Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the discussion this afternoon. It has been interesting to listen as the debate goes back and forth on this issue. I want to approach the subject a little differently in my presentation, but I would like to make a few comments on the discussion that has taken place.
No one is disputing the good work that some of these foundations do. The question is, why could they not do just as good work under the full scrutiny and the full transparency of Parliament? I do not know why they have to be hidden, at least in the respect that they are not as transparent as the Auditor General says they should be.
I think this whole debate really started, not only because of the Auditor General's report, but because the budget is coming up tomorrow. A rumour is floating around that the government plans to set up yet another foundation to hide the $5 billion proposed to set up a national day care program because the minister has been unable to get anywhere near any consensus from the provinces on the issue, and rightly so.
Look at the record of the government on the last national day care program it set up. Canadians today are still paying a tremendous price for it . I speak of the residential school program, a national day care program set up by a Liberal government to do the right thing, to take children away from their parents at an early age to give them education. That was a truly a disaster. I suspect the current government's proposal for a national day care program will be just as big a disaster as the one of many years ago. Any time the government thinks it can do a better of job of raising children than parents can, then it is becoming too arrogant.
However, the whole issue of the foundations and the accountability of them is a huge issue. Over the last number of months I do not know how many times I heard members on the government side get up and tell us of the wonderful work of the sponsorship program, not unlike what we hear about the work of the foundations. We know what happened there. I do not think we could even begin to imagine the depth of corruption that the Gomery inquiry is uncovering.
I am not suggesting that this is going on in the foundations. However, in my view at least, it is a reason we should not take the government's word for its integrity and for its transparency because the evidence is different.
However, the issue that I want to touch on in the few minutes I have is another issue that the Auditor General raised in her report, which also is related to accountability. That is the issue of information technology security as it relates to privacy. There has not been a lot of discussion on that, yet it is a huge issue. It has the potential to cause major problems for the government and future governments if we do not pay attention to what the Auditor General has said and take action now.
As chair of the committee on ethics and privacy, I have heard a number of witnesses come forward, specifically the privacy commissioner, to express some real concerns about information technology security.
The media reported that in preparation of her report the Auditor General's staff actually was able to hack into government computer programs and extract information from them. That should scare everybody, particularly when in the House a few years ago the issue of the million dollar boondoggle in Human Resources Development Canada revealed the extent to which the government was collecting information on Canadians and storing it in government databases. To find out in the Auditor General's report how vulnerable that information is to those who would steal it and use it for other purposes should be frightening to all Canadians.
The new Privacy Commissioner has some good ideas on how we should deal with that. However, she is still in the process of straightening out an awful mess in the Privacy Commissioner's office, left over from the previous privacy commissioner who seemed to focus more on his lavish lifestyle than he did on his responsibilities of protecting Canadian security. I do not think that is not the case now.
The reality is we are slow getting off the mark in addressing some of these issues. It is hard and very expensive for the government and agencies of government to find the expertise to deal with this issue and to provide protection.
I did not want us to miss that part of the Auditor General's report where she raised a red flag. It is not the first time the Auditor General has raised it. When we look in the private sector, we see what is happening with information technology. Of course everybody has been listening to the terrible situation the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has with its IT information and lack of security.
In this age of high tech spying, Canadians should be concerned with the miniaturization of the technology such as cell phone cameras and all kinds of tracking devices. The protection of our privacy, particularly our privacy as it relates to the information that government collects and holds on us, is a huge issue and one to which we want to pay attention.
I know it is a little off the topic of the foundations and the right of the Auditor General to investigate those. However, it was part of the Auditor General's report and it is relevant in a sense, certainly to the transparency and security of government.
I would urge the government to consider supporting the motion before us. I think Canadians everywhere have lost confidence in the government's honesty and integrity in reporting what is going on and how it is spending our money. We are talking about huge sums of money in these foundations. There are rumours about increasing the amount of money out of the purview of government. The motion is a valid motion and one that all members of the House should be willing to support, and I hope they will.