Madam Speaker, it is simply unbelievable. The member for Brandon—Souris was indulging in nothing more than scurrilous rhetoric. He was talking about simple things. It is simply not true. The hon. gentleman, and I use that term very loosely, simply does not know. I forgive him and I know that the people on this side of the House forgive him. He indulges in rhetoric. He waves his arms like a big water buffalo, and I mean that amicably. He just keeps on flailing away, thinking that it is actually going to resonate with the people of the House and the voting public who are listening, but that is simply not true.
I listened with great interest to my colleague from Ottawa Centre and the parliamentary secretary give a pointed, coherent rationale of why we will oppose this motion.
I am pleased to speak to the motion put forward by the hon. member for Joliette, but let me first look at it in terms of public relations. I might add that some members opposite could have used public relations firms to garner some insight and knowledge before they stood to make these rather insane comments about this motion.
Let us look at what we call the optics. How does it look? How does it look not only to the government side but to the Canadian public? There are circumstances under which this motion would actually make sense; not many circumstances, but there are a few. For example, if the House had no oversight on procurement, whether for the armed forces, the specific object of this motion, or any other department, it would make sense if this procurement were done secretly, but it is not.
The motion would make sense if ministers of the government were not accountable to parliament. Au contraire, we know that they are accountable and they will continue to be accountable. There are always elections to maintain the accountability of the government, as well as question period and when ministers appear before a standing committee.
The hon. member opposite is not a member of the standing committee on national defence so he knows not of which he speaks. His hon. colleague, the member for Compton—Stanstead, is a member of the DND committee. Quite obviously he is not here because he knows we are right in this regard and he has asked the hon. member to stand in for him. I must say that after listening to what he has said he probably will not ask him to do so again.
We can appear before standing committees which can address this and any other issue.
There are five major policy cornerstones which uphold the procurement process of the Government of Canada. They are: the pre-eminence of operational requirements, competition, fairness, transparency and accessibility.
Let us look at how this system works from a practical standpoint and not an impractical viewpoint as we have heard expressed on the other side.
First, ministers and their ministries are responsible and accountable for following stringent contracting regulations and Treasury Board policies on contracts. The preferred route for most contracts above $25,000 is always competitive bidding.
In the great riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke there is a person who takes bids by the name of Colonel Ken Dillabough. He says, as only they can say in the upper Ottawa valley “Okay, lads and lassies, get up and loosen the purse strings. Put your hand up and do the competitive bidding”. That is what we prefer to do at all times, but there are exceptions.
There are exceptions to each and every rule, regardless of where we are in life, when a contract must be sole sourced. One example is proprietary interest. If a supplier is the only one with the right to build and sell parts for the equipment it has developed and marketed, the government is obliged to use that supplier for that equipment. This makes sense and this government is committed to making sense, as opposed to some of my hon. colleagues opposite who come forth with nonsensical motions brought forward by people who do not know of what they speak.
Sometimes sole sourcing must be used in pressing emergencies. Quite simply, something has to be done fast and there is no time to get bids. When national security or the national interest is an issue, sole sourcing may be necessary. When that happens, ministers of the crown and officials must follow strict rules, and they are accountable to the government and ultimately to the House for their actions.
The truth is that most procurement is done through the competitive process and that competitive procurement is on the rise. In 1996, for instance, $83 of every $100 spent for procurement contracts over $25,000 were committed through the competitive process. In 1997, the last year for which Treasury Board has its full figures, $89 of every $100 was spent as a result of competitive bidding.
Let us consider another example of service contracts. I am talking about everything from building maintenance to contracting for medicinal services. In 1995, 55% of these contracts were competitively let. The hon. member opposite knows full well that 55% of these contracts were competitively let. I will hold up my fingers so the member understands. In 1997, only two years later, this figure had risen to over 80%. I will get to the member for Lakeland if I can get through this.
The system is transparent. Almost all procurement is done competitively, and competitive bidding is on the rise. The trend is toward more competition, not less competition; more transparency; and more responsible use of public money.
Comparing our procurement system to those of other countries, the treasury board secretariat has found that our performance is much better than that of either the United States or the European Union.
There is only one question remaining. Are the provisions for oversight sufficient, especially for the steadily declining fraction of procurement that is not done through the competitive process? I believe they are and the government believes they are. The mechanisms which ensure fair, transparent and accessible procurement are in place.
For example, interdepartmental review committees that determine defence procurement strategies review all procurements of $2 million or more. These committees may spot significant socioeconomic opportunities in procurement. When they do, they can suggest that conditions be included that open all or part of the process to minority or new business interests which might otherwise be frozen out. After the reviews are done, most of the procurement action proposed are posted on the government's electronic tendering service, on the Internet for bidding. To ensure fairness they are published in the government's business opportunities bulletin.
I occasionally disagree with the auditor general, but he does look at issues and does report to the House. If a procurement matter arises it can be the object of questions, of debate or of study by any number of standing committees.
What does the author of this motion suggest? Is it that we set up yet another standing committee for the sole purpose of looking at major military procurements? Is there no standing committee on national defence?
I know the hon. member for Lakeland mentioned that, but he used to be on the standing committee of national defence. I guess his own party basically pulled him from it because he knew not of what he spoke. He made rather pejorative, egregious comments by the DND SCONDVA committee saying that it had done nothing. The Canadian public disagrees and the military disagrees.
We gave pay raises and more money for quality housing. I suppose that is why the hon. member for Lakeland is no longer on the DND committee. I suppose his own party yanked him from it because he was doing no good there. He was of no benefit to us because we were doing the things that the Canadian military and Canadian public wanted. Is there no Standing Committee on Public Accounts?
My time has run out. In conclusion, let it be said that the government is opposed to the motion. We will not indulge in the scurrilous rhetoric of members opposite. We will oppose the motion because it is right that we oppose it.