Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak on Motion No. 437. Particularly given what has occurred in the private sector in recent months and years and the increased level of scrutiny and focus on some of the corporate governance issues, we should only expect that the public sector and legislatures, and in this case the House of Commons, try to achieve the same level of clarity and granularity in the types of accounting and bookkeeping methodologies we use in order to maintain some level of credibility.
This is a time when international markets are looking very seriously at the way governments maintain and handle their accounting and the fiscal governance that are issues that are so important. Transparency, consistency and ongoing accountability for these numbers and the methodology are important.
Further, I would support us restoring the debating of the estimates of the government on the floor of the House of Commons, which was the case until the late sixties. That of course would improve and increase the level of scrutiny of the estimates and would lead to far more rational government spending patterns.
It was no accident that the spending increased so significantly during the late sixties and throughout the seventies under Liberal governments after the House of Commons was denied the opportunity to have the estimates debated on the floor of the House of Commons. The hon. member's motion to improve the financial information systems for the government would go a long way to help strengthen the scrutiny for members of parliament and the House of Commons over government spending and would also help individual Canadians be better aware.
The issue is particularly important given the events of the weekend. Today international financial markets are looking very closely at Canada. Early indications on the European markets, prior to the Canadian markets opening, were that we would see a downward trend in the Canadian dollar today.
We are at a time when, because of a dispute between the former finance minister and the Prime Minister, the government has placed in great jeopardy that confidence we as a country are seeking to achieve in the international financial markets. At a time of tremendous tumult in international financial markets, at a time when we need to be presenting a strong and unified front on behalf of Canada in the form of the government, the government has been divided at the most senior levels. Therefore, while we could say this is about accrual accounting it could also be said that it has been a cruel weekend for the government. The fact is that the government, by not resolving internal issues, has placed the country in jeopardy and effectively has chosen to risk the well-being of the Canadian economy at a very critical time.
When international financial markets question the stability of a government, sometimes central banks within those countries will increase rates in order to maintain some strength of the currency. We see now that the Governor of the Bank of Canada has indicated that we will be seeing higher rates over the next period of time. The reason the Bank of Canada is strengthening rates at this time is to mask a lot of the structural weaknesses that exist within the government. The government has not embraced some of the aggressive and innovative fiscal policies that other countries have utilized, like tax reform, to strengthen and improve productivity and improve the Canadian economy.
The Canadian dollar has suffered. We lost about 20% of the value of the Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar since 1993. Now I think we will see the governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of Canada making a decision to maintain the Canadian dollar as much as possible at its current level by increasing rates. As such, when the government has an internal feud between the former finance minister and the current Prime Minister, which affects the degree to which international markets trust the government and have faith in its policies, I believe we will see a more aggressive interest rate policy from the Bank of Canada.
When Canadians buy their homes, sign their mortgage documents, buy and finance their cars, they will pay a higher price in part because of the fact that the government has not managed its internal issues as well as it should have. The fact is that when higher interest rates are used to try to put a band-aid over some of the structural weaknesses in a government or some of the dysfunctionality between personalities of some of the most senior ministers and members of cabinet, Canadians pay a price where it counts and that is every month when they pay their mortgage and car payments.
What does that do for Canadian productivity? Obviously it has a negative impact on productivity. What does it do for standard of living? It reduces standard of living because Canadians can afford less.
We have seen a dramatic drop in the Canadian standard of living relative to that of the U.S. since this government was elected. This type of internal warfare between cabinet ministers within the government adds to that policy malaise and that drift of government at a time when we have an agricultural crisis, a health care crisis and a productivity crisis where Canada has become less competitive in recent years compared with our trading partners. The dollar currency is in significant decline and has been in a secular decline since the government was elected in 1993.
The last thing we need at a time like this is some internal dispute between the former finance minister and the current Prime Minister. My belief is that the Prime Minister has demonstrated that in many ways he is out of control. We are trying to seek ways in the House today with this motion to try to improve control over the nation's finances.
We have a Prime Minister who is behaving almost as if he is out of control. The government has placed this parliament in an almost minority parliament situation. The whip of the Liberal government cannot depend on a large portion of that caucus to vote in the ways that the government would want them to vote. We are in a minority situation right now as a parliament.
As we talk about ways that we want to strengthen our credibility from a financial perspective as a country and improve governance issues over the finances of the country, we should consider and mourn in many respects the way that the government has risked our credibility in the international financial markets.
We have the fact that the Bank of Canada will have to use interest rate policies to try to compensate for that and strengthen the Canadian dollar in some ways artificially to fight the trend of traders betting against the Canadian dollar at a critical time. We have the fact that we have a new finance minister who as industry minister once said that high taxes were good for productivity because they would force Canadians to work harder. All these things cause me to be very concerned.
It is important that we consider with Motion No. 437 ways to improve transparency and governance over the nation's finances. However we would be remiss if we did not take some time to consider how the government has placed the international reputation of Canada in the financial community in great jeopardy.
The Prime Minister's ego has taken precedence over what is good for Canada at a very critical time. It is not simply that the former finance minister has been treated shabbily. I think the country has been treated shabbily by the Prime Minister.