Mr. Speaker, I can talk for a couple of minutes about why the faith of Canadians in politicians has plummeted so severely.
It has been a sad trend to watch how people have placed politicians somewhere down on the bottom of the list with snake oil salesmen as people to trust. It is unfortunate because I do not believe it is necessary. It is unfortunate and I do not believe it is necessary. The government does not seem to understand, and the Prime Minister has not grasped, that there is no shame in stepping aside while an investigation goes on.
There is no shame in a senior official stepping aside and saying that while there is a cloud over my administration, while there is some question about this, I want a complete airing of the facts and I am stepping down until my name is cleared. There is no shame in that. That is a proud moment when you are able to come back to your peers and say that the investigation is complete, it has been fair and open and the facts are all out on the table. We give a nice round of applause and the minister comes back into a position of trust. That is a proud moment. That is assuring and reassuring the Canadian people that the ethics issue is taken seriously.
When you are not prepared to lead by example, when there is some white out on the expense account but you are told: Take my word for it, all is good. I will not tell you what it is, what it is about, how long it took to pay it back or the details, it is my own little secret because it is personal. People look at that. It might be true, they hope it is true but they cannot see it. There is a perception that something is going on. Normally there is no white out for routine business. It is done because there is something being covered or hidden on whatever it is that was changed.
It applies not only to ethical things that involve money. It involves leadership by example in other areas such as the government's plan for something that is as integral to our social system as the Canada pension plan. I hear the government say the only solution is to double the premiums and slash the benefits and that is it. However, members of Parliament get a pension plan fully indexed after six years. That is what breaks the trust with politicians and their constituents.
The member for Beaver River was the first Reform Party member to quality for the MP pension. The papers were brought into her office and basically it came down to her being told that if the MP pension was too extravagant, to opt out of this pension plan, put your money where your mouth is and there is a chance to do it right now. When the member for Beaver River looked at this asked: What is this program worth to me? She was told the pension plan at that time was worth $1.4 million.
The member for Beaver River said, I am sure with some hesitation and trembling because it is a lot of money: "This is where the buck does not pass. This is where the rubber meets the road". She signed away $1.4 million. Why did she do this? Because she had given her word.
It is not fun to give up $1.4 million. It was hers, it was right in the papers and she had it. It could not be taken away except by her own free will. She said: "There are tough decisions to be made and there were promises made in the last election". When the crunch came, even if it was a personal sacrifice, the hon. member stepped up to the batting box and hit a home run. That is why I have respect for the hon. member as the chair of our caucus which exceeds the respect I have for anybody in this House, on that side of the House especially.
She put her money where her mouth is. She showed what ethical conduct is all about. She set a standard to which the rest of us will try to adhere. I opted out of the pension plan as well. We had some leadership in our caucus. We made a promise and we kept it. Ethical conduct is directly linked to the appreciation that constituents have for their MPs. There is a direct correlation between ethical conduct and that appreciation. When we see the ranking of MPs going down, it is tied entirely to that. People always ask me: "How do I know you will keep your word? How do I know I can trust you? How do I know that you will do what you say you will do?"
Keeping ethical standards will restore people's faith in parliamentarians. That is what should be happening here today and in the past while with the Prime Minister. It has not happened. That is too bad because the respect for parliamentarians will continue to drop until he gets that straight in his mind.
(Motion agreed to.)