Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to rise in the House to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay, but I also have to say that it is not an honour to participate night after night, day after day, in the Potemkin democracy of what we have become.
As part of the farce that we have in the House, we all stand up and call each other “the hon. member” this and “the hon. member” that. We have learned that it is very unparliamentary to say that anyone lies. I cannot do that, Mr. Speaker, as you would be outraged. However, it is perfectly acceptable to lie in the House. It just has to be said that something is government opinion and that it was how it was stated. We cannot call that out. That somehow is considered parliamentary, because it is based on a gentleman's code here. Of course, that is an old-fashioned, sexist term, but we do not actually have rules except those that are in place for the officers of Parliament, whose job it is to hold us to account. With the Conservative government, we see a concerted attack on the credibility of the officers of Parliament. They will stand up in the House and tell us how the Conservatives all care about access to information. It is a farce.
Canada was a world leader in access to information. Year after year under the Conservative government, we fall further and further behind. Guess where we are now? We are about number 56, which puts Honduras and Russia ahead of us. The Conservatives stand up here and talk about fighting for democracy, but when we have corrupt countries like Honduras, Nigeria, and Russia serving their citizens' access to information requests better than the Conservative government does, we know where we stand.
We then get the President of the Treasury Board, who is like a flim-flam artist at a country fair, saying “I am going to give you the big prize. Put your money down.” The big prize is a booby prize. It is data sets. It is open government. What was the great line that I heard? It was in “machine-readable formats”. My God. What the heck is a machine-readable format? Do we know that is? It is junk. What the Conservatives do is to give people junk, and meanwhile suppressing the evidence that counts.
The information that people need is about who made decisions, why the decisions were made, and who was in the room when the decisions were made. However, we know that ministers' offices are black holes of accountability. The Information Commissioner has spoken out on that time and time again, but it is not just that they have a black hole of accountability; they have set out to fully monkey-wrench the Information Commissioner, just like the ridiculous member for York Centre and his witch hunt against parliamentary officers for their supposed partisan activities.
What we have now is the Information Commissioner writing to the President of the Treasury Board, the man who I said earlier was like a flim-flam artist at a country fair. She is saying that without the proper funding, she is not going to be able to fulfill her mandate. That is what the Information Commissioner is telling us. There is a fundamental problem. The reason she does not have the funding to do her job is because she does not have the order-making powers. If she had the order-making powers, she would not have to go to court all the time.
I see my Conservative friends stand up and say, “Oh my God, order-making powers. That is a very bad thing.” It is so bad that it was the number one promise in the Conservative election commitment in 2006 with regard to accountability. They said that they would give the Information Commissioner the power to release the order of information, and they lied to the Canadian people. They stood up on the issue of access to information and promised that they would reform the system. Instead, they sit there and fall on the backbenches, happily carrying on this farce that we are somehow an accountable democracy, when the access to information officer is telling us that the system is broken.
What does this mean? The fundamental principle of an accountable democracy is maximum privacy for citizens and maximum accountability and transparency by government. These guys flip it upside down: they want maximum transparency of their political enemies.
When we hear the Conservatives talk about accountability and access to information, we never hear them talk about their corrupt lobbyist insiders and friends. No, it is their big bad trio, including the corrupt Indian chiefs, they talk about. We heard that tonight, with their going after the first nations. The big bad union bosses are number two. Let us go after them, they say. Number three is the radical environmentalists. The Conservatives use the Canada Revenue Agency now, in a total corruption of government operations, to go after bird watchers because they threaten the interests of the tar sands. Meanwhile, their pals are getting away with whatever they want.
The Conservatives' idea of accountability is accountability toward their political enemies. That is what they do. They use the levers of government, misrepresent the use of Parliament and undermine the officers of Parliament. They go after people who are environmentalists, they go after fist nation people and use them as the big bogeymen, the bad chiefs, and they go after people in organized labour.
Meanwhile, the issue we are dealing with is the fact that they are suppressing information. There has been political interference. People will die of old age before they ever get any documents out of the government because it just keeps putting it off. The Conservatives think it is all funny until they are defeated by the Canadian people. It is a fundamental issue of arrogance and laziness.
Access to information should not be a partisan issue. Access to information is about accountability to the Canadian people. The Conservatives say time and time again, “The Canadian people be damned.” This is about protecting themselves, protecting their ministers.
I will give an example. When the Conservatives lost the financial information on s half a million Canadians, did they give a darn about that financial information? No. They were worried about an incompetent minister, so they suppressed the information. They sat on it.
The first thing we learn when data has been compromised is we have to alert people because they could be subject to cyberfraud. We hear the Conservatives talk about cyberfraud all the time. However, they did not tell anybody because they were more concerned about protecting an incompetent minister. What we have along with this faux democracy are faux ministers. They are bobble heads. None of them take responsibility for what happens in their offices. They are protecting the decisions that are being made, that are being given to them in orders, and they are suppressing this information.
The Information Commissioner, a person who has enormous respect in our country, had to write to the Treasury Board president, the man who spent $50 million in border infrastructure money on pork-barrel projects in his riding and said that he had no documentation. That is the man who is supposed to represent access to information.
He will talk about open government, data sets and machine-readable formats. This man took $50 million from border infrastructure, blew it in his riding and said that he did not have a single document.
However, that was not true. The documents did exist. Under access to information, the Conservatives blocked the ability of the public to see those documents, however, we got those documents through the province and municipalities. We found out that the minister had come up with his own homemade forms. It was like the Muskoka minister saying to people to fill it out and they might get a free set of Muskoka steak knives at the end of it. If not, at least a sunken boat would be raised, they would get a lighthouse and a lake would built be in a place where there were a thousand lakes.
There used to be the day people who were that incompetent were fired. Not under the Conservatives. They get promoted if they can take that much money, if they can stand and tell Canadians they lost the paper, even though the papers exist everywhere in all those little municipalities and if they can get away with that. What does the Prime Minister think? He thinks that is the man he will put in charge of ensuring that all the other departments follow their paperwork. That is the man he picked, the Muskoka ShamWow salesman. Remember that? The guy did a television commercial selling cleaning products in China. This is their idea of how government is done.
When we talk about access to information, Canada was the world leader. Our parliamentary budget officers are the most respected people we have in our country, but the Conservatives attack them, ridicule them, and make farting jokes and laugh because they think it is funny. It is not funny. This is about the lifeblood of democracy.
The Conservatives can sit over there in their fake democracy and insult people, but the fact is they undermine the systems of accountability that hold them accountable. It is their corruption that Canadians are fed up with.