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House of Commons Hansard #139 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was national.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It being 5.15 p.m. it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed will please say nay.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the amendment lost.

The next division is on the main motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the motion lost.

The House resumed from January 31 consideration of the motion that Bill S-7, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Pursuant to order made Thursday, January 31, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill S-7 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

ImmigrationPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties and I believe you would find the unanimous consent of the House to amend private member's Motion No. 422 standing in the name of the member for Surrey North, changing the reference to paragraph 114(1)(s) of the Immigration Act to paragraph 101(1)(e) of the Immigration Act.

The motion was drafted when the previous act was in effect so the paragraph reference needs to be updated. The member for Surrey North is scheduled to appear before the Subcommittee on Private Members' Business tomorrow and would like to straighten this out before that meeting.

ImmigrationPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We understand this is simply a renumbering, reflecting the new statute as opposed to the old statute. Therefore the substance of the matter does not change. It is simply a clarification with respect to the numbered section. On that basis, this is perfectly acceptable.

ImmigrationPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Would the hon. member for Blackstrap clarify and answer the government House leader's question before I ask for unanimous consent.

ImmigrationPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, the motion of the member for Surrey North, as amended, would read:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should make regulations under paragraph 101(1)(e) of the Immigration Act with the effect that people claiming to be refugees pursuant to the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees will not be admitted for consideration of their claim from the following countries: the United States, New Zealand, Australia and all countries that are members in the European Economic Union.

For his presentation tomorrow, he would like the motion amended. The change is just in the numbers.

ImmigrationPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent?

ImmigrationPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

ImmigrationPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It being 6.13 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Questions in the House of CommonsPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

moved:

That an Order of the House do issue for copies of any letters since April 1, 2001, from the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and/or the Clerk of the Privy Council to Ministers and/or Deputy Ministers concerning answers to questions in the House of Commons.

Mr. Speaker, I think the listening public and some members are wondering why there is a “P” in the motion number. The “P” stands for the production of papers and documents.

I am not the only member of parliament who has had trouble getting information from the government. It has been systematic on the part of the Prime Minister to shut down the House if possible and deny members of parliament the tools to do their jobs.

It is often said that it is necessary only for the good man to do nothing for evil to triumph and there are signs all around us this week that parliament is being throttled by the Prime Minister's office.

Parliament has many functions and among those we are the auditors of the government. We have the right to probe and examine those who govern Canadians. That is what we do in opposition.

When the audit system breaks down, it fails the people and this place. I will draw a comparison to the private sector. Look at the example of Enron in the United States. When documents are not forthcoming or they are altered or shredded all for the sake of secrecy, the system simply breaks down.

With this motion, we are asking that the government to be required to produce information so members of parliament can do their jobs.

We operate under a set of rules often called the standing orders. Those are the tools we need to do our jobs. When those are systematically taken away by the government, it makes it very difficult for members of parliament to do their jobs, to hold the government accountable and to do what they were sent here to do.

There are so many examples. Where can I begin? Let me start with an issue I had before the House that involved a company by the name of Lancaster Aviation. The company was given the sole right to sell military equipment by the Government of Canada on a tendering process that, without exaggeration, was extremely flawed and was precisely written to ensure that company was given the opportunity to sell military equipment.

What got me on to this was the fact that the company in question was under contract with another company in Florida by the name of Airspares Inc. owned by a convicted felon in the United States. He was a fellow by the name of Mr. McFlicker. He had been convicted of international money laundering and taking part in the international prostitution business.

We have a company in Florida under contract with a Canadian company and, of all things, selling military equipment and spare parts.

I put questions to the minister in the House. In the 35 seconds that a minister has to respond, we will not get much of an answer, if we get one at all. That is why we often call it question period and not answer period. The government did not want to come clean on the file. It did everything within its power not to answer those important questions in regard to the contract with the indicted felon in the United States.

I had to put questions on the order paper because then the government was required to answer them. To be precise, the government must answer questions within 45 days.

I waited almost a full year for the government response to those questions. When it did respond, the fact is it did not answer the questions. Many of the documents I accessed through access to information had been blacked out before I received them.

This goes to the very motion before us today. At the moment we really do not know any more than what we and some national journalists dug up on this story. In other words, the information we should have received from the ministry was never received and what we did receive had been blacked out.

