House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was security.

Topics

Privilege

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

On Wednesday, September 24, the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville rose on a question of privilege arising out of the previous day's question period, charging that the Solicitor General had misled the House, thus impeding his ability to function as a member of Parliament.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville for having raised a matter of considerable importance. That he was not deterred by the financial complexities of the question is to his credit. That he was driven to raise a question of privilege in the House in order to obtain the kind of information that should be readily available to all members of Parliament is most unfortunate.

In his presentation the hon. member referred to the supplementary estimates (A) tabled in the House on September 23, pointing out that on pages 13 and 88 for Vote 7a it is stated, “Canadian Firearms Program New Appropriation $10,000,000”, and “Canadian Firearms Centre--Operating expenditures...to provide a further amount of $10,000,000”.

The hon. member then proceeded to contrast the wording used in the supplementary estimates documents with the Solicitor General's response to a question during question period in which the hon. minister had stated that the government was not asking for any new money for the firearms registry and that the money had been previously approved by Parliament.

The hon. member for Yorkton--Melville noted that if the Solicitor General was right, then the supplementary estimates were wrong, and Parliament would be voting for the same money twice. He maintained that this could not possibly be the case.

Describing the history of the House's actions concerning the estimates of the Canadian firearms program, the hon. member pointed out that Vote 7a was not a one dollar item, the usual means of transferring funds from one program to another in the estimates, but was listed as a new appropriation. He further stated that the House had been assured that the $113.1 million approved in the main estimates for 2003-04 was the entire budget for the program. He argued that the Solicitor General's claim that this was not new money defied common sense.

In conclusion, the hon. member said that an attempt “to fool members” into believing that the ten million dollars in Vote 7a were not new funds and thus somehow not subject to scrutiny or reduction was an affront to the dignity of the House and disrespectful of its role as “the grand inquest of the nation”. The House needs accurate and truthful information to perform its functions and, therefore, the making of misleading statements in the House must be treated as contempt. In the opinion of the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville, the Solicitor General clearly misled the House and he stated that he was prepared to move the appropriate motion should the Speaker rule that the matter is a prima facie case of privilege.

The hon. government House leader addressed the matter on behalf of the Solicitor General describing for the House the use of one dollar items in the estimates, indicating that the Solicitor General had not misled the House and promising to return to the House with additional information.

The hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough and the hon. member for St. Albert also contributed to the discussion of one dollar items and what constitutes a new appropriation.

On September 25, the government House leader provided additional information concerning the nature of the request for $10 million. He pointed out that operating budget carry forwards are an accepted part of government financial management practices. He stated that the supplementary estimates for the last fiscal year 2002-03 contained requests for the approval of a total of $629 million in carry forward funding for 87 departments and agencies. The government House leader also underlined the fact that the $10 million in question is money that had been previously approved by Parliament, to which point I will return.

It is understandable that the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville finds the presentation of this item in the supplementary estimates (A) somewhat confusing. The funds in question are certainly presented in the document as a new appropriation.

As hon. members know, Parliament provides the government with funds by giving it the authority to withdraw specific amounts of money from the consolidated revenue fund for specified purposes. In granting funds to the government, Parliament sets an upper limit on the amount that may be spent on a program or activity. The government may not exceed that limit without seeking additional funds from Parliament, which is done by way of supplementary estimates.

In the supplementary estimates (A) 2003-04, under Solicitor General, Vote 7a, Canadian Firearms Centre--Operating Expenditures (page 88) there is a request to Parliament for two amounts: a transfer of $84,840,694 and a “new appropriation” of $10,000,000.

With respect to the amount of the transfer, the supplementary estimates explain that the government is requesting Parliament:

To authorize the transfer of $84,840,694 from Justice Vote 1, Appropriation Act, No. 2, 2003-2004 for the purposes of this Vote....

This is a transfer of funds already approved by the House on June 12, 2003, as part of the current fiscal year’s main estimates.

Under Explanation of Requirement, the new appropriation of $10 million is described as “Operating budget carry forward.” A note explains this item as follows:

This amount represents the operating budget carry forward for Justice for the Canadian Firearms Centre.

