House of Commons Hansard #47 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was housing.

Topics

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

February 11th, 2000 / 11:55 a.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a copy of our access request for the infamous audit for which the minister tries to avoid taking responsibility. This request is dated January 17, 2000 and was delivered by courier to the department.

On the 18th the minister announced that she would be holding a news conference to discuss something, and on the 19th, in the interest of transparency, she made the audit public. I wonder if these dates are merely a coincidence. Is that what the minister is trying to tell us?

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I understand the question.

Let me say that the whole undertaking was one which began with the receipt of the internal audit, which I took very seriously, and I directed the department to make it a priority, with an undertaking to make the report public so the Canadian people would know that we have opportunities to make significant improvements and to assure Canadians that we are going to fix the problems.

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, in August, when she took over the department, the minister discovered she had inherited an administration that was coming out of the Middle Ages. This, at least, is the excuse she is giving to exonerate herself.

Who then must be held accountable for the administrative mess in her department: the current deputy minister or the minister's predecessor, who is now the Minister for International Trade?

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, again, I am the minister who received the report of the internal audit. I am the minister who is going to fix the problem.

Public Works
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

Last week the Barrett Commission in British Columbia urged the federal government to finally join in assisting the owners of leaky condominiums who face average repair costs of $25,000 per unit.

When will the minister finally join the Government of British Columbia in responding to this economic and social disaster with grants, with tax relief and with no interest loans to the province of British Columbia? When will he finally listen to the people of British Columbia?

Public Works
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, we have received the report of Mr. Barrett and we are studying it.

CMHC is working with all of the different local organizations to try to resolve the situation and will continue to do so.

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Human Resources Development is unaccountable for a billion dollars of public money, yet the same minister is insisting that Atlantic Canadians be accountable for TAGS overpayments. Her department is clawing back TAGS overpayments as small as $6.

How can the minister justify this sudden interest in accountability for amounts as low as $6 when the same minister insists it is okay for $11 million in HRD grants in her riding to remain unaccountable and anonymous?

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

Noon

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the premise of many of the questions that were just offered by the hon. member are wrong.

We are taking this seriously. We are developing a system so that Canadians can hold us accountable.

We will work with the auditor general and outside experts to ensure that we have a program that will fix the problem and make sure it does not happen again.

Immigration
Oral Question Period

Noon

Liberal

John Harvard Charleswood—Assiniboine, MB

Mr. Speaker, the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec claim that our refugee determination system is costing money.

Quebec and Ontario want the federal government to give more money to cover costs related to refugees.

What does the government have to say about this?

Immigration
Oral Question Period

Noon

Kitchener—Waterloo
Ontario

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the federal government transfers funds to the provinces under the health and social transfers. These funds cover related expenses to immigrants and refugees.

Let me further state that the three provinces are net beneficiaries of our immigration and refugee system. As a matter of fact our whole country is a beneficiary of immigration and refugees.

It is prebudget season. Last week the request was for health funding. This week it is for refugees. Next week it will be something else.

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

Noon

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is about the fact that we requested the audit on January 17, and yet I heard the minister say in the House today that our request was not sent until after she released the audit herself.

Why is the minister deliberately misrepresenting the facts today in the House?

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill knows that it would not be proper to ask the minister a question of that kind. I would ask that we treat the question as having been rephrased. If the minister wishes to answer, I will hear an answer. Otherwise, the question is out of order.

Human Resources Development
Oral Question Period

Noon

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I am only repeating what the officials in charge of access to information said yesterday at committee.

They checked with couriers to see if there were receipts for that delivery because they have no record of receiving the request until two days after they made it.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

Noon

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, over the past two days, a number of events have taken place in this House. Today, it is happening again.

Yesterday, referring to one of our questions to the Minister of Human Resources, the Speaker of the House commented that the question was too specific.

Earlier, the Minister of Human Resources Development and the Prime Minister had told us “Your questions are too vague. We would appreciate more specific questions. Give us examples of mistakes that were made, of instances where money was misappropriated”.

We did our best, even though we still do not have access to all the lists, to find the most specific examples possible, including one, which I raised myself, involving a $5 million subsidy.

With due respect to the minister, it seems to me that $5 million is important enough an expenditure for the minister to at least look at before authorizing it.

The Speaker of the House seemed to back down on this issue and, later, he let us ask our very specific questions. Then, the minister even told a Reform member that his question was too vague and she wanted a clearer one.

You have the responsibility to tell us how my colleagues and myself must act in this House. Even today, after the minister replied that the question was too precise, too in depth, you said you agreed with her. I have not heard such comments very often in my life.

How should opposition members act to please you, Mr. Speaker? Should we ask very broad questions, so as to allow the minister to say anything, or ask very precise questions and be told they are too precise and cannot be answered?

I would like to know the rules for asking a question in a parliament such as this one. In the other one that I have known, the more precise the question, the more accurate the numbers quoted, the happier the journalists, the happier the public, and the more the Speaker would let us carry on.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Roberval has raised a very specific point. I agree with him that, when questions are asked in the House, the answer is very often to the effect that the question is too vague, too precise or something of the sort. This is perfectly normal when questions are asked in an atmosphere of debate such as during question period in the House.

Today, the question addressed to the Minister of Human Resources Development concerned the percentage of applications or programs where something happened. It is a matter of statistics. A question that requires the production of statistics is a question for the Order Paper. That is what the minister said, and I indicated that I agreed with her to avoid having a supplementary question that would have been identical.

I really had to interrupt the member when she asked the question, and say that it was a question for the Order Paper. The minister said the same thing. I indicated that I agreed, that is all.

If the question is precise, it is acceptable. That is why I said I agreed with the minister's answer, to stop the member for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac from asking another question. I hope everyone agrees on that.