Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-60, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act. At first blush, the bill seems pretty innocuous. I looked at it with the hon. member for Frontenac.
However, a closer examination shows what the Liberal Party wants to do. This is rather disheartening. The government comes up with nice bills, but it always wants to able to appoint friends. Because the government wants to remain in office, it does not necessarily appoint competent people. Not to worry. It does not matter whether these appointees are competent or not. What matters for the government is looking after its friends.
Earlier, the hon. member for Frontenac proposed constructive amendments. My colleague sat on the committee. He made constructive suggestions, and I am anxious to see whether the government will have the courage to accept and support these positive changes.
Why do I say this? It is because, while I am still naive, I do notice certain things when I look at the current political reality. We are the official opposition and people often say that the opposition is only there to block government initiatives. This is not at all the Bloc Quebecois' vision, particularly since we are not even here to try to form the government.
Rather, we are here to defend the views of part of the public. I was elected to represent the Lac-Saint-Jean region. Therefore, I come here with certain views and I say to the government: "Listen, your bill may not be so bad, but we propose this changeor that change". But to no avail. I am quite convinced that, when the time comes to vote, the government will turn a deaf ear.
It should come as no surprise that people are no longer interested in politics. It is always the same thing. It is always these little schemes to promote patronage. Of course, this is done quietly. It does not make the headlines. It is always done in an under handed way. This is all very disappointing. Even though we are the opposition-I would rather say the watchdog of democracy-we should be able to work together at least some of the time, so that everyone can make a positive contribution.
This reminds me of the bill we talked about recently, which would have revoked the conviction of Louis Riel. Why did the government vote against the bill? This is ridiculous. When the opposition says black, the government says white.
But that is not what it usually says. Usually, it says: "The opposition is just there to disagree". I am sorry, but we do try to suggest some constructive changes. We try to raise some interesting points. But all we get is a completely negative reaction to any contribution we are prepared to make. I must say I find this very disappointing. I look forward to the time when we have our own country, so we can go our own way.
I will give a few examples from the bill. In clause 9, it says that the head office of the agency shall be in the national capital region or any other location in Canada. That is good. However, according to certain officials, the head office of the agency could be in Ottawa at first and then be moved later on by order in council. Basically, the question that comes to mind is whether the agency could go where it would be politically expedient. If things are not going well in a riding, this would be a good thing to have, so the government hands out a goody. That is what I dislike about the Liberal Party and the government.
In clause 10, it says that the minister responsible for the agency shall appoint an advisory board of not more than 12 members to hold office during pleasure for a term not exceeding three years. The minister would also appoint one of the members as chairperson of the advisory board instead of letting people qualified in this area who have to work with the food inspection people choose their own representatives.
So the minister is making sure he can control the members of the advisory board and influence their decisions. That is pretty obvious. When you give a job to your friends, they can hardly turn around later on and bite the hand that feeds them.
In subclause 10(5), it says that the minister will fix the fees paid to the members of the advisory board. However, I may point out that in clause 8, it says that the president and the executive vice-president shall be paid such remuneration as is fixed by the governor in council. The question is whether this is a mere technicality or whether it is some kind of double standard that could lead to discrimination. This clause is unacceptable for another reason.
Clause 12 provides that the agency is a separate employer under the Public Service Staff Relations Act. Clause 13 provides that the president has the authority to appoint employees to the agency. When the bill was studied in committee, officials confirmed that there would be a code of conduct, of ethics, governing the appointment of agency employees. The thing is, however, that we will not know the content of the code before the bill is passed. It reminds me of the code of ethics of the ministers opposite: they have a fine code of ethics to show that everything they do is proper, except no one knows what the code is. It is completely ridiculous. What is the use of a code of ethics when people cannot even find out what it is about? Here again, it serves to score political points.
The officials told us that the usual rules governing hiring in the public service would be suspended during the transition period. Why do we not know what rules will be used?
We note therefore that patronage-discrimination even-will abound in the future Canadian Food Inspection Agency. This is why the Bloc Quebecois has proposed reasonable amendments to prevent the federal government from abusing its power in this matter.
As I said earlier, we simply want to make a constructive contribution. I do not want to foul things up. So long as we are paying taxes to Ottawa, I want to be sure this country is run the best way possible. I am here to work, to improve bills while we are still here. I see these sorts of things, and then people ask me why we want to have our own country.
At some point, people have to try to understand more. As I said earlier, we wonder why people are not more interested in politics. I think it is because of this sort of thing.
Our colleague from Frontenac has contributed constructively. I would therefore invite the government to give it some thought, and perhaps we could work more together.