Madam Speaker, several points have been brought forward by the leader of the official opposition which we agree are very important to the system.
However, we feel that most of the issues that he mentioned have been dealt with very clearly within the legislation. I know people can talk about patronage appointments and a wide variety of things, such as the offices and positions that people have, but the reality is there are four or five political parties in this House.
If we look at the representation of the people across the country, there are always going to be some Liberals who are appointed to positions. There are going to be some Bloc members who are appointed to positions. There are going to be some Reform members who are appointed to positions. Those appointments must be on merit. On this side of the House we do not question the fact that people are to be appointed on merit.
We feel that this legislation provides for an appointment process of the president and the executive vice-president on the same basis as we would appoint a deputy minister and associate deputy minister. The process ensures that knowledgeable, well qualified people will be selected for those positions. The legislation also allows for the renewal of the appointment of the president or the executive vice-president for one or more terms as appropriate. As such it will provide the government with the flexibility to ensure a consistent and continuous senior management structure in the agency.
With respect to the role identified for the Standing Committee of the House of Commons in the selection of advisory board members, there is no legislative precedent in the Canadian parliamentary system for having a committee involved with that type of detail. Yes, we have seen the fiascos of committees getting involved in the scrutiny of appointments in the United States. Quite frankly, it is a political tear down when we look at it. I think the public watches with interest when parties start that process. In reality, I am certain that the United States is very envious of the system we have in this country. It is very clear from the people we have in appointed positions that they do an extremely good job.
The minister is responsible and accountable to Parliament for the agency and its administration. As we look at it the minister is the end of those responsibilities. Quite frankly, he has the responsibility to consult very widely, check with as many people as possible and make certain the operation is running properly.
The purpose of the advisory board is clearly to provide the minister with advice with respect to matters relating to food inspection. Provinces, unions, and others will continue to seek input from a host of sources that will help the minister with his decisions.
With respect to the selection of the advisory board members, the intent of the legislation is to ensure that the minister can choose an advisory board from as wide a selection of individuals as possible. We do not wish to inadvertently limit or curtail the possibilities of choice of that board. Rather than mandating representation from specific interested parties, it is preferable to have a broad source of knowledgeable people, including the possibility of representation from the unions.
With respect to fees paid to the advisory board members, these fees will be subject to Treasury Board guidelines that are in place in this country.
With respect to the reporting on intellectual property, this information is currently available and reported annually. For example, the food production and inspection agency of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada issued 1,621 fresh fruit and vegetable dealer licences in 1996 and is part of the summary list in part III of the main estimates. This reporting will continue in the agency. Furthermore, committees of the House will continue to review this sort of information as part of the main estimates process through the Appropriations Act.
I reiterate as well that where concerns come up and Parliament wishes to deal with them, we do have the committee process in place. That committee process is to allow members of this House to investigate whatever issues they feel necessary to further investigate. It will involve members of Parliament. Through that process I believe the House is well protected too.
The minister who is virtually responsible in the end must take the resource of what is going on, take the circumstances of the agency and make certain it is running properly. The House at the same time has its vehicle through the committees to investigate any concerns. Quite frankly, both sides of the House have a full opportunity in committee to voice concerns and bring forward witnesses to discuss issues that are pertinent.