Mr. Speaker, I was just having a conversation with someone from Halifax.
Ms. McLaughlin is the woman to whom I am referring. The important distinction for Canadians to understand is the difference between a failed candidate and someone who has chosen to leave the life of politics. Earlier it was pointed out that the New Democratic member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre has great knowledge of a certain topic, that being democratic reform. If he retired from politics again, would anybody in the House have a problem with his being appointed to a position to look at democratic reform in this country? Clearly not, because the member has great experience. It is not precipitated by his failed candidacy. That is what we have here, someone who attempted to get into political life at the federal level, failed, and was then appointed.
I asked the parliamentary secretary if he was aware of just Liberal candidates in B.C. who had been appointed and given so-called soft landings. There is an immediate lack of knowledge and awareness of such a thing ever occurring, yet we know that candidate after candidate across the country, not just from British Columbia, not just from Manitoba, are given a gentle handshake on the way out the door of a failed candidacy for the Liberal Party. This ensures that high profile and powerful candidates can consistently be attracted, thereby continuing the machine of the Liberal Party, which leads to bad decisions and the wrong people being in the wrong positions.
I would direct the member's attention toward the Gomery inquiry to see what happens when people are appointed to the wrong positions for reasons other than their qualifications, their one qualification being their connection to the Liberal Party, or their ability to raise funds, or to run as a candidate.
The role of the chair has been raised a number of times as to whether it is important or not. It was striking to me as a former professional facilitator who chaired a great diversity of meetings, how dismissive Mr. Murray was about the importance of this position and the importance of the role of the chair in any committee. The parliamentary secretary said that this candidate could not have all the answers. The role of the chair is not to have all the answers, of course not. The role of the chair is to have the right questions to pose to the committee, to bring forward the right witnesses, to bring forward the right people to address and comment on the direction and advice needed to be given to the government.
The role of the chair is pivotal in the direction of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. With Mr. Murray's dismissiveness of the importance of that role and the dismissiveness I have seen in the House of the importance of that role, it is clear to me that there is a lack of understanding of the position, a lack of understanding of its importance. This speaks to the Prime Minister's lack of commitment to the environment as an issue by appointing people who have no clear perspective of what the job actually is.
A number of times during the committee discussion I asked Mr. Murray if he would be willing to criticize the government. I have had some frustrations with previous national round table reports and their lack of effectiveness in changing the bad course of the government when it came to greenhouse gases, the use of the taxation system to improve our environmental standing. He avoided the question numerous times. He found his way around it and would not answer me directly. Another member of the committee, a Liberal, entered into the debate and clarified the fact that the role of the chair of the national round table is not to criticize the government, that it is not part of the job description and not something that it does. Mr. Murray did not even have knowledge of that fact.
A number of times the candidate also pointed out that he was willing to work. He said that he was willing to let his hair down, which was the expression he used over and over again, to roll up his sleeves was referred to a few times, and work with the members of the environment committee. This is also not the role of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. It is meant to be an advisory body to the Prime Minister. It is also meant to present to the Prime Minister the harsh realities of how we are doing on the environment. Over the last 12 years, that harsh reality has been very discouraging.
To see somebody who was hand picked, who did not go through a nomination race, someone with clear connections to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister's office and the Privy Council being simply appointed thereby incurs a certain amount of loyalty to those people. That person would be unwilling to present that harsh reality to the Prime Minister and to his cabinet about the tough decisions that must be made when it comes to the environment. The progressive action that has been lacking is needed if Canada is going to meet any of its international commitments, if it is going to start to reverse the trend that we have and the pollution that we see in our country, to clean our air and clean our water.
The candidate obviously lacked the fortitude and knowledge to fulfill that position properly. Again it speaks to the lack of importance that the Prime Minister has given to the environment.
There will be a recorded vote in the House to which I am very much looking forward. Therein lies an opportunity for the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister and the government to dispel the myths that the democratic deficit dialogue was simply optics, that the Liberals were simply looking for an opportunity to gain a few more votes and some key seats. When the House votes on this, it will be an opportunity for the Prime Minister to say he values the opinion of parliamentarians who represent the opinions of Canadians and who looked at the issue with all thoroughness. It has been impugned and suggested that the motivations are purely partisan.
