Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-31, an act to amend the Export Development Act. It makes a number of other amendments which I will go through.
The Minister for International Trade tabled amendments to the Export Development Act. There are a number of them, including changing the name of the corporation to Export Development Canada. There is nothing too substantive in that regard, but I should like to talk about some of the more substantive changes. I should also like to spend some time at the end talking about the Canada account.
First I will go to some of the proposed changes. One amendment would enable the board of directors to delegate its powers and duties to committees that it may establish other than the executive committee. Right now 13 of the 15 board members are currently appointed by the Minister for International Trade. The remaining two, the chairman and the president, are appointed by the Prime Minister.
These appointments, all very partisan political appointments, are the people responsible for formulating the current practices of the EDC. We have political appointments. There is the patronage we have seen in the past and now an unelected board wants to delegate its powers and duties to one level down. I think it is incredibly questionable. Instead I would suggest that the board should come before a parliamentary committee and be held accountable instead of further divesting its responsibilities and powers to another partisan appointed committee.
The 15 member board is appointed by the Prime Minister and the Minister for International Trade, which I think is wrong. They should be looking at its focus. Recently Patrick Lavelle, chairman of the EDC, called for more independence for crown corporations and agencies such as the EDC, stating the objective of naming directors should be to “get the best people, no matter where they come from”.
Mr. Lavelle has suggested the EDC move toward privatization, noting that there is a culture of secrecy in the government bureaucracies, “an inherent believability in federal crowns that information is power and increasing its release will just generate unwarranted criticism”.
We are dealing with taxpayer money. This is all about accountability. Yes, one in four jobs in Canada is a direct result of our exports. Some 43% of our GDP solely depends on exports. However the funding that goes out from EDC has to be fully accountable. It has to be transparent.
When we have the chairman of the EDC saying that the power of the federal crowns in releasing information will only generate unwarranted criticism, we have to question where these types of things should be addressed. Of course they have not been in this legislation.
Furthermore he is recommending that the Prime Minister create a cabinet post that would make one minister responsible for overseeing all crown corporations, with a parliamentary committee established to provide oversight. On another note he mentions that crown directors should perhaps face the same liability as private sector directors.
Of course this is coming from somebody who has worked very closely with the EDC as the chairman and has seen this firsthand, probably better than most. These are the types of suggestions that he has come forward with. Yet there is no mention of any of them in the legislation. It does not address any of these issues.
In light of Mr. Lavelle's words, the latest addition to this haven for patronage appointment is former Senator Bernie Boudreau who was named by the PMO last month to a plumb post as a director of the EDC. It is just another flagrant example of patronage on the part of the government.
There has to be more accountability with crown corporations, something which is evidently lacking at present.
The present government agrees that EDC should “publicly demonstrate its accountability by reflecting the full range of public policy concerns in its activities and should introduce appropriate transparency measures concerning its activities”.
The Export Development Corporation is immune from access to information because it is not covered under the act. We are dealing with billions of dollars of taxpayer money and it is immune from any type of access to information request to make sure that we have more accountability.
I was going to call quorum, Madam Speaker, because I did not see any government members. However I apologize because I see one now. I thought I was speaking to an empty House.