Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-60, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act, and to lend our support to the credible proposals put forward by our colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois.
While we do not always support them, and in fact object to many of the principles for which they stand, it is enlightening to hear they want to participate in amending legislation to make it good legislation for the benefit of all Canadians. Therefore, we like to see these types of proposals coming forward from our colleagues in the Bloc.
In general terms, Bill C-60, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act, unfortunately is another smoke and mirror policy by the federal government where it says that it is doing something but when you take a real good close look at it you find that it has done next to nothing other than shuffle the numbers.
I think back to when the government created NavCan, an agency to handle air navigation in Canada. It cost $200 million to provide severance pay to the civil servants who lost their jobs on Friday. Each and every one of those civil servants was hired back by NavCan on Monday morning. The Canadian taxpayers came up with $200 million in severance pay for those people and not one of them lost his or her job.
The President of the Treasury Board could stand up in the House and claim: "We have reduced the size of the civil service by 6,400 people. That is a great and wonderful accomplishment". In fact nothing really changed except the name on the letterhead and the name on the pay stub of the cheque. This is what I mean by smoke and mirrors.
Once again an agency is going to be set up and these civil servants are going to lose their jobs. They are no longer going to be civil servants. They are going to get severance pay on Friday and start working for the agency on Monday. Nothing will be changed except the taxpayer will be poorer. We have been taken to the cleaners once more courtesy of the policies put forward by the government.
The motions we are debating at the moment call for a business plan to be put before the agricultural committee to tell committee members how the agency wishes to follow through. Since the agency is a creation of this House it seems only appropriate that agency would come back to the House and tell us its business plan because this House is going to be giving the agency or has been giving the agency about $300 million a year to do its job.
With that kind of money we expect to know what the agency intends to do and how it intends to do it. How is it going to do the job better than it did it in the past? How is it going to be more efficient? How is it going to be more productive? How are the farmers going to be better served by this agency? If we, as parliamentarians, are being asked to vote on this bill to give the authority to spend taxpayers' money in some new way, then surely we would expect the agency to come to this House and tell us how it can do it so we can pass comment.
It seems to me, since this is a motion being put forward by the opposition party, that the Liberals in a knee jerk reaction are going to say no we do not want to hear about this. We do not want to see if there is common sense or a lack of common sense in the way this agency is being run. We do not want to know if there is waste, mismanagement and incompetence in this organization. But there will be because I have not seen accountability built into this organization.
A group of farmers came to me some months ago complaining about the way the government is building in the cost recovery to these situations. I agree that if the government, through its agencies, is providing service to a group of people, there should be some element of cost recovery thought about and maybe built into the system. That cost recovery program dealt with farmers. The situation was the approval and the licensing of animal feed to ensure that it met the appropriate standards.
I have no problem with our regulating to ensure that the feed we give to animals will not harm individuals as it flows through the food chain for human consumption. However, on the cost recovery methodology that is built in, there is a huge bureaucracy that they wanted to recover the cost of. If they had five applications a year for a new feed to be licensed, the cost of this huge bureaucracy was spread over five applications. If they had 50 applications in another year the cost was spread over the 50 applications. The size of the bureaucracy did not change whether it was five or fifty applications. They were just going to pass their cost on to the unfortunate consumer of their service who happened to pick a bad year for applying for a licence.
That is not being accountable to the consumer. That is being arrogant in the way we can dictate and legislate what people have to pay. It means that they do not give a hoot about the service they provide. They are just going to legislate that everyone will pay for their costs but will have no input into their cost. People will pay the bill because they cannot avoid the service being provided by government. That is wrong because we need accountability.
The private sector has accountability through competition. I have attended seminars in Victoria where we had public accounts committees from across Canada and representatives from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and various other countries to try to wrestle with the issue of accountability.
I found that in other areas of the world the capacity to create the kind of competition in a market where civil servants have to ensure that they are delivering a competent service, that the price is reasonable, that the quality is good in order for them to keep their job, because that is how it works in the private sector, it does not matter what service or product one produces or sells, if one does not provide good service and quality at a reasonable price they will not be in business.
Government has to learn the same attitude. We need to have good quality, good prices and good services. However, it comes all the way back to what we have talked about here for the last three years, the lack of accountability in this House, the lack of accountability by the government over there and the fact that it has ignored the needs and desires of Canadians, the lack of integrity that we have seen from over there, the fact that it has not been responsible in managing the affairs of this country with the $600 billion debt that we have accumulated.
We see it more again in the way the government has addressed this bill. Accountability, integrity and responsibility are three individual words that this government has not heard of, has not thought about and has no intention of living by. However, if we were to have that in the legislation that has been brought before this House we would have a government that listens to the people and meets the needs of the people in food inspection, in eliminating the GST, in expense accounts that are proper and just everywhere, in inquiries that are set up because the government wants to shuffle paper and bad press on to an inquiry and then when the inquiry-I am thinking of the Somali inquiry-becomes an embarrassment, the government shuts it down.
Accountability, integrity and responsibility, the overarching theme that every government should think about but which this government has never thought about. We see it again in Bill C-60. I cannot think of anything more accountable for an agency than to have a business plan brought before Parliament for our opinions and input in order that we can see that it is going in the direction that we had anticipated when we gave it this authority. That speaks volumes in the way this government, even in the small things, ignores the wishes of Canadians. That is why we need to see real change. If there is not a change in this government then let us change the government at the next election.