That a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint their Honours that this House:
Agrees with amendments numbered 1, 3, 13, 16, 17, 21, 26, 27, 32, 33, 55(e)(i), 63, 64, 66, 70, 72 to 79, 81, 82, 84, 86, 87, 91, 93, 95, 97, 99, 103 to 106, 111, 112, 114, 117, 122, 124 to 127, 135, 144, 146, 152, 156 and 158 made by the Senate to Bill C-2, An Act providing for conflict of interest rules, restrictions on election financing and measures respecting administrative transparency, oversight and accountability; but
Disagrees with all other amendments except amendments 29, 67, 98 and 153, because this House believes that amendments 2, 4 to 12, 14, 15, 18 to 20, 22 to 25, 28, 30, 31, 34 to 54, 55(a) to (d), 55(e)(ii) to (viii), 56 to 62, 65, 68, 69, 71, 80, 83, 85, 88 to 90, 92, 94, 96, 100 to 102, 107 to 110, 113, 115, 116, 118 to 121, 123, 128 to 134, 136 to 143, 145, 147 to 151, 154, 155 and 157 are in contradiction with the principles of the bill of effectively strengthening accountability, increasing transparency, improving oversight and building confidence in government and parliamentary institutions, and that these amendments contradict the stated policy goal of rebuilding the public’s trust in the institutions of government; and
That this House considers this matter to be of significant importance and urges their Honours to respond expeditiously to this message.
Amendment 2 would weaken the Conflict of Interest Act by removing the prohibition on public office holders who have duties in respect of the House or Senate, or their families, on contracting with the House or Senate;
Amendments 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12 and 15 would undermine the ability of public office holders to discharge their duties and substitute the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner for Parliament or the public as the final arbiter of an appearance of conflict by expanding the definition of “conflict of interest” under the Conflict of Interest Act to include “potential” and “apparent” conflicts of interest;
Amendments 6, 28, 30 and 31 would weaken the Conflict of Interest Act by preventing the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner from issuing an order to a minister or parliamentary secretary to recuse himself or herself from voting on or debating matters in Parliament when doing so would place them in a conflict of interest as well as limiting the timeframe within which an investigation may be carried out
Amendments 7, 10 and 14 are an inappropriate intrusion into the private lives of public office holders and their families as they would narrow the exemption for gifts to public office holders from “friends” to “close personal friends” and require that any gift over $200 to a reporting public office holder or his or her family from any person other than a relative be disclosed to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and publicly reported
Amendments 18, 23 and 24 would undermine the capacity of the Prime Minister to discipline ministers and maintain the integrity of the Ministry by eliminating the ability of the Prime Minister to seek “confidential advice” from the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner with respect to specific public office holders;
Amendment 19 would deter the public from bringing matters to the attention of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner through a member of either House, create unfairness to individuals who are subject to complaints whose merits have not been substantiated and undermine the Commissioner’s investigatory capacity by deleting the provisions that would protect the anonymity of a member of the public and allow the Commissioner to complete an investigation before the matter were made public by requiring members of either House to keep confidential information received from the public about a possible conflict of interest until the Commissioner issued a report;
Amendments 20 and 22 would prohibit the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner from issuing a public report where the request for an examination was frivolous, vexatious or otherwise without basis thereby reducing transparency and requiring a public office holder who has been exonerated to publicize on his or her own a ruling to clear his or her name;
Amendments 25, 34 to 54, 55(a) to (d), 55(e)(ii) to (viii), 56 to 62, 65 and 94 are unacceptable because they would continue the separate existence of the Senate Ethics Officer contrary to the goal of a unified Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner who could bring a broad perspective to bear on conflict of interest and ethical matters;
Amendments 68 and 69 are unacceptable because they contravene the objective of reducing undue influence in the electoral process by raising the annual political contribution limits from $1,000 to $2,000 and providing for a “multiplier” so that the contribution limit is increased by an amount equivalent to the limit for each general election held within a single year;
Amendment 71 would undermine the capacity of the Commissioner of Elections to investigate alleged offences under the Canada Elections Act. The amendment would shorten the overall limitation period from ten years to seven years after the offence was committed (reverting to the status quo) and change the knowledge portion of the limitation period from five years to two years from the time the Commissioner of Canada Elections had knowledge of the facts giving rise to the offence. This would not address the current problems with the limitation period that were identified by the Chief Electoral Officer and only provide an additional six months during which the Commissioner must complete several hundred concurrent investigations after an election;
