Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak on this first day back from the Christmas break to the very important issue of food inspection, specifically Bill C-60 and the amendments that are before the House.
We are debating group No. 10 which is comprised of motions Nos. 31, 32 and 33. I have heard it said that no issue is more important for the government and the Canadian Parliament to deal with than the issue of food and food inspection. Along with such things as the air we breathe, the water we drink and shelter in our harsh northern climate, food is one of the staples which maintains life. It is an important subject.
I would like to say at the outset that the Reform Party, in dealing with these three motions, supports motion No. 31. It would add more accountability. As everyone knows, Reform Party members in the 35th Parliament have stressed accountability of government in its operations on an ongoing basis. Therefore, anything that
could be written into the legislation that would bring about a greater degree of accountability is certainly supported by members on this side of the House.
During an intervention on this bill by one of my colleague's some government members from the far end of the House, from the so-called rump section of Parliament, said: "What about us? Do not forget about us down at this end". He was referring to the fact that the government consistently does not listen to people on this side of the House. I would add that those in the rump section are not listened to as well. They are possibly even more annoyed than we are. It shows us the value of being a Liberal backbencher, especially those who are sitting in the rump section of the 35th Parliament. They are never listened to. It must be incredibly frustrating.
We support the intent of motion No. 32 as well. However, we oppose motion No. 33. We are not opposed to the intent of the motion, however, it deals specifically with outlining how the auditor general should do his job. We feel that should be left to the auditor general. We have supported everything which that office has done in the past and we will continue to support the involvement of the auditor general in all aspects of holding governments accountable. We support the intent of the motion, however, we feel that motion No. 33 goes a bit far in instructing the auditor general in the way he should do his job. We think he is doing a terrific job already and does not need that type of interference or direction.
Reform members oppose the bill. The intent is quite admirable. The government wishes to consolidate and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of federal inspection services related to food, animal and plant health, and to increase the collaboration with provincial governments in this area. It is certainly an admirable goal. It is one which all Canadians would support. However, we do not see the details of that in the bill.
My concern is that, once again, the government, as it has time after time in the past, is passing umbrella type legislation and will bring in the details and the regulations later. We are supposed to take the government at its word and trust that it will accomplish those stated objectives and goals. We have very deep and grave concerns about that because all too often in the past that has not happened. The government has a grandiose plan of how it is going to accomplish certain things. It brings in umbrella legislation, passes it, and then we are stuck with regulations that do not work, which are simply shuffled through by order in council. That is why we are in opposition to the bill.
No provision for a detailed breakdown of the cost savings has been provided by the government. We do not see how a decision can be made about such an all-encompassing bill without that type of detail being brought forward.
We heard statements by the parliamentary secretary earlier when he was speaking about group 9 amendments that the government will make a commitment to take a long time-he emphasized the word long-to consult with all the stakeholders and that the bill is consistent with Liberal policies. I suggest that is because the policy of the government is the status quo. It is taking a long time to bring in legislation which Canadians have been demanding and insisting upon. That is certainly a concern.
While the government seems to move at a snail's pace in some areas, in others when it finally makes a decision it shuts down debate, as was indicated by my colleague earlier. It brings in time allocation or closure and shuts down the democratic process in this place once it decides the direction it wants to go.
Since this is our first opportunity to speak since returning to this place after the Christmas break, it is very interesting that the minister for defence invoked closure on the Somali inquiry. He shut down any further debate.
I made a comment in a newspaper column which I write back in my riding of Prince George-Peace River that I think the hon. minister confused the operations in the House of Commons with the operations outside of the House of Commons. The government has become accustomed to bringing in time allocation and shutting down debate in this place. Now it wants to elevate that one step further and do it across the country. I find that despicable and I believe most Canadians are concerned about that type of operation.
As I have said on this group of amendments, we support the first two amendments and oppose the third. That is the official position of the Reform Party.