The proposal put forth yesterday by the opposition leaders is untenable. Government cannot govern without the confidence of the House and you either have it, or you don't. Government puts forward an agenda, and the opposition parties take a stand and vote clearly one way or the other, for or against, yes or no.
Government must be able act on behalf of Canadians and in their interests, and that means responding to crises, bringing forward initiatives, meeting our international responsibilities and managing the public purse. This can only be done if government has the confidence of the House.
The opposition leaders are proposing, in effect, to remove the government from office but without triggering an election. There is no provision in our Parliamentary tradition nor in common sense for the kind of plan the opposition seeks to concoct. In our system of Parliament, you don't get to vote, "No, but Yes for now." There is no such thing as non-confidence lite.
If the opposition leaders now decide to vote non-confidence in the government, then that is their right. But it will be up to them to explain why they are forcing an election at a time when Canadians least want one. It will be up to them to explain why, for the sake of only eight weeks' difference, they have ended the life of this Parliament and in doing so, cost Canadians so much.
Our agenda for Parliament has been in place for some time now. If the opposition brings down the government, needy Canadian families won't receive a $250 rebate on energy costs this winter, farmers will be denied support related to the BSE crisis, and our soldiers will not receive the pay raises they so richly deserve.
More is at risk, such as the success of the UN Conference on Climate Change, where Canada has a key role to play. And Aboriginal Canadians could be denied the First Ministers Meeting and progress on clean water and better health care in their communities.
If the opposition parties act on their threat to bring down the government, there will be a price: much will be lost. And for what? For eight weeks' difference. And what do Canadians gain? An election campaign they don't want, at a time of year that is supposed to be about family, not partisan politics.
This past spring, I pledged that I would call an election within 30 days of receiving the final report of Mr. Justice John Gomery. I did it as a matter of principle because I felt strongly that the people of our country needed all his recommendations, and also the response of the government and the opposition parties. That was my promise to Canadians, and I stand by it.
This timeframe would also allow my government to finish much of what it started to make progress on cutting wait times, so people can get the health care they need sooner. To stand up to the Americans on softwood lumber and get results for Canadian families and businesses. And to cut taxes for low- and middle-income Canadians.
In conclusion, let me say this directly to Canadians.
I think this incessant talk about an election the endless gamesmanship and maneuvering you've seen from the opposition for almost a year now that's not the way it ought to be, and it's not fair to you. You go to work everyday. You show up and you do your job. You expect the same from the people you send to Ottawa that's the minimum you expect but you're not getting it.
Instead, the spring was all about the opposition trying to force an election. And now the fall is about the opposition trying to force an election. Even though one is already planned and has for months been planned for early next year.
This is the first minority government we've had here in 25 years. It's taken some getting used to. And I'll admit it at times it's been frustrating. As Prime Minister, I have a clear sense of where I want to take our country, what I want to get done for Canadians. And we have managed to get a lot accomplished strengthening health care, working to build a national system of early learning and child care, investing in our cities and communities.
But because the opposition has been focused only on forcing an election, and because together these three parties have more seats than we do, everything has become about tactics and strategy.
Well, I for one believe we in this Parliament were elected to do a job, and I'm pretty sure the job wasn't talking endlessly about having another election.