House of Commons Hansard #45 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-2.

Topics

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, I ask that all other notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Federal Accountability Act
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June 21st, 2006 / 4:10 p.m.

Conservative

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4:10 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.

They all said it could not be done. All the experts, all the pundits--

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4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Excuse me. In order for the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board to split his time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, it will require the consent of the House. Does the House give its consent?

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4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the chamber for its generosity.

As I was saying, they all said that it could not be done. All the punditry, the experts and the folks around Parliament Hill said that it was too ambitious a task, that it was too big, too strong and too tough, that the Prime Minister's timeframe to have the accountability act passed through the House of Commons before summer was impossible.

The Prime Minister set that goal after having introduced the accountability act as his first legislative priority. Tonight, with the agreement of the House, that promise will have been kept. Not only could it have been done, it will be done.

We are talking about the toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history. It will ban big money and corporate cash from political campaigns. It will protect whistleblowers against bullying. It will end the revolving door between lobbyists and ministers' offices. It will bring into force a director of public prosecutions, who will seek out and prosecute those who defraud Canadian taxpayers. It will ban political patronage with a public appointments commission. It will broaden access to information far beyond what we have ever seen from any previous government, into Crown corporations, foundations and broader and deeper into the federal bureaucracy.

These are seminal changes in the history of our democracy. In the passage of this law, we are making Canadian history.

It is important to thank those who have been involved in this process, people from all parties who rolled up their sleeves and put party differences aside in order to support the swift passage of this law.

I would like to mention some of them, who sat on the special legislative committee responsible for this legislation: the member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe; the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine; the member for Vancouver Quadra, whose notable experience in his home province of British Columbia as an ombudsman and a deputy minister brought a wealth of expertise to the committee; the member for York South—Weston, a true gentleman, a learned, former municipal politician, brought plenty of insight to the law; the member for Repentigny and the member for Rivière-du-Nord, deux député du Quebec; and the member for Winnipeg Centre.

The member for Winnipeg Centre, for example, despite his notorious stubbornness, achieved exactly what he set out to do. He was not willing to move or budge on his objectives and in the end he got pretty much every objective that he sought to achieve. The member is responsible for introducing roughly 20 amendments to broaden access to information. His amendments will take access to information far beyond the scope that had ever been seen before. He also brought in a sweeping amendment that would introduce the public appointments commission, which is intended to ban political patronage. The accomplishments of the member for Winnipeg Centre cannot be forgotten. Despite the fact that he and I disagree on almost every issue, his accomplishments are undeniable.

I would like to thank the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, who brought a wealth of expertise and experience to the committee and helped us get the job done. The member for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works, was integral in seeing this passed. The member for Fundy Royal and the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, with their legal backgrounds, were integral in seeing the success of the bill. Finally, I would like to thank the chair of the committee himself, the member for Dufferin—Caledon.

All of them deserve a big round of applause.

What has this law effectively changed in our democracy? I would like to expound upon my earlier summary.

To begin with, it bans big money and ends corporate cash from political campaigns. It will limit to $1,000 the amount of money that any individual can donate to a political campaign and it ends the practice of corporate and union contributions.

There was a time when big corporations and powerful interests could buy influence from political campaigns by making tens of thousands of dollars in donations. There was a time when individuals, who were moneyed and powerful, could do the same. Those days are gone. The act would ban that practice and limits political financing to $1,000, which would have the effect of forcing political parties to inspire everyday, middle class Canadians in order to win their donation as opposed to catering to the interests of the moneyed, powerful elite.

Second, it would bring in ironclad protection for whistleblowers. Those whistleblowers who see wrongdoing in the government would have the legal authority to disclose it to an independent watchdog, who would carry out a fulsome investigation. That investigation would result in a report to this Parliament, so that all eyes would see if wrong has been done. If whistleblowers experience reprisal, if they lose their job, if they are pushed out, if their pay is cut, if they suffer professionally, they would have the ability to go before a panel of independent judges, who would have the ability to restore them to their previous employment and give them all that was taken away.

These judges would also have the authority to punish those bullies at the political bureaucratic level who have intimidated whistleblowers. From now on, with the passage of this law, bullying a whistleblower will be punishable by two years behind bars, and it becomes a criminal offence under statutory law.

