Mr. Speaker, it would have taken hours to make this bill acceptable, and I do say “acceptable”, in spite of the concessions made to the members of the Bloc Québécois who sit on this committee. I take this opportunity, moreover, to express to them my admiration. I am talking about the members for Repentigny and Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. Up to now they have been sitting for 42, 43 and even 45 hours a week in order to study this bill.
Many workers will say that is nothing, since they work that many hours every week. But I am talking about 42, 43 and maybe even 45 hours just studying this bill. They still had to do their office work here in Ottawa and in their constituency. I can assure you that they are very present in their ridings. I am talking about the members of the Bloc, of course, because I know them.
This bill, the French title of which the government agreed to improve, further to the repeated demands of the Bloc Québécois, was suggested in large part by the Gomery commission. I say “in large part” because a lot of redundant, irrelevant and unverifiable statements were added, as we shall find out in the future. It will be hard for a layperson to interpret it; it will be one more law to make the lawyers wealthy.
A coincidence maybe, but this morning this is a topical subject, what with the case of Charles Guité. Is his sentence deserved? I think so, of course, but at what level would a psychologist, especially a military one, have evaluated his degree of responsibility? That would have been interesting to know when creating a law like the one we are presenting today.
The credibility of this bill would be tarnished if this government used it as an election springboard. This means that it is now, at the same time as this bill is enacted, that the procedure must begin, if the government is serious, of course.
There are other public servants like Charles Guité who think that their duty forces them into unconditional loyalty. In this case, he had been a soldier who had learned to carry out orders. As a soldier, it was not up to him to ask questions. He had his mission. And this bill was to be the rule that would make it possible to seek out the person of whom someone like Guité could not ask questions. I doubt the capacity of this law to do the job.
However, as I said at the beginning of my address, our Bloc representatives on this committee managed to get enough changes made for them to feel that not all the time they spent working was in vain.
The Auditor General will be somewhat disappointed to note that she still does not have access to all government services and crown corporations, once again due to one party's lack of political courage. Although that party was very brave in opposition and during the election campaign, it loses its nerve when it is time to act. If this is any consolation to the Auditor General, I would like her to know that the Bloc Québécois, myself included, is just as disappointed.
The Auditor General, as I know her role, and who will serve as a reference point for several years to come, will certainly be happy to maintain her political independence and to acquire additional powers, even if they are still insufficient. She must be fed up. Even though I was not terribly pleased with this bill, I think I would support it simply to be able to continue to applaud her work.
Unfortunately, nothing in life is ever perfect. What casts a shadow on this bill is the absence of real sanctions for those who violate the ethics legislation. However, the commissioner is so closely monitored in his duties that, if he announces an offender, it means that he really and truly has no choice. Whatever the members of this government may be guilty of or believe they may be criticized for, that is up to them to judge.
They are so perfect, they do not want to implement Kyoto, but it is not their fault; the Liberals were the ones who polluted. They do not want to pay back the money taken from the EI fund; again, the Liberals are to blame for taking it. They do not want to create an agency to monitor gas prices; that was the Bloc Québécois's idea, and the oil companies might become separatists some day.
Surely they have no need to worry, they are so perfect! And like angels, if they make just one little mistake, like changing parties after leading the voters to believe that the other party is the devil, they lose only one wing, after all.
Does the Ethics Commissioner really have all the powers and the independence—above all, the independence—necessary to perform his duties? Allow me not to think so. The complaints of citizens, among others, will still be filtered by parliamentarians. They will be losing more than wings.
The public will say, probably rightly, that the corrected political party financing legislation is a fine smokescreen cast in the face of the electorate. I do not think they will be far wrong.
One has to be realistic. Quebec has made every effort to try to clean up the political party financing legislation, but something is always happening to distort the data. Take the example of a minister who announces a government grant in a community. Is this not a political message to those who will benefit from that grant? And yet it is taxpayers’ money that is paying for the financing and announcement of this project. Is this recorded in the financial books of the party in power?
We have a flagrant example with the Quebec Election Act, which is a very good law. In the Mont-Orford case, it appears that the shareholders, destined to be the biggest winners of this privatization, are very good financial backers of the party in power. Can this reward be considered an encouragement to new financial backers? Will it simply encourage the same backers to continue contributing so generously? That is the impression left with the population.
When that population understands that smoke has been thrown in its eyes, as in the case of Quebec’s presence at UNESCO, the sentence is a stiff one. Just ask our neighbours on the benches.
With regard to the Access to Information Act, I would like to remind this government that, no later than last fall, it supported a unanimous motion of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. That motion rejected a suggestion by the justice minister on setting a deadline for review of the act.
No later than last January, this party was saying on page 13 of its election platform:
A Conservative government will:
Implement the Information Commissioner’s recommendations for reform of the Access to information Act.
Does our view of ethics not change, once we are in power?