June 14, 1972

LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laniel):

Order, please. There is a difficulty. The hon. member knows there has been a limitation placed on time. The minister's time has expired. A question can be asked only if there is unanimous consent. Is there unanimous consent.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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PC

Thomas Miller Bell (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Progressive Conservative Party)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bell:

Mr. Speaker, I am afraid we have to be very strict about this. If the hon. member should have an extremely interesting question, the minister conceivably could take more than 20 minutes in replying to it.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laniel):

Order, please. It is the right of hon. members to refuse to give consent. I now call upon the hon. member for Fundy-Royal (Mr. Fairweath-er).

June 14, 1972

Information on Government Business

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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Mr. R. Gordon L. Fairweather@Fundy-Royal

Mr. Speaker, may I say, with very great respect to the minister, that I was disappointed because his speech was discouraging to those of us who believe there should be accessibility of information and much less secrecy. In the few minutes I have, I propose to discuss the matter of government leaks, confidentiality, administrative secrecy, and finally and briefly, the kind of scrutiny that sort of died a'borning and in respect of which nothing apparently has been done. Then, if I have a minute, I will end with a plea for plain language and frankness in dealing with an increasingly frustrated public.

While members and the public find it difficult to get information necessary for the performance of their roles, there has been no shortage of information leaked to the press and the public. It might be interesting, Mr. Speaker, to have a list of these leaks since 1969. One, in 1969 a research study for the bilingual and bicultural commission was leaked to La Presse; two, in 1969, sections of the study of the Housing Task Force was leaked to Time magazine; three, June, 1970: excerpts from recommendations of the Le Dain Commission were leaked to Time magazine; four, in 1971, four staff members of the Special Senate Committee on Poverty left the staff and published a conflicting report, using in part information gathered during their official tenure; five, in 1971, draft portion of the Gray Report on Foreign Ownership; six, in 1971, a record of a cabinet decision in reference to the Gray Report; seven, December 23, 1971: details of two 1970 cabinet documents relating to law and order and possible use of the War Measures Act, suggesting the use of the act was contemplated before the October crisis of 1970, leaked to the Globe and Mail; eight, December 30, 1971: excerpts from two 1971 cabinet documents relating to the government's northern development policy for the next ten years, again leaked to the Globe and Mail; nine, February 2, 1972: cabinet document on aid to the publishing industry in Canada; ten, February, 1972: cabinet document on foreign ownership, and official documents, although not cabinet documents, all classified; eleven, document on low income housing; twelve, Anton Sobokha file-an abortive espionage case; thirteen, report on collective bargaining in the public service; fourteen, confidential evaluation of summer work programs of 1971.

While there is no complete certainty as to who is responsible for the individual leaks, the possibilities have been narrowed down in every case, except for the Senate Committee on Poverty, to those engaged in the service of the government, either permanent, full-time public servants, temporary public servants, or those engaged only for specific projects. I suggest that they resort to leaking because of prohibitive, restrictive and quite ridiculous rules about secrecy.

In a speech in St. John's, Newfoundland, on June 6 of this year, Gordon Robertson, Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, attacked those individuals who had leaked information contrary to their oath of secrecy. He deplored the lack of public complaint about the reprehensible conduct of individuals who had provided confidential government information to the public. He justified his attack on the basis that the governments need

[The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laniel).]

to keep much information confidential. I quote him as follows:

In short, the collective executive that is the heart of our parliamentary system must have secrecy: it cannot work without it.

I suggest that this is a sacred cow, and that it is time this sacred cow was put to rest once and for all. No one would argue that secrecy is often crucial to the success of an executive and of a government. However, Mr. Robertson, I suggest fails to broach the problem that too much government material is labled confidential unnecessarily, and that information that should go to the public as a matter of course is withheld-hence, the leaks. Most of the leaks of the past few years fall into this category. None can be said to involve information risking national security, and none really risked the privacy of individuals, something that we would all want to protect.

