Mr. Speaker, it is with considerable interest that I participate in the debate regarding the intention of the government to push to reintroduce all those bills from the last session which died on the Order Paper when the government made the decision to prorogue the second session of the 37th Parliament of Canada.
I find it incredible that the government would even propose this motion. How could the government pretend that it is somehow different from the one led by Jean Chrétien when what we have before us is a motion to reintroduce the same old policies, word for word, without even the pretence of introducing something different?
The government refuses to realize what the Canadian public has understood for years, that a serious democratic deficit exists in Canada. Paying lip service to this shortfall in our political life serves nothing. Canadians are in no mood for games being played by insincere politicians.
In my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke the unemployment lines are getting longer, while the government is bankrupt of ideas other than the usual handouts to friends. Figures of those collecting unemployment insurance in communities in my riding show an increase of 11.6% for claims in Pembroke, a 13.9% increase in Arnprior and a 20.2% increase in unemployment insurance claims in Renfrew this past month. These figures do not include the self-employed farmers and those who have given up looking for work because it simply does not exist.
It really hurts the small businesses in my riding that face an ever increasing tax bill to see the Prime Minister himself avoid $100 million in taxes. He is able to do so because he can afford to hire an army of high-priced tax accountants and lawyers whose sole purpose is to look for ways for unethical businessmen to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
It may be that big business and the friends of the government party can afford tax shelters in offshore locations, but what about the husband and wife who work 60 to 70 hours a week at a corner store just to try to make ends meet? Explain to small businesses that are not only overtaxed but are made to be GST tax collectors on behalf of the government the fairness of certain large corporations not paying their fair share of taxes.
Is it any wonder that one of the bills from the previous session which the government is including in this motion is the one dealing with the ethics commissioner, an idea that was first proposed in the 1993 red book of broken promises. The motion represents another cynical move by the government to try to fool the people regarding its attempts to distance itself from the Chrétien legacy. That bill is seriously flawed. Reintroducing it in its current form is a waste of the House's time.
We in the opposition were expecting a break from the past, such as a new piece of legislation that boldly sets out a plan to stop scandals such as the payoff scandal involving the previous minister of public works.
Canadians are not looking for another inquiry into another government scandal. They want the problems fixed now. At the rate the current government is going, there will be no judges left to conduct investigations. They will all be busy examining cases of government corruption.
Canadians have had their considerable expectations dashed to the ground in short order by a government that is led by a Prime Minister who promises by his actions--and actions always speak louder than words--to be worse than his predecessor, that is, if such a feat is possible when it comes to the numerous conflict of interest scandals that are the legacy of the former prime minister.
Recently I had the opportunity to consult with my constituents regarding their opinion on what they thought was the most important issue facing Canadians today. The list of possible answers was a long one and ranged from taxes, energy, health care and jobs to affordable housing, education, daycare, the armed forces and the environment. However, the number one issue for the people in my riding was honesty in government.
Here are some of the typical responses that I received from ordinary Canadians in my riding: “If we have an honest government, all the rest of the areas will be cared for. Honesty and integrity usually go hand in hand”. Another one said, “First we need honesty in government, something we have never had. All MPs should vote according to their constituents' wishes and not according to the Prime Minister”. Another one said, “All the issues above are important issues, but honesty in government should be a number one priority. The wasting of taxpayers' money is disgraceful. The gun registry should be scrapped and more money given to the armed forces”.
Another one said, “Honesty in government would greatly help all those other areas listed above”. Finally, another one said, “Without honesty in government, how would any of these issues be properly dealt with? Keep up the good work”.
Those were some of the responses with respect to honesty in government. We need to remember that it was the government party that was trying to hold itself as something different to the Canadian public. Members on the government side in the debate on this motion have cited what they call precedents of the practice to reinstate bills from a previous session into a new session. What has not been clearly acknowledged is that in all the other cases that were cited, it was the same government and the same prime minister. Let us be clear with what we have before us. We have a motion to reinstate bills that is unprecedented as far as the House of Commons is concerned.
I have also listened to the members opposite make the argument that we would be rehearing the same testimony. When the former prime minister opportunistically called the 2000 election, many pieces of legislation died on the Order Paper, some dating back to the 35th Parliament. However, the ethics commissioner said it was okay, just like he said it was okay to twist the arm of the president of the Business Development Bank to lend money to a buddy of the former prime minister. That argument is wearing very thin with the Canadian public.
