Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House today and speak to what I feel is one of the most important pieces of legislation that Parliament has seen in many years, which is the federal accountability act.
Before I begin I want to underscore the comments by my colleague from Nepean—Carleton and thank all the members of the legislative committee that sat and worked so diligently, so hard and so many long hours to ensure the bill was brought before Parliament for approval.
Again, without referencing all of their constituencies, as my hon. colleague before me just did, let me say a very heartfelt thanks to all the members. It was a pleasure for me to sit on that committee and a real honour for me to interchange ideas and have a dialogue with all my colleagues, many of whom, quite frankly, from time to time I disagreed with, but it never stopped my respect for them and my sincere belief that their desire to see the best bill possible was unqualified.
I thank them so very much for allowing me the privilege of watching them at work. I have said this in other forums, at media events and talk shows, I honestly believe this is how a minority Parliament should work.
I think we have proven without a doubt to all Canadians that if the intentions of a minority Parliament are pure and the motivation is sincere it can work to the benefit of all Canadians. I think there is no better example than the legislative committee and this bill that we will be passing in the House within hours to demonstrate to Canadians that minority Parliaments can work on behalf and for the benefit of all Canadians.
I also want to give sincere thanks and acknowledgment to the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, the member for Nepean—Carleton, for a job well done This was a massive undertaking by anyone's standards. The parliamentary secretary did yeoman work in shepherding the bill from the government's perspective through the legislative process and through the committee.
Without the member, he who did most of the heavy lifting from the government's side, I do not think that we would have been successful in reaching a satisfactory conclusion with all members of the opposition and all members of the committee.
I want to talk a little about the bill itself and some of the things that it brings to the benefit of Canadians. My colleague before me spoke very eloquently about many of the benefits that Canadians will receive as a result of the bill's passage.
The primary purpose of the bill and the essence and the spirit of the bill is to bring more accountability obviously to government. It would allow the public to see into the inner workings of government where they could not see before. I think that transparency is as important, if not more important, than the accountability provisions contained in the bill.
For too long Canadians have been telling me and, I am sure, parliamentarians of all political stripes that politicians are crooked, that they are doing things behind closed doors, that we do not know what they are doing and that they are probably on benefiting themselves and their friends.
That is not true. However, until such time as we can provide the transparency to Canadians to allow them to see the inner workings of government and to gain information on how government works, they will continue to have those misconstrued ideas about parliamentarians.
The reason that Bill C-2 came to light, or the genesis of the bill in fact, which, frankly, was one of the darkest chapters in Canadian parliamentary history, was the sponsorship scandal.
I have spoken before in this chamber and have said that I do not believe there is any member in this chamber who is a crook, is deceitful or is trying to abuse his or her parliamentary privilege. However, we all know about the sponsorship scandal, which was a sordid chapter in Canadian parliamentary history.
I think it is evident to Canadians that because of the sponsorship scandal and the fact that Justice Gomery was able to uncover all these illegal and illicit manoeuvres by people in positions of trust and power, we needed to do something as a Parliament to ensure those types of actions never occurred again.
While I firmly believe that all members of this chamber would never attempt anything like we saw in the sponsorship saga, I believe we need to put in controls, provisions and processes to give confidence to Canadians that this type of action will never happen again, which is exactly what the federal accountability act would do.
Is it perfect legislation? Certainly not. I do not know if there has ever been any perfect legislation that has been designed, drafted and passed by Parliament, but it goes a long way to assuring Canadians that the type of actions and the type of corruption that we saw unfold during the sponsorship hearings will not happen again.
Controls are now in place to prevent that from happening again. Thanks to the good work of all members of this chamber who had the sincere motivation to ensure this bill prevented that type of abuse, Canadians can now rest assured that the bill, when passed, will take care of business in terms of providing the true accountability to all Canadians that they deserve.
I want to point out a couple of things that other members in this chamber have been speaking to because, frankly, I believe they have been giving a bit of a misinterpretation of what the bill does and does not do. I have two points in particular.
The first point has to do with registration fees for conventions for political parties. We have heard on many occasions members of the Liberal Party say that the provisions in the bill target the Liberal Party to prevent them in their efforts to hold a successful leadership campaign.
I will admit that there are provisions in the bill that state that convention fees should be considered contributions or donations. However, only the costs of the convention that are over and above the costs associated with the convention should be considered a donation. In other words, if the registration fee for delegates to attend any political party's convention was $1,000 but the costs associated with putting on that convention were, hypothetically, $300, then the $700 over and above the hard cost of the convention would be considered a donation. That is the way it should be and the way it has to be. If the cost of conducting the convention was only $300 but the political party received $1,000 in registration fees, clearly the $700 difference would be a donation and should be considered a donation.
What we are hearing from the opposition is that the provisions are punitive and that the Liberal Party is being unfairly targeted. However, the way to get away from that is to merely set the registration fee to cover the hard cost of the convention. If a $1,000 registration fee were set by the Liberal Party and if the hard costs of that convention were $1,000, there would be no contribution or donation incurred by the individual. I believe what they have been saying has been a bit of a fallacy and I wanted to correct the record because we are not targeting the Liberals. These rules would apply to all political parties.
For those people who have said that we have not given the bill enough time and enough due diligence, I would point out that a motion carried in committee was that we would sit the entire summer if that is what it took to pass the bill. The reason we are here today and the reason the bill will be assured of passage tonight is not because of any movement from the Conservative Party of Canada to rush the bill through Parliament. It was the free choice of committee members.
Today will be an historic day for all Canadians and it is a day Canadians should be applauding. We finally have a true accountability act for the benefit of all Canadians.