Following September 11 we learned that the pilots involved in the attack on the World Trade Center had been trained in Florida. In terms of the aviation industry, a lot of companies are centred in Florida. A lot of aviation parts and spare parts move through that state.

Knowing that this convicted felon in the United States who owned the warehouse had Canadian aviation parts in that warehouse, I wrote to the RCMP on September 18, exactly one week after the events in New York. I wanted to know whether or not the government had followed up on this individual in Florida. The RCMP wrote back stating:

--the RCMP, as is standard practice, does not confirm or deny, nor do we provide details regarding investigations. However, I can tell you that the RCMP has not been contacted to investigate a U.S. company, Airspares Network Incorporated, and its relationship with Lancaster Aviation.

In essence the government is saying there is nothing to worry about even though parts that are owned by the Government of Canada are stored in this warehouse in Florida, which is owned by a convicted felon, an international money launderer, convicted on drug smuggling and international prostitution charges. Without having done an investigation, the government has said there is nothing to worry about. That is how the issue arrived on the floor of the House of Commons. The government has systematically shut us down. It does that on a routine basis.

An article appeared in today's Globe and Mail and the headline indicates that the Deputy Prime Minister is to control $2 billion in Liberal reversal. The article states:

The federal Liberals are reversing a plan outlined in the December budget and are putting politicians in charge of handing out billions of dollars in megaproject funds.

Initially, the budget announced that an independent arm's length agency would handle the $2 billion strategic infrastructure foundation, but legislation to be introduced today will abandon that plan and put the money under the control of the Deputy Prime Minister.

The government has been successful in shutting down parliament and denying individual members of parliament information to do their jobs.

This change in government policy was introduced today and individual members on this side of the House can rest assured they will have great difficulty getting information on those infrastructure projects. It comes down to a $2 billion slush fund which conveniently has been put into the hands of the Deputy Prime Minister. I think we know why.

Last week in the House we all stood and applauded Preston Manning as he left parliament. What was the final message all members stood and applauded? It was in a headline in last week's paper: “Let morals guide you, Reform founder says”. I will read from that article:

Preston Manning, the founder of the Reform and Canadian Alliance parties, retired from politics yesterday with an appeal for parliamentarians to be guided by their personal, moral and spiritual beliefs when deciding controversial matters of public policy.

That is what we are asking for here. We are asking that parliament be allowed to work and that members of parliament be allowed to do the job they were sent here to do.

Members only have to look at the power the Prime Minister's Office has to thwart the role of parliament. It has been done so successfully over the years.

It is quite ironic that I am here tonight speaking to this issue simply because the government attempted to shut me down. The government inadvertently moved this item to the order paper, which meant it was going to be a votable motion. The government got tired of hearing from me on the floor of the House of Commons in relation to those questions that went unanswered for almost a year.

When members stand in the House during question period and they do not get answers, the standing orders allow them to put those questions in written form to the government. Out of frustration many members do not put those questions on the order paper. If we were to ask the House leader or his parliamentary secretary this evening how many questions are on the order paper, there would not be a lot of them. We are so used to not getting the answers that we simply have given up using the system. My problem would be a point in any case, in the sense that frustration wears members of parliament down.

Let us look at the Liberal benches. How many members from the opposition side have trotted across to the government side in the last couple of years? The answer is too many. There were at least three from the very party I am in, one from the NDP and one Canadian Alliance member. The reason is simple. It is like the Stockholm syndrome, where they wear down the enemy to the point where they are so frustrated they fall in love with their captors. That is the psychological phenomenon that happens.

This is like taking out the hostages. The Prime Minister trots them out and the only thing missing every time one of the members does that is the hood over the head.

In all seriousness, members of parliament get extremely frustrated when they are denied those answers. In question period particularly what does the Prime Minister do if the government does get in trouble with regard to a question? He attacks his attacker simply to shut the member down. If that does not work, Snow White, the role being played by the heritage minister, and the seven dwarfs get up for a standing ovation to shut down the opposition.

We have to continually press the government. We have to use the rules of the House effectively to get the information we need to hold the government accountable. Even then the government does not follow its own rules. It continually moves the goalposts.

