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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was chairman.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Conservative MP for Dufferin—Caledon (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House November 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, entitled “Open Government Act”.

Pearson Airport November 21st, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address an important issue for my riding.

Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International Airport is not only the busiest airport in Canada and an international gateway into this country, it is also one of the largest employers for the riding of Dufferin—Caledon.

Recently, however, the citizens of my riding have become increasingly alarmed at the significant fee hikes at Pearson and what this will mean for the airport's national and global competitiveness.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority reports that these fee hikes are necessary because of the federal government's unreasonable rent charges. These landing fees will increase by 6.9% and general terminal charges by 8.9% by 2006.

This is a serious problem for ridings like Dufferin—Caledon. Canada's largest international airport needs to be globally competitive and everyone, from the ground services personnel and ramp crews to the passenger service agents and flight crews, depend on the government to facilitate this. It is time the--

Pacific Gateway Act November 16th, 2005

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member is giving an outstanding speech, but I do not think there is a quorum to hear him.

And the count having been taken:

Supply November 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the three officers who are responsible to the committee that I sit on, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, are all officers of Parliament, and yet the Prime Minister chose those people at his sole discretion. The Prime Minister chooses them. Many of us have discussed how remarkable this is. There is no approval system in this place in regard to whether those people are qualified, whether they are capable of doing the job, or whether it is even appropriate that they sit there.

I know that many other jurisdictions, such as the province of Ontario, have a committee that reviews these kinds of positions to find out if the individuals should be appointed. Comments are raised. It happens in the United States. It happens in most democratic institutions, but not in Canada, where the Prime Minister decides.

Supply November 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, I have not been here as long as many members in this place and my observation is that the bureaucracy is increasing. A prime example is what is going on here.

One of the complaints put forward by the Canadian Newspaper Association was that even the bureaucrats themselves who created this complex situation do not know what the rules are. That is why they make these absolutely stupid statements; or maybe they are not stupid, maybe they are calculated statements as to why information is not going to be released. It is based on all kinds of information as the member for Winnipeg Centre has suggested. That could be a tactic of the government to create a massive mess so that it would be almost impossible to get information. I believe the new legislation will correct that.

Supply November 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, yes, I do, which is why not just the committee, but all opposition parties, my colleague from Winnipeg Centre and the Bloc member who just spoke, are united and I hope the Liberal Party is united as well because its members on the committee voted for this piece of legislation. It is going to be brought to the House in a report. What a way to do things, that a committee has to get a bill into the House through a report.

The Minister of Justice indicated he was going to introduce a bill. He said that twice. We have not seen a bill. It is almost wintertime and he said it would be done in the fall. All of this has been very frustrating to all members of the Bloc, the NDP, the Conservatives and I believe even the backbenchers in the Liberal caucus. For some unearthly reason the Minister of Justice wants to take no action and I do not know why.

Supply November 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice said to the committee that the act needs to be changed. He said that on two occasions.

I can appreciate the member saying that certain things need to be done. If members listened to my comments, there are still eight crown corporations, and I believe the wheat board is another one, which are not subject to the legislation. Why are they not? Two of them are involved in the ad scam scandal. Why are they not in the legislation? Why not put them all in? That is what the resolution said. If my colleague would read the resolution, we are saying to act on all crown corporations, to put them all in. That is what we are suggesting.

Supply November 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in the debate this afternoon. For members and those listening, the debate is with respect to a proposed new access to information act. I will read that resolution again. It states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the Access to Information Act should be amended to:

(a) expand coverage of the act to all Crown corporations, all officers of Parliament, all foundations and to all organizations that spend taxpayers' dollars or perform public functions--

That is not being done now. It goes on to state:

(b) establish a Cabinet-confidence exclusion, subject to review by the Information Commissioner;

(c) establish a duty on public officials to create the records necessary to document their actions and decisions--

It has been suggested in the committee that if this took place, the ad scam scandal never would have taken place because we would have known about these things. It goes on to state:

(d) provide a general public interest override for all exemptions, in that the public interest should come before the secrecy of government; and

(e) make all exemptions discretionary and subject to an injury test.

The rationale for this resolution is to provide an open and accountable government which is essential to restoring the faith of Canadians in Parliament.

The people in my riding have listened to what has happened in this place. They have listened to what has happened with the ad scam scandal. They listened to the Gomery report. They are very disillusioned with politicians, whether it be provincial, federal or municipal politicians. The Liberal government has given politicians a bad name and, quite frankly, I resent that. One reason the resolution is being brought forward is to restore the faith of Canadians in Parliament.

Officers of Parliament and corporations that use taxpayer money should be accountable to the taxpayers. We have just gone through yet another scandal, the Dingwall scandal. It did not really matter. It seems people can do anything they like. Mr. Ouellet is another one. The attitude that they can do anything they like goes on and on. That is the second rationale, that officers of Parliament and corporations using taxpayer money should be accountable to the taxpayer.

