Federal Accountability Act

An Act providing for conflict of interest rules, restrictions on election financing and measures respecting administrative transparency, oversight and accountability

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.


John Baird  Conservative


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

Part 1 enacts the Conflict of Interest Act and makes consequential amendments in furtherance of that Act. That Act sets out substantive prohibitions governing public office holders. Compliance with the Act is a deemed term and condition of a public office holder’s appointment or employment. The Act also sets out a detailed regime of compliance measures to ensure conformity with the substantive prohibitions, certain of which apply to all public office holders and others of which apply to reporting public office holders. The Act also provides for a regime of detailed post-employment rules. Finally, the Act establishes a complaints regime, sets out the powers of investigation of the Commissioner and provides for public reporting as well as a regime of administrative monetary penalties.
Amongst other matters, the consequential amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act provide for the appointment and office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner along with his or her tenure, expenses, duties and other administrative matters.
Part 1 also amends the Canada Elections Act to
(a) reduce to $1,000 the amount that an individual may contribute annually to a registered party, and create a distinct $1,000 annual limit on contributions to the registered associations, the nomination contestants and the candidates of a registered party;
(b) reduce to $1,000 the amount that an individual may contribute to an independent candidate or to a leadership contestant;
(c) reduce to $1,000 the amount that a nomination contestant, a candidate or a leadership contestant may contribute to his or her own campaign in addition to the $1,000 limit on individual contributions;
(d) totally ban contributions by corporations, trade unions and associations by repealing the exception that allows them to make an annual contribution of $1,000 to the registered associations, the candidates and the nomination contestants of a registered party and a contribution of $1,000 to an independent candidate during an election period;
(e) ban cash donations of more than $20, and reduce to $20 the amount that may be contributed before a receipt must be issued or, in the case of anonymous contributions following a general solicitation at a meeting, before certain record-keeping requirements must be met; and
(f) increase to 5 years after the day on which the Commissioner of Canada Elections became aware of the facts giving rise to a prosecution, and to 10 years following the commission of an offence, the period within which a prosecution may be instituted.
Other amendments to the Canada Elections Act prohibit candidates from accepting gifts that could reasonably be seen to have been given to influence the candidate in the performance of his or her duties and functions as a member, if elected. The wilful contravention of this prohibition is considered to be a corrupt practice. A new disclosure requirement is introduced to require candidates to report to the Chief Electoral Officer any gifts received with a total value exceeding $500. Exceptions are provided for gifts received from relatives, as well as gifts of courtesy or of protocol. The amendments also prohibit registered parties and registered associations from transferring money to candidates directly from a trust fund.
The amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act rename the Act and provide for the appointment by the Governor in Council of a Commissioner of Lobbying after approval by resolution of both Houses of Parliament. They broaden the scope for investigations by the Commissioner, extend to 10 years the period in respect of which contraventions may be investigated and prosecuted, and increase the penalties for an offence under the Act. In addition, they empower the Commissioner to prohibit someone who has committed an offence from lobbying for a period of up to two years, prohibit the acceptance and payment of contingency fees and prohibit certain public office holders from lobbying for a period of five years after leaving office. They require lobbyists to report their lobbying activities involving certain public office holders and permit the Commissioner to request those office holders to confirm or correct the information reported by lobbyists.
Amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act prohibit members of the House of Commons from accepting benefits or income from certain trusts and require them to disclose all trusts to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. The amendments also authorize the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to issue orders requiring members to terminate most trusts and prohibiting them from using the proceeds from their termination for political purposes. In cases where the trusts are not required to be terminated, the amendments authorize the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner to make orders prohibiting members from using the trusts for political purposes. An offence is created for members who do not comply with such orders. The amendments also provide that, in the event of a prosecution, a committee of the House of Commons may issue an opinion that is to be provided to the judge before whom the proceedings are held.
Finally, Part 1 amends the Public Service Employment Act to remove the right of employees in ministers’ offices to be appointed without competition to positions in the public service for which the Public Service Commission considers them qualified.
Part 2 harmonizes the appointment and removal provisions relating to certain officers.
Amendments to the Parliament of Canada Act establish within the Library of Parliament a position to be known as the Parliamentary Budget Officer, whose mandate is to provide objective analysis to the Senate and House of Commons about the estimates of the government, the state of the nation’s finances and trends in the national economy, to undertake research into those things when requested to do so by certain Parliamentary committees, and to provide estimates of the costs of proposals contained in Bills introduced by members of Parliament other than in their capacity as ministers of the Crown. The amendments also provide the Parliamentary Budget Officer with a right of access to data that are necessary for the performance of his or her mandate.
Part 3 enacts the Director of Public Prosecutions Act which provides for the appointment of the Director of Public Prosecutions and one or more Deputy Directors. That Act gives the Director the authority to initiate and conduct criminal prosecutions on behalf of the Crown that are under the jurisdiction of the Attorney General of Canada. That Act also provides that the Director has the power to make binding and final decisions as to whether to prosecute, unless the Attorney General of Canada directs otherwise, and that such directives must be in writing and published in the Canada Gazette. The Director holds office for a non-renewable term of seven years during good behaviour and is the Deputy Attorney General of Canada for the purposes of carrying out the work of the office. The Director is given responsibility, in place of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, for prosecutions of offences under the Canada Elections Act.
Part 3 also amends the Access to Information Act to ensure that all parent Crown corporations, and their wholly-owned subsidiaries, within the meaning of section 83 of the Financial Administration Act are encompassed by the definition “government institution” in section 3 of the Access to Information Act and to add five officers, five foundations and the Canadian Wheat Board to Schedule I of that Act. It adjusts some of the exemption provisions accordingly and includes new exemptions or exclusions relating to the added officers and the Crown corporations. It empowers the Governor in Council to prescribe criteria for adding a body or an office to Schedule I and requires Ministers to publish annual reports of all expenses incurred by their offices and paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It adds any of those same officers and foundations that are not already included in the schedule to the Privacy Act to that schedule, ensures that all of those parent Crown corporations and subsidiaries are encompassed by the definition “government institution” in section 3 of that Act, and makes other consequential amendments to that Act. It amends the Export Development Act to include a provision for the confidentiality of information. It revises certain procedures relating to the processing of requests and handling of complaints and allows for increases to the number of investigators the Information Commissioner may designate to examine records related to defence and national security.
Amendments to the Library and Archives of Canada Act provide for an obligation to send final reports on government public opinion research to the Library and Archives of Canada.
Finally, Part 3 amends the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act to
(a) establish the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal and empower it to make remedial orders in favour of victims of reprisal and to order disciplinary action against the person or persons who took the reprisal;
(b) provide for the protection of all Canadians, not only public servants, who report government wrongdoings to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner;
(c) remove the Governor in Council’s ability to delete the name of Crown corporations and other public bodies from the schedule to the Act;
(d) require the prompt public reporting by chief executives and the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of cases of wrongdoing; and
(e) permit the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to provide access to legal advice relating to the Act.
Part 4 amends the Financial Administration Act to create a new schedule that identifies and designates certain officials as accounting officers and, within the framework of their appropriate minister’s responsibilities and accountability to Parliament, sets out the matters for which they are accountable before the appropriate committees of Parliament. A regime for the resolution of issues related to the interpretation or application of a policy, directive or standard issued by the Treasury Board is established along with a requirement that the Treasury Board provide a copy of its decision to the Auditor General of Canada.
Part 4 also amends the Financial Administration Act and the Criminal Code to create indictable offences for fraud with respect to public money or money of a Crown corporation, and makes persons convicted of those offences ineligible to be employed by the Crown or the corporation or to otherwise contract with the Crown.
Other amendments to the Financial Administration Act clarify the authority of the Treasury Board to act on behalf of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada on matters related to internal audit in the federal public administration. They also set out the deputy head’s responsibility for ensuring that there is an internal audit capacity appropriate to the needs of the department and requires them, subject to directives of the Treasury Board, to establish an audit committee. The Financial Administration Act, the Farm Credit Canada Act and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board Act are amended to require Crown corporations to establish audit committees composed of members who are not officers or employees of the corporation. Other amendments to the Financial Administration Act require, subject to directions of the Treasury Board, that all grant and contribution programs be reviewed at least every five years to ensure their relevance and effectiveness.
Amendments made to the Financial Administration Act and to the constituent legislation of a number of Crown corporations provide for appointments of directors for up to four years from a current maximum of three years.
Part 4 also amends the Canadian Dairy Commission Act, the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation Act and the National Capital Act to require different individuals to perform the duties of chair of the Board of Directors and chief executive officer of the corporation.
Part 5 amends the Auditor General Act by expanding the class of recipients of grants, contributions and loans into which the Auditor General of Canada may inquire as to the use of funds, whether received from Her Majesty in right of Canada or a Crown corporation. Other amendments provide certain immunities to the Auditor General.
Amendments to the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act provide for the appointment and mandate of a Procurement Auditor.
Part 5 also amends the Financial Administration Act to provide for a government commitment to fairness, openness and transparency in government contract bidding, and a regulation-making power to deem certain clauses to be set out in government contracts in relation to prohibiting the payment of contingency fees and respecting corruption and collusion in the bidding process for procurement contracts, declarations by bidders in respect of specific criminal offences, and the provision of information to the Auditor General of Canada by recipients under funding agreements.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


