Madam Speaker, as you know, our motion today—with the amendment moved by our colleague, the hon. member for Mercier, of course—is very comprehensive, but it is quite different from what we are hearing from the members opposite.
It is essentially designed to enforce a legislative mechanism that recognizes our role as parliamentarians here in the House. Accordingly, the motion put forward by the Bloc Quebecois, as well as the amendments, clearly reaffirm the mandate that we have been given by the citizens of Quebec and Canada.
We believe that such a review process will result in an enhanced appreciation of our role here, on behalf of the constituents in our ridings.
It has become obvious, and urgent, specifically since scandals keep popping up, that we must act with transparency in order to win over the confidence the population. We are not talking about reinventing the wheel, simply letting it be known that cronies and political friends can no longer call all the shots.
We are talking about transparency in how the government operates. We remain cautious. We have seen some people now calling for increased transparency; yet a few years ago, these same people voted against a similar motion to designate an independent ethics counsellor. How are people supposed to believe in a government that makes no bones about rewarding its friends on our tab?
What is the current procedure for order in council appointments? It is up to the governor in council, upon the recommendation of the Privy Council, to make the aforementioned appointments. There are close to 3,500 positions that are filled this way.
Among these are positions of federal judges, heads of posts abroad, deputy ministers, directors and members of organizations, chief executive officers and directors of Crown corporations, and returning officers.
Their varied responsibilities range from quasi-legal decisions to the administration of large corporations, to recommendations on socio-economic development.
The recommendations for appointments come from a number of sources, including the worlds of politics, business, academia, the senior public service and interest groups. In addition, for most of the term appointments, competent candidates are recruited through public notices appearing in the Canada Gazette .
The head of the organization concerned, the minister's office, the department itself, the Director of Appointments in the PMO, the Management Priorities and Senior Personnel Secretariat, the Office of the Ethics Counsellor, the Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council, all have a part to play in Governor in Council appointments.
The heads of organizations or chairmen of the board in the case of crown corporations, consult the minister responsible on the appointments required within their organization, and share with him or her their opinion on the desired qualifications for the future members.
In addition, these administrators make recommendations on appointment renewals for outgoing members. I must also point out that they also present the minister responsible with a list of requirements for positions that are vacant or about to become vacant.
Given that these heads of organizations are responsible for the efficient running of their organization, they have a duty to keep the minister responsible reformed of all changes that occur in their membership as the result of resignations.
They must also inform the minister responsible of any situation liable to become sensitive or controversial in connection with Governor in Council appointments within their organization. Finally, they are required to assess the performance of appointees.
The staff of the designated department support the minister in formulating appointment recommendations by preparing the necessary documentation for submission to the Governor in Council.
The appointment director gives political advice to the Prime Minister concerning appointments. Ministers consult the office of the director to draft recommendations in this respect.
Those appointed by order in council must carry out their duties in the public best interest. Their impartiality must be beyond reproach.
The Standing Orders of the House of Commons provide that the House of Commons standing committees, which are made up of members from every political party, have the power to review every non-judicial appointment made by the government of Canada. As we saw, this is not done automatically. It only happens when a committee decides to do it.
However, it is important to note that the tabling of an order in council does not prevent an appointee from assuming his or her responsibilities in the organization to which he or she was appointed. The committee does not have a veto over these appointments.
Asking that some of these appointments be reviewed by the appropriate House committee is normal and highly desirable. It is the broader problem of the government's transparency which led us to move this motion and of course the amendment too. It must be remembered that democracy becomes meaningless and powerless when it lacks transparency.
Through this motion, the Bloc Quebecois is proposing specific goals to make the government transparent.
First, committee review ensures transparency. Thus, parliamentarians will exercise their mandate openly and publicly, in turn helping to establish a clear and non-partisan approach.
Second, the purpose of committee review is to allow Parliament to have a say. This has to do with our role as elected representatives. We were all elected. This means that we have a mandate as representatives before a legislative assembly. We are trying here to fulfill our mandate with regard to visibility.
Third, there are committee reviews so that the appointees know that they owe their position not only to the Prime Minister, but to all Canadians and Quebeckers.
Fourth, there are committee reviews to make sure that appointments are not used to reward past members and former friends. This goal is also aimed at retired elected officials or those who served the Prime Minister well.
Fifth, committee reviews send the message that there is indeed a democratic deficit in the Parliament of Canada.
Last, with committee reviews we will see whether certain people who are promoting the same ideas will be true to their words. I will not name any name, but I think we all know whom I am talking about.
There is a temptation, of course, to hide behind a veil of secrecy, which makes it easier to act more freely without the need for explanations. We have to remember, however, that we live in a democracy which is rooted in freedom.
Freedom implicitly and explicitly includes knowledge. We have the right to know about the appointment process and the qualifications of those who will eventually be chosen to carry out the duties the public assigns to them.
Ensuring transparency does not mean violating the rights of the candidates, but it does involve reviewing their appointments. The process must be crystal clear. If it is, then appointees will be selected according to their qualifications and experience, and not their political connections.
The public is right to demand transparency. As the Auditor General stated when he tabled his report on February 6, 2001:
Crown corporations account for a significant portion of government activity and play a key role in achieving public policy. It is critical that, as public sector bodies, they be governed well if taxpayers' money is to be well spent.
People take a cynical view of what happens here and we have the obligation and duty to correct a situation which has gone on for too long.
Questionable appointments should not be considered normal. This has to stop. As parliamentarians, we need to act and implement specific measures to put things right again.
What we have to look for from now on is qualified appointees. This would help to boost the image of parliamentarians and justify today's debate.
I see that my time has run out.