Kildare Dobbs, a well-known Canadian writer, who spent a short time working for the Secretary of State (Mr. Pelletier), summed up well the stupidity of confidentiality procedures in the federal government. He said:

I could never quite understand by what alchemy the words rattling loose inside my head became confidential the moment I wrote them down. But that was what happened. A few strokes of the borrowed ball point and presto! I was spinning state secrets out of my own innards.

And further:

With superfluous caution, they put up a smokescreen of security, mindlessly stamping everything on their desks Top Secret, Eyes Only, Secret, Confidential. As if anybody cared. Not only where these documents unreadable; many of them, on close inspection, proved meaningless.

These words are contained in a statement he made to Macleans magazine in September last year. The government has not yet managed to balance well its need for secrecy against the public's need for information. I do not deny this need when secrets of state and the privacy of individuals are concerned. But otherwise, I think it is pure nonsense to believe there should be so much secrecy.

To understand whether a minister has chosen a proper course or whether a department is operating efficiently, Parliament must know what information is available and on what basis a decision was taken. Francis E. Rourke makes an important point that should not be overlooked: The fact that a policy is convenient or saves embarrassment is not necessarily an admission that it contributes to administrative efficiency ... Responsiveness no less than competence is the hallmark of a successfully functioning democratic bureaucracy.

The tendency in recent decades has been for the executive to interpret the public interest more in terms of its own efficiency than in terms of popular control. The experience of the United States when President Kennedy cut back drastically on the use of the doctrine of executive privilege to withhold information from Congress indicates that the passionate prophecies about the destruction of good government are greatly exaggerated. With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I wish that Mr. Robertson had read Francis Rourke's book "Secrecy and Publicity" before he made his speech last week in Newfoundland.

There are additional reasons for the growth of secrecy in recent decades. The impact of the cold war did much to heighten secrecy in connection with the security of the state. The Report of the Royal Commission on Security,

June 14, 1972

abridged, interestingly enough, in 1969 did not hold out much hope to those who favoured greater access to administrative records. The report did say that there were many complaints made about over-classification, but found it impossible to suggest any "very sweeping changes in present procedures." In defence of this position, the Commission offered the standpat observation that:

The present system is reasonably well understood and established, and it would appear to us that very compelling arguments would need to be advanced for major changes.

I am sure that my hon. friend, the member for Peace River (Mr. Baldwin) who moved this motion feels, as I do, that there are compelling reasons, and I hope that today's debate will bring some of them forward.

The present classification categories were admittedly vague, but the Commission felt that it could do no better. It could not endorse a general approach to declassification, which should involve primarily departmental judgment, although the departments should be constantly reminded of the value of downgrading documents. More attention should be paid to the "need-to-know" principle, that is, the dissemination of security information only so far as is necessary for the conduct of business as determined by the proposed security secretariat.

In the Commission's view the Canadian Official Secrets Act is "an unwieldy statute, couched in very broad and ambiguous language." The poor construction of certain sections of the act, along with the "extraordinarily onerous" evidence requirements contained in the act have led officials to rely for prosecutions mainly upon the conspiracy sections of the Criminal Code. I know that in the few minutes remaining to me I cannot go into an exhaustive discussion of the Official Secrets Act, but I am quite certain that a committee of this Parliament should take a look at the whole matter of secrecy, as well as the right to know, and a system for declassifying documents should be very much before that committee.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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PC

Gerald William Baldwin (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baldwin:

As they did in England in the Biafra case.

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PC

Robert Gordon Lee Fairweather

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fairweather:

Exactly. My hon. friend says this subject has been dealt with in the United Kingdom Parliament just recently.

We could have had a weapon or Parliament thought it had a weapon to deal with one other aspect of the public's right to have scrutinized for it some of the administrative decisions of government in the form of regulations, in the excellent report of the Special Committee on Statutory Instruments. I should like to give this short chronology of events. The committee was appointed on September 30, 1968, its membership decided upon on November 8 of that year and it reported to Parliament on October 22, 1969. There followed some eloquent statements by the then Minister of Justice, Mr. Turner. He said that the idea was long overdue and went on to say:

We have allowed, by enabling powers and statutes, legislation to be delegated to the cabinet, to ministers, to boards, to commissions by way of regulations ... beyond the control of Parliament, beyond the power of Parliament to review and revise, and thereby beyond the power of the people to challenge.