Amendments 80 and 89 would undermine the authority of the Commissioner of Lobbying by removing the Commissioner’s discretion to determine whether to report on the failures of designated public office holders to verify information filed by lobbyists and shortening the period of investigation and limitation period in which the Commissioner may conduct an investigation;
Amendment 83 would seriously weaken the scope of the five-year prohibition on lobbying by designated public office holders by allowing them to accept employment with an organization that engages in lobbying activities provided that they themselves do not spend a significant part of their time engaged in lobbying activities;
Amendment 85 would create significant uncertainty in the private sector and create an inappropriate incentive for corporations to prefer consultant lobbyists over in-house lobbyists as all employees of any corporation that contracts with the Government of Canada would be prohibited for five years from engaging in any lobbying activities with the department involved in the contract. The amendment does not provide for any exemptions from this prohibition and potentially subjects these individuals to criminal liability;
Amendments 88 and 90 would add a prohibition for obstructing the Commissioner of Lobbying and create a specific offence for the failure to comply with a prohibition on communication ordered by the Commissioner. The Bill already contemplates these matters in section 80;
Amendments 92 and 113(a) would not substantively amend the Access to Information Act provisions that apply to the Commissioner of Lobbying as proposed in the Bill. However, these amendments, which only go to form, would technically mean that the government institutions listed in section 144 of the Bill, such as the Office of the Auditor General of Canada and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, could not be brought under the Access to Information Act until the Commissioner of Lobbying is brought into existence;
Amendment 96 would undermine the merit-based system of employment in the public service by continuing to unfairly protect the priority status of exempt staff who leave their positions after the coming into force of the provision rather than requiring them to compete with public servants for positions in the public service
Amendments 100 and 102 would unacceptably interfere with the exercise of authority by the Government by requiring the Governor in Council to only appoint the Parliamentary Budget Officer from a list of candidates submitted by the selection committee. In addition, these amendments would fix the membership of the selection committee rather than leaving it to the discretion of the Parliamentary Librarian;
Amendment 101 would unnecessarily complicate the procedure by which the selection committee informs the Governor in Council of their list of candidates for the Parliamentary Budget Officer by requiring, in addition to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, that the Leader of the Government in the Senate present the list;
Amendments 107, 109 and 110 would involve members of the Senate in the appointment and removal process for the Director of Public Prosecutions. As this is a body housed within the Executive branch of the government, the involvement of the Senate in the appointment process is inappropriate;
Amendment 108 would undermine the authority of the Attorney General to determine which candidates the selection committee should assess for the position of Director of Public Prosecutions. As this position is exercising authority under and on behalf of the Attorney General, the amendment is an unacceptable interference in the Government’s exercise of its executive authority;
Amendment 113(b) would seriously weaken the audit and investigatory capacity of the Auditor General and Official Languages Commissioner. The amendment would limit the exemption in subsection 16.1(1) of the Access to Information Act so that it does not apply to records that contain information created in the course of an investigation once the investigation and related proceedings are completed and would undermine an investigator’s ability to guarantee anonymity to a potential witness;
Amendments 115 and 116 would undermine the objective of greater transparency for the Canada Foundation for Sustainable Development Technology by providing the Foundation with specific exemptions that are unnecessary given the nature of its business which is similar to that of other government institutions under the Access to Information Act such as the Department of Industry and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency;
Amendment 118, which is related to Senate amendment 113(b), would seriously weaken the internal audit capacity of the Government by permitting the disclosure of “related audit working papers” in addition to “draft reports” under the Access to Information Act where a final report has not been delivered within two years;
Amendment 119 would reverse the policy on which the Access to Information Act was based, which policy was not changed in the Bill as passed by this House. The amendment would undermine the balance between discretionary and mandatory exemptions in the Access to Information Act by giving the heads of government institutions the discretion to override existing and proposed mandatory exemptions. In addition, the amendment would give de facto order powers to the Information Commissioner, who, as a head of a proposed government institution to be brought under the Access to Information Act by this Bill, would be able to disclose records obtained from other government institutions;