A further note states:

Effective April 14, 2003, Orders-in-Council P.C. 2003-555 and 2003-556 established the Canadian Firearms Centre as a separate department and transferred from the Minister of Justice to the Solicitor General of Canada the control and supervision of the Canadian Firearms Centre.

It is important at this point that hon. members clearly understand what is meant by an operating budget carry forward. The main features of a carry forward can be identified as: first, carry forward is from one fiscal year to the next; second, carry forward of an operating budget is limited to 5% of that operating budget in the main estimates for the original fiscal year; and carry forwards are done individually by program and not for the main estimates Vote 1 (operating expenditures) overall.

Before proceeding further, it may also be useful to make clear the distinction between carry forwards and dollar items, since the matter of dollar items was raised during the initial discussion of this question of privilege. House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 733 describes dollar items as follows:

Supplementary Estimates often include what are known as “one dollar items”, which seek an alteration in the existing allocation of funds as authorized in the Main Estimates. The purpose of a dollar item is not to seek new or additional money, but rather to spend money already authorized for a different purpose.

Dollar items deal with the transfer between votes of funds approved during the current fiscal year. A transfer of this kind permits the funds to be used for a purpose other than that for which they were originally approved. Dollar items cannot be used for a transfer from one government department to another. Hon. members will note that in the transfer of funds mentioned earlier, from the justice department to the Solicitor General, the specific amount of the transfer is indicated rather than a nominal one dollar figure.

Carry forwards, on the other hand, deal with the transfer of funds from one fiscal year to the next. The money to be carried forward was money approved by Parliament in the original fiscal year, but not spent in that year. Since the approval of the funds lapses at the end of the original fiscal year, Parliament must authorize the carry forward in order to reapprove the spending authority. There is no change in the purpose for which the funds are requested.

As carry forwards are done on a program basis, the Justice operating budget carry forward is properly listed under Solicitor General. As I mentioned earlier, the program, Canadian Firearms Centre, was transferred on April 14, 2003. Therefore, it would no longer be permissible to have the carry forward listed under Justice, because the justice minister no longer has authority for the program.

The situation before the House can be summarized as follows. In the preceding fiscal year, 2002-03, the government sought and received spending authority to finance the Canadian Firearms Centre. Over the course of that fiscal year, it apparently made use of only a part of the funds that Parliament had granted for that purpose. The unused funds lapsed at the end of the fiscal year. The money remains in the consolidated revenue fund, but the government now lacks the authority to spend it.

Through the supplementary estimates (A), 2003-04, the government is seeking new authority to spend a part of the previous fiscal year’s allocation, which it did not use during that year.

In a manner of speaking, therefore, the House is indeed being asked to vote on the same thing twice. Authority was sought and granted to spend the $10 million on the firearms centre during fiscal year 2002-03. However, the money was not spent and that authority has lapsed.

The government is now seeking fresh authorization to spend that sum on the firearms centre during fiscal year 2003-04. The decision as to whether that authority should be granted is obviously one that the House itself must make. As with any request in the estimates, the House has the right to reduce the amount requested or to refuse it entirely.

In light of these facts, I cannot agree that the remarks of the hon. Solicitor General are misleading. As is true of any large and diverse organization, the Government of Canada makes use of many technical accounting devices that may be unfamiliar to those of us who are not specialists in the field of public finance. However, the fact that the $10 million is a carry forward is set out in the supplementary estimates (A), while the wording is not as clear as it might be. While it is true that this represents a new appropriation in the current fiscal year, there is no evidence to suggest that the hon. Solicitor General is incorrect when he asserts that it does not represent over the two fiscal years any increase in the overall funding for this program.

It should be noted that the actual amount of funds which have lapsed will only be known when the Public Accounts are tabled. It is only then that members will be able to determine if the carry forward respects Treasury Board guidelines. This ruling should not be taken as passing judgment on the availability of the $10 million amount in the carry forward. I am sure the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville will follow the Public Accounts with great care on this point.

I wish to thank all hon. members for their patience in dealing with this matter, which has touched on some relatively technical explanations of the workings of our financial procedures. The issue underscores the need for Parliament to be presented with clear and complete information in order to fulfill its responsibilities. And once again, I wish to commend the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville for raising this important question, and I trust that the matter has been clarified to everyone's satisfaction.