These are very real steps that have never been taken before by any previous Parliament.

We will end the revolving door between lobbyists and ministers' offices with this legislation. The Prime Minister went above and above demonstrating that the bill was not about partisanship, when he insisted that the provisions banning people who have worked in ministers' offices from becoming lobbyists for five years would apply also to those people who worked on his transition team.

Now those people who work on his transition team are Conservatives. They are supporters of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has said that this does not matter. Political allegiance should have no bearing on the law. In order to create a level playing field, the Prime Minister insisted that they, too, be restricted from lobbying for five years while they endured the cooling off period, which all other public office-holders and their staff must endure.

Finally, if public office-holders, ministers or parliamentary secretaries, meet with lobbyists, the date and time and frequency of those meetings must be published on a public website. That means everyday Canadians would know which moneyed interests had met with political decision makers. If, for example, a large corporation received an apparently unacceptable government subsidy and it was the result of intensive meetings between a minister and that corporation, the public should know that those meetings went on. That is what this bill would do. It would ban political patronage and it would extend access to information to crown corporations and dozens of foundations

With that, I would like to close with a quote because some have talked about the ups and downs of this committee. As my hockey coach used to say, “It doesn't matter if it was pretty. If the puck is in the net, it's a goal”. This is a goal for all Canadians.

I conclude with this quote:

It's not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worth cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across talked about the bill being a seminal development. I believe there are some good things in the bill, but I disagree with him that it is a seminal development.

There are good developments and the best is making deputy ministers accountable to Parliament for the administration of their departments. There are some bad developments as well such as all the officers of Parliament. It is basically outsourcing our role as parliamentarians. Parliament is the institution of accountability. We should be keeping the executive to account, not some officer of Parliament.

Since the government came to power in February, there have been major steps backward. I have witnessed the Prime Minister, despite promises and votes and speeches he made before, appoint chairs of committees. Those chairs are not accountable to Parliament; they are accountable to him.

In his campaign literature, the Prime Minister promised free votes, except on the throne speech and the budget. That is not the case. It is throne speech, budget and government priorities.

He talked about patronage, yet the very first thing he did was appoint his co-chairman to the Senate and then the Minister of Public Works.

The member opposite talked about goals. Would it not be a goal for the government to strengthen Parliament, to give more resources to committees, to make it accountable so it can hold the executive to account?

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4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has strengthened Parliament. Contrary to the words of my distinguished colleague, he has not appointed chairs to committees. Those chairs are elected by Standing Order. They have always been elected and we have continued in that practice. It is impossible for him to appoint a chair because none of the committees have a majority of Conservatives on them. Therefore, it would have to be through the consent of at least one or two opposition parties to choose a chair.

Let us get right down to brass tacks here. Members across the way said, only months ago, that this law was so enormous and so consequential that it could not conceivably be passed through the House by summer. Now they say that it was really no big deal. The reality is, it has been a big deal. It is a seminal event in the development of Canadian democracy and it was done because of the commitment of the Prime Minister, even though most experts said it could never be done within this timeframe. I am very proud of that.

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4:20 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of important points I would like to make.

Before the election, my predecessor, Mr. Broadbent, put forward an ethics package that talked about public appointments and the need to deal with lobbying. I am glad to see this in the bill because there was a lot of malfeasance there. There were contingency fees, people entitled to entitlements, et cetera.

One of the things we need to take pride in, as he mentioned, is the public appointments process. That is something we laid down as a marker.

Does my hon. colleague believe our work is finished? There are a couple of areas that I think we still need to move on, such as access to information and more transparency. I would like to get my colleague's feedback as someone who participated each day on the committee on Bill C-2 and knows it fairly well. Are there other areas he believes we can go further?

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4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no denying the essential role that the member for Ottawa Centre played in the development of this bill. He was regularly at committee and showed tremendous interest in whistleblower protection, a fact which is congruent with the thousands of public servants who live in his constituency. He deserves a lot of credit.