Amendments 120, 121 and 123 would undermine the objective of greater transparency by forever excepting from the application of the Access to Information Act information under the control of certain government institutions prior to when those institutions become subject to the Act and by removing the Canadian Wheat Board from the coverage of this Act;
Amendments 128 and 131 would undermine the objective of stronger protection for public servants who disclose wrongdoing in the public sector by creating confusion as to the types of disclosure that are protected or not under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. The amendments would confuse the clear parameters set in the Act to guide public servants who are considering making a disclosure by incorporating vague common law principles, which could lead to public servants making public disclosures that they think are protected, but turn out not to be;
Amendments 129 and 132 would unbalance the reprisal protection regime proposed in the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act by expanding the definition of “reprisal” to include “any other measure that may adversely affect, directly or indirectly, the public servant” and providing for a reverse onus, such that any administrative or disciplinary measure taken within a year of a disclosure is deemed to be a reprisal, unless the employer shows otherwise. These amendments would expand the definition of reprisal to include behaviours unlikely to be under the control of the employer and managers will be reluctant to take legitimate disciplinary action for fear of being the subject of a reprisal complaint, which would expose them personally to a disciplinary order by the Tribunal;
Amendment 130 would increase the risk of disclosure of sensitive national security information by subjecting the Communications Security Establishment and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act without additional specific disclosure protection measures;
Amendment 133 would extend the time limit to file a reprisal complaint from 60 days to one year. The amendment undermines the discretion of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner who already has the authority to extend the time limit beyond 60 days if he or she feels it is appropriate;
Amendment 134 would undermine the objective of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act to balance appropriate and responsible protection from reprisal for public servants that make a disclosure without creating unintended incentives for vexatious or frivolous complaints. The amendment would remove the $10,000 limit on awards for pain and suffering, leaving the amount to the discretion of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal;
Amendment 136 would undermine the principles of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act by increasing the maximum amount for legal advice from $1,500 to $25,000, or to an unlimited amount at the discretion of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. The legal assistance is intended to provide any person who could become involved in a process under the Act with legal advice as to their choices, rights and responsibilities. In relation to reprisal complaints, the Commissioner investigates and determines whether a reprisal complaint should be brought before the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal and is a party before the Tribunal so that he or she can present the findings of the investigation. The amendment would make all processes under the Act far more legalistic and litigious;
Amendments 137 and 138 would give the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner the power to compel evidence and pursue information held outside the public sector. This amendment is unacceptable as it would increase the risk of challenges to the Commissioner’s authority and jurisdiction without providing significant assistance to the discharge of his or her mandate under the Act, which is to investigate wrongdoing and complaints of reprisal related to the public sector;
Amendments 139 to 143 would increase the risk of harm to the reputations of those that are falsely accused of wrongdoing as the narrowing of exemptions provided to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner and other heads of institutions under the Access to Information Act, Privacy Act and Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act would increase the risk of their names being released to the public;
Amendments 145, 151 and 154 would limit the capacity of the Governor in Council to organize the machinery of government, specifically with respect to the establishment of the Public Appointments Commission and the position of the Procurement Auditor, and as such are unacceptable;
Amendment 147 would explicitly require reappointments to the Public Appointments Commission go through the same statutory requirements as an appointment. The amendment is unnecessary and redundant because a reappointment is a new appointment and, as such, must conform to all relevant statutory requirements;
Amendment 148 would involve members of the Senate in the appointment of members to the Public Appointments Commission. As this is a body housed within the executive branch of the government, the involvement of the Senate in the appointment process is inappropriate;