Power Corporation is part owner of CITIC Pacific Limited. Canadian funded research and development is being funnelled to companies like Power Corporation to move its operations to low wage countries at the expense of Canadian jobs. What we are seeing here is another example of opportunistic arguments being put forward by the government members.
I also listened carefully to the member for Scarborough—Rouge River when he talked about efficiency and saving time in the House of Commons. That argument sure was missing in 2000. If the member is concerned about saving time in the House, I am pleased to state for the record that I am prepared to stay sitting in this Parliament doing the job the electors elected me to do straight through December with no breaks, if that is what it takes to get the business of the nation done.
The Canadian public understands that the longer the government sits with its recycled leader, the more mismanagement is exposed.
This is not a question of how the official opposition feels about the individual bills that would be reintroduced to the House at the same stage of debate they were at in the previous session of Parliament. This is not a debate about whether this has been done previously or even about the wording of the motion. The core of this debate is honesty in government. If the government believed in democracy, it would not have introduced this motion to reintroduce previous bills and it would not have moved closure on this motion to cut off the democratic debate on this motion.
Actions speak louder than words. Let the Prime Minister stand in his place and tell Canadians that he is proud of the Chrétien government record. Let him confirm to Canadians that $1 billion spent on a useless gun registry rather than on health care is the direction in which he wants to continue. Let him stop the charade that just because Mr. Chrétien was forced to retire, his policy of neglect for our armed forces moved along with him. Let the government explain to our unemployed softwood lumber workers that the government policy of insulting our largest trading partner is really helpful, especially when people are out of work in a one industry town. If the Prime Minister was prepared to take this action, we in the official opposition understand our duty to provide Canadians with solutions.
Maybe with such a bold declaration, unanimous consent which was sought on this motion would have been given. This is the real issue. Yes, the government will try to explain closure as a procedural matter, that it is really not a serious debate and that a fundamental issue is not at stake in this motion, but honesty in government is what is being called for. Canadians can count on my colleagues on this side of the House and me to continue our roles as guarantors of the public integrity.
The reality is that what we are witnessing is a tired, worn out party that has recycled one of its tired, worn out members into a new leader in the hope that nobody will notice. Recycling old government business or recycling a leader, there is no difference. The government is the slave of a small corporate elite and that will never change.
The decision to have the ethics commissioner continue to report to the Prime Minister is an example of bad legislation that we saw with the previous prime minister. It is clear to Canadians that the government just does not get it when it comes to ethical behaviour. Canadians see a conflict of interest when we have the former leader of the Liberal Party meeting in China with China International Trust and Investment Corporation, CITIC, scarcely two months after being forced out of office. He is having his cake and eating it too, just like this motion to bring back the legislation.
The Prime Minister knows all about this as Canada Steamship Lines would rather have its ships built in Shanghai than employ idle Canadian shipbuilders in Atlantic Canada. He himself is having jobs exported to Shanghai; meanwhile in the Maritimes our shipbuilders are out of work.
The corporate agenda is the democratic deficit. Follow the money to understand what the government is all about.
Canadians should not be surprised by the motion before us today, which looks to carry on just like the previous prime minister.
Let me suggest for a minute, Mr. Speaker, that you were the Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao, and that you had a potentially embarrassing situation with a former trade official who had been in the Beijing embassy of his country and was privy to details that could be embarrassing to China, and that certain friends in multinational corporations would be embarrassed by these secrets becoming public too; just send him back to his country, a country with a long list of human rights violations, where he would surely be executed. Dead men tell no tales. Is it diplomatic pressure from China that has led to the deportation of this individual? Will Canadians ever know the real reason for Mr. Chrétien's visit to China? Follow the dollar.
What is clear is that as long as the government insists on returning flawed legislation like the old Bill C-34, nothing will ever change. The democratic deficit is real and ongoing. I can certainly see why the government wants to bring back the unfinished legislative agenda from the last session. By carrying on with the old agenda, the Prime Minister has a scapegoat for its flaws, flaws he is only too eager to perpetuate because it is business as usual with the Liberal Party.
The issue before us has nothing to do with whether or not we think all the pieces of legislation that are affected by this motion are good or bad. The Canadian public is not consumed by the procedure in Parliament. What the public does want and what it understands is honesty, the basic sense of right and wrong.
The use of closure is the same argument. I can assure members opposite that the public sees the trampling of democratic rights. Let us be clear. That is what the use of closure is. It is a part of the sickness that is now being diagnosed as the democratic deficit.
In closing, I would like to point out that it was the government, not the official opposition, that prorogued Parliament. If the government now finds itself in a situation that it does not like, let us be clear: this is a situation of its own making.