House of Commons Hansard #43 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Library Of Parliament
Routine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table the performance report of the Library of Parliament for 1998-99.

Department Of Health Act
Routine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Charlotte, NB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-416, an act to amend the Department of Health Act (environmental illnesses, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and multiple chemical sensitivity).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce a bill to amend the Department of Health Act with respect to environmental illnesses, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and multiple chemical sensitivity.

This bill would amend the Department of Health Act to provide that the Minister of Health be responsible for conducting medical and scientific research to establish the existence of environmental illnesses, to study the causes and effects of environmental illnesses and designated illnesses, and to prevent, diagnose and adequately treat environmental illnesses and designated illnesses.

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

Patients' Bill Of Rights
Routine Proceedings

February 7th, 2000 / 4:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Charlotte, NB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-417, an act to establish the rights of patients in relation to health, treatment and records.

Mr. Speaker, if we can believe the experts in Canada, health care is still the number one concern, despite all of the other issues. Therefore, I am pleased to introduce a patients' bill of rights, an act to establish the rights of patients in relation to health, treatment and records.

The purpose of this enactment is to establish the right of Canadians to consistent quality health services across Canada, personal rights in respect of the receipt of health services and the corresponding responsibilities which patients have in dealing with health professionals. The Minister of Health is required to seek the commitment of the provinces to adopt and protect these rights and responsibilities.

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

Access To Information Act
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-418, an act to amend the Access to Information Act (Crown corporations and the Canadian Wheat Board).

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce and put before the House a bill which would place crown corporations and the Canadian Wheat Board under the Access to Information Act.

The government has been remiss in putting crown corporations and the Canadian Wheat Board under the Access to Information Act, being that there is some sensitivity to competitive advantage. However, the act itself speaks to it and I would like to have the opportunity to debate it.

I am very pleased to table this bill before the House. Even though there have been some discussions about access to information previously, this is very important.

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

Telecommunications Act
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-419, an act to amend the Telecommunications Act (restrictions on telemarketing).

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce my private member's bill on telemarketing.

I am sure that most of us in the House and those listening have been bothered by phone calls from someone soliciting either a service or something we do not want.

My bill would allow Canadians to protect themselves against unwanted aggressive telemarketing by establishing a “do not call” list. My bill would provide the means for anyone who does not wish to receive telemarketing calls or faxes to place their telephone number on a list maintained by the CRTC. This list would be published quarterly in electronic form and telemarketers would be required to respect it. This is already in place in several U.S. states.

Telemarketers who fail to respect the list would commit an offence and would be liable to substantial fines under existing provisions of the Telecommunications Act.

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

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I move:

That the membership of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be modified as follows: Jay Hill for Randy White, Yvon Godin for John Solomon; and that Randy White and John Solomon be added to the list of associate members.

(Motion agreed to)

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented on Monday, November 15, 1999, be concurred in.

I am very pleased to rise today to debate a very important and critical concurrence motion.

I will bring the members of the House, and perhaps those who are watching in CPAC world, up to speed on what is happening. It just so happens that some time ago the auditor general presented one of the quarterly reports. That quarterly report of the auditor general has to do with the accounts of the country and how the public money is being guarded by the government.

As we know, the auditor general's reports are tabled in the House. Following the tabling in the House, they are normally then referred to the appropriate committee. The particular committee that receives this report is of course the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Chapter 6 of the auditor general's report was tabled in the House in April 1999, almost a year ago. The public accounts committee tabled its response to that report on November 15, 1999.

Something that happens here in the House is that we spend a lot of money operating the Office of the Auditor General and a lot of money on MPs and senators in parliament who try to hold the government accountable. We spend a lot of money in many different departments and many different areas of responsibility asking for reports. The reports are then referred to the committees and in due time the committees report back. That is where it bogs down. The reports are tabled in the House and the government must then bring forward a response. It usually sits on the reports until the next election. Most of those very good reports go completely unnoticed in the country and are not acted upon on behalf of taxpayers.

Today we have the sixth report of the auditor general as responded to by the public accounts committee with its first report being tabled in the House on November 15, 1999.

My motion for concurrence was made just three days later because even back then we were very well aware that expenditures out of the human resources portfolio were not being well managed. This particular auditor's report and the report of the public accounts committee addressed the question back in the middle of November last year. Had we given a sense to that report at that time we probably would have avoided what has now become the billion dollar boondoggle. The recommendations that were made by the public accounts committee should be acted upon on behalf of the taxpayers of Canada.

We need to be very careful. We need to make sure that we do not just routinely sweep this report under the rug. I will take a little bit of time to explain to the members what is actually involved in this particular report. I will urge them to vote in favour of my motion, which is to concur in this report. When we concur in it, the recommendations that were presented by the committee will be enacted. In other words, there will be some accountability to our hard-working, beleaguered taxpayers who send bushels of money—I suppose I should say billions of bushels of money—to Ottawa where it is administered and mis-administered.

We want to address the important questions that address the House these days. The phones in our riding offices are ringing off the hooks these days. Canadian taxpayers want to know what is going on. They want to know how we can tolerate this total waste of money and the lack of accountability for it.