I believe our work must go on. There is a lot more to do. However, at this point, we should take a moment to celebrate the extraordinary accomplishment that the bill represents. When it was first announced, most people said it would never pass through the House of Commons. Never did anyone outside of the Prime Minister believe that it could pass through the House of Commons before summer. Here we are today, within hours of passing the accountability bill. This is an extraordinary accomplishment. It is an accomplishment for which credit is owed to many members of the House from all sides. It was achieved in a minority Parliament, and we should all be proud of what it has done.

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4:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House today and speak to what I feel is one of the most important pieces of legislation that Parliament has seen in many years, which is the federal accountability act.

Before I begin I want to underscore the comments by my colleague from Nepean—Carleton and thank all the members of the legislative committee that sat and worked so diligently, so hard and so many long hours to ensure the bill was brought before Parliament for approval.

Again, without referencing all of their constituencies, as my hon. colleague before me just did, let me say a very heartfelt thanks to all the members. It was a pleasure for me to sit on that committee and a real honour for me to interchange ideas and have a dialogue with all my colleagues, many of whom, quite frankly, from time to time I disagreed with, but it never stopped my respect for them and my sincere belief that their desire to see the best bill possible was unqualified.

I thank them so very much for allowing me the privilege of watching them at work. I have said this in other forums, at media events and talk shows, I honestly believe this is how a minority Parliament should work.

I think we have proven without a doubt to all Canadians that if the intentions of a minority Parliament are pure and the motivation is sincere it can work to the benefit of all Canadians. I think there is no better example than the legislative committee and this bill that we will be passing in the House within hours to demonstrate to Canadians that minority Parliaments can work on behalf and for the benefit of all Canadians.

I also want to give sincere thanks and acknowledgment to the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, the member for Nepean—Carleton, for a job well done This was a massive undertaking by anyone's standards. The parliamentary secretary did yeoman work in shepherding the bill from the government's perspective through the legislative process and through the committee.

Without the member, he who did most of the heavy lifting from the government's side, I do not think that we would have been successful in reaching a satisfactory conclusion with all members of the opposition and all members of the committee.

I want to talk a little about the bill itself and some of the things that it brings to the benefit of Canadians. My colleague before me spoke very eloquently about many of the benefits that Canadians will receive as a result of the bill's passage.

The primary purpose of the bill and the essence and the spirit of the bill is to bring more accountability obviously to government. It would allow the public to see into the inner workings of government where they could not see before. I think that transparency is as important, if not more important, than the accountability provisions contained in the bill.

For too long Canadians have been telling me and, I am sure, parliamentarians of all political stripes that politicians are crooked, that they are doing things behind closed doors, that we do not know what they are doing and that they are probably on benefiting themselves and their friends.

That is not true. However, until such time as we can provide the transparency to Canadians to allow them to see the inner workings of government and to gain information on how government works, they will continue to have those misconstrued ideas about parliamentarians.

The reason that Bill C-2 came to light, or the genesis of the bill in fact, which, frankly, was one of the darkest chapters in Canadian parliamentary history, was the sponsorship scandal.

I have spoken before in this chamber and have said that I do not believe there is any member in this chamber who is a crook, is deceitful or is trying to abuse his or her parliamentary privilege. However, we all know about the sponsorship scandal, which was a sordid chapter in Canadian parliamentary history.

I think it is evident to Canadians that because of the sponsorship scandal and the fact that Justice Gomery was able to uncover all these illegal and illicit manoeuvres by people in positions of trust and power, we needed to do something as a Parliament to ensure those types of actions never occurred again.

While I firmly believe that all members of this chamber would never attempt anything like we saw in the sponsorship saga, I believe we need to put in controls, provisions and processes to give confidence to Canadians that this type of action will never happen again, which is exactly what the federal accountability act would do.

Is it perfect legislation? Certainly not. I do not know if there has ever been any perfect legislation that has been designed, drafted and passed by Parliament, but it goes a long way to assuring Canadians that the type of actions and the type of corruption that we saw unfold during the sponsorship hearings will not happen again.

Controls are now in place to prevent that from happening again. Thanks to the good work of all members of this chamber who had the sincere motivation to ensure this bill prevented that type of abuse, Canadians can now rest assured that the bill, when passed, will take care of business in terms of providing the true accountability to all Canadians that they deserve.

