Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and hold up the Muslim community across Canada. This past week has been an extremely painful one for all of the beautiful Muslim people in our communities, who are now afraid of what Canada has become. I pray that we are tireless in our work to make this country an even safer country. Everyone should feel safe to walk in their neighbourhoods in our country.
I am here to debate Bill C-271, an act to amend the Governor General’s Act. This proposed act would reduce the governor general's salary to one dollar a year, remove the right to retirement annuity and amend other acts in consequence.
When I read just the title of the proposed act, I was actually interested in having a meaningful review of and discussion about the next steps Canada has to take to look at this and the realities we have seen over the last while. Sadly, the content of the bill is not a serious attempt to reform how the governor general is selected, and it would, obviously, limit potential candidates to those who are independently wealthy. For me, having more wealthy people in seats of power is simply not a priority.
It is obvious that we need some changes. In the most recent situation with Julie Payette, there is no doubt that the Prime Minister failed to undertake basic due diligence in the vetting process. If this were a piece of legislation that spoke to creating clearer rules and guidelines around vetting, I would be very interested in the content.
While it is true that I personally feel that Ms. Payette does not merit the pension or perks because she really did fail in her duties, there should be a much better vetting process and a clearer pathway around consequences when a person does not serve this important role appropriately.
I believe the member and I agree that, instead of paying her for the rest of her life, the Prime Minister needs to send the message that Canada's public institutions will not be a safe haven for those who abuse their employees. I think that this is an important factor and needs meaningful action. However, this bill is not that.
Canadians know that the governor general plays a role in the constitutional arrangement of our democracy. Our democracy is not perfect, but it is something that I will always fight for. There is no doubt that Canadians want the Prime Minister to take responsibility for the flawed process of appointing Ms. Payette. This flawed process has left taxpayers holding the bag, and I am not okay with that. I also believe that, for this specific case, we want an independent investigation into the allegations of harassment at Rideau Hall. In the long term, there needs to be a better plan to keep all of our workplaces safe.
The Prime Minister has been heavily criticized for making key appointments, such as the governor general and other House officers, based on politics rather than merit. This is concerning for Canadians, and I have heard that from my constituents. When we look at key roles, I believe that Canadians want people who we can all have faith in. When politics and key roles of leadership in our country get mixed up, it makes it harder for Canadians to feel trust in these roles.
Now, because of a poor system, we are in a situation where the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada is currently assuming the duties of the governor general. Having the chief justice give royal assent on legislation that may one day come before the court does present a potential conflict, so this needs to be addressed. However, the solution offered in Bill C-271 does not provide the constructive criticism to get us to the next level, which obviously, this conversation needs to have.
Now, the Liberals have announced that they will have an advisory panel to help select the new governor general. This approach for appointing a governor general was used by the previous Conservative government but was dropped by the Liberals after they were elected in 2015. While the Conservative panel was non-partisan, the Liberals have decided to appoint Liberal co-chairs, and this is clearly partisan.
Again, how do Canadians trust in a process if it is not fair, if they are not taken out of the partisanship realm and placed, as they should be, in the non-partisan one? This is a lot of taxpayer money being spent and, quite frankly, Canadians deserve better.
Some constituents tell me that they do not want a governor general anymore and that ties with the Queen of England just do not fit what Canada has become. This is a very worthy and important debate to have. However, again, the bill does not provide any meaningful space for this dialogue.
It is time for the Prime Minister to show Canadians that there are consequences for employers who create toxic workplaces and abuse their employees. Our former governor general should be disqualified from receiving a gold-plated pension and a lifetime expense account.
I hope in the future we have bills that provide information to address these key factors. When we debate in the House, we have to talk about solutions that will be long term and will not undermine our democratic process.