The auditor general identified a number of areas in his first quarter report of 1999. Chapter 6 of the report deals with a couple of the issues that we are dealing with today. It was a program funded by HRDC, the human resources development portfolio. We should listen carefully to what it says.

The report deals with, among other things, the national child tax benefit and the way in which it is administered. The auditor general points out that the benefit has highly praiseworthy goals, such as reducing poverty for children, which is an issue this government has put at the forefront and which resonates with many Canadians. None of us want our children to live in poverty. We know that children who live in poverty are living in families that are suffering from poverty. The very government that has this high goal continues to tax Canadian families with incomes of $20,000 a year or less. It takes $6 billion a year from those poor families in income tax. One really wonders what it is about.

Along comes the auditor general's report stating that the national child benefit, which, among other things, was supposed to reduce child poverty, is not being properly monitored and that there is not an adequate indication that the goals it has struck for itself are being met.

The auditor general raises some important questions. For example, the audit report talks about the definition of poverty and asks for clarification on what it really means. That has never really been done. When we target programs to people who are in poverty we need to know who those families are.

He mentions that there are many short term goals, some political only, and that we should be looking at long term goals as pertaining to the welfare of our families in Canada.

We need to define our goals so that the target we are shooting at is clearly known. When I was a youngster we used to say that if we shot at nothing we would be sure to hit it. Here we have another government program that does not have clearly defined goals. It just generally shoots at random in some location with taxpayer dollars and wherever it hits it is considered a success. Witness the statements made by the Prime Minister and the Minister of HRDC today. What they are getting away with is really atrocious.

The accountability that is required is spelled out in the report from the auditor general. He mentions specifically the national child benefit and the employability assistance for people with disabilities. I emphasize that when I move for concurrence in this report I am speaking in favour of assisting people who need help. Many times when we bring these issues forward the Liberals and some of our other political adversaries try to characterize us as not caring about these people. That is a false characterization. We do care about them. We care about them so much that we would like the money taxpayers give toward helping them to actually get to them and to actually achieve the specified goals.

When the auditor general wrote his report he said that there was lack of accountability. It is a cost shared program with the provinces.

It is not clear who sets these goals or who monitors them to make sure they are being met. There are general statements of accountability. It always makes wonderful politics to say that they want to be accountable. Every politician will say that because it resonates with the taxpayer. However, are they actually doing it? The auditor general said no and the public accounts committee said no. Some specific recommendations were made to correct this.

It is important to have an annual report that supplies in detail the information that is required in order to evaluate whether or not there were proper evaluations and whether goals were appropriately set.

Mr. Speaker, I find it difficult to speak with all the noise I hear with my left ear. I would ask that you intervene on my behalf.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Elk Island has requested that the House pay close attention to his words.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

I appreciate the indulgence of my colleagues, since I believe these issues are very important. They certainly are these days as we listen to the big questions on the billion dollar boondoggle.

I will now talk a little bit on why I am moving concurrence in this report.

The report makes a couple of important points. Every province and territory in the country, with the exception of Quebec, has reached an agreement with the federal government on the new social union and on the way in which they will fund some of these shared programs. I think there is probably a consensus across the country for that initiative.

I have been in a number of different parts of the country, but primarily my own province, and I have not met people who want to withhold assistance from those fellow Canadians who are in need. However, they are demanding and insisting that the money be properly managed. It is a very simple question: Is it going to be properly accounted for?

The objective is to improve the work incentives for those people involved, to provide benefits and services for low income families with children, and to give those with disabilities the added ability to get jobs and look after themselves as much as possible and to get assistance from fellow Canadians who would like to assist them. We would like to do this through an accountable tax program. The key element is accountability.

In the report, the committee said “Accountability is a key element in the design of both programs. In official statements, all signatories have made commitments to account for expenditures of funds and of outcomes”. Having signed onto this shared program idea, the provinces and the federal government have made the commitment. The report goes on to say “Notwithstanding these commitments, it is unclear how the accountability for overall results of these programs will be achieved”. There are then some observations and recommendations.

An official from the department, who attended the committee meeting, said “Citizens, legislative bodies and audit offices may justifiably seek assurances that these new arrangements increase or at least do not diminish accountability for expenditures on shared social programs and their outcomes”. That is a very desirable goal. As I said, in the milieu that we are in right now in parliament today, it is so appropriate. That is why I chose to bring forward this motion for concurrence today. We believe we need to meet those joint goals together.

I will move on to some of the recommendations that the committee is making. Let me be very clear on this. On the floor right now is my motion for concurrence. If the House concurs in the report, it means that these recommendations are adopted by the House. I want to read them into the record because they are so important.

Recommendation number one from the auditor general via the public accounts committee is that Human Resources Development Canada and its signatories determine specific quantitative expectations of performance for their respective program goals along with implementation time lines for the national child benefit program and the employability assistance for persons with disabilities program.