Answers have to be given within 45 days but a member of parliament has to wait an entire year. I gave a speech in the House one night on a question of privilege regarding the delay in answering questions. When a member of parliament has to wait a year and we have to blow out the birthday candles on the set of questions, there is something wrong.

The Prime Minister, instead of being embarrassed about this is proud of it. He is proud of the fact that he can almost bring the House to a grinding halt. He is definitely the beneficiary of a split opposition. There is no question about that. There is an old expression that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. A case in point would be the Prime Minister.

There is no question that when the Prime Minister came to the House almost 40 years ago he was not the man he is today. He came here as a defender of the little guy. That was the reputation that brought him to this place and brought him the success he has enjoyed as Prime Minister and as a 40 year politician, but now that has eroded completely. That reputation is gone.

As the right hon. member who sits in front of me often says, the Prime Minister is no longer the man he used to be. That is so true. He is not the man he used to be. He forgot how he got here and he conveniently forgets why other members of parliament are here.

Good government comes with good opposition. That is all we are asking for in this place. We want the tools to do the job. We want the opportunity to do our jobs. We have to work much harder on this side as you well know, Mr. Speaker. You have been on this side as an opposition member. We have to work harder to do our jobs because we are often thwarted by government. That is not new and it is not unusual, but it is unbelievable the elaborate lengths to which the Prime Minister will go to shut this place down.

As a case in point, let us look at the Gagliano file. Mr. Gagliano is also part of the file in regard to Lancaster Aviation Inc. and the selling of surplus aviation parts. That had to go through his department, but do not ask the minister for information. The minister was much more articulate than he pretended to be. By the way, Mr. Gagliano conveniently has been smuggled off to Denmark to get him out of the country so he does not have to testify before the committee to find out what really went on in that department.

My colleague the member for Saskatoon--Humboldt, the critic for public works, condemned a Liberal dominated committee for voting against the motion to investigate allegations of patronage and political interference. The member for Saskatoon--Humboldt said that this was yet another example of the government's double standard on ethics and integrity in government.

More than just the people of Denmark are going to lose out on this one. Before he was appointed to the ambassadorship in Denmark, he wanted to go to the Vatican. Just imagine the Pope phoning the Prime Minister in total despair, thinking that his canonization may be in jeopardy if this guy is allowed to go to the Vatican. So he was shipped off to Denmark. We might say that Denmark is the loser in all of this but the truth is it is probably Mamma Teresa's spaghetti house where a table was roped off for the minister's dining group every night.

When the government is in trouble, it moves the person someplace, out of town and out of the country if necessary. It will sneak the person out of 24 Sussex Drive in the trunk of a car if it has to. That is what was done with the minister.

Members might also be interested to know the Standing Committee on Public Accounts met and recommended that an order of the House be issued for copies of all detailed expense account information for ministers and their exempt political staff. It recommended the information be tabled in the House and permanently referred to the public accounts committee. That was systematically shut down today by the government.

I look forward to the comments of my colleagues. I will sum up at the end of debate this evening.

Questions in the House of CommonsPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on motion P-20 introduced by the member for New Brunswick Southwest. The motion reads as follows, and I quote:

That an Order of the House do issue for copies of any letters since April 1, 2001, from the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and/or the Clerk of the Privy Council to Ministers and/or Deputy Ministers concerning answers to questions in the House of Commons.

I thank the hon. member for putting the motion forward. It allows us to highlight an important aspect of House business: the written question.

In the daily business of the House much attention is paid to oral question period where members have the opportunity to question ministers who must account for their activities under their portfolio. However also important to House business is the written question which has been part of the proceedings since 1867. Written questions allow members to ask ministers detailed technical questions that normally could not be responded to during oral question period. The practice promotes transparency of government and ensures ministers remain accountable to the House. It also enables members to be knowledgeable in policy matters they take an interest in.

The government recognizes the importance of the written question and has taken steps to ensure the effectiveness of the practice.

Last June, the Special Committee on the Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons recommended that questions that were left unanswered beyond the 45 day period be referred to the relevant standing committees.

In October, this House adopted the special committee's report. The changes to the standing orders have had the effect of strengthening the requirement for the 45 day period for answers to written questions.

There has been a significant improvement in the answers to questions within the time period since the changes were made to the standing orders of the House.