I said in committee and I will say it again here in the House, my intention in looking at Mr. Murray's candidacy, as was the intention of many of the committee members around the table, was to look at his appointment with objectivity and to arrive at a sound decision in the best interests not of Mr. Murray's CV or in the Liberal Party's ability to attract high profile candidates, but in the interests of the environment and the country. We came away with a recommendation to say no, this was not an appropriate appointment, that the Prime Minister had to back down.
The tragedy in Alberta of the RCMP officers being killed occurred during the week that the committee was to look at the motion that is now before the House. I have a deep cynicism and suspicion that in that week when our committee meeting was cancelled, and appropriately so in order that members could attend the funerals of the fallen RCMP officers, the opportunity was taken cynically by the government to rush ahead with the appointment and make sure that the committee could not look at the motion that would come before the House. I do not make that allegation lightly.
When this comes for a vote in the House, the government will have the opportunity to seriously look at the democratic deficit, to take a serious stand and say that the voices of parliamentarians who represent the voices of Canadians matter, that the environment truly matters. The government will have the opportunity to say that it will commit to make an appointment that makes sense, that will be good for the environment, an appointment that will have the trust of parliamentarians and thereby the credibility and trust of Canadians. The government will have the opportunity to vote in support of the motion, which the New Democratic Party will be doing with some pride.
My last point is to dispel the myth of partisanship. The chair of the environment committee who is doing a very able job of chairing another committee, invited committee members to dinner to talk with the new ambassador for the environment who was appointed by the Prime Minister. There was a striking difference in the tone. Unfortunately the Liberal members, except for the chair, were unable to attend the dinner and to meet the ambassador, but the other parties were well represented at the table. The tone and nature of the conversation on the appointment of the ambassador was respectful, engaging and important.
Ms. Sloan has an extraordinary amount of credibility within the House and the country for her perspective on the environment. I and the New Democratic Party are looking forward to working with the ambassador on the important issues on the environment. Is she a New Democratic member or Conservative member? No, she is not. She is a former Liberal member of the House but her credibility is in good standing. She is not a failed candidate who has been dropped in on a soft landing. She has the ability to look at the issues. She has the knowledge to represent the country well when it comes to the environment. She knows the issues.
The New Democratic Party looks forward to engaging with her, even though she is not a New Democrat, even though she is not a Conservative or a Bloc. She is a Liberal. Do we have a problem with the appointment? Of course not. There was no media outcry. There was no need to bring the motion forward in the House to reject her appointment. Why? It was a sound appointment. It made sense. If brought before the committee we would have a fruitful and fulsome debate, as the Liberals like to call it. In the case of Mr. Murray it is the opposite. We have a failed candidate who is unqualified for the job and is unwilling to even know what the job specifically entails.
A Prime Minister whose arrogance in ignoring the will of the committee will be seen when there is a standing vote on this motion in the House. It will be seen when he rejects the opportunity to fulfill the promise of fixing the democratic deficit. This is an opportunity to fulfill the promise to reject the culture of cronyism that has existed for far too long within the Liberal Party, much to the detriment of a number of issues and in this particular case the environment.
The government should take the high road. It should take the opportunity to address the issues that parliamentarians have brought forward. Serious concerns have been brought forward in committee and again during this debate. The government should fulfill the promise of truly looking at the democratic deficit.
Unfortunately, I have a lack of faith with this perspective. I do not think the courage is there. The pattern of cronyism will continue because the Prime Minister has not yet seen the way. The Liberal Party of Canada has not yet seen its way, despite all the evidence of the need to undermine this pattern of soft landings for high profile candidates. The Liberals have to stand with courage in the House with the opposition parties when we vote on this issue and say that the appointment was a bad decision.
I feel a certain amount of sympathy for Mr. Murray in his having to go through this procedure. He accepted an appointment on which he was ill equipped for any sort of scrutiny and which has now happened. Now his career is such as it is. I encourage the government to reconsider its position. This is important to Canadians. We look forward to the support of the government on this motion.