Mr. Speaker, I am certain that my colleagues opposite are very happy to see me rise to speak on this motion. But, to understand the turn of events today, I think that we have to clearly define what we mean by all this, so I am going to refer to the motion of the third party in this House.
The motion is the following:
That this House condemn the government for its failure to keep its Red Book promise to make the government more open and permitting Members of Parliament to be more accountable to their constituents.
So, there are two parts to this motion. The second is to permit Members of Parliament to be more accountable to their constituents. I will now say a few words on the subject.
Accountability depends on each Member of Parliament. We have enough means these days to write to our constituents, to let them know the government's positions and to transmit information. We all have the necessary tools. I think that, as the representatives of a riding, we could do a better job of informing our electorate of the work we are doing.
I can say, for my part anyway, that I write to my constituents regularly to keep them up to date on the decisions made by the Bloc Quebecois or to comment on, among other things, decisions made by the government. We already have the means to do this. There is no need, regarding this point, to heap more blame on the government.
However, regarding the first point, which condemns the government for not having kept its famous red book promise to make the administration more transparent, we would like to say the following: The Liberals are crafty. They saw, during their nine years in opposition, that integrity struck a chord with the public. Therefore, they brought certain campaign promises contained in the red book to the public's attention. Fortunately they are written down, because words fade away but written statements endure-we can still read them today.
Indeed, the famous red book did contain a nice, little chapter, entitled "Governing with Integrity". I would like to say that I am fortunate to be speaking after the secretary of state. I can see what he thinks was done to restore integrity in government, because, otherwise, I would not have known what to say on that topic in my speech. What the government just said is incomplete, almost exaggerated. They did not tell the whole truth.
As I was saying, they greatly stressed integrity during the election campaign. I think that they put their finger on the problem, they saw that people want their parliamentarians to be more accountable, that they want Parliament to be more transparent, so that they can know what is going on here.
After 19 months-because they have already been in office that long-I would like to summarize their administration's actions. And you will see that there is a clear difference between what they think they have achieved and what we think they have achieved. It is funny how outlooks change, depending on whether one is seated to the left or the right of the Chair. That is the truth, sad, but true.
The secretary of state for parliamentary affairs stressed one point because, it would seem that it is a revelation of the government, the discovery of the century: the famous ethics counsellor. That is just peachy. How much more open can you get? An ethics counsellor appointed by the Prime Minister, an ethics counsellor who will investigate matters involving ministers behind closed doors, which directly contradicts what the red book said about ensuring openness. An ethics counsellor who will only comment on the conclusions of his investigation. This is openness? This is how this government plans to restore confidence and ensure openness? What a crock!
They also wanted people to think more highly of the role of MPs. As I commented on this earlier, I will not spend any more time on this but the fact remains that it is an utter failure. Nothing has changed. The minister is still the boss, telling Liberal committee chairs what to do. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
They also say that there will eventually be a code of conduct for MPs, ministers, senior officials, etc. If one can tell the future by looking at the past, we can expect more of the same. We will continue to hear nice promises, wishful thinking and rose-coloured rhetoric. In the end, the objective of openness will not be achieved.
Another even more subtle approach of this government is to table bills in which the powers are increasingly centralized at the minister's level. More and more, the minister must be the absolute master in his department. More and more-but quietly so that the public is kept in the dark-, they are changing the rules of the game through complicated laws and regulations, but it is the minister who will have the final say. It is the minister who will make the appointments and allocate the funds. What openness! In my opinion, this opens the door to patronage, to political appointments.
Speaking of political appointments, what has this Liberal government done in the last 18 months to change the situation that existed under the Tories? Absolutely nothing.
I remember that, in 1984, the Tories defeated the Liberals because of a rash of appointments. During the famous leaders' debate, John Turner looked rather foolish indeed. Yet, the Tories did exactly the same thing for nine years. Today, after the 1993 election, what are the Liberals doing? Exactly the same thing as the Tories did and the Liberals had done before them. The more things change, the more they stay the same. "Partisan appointments, partisan appointments, partisan appointments" has replaced "jobs, jobs, jobs". This contradicts the red book but do the Liberals care?
As we have seen, the news is full of similar situations in which members of the Liberal "family" have received preferential treatment. That is Liberal openness for you. Let me give you a few examples of political appointments. I am not saying that none of these people is qualified, but when we see that everyone appointed by this openness-seeking government is a Liberal, we may well ask ourselves if only Liberals are considered as qualified. Perhaps according to the hon. members across the way, but I do not think so.
Here are a few examples: Jean-Robert Gauthier, a former Liberal MP, was appointed to the Senate; John Bryden was also appointed to the Senate, and what did this gentleman use to do? He was one of Mr. Chrétien's campaign organizers in the leadership race, another good Liberal. Robert Nixon, Liberal Party president also on the Chrétien campaign team. He was appointed to a department. Here is another one: Michel Robert, past president of the Liberal Party of Canada. We know he was acting president of the SIRC, dealing with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. As we all know, as a sideline he was involved in negotiations with aboriginal people. He has apparently billed the government approximately $300,000 for his services so far and, today, we learn that he was appointed appellate judge. He is no doubt qualified, but
he has one quality in common with the others: he is a Liberal. Another well-known Liberal according to the press, Pierre Dalphond, was also appointed judge.
There is a whole list of individuals who ran in the 1993 campaign who were appointed to various positions. Is that the way to ensure transparency? Is that it, when, every time we dig somewhere, we find party ties? When a government claims to seek openness and to enhance politicians' credibility, should its ultimate goal be to appoint "chums"?
