Mr. Speaker, what I am doing is I am detailing in lawyer terms, as you will be familiar with, an ironclad case of why we need an ethics counsellor and why this review, this extension of a couple of weeks, rather than being a waste of time, may allow the government or try to make the government do the right thing and that is to have ethnics guidelines and some advice for the ethics counsellor that is worth more than just the paper it is written on.
That is why I am building this case. There are times when it is right for opposition members, and I would think and hope government members as well, to question the use and the ethics of their own cabinet.
It is true that all members of Parliament have an ethical standard that we should adhere to, as the member for Crowfoot mentioned earlier. There are things that we can and cannot do. Those guidelines are very useful for all members of Parliament.
Also, no doubt cabinet ministers are held to a higher standard. I just went over the reasons. Cabinet ministers are the only people who get credit cards. They are the only members of Parliament who get a car and a driver. They are the only members of Parliament who have wide ranging responsibilities from coast to coast that affect government policy directly by the directives they sign.
They have a higher level of standard than members of Parliament generally, and so they should. The Prime Minister has said repeatedly that should be so.
What I am describing here in the youth minister's case is an absolute, 100 per cent case of misuse of a government credit card. One of the ministers came forward the other day and said that because these were personal items she charged on her government credit card we had no business knowing what this was about. Absolutely.
If someone uses a personal credit card for personal use it is their business. The privacy commissioner is right to ensure that the person is ensured of privacy. If someone uses a government credit card for personal use, then the person has lost some of that privacy. They have used a government credit card, a government asset and government privilege, available only to the cabinet, for personal use.
Once that happens it should become public knowledge. I am disappointed that the Prime Minister seems to believe he has to deal with is a cabinet minister who breaks a guideline only when it is convenient for the government to shuffle the minister aside.
One of the guidelines I hope will be in the report which will be tabled will deal with the whole access to information request. The way many members access information is through the access to information directive.
We ask of ministers copies of their expenses, which is routinely done, their department expenses, things they spent money on, priorities of the departments and so on. It is routinely done. I probably tabled 100 access to information requests since being in Parliament.
I hope one of the things to be dealt with in this report is why there is an early warning system given to cabinet minister when an access to information request is put in. Why do the red flags go up in the privy council office when there is an access to information request about something to do with a minister?
In other words, instead of saying "here is the information the member for Fraser Valley East has asked for", it happens otherwise. People in Canada should know. It goes through the privy council and the privy council puts the early warning flag on it.
It says to the minister: "Is there something in this pot here that disturbs you? Do you want to know about it? Is there something here that will cause some trouble?" If so, they are advised of that and so on. That is what happened to the former minister of defence.
There was an access to information request put in by someone from the media. It went by the privy council office. "Geepers creepers, sakes alive. Look at this. It could be very damaging". It is brought to the attention of the Prime Minister, the minister and so on.
After they decide how they will spin it and handle it, eventually maybe it is handed down to the person who actually asked for the information.
I hope the report when tabled will deal with that. It is only fair that the person asking for the information receives the information asked for first. They asked for it. They wanted it.
I am not sure what the Prime Minister is thinking about by setting up the two standards. The minister of national defence was forced to resign for writing a letter to a quasi-judicial body. That is fair enough. Those are his guidelines. I do not know what the guidelines are but if those were his guideline, fair enough.
What about the other ministers? The former Minister of Canadian Heritage wrote to the chair of the CRTC, a quasi-judicial board, endorsing a radio licence application of a constituent. Was that breaking the guidelines? If so, why was no action taken?
When Brian Tobin was minister of fisheries he wrote a letter to the chair of the CRTC backing francophone demands for the French Newsworld. He wanted it carried by Newfoundland cable companies so he wrote to the CRTC as a minister and asked for that to be done. Interfering with a quasi-judicial board got the Minister of National Defence fired, but Brian Tobin just becomes the terminator.
The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development wrote to the CRTC on behalf of a temple in Toronto that applied for a religious TV channel. That is interfering with a quasi-judicial board. The minister of defence was fired for it, but it was fine for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to do that.
I do not have it here with me today, but perhaps I will bring it when we come back. I will bring forward my top 10 suggestions for ethics guidelines for ministers since the Prime Minister does not seem to have any. It includes things like: Guideline No. 1, do not get caught. These are the tough ones. Guideline No. 2, remember you can fool all of the people all of the time and some of the people some of the time. These are tough guidelines. Another guideline is: Always check with Paul Desmarais. That is a good guideline.
I do not know what the guidelines are because the Prime Minister will not table them. They are as imaginary as his imaginary friend, the one he said he visited frequently to talk about the problems of the homeless. You probably remember that, Mr. Speaker. When he was asked by a reporter where he met this homeless friend I think the Prime Minister's response was: "I see, I said, I had, I thought, actually I don't have an imaginary friend. I just kind of made that up, but you caught me. Anyway, let's talk about something else".
The Prime Minister's ethic guidelines that he promised are around somewhere have never been tabled. That would have been an integral part of the report that the member for Elk Island would have liked to have seen tabled in this House. An integral part would have been the guidelines, how they are processed, who are they responsible for, who are they accountable to, has the ethics counsellor even seen them.
Watching the ethics counsellor on the news the other day I bled for the guy. The reporter says: "So about these guidelines?". The guy, who is digging his toe in the dirt, says: "Well, sir, actually I have not seen any guidelines". The ethics counsellor has not seen any guidelines. Against what standard does he judge these cabinet ministers? How does he enforce? What are the consequences? What is he doing anyway? I do not know if he gets paid for this job or not. Does he get paid? What does he do? Does he get up in the morning and watch "Quirks and Quarks" and then make his decisions? Does he consult JoJo? Perhaps he does. If JoJo is not available then he checks with the imaginary friend. How does he judge these people? There is nothing to judge them against.
Why does the Prime Minister not just put all this to rest, if he has guidelines, and table them, make it part of the report that the member for Elk Island would like to table in this House so that we can deal with it in its entirety, not some tromped up, last minute, drop it on the table, hope it makes it through the House guidelines at the last minute. It is not good enough. That is why today we need to talk about ethics.
The whole problem that the government is having now is with its promises. Mr. Speaker, I should sometime give you my top 10 list of the ways that the Liberal government tries to seduce the voters, but I am not going to get into that today. It is not ethical perhaps at this time. Ethics are involved with promises made and promises kept. Remember what the Prime Minister said in 1993. "There is not one promise that I have made that I will not keep". He should have signed that GST but he did not. But he just said he would keep them all.
Then the excuses started. "I cannot be expected to keep them all," says the Prime Minister. And listen to this: "Sometimes in the course of a mandate you are faced with a situation where you cannot deliver". That is kind of a contrast to his earlier statement. "You have to have some flexibility because acts of God come into the administration. No politician can see everything happening".