I declare the motion carried.
I wish to inform the House that because of the proceedings on the time allocation motion, government orders will be extended by 30 minutes.
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, International Trade; and the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina, Infrastructure.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for a very informative speech on this topic.
She talked about person-years and the employees who will be lost between now and 2015, totalling 549. What is interesting about this number, along with some facts and figures that I have here, is that the budget cuts introduced in 2012 amount to $31 million in the first year, $72 million in the second year, and $143 million in the third year. The number is going up, doubling each year, so that the big impact is going to be in 2015, when this new responsibility will likely be passed on to the border guards.
It seems to be a pattern throughout. Agencies and departments and all aspects of government are going to be hit with this all in one year. How is it that the government, which wants the border agency to do more to enforce this legislation, would ask it to do the job with 549 fewer employees? That pattern is going to occur throughout the entire public service.
Would the member care to comment on that phenomenon and the Conservative government's approach?
Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the comments by the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. It is clear that she works very hard for her constituents.
Earlier this evening we saw that no costing had been done for certain aspects of this budget.
What does the member think, and what do the people of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot think, about a government that does not even cost its budget?
Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed the remarks my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot made. She talks about important issues frequently in the House, and she speaks very eloquently on behalf of her constituents. I would like to thank her for that.
Like the member for Ottawa Centre so aptly mentioned, the motion states that the plane used by the Prime Minister should be used only for government purposes. That seems pretty straightforward. However, the Conservatives and the Liberals would rather dismiss this motion because they think it is up to them to decide what justifies using the government plane.
In the past, the Prime Minister criticized the Liberals for using the plane to transport contributors, which he said was inappropriate. Now he seems to have changed his mind. My question for my colleague is simple.
Why did the Prime Minister change his mind, and does he want to use the plane for whatever purpose he desires?
Mr. Speaker, before I begin my comments, I inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.
We have heard a lot of discussion on many different topics with regard to government costs and the rationale for certain procedures. However, there have been a lot of comments that are really off the topic. We have a very simple proposition before the House that the official opposition brought forward, which I gather the other parties do not want to support. I want to read it into the record to bring us back to the issue. My colleague from Timmins—James Bay brought forward the following motion:
That, in the opinion of the House, government planes, and in particular the plane used by the Prime Minister, should only be used for government purposes and should not be used to transport anyone other than those associated with such purposes or those required for the safety and security of the Prime Minister and his family.
It is not about security of the Prime Minister or the need for him to have security. It is not about whether the Prime Minister should have a plane. It is not even about whether his family should be on the plane with him, and it is not about people having access to the plane to do government business, so let us clear that all up because some people have been wandering off and making comments as though we had challenged that premise.
The facts are those. The motion I read in is what the discussion is about, or should be about. Sadly, it has gone off in other directions. That is the choice of members, but I just want to bring it back for Canadians because this is about trying to bring back accountability to this place and to government.
My mother was mayor of Ottawa for a while and she had a driver. Most people who knew my mother knew she was a terrific person, a great mother and not a bad mayor, but she was not a great driver, so many people were happy with that. However, the purpose of her having a driver was for her to be able to do her business and to make sure that she was able to do her business on behalf of the citizens of Ottawa. It was not a fancy car, just a basic car, and she used it for the business of the city.
The same should apply to our Prime Minister, who has to conduct business on behalf of citizens of this country. Where it gets blurred is when people accompany the Prime Minister who are just friends and they have access. I also want to bring into the debate that this is not about the repayment, although there are issues there because if we look at the repayment costs, there are some really good deals going on. Most people who try to get a flight at Christmas, I think, pay more than $250 to go from Calgary to Ottawa, but maybe that is just me. We will set that aside. The motion is not only about that; it is also about access.
The government seems to be arguing that because some money is paid back, it is okay for friends of the Prime Minister to jump on board with him and fly around the country for social events. It is not okay, and why is that?
I have noticed in the last number of years, and we have talked about this government and previous governments, that there has become quite a void between the political class, which is creeping, and everyday people. That is what this is about. It is about trying to bring back some sensibility of what these entitlements are for. They are there for the Prime Minister to do his business, not to have his friend from Calgary, whom I am sure is a fine friend, but why is he on the plane with the Prime Minister to go to social events?
A constituent of mine or of any member of the House cannot call the Prime Minister and say that they have a friend who wants to go on a flight with the Prime Minister, and they know he is going from Calgary to wherever and can the friend jump on board. They cannot do that. Why? Because they do not have access.
