Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to stand and make a few comments on what I believe to be one of the most important and progressive pieces of legislation to come before the House in a long time.
Recognizing that this is my first opportunity to give a speech in the House, although I gave a brief private member's statement before the Easter break, I would like to take a moment to say a sincere thanks to the wonderful people of the riding of Avalon in Newfoundland and Labrador for the honour and privilege of electing me to be their representative in this honourable House. Their vote of confidence on January 23 was the result of a clear desire by the people of Avalon to see a change not only in the riding of Avalon, but also to join Canadians from coast to coast to ensure that there would definitely be a change in Ottawa.
As the first Conservative elected in Canada on election night, I am proud of my constituents, the people of Avalon riding, who were the first to turn over a new leaf for a new Conservative government in our country. I take my role as an MP very seriously and look forward to working with my colleagues within our government on behalf of the people I represent. While there are always challenges that we have to deal with, I look forward to exploring the opportunities on behalf of my constituents of the Avalon riding.
I would like to recognize the fact that I am here with two political veterans of Newfoundland and Labrador, namely the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl and the member for St. John's East. I am delighted that my colleague, the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl, has been appointed the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, an important industry in my riding of Avalon and in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
I was delighted that one of the first acts of our government, in relation to our province, was last Tuesday. I travelled with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to our province, to Gander especially, to announce the bringing back of the Gander weather station to Newfoundland and Labrador. This was a promise made by the government during the election campaign, and I am proud to say a promise kept by the Prime Minister.
Bill C-2, the federal accountability act, is about trust. It is about cleaning up government. The bill, as the words themselves say, is about accountability, accountability to the citizens of Canada to ensure that their hard earned tax dollars are not wasted, to ensure their hard earned tax dollars are not used to reward friends and cronies and to ensure that their hard earned tax dollars are not used to prop up a political party in its dying days.
The sponsorship scandal disgusted Canadians from coast to coast. The HRDC scandal before that disgusted Canadians from coast. The gun registry, which was supposed to cost $2 million but ballooned into a cost of $2 billion, disgusted Canadians from coast to coast. All this brought on the Gomery inquiry. People from across Canada watched with interest and were more disgusted day by day as we listened to what happened here in the past 13 years.
Recent polls across our country have measured the level of trust that Canadians have in different professions. I was not surprised, and I am sure members on all sides of the House were not surprised, to see that firefighters, nurses, farmers and others topped the list. Politicians placed dead last right behind used car salesmen. As MPs, as Canadians, we definitely need to address this issue. The government plans on doing so through this bill.
We need to work together to rebuild the trust of Canadians. Some important components of the bill include: reforming the financing of political parties; the strengthening of the role of the Ethics Commissioner; toughening the Lobbyists Registration Act; and providing real protection for whistleblowers. Allan Cutler spoke up to expose a Liberal scandal and lost his position. That action was wrong and, through this bill, an independent officer of Parliament would have the power to protect those who expose wrongdoing.
The bill would strengthen the access to information legislation. It would strengthen the power of the Auditor General to follow the money and, believe me, as we watched the Gomery inquiry there were many Canadians who wanted the opportunity to follow the money. That is what the bill is about.
The purpose of the bill is to give Canadians a level of understanding of how government works and that there is a difference between a political party and a government. There is a difference between spending taxpayer dollars and not being accountable and spending taxpayer dollars and answering for them.
I listened to members earlier talk about responsibility and accountability. We are elected to the House to be accountable and responsible. One goes side by side with the other. They cannot be separated.
Reforming the financing of political parties is an important part of this legislation. These changes would increase transparency, reduce opportunities to influence politicians with contributions and help Canadians feel more confident about the integrity of the democratic process. It would level the playing field among individual contributors and encourage political parties to engage the electorate more directly.
This is what Canadians want and what Canadians asked for and we as a party put forward an agenda. We are not standing here today bringing forward something in the House of Commons that is a surprise to anyone on this side or that side. We are delivering on a promise we made during the election campaign to clean up government, to clean up Ottawa and to clean up politics. I am proud to stand here and say that I fully support the legislation and I was glad to hear members today say that they support it because Canadians want this legislation passed.
The federal accountability act would see the banning of secret donations to political candidates. We cannot have this. I certainly have not received anything but, as we have heard in the past, there have been envelopes with tremendous amounts of money placed in them. No one needs to tell us that when an envelope with $5,000 or $10,000 is passed to someone, today, tomorrow or the next day, that person will come knocking for a favour. That is what the legislation is all about.
These changes would bring greater transparency and fairness to political financing. The government will heighten disclosure requirements regarding the personal finances of members of Parliament and hence reduce the risk of their holding problematic financial interests. These measures would allow members of Parliament to hold legitimate financial instruments that do not influence their elected positions. We cannot use our positions in any way that is dishonest or disloyal to the people who gave us the opportunity to be here.
There are many parts of the bill that will be discussed over the next few days. I am very pleased that we have the opportunity to discuss this and that the bill will be going to committee where there will be an opportunity for other party members to put forward their opinions.
On January 23, Canadians voted for change. They voted for a change in the way politics are conducted in this city. They voted for a change in government because they wanted the wrongs righted, which is exactly what the federal accountability act would do. We are very pleased to put it forward and hopefully have it passed through the House so Canadians once again can trust us as politicians.