Mr. Speaker, I am sure in your nearly 50 years on this earth that you have never seen such a debate as this. Although you are an experienced parliamentarian and an experienced person, because of your advancing age, I am sure you have never seen a debate like this on ethics in the House of Commons.
The member for Rimouski-Témiscouata kind of went over the top with her concern that we are wasting the time of the House. I do not consider it to be a waste of time to talk about ethics. I do not consider it to be a waste of time to raise concerns about the ethical standards of the government and its failure to meet even the low standards which seem to have been set. I do not think it is a waste of time to ask questions about credit card use, about letters written to quasi-judicial boards, or to ask questions about the resignations of some ministers.
If we want to talk about wasting time we could ask the government why it brought forward the debate on the speech from the throne yesterday, usurping even Private Members' Business. The speech from the throne was so overwhelmingly important to the government that it took up an entire day of the business of the House of Commons to talk about a February 1996 document which no one has heard about since it was tabled. That is a waste of time. If she wants to get excited about a waste of time, that is a good thing to get excited about. I did not see her complaining about it yesterday at all.
It is not a waste of time to talk about ethics. It is not a waste of time to get it right when we are talking about ethics.
If we want to get an ethics counsellor, an ethics control system and an ethics checks and balances system that works for the House of Commons and for Canadians it is not a waste of time to get it right.
The member for Elk Island has asked if we could have a couple of weeks to put forward our suggestions on this. That is not a waste of time. The government has sat on that since June, this whole issue of the ethics counsellor. It has sat on this since June. It has not had one meeting for June, July, August, September, October. Suddenly the government says it would like to call a meeting together and run it through the House and it is all over.
Four months of no comment is hardly a recent rehashing of the concerns. To claim that it does not matter now and we should just throw our hands up in the air and let it go, when it comes to ethical standards it is not good enough. We are not going to let it go. That is why we want to talk about the ethical standards of this government for a few minutes today. Even if the government is not listening, I think the Canadian people are.
What has triggered this lately is only an example. I do not want to particularly single out one person, but obviously the minister for youth has been in the newspapers lately. She has been complaining because she has been under scrutiny, that people have been watching her every move, that when she uses a government credit card and whites out $9,000 worth of expenses, just trust her because they were for personal use on her government credit card.
She has reimbursed the government. The Prime Minister says over some weeks and months she has reimbursed the government. That may be so, but if you want to use a government credit card issued only to cabinet members for personal use, then you can fully expect that we are going to ask questions about it. Members of Parliament do not get them. No other member of Parliament, government or opposition, gets a credit card; only the ministers get credit cards.
On this idea that "I did not have another credit card so I had to use the government credit card", she has been a member of Parliament for eight years. She has lived in Ottawa for the last eight years while she has been a member of Parliament. To say she does not have another credit card or cannot get another credit card, cannot have another credit card, whatever, she has a government credit card and she is going to use it for personal use. She bought a fur coat with this stupid thing, a down payment on a fur coat. Pardon me, it was not a full fur coat, just the collar.