Mr. Speaker, I have listened to today's debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-613, the transparency act, with great interest.
The member for Don Valley West actually spoke quite eloquently, using all the right words about what open data and open government actually mean, which is all the more disconcerting, given that it means that the government is acting not out of ignorance but actually wilfully to have the most secretive, opaque government Canada has ever known.
I believe the conversation we have had today in this House has been a timely one, and I hope Canadians are all the more convinced now that adopting the bill is a wise and necessary step for this House.
The purpose of the transparency act is to make important changes to how Canadians stay informed about what their government is doing. The measures outlined in this bill guarantee a government whose information is automatically accessible
The members have already shown that they are ready to take up the challenge.
The Liberal Party was the first party to opt for proactive disclosure of parliamentarians' expenses, and I was pleased to see the members of the other parties follow our example. However, there is more work to be done.
It is not acceptable any more that decisions about the regulation of MPs' spending are made behind closed doors, entirely in secret, far from the light of public scrutiny. That is not the way things ought to be done in 2015. Instead, the House of Commons' Board of Internal Economy must be made open by default.
The challenge that the NDP members have not quite understood or highlighted in their speaking points is that the Board of Internal Economy is not a regular House committee. It is one that, by oath, must remain secret on a wide range of things. Regardless if we have unanimous consent at the BOIE to overturn that secrecy, it cannot, without possibly facing sanctions for having broken the Parliament of Canada Act. That is why a legislated change is needed to open the BOIE.
Canadians should know more about what their elected representatives are doing and how the rules are made that govern spending. Some things would remain confidential, such as personal matters or contractual dealings, but overall, reform of the Board of Internal Economy is well overdue.
We also cannot expect Canadians to be satisfied with the current access to information system, which is now outdated. It is a complicated and confusing system that often delivers results that are far from satisfactory. This is not surprising, considering that it has not undergone any significant changes in over 20 years.
We need a new approach, a system that allows Canadians to understand what we do here in Ottawa, as well as a system that takes into account the technological advances that have completely reshaped the information landscape and data sharing.
This bill would update the Access to Information system in four ways.
First, it would make all government information and data open by default and easily accessible.
Second, it would require that accessing information cost no more than the initial $5.00 fee.
Third, this bill would expand and strengthen the Information Commissioner's mandate, giving him or her the power to enforce access to information laws. Once the government opens up, we want it to remain open. This was actually a Conservative promise during the 2006 election campaign.
Fourth, this bill provides for a mandatory review of our access to information system within 90 days of this bill receiving royal assent and every five years thereafter.
I put forth the transparency act in good faith with my colleagues here, who I hope share the spirit with which this bill was introduced. That is, that we are all striving to make a better government for Canadians.
I believe more openness and transparency, along with strengthened information laws, will lend more accountability to this place. It is important to Canadians and to the continued health of our democracy.
In the spirit of openness and transparency, I will be hosting, in 20 minutes, an information session at 6:30 p.m. in East Block Room 362, where I will be glad to take any and all questions from my colleagues on these important improvements to transparency.
Tomorrow, I am hopeful members will join me in voting Bill C-613 through to committee stage.