Mr. Speaker, I would first of all like to congratulate you on your new responsibilities. I am very proud to be your colleague, here in Ottawa, and I hope to work with you in the future.
I would like to begin today in this my maiden speech in the 39th Parliament by thanking my constituents who have vested in me the trust and the opportunity to represent them here in this House of the common people. The House of Commons exists precisely to serve its namesake, to be a chamber of the common people who work hard, pay their taxes and play by the rules. My constituents have made me their representative in this chamber and I will not let them down.
I would like to thank my friends and family and all the volunteers who helped me get where I am today. In particular, I recognize my mother Marlene, my brother Patrick and mon père Donald.
The reason that we saw such a dramatic change on January 23 of this year was that Canadians wanted to turn the leaf, to see a change in this country and to see the restoration of accountability. That is why I have been working with numerous colleagues to introduce what we will see in the House of Commons in the coming weeks, the accountability act.
The accountability act is the toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history. For example, it will bring in a corruption watchdog to protect whistleblowers against bullying. It will end the revolving door between lobby firms and ministers' offices. It will give the Auditor General the power to shine light in every dark corner in her hunt for waste, theft and corruption. It will ban big money and corporate cash from political campaigns. It will end the culture of entitlement which flourished under the Liberal government and replace it with a new culture of accountability.
I would like to recognize some fellow members of Parliament, including the President of the Treasury Board, the member for Repentigny, the member for Ottawa Centre, the member for Winnipeg Centre, among others in the House, who have worked diligently from various partisan backgrounds to provide input and to move forward the accountability agenda.
I reiterate that this law will be the toughest anti-corruption measure in Canadian history. It will bring in a corruption watchdog to protect whistleblowers against bullying. It will end the revolving door between lobby firms and ministers' offices. It will give the Auditor General the power to shine her light in every dark corner in her hunt for waste, theft and corruption. It will ban big money and corporate cash from political campaigns. It will be an historic step forward in the accountability of this country.
I would like to talk more about the accountability act.
The accountability act will change the political culture in Canada by removing the influence of rich donors, prohibiting large donations by individuals and corporations to political parties, and implementing stricter rules.
To resolve the lobbyist problem, we will change the system by granting certain powers to officers of Parliament, such as the Auditor General, and by protecting whistleblowers, so that our public servants may speak openly of the corruption they witness in their workplace.
Once again, this would be the toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history, but the work of this government to clean up corruption and end years of entitlement will not stop with this act.
The Prime Minister and the President of the Treasury Board have both authorized me to champion a greater cause, and that is to move ahead with a bill that would similarly reflect what exists south of the border in the informers act, or the false claims act as it is often called.
The Canadian government, at least under the last 12 years, has suffered from the parasitical virus of fraud. Over the last five years alone there have been spectacular examples of blatant waste and mismanagement such as the ad scam, the gun registry and the billion dollar boondoggle at HRDC. In all cases we saw crafty contractors and grant recipients take delicious advantage of unguarded public loot.
The government has proven to be wholly impotent in cracking down on these thieves. It is time to arm citizens with the legal authority to do the job. It is done south of the border through the informers act, which is based on the ancient British principle of qui tam. Qui tam is Latin for “in the name of the King”. It means that a citizen can take actions to protect the public good or enforce the law. We have citizens arrest in Canada, which is predicated on exactly the same principle.
Here is how it works. South of the border, Joe Citizen has the legal right to launch a civil action against any company that he suspects of defrauding the U.S. government. The case is heard before a trial judge and the government can decide whether to join the action. If the judge finds that there has in fact been a fraud, the guilty must pay back as much as three times the money that was stolen. A commission of up to 30% of the money recovered by the government is then paid to the citizen whistleblower.
I know what hon. members are thinking. What about abuse? What about citizens who would come forward with litigious actions simply out of a hope of making money? That is a fair question. However, we rely on judges to decide whether or not those actions are frivolous and if they are, they can be dismissed. Furthermore, if judges find that the accusations put forward by the citizen whistleblower are false, they will merely be thrown out of court and that citizen will l have to pay the legal costs in our loser pay system. In other words, there is a significant financial disincentive for abusing the system.
Some will say that there is a moral hazard in paying people to blow the whistle. “Is virtue not its own reward?”, the argument goes. We pay people such as police officers, auditors, soldiers, Crown prosecutors to do all sorts of noble things. All of us in one way or another pay these people to tackle, in many cases, the bad guys. They get paid for it and none of us would consider that to be a problem.
Furthermore, we have systems like Crime Stoppers where we pay people to inform about potential criminals. Just yesterday the police in the city of Ottawa offered a reward to capture a killer who has wreaked havoc on my neighbourhood.
I would argue that the real moral hazard is letting stolen money stay in the pockets of thieves. I would rather pay a reward to a whistleblower, a private citizen who comes forward with a legal action against fraudsters, than I would to leave the stolen money in the pockets of the people who stole it.
In the United States this system has resulted in the recovery of $10 billion in stolen money. That is $10 billion the American government can spend on productive projects. That is $10 billion that would otherwise be in the pockets of thieves.
This is a bold new idea of significant magnitude that would help to end the parasitical virus of fraud that has been undermining the past government and the country for far too long. I ask for all members to support this concept and support true accountability.