Nov. 21, 2006 Passed That the motion be amended by: 1. Deleting from the paragraph commencing with the words “Disagrees with” the following: 67; 2. Inserting in the paragraph commencing with the words “Agrees with”, immediately after the number “158”, the following: “and 67”; and 3. Deleting the paragraph commencing with the words “Senate amendment 67”;.
Nov. 21, 2006 Failed That the motion be amended by: 1. Deleting from the paragraph commencing with the words “Disagrees with” the following: 118, 119; 2. Inserting in the paragraph commencing with the words “Agrees with”, immediately after the number “158”, the following: “and 118 and 119”; and 3. Deleting the paragraph commencing with the words “Amendment 118” and the paragraph commencing with the words “Amendment 119”..
Nov. 21, 2006 Passed That the amendment be amended by deleting paragraphs “A” and “B”.
June 21, 2006 Passed That Bill C-2, in Clause 315, be amended by replacing lines 19 to 25 on page 207 with the following: “provincial government or a municipality, or any of their agencies; ( c.1) a band, as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Indian Act, or an aboriginal body that is party to a self-government agreement given effect by an Act of Parliament, or any of their agencies;”
June 21, 2006 Passed That Bill C-2, in Clause 315, be amended by adding after line 27 on page 206 the following: “( e) requiring the public disclosure of basic information on contracts entered into with Her Majesty for the performance of work, the supply of goods or the rendering of services and having a value in excess of $10,000.”
June 21, 2006 Failed That Bill C-2, in Clause 123, be amended by (a) replacing line 43 on page 105 to line 6 on page 106 with the following: “selected candidate is referred for consideration to a committee of the House of Commons designated or established for that purpose. (5) After the committee considers the question, the Attorney General may recommend to the Governor in Council that the selected candidate be appointed as Director, or may refer to the committee the appoint-” (b) replacing lines 12 and 13 on page 106 with the following: “for cause. The Director”
June 21, 2006 Failed That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 165.1.
June 21, 2006 Passed That Bill C-2, in Clause 146, be amended by replacing lines 3 to 31 on page 118 with the following: “16.1 (1) The following heads of government institutions shall refuse to disclose any record requested under this Act that contains information that was obtained or created by them or on their behalf in the course of an investigation, examination or audit conducted by them or under their authority: ( a) the Auditor General of Canada; ( b) the Commissioner of Official Languages for Canada; ( c) the Information Commissioner; and ( d) the Privacy Commissioner.(2) However, the head of a government institution referred to in paragraph (1)( c) or (d) shall not refuse under subsection (1) to disclose any record that contains information that was created by or on behalf of the head of the government institution in the course of an investigation or audit conducted by or under the authority of the head of the government institution once the investigation or audit and all related proceedings, if any, are finally concluded.”
June 21, 2006 Passed That Bill C-2, in Clause 78, be amended by deleting lines 4 to 8 on page 80.
June 21, 2006 Passed That Bill C-2, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing line 1 on page 33 with the following: “(2) Subject to subsection 6(2) and sections 21 and 30, nothing in this Act abrogates or dero-”
June 21, 2006 Passed That Bill C-2, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing line 12 on page 6 with the following: “(2) No minister of the Crown, minister of state or parliamentary secretary shall, in his or her capacity as a member of the Senate or the House of Commons, debate or vote on a question that would place him or her in a conflict of interest.”

Witness Responses at Standing Committee on Government Operations and EstimatesPrivilegeOrders of the Day

April 8th, 2024 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, in response to my question, the member indicated that Stephen Harper first brought in the Federal Accountability Act, Bill C-2, and he was very proud of that fact.

A couple of years later, the current leader of the Conservative Party, then the parliamentary secretary to the president of the Treasury Board, was at least in part responsible for a $400-million scandal known as the ETS scandal. Members can look it up and see that it is true. I am wondering if he would reflect on that and say that the leader of the Conservative Party made a big mistake back then.

I am wondering if the member would agree that we should be focusing, contrary to what I just finished saying, a little more on the bar question, and that it is a good thing.

Witness Responses at Standing Committee on Government Operations and EstimatesPrivilegeOrders of the Day

April 8th, 2024 / 12:20 p.m.
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John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, if we are going to go back nearly 18 years in history, let us remember the very first action of the former Conservative government.

Bill C-2, the very first bill introduced by the Conservative government in 2006, was the Federal Accountability Act, an act that directly came as a result of the Liberal sponsorship scandal of the previous Liberal government.

That is the action the former government took to root out corruption and third parties getting rich off of government contracts. We will take no lessons from the Liberals on actions to root out corruption because the first thing the former Conservative government did when it came into power was to put in place the Federal Accountability Act, something that the previous Liberal government failed to do.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 3rd, 2019 / 7:15 p.m.
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Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am so glad I was able to catch your eye this late in the evening to rise to speak about this concurrence report.

What I wanted to do in my initial comments was to mention that I co-seconded the amendment. I know members are probably tired from this later-evening sitting so I will not add too much to the debate. I know a lot has been said on our side already about the wisdom of returning this to committee in order to confirm the independence and autonomy of the director of public prosecutions, as well the appointment to that position of Kathleen Roussel, who made the right decision in the case of the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, which was confirmed at the time by the former attorney general.

I will mention as well that the law that created the position goes all the way back to 2006, which was Bill C-2. It was created by the Federal Accountability Act. There is a reason we know who lobbies who in this place. It is because the Lobbying Commissioner and the registry were created by that very act as well. The Ethics Commissioner was also created by that act.

Actually, a lot of the accountability mechanisms that now exist in this place, which parliamentarians take advantage of to better understand their responsibilities toward Parliament and the people of Canada, were created in Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act, which was passed at the time by a Conservative minority government. It was able to work across the way with the other side for the betterment of the people of Canada, who, after the sponsorship scandal, were demanding greater ethics and accountability from parliamentarians and elected officials.

At the time, that scandal led to the creation of an independent director of public prosecutions whose decisions were to be confirmed by the Attorney General. The Attorney General would not be able to overturn a criminal prosecution and take over a case without gazetting it. I remember being a staff member working for a backbench Conservative member of Parliament at the time. The thinking at the time was that nobody would go through the trouble of trying to overturn a decision by a prosecutor who had decided not to offer a certain deal to the defence and that this would now end all political and criminal interference in public prosecutions.

Little did we know that 12 years later it would in fact happen. It would cost the political futures of two now former cabinet ministers, now former members of the Liberal caucus, and other members who have since then quit sitting on that side. Who can really blame them with everything that has been going on?

I love Yiddish proverbs so I want to share one that applies here: “Before you utter a word you are the master; afterwards you are a fool.”

From statements that have been made publicly from September, October and November to then January and February, we can see the inconsistency of the story on the side of the Liberal government. At first, the Prime Minister said that he knew nothing. In a press conference, he said that what was being reported by The Globe and Mail was absolutely untrue. This was not any digging around that the Conservatives were doing. It was in fact journalists who heard the story, corroborated it and then reported it. At the time, the Prime Minister said that it was absolutely false and there was no truth to it. We know now that statement is completely inaccurate. There is absolutely no basis to have said any of it. We know this now because the independent caucus continues to grow quickly, with former Liberal caucus members now being punted to this side of the House because they are standing up for truth.

There is a deep betrayal of justice on that side of the House in basically shooting the messenger. They have broken trust with Canadians and this is what the amendment to the concurrence report is trying to re-establish by reconfirming the independence and autonomy of the director of public prosecutions. We, on this side of the House, have faith in her work. We know that she can do the job. She made the decision, which was then confirmed by the former attorney general 12 days later. A decision was confirmed and she stuck to her guns. She decided it was the right thing to do.

I hear so much chirping from the other side of the House because they are all looking at the same polls that we are. They are looking at the opinions of Canadians, who are telling pollsters and telling us on Twitter, Instagram and social media that they are tired of this.

Canadians were sold a bill of goods back in 2015. They were told there was going to be real change, a new way of governing the country. In fact, that is completely untrue. It has gone back to the good old days of 2002-2003 and the sponsorship scandal of the 1990s that led to one of the deepest crises in our democracy at that time, which led to the Federal Accountability Act being passed in this place, requiring greater accountability and ethics from our parliamentarians, something that is sorely lacking on that side of the House.

I am pleased to be rising to speak to this matter. I am pleased to be providing my support to this measure by co-seconding the amendment to send this back to committee and to ensure we stand with those parliamentarians who have been punished by their leadership for standing up for the truth and doing the right thing. It is better to put country before party. It is better to stand up for the truth, wherever that leads us.

I just want to remind members again of this Yiddish proverb: “Before you utter a word you are the master; afterwards you’re a fool.” I hope the government sees the light on this, tells the truth, comes clean with Canadians and sends this report back to committee so it can again confirm the independence and autonomy of the director of public prosecutions.

