Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the Canadian Alliance supply day motion. The motion reads:
That, in the opinion of this House, the reason why 69% of Canadians polled in a recent survey viewed the “federal political system” as corrupt is because Ministers of this government have failed to make public their secret Code of Conduct, have broken their own Liberal Red Book promises such as the one to appoint an independent Ethics Counsellor who reports directly to Parliament and have failed to clear the air over allegations of abusing their positions to further their own interests and those of their friends.
That is what we are discussing here. We bring the motion forward not out of some attempt to be sanctimonious and standing up on top of a mountain telling parliament how it should be run but because there is an important problem happening here.
I listened to the remarks of the Prime Minister this morning when he gave his speech. When he was describing the Quebec contracts, which is a subject of much debate in this place, he said not to judge the government's motives. He said its motives were derived out of the 1995 referendum campaign where the sovereignists almost won. The federalists barely managed to win and the governments's motive was to try to find some kind of new federalist voice in Quebec and to expand the concept of federalism in Quebec.
I say to the Prime Minister that there is simply no virtue in the argument of saying that the government may have screwed up, that there may be accusations of corruption, that the auditor general is breathing down the government's throat and there is an RCMP across the board investigation into what it is doing. However, the motive was x. There is no virtue in that argument.
To back that up I would like to read from a section of a book that was written by an author who is a public philosopher, Dennis Prager, for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect. In a chapter entitled “Don't Judge Motives” he writes:
What we do, not what we intend, is what counts.
On the global level, assessing motives rather than actions has led to serious moral distortions. Take, for example, the differing assessments of capitalism and Communism.
Communism resulted in the loss of freedom by more nations, and the deaths of more individuals, than any other doctrine in history. Yet because it was perceived by many people as emanating from good motives--abolishing poverty, achieving greater equality, etc.--many people refused to accord it the revulsion that its deeds deserved.
On the other hand, capitalism has enabled more people to experience freedom and prosperity than any other economic doctrine. It should therefore be widely admired. Yet it is often vilified. The reason? It is based on selfish motives--profit.
Defenses of Communism and opposition to capitalism have emanated from the same flawed logic--judging motives, not deeds.
What we are trying to do with the motion is to get at the deeds of the government and unearth the problems that are at the core of our system that result in 70% of Canadians thinking that our federal political system is corrupt. They do believe that. That is not some phantom number. I heard one Liberal on television, and I do not believe it was a member of parliament but a spin-meister, saying the poll actually asked four questions and three of the four questions tended to give a response that politics is corrupt. Only one of the four did not. Therefore, 70% of Canadians really do think this place is corrupt. When we walk down Main Street that is what we hear.
We had a break this past week and if any members did even a little bit of what I did, which was spend a lot of time talking to constituents, they would get a real sense that Canadians really believe that. If we were to take a poll of the people who are in the gallery right now in the House of Commons and ask if they think our system of government functions appropriately and effectively and really gives Canadians the most upright, forthright, democratic and open system possible, my guess is seven out of ten would probably say no because they do not see it. They do not see it in the tangible results.
We do not mean for this to sound as though we are taking a big whack at all Liberal members of parliament. There are some good Liberal members of parliament. The member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey is a good, decent Liberal member of parliament. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is a good man. The member for Yukon, who I spend a lot of time chatting with, is a good, decent member.
I say with absolute sincerity to those members that with the scandals that are going on and with the 70% number that we know about as being fact, they are missing their moment. This is the time when they should stand up and say that what has been going on is wrong. They are missing that moment.
I do not say this because the Canadian Alliance is upright, forthright and moral. The members of the Reform Party missed their moment and I will tell the House the moment that we missed.
It was a couple of years ago when Jack Ramsay was accused of a particular crime. I was a member of the party. I have been a member of the Reform Party and the Canadian Alliance going back to 1993. I can tell the House that I was not happy with the way that this party missed its moment in saying that the House needed to raise its standards. It should not just go by the legalities of the law and if a person has obeyed the law that individual could be a member of parliament or if a person has not obeyed the law then that individual should not be a member of parliament. There is a higher standard that we must live by as members of parliament.
My view is that our party in general did not meet that standard but the Canadian people in the next campaign met it for us. I believe the Liberal government is missing that standard. It should not say that the standard to be a member of parliament from the ethical standards are defined by the RCMP, by the law, by the solicitor general or by the auditor general. No. The standards are there and we need to discuss them amongst ourselves, which is what the motion attempts to do. It attempts to say that we are supposed to be representing Canada in the best interests of the country and we are failing that when we do not call on our own.
We must police ourselves in this place and say that when someone does something wrong, that person has to be held accountable. He or she cannot be shuffled off to an embassy to hide or shuffled to a back row like the member for Vancouver Centre who alleged that crosses were burning in Prince George. Members in her own party should have done what members of the opposition said, which was to have the member for Vancouver Centre go to Prince George and apologize because that is a standard of decency that most people at the kitchen table would expect of their own family members if they did something wrong but that is not a standard that we hold ourselves to. That just simply is not good enough.
I want to continue in French. The Prime Minister said this morning that the reason he gave these contracts to Quebec for these political projects was that, after the 1995 referendum, the country nearly split in two and the Province of Quebec nearly separated from the rest of the country.
I ask my colleagues from Quebec—I see the hon. member for Quebec East—whether they be Liberal, Bloc or even Progressive Conservative members, to rise in this House and tell Canadians honestly what they think. Do they really think that, by using a small logo saying Canada with a flag over it and granting these contracts, the situation of federalism will improve in this country?
Is that really what they think? If they can say it honestly in this House, I want to hear it. Then I will want to ask questions dealing with the notion that putting up logos on the walls of a hall or a location where festivities related to language or multiculturalism can really improve federalism in this country.
I would rather put that question to Bloc members since we know the real reason federalism has now gained ground in Quebec.
The reason federalism is expanding in Quebec has nothing to do with advertising contracts. The federal government can spend billions of dollars buying Canada logos with the flag over the letter A and say that is why separatism has shrunk in Quebec. However the sovereignist side is receding in Quebec because of politics in Quebec. Quite frankly, Bernard Landry is flaming out as premier. The province's local governments have made stupid and grossly unpopular political decisions with respect to the amalgamation of cities. These things have led to a drop in the polls. It has nothing to do with the federal government, much like the federal budget surplus.
With respect to fiscal policy and federalism policy the government is living off the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. It believes that because the rooster crows when the sun rises the crowing of the rooster causes the sun to rise. The federal Liberal government is here in Ottawa. The Parti Quebecois is going down in the polls. It is therefore the handiwork of the federal government in brewing its schemes that has brought this about.
That is not the reality. Our economy is taking off is because in the 1990s the American economy took off due to low interest rates, lower taxes and a government that was committed to expanding free trade in good economic times. It had nothing to do with the way the federal Liberals gutted transfers to the provinces and so on. We rode on the back of the bigger economy to the south with which we expanded our trading relationship under the Progressive Conservative government, a government the Liberals kicked out of office by arguing against free trade ties with the U.S.
On the issue of federalism, the contracts are duplicitous. They smell. Liberal members are missing their moment to stand up for what is right and say members of parliament and the Government of Canada must live up to a higher standard.
I encourage the government, as have other members of the opposition, to raise the standard of ethics in this place. Let us reduce the number of Canadians who have a low or cynical view of the House from 70% to about .5%.