Debates of Feb. 24th, 2003
House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was general.
- Arts and Culture
- Heroism in Medicine Hat
- Olympic Winter Games
- Arts and Culture
- Canadian Forces
- Foreign Affairs
- National Defence
- Canadian Alliance
- Goods and Services Tax
- The Environment
- Jutra Awards
- National Security
- Foreign Affairs
- Foreign Affairs
- Citizenship and Immigration
- Oil and Gas Prices
- The Budget
- Firearms Registry
- Foreign Affairs
- Kyoto Protocol
- Persons with Disabilities
- Highway Infrastructure
- Société Radio-Canada
- Electoral Boundaries Commission
- Questions on the Order Paper
February 24th, 2003 / 3:10 p.m.
John Finlay Oxford, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in this debate. I have listened all morning to members speak about the gun registry. I must go to the public accounts committee in 20 minutes which will be dealing with guns, the Auditor General, et cetera. Therefore, I will speak about chapter 2 of the Auditor General's report, not chapter 10. Chapter 2 concerns Health Canada and national health surveillance activities. I suggest that it will be more interesting than gun control.
Overall, this chapter acknowledges the progress made in a number of important areas over the last three years. The Auditor General found that Health Canada had improved disease surveillance in a number of areas including HIV, food-borne and water-borne diseases and influenza.
I will first give a little background on surveillance. Health surveillance is the collection of information generated by the health care system, an analysis of that information to determine trends in diseases or causes of disease across time and place, and to forecast what may happen in the future. We can think of Walkerton, labelling on food containers, and a number of other things.
This information can be used in the short term perhaps to recall a food product or drug or, in the longer term, perhaps to plan health care programs to meet the needs of the future. Surveillance may also give clues concerning the nature and causes of diseases--ideas which can be investigated further by health research.
The vital importance of health surveillance in providing the information needed by public health professionals and decision-makers is readily apparent. It provides much of the information needed to inform policy decisions, to plan health programs, and to take regulatory action to manage risks and protect the health of Canadians.
This is not something that the public necessarily sees every day and it is perhaps something that we may sometimes be tempted to take for granted, but a moment's thought will reveal just how important this role is.
Canadians rightly expect that governments are standing on guard to preserve their health and the government takes that responsibility very seriously. Not only does Health Canada maintain national surveillance in a wide range of infectious diseases such as meningitis, HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, food and water-borne infections, as in Walkerton, but it also stands ready to monitor new threats as they emerge.
For example, it has initiated surveillance of West Nile virus and new variant CJD or mad cow disease, and continues to monitor the growth of the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics.
Health Canada also monitors the safety of regulated products including drugs and vaccines, as well as injuries which require care in hospital emergency departments. There is also considerable effort spent in the surveillance of chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes. The list of conditions under surveillance also includes child abuse and neglect.
I would like to bring to the attention of the House that since 2000 Health Canada has created a single focal point to help advance its work in health surveillance which is the centre for surveillance coordination. The centre is a national centre of leadership, expertise and excellence in health surveillance. Working with others in Health Canada it ensures the coordination of national surveillance that allows it to gather and share information more efficiently with our partners including the provinces and territories. The centre for surveillance coordination, in collaboration with public health stakeholders, aims to increase the capacity of public health professionals and decision-makers across Canada to better protect the health of Canadians.
National health surveillance is a shared activity. Health Canada works in partnership with the provinces and territories as well as other partners such as voluntary agencies, professional associations and universities on national health surveillance issues.
Health Canada is proud of the work that it is doing with the provinces and territories on national health surveillance and will continue to work with them to enhance surveillance systems which are constantly evolving.
An excellent example of this work is the Canadian integrated public health surveillance system or CIPHS, which has been developed by Health Canada in collaboration with the British Columbia centre for disease control and now being piloted or scheduled to be piloted in no fewer than nine provinces and territories. It would drastically improve the speed and ease of the surveillance of infectious diseases by linking laboratories and front line public health workers at local, provincial, territorial and national levels. In her report, the Auditor General recognized the contribution that the Canadian integrated public health surveillance system would make to the surveillance of infectious diseases.