Privilege

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Order. I hate to bore hon. members with these technical details but I have two rulings to give and I might as well get the other one done now as opposed to later, especially since the hon. member for Fraser Valley is here. I would like to rule on the question of privilege raised by him on September 29, concerning the manner in which the Public Service Commission informed members of the House about the results of its inquiry into the hiring and promotion practices in the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Fraser Valley for raising this matter, which is of concern to all hon. members.

In drawing the actions of the Public Service Commission to the attention of the House, the hon. member for Fraser Valley made two points. First, he argued that the report of the Public Service Commission ought to have been tabled in the House prior to being made available to the general public. Second, he claimed that the commission had shown disrespect for members by scheduling a media lock-up prior to the briefing that was provided to members of the House.

The hon. member noted that the Public Service Employment Act, R.S., c. P-33, section 47(2), requires the Public Service Commission to table an annual report in the House. He contended that this requirement should extend to all commission reports, especially those dealing with officers of Parliament. He pointed to a ruling made on March 19, 2001, in which the Speaker had clearly indicated that with respect to material to be presented to Parliament, providing information to members should take precedence over any other briefings.

Finally, in a further submission made on September 30, the hon. member for Fraser Valley indicated that the Public Service Commission had expressed its intention to report to Parliament, in the terms of reference for its inquiry. The commission's report acknowledged that its investigations had been carried out in response to a request from the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. The hon. member argued that this supported his earlier claim that the report should have been laid before Parliament before being released to the public.

I know that there is a great deal of interest in all aspects of this matter, both among hon. members and among the Canadian public at large. It is important, therefore, that we set out the details of these events clearly so that there is no risk of misunderstanding.

Standing Order 30(3) establishes the period for the daily tabling of documents during Routine Proceedings. Standing Order 32(1) makes additional provisions for tabling, and enumerates three conditions under which documents must be tabled. It states:

Any return, report or other paper required to be laid before the House in accordance with any Act of Parliament or in pursuance of any resolution or Standing Order of this House may be deposited with the Clerk on any sitting day or, when the House stands adjourned, on the Wednesday following the fifteenth day of the month.

I must therefore first ask if there is any statutory requirement for the tabling of a document of this nature by the Public Service Commission.

The Public Service Employment Act makes provision for two reports to be submitted to Parliament each year. Section 47 of the act, cited by the member for Faster Valley in raising the matter, requires the commission to provide its annual report to the appropriate minister who shall cause it to be laid before Parliament within 15 days after receipt by the minister thereof.

Section 47.1 states:

The Head of the Public Service shall submit a report on the state of the Public Service in each fiscal year to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister shall cause a copy of the report to be laid before each House of Parliament on any of the first fifteen days on which that House is sitting after the Prime Minister receives it.

The members will note that these provisions apply only to the commission's annual reports.

There are also specific statutory provisions governing inquiries by the Public Service Commission and the presentation of the commission's reports. The Public Service Employment Act, R.S.C., s. 7.1 accords the following authority to the Public Service Commission:

The Commission may conduct investigations and audits on any matter within its jurisdiction.

It is under this authority that the audit in this particular instance was undertaken. There is no requirement in the act that reports prepared pursuant to section 7.1 be tabled in the House.

On the question of the requirement to table a document pursuant to an order of the House or to a standing order, an examination of our Journals shows that there has been no order made by the House that the report of the Public Service Commission be tabled nor is there any permanent requirement in the standing orders for such a report to be tabled.

Given the absence of a statutory requirement or a House order of any kind there are no procedural grounds on which the Speaker can insist on the tabling of the report.

However with respect to the second point raised by the hon. member for Fraser Valley, that the media was briefed before members, I would draw two facts to the attention of the House. First, I would like to remind hon. members that my ruling of March 19, 2001, to which the hon. member for Fraser Valley referred, dealt with a bill that had been placed on notice but had not yet been introduced. What the Chair had to consider in that case were the rights of the House with respect to information concerning an item to come before it. At that time, I stated, and I quote from the Debates of March 19, 2001, at page 1840:

The convention of the confidentiality of bills on notice is necessary, not only so that members themselves may be well-informed, but also because of the pre-eminent role which the House plays and must play in the legislative affairs of the nation.