Transparency and accountability in the manner in which taxpayer money is spent is in the public interest and must take precedence over the current culture of secrecy, an entitlement of which the Liberals have taken advantage.

Crown corporations such as Canada Post and VIA Rail, which their politically appointed presidents were involved in the sponsorship scandal, must be accountable for their spending. That will only be done if they are subject to access to information requests. Is it not strange that these corporations are not subject to the access to information legislation?

Finally, the continuous stalling has been mentioned previously. The member for Winnipeg Centre has brought up about how we have gone over and over this topic on a continuous basis. The Leader of the Opposition and the members of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics out of frustration have drafted legislation which will eventually be brought before the House. Even though the Liberals talk about meaningful access to information reform, they continuously stall and delay important changes to access to information legislation.

I put a question to the member from the Bloc who spoke previously. What I believe happened is the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister decided to look at unifying the two positions. They hired retired Supreme Court Justice Gérard La Forest to make a report. I doubt if we will ever see that report. Then they will say that they cannot doing anything until they look at that whole subject, which may never happen. It is yet another stall tactic.

An interesting piece of information that the House should be made aware of is this. In response to the Auditor General's report on sponsorship, the Prime Minister called for the Treasury Board to examine the possibility of the extension of the Access to Information Act to all crown corporations. Yet in 1995, 1998 and the year 2000 he voted against meaningful amendments to the Access to Information Act. His record really is not that good as far as trying to put meaningful change into the access to information legislation.

Historically, the act came into being on July 1, 1983. It has been mentioned that former member John Bryden brought forward Bill C-201. Some of the members who have been around this place know more of the history of the bill than I do. Mr. Bryden came before the committee. He talked about its history and how he had tried to implement the legislation. The bill died on the order paper in 2003.

The member for Winnipeg Centre brought forward the precise bill, I believe, in 2004. The Minister of Justice went to him and asked him if he would mind stalling his bill and putting it aside because the government was going to draft its own bill which would be the same, if not better, than the bill by the member for Winnipeg Centre. The member for Winnipeg Centre took the Minister of Justice at his word and set the bill aside. Nothing ever happened.

We then move into this discussion in the committee. The member for Winnipeg Centre ultimately joined us in the committee and we discussed the whole topic of the new information legislation. It was discussed that we would perhaps instruct the present Information Commissioner, John Reid, to put forward new legislation.

When that was announced, the Minister of Justice said that the government would draft another bill and introduce it in the fall. It is now November 15. I have not seen the bill. I do not know where the it is. All we have had is the Minister of Justice telling a retired justice to do a report on whether the two commissions, the privacy commission and the information commission, should be united.

The committee will put forward a report to the House shortly that we will have a new bill. The bill will come to the House for debate.

This has been the history of this legislation since its inception in 1983. There has been continual resistance by the Liberal government toward making meaningful changes to that legislation.

I referred to crown corporations. A lot has been happening with respect to them with the ad scam scandal and trying to get information out of them. Not counting the Wheat Board, eight crown corporations are still not subject to this legislation. They are VIA Rail Canada Inc., and that name seems to pop up in the ad scam scandal if I recall, the National Arts Centre Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Export Development Corporation, Canada Post Corporation, and that name seems to pop up in the ad scam scandal as well, the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Public Sector Pension Investment Board and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Why are those commissions not subject to this legislation? They are funded by public moneys. They do work for the taxpayer. Why can access not be made to those corporations just like any of the other institutions in this place?

There is no question that there would have to be exemptions for some of these crown corporations. There is no question that there would be issues of privacy. There would be issues with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. If we were too difficult, it would put it at a disadvantage with the private broadcasting system. I also understand that there might be issues of security. With some of these corporations there would have to be exclusions with respect to security. However, surely all of that could be straightened out and these crown corporations could be made subject to the legislation.

Access to information in Canada is a bit of a problem. A recent media report card was issued last May by the Canadian Newspaper Association. Eighty-nine reporters from 45 newspapers across Canada visited city halls, police forces, school boards and federal government offices to test how bureaucrats obeyed laws enshrining the public's right to know. I appreciate that some of these things are not under the jurisdiction of the federal legislation, but it is a downward movement. All the provincial legislation and other pieces of legislation came from the 1983 legislation, so it is most relevant that we look at the attitude of these public officials toward people trying to get information from these institutions.

“The public's right to government information that has an impact on our lives is in failing health, and will get worse unless we start fixing it”, said the president of the Canadian Newspaper Association, Anne Kothawala. It was the Canadian Newspaper Association that launched the audit. Do members know what the federal government's grade was for this audit? It was an “F”. That is a complete failure. My friend in the Bloc talked about going to school. It was bad enough getting a “D”. An “F” is far below.

