Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this extremely important debate on probably the most important piece of legislation that Parliament has seen in the 13 years I have been here. I think, undeniably, that Canadians feel there is a great need for this federal accountability act.
We have had three days of debate now at second reading and a couple of things are clear just from listening to that debate.
We hear some productive debate by the members of the New Democratic Party on the issue and also some petty criticisms. Overall, they have taken part and have offered some ideas. I do appreciate that.
From the Conservative Party, we have heard full support for the federal accountability act. It is our legislation, legislation that the country wants. It is for that reason that we are going to work hard to get the legislation through the House.
From members of Liberal Party though, we have heard quite a different story. What I have heard is that they really do not want this legislation to pass. That is the last thing they want. They do not want accountability. On the surface, that would be surprising. However, when we think about it, it should be no surprise at all. Why was it necessary for us to bring this legislation before Parliament? Because we had 13 years of a Liberal government that was laden with corruption and the lack of accountability that Canadians simply did not accept.
We heard Mr. Dingwall, a former Liberal minister, at committee. I chaired the government operations and estimates committee in the last Parliament. He said that he was entitled to his entitlements. That seems to be the attitude on the part of the members of former governing Liberal Party, that they are entitled to their entitlements and they do not want anything to happen that causes them to lose those entitlements should they ever get back into government. We have heard resistance to the legislation from them, and I guess it should no surprised.
The reason this legislation is necessary is not only that over the past 13 years we have had government that has been completely unacceptable and unaccountable, with a culture of entitlement and corruption. It is necessary because we saw this creep in from time to time from other governments, particularly when governments had been in power for a long time. That tends to happen. This legislation is critical to ensure that it is very difficult for that to happen again.
In the end I would concede that the only way we are going to have ethical government is with ethical people in government. However, Bill C-2 will go a long way to ensuring that governments in the future will be accountable, no matter what party is governing. We are putting in place mechanisms that will make it extremely difficult for them not to be accountable, and that is important.
I want to talk briefly about one aspect of the legislation, which is whistleblower component of the bill. This is a broad bill and the whistleblower component is only one part of it, but it is a very important part.
We saw in the last two Parliaments attempts by the Liberal Party to have whistleblower legislation passed, which would probably have been a step backwards. I was on the government operations and estimates committee when the former president of the Treasury Board, Reg Alcock, the member from Winnipeg, who was defeated in the last election, chaired the committee. That was when the Liberal government brought forth its first attempt at whistleblower legislation. It was so bad that even Mr. Alcock said that it had to be rejected, that it would probably make things worse rather than better. Everybody on the committee said it was completely unacceptable and threw it back at the government.
In the last Parliament, which started in 2004, the government operations and estimates committee was again presented with a piece of legislation before second reading, Bill C-11, which was the government's next attempt at putting in place whistleblower legislation. That legislation was so bad--there were a few changes and improvements made--that the committee was ready to throw it back to the government and to say the government should do it over because it was a step backwards.
The government did come back with some concessions. It had refused, for example, to provide an independent office of Parliament to head up the whistleblower legislation, to be the body that whistleblowers could go to when they wanted to report wrongdoing in government or waste in government. The Liberals were proposing that the individual in the office in fact would be a member of government, so whistleblowers would not be going to an independent officer of Parliament. Instead, they would be going to someone who would answer directly to cabinet and government. Clearly that was not going to work.
The committee was ready to throw it back. Concessions were made. To make a long story short, after many months of members of all parties working together, we did pass through committee and through the House a piece of whistleblower legislation, Bill C-11, which was not the government's legislation at all. It was a brand new piece of legislation developed by the committee members working as Canadians expect them to work: working together to make things better.
Most of us acknowledge that the legislation was only a start. There were a lot of things that we had determined would be very helpful and would make Bill C-11 much better and stronger legislation if they were added. Really, that is exactly what the whistleblower component of Bill C-2, the federal accountability act, provides. It provides a series of changes that will take Bill C-11 as a start and make it powerful whistleblower legislation. I would suggest that it would probably be the best whistleblower legislation in the world. It would be extremely good.
The government is taking an active role in restoring the trust and confidence of Canadians in federal government institutions. That is important. Canadians have a right to expect the highest standard of ethical conduct on the part of public servants. We must provide the compelling evidence that a culture of integrity exists in the federal public service. Without a doubt, if these changes, the proposals we have in Bill C-2, are passed, then we will have that. We will have the world's strongest regime for the disclosure of wrongdoing.
We will be the only country in the world with an independent officer of Parliament dedicated to the issue, the only country with a strong legislative framework to protect whistleblowers, and the only country with an independent tribunal to order remedies. This is extremely important and is something that was absent from Bill C-11.
We will be the only country to have an independent body to provide remedies for reprisals and discipline of those who take reprisals. That is such a key point. If we have whistleblowers, who go out on a limb and put their careers on the line, afraid to come forth and report wrongdoing and inefficiency in government, then we have a piece of legislation that simply will not work.
When we dealt with Bill C-11, we had witnesses before our committee who had had their careers destroyed because they had done the right thing. They had become whistleblowers. They had reported wrongdoing inside government. They had their careers completely destroyed.
Our legislation, although I do not have time to get into the details, will truly protect whistleblowers so that in the future people within the federal service and people doing work with the federal government who see wrongdoing can come forth and report it and we can act upon it. It is such a powerful piece of legislation, such an important part of the federal accountability act that I am certain all parties in the House will support it. I welcome any questions.