I cannot see that any basis exists for a similar claim in the present case. The report of the Public Service Commission has not come before this House nor is there any requirement that it do so.

Under these circumstances, there is no procedural requirement either for confidentiality or for precedence being accorded to hon. members.

The hon. member for Fraser Valley also indicated to the House that the investigation carried out by the Public Service Commission was initiated, at least in part, by a request from the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. In a letter from the chair of the committee to the president of the Public Service Commission, printed as appendix 10 of the committee's fifth report, the wish is expressed that the committee be informed of the results of the PSC inquiry. Such a request should not be confused with a formal request from a committee for production of a document made pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a) or a request from the House itself.

I remind the House that members of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates were provided with copies of the report prior to its being made public and that the Public Service Commission provided a briefing to all members prior to the release of the report.

It is also clear that the information provided to the media was embargoed by the Public Service Commission until the report's release. The media were therefore not in a position to make use of the information they had received until after members of Parliament had obtained that same information. In this particular instance, whether or not the embargo was respected is certainly not a matter on which the Speaker can be asked to adjudicate.

In light of the facts I have set out, I can find no grounds for the finding of a prima facie breach of privilege concerning either of the two points raised so ably by the hon. member for Fraser Valley.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Report
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to lay upon the table, pursuant to subsection 23(3) of the Auditor General Act, the report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the House of Commons for the year 2003.

This report is permanently referred to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Government Response to Petitions.
Routine Proceedings

October 7th, 2003 / 10:25 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the standing orders I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, OSCE, to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in European Parliamentary Assembly, OSCE PA, from its annual session in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, July 5-9, 2003.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Joe Fontana London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration entitled, “A National Identity Card for Canada?”.

I want to thank not only the committee members for working so hard thus far, but also members of the Canadian public who have voiced their opinions, which we encourage. Hopefully, this report will encourage more and more Canadians to be engaged in this very important public policy issue.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker,I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities, presented on Thursday, June 12, be concurred in.

I ask the government to concur with the motion. The committee on disabilities presented an excellent report. I recognize that it was done prior to the summer recess but I think it is extremely important for the government to address the issues in the report.

The chair of the committee, as well as others, did an excellent job. The report is entitled “Building a Brighter Future for Urban Aboriginal Children”. There is no question that throughout the nation the aboriginal population, both on and off reserve, has suffered severely under the actions or inactions of this government and past governments.

It is troublesome enough for the aboriginal population as a whole but people with disabilities suffer even more as a result of services not being available and as a result of the conditions of poverty within the first nation population.

The government has had a habit of doing a lot of talking on how it will improve things throughout the country on a number of different issues. We had at one time the royal commission on aboriginal peoples. The government has ignored its report for years and now we have another report and the government is not taking any action yet is willing to do something as horrendous as invoking time allocation, or the possibility of time allocation, on other reports or issues.

It is not acceptable that excellent reports and work is done to address the issues and the government ignores the reports. I want to draw attention to this report and the comments that have been made.

I will read a few of the excellent recommendations to remind the government that its has to make an effort to follow through on the recommendations of the report.

Recommendation one states:

Building on the present Urban Aboriginal Strategy, and recognizingthe federal government’s commitment to Aboriginal children, the Subcommittee recommends that:

  1. the federal government should identify a government department to take responsibility for providing policy and organizational coordination among all federal departments with programs forAboriginal people (both on and off reserve) in order to better collaborate with provincial/territorial governments and, where appropriate, municipalities;

  2. Aboriginal organizations, both political and those representing Aboriginal service-providers, be invited to take a proactive participatory role in such an initiative; and

  3. a key output of this initiative be the creation of an integrated federal policy and program framework for the development of young Aboriginal children, both on and off reserve, from the prenatal period to age twelve.

I will talk a bit about that recommendation and draw attention to the fact that the committee has recognized the need to identify one department to accept responsibility. I want to emphasize the importance of that.

What we have seen over the course of the last couple of decades is the government sort of working on a “let's divide and conquer” kind of approach to providing services and funding for first nation groups.

