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.

Sponsor

John Baird  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

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.”

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2016 / 2:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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.
See context

Conservative

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.
See context

NDP

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.
See context

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

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.
See context

NDP

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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Conservative

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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Conservative

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.
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NDP

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.

April 2nd, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.
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Former Clerk of the House of Commons, As an Individual

Robert Marleau

I don't want to attribute motives to it. At the time, when Parliament had Bill C-2 before it and I appeared as a witness, I said that it was at the wrong place and that part of the mandate was missing. If you want Parliament or the House of Commons to have elements that contribute to the government's obligation to be accountable, it is not in the formula that it is....

We can chase F-35s any time; that's glamourous. But having to respond to a committee report asking you to do a specific job and a specific analysis, say over a five-year plan, would be more effective.

April 2nd, 2012 / 3:30 p.m.
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Robert Marleau Former Clerk of the House of Commons, As an Individual

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I don't have a formal presentation. I just made a few notes. You have an hour, so I thought I would spare you the Magna Carta evolution of supply. However, if you want, though, I gave some of that testimony to the precursors of this committee in September 1995 and February 1997. I'm sure your very adept researchers can quickly find that evidence, which summarizes the evolution of the business of supply since Confederation.

For today, what I thought I would do is address a couple of the issues or trends that I've seen emerging from the testimony you've already adduced from expert witnesses, academics, and otherwise, and from the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

Maybe what I'm now calling a couple of myths need to be demystified, and I also have a proposal for you, a very practical proposal that is doable within the existing Standing Orders. It comes in two parts, one with no money and one with new money. I know that new money is a delicate thing these days, but I believe that it might even be a sound investment.

First of all,

the testimony provided by Professor Franks, Mr. Wehner and the Parliamentary Budget Officer basically seem to revolve around the perception that members have insufficient information, that the information they do have is irrelevant and that the members' ability to consider the information submitted to Parliament is limited.

The second point raised is the following. Budgetary estimates are tabled on March 1. Everything is deemed adopted by May 31, at the latest. However, Parliament is adjourned for three weeks during that period, leaving the committee very little time for an expenditure review. That said, analyses have been conducted on the flexibility the executive branch gave itself recently in terms of approving vote transfers.

First let me address the deemed reporting issue. I know that Mr. McCallum recently has written an article in the Canadian Parliamentary Review and recommends that the standing order be changed.

The deemed reporting concept in the Standing Orders is one of balance. To simply remove it would throw the whole supply process out of balance, because when it was adopted in 1968 as an interim standing order, and then in the early seventies as a permanent standing order, with it came 25 supply days as a trade-off to the opposition: 25 days where the opposition could set down a motion—some of them of confidence and some of them not—and set the agenda. That was the compensation for having lost those supply days in the committee of the whole.

In return, the government was guaranteed its supply by no later than June 30. That was the trade-off. To now remove that and not reconsider the other I think would throw the whole supply process out of balance.

The other what I'll call a myth—and I don't want to offend anybody at the table, Mr. Chairman—is that the documents you get are not complete or are not enough. Well, I think they are. I think it's plenty. I think the improvements that were made in the eighties, and the progressive tinkering at the margins with the concepts of plans and priorities reports, the departmental performance reports, combined with the tabling of the estimates, if you want, at a high level on March 1....

Those reports, read together—all three parts—are more than enough. I've been on the drafting side of plans and priorities reports and I've had to argue with Treasury Board about program architecture and all that kind of stuff. It is quite detailed, and maybe too detailed in some cases, but I think you have all the information that is required to do a proper study of the estimates.

The other myth is the fact that committees cannot make reports on estimates to the House with substantive recommendations. The PBO referred to a 1979 ruling that changed this. Actually, it wasn't 1979; it was June 18, 1973, and it was by Speaker Lamoureux, who said for the first time on estimates that committees have only inherited the old powers of the Committee of Supply to adopt, negative, or reduce, and therefore a substantive recommendation in a report was out of order, since the Committee of Supply didn't have that power.

