Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in support of Motion M-304. The motion is put forward by my Reform colleague from Red Deer. I would like to congratulate him on it.
The motion deals with extending the realm of the present Access to Information Act to include Parliament and crown corporations.
I begin by paraphrasing the purpose of the act. The passage will help to outline the true essence and principles behind the creation of the act and how the present motion before the House will only enhance those principles. "The purpose of this act is to extend the present laws of Canada to provide a right of access to information in records under the control of a government institution in accordance with the principles that government information should be available to the public". This is an explanation of the act's intent to foster accountability within government and its institutions.
The motion before the House embodies the same principles and expresses them in a form in which Canadian people deserve to have access to, namely Parliament and crown corporations. It serves to ensure that the business of government is and remains open to the public. It represents the public's desire for Parliament to be accountable for its actions. It embodies the need Canadians have to know that their government and its institutions are not hiding from them. If government has nothing to hide, and it should have nothing to hide, why not open up Parliament and crown corporations to public scrutiny?
We in the Reform Party have been listening to the outraged cries of our fellow Canadians and understand their desire to hold Parliament accountable for its actions. This understanding was shown through our efforts to pass Bill C-210, the bill on recall. It was recently voted down by both the Liberal and Bloc parties. We are trying again.
The motion will allow the public access to financial matters handled by the Speakers of the House and the Senate. However the motion will not sacrifice the confidentiality of MPs' files or cabinet documents. It will, though, for such crown agencies as the CBC and Canada Post, open up their files to public scrutiny.
In this day of incredible national debt and financial strain on the taxpayer, such a motion grants true meaning to open government, something we have been hearing a lot about. After all, do Canadians not have a right to know where their money is being spent?
The Liberal government states on page 91 of its red book which we hear so often quoted in the House: "If government is to play a positive role in society, as it must, honesty and integrity in our political institutions must be restored". The motion will help to ensure that both Parliament and crown corporations are accountable to the public and hence will be viewed as capturing the honesty and integrity it once had.
On page 91 the Liberal book goes on to state: "The most important asset of government is the confidence it enjoys of the citizens to whom it is accountable".
The motion stresses the need Canadians have for a more open process of government. They are tired of being told what to do by the government while not having a government that invokes a sense of trust or integrity among the people it governs.
We hear all too often about more open and honest government, about integrity, about credibility. We hear the talk but we do not see the Liberals walking the walk. That is what this motion is all about. We hear speakers on the other side telling us that they support the motion in principle but that it is too broad in scope and that perhaps there is going to be some Pandora's box opened as a result of the motion passing.
I suggest that what we ought to be doing is making the access to information law as broad as possible with limitations set in areas where appropriate rather than the other way around. What we are hearing from members opposite is exactly that. They want to limit. They are so concerned about having information out there in the general public they want to make sure they have as many limitations as possible in place. That is counter to the whole theme of access to information.
An example of closed, elitist and top down government is the land claim negotiations currently going on in my riding of Skeena. These negotiations are the epitome of backroom, closed to the public input, government deals. These negotiations between the federal and provincial governments and native groups in my province are completely performed behind closed doors without any direct public input whatsoever.
Is this not the kind of process the Liberal government condemns in its red book on page 91? It states: "The people are irritated with governments that do not consult them or that disregard their views or that try to conduct key parts of the public business behind closed doors".
I suggest that is what the government is doing and it can change by supporting Motion M-304. I would call settling a major land claim affecting a large piece of land and a great number of people public business. It is definitely irritating my constituents.
Bring back integrity and trust to this Parliament and its agencies. Allow Canadians to feel proud as they once did of their parliamentary institution. Give Parliament back to the people. Allow them the access they deserve and put confidence in government back in the minds and hearts of Canadians.
In conclusion, this motion M-304 will help Canadians to trust Parliament and its agencies once again. It is essential for the political stability of this country that Canadians trust their elected officials and feel a sense of integrity when proudly telling others in the world that they are Canadians.
There is nothing to fear in this motion. It is straightforward common sense. Let Canadians have the right to an open Parliament and the right to hold their politicians accountable.