Another example of the innovative work being done in Health Canada is the global public health intelligence network or GPHIN. This system scans news sources for reports of disease outbreaks and collates and transmits them to public health officials. This not only gives us information on health threats which may be imported into Canada or pose a threat to Canadians abroad, but it is also a significant Canadian contribution to the work of the World Health Organization.
I want to assure the House that we have taken the recommendations made by the Auditor General seriously. A national approach to health surveillance that will ensure that weaknesses and gaps in health surveillance are addressed is set out in a document entitled “Canadian Health Infostructure Health Surveillance Tactical Plan”.
We will continue to work with the provinces and territories to obtain further agreements on the sharing of disease information including agreement on data collection, data dissemination, data standards, and the list of diseases that should be reported nationally, as well as developing an evaluation framework.
Finally, Health Canada is developing a distance learning approach to help its partners increase their skills in the scientific disciplines necessary for the operation of surveillance systems. We will continue to enhance current surveillance of communicable diseases, with emphasis on specific diseases such as HIV, enteric diseases, sexually transmitted infections, blood-borne pathogens and vaccine preventable diseases.
To illustrate how this commitment continues, let me point out that the recent federal budget provided funding for a national immunization strategy and that this included continuing work on the surveillance of vaccine coverage, vaccine preventable diseases and vaccine side-effects.
We have surveillance systems for chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes at various levels of maturity and in collaboration with the provinces and territories, and others, we will continue to work addressing specific gaps such as cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory disease.
As an example of federal, provincial and territorial collaboration deputy ministers of health have asked for a task force on the surveillance of chronic disease risk factors and Health Canada will be participating fully with its provincial and territorial partners in strengthening the surveillance of chronic disease.
In summary, we have here an issue of the utmost importance to the health of Canadians. The Government of Canada is playing a leadership role in ensuring that governments across Canada improve their ability to track and monitor diseases and to have the information they need about emerging threats to health.
This is a considerable challenge at the technical level but there is a commitment to a collaborative approach to strengthening our capacity to gather the information needed to protect the health of Canadians. The Auditor General has recognized the progress we have made, with HIV-AIDS, diabetes and others, and there are other enhancements under development.
Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's comments and sadly could find no connection whatsoever with the subject matter before the House. I have great respect for the member and I know that he comes from a part of the country that is extremely concerned, in particular about government waste and accountability.
Among other things, the Auditor General's report said it was inexcusable that Parliament was kept “in the dark” over the blatant waste and mismanagement of the gun registry. I want to ask the hon. member, having put so much emphasis on the issue of health, would he not agree that the $1 billion and the further money that is being plugged disingenuously into the system would be much better spent doing the types of things he just outlined? Does he not agree that the money could be spent in a way that would effectively protect Canadians' health, that would in fact enhance people's current health, rather than a gun registry that has no connection to public safety whatsoever, none?
We know that criminals will not participate. We know that it is of no assistance. We know that it was presented to the Canadian people in an extremely disingenuous way because the costs have ballooned out of control. I know that the hon. member is a very common sense gentleman. I know that he does listen to his constituents. Would he not agree that the $1 billion spent on the gun registry, like the $1 billion that it cost to cancel the helicopter program, like the $1 billion that went unaccounted for in HRDC, like the other hundreds of millions of dollars spent in advertising contracts for work that was not done, is what the Auditor General was talking about?
Does the hon. member not see the connection in what the Auditor General, his constituents and all Canadians are telling him, which is that his government's priorities are completely out of whack? Would he not agree that the money being spent is not having an effect on public safety, that it could be better spent on programs and health like he suggested? Would he not agree that this is a common sense change that might occur?
