Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak on the subject of government advertising. I am proud to say that I am quite pleased with our government's accountability, responsibility, and transparency.
Let me just say that one of the main issues before us today is whether Bill C-544 would bring more accountability to our system of government. Making government more accountable and responsible to Canadians is a goal that we can all get behind, but it is not clear whether this bill would lead us in that direction. It includes new financial resources and administrative requirements that would not provide value for money for the taxpayer. As such, the government cannot support this legislation, and I urge all members to vote against it.
What is clear is that we already have a number of safeguards in place to ensure the integrity of advertising, which include robust planning and reporting mechanisms. Through the “Annual Report on Government of Canada Advertising Activities”, for example, we provide a summary of major campaigns, expenditures, and general information on the advertising and management process. This important accountability report is posted publicly for all Canadians to see. In addition, all allocations from the central advertising fund are reported quarterly on the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's website.
We also ensure the integrity of advertising by ensuring that it is well coordinated and transparent. For example, a federal department must co-ordinate its advertising with the Privy Council Office and Public Works and Government Services Canada. As required by the procedures for the management of advertising, departments must align their advertising activities with government priorities, themes, and messages.
The government takes this duty to account for its activities and expenditures very seriously. We are intent on ensuring that every taxpayer dollar that we spend is spent wisely and openly.
I firmly believe that our actions speak for themselves. Indeed, over the past few years, the government has undertaken a number of measures to help strengthen accountability, transparency, and oversight in government operations. These measures include the development of a robust regime of a proactive disclosure of information on government operations by departments and agencies, which allows government and public sector officials to be held to account.
Another very important milestone was the implementation of the Federal Accountability Act of 2006 and its companion action plan. Through the Federal Accountability Act and action plan, we implemented numerous measures to make our public institutions more transparent and accountable. Together, these two documents provide assurance that the powers entrusted to the government are being exercised in the public interest.
The Federal Accountability Act includes a number of measures, but let me just focus on a few today.
Through the act, for example, we created a new standard of accountability for the financing of political activities. We did that by reducing the maximum annual contribution by individuals to political entities and by prohibiting unions and corporations from making political contributions. We also banned secret donations to political candidates by prohibiting electoral district associations and parties from transferring money to their candidates from a trust account.
We also strengthened the Access to Information Act by extending its reach and scope. As a result, more government institutions than ever before are subject to the act, including departments and agencies, crown corporations, and wholly owned subsidiaries.
We also strengthened the role of the Auditor General of Canada. Thanks to the Federal Accountability Act, the Auditor General now has the authority to follow the money by inquiring into the use of funds that individuals, institutions, and companies receive under a funding agreement with any federal department, agency, or crown corporation. This change has strengthened the role of the Auditor General as an independent and reliable source of information. It also helped to reassure Canadians that their government is using their tax dollars wisely.
In addition, under the act we strengthened auditing and accountability within departments by clarifying the managerial responsibilities of deputy heads within the framework of ministerial responsibility and by bolstering the internal audit function within departments and crown corporations.
In short, we have strengthened accountability in every corner of government and for all Canadians and businesses that receive government funding.
Canadians work hard, pay their taxes, and play by the rules, and they expect accountability and transparency from their government. This is why we continue to pursue opportunities and support efforts that promise to make our public institutions more transparent and accountable. This includes ensuring that Parliament and Canadians are better informed about public spending.
We have achieved this by improving financial reporting, which has admittedly changed significantly in recent years.
For example, each department and agency now publishes its own annual financial statement on the full nature and extent of its activities. This innovation has been in place since 2006, and it is one of the key ways the government demonstrates accountability for its use of public funds.
It has also contributed to Canada's leadership in financial reporting. Indeed, very few jurisdictions publish annual financial statements at the departmental level.
The government is committed to meeting the high expectations of Canadians, and we will continue to explore and implement new ways of providing accountability for Canadians. After all, accountability is the foundation of Canada's system of responsible government. It is key to assuring Parliament and Canadians that public resources are used effectively and efficiently.
The good news is that we have achieved a great deal. As the Prime Minister has said, “Canada now has one of the most accountable systems of government in the entire world and this is something Canadians are rightly proud of.”
This is indeed a proud record of achievement, and I can assure my hon. colleagues that supporting the bill before us today will not contribute to that record.
It is not clear whether its new administrative and financial resources requirements would provide value for money to taxpayers, as promised. I urge all members to join me in voting against the bill.