Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Peterborough—Kawartha.
When I wrote my speech, I said that I was pleased to rise in the House to debate this motion; however, in reality, that is not the case. The Conservatives were in power for 10 years, a period known as the dark decade, a period of secrets, and today they are moving this motion.
The people in my riding want us to discuss real issues, like infrastructure, in the House. They want additional income so they can make ends meet, and they want the federal government to provide the services they need to do what they have to do.
Those are the kinds of issues we want to debate. Unfortunately, we have to discuss a motion that, in my opinion, is quite frivolous. However, that is part of the process in the House, and we will have to discuss it.
When we were elected, we committed to a new kind of leadership and tone in the federal government, to honour the trust that Canadians put in us. We are very serious about and committed to giving Canadians an open and accountable government.
We stand by the fundamental democratic principles, and we will strengthen our democratic institutions. As my hon. colleagues have explained, our government endorsed the notion that an open and transparent government is a good government. The code of conduct for exempt staff is just one of many measures taken by our government, an open and transparent government.
Our agenda strengthens the guidelines for the non-partisan use of departmental communications resources. We must carefully ensure that these resources are used for official Government of Canada communications and not for partisan purposes. This means that no partisan symbols or content should be used in departmental communications, events, or social media.
An open and accountable government innovates by giving ministers and parliamentary secretaries guidelines on the use of social media.
I believe that every member of the House realizes that social media can be an effective means of communicating with Canadians and that it is important to know how to use them. For ministers and parliamentary secretaries, this means knowing how to use social media and, in particular, drawing a line between the official Government of Canada accounts and their own personal accounts. This ensures that members of the public are able to differentiate between the two types of communication and can continue to expect non-partisan messages from the Government of Canada. That is what is required under Treasury Board policy.
An open and accountable government innovates, once again, by providing a guide on the role of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General. In short, the justice minister develops bills, policies, programs, and services for Canadians in various areas of law, while the Attorney General of Canada is the chief crown prosecutor.
Pursuant to the Department of Justice Act, and as reiterated in our “Open and Accountable Government” plan, the Minister of Justice is responsible for ensuring that the administration of public affairs complies with the law. The minister is responsible for upholding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the rest of the Constitution, the rule of law, and the independence of the courts. The role of the minister is to help the federal departments develop, reform, and interpret legislation. The minister assesses the legal risks associated with the proposals, regulations, and laws brought before cabinet, in order to ensure that they are consistent with the Charter, and clear in both official languages, while taking into account Canada's bijural system, namely our common law and civil law.
Naturally, as all other ministers, the Minister of Justice must adhere to her mandate letter by continuously working with her parliamentary secretary and her advisors to ensure that the work done by her office is done professionally, and that decisions are always made in the public interest.
Her exempt staff give her advice on the political aspects of her duties, while always providing services in a non-partisan way.
The department uses these resources to carry out its duties efficiently and to make informed decisions based on real, verifiable data while adhering to strict ethical standards in all of its activities.
The government also innovated by creating a similar code of ethics for political staff members, who must conduct their activities with integrity and honesty, support the minister's duties, and remain loyal and diligent at all times. That is not something our predecessors had in place.
That is what Canadians have the right to expect from an open, honest, accountable government. However, it is unrealistic to suggest that ministers should be aware of every single thing going on in their department and should take personal responsibility for everything that happens. That would be an unreasonable standard.
Nevertheless, our “Open and Accountable Government” plan states that ministers should take all necessary measures to correct problems that might arise in their portfolios and to be accountable to the House by answering questions. That is how they promote the integrity of our public and democratic institutions.
In that sense, I firmly believe that the claims made by the member for Saint-Albert—Edmonton in this motion are frivolous and unfounded. The minister participated in an event as an MP, which was quite legitimate and in compliance with the Conflict of Interest Act, including section 16, and the Canada Elections Act.
However, by consulting the Ethics Commissioner from the outset, the Minister of Justice demonstrated just how much we all care about conducting our affairs with integrity and diligence. It is to her credit that she took that step, and Canadians view her as being honest and a person of integrity.
She conducted herself in an exemplary manner in this situation. She is an exceptional minister who is dedicated to ensuring respect for the rule of law and defending Canadians' interests. She embodies the guiding principles of our government, and I firmly believe that she will be able to do so throughout her term.
I know that everyone here agrees that we must never give Canadians a reason to distrust their government. They will not always like what we do. Some will not always support our policies, and that is okay. Diverging ideas and opinions are what make our democracy great because they encourage people with different points of view to work together to reach a consensus.
Disagreeing with a policy is quite different from not trusting the government. Canadians should not think that their government and elected representatives play by a different set of rules than the rest of society. There is absolutely no doubt that our “Open and Accountable Government” plan shows that our government is fully invested in the rule of law and the Charter. Under the leadership of our Prime Minister, our government is determined to earn and maintain the trust of all Canadians.
As elected representatives, we should also make this our watchword. We have to carry out many duties as parliamentarians, including participating in committees to weigh the merits of a bill or defend the public.
The current government made a promise to Canadians. It is set out in black and white in the ministerial mandate letters, in our election platform, and in our various policy documents. We will keep that promise.
In my opinion, everyone in the House should accept our promise and commend us for it. Canadians should demand nothing less. They deserve an open and accountable government.
In closing, I would like to remind the House that the men and women who represent their communities in the Parliament of Canada are dedicated to their jobs, regardless of which party they belong to.
As the Prime Minister so aptly stated during the election campaign, Canadians need to believe that their government is on their side and that it is eager to work with them to solve real problems and to bring real change.