However, that ruling is moot now, in my view, because you have Standing Order 108. If you look at Standing Order 108, you'll see that all the expenditure plans of the government, by department, are permanently before the committee, yours and the others. So as for saying that now you cannot make substantive recommendations to the government on matters of expense or supply, you might not be able to do it within a report on the estimates, but you have ample access to make all the recommendations you like. So anyone who is now hanging on to that Speaker's ruling of 1973 I think is dated, if I can put it that way.

Finally, there is the PBO. You will remember this, Mr. Chairman, because you were on that committee when Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act, was before committee. I was invited as an expert witness. I wasn't very supportive of the PBO concept. I think I called it “congressional creep” when you have a tendency to want to borrow, out of other political cultures and other constitutional cultures, elements that we think may fit.

I caution you about Australia and New Zealand on that when you hear your witnesses next week, who are my two very good friends, Harry Evans and David McGee. Those are different political cultures. You have a senate that is elected by proportional representation in Australia, and you have a unicameral system in New Zealand, and a very transparent style of government in terms of access to information, cabinet confidences, and all that sort of thing.

The PBO, I argued at the committee, should have an estimates mandate, and the committee agreed. Indeed, the act was amended, and it was given an estimates mandate. I don't think it has done much with it, and I don't think committees have done much in terms of exploiting it.

So there is a bit of a congressional influence there, without the money, without the size, and without the staff. Again, it is in the Library, and in the wrong place, as far as I'm concerned, as I said at the time.

Those are the myths I wanted to put on the table and hopefully give you some insight on my thinking, which is that I don't believe they are impediments to the study of estimates.

If I may, I'll make a proposal. It comes from something I haven't seen in your committee document. It's an article written by two former MPs, Ron Huntington and Claude-André Lachance, back in the early eighties, when this very study was going on and following some 10 to 12 years of experience with the estimates going to all committees. They came up with a couple of concepts about macro-estimates committees, which would be charged with just that. My proposal to you flows from there.

MPs are spenders; they're not savers. You all come here because you have an agenda. Very few of you got elected with the promise that you would reduce the estimates of the government.

It's a challenge for the average MP to get into the estimates, when going in, at the front end, you can't do anything much about them. You can reduce them or you can negative them. So over the last 40 years, MPs have given up. The opening line of the last report, in 2003, from the Alcock committee, was a quote from me, which basically said that I felt that the House had abandoned its constitutional responsibility to review supply. I didn't know they were going to use that as the opening line, but they did.

Here is what I'm proposing. This committee should get a new mandate, an expanded mandate. It should be called something else. It could keep government operations as part of its title, but I think it should be called the appropriations committee. The mandate should be in the Standing Orders, and in the Standing Orders, there should be an instruction to this committee to table in the House, within 60 days of its appointment, a five-year plan of study and review of government appropriations and estimates.

You have to look to the past to make sense of what is being proposed. You can't say that the estimates just evaporate once they're deemed reported. They don't. They're there. They exist, and you have access to them.

The composition of the committee should be made permanent. Now, let's be realistic. There are only 308 MPs. There are too many committees and not enough MPs. There are not enough committee rooms. There are all kinds of issues. There's the block system, whereby you can only meet twice a week and you can't meet out of your.... Those are all impediments that are not necessarily relevant today, but they contribute to it.

The whips are the major problem in committees and have been since the nineties, when the Liberals returned to power. Mr. Mulroney was much more generous with power for committees and their membership. Some of you may remember Don Blenkarn, who was chair of the finance committee for years and years. When they tried to take him out, there was a revolt in the House, and not just by the opposition.

The membership should be made permanent. By that I mean it should be for the duration of a session, and the whips should not be allowed to intervene. The chair should be elected for the duration of the Parliament, as the Deputy Speaker is. The Deputy Speaker is elected for the duration of the Parliament.

The chairs should come from the opposition, as it is, and the vice-chairs should come from the government. The vice-chairs should be appointed for the duration of Parliament as well. That way, over time, if the House switches sides, you have experience in vice-chairs on one side of the House and experience in chairs on the other side of the House, and there could be continuity in the role of that committee.

They should have the usual powers to send papers and persons to report to the House with recommendations, and they should have the power to appoint subcommittees. Each vice-chair could have a subcommittee of his or her own as part of the five-year review plan. That plan would be published and tabled in the House. The bureaucracy would know exactly what's coming down the pipe in terms of macro-studies.