Amendment 149 would create confusion as to the proper role of “appointees” in the Governor in Council appointment process under the Salaries Act by expanding the mandate of the Public Appointments Commission to include educating and training appointees, who are not involved in the appointment process;
Amendment 150 would expand the term of appointees to the Public Appointments Commission from five to seven years and is unacceptable as that length of term is not necessary for the efficient and effective working of the Commission;
Amendment 155 would undermine the confidence of private sector suppliers in the government as a business partner and could increase the number of legal actions brought against the government by giving the Procurement Auditor the discretion to recommend the cancellation of a contract to which a complaint relates. The Procurement Auditor was not provided the powers, duties and functions to discharge a mandate that would include reviewing the legal validity of a contract award, but rather the mandate was focussed on whether government procurement practices reflect the government’s commitment to fairness, openness and transparency in the procurement process;
Amendment 157 would increase the risk of disclosure of sensitive national security information by removing the ability of the Governor in Council to prescribe, through regulation, those departments would fall within the jurisdiction of the Procurement Auditor; and
That this House agrees with the principles set out in parts of amendments 29, 67, 98 and 153 but would propose the following amendments:
Senate amendment 29 be amended to read as follows:
Clause 2, page 32: Replace lines 23 to 25 with the following:
“64. (1) Subject to subsection 6(2) and sections 21 and 30, nothing in this Act prohibits a member of the Senate or the House of Commons who is a public office holder or former public office holder from engaging in those”
Senate amendment 67 be amended to read as follows:
Clause 44, page 58: Add after line 5 the following:
“(4) Section 404.2 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (6):
(7) The payment by an individual of a fee to participate in a registered party’s convention is not a contribution if the cost of holding the convention is greater than or equal to the sum of the fees paid by all of the individuals for that purpose. However, if the cost of holding the convention is less than the sum of the fees paid, the amount of the difference after it is divided by the number of individuals who paid the fee is considered to be a contribution by each of those individuals.”
Senate amendment 98 be amended to read as follows:
Clause 108, page 94: Replace lines 1 to 2 with the following:
“(4) Sections 41 to 43, subsections 44(3) and (4) and sections 45 to 55, 57 and 60 to 64 come into force or are deemed to have come into force on January 1, 2007.
(4.1) Sections 63 and 64 come into force or are deemed to have come into force on January 1, 2007, but”
Senate amendment 153 be amended to read as follows:
Clause 259, page 187: Add after line 12 the following:
“16.21(1) A person who does not occupy a position in the federal public administration but who meets the qualifications established by directive of the Treasury Board may be appointed to an audit committee by the Treasury Board on the recommendation of the President of the Treasury Board.
(2) A member of an audit committee so appointed holds office during pleasure for a term not exceeding four years, which may be renewed for a second term.
(3) A member of an audit committee so appointed shall be paid the remuneration and expenses fixed by the Treasury Board.”
He said: Mr. Speaker, it is no great pleasure for me to make this speech here today.
Today I am rising to speak once again to Bill C-2, the federal accountability act. I would like to say that it is a pleasure for me to rise again to speak to this bill, but I am very disappointed by the attempts of certain senators to dilute this piece of landmark legislation.
This government was elected on a plan for change. This government was elected because Canadian voters and Canadian taxpayers wanted change. Voters said they wanted an honest and accountable government, a government they could trust. They want to know that elected officials and public service employees act in the best interests of Canadians. I believe that this trust must be earned each and every day and it starts with making government more accountable.
That is why our first legislative priority focused on making government more open, more honest and, most important, more accountable. The public was so suspicious of government as an institution that the then leader of the opposition made a commitment that this would be the first piece of legislation his new government would bring forward, so that there would be no excuses as to why it was not introduced and successfully passed.
On April 11, only nine weeks after this government officially took office, I was very pleased on behalf of Canadians and on behalf of the entire government caucus to introduce the federal accountability act in this House. The act and the accompanying federal accountability action plan, almost as important as the act, focus on making everyone in government more accountable, from the Prime Minister down.
We understand that our success as a nation depends on instituting a more effective capability to get things done better for ordinary working Canadians and their families. By instituting an unprecedented level of rigour and scrutiny across the federal public sector, the federal accountability act provides a firm foundation for rebuilding Canadians' trust in government.
