The Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, has uncovered some of the most egregious violations of financial mismanagement this country has ever seen. Canadians are very lucky to have her on the job, working hard for them.
We want to strengthen the new powers vested in the Auditor General to enable her to inquire into the use of funds that individuals and organizations receive from the federal government.
We will be legally required to subject contribution programs to ongoing corporate review. We will also establish an independent blue-ribbon panel to identify barriers to accessing grants and contributions programs. That is very important.
There are a lot of methods about election financing. We believe that money should not have the ear of government, and the federal accountability act will help take government out of the hands of the big corporations and the big unions and give it back to ordinary Canadians. Our act will limit donations to $1,000 a year. It will ban contributions by corporations, unions and organizations.
I believe the primary concern of our debate on this subject should be what we can do to increase the transparency of the political process so that Canadians can feel more confident in the integrity of our democratic system.
The changes I discussed about whistleblower protection are real. The men and women of the public service deliver important programs and services each and every day, services that touch the lives of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. A key component in our legislation provides real protection for whistleblowers. Public servants who expose criminal wrongdoing and wasteful spending should have the full confidence that they will not face reprisals for standing up and doing what is right.
Allan Cutler spoke up and helped expose the Liberal sponsorship scandal and he lost his job. This type of action is wrong. This type of action will no longer be tolerated by the Government of Canada. The government will provide real protection for whistleblowers by giving an independent officer of Parliament the power to stand up and protect those who blow the whistle on wrongdoing.
Bill C-11, which was passed by the previous Parliament, was inadequate, insufficient and light. Federal public servants told the parliamentary secretary and they told me that they wanted real protection, not someone within the executive branch but someone who was more independent to stand up to fight for them. Bill C-11 was going downhill fast in the previous Parliament and it was only at the last minute that the previous government caved in to some modest demands. We are giving a real voice to those who wanted stronger whistleblower protection. All public servants should congratulate and thank the parliamentary secretary, the member for Nepean—Carleton, for those efforts.
The level of trust Canadians have in their government is directly related to the degree to which they feel there is equitable access to decision makers in government. To help maintain the trust of Canadians in government, it is important to know that lobbying is done in an ethical way.
We believe that two principles are important in this regard. First, people should not get rich bouncing between government and lobbying jobs and, second, lobbyists should not be allowed to charge success fees, whereby they get paid only if they deliver the policy change or the grant their clients want. That is why our government will extend the ban on lobbying activities to five years for former ministers, their aides and senior public servants. We will also ban success fees.
Plus, we will create a new commissioner of lobbying with the power to investigate violations and enforce the rules. Our proposal is to take this out of the executive branch, out of the Treasury Board, and make this commissioner an officer of the House so that all Canadians will know that this commissioner has genuine independence from government.
We also want to deal with some changes to the access to information laws. Canadians deserve better access to government information. The Government of Canada belongs to the people and the government should not unnecessarily obstruct access to information. We are absolutely committed to making government more open while balancing legitimate concerns for personal privacy, commercial confidentiality and national security.
We will change access to information legislation to promote a culture of increased openness and accessibility. Our reforms will extend this law to include seven crown corporations, seven agents of Parliament, and three foundations with $1 billion budgets created under federal statute, organizations like the CBC, Canada Post and the Privacy Commissioner's office. We remember our friend Radwanski and the Radwanski affair in the previous government. These reforms will go further than any government has gone in Canadian history.
We also want to take additional steps to further reform the access law, in collaboration with parliamentarians, Canadians and stakeholders. I have had the privilege of meeting on a number of occasions with John Reid, the Information Commissioner. I look forward to receiving his advice and his input and seeing if he can help strengthen our bill and if he can contribute to the draft bill and discussion paper. We look forward to working with him. He is a champion for access to information and Canadians should consider themselves lucky to have him on the job. We will ask Parliament to consider even more reforms and will report back with additional measures.
There is another important issue I would like to raise before concluding. Our goal, our commitment, simply put, is to make government more accountable. As I said at the outset, government also needs to be effective and efficient, not bogged down in a web of rules that prevents individuals, organizations and even small businesses from doing business with the federal government and prevents public servants from doing their jobs effectively.
The message of the web of rules created in haste by the previous government has been heard. For example, I heard a story from the Auditor General who told me of a charity, a non-profit group, that received a $5,000 grant and now has to complete a 75 page contribution agreement. That is 75 pages for a $5,000 grant; we would probably have to spend $10,000 to administer a $5,000 grant. No charity should have to go through 75 pages of rules, regulations and red tape.
We want strong and effective measures of accountability, but this should be based on what is good value for the taxpayers and what is fair and reasonable for all involved. We hope to come back in short order to deal with that.
I also talked to a small businessman who has 13 employees and who bid on government work. The good news is that he won. He sharpened his pencil and put in a low bid with the one confidence that he at least could expect to get paid in short order by the federal government for the work his firm did.
Six months of invoice passing, contacting the government eight times looking for payment, and he still does not have his payment. Because of the web of rules put in by the previous government, this small business person simply cannot afford to do business with the Government of Canada any longer. We want to strengthen this and fix that problem for small business people and for the hard-working public service. We will be making an announcement in short order to address this challenge.
The changes I have highlighted today focus on fixing problems, on rewarding merit, on achieving value for money, and on building more honest and more effective government. To instill confidence, the government must be open and it must be more accountable. It must ensure that Canadians and parliamentarians have the right controls in place and it must provide them with the information they need to judge its performance.
Confidence is all about trust and the trust we place in our elected officials and public service employees to act in the best interests of Canadians. That trust must be earned every day and it starts with making government more accountable.
The measures I have highlighted today signal a dramatic change in how federal politics and the federal government will work in this country. When the Prime Minister made this announcement, he said that this will change how business is done in Ottawa forever. I agree. We would all like to see speedy passage of this important piece of legislation.