October 18th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
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John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

In fact, it allows me to once again highlight the great work done with the Federal Accountability Act, which gave the director of public prosecutions independence from the Attorney General of Canada. It's another good reason to thank the former government.

October 18th, 2018 / 10:40 a.m.
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John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Sure. I would just point out that the change that is being reversed in Bill C-76 we're changing with this amendment. It was actually first introduced in 2006 with the Federal Accountability Act, Bill C-2 at the time, which was at the time with multi-party support. This is reversing some of the good work that was done in the Federal Accountability Act.

Canada Elections ActPrivate Members' Business

February 9th, 2018 / 12:40 p.m.
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John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House. It is particularly an honour to rise on a Friday afternoon, when so many of my friends and colleagues have joined us in the House today to listen to my speech. It is always a great honour to have so many people tuning in.

It reminds me a bit of when I was a lecturer at King's University College at the Western University when so many people would turn up for my lectures on Canadian public administration. They were always hanging on every word, until I had to wake them up, and then realized they may not have been paying as much attention as I had thought.

However, it is a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-50. As a member of the procedure and House affairs committee, I am well-acquainted with the legislation, having heard from a number of witnesses and participated in the examination of this bill.

Bill C-50 is really about legitimizing the Liberal cash for access events. So often the Liberals try to tell Canadians that they are different, that they are not like those Liberals of the past anymore. The days of the sponsorship scandal and the Gomery commission, that is not them anymore. Those days are gone. The days of being entitled to their entitlements, those days are gone, as this is a different Liberal Party. The Prime Minister told Canadians, hand over heart, that the Liberal Party was different.

The Prime Minister, when he came to office, told Canadians:

There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties

However, shortly after the government was elected, that is exactly what happened. We saw a string of cash for access events. High-profile Liberal politicians hosted events where donors gave significant amounts of money to the Liberal Party. In exchange, these donors got private one-on-one access with senior Liberal ministers, senior Liberals ministers who many of those donors could potentially have business with the government and could potentially have business with these same ministers. Most Canadians know this is wrong. Most Canadians know that this is not an appropriate way for ministers of the crown, those who serve our country to operate. However, with the Liberals, old habits die hard.

We should not be too surprised when the Liberals formed government that these types of cash for access events would happen. After all, the Liberals learned from the best. The Ottawa Liberals learned from their Ontario counterparts. The Ottawa Liberals learned from Kathleen Wynne, Dalton McGuinty, and their great success with fundraising through cash for access events.

I want to quote from a Globe and Mail article of July 6, 2016. The title is, “An inside look at cash-for-access Ontario Liberal fundraisers”. The article reads:

On the evening of March 2, 2015, Premier Kathleen Wynne gathered with eight guests who paid $10,000 each for exclusive face-time. Three months earlier, 22 donors spent $5,000 apiece to be entertained by Finance Minister Charles Sousa. Days later, eight people shelled out $5,000 each to attend a reception with then-energy minister Bob Chiarelli.

These were just three of more than 150 intimate cash-for-access fundraisers the Ontario Liberal Party held in Ms. Wynne's first three years in power. At the events, contributors paid thousands of dollars each to bend the ears of the Premier and members of her cabinet privately, typically over cocktails and dinner at five-star hotels or high-end restaurants.

Therefore, the Ottawa Liberals had a great road map from their friends in Ontario.

What happened once the Liberals formed government? They quickly started implementing cash for access events.

Chinese billionaires have been attending Liberal fundraisers, even though they are not allowed to donate because they are not Canadian citizens. One of these individuals, Zhang Bin, who is also a Communist Party apparatchik, attended a May 19, 2016, fundraiser at the Toronto home of Chinese Business Chamber of Canada chairperson Benson Wong, according to the report in The Globe and Mail. A few weeks later, Mr. Zhang and a business partner donated $200,000 to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and $50,000 to build a statue of the current Prime Minister's father.

On November 7, 2016, B.C. multi-millionaire Miaofei Pan hosted a fundraiser at his West Vancouver mansion. At this event, which was of course a pay-to-play event, Chinese investment, seniors care, and real estate developments were certainly topics of discussion. This event took place while the federal government was reviewing a $1 billion bid by China's Anbang Insurance Group to buy one of British Columbia's largest retirement and nursing home chains.

In Toronto, another example of cash for access was an event with the justice minister that had a $1,500 paycheque. This was again an event with a minister who could potentially be having dealings with these same donors.

When the Liberal Party promised real change, this was certainly not what Canadians were expecting. Canadians know this is wrong. Canadians know this type of cash for access event is not right. In fact, a 2016 Nanos Research survey showed that more than six in 10 Canadians disapprove of this type of event. They disapprove of political parties holding fundraising events in which access is sold to Canadians.

One has to wonder why the Liberals are so eager to raise money through cash for access events. One reason is that they are failing to raise money through other means. Time and again we see the Conservative Party raising more than the Liberal Party. Why does the Conservative Party raise more than the Liberals? It does so because of hard-working Canadians who feel the Conservative Party reflects their views. It does so because the Conservatives have a leader who is committed to Canadians, average Canadians, and not selling access, as our friends across the way have been doing since the beginning of their time in office.

Let us go back to what this bill is trying to do. It is trying to legitimize what the Liberals have been doing. Rather than simply stopping cash for access, they would rather print new rules just to legitimize what they are doing. However, they did not have to. They already have rules in place in their mandate letters and in the “Open and Accountable Government” document.

I will quote from the Minister of Democratic Institutions' mandate letter, but the words are reflected in all the mandate letters of ministers. The Prime Minister wrote the following to his Minister of Democratic Institutions:

...you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.

The Prime Minister's own letter to his ministers clearly dictates that simply following the letter of the law is not enough. They have to appear to be fully above board. This was not happening with the Liberals' cash for access fundraisers, so they brought in this piece of legislation to try to legitimize them.

The Liberal government introduced its “Open and Accountable Government” document with great fanfare. This would be the road map for a new era of transparency for these Liberals. The opening clearly states, “Open and Accountable Government sets out core principles regarding the roles and responsibilities of Ministers in Canada’s system of responsible parliamentary government.”

What are some of those requirements? What are some of those issues ministers and parliamentary secretaries ought to follow? Annex B, “Fundraising and Dealing with Lobbyists: Best Practices for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries”, states:

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest.

The best practices the Prime Minister lays out were not followed by his Liberals. They were not followed by his ministers, who felt the need to raise $1,500 from donors who could have direct dealings with not only the government as whole but also with its individual departments. Under “General Principles” in annex B, it states:

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government.

It is not only following the letter of the law. It is the appearance. It is ensuring that all actions are above board and are able to have the closest degree of scrutiny to ensure that those who serve as ministers of the crown, those who serve our country in high office, are not tainted by even the appearance of conflict of interest.

I am reminded of a former minister in the Harper Conservative government. Once she became aware that there was a potential that those who lobbied and who worked with her department could be attending a fundraiser hosted by her riding association, that event was cancelled and all funds raised were immediately returned. Then we fast-forward to this government. Not only is the money not being returned, but the Liberals are doubling down on these events and they have introduced Bill C-50 to do so.

This bill has had great fanfare from pretty much only the Liberal Party. In testimony before the committee, almost all witnesses were very lukewarm in their excitement about this piece of legislation. They were very lukewarm in their response to an underwhelming bill being brought forward. It could be because this bill really does not do much at all.

In fact, the media knows this. Despite the advertising of these events, the way the media is actually treated at the events is far from ideal.

Let me read from an article in The Hill Times from June 21, 2017:

A Hill journalist is calling into question the Liberal Party’s promise to make its fundraising events more open and transparent, after party staff restricted media access at a June 19 Ottawa event for the party’s top donors.

Sure, the media can know about the events. They can even show up, as long as they stay in the corner and do not talk to anyone. The report goes on to state:

Reporters were ushered into one room for an RCMP sweep prior to speeches. They were told they were not allowed to mingle, but could talk to guests registering and entering the event in the foyer of the museum.

Even a Liberal Party candidate expressed concern about how the Liberals were treating journalists:

Allan Thompson, a journalism professor at Carleton University who ran for the Liberals in the riding of Huron–Bruce, Ont. during the 2015 election and attended Monday’s event, said in an interview afterward that he had sympathy for the reporters who weren’t allowed to mingle, especially because of his background as a former Hill reporter with The Toronto Star.

It is one thing to try to legitimize cash for access. It is another thing to blatantly use this as a ploy to keep the media away and to ensure that this is actually not opening up transparency at all, unlike the former Conservative government, which, on taking office in 2006, introduced Bill C-2, the strongest measures of accountability and transparency in our country. It was a bill that banned corporate and union donations, and put hard caps on the amount of money that could be donated to political parties. Unfortunately, the good work that was begun by the Conservative Party is now being used by the Liberals to initiate and to continue their cash for access events.