Concurrently, the estimates every year would be referred to the committees for the usual round of the review of supply process.

The statutory instruments committee—some of you may not have discovered this yet—has access to the House for debate every Wednesday at one o'clock. It doesn't happen very often. They have the power to revoke a regulation. The minister shows up, committee of the whole style, and he must explain why he will not revoke that regulation. If he doesn't show up, it's automatically revoked.

So you have an hour that would not interfere with government time. It's there, from 1:00 to 2:00. It's committee time. It's never used. This committee should have access to that hour, and your reports with recommendations should be subject, mano-a-mano with the minister on the floor, committee of the whole style—not 40 bureaucrats, but maybe the deputy minister sitting in front of his minister advising him—as to why the government accepts or doesn't accept the recommendations of a particular study.

There could be a vote. It doesn't have to be confidence, but there could be a vote. And it's deferrable anyway, so there's no surprise to the government. That way, I think, you would revitalize the process, bring MPs back into it in terms of an interest. Bring the minister in on it. Most ministers come to committee on estimates, make a perfunctory statement, and then they turn it over to the accounting officer, deputy minister, and you may never see the minister again.

The PBO should be the core staff of this committee. The PBO should be moved out of the library into the committees branch, and made a full-fledged officer of the House. Half of his budget—whatever it is today, I have no idea—should be spendable by this committee on studies, and the other half by other committees on estimates, as they apply for it. Take it out of the reach of the Liaison Committee, which has just become a tool for the whip to control where committees are going and how much they're spending, and not just in this government. The previous government did the same thing, going back to the Chrétien days.

The Board of Internal Economy just cut $3.8 million out of committee spending, and that's too bad. It's tragic, particularly that the Gagliano plan in the 1990s cut out $4 million. So it's not just one government here. There's an evolution. There's at least $12 million of missing money in committee spending over the last decade, which could be spent on things like the PBO and committee study of estimates.

This first part is all doable in the Standing Orders. You don't have to ask the government's permission to do this. All you have to do is change it. It takes leadership on the government leader's side, but it's all standing order changes. You don't have to go back and change the bureaucracy's performance, the budget timing.... All of that is doable in the Standing Orders.

If you want to put some new money in it, pay the chairman the same as the deputy speaker. If the chairperson is going to be there for the duration of the Parliament, there's only one way—

Opposition Motion—Elections Canada ActBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 8th, 2012 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on the motion brought forward by the NDP member for Hamilton Centre.

I would like to begin by stating that as the government that brought in the Federal Accountability Act bringing lasting and significant change to address accountability in government, we are not opposed at all to this motion. Our government fully supports transparency and accountability. It is for this reason that we in the Conservative Party have been open in making all of our records available to Elections Canada officials as they get to the bottom of allegations made in Guelph. Such actions as were alleged in Guelph are unacceptable and we will continue to do all we can to assist Elections Canada investigators.

However, the opposition parties are using this motion to yet again continue their baseless smear campaign with more unsubstantiated attacks in the House of Commons as well as in the media. Over the course of the debate today, they have made, and I am sure they will continue to make, more false allegations and launch more smears against Conservative MPs and candidates, and what is worse, the volunteers and supporters of our great party. It continues to be clear that those members do not have any information on which to base their attacks. Indeed, it is hearsay.

I would like to use my time today to speak about government action that brings true accountability and not to continue a baseless smear campaign for political advantage.

When I speak of accountability, our government is one of accountability. In 2006 when we first came to power, it was on a promise to bring back accountability to the way government works. That is exactly what we have done.

One of the first major pieces of legislation that our government brought forward was the Federal Accountability Act. In fact, I know Bill C-2 was the first bill brought forward by our government in 2006. The act, and its action plan, was one of the most comprehensive initiatives ever undertaken to address accountability in government and it has made lasting and significant changes to the way government works.

We strengthened and streamlined how government works in our country while making it more effective and more accountable to Canadian voters. Our actions helped to earn back the trust of Canadians in their government institutions. The Federal Accountability Act amended 46 existing statutes and created two new ones. Some of these changes came into force at royal assent on December 12, 2006, while others were subject to coming into force dates set out in the act or established by order in council.