John Finlay Oxford, ON
Mr. Speaker, my colleague asks an interesting question following my speech. I am quite aware of everything he talks about. I am also quite aware, because we heard speeches this morning, and my hon. friend might have heard them too, which pointed out that death by long guns has now become less prevalent than death by handguns and that 2,000 hits a day on the computer system come from police forces.
There is a lot of good common sense safety involved in the gun bill, and I do not want to go through all that. I went through the gun bill trials too; I stood in the street with the then minister of justice and had 300 angry farmers tell us about things.
The registry will be improved. In about two minutes I will be going to find out all about what the Auditor General wishes us to do.
I will agree with my hon. friend that the value has to be obtained and that it would appear that in the gun registry we did not obtain the value that we should have for our money. I would suggest, however, that health care is a place where the hon. member would agree with me that the government is trying very hard and, it would appear, having some success with the participating provinces and territories in achieving something. It is the envy of the world now and I hope we will keep it that way.
Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC
Mr. Speaker, following up on my colleague's question, the question from the Progressive Conservatives, I think I heard the hon. member correctly state that he did agree with the Progressive Conservative member in the sense that the government did not get value for the dollars invested. I do not think that is an earth shattering statement, because I think everybody in Canada knows by now that the $1 billion was just wasted on this senseless registry, this supernova list that the federal Liberals have come up with. I wonder if he would take that next step, which is to address the real question my colleague asked. Having said that, would he now admit that the money would be better spent, along with the money that the government will continue to pour down the drain into the registry, on health care and other priorities of Canadians?
John Finlay Oxford, ON
Mr. Speaker, my answer to that is no. I think that obviously there would appear to have been money not misspent, not mishandled, but mistakes obviously were made in the difficulty that was demanded or in the kinds of parameters people were working with in the gun registry. I will hear about that in a few minutes. Again, I have heard about it before, but no, on health, gun registration, licences for guns and the safety of people are important as well. Sure, it would have been better to have spent those dollars that we may find have not been too well administered and to have put them into health care. Sure, that would make sense. I would have to know better than I know now, though, how much it might be.
Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
It is a pleasure to rise and address this issue today, to consider the Auditor General's reports from the year 2002. It was a fruitful year for the Auditor General, which means a bad year for Canadians. We have just heard from a member from across the way, from the Liberal side, who was talking a little bit about some of the flaws that we all know exist, for instance in the firearms registry. I want to talk about that in a moment, but I do want to underline why it is important that we talk about these issues.
I believe, and I think many Canadians believe, that this government has not been a good steward of our money, which is why we have taxes that are much higher than necessary. I want to underline how important it is to get rid of waste in government by adhering to what the Auditor General says and just by using common sense, by pointing out the impact it could have on the ability of people to look after their families, to buy clothes for their kids, buy school books, pay the dental bills and buy prescriptions, all these things, if we are able to rein in wasteful spending.
Consider, Mr. Speaker, in Canada today the average family pays about 40% of its income in taxes. On an average annual family income of $60,000, that is about $24,000 in taxes. Now consider if we were able to drop our tax rates down to the equivalent of those in the United States, down to about 30%. That would be a saving of about $6,000 a year. Over the course of 10 years, that is $60,000 that we could save a family, $60,000 if we could lower the waste in government and start to leave that money in the pockets of families.
Every time I come in here I notice the relief on the wall of the Chamber of the House of Commons in which there is a father, a mother and a child. Over the top of it is the word tax and, en français, impôt. The point I am trying to make is that we need to be respectful of taxpayers' money and too often this place does completely the opposite. I get so angry when I see the complete disregard for taxpayers, for instance on the firearms registry.
That registry was supposed to cost taxpayers net $2 million. It is now approaching $1 billion and apparently it is going to go to $1.5 billion, by the government's own admission, before the thing is fully implemented. We think even that number is flawed. It could go much higher. This is so common. It happens all the time. All the time, and every department is guilty of this, and the Auditor General's report is full of examples.
I have mentioned the firearms registry, and we will hear more about the firearms registry today, I can guarantee it, because it is so blatant, that wanton disregard for taxpayers' money. There are many other examples. One of the examples that I think has had short shrift is how the government hid previous surpluses in private foundations.
