House of Commons Hansard #62 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was taxes.


SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


Andrew Telegdi Liberal Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I note that the motion was moved by the member for Calgary Centre and the speaker who just spoke is from Calgary West. Somehow I find it to be a more reasonable combination from the members of the Reform Party.

I have two questions for the member. Earlier in the debate the member for Dartmouth posed a question to the member for Skeena on the issue of the expenditures by the leader of the Reform Party in terms of cars, suits, money that was supplied by the Reform Party coffers. The member for Dartmouth said that was funded by taxpayers' money. The member for Skeena jumped up and said that was not the case.

Could the member for Calgary West tell us how Reform Party funds are subsidized by the taxpayers through the tax credit system.

The next question is I am sure most members of this House and members of the Reform Party would agree that part of the problem is that economics is trying to do a balancing of demands and we have demands coming from various sides. Obviously we ended up with a deficit that was greater than was predicted beforehand, so the government does not have the option. We have to deal with the reality as it is handed to us.

The Reform Party keeps referring to our program, that we are going to increase the size of the debt which I guess we are and that is well known. We also are committed to bringing down the deficit. The Reform Party even in its budget would have increased the debt. In light of the new expenditures I am sure it would have increased even more.

I wonder if the Reform Party does not believe that by forever trying to say that there is a fiscal crisis in the country it is hurting the situation in the financial markets just as the Bloc is hurting

the financial situation in the markets when it says that the country is going to break up.

I would like to have answers to those questions.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if I have enough time to answer both of those, but let me try.

The hon. member raised a couple of issues in terms of the recent expenditures of the Reform Party executive. It is a well known fact that I had indicated I was not happy with the structure of those particular expenditures and I had recommended to the council that it go about receipting any legitimate expenditures that our leader incurs. The executive council of the party I understand has in fact endorsed that kind of a policy.

The reason I said that was that we are here in the House of Commons, the Reform caucus, trying to get our current non-taxable, non-receiptable expense allowance that we all enjoy of $21,300 a year receipted. This is one particular expenditure. This type of expenditure should not occur. It should not occur in the Reform Party and it should not occur in this House of Commons where in addition to being non-receiptable it is also non-taxable.

I would hope that having gone though that particular controversy and kept our policy consistent as we did that we now have the support for the hon. member for the scrapping of that particular kind of non-tax allowance that we as members of Parliament all enjoy. I would expect to get that support.

The member also asked me more specifically whether Reform Party funds have a subsidy component. The answer in my view is that they do because of course they are funnelled through a tax credit system that all political parties enjoy.

We have urged that this government bring forward legislation to end that kind of special tax credit status for political parties in a number of areas. We have urged that we do this for all political parties. If the members of the government feel so strongly on that particular issue I would urge them to take action on it as soon as possible.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Essex—Windsor Ontario


Susan Whelan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about important issues relating to this motion, two issues that are currently eroding the very fabric of Canadian society. The issues are the underground economy and smuggling.

They are issues that are eroding fairness and equity in this country. The underground economy and smuggling are national problems. They are complex problems without simple answers or simple solutions and they are wearing away the respect that Canadians have for law and for the fairness of our tax system.

There are some in our society who feel that evading taxes and smuggling goods are acceptable activities. These people believe that no one is hurt. The fact is people do get hurt.

Underground activity and smuggling are not victimless crimes. They hurt the law-abiding majority of Canadians who obey the law. They are putting honest business men and women out of business. Legitimate business is forced to operate against competition that is not contributing its fair share to the economy.

Honest companies have trouble being competitive both at home and abroad and are forced to charge higher prices to compensate for their own honesty. Jobs are lost. The deficit grows and honest taxpayers carry an unfair load. The playing field is not level.

The greater the illegal activity, the less tax revenue available to governments for essential services and social economic programs. Governments have less revenue to maintain the current high quality of our health care system and our social safety net.

As a result all government programs, including pensions, education, development of the infrastructure, will in due course be at risk.

In 1993 smuggling cost the federal treasury over $1 billion in lost revenue. It cost provincial treasuries another $1 billion. Depending on the estimate, the underground economy ranges from 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent of GDP to over 20 per cent. This means that $20 billion to $140 billion is going untaxed each year. That is billions of tax dollars that the federal and provincial governments do not have to reduce the deficit and finance health, employment and social services.

Because of underground activity it becomes difficult if not almost impossible for governments to meet Canadians' demands for economic growth, deficit reduction and meaningful jobs.