I want to point out a couple of things that other members in this chamber have been speaking to because, frankly, I believe they have been giving a bit of a misinterpretation of what the bill does and does not do. I have two points in particular.

The first point has to do with registration fees for conventions for political parties. We have heard on many occasions members of the Liberal Party say that the provisions in the bill target the Liberal Party to prevent them in their efforts to hold a successful leadership campaign.

I will admit that there are provisions in the bill that state that convention fees should be considered contributions or donations. However, only the costs of the convention that are over and above the costs associated with the convention should be considered a donation. In other words, if the registration fee for delegates to attend any political party's convention was $1,000 but the costs associated with putting on that convention were, hypothetically, $300, then the $700 over and above the hard cost of the convention would be considered a donation. That is the way it should be and the way it has to be. If the cost of conducting the convention was only $300 but the political party received $1,000 in registration fees, clearly the $700 difference would be a donation and should be considered a donation.

What we are hearing from the opposition is that the provisions are punitive and that the Liberal Party is being unfairly targeted. However, the way to get away from that is to merely set the registration fee to cover the hard cost of the convention. If a $1,000 registration fee were set by the Liberal Party and if the hard costs of that convention were $1,000, there would be no contribution or donation incurred by the individual. I believe what they have been saying has been a bit of a fallacy and I wanted to correct the record because we are not targeting the Liberals. These rules would apply to all political parties.

For those people who have said that we have not given the bill enough time and enough due diligence, I would point out that a motion carried in committee was that we would sit the entire summer if that is what it took to pass the bill. The reason we are here today and the reason the bill will be assured of passage tonight is not because of any movement from the Conservative Party of Canada to rush the bill through Parliament. It was the free choice of committee members.

Today will be an historic day for all Canadians and it is a day Canadians should be applauding. We finally have a true accountability act for the benefit of all Canadians.

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, it was very interesting to listen to my hon. colleague from Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.

I would like to ask him two questions. The first question concerns the fact that the Conservatives and the NDP voted against an amendment to establish the minimum age required to legally contribute to a political party. This amendment was proposed by the Liberals, with the support of members from the Bloc Québécois.

In Quebec, at the provincial level, for nearly 30 years, the Election Act has set out that a person must have reached the age of majority, 18 years, in order to make a financial contribution to a political party.

I proposed an amendment myself. Nevertheless, the Conservatives and the NDP raised quite a fuss about a candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada who had accepted legal donations from youth under 18 years of age. The Conservatives said it was unacceptable and that it never should have happened, even though it was legal. The candidate returned the donations. I myself tabled an amendment to establish the minimum age as 18, and the Conservatives voted against that amendment.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague how he can reconcile his party's position when they say it is unacceptable and inappropriate to accept legal donations from young people under 18 and that the candidate should not have accepted the donations, with that same party's position when it voted against the amendment that would have established the minimum age to make a donation to a federal political party as 18 years.

Will he explain to Canadians and Quebeckers how he can reconcile those two positions? Or is this simply partisan politics?

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4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that my colleague is talking about partisan politics because she is a past master at performing the art of partisanship at committee.

In terms of all committees, ours was no different. Some clauses were supported by some members in some parties while other clauses were supported by other members. We win some and we lose some. In the particular instance to which the hon. member has referred, a number of amendments came forth at committee that purported to deal with the underage donation. Some were forwarded by the Liberal Party and some by the NDP. If I recall correctly, I believe the Liberals voted against the NDP amendment and the NDP voted against the Liberal amendment.

She talked about the position of the Conservative Party in that we found it reprehensible that one of the leadership candidates for the Liberal Party accepted donations from children. I agree. It is reprehensible but not because of the children making donations. In this particular case, 11-year-old twins gave $5,400 each, apparently of their own free will and out of their own bank accounts, to a leadership candidate.

I would defy the member opposite to find one Canadian who truly believes that those two 11-year-olds gave money out of their own bank accounts. What probably happened was that the parents gave money through their children, which is a violation and that is why it is reprehensible. It is reprehensible to have a third party donation and, more than that, it is illegal.