Although the hon. member's motion raises an important aspect of parliamentary practice, as the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader I cannot support the motion. The motion must be opposed because the letter requested by the hon. member is considered a cabinet confidence and therefore cannot be released.

Mr. Speaker, when the motion was put forward the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons informed you that the letter sought by the hon. member was considered a cabinet confidence. The government House leader therefore asked that the hon. member withdraw his motion. Mr. Speaker, when the government House leader replied to the motion he referred you to citation 446 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms , 6th Edition. For the benefit of the House I will read the citation. It states:

(2) The following criteria are to be applied in determining if the government papers or documents should be exempt from production:

(l) Cabinet documents and those documents which include a Privy Council confidence.

The criteria has been reproduced in chapter 10 of Marleau and Montpetit's House of Commons Procedure and Practice from pages 402 to 404. The criteria dates back to 1973 when the government tabled in the House of Commons its views on the general principles governing notices of motions for production of papers. Although the criteria was not formally approved by the House, Marleau and Montpetit note that the principles have been followed in the House since they were tabled in 1973.

The principles are consistent with laws passed by parliament on the subject of cabinet confidences. For example, Section 69 of the Access to Information Act exempts cabinet confidences from being released under the act. Similarly, the National Archives of Canada Act states that approval from the Clerk of the Privy Council is required before the National Archives may have access to a cabinet confidence.

Section 69 of the Access to Information Act goes on to define a cabinet confidence. It includes:

d) records used for or reflecting communications or discussions between ministers of the Crown on matters relating to the making of government decisions or the formulation of government policy;

(e) records the purpose of which is to brief ministers of the Crown in relation to matters that are before, or are proposed to be brought before, Council or that are the subject of communications or discussions referred to in paragraph (d)--

Cabinet confidences play a fundamental part in the Canadian system of government. Cabinet solidarity allows ministers to be frank in private but supportive of the government in public. As a group ministers are held accountable to parliament for the government's actions. As a result it is essential to respect cabinet confidences so ministers can speak freely on issues as policies and proposals are developed and debated in cabinet. At the same time each minister must be held accountable for the decisions of the whole cabinet.

To close, the letter the member asked for is subject to cabinet confidentiality. Therefore I must oppose this motion.

Cabinet confidentiality is a fundamental part of our system of government, and a recognized part of parliamentary practices since 1973.

However the Government of Canada views the written question as a vital part of our parliamentary tradition. To this end the government has been very successful in providing timely responses to written questions in the House.

Mr. Speaker, as you will know, I stand in the House on a weekly basis and provide tabled answers from the government to the many questions that come from the opposition. I am pleased to be able to do that. I have the opportunity to review the questions in advance and see the detailed answers. Sometimes they are very thick and consist of pages and pages of lengthy and detailed responses.

This is a good practice and we should follow it. However let us keep in mind that there is a reason for cabinet confidences. They are an important part of our government system.

Questions in the House of CommonsPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to stand in the House today to defend democracy to the best of my ability.

The motion before us today is from the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest. Even though it was read at the beginning I will refer to it again. It asks:

That an Order of the House do issue for copies of any letters since April 1, 2001, from the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and/or the Clerk of the Privy Council to Ministers and/or Deputy Ministers concerning answers to questions in the House of Commons.

I will try to unravel that semi-formal comment. It means we believe that not only parliamentarians but members of the public have a right to know what is going on. The underlying principle which is so important here is that of accountability and transparency.

I should probably not tell hon. members this because it was so long ago I can hardly believe it. Some 40 years ago my wife and I were married. We moved to a little town in southern Alberta where right out of university I became the math department in a rural high school. I taught all high school math from grades 9 to 12 in a town of 200 people. The school had 320 students because they were bused in from a 50 mile radius.

The reason I tell members this is because friends asked me how I could stand living in a little town where everyone knew what I was doing. That is true. Whenever the math teacher left town to go to Calgary for the weekend everyone knew it. When we came back they all expected a report and they got it. My cousin asked how I could stand to live in a town where everyone always knew what I was doing. I shrugged my shoulders and asked why not. I was not planning to do anything bad so I did not care what they knew.

I recognize that the government probably has a few things from time to time that pertain to national security or taxation changes, and that these things would be detrimental if leaked at the time. However in the end transparency and openness is the ultimate accountability.