It is clear to me that those who enjoy society's benefits while refusing to contribute to its maintenance are taking advantage of others. They are taking advantage of their honest friends and neighbours. These people whether they realize it or not are expecting others to pay their way. They are expecting their friends and neighbours to pay for the general services they enjoy, including roads, hospitals, schools, fire and police services, while they improve their own personal financial situations. To be extremely blunt, they are freeloaders.

We cannot allow this kind of selfishness to continue. The integrity and the future of our tax system depends on bringing

these people back into the legitimate economy. Canadians have to know that everyone is paying his or her fair share. Canadians need to have confidence and trust in government and in the way their governments handle their money.

As the Minister of National Revenue has publicly stated, tax evasion is not a game. It is a serious issue with serious consequences. It burdens honest taxpayers and hurts businesses throughout the country through unfair competition. While everyone wants the benefit of lower taxes, it must be achieved in line with the law and not by breaking it.

We want tax evaders to voluntarily rejoin the legitimate economy. However we must also continue to send the message that if they continue to deliberately evade taxes we will do all we can to identify and convict them.

I appreciate the opportunity the parties opposite have provided to send this message again today. Tax evaders and smugglers should know that we intend to put a halt to what they are doing. I also appreciate the opportunity to send a strong and clear message to honest Canadians. The law-abiding majority of Canadians need to know that we recognize the fact that they are carrying an unfair share of the burden because of tax evaders and that we are taking action to lift it.

The opposition asked that we sit down with the provinces and with ordinary Canadians to consult on these issues. That is something we do all the time, every single day.

For example, the government recently joined forces with the province of Quebec to combat the underground economy, tax evasion and smuggling, and to improve the way we are using the resources allocated to addressing these issues. Under the new arrangement Revenue Canada and Revenue Quebec have strengthened their relationship in all areas of enforcement with the goal of identifying cases of fraud, non-filers, non-registrants, to sharing access to electronic audit selection systems, co-ordinating audit investigation and collection activities, sharing the results of enforcement measures, sharing the results of research into the causes and symptoms of tax evasion and non-compliance with tax law.

Additional measures under this arrangement include developing complementary audit strategies, putting together joint audit teams to conduct joint audits and investigations, and exchanging the results of these activities.

Furthermore, the government is working closely with the other provinces on these issues as well. Together these measures will allow us to better target our audit activities and improve the ability of both levels of government to co-ordinate their investigation and collection programs. It will also further strengthen the initiatives to combat non-compliance that the Minister of National Revenue announced on November 24, 1993.

Under these latter initiatives Revenue Canada set up special audit teams to focus on business sectors that demonstrate high levels of non-compliance. Targeted sectors include the construction, jewellery, hospitality, home renovations, car repairs and other service sectors.

Revenue Canada also reassigned more resources to auditing, increased the number of joint GST-income tax audits that it conducts and began cross referencing the GST and income tax data bases in order to improve the identification of those not reporting income.

Between 1991-92 and 1992-93 the department added 245 income tax auditors to its field operations, increased the number of income tax audits by 10,000 and raised $200 million in additional taxes. In addition, the amount of corporate income tax collected per auditor rose approximately 280 per cent between 1985-86 and 1993-94.

In short, we have and we are continuing to take action to ensure that the majority of Canadians do not suffer because of those who purposely evade and cheat. We simply cannot allow a minority of individuals to avoid the law.

Everyone must pay their fair share, no more, no less. We owe it to the law-abiding majority of our citizens to ensure that they no longer have to shoulder an unfair burden. It is unacceptable that others who refused to meet their tax obligations can still take advantage of the same services and benefits.

We must continue to enforce the law to its fullest extent to ensure fairness to honest taxpayers. We must be prepared to take all necessary steps to weed out those participating in smuggling and tax evasion. If we are going to maintain the integrity and fairness of our tax system we must send a strong message that participating in the underground economy and engaging in smuggling activity will be a very risky and costly decision.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

It being 5.50 p.m., it is my duty to inform the House that pursuant to Standing Order 81(19) proceedings on the motion have expired.

It being 5.50 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

SupplyPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Before proceeding I have a notice concerning tomorrow's business. I have received written notice from the hon. member for Yukon that she is unable to move her motion during private members' hour on Wednesday, May 4, 1994.

It has not been possible to arrange an exchange of positions in the order of precedence pursuant to Standing Order 94(2)(a).

Accordingly, I am directing the table officers to drop that item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence.

Pursuant to Standing Order 94(2)(b) private members' hour will thus be suspended and the House will continue with the business before it prior to private members' hour.