Information on Government Business

What has been the result of this eloquence, Mr. Speaker? On both the Senate and the House of Commons side, we have had a special committee. The House of Commons members on that Committee were named on March 22 this year, yet three months have gone by and that special committee on scrutiny has not been activated. I think it is fair to ask about the reluctance of the government. There should be a staff. We are well on our way to an adjournment, possibly even, to an election, and many valuable months will be lost before this committee reports. It was launched with such eloquence and such a resounding hosanna of trumpets but now, Mr. Speaker, the trumpet sound is uncertain indeed.

I have been interested and moved by a most eloquent letter from a person living in Claremont, Ontario, not in my constituency, who is opposed to the decision of the government to locate a new international airport at Pickering. I am not entering the debate about the location of the site at this point. This lady says that she is sick of receiving government form letters; she is tired of standardized replies and she is sick of being told that she has a right as a citizen to participate. She is sick of the cliches about participatory democracy and then having all these cliches set aside because the decision is taken before there is any opportunity for useful participation. I think we all bear a responsibility for the cynicism of the public with regard to government. Other members have spoken of the twin uglies, dehumanization and depersonalization. Because of those uglies, I think it is more important than ever that the public have access to information and that we, as Members of Parliament, stop treating citizens as some sort of receptacle for pieces of legislation that are almost incomprehensible. We must deal with the public in plain language, free of cliche and, if possible for parliamentarians, without resort to the usual puffery that seems to be endemic when politicians exchange letters with the public.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
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LIB

Grant Deachman

Liberal

Mr. Grant Deachman (Vancouver Quadra):

Mr. Speaker, the motion of the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Baldwin) which is before the House today opens wide opportunities for debate on a subject on which many members of this chamber have very strong feelings, and with which they have considerable familiarity. The wording of the resolution makes it possible for members to consider not only the failure of the government to keep the Canadian people adequately informed but Parliament as well. So, there are two aspects to the resolution. The aspect I want to talk about for a few minutes deals with some of the steps that the government has taken in order to bring about better communication with Parliament and the way in which Parliament has come to recognize what government is doing.

Many members in the chamber this afternoon will remember how bills and estimates were dealt with in committee of the whole under the old rules. The chairman of committees would sit at the head of the table and call out the estimates item by item. We would go through the chant of approving millions and billions of dollars without having the opportunity to examine any public servants on the issues and programs. We remember how the minister used to carry bills through this House in committee of the whole. A public servant would come into the chamber and

June 14, 1972

Information on Government Business sit at a little table in front of the minister. Every time a question was asked in committee regarding a clause of the bill there would be a whispered conversation between the public servant and the minister, then the minister would get to his feet and parrot what the public servant had told him. It was often the case that a good minister knew as much about the bill as the public servant and could carry the bill through the committee with adequate explanation, adequate at least for the House on that day.

Let us consider what takes place under the new rules and the way the problem is tackled today. Bills are no longer dealt with on the floor of the House in committee of the whole but are referred to a committee where the public can attend and where witnesses can be called. Public servants who may have played a role in the development of a particular bill can be called and questioned on every aspect of it. Let us also consider what takes place now when the estimates are automatically referred to committees of the House instead of being dealt with in committee of the whole House without the benefit of any examination of departmental officials.

