Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to take part in the debate on the motion introduced by our official opposition colleagues during routine proceedings.
I must say that the motion is somewhat important since, ultimately, it invites us to reflect on the role parliamentarians must play within civil society and, above all, on a particular way of proceeding.
I am speaking on behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues when I say that we are not calling into question the personal merits of Glen Murray, the former mayor of Winnipeg who doubtless served his constituents well. What we are questioning is the fact he has become the chair of a round table on the environment, when there is no indication that his professional experience or individual expertise has prepared him for such a position of leadership, consultation and consensus building.
This is in no way a personal attack; this is an attempt to call attention to the government's practice—unfortunately all too common—of giving positions of responsibility to individuals who ran for the government party during a federal election. We have two comments about this.
First, when he became leader of the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister called for a democratic renewal. He promised to enhance the role of Parliament. Clearly, such a commitment affects the work of the House as well as that of its committees. MPs spend a great deal of time in committee.
As a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, our colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has become very knowledgeable about environmental issues. However, that committee did not support the appointment of Glen Murray. It informed the Prime Minister that, despite a personal appreciation of Glen Murray, certain individuals in civil society were more qualified in environmental issues than the former mayor of Winnipeg. Once again, this debate must not focus on personal issues, but rather on the level of expertise.
The Prime Minister cannot talk about enhancing the role of parliamentarians and then completely ignore the recommendation by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. That is, incidentally, one of the most dynamic committees of the House and has produced some very good reports in the past. All of its members, regardless of political background, are greatly concerned about the environment. Their concerns are shared by numerous Canadians. We know that the environment is one of the areas of concern that has grown considerably in importance in recent years.
My second comment relates to the government's propensity, its regrettable bad habit, of appointing former Liberal candidates. How many times have we had examples of that in our ridings, for instance in relation to returning officer appointments. When I was a returning officer myself, I had two experiences of dealing with candidates who had of course not been elected in the general election because that was the wish of my fellow citizens.
We do not feel it is desirable to give preferential treatment to people who are closely associated with a political party. Everyone has a right to acquire some experience within a political party or even to openly identify with a particular party, but this must not be used as a springboard to accede to certain positions of responsibility.
If, for instance, Glen Murray had been a former head of Greenpeace, if all his career had been devoted to working on behalf of the environment, then there would not have been any problem.
I will give the example of the former leader of the NDP. When he was appointed director of the Canadian Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, there was a consensus in this House on his appointment. The former leader of the NDP, and now the member for Ottawa Centre, had in fact been involved in those issues all his life. It is understandable that people, even those with partisan affiliations, have made a name for themselves campaigning for something in the past.
With all due respect for Glen Murray, whose skills, merit and integrity I do not question, I am sorry to say that there is nothing in his career path to suggest that he should be in charge of coordinating environmental matters.
It is important to enhance the role of committees. When I was elected in 1993, I was a fiery thirtysomething. Lucien Bouchard, who was our leader at the time—one of the greatest premiers of Quebec, as everyone in this House knows—told us at our first caucus meeting that we would discover that it is in committees that MPs truly make their mark. There is no hiding in committees. Either you know your stuff or not. That is where we see how good parliamentarians are.
Parliamentarians spend a lot of time in committees. If I am not mistaken, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development meets at least twice a week, if not three times. I have known my colleague to have five committee meetings in one week, when Charles Caccia was chair.
If the role of parliamentarians, who spend a lot of time in committee, is to be given its due, their recommendations have to be taken into account. It would be basic courtesy for a Prime Minister to accept the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in which the three opposition parties were not prepared to support the appointment of Glen Murray as the co-ordinator, the chair of the round table on the environment, considered to be of some importance in an advisory capacity.
I was an MP when Sheila Copps, who was Minister of the Environment, wrote all parliamentarians on the subject of this round table. It is regrettable, once again, that the role of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has been given short shrift. We can only hope for an end to the overly incestuous relationship among Liberal allegiances, involvements in civil society and the link between the two.
Individuals' ability is not an issue. If people are competent, we are happy to support their involvement and responsibilities at various levels. However, if their career path does not include performing certain duties, their candidacy for the Liberal Party is no reason for their appointment to positions of responsibility.
Again, it is nothing personal, but we cannot but hope that, in the future, a stop is put to this all too ready reflex, democratically unhealthy and offensive to Parliament, to appoint unsuccessful candidates to positions of responsibility, considering their responsibilities.