Of course, there are certain exceptions and exemptions to this bill. One such exemption is what I like to call the Laurier Club loophole. Yes, donor appreciation events are included under this legislation, except for when they occur at a party convention. A perfect example of this is the Liberal Party convention happening later this year. The Liberal Party's own website boasts about the benefits of being a Laurier Club member, which include invitations to “Laurier Club events across the country, hearing from leading voices on our Liberal team” and the “opportunity to meet a strong network of business and community leaders who share your commitment to Liberal values”.

The Liberal Party is selling access through its Laurier Club. In fact, earlier this week, the chief of staff to the Minister of National Defence sent a tweet that said, “if there was a time to join Laurier Club, now is the time”, of course, referring in advance to the Laurier Club event that would be held at the Liberal convention later this year. It is cash for access, but simply another way of doing it.

I find it interesting that when this legislation was tabled, we heard from certain witnesses in committee, and one of them was Canada's acting Chief Electoral Officer. It was interesting because the acting Chief Electoral Officer had a number of suggested amendments to this piece of legislation. Why should the Chief Electoral Officer have to encourage a committee to introduce amendments? Could it be that the Liberal government did not actually consult the Chief Electoral Officer before introducing this piece of legislation, and instead, had to rely on the committee to review to take into account some of his recommendations?

Let us talk about penalties in this act. Clause 11 of the bill states:

Section 500 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (1):

Punishment — strict liability offences

(1.1) Every person who is guilty of an offence under section 497.01 is liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $1,000.

That is one aspect of it. The other aspect is found in proposed section 384.4, which refers to the return of contributions. I find it interesting with these Liberals that if, in this situation, an event is held that does not comply with the new rules they are putting in place, the money has to be repaid, but what about an all-expense paid trip to the Aga Khan's private island? What about a trip in which the Ethics Commissioner found that the Prime Minister had violated the ethics laws on four separate occasions? What about that situation?

No, these Liberals feel there is no need to repay money in that situation. There is no need for the Prime Minister to pay back $200,000-plus that was expensed to Canadian taxpayers for an illegal and ethically challenged trip that the Prime Minister himself took. No, the Prime Minister does not feel the need to pay that back, because what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. This behaviour, by an elected member of the House, let alone the Prime Minister of this country, is unacceptable.

The bill is clear in what it intends to do. It intends to do nothing more than legitimize the cash for access schemes of the Liberal Party of Canada. Old habits die hard and with these Liberals, it is the same old Liberal Party.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

February 1st, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

My colleague is telling me to get a life.

It is an excellent piece of work. I am thankful to all those involved. It will stand the test of time as an important document.

Let us go to the subject at hand, Bill C-50.

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands briefly mentioned in her comments Bill C-33, and I was intrigued today in question period when the Minister of Democratic Institutions mentioned Bill C-33. In fact, I will quote her from the blues. She said, “My job is to strengthen and protect our democratic institutions and ensure they represent the values of Canadians. Through the introduction of Bill C-33 and Bill C-50, we are moving to accomplish that mandate.”

How important is Bill C-33 to the government? It received first reading on November 24, 2016, 14 months ago. Where is that bill today? It still sits at first reading, having never been brought forward for second reading. This is reflective of the entire government's legislative agenda. It introduces certain pieces of legislation to great fanfare, yet there they sit 14 months later, unmoved, at the same stage as they were when they were first introduced. This is reflective of the entire government's agenda, but most particularly of the democratic institutions' agenda.

Let us contrast that with our former Conservative government's agenda. The very first piece of legislation introduced in 2006 was Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act. What did that do? It banned corporate donations and union donations, and placed a hard cap on the maximum that an individual could donate.

The Liberal government, in the introduction of Bill C-50, is simply trying to legitimize its cash for access events. It is trying to legitimize its pay-to-play events. It is trying to legitimize that which it should not have been doing in the first place, by its own rules and its own document “Open and Accountable Government”.

I would like to quote from this document. The prelude states:

Open and Accountable Government sets out core principles regarding the roles and responsibilities of Ministers in Canada’s system of responsible parliamentary government.

Under Annex B, “Fundraising and Dealing with Lobbyists: Best Practices for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries”, the very first paragraph states:

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest.

This legislation would not have been needed had the Prime Minister accepted his own words, and had he and his ministers followed their own document and simply done what they were asked to do.

It goes on to state:

Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government.

On this specific point, the Liberal government, the Prime Minister, and his cabinet have failed to live up to the standards that the Prime Minister himself set in “Open and Accountable Government”. The Prime Minister laid out his vision. He promised to be open and transparent, and then the Liberals broke their own rules.

This is not the first time we have seen this. We have seen it time and time again over the two years this government has been in office. The Liberals are constantly placing themselves in the appearance or potential of conflict of interest. All week in this House we have heard questions asking the Prime Minister and the government House leader about the Prime Minister's unethical trip to the Aga Khan's island, for which he was found guilty on four separate counts under the Conflict of Interest Act.

The government, in only two short years, is achieving a level of ethics lapses that took the Chrétien-Martin Liberals a full 13 years to get to. It has accomplished that in two years.

Let us talk about this piece of legislation and some of the exemptions and exceptions that the government has brought forward in Bill C-50. There is one particular exception, what I like to call the Laurier Club loophole. This legislation applies to donor appreciation events, except when those events take place at conventions.

People may be wondering, what exactly is the Laurier Club? I have an answer. I went on the Liberal Party's website and found a little information about it. For the low price of $1,500 a year, anyone can become a member of the Laurier Club.

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2016 / 2:15 p.m.
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John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-2, an act to amend the Income Tax Act.

Since this is the first opportunity for me to address the House at some length, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the good people of Perth—Wellington for bestowing on me the honour of serving this House as their member of Parliament. In all I do, I pledge to the good people nothing but my hard work on their behalf.

As all members know, none of us can do this job without the love and support of our family. I am certainly no exception. I could not have gone through this 11-week campaign without the love and support of my wife Justine, who has been ever patient; my darling daughter Ainsley, who was a lot younger when we started the campaign and is growing like a weed; our extended family, my parents Bill and Darlene and my in-laws, John and Laurie; and our countless campaign team members, including people like Keith and Matt, Tim and Tim, Sue, Irene, Cynthia, Lee, and Ross.

The members of that team have all been with me throughout the campaign, working from sun-up to sundown on my behalf and on behalf of the good people of Canada to advance their vision for a more perfect country. They campaigned through all weather conditions, from the heat of the summer to snow our last week in the campaign. They were there with me and with us throughout the campaign.

The great riding of Perth—Wellington comprises a number of municipal organizations. We have seven lower-tier municipalities, two single-tier municipalities, two county governments, and dozens of small towns and villages. During the campaign, we criss-crossed it all. By election day, we had knocked on over 30,000 doors from Harriston to Harmony, Mount Forest to Milverton, from Stratford to Staffa to St. Marys, and all points between.

We heard one consistent message at the doors: families were concerned about the economy and they were looking to the government to extend a helping hand. At every doorstep, in every community hall, in every church basement, and on every main street, voters were not hesitant in expressing their views. They appreciated programs like pension splitting for seniors, income splitting for families, the universal child care benefit, and the first-time homebuyers' tax credit. Each of these initiatives provided targeted tax relief to Canadians who actually needed it.

Now we have a new government, and I think it is important to highlight some of the contrasts between the current government across the way and our previous Conservative government.

When our former Conservative government came to office in 2006, we also introduced a Bill C-2. That bill was the Federal Accountability Act. It strengthened conflict of interest rules, expanded access to information to crown corporations, increased transparency in lobbying activities, and overhauled political financing rules to ban not only corporate donations but union donations as well.

Now, let us fast-forward a decade and here we are with another Bill C-2. However, let us make no mistake. This bill is nothing but smoke and mirrors in an effort to implement a misguided and misleading Liberal campaign promise. Under the provisions of this Bill C-2, the most benefits would go to those people making a significant amount of money. Those making over $100,000 a year would be quite happy with the measures that would be brought forward in Bill C-2. However, for those families who are struggling, for those families in Perth—Wellington who are trying to get by on $40,000 or $45,000 a year, this bill would do absolutely nothing.

I said, when I was first elected to this place, that I would try to work collaboratively and co-operatively with all members of this House, but I simply cannot support a measure that is not in the best interests of my constituents. Let us look at my riding of Perth—Wellington and the people who have given me the honour of representing them. Under the provisions of this Liberal bill, as many as 84,000 of my constituents would see no benefit from the bill. Nearly 80% of the residents of my riding would have no tangible benefit from Bill C-2. That is why I am voting against it and why I think all members on this side of the House will be voting against it. We understand that we need to make bills and policy in the best interests of our constituents who have sent us here to speak on their behalf.

My riding is overwhelmingly made up of middle-class Canadians. They are people like Steve and Bettie from Listowel who have three children and are trying to save for their children's education and pay their bills. This bill would do nothing for them, but it would give people making $200,000 a significant tax break. This is wrong.

What is more, Canadians were told during the election campaign that these measures would be revenue neutral. We have found out that this simply is not the case. The parliamentary budget officer said that these Liberal measures would actually add $1.7 billion to the structural deficit that Canada's new Minister of Finance is quickly building.

