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I will take a brief time to join in the debate this evening on Senator Gold’s time allocation motion. To be clear from the outset, I speak for myself, not on behalf of the members of my group. Our members are free to vote as they see fit, but I will be supporting the motion.
While it will seem for many in the Senate like this is new, it really is not. I’ve been in this chamber long enough to have seen both sides of this debate. For example, in 2014, when my friend, the Leader of the Opposition, stated:
I would like to say that in fact time allocation opens debate. We are now debating. We are debating time allocation. We will debate the motion. In fact, adjourning debate is stifling debate.
That, of course, was when Stephen Harper was Prime Minister.
I have argued in the past against time allocation and the frequency of time allocation, particularly under the previous government. Senator Gold spoke in his speech about the frequency. I would have preferred an agreement, as I’m sure we all would have, that allowed everyone to have their piece, and then we voted. Since that option is not available, I have to consider all the factors in this particular situation before us. I’ve also considered that this is the first time that time allocation has been brought forward by the Senate leader, Senator Gold.
Senator Harder gave notice of time allocation, but it was withdrawn before it came up for debate. Unlike previous time allocations — and there were certainly a lot of them — this is not a stage for substantive debate on the legislation. In fact, it is a debate on time allocation.
Honourable senators, we’re now debating a motion to accept the message from the other place. Considerable time and effort has gone into weighing the merits of this legislation, both in the chamber and in committee hearings. As others have said, the Transport and Communications Committee — and I’m taking these statistics from Senator Housakos’s own speech on the committee report — held 31 meetings in total and heard from 138 witnesses. They received 67 briefs. In total, the committee met for nearly 68 hours. Clause-by-clause consideration lasted nine meetings. Committee members considered 73 amendments, and 26 were adopted. Certainly, there were a lot of witnesses and lots of time for questions and lots of debate at the committee and in this chamber.
Our former colleague Senator Dawson was tasked with shepherding this bill through the Senate and did a fine job of seeing Bill C-11 to the end of third reading in this chamber, and we, as senators, have done our due diligence and sent our amendments to the other place. Most were accepted and some were rejected. Two were amended, and then in the natural way of things in the past, the Senate defers to the elected members in the other place.
For those saying that we have not yet had time to debate the message received from the House of Commons, I would disagree. We have spent far less time debating in far more complicated circumstances. When Bill C-69 passed through this chamber, it was just as contentious, as some of you may recall. There, as noted by our former colleague Grant Mitchell in his speech about the message on June 17, 2019, the government “accepted 62 amendments outright and another 37 with some modification for a total of 99.”
One other senator spoke that day and it was adjourned. On June 20, debate resumed with one and a half hours of speeches, a 15-minute bell and a vote. That was it. In the end, this chamber accepted the will of the elected members in the other place and did not insist on its remaining amendments, all in less time than we will be debating this time allocation motion.
If Senator Gold’s motion passes, I would argue that we can easily complete our deliberations on this message in the six hours ahead. I would be surprised, actually, if that time period is filled.
Our right to speak is not being curtailed in any tangible way. I am very comfortable with this path forward today. I consider time allocation in this instance an acceptable solution, and I will be voting for the motion to be adopted. Thank you.