The Auditor General, who does an outstanding job on behalf of taxpayers, and I admire her and her office very much for what they do, pointed to the fact that these private foundations are essentially off the books. The government will have a big surplus at the end of the year and will do all kinds of very funny, tricky transactions to essentially hide the surplus, to spend the surplus so that it did not have to in this case pay down the debt, because under the old rules that it set for itself, the money was supposed to go to pay down debt.
That would have been a good use of that money, but instead the government put it into these foundations. The problem with that is that these foundations are completely unaccountable to taxpayers. As a member of a committee, one cannot have access to find out what really is going on there. The Auditor General could not audit some of these foundations. She brought down in her report a lot of criticism, concerns and recommendations with respect to these private foundations. She asked the Treasury Board to come up with some rules so that they could actually be regulated. We are talking about a lot of money in many cases. For instance, $300 million is going into Genome Canada, off the books in a place where parliamentarians cannot scrutinize that spending. Another example is the $500 million to Canada Health Infoway Inc.
Why is the government hiding this from the eyes of parliamentarians? I do not understand it. There are many other examples, such as advertising contracts. This is completely scandalous.
For weeks on end, our party criticized the government over its use of contracts to put money into the hands of political supporters, advertising contacts. We raked the government over the coals. Finally it had to yield and sent this off to the Auditor General so she could have a look at it. At some point, hopefully in the not too distant future, she will have a very comprehensive report on how this was done and its impact. Pretty clearly this was a misuse of taxpayer money.
We all know people who work not 40 hours a week but 50, 60 or 70 hours a week to support their families and they pay huge amounts of taxes to do that. Where does that money go? Unfortunately, in many cases it is not used for what it should be used, which is to provide more opportunities for Canadians, to build an environment where more jobs are created, to have modest but sustainable and good social programs and to have a strong national defence. Instead it is very often spent on things that are frivolous, or on things that are well-intentioned but do not meet their objectives and or on things that are blatantly wasteful. That has to end. We have to find a way to rein in the government.
I want to make a suggestion along these lines. At one time Parliament used to review the main estimates line by line and vote line by line on whether an expenditure was warranted. We need to return to that type of system so we can get rid of some of the waste and frivolous spending in which this government majors.
If members think I am kidding, I want them to refer to this past budget, where we saw spending leap through the roof. We are seeing spending go up year after year. Since 1997, program spending by the government has risen 45%. That is chilling. We just barely got out of deficits. We carry a $536 billion debt. We have taxes that consume 40% of people's paycheques. Those are the priorities. What does the government do? It decides to drive up spending at a time when spending is already at all time record highs on a per capita basis in Canada. That cannot be justified.
I would argue that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance have spent like this to try vainly to establish a legacy for the Prime Minister and to try to tie the hands of his successor, in all likelihood the former finance minister, so he will not have the room to put his imprint on government. There is no justification for that. This is taxpayer money. It is completely irresponsible to behave in that manner.
I will conclude by saying it is time for the government to take seriously the spending of taxpayer money, to treat that money with some respect and not to wave it off every time another scandal is revealed. There have been so many in the time I have been here it is almost impossible to keep up with them. Suffice it to say, it is no joke to taxpayers back home who struggle very hard every day to make a living and to support their families. They do not laugh very hard when they find another $100 million has been blown, or $1 billion wasted there, or whatever it is. There are just so many examples.
I would urge members across the way to take this issue seriously and to embrace some of the suggestions of the Auditor General and members of the opposition when it comes to the judicious use of taxpayer money.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his intervention on this opposition day. I must admit I have heard the same kinds of allegations about mismanagement or misuse of funds in a variety of areas. It is important that not only do we look at what the allegation is at the outset, when it comes forward, but at the aftermath, after all is sorted out and all is done. It is important to finish the story.