I can recall that when we went into committees for the first time there was some contact between the public servant and the members. I remember how nervous the public servants were in those days in case members would bully them and push them around. I remember that the ministers would often still attempt to play the old role in committee that they had played in committee of the whole of having the public servant give the information to them and then they would relate it to the committee. Bit by bit, an aura of confidence grew between the public servants and the Members of Parliament when dealing with estimates in committee and examining various government programs. Public servants began to talk to members telling them about the hopes and aspirations of the programs of particular interest to an area which a member represented. For the first time, public servants were expressing themselves to Parliament in a way in which they had never been able to do before. For his part, the member was able to do what only ministers had been able to do heretofore, to question a public servant in detail in regard to a particular program.

I want to mention some other ways in which we have learned to communicate with government and acquire a better idea of what the government has done. I refer to some of the things that our committees have learned to do over the years. Consider, for example, the defence committee, which was first established in its present form in 1963. As time went on it became one of the standing committees of the House. Consider the way in which that committee set about examining the affairs of an extremely complex department, which it then was, as hon. members will remember.

The Defence Department spent a quarter of all our tax dollars and Members of Parliament had no idea how it did that. We did not truly comprehend how on earth that department spent a quarter of our tax dollars, or $1.5 billion which increased to $1.8 billion. We learned. The members of this House gained a comprehensive idea as to how that department spent its money. We know what happened to us. We, of this chamber, became more expert

[Mr. Deachman.l

on what went on in the Department of Defence and how that department spent its money, than the press. At that time, the press printed boloney every day, which we accepted and used in debates in this chamber. That was one way we learned to use our committees differently, and to benefit from them.

I want to speak for a moment about the committees which are doing excellent work in moving around the country and meeting the people. The transport committee and the agricultural committee have travelled most, I think. In their travels they have heard what members of the public have had to say about the important subjects of concern to those committees. This process has evolved in the past few years and has enabled Parliament to keep in touch not only with Crown corporations and departments of government but, as well, with people who are affected by what those Crown corporations and government departments do.

I now want to mention the growing use of expertise in our committees, and I will speak particularly of the work of the Finance Committee in its examination of the tax bill and in its examination of extremely complex subjects such as the revision of the Bank Act, the Bretton Woods agreement and the anti-dumping duty legislation. The members of that committee of the House became expert in these areas. The Committee employed experts, which enabled members to deal with these subjects more adequately and to understand them more fully.

I also want to speak of the work of the Public Accounts Committee in its investigative role, and of the effectiveness with which it has carried out that role. As hon. members know, the chairman of that committee is chosen from the opposition. That chairman, I am glad to see, is in the House and listening to my remarks. I think we all want to compliment that committee, and its chairman, on the effective role it played, for instance, in the investigation of the refitting of the Bonaventure.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
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PC

Thomas Miller Bell (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Progressive Conservative Party)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bell:

Please! Not too loud!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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LIB

Grant Deachman

Liberal

Mr. Deachman:

That was a classic case to be investigated by a Canadian parliamentary committee. Not only did that chairman and that committee carry out that investigation effectively, but the leader in the investigation, and I am talking of those Members of Parliament who were on that committee and took part in that work, was a member from the government side rather than from the opposition side. So, we can see the way committees have expanded and carried out their investigative roles, roles in which they have met the people and roles through which they had developed their own expertise and judgment. Mr. Speaker, Parliament is evolving and, in recent years, it has been evolving quickly.

Hon. members who spoke earlier told us that, as a Parliament, we lack some capability. An hon. member suggested that we have not fully carried out our role in overseeing what government departments and the public service do. I cannot accept the words of the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Baldwin) who believes we have failed. I do not believe we have failed. I believe we have made giant strides in this Parliament and have become more expert than many in some fields, no mean achieve-

June 14, 1972

ment in an age when technology and complexities of all kinds increase every day.

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PC

Thomas Miller Bell (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Progressive Conservative Party)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Thomas M. Bell (Saint lohn-Lancaster):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow the chief government whip. I must say that he struggled along much more adequately than did the Minister of Labour (Mr. O'Connell) who replied officially on behalf of the government. The speech of the Minister of Labour was so weak, so irrelevant that, if Information Canada had anything to do with the preparation of the speech, I would be willing to agree that that body should be disbanded immediately, here and now.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
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Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

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PC

Thomas Miller Bell (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Progressive Conservative Party)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bell:

There are two aspects to this matter, Mr. Speaker and they are slightly different from those mentioned by the last speaker. They have, first, to do with the evolution of Information Canada, and, second, the government's responsibility to inform itself.

