Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Selkirk--Interlake.
Yesterday I was fortunate enough to get my name on the Speaker's list for today. As I started thinking about putting a speech together I wondered why I would even do this. It is as upsetting to me as it is to many other members, that we are today having to discuss this topic.
I started thinking about why it was bothering me and I thought back to an analogy from being on the farm. A couple of years ago we had a combine with a very slow hydraulic leak. A high pressure line was leaking. It was spraying a little oil consistently onto the inside and under the covers of the combine. Over the first day or so there was just a little oil but as we went more oil and more dirt attached to it. Eventually the chaff built up. We ended up with a situation where not only was it filthy but it was dangerous.
I could not help but think that we have a situation something like that. With the combine we could not get close to it without getting dirty. It seemed like we did not even have to touch anything and we had chaff and oil all over our clothes and ourselves.
I guess I was thinking that we needed to fix the oil leak on the combine or we could never clean it up. It is the same with the situation we are talking about today and the problems with the government. There is an oil leak that needs to be fixed. It starts off spraying very quietly and gently. It does not seem to be make a big difference but over time it adds up to an awful lot of oil and dirt.
This afternoon the member from Mississauga in particular, but the previous member also, spoke about us having disrespect for the House if we questioned anything that went on here. I would argue that if we are going to see our way through to having a healthy machine, we need to fix the problems we have. We need to fix the leak.
There are a number of things that we need to examine. We can look at some of the examples like the $40 million in unsupervised sponsorship money, the advertising contracts, ministers getting personal favours, quiet deals being made on the side and those kinds of things.
I grew up in western Canada. As a young person John Diefenbaker was one of the main politicians in our area of the world. He was a person of perseverance. It took him many times to get elected to the House and he was very successful with that. He was a popular person. When one talks to a lot of people in Saskatchewan, virtually everyone of them is sure that they met him at some time or another and talked to him. He was very popular. Eventually his career was brought to an end by some of the machinations that happened in Ottawa.
The prime minister who followed him was Mr. Pearson. It was the beginning of a long list of Liberal prime ministers who really had no connection with western Canada. Mr. Pearson always struck me as being someone who was as bland as beige paint but he was certainly followed up by someone who was not, Prime Minister Trudeau. In our part of the world I guess he has always been seen as having charisma but no content at all. It is more obvious as time goes on that his influence still guides the Liberal Party. Today we see that he was the architect in a lot of ways of so much that divides and splits the country. I think he was also the architect of a spirit we see permeating the Liberal Party.
He was the gentleman who came out to western Canada and so casually flipped the bird to people who were daring to question some of the things that he had to say. He came out to western Canada another time and asked western Canadian farmers, when they had absolutely no choice but to go through his mandatory marketing system “Why should I sell your wheat?” People wonder why we had little patience for him.
Once he was done, the PCs came to power and again we saw terrible results. Western Canadians rejected that way of doing business. Now we see this government following up on the PCs. It should know better. It should have been able to prevent the things that have happened because it should have seen what happened with the previous government did and avoided it. However it does not seem to have learned from that.
The main reason people in my part of the world do not support the Liberal Party and this government is because they have seen this wasteful foolishness for years. I found a quote by H.L. Mencken, which is an interesting one because it applies. It is part of the government's philosophy and attitude toward the people of Canada. He said “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard”. This government has an attitude like that toward the people of Canada.
I grew up expecting more from government. When I came here I expected more from the Liberal government. I am disappointed and afraid that it seems to be worse than I thought it would be in terms of attitude, arrogance and corruption.
I have to admit that this is a bit of a puzzle to me also because many of the Liberal members seem to be decent people. It seems there is an ethos or a core philosophy of their party that is rotten. It is like a boat floating with no direction. With no solid principles around it, sooner or later it is bound to crash on the shore and that Liberal boat has just hit that shore.
I do not think it is just western Canadians who want higher standards. Canadians as a whole deserve much better.
This has been an interesting day. I guess I would call it a day of justification rather than a day of apology from the government. I kept track of some of the things that had been said today. This morning the PM referred to the HRDC scandal. His explanation for it was that it had some bad housekeeping, some poor administration and some administrative mistakes. That was as far as he would go in admitting that there was a problem with the billion dollar boondoggle. He also said some mistakes had been made but went on to explain that the government had saved Canada in spite of those mistakes. I guess anyone on this side knows that is just rubbish.
Later a PC member, the member for South Shore, made the good point that the government today is making excuses for the inexcusable.
Apparently the Deputy Prime Minister was trying to take the high road a little earlier today but he still did not seem to get his own facts right. He said he knew the red book spoke of an ethics counsellor. We want to see one answerable to parliament as soon as possible. He was also defending his ability to influence the awarding of sponsorship money.
The most interesting thing I heard was the member for Ottawa Centre said that he thought he heard the Prime Minister take responsibility for the standard of conduct in the government. He said that the PM set the standard for the government. I guess that is one comment we would definitely agree with, particularly after seeing Shawinigate and some of the results of that.
He also claimed that the government was build on integrity, openness and accountability. I wonder if it was he who wrote in his last householder that he had been given $1 million for a project in his urban Ottawa riding to address the issues of homeless aboriginal people. I wonder if he would be open to us perhaps looking at that to see what kind of value we are getting for that money? I am from Saskatchewan and that money probably would be very well spent in a place like Regina or Saskatoon where those issues are a major problem. In his quotes he reminded once again that the emptiest barrel seems to make the most noise.
This government's arrogance is longstanding and it shows up in my constituency. I come from an area of rural people. The government does not seem to know us at all but it always seems to know what is best. It seems it is more of the problem not the solution in my part of the world. This goes back years. For example, in the 1990s the Canadian Wheat Board felt that it needed to take issue with some of the farmers who had been hauling grain to the States. All of a sudden it was a big issue.
I found it interesting that the government brought together the RCMP, the justice department, customs and revenue and Canadian Wheat Board officials just to take on ordinary people. Those who are familiar with the situation will know the names of Desrochers, Sawatsky and McMechan. Their homes were raided and they were locked up in jail. Mr. McMechan spent months in jail and was strip searched for having the gall to actually try to haul his grain to the United States.
There are a number of other areas I could talk about. The helicopter fiasco, for instance, has cost us hundreds of millions of dollars. It already could have been done, if the Prime Minister had just admitted that he was wrong and had let that project go ahead.
To wrap up, we do have some suggestions that would work here. One of them is, as we have heard from other members today, that we need an ethics commissioner immediately and we need that person to be responsible and accountable to parliament. We need immediate standards that are public, set for members of cabinet in particular. The Prime Minister thinks it is important to put standards in place for the members of parliament. That may be okay, but it is not the members of parliament who are abusing their position.
Most of us do not have a lot of authority or ability to influence the public in the awarding of contracts or any of those kinds of things.
The government obviously needs to get a vision for the country. It is getting very old and it needs a vision. We need to deal with the attitude of corruption here.