Where will this $1.7 billion come from? Will the Liberals cut the tax credit for first-time homebuyers? Will they cut the tax credits for families who put their kids in sports and artistic activities? Will they cut tax credits for students or apprentices? We simply do not know, because they have not told us.

It is not just income taxes. Bill C-2 would reduce the contribution limit for tax-free savings accounts for more hard-working Canadian families and seniors. TFSAs have quickly become one of the most effective and popular savings tools. They allow families to save more for a rainy day, whether it is a down payment on a new home, money to make much-needed renovations to their existing home, or to plan for their retirement.

Do not just take my word on it. Experts in the business community recognize the value of a higher contribution limit for the TFSA. In fact, one chief actuary from a well-respected HR firm said, “I think it’s really quite a positive move for retirement security in general...”. Who said that? It was the chief actuary from the Toronto based HR firm Morneau Shepell. I would encourage our finance minister to perhaps talk to his former colleagues about the benefits of the TFSA and the increase in contribution limits for all families.

During this past election, I spoke often about TFSAs and often got the most positive response from young people, those who recognized this was an effective tool for them to save for their future. It is ironic that the Liberal government, which claims to represent the millennial generation, would rather give millennials a selfie than an effective and worthwhile savings tool.

In December, I received an email from a constituent, Tyler, from Mount Forest. He told me the reduction in the TFSA limit would personally affect his ability to save for the future. This is simply not right.

Bill C-2 does nothing to provide meaningful tax relief to the Canadians who actually need it. It leaves way too many Canadians out in the cold. That is why I am proud to vote against the bill and in favour of my constituents in Perth—Wellington who will not benefit from it.

Bill S-4--Time Allocation MotionDigital Privacy ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2015 / 11:40 a.m.
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James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, from 2006, when we first formed government with our first piece of legislation, Bill C-2, and a number of measures since then, we have provided more tools, larger budgets and more responsibilities to independent officers of Parliament in order to hold not only Parliament but also agencies and firms beyond government accountable for their responsibilities and duties to protect Canadians.

This legislation would give the Privacy Commissioner and individual Canadians increased time of up to one year to take an organization to court if it broke the law, instead of the current 45 days. Very often data breaches happen and people may not be informed or may not be fully aware of the consequences that have happened with respect to data breaches and violations of their privacy online.

Currently, there is only a 45-day window when an individual Canadian can take an institution or a firm to court in order to get remedy with respect to the data breach that has taken place. We opened that from 45 days to one year, including empowering the Privacy Commissioner to take action on behalf of Canadians on an individual case or on a broader, more complex file. This is very important.

We want to ensure that the Privacy Commissioner has this kind of power and kind of latitude to take action because 45 days is far too narrow a window. These are the kinds of powers that the Privacy Commissioner asked for, we listened and we have included them in this legislation. This would go a very long way to providing Canadians with greater certainty in a digital world.

Opposition Motion--Prime Minister's OfficeBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 26th, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
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Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I am pleased to rise in the House today to talk about all of the scandals in the Senate, but that is not true. Unless someone is completely disillusioned, there is no way that they would enjoy a situation that proves, without a doubt, that democracy in Canada is slipping away. If it were just the scandal in the Senate, we could clean things up, but that is not the case. We are talking about a few Liberal and Conservative senators, but also the Prime Minister's Office.

The world is watching. I just got back from a trip to Europe, where this was being talked about. Any outsider looking at Canada sees the mayor of Toronto, the Charbonneau commission, the government's backward policies and the senators' inappropriate expenses. Meanwhile, the government is imposing unprecedented austerity measures on families and the RCMP is investigating the Prime Minister's Office.

Seriously, what a mess. The RCMP is investigating the Prime Minister's Office.

“How many criminal investigations are there in your party, Mr. Martin?”

That question must come back to haunt the Prime Minister from time to time. He asked Paul Martin that in a debate before the 2006 election, which he won.

Right back at him, how many criminal investigations are there in his party, his administration?

This party was elected on a platform of transparency. It took advantage of the sponsorship scandal to take power and do something even worse.

Talk about hollow symbolism. The first bill that the party introduced was Bill C-2, which dealt with responsibility and accountability. Ironically, this bill strengthened the Conflict of Interest Act for public office holders, among others, and created the position of Parliamentary Budget Officer. Times change.

Now, we have the same Prime Minister, but he has become arrogant now that his party has a majority. Yes, Mr. Speaker, I said that he is arrogant. Whether that constitutes parliamentary language or not, this man has the arrogance to come before the House, before the parliamentarians who represent all Canadians and the country, and to perjure himself time and time again.

Apparently, “perjure” is too harsh a word because, according to the Speaker's ruling, the Prime Minister supposedly did not deliberately mislead the House of Commons. However, the fact remains that he misled the House. If you do not know, you do not say anything. Period. You do not make things up. This man is much too intelligent not to have deliberately misled the House. That is why the opposition parties are using the tools they have left to ask the Prime Minister to tell the truth once and for all.

Does he still have the moral legitimacy to govern the country and to stand in this House? If he was able to so readily deprive the three senators of their seats, I do not see why he can continue to claim that he deserves to keep his own. Perhaps he thought he was dealing with puppets who feared his influence too much. Whatever our opinion of them may be, Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy are also very influential individuals, and they are certainly not the kind of people you throw under the bus to save your own skin.

The Prime Minister is beginning to realize that. He even had the nerve to go before his supporters in his hometown of Calgary to tell them that Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy failed to abide by the party's standard of ethics and that they acted alone. I am sure everyone believes him.

Even the members of his own caucus have doubts about his version of the facts, particularly since it contradicts the version that Nigel Wright gave to the RCMP. Many people think that Nigel Wright is an ethical person and they are reluctant to believe that he could have orchestrated this whole affair without the Prime Minister's knowledge.

A Conservative member who asked to remain anonymous had this to say to the media:

“The Prime Minister told caucus that Nigel acted alone. But it's clear now that a number of people in the room, including some senators and his chief of staff, knew all about it”.

I doubt very highly that a secret between the chief of staff and a senator—to cover the Prime Minister's behind—could have been known to so many people in the Prime Minister's inner circle without him knowing about it.

They say that the Prime Minister and his entourage knew nothing. Then, all of a sudden, four people knew, then six, seven, thirteen, and so on. Even campaign organizers Jenni Byrne and Doug Finley were in the know. It is unbelievable.

Another backbencher also told La Presse that the Prime Minister would be “done like toast” if new information surfaced indicating that he knew what was happening and had lied to his caucus.

A number of us would ask for his resignation, but I do not believe that to be true.

This has become such a major story that people are calling it Duffygate. I do not necessarily want to make comparisons, but the similarities with the not-so-distant Nixon years are troubling. At the start, no one would have believed that the American president was involved. Instead, fingers were pointed at those around him, in particular his chief of staff, Harry Robbins Haldeman, who resigned. We still do not know if Nigel Wright resigned or was fired.

The American Senate investigated and promised to punish those responsible. It was discovered that the president's inner circle lobbied to have reports regarding the involvement of the president and those around him modified. Nixon's popularity plummeted and people began to consider the likely scenario that he was involved and might have to leave the White House. Next came the impeachment motion, but Nixon resigned in August 1974, before the vote took place and after releasing a recording of his telephone calls that clearly proved his involvement. That was the final blow. Does anyone see any similarities here?

The opposition members are not the only ones who are sick and tired of this. This situation cannot go on. The Prime Minister need not explain himself so much for the opposition members, but to reassure his own caucus, the senators and Canadians in general who are waiting to see whether they can still trust this man.

The fact that the NDP has been fighting for over 30 years to have the Senate abolished is immaterial in this specific instance. The Senate is distracting us from the conversations we might have and the questions we might ask the Prime Minister about his personal ethics, his perception of his role as Prime Minister and his vision of democracy.

We do not share the same views and that is just fine. I can live with that. I have never been afraid to debate my ideas or be confronted about them. However, I thought that at the very least we all believed in the truth. Unfortunately I was wrong.

The journalist I was talking about earlier attended the Conservative Party convention earlier this year. His observation was rather sad:

Yet everyone I spoke to said that the entire Conservative party is unsettled. There is a palpable sense of disillusionment—a feeling that the leader and his staff have forgotten the party was elected on a ticket of accountability and transparency.

The Prime Minister's followers, Conservative supporters, MPs, ministers and senators do not want to believe that he had anything to do with this, and I can understand that. That is what trust is. They love their party and they love their country, and even though I do not share their views, I can see where they are coming from.

When asked about this, Senator Hugh Segal said his loyalty went beyond the Prime Minister.

...our oath to Her Majesty to do what’s right is actually more important than any other politician.

People are not fools. They have given the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt and have been more forgiving of his behaviour than he was himself when it came to the senators he expelled with no regard for the presumption of innocence.

If he is a real leader, then he should go to bat for his team, his caucus and the people who follow him and believe in him.

People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.

A real leader has to have the courage to do that.

EthicsOral Questions

June 6th, 2013 / 2:35 p.m.
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Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.


James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been very clear on this matter. Indeed, it was our government, when we were first elected in 2006, that put forward Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act.

