And the Commissioner of Official Languages, as one of my colleagues pointed out.
There is another aspect of the bill that I find most fascinating and which I would also like to draw the attention of the House to. It goes back to section 72.06 that describes public office holders. Basically what this section does is it deals with the reach of the ethics commissioner in probing and monitoring the conduct of public office holders. That has to be married in the bill with another section that gives the opportunity to members of Parliament to submit a request to the ethics commissioner to investigate public officer holders and those listed under section 72.06.
Well, lo and behold, as we look down through here we see minister of the Crown, various public servants, a lieutenant governor, officers and staff of the Senate and so forth. What we find is included in those individuals whose behaviour is to be monitored by the ethics commissioner is a judge who receives a salary under the Judges Act. I think this is an enormous forward step because we do know that the judiciary has been almost completely exempt from any kind of scrutiny, other than that done in camera essentially by the judicial council.
While we have anecdotal information from time to time that judges under the Judges Act may not be conducting themselves with the kind of probity and good behaviour that we would expect of any public office holder, as far as I know other than the judicial council there is no way to bring that type of behaviour to account. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, I have had complaints in my constituency office about the behaviour of judges before the court who, at least according to the people who have made the complaint, have not done due diligence on the files before them or have behaved in some manner that would ordinarily cast some, shall we say, concern about the conduct and the even-handedness or the competence, shall we say, with which these judges have been handling the cases before them.
The difficulty is that when we get a complaint like that from a constituent, under the law now there is nothing we can do about it, other than write to the judicial council and of course we never hear back. The joy of this legislation is that now that we have the judges under the purview of the ethics commissioner, a member of Parliament responding to a complaint from a constituent, or responding I would hope to several complaints from constituents because we would not want to make this a trivial thing, can actually take it to the ethics commissioner and ask him to investigate and report.
I would say that this is an enormous forward step because one of the unfortunate things particularly as we have debated other issues pertaining to the judiciary in the House in this last little while, the reality is that there has been little movement in a century toward modernizing the judiciary, making it transparent in the same way as other government institutions have been moving forward in that fashion.
Finally, I would like to emphasize for those who may be watching this debate that Bill C-34, while it does bring parliamentarians and members of the Senate under the purview of the ethics commissioner, it still leaves latitude to members of the House of Commons, and members of the Senate because there is the creation of a Senate ethics commissioner as well, but it does still give the power of members of the House and members of the other place the opportunity to draw up some kind of code of conduct that reflects adequately the way in which we want to be seen by the public and the way in which, even more importantly, we want to see ourselves.
I think it is important, at least at this stage, that we have legislation that respects the need for MPs and senators to be masters in their own houses and to set rules of behaviour. These rules of behaviour will be overseen by the ethics commissioner who will report to a committee of the House.
I think we still have the next step to go. That next step is to set some kind of series of benchmarks that the public can understand with respect to the behaviour of members of Parliament.
Finally, I should add that a very important aspect of the bill is the creation of a Senate ethics commissioner. The senators live in a slightly different world than elected representatives in the sense that they are appointed. The reality is if members of Parliament deport themselves in a manner that is reprehensible, the voters know exactly what to do with them and they can be voted out of office.
This is not the case for senators because they are of course appointed for life, up until the age of 75. Nevertheless it is very important that they have a set of rules that they can create themselves. Right now the rules that govern the behaviour of senators, particularly the possibility of a conflict of interest, are antiquated. They are in the Parliament of Canada Act. They need to be overhauled.
I am confident that when a Senate ethics commissioner is appointed, with the agreement of the Senate we will see a series of rules set up by my colleagues in the other place that will ensure that there will be great confidence in the integrity of the Senate and as much confidence in the integrity of the Senate as I like to think there is in members of the House.