Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Victoria.
“All-party co-operation” is what the Liberals call it. This is what happens to this bad piece of legislation, which the Information Commissioner said, unless it was fundamentally amended would be a regression in terms of access to information. That is what she said, so we tried to fundamentally amend it. Based upon what? It was not about the notions we came into the meetings with. It was from the testimony that we heard at the committee from the Information Commissioner, who is the lead on access to information in this country. It was from first nations groups, who are seeking settlement with the government over land treaties, residential school inquiries, with the government, by the way, still in court with first nations. It might be shocking, but the Liberal government is taking first nation kids to court, taking the generations that followed to court, to deny them access to documents that happened in residential schools. My friend can walk away from the conversation, but the reality will follow her right out of Parliament and into her home constituency in Vancouver.
I imagine that most of my Liberal colleagues came in with good intentions, wanting to open up government, wanting to make information more available to Canadians, because it is their information. They paid for it. When the Department of National Defence does something, when Indigenous Affairs does something, and they file some documents on it, the documents do not belong to the Government of Canada, they belong to the people of Canada. That is who paid for it, and that is what is required under law. However, there are tricks around providing that information.
My friend from the Liberals just said that we should celebrate because access to information now applies to the Prime Minister's Office and the minister's office. That, on the surface, would seem like a really good idea, and that is what the Liberals promised, but what is the reality? Can people write an access to information request to the Prime Minister's Office after Bill C-58 becomes law? No, they cannot. What will happen is that the Prime Minister's Office will self-disclose the information, such as mandate letters. They are going to make mandate letters mandatorily disclosed to Canadians. Well, let the angels sing on high and pop the champagne corks. Big deal. They break half of the promises in their mandate letters anyway, so making them public means exactly what? It is a mandate letter. We wanted access to how the Prime Minister's Office operates. That is what the current Prime Minister promised when he was not Prime Minister.
Now that he is Prime Minister, he does not want that access to information to apply to him. He wants it to apply to somebody else at some other time. We went through this. The Assembly of First Nations is meeting today, and they have an emergency resolution on the floor from the chiefs across this country to reject this piece of legislation. The Liberals love the notion and the symbolism and the gestures toward first nation people. Hand on heart, they say that no relationship is more important to them. Then, we find out when it comes to important things that native people care about, like getting access to information, who attended residential schools, who went through that brutality, and can they get the names from government, that they cannot, they have to take it to court. Will Bill C-58 make things worse or better? According to first nation groups who testified, it will make it worse as first nations seek to settle land claims. Oftentimes documents are needed to settle a land claim. Who has those documents? The crown has them. Will Bill C-58 make things worse or better? It will make them worse.
The Liberals talk about working collaboratively. They stood in the House and said they are going to work collaboratively with the opposition. We took them on their word. We took the information given to us from these expert witnesses, from people in the media who use access to information all the time, from first nations, from environmental advocates, from Democracy Watch, and we put them into amendments. What did the Liberals do? En masse, they voted one after another to shoot them all down. They said they worked with us, they collaborated with us, they co-operated with us. I have no idea how they define those terms, but my idea of collaboration and co-operation is to listen to expert testimony and then to properly consider it.
The Liberals moved some cosmetic amendments at the end of the process. I asked Liberal colleagues who were moving the amendments if they could explain them, because clearly they must understand what they were doing. However, they had to huddle, they had to get together, time and time again. This is a travesty. If we look through our history as a country since the access to information laws have existed, some of the most important stories in our country have only come to light because someone was able to apply an access to information request. The Prime Minister says again and again that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
The enormous power that the federal government has must be held in check. That is the way that democracy works, if it works at all. The way to hold government in check is to have information to counter, particularly when government is lying, misleading Canadians, misappropriating funds, or conducting itself in a way other than what it promised.
If we go back through our history, how did we learn about type 1 diabetics in Canada being rejected? That was an ATIP request. The government did not say it had changed policy, that people with type 1 diabetes will now not get their disability tax credits. No, it was an access to information request that found that Revenue Canada was going to describe that policy in a new way and go from accepting 90% of applicants to rejecting 90% of applicants who have type 1 diabetes. That was an access to information request.
Robyn Doolittle from The Globe and Mail gave an incredibly comprehensive analysis of sexual assaults in Canada, on what the situation is with under-reporting and reporting. How did she find that out? It was through access to information. With regard to the Afghan detainees, Canadians in Afghanistan, possibly contrary to international law, were transferring prisoners to the Afghan government. That was discovered through access to information. How did we find out about the sponsorship scandal, where millions and millions of dollars, which was purported to sponsor ads and promote Canada, was ending up in the pockets of Liberal political operatives in Quebec. How did we find that out? Did the government self-disclose and say, “By the way, we have been stealing millions of dollars”?