The Liberal Party talks about principled Conservatives. The truth is that Canadians were looking for a principled government, and principled Canadian voters abandoned the Liberal Party.

Opposition Motion—Parliamentary Budget OfficerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2013 / 10:25 a.m.
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Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park for moving this very important motion today.

Like many of the world's democratic countries, in 2008, Canada created an entity to ensure government accountability, in the form of the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. This office, which was created by the Conservatives with the support of all parties, also ensures that parliamentarians are given accurate information about public finances.

The NDP is committed to ensuring that public funds are managed properly and is of the opinion that Canada needs a strong and independent Parliamentary Budget Officer. That is why it is imperative that hon. members support the motion moved by my colleague from Parkdale—High Park, which states:

That this House: (a) reaffirm the essential role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer in providing independent analysis to Parliamentarians on the state of the nation's finances, trends in the Canadian economy, and the estimates process; and (b) call on the government to: (i) extend the mandate of current Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page until his replacement is named; and (ii) support legislation to make the Parliamentary Budget Officer a full, independent officer of Parliament.

Passed in 2006 and supported by all parties, Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act, provides for the creation of the position of Parliamentary Budget Officer, whose role is to provide MPs and parliamentary committees with objective analyses concerning the state of the nation’s finances, trends in the national economy, and the financial cost of proposals under consideration by either House.

Under this legislation, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is also responsible for conducting research on the country's economy and finances, as well as on the government's estimates. On March 14, 2008, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons announced that Kevin Page would be the first person appointed to the position of Parliamentary Budget Officer of Canada for a term of five years. In my opinion, Mr. Page has done a remarkable job of fulfilling the mandate he was given with a team of only 14 people. In the United States, the team is made up of 200 people.

He shed light on some outrageous inaccuracies in government information presented to parliamentarians and Canadians, such as the real cost of the F-35s and the sustainability of the guaranteed income supplement and old age security programs. Mr. Page also proved that Canadians trusted him to carry out his duties and to inform the public about the state of the economy and the manner in which public funds are spent.

Over the course of his brief mandate, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has released over 150 analysis reports, with a budget of only $2.8 million. These reports include a few key reports that helped shed light on important financial details that were nowhere to be found in the government's publications.

One of these key reports was An Estimate of the Fiscal Impact of Canada’s Proposed Acquisition of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. This report revealed that no competitive bid process was held for the F-35s, and that acquiring these jets would not cost $16 billion U.S., but $29.3 billion U.S., nearly double the amount the Conservatives had announced. That is very shameful.

In 2012, the Parliamentary Budget Officer also released a report on old age security, in which he showed that the old age security system was perfectly sustainable, as our NDP colleagues have said time and again. This conclusion was echoed by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, which proved that there was no financial basis for the Conservative government's decision to increase the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67.

In addition to these sporadic reports, the Parliamentary Budget Officer submits periodic reports to Parliament on the country's long-term financial viability. This is an important type of study that helps ensure that young Canadians, like me and other members in the House, do not inherit an economic mess.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer also pointed out that the Department of Finance was unable to specify the intergenerational impact of the budgetary changes, and God knows there have been many budgetary changes here, for example in Bill C-38 and Bill C-45. That is rather worrisome, since another budget will be tabled, and we have no idea what to expect.

These reports are just a few examples of the outstanding work that the Parliamentary Budget Officer and his team have done since the start of his term. In order to reinforce the exceptional work that he has done, we want to ensure that the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer can continue its work uninterrupted.

To that end, we want to see Kevin Page's term extended until a replacement is found. We believe that interrupting his term could severely impact the government's obligation to be accountable. This obligation is all the more crucial given that the government will soon be tabling its annual budget.

For the sake of accountability, it is also crucial that parliamentarians continue to benefit from the financial expertise of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Under no circumstances can we support the elimination of this office. Can the Conservative government confirm in this House that the PBO will be replaced by the end of his term? If not, can the Conservative government assure us that Mr. Page's term will be extended? I have my doubts, because the Conservatives, it seems, have plenty to hide.

This motion also seeks the government's support for legislation to make the Parliamentary Budget Officer a full, independent officer of Parliament. The Conservatives have repeatedly attacked Mr. Page because he has constantly pointed out their fiscal mismanagement in various areas. This should come as no surprise, though, given that the Conservatives attack anyone who dares disagree with them.

For example, the Conservatives got rid of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy because its reports and recommendations were inconsistent with the government's objectives. It was a purely partisan decision, one that was incompetent and irresponsible.

These constant political attacks indicate the need for a strong, independent Parliamentary Budget Officer. The NDP also wants the selection process for the new PBO to be open and transparent. It may be difficult for the Conservatives to be transparent, but we can always hope.

Many Canadians are worried that the government will not fill the position or will appoint someone who is unable, or unwilling, to do the work as clearly, concisely and independently as Mr. Page has done.

It is therefore imperative to remove any ambiguity and inconsistency regarding this position, which is provided for in the Federal Accountability Act. In fact, according to David Good, a professor at the University of Victoria, the confusion resulting from legislation serves only to:

...increase partisanship and the scoring of political points rather than channelling substantive information to elevate the level of debate to assist parliamentarians in the scrutiny of the budget and the estimates.

As a member of the Library of Parliament staff, the Parliamentary Budget Officer does not have the same independence as officers of Parliament. As my colleague said earlier, the Conservatives have sometimes asked the PBO not to table certain reports, which meant that the information in question was not available to parliamentarians—we, the MPs—or to the general public.

Making the PBO an officer of Parliament would give Parliament access to an independent research capacity, thereby improving its access to important information.

The Conservatives claim that the Parliamentary Budget Officer is impartial, so then why are they opposed to the PBO becoming an independent officer of Parliament?

In closing, I urge all members of this House to vote in favour of the motion moved by the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park because Canada needs a strong and independent Parliamentary Budget Officer who will help to ensure the sound management of public funds.

It is important that taxpayers have confidence in the government and in all members of this House and that we assure them that expenditures and revenues are managed in a fair and responsible manner. Canada needs a Parliamentary Budget Officer who will let the facts speak for themselves so that they are not interpreted in one way or another.

The PBO successfully fulfilled his mandate. All parties supported the creation of the Parliamentary Budget Officer position and, if the current government votes against this motion, it will be admitting that it no longer considers fiscal accountability to be a priority. We in the NDP want transparency.

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 5th, 2012 / 9:05 p.m.
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Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. colleague across the way for her collegiality in working together and representing my old hometown of Edmonton, on the south side of Edmonton where I grew up. I know we have the same interest and desire to ensure there is openness and transparency and that the information is available for all parliamentarians, as I mentioned, and for all Canadians.

Specifically, as a committee member free to work on resolutions, the government has clearly stated that we are implementing these as the ones recommended to the committee, where we will discuss them. The ones that have other implications will be passed through other committees.

The bottom line is that we have already implemented several measures for transparency, including via Bill C-2, which came into play in December 2006. We continue to use technology to make information available.

As the member mentioned, in 1998 and 2003 there were two reports tabled and 75 recommendations. Unfortunately, the previous government did not implement these recommendations. We are still moving forward with our plans to ensure open and transparent government and the understanding of government, and after spending nine years in local government—

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 5th, 2012 / 8:50 p.m.
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Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and honour to rise in the House this evening to contribute to this debate on the estimates and supply.

As a member of the government operations committee, I can say we have definitely had a very rigorous and fulsome debate on this issue. I just want to give a brief recap of where the government has come from and where it is going, moving forward in an open and transparent manner.

The supply process of which the estimates are a part is one of the cornerstones of Canada's democratic government. It dates back to the British feudal system and the development of Parliament as a check on the spending authority of the monarch.

Although the system has evolved since then, its overall principle has remained the same. No payments can be made out of the consolidated revenue fund without the authority of Parliament. The legislative process, including supply, is the mechanism through which this authority is given. The supply process is rooted in both law and parliamentary tradition.

Estimates present information in support of supply bills, and while there have been changes to the presentation of estimates over time, there have been only a few changes to their fundamental form and content. These were largely as a result of recommendations from parliamentary committees.

I am pleased this evening to recognize the significance of the committee's work, as well as the significance for parliamentarians of today and the future, who will be better able to serve Canadians as a result of the committee's efforts.

I was especially encouraged by the scope of the study and the range of views and perspectives presented to the committee. As I mentioned, we had a variety of witnesses from across Canada and around the world giving their input and sharing their wisdom and experience.

I believe this shows the complexity of the issues being studied and the approaches to improving them. In short, the committee has taken considerable time and effort to review the evidence, and its effort is a good start to reforming the estimate process.

I would now like to summarize the government's overall response to this report. First of all, we agree with almost all of the recommendations directed to government. As members know, some of the other recommendations were directed to parliamentary committees and the House of Commons, as has been alluded to this evening.

We have taken note of these other recommendations and offered observations or comments where appropriate. Let me elaborate briefly on the recommendations directed to the government.

Recommendation 1 is that the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat complete its study of accrual-based budgeting and appropriations and report back to Parliament by March 31, 2013. We agree. This is consistent with our response to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts report tabled in August 2012.

