Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today. As a Conservative MP, nothing is more important to me than tradition. As tradition would have it, I would like to acknowledge all those who are watching me and those I meet at the community centres, at all the organized events in my riding, or when I go door to door. As always, I am very happy to represent my constituents in the House of Commons.
I would like to wish a good National Volunteer Week to everyone in Beauport, the people of Limoilou, Giffard, Sainte-Odile, and all around the riding. In Beauport, there are more than 2,500 volunteers. It is the Quebec City neighbourhood with the highest number of volunteers. That makes me very proud. Without volunteers, our social costs would be much higher. I commend all those who put their heart and soul into helping their neighbours and so many others.
I would quickly like to go back to some comments made by the Liberal member for Markham—Thornhill. She boasted that the Liberal government is open and transparent. I would like to remind her that our esteemed Prime Minister's trip to the Aga Khan's island was not all that transparent. The commissioner had to examine and report on this trip, in short, do an investigation, to get to the bottom of things. First of all, I think it is outrageous for a sitting prime minister to go south. He should have stayed in Canada as most Canadians do.
Furthermore, the Liberals' tax reform for small and medium-sized businesses was not all that transparent. The objective was to increase the tax rate for all small and medium-sized businesses and to create jobs in Canada, through the back door, by increasing corporate and small business taxes through changes in how dividends and other various financial vehicles are treated.
Then, there were all of the Minister of Finance's dealings. He hid some funds generated by his family firm, Morneau Shepell. We discovered that he hid these funds in a numbered company in Alberta.
Basically, we have a long list of items proving that the government is not all that open and transparent. This list also includes the amendments and changes the Liberals made to the Access to Information Act. The commissioner stated very clearly in black and white that they are going to impede access to information. On top of that, the Liberals refused to give access to information from the Prime Minister's Office, as they promised during the election campaign.
I would still like to talk about the bill brought forward by the member for Beauce, for whom I have a great deal of respect. He is a man of courage and principle. This bill is consistent with his principles. He does not care to see subsidies, handouts, being given to large corporations. With this bill, however, he does not oppose the idea of giving money to businesses to help them out. He said something very simple: the technology partnerships Canada program spent about $3.3 billion. For 200 businesses, that represents $700 million in loans and 45% of cases. The member for Beauce does not oppose those loans; he is simply asking the government to tell us whether those companies have paid back the $700 million, which breaks down into different amounts, for example $800,000, $300,000, or $2 million. If some companies have not paid back those loans, then we can simply tell Canadians that they were actually subsidies, not loans.
I want to get back to what I said during my earlier question. When I was a student at Laval University, I remember naively telling my professor that I would go to Parliament to talk about philosophy, the Constitution, and the great debates of our time. He told me that there would be debates on these types of issues, yes, but fundamentally, what was at the heart of England's 13th century parliamentary system was accountability, namely what was happening with the money.
There is a reason why we spend two months talking about the budget. It is very important. The budget is at the heart of the parliamentary system. I sometimes find it a little annoying. I wonder if we could talk about Constitutional issues, Quebec's distinct society, the courts, politics, and other issues. However, much to my chagrin, we spend most of our time talking about money. There is a valid reason for this: every one of us here represents about 100,000 people, most of whom pay taxes. All of the government's programs, initiatives, and public policies, good or bad, are dynamic and rely on public funds.
In England in the 13th century, bourgeois capitalists went to see the king to tell him that all his warmongering was getting a little expensive. They asked him to create a place where they could talk to him or his representative and find out what he was doing with their money. That was the precise moment in the course of human history when liberal democracy made its first appearance.
Another example of the importance of knowing what is being done with people's money is the American Revolution. This is complicated and could fill many books, but essentially, the American Revolution happened because England was not interested in taxation with representation. The Americans said they had had enough. If taxes on tea—hence, the Tea Party—were going up, they wanted to know what was being done with their money. The only way the Americans could find out what the British were doing with the money was through elected representation of the colonies in the British Parliament. However, the king, in his arrogance, and his British governing council told the colonies to keep quiet and pay their taxes to His Majesty like they were supposed to. Thus ensued the American Revolution.
Such major historical examples demonstrate how accountability is at the very heart of the parliamentary system and liberal democracy, which guarantees the protection of individual rights and freedoms so dear to our Liberals in this place.
Now, this is what I do not understand. The opposition members, whether they belong to the NDP, the Conservative Party, or the Quebec caucus, introduce sensible and fairly simple bills. Why will the government not just admit it and thank them? Not only is it the purpose of Parliament to inform Canadians about what is being done with their money, but the government itself should know what is happening.
The government could use half of the unpaid $700 million to more quickly implement its much-touted social housing program or pharmacare 2020. However, between $400 million and $700 million has not been paid back to the federal government. Thus, it is completely unacceptable and illogical for the Liberals to tell us that this is not a laudable or justifiable bill.
When I came to Parliament, I had the opportunity to work on the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, a very complex committee. It was a bit overwhelming, but I took it very seriously and I did all the reading. That committee just keeps voting on credits for months because it approves all the spending. When I was there, the President of the Treasury Board attended our meetings three times to explain the changes he wanted to make to the main estimates. These were disastrous changes that sought to take away the power of opposition MPs to examine spending vote by vote for over two months. He wanted to cut that time down to about two weeks. It was an attempt on the part of the Liberals to gradually undermine the work and transparency of this democratic institution.
What is more, the Liberals wanted to make major changes that would cut our speaking time in the House of Commons. For heaven's sake. At the time of Confederation, our forefathers sometimes talked for six or seven hours. Now, 20 minutes is too long. For example, today, I have 10 minutes to speak. The Liberals wanted to cut our time down from 20 minutes to 10 minutes. This government never stops trying to cut the opposition's speaking time, and that is not to mention the $7 billion that have still not been allocated.
In short, the bill introduced by the member for Beauce is a laudable bill that goes to the very heart of the principle underlying liberal democracy and the British parliamentary system, that of knowing where taxpayers' money is going.