Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this bill, which deals with loans, financing and accountability.
To begin, it is important for us to go back to first principles and to look at what accountability is.
Early in its mandate, the Conservative government introduced the so-called Federal Accountability Act, but the bill had very little to do with true accountability. During our speeches I and my colleagues asked government members to define accountability in a general context. Nobody from the government could actually give a definition of what accountability is.
I will paraphrase an expert on this in Canada, Henry McCandless. Mr. McCandless was an assistant deputy minister in the Officer of the Auditor General. He is a very learned person. He wrote a seminal work on public accountability. Mr. McCandless would say that public accountability is the obligation on the part of elected officials, senior public office holders and senior public servants to explain what they are doing, why they are doing it, what it will cost, who will benefit and who will pay.
It would be sensible if the government were to put forth an accountability act that enshrined those principles for all public office holders. If we were to enshrine a true public accountability act, which could be fairly simple, the onus and the line of responsibility from those of us who are elected to those who are unelected members of the public service could be well defined. Most important, the public, the people who pay our salaries and fund this House, the taxpayers, are the individuals who would know very clearly what they could expect from all of us. It would be a liberating thing on the part of the government to introduce a bill such as that.
In defining accountability in this way, we could tell the public exactly what we were doing, why we were doing it, when we were doing it, who would pay for it and what it would cost. Members of the public, the taxpayers, could see when we did or did not do something. The line of responsibility and accountability would be there for all to see. What we were doing would be there for all to see. There would be nothing opaque about it. This is what should have happened with the Federal Accountability Act.
Rather than liberating the House, elected officials and the public service, the new Federal Accountability Act, which has nothing to do with public accountability, has added layer upon layer of responsibility and reporting. It has introduced levels of administration into the system of how the federal government works to such an extent that it is restricting the ability of the public service and the House and its members to work properly.
Why would anybody do this, some would ask. It could be a couple of things. One would be a lack of knowledge, a lack of understanding of what public accountability is. I would say that would be a less likely excuse. Rather, it is an effort to try to undermine the ability to have a strong central government in Canada.
This falls into a larger objective of the Prime Minister, who is a follower of Leo Strauss, an American political philosopher from the early 1900s. Many Canadians will not know that the Prime Minister is a follower of Professor Strauss in terms of his ideology and philosophy. It is the same ideology and philosophy followed by President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, as well as the former secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
It is important for people to understand that. In understanding what Professor Strauss was articulating is to understand what the Prime Minister is trying to do. It is to understand why we are not seeing the accountability that we ought to see. Instead we are seeing a truncating, restriction and weakening of the federal government.
Professor Strauss believed that the best form of governance is when a very small number of people are predestined and to lead. Professor Strauss believed that was the best form of government and that small group of people could then tell everybody beneath them what to do, what to say and when to say it. Does that sound familiar? It is happening today in the Conservative government. It is a tragedy for all members, but most important, it is a tragedy for Canadian citizens.
However, I feel very sad for the members across the way who cannot do what they need to do to represent their constituents. They are told by the Prime Minister's Office, the half a dozen or so people around the Prime Minister who direct what is happening in the Government of Canada. They tell cabinet ministers what to do and what to say. They tell backbench MPs what to do, what to say and when to say it. As a result, the ability of individual MPs in the government to articulate what their constituents want is severely restricted.
This is very interesting because it flies in the face of the roots of the Conservative Party, which is the Reform Party. The Reform Party believed in something that was very different. It believed in the power of democracy. It believed in the power of the people. It believed that we could generate the best ideas from our populace and, as elected officials, bring those ideas to the floor of the House and represent the will of the people, the ideas of the people, for the betterment of our citizens. That is what the Reform Party stood for. Yet, what we have seen is a metamorphosis, a 180-degree change.
People do not wonder why our current Prime Minister left during his first term in office. He left because his views were diametrically opposed to that of the then leader, Preston Manning, who believed, as a populist, that the power of the people should be brought to the floor of the House.
When our current Prime Minister was elected, he, true to form, did what he said he was going to do. So, in a way, I guess, democracy exercised itself. But I think that many of our citizens do not really understand that. They do not really understand that the current view of our current Prime Minister is diametrically opposed to what the roots of the Reform Party were, which was to have and build our country from the grassroots, from our people, that the power of the people, the wisdom of the people, could be exercised in this House. That is a far cry from what we are seeing today.
In fact, Professor Ned Franks and Professor Donald Savoie, the chair of governance in Canada, have made some very strong statements. They have said that MPs are nobodies on the Hill. That is a play on the term that then Prime Minister Trudeau said years ago, that MPs were nobodies 50-feet off the Hill.
Now, Professor Franks and Professor Savoie have both said that the power of the individual MP, within the context of this House, has so been undermined by the central form of government, the Straussian philosophy, that it has completely changed the complexion of what we believe is a democracy in our country. We have a nominal democracy, and that is really a shame, because what the Prime Minister should be doing is enabling his members of Parliament to bring the best ideas to the floor of this House so that they can represent their constituents.
Disagreement in this House cannot be looked on as some form of weakness on the part of a leader, or on the part of a prime minister, or on the part of anybody in this House. Rather, differences of opinion merely reflect the differences of opinion that we have in our country. Our country is not a homogenous state. Our people are not homogenous. We have a heterogeneous populace with a wide array of ideas that should and ought to be brought to this House.
All of us understand, of course, the importance of a prime minister being able to say to the public, “These are the things that I want to do; these are the things that my party stands for; and these are the things we are going to do”.
It is all well and true to have those as confidence motions. That is fine. But beyond those things that are true confidence motions, they are a very small bundle of policy ideas. Beyond that, members of Parliament should be able to express the wishes and the desires of their citizens in this House, even if it means being different from what the majority of their own party wants. There is nothing wrong with that.
In fact, many of the great ideas that we have seen in the world actually met with significant and sometimes violent resistance when they were put forward. Those have come to pass with time and history to be seen as wise ideas, but at the time that they were initially put forward, people sometimes opposed them strongly, or sometimes violently.
We have an opportunity, and certainly the Prime Minister has an opportunity, to change that. He has an opportunity to liberate our House, to liberate the members in his own caucus, to bring the best ideas to the forefront of our nation, and apply them for the betterment of our citizens.
What we are seeing now in this House bears little resemblance to the needs of the Canadian public. Most of us, and certainly all of us in my caucus, have many ideas as all party members do, but we are trying desperately in my party to bring those ideas to the forefront, to work with the government and offer those solutions that are not only important for our constituents in opposition but, I dare to say, they are important also to the constituents of members across the way.
No party has a hammerlock on good or bad ideas and there are fine ideas on all sides of this House. What the government and the Prime Minister should be doing if they were wise, would be to work with members from across party lines to put ideas forward for the public good. That is not what we are seeing. We are seeing a Prime Minister who is poisoned by partisanship and poisoned by the desire to have control. He is behaving as a control freak, if I can say that, and behaving in a way that is not in the public interest.
Take a look at what is happening in committees. Directives have come down to committee chairs and members of the government in those committees to filibuster. We get paid by taxpayers to serve the public. If the public were to take a look at what is happening in many committees today, they would be shocked and appalled. Witnesses come to those committees from across our land with good ideas and yet what they see--