Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Candice Bergen Profile
View Candice Bergen Profile
2019-05-27 13:28 [p.28041]
I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker. We hear a lot of noise in this beautiful new place, and that is one of the pitfalls. It is great having people being active in the parliamentary precinct, but it does get to be a little loud. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The noise was not heckling from members on the government benches. I say that in case any of the good folks listening to this speech thought that government members were heckling me. They were not. They were listening intently, and I very much appreciate their interest in my speech.
There has been some concern around this private member's bill, and that may be because of the way that the government was going to ram through some of the changes. That will remain to be seen.
One of the other things we are concerned about is ministerial accountability and the lack thereof. My colleague, the hon. member for Edmonton West, has established quite a track record for spotting problems and errors between the budget, the estimates and related tables. This is a result of some of the new Liberal processes. The Liberals brought in changes a year ago, and we at that point indicated concern. However, those concerns were not heeded and we are seeing some of the fallout from that. Thankfully, we have very hard-working members on this side.
I said that the member for Edmonton West can do the work. I do not know how many hundreds of bureaucrats are in the Department of Finance, and yet one of our members can do the work of one hundred of them when it comes to catching mistakes and errors. We are proud of him and grateful for what he has done.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer, in his review of the 2019 estimates, explained the situation quite well when he said that the government's new approach, which is one of the changes to the Standing Orders:
does not fully address the issues raised regarding the changes in the Estimates process. Parliamentarians will still be required to vote on Budget measures which have not gone through the [Treasury Board] submission process prior to the Main Estimates being tabled in the House of Commons.
As noted in previous PBO reports, there are often significant differences between the money announced in the Budget versus what is ultimately approved by Treasury Board and presented to Parliament for its review.
It is ultimately up to parliamentarians to decide whether these improvements are sufficient to outweigh the drawbacks of incomplete information in order to help the Government expedite the implementation of Budget measures. As highlighted in previous PBO reports, a significant part of Budget implementation delays stem from the Government's own internal processes. Were these to be streamlined, the Government would be able to spend money more quickly without the need for Parliament to forego information. It is unclear what the Government intended to do to address this issue.
Last year, a single committee was entrusted with studying all new spending measures announced in the budget, but the Liberal majority shut down any effort to have anything resembling meaningful scrutiny. That committee, the government operations committee, has itself not given the green light to continuing the government's bad experiment. Let me quote from page 27 of its 16th report, which was tabled in January:
Since the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates has a mandate to study the process for considering the estimates and supply and the format and content of all estimates documents, among other things, it is best suited to study changes made to the estimates process. The Committee therefore believes that it should study the impact of the new timeline for the tabling of the main estimates before the changes to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons are made permanent
That is probably the most polite way that one could expect a group of Liberal backbenchers to tell the government publicly to back down from any hasty plans. I would agree with them. The government's experiment on aligning the budget and the estimates requires thorough review. It appears clear to me and to many of us that the experiment has not only failed, but it has made things worse and more complicated.
Members should not be surprised to see a minister sauntering down to the House in the next few weeks urging us to celebrate the government's changes and to make this nonsense permanent. I hope that does not happen.
In conclusion, I want to say that we are very happy to work hard and long hours. We know that is what it takes to get things done for Canadians.
However, we are not impressed that we are being asked to join the Liberals' desperate scramble to be able to claim that they have accomplished something, rather than having squandered four years in office while surfing on a sense of entitlement, thinking things would just happen for them because, “By goodness, we are so good-looking and we are Liberals”, though, by the way, some Conservatives are good-looking too. It takes more than good looks and well wishes.
I am trying to get a little smile out of them, but I think I have just hit them too hard. I see the member for Winnipeg North smiling.
We certainly do not agree with a bunch of temporary and permanent procedural changes being slipped in under the guise of a motion calling for longer working hours that would tip the scale in favour of the government going back to possibly changing the Standing Orders.
I will be proposing some changes to government Motion No. 30. If the Liberals will agree to our amendments, we will agree to their motion. It is very simple. I am not overly optimistic. I am looking at the faces of my colleagues across the way, and they are not looking too committed. Am I getting a few nods? No one is committing, but maybe I will read the amendment.
An hon. member: Give it a shot.
Hon. Candice Bergen: That is what I will do, Mr. Speaker. I will read it first, because it is kind of like how the Liberals have governed for four years, with decisions, favours, policies and grants for Liberals and their well-connected insider friends, with all of the advantages going to themselves. Beyond that, the Liberal government is one that will be remembered for hollow buzzwords, empty symbolism and broken promises. The good news for Canadians is that it will not last forever. There are just 20 sitting days left for this Parliament and, if the voters agree, just 20 sitting days left for this failed government.
In closing, I move, seconded by the member for Barrie—Innisfil, that the motion be amended as follows:
(a) in paragraph (b), by deleting all the words after the words “provided that” and substituting the following: “any recorded division demanded in respect of a motion to amend the Standing Orders or to make changes to the usual practices of the House shall stand deferred to the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on Wednesday, October 23, 2019”; (b) in paragraph (e), by adding the following: “provided that any recorded division demanded in respect of a motion to amend the Standing Orders or to make changes to the usual practices of the House shall stand deferred to immediately before the time provided for Private Members' Business on Wednesday, October 23, 2019”; (c) by deleting paragraphs (i), (k) and (l); and (d) in paragraph (m), by deleting the word “31st” and substituting the following: “20th”.
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