The House resumed from March 25, consideration of the motion that Bill C-207, An Act to amend the Auditor General Act (reports), be now read a second time and referred to a committee.

Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Richard Bélisle Bloc La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, if Bill C-207, which is a private member's bill tabled by the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier, is passed, it will allow the Auditor General to report to the House as often as he deems necessary.

Moreover, the Auditor General will be able to table a report to the House as soon as that report is completed. This procedure is already in effect in the British Parliament in London, where the Auditor General routinely tables some 40 reports every year.

In early 1993, the Association des diplômés de l'École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Montréal presented a brief to the Committee on the Budget and Administration, which had been asked by Quebec's National Assembly to review public services financing. In its brief, the Association recommended that government programs be automatically reviewed at regular intervals, and that effectiveness studies of government initiatives be released as soon as they are available.

If the federal government allowed the Auditor General to report to the House as often as he deems necessary and table any report as soon as it is completed, it would comply with these two recommendations of the Association des diplômés de l'École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Montréal.

Right now, the Auditor General publishes a report once a year, in which he mentions cases of mismanagement, inadequate financial commitments and tax losses. In the two weeks following the report's release, the media draw public attention to the Auditor General's findings. Some cases described as real horror stories are then forgotten until the next report is published, a year later.

The tabling of reports throughout the year would help maintain taxpayers' interest regarding the way their country is managed. Government management would become more transparent. After all, transparency is what the Prime Minister promised us during the election campaign.

In its twelfth report, tabled in the House on May 28, 1986, the public accounts committee said that, sometimes, comprehensive audits are completed several months before the tabling of the report. The committee added that since these audits can take up to two years, some of the findings may no longer apply once the report is sent to the committee.

The benefits of tabling several periodic reports have already been demonstrated in a number of parliamentary regimes, including England, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand. Canada should be quick to follow the example of these countries. The public accounts committee would be better able to fulfill its role as Parliament's auditing committee responsible for the sound management of public funds. The federal government would save hundreds of millions, even billions, if reports were tabled sooner. The Public Accounts committee would be able to look at the Auditor General's recommendations in a timely fashion, and ask that appropriate remedial action be taken as soon as possible after an audit.

Several periodic reports would also help the Auditor General to plan his office's work for the year more astutely. The resulting savings in resources could lead to a greater number of audits conducted with identical resources at a time when the Auditor General's budget is being cut, like those of several other departments.

Given the government's annual budget of over $160 billion, is this not reason enough to give the Auditor General more latitude in his auditing operations? The public accounts committee would have more recent reports available and would be able to expedite its work while the officials being evaluated were still in office. As Chairman of the public accounts committee, I have too often heard deputy ministers and heads of agencies, when plied with questions by members, give one of the following answers: "I was not there at the time" or "That happened under the previous administration".

This bill, the purpose of which is to allow the Auditor General more latitude and room to manoeuvre, has been introduced in the House on several occasions in the past, but without any success. I will come back to that a little later.

The Bloc Quebecois supports this bill, as does the Reform Party. When in opposition during the previous administration, the Liberals also supported this bill. Why then, now that they are in power, are the Liberals reluctant to support the efforts of their colleague from Ottawa-Vanier to ensure greater transparency and to allow the machinery of government a faster response time by allowing the Auditor General to report as often as he deems necessary and to report studies to the House immediately upon their completion?

I wish to congratulate the member who sponsored this bill and assure him that I will vote in favour of Bill C-207. What I find deplorable, Mr. Speaker, is the lack of strong support for this bill from the government and the Liberal caucus. If the government

supported the member for Ottawa-Vanier, we would be dealing with a government bill. We have been told that the Liberal caucus is divided on this issue and that the government is being pressured by senior officials.

This is an example of a double standard. Now that it is in power, the government is keeping mum and letting a member take the initiative, hoping that the bill will die on the Order Paper , as was the case with Bill C-262 given second reading on October 19, 1987 and Bill C-288 given second reading on July 18, 1988.

Inaction has become this government's trademark. Let us leave things as they are for fear that in two or three years' time, too high a profile on the part of the Auditor General or his too frequent reports on very specific or timely issues will alert taxpayers to the mismanagement on the part of this Liberal government, or worse, to its inability to take the required action to contain the debt.

As I said earlier, I support Bill C-207 introduced by the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier and I also agree with his statement to the effect that, and I quote: "Let us not have the bureaucracy tell us what we should be doing in this House".

Bill C-207 which was introduced on January 20, 1994 was the sixteenth initiative presented to Parliament since July 18, 1980 calling for the Auditor General Act to be amended.

