Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to address the Reform motion that the House condemn the government for its failure to keep its red book promises to make government more open and accountable.
The Reform Party in 1988 compiled a book of principles and policies, which is probably one of the first political parties to ever put its policies and principles in writing and make a commitment to the Canadian public. On page eight it states:
We believe in the accountability of elected representatives to the people who elect them and that the duty of elected members to their constituents should supersede their obligations to their political parties.
I will predict that within the Liberal caucus when it votes on Bill C-41, the sentencing bill, there will be members who will wish to vote against the government but they will not be allowed to for fear of being kicked out of caucus or off the standing committees.
When it comes to Bill C-68, the gun control bill, some members of the caucus will want to vote against the government. They will have to toe the line or get kicked out of caucus.
Unlike Reformers, they will not be able to fulfil the wishes of their constituents. On this side of the House on both those bills members will vote the clear wishes of their constituents, established in a fashion that has shown and expressed a complete communication system with them, not a poll taken a year and a half ago and then coming out with a law like this gun control bill.
In my original speech I was to speak about how the Liberal government whip has punished, castigated, disciplined, reprimanded, reproached, scolded and penalized several Liberal members for bucking the party line and reflecting the views of their constituents. My colleagues have covered all that. We know about that. The Canadian public knows all about that.
After hearing the government whip's diatribe about Liberal ethics, which I believe is an oxymoron like Progressive Conservative, and hearing about how Liberals are spearheading a special joint committee to develop recommendations for a code of conduct for politicians, I cannot resist making a few comments directed at the Liberal whip.
In typical planet Ottawa fashion the Liberals will study the issue of accountability and review the concept of openness under the guise of a special joint committee. The committee will be comprised of seven members of the Senate and fourteen members of the House of Commons who, along with countless support staff, will travel across Canada and the world to study how other governments hold their representatives accountable. It sounds very important.
Canadian taxpayers will wave goodbye as their brave representatives, along with their entourage, sail off to foreign lands to find out how their politicians conduct themselves.
From experience I know the Liberal members of this committee will constantly utter cliches like "what we need is effective inputs for effective outputs". My favourite is from the Minister of Finance: "What we are trying to do is square the circle with this budget".
That is how governments play up politics in Ottawa with touchy issues like accountability and openness. They study them. The Tories did it and now the Liberals are following suit with their code of conduct committee. It sounds good, looks good but does not do anything.
Reform wants to bring back some sanity to this process. We can give rule number one for code of conduct without even leaving the Chamber and without leaving the shores of this land: do not waste Canadian taxpayers' money on needless junkets.
In 1987 the Ontario Supreme Court found the former cabinet minister Sinclair Stevens had breached the Canadian conflict of interest rules on 14 different occasions prior to his
resignation in 1986. As a direct result the Mulroney government introduced a conflict of interest bill for MPs which unfortunately died on the Order Paper at the end of the parliamentary session. A similar conflict of interest bill was introduced in the next session. It too died on the Order Paper.
As a result of these failed attempts, the Mulroney government created a special joint committee of the House of Commons and Senate to study the issue. Does that sound familiar?
A lengthy study of issues like conflict of interest and accountability was conducted. Witnesses were heard. Testimony was given. A 60-page report was submitted to the House and the Senate. Among the major recommendations was that an independent office be created, the holder of which would oversee the disclosure of assets and liabilities of both the members of the Senate and the Commons and act as an adviser to parliamentarians investigating possible breaches of the act. Does this sound like an ethics counsellor?
The report also recommended clear procedures be established requiring members not to vote on issues in which they have an interest.
These are a few of the recommendations of the 60-page report to the Mulroney government in 1992. Nothing has changed. The hon. Liberal whip was a member of the committee at that time. Now it appears we will spend more money and send another group out to do exactly the same thing. Can he remember what the witnesses said? Can he remember what they told him? I do not seem to recall "vote Liberal and we will reinvent the wheel" in the red book.
It is obvious the Liberals have already attempted to act on a recommendation of the 1992 report which I mentioned earlier. They appointed an ethics counsellor. However, they did not follow through with the full recommendation in their red book. The ethics counsellor does not answer to Parliament. That is a sad disgrace. That lacks integrity. That smacks of misrepresentation.
The Liberals observed this in opposition and subsequently incorporated the recommendations made to the Tories in their red ink book. I have no problem with a party picking up the ball and running with it if it has been fumbled by another party. The Liberals are very good at borrowing ideas from other parties like the Reform Party on the budget.
However, I do have a problem when they waste money to play politics with an issue so they can sell it as their own idea and initiative.
The groundwork for a code of conduct was laid in the last Parliament. Surely the issue of ethics has not changed that dramatically in the past three or four years. The only problem was that the Mulroney government lacked the intestinal fortitude to act on any of the recommendations of the code of conduct.