Mr. Speaker, I will begin where I was before I was cut off by our wonderful question period.
I will go back to what had me screaming “serenity now”, which was the quote from the House leader regarding the elimination of the regional economic ministries. She said, “Regional expertise with national expertise is a way for it to work better together to create a synergy, to take a whole-of-government approach.”
At first, I thought this was a bill about nothing. It kind of codifies what the government has already done, which is eliminate the regional offices, such as the western diversification ministry. The government tells us not to worry, that the Minister of Innovation from Mississauga will look after Alberta's needs. However, it is very clear that this is not happening.
In Alberta, since the government has taken over, we have not seen unemployment such as this since the national energy program. In Alberta, we have not seen issues like we are right now with the economy since 1981 with the national energy program. However, on this side of the House, we have put forward some policy suggestions to address this issue. We put forward an Alberta task force.
Normally, in the old days, we could have a regional minister to look after Alberta's interests. Currently, we have three Liberal MPs to do that. We used to have four, but there were issues and one moved on. However, we have three left, and, unfortunately, all three have been as silent as crickets when it comes to defending our energy program.
We put through a motion asking the House to support energy east. The three Liberal MPs sat quiet and did not vote to support energy east. We saw what happened just recently, when energy east was killed by the government. The National Energy Board, under direction of the government, moved back the goal posts time and again. Unlike any other industry in Canada, it was decided that upstream and downstream emissions had to be measured.
We subsidized Bombardier with its wonderful planes, and I hope we finally get the C Series. For Air Canada, if it is listening, I am tired of taking the Embraer E-190 back to Edmonton. Hopefully we will get that C Series soon. However, these are carbon emitting, pollution emitting planes, yet we subsidize them. Recently, we saw money being given to Ford, which makes cars. These cars are not running on pixie dust. They are running on gas, which emits pollution. There is a hypocrisy in that Alberta oil is bad, but pollution emitting industries in Quebec and Ontario are good. This is why we need a western diversification minister from Alberta standing up for Alberta rights.
One of the things we also asked for, but did not get, was money for orphaned wells. I think the PBO has estimated that it will cost about a billion dollars to clean up the orphaned wells. People walked away from developing these wells because of various regulations brought in by the federal government and the rates-monopoly NDP.
What did we get? In committee for estimates, my colleague for Calgary Shepard asked the finance minister about the government giving $30 million to the Alberta government. We asked if this was money from the federal government or if the NDP Government of Alberta asked for it. The finance minister was not even able to answer that question. He was not able to justify why it was only $30 million. He could not even answer why the money was being given. Who asked for the money? Was it a federal government initiative or provincial government initiative? Again, having the regional minister for western diversification based in Mississauga is not doing Alberta any good.
Obviously, this extends to northern gateway. This pipeline would have gone through British Columbia up to the Kitimat area to get our oil to market. It was supported by reams of first nations, cleared by the NEB, counselled by the government. Again, Liberal members from Alberta sat quietly. We have also seen Liberal members in committee for the report on ACOA after these changes, where the waiting time for a response was tripled without a regional minister. It is very clear that having the Minister of Innovation, great guy that he is, no doubt, representing Atlantic provinces, western diversification, northern Ontario, and Quebec is not working despite the government desperately trying to claim that a whole-of-government approach will fix things.
I was talking earlier about the bill, Bill C-24, being about nothing, and what we could have done with this time instead. I mentioned that the operations committee put through a very thorough study, with recommendations, on updating the whistle-blower act.
At committee, we heard horror stories of people's lives being destroyed when they came forward. We heard from Allan Cutler, famous of course for being the whistle-blower who led to the sponsorship scandal under the Chrétien and Paul Martin governments. He was basically run out of town for daring to bring to light that money was being taken from Canadian taxpayers and funnelled through sponsorship agencies to the Liberal government.