Recommendation number two is that Human Resources Development Canada and the other signatories regularly report on progress in setting quantitative goals and implementation of deadlines in their respective reports to the public and their parliamentary legislatures.

This is a critical recommendation and ought to have been implemented about six months ago. That is that there be a regular report and that it be tabled in all of the provincial legislatures as well as in this House so that there is openness and accountability and we do not have to get out the damage control troops to try to ease a problem.

The third recommendation is that Human Resources Development Canada with the other signatories develop a common data reporting framework and protocol aimed at achieving quality, consistency and comparability of program data.

I am running out of time so I cannot explain this, but it is very important that there be consistency from province to province on what the goals are and how the achievement of those goals is measured. If we do not have that, then these reports can be fudged and will be meaningless. Therefore that is a very important recommendation.

Recommendation number four is that Human Resources Development Canada and the other signatories endeavour where feasible to present audited data in the annual progress report. The executive summary of that is simply that we want the data to be reliable, hence the call for it to be audited.

Recommendation number five is that HRDC together with the other signatories ensure that the annual progress reports of these initiatives are tabled in their respective parliamentary legislatures at the earliest opportunity after the report is released to the public. Again we have this accountability to the public and to the legislatures.

Recommendation number six is that HRDC and all the other signatories commit resources to implement the necessary evaluations of these programs. I will not read the names of the programs again. What we have is the necessity for adequate staffing so that accountability can be achieved.

I am personally very upset. Imagine if a bank said it had lost $100,000 of our money and that we could not have it back and when asked to explain where it went, the bank said “We are sorry, we had to cut back our staff”. Would we accept that from a bank? No. Will the taxpayers accept that from the government? No, they will not. It is a lame excuse. It is an unjustifiable excuse and the government may not use it. The government must put adequate resources to the accountability of these programs so that we do not get a repeat of the billion dollar boondoggle.

As a little aside, the auditor general also reported on programs such as TAGS. The jobs training fund has been the focus of the media and of the public in the last month, but the issue is much larger. Again it was last April, almost a year ago, when this was said.

The auditor general in looking at TAGS said that 26% had no clear objectives and 33% did not meet the criteria for the labour adjustment measure under which they were approved. Eighty-four percent did not have verification of contracts and 83% had no supporting documentation. This is a completely different program. The auditor general has pointed it out. It has been reported to the committee which said, “Let us deal with these things” and the House said, “No, let us sit on it”.

Canadian taxpayers are sick and tired of being sat on. We are being taxed to death. Meanwhile the government through its different agencies is totally failing Canadian people in providing accountability on how the money is spent and also that the objectives that are said to be met are being met.

If members have questions I would certainly be happy to expand on what I have said.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That the House do now proceed to the orders of the day.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe that after my speech there should have been an opportunity for questions and comments and I do not think you called for that.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

No, this is on a concurrence motion. On a concurrence motion there is no provision for questions and comments. The debate went to the government, but the clerk is double checking. We were on debate and when the government was on debate it used that opportunity to call the vote on the concurrence motion. I will double check and get back to you.

The Chair stands corrected. There is a 10 minute period for questions and comments. The House will go to questions and comments.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments by our colleague from Elk Island.

I was struck by what he said at the beginning of his remarks to the effect that the reports tabled in this House are just that, tabled. The recommendations in these reports are left to the discretion of the government which, too often unfortunately, will only respond to them at election time.

He very rightly said that excellent recommendations are thus shelved and never implemented.

If I understand correctly, the motion is aimed at ensuring that any recommendation made in a report tabled in this House be immediately implemented with the agreement of the House.

I find it an interesting proposition in several respects and I will ask him to comment on this in a moment.

Is this not the proof that the procedure followed by this House for decades fails to ensure good governance? Are we not faced with obsolete procedure?

At the same time, I would suggest that he might have seen to it that members of this House have the opportunity to debate recommendations further because to endorse them just like that might be just a bit too hasty.

I believe the House procedures are somewhat outdated and should be overhauled. I would like to hear what the member has to say about this.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I value the comments made by the member from the Bloc.

The government is so eager to get back to Bill C-20 that it is going to shut down debate on this motion. That is what it just indicated.

I honestly think if we had a government in Ottawa that was responsive to the needs of the people in Canada and was accountable and treated taxpayers' money as if it were its own, as I pledged to do when I was elected, we would not have the scenario of people in Quebec eagerly trying to get out of this country. I believe the problem is right here in Ottawa.

We have botched the administration of the country and there is not an adequate reason for people to want to stay in the country. We should give them that reason by providing them with openness, accountability and absolute transparency when it comes to stating government objectives and evaluating whether those objectives are being met. We need to ensure that the people in Quebec as in the rest of Canada, the taxpayers who part with their hard-earned money, know for certain that their money is not being misused, abused and boondoggled.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Saint-Eustache—Sainte-Thérèse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a few comments to make. In Motion No. 14 our friend the Reform member talks mainly about the social union. As he knows, the Premier of Quebec refused to sign the social union framework agreement.

He then said that if everything was working well, Quebec would stay within Canada. I would like him to prove to me that what he has just said is true.