Mr. Speaker, like my two colleagues who spoke before me, I will make a brief comment on the work done by committee members who considered this bill. I sat on the committee myself and attended most of its meetings. I followed proceedings very closely and listened to many witnesses. I can tell you that I am a little disappointed in the very partisan work done by government members.
The attendance record of the government members was not as good as that of the representatives of the Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party, so that it was extremely difficult to agree and achieve one of the objectives, namely to reassert the value of the work done by ordinary members of Parliament through exchanges between government and opposition members.
When people opposite us keep changing from one meeting to the next, it is very difficult to resume a discussion or complete the arguments introduced one or two days before the last meeting. Yes, there were good exchanges at the committee level.
There is, however, room for improvement with respect to the attendance record of government members and how they could follow up the work done in committee.
With regard to the objective sought by Bill C-43, I think that no one in this House can be against it. True, taxpayers and constituents from across the country have lost some confidence in the government for several reasons. One only has to look to the past to find many reasons to lose one's confidence in the government. Bill C-43 is designed to ensure a certain level of openness, to show everyone what the power brokers in Ottawa are really doing behind the scenes.
In any case, the objective of Bill C-43 was to make all lobbyists-or influence peddlers as some people call them-accountable, to make their work on Parliament Hill more transparent, to show the people that, in the end, the government was justified in doing business with a given individual, in changing the regulations, in drafting a bill or anything else.
This goal is commendable and the opposition agrees with it. The reason we agreed to work with the government was to achieve greater transparency. However, the bill we are debating, Bill C-43, is very disappointing in that it did not achieve this goal. Today, I am doing the same thing I did at the committee stage, when I suggested a number of amendments to promote more openness and bring about the desired transparency. It is one thing to have a goal, but efforts must be made to achieve it.
I suggested a number of approaches-twenty or so-at committee level, but this government, government members who, by the way, had not even heard the evidence, attended our meetings and heard witnesses request specific measures, rejected every one of the amendments proposed by the Bloc Quebecois. They voted them down. Today, the government is given another opportunity to improve this bill through a series of amendments. We have 33 motions before us and I think that some of them would greatly help improve transparency, as Bill C-43 seeks to do.
I urge the government to give serious consideration to these motions, to review the goals it set in its famous red book during the election campaign and then to look at Bill C-43 in order to determine whether or not these goals were met. I am convinced that it will come to the conclusion that, indeed, they were not. Now, the opposition is offering to help the government achieve a goal it has set for itself during the last election campaign.
I must say however that Motion No. 1 may not be going in the direction that I just mentioned. Let me explain. I agree with the government that Motion No. 1 should not be passed.
We must set Motion No. 1 in context and see what changes it introduces. It amends clause 2 of the bill, that is to say section 2 of the present act, under definitions. It also affects subsection 4(2) of the act, under application, which specifies to whom the act applies and particularly to whom it does not apply, because I think arrangements have to be made so that citizens can contact the government. I think that honest citizens who are looking for information, want to express their views before our committees and act openly and publicly should not be restricted in their right to contact the government to make representations.
In fact, two exceptions to subsection 4(2) are already contemplated. The first exception concerns those who make representations before a Senate, a House of Commons or a joint committee. Several pieces of legislation are reviewed in committee, and it only makes sense that those who submit briefs and come to tell the committee what they think of a bill should not have to register. That exception is already included.
The second exception deals with the case of a taxpayer who phones a public servant to obtain an interpretation regarding existing legislation. Again, it goes without saying that the person should not have to register, nor state his reason for contacting the government, since it is normal to communicate with public servants to obtain details regarding legislation.
This amendment to Bill C-43, which the Reform Party wants to eliminate through its motion, would affect all those contacted by the government. During the review conducted by the committee, I referred to these situations as "government initiatives". Before awarding a contract or considering a specific measure, the government, for a number of reasons, usually contacts some organizations to get their opinion. It approaches various groups and asks them: "Do you have a problem with this legislation? Would you be in favour of improving it in this fashion? Would you be opposed to such a measure? What do you think?"
If an exception is not provided regarding clause 4(2) of this bill, people will stop providing such answers to the government. The witnesses heard by the committee clearly said that, if they have to comply with the provisions of Bill C-43, they, as officials representing mostly non-profit community organizations, will definitely stop providing opinions to the government and help it make choices. These people added that they would certainly not pay to reply to a government's request.
So, that amendment, which is just about the only one accepted by the government, should not be set aside right away. It should be reviewed, and I ask the Reform Party to really consider the purpose of this amendment, which is the only one which was accepted by the government following the review of this bill by the committee.
The amendment is very simple.
The bottom line is that any oral or written submission made to a public office holder by an individual on behalf of any person or organization will be exempt if it is in direct reply to a written request from a public office holder for advice or comment in respect of the specified provisions. Other clauses are also quoted to specify who the clause will apply to.
The wording of the clause now before us guarantees that the fears the Reform member just expressed will not be substantiated, that there will be no bending of the rules or attempts to get around the law, because everything will be done in writing. And I think that, under the Access to Information Act, we as taxpayers can obtain copies of this information. Therefore, we can check the public servant's request and the organization's reply because they will be in writing. This applies to a direct, written reply to a request.
Bill C-43 and the amendment proposed this morning, which the Reform Party does not support, would not exempt the information in cases where, following analysis or research, it was discovered that the public servant asked the organization whether it would support such and such legislation and it is obvious from the organization's reply that it would only support the government's proposal in exchange for such and such a contract or an amendment to such and such other regulation. Therefore, the organization in question would have to meet the requirements of Bill C-43.
Motion No. 1, as it is written, quite simply moves that the entire amendment or the content of clause 4(2) of Bill C-43 be removed, and I cannot support such a motion. This and all of the reasons stated above is why the Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition, will vote against Motion No. 1.