We heard of a gentleman, a contractor who was fixing bathrooms in a prison in British Columbia, who discovered asbestos. He brought it forward to the government and he was basically investigated by the government and had his contract taken away. He apparently has now been blacklisted by the government from working on any other jobs for it. This is a gentleman who came forward not only for the protection of his staff, but also the inmates and public workers in the prison. He has been blackballed, his life has been destroyed, and his company has been taken away.
We heard from a lady who worked in the foreign service about 20 years ago. She had brought to light the fact that hundreds of thousands of dollars was being spent in the foreign service. Even though we have perfectly good diplomatic housing, mansions almost, that money was taken away to spend on other apartments, which was a waste of money. Maybe if there were 10 of them we would have had enough to build another ice rink. This was half a million dollars, probably in 1980's dollars, that was wasted. When she brought this forward, the government fired her and destroyed her. It actually sued her for bringing to light government ineptness and corruption.
Therefore, it is very clear we need a strengthening of the whistle-blower act.
What did we end up with? We ended up with a unanimous report. We worked very close with the NDP and our Liberal colleagues. We put together a report. It was widely praised by the who is who of the whistleblowing community in Canada. Ian Bron, Allan Cutler, David Hutton, Joe Friday, the Integrity Commissioner, all stepped forward and said that this great work needed to be followed up.
Unfortunately, what happened was the Treasury Board president took the report and basically threw it in the trash. He sent us a response saying that he agreed with the opinion of the committee, the witnesses' disclosures, and I continue with my Seinfeld theme, yada yada yada, the usual stuff. Then he said that he would not follow up on any of the legislative items. Of the 25 recommendations we put through, I think 15 required legislative change, but the Treasury Board president did not want to do that. Instead, he is going to update a web page and ensure there is a bit more training for supervisors. All the stuff we currently have, which does not protect public servants, he is just going to do a bit more of.
This is interesting as well. He is going to have the head of HR for the Treasury Board follow up a lot more and be a bit more partisan. This same person from HR, who is theoretically the head of all HR for the public service, told us at committee that it was more important for her to protect ADMs and deputy ministers and not actual whistle-blowers. Therefore, we basically have the fox in charge of the hen house in this case.
I bring this up because it is an example of the items we could have looked at instead of Bill C-24. One of the Liberal colleagues at committee asked why we did not follow up with the whistle-blower act. We were told there was no legislative time. However, we have legislative time to look at a bill to codify issues that the government has been operating under for the last two years. We are spending time at committee studying it. We are at third reading today, rushing through things. to study the elimination of the minister for western diversification, which the government has been doing since day one anyway. Why are we wasting our time on a bill about nothing when we could be working on substantial legislation protecting whistle-blowers?
I am going to read a couple of comments from some of the whistle-blowers with respect to the actions of the Treasury Board president.
Allan Cutler, who was the whistle-blower behind the sponsorship scandal about money awarded to Liberal Party-linked ad firms to do no real work and then funnelled back into the Liberal Party, said:
The Committee and the vast majority of witnesses recommended changes. The decision to not take action is the decision to do nothing. It makes all the committee work and testimony meaningless. The question now should be asked, "Why did the government even undertake the review when it knew it would ignore the results?”
Why are we bothering with Bill C-24 when it is codifying stuff that the Liberals are already doing and does not need to be written law, but ignoring whistle-blowers?
The Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Joe Friday, commented, “I am disappointed that the Government response to the Committee’s report, tabled in Parliament on Monday, October 16th, proposed no legislative changes”. While he welcomed and supported any and all administrative and operational changes, he was, “disappointed that the opportunity was not taken to make formal legislative changes to improve the whistleblowing system at this time.”
Again, we have witnesses saying that this is important legislation, the gentleman who is s headed the Integrity Commission is saying that, yet the government does nothing. I am sure members on that side of the House are saying, yes, we understand Bill C-24 is a complete waste of time, not that there is anything wrong with that. However, there is a lot wrong with this. It is time that is taken away from proper legislation, such as trying to address issues of whistleblowing and other issues that the government passed by.
I am disappointed. I am sure Canadians who are looking for changes in the whistle-blower act are disappointed as well.