Mr. Speaker, the member knows quite well that it is not a valid point of order. Trying to attempt to change the topic is not going to stop me from telling the truth as to what actually took place. I know that the member across the way might be a little sore, because we remember that it was the leader of the Liberal Party back then that mandated that all Liberal MPs participate in proactive disclosure. As a party, we dedicated the resources to ensure that it would be the case.
A couple of months later, the Conservatives saw the light and agreed that because the Liberals were now doing it, maybe they should be doing it too. They succumbed to public pressure, or common sense, as we would like to think, and we had the Conservatives agree that they would buy into proactive disclosure. We were grateful at the time.
Our New Democratic friends, on the other hand, needed a little more persuasion. A number of months went by, and we introduced an opposition motion, which the government of the day supported. The Conservatives and the Liberals were onside. The NDP did not want to be the odd ones out, so its members supported it. We are grateful. Today we have proactive disclosure for members of Parliament. We saw that as a positive thing. Today the constituents we represent can, through the Internet, find out where or how much individual MPs are spending through proactive disclosure. Again, we see that as positive.
Bringing it forward to today, we are talking about an expansion of proactive disclosure. The leader of the Liberal Party back then suggested that we have proactive disclosure for MPs. It took a while, but eventually, opposition parties and the government of the day agreed, and we were able to implement it. Now we have the Prime Minister, through the minister, talking about expanding proactive disclosure.
There are a number of parliamentary groups that will have to participate in proactive disclosure: the Library of Parliament; the parliamentary budget officer; the Parliamentary Protection Service; the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner; the office of the Senate Ethics Officer; the administration of the House of Commons, including the Board of Internal Economy; the office of the Speaker of the House of Commons; the administration of the Senate, including the standing committee on internal economy; and the office of the Speaker of the Senate.
This would be legislated proactive disclosure for institutions that support Parliament.
When we think of the benefits of proactive disclosure, there is the natural benefit, the one that is the most visual of them all, and that is that people can now click into the Internet and garner information that was not there before. That is a direct benefit.
One of many indirect benefits would be that people would no longer have to put in a request, an ATIP. I would suggest that hundreds, if not thousands, of ATIPs would become redundant. They would not be necessary because of this legislation. I see that as a strong positive, because prior to our having proactive disclosure, when it came to members of Parliament, we had to ATIP the information. If we did not like the information, we could appeal it. It would take weeks, in some cases months, before we might get the answer.
Now what we see is a more all-encompassing approach to dealing with proactive disclosure. Why would the opposition not acknowledge that as a benefit, because that is something this legislation would do.
I started by talking about how important it is that we recognize the need for change. Liberals talked a lot about real change in the last election, and this is yet another piece of legislation that would implement real change. I highlighted one aspect and hope to highlight more, but I can say that this is the type of legislation that was meant when we talked about real change.
For example, the commissioner would now have order-making power for information. What does that mean? Today, the commissioner, on receiving an appeal and looking into a matter, might make the suggestion that the information should be made available, and that is the way it has been for decades. For the first time, we would now have legislation that would enable the commissioner to order that the information be released. There are all sorts of things that might have to be taken into consideration, which I will get back to in a moment, but that is an example of real change, in a micro way, in one piece of legislation that we have put forward. It is something that I would think opposition members would see as a very strong positive, and I question why they would not want to support it.
For well over 30 years, we have had ATIP legislation. This is the first time that there has been any real, substantial change to the legislation. Within two years of being in government, we have a cabinet and a caucus on this side of the House that is prepared to debate this legislation, ultimately send it to committee, and pass it, because we recognize there is a need to modernize and we are not scared to modernize legislation. When the opportunity is there, we are interested in doing that. This is something our Prime Minister talked about in the last election. He said that we want to modernize.
To modernize does not necessarily mean to say that it is absolutely 100% perfect. It is one of the reasons we have standing committees. However, I give full credit where full credit is due and I compliment the minister responsible for the hard work done thus far in presenting the legislation and my caucus colleagues for recognizing how important this legislation is. That is the reason the minister has the support to advance it even further.
We talked about the legislation sitting on our books for decades with no substantial change, no modernization. Now we mandate in the legislation that every four or five years it would be up for legislative review.
I have heard some concerns from across the way, to which there could be a lot of validity. I am not going to discredit the ideas in some of the comments made by my colleagues across the way, but I also recognize that there are two things one should take into consideration. One is that this government has demonstrated time and time again that if a member has done the research and the work and has come up with a good idea at committee stage, the committee has the ability to advance changes to the legislation. That is very important to highlight. When I sat in opposition, it was very rare. In fact, I do not think any opposition member actually got an amendment passed. The same cannot be said about this government. We recognize good ideas that can improve the legislation, and that is one aspect that members across the way might want to consider.
The other consideration is, of course, that every four or five years this legislation will come up for a legislative review. When we look at that, we realize that we have a government that is committed to the ongoing needs of modernizing this piece of legislation.
Why is this legislation so important to this government? I would argue that the primary reason is that the government believes in accountability. It believes in transparency. This is something that is not new, particularly to the Prime Minister. Virtually within days, if not weeks, of becoming the leader of the Liberal Party, he was advocating for more accountability on the types of issues we are debating with respect to this particular piece of legislation.
I hear the criticisms from across the way. I can assure members that when they look at the election platform, they will find within this legislation a genuine attempt to deliver on something that was important to all candidates, because these are the types of things that we talked about at the door. We wanted to ensure that there would be more accountability. However, that does not mean we are going to stop here. There are always opportunities going forward.
I will reinforce one of the things I made reference to in the past. I like it when I hear our Prime Minister talking about the importance of representing our constituents in our communities here in Ottawa, whether it is inside this chamber, in standing committees, or in our respective caucuses. On the Liberal benches, we take that quite seriously. At the end of the day, ideas and thoughts that are generated and talked about do, somehow, in some form, make others aware of what is happening in communities across the country.
I want to highlight one of the greatest strengths of this legislation. It is the order-making power for the Information Commissioner. I believe that is a significant aspect of the legislation. It gives the Information Commissioner the power to issue orders in relation to complaints under section 30 of the ATI Act, with the exception of some of the clauses.
Order-making power will not apply to self-initiated complaints under subsection 30(3). It provides the commissioner with the discretion to make orders in relation to disclosure of records after the commissioner has investigated a complaint and determined it was well founded. It provides that orders issued by the commissioner will not take effect for 30 days.
Members across the way have been asking about the Prime Minister's office and about influence within the Prime Minister's office. In terms of what the legislation is doing within the Prime Minister's office, it is important that we look at the requirements with respect to proactive disclosure, mandate letters, and revised mandate letters for the ministers. I really thought that was a fantastic initiative by our current Prime Minister.
When the Prime Minister first announced the cabinet and provided the mandate letters, it gave a clear sense of what all Canadians could expect of the Government of Canada's cabinet. I see that as a very strong positive. Now we would have briefing packages for incoming ministers, titles and tracking numbers of briefing notes for ministers, question period binders as prepared by the departments, and travel and hospitality expenses for ministers and exempt staff.
I am really happy with that. I can recall that during the proactive disclosure debate when I was in the third party, there was the idea that not only should we be having proactive disclosure for individual members but that it should be extended to include the cabinet of the Harper government.
There is so much more to talk about. I always appreciate the privilege of being able to rise and share a few thoughts.