February 24, 2004 (37th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Grant McNally

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Grant McNally

Exactly, Mr. Speaker. My colleague says that we would be able to see the documents and the dollars. Right now, who knows what happens? As my colleague from the Bloc alluded to, we get a piece of paper that is blanked out, with one or two words on it. All that does is leave more doubt in people's minds as to where the government is going and what it is trying to hide.
If a government wants to stand on the claim that it is open, that it wants to improve a perceived democratic deficit, that it wants to enlist the trust of Canadians, then these are the kinds of changes needed, and not just in word. They must be followed up on by deed, by implementing these kinds of ideas and putting them into place.
As my colleague from Fraser Valley also mentioned, an information management system would be another good, third pillar to the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act. Also good would be putting in place a structure to make sure that we have the documents. Sometimes around this place the shredders go faster than a speeding bullet. Who knows how fast they have been working lately?
My colleague's bill also looks at the idea of including cabinet confidences in the Access to Information Act. It is a novel idea and I am sure it is one that worries some people. At the same time, I refer back to the current situation with the scandal that is going on. The Prime Minister mentioned the other day in this place that he would be willing to unseal some cabinet memos related to the current misspending of the government. That would be more of a routine practice if this act were to be implemented.
My worry is that the good suggestions that are contained in this act are not going to be implemented, that they are not going to be listened to by the current government because of the culture that is there now, the culture of maintaining a cloak or a control of information in such a way that there is no openness. We can clearly see that in this place. Extracting information through access to information requests, or however that information may come to us, is a very hard and convoluted process much of the time. Why not put in place these kinds of reforms that are going to send a message to Canadians that this government cares about openness and transparency and that put in place the tools to do it in this place and across the country?
Those are the kinds of things that are going to reduce the cynicism of Canadians. They are not just going to see hollow words but structural changes, so that if they have a concern they will be able to get information about where their tax dollars went. As is said to people now, “I am sorry, we cannot find out where those dollars went because that happened under a crown corporation or that happened under an agency of the government”. That is just not acceptable. Canadians across this country work very, very hard and send their tax dollars here. When the government puts them into questionable use, as in this scandal we have seen through the crown corporations named just recently, that just shakes the confidence of all Canadians.
In many ways, this bill has been a bit of a foreshadowing. Really, it tells a tale of neglect within the current government. The member has alluded to this: that the current Access to Information Act has not had significant change to be modernized, to bring it up to where it should be. As a result, we find ourselves in a situation in this place in which the government is wearing the scandal and trying to get out from underneath it but in many ways cannot.
I will conclude my remarks by again congratulating my colleague for his hard work, particularly through his endeavours with the ad hoc committee, for his continued efforts with the bill even prior to that committee and now after the committee in staying with it and pursuing it, because he sees it as a way to increase people's trust in the government if we change the systems of government and reform them in such a way that there is more access to information, not less. It is a laudable goal. We should make these changes and we should put them into place as soon as we can.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Open Government Act
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