Therefore we separated health and put it under the Minister of Health and that will be the aboriginal and Inuit health centre. What we have seen happening is one minister looking after the health side so the others kind of say that they are not responsible for it, that it is under the other minister. What did we end up with? We ended up with the abuse of dollars in the first nations health branch by the deputy minister and the wasting of dollars that should have been there to support first nations health programs.

Then we have another department that will deal with some aspect of the funding through the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. From the perspective of the Metis people, we have another minister looking at that aspect of it. There is a breakdown with everyone saying that they are not responsible for one aspect.

Because of this, there has been a misuse of dollars, not by the aboriginal peoples but by the government departments. It is crucially important that one department accept responsibility for providing these programs so we can do a much better job of providing services for first nations people.

The report from the committee dealt specifically with the status of persons with disabilities. I am aware of a program that took place within my riding. It was done in conjunction with the province, the OASIS agency and the health branch. It was an excellent program. I personally knew numerous people who worked within this program. They already had started, among those groups, to provide a program to assist people within the first nations communities with disabilities which provided the extra supports for the family members and made them aware of what was available. The program was absolutely excellent.

What happened was it only had limited funding. They tried to get more funding but what did the governments do? It was a divide and conquer approach. The governments said that they were not really sure the program worked. We were in the communities, we knew the people and we saw the work they did with those families. The families said that it had been great to have someone there to help them. They said that it was hard when they had children who needed help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is tough enough in an urban centre like Ottawa to look after a child under those conditions, imagine what it is like when the nearest health facility is 100 kilometres away. Providing the additional respite for the parent is not right there. It makes the job that much tougher to do.

I saw the program operating at the ground level and it was a fantastic program. First nations people were involved with providing the assistance, which was being done in conjunction with the OASIS agency, the child and family services agency. What happened was there was no funding and no program.

When a report then comes out saying that we need to provide those services, it is just unconscionable. I saw the program in place and it worked great. However because of this government's funding approaches, it did not survive. It is time the government put its money where its mouth is instead of in the pockets of certain people. It needs to put in place programs and support so we can provide those programs.

Recommendation two from the committee states:

The Subcommittee recommends that all federal government departments with programs for urban Aboriginal families and children ensure that urban Aboriginal service-providers are consulted in program development, implementation and evaluation.

Once again, it sounds great. The government has said time and time again on numerous issues that it would work along with aboriginal people and first nations people and that it would listen to them. Part of the consultation process and part of the listening process is following through with some of what is heard. It is not to say that they should go ahead and talk but the government will not do anything because it comes from the people and they really do not know. That is the way this government and governments before have approached their work with first nations people, aboriginal people, the Metis, the group as a whole, and it is not acceptable. There is a need to work with them and listen to what they have to say.

As I indicated previously, there was a program in my own riding that was working. It involved the service provider, the OASIS agency, and the people from those communities. They would say what was good and what did not work and they tried to sort out what was best in order to provide services to the people in the communities. Once again, there was a lot of talk but nothing happening.

Recommendation three states:

We recommend that steps be taken to build a pilot project around services for children in the Urban Aboriginal Strategy pilot projects.

  1. Recognizing that pilot projects are community driven, we urge the Privy Council Office to engage representatives of children’s services to preliminary meetings in cities where the pilot projects have not yet been defined. These would include, among others, Child and Family services, early childhood development services, and schools.

  2. Acknowledging the difficulties confronted by many urban Aboriginal parents in moving between areas of federal and provincial jurisdiction, we further recommend that the evaluation of the Urban Aboriginal Strategy pilot projects include indicators of increased collaboration on jurisdiction and resourcing issues related to programming and funding for children with complex needs, such as children with disabilities and children with emotional and/or medical needs. We also recommend that evaluation of the pilot projects examine to what extent the funding results in concrete, meaningful outcomes for urban Aboriginal families.

  3. The Subcommittee has heard about the importance of ensuring that collaborative projects remain community-based and work toward outcomes defined by communities. We would therefore urge the Privy Council Office to ensure that community partners in the Urban Aboriginal Strategy pilot projects play a key role in defining the strategy and outcomes upon which the pilot projects will be evaluated.

  4. The Subcommittee urges the Privy Council Office to work with its federal government partners to adopt, at a national level, the collaborative practices between federal government departments which might emerge from the pilot projects.