Recommendation 2 is that the Treasury Board Secretariat transition the estimates and related appropriation acts from the current model to a program activity model—that is, taking the current model and moving to a program activity model. We are going to assist the federal departments with this process and prepare a timeline for this transition by March 31, 2013, and transmit this timeline to our committee.

We consider this to be a very significant recommendation to come from a report, a change in the vote structure, so that estimates align with specific strategic outcomes and program activity spending, providing a clear, traceable line between authorities, strategic outcomes and related program activities. The government is committed to developing and consulting on a cost-effective means of implementing this recommendation.

Recommendation 7 is that the government identify separately, in the main estimates and the supplementary estimates, all new funding that is included in the votes and that it be cross-referenced to the appropriate budget source.

Once again the government agrees. We will identify new programs that are receiving first-time funding in the main estimates and the supplementary estimates with the appropriate source of funds from the fiscal framework.

Recommendation 12 is that the departments and agencies include tax expenditures in the reports on plans and priorities, as determined by the Secretariat, to best fit their mandate.

Currently, the expenditures are included in the Department of Finance's tax expenditures and evaluations report. We agree in principle with this recommendation. We are offering a little different approach in the sense that tax expenditures are the responsibility of the Minister of Finance. The allocation of tax expenditures to other departments could be subject to interpretation. Tax expenditures are estimated on the basis of the calendar year, not the fiscal year. We have to make sure there is an understanding that one is based on the calendar year and the other on the fiscal year.

The government believes that information on tax expenditures should not be included in the reports on plans and priorities of other departments and agencies.

Having said that, to give parliamentarians a broader perspective on government expenses, the government will coordinate the release of the tax expenditures and evaluations publication with that of the main estimates on or around March 1 of each year. We will also add a reference with a hyperlink to the tax expenditures and evaluations publication in departments' RPPs. This will include a note indicating that the tax measures in the publication are the sole responsibility of the Minister of Finance and directing Department of Finance officials to provide briefings on the publication at the committee's request. As the committee recommends, Department of Finance officials will update the committee.

Recommendations 4, 5 and 16 are linked. Recommendation 4 is that departments' reports on plans and priorities, otherwise known as RPPs, should contain financial information by program activity for three previous fiscal years and three future years. We are looking at three past and three forward, giving the committee a good perspective and parliamentarians an understanding of the six-year time span. The government agrees with this recommendation. This information should be made more readily available. The secretariat will also look at the electronic presentation of the reports on plans and priorities.

Recommendation 5 is that the reports on plans and priorities include an explanation of any changes in planned spending over time and any of the variances between planned and actual results by fiscal year, as available. Once again, we agree. The secretariat will provide guidance to departments to enhance the appropriate sections of the reports on plans and priorities and the departmental performance reports.

Recommendation 16 is that the government develop a searchable online database that contains information on departmental spending by type of expense and program. We agree.

Recommendations 4, 5 and 16 are also linked to our open government initiative. Open government is about sharing government information with Canadians. Therefore, the recommendations are timely. There are widespread possibilities for the use of open data to support the desire among stakeholders for better information on estimates and supply.

Once again, it only makes sense that we should take advantage of technology and recent initiatives to do that. I must say that the President of the Treasury Board has been a strong advocate already in many ways of implementing technology to help put this information online and make it more accessible, not only for parliamentarians but for all Canadians.

In short, the government agrees or agrees in principle with all but one of the recommendations directed to it. We disagree with the recommendation regarding the establishment of a fixed tabling date of February 1 for the budget. As a member of the committee, there was a lot of debate on this particular issue and, in the opinion of the government, this would restrict the government's flexibility to respond to global and domestic economic conditions. I understand flexibility is needed especially during these uncertain times globally, with the fiscal crisis that we have come through and uncertain times in the future.

In many cases, these global and domestic imperatives play a determining role in decisions related to budget timing and the government should not be bound by arbitrary dates that constrain its ability to respond to a dynamic economic environment. This is not a partisan issue. It is in the best interests of whichever party is governing our country at the time to make it sure has the flexibility required to make the best decisions for the specific economic situation at the time, at home and around the world.

The report also contains many recommendations directed to other organizations, including standing committees, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the House of Commons, where we are this evening, which is not within our purview to comment on. This speaks to the thoroughness of this work and the wide perspective with which the committee carried out its review.

Overall, our agreement with most of the recommendations directed to the government is a positive result. It is a testament, I believe, to the committee working very co-operatively, as alluded to by previous speakers, with the desire to improve the system and to the government's commitment to advancing accountability and transparency in our public institutions. It also speaks to the ability of parliamentarians to work together across party lines for the good of Canada.

Strengthening accountability and transparency was part of the government's promise to Canadians when we were first elected in 2006. January 23, 2006, as a matter of fact, was when I was first elected. The platform was accountability and transparency and we brought in Bill C-2 in that year, the toughest legislation on accountability. We continue to move forward as an open and transparent government. We have not wavered from that commitment and have been hard at work since then. I will provide a few examples.

One of the first things we did after coming into power was bring in the Federal Accountability Act, Bill C-2, and its accompanying action plan. When the legislation received royal assent in December 2006, we immediately acted to reduce the influence of money in elections. As a result, a law prohibiting contributions to political parties by corporations, unions and organizations and lowering the limit on individuals' political contributions came into force on June 12 of that year.

We also gave the government watchdog, the Auditor General, additional powers. Only individuals could contribute. Unions and corporations were prohibited.

If we look at our friends to the south, it is just a mess down there the way the money has taken over. It was such a prudent decision by the government that we brought this in and brought some reasonableness to the debate that happens during our elections across Canada.

We made deputy ministers the accounting officers who must appear before parliamentary committees as accounting officers accountable for the management of their departments.

We put in place measures to provide Canadians with broader and better access to more information from public organizations than ever before.

We extended the Access to Information Act to cover the Canadian Wheat Board, five foundations, five agents of Parliament, and most crown corporations and their wholly owned subsidiaries.

We also introduced measures to strengthen ethical conduct in the public service.

We conducted open and extensive consultations with lobbyists and Canadians related to regulations on the Lobbying Act to ensure that lobbying and government advocacy is done fairly and openly.

We brought into force the Conflict of Interest Act and named a Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner so that Canadians had the opportunity to voice their concerns about unethical behaviour in government and to hold violators accountable.

To give these accountability measures teeth, we introduced new criminal penalties and sanctions for anyone who commits fraud against the Crown, as consequences for their actions, which is only appropriate.

All these reforms helped restore Canadians' trust in our public institutions. However, we did not stop there. We also committed to ensuring that parliamentarians have the information they need to consider estimates and supply bills. We have already taken steps to improve financial reporting and to support parliamentary scrutiny of estimates and supplies.

We have amended the Financial Administration Act to include quarterly financing reporting. This ensures that parliamentarians and Canadians have access to information on government spending on a timely basis.

Financial data sets are now being posted on the Treasury Board Secretariat website and the Open Data portal. The President of the Treasury Board is very aggressive in this matter and wants to use technology to ensure that the information is available to all parliamentarians and Canadians.

In addition, the form and content of reports on plans and priorities and departmental performance reports have been continually improved. Departments and agencies now post their reports of total annual expenditures for travel, hospitality and conferences on their websites. This is on top of other transparency measures already in place, such as proactive disclosure of travel and hospitality expenditures for ministers, ministerial staff and senior government officials detailed in the Public Accounts of Canada.

Let me add that the government has strengthened these internal audit policies and standards and has worked with the audit community to support professional development and capacity. As a result, we have a professional, independent appraisal function in place.

Heads of departments and agencies have to ensure that completed internal audit reports are issued in a timely manner, made accessible to the public and posted on the departmental websites for the public to see. I know it is hard to believe that this was not required in the past. We are holding department heads accountable. In fact, we have been recognized by the Office of the Auditor General for the significant progress made in improving the quality of internal audit across the public service.

Our record on advancing accountability and transparency in Canada's public institutions speaks for itself. We have bolstered parliamentary oversight of organizations, strengthened the rules and tightened scrutiny of government expenditures.

The agreed to recommendations from this committee will do even more to strengthen the understanding of government expenditures.

To fulfill the estimates' time-honoured purpose, such changes are necessary and welcome.

In closing, I once again congratulate the committee for working so hard to improve a process that is at the very heart of Canada's parliamentary democracy. It has been an honour and a privilege to be part of the committee, working together very collegially and in a non-partisan way. I thank the members for their efforts. I look forward to implementing many of the recommendations and to continuing to advance accountability and transparency in the government as these recommendations work through our government operations committee and other committees throughout the House of Commons.

Government Operations and EstimatesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 5th, 2012 / 8:20 p.m.
See context


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I begin my speech this evening, I have to say that I have never seen a situation in the House where the government essentially sends in one player to rag the puck on a debate that is of such fundamental importance to Canadians, which is the tax dollars that are sent to Ottawa and how that money gets spent. Fundamentally, it is about the democratic process and democratic accountability. It is clear from the speech and the response to questions we have just heard by the government member that the Conservatives do not want to talk about accountability. It is especially shocking given that we are here tonight debating a report that was recommended by all parties at the committee stage.