We had the first and fifth reports of the public accounts committee tabled in the 32nd Parliament. There was also a question to the House from the chairwoman of the committee during that same Parliament. In 1985, we had Bill C-250 and in 1987, Bill C-262; then the report of the Senate Committee on National Finances; Bill C-288, introduced in this House in 1988; Bill C-228 in 1989 and finally Bill C-344 introduced in 1992 by the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier, as well as Bill C-207 we are debating today.

What has happened since July 18, 1980? Liberals lost power in 1984 and came back in 1993 and today, the sixteenth try for such a bill, it is still in the making. It is high time to act. If there was not so much resistance from the government machine, this bill would have been passed a long time ago.

The present mandate of the Auditor General and the procedures he uses, including the mandatory tabling of an annual report, go back to 1977, the year the Auditor General Act was passed by this House.

Since then, the flow of information has been multiplied by ten, information systems have evolved, public finances have deteriorated, managers have been made accountable to Parliament, and the Auditor General's office must be able to keep up with new procedures in the area of public account auditing. The Auditor General himself, in his note of March 22, 1994, to the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier, was saying and I quote: "- it seems fairly safe to say that periodic reporting is becoming the norm around the world. In our view, this would be a good time for Canada to join the trend".

Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Judy Bethel Liberal Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-207. I contribute to this debate from my own experience with an effective relationship between elected persons and an auditor general.

The city of Edmonton was one of the first municipalities to appoint an independent auditor general. The experience has been beneficial to both the council and local taxpayers. The focus of the auditor general's work has gradually shifted from financial accounting to evaluating value received for tax dollars spent.

Independent audits play an important role in finding the most cost effective way to deliver public services. That is what we need in Canada today to help restore public confidence in public services. In keeping with the shift to value for money auditing, the auditor general provides information to elected representatives in a timely fashion so elected people can prevent waste, not just point fingers after the damage is done.

Each year city council and the auditor general develop a work plan including a timeframe for the completion and discussion of specific audits. Special audits are considered when they are completed. The auditor also tables an annual report with general recommendations and progress reports on individual departments. In this way the audit function and the corresponding focus on value for money in public service is a continuing focus and not a once a year bad news report.

A problem solving approach by the auditor has helped build good working relationships with both department officials and elected representatives.

Based on this experience I support the direction of Bill C-207 to provide more timely information to Parliament and prevent waste through the consideration of individual audits once they are completed. I believe it will assist in meeting public expectation and ensure that taxpayers receive good value for every tax dollar in Canada.

Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill C-207 which is the act to amend the Auditor General Act. The bill has been introduced by the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier. It is noteworthy that the member is a former chairman of the public accounts committee and now sits on the government side and is introducing this particular bill.

The first thing we should note is that this bill is not a partisan bill but is what I call a good government bill. It is long overdue and therefore my sincere thanks to the member for Ottawa-Vanier for introducing the bill.

The bill basically has two major provisions. One of course is to allow the Auditor General to report to this House more often than once a year. We all know that once a year there is a feeding frenzy by the media to read through that voluminous report which is 600 to 700 pages of all the problems, mismanagement and waste of taxpayers' dollars he has found.

Since he is basically restricted to reporting only once a year, quite often the information we receive is a year old by the time the Auditor General is finished with it. He may have conducted his audit some months before but it sits on his desk for a whole year until such time as he produces his annual report.

The report is then referred to the public accounts committee which may take another six months or so before it gets around to dealing with the points the Auditor General has raised. It is not inconceivable, in fact it is more than likely the information being discussed and acted upon in the public accounts committee could be 18 months old, if not closer to two years old before it is dealt with effectively and responses and remedial action taken. Quite often the civil servants involved may have moved on to new positions.

It therefore becomes quite difficult for the public accounts committee to act as effectively as it perhaps could if the Auditor General were allowed to report more frequently.

I would hope if the Auditor General is given the authority that he would report to this House on a frequent basis, after every audit upon the completion of the audit. In that way the information can be referred to the public accounts committee and it can act swiftly and timely on the information provided.

For example, right now the public accounts committee is dealing with an issue where $1.1 billion of revenue was lost through a problem in finance, justice and national revenue. That is $1.1 billion of taxpayers' money. We are now going back to find out what has caused the problem. The Auditor General knew about this a long time ago but because of the current restrictions on his ability to report, he was unable to do so until January of this particular year. The information is old.

Let us make sure that we as the people responsible to the constituents of this country can make a serious and real difference.