I will tell the House that in drafting this legislation we paid careful attention to a couple of very important factors.
First, we did not want to establish more red tape, more bureaucracy or a significant increase in the number of rules. Most of the new entities created in our bill replace or strengthen the independence of existing ones. Where there are new rules, we have endeavoured to make them simpler, more straightforward and more effective.
Second, we did not want to build a government that stifled innovation and created within the public service a culture that is overly risk averse. We wanted to balance more effective oversight with flexibility. This is incredibly important if we want a dynamic public service for the next generation and the next century. We want to have the best and the brightest in the public service, recognizing that whenever people of good faith act, there will be mistakes from time to time.
In drafting Bill C-2, this government listened to many stakeholders. We received contributions from all parties in the House. I believe that made this piece of legislation stronger. Members of the House of Commons worked to pass the federal accountability act in 72 days. They thoroughly reviewed and analyzed hundreds of separate clauses and amendments. They put in well over 90 hours of work in six weeks, above and beyond their regular duties, to make sure they got it right.
I would like to acknowledge the hard work of the member for Nepean—Carleton in that committee. He worked tremendously hard with all the government members on the committee.
I would also like to recognize a number of others.
I would like to recognize the member for Winnipeg Centre, who worked tremendously hard on this issue. We often disagreed with the member, but we never disagreed on the fact that he was well motivated and wanted to strengthen the bill. I congratulate him for his work. I was particularly pleased with some of the amendments he brought forward, particularly the one in regard to putting the Canadian Wheat Board under the access to information regime. That was one of the best amendments to the bill and we were very happy to support my friend from Winnipeg. I will say to the member from Winnipeg that I read the paper on Saturday and simply want to remind him of the great amendment that he brought forward.
I also want to acknowledge the member for Vancouver Quadra. We often disagreed, but he brought a high level of commitment to the task and I should recognize that.
I would also like to thank the former hon. member for Repentigny, Benoît Sauvageau, who worked very hard. As a new member and new minister, it was definitely a great pleasure for me to work with Mr. Sauvageau. His efforts, hard work and friendship were well known to all members. Above all, I would like to underscore here in this House just how important his work was, enabling us to introduce this bill within the first 72 days of this 39th Parliament.
Benoît Sauvageau will be greatly missed, not just within the Bloc Québécois caucus and his own constituency of Repentigny, but by those of us on all sides of the House. Many Canadians watch Parliament, not least of which my performance, and they see a very adversarial system from time to time. What they do not see is quite often members from different parties are able to work together. The late member for Repentigny's work is the best example of that.
I firmly believe that we did a good job in the House of Commons. The committee did a good job. The government did not get everything it wanted, but the bill came out of the special committee stronger than it went in. I firmly believe that this House did its work. I do note that not a single member of Parliament in the House of Commons wanted to go on record as opposing this bill. I do recall that the member for Vancouver Quadra said in his first two minutes of speaking that he supported the bill, as did the member from the Bloc Québécois, and of course the New Democratic Party.
Aside from a few typos and ambiguities in wording, the bill as sent to the Senate was effective, comprehensive and carefully focused. Unfortunately, the majority of the more than 100 amendments proposed by the Senate have drastically diluted the objectives of Bill C-2's wide portfolio of initiatives. I have grave concerns that most of the amendments passed by the Senate, if left in place, would do irreparable damage to the overall intent and effectiveness of the federal accountability act. These include the most egregious examples of amendments, including increasing the political donation limit from $1,000 to $2,000.
We want to end the role of big money in politics. One thing we can say about Mr. Chrétien and the Liberal government he led is that they did a lot in this regard. We are finishing the Chrétien work and making it even more modest to ensure that it is middle class Canadians, and not the interests of a few high powered financial contributors, who have a bigger voice in politics. This was a welcome change of which I think all members took great note.
The Senate also proposed amendments to delay the implementation of the new political financing laws until as late as 2008. That is too late. These measures should be put in place in very short order so that Canadians can have the benefit of this new regime.