The introduction of Bill C-2 was accompanied by the federal accountability action plan which organized the various elements of the Federal Accountability Act along 14 themes. As well, it set out related policy initiatives. We reformed the financing of political parties along with donation limits. We banned secret political donations, although the NDP has since elected to take some of those, it appears. We strengthened the role of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and the Auditor General. We toughened the Lobbyists Registration Act and cleaned up government polling and advertising. We strengthened access to information legislation bringing crown corporations under the access to information legislation, as well as auditing and accountability within departments.

The record very clearly shows our Conservative government does not just believe in open government, we in fact have provided open, transparent and accountable government for each and every Canadian. Ours indeed is a government of accountability.

With respect to the current situation, since Elections Canada began looking into reports from the media and other sources about a specific case in the riding of Guelph, our government and the Conservative Party of Canada have been open and transparent with all of our records, making them available to Elections Canada so as to assist in its investigation. The Conservative Party did not organize or know about any such activities in the riding, but the opposition continues to launch baseless smear campaigns against our party. If the opposition members truly wanted to support Elections Canada and its work in this specific case, they would do as we have done and provide all of their records related to calls they made during the last election: absolute transparency.

Both parties opposite spent millions of dollars on hundreds of thousands phone calls during the last election, and they have thus far refused to disclose these details to Elections Canada officials. Why is this not their top priority instead of continuing their baseless smear campaign? Canadians need to ask themselves that very essential question. If any untoward behaviour is uncovered, the Conservative Party of Canada demands that all those responsible be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

As for the motion before the House today, to have the government table legislative amendments which would strengthen the powers of the Chief Electoral Officer in the wake of these exaggerated allegations, I am not opposed. However, it must be said that the Conservative Party of Canada has provided all of our information to Elections Canada to assist it so we can get to the bottom of what has happened in the investigation going on in Guelph. We do this willingly. There is currently nothing preventing the NDP or Liberal Party from giving over their own information willingly to Elections Canada officials. As the Prime Minister has stated, we have been very clear about the Conservative Party of Canada's activities. All the calls made by the Conservative Party are documented. All of those records are available to Elections Canada. We will be looking forward with great interest to see what documents exist on the NDP's and Liberal Party's telephone activities during the campaign.

The Conservative Party of Canada ran a clean and ethical campaign and would never tolerate such activities as have been alleged by the parties opposite. The Conservative Party was not involved with these fake calls in Guelph. If anyone on a local campaign was involved, he or she will not play a role in a future campaign. Voter suppression is extremely serious and if anything improper occurred, those responsible should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The job of a political party, and indeed our job as politicians, in a campaign is to get voters out to the polls. We do not engage in voter suppression.

However, the exaggerated allegations and baseless smear campaign which the opposition parties continue to press demean the millions of voters who cast legitimate votes in the last election. The opposition paid millions of dollars to make hundreds of thousands of phone calls during the last campaign. Before they continue with these baseless smears, opposition members should prove their own callers were not behind these reports.

The motion before the House lays out three points: Elections Canada investigation capabilities be strengthened, to include giving the Chief Electoral Officer the power to request all necessary documents from political parties to ensure compliance with the Elections Act; all telecommunication companies that provide voter contact services during a general election must register with Elections Canada; and all clients of telecommunication companies during a general election have their identity registered and verified. The Conservative Party is thus far the only party that has documented all calls during the campaign and made all of those records available to Elections Canada. Why are we the only ones who have done this? Yet the opposition members continue to run a baseless smear campaign against our government, launching false allegations against dozens of Conservative MPs and candidates.

I would like to take a few moments to address some of the facts in the opposition's allegations.

After weeks of unsubstantiated attacks in this place and in the media, it is clear that it has no information to back up its claims in this smear campaign. Canadians rejected this type of mud slinging in the last election.

In the case of the electoral district of Guelph, as has been stated previously, the Conservative Party of Canada has made available to Elections Canada all information in regard to our calls made during the campaign. It is obvious that the Conservative Party was not involved with the alleged calls in that riding. If something improper did occur, we expect that those responsible will be fully held to account.

