I can safely say that over the years I have witnessed first-hand what has been a relatively slow but important evolution, if I can put it that way, of governments at different levels, both in Ottawa and at the provincial level, where we have seen the benefits of trying to ensure that the citizenry and other stakeholders have better and more access to government documents. It was interesting that the member for Winnipeg Centre, in his opening remarks, talked about transparency and the shedding of light and how we as a community and a society can benefit if we are able to make greater strides toward getting just that: greater access to information.
Quite often over the years I have found there is a great willingness from opposition benches and from a few others who want to see, in a more public way, more transparency on the whole issue of access to information. We find that opposition members are constantly raising the issue in different forms, whether through letters to different departments or by requesting information through the House, trying to draw out details on different types of programs and services that are provided by the government.
It is important that we recognize that in this case the Information Commissioner plays a very strong role in ensuring the integrity of our system. Most Canadians would be somewhat surprised at the degree the Information Commissioner and the roles and responsibilities of the office have in ensuring we see more transparency within the government. This is something I believe is absolutely critical for us to continue to move forward. On that particular note, that is the reason it is important that we recognize this bill for what it is and, at the very least, allow it to go to committee. I listened to the previous speaker, and there is no doubt that the government does have some concerns related to the bill, and I suspect there might be opportunities to, at the very least, make some amendments that might improve upon it.
However, I would suggest that there is a potential for a consensus that we can do more in terms of being more progressive at improving what we currently have. The member for Winnipeg Centre made reference to a platform, and it is important to recognize that Bill C-567 has been drafted to include commitments that actually were made by the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister in 2006 as a campaign platform. Back in 2006, the current government had recognized deficiencies and the way in which we could actually improve upon those deficiencies. That is why I say that through time I believe what we are seeing is a stronger drive toward that higher sense of accountability and transparency. I would suggest it is only natural that we would want to have further debate and changes to legislation that would ultimately ensure more transparency and more accountability on what issues are important to Canadians.
Less than an hour ago, we had an important vote on the Liberal Party's opposition motion that dealt with the whole issue of proactive disclosure and how much we were able to accomplish in nine months.
The leader of the Liberal Party stood in his place, at the seat right in front of me, and proclaimed that we need to have proactive disclosure. Canadians are demanding more transparency and more accountability. He then took it to the next step and said that his expectation was that all Liberal members of Parliament would comply with that, and participate in proactive disclosure.
Not much longer after that, the Conservative Party recognized the merits of what the leader of the Liberal Party was talking about. Today, we ultimately passed an opposition motion that is in essence going to enact exactly what the leader of the Liberal Party talked about last June.
I would suggest that this is something we should reflect on when we look at this particular piece of legislation. Why not recognize the very tangible public policy that Canadians will get behind and support? I believe this is one piece of legislation that does have merit.
We have all sorts of annual conferences taking place with different stakeholders. The commissioner is no different. We have different agencies across the country, ombudsmen and access to information officers, that deal with the delicate issues of privacy and access to information.
They had a conference back in October 2013 where ombudspersons and information and privacy commissioners from across the country passed a resolution urging the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to update their respective laws.
These independent agencies recognized the deficiencies there, and are challenging legislators, whether at the provincial or national level. Here we are talking about a proposed national bill that has a great deal of merit.
Some, including myself, would ultimately argue that this legislation, if allowed to go to the committee stage, might be able to address some of the issues raised at the conference of independent, non-partisan, apolitical organizations established by different governments of different political stripes.
Their recommendations are, and maybe I will cite some: creating a legislative duty to document deliberations, actions, and decisions of public entities to promote transparency and accountability; strong monitoring and enforcement powers for regulators, such as binding orders and penalties for non-compliance; and establishing when and how individuals should be notified when their personal information has been lost, stolen, or improperly accessed.
As the member for Winnipeg Centre pointed out, the changes being proposed here are part of a platform. The Liberal Party has seen the merit in accepting many of the ideas and suggestions being brought forward.
As we saw with the leader of the Liberal Party on the proactive disclosure issue, we have an issue that if the debate is allowed to continue here, hopefully members, in particular the Conservative members, will see the merit in allowing the bill to go to committee, where we could have a more wholesome, full discussion on what is an important issue for all of us.
We need to feel comfortable in knowing that having access to information is of critical importance, and that there is a way we can appeal to someone, such as the Information Commissioner, when we feel there needs to be more or that we are missing out on something.
For Canadians and others who want to get a better idea there are resources that they can tap into. The commissioner has a well-developed website. There is all sorts of information even at the different levels that we need to have access to. There are agencies to protect that access and to ensure that we continue to move forward.
By allowing this bill to pass and go to committee, we would be taking a step forward on the important issue of access to information, which would ensure more accountability and more transparency.