Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by sincerely thanking the voters of Calgary—Nose Hill for their continued confidence in me and for being willing to have me represent them here in this House. I take that duty very seriously. Some of them did not vote for my party, but I want to be a good representative of all the constituents of Calgary--Nose Hill, whether they voted for me or not, and also to help Canada in shaping its future.
As members know, today we are talking about the first piece of legislation that has come before this new Parliament, the federal accountability act. For those Canadians who are watching this debate, I wish to go over very quickly what this act is all about. Sometimes there is a lot of rhetoric, but people are wondering exactly what it is all about.
Essentially, this bill would make changes in five areas of government operation. This bill would bring in political reform, parliamentary reform, public sector reform, procurement reform, and finally, measures to make the public sector more open.
With respect to political reform, the bill would limit donations so that there is not undue influence put on politicians because of funding. It would ban secret donations and trust funds to politicians. It would prevent the immediate move from government to lobbying, so members who were our seatmates one day could not be getting favours on behalf of clients the next day. It would enhance the role of the Ethics Commissioner and pass the conflict of interest code, which has been an unofficial guideline, into law.
With respect to parliamentary reform, the law would give more power to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, the Information Commissioner and the Chief Electoral Officer, and would create the positions of commissioner of lobbying and the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner.
It would be great if we did not need all these watchdogs, would it not, if our watchdog was in our heart and in our commitment to do what is right. However, we have seen that this is not sufficient in areas of endeavour in the public and, sadly, even in this House, and so these watchdogs would be put into place to help boost the conscience of members in the political arena.
In addition, the Auditor General would now be able to follow the money. Instead of just saying money was misspent and it disappeared somewhere, somehow, the Auditor General would be able to take the steps to actually follow the money trail so that we know, and Canadians know, exactly what happened to the dollars that went missing.
There would also be an independent parliamentary budget authority that would provide a financial reality check on the nation's finances. This individual would also provide a reality check on proposals by House of Commons committees and proposals in private members' bills. Again, because numbers that have been given to the House in different other settings have been, shall we say, not as reliable as they should be, we will put another reality check and another balance in place.
All these appointments would be confirmed by a vote in Parliament. These watchdogs would be officers of Parliament. They would not be beholden to the government but to this House, and all the members of this House and all the parties in this House.
With respect to public sector reform, there would be a clearer accountability of ministers and deputy ministers. There would be real whistleblower protection, including a reward for those who expose wrongdoing. There would be an independent tribunal to adjudicate cases of reprisal, so that public servants would feel they could actually be public servants without suffering a mortal blow because of their integrity.
There would be a new Comptroller General to ensure proper audits of departments. There would be a blue ribbon panel to review grants and contributions, including reviewing fairness in these contributions. There would be a specific initiative to streamline financial management policies and practices.
On procurement reform, there will be a new procurement auditor to provide an independent review of procurement policies to ensure fairness and openness. There will be a code of conduct for procurement. Public opinion research paid for by the public will be made available to the public within six months.
On making the public sector more open, there are measures to expand coverage of the Access to Information Act, which is sometimes referred to as the ATI. This will now include crown corporations, agents of Parliament and the three federally created foundations. We will bring forward a draft bill containing the Information Commissioner's recommendations on ATI together with a paper on the issue for discussion and further action in the House of Commons.
We will establish a public appointments commission to set up a merit based appointments process.
This bill is about making everyone from the Prime Minister to MPs to public servants to grant recipients more accountable. The bill changes the way government works and makes it easier for Canadians to hold government accountable. Most important, it is a giant step in rebuilding Canadians' trust in their government.
We all need to be accountable. We have to remind ourselves of what happens when accountability is weak or non-existent as it was under the former Liberal government. There were misspent millions on the sponsorship program with everyone in government claiming total ignorance and no responsibility at all. There was a 1,000% cost overrun on the gun registry which failed to catch any criminals because criminals, being law breakers, do not obey registration laws. There were mismanaged billions in HRDC and other grants and contributions and loans programs. Then we saw the outrageous spending habits of those in high office spending money foolishly and unwisely, money that came straight out of the pockets of ordinary hard-working Canadians. We saw contracts for cronies and supporters of those in government. There were hundreds of specific examples of this kind of abuse of citizens' money and trust.
Canadians deserve so much better than this. No law can entirely weed out the bad apples, those who are on the lookout for what they can get for themselves. But we can move strongly to make sure that such actions do not remain hidden and do carry consequences.
Our government is committed to rebuilding trust and respect for leaders and for government. We are looking forward to working with all members of the House to make this a priority for Canadians.