The NDP and the Liberal Party have made a number of new allegations about similar deliberately misleading calls made in other ridings during the last election, in which we, the Conservative Party of Canada, categorically deny any involvement. However, when the interim Leader of the Opposition was asked eight times for evidence on CBC's Power and Politics, she was unable to provide any evidence at all. We have heard that from the member for Timmins—James Bay. We have heard it from the interim leader of the Liberal Party. They have no evidence. They are simply throwing out baseless allegations.

The NDP claim that South Shore—St. Margaret's received fraudulent calls. However, the NDP riding association president, Wolfgang Ziemer said it is not true. He said, “There's just no way that I can add any fuel to this fire, if there is a fire. I have no idea how the riding got on” the list.

The Liberals claim that Wellington—Halton Hills received fraudulent calls, but the Liberal candidate said it is not true. “Barry Peters said he doesn't recall hearing about any suspicious calls either while out door-knocking nor back at the office”. That was reported on Global News on Thursday, March 1.

The Liberals have claimed that in some ridings Liberal supporters received calls at inconvenient times that could be described as harassing from people who identified themselves as calling from the Liberal Party of Canada. However, the Liberal Party paid millions of dollars to make these calls and hired firms to say these exact scripts to Canadians, but the Liberals have not yet released the scripts, nor have they provided their call records. We have to ask why.

In the Liberal campaign in Haldimand—Norfolk, Bob Speller complained that harassing calls were being made on his behalf late at night, but his campaign paid First Contact $4,062 to make calls. The Liberal candidate in Niagara Falls, Bev Hodgson, has complained that harassing calls were made on her behalf at night. Her campaign paid First Contact $11,300. The same goes for the Sydney—Victoria Liberal candidate, Mark Eyking. His campaign paid First Contact $11,753.

There is a pattern here: First Contact, First Contact, First Contact.

The Liberals have claimed these calls originated in the U.S., but the Liberal Party is the party that sourced its voter phone calls from the U.S. during the last election. A CBC investigation conducted during the campaign traced some of these calls, the calls that the Liberals have been complaining about, back to Liberal-affiliated call centres. The CBC traced these calls back to Liberal-affiliated call centres.

Let us not forget that this is the same Liberal Party that recently revealed that one of its own backroom operatives, Adam Carroll, was behind a dirty, sleazy, underhanded campaign of vicious, anonymous smears against the Minister of Public Safety. Yet this is just the latest in a long history of shady Liberal practices that indeed harm our democracy.

During the 2011 election, Liberals were caught and charged for stealing opponents' election signs, a violation of the Elections Act. Also during the 2011 election, Joe Volpe and a campaign worker were caught taking Green Party literature directly from people's mailboxes. It is ironic that Mr. Carroll, as I mentioned earlier, the one who committed the dirty, sleazy, underhanded attack campaign against the Minister of Public Safety, also happened to work on Mr. Volpe's campaign.

In 2004 the Liberal Party had callers running a push-poll, and you might remember this, Mr. Speaker, asking about how people felt about the Conservatives being taken over by right-wing Christians. It was outrageous. Actions like this even made Liberals like the current member for Scarborough—Guildwood condemn their party's activities.

We must not forget the sponsorship scandal where Liberals admitted taking envelopes filled with cash, which were never reported, and giving them to so-called orphan ridings to fund their campaigns.

It is up to these same Liberals to prove that these are not Liberal calls before they continue making their extreme, baseless allegations and undertake yet another vicious anonymous smear campaign against dozens of decent, upstanding Conservative MPs and candidates from the last election.

In conclusion, dirty tricks such as these led to the fall of the Liberal Party and to a clear call for more accountable governments. Here, our Conservative government was elected on a platform of accountability, and with the Federal Accountability Act we helped to earn back the trust of Canadians in their government institutions.

While I do not oppose the motion brought forward by the hon. member for Hamilton Centre, I strongly oppose and reject the baseless allegations and unsubstantiated smear campaign by the parties opposite.

