Mr. Speaker, it goes without saying that Statistics Canada is recognized throughout the world as a first-class example of how important it is to draw in information to make good, solid policy decisions. That applies whether it is the government or the private sector. That is what StatsCan is all about. This is not new for us in the Liberal Party. We have consistently argued that Statistics Canada is absolutely critical from a policy point of view.
If I may, I will start off my comments by complimenting all those individuals who work at Statistics Canada. The work they do is second to no other. That is one of the reasons many other countries around the world look to Canada and Statistics Canada and want to know how Statistics Canada has been so effective in collecting the information needed to make decisions.
I found it most interesting when the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan was talking about science-based decisions. He used a number of examples. I could not help but reflect on one of the moves of the former prime minister in 2010. The government of the day, under Stephen Harper, decided to get rid of the mandatory long-form census. The immediate response was amazing. It was immediate and severe, but the Conservative Party was determined, whether it made sense or not, no matter what the different stakeholders had to say, to move forward on getting rid of the mandatory long-form census. It was at a huge cost.
I was quite disappointed, along with members of the Liberal Party, the many different stakeholders, scientists, and individuals working at Statistics Canada. In fact, the chief statistician resigned over that issue, from what I understand. It was surprising, given how important those numbers are.
Let me cite a couple of examples. The member who spoke earlier talked about the private sector. The private sector very much relies on information it receives from Statistics Canada to make decisions on the direction a business might be going. It is very dependant on getting the correct numbers.
The type of information that can be drawn out through Statistics Canada is amazing. I would encourage members, and the public, to look at some of the things that come out of Statistics Canada. The most obvious are things like employment rates and population. I often will turn to Statistics Canada to talk about Canada's population. It is just over 36 million. In the province of Manitoba, it is 1.3 million. In the metropolitan Winnipeg area it is just over 700,000. Using Statistics Canada, we can see where the growth is actually taking place. I like to be able to talk to my constituents about that.
Housing statistics from Statistics Canada are often debated, whether among individuals within our own caucus making representation or by representatives lobbying the government.
The province of Manitoba has been a have-not province for many years, unfortunately. I would like to see that turn around. It cannot be quick enough. One of the equalizing factors in Canada is the equalization transfer payment for health care and social services. We are talking about billions of dollars transferred from Ottawa to the provincial and territorial jurisdictions. Those transfers are based on statistical information that is often provided by Statistics Canada.
For example, Manitoba spends well over $12 billion on health care alone. A good portion of that money comes from Ottawa to support the provincial department of health in the decisions it makes to administer the Canada Health Act and ensure that Canadians get the services they expect, whether they be emergency services, palliative care, or mental health services. We have talked in this place a great deal about hospice care. There are so many needs within the health care system. It is absolutely critical that the federal government continue to contribute health care dollars to our province.
To get the numbers right, we need to have a good understanding of the demographics in our communities. Without that level of accuracy, some provinces might not be given as much as they should to provide the same relative health care delivery as neighbouring provinces.
There are some provinces that have more wealth than other provinces because they have exports of oil or manufactured products. For many years, Ontario and Alberta contributed to the equalization fund. Provinces such as Nova Scotia and Manitoba have depended on receiving money. If they do not get the dollars they need, they cannot provide the health care Canadians expect.
In transferring billions of dollars to the provinces in one form or another, we need to understand the demographics, the social conditions, and the economic conditions of each province and territory.
To make decisions, we need to have good numbers, and that is what this legislation is really all about. Bill C-36 is about providing a stronger sense of independence to Statistics Canada.
There are four areas on which I would like to provide some comment with respect to Bill C-36. One is that we would reinforce that Statistics Canada needs to be more independent.
There are several things being incorporated in the legislation that would allow Statistics Canada to have that independence. One is statistical procedures, methods, and professional standards employed for the production of statistics. Currently, a lot of that is done directly through the ministry. It is not necessarily the chief statistician who is ultimately responsible. In essence, we would provide the chief statistician greater responsibility, thereby giving more independence. We see that as a very strong benefit, and long overdue.
One thing I love about the Internet is that there is so much information at our fingertips, but I would suggest that there are very few websites as reliable as Statistics Canada's. Releasing published information by downloading it onto the Internet at the appropriate time helps facilitate basic information. It also indicates to others who might have an interest in getting more detailed information that they can do so through Stats Canada.
The chief statistician and Stats Canada would have greater independence in the timing and method of the dissemination of compiled statistics. It is also important that we give more responsibility, through the legislation, to the operations and staff of Statistics Canada. If we look at the legislation from that perspective, Statistics Canada would have more independence.
I asked a member of the New Democratic Party what position the party was taking. I am pleased to hear that it is supporting the legislation. As for the criticisms the member made of the legislation, there is always room to improve the system. We can always make things better, and Liberals take that very seriously. Many of the ideas that have been raised will continue to be discussed. Hopefully, at some point in the future, there may be an opportunity to revisit the issue. The current suggestions, I believe, as the member opposite indicated, are worthy of support.
We are trying to increase transparency around decisions and directives, and not only for Statistics Canada. Minister after minister and individual members on the Liberal benches have talked about the importance of transparency and accountability, because we understand that it is what Canadians want of government. We want to pass this legislation to assure Canadians that we will provide more transparency and better decisions.
We would appoint the chief statistician for fixed renewable terms of five years, with removal only for cause by the Governor in Council.
We believe that this approach will provide greater confidence and comfort around the position of chief statistician. We will know that the work is being done as Canadians expect, and the opportunity to be appointed and to retain the position will be improved.
Along the same lines of creating independence for Statistics Canada, we are creating the Canadian statistics advisory council. I believe that is a wonderful move by the government. I understand the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan was very critical of that aspect and made reference to Liberals being appointed to this council, but one of the things that differentiates the Harper government from this government is the manner in which appointments are being made.
The system that we have put in place represents real change from the way the Harper government made appointments. There the prime minister and the government decided who they wanted to appoint, and it had very little to do with merit and ability. People found out about it well after the fact. There was no genuine attempt to advertise or to open up the process.
In contrast, today one can do a Google search on the appointment process. There is a website for appointments, and Canadians should know that the appointments that are made today are advertised. All Canadians are welcome to apply. We believe this is extremely important. We have seen an overwhelmingly positive response to the invitation for all Canadians to get involved and get engaged in the many appointments that the federal government makes.
It has been encouraging to see not dozens or hundreds but thousands of Canadians in all regions not only understanding the difference between this government and the former government on appointments, but going beyond that by expressing their interest in becoming a part of the appointments process by applying for many of the positions that are being put forward.
The opposition will say it is Liberals. People are not excluded because they happen to be a Liberal, but Kim Campbell, who received an appointment, was not a Liberal. She was the Conservative prime minister of Canada. The appointments that have been taking place have been made in a fashion that clearly demonstrates that they are based on merit.
Diversity is also important. Earlier today I talked about the importance of diversity in our 200,000-plus corporations and the important role government plays to encourage that diversity. We have a Prime Minister who has initiated a new process to ensure that we get that diversification, and it has been working.
One statistic I recall is that of around 160 government appointments, 60% were female. The number of visible minorities who have been appointed has dramatically increased, so I have no problem in doing a comparison of our process of appointments with others.
However, at the core is the importance of having Statistics Canada being more independent, more at arm's length.
There are three other points in the legislation that I wanted to highlight, but my time has already expired. I hope to be able to expand on those other points in questions and comments.