Mr. Speaker, it is good to speak to this motion today. First of all, let me say in speaking for the Liberal Party that in the Liberal caucus, private member's bills are free votes, as is the tradition in many other parties. Our leader, the hon. member for Papineau, has been very clear that the charter is at the heart of the Liberal conscience, and as we have long said, Liberals will always support the charter. We are the party of the charter.
I want to talk about how our leader, which the sponsor of the bill mentioned quite a bit in his speech, has led by example. In June 2013, he announced the open Parliament plan, which sought to proactively disclose travel and hospitality expenses and post them in a quarterly manner. I remember all the work my staff had to do for that. It was an extra expense and use of resources to make sure that travel and hospitality expenses were disclosed.
The Board of Internal Economy then was opened up and we expanded the performance audits of the House of Commons and Senate administration and worked with the Auditor General on public guidelines for future audits.
Liberals believe that openness and transparency are pillars of our democratic institutions, and that is why, as I just described, we became the first caucus in the House of Commons, in October 2013, to publicly post our expenses online.
Canadians have asked for openness and honesty in their elected representatives, not secrecy, not distrust, and not scandal.
The Senate, through extreme patronage and partisanship, has come to poorly serve the interests of Canadians. That is why our leader took decisive action on January 29, 2014, when he announced that the national Liberal caucus would only include elected members of Parliament and not appointed senators.
I remember that day very well, and I remember feeling that the leader was very courageous in doing that. I was somewhat taken by surprise, because there was no announcement to me before the day the leader took that action, but it was very courageous. It is a clear example of movement on the issue of the Senate and what role the Senate should play and how it could be improved to serve Canadians better.
Our leader also announced that a future Liberal government would put in place an open, transparent, and non-partisan appointment process for new senators. Our leader did more to reform the Senate in a single day than the Prime Minister has done in a decade.
At our convention in February 2014, we passed a comprehensive democratic reform motion that will help restore trust in our democracy. The motion includes a number of components, and I want to list them: open, democratic nominations of candidates; fewer whipped votes in Parliament and more free votes requiring individual MPs to assume full responsibility for their decisions; stronger parliamentary control over public finances, including an annual deadline for the budget; accounting consistency between the estimates and the public accounts; more clarity in voting on estimates; a costing analysis for each government bill; a requirement that government borrowing plans get Parliament's pre-approval; a truly independent, properly resourced Parliamentary Budget Officer; a more effective access to information regime with stronger safeguards against political interference; an impartial system to identify and eliminate the waste of tax dollars on partisan advertising; and careful limitations on secret committee proceedings, omnibus bills, and prorogation to avoid their misuse for the short-term partisan convenience of the government.
On that point, one of the things I have seen as a first-term MP right away is how the government has not respected the role of Parliament by using those things.
Further components include adequate funding, investigative powers, and enforcement authority to ensure Elections Canada can root out electoral fraud; proactive disclosure of parliamentarians' expenses, as I mentioned earlier, a more transparent Board of Internal Economy, and better audit rules; a truly independent Senate not based upon partisanship or patronage; and a commitment to establish an all-party process involving expert assistance and citizen participation, to report to Parliament within 12 months with recommendations for electoral reforms.
This was the resolution that was passed at the Liberal Party convention in early 2014.
In March 2014, we put forward an opposition day motion to implement the proactive disclosure of travel and hospitality expenses for all MPs by the House of Commons administration. The motion passed unanimously.
In June 2014, the leader of the Liberal Party introduced the transparency act in Parliament. The bill sought to achieve the following reforms, which I would like to list.
First of all, it would have required that meetings of the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy be open by default. Today, MPs are making decisions about the regulations that govern their own spending with insufficient public scrutiny. This is a reform initiative that the Liberal Party called for in 2013 with the Liberal Party's open Parliament plan.
The board would still have been permitted to operate in camera, for example, for confidential personnel matters, something that is often the reason for taking a committee in camera, or when dealing with contracts.
The second part of the transparency act would have been to amend section 2 of the Access to Information Act, the purpose section of the act, so that all government data and information must be made open, and not only made open but made open by default in machine readable format.
Just before I stood up to give this speech, I was dealing with a statistician who had the experience of trying to download temperature data from temperature stations in Canada, and was having trouble doing that from the temperature data stored by Environment Canada. The individual had to rely on some help from somebody inside Health Canada in order to extract temperature data from Environment Canada, and still found problems with the Environment Canada data.
It is really important to make sure that data and information are easily available by putting them it in machine readable format.