With regard to the HRDC program, the member will well know that it was a billion dollar program to promote HRDC objectives. There were some contracts, et cetera, which came out and there were suggested overpayments. Even on that one alone, I was told by the minister directly that after all was said and done there were prosecutions and the amount of money actually lost was very little.
In this regard, is the member aware of what in fact the ultimate outcome was of the HRDC incident?
Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB
Mr. Speaker, I know one of the outcomes was that the confidence of the public was completely shaken in the ability of the government to handle its money because there never was a full accounting of where that billion dollars went. We have asked over and over again for the minister to fulfill her commitment, which was to put on the HRDC website a list of where all that money went. It has never been fulfilled.
Speaking of Human Resources Development Canada, my friend asked me what the outcome was. Five years ago Human Resources Development Canada was the subject of an audit with respect to social insurance numbers. Today we are still battling to have the Human Resources Development Department account for five million extra social insurance numbers over and above the population of Canada. That is five years later. We had officials before us who told us that they were not allocated the necessary funds to go ahead and deal with that problem
In return, how seriously does the government take these condemnations that come from the Auditor General? Not very.
Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB
Mr. Speaker, I do not think one has to be a rocket scientist to realize the amount of waste that has gone on in the government over the past 10 years, and even in previous governments. It has just been horrendous.
I come from a rural riding and I have approximately 16 RCMP detachments in that riding. I have also ridden around with a number of policemen in Calgary and other cities. I cannot find anyone on the ground level who has indicated that spending this money on the registry is worth one ounce of good to them.
For example, in the cities when officers go to a domestic dispute, they assume there is a gun there. They do not care what any registry tells them or does not tell them, they will not go in there blind. They absolutely assume that there is a gun. The registry is not helpful, it is a waste. They all believe that. I cannot find one officer at the ground level who agrees with the registry.
However, I can agree with them when they tell me that they are very short of men and equipment. They would love to have a national strategy on child pornography, but they cannot get these things because of this waste.
Does he find it the same in his riding?
Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB
Mr. Speaker, I can confirm exactly what my friend has just said. As members of Parliament, I am sure we all speak to police officers, people at the frontline enforcing our laws in Canada. I can literally say I have not met one police officer, out of the dozens and dozens I have talked to, who has said the national firearms registry is a good idea.
They would much rather see the money devoted to improving CPIC. They would much rather see the money devoted to having not just future sex offenders but all sex offenders listed on a national sex offender registry. That is where the money should be spent: more cops on the beat, more resources for police that make a difference, not on a bureaucratic boondoggle that costs taxpayers a billion dollars for no value at all.
Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC
Mr. Speaker, I will follow up on what the member for Medicine Hat just said, although I would like to commend my colleagues from the Progressive Conservative Party for bringing this matter before the House.
The member for Medicine Hat talked about accountability. I wish that I had unlimited speaking time because I could be here for a week talking about the different departments and the lack of accountability.
I hear some ministers heckling, and they are in charge of those departments. I could go on and on. The saddest part of all this is that this type of behaviour by the government and all the departments is not the exception, it is the norm. That is what this has become. That is the scary part.
I will focus my comments on three areas because I could go on for many but I only have 10 minutes. I will talk about the Human Resources Development Canada, the military and the gun registry.
Let us talk about HRDC. In 1994 the Auditor General stated the following regarding operations:
We believe Parliament should know whether these programs are producing the results expected, whether value for money is being obtained, and whether the programs in certain circumstances are having possible negative effects on the economy.
What a novel idea that is. Imagine that. In 1998 the Auditor General stated that inadequate controls existed in grant programs in many departments.
In 2000 an audit of HRDC revealed a billion dollars was mismanaged. When the files were looked at, 97% showed no evidence that anyone had checked if the recipient owed money to HRDC, 80% showed no evidence of financial monitoring and 15% did not even have an application on file.
Last year the Auditor General revealed that there were five million more SIN cards than there were people. One household received 225 SIN cards before being investigated. Where is the accountability?