That is what we are talking about. We are talking about the entitlement. We are talking about access to these services. What the Conservatives have done, and it happens when governments and parties have been in power for a while, is that they start to slide and slip and make excuses, and say that they will pay the money back. I am sure many MPs have had to explain in their constituencies and to their base that “I know you are upset that this gentleman got a ride with the Prime Minister, but he paid it back, so it is okay”.
I suspect that many people would follow up and say that they cannot get on board with the Prime Minister, or friends of theirs cannot, so why is that okay?
The Conservative government has started to rationalize its behaviour in a way that is distancing itself from everyday Canadians and in fact from the accountability program that it came in on.
I was on the committee for Bill C-2, the Accountability Act. I remember well the Conservatives saying that we had to change the behaviour of government and that government should no longer act in an entitled way. They brought in some measures that our party supported. Some of them have not been realized, and that is for another speech, but the premise was that we needed to see more accountability.
It was also really about ethics and about this seeming distance between citizens and the political class. There was this notion that if someone knew someone in the PMO or in government, they could get access, they could have favours done, and they could get jobs and appointments to agencies, boards, commissions, or the Senate. It was getting out of hand, and we agreed with the government in 2006 when it brought in the Accountability Act. We agreed with the spirit of it.
However, what we have seen in the last while—and there is quite a list—is that there is a behaviour that tends to creep into governments after they have been in power for a while. At that point we see the rationalization that certain senators had to be appointed “just because”. We have heard it many times. However, the government did not have to appoint those senators. It could have appointed other senators, but it chose not to. It could have appointed people who did not have connections directly to the Conservative Party to agencies, boards, and commissions, but it did not.
The premise was that the government had to put those people in because they would help with its agenda and those people would help the government get there. That is where we have seen this kind of rationalization creep in and take hold, to the point where many people I know in the Conservative Party are very alienated right now. They thought that the Conservative government of the day and its predecessor parties were about bringing accountability to Ottawa and bringing an end to these entitlements at the highest level.
It is really about that. It is bringing us back to that discussion. In the case of planes, should those planes be used only for government business? That is all we are talking about here. It is not about anything else.
It is also about the spirit of what the Conservative government was talking about way back in 2006, when it came into power. Mr. Speaker, you received that mandate as an MP with the party ticket that you ran on. You did it for what you thought were the best reasons to be involved in public service—to represent people—and you were lauded for it. Many people would say that you were elected on that basis.
We are trying to bring people back to that conversation. We are trying to say that when it comes to government services, they are there for the people.
I will make reference to my mother again. When she ran for office—and she passed this on to me—she always said that running for office is like a job interview. We go door to door and we put our resumés forward to ask if people would hire us to represent them. That is what elections are about. In between elections, we work on their behalf.
I sense that we are starting to see that idea slip a bit around here. I sense that people are starting to say that they deserve this car or that entitlement. What happens is the people who are hurting right now, such as seniors and veterans, wonder who is representing them.
At the end of the day, this motion is not just about planes: it is about entitlement, and it is about bringing all of us back to ask what we are here for. These public services, planes in this case, are purchased by taxpayers, by the citizens. Who are those services there for? Who has access to them? This simple, straightforward motion is just to clarify that question.
For those who disagree with the motion, I would ask them how they will rationalize it to their constituents and tell them that it somehow is not fair. There is nothing wrong with voting for this motion. It will not affect you. In fact, people might laud you for getting behind a motion that might bring you back to why you got involved in politics in the first place.
The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.
I will take this opportunity to remind both members that over the past few weeks I have heard a lot of use of the second person. Sometimes members try to do it by saying “through you, Mr. Speaker” but then they go back to the second person. That is not in order. We must keep our remarks through the Chair.
Also, the member for Kitchener Centre, while he was quoting, did use the proper name of our Minister of Finance, and even though it is in a quote, we do not do that either. We do not do indirectly what we cannot do directly.
If members could keep that in mind as we go forward, the Chair and other chair occupants would greatly appreciate it.
The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.
The member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot will have five minutes to finish her speech another time.
Before I recognize the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, I want to inform her that I will have to interrupt her at 5:30 p.m. because the time for government orders will have expired.
There is approximately six minutes left. The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.
The electoral district of Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot (Quebec) has a population of 95,983 with 77,536 registered voters and 213 polling divisions.
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