Good morning everyone. (Prime Minister Harper to the Conservative Caucus)
Colleagues, I want to speak to you about events that have transpired recently. You will not be surprised to hear, that I am not happy with the conduct we have witnessed -conduct of Parliamentarians and the conduct of my own office.
We have worked hard, collectively as a party, as a caucus, and as a government, to dramatically strengthen accountability rules in Ottawa and to apply those standards to ourselves.
I need not remind you, that in 2006, this government was first elected, to clean up the Liberal sponsorship scandal; to ensure the rules are followed; to ensure there are consequences when they are not.
Since that time, we have taken unprecedented measures to achieve that end.
Our Federal Accountability Act, the toughest accountability legislation in the history of this country, forever changed the way business is done in Ottawa.
-Strengthened the powers of the Auditor General
-Toughened the office of the Ethics Commissioner
-Reformed political party financing
-Dramatically tightened lobbying rules
-And beefed up auditing and accountability within government departments.
Canada now has one of the most accountable and transparent systems of governance in the world.
This is something of which Canadians are rightly proud. It is also something we can never take for granted, because colleagues, as I said in the room across the hall, in the fall of 2005 when we first pledged to bring in the Federal Accountability Act: …-no government will be perfect, because none of us is perfect.
We cannot dream of a system so perfect, that no one will have to be good.
Therefore, just as we continue to toughen rules, we must also uphold a culture of accountability. And I know that the people in this room have.
We have reduced our ‘budgets’ and ‘travel’ as a government.
We are the caucus that finally bit the bullet and reformed the M.P. pension plan, so that we will pay our fair share.
And I know, that like me and my family, you are scrupulous about paying expenses of a personal nature yourselves.
But, that said, let me repeat something else I said in that same speech in 2005. Let me be very blunt…
Anyone…anyone, who wants to use public office for their own benefit, should make other plans, or better yet, leave this room!
Colleagues, let me also address the issue of Senate reform. As Canadians know, it was this Party that put Senate reform on the national agenda.
And in this room are colleagues from the Senate who have agreed to sit in that place in order to support our efforts to achieve fundamental, irreversible, reform.
Colleagues, we have heard from Canadians loud and clear. They want us to continue our efforts. They are asking us to accelerate those efforts.
The Senate status quo is not acceptable. Canadians want change! As you know, earlier this year, we asked the Supreme Court of Canada whether the reforms we have proposed could be accomplished by Parliament alone.
We have also asked the Court to rule on options for abolishing the Senate completely.
And as we prepare to receive, and act on the judgment of the Supreme Court, we will also take further steps in the area of Senate expenditure and accountability.
Senator LeBreton and I have discussed this, and she has my full support to accelerate changes to the Senate’s rules on expenses, and close any loopholes in those existing rules.
Colleagues, we have an active and important agenda, on the issues that matter to hard-working Canadian families, and much work to do. When distractions arise –as they inevitably will –we will deal with them firmly.
But we will not lose sight of our top priority. The world remains a deeply uncertain place. Canadians are looking to us to protect them …-their jobs -their families -and their communities.
That is what we must be focused on and what we will continue to do
-continue to implement our economic action plan
-continue our work on expanding trade
-continue our focus on jobs growth and long-term prosperity …
And continue to ensure that through all the ups and downs in the world economy, there is no better place to be than Canada.
Now, let’s get back to work !