We all recall the early days of Information Canada. The Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau), still under the aura of the just society, decided to set up a task force on information. That task force has been referred to, and from it came the recommendation for creating Information Canada. That sounded like a grandiose idea. All the same, I think members of the House on both sides were afraid that the management of news, which was implied in the setting up of Information Canada, would be a serious matter for us all.

We know Information Canada failed. Everyone knows why it failed. Many have said publicly why it failed, both inside and outside Parliament. It failed, first, because Information Canada was not answerable to Parliament. Its activities were to be referred to one of our committees, and I will deal with the success of our committees later. The second, unsurmountable reason behind the failure was this: The government appointed as Director General of Information Canada a Liberal hack, a man who had been a full time, professional Liberal politician in Quebec. Mr. Speaker, professional, Liberal politicians in Quebec are just about as bad as you can find, if you exclude some I know of in New Brunswick. That man was appointed to head this body. Its duties were delicate, and we all know what happened. We watched the mistakes it made. Hon. members no doubt remember the photographs of nudes that came out, with the Canadian flag draped in the background of the picture. Unlike the nudes you see in Playboy Magazine, these nudes apparently were unidentifiable.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
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?

Some hon. Members:

Shame.

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PC

Thomas Miller Bell (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Progressive Conservative Party)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bell:

I doubt if any hon. member of this House will stand up and say that Information Canada has been of appreciable help to our committees. I have never heard anyone claim that it has been of assistance. I know that these flat pins, or whatever you can call them, are given out to members and they may be in great favour. Much depends on the area of Canada from which you come. The whole thing has been a failure, as recent reports indicate. Information Canada, "Misinformation Canada", or "Manipulation Canada"-whatever you want to call it-is a lame duck, just like the Vancouver hockey team which

Information on Government Business

the government whip knows about. The team was of no use for the last part of this season, at least.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
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?

An hon. Member:

Do not cast aspersions.

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PC

Thomas Miller Bell (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Progressive Conservative Party)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bell:

It is a lame duck, just like this parliament, and I doubt if it will be possible to bring about any recovery.

The other aspect I mentioned was the responsibility of the government to inform itself. We all know that old adage, "Public affairs must be conducted publicly.". Of course, Parliament is the forum to which the government of the people of Canada is responsible and it must see that correct information is brought forward. The task force was not asked to deal with government responsibility but, very bravely, it said:

In keeping with the principles of participation and freedom of access to information, the government provide more informative replies to questions raised in Parliament than has been the tradition.

That, Mr. Speaker, was quite a while ago. We all know the question period that we have here and the type of answers we receive. My thoughts go back to the days when well-known Parliamentarians were in previous governments. I will mention their names; Messrs. Martin, Pickersgill and Chevrier. When a question was asked by the opposition, they never failed to give an answer in this House. They prided themselves on the fact that each day they would stand up and give an answer. It might have been a lengthy one or all the facts might not have been correct, but at least they gave information. We know what we get today. We do not even get the ministers to their feet half the time, if we can even get them in the House.

The other day I did a random check of the attendance of ministers. I am not trying to be a schoolteacher and check everyone's position. As far as the attendance goes on both * sides of the House, there is no difference. It is not good. I am talking about the members of the treasury benches who have a responsibility in this Parliament. For a three week period in May, there were four, five or six ministers away each day when, under the famous roster system, they should have been here.

