Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this motion today.
Canadians expect their government and parliamentarians to manage the matters of our great nation with a high sense of responsibility and diligence. The executive branch, the government, is expected to manage the day-to-day operations while Canadians, through their elected parliamentarians, act as a sounding board and a safety valve for the government's conduct. Our democracy thrives on this dynamic and the eventual beneficiary is Canada and its citizens.
At the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, of which I am a proud member, parliamentarians have been working diligently to examine various procedures and practices to ensure that Canadians are served well.
The committee had the pleasure of inviting and speaking with the Auditor General and Public Works and Government Services officials. The committee was interested in chapter 7 of her 2006 report, which dealt with acquisition of leased office spaces. The Auditor General and her team have done extensive and excellent work on this file over a number of years, and shared with the committee very insightful and informative findings.
The committee, and any reader of that chapter, would find that there is room to improve the government's practices when it comes to acquiring office spaces. The committee was very interested in examining possible failures and identifying opportunities to enhance the expenditure of taxpayers' money when acquiring office spaces.
The committee confirmed that the government is on the verge of acquiring large office space in the Ottawa region. The government has apparently signed a letter of intent to purchase the JDS Uniphase campus in Ottawa without conducting an open and transparent competitive bid process.
Given that the committee had just heard from the Auditor General about examples of mismanaged taxpayers' money, I proposed a motion that would call on the government to perform its due diligence before acquiring any significant real estate property, such as the JDS campus, and that any decisions be the result of a competitive public tender call process.
I was pleased that the majority of the committee endorsed that motion, although I was somewhat bewildered to see my colleagues from the Conservative Party voting against accountability and transparency.
This motion intends to encourage the wise expenditure of government funds, so all options are evaluated before a final decision is made.
I recognize that there are occasions when certain situations may contain conditions and requirements that might appear unique. As someone who worked in the private sector for years, I have a great appreciation for following competitive processes when acquiring or purchasing significant products or projects. The apparent unique requirements, if they are essential to the property needed, can be described in the specifications of any tender.
Members will be surprised how many creative and useful offers will be presented. As well, a competitive process would encourage all bidders, including the apparent favourite ones, to be aggressive in their pricing when they know that open and competitive bids are being sought.
I am glad that we are having this debate right now. Even though the government has signed a letter of intent, the building has not been purchased yet. Now is the right time to ensure that this decision is the right decision that offers the highest value to Canadians.
The Liberal Party has repeatedly attempted to ask the Minister of Public Works about the government's intentions in regard to this transaction. Unfortunately, the minister does not sit in the House so he cannot answer those questions.
The motion is asking a reasonable and logical request. It calls on the government to ensure transparency, accountability and openness.
It amuses me to see my Conservative colleagues oppose this motion. They are claiming to be the champions of accountability, but their position on this motion proves what the Liberals have been saying for a while.
The Conservatives are only promoting selective accountability. They appear to be only pursuing slogans and rhetoric, “Do as I say, but not as I do”. Accountability is good for them when it does not mean holding the government to account. When real accountability and prudent management of taxpayers' money is the real issue, the Conservatives appear to be waffling.
The irony is that the Conservatives are accusing the previous Liberal government of forcing their hand to purchase this property. If that is the case, the Liberals are presenting them with a clear opportunity to enhance this transaction right now. If they truly believe that the Liberals have put them in this quandary or made errors, why do they not vote in support of this motion and blame the Liberals?
I hope that my colleagues, members of the House, including the Conservatives, join together to endorse this simple and clear motion. The motion does not prevent the government from obtaining any property. In fact, it protects it from any future accusation of lack of transparency. It might delay the decision for a short while, but it would ensure that when a decision is made, that it is the right one for all Canadians.