Again I go back to the project in my riding. It had first nation providers involved in it. The bottom line was the government did not listen. Once again, this report has excellent recommendations. It is no surprise that the government has not concurred with the report. From what I have seen in action and the reality of it all is that it will not listen. It is only a bunch of talk.

Quite frankly, it is not acceptable that dollars are spent time and time again. Efforts are made by members in the House. I think we will all acknowledge that so often the government and the opposition parties in the House do not really work together. We do not always have unanimous reports that come from committees with excellent recommendations. The chair and the vice chair are from the governing side, and the government totally ignores what comes out of the recommendations.

When a report comes out of committee that is this good, it is extremely upsetting that it is ignored. It is not a surprise any more but I think it is important that we keep this in the minds of Canadians that good work does comes out Parliament and committees. The bottom line is none of it will ever succeed if the government does not follow through on the recommendations. All it becomes is a bunch of paper, a waste of taxpayer dollars and a very disheartening experience for those involved as well as for the people that it is intended to support.

Recommendation four states:

The Subcommittee reiterates the recommendation in the First Nations Child and Family Services Joint National Policy Review that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) funding formulas to First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) agencies be reconsidered in order to recognize the importance of preventative services, alternative programs, and least disruptive/intrusive measures for children at risk. It is further recommended that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development seek funding to support such programming as part of agency funding.

Once again we are dealing with the issue of what needs to happen. We need to identify a particular provider of the service and ensure that there is stable funding. The government is not willing to put that action in place.

It is crucial that first nations have the stabilized funding. It is disappointing that this happens, especially when it hits home to those most vulnerable. We have persons in poverty and with disabilities. Families are trying to keep their disabled children at home. What happens is the family is on edge at the end of the funding. That happened with the project with which I dealt.

People came to me and asked what they could do. They said that it was a great program. I tried to figure out why it was cancelled. I contacted various agencies. The bottom line was people said that the program did not work, yet it had not involved those people who were in the program. It totally ignored them. That is what happens when there is no stabilized funding.

Every time before a federal election, government members go to the people and tell them that they have a deal for them. They tell first nations people that they will ensure they get a certain amount of money. They tell them that there is Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, that they will follow through and make it work. They tell them that they will give first nations millions of dollars for that program, that school and that airport.

After the election, the government does not follow through on its commitments and we have first nations people in cities and in their communities on their reserves still living in the same conditions because the government has wasted dollar after dollar.

It is very real. We have the disabled people in those communities, children who cannot leave their wheelchairs, cannot feed themselves and have to have care 24 hours a day, seven days a week and no programs in their communities to support them. Why? Because the government talks a lot but it does not follow through on committee reports such as this one which is an excellent committee report.

I ask the House and the government to put everything else aside right now and deal with an issue that is extremely important, one that will benefit some Canadians, that will make a difference in the lives of Canadians and that will ensure that we do the job we are supposed to do by providing services to people in the country.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, QC

Mr. Speaker, since she had a hand in preparing this report and also made very useful comments, I would like to ask my colleague a question following what she just said.

The community groups that participated in all these interviews expressed a major concern. They wondered how to directly allocate this money, which is meant to help these youth and children at risk. In light of what the witnesses who appeared before us said, my fear is whether or not the right people are getting the money to run the programs.

I recommended that the friendship groups, which seemed very convincing and concerned, work directly with the clientele rather than other groups that are somewhat more political in nature.

My recommendation is as follows: that the federal government give money to the groups so that they can redistribute it properly to the youth who are directly concerned.

Does my colleague echo this concern? In the past we have often seen the federal government spend and squander staggering amounts of money that did not go to the people it was meant for.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, absolutely. There is no question a formula has to be in place where those agencies can direct the dollars.

I commented previously on a project in my riding. The funding for it had to go through the federal government, the provincial government and then the child and family services agency. The child and family services agency wanted to continue the program, but one partner said that it did not have money available, so the program was lost. There was no control over what the other two did. There was no process in place so the agency itself could control the dollars that were needed to provide the program.

