That, in the opinion of this House, the Parliament and crown agencies should be subject to scrutiny under the Access to Information Act.
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to talk to my Motion No. 304 which argues that Parliament and crown agencies should be subject to scrutiny under the Access to Information Act.
This topic is one which is of vital interest to Canadians and because of its importance Motion No. 304 was made a votable item. This will give members of Parliament a great opportunity
to go on the public record to show that they care about opening up the political system and that they think our citizens should have the right to use the Access to Information Act in a more modern and inclusive way than is currently possible.
The motion is not a partisan political football which Reform is bringing forward to make life tough for the government. In fact we very much hope the government and official opposition will see the motion as one which is constructive and in the greater interest of all Canadians.
As we all know, under the nine-year Tory regime Canadians desperately wanted a more accountable and transparent government. The wishes of the people were dashed by the Mulroney and Campbell governments whose grossly unaccountable behaviour caused public cynicism to grow to an all time high.
Compounding this frustration billions of tax dollars were funnelled through crown agencies such as the CBC, Canada Post and the Canadian Wheat Board which were even less accountable than the government. At least we could vote the Tories out of office but crown agencies are another matter altogether.
As long as crown agencies are going to be run in the way they are, Canadians deserve to know what they are up to. Obviously sensitive information that is vital to their ability to compete in the marketplace would be exempt under the provisions of the Access to Information Act. More general information about their spending and business practices should be fair game. As crown agencies all Canadians have a stake in how they are run. Therefore they must be subject to public scrutiny.
All this I say by way of introduction. I am saying that Canadians are facing a problem. It is summed up by a quote from the public policy forum of 1993 which stated:
Given the sustained and often angry criticism that has been widely expressed by the public in recent years, it is remarkable how little has been done by way of reform.
Of all the grounds on which successive governments, together with MPs, could be charged with being unresponsive, none is more striking than the lack of response to unmistakable expressions of public dislike of the manner in which Parliament goes about its business.
I believe this statement is an accurate reflection of what Canadians are thinking. I also believe this line of logic can be extended to their perceptions about crown corporations. Therefore I have suggested that Motion No. 304 be adopted by the House to send a clear sign from Gander to Victoria that the Parliament of the Tories is gone and a truly new day has broken.
Gone are the days when back room politics were acceptable. Gone are the days when Canadians would remain quiet as politicians and crown agencies acted unilaterally and without accountability. I hope that Motion No. 304 will give members of Parliament a clear opportunity to break with the old way of doing things and show they care about the wishes of the Canadian public.
As we are well aware, Reformers were elected to open up the political process and seek out greater involvement from the Canadian grassroots. We want to bring about constructive change and ensure that our political institutions and crown agencies operate with honesty and integrity.
I do not think we are alone, however, in calling for these changes. I am certainly aware that the Liberals found the same matters to be very important at least while they were in opposition. I would only hope to believe that their desire for openness, accountability and integrity is still intact.
Let me remind our Liberal friends about the values which they claimed to believe in during the election campaign. To do this I think I will quote from the red book since it is often referred to by my friends in government on the other side. The following are a number of statements which make their position crystal clear. The first statement reads:
Canadians have always prided themselves on the quality of their democratic institutions-If government is to play a positive role in society, as it must, honesty and integrity in our political institutions must be restored.
The second statement reads:
The most important asset of government is the confidence it enjoys of the citizens to whom it is accountable. There is evidence today of considerable dissatisfaction with government and a steady erosion of confidence in the people and institutions of the public sector.
These statements are all from the red book. The last statement reads:
A Liberal government will take a series of initiatives to restore confidence in the institutions of government. We will introduce reforms to Parliament-Open government will be the watchword of the Liberal program.
Clearly the Liberal position must approve of the spirit of this motion. Motion No. 304 is precisely the type of initiative that will restore the confidence of Canadians. I implore members of the Liberal caucus to consult with their House leader and whip to confirm that they should all stand behind the motion 100 per cent.
Over the coming months I look forward to speaking personally with my colleagues on the government side and in the Bloc. I encourage any member to call my office to let me know so that we can work together on this proposal.
Reform members of Parliament such as myself do not need to always find a fight. While we will never agree with members of the government on all accounts, on issues such as this one where there is a natural alliance I think we should co-operate. In fact if we take this co-operative approach it will go further still toward restoring the confidence of Canadians that Parliament is truly undergoing constructive change to make it more accountable, transparent and responsive to the wishes of the electorate.
If I can move on to members of the BQ, while you do not have a red book to quote from I know that openness, integrity and accountability are important to you as well. As I have sat in the House for the past year I have witnessed your complaints about the secretive and unresponsive government on many occasions.