Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the House to the parallel between Bill C-65, which was previously before the House, and Bill C-49.
As the official opposition critic for the Treasury Board and Public Service Renewal, I would like to remind the House that Bill C-65, which was an Act to reorganize and dissolve certain federal agencies, was first introduced on December 14, 1995, and that Bill C-49, debated in the House of Commons in October 1996, deals with administrative tribunals and aims at reorganizing and dissolving certain federal agencies.
Members will remember that Bill C-65 was supposed to change and reorganize 15 federal agencies and dissolve 7 others. The expected changes were to lead to the abolition of 150 governor in council appointments and savings of $1 million, but the federal debt keeps increasing by more that $100 million every day. Bill C-65 was expected to reduce patronage and the waste of public funds; however, as reports published in the Globe and Mail on July 8 and December 21, 1994 indicated, under the Liberal government, political appointments were as rampant as ever.
The savings resulting from the minister's bill, Bill C-65, represented only one-eighteenth of one per cent of the savings associated with the 45,000 public service positions that were abolished.
Why would the minister be interested in reorganizing and dissolving certain federal agencies to realize savings of $1 million a year which have a minor impact on the federal budget compared to the savings associated with cutting 45,000 jobs?
In some cases, eliminating any legal reference to advisory boards in order to reduce the number of political appointments and giving lower levels of authority the liberty to decide if such advisory boards are necessary leave some doubt as to the Liberal goverment's commitment to administrative transparency.
In the case of Bill C-65, which was aimed at eliminating any reference, for example, to the National Library Advisory Board, it seemed that the director of the National Library had every intention of keeping a similar board with more or less the same members. This is just an example. In the case of Bill C-65, there were no savings and a little more power to the director of the Library. Will the House of Commons have the right to examine appointments to such advisory boards, which in fact will no longer be legally constituted? How about administrative transparency in a case like this?
That was Bill C-65, an omnibus bill that created the illusion of transparency and deprived the government of the right to examine appointments to advosory boards which will no longer have legal status. Under the cover of administrative rationalization, this bill reduced the power of Parliament and opened the door to an even greater number of patronage appointments, something the Liberals are very good at.
Coming back to the bill before us today, we can draw a parallel with Bill C-65 which dates back to 1994. Bill C-49, regarding which an amendment has been proposed today, brings major changes to the way administrative tribunals operate.
We are told its purpose is to standardize the disciplinary process in administrative tribunals as well as the procedure for appointing the heads of these tribunals, to dissolve seven federal agencies and restructure or decrease the size of thirteen others, and to standardize pay terminology and make a number of other amendments.
Bill C-49 could have resolved the fundamental problem of partisan appointments to administrative tribunals. Instead, the federal government chose to return to a not-so-glorious past in this regard, rather than modernize the entire appointment process, as the Government of Quebec is getting ready to do.
At a time when the public is so cynical about politicians, the President of the Treasury Board of Canada has introduced even more partisan procedures that will give political authorities increased control over administrative tribunals.
The bill establishes a new mechanism to remove from office people appointed to administrative tribunals by the governor in council. This is in clause 3 of the bill. Also, after certain procedures, the governor in council will have the power to remove these people from office for cause, as specified in the bill.
Only after receiving an inquiry report will the minister have the power to make a recommendation to "suspend the member without pay, remove the member from office or impose any other disciplinary measure or any remedial measure". This is in clause 14 of the bill. The minister's recommendations are entirely at his discretion, regardless of the content of the inquiry report.
All chairpersons of administrative tribunals will henceforth be designated instead of appointed. Such an amendment leaves the chairperson very vulnerable to political pressure from the government, which can simply designate a new chairperson as it sees fit. There is a danger that these new measures will further undermine the credibility of administrative tribunals and in particular leave them even more dependent on the political arm.
It is unacceptable to introduce measures that are such a serious attack on the independence and impartiality of administrative tribunals. It truly runs counter to the transparency the public wants from a modern and progressive government.
The two bills I have compared today, Bill C-65 and Bill C-49, dealt successively with the reorganization of certain federal agencies and of administrative tribunals, but the anticipated annual savings of one million dollars in the first case and a reduced right of review by Parliament and an increase in partisan appointments in the second leave us with the impression of another promise not kept by this government.
I would therefore like to take this opportunity to support the amendment put forward today by the member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, and seconded by the member for Frontenac, which reads as follows:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after "That" and substituting the following: "Bill C-49, an act to authorize remedial and disciplinary measures in relation to members of certain administrative tribunals, to reorganize and dissolve certain federal agencies and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be not now read a second time, but that it be read a second time six months hence".