Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to again congratulate my colleague from Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier on the appropriateness of the motion he is putting forward today, given the way this government is evolving.
For the benefit of those listening to us, I will read the motion, which states:
That, in the opinion of this House, government appointments of ambassadors, consuls general and heads of regulatory bodies and Crown corporations should automatically be referred to the appropriate committee of the House of Commons for consideration, and that the relevant Standing Orders of the House of Commons should be amended accordingly.
I will point out that there are 3,500 such appointments, virtually arbitrary appointments, by the Prime Minister and his apparatchiks, in this fine democracy that is Canadian democracy. I would, however, like to focus my speech particularly on a number of heads of Crown corporations and agencies that are of great importance, both the agency and the individual. I am thinking particularly of Jean Pelletier.
Jean Pelletier is a former mayor of Quebec City, a man of strong personality and a former executive assistant to the Prime Minister. He certainly has the right high profile to head up VIA Rail; we have no doubts about his competence, but no one has ever had to prove it, even though it is obvious. Without challenging the individual himself, we do want to focus on the appointment process.
The same goes for André Ouellet, a nice young man. I spoke with him again last month, on a very sensitive issue, because it is not always very clear with Canada Post. However, he is very skilled with people, this is part of his abilities. He is a former Liberal minister. Apart from the fact that he was a Liberal minister, nothing proves his expertise. Once again, the PMO decided that, from now on, André Ouellet would act as president of Canada Post.
It is possible to make several dozen appointments like this. In my opinion, on many aspects, and we will try to demonstrate this in the few minutes that we have here, Canada is a fine, modern and sophisticated banana republic that knows how to present things, how to do things on a large scale so they do not show too much. However, they end up showing.
It is a little bit like Mexico. The PRI, that is, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, has been in power for 73 years, probably because it appointed a good number of friends. Over the years, the number of friends adds up, especially with friends of friends. As long as the people do not protest, the PRI remains there. However, when citizens get upset, they kick it out as was the case recently. The PRI had been in power for 73 consecutive years.
In the case of the Liberal Party of Canada, it is 69 years—that is close to the PRI—69 years during the last century. That means that a lot of friends were appointed. That means that, between 1900 and 2000, particularly the latter part from the 1960s on with Trudeau, Turner and the present member for Saint-Maurice, many friends of the Liberals were appointed. We saw it in Shawinigan, and we see it everywhere, from coast to coast. Often times, it is for political reasons. Their skills are not taken into account; they are irrelevant. It is the whole appointment process that comes into question.
What I find irritating is the appointment of directors of Crown corporations, as well as of returning officers. This concerns us all, from coast to coast.
The chief electoral officer of Canada has been denouncing this situation publicly for a long time, saying that he should the one who appoints these people as part of an appointment process that would be as unarbitrary as possible. We need not look far; we have only to follow Quebec's example. The member for Beauharnois—Quebec spoke a little while ago about Quebec. We can talk about Quebec.
Where the appointment of returning officers is concerned, Quebec is a model. Of course, let us face it, nothing is perfect in this world of ours, but we should set benchmarks to ensure some kind of neutrality, if we want a non-partisan and objective appointment process. As things now stand, if you are not a Liberal, you do not stand a chance of being appointed as a returning officer, which means that the democratic process has been tainted.
Personal acquaintances can sometimes be blamed when mistakes are made. How many friends does a returning officer have in the Liberal Party who have some influence over the election process? To whom would they naturally turn to?
Let us say that funds were misappropriated or there was an attitude problem and a complaint was filed. At present, the chief electoral officer cannot fire a returning officer, because he did not hire him. It has happened. The chief electoral officer cannot fire someone he did not hire.
The chief electoral officer plays a key role in making this great big country a democratic country. He has a key role that is being tarnished because of the lack of an objective, unbiased and professional process for appointing returning officers.
Therefore, we do not have a democracy. I talk about a banana republic, and that comparison can take us very far. A banana republic is a country that hates referendums and that will have nothing to do with the kind of democracy we have in Quebec democracy, where we are constantly wondering if a referendum should not be held.
No referendum was held on the Confederation, in 1867; no referendum was held on the patriation of the Constitution, in 1982; no referendum was held on the social union agreement, in 1999.
There was never any referendum to deny the existence of the Quebec people. Aboriginals are recognized in this great big country, but not the Quebec people, which is not even recognized as a distinct society. Everyone knows that it is an empty shell. There never was a referendum. The public was not consulted, except on a few occasions.
We did it and were rebuffed every time. It sure does not make us enthusiastic. We were rebuffed at the time of the Constitution and we were rebuffed again in 1992, when English Canada said no and Quebeckers said no, but for fundamentally different reasons. However, everyone said no to the policy designed here in Ottawa. So, this is a strange model of democracy.
I personally saw, from another angle, just how serious it is when people talk about banana republics. You will recall, Mr. Speaker—you were no doubt here—the debate on family trusts, when Mr. Desautels, the Auditor General at the time, had the courage to criticize this government's attitude in siding with a big Canadian family at the expense of the poor, which cost the Canadian tax system some $400 million to $700 million. What happened?
At the time, I was a member of the Standing Committee on Finance. Bay Street came to Parliament Hill. The great manipulators, the great taxation strategists were denounced by the Auditor General. The folks from Bay Street, the professional accountants came to Ottawa to reproach the Auditor General for having discovered their secret; they told him that he had violated one of the great principles of Canadian taxation, the secret, since it was possible to identify a person or family with the information that he had made public.
Instead of congratulating the Auditor General, we in this sophisticated banana republic of ours, shunned him, starting with the chair at the time, who is still a member today, who attacked him as chair, refusing to let any of his Liberal colleagues ask questions, using his background in finance as an excuse. He asked excessively detailed questions to the Auditor General, from his most recent positions on the taxation system to make him look bad, in an attempt to discredit the Auditor General.
I remember this as though it were yesterday, because that is how it was, and this exemplifies this nice, modern banana republic we live in. Those were very dark days, in my opinion, for the pretentious image of democracy that this country reflects, particularly abroad, in using Quebec, in trying to pass Canada off as a bilingual and binational country, when in fact we know quite well, as I said earlier, that in reality, the Quebec people is not recognized within Canada.