We had discussions with members of the official opposition and we made what I think is a reasonable and honourable compromise to have these new limitations come into effect on January 1 so it would not affect the current Liberal leadership convention. This was also an issue which was spoken to by the Bloc Québécois and others. In the spirit of working together, in the spirit of cooperation, something, Mr. Speaker, which you know I bring to this House each and every day, we agreed to consider a change.
With respect to political staffers jumping the queue and getting priority placement over other applicants for public service jobs, the Senate wants to allow partisan political aides to get into our non-partisan public service. This is something that has deeply troubled public servants in the nation's capital for many years, where they want to compete for a job but the competition is cancelled and a political appointee gets the job.
If we believe in the merit principle, there should be competition, and that is what we are seeking to do. This is an issue which was brought to my attention even before the election by the Public Service Alliance of Canada representatives, and it is certainly one which I support. Political aides, whether they be Liberal, Conservative or what have you, have a great deal of experience, but they should have to compete like everybody else for a job in the public service.
The other concern I had was the removal of the Canadian Wheat Board from inclusion under the Access to Information Act. We want to bring light where there is darkness. We believe that wheat and barley producers in western Canada should have the right to know what is going on at their Wheat Board. That is important. I was terribly distressed to see the unelected Liberal Senate try for the very first time to remove an agency from coverage under the Access to Information Act. Some people said we were not going far enough but then wanted to retreat. I say to the Canadian Wheat Board and its supporters, what have they got to hide? Let us bring more openness to the Canadian Wheat Board.
Adding exemptions for foundations under the Access to Information Act caused all of us a great deal of concern. It is no exaggeration to say that many of the Senate's amendments would place an unfair burden on the private sector, would shackle managers in the public service and would stifle innovation. This is especially true with the Senate's amendments to the sections dealing with whistleblowing.
Whistleblowing is important to me. It is important to the member for Nepean—Carleton, and I know it is important for all members. For my constituents in Ottawa West--Nepean this was an issue in the recent election. We want our public servants to be confident that they can step forward and follow a simple process to report wrongdoing without concern that they could lose their jobs and not be able to provide for their families. This is a change in culture that we want to take within the public service.
I suspect the measures contained in the federal accountability act go further than measures in any other western democracy with respect to protecting whistleblowers. I am very proud of that.
This House presented a balanced piece of legislation to the Senate and we are now faced with the task of having to restore that balance. This is especially dismaying given that the government demonstrated its willingness to work with the Senate to achieve a strong consensus. We agreed to a number of amendments to the bill, some before it ever reached the Senate, and others subsequently during the clause by clause deliberations in the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. I should underline the great work done by the chair of that committee, Senator Don Oliver. He is an exceptional Canadian and he did an excellent job.
Unfortunately, this spirit of cooperation was either misunderstood or simply ignored by some hon. senators. That leaves the members of the elected House of Commons facing a major challenge. We must rebuild this legislation. We must strengthen it. We must restore the measures for increasing the accountability that Canadians want and deserve.
We will look at each of the Senate's proposed amendments on a case by case basis. We will judge each one on its merits. Some are acceptable, but the government cannot support them all.
I am very eager, as are my constituents in Ottawa West--Nepean, as I believe are Canadians in general, that the bill be implemented quickly, but we will not compromise our commitment to deliver more accountable government simply for the sake of expedience. In fact, let us be clear. The Senate, in proposing a host of counterproductive amendments, has unnecessarily delayed passage of the bill. Canadians will see this for what it is and I believe they will ultimately hold those responsible to account.
The federal accountability act and our federal accountability action plan as passed by the House focused on fixing problems. They focused on rewarding merit. They focused on achieving value for money and on being more honest and building a more effective government.
On June 16 I noted in the House that if this Parliament could do one single thing, it would be to end the culture of entitlement and replace it with a culture of accountability. This government remains absolutely committed to achieving that crucial objective.
I urge members of the House to help us meet this challenge by demonstrating the same spirit of cooperation they so wisely adopted four short months ago. Together we can ensure that the federal accountability act serves the purpose it was designed for: to provide a government based on openness and honesty which reflects the very best that Canada has to offer.