Mr. Alex Patterson (Fraser Valley East):
Mr. Speaker, we are reminded on the first page of Bill C-24 that this is an Act to amend the Financial Administration Act in relation to Crown corporations and to amend other Acts in consequence thereof.
I should like to begin by saying that the arrogance of this Government in dealing with national business is boundless. In applying closure to the debate on Bill C-24 it continues to exhibit, even in its death throes, a complete absence of any appreciation for the rights of Canadians to understand fully the purpose of legislation through the ordinary process of unhampered discussion in the House. At a time when the Government's credibility is practically zero, it seems strange that its Members continue to maintain the attitude, "Well, the Government knows best". This stance has been the Government's hallmark throughout past years.
I believe there is a place for Crown corporations in Canada. This is particularly true when the private sector is either unable or unwilling to co-operate in the implementation of programs to fulfil legitimate government policy. Under such circumstances it is preferable that government enter the field as a competitor rather than in a monopoly position. It appears that the present Government has completely lost the capacity to inspire Canadians to invest in worthwhile investments that would move the nation forward confidently and voluntarily. It pushes forward in a bull-headed and brutal fashion to force through programs which are often misguided and harmful to the economy. Then of course it can draw upon the taxpayers' purse to meet its financial obligations. In my view the role of Government is to administer the affairs of the country in accordance with the will of the people. This is not the course that is being followed by the present Government.
As I think back to the time when I first heard about the details of the measure before us, it appeared that the Government was responding to the demand for some fundamental changes to the way in which it was dealing with the issue of Crown corporations. A closer appraisal of the proposed amendments in Bill C-24, however, showed that the changes at best were illusory. Over the past several years, successive Auditors General have severely reprimanded the Government for neglecting its responsibility by allowing Crown corporations free rein in the conduct of their business, to the extent that they now constitute a sub-government. As I have stated, any seeming improvement through the provisions of Bill C-24 is only a mirage.
Much has been said about the proliferation of Crown corporations. As I listened to the broadcast when the Bill was first introduced and the proposed amendments were outlined, I heard reference that in the future the creation of Crown corporations would require parliamentary approval by means of a special Act. At that time I said to my wife, who was listening to the program as well, that it appeared the Government was finally listening to the criticisms of the Opposition in the House and was now prepared to make some significant changes. However, I was wrong. It appears that parliamentary approval applies only to parent corporations, not to subsidiar-
May 22, 1984
Financial Administration Act
ies. It has been through these subsidiaries that the greatest proliferation has taken place. Therefore, it seems to me that the Government has side-stepped the opportunity and the responsibility to call a halt to the multiplicity of organizations that are set up, many of which compete against private industry in various sectors of the economy.
There is a fear that Bill C-24 could be interpreted to indicate that Ministers of the Crown may not be bound by its prohibition on the creation of parent corporations. As has been pointed out, Section 16 of the Interpretation Act indicates that no statute binds the Crown unless the statute specifically states that it is applicable to the Crown. It seems there is no clause in this Bill which expressly does this.
There are a great many serious weaknesses in the Bill before us. These have been pointed out in very clear terms. For instance, under the terms of Bill C-24, the so-called board of directors would be little more than an advisory agency, while the Cabinet would direct the affairs of the corporation by, as indicated by the Hon. Member for Calgary South (Mr. Thomson) in his address on the Bill, appointing the auditor, approving by-laws and even making by-laws for the board, setting dividend policy and directing the board on the conduct of the corporation's business and affairs.
On different occasions my Leader has set out a very clear statement of policy in regard to Crown corporations. I regret there is not time to place them all on the record today. However, they have been propounded, explained and stated in various parts of the country. The basic principles as outlined by my Leader would do much to improve the situation as far as Crown corporations are concerned. They would bring to the people a sense of confidence, knowing that under these policies and under these principles Crown corporations, which have been a law unto themselves and have drawn so heavily upon the purses of the people, will finally be responsible and accountable, not just to the Government but to the House of Commons.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: FINANCIAL ADMINISTRATION ACT