Members have referred to these as allegations. These comments come from the Auditor General. Yes, we in the Canadian Alliance bring these up all the time, things like the gun registry. The member for Yorkton—Melville has been a most tireless spokesman on the issue. In fact he fed the Auditor General hundreds of letters that he investigated so that she could have a base for her report. An independent investigator has come up with this.
Let us go on to defence. The Auditor General continually warned the government since 1996 that the military was critically short of resources. In 1994 national defence lost twice as many members as it enlisted. The Auditor General's audits in 1996, 1998 and 2000 and 2001 all demonstrated there was human resource problems in national defence.
The government does not listen. It does not act. The money gets spent on its own slush funds.
In 1999 the Auditor General reported that Bombardier obtained a $2.8 billion contract. The contract was let without competition in complete contravention of government regulations. In 2002 the Auditor General confirmed that $65 million of the contract was paid out for flight training that was never received. This is absolutely shameful. This can go on in any department. It goes on all the time and I will get to that in my conclusions.
The Auditor General has stated for some time that the Canadian Forces need $1.5 billion a year more in its base just to meet the current operational and capital procurement requirements. What did it get in this year's budget? It got half that. It was desperately in need of an ambulance. The government barely gave it a band-aid.
Let us go on to the gun registry. I commend the member for Yorkton—Melville. Through courtesy of the Auditor General came the scandal that best defines the government over the past 10 years. This was to be a net cost of $2 million to the taxpayers. Everybody in the country has learned that it cost a billion. As the member for Medicine Hat pointed out, the government's own estimates now take the cost of the registry up to a billion and a half dollars for a database. It is ridiculous.
Was it all worth it? Not according to Toronto police chief Julian Fantino who, on January 6 of this year stated:
I am very devastated by the amount of gun related violence that we are experiencing here in the city of Toronto; a tremendous increase over years gone by. The difficulty of course is that we haven't yet come across any situation where the gun registry would have enabled us to either prevent or solve these crimes.
Tell me how this $1 billion is doing any good. The Auditor General, not an opposition member of Parliament but the Auditor General herself stated, and these are her words, not mine:
The issue here is not gun control. And it is not even astronomical cost overruns, although those are serious. What is really inexcusable is that Parliament was in the dark.
If people in a Crown corporation kept information from the shareholders on purpose, they would be thrown in jail, but not here. It is an absolute disgrace.
I mentioned three examples. Another frustrating thing is that this has become the norm, whether it is about public works contracts, whether it is in justice with the gun registry, whether it is in HRDC, or whether it is in environment on Kyoto. Billions of dollars are being thrown around. Nobody on that side of the House is prepared to take this on. It will not change. The only solution is a change of government.
Is the former finance minister who is the heir apparent to take over from the badly bruised current Prime Minister prepared to take on these departments? Not a chance. He has been around here for a long time. We will see more uncontrollable spending.
The House has been asked to consider the reports of the Auditor General for 2002. Frankly, we should be considering a lot more.
We started off last year by learning that sponsorship program moneys were being funnelled to Liberal friends and supporters. One communications firm, Groupaction, received $1.5 million for three reports which all delivered exactly the same thing. This is not just wrong. This is not just scandalous. This is criminal. Someone outside Parliament would have been thrown in jail.
Last year ended with it being exposed that the government wasted $1 billion on a gun registry that does not work. The government tried to hide this from the Canadian people.
In short, 2002 was a banner year for waste and corruption. The Auditor General deserves our thanks for helping to expose those files. We need to remember that is only one year in a long tradition of ignoring the Auditor General's office.
I listened to members saying that these were just allegations and that the Auditor General was wrong. If I were in the government and the Auditor General delivered such a report, I would say that we would get to the bottom of it and fix it. What did the Liberals do? They ran, ducked, hid and took cover. They tried to come up with every excuse in the book as to why it was not their fault. Sometimes they actually blamed it on the Auditor General herself. It is unbelievable.
Previous reports told the government to watch how it spent HRDC funding. Previous reports told members opposite that the military needed our help. The reports go on and on.
