Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-60. The federal Liberal government is giving the minister the power to appoint the president, the vice-president and the 12 members of the advisory board. In addition, the president has the right to review the direction and policies of the agency.
If the minister is allowed to appoint the agency's president, its vice-president and the 12 members of its advisory board, he can also control the agency as well, by influencing its overall policies. None of this is very reassuring when it comes to the transparency of our federal government.
The Bloc Quebecois's amendment quite rightly suggests leaving it up to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, a committee of this House, to appoint the 12 members of this advisory board and to see that the agency is run properly.
This will ensure impartiality and transparency, since this committee, like the others, is made up of members of the various parties.
In addition, our partners would be invited to recommend appointees, our partners being the provinces, or representatives from the agricultural sector, in short people for whom agriculture is paramount and who have a stake in the sector.
While we are on the topic, why do we not think the advisory board would be representative of the weight of each province? Democracy means one person, one vote. But in the Canadian confederation, one province does not necessarily mean one vote. Not all provinces carry the same weight. Since the province of Quebec represents 25 per cent of the population of Canada, ought it not to have three representatives out of the twelve on the advisory committee? It would be common sense for there to be proportionality, and therefore greater fairness. Let us not forget that Quebecers who make up this 25 per cent pay 25 per cent, or some $30 billion, to the federal government.
For as long as we are part of Canada, I will defend the interests of my fellow citizens of Quebec. We will come here to seek what is due to us, to demand what is ours. In short, then, Quebec is fully justified in calling for three representatives on this advisory committee and in demanding to be consulted on the other appointments. In business terms, some would say Quebec is a major shareholder, with at least one-quarter of the shares.
I would like to draw your attention to another aspect of Bill C-60: allowing the minister to approve the business plan. Again, why would this not be submitted to the members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food? This would lend more vitality to that committee, which plays a lead role in drawing up government policies. I say this without a great deal of enthusiasm, since we all know that what Liberals want is to pull a fast one on us. The Liberal government is in a hurry to get its bills passed, so that it can then do favours for its friends.
What we want to see, obviously, is for the positions of president and vice-president, and the others jobs in the agency, to go to those who are best suited for them. Provinces and organizations representing the interests of the farming community should submit candidates for these positions to the committee, and be consulted de facto.
Unfortunately, in this area, as with the Constitution, the approach is unilateral. That is the lesson to be drawn from this. I trust that historians, when dealing with the reign of this current Liberal government, will speak out on this.
We are fed up seeing the federal government use its constitutional prerogative, royal prerogative even, to make appointments. This is not always a good thing. One needs only to look at the unsavoury situation resulting from the appointment of Jean-Louis Roux as Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec. Now we know the disastrous results of that decision, and I shall say no more on the matter. I am not using examples from the time of Sir John A. Macdonald or Sir Wilfrid Laurier, but from the current term of the Liberals. Wait and see the critical analysis of the Liberal years historians will be making a few years from now. It will be a real hoot to read them on
screen, for nothing will be on paper any more by that time. We are entering the era of the information highway, McLuhan's global village.
Still in the same vein, the purpose of our amendments is to give more power to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. We want the committee to advise the minister on all matters relating to the mission of the Canadian food inspection agency. We also want the advisory board to respond to all questions submitted by the standing committee of this House.
We think it is very important that not only the minister but also the committee be able to examine the agency's action plan. If two heads are better than one, why rely on what one minister has to say? This is no reflection on the minister, and I am sure he understands that.
To achieve maximum transparency in what the agency does, it is imperative to involve the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. Why is the government afraid to give this committee a say in the agency's appointments, its business plan and what it does? If we want transparency, if we want everything to be crystal clear, we must be prepared to do what is necessary to achieve this. It is all very well to preach, but we must also practice what we preach.
Consider also that putting the agency's plan before the members of this House may make the public more aware of the meaning of democracy. It is often said that people are losing interest in public affairs, and the result is a lack of involvement. Did you ever wonder why? Could it be because we fail to tell our fellow citizens what we are doing? Because we keep them out of the decision-making process? Because we want to go too fast and consulting them or delegating authority would slow down the process? Sometimes when a decision has to be made by a group, everyone in the group tends to look after his own interests.
Briefly, in addition to its insistence on transparency, the amendment we are seeking is quite straightforward and logical: the corporate business plan is to be submitted to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food and not only to the minister. Second, the business plan should come before the House of Commons so that the people's elected representatives can give their final approval.
Regarding Motion No. 25, the Bloc's amendment suggests that, before submitting its plan to the minister, to the agriculture and agri-food committee and to this House, the agency should consult its partners, that is to say the farming industry, the provinces and the appropriate unions. This will give a better product, or business plan.
I do not have to remind you that, this way, we will ensure that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's corporate business plan will have a much better chance of striking a consensus. Without these consultations, the public and those who use these services are likely not to be well served.
After all, we are here to serve the public and, furthermore, the agency will reassure Quebecers and Canadians about compliance with food safety regulations and, to a point, about their health.