Our government and the Conservative Party of Canada have been nothing but open and transparent with Elections Canada about all the calls made during the last election. On their part, the Liberals and NDP, as I have said many times in this House, spent millions of dollars on hundreds of thousands, and millions, I would argue, of phone calls during the last election. If the opposition truly wants to support Elections Canada, they should provide all of their records relating to the calls they made during the last election, just as the Conservative Party of Canada already has.

It is interesting that this debate has been brought to the floor of the House of Commons today. Of course, we know what the motivations of the member are in doing so, to further propagate the baseless, unsubstantiated smear campaign that we have seen in this House for some days. However, Canadians are not fooled by this. I have received messages from people from coast to coast to coast, from campaign volunteers, everyday people who got out and voted, people who are asking why the House of Commons is not concerned about their priorities. They want to know what is going on with the House of Commons.

It is clear that voter participation was not suppressed in the last election. The member who spoke previously was not fulsome in his answer in suggesting that he was talking about percentages while I was talking about numbers in absolute terms. He knows very well that the percentage of voters between the 2008 campaign and the 2011 campaign went up, not down. He knows that full well. He is just not providing that information to the House, and that is too bad.

We saw voter participation increase in virtually every riding in the country. That is wonderful, a great statement that we have in fact turned around a bit of a trend. We have turned it around, and how did we do it? We did it by providing more, not less, days to vote. We turned it around by encouraging each and every Canadian voter to get out and vote.

The Conservative Party did what other parties do. We contacted Conservative Party supporters and encouraged them to get to the polls. We won a strong, stable, national Conservative majority government and are proud of that. Based on that strong, stable, Conservative majority government, Conservatives are undertaking the priorities of Canadians by protecting the economy and providing more hope and opportunity for Canadians. We are focusing on the priorities of each and every Canadian, including protecting victims by bringing in new crime legislation.

Conservatives are also doing more than that. We are moving against past egregious acts, like the long gun registry. Other members have mentioned Nipissing—Timiskaming. I think the voters in Nipissing—Timiskaming spoke out loud and clear in the last election when it came to the long gun registry. We cannot forget about that.

We also cannot ignore the fact that the Liberal Party wants people to forget about what it ran on in the last election. That is why it is launching this baseless, unsubstantiated smear campaign. It ran a campaign of higher taxes and wasteful spending. At a time when Canadians are concerned about that, when they see foreign countries undergoing difficulties as a result of wasteful spending, that is what the Liberal Party ran on. That is why voters did not vote Liberal.

We see a collection of failed Liberal candidates coming forward, stepping up and suggesting that something untoward happened and that this is the only possible way they could have lost the election. However, in virtually all of these ridings, certainly all of the ones I have seen mentioned, voter participation was up. More people voted, not less.

More of those people voted Conservative, because they saw us as the only party fit to guide this country through this difficult global economic time. They put their faith in the Prime Minister of this country. They put their faith in the Minister of Finance of this country. They put their faith in Conservative candidates from coast to coast to coast. They put their faith in those volunteers who were doing the hard work of knocking on doors. They put their faith in each and every person who came up them, friends and family, and said they were going to vote Conservative.

That is how Conservatives won the last election. We won it with hard work. We won it with dedication. We won it with a vision and a plan, an aspiration to make Canada even greater than it ever has been, because we believe Canada's best days are ahead.

As I have said, Conservatives have no problem providing additional authorities and supporting this motion that is before the House, but let us also be clear: ours is the party that is providing transparency, ours is the party that has brought accountability to Canadians, ours is the party that believes in open government, and ours is the party that is delivering on the promise that we made to Canadians. We can never forget that.

January 31st, 2012 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

Senior Consultant, The Capital Hill Group

Joseph Jordan

You make a good point, and I touched on this in the opening. Originally, the design of the system was that both sides report independently. Therefore, the commissioner's office simply reconciles the meetings, and if you get half of a meeting reported, then you know where to go and pick up the phone and find out what happened. Without both sides reporting—I was just speculating, and maybe the commissioner has spoken to this—the commissioner's office then has to tell them there is a potential problem or an unreported meeting. That's a whole different process, and it is very random. I think it would be much more effective to look at the original model.