The worst problem with all of these reports is that none of them have had any effect on the government. That is the scandalous part of all of this. The government carries on with its spending. As the member for Medicine Hat just stated, government spending in the budget we have just witnessed is up some $17 billion, the largest single percentage increase in a budget over 40 years.
The Liberals have not got it yet. They are not going to cut their wasteful spending. They will funnel billions more, all coming out of the taxpayers' pockets. It is unbelievable.
The government treats scandal and corruption with a business as usual attitude. If it were not for motions like the one before us today, the government would not even consider the Auditor General's reports which consistently expose its failures. It has been like this since 1997 when I became a member of Parliament.
The worst problem is that things do not get fixed. We see the same things happening in report after report. The government has a complete disregard for the Canadian taxpayer.
The Liberals' arrogance has grown. They will treat the money as if it were their own and will spend it as they want. They will keep it and funnel it to their own supporters. There is no solution coming from over there. The only way to fix this is to throw the government as far as we can or we will continue to read about billions being funnelled to the government's supporters and being thrown in the paper shredder.
Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB
Mr. Speaker, my colleague has shown a great amount of support for the Auditor General's reports as I have as well. The Canadian public has also indicated strong support for the Auditor General.
One of the things the Auditor General has said in the last number of months is that she felt that the reporting requirements of first nations governments were extremely excessive. Every first nation was expected to produce 168 reports in order to receive its funding and four separate financial audits had to be done. As a result, the first nations were utilizing dollars out of their very limited funds. They did not have the resources to produce those reports. A good number of those reports were never being used for anything other than the fact that they were just being produced.
Would my colleague have a comment on the Auditor General's specific comments relating to first nations governments having to produce an overabundance of reports?
Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member. The bureaucratic red tape for our first nations people is cumbersome to say the least. It is problematic. The government's response again is low accountability and to create more reports. What are the results? Does anybody measure results?
I am sure the member has been to some first nations reserves as I have in my riding. It would be very difficult to find people in our society who would trade places with those of first nations. There are some horrible conditions. I am sure the member would agree.
The first nations receive a fair amount of money, something in the magnitude of $25,000 a year tax free for every man, woman and child. Is it reaching those people? I do not think so because they do live in horrific conditions. There are massive problems within the first nations and how the government has treated the situation.
I agree that the reports are cumbersome. They are not addressing accountability and are creating a bureaucratic nightmare. Again the worst problem is that the grassroots first nations people are still in an extremely difficult situation. Most members have been to some of the reserves and the current practices are clearly not working.
What is the government's response? Status quo, do nothing. Let us funnel money into the gun registry to actually try to fix some of the real problems that the country faces.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to visit a number of reserves when I was on the health committee and we were dealing with aboriginal health issues. I hope the member can provide a bit of knowledge on the resources available to aboriginal Canadians, whether it be with regard to sewers and water, human resources development, or improvement of the economic scenario for our aboriginal peoples.
One of my concerns is that there are a number of programs in a variety of departments which provide a variety of funding to all Canadians as well as to aboriginals. The inability for us to identify the cumulative support whether it be for seniors, the disabled, children, et cetera, is problematic.
Has the member identified that we are talking about a shortage of resources or is it that those resources are very difficult to follow through the system to get that accountability he is talking about?
Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is indicative of the problems we see in many departments, whether it be justice or environment. We are talking about first nations. Nobody measures output, as the Auditor General has asked us to do. Nobody actually looks to see if there is value for the money.
The minute a scandal comes up, the minute a story breaks that $1 billion has been lost or blown, the first reaction is not to say that the problem has to be fixed. The first reaction is to cover it up and hide the facts from Parliament. Everybody goes into justification mode as to why the money had to be spent as opposed to actually looking down and saying, “We are not getting any results. What do we need to change?”
The same would hold true with first nations issues with respect to funding. We should be measuring results and ensuring that the money is actually reaching the people who need it and that we are making a difference. I think it would go a lot further.