Mr. Speaker, first let us look at what brought us to speak today about this new ethics bill proposed by the government, which will finally give us an ethics commissioner who will be independent from the Prime Minister and who will report to this House.
What brought us to this point is a series of questionable behaviours on the part of the government or some of its members who have exhibited a flagrant lack of judgment in carrying out their duties and who have cast a shadow on the integrity of all the members of this House and particularly on the conduct of government members.
Since we have had the bill only for a few minutes, let us take a quick look at some of its elements. The most important aspect, and I would say the most satisfactory, up to a point, is the fact that the ethics commissioner will be accountable to the elected members of this House and will be able to work independently. That is the positive side.
The concern that goes with that is that the points of reference that we have are, for example, the Auditor General or the Official Languages Commissioner. These people have a certain degree of independence to do their jobs, but their recommendations should also be implemented.
We do want an independent ethics commissioner who will report annually on the conduct that members of this House should adopt in terms of the code of conduct for members and the code that applies to ministers and to the Prime Minister, except that these reports should lead to concrete measures and not simply be shelved year after year. Time will tell. Of course, we will ensure that the person appointed to this position has all the independence and the tools he or she will need to do the job properly. Certain tools will have to be modernized. The person in place will have to enforce the existing code for ministers. That does not mean that there is no room for significant improvements in that regard.
Other less important measures concern lobbyists. Again I will express some disappointment because, in improving ethics, the government is not looking at ways of measuring the work of lobbyists. I am thinking for example about disclosing the amount of money they put into their campaigns. The registration of lobbyists is not enough. We must have a way of knowing how much money they put into their work since all lobbyists do not do their job with the same intensity.
Before I conclude, I want to point out that there is one element missing from the measures before the House, namely the ethics guidelines that would make the financing of political parties and the funding for leadership candidates more transparent. There is no mention of this issue. The Prime Minister created expectations in the House when he promised some action. “Later” we were told today. In politics, there is no clear definition of “later”; it can mean “maybe, never, or we'll see”. We will find out after his term or his departure. So, we are not pleased to see that there is nothing to ensure more transparency in terms of the contributions to political parties.
Let me give the House an example. Increasingly, trusts are used to accept contributions for candidates in an election or a leadership race. We have no idea who makes contributions to these trusts. It is the way people get around the Elections Act and we do not know, for instance, who is funding the leadership campaign of the member for LaSalle—Émard or of any other candidate. Questions are raised and we need information to properly assess the situation, especially since the starting point is not the same for everyone, depending on their own financial situation. Therefore, it is important to know who is behind the candidates and who is funding them. It might help us understand some of the government's decisions.
To conclude, I would say that legislation and structures are all very fine, but what we need overall is ethics, something badly lacking in the government, as we have seen in the last few months and the last few years. Moral and ethical values ensure that guidelines are set, of course, but also that politicians do not fall short of the expectations people have when they vote for them.