Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add a few comments to the third reading debate on Bill C-2, the federal accountability act. I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell.
Let me begin by thanking the President of the Treasury Board, the member for Ottawa West--Nepean, and his parliamentary secretary, the member for Nepean--Carleton, and in fact the whole legislative committee for its hard work on this bill. The collaboration of all members has made this a better bill. All parties in this House have worked toward this.
As we have come through the report stage into this third reading debate, it seems that members from every party are claiming victory in some way or another. That is a good sign. It shows that the process is working as it should.
As well, I would like to take a moment to thank my constituents who have given me the opportunity to be here to speak on their behalf. Of course I would like to think I am here because of my boyish good looks and sparkling personality, but my wife assures me that is not the case. I know I am here at the pleasure of my constituents. I take that responsibility very seriously. I will do my best to serve them well. In fact, one opportunity to do so is to support this good piece of legislation.
Like a lot of members in this House, as I went door to door and talked to people on the street during the last campaign and the campaign before that, I sensed a large degree of cynicism about and even distrust of politicians. We of course have seen the polls showing that politicians are the least trusted of any occupational group, and it does not look like the numbers are getting any better in the more recent polls.
In fact, sometimes the people I talked to on the doorsteps would say that we are all the same or that we are only in it for what we can get, although each one of us here will claim that we are not in it for what we can get. In fact, I think we would probably all agree that we do not know of any colleagues of ours, whether they are on this side of the House or in opposition, who are here for what they can get.
It is very clear that Canadians expect more from us: not just to do good but also to be good. In fact, they sent that message loud and clear on January 23. They said they wanted an accountable government, one that they can trust with their hard-earned dollars and one that works effectively and efficiently on their behalf. I believe this federal accountability act delivers on our commitment to do just that.
During the campaign we said from time to time, and probably more often than the Liberals liked, that we needed to move from a culture of entitlement to a culture of accountability and, really, what we are talking about here is changing the culture.
This is an interesting concept, because there is no real agreement on how to define culture. Some define it in a historical way, saying that culture is the social traditions that are passed from generation to generation. Others view it in a behavioural way, saying that it is shared or learned human behaviour. Others view it in a normative way, saying that it is the ideals or the values that a particular group of people have. Some view it as a mental thing, as the ideas or habits that we have as people that distinguish us from animals. Or maybe it is a symbolic thing.
I like to think of culture as having three components. It is what people think. It is what people do. It is what people produce.
So if we were talking about a culture of entitlement, what we would think is that we were entitled or, as a more famous person has said, “entitled to our entitlements”. What would we do in that culture? I guess we would do whatever it takes to obtain those entitlements, even if from time to time those things were wrong. What would we produce? We would produce programs or legislation, even well-intentioned programs that at least occasionally were motivated by self-interest.
But if we in this place lived within a culture of accountability, then we would think and believe that we are answerable to Canadians. What we would do is act honestly, ethically and honourably. We would produce programs and legislation that have as their motivation the best interests of Canadians.
We are here about accountability. Most of us who grew up in a loving but firm family understood what accountability was. I do not think my parents ever used that word with me. I think I understood it. I think it was composed of four different things. They made the rules clear for me. Then they removed some of the opportunities to break those rules. They then monitored my behaviour. Then they provided a little correction from time to time if I ever needed it.
Really, that is what we are talking about here with the accountability act. We are making sure that the rules are clear. In some cases, we are changing the rules. We are strengthening the rules. We are strengthening the role of the Ethics Commissioner. Canadians expect elected representatives and public office holders to make decisions in the public interest without any consideration of personal gain. The Ethics Commissioner helps us do that.
In fact, Bill C-2 will combine the positions of the Ethics Commissioner and the Senate Ethics Officer to create a new conflict of interest and ethics commissioner, with powers to fine violators and consider public complaints. We are going to make sure the rules are clear.
We are going to clean up the procurement of government contracts. I think all of us in this place believe that the Government of Canada's purchasing practices should be free of political interference and conducted fairly so that all companies, regardless of size and location, have the opportunity to compete for government work. We are going to make sure that the rules are clear on procurement. We are going to develop a code of conduct for procurement that will apply both to suppliers and to public servants.
We are going to clean up government polling and advertising. As we know, the government uses public opinion research and advertising to listen to and communicate with Canadians. I think that is a good thing most of the time, but recent political scandals regarding sponsorship and advertising have raised some legitimate concerns about the transparency, the fairness and the value for money of the procurement process in these areas. Bill C-2 introduces measures that ensure value for money and preclude these contracts from being used for partisan reasons or political benefit.
We are going to remove or at least reduce the opportunities for these rules to be broken. We are going to reform the financing of political parties. We believe that money should not have the ear of government but that Canadians should.
The federal accountability act will help take government out of the hands of big corporations and big unions and give it back to ordinary Canadians. The act is going to limit individual donations to $1,000 a year, ban contributions by corporations, unions and organizations, and prohibit cash donations of more than $20. We are going to ban secret political donations to political candidates.
We are going to toughen the Lobbyists Registration Act. I think everyone in the House would agree that people should not get rich bouncing between government and lobbying jobs. Lobbyists should not be allowed to charge what they call success fees, where they only get paid if they deliver the policy change their clients want. The government is now getting rid of these fees and is extending the ban on lobbying activities to five years for former ministers, their aides and senior public servants.
We are going to ensure truth in budgeting. We are going to create a new parliamentary budget officer to support members of Parliament and parliamentary committees with independent analysis on economic and fiscal issues.
The government will make qualified government appointments. This will be a welcome thing, as all of us here know.
Of course the government will monitor whether these rules actually are kept. Also, we are going to make it harder to hide. We are going to strengthen access to information legislation. Canadians deserve better access to government information. The Government of Canada belongs to the people of Canada. It should not unnecessarily obstruct access to information. There are good things in the bill in this regard.
The government is going to strengthen the power of the Auditor General. Canadians deserve to know their hard-earned tax dollars are spent. The Auditor General needs the power to follow the money in order to make sure that it is spent properly and wisely.
Occasionally from time to time we need correction. The government is creating a director of public prosecutions. It will have the independence to pursue prosecutions under federal law and will report publicly to Canadians on its performance.
The government wants to move from a culture of entitlement to a culture of accountability. The measures contained in Bill C-2 signal a dramatic change, a paradigm shift, so to speak, in how federal politics and government will work in this country.
As we change how we think, what we do and what we produce, we can provide Canadians with the open, honest, trustworthy government they deserve, a government that acts responsibly, rewards integrity and demonstrates clear accountability. By making everyone more accountable, the federal accountability act will help restore Canadians' trust in their government and make government work better for all.