Along with four of the provinces, the federal government failed. Of eight requests submitted to federal departments, all through the Access to Information Act, only two saw records released within the 30 day statutory period for responses. The other six did not even reply. Perhaps they are still looking for the information.

It turns out that quite frequently there is no information to release. It is a disturbing reaction to access to information legislation. Quite often there is very little or nothing on the paper to explain how millions of federal dollars are spent. A prime example of this, as I and others have indicated, is the famous sponsorship program. It seems that officials have stopped writing things down.

This is what Commissioner John Reid said in his evidence to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics on April 12:

--the troubling shift, especially at senior levels in government, to an oral culture. A right of access, no matter how strongly worded, will be of little effort if there are no records showing what decisions were made, what action was taken, who called the shots, and who knew.

How does one know when people go to restaurants and hand over money in paper bags? There is no record. Everything is oral.

Commissioner Reid went on to point out:

The overall creation and management of records in the federal government is in crisis. It is this crisis, more than any defect in the Access to Information Act, which puts at risk the public's right to know, to challenge, to participate in, to influence and ultimately hold to account, the government. I urge you to make information management reform a key element of your access to information reform work.

I have another quote from Commissioner Reid's April 12 evidence to the committee, which I believe would be instructional to all of us:

The right of access arose from backbench and opposition ranks, no government enjoys the rigours of transparency and accountability imposed by the right of access, and no government will nurture and strengthen the Access to Information Act without persistent encouragement from non-front bench members.

There it is. Governments do not enjoy access to information, but they should. They should do that because a fully informed citizenry strengthens democracy and improves government.

Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Gérard LaForest in a 1997 decision wrote:

The overarching purpose of access to information to facilitate democracy. It does so in two related ways. It helps to ensure first, that citizens have the information required to participate meaningfully in the democratic process, and secondly, that politicians and bureaucrats remain accountable to the citizenry.

In his 1998 book Secrecy: The American Experience , former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan concluded, “Secrecy is for losers. Because it shields internal analyses from the scrutiny of outside experts and dissenters. As a result, some very poor advice is used to inform many government decisions. Also secrecy distorts the thinking of the citizenry, giving rise to unfounded conspiracy theories and an unnecessarily high level of mistrust of governments”.

That is what we have today, an unnecessarily high level of mistrust of governments. It is because of the government over there that this has happened. In a review of Senator Moynihan's book in Newsweek , George F. Will observed, “Government secrecy breeds stupidity in government and in the thinking of some citizens”.

All parliamentarians are aware that our current Access to Information Act needs to be strengthened and expanded. The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics voted unanimously that the legislation be amended. That unanimous vote included all of the Liberal members on the committee. We will see what happens when we have a vote in the House.

I had the opportunity of attending a conference that was held by the Canadian Newspaper Association in Ottawa this year. A presentation was made on this general topic. At that conference, it was stated that more than 20 years after the nation's first law establishing the public's right to know, there are attitudes of “why do you want to know” and “why should we tell you”. Those attitudes from the bureaucrats and people that hold the information of the government prevail in many departments and ministries at all levels of government. We as parliamentarians have to stop that.

What stood out most for me were the excuses given by bureaucrats and others across the country, not just in the federal institutions but in other provincial and municipal institutions.

In Kingston a public health employee told a person requesting restaurant inspection records that he would have to go to court first. A citizen asking for information on municipal employees' sick days in Edmonton was told that such records are private. City officials in Summerside, P.E.I. decided that information about police complaints and suspensions could not be released to the public. In Peterborough a request for water test results inspired an official to declare, “I am not interested in giving that out”.

I could go on, but the excuses are priceless. They are sad. We need legislation to fix the system.

Supply November 15th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, out of the blue, the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister, I believe, ordered a report to be done by a wonderful jurist in our country, Gérard La Forest, on the topic of whether the information commission and the privacy commission should be united, notwithstanding the fact that both the Privacy Commissioner and the Information Commissioner said it was not a very good idea.

My suspicion is that this is another tactic to stall this whole process. Does the member agree?

Unanticipated Surpluses Act October 27th, 2005

Mr. Speaker, when we look at the summary of the bill, it puts forward a number of exceptions. The first thing that must happen is that the surplus will have to exceed the $3 billion contingency amount. The second thing that must happen is that it has to fulfill the multimillion dollar New Democrat budget amount that was added before the surplus is paid. The years that are mentioned are 2005, 2006 and 2007.

If taxpayers get a rebate, and there is no guarantee in the bill that they are going to get a nickel, is the government saying that taxpayers will not get anything until 2007? Is that what it means?