House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Tabling Of Documents
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Hull—Aylmer
Québec

Liberal

Marcel Massé President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a report entitled "Getting Government Right: Improving Results Measurement and Accountability with Departmental Performance Reports", the President of the Treasury Board's annual report to Parliament.

Madam Speaker, I also have the honour of tabling 16 pilot reports on performance.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Bruce—Grey
Ontario

Liberal

Ovid Jackson Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 15 petitions.

The Role Of Government
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Hull—Aylmer
Québec

Liberal

Marcel Massé President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Madam Speaker, honourable members, ladies and gentlemen, I have the honour today of tabling "Getting Government Right: Improving Results Measurement and Accountability". This is the second annual report of the President of the Treasury Board, a report that focuses on results, performance and accountability.

My report does not stop at listing the key reviews and their objectives, but also shows what Canadians have a right to expect for their tax dollars.

This report states what 16 government departments and agencies expect from their activities. We have devised a new format that makes this report easy to read. Our new approach is based squarely on program review decisions and departments' business plans. This is the first time the government has compiled this information in one document.

I am also tabling today 16 departmental performance reports. These pilot documents demonstrate our new results based way of managing in the public sector. They will help Canadians understand the objectives of each department and agency as well as the progress made in meeting those objectives.

Federal departments and agencies must from now on meet three requirements: first, identify and communicate the results expected; second, improve the measurement of these results; and, third, improve the way they report to Parliament.

The documents I am tabling today show that we are honouring our commitment to constantly improve the information we give to Parliament and to Canadians, in a way that is open and transparent. Having the right information at the right time will allow Parliament to perform its work better. Improving the quality of information will ensure better informed discussions and debates within government, in this House, and among Canadians. The quality of these debates will, in turn, lead to better decisions, improved accountability and, ultimately, better government.

I would like at this point to draw attention to the untiring work of the hon. member for St. Boniface, who has led parliamentarians in defining their needs for information on expenditure management. With his help, we have developed documents that are more concise, more clear, and focused on results.

These reports are an important step in the process of planning for the next fiscal year.

If the pilot documents meet our expectations, we plan to seek the permission of the House to require all departments and agencies to table separate reports on planning in the spring and on performance in the fall.

I think that the efforts of members of the government to objectively assess how well they met their commitments will be encouraging to everyone.

Focusing our attention on results and demonstrating our achievements are an important step in our efforts to get government right.

The Role Of Government
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I would invite the minister to continue along the path he has begun toward more accountability and greater transparency in public administration. In particular, I would invite him to ensure that members of Parliament and ministers also have an obligation of accountability and transparency.

I would also invite him to keep the promises made by the Liberal government about revitalizing democracy. Too often in the past three years the impression has been that the public service and the federal administration are often being led by the mandarins, that the mandarins are often telling the ministers what to do, and the ministers are letting themselves be pushed around by these mandarins.

Revitalizing democracy, as the Liberals so well presented it during the last electoral campaign, means more transparency in the work of committees. This was not been the case in connection with the family trusts, particularly the transfer to the United States of two billion dollars, in which there was no transparency whatsoever, but rather a systematic camouflage operation. I think there is a good deal to be done in this area.

The question of revitalization of democracy, accountability and transparency raises the whole question of political party funding. We can boast of having a grassroots funding structure, but the major federal parties do not have that.

I would therefore invite the minister to continue along the path on which he has begun, so that accountability, transparency and revitalization of democracy will be made concrete, rather than remaining mere empty promises.

The Role Of Government
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Madam Speaker, the work described by the minister stems from the recommendations of the sixth report of the public accounts committee tabled in March 1994.

There is no doubt that the President of the Treasury Board has taken his responsibility to report to Parliament very seriously. We now have several detailed documents from Treasury Board which include the main estimates, the annual report on review and these new performance reports.

It is now up to parliamentarians to do their job and review these documents to see what is missing and what can be improved. The Treasury Board Secretariat, along with the public accounts and the auditor general, have also recognized the need to improve measurement of results and to improve accountability in the public sector.

I applaud the recognition but in reviewing these documents I note that we still have a long way to go. There is one question to ask at the end of the day after reading these reports. Has the system been improved and will these reports assist in reviewing and improving government policy? I do not feel this question has been answered.

Last year Treasury Board reviewed 19 priorities or key government programs. I do not dispute the fact that all 19 programs were reviewed. Many of them were reviewed by standing or special committees. After the review, have the necessary steps been taken to improve the programs or to change the way the services are delivered? Let me offer four examples.

