Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the privilege of being able to respond to the proposal by the government to put into legislation something which it has already done, that is to amalgamate the Department of Supply and Services, the Department of Public Works, the Government Telecommunications Agency and the Translation Bureau into one new department, the Department of Public Works and Government Services Canada.
Before I comment on the actual legislation before us, I cannot help but note that things are being done in backward order. The thing is already done. The decision has been made and implemented and it will not be reversed. We are now discussing it and soon we will be voting to formalize a decision already made.
I wonder if I am the only one who notices illogical things like this. The same thing was done on the question of the military. With much fanfare the government cancelled the helicopter contracts. With great flair it announced the closure of a number of military bases and moving them around. Then a military review was announced and the work started on thinking about what should be done. After some time the committee will announce its findings and we will probably discuss the report, but the actions have already been taken at huge expense. There will be even greater expense if it becomes apparent that some of these decisions need to be reversed.
We have had exactly the same thing in the last few days in the post office. We knew in June that the post office applied for an increase in first class postal rates to 45 cents. Ironically the government proceeded to do the work. The stamps were printed and distributed. Now we see cabinet deciding whether or not to actually do it. Meanwhile the taxpayers have spent the money.
No real business that has any hope of surviving can operate in this way. We need to do our analysis first and include in that analysis the most cost effective way of making changes. Why is it that government can waste billions of dollars simply by terribly poor planning and by taking hasty actions that are not well thought through? Billions of dollars are forcibly removed from citizens by the bully of taxation.
I need to get on with the main topic of my speech but I cannot forget the Pearson airport deal. Is it not another example? If the former government had not been in such a big hurry to sign contracts without having covered all the facts of the situation first, we would not be in the mess we are in now with that deal. I find it appalling that the government is now ramming through a bill respecting that deal which will hide payments made at the discretion of the minister from parliamentary or public scrutiny.
I need to turn the corner and talk about Bill C-52. After what I have just said members may be surprised to note that in general I am in favour of the legislation. In general I support the move toward downsizing, but the plan needs to be well thought out. A number of issues need to be tackled. They must be done in the right order.
In analysing the situation one should really ask the following questions: First, what public service, what actual work, what functions do we want the department to perform? Second, in order to achieve what we want the department to do, how can we best organize it so that it can perform those functions with the greatest efficiency?
The amalgamation proposed in Bill C-52 is positive in the sense that it will result in the reduction of overlapping duties and functions. It should reduce overall costs, though that remains to be seen. There will be a reduction of overhead costs. Hopefully the new department will be able to deliver the services specified in a timely and efficient manner.
Another efficiency will be achieved by combining the annual report and the estimates. It will make it possible for managers, and indeed members of the House, to make decisions more effectively and more quickly on whether or not an expenditure is being controlled by looking at the consolidated statements.
There are two broad principles governments should use. The principles have been given to us by the people. The Reform Party is articulating the principles on behalf of citizens who have not been heard by governments of the past 20 to 40 years. The first principle is that governments, civil servants, politicians and political parties exist to serve the people. They should demonstrate this service at all times.
I cannot help but interrupt my speech again to draw the attention of the House to a great misunderstanding concerning the Reform Party. Several days ago the hon. member for Saskatoon-Humboldt gave a rather cute member's statement in which she echoed the misinformation broadcast by our sometimes untrustworthy CBC. She implied that members of the Reform Party were somehow herded along by the leadership of the party. The facts are that the leadership of the party and
Reform MPs are driven by the grassroots. Ordinary citizens are finding that their voices are being heard by us. Party policies in our party are initiated by the members and the party leadership acts as a clearing house to expedite debate and decisions at our assembly.
Yes, we believe in service. That is the first principle that should pervade all levels of government. It is government of the people, for the people, by the people. If we could do a 180 degree turn in how governments operate compared to the past and the present, perhaps that would be the single most important move in restoring the faith of the people in the governments they elect.
The second principle is that public money should be regarded by governments as funds in trust and governments should practise fiscal responsibility. In particular, they should exercise the responsibility of balancing expenditures and revenues. There are not many issues that upset my constituents more than the issue of the burgeoning debt.
If we were a board of directors of a public company the shareholders would fire us. We are spending 20 per cent more every year than we take in. We are headed for financial disaster and for bankruptcy. Yes, the shareholders of a company would fire the board of directors if that was how they carried on.