I will be the first to admit that sometimes programs do not always work, but we need a place to deal with that. The program in my riding was absolutely fantastic. People who were receiving the assistance had good feelings when they could bring their child home from Winnipeg and provide the care they needed.

However they still need some supports in the community. They need some days off, some respite, and that is hard to get in first nations communities or for people living in poverty unless the supports are in place. It definitely becomes an issue when the funding drops out suddenly. Those individuals are then left thinking that they will have to move from their communities because family support is no longer available.

The waste of dollars is another issue. I can go back to what happened with the first nations community in my riding in Manitoba where the deputy minister was a key factor. Government people were involved in the wastage of dollars, yet the first nations community took the brunt of that. There was an implication on the people that they had wasted the money, yet it was the government department that had messed up, and still has done nothing about it. It was made to seem like the first nations wasted the dollars, but in fact it was the government that blew away those dollars for health for first nations people who needed those services. That is why there has to be a different process in place.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague for the excellent speech she gave and the passion that she showed on this issue.

I draw her attention and the attention of the House to an incident along the same lines that happened in Windsor. We had an agency that was funded by Health Canada for preschool children within the aboriginal community. The funding was arbitrarily cut in February or March of this past year. I had the same experience as my colleague from Churchill. In spite of all the representations I and other members of the community made on its behalf--because there were some allegations, not against this particular agency but against the parent agency of some mishandling of funds--the department used that as an excuse.

We had children in the program who were autistic or who suffered from some physical disabilities, all of whom required services that would prepare them for the school system. The program was arbitrarily cut. To this date, despite all those representations from other members of the community, that funding has not been replaced.

Could my colleague comment on whether or not this is an experience she has had elsewhere in the country?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is no question. There has been a number of projects in place that have had funding cut in the last year or so. From my perspective within Manitoba, I was being somewhat cynical, because it looked like all these projects were being cut because first nations were not supporting the First Nations Governance Act introduced by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

I was kind of getting that feeling about it. Then as other projects were cut, one could not help but recognize there would be another election coming up. The government needs to feel that it has some dollars to dole out again and as a result, people who need those services are suffering.

Somehow the government thinks it is okay to cut funding to a group that is trying to assist an autistic child and his or her family, preparing the child so that the child would be able to have some kind of continuing education. It is just too bad. It is just part of the game. These groups will simply not have the funding until the government is ready to dole out a bit more money. It is not acceptable.

There must be a system in place of stabilized funding that is not at the discretion of members of the government who can simply ditch it because they want to use the money for something else. We need to have programs and projects in place.

The recommendations from the subcommittee on disabilities were excellent. I want to see the government put action into words, concur with the report, and not put it on a shelf somewhere, like the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. We could probably make a highway from the dust that is sitting on that report because it has been packed down so much for so long. The government must change its approach and start following through.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend the member for bringing this matter to the attention of the House.

The member may be aware that I spent a year and a half, almost two years, travelling the country going from reserve to reserve. It was brought to my attention that some serious problems existed in terms of the serious needs that were not being met on a number of reserves. I found in my travels that the conditions were unbelievably and unexplainably horrible for a country such as Canada.

In an effort to revitalize some ideas brought forward to the government, there were a number of submissions made by grassroots people from reserves across the country. They were begging for help in regard to unemployment, severe addictions, opportunities for the undereducated and numerous other things.

I introduced a number of private members' bills in the House to improve their condition. Some members in the Liberal government decided to give some support. However, they all failed.

Can the member explain to me, why is it that there is so much reluctance on that side of the House to specifically say that there are definitely severe needs for the human beings who live on the reserves in our country? And why do we not get it fixed? Why is there such a reluctance to support these ideas that come from all walks of life?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, far be it for me to sort out what is going on in the heads on the other side.

The only thing that I can honestly say would mean that the government would not follow through on recommendations that would assist in improving the conditions involving people within those communities.

The only thing that would hold the government back is control. We want to have an educated population that is able to provide for itself economically. We want a population that can stand up to the government and not have to be at the government's knees asking for funding so that individuals can put food on their tables and have schools in their communities.

The Government of Canada does not want to lose control over first nations people and that is unacceptable. The conditions will continue until the government gives first nations the real opportunities to improve conditions.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate this motion. I move:

That the House proceed to orders of the day.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?