Last year Treasury Board said that the government reviewed the GST, family trusts, the infrastructure program and TAGS, the Atlantic groundfish strategy. What has happened as a result of the review? With the GST we note that the government has initiated harmonization which includes four provinces, but not abolition. The answer is to hide the GST in the sticker price which is not a very creative solution.

The review has taken place on family trusts but the loophole is still open. Infrastructure: $85,000 per job has been spent and the unemployment rate is still 9.9 per cent. The youth unemployment rate is still double that. There has not been a very creative response.

What have we learned about the TAGS program? It is in as bad if not worse shape. Even those who have received the benefits of this program are extremely unhappy and the Pacific fishery is still in a terrible situation.

I do not believe we have made progress in these programs. The review has been interesting but the outcomes have not illustrated any improvements in the government's decision making process. Please do not get me wrong. I can understand that quantum leaps are virtually impossible. However, one critical attribute of a well performing government organization is that it seeks optimum performance. It will not settle for second best.

In the review of the GST, family trusts, infrastructure and TAGS there are no descriptions of optimum performance. We have no benchmarks to tell us whether or not the programs are performing well or meeting the needs they were created to meet. Let me illustrate my concerns with something more concrete.

One of the so-called faults of a public institution is that there is no bottom line, no hard data, but in some cases this is not true. Last month the auditor general reported on the quality of service in the

public sector. He found that 30 million phone calls to government departments went unanswered, 20 million in Revenue Canada alone. This figure seems like a concrete starting point. Revenue Canada is largely a service department. Finance sets most of our tax policy.

In looking at the performance report submitted by Revenue Canada, the problem is mentioned which is a start. However, no concrete plans are put forward to solve the problem. No benchmarks are given to Parliament to help us eventually measure the success or failure to deal with the problem.

The department says that Revenue Canada is aware that some clients have had difficulty getting through by telephone. The first step is to address the problem, which has been done. But where is the progress? Where is the improvement? Meanwhile the department continues to explore further opportunities for redesigning and improving telephone systems.

This explanation would not fly at a board of directors meeting. The CEO would ask for goals, plans and back-up plans. Once again the Reform Party has asked the government to clarify its goals. Are we trying to improve our programs or are we trying to explain away our problems?

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Miramichi, NB

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to present in both official languages to the House, a report from the Canadian branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association concerning the 42nd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference which was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from August 17 to 24, 1996.

Fish Inspection Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception
Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Fred Mifflin Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-64, an act respecting the inspection of fish and marine plants.

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 73(1), I wish to advise the House that it is the government's intention to refer this bill to committee before second reading.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Canada Endangered Species Protection Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

York West
Ontario

Liberal

Sergio Marchi Minister of the Environment

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-65, an act respecting the protection of wildlife species in Canada from extirpation or extinction.

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure on behalf of the Government of Canada to introduce for the first time federal legislation to promote and protect endangered species across the country.

Like my colleague, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, it is also our intent pursuant to the same standing order to send this bill to committee before the commencement of second reading.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour to present to the House of Commons a petition stating that Canada is indivisible and that the borders of Canada and its provinces and territories, as well as its territorial waters, cannot be changed other than by all Canadian citizens exercising their right to vote as guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or by the process prescribed in the Canadian Constitution.

This petition is signed by residents of Saint-Laurent, Montreal, Dorval, Pointe-Claire, Lachine, Toronto, Pierrefonds and other places in Quebec and Ontario.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères, QC

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I welcome this opportunity to table a petition signed by 860 petitioners, residents of the Outaouais region, the federal riding of Verchères and the greater Montreal area.

Your petitioners call upon Parliament to take steps to abolish the Senate, and their petition is based on the following. First of all, the Senate consists of non-elected members who are not accountable for their actions; the Senate's operating budget is $43 million annually; the Senate refuses to account for its votes to the committees of the House of Commons; the Senate does not fulfil its mandate for regional representation; and the Senate duplicates the work done by the members of the House of Commons.

Considering the need for adopting modern parliamentary institutions and also the motion being debated by this House, on which the House will be asked to vote next week, your petitioners ask that the Senate be abolished.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Bruce—Grey
Ontario

Liberal

Ovid Jackson Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I wish to inform the House that because of the ministerial statement, government orders will be extended by 11 minutes.

The House resumed from October 30, consideration of Bill C-34, an act to establish programs for the marketing of agricultural products, to repeal the Agricultural Products Board Act, the Agricultural Products Cooperative Marketing Act, the Advance Payments for Crops Act and the Prairie Grain Advance Payments Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee; and of motions in Group No. 1.