Mention was made by the chief government whip of the success of committees. I do not think that committees are all bad. We had to make moves toward a professional committee system. Some of these moves were good. We are now receiving expert advice and we are travelling; that is good. However, you will have to do a lot of talking to convince me that the system we are now using in dealing with estimates has any value. It embarrasses me to no end to sit in this House, as I will do in a few days, and have billions of dollars pass through in two or three seconds under the eyes of the press gallery and the Canadian public. Under the old method, we had a chance to confront the minister and the civil servants. We could threaten to hold up the estimates, to not pass them and make ministers do without their money if they did not provide the correct answers. Now, we still have the whispering back and forth in committee, but the civil servants are not giving us the type of answers that I feel we should be getting.

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June 14, 1972

Information on Government Business

I remember the days when civil servants attended the opposition caucus and gave us their thoughts. There was not a press man around. They told us what they thought about different policies and the like. Do you get that now? They are scared to death. You never see a civil servant talking to the opposition. Everything is too big now. I do not think there is the slightest improvement in so far as the committee system of dealing with estimates.

Mention was made a few moments ago by the chief government whip of the Auditor General and the Bona-venture. We know what we have been through with the Auditor General. Hopefully the Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce (Mr. Pepin) gave us the facts and information the other day about items to which the Auditor General had referred in his department. How about the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Drury)? There is the one man in this whole House who is an authority on the Bonaventure. We recall how he got up and said that under the new system we were going to use there would never be another situation like the Bonaventure. We now have another such situation in the making in the DDH program.

If you want to talk about the Bonaventure, there may be some credit in that for the Committee. The membership was bipartisan, there is no question about that. However, there has never been any ministerial responsibility fixed for the Bonaventure matter; questions asked in this House are not answered and attendance under the roster system is poor.

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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

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PC

Thomas Miller Bell (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Progressive Conservative Party)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bell:

I said that there were two related matters, the failure of Information Canada and the responsibility that has traditionally existed on the government from time immemorial to inform. Everybody wants to take part in our democracy. They want to have their views passed on to the right people. They want them accepted. They want to know what is coming back. However, so far as Information Canada is concerned, which apparently is on its death bed and this was certainly confirmed by the speech today by the Minister of Labour, the grandiose plans of this method of informing Parliament and the people have all been washed out. Responsibility now rests and can only rest with the government. They must see that their policy of evading questions is changed. A policy of giving better answers to tabled questions must be followed. I have taken a random look at the order paper. I find that as of today, 42 questions have been on the order paper since February; 53 since March; 35 since April and 63 since May. Where is the responsibility of the government? They are suppressing reports. The general attitude of condemning Parliament by these just society boys has to stop, if it is not now too late.

As stated in the motion of the hon. member for Peace River, which I had the honour to second, our concern is with people and Parliament. The responsibility in our democracy rests with the government through our political process to see that this leadership is shown here. This was borne out in the task force report. There must be greater access to information for all members. As the mover of this motion stated the onus has to go back to the government. They can have their exceptions, but the

responsibility to inform has to be transferred back, not to Information Canada, the opposition or the people outside, but to this Parliament and, in particular, the cabinet, the members of the treasury benches.

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?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

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LIB

Herb Breau

Liberal

Mr. Herb Breau (Gloucester):

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to follow my colleague from New Brunswick, the hon. member for Saint John-Lancaster (Mr. Bell). For one reason or another, I do not agree with many of the things he said. He talked about the importance of providing proper and impartial information to the people of this country. I agree with that in principle, but being a good politician, as he is, his speech today illustrates the strength of our political system. On the other hand, with regard to elements of the political system such as the opposition putting across their point of view, they give one biased opinion. If we want our system to work, the government has to respond to the statements of the opposition in the same way.

The hon. member for Saint John-Lancaster talked about the government giving information. As far as I am concerned, there are two functions of information that are of importance. The hon. member referred to the question period. I think the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Baldwin) also mentioned that. I have to smile when I hear the opposition being touchy about the government responding in what we might call a political way to questions asked during the question period. They seem to take the attitude that their questions are impartial, looking for the facts and asked without any ulterior motive. I do not have anything against them having these motives. I think this is essential in our political system. Their role in the question period is not only to obtain information, but to make political points.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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June 14, 1972