To now have a motion calling for this report to be sent back to the committee for further study really does a disservice to all of the hard work done by the committee, to all of the witnesses who appeared before it, to all of the work done preparing the report and to the seriousness with which I know my colleagues on this side of the House take this subject. The subject is, of course, the tax dollars Canadians send in, how the money is spent and how it is accounted for.

The estimates we deal with here in Parliament are significant sums of money. We are talking about $254 billion of Canadians' tax dollars. Of that amount, $160 billion is committed through statutory agreements, but $94 billion worth of Canadians' tax dollars is what Parliamentarians debate and decide on. That is what we are talking about this evening with respect to this report on financial accountability. It is about how we account for this money in a way that is organized, clear and task-specific so that, when members of Parliament are representing their constituents and looking at the estimates, we know clearly and precisely what it is we are talking about.

Budgets are about how money gets spent. That is what the estimates detail. It is about the decisions government makes. An example is the fact that we continue to have a number of people who are unemployed, a level 25% higher than before the recession started, with 1.4 million still out of work. The fact that we still have these people facing a human crisis every day is certainly of concern to Parliamentarians and something we should be dealing with through the estimates process, especially when only 40% of Canadians are able to even get the employment insurance benefits that they and their employers have paid for through premiums. Therefore, how we deal with unemployment is one area of concern.

Another concern is whether or not we are investing in infrastructure and transit. In my city of Toronto, the Board of Trade estimates that lack of transit investment is a $6 billion drag on the economy of our region, which is especially shocking given that the direct and indirect benefits of transit investment would create hundreds of thousands of construction jobs, not to mention the general importance to our economy, our environment and the daily lives of Canadians.

Whether or not we are spending money on other kinds of infrastructure and whether or not we are providing affordable housing is of concern. My area, the GTA, delivers about 20% of Canada's GDP, but it is increasingly becoming an unaffordable place to live. A decision was made by the government not to invest in affordable housing, even though it would have created many new jobs for Canadians and made life more affordable.

All of these decisions are important for parliamentarians to review through the estimates process, and it is fundamentally the work of parliamentarians. I commend the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates for the work it has done. There are a number very positive recommendations in this report, which generally we in our party supported. We want to see adequate information, because we do not have a lot of time to assess the estimates that are given to us. One of the recommendations is about providing more time to parliamentarians, but making the whole process more coherent, providing clearer, more consistent, more reliable information so any member of Parliament could have a common reference point to study the spending plans of the government. That is certainly something very basic that all Canadians expect of us.

There are many positive recommendations in this report and a terrific amount of hard work that has been done. It is astonishing that the Conservatives want to send this report back again to the committee. They want to rag the puck just as they are doing tonight in this House by not treating this report seriously. That sends the message to Canadians that the Conservatives do not treat the spending of their tax dollars seriously and they are basically saying they have noblesse oblige, that whatever they decide is up to them and that parliamentarians and therefore Canadians should not be able to provide adequate scrutiny.

There is one area in which the report is sadly deficient, and this again fundamentally comes down to transparency and accountability, and that is in the role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. It is well known that the Parliamentary Budget Officer's position was created in order to provide transparency and accountability and to ensure there was an independent analysis of the financial numbers that are before members of Parliament, taken out of the politics of the daily cut and thrust of Parliament.

When this position was created under the Federal Accountability Act, Bill C-2 at the time, it was touted by the government as doing just that. It was to prevent some of the problems of previous governments, whereby spending was overestimated, deficits were overestimated and then at the end of the year we were able to see that the numbers were not very accurate all along. It was also important in the wake of the sponsorship scandal that there be this kind of more stringent accountability. The position of the Parliamentary Budget Officer was created, and it was a significant step forward that we supported.

However, what we were calling for, and continue to call for today and have recommended in this report, is that the Parliamentary Budget Officer's position be as an independent officer along the lines of the Auditor General, so that the Parliamentary Budget Officer could have full access to all the information that he or she would need to conduct the work of the PBO. It is a shocking state of affairs today that the PBO has been driven to the point of saying he needs to take the government to court to get the basic financial information he needs from government departments to do his job.

I have introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-381, calling for the Parliamentary Budget Officer to be made an independent officer of Parliament, like the Auditor General, so he would have full access to the resources and numbers he needs and the full authority to do his job in the way that I believe Canadians expected when this position was first created.

I thank my colleague for Ottawa Centre who, prior to my introducing this bill, had introduced a similar bill calling for the independence of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. It was a groundbreaking position when it was created, but the position has failed to have the full authority the PBO needs to do the job.

It is not just New Democrats who are saying this. We had excellent testimony, before the committee, making this recommendation. I would like to quote one of the witnesses, Dr. David Good, Professor, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria, who said:

First, I would make the Parliamentary Budget Officer a full agent of Parliament to assist parliamentarians and committees. I think the role and mandate of the Parliamentary Budget Officer needs to be clarified and strengthened by making the office legislatively separate and independent of the Library of Parliament, thereby operating as a full agent of Parliament. A confused mandate, which I think we've had since its creation, only serves to increase partisanship and the scoring of political points rather than channelling substantive information to elevate the level of debate to assist parliamentarians in the scrutiny of the budget and the estimates. As a full agent of Parliament, the Parliamentary Budget Officer would have authority to have greater access to documentation.

That is exactly what my private member's bill would do. However, we do not need a private member's bill to make this change for the Parliamentary Budget Officer. It could be included as a recommendation to this report. We have added it as a supplementary recommendation. It ought to be included, and the government can make that a reality.

The current mandate of the PBO includes providing independent research and analysis to government on the government's estimates and financial management. In fact, it has been the PBO that has had groundbreaking reports that have been more accurate than the government's own numbers.

A case in point is the work the PBO did on the F-35s. It was through his office, as opposed to the government, that parliamentarians first became aware that the cost estimates by the government for the F-35 procurement program were wildly off the mark, to the tune of billions of dollars. It was the PBO who alerted Parliament, and therefore Canadians, that this was a problem. The accounting the government was providing to Canadians was very different from its own internal accounting by billions of dollars. In fact, it was the PBO's numbers that were accurate, and the numbers the government was issuing publicly were not.

Similarly, there was the PBO's costing of the impact of the government's crime bills and what they would mean in terms of greater costs for the criminal justice system and greater costs for provinces due to greater incarceration rates. The PBO's numbers have, in fact, been more accurate in that regard.

In the accounting for our military engagements, the PBO has been very helpful as well.

When the Parliamentary Budget Officer comes before the finance committee, he is able to tell us more accurately, and I believe more frankly than the government, the impact of budget decisions. For example, when the PBO came before the finance committee this spring to talk about the impact of the government's budget, he told the finance committee that the austerity decisions, the cuts being made to programs and services by the government, would be a drag on the overall economy, would lead to greater unemployment and would reduce the GDP of Canada.

Sadly, that is what has been happening where governments have been pursuing austerity measures in countries around the world. We are seeing Europeans belatedly coming to the realization that many of the cuts they are making to budgets are creating more of a drag on their economies and increasing unemployment in those areas.

The PBO has been very frank and very helpful, and for his efforts he has been the target of significant criticism and attack by government members. When the PBO came before the finance committee, government members have been excessively aggressive and dismissive, which is unfortunate because of the valuable information he has been able to provide.

We just heard from a professor from the University of Victoria. There are other witnesses who gave similar testimony. We heard from Dr. Joachim Werner, associate professor of public policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. His recommendation was:

—to protect and enhance the role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer. A number of countries are creating similar institutions, and the Parliament in Canada has really been at the cusp of this development. Internationally, the Parliamentary Budget Officer of Canada is very highly regarded, and it's certainly a major change, in my view, at least, in the degree the parliament in Canada has access to an independent, highly professional research capacity.

He was very complimentary. However, he said:

I believe that some adjustments are possible to the legal framework for the Parliamentary Budget Officer. In particular, this role could be strengthened, or the status be strengthened, if he were a full officer of Parliament.

In that regard, we on this side have recommended that the government take immediate action to make the Parliamentary Budget Officer an officer of Parliament, and further that the Parliamentary Budget Officer be mandated to report to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates with respect to its estimates work.

We believe that this would help parliamentarians. It would help Canadians understand estimates. It would help us understand the budget process and it would enable the PBO to do the job that Canadians expect him to do and that he is endeavouring to do today. However, if he has to go to court to get the information he needs, then clearly something is broken in the process.

I see I do not have a lot of time left, but in concluding I note a section of the report from the committee that talks about the underlying principles of Canadian parliamentary financial procedures, going back to the days of the Magna Carta signed by King John of England in 1215. Basically it was recognized that when aid or supplies were required, the king needed to seek consent, not only to impose a tax but also for the manner in which the revenues from that tax would be spent. They proclaimed later on in 1295 that “what touches all should be approved by all”.

We contend that in order to be approved by all, it needs to be understood by all. Canadians need to know what we are debating, what the numbers represent, what the full significance is of the estimates in order to do our jobs and in order to be approved by all.