Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Edmonton Centre.
I am pleased to congratulate the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics for its report on the statutory review of the Conflict of Interest Act. The Conflict of Interest Act was brought in as part of the Federal Accountability Act in 2007. With the tabling of this report, the standing committee has fulfilled the legal requirement that the act be reviewed within five years of its coming into effect.
This was a thorough examination and I think we have heard that from previous speakers. The review took place over several months, between January and June of 2013. In the process, the committee heard evidence from stakeholders, including public servants, subject matter experts, university professors, interest groups and the Commissioner of Lobbying. It also heard from the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner who spoke at the start and at the very end of the review.
The committee's work represents a diligent and comprehensive effort to fine-tune the Conflict of Interest Act in this country and the government thanks the committee for undertaking it. We are pleased with the result. We welcome and support the 16 recommendations outlined in the report. I would like to thank the committee for a job well done. In fact, I think all parliamentarians should be proud of both the actual work that went into the review and its broader significance for our democratic institutions.
The committee's review and the resulting report honour both Canadian values and Canadian democracy. Across our land, it is Canadians' cherished belief in fairness, merit and equality that has made us who we are today and what we stand for in the world.
This report's recommendations are squarely in line with one of the abiding principles of Canadian democracy: the idea that those in positions of power must be accountable to the people they serve. Ultimately, that is what the review of this act and the act itself are all about: increasing the accountability and transparency of those who hold public office. Accountability is the bedrock value of democratic and good government, and it has been a pillar of our democracy since Canada achieved responsible government over a century and a half ago.
The report is also in line with our government's approach to accountability and to protecting Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars. We came into office in 2006 on the promise of protecting taxpayers' money and Canadian democracy. We understood that Canada's public institutions need to be accountable and transparent because that is what would continue to make us a great nation in the future.
That is why we implemented the Federal Accountability Act and its companion action plan in 2006. When this legislation received royal assent on December 12, 2006, one of the first things we did was move to reduce the influence of money in elections. We introduced a law banning contributions to political parties by corporations, unions and organizations and lowering the limit on individuals' political contributions.
The Federal Accountability Act also designated deputy ministers as accounting officers who are accountable before Parliament for the management of their departments.
We also cleaned up the procurement of government contracts by enshrining in law a commitment to fairness, transparency and openness in the procurement process. We appointed an independent procurement ombudsman to provide additional oversight of the procurement process.
We also implemented measures to give Canadians broader and better access to more information from public organizations than ever before.
Specifically, we extended the Access to Information Act to cover the Canadian Wheat Board, five foundations and five agents of Parliament, and most crown corporations and their wholly owned subsidiaries.
We acted to strengthen ethical conduct in government. We conducted open and extensive consultations with lobbyists and Canadians about a new Lobbying Act to ensure lobbying and government advocacy was done fairly and openly.
The result, as we know, was stricter rules for lobbying activity and enhanced powers to investigate and enforce them, and there were serious penalities for breaking the rules. The penalties for lobbyists found guilty of breaching the requirements of the Lobbying Act were increased to a maximum of $200,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both.
We also brought into force the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. This act created an environment in which public service employees, and all Canadians, could honestly and openly report government wrongdoing without fear of reprisal.
We also created an independent Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal and the position of an independent Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. We brought in the Conflict of Interest Act and named a Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. By doing so, we have ensured that Canadians have the opportunity to voice their concerns about unethical behaviour in government and to hold violators accountable.
That is not all. To give these measures teeth, we introduced new criminal penalties and sanctions for anyone committing fraud against the crown. This offence carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment for fraud of $5,000 or less, and a maximum penalty of 14 years for fraud over $5,000.
These are just a few of the steps we have taken to meet Canadians' needs for stronger and more accountable and transparent public institutions.
The measures we took at that time reflected the will of Canadians to do the right thing, and I see the same spirit in the work of the standing committee. The standing committee's report is consistent with our focus on accountability, transparency, and protecting taxpayer dollars. It reflects Canadians' sense of honesty and hard work. That is why we welcome and support its recommendations and will consider how best to implement these improvement, in a manner that would further the purposes of the Conflict of Interest Act. Doing so would help us build on the many achievements of the Federal Accountability Act, and it would help to ensure that our public institutions continue to reflect Canadian values and common sense.