We have before the House the issue of whether ministerial expenditures should be made public. It is one of the things now before the public accounts committee. Here again I ask why not.

I almost hesitate to resurrect this case but some time ago it became known that a cabinet minister was using the government credit card for personal purchases such as a fur coat and a trip to Mexico. When it became publicly known it was our duty as the opposition, and I was the critic in the area, to get the facts out and confirm on behalf of the voters and taxpayers of the country that the money was repaid.

When we asked for the report using the Access to Information Act we got pages and pages which were totally blank except the page number and something at the bottom about the bank statement. There was a little code on the page. I do not remember what it was but it said the information could not be disclosed because it was personal.

That was my point exactly. It was a government credit card funded by the taxpayer. If anything in the report was not showable because it was private it should not have been there.

Why not simply use one's personal card for personal expenditures and the government card for appropriate expenditures in fulfilling the duties of government?

I was very disappointed at that time. I remember saying to the press and to others that it made me uneasy to have to go after a minister like that. It is against my nature to attack people, yet in that instance it appeared that we were doing so in order to try to ferret out the truth.

If there were knowledge beforehand that those accounts would be made public, what better accountability could there be? From then on no one would use the cards inappropriately because they would know that by the next week it would be on the Internet or in the paper. Therefore no one would do it. End of case.

If anyone wants to look at the accounts, let them. They would show that I went from here to here on government business, I conducted such and such government business there, I had to stay in a hotel room and I got my meals paid for because that is part of the deal. When someone works for an employer usually the employer will cover the expenses. That is legitimate. However, any personal things would not be on that card if they knew that it would be made public.

This is what we have here today. We have a motion. The parliamentary secretary has said that the government will not be able to support the motion. That is just too bad. I really regret that, because if there is an ultimate accountability of transparency, then it is not a case of whether members of the opposition get something from their enemy, the Liberal government. It really is a case of whether or not the taxpayers get satisfaction that the functions here are properly conducted. During budget time, for example, sure, that has to be kept secret, but it does not have to be kept secret after the budget is released. At that stage the documents could be made public.

I think there is a great deal that is hidden. The fact that the government member said that government members would not support this motion for the production of these papers says in essence that they have something to hide. Otherwise they would just show them.

I want to illustrate this. I do not know whether the member knows this, but a number of years ago I also had a motion on production of papers. It had to do with a totally different issue. I asked for all the papers involved in the decision to have a new Mint facility built in Winnipeg. Again, that was part of my job as critic for public works and government services. I put forward that motion and pleaded for openness and transparency. In that instance, the government voted in favour of it. Even though after that motion passed it took a couple of weeks, I had delivered to my office two or three huge boxes of paper. In a way it was almost as useless as having no information because there was so much of it. However, when my assistants and I were not busy on the immediate and the urgent and could afford to, we worked through that and finally got the answers to the questions we were asking.

Therefore the government has a precedent of supporting such a motion in my own case. It is a very good precedent. I was hoping that the government would once again say “yes, because during the election we promised the Canadian people transparency, openness, honesty and accountability, because we promised those things, we will support this motion and produce the papers”. Maybe it thinks that they are secret. Maybe it will say it will not do so now but will six months down the road because presently Canada is in a war situation and that could jeopardize it, whatever the reasons are. Maybe that could be used for part of it, but ultimately I would like to see every aspect of government totally open after a period of time.

For example, if every document were to be made accessible after 25 years, then that too would help to formulate what these members do now, because they would know that even though it must be kept secret now it ultimately would be made public and then it would look like egg on their faces if they did not do what was right. The object in the present is to do what is right. If that helps the motivation, then I think that function is fulfilled.

How quickly time goes when one is in the middle of something that one enjoys debating. I am sorry my time is gone. I appreciate the opportunity.

Questions in the House of CommonsPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from New Brunswick Southwest for bringing forward the motion today. The parliamentary secretary to the government House leader is my colleague, as we share neighbouring ridings in Nova Scotia, and there is one thing he forgets. He forgets the fact that it is the taxpayers of Canada who sent us here and it is to the taxpayers of Canada that we should be answerable.

