Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in the debate on Bill C-214, sponsored by my hon. colleague from Durham.
Just by way of background, there is a kinship between us. During the 1993 election the member for Durham and I were the only two chartered accountants to be elected to the House of Commons. That is a shame because one of the things that we have found is that virtually everything we touch in this place eventually has something to do with dollars.
This is a very important bill from the standpoint that the member has asked somewhat of a rhetorical question of the House to consider and that is whether we have all the information we need to do the job we have to do. Certainly, as members well know, there are many items which come before us for consideration.
I just had a quick look at the House business summary. I was somewhat taken aback when I looked at the second session of the 35th Parliament. We have had quite a substantial number of proposals come before the House. There were about 84 government bills presented to the House. I believe there were 176 private members' bills, a third of which were votable items. There were another 276 private members' motions. About a third of those were also votable items. There has been one Senate bill in this session.
The member raises an interesting issue. There are an awful lot of matters which come before this place for consideration. In his speech the member quite correctly pointed out that sometimes members come to this place to vote on an issue and they are not familiar with the bill, the motion or the item before the House. It is fair to say that it is not possible for members of Parliament to be fully apprised of absolutely everything that comes before the House. Indeed, that is why there are committees on which members participate more fully in the issues coming before them. Members cannot possibly even read them, never mind appreciate the complexity and the implications of them.
The member raised a very important point and that is with respect to fiscal accountability. Recently in the tobacco bill there was a report stage motion which was passed by this place and incorporated into the bill which has been referred to the Senate. The motion was proposed by the hon. member for Lambton-Middlesex. It basically said that the regulations associated with a piece of legislation would have to come back to the committee for review and for scrutiny prior to being approved, rather than going through the normal process.
That tends to show the concern and the interest of the House to work toward ways to improve where possible fiscal responsibility and accountability so that we can say to our constituents that we have on those matters which we are directly involved in had an opportunity to fully scrutinize not only the intent and the context of legislation coming before us but certainly the financial and fiscal impact of any legislation, whether it be to do with programs or bills or modification of existing programs that the government may have.
I looked at one of the most interesting questions that the member for Durham raised. It was how did this $600 billion deficit get created. Is it something that could have been avoided had we been in a position to perhaps scrutinize more fully in history the matters that came before the House of Commons during the last 25 years when this deficit was created.
The member will know that a substantial portion of that debt is interest and compound interest. Notwithstanding, it still is a substantial amount of dollars.
On that point alone I do not believe and I am not going to accept the member's full analysis that the scrutiny might have dealt with the issue of the national debt. The member will well know that there are things which occur in our society which are very expensive. As an example, spousal abuse in our society is a very terrible thing. There was a joint Canada-U.S. forum last summer in which an analysis was done and papers were presented.
In Canada it was estimated that the cost of spousal abuse to the Canadian taxpayer, health, productivity and other costs associated with it, was something like $2.1 billion. That is an awful lot of money. There is no amount of scrutiny of legislation or regulations that could help us avoid that cost and yet that cost is an incremental cost, a burden to the taxpayer which in fact eventually finds its way to the national debt.
Second, there is the issue of alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse is an issue which I have spent a lot of time on. I have given some information to the House from time to time about the cost of substance and alcohol abuse. The most recent information is that alcohol abuse costs Canadians something like $15 billion a year, not to mention the loss of life, to do with whether it be straight medical problems, or accidents, suicides and the like. There are some 19,000 people a year who die from alcohol misuse. That is a significant expenditure which is occurring on an annual basis, $15 billion a year. We can imagine how those costs accumulate and compound and add to the national debt.
I would then suggest a recent issue, the tobacco issue. It is another one that Canadians well know. It is a very serious problem in terms on its health impacts on Canadians. Forty thousand Canadians die each from it. There is a significant cost. I believe it was estimated that the provinces alone spend $3.5 billion on health care directly related to tobacco related problems. If we look at all of the other ancillary costs, that does accumulate closer to some $10 billion a year.
I could give some examples to show that the principle is something that I support, the fiscal accountability and the responsibility and the ability to be able to communicate that, that I have done my job, or I have seconded that responsibility to those I feel have taken up the responsibility to do the work on my behalf and I will rely on them.
That principle of secondment is extremely important. It is an element which perhaps the member did not develop as much as he might have in his speech.
When I was a hospital trustee for the Mississauga hospital for nine years there was an awful lot going on there. The public hospitals act said that the full 100 per cent of the responsibilities for the operations of that hospital were in the hands of the trustees. There is no possibility that the delivery of the direct medical services, the administration and virtually every aspect of the operation of a major urban hospital could be handled by a board of trustees on a voluntary basis, some 20 men and women.
Under the Ontario hospitals act one of the things we had was the trustee's guide which basically said we are responsible to make sure that we hire responsible people. As a chief of staff, as a senior administrator we are responsible for making sure that we have people we feel have the credentials and to whom we can second that responsibility so as trustees we could discharge our responsibilities not directly but in a combination of direct and indirect secondment.
In this case we do as members of Parliament second an awful lot of responsibility and rely very heavily on committees and other members to do the work. To that extent I am not as critical maybe of House operations.
In summary I would simply like to say that the aspect of fiscal accountability responsibility is something I know the member has worked very hard for. I congratulate him on the initiative. It is an excellent example of how people in this place, backbenchers, have made a contribution to the thinking of this place. If more members of Parliament would think and show initiative like the member for Durham I think this place would be a better place for all.