Mr. Speaker, this bill, C-214, was presented in this House by the hon. member for Durham. It is intended to provide for improved information on the cost of proposed government programs.
I know the hon. member for Durham well, as he was vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts when I was chair. From that time on, I have been aware of the interest the hon. member has in any administrative or legislative measure with a potential for improving the government's accountability and responsibility, more necessary than ever because of the astronomical amounts invested by the taxpayers annually in the workings of the federal government.
Like the hon. member for Longueuil, who has already spoken on Bill C-214 on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I wish to assure the hon. member for Durham who introduced this bill of my support and to require the Liberal government, at the time of introducing a bill in Parliament that authorizes the program, or when the regulation that authorizes the program, to make a declaration of the estimated annual cost of each new program, expressed as a total cost and as a per capita cost.
The bill also calls for the auditor general to be involved, providing proof that the method of calculation of the costs is valid and a good estimate, as stated in the hon. member's bill. This evaluation of the method of calculating and estimating costs by the auditor general would reassure the public about the objectivity of the calculations and cost estimates.
The objective of Bill C-24 is to require all departments to provide a financial analysis or a detailed cost breakdown of any new legislative measure. Assessing these costs on a per capita basis will enable each citizen to have a better grasp of what each new piece of legislation will cost him personally, what will really come out of his pocket each time the government creates a new program.
This bill is also intended to make legislators and public servants more aware of the financial impact of the various legislative measures. It is also intended to get the public to scrutinize the various government expenditures more closely.
The Liberal government prefers camouflage to transparency and to the analysis of the true costs of government programs. The Liberals' policy has always been: it is better to keep the public in the dark about the true costs of programs, and it is far better to keep the auditor general at a distance, for he could make an objective and transparent judgment of them.
We saw this during the finance committee hearings on the transfer of $2 billion in Canadian capital to the United States, tax-free. The Liberal majority and the chair of the committee himself tried to back the auditor general into a corner for having dared voice a dissenting opinion on the controversial decision by Revenue and Finance concerning this unusual transfer of funds to the U.S.
In terms of political debate and public morality, we have seen better. Instead of going after the message, the Liberals go after the messenger. They want to continue to ensure that the Office of the Auditor General gets involved only after the fact, when the deed has already been done, and taxpayers' money has been committed and spent.
Bill C-214, introduced by the member for Durham will not, unfortunately, be given the support of his party, because he calls for innovative administration, public transparency and objectivity defining the role of the auditor general. Such an honest, open and frank approach to voters and taxpayers is also totally foreign to the tradition and the culture of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Bill C-214 will likely, regretfully, remain wishful thinking, whereas the astronomical debt of $600 billion will urgently require greater transparency and vigorous action, which the government to date has been unable to provide.
The latest budget is indicative in this regard. The Minister of Finance could have done a lot better. He could have taken advantage of an extraordinary economic situation, shall we say, and real manoeuvring room-much more than he claims to have-to really help the unemployed and children in poverty.
These diversionary tactics of which the Liberals are past masters may well abort Bill C-214, and its objectives will no doubt remain a dead issue.