House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was speech.

Topics

Health
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the transactions referred to by the member are the subject of an inquiry, either by the police, by auditors or by both.

As I mentioned in response to an earlier question, we are before the courts in Manitoba this week to make sure we get access to all the documents necessary to understand how public funds were spent.

I assure the member and the House that we will do everything possible to trace every one of those public dollars, and if any were misspent to recover them on behalf of the public.

Health
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, it certainly begs the question when did the minister first become aware of it and why did he wait so long to act.

Given the staggering amount of taxpayer money that has been handed out by his department while hospitals across the country continue to struggle under his government's cuts, will the minister confirm that this matter, if warranted, will be turned over to the RCMP? Will the forensic audit also include an inquiry into why his department delayed so long before acting?

Health
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, on the question of timing, I can tell the member that some months ago when these matters were brought to my attention I directed the department to suspend further payments to the centre until all questions were answered.

On the subject of the RCMP, I can tell the member that the RCMP is already very much involved in investigating many of the transactions to which he has already referred.

Health
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, native people all across the country are looking for financial accountability.

Let us take the example of the Sayisi Dene nation in Manitoba. The Virginia Fontaine treatment centre sent its staff on a Caribbean cruise. Guess who went along? The assistant deputy health minister who was wheeling and dealing with the president of the treatment centre to buy condos at Mont Tremblant.

The band council reneged on a $100,000 payment to the Russell Funeral Home. It continues to owe $3 million to Wing Construction and band members still do not have decent housing or schools for their children.

How much evidence does the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development need to initiate a forensic audit on this band's books?

Health
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I have already talked about some of these issues. I share the member's concern. I too am troubled by what we see at this centre.

That is why we have undertaken a forensic audit. In fact we have stopped funding the centre, cut off further funds. We are in front of the court to make sure we get access to all the documents we need. I have assured the House, and I do it again, that we will do everything possible to trace every public dollar that went to that centre, and if any were misused to recover that money.

Health
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is much more than a matter of the health department. This is really under the jurisdiction of the minister for aboriginal affairs. This issue continues to grow and grow. It is just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately it is one of the many cases across the country.

In the throne speech the government stated that it would support first nations communities, implementing more effective and transparent administrative policies. I recently heard the minister say “It is time to stop the talk and start the walk”.

If he is serious about walking the walk, will he today order his department to initiate a full forensic audit of this band's affairs and offer its members and all Canadian taxpayers full financial accountability of taxpayer money?

Health
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Kenora—Rainy River
Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I welcome our new critic. The first thing he probably should do is get himself a full briefing by the department.

If he had bothered to take us up on our offer of a full briefing, he would already know that the department has put the Sayisi Dene under third party management. The department is looking after the books on behalf of the members of that band until their financial situation is rectified.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister met with the new American president. We know that softwood lumber is one of the most contentious issues between Canada and the United States.

Could the Prime Minister confirm that the position he presented to the American president on the softwood lumber issue is a complete return to free trade?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, this is the position that our government has always advocated. However, we must also take into account the fact that the Americans have some responsibility.

I think the president very clearly indicated that he was in favour of free trade and that one of his main concerns at this point was to make sure that the free trade that exists between Canada, the United States and Mexico was extended to the other countries of the hemisphere.

I then pointed out to the president that the principle which he was upholding should also apply to softwood lumber.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, could the Prime Minister tell us whether the American president gave him the assurance that, when free trade resumes on April 1, the United States will not impose countervailing duties on Quebec exports of softwood lumber, as they did in the past?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I did not get any such indication. We undertook a dialogue with the Americans and we hope to find a solution by March 31 of this year.

We know full well, however, that under the free trade agreement the Canadian government does not provide any subsidies to any lumber producer and that Canadian products can enter any part of the United States at no cost.

Auditor General
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, first it was the billion dollar boondoggle at HRDC. Then it was the Shawinigan problem in the Prime Minister's riding. Then it was the problem with the native treatment centre in Manitoba under the Minister of Health. Now it is the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

The auditor general said today that an internal audit by the department states that 19% of files reviewed did not meet minimum standards of due diligence. It goes on to say that 37% of files are borderline acceptable.

Is the end of the line with the Minister of Canadian Heritage, or is everybody involved in incompetence and mismanagement?

Auditor General
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Vancouver Centre
B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Secretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, the audit which the auditor general refers to occurred last year, almost a year ago. All the recommendations which the auditor general made have been implemented.

Auditor General
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is totally unacceptable. The auditor general said in 1998 that they could not assure themselves that departmental officials had exercised due diligence. In 2000 he said they found that while some remedial action had taken place, it was not good enough. He went on to say that the department's response to the audit was unsatisfactory. I do not believe the minister—

Auditor General
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.