Madam Speaker, I will retract my statement and apologize to the member. I would never impugn her motivations whatsoever.
I will get to the point about the lack of democracy in the House. Viewers can judge for themselves how the situation functions and how we are all unable to function as well as we ought to for the people who elected us.
The motion is an effort to enable us to attain one of two major objectives. As members of parliament we have two major roles. First, we produce and analyze legislation. Second, we deal with issues of supply. The motion was presented in an effort to enable members of parliament to do the latter and look at how the government spends taxpayers' money.
Some $165 billion of the taxpayers' money is spent with very little analysis whatsoever. The former clerk of the House of Commons, the top bureaucrat of the House, said members of parliament had abrogated their responsibility to the public in analyzing the way taxpayer money is spent. He was absolutely right.
The $165 billion goes to committees which spend about two or three hours analyzing how we spend the money. The analysis takes so little time that it is barely recorded anywhere. The analysis which should be quite extensive is not done. Nor are benchmarks or performance measurements attached. That must happen. That is why the motion is important and why all members should support it. The motion would enable MPs to analyze government expenditures, question the expenditures thoroughly, and set aside performance estimates through a new committee that would enable this to happen on an ongoing basis.
One of the shocking things I find as a member of parliament is that many in the bureaucracy are unable to determine where money is being spent, what the objectives are and whether the objectives have been met over the previous year or years. Furthermore, long term planning is often paid little heed.
This cannot continue. How can we operate anything, let alone a large organization like this, without knowing where the money is going, knowing how it is being spent and measuring performance on an ongoing basis? We have no idea what is happening.
In my province of British Columbia it is starting to happen. Premier Campbell has set up benchmarks which is what we should be doing federally. Motion No. 296 put forward by my colleague would go a long way to accomplishing that. It would enable us to determine where and how money is spent by setting up performance measurements and measuring them on an ongoing basis. All of us, especially the public whose money we are spending, could know how it is spent.
I will also address the issue the NDP member mentioned earlier which is the big sleeper issue in Canadian politics today. It is the fact that the House of Commons is a house of illusions. It is not a democracy. We have been sleepwalking into a situation of virtual dictatorship.
I will explain why. Let us imagine we are cabinet ministers let alone members of parliament. Cabinet ministers are squeezed between the unholy alliance of senior bureaucrats and the Prime Minister's Office. If cabinet ministers want to innovate, can they? No, they cannot. If cabinet ministers are young, active, vigorous innovative individuals who want to make their ministries innovative places to deal with the big issues Canadians are affected by and interested in, can they do it? No, they cannot. They will be taken aside by someone from the Prime Minister's Office and told they cannot do it. If they say they must because it is the right and moral thing to do they will not be cabinet ministers much longer. They will be out. That is what happens.
The cabinet member is squeezed between senior bureaucrats, who are in many cases appointed by the Prime Minister's Office, and the Prime Minister's Office. They squeeze the minister and the minister becomes a mouthpiece for the Prime Minister's Office.
Does the public ever wonder why the large issues of today are actually not dealt with? No, because we have a government that is more interested in a legacy of racking up successive election wins than in using power for public good. I said this to the government not so long ago: What is the point of having power if the government is not prepared to use power for the public good? There is no legacy other than that of using power for the public good. Anything less is a sham.
As an example, let us look at the committee structure. Committees are make work projects for MPs. For health care we have umpteen committees: the Senate committee, the Romanow commission committee and more. However, does anyone remember the Prime Minister's blue ribbon panel on health care in 1995? Does anyone know what happened to that committee? Nothing. Or we could look at aboriginal affairs too.
With my last two minutes, let me say that the public should understand that we do not live in a democracy. We need to democratize the House. We need to make committees effective. Committee members must be able to be independent. Committees must work independently from the government to create legislation and send it back to the House.
We need to make the House a place of free votes, where we can have fixed election dates, where we can have electronic voting and where we can do work that is actually meaningful to the Canadian public. It must be a place where members of parliament, across party lines and including cabinet members, can have a say, can innovate and can give proper solutions that are meaningful to the Canadian public.
If we do not do that, we will not help all the people out there who are suffering in waiting lines for health care, who cannot get a job, who are suffering under environmental conditions that are less than acceptable or who are aboriginal people on and off reserve suffering third world conditions. Unless we are able to use the House for their public good, this place is useless. We have to make this a democracy.
In closing, I compliment my colleague from St. Albert for his excellent motion.