Then, the other thing you want to look at is why that was left on the cutting room floor. I didn't look at the transcript of the testimony, but if you go back to Bill C-2, there must have been some pretty persuasive discussions at committee for the committee to say “Let's not include the bureaucratic or political side. Let's just put the onus on the lobbyist.” That's fine, but I think it's less efficient in terms of enforcement, because you don't have a way to flag when there is an issue every month, which you would have if both sides had to report.

Incidentally, as MPs, as designated public office holders, you have certain responsibilities under the act as well. You don't have to report your meetings, but you have to keep a record of your meetings and make that information available to the commissioner if you are asked. I don't know whether that presents any problems in your constituency work, but you are being dragged into this framework, either knowingly or not.

On a separate point, I do a lot of work with defeated MPs as a volunteer through the parliamentary association. Most MPs don't realize they are now covered by the five-year ban. When you leave politics, as a designated public office holder, you are now banned for five years from engaging in any registerable activities. Is that a hammer kill on a flea? I don't know. You may want to look at that.

September 29th, 2011 / 9:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

I'm sorry if it frustrates you, Mr. Angus, but Mr. Martin was a part of the Accountability Act hearings--Bill C-2--and said that perhaps the greatest thing the 39th Parliament could deliver to Canadians would be--

March 21st, 2011 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

President and Chief Executive Officer, CBC/Radio-Canada

Hubert T. Lacroix

This is why section 68.1 exists. This exclusion, sir, exists for that purpose.

Actually, I'd like to remind you that this should not be a surprise, because when legislative committees were formed to study Bill C-2, for example, some people in this room were there. Very good questions were asked, and Mr. Reid, who was a predecessor to Madame Legault, actually said that if this were written in the way it is written now, he didn't think he could gain access to the documents that were under section 68.1.

So it's not as though the legislator, who chose to use the same kinds of words you find in the Broadcasting Act, did not know that this was a conclusion to which we would come and about which we would have a conversation. This is why we're in front of the court. These matters sir, also went to the Senate committee that reviewed this a couple of months later, with the same good questions and the same issues of substance.

First Nations Financial Transparency ActPrivate Members' Business

November 25th, 2010 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak to Bill C-575 and I will begin by quoting article 4 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It reads:

Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.

It is troubling today that we are speaking to a bill on which there appears to have been absolutely no consultations with first nations in this country.

This bill is, in part, entitled, “an act respecting the accountability”. I would argue that this legislation has very little to do with accountability and much more to do with reporting. It would simply add another layer of reporting to bands that are already overburdened with reporting.

The bill would not ensure that chiefs and councils are accountable to the people who elect them. The bottom line is that it is up to the nations themselves to determine what is fair and reasonable compensation. I want to refer briefly to the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada website. This website has a couple of items about setting salaries and disclosure of salary information.

On setting salaries, it says:

The determination of an elected official's remuneration in a First Nations community is ultimately established by the First Nation government.

Under disclosure of salary information, there are already provisions for disclosure of salary information. It says:

In addition to federal funding, First Nations may derive revenue from other sources, such as band-owned businesses and arrangements with other levels of government. This revenue may be used in a variety of ways, potentially including salaries for elected officials. As with other levels of government, duly elected officials of First Nations are responsible for determining their compensation. In accordance with provisions in their funding agreements, First Nation councils must provide the Department with audited financial statements annually. Under these agreements, these audited statements are to be made available to members of the First Nations communities.

We can see that there is something in place to provide this information to first nation communities.

It goes on to say:

The Department does not, however, disclose information regarding the compensation for individual Chiefs or council members to the public due to legal considerations including the Privacy Act, case law such as the Montana decision....

I did not hear the member talk about how what she is proposing does not contravene the Montana decision where it clearly outlines that this kind of public disclosure was not appropriate.

We have heard about the Auditor General, but I specifically want to refer to testimony. I talked about the overburdening of reporting. On May 9, 2006, when the Auditor General was before the special committee on Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act, she said in her testimony:

On first nations, we make reference to a reporting study that we did back in December of 2002. When we looked at a number of first nations to see how many reports they actually had to produce for only four government departments, we found that they had to produce 200 and more reports in a year.