Just in case we do not get reelected, we better treat our friends now, while we are riding the gravy train. Is that the way to restore the confidence of Canadian and Quebec taxpayers? I think not. We are aware of very recent cases. Liberals, Conservatives, it is all the same damn thing. Oops, my apologies, that word is unparliamentary. It is all one and the same. The Liberals are doing the exact same thing as the Conservatives did.
Take the Pearson deal. I can understand that the Liberals who are listening would be embarrassed. In the Pearson deal, as we found out, there were as many Liberal lobbyists as Conservative lobbyists. No wonder that the Liberals do not want to raise too much dust around this issue. Then there was the Dupuy matter. It had several stages, but I will focus on the first two. The first one was the minister's interference in CRTC business, and the second, his little trip on the sly to Los Angeles. Upon looking into it more closely, one realizes that this may be a family thing, that the Prime Minister's son-in-law may be involved, that subsidiaries were involved, and so on.
In the Power Direct TV deal, direct ties can be made to the Liberal clique. One could even say the Liberal "famiglia" in this case, where an order was made specifically to benefit a company run by the Prime Minister's son-in-law. It takes some doing. Billions of dollars are involved. Is that what this government means by openness?
Here is another example: the bovine somatotropin issue. The Minister of Health is implicated in this and she never knows what is going on in her own department. Mr. Ritter, an official of this department took a leave of absence to lobby his colleagues and have the BST approved.
This does not strike the minister as odd. She sees nothing wrong with this. This must be what Liberals call openness. She must be right, so there is no problem. No problem.
We can never get the facts about the tainted blood scandal. We have been asking questions for months regarding this issue. Canadians and Quebecers are dying because blood supplies were not properly handled. These are very important issues. We ask questions, but we do not get answers. We are told: "Do not worry; a commissioner will make a decision and then we will take action". In the meantime, people are dying. Is this what we call transparency, Mr. Speaker? Is that what this government had to offer to Canadians and Quebecers? I do not think so.
Earlier, the secretary of state alluded to the CN strike. We spent a whole weekend saying that the minister was using strong-arm tactics on workers to eventually be able to privatize CN. We were told: "No, no. You are wrong. The government is not trying to break the union". Fine. But then, what do we learn a few weeks later? We learn that the government wants to privatize CN. We learn that it wants to sell part of Canada's heritage, because CN is truly a part of our heritage. Yet, we were told that we were mistaken. This is probably what the government calls transparency.
I will give one last example, but there are many more. The Charles R. Bronfman Foundation. We just learned, thanks to the Access to Information Act, that this great foundation, which extols the virtues of Canada by promoting Canadian heritage in its "heritage minutes" on TV, and which received a $200,000 government subsidy for the year 1992-93, will get $2 million this year. If you look a little more closely, you discover that one party involved is a person by the name of Tom Axworthy. That person must be a good lobbyist to get a tenfold, or 1,000 per cent, increase in the government subsidy. This is either a good lobbyist, or else the brother of the Minister of Human Resources Development. We checked and discovered that it is the latter.
When people look at all this, they realize that things have not changed. This is why we want transparency. We want to improve the credibility of MPs and their work. All the parties should set aside their political differences and work together to come up with a good bill. This is what the Bloc tried to do on several occasions. However, the amendments we proposed were always rejected by the government. Are we always in the wrong? I think not. We too hear from our constituents. Then, why is that happening? Simply because this government is no better than the previous one. It is only somewhat more discreet. It uses a thicker smoke screen than the Conservatives did. However, if you dig a little, you see exactly the same things.
I will close by saying that I think the Liberal Party should take a hard look at the transparency of its administration. It should really reread its elections promises and its famous red book and look at what it has actually done. I think it will draw useful conclusions that will enable it to take better aim, because it needs to take better aim.
In conclusion, therefore, if I had to decide or vote on this motion, I would be for the first part and against the second.
Finally, with a message for government perhaps as well-I almost forgot this point-I wanted to say that we in the Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition, wanted to introduce a bill here to increase transparency with regard to the funding of political parties, and it would have been given the same unanimous support across Canada it is now being given in Quebec. I think Parliament must acquire such a tool to provide for transparency in its administration. You know, each year, when we look at the list of individuals contributing to one or other political party, we realize that there are
individuals and companies-at the federal level, companies may make contributions-making contributions of $15,000 or $25,000. Immediately, the question comes to mind: "What do they want in return?"
I think that, if we had legislation governing party funding, a law on the public funding of parties, we would avoid governments having their hands and feet tied once they are elected. We would thus limit contributions, as in Quebec, to $5,000 and we would limit contributions only to voters, constituents. We would avoid having companies taking power and control, as is the case currently with the Liberal Party, whose head office is Power Corporation. We just have to look at the legislation being passed here to see that everything is done in terms of this company. This would really prevent the kind of business currently going on.
This is what we introduced. The government often tells us that the opposition is always criticizing, but never comes up with anything. We presented a bill from the Bloc Quebecois, from the member for Richelieu. What did the Liberals do? They voted against it-go figure-even though it was directly related to a very large part of the red book on the subject of integrity. We were giving them the opportunity to achieve something they were not achieving, something they were sidestepping. But, no, they voted against it.
All this is to say that nothing has changed since the Conservatives left. The same thing is going on. I think the secretary of state is deceiving us when he says that voters' confidence has increased. Quite sincerely, I think that the Liberal Party and each of its members here in this House have broken a large number of their election promises. Quite sincerely, I think that these Liberals have betrayed the confidence of this House in this regard and I find it most regrettable.