Indeed, this is what the Canadian people have begun to do. They are totally fed up with the flagrant waste of their money by governments of the last 20 or 30 years. Beginning in the west there is a massive sweep of support for Reform because we are promising to balance the budget. We just cannot go on the way we are. In some form or another, if not now then in the very near future we will have to pay the bills that we have run up.
The most unfair transfer of responsibility in this country is the intergenerational transfer of debt. We are spending our children's inheritance. From our graves we will have to apologize to them for giving them the inheritance of such huge financial indebtedness that they will not be able to enjoy anything near the standard of living that we have stolen from them. I am embarrassed to be a member of this generation, leaving my children a legacy of profligate overspending, exercising no discipline in how we handle our affairs.
In speaking to Bill C-52 I believe that we are beginning to move in the right direction on these principles. I want to show my support and commitment to the principles by helping to hold this government accountable for the steps it is taking. I want to assume that the motives of the government are honourable. I want to assume that it really means it when it says it wants to do better.
I suppose it is almost impossible to do worse than the government that was defeated last fall. But there is always the danger that the frail ship can be blown off course. We will be there to help and to remind the government to abide by these principles.
The principle of service to the public should be demonstrated by the way that business processes are developed and implemented. It should be evident in the way that public property is managed, particularly office and warehouse space. It should be evident in the way bidding and procurement procedures are developed and implemented. It should be evident in the way technology will be utilized to increase effectiveness and efficiency. Most of all, it should be evident in the way we and all civil servants meet the people, the way we talk to them and the way we serve them. There should never be an attitude of condescension but always an attitude of helpfulness and service.
I would add that we should also always have an attitude of total honesty and openness, whether it is procurement or whether it is talking about the way government influences public policy. There should be total openness. It is the people's business. The people have the right to know everything.
With respect to the second principle I mentioned, the one of sound fiscal management and wise use of the limited financial resources available, I need to emphasize it is my opinion that we are not doing enough here in this bill.
It is insufficient to merely shuffle the deck to bring together two or three departments here and two or three there. It is not sufficient to merely reorganize the management tree. We need to look very seriously at the functions of government. We need to re-examine many things government is doing that is not supported by the people. There need to be some cuts. Some departments need to be eliminated because there is no longer a need or a demand for the functions they provide.
Can this be done? Would it be possible for us to discuss this in a meaningful, non-emotional way so that we could brainstorm our way to some positive solutions?
I can think of a number of examples in which we are not serving the people well with regard to monetary stewardship. I think of the $60 million taken out of the accountability loop by the antics of the CCG. I think of the ongoing construction of a national GST processing centre in Prince Edward Island at the same time as this government is promising to eliminate the GST.
I am thinking of some extravagant offices and some unacceptable vacancy rates. I am thinking of moneys to crown corporations and special operating agencies and the way some of them are operating without full accountability. I am thinking even of the fact that the collection of hundreds and hundreds of smaller
savings could save millions of dollars for the Canadiantaxpayer.
Departmental contracting value for last year was in the order of $7.8 billion. The handling of this large amount of tax dollars must be treated with great respect. We need to assure the public that everything is done out in the open with full disclosure of who is getting what and how much they are getting.
I wish to conclude by saying that I am personally committed to doing my share in influencing the way the government does its business. I want the people of Canada to know that in the Reform Party and hopefully among the other members of this House there are individuals who are deeply committed to doing this thing right. We want to treat the people with the respect they deserve. We want to stop overtaxing them. We want to serve them and we want to be good stewards of the money that they entrust to us.
I believe that the Canadian public is becoming more and more disillusioned with the concept that the government has to do everything for everyone. There are more and more people who simply want the government to back off and give them some freedom to make their own choices and manage their own affairs. They want government to do just the minimal things that it is not possible for them to do by themselves.
The days of thinking that nothing will get done unless the government controls and subsidizes or pays for it are over. The days are ending when everyone can use the government as a means of confiscating the dwindling available earnings of the average person to spend at will on whatever project seems to meet their fancy.
Henry Samtrooke said it well when he referred to the rapturous, wild and ineffable pleasure of drinking at somebody else's expense. In giving support in principle to Bill C-52, I hope that we are beginning to move in the right direction. We will be waiting with great interest to observe that this government takes it all the way. We want to see that the deficits are stopped before its too late.