Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity today to speak to Bill C-49. It is the administrative tribunals act but it should be known as the bill which attempts to deal with patronage appointments to administrative tribunals.
It is important that we set the stage for this debate by looking at the Liberal government's red book promise on how it intended to deal with this area. On page 92 of the red book it is stated:
A Liberal government will take a series of initiatives to restore confidence in the institutions of government-and make competence and diversity the criteria for federal appointments. Open government will be the watchword of the Liberal program.
If Bill C-49 is one step in a series of initiatives designed to address the patronage problem, I suggest it is very much a baby step. If this is the best the government can do to address the policy expressed in the red book, it should be withdrawn and the government should start over again. This legislation is simply another type of window dressing which we see so often in this Parliament. It tends to mislead Canadians into thinking that something is being done when in fact very little is happening.
Let us examine the bill for a moment. It still leaves over 2,000 patronage appointments which can be dealt with by order in council. In fact the government has a special patronage appointment office in the PMO which deals with these appointments. It does not deal with the accountability factor. It reminds me very much of the old administration to which my colleague referred a moment ago, which was the Conservative government of the last Parliament. It was in office for nine years and patronage became very much a way of life, much as it has been for a century in this country.
It reminds me of the story of an MP who represented a riding in western Canada. He was a Conservative member in opposition for four years and then in 1984 he became a government member. One of the local companies in his riding suggested that maybe they could get some of the government's legal work through farm credit and that type of organization. This fellow said: "Oh, no, we would never do that. We are going to be squeaky clean". About two weeks after the government took power he took one of the law firm partners out for lunch and said: "Boy, was I naive. What do you want?" That was it and the gates were open to patronage appointments. We heard what Brian Mulroney said about that in the last Parliament and we are hearing it all over again this time around.
What happened to the process? What happened to the ideal in this country that jobs are awarded on the basis of competence and ability? What is wrong with that kind of process? Nothing at all. It happens in business all the time. It is a very admirable quality that we should try to achieve in the House of Commons.
What happened to the openness of process that was promised on page 92 of the red book? "Open government will be the watchword of the Liberal program". We have not seen much of that happening. What about competition for these jobs? What about fairness of process? It simply is not happening.
During the three years that I have been here I have certainly had my eyes opened as to how the system really works. Let us examine what has happened in the last three years.
A very competent minister of the government, the former Minister for International Trade, Roy MacLaren, was talked out of running again. They asked him to step aside so a byelection could be held. It is my understanding Mr. MacLaren was not very happy about that, but then he learned there was a little reward at the end of the line for him. He could become the British high commissioner. Of course we already had a British high commissioner whose term was not up until July, and this was in January. Poor Roy needed some interim job to tide him over and he was able to get a tidy
little contract with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade just to get him by.
It seemed that it was the foreign affairs area which really got rewarded that time around. André Ouellet, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, one of our colleagues in this House the last time around, was talked out of running again to allow one of those bright stars to come in from Quebec. We are not sure how brightly shining they are right now but that was the idea at least. Mr. Ouellet was talked into stepping aside. Of course there was a little reward for him at the end of the tunnel too: chairman of Canada Post Corporation, which happens to pay $308,000 a year. That seemed like a fairly good amount. There was more.
Some of our other colleagues on that side of the House also got their rewards. They were asked to step aside and take appointments to the Senate, the great Senate, the heaven of patronage-haven, heaven. Jean-Robert Gauthier and former Acting Speaker Shirley Maheu got their rewards. I often tell my constituents that being appointed to the Senate is the only time someone can get to heaven without actually dying. That is what happens here. That is the kind of reward we see in this country.
With that kind of example being set, it is common knowledge that candidates from the Liberals and Tories when they are in power, candidates who may not make it into the House of Commons are also rewarded. They get appointed to the Canadian Grain Commission and every other job we can possibly think of.
It is no wonder Canadians are cynical about the process. We simply must get back to a process of accountability with people who actually have the competence to take these jobs based on past performance in other areas of life. They should not automatically go to people who were former members of Parliament, or people in power, or political candidates. There are a lot of competent people out there who would like a shot at being involved with these judicial boards.
There should be a fair and open process that addresses this issue. We simply do not have it now. This bill should be defeated. It should be scrapped. If the government cannot come up with anything better than this, I suggest it should face the Canadian public at election time. Quit tinkering. Bring something substantive forward or do not bring forward anything at all.