I want to touch on one thing very briefly. My hon. colleague from the Conservative Party mentioned members of parliament who cross the floor. I have always thought that people who did that were the scum of the political earth, first class political sycophants. If they do not have the courage of their convictions to face their voters in a byelection before they cross the floor, they have no right to sit in this hon. House of Commons. That is all I will say about that for the moment.

I would like to read to the House something that was in the Hill Times this week. Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, basically says:

I wouldn't use the word “corruption”, but you know the best measure against that is public knowledge--

That is what we are talking about. He is talking about making the following disclosure this week to the House affairs committee:

--important money is obviously being given and the public doesn't know about it--

This is in terms of leadership, electoral and political races in the country.

He states:

They don't know how much and they don't know who and if we go to the fundamental values in the Elections Act, one of them is transparency.

He says that the Canada Elections Act is supposed to call for “total transparency” and that is no longer the order of the day.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley, a well respected person in Canada, says that about the Canada Elections Act and what we are saying in the House of Commons is that this is what we are asking for in the production of papers. We want openness and transparency, but like what Mr. Kingsley said about the elections act, it is no longer the case. It is all secretive. The Liberals have a majority, so why not use the hammer and put away any kind of effort from the opposition? I would even suspect that a lot of their own backbenchers ask very pertinent questions on behalf of their constituents.

What do we get on top of all of this? We get the treasury board saying that ministers and their staff are exempt from freedom of information when it comes to their expense accounts. What utter nonsense. Just who do these people think they are? They are elected by the Canadian taxpayers. They have absolutely no right to hide that information from them. What they say about cabinet disclosure and cabinet confidentiality is utter nonsense. That kind of drivel originates from the south end of a northbound cow.

What is incredible is how many times on a Wednesday or after cabinet meetings that we have leaks greater than a sieve to the general public. Half of the Globe and Mail and the National Post know what goes on in cabinet meetings long before most of the Liberals do.

It is just utter nonsense when they hide behind cabinet confidentiality. The reality is that we are here because of the Canadian taxpayers. We owe it to them to get the information they ask us for.

I myself have had a production of papers motion because there is a mine site about to start operating in northern British Columbia. The fact is that this mine could cause great damage to salmon bearing rivers in that area. All we asked for was information on who said what to whom about this mine site. We want to know on behalf of Canadians whether all environmental regulations are being met. We want to know if all the criteria were met before the aspects of this mine were put in place. That is all we are asking for and we get the runaround every single time.

Another aspect of the runaround is the split procurement process for the Sea Kings. Have we ever heard greater nonsense?

That is why the minister of defence has absolutely no bearing any more when it comes to the military or Canadian people. They treat him as a joke. The fact is, he cannot even do the simple thing of convincing his cabinet colleagues to buy as simple a thing as a helicopter. When he tells us that they will be here at the end of 2005, there is no way that can happen. He is simply misleading the House, but mind you, he is very good at that.

Mr. Speaker, I know I have gone off the track and I will get back on. The whole aspect of it is that when someone asks for production of papers it should not take a year to try to get an answer.

Those of us in opposition and, I would suspect, a lot of backbenchers are asking information of the government every day. We need to have those answers back in a timely fashion. Forty-five days is too long but that should be adequate for the government with all its resources and all the people behind it to get those answers back to us in a timely fashion.

We can only surmise and assume that government members do not want to give that information, that they want to hide behind it. That is not democracy. That is not transparency. That just makes Canadians even more angry at politicians. When Canadians get more angry at politicians they in turn ignore the democratic electoral process and we all suffer because of it. That is unacceptable.

My colleague from New Brunswick Southwest asked a very simple question and he wanted some papers on it. That is all the government had to provide. I myself asked for some papers on a mine site in northern British Columbia. I do not know how that can be so difficult. Earlier this year another colleague, from the Alliance Party, asked for production of papers. What a hassle it was to get this stuff. I have absolutely no understanding of why, unless it is my own personal bias or belief in things, but the fact is that the government is continually hiding something.

When something is hidden from an opposition member of parliament or even from the backbench, it is actually being hidden from the Canadian people. That is unacceptable. We are slowly losing the values this country was built on. What is really amazing is that as a kid growing up, although I was a New Democrat my whole life, I always had assumed that the Liberal Party would be the one that would be the most honest, the most open, the most transparent.