Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the good member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.
It is often said that image is everything. I share that observation because never before in modern day Canadian history have we witnessed a prime minister who is as image conscious as the member for Papineau is. I am not here today to debate the merits or lack thereof of that point, but rather to point out how that branding exercise led us to Bill C-58.
For those who were not here in the previous Parliament, I shall indulge a little. Shortly after becoming the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the member for Papineau was creating his brand. Part of that brand, and we hear it all the time, was the “sunlight is the best disinfectant” routine. It played well in the Liberal narrative that the former prime minister led the most secretive government in Canada's history, so the member for Papineau introduced a private member's bill to highlight that.
As some will know, during the last election the Liberals again made many of the same open government style promises, similar to what was in the Prime Minister's earlier private member's bill. As usual, these promises used many of the correct buzzwords. They looked good. They sounded good. There was only one problem: the Liberals got elected and now those promises have to be fulfilled.
That leads to our second problem. Bill C-58 does not do exactly that. In fact, it fails so badly that the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada stated in the headline of a news release that “Bill C-58 results in a regression of the rights to access to information”. If we think about that statement for a moment, it is not by a member of Her Majesty's loyal opposition, or the third party, but from the office of an independent officer of Parliament.
Not only that, the bill actually breaks the Prime Minister's own commitments. Despite the commitment to apply access to information laws to the Prime Minister's Office and his cabinet ministers, they all get a pass. It is yet another example of there being one set of rules for everyone else, but a look-the-other-way clause when it comes to the most senior Liberal insiders. That is a growing problem with how the Prime Minister and his small, elite inner circle does things. Many of our constituents are becoming tired of it.
I was not a supporter of the Prime Minister's earlier private member's bill. As I was the parliamentary secretary to the president of the Treasury Board at that time, I was aware that some of the proposed measures were administratively problematic, and I came into this place and said as much.
The problem here is that those challenges were always well known, but in spite of them, the Prime Minister was happy to campaign on them and promise them anyway. Therefore, like many of those priorities and promises, they get thrown by the wayside now that the Prime Minister and his small inner circle control the levers of power.
That is not principled leadership. To promise things one can deliver on, but chooses not to do so is a betrayal. There are other words to describe that, but I would never want to be unparliamentary.
Here we are. We have a bill that the Information Commissioner essentially condemns. Virtually all of those who frequently make access to information requests and use the ATIP legislation have also widely condemned the bill. In fact, during my research, I could find no significant support for the bill whatsoever. If there is, I would really like to hear government members say so. Basically, all expert opinion gives it a fail. It does not meet the promises the Prime Minister made.
In fact, The Globe and Mail reports that Canada's access to information system has become worse under the Liberal Prime Minister. We all know that the bill would not fix that. Many experts suggest that it will only make things worse.
I will not suggest the last government was perfect on the subject either, but we were on the right track. In 2013, the former government released nearly six million pages of information to Canadians, an increase of over a million and a half pages over the preceding year.
Under Bill C-58, we will have a law that says the Prime Minister's office and his ministers can tell Canadians to pound sand when it comes to access to information requests. Keep this in mind. This is the same Prime Minister who was happy to build his brand and score points after promising he would do the exact opposite.
I will again ask the question I recently asked. The Prime Minister, as we all know, came into this place and said “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” Why did he say that? Did he say it because it was politically convenient to do so at the time? Did he say it because it showed the principle should only apply to everyone else but himself and his ministers? Did he say it because it happened to be true?
Before I close, I will ask a question. Right now we have a very serious situation where single parents, primarily single mothers, are being unfairly targeted by the Canada Revenue Agency. As a result, in many cases, their Canada child benefits are being delayed, denied, or even clawed back in some cases. We also know that those with type 1 diabetes are also being disturbingly targeted by CRA.
I will credit many backbench Liberal MPs who I know are just as concerned about this situation as I am. I also know that several of them are reaching out to try to help some of those who are being unfairly targeted by this. Some have even stated publicly that they are also concerned.
The ultimate challenge is this. What is the minister going to do to solve this problem? Ultimately that is where the problem is. Thanks to Bill C-58, we will never know. That may be good enough for some. It certainly was not good enough for the member for Papineau, when he was handing out gift bags of election promises, a continued pattern of broken promises that results in one level of rules for senior Liberal insiders and another set for everyone else not the sunlight of disinfectant the Prime Minister promised.