Later on, she said:

Four of the reports were audited financial statements, and another 52 reports were dealing with financial matters. There is often a financial report for each individual program as well as an overall financial report.

She went on to say:

At the time, we said that there really needed to be a streamlining of the reporting, that there had to be a consolidation of reports. We asked if it wouldn't be better, quite frankly, to have people delivering front-line services rather than filling out reports.

She went on to say that they were going to do an update on the status report but that a lot of reporting and audit already goes on in first nation communities. In fact, she confirmed that 96% of all first nations filed their large annual report on time and without incident.

One really needs to wonder what the purpose is of this legislation.

There are already a number of financial instruments in place that govern reporting. I want to refer to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. This particular act sets out how grants and contributions are made to first nations and regulations made under this act govern contribution agreements like the Canada-first nations funding agreement.

I obviously do not have time in my short time to go through every section, but section 4.7 deals with accountability to members and it outlines principles of transparency, disclosure and redress. Section 4.8 on accountability to recipients outlines the principles of transparency, disclosure and redress.

Some aspects of the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act outline what happens if one defaults or does not comply with the legislation. So there is currently a mechanism in place that deals with the reporting of various financial aspects of how bands are managed.

I want to touch briefly on a section of the Indian Act. Section 83(1) states:

...the council of a band may, subject to the approval of the Minister, make by-laws for any or all of the following purposes...,

(d) the payment of remuneration, in such amount as may be approved by the Minister, to chiefs and councillors, out of any moneys raised pursuant to paragraph (a);

We can see that in the Indian Act, the minister has oversight on remuneration and this is usually done by a band council resolution.

The Conservatives put together a blue ribbon panel in 2006 but virtually nothing in that blue ribbon panel has been enacted. However, one item on page 8 of the blue ribbon panel said that fiscal arrangements with first nations governments were complex, reflecting not only the varied circumstances of the 630 first nations in Canada, but also that payments to first nations governments are or ought to be more like intergovernmental transfers than typical grants and contributions.

I can assure hon. members that when we are looking at intergovernmental transfers, I cannot image the government asking the provinces to justify how much they pay their premiers, their MLAs or their MPPs. If the Conservative blue ribbon panel was recommending intergovernmental transfers, it does recognize a different kind of relationship.

I want to touch briefly on the AFN accountability measures. In 2005 and in 2006, the Assembly of First Nations made a number of recommendations to the Conservative government in terms of working together around accountability. There was a January 2006 report that said accountability for results. The report used the principle from the Auditor General. The report says that the Auditor General of Canada has defined accountability as a relationship based on the obligations to demonstrate, review and take responsibility for performance, both the results achieved in light of agreed expectations and the means used. The report then goes on to talk about adapting the principles for accountability of the Auditor General.

The Assembly of First Nations represents chiefs and councils throughout this country. Its members do not speak on behalf but they have a role in terms of facilitating. They are clearly in support of the Auditor General's principles. These principles are as follows:

Clear roles and responsibilities. Roles and responsibilities should be well understood and agreed on by the parties.

Clear performance expectations. The objectives, the expected accomplishments, and the constraints, such as resources, should be explicit, understood, and agreed on.

Balanced expectations and capacities. Performance expectations should be linked to and balanced with each party's capacity to deliver.

Credible reporting. Credible and timely information should be reported to demonstrate what has been achieved, whether the means used were appropriate, and what has been learned.

Reasonable review and adjustment. Fair and informed review and feedback on performance should be carried out by the parties, achievements and difficulties recognized, appropriate corrective action taken, and appropriate consequences carried out.

The Assembly of First Nations offered to engage in a collaborative process to develop the kinds of concrete initiatives that would allow all parties to implement the Auditor General's principles. However, here has been no action. It is a bit puzzling why we have a private member's bill before the House that did not engage in consultation, has not examined the instruments that are already available to government to look at that reporting relationship, does nothing to address the fact that chiefs and councils end up reporting to Indian and Northern Affairs and not to the people in their community. It is quite unusual that we would have a bill that could have a profound impact on how people operate and yet has not taken any of those reasonable steps to ensure that it is not opening up something that it simply cannot control.