Mr. Speaker, the bill before us, Bill C-49, makes some administrative changes to boards, agencies and tribunals according to the summary.
Our position is that this bill should be scrapped and done away with immediately. It does little, if anything, to reduce patronage. It makes surface changes to administration of boards and agencies but no real changes to improve accountability.
We need competence and quality in appointments to government boards and tribunals as well as improved accountability. This bill, in itself, in our view is simply a blueprint for patronage.
The bill does not affect the cabinet's power to make appointments. It can still appoint whomever it wants whenever it wants. In fact, the number of pleasure appointments have increased, which may open the door to increased political interference.
The bill says it will eliminate 271 jobs. Currently all 271 jobs are vacant and we know full well, and acting on common sense, when someone does not have something they cannot very well take it away.
There are still approximately 2,225 appointments available to cabinet. The person in charge of patronage appointments is Penny Collenette, a patronage appointment in and of herself.
In the red book the Liberals made a promise with regard to patronage. They said that 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. That was on page 92. This bill flies in the face of that commitment.
Our commitment in our blue book was that the Reform Party supports restrictions and limitations on the number and types of orders in council permitted by a government during its term in office. That is the way these appointments should be made.
Let us take a look at what the Ottawa Citizen has to say and part of the list that it provided us on Friday, January 3 on government appointments. It notes that Deborah Coyne, a constitutional lawyer who worked as an advisor to former Newfoundland Premier Clyde Wells during the Meech Lake accord negotiations and who is a special friend of former Prime Minister Trudeau, will kick off the
new year as a member of the department of citizenship's immigration and refugee board.
It says that Stephen Goudge, a former chairman of the legal aid committee of the Law Society of Upper Canada and a friend of the current justice minister, was appointed a judge of the court of appeal for Ontario. When contacted at his Toronto home, Mr. Goudge stated that he did not have any comment on his appointment. He said: "It would be inappropriate for me to comment on anything. I am honoured by the appointment. I will do the best I can". I am sure he will and he will be well rewarded for it.
Cabinet order in council documents show that the Liberal government made 53 such public service appointments on December 19. They were tremendous Christmas gifts. They included 27 appointments to quasi-judicial boards administered by the Department of Human Resources Development, 11 appointments to the immigration and refugee board and the appointment of five senior judges. Some of the jobs are high paying. For example, the immigration and refugee board jobs come with salaries of $86,400 a year.
These patronage appointments prompted an editorial in the Ottawa Citizen , a paper which customarily is friendly to the government. I would like to read into the record some of the editorial. The title is:
Hypocrisy of Patronage''. The subtitle is:Having failed to uphold red book promises to control patronage, the Liberals are guilty of the sin of hypocrisy''. The editorial states:
What do hundreds of defeated Liberal candidates, campaign managers, fundraisers, and friends of Jean Chrétien have in common? They've been rewarded with patronage posts for their loyal service to the Liberal party.
Make no mistake, patronage is alive and well in the Chrétien government. It is most obvious with Gov. Gen. Roméo LeBlanc (former MP, senator, and election strategist). It is just as pervasive with the unknown Liberals who sit on countless agencies and boards.
Granted, the Liberals are not abusing the time-(dis)honored practice as much as Brian Mulroney did. He shamelessly spread the spoils of power and turned Canada into a nation of cynics.
Chrétien's political sin isn't that he's acted as cavalierly as Mulroney, but that he hasn't met the high standards he promised. His is a sin of political hypocrisy. Among the Liberals' Red Book promises:
The budget for consulting contracts would be cut by 15 per cent. So-called communications consultants with political ties can reap lucrative contracts by providing "strategic" advice. The Liberals say general spending cuts have saved enough money, so they have not chopped consulting budgets as promised.
Parliamentarians would be given "mechanisms" to review some senior cabinet appointments. No such mechanisms are yet created, and no excuse given.
All appointments would be "made on the basis of competence". So far, more than 1,800 have been appointed. Some, such as LeBlanc, have been highly successful, but overall quality suffers if the candidates' prime qualification is that they are Liberals.
Chrétien promised this week "he won't take Canadians for granted" in the next election. If so, he should remember it's their loyalty-not that of party members-that should come first.
Patronage is a problem. That is pointed out in this editorial. They are not my words, they are the words of a newspaper which tends to be friendly with the current government. Patronage spoils the feelings which people have for politicians and their government, especially when they see candidates who were unsuccessful in general elections being appointed to government boards and other bodies which pay well. They look at that with great alarm. It is taxpayers' money and they wonder how well their money is being spent. Why should their hard earned tax dollars be used to support failed candidates in a manner to which the taxpayers would like to become accustomed?
The bill makes very few changes, for example, to travel and per diem perks. In section 32(3), this bill will not affect such high flyers, as my colleague pointed out earlier, as Victor Gloodbloom, the Commissioner of Official Languages, who commutes between Montreal and Ottawa. But it will eliminate local commuting claims for people who used to claim the drive from home to work even if was just around the corner.
The bill will deal with remedial and disciplinary measures which will be standardized for administrative tribunals. However, the power of the minister to interfere with disciplinary measures has increased. The minister can now decide whether any member of a committee should be subject to remedial or disciplinary measures, section 5, or whether they should continue on-