We also have the opportunity of the Auditor General being more responsive to directions from this House. For example, the standing committees may require information from the Auditor General. They would ask him to conduct certain audits if it comes to their attention there is mismanagement, waste, or something going on in any particular department, crown agency, and so on.

These things have to be looked at seriously in light of today's situation where we are $500 billion to $550 billion in debt and that amount is growing every day. Anything that can be done in the light of good government to ensure the taxpayers' money is spent honestly and responsibly can only be good for this country.

I have talked to the Reform caucus. The bill is endorsed by the Reform Party as a whole. I certainly wish the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier success in shepherding this bill through its various stages to ensure it becomes law in this land.

As a member of the public accounts committee I think it is going to be beneficial to the public accounts committee, to the Government of Canada and to the taxpayers. I can support the bill wholeheartedly.

Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

May 3rd, 1994 / 6:10 p.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of the act to amend the Auditor General Act with regard to reporting.

Make no mistake about it. Canadians are going to hold this House responsible for every red cent the government spends. They see it as a duty of Parliament to ensure the highest standard of responsibility in government. It is the duty of this House to ensure that tax dollars entrusted to us are used prudently and for the purpose which Parliament allocated them.

I have concerns for the ability of the members in this place to fulfil their duty without sufficient information provided in a timely fashion. We have at our disposal an excellent instrument to ensure sound management, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

Annually, the Auditor General submits a report to this House in which he reviews the manner in which the nation's business is carried out by the various departments, agencies and crown corporations. He takes into consideration not only purely fiscal concerns but also the performance and mandate of the organizations he is reviewing.

The Auditor General also makes recommendations for improving operations from time to time. Indeed the Auditor General's reports are thorough. The latest ran to some 700 pages. They are deserving of the fullest consideration by members of this House. Over the years a massive amount of waste and poor administration spending in government has been brought to light by the Auditor General.

Earlier this year he reported on the National Arts Centre, a crown corporation. He found serious deficiencies in the manner in which the corporation was managing its finances. With an annual budget of $40 million a year and a staff of about 300, the

Auditor General found serious deficiencies. This is a cause for serious concern to all Canadians.

Surely good stewardship of public money is not too much to ask. In fact, the Auditor General's annual report has been almost bursting with recommendations for improved management, for better performance of mandates as well as dire warnings regarding the practices of the federal government at times.

Indeed this report is probably the taxpayers' greatest friend. It is unfortunate then that more time is not available for members to give every topic in the report their fullest attention when the report is presented. Time however does not permit such a full debate. Unfortunately by the time the estimates find their way through committee much of the good work has been forgotten.

Government needs to spend a little more time discovering whether all those tax dollars we squeezed from our constituents are being spent to good effect.

At one point, being a brand new member in this House full of ideas and questions, I decided I would take on the task of trying to discover how effective various government job creation programs had been over the years. I discovered that no one had taken the time to follow up on these programs in any scientific way over a long period of time. Just think of all the billions of dollars that have been poured in this direction and we cannot even prove it even created one real long term job.

The work of the Auditor General is monitoring the activities of government in a very real, very necessary way indeed.

The private sector I would submit has its own controls on efficiency and productivity. It is called competition. Government has no such control. The best control the taxpayers have is full disclosure of the fiscal management of the government and accountability for it.

I will use a word that I hear often on the other side of the House, transparency. It is a word that we hear often. The Auditor General's office provides such transparency, that window into the workings of the government operations.

This transparency will be enhanced by the provisions of this bill that we are considering here today, allowing the Auditor General to report when he considers the matter to be timely. This will make his recommendations that much more effective. Rather than allowing the problems to run unchecked until the annual report is tabled, urgent concerns can be dealt with when they are uncovered and should be dealt with that way.

Over the years several auditors general have called repeatedly for parliamentarians to be supplied with adequate information in a timely fashion related to the management of government agencies and crown corporations to ensure the achievement of those organizations' objectives. In the task force report on crown corporations' accountability prepared by the Canadian Council of Public Accounts Committee in July 1992 it was stated: "Legislators are generally not supplied with adequate information related to the achievement of crown corporation objectives".

What is troubling about these observations is they have been noted time and time again. The litany of waste continues unabated no matter how often we talk about it in this House.

It seems to me that part of the problem lies in the House getting its information in one large, somewhat indigestible serving at the start of the year. Maybe if we took it in bite sized portions we would be able to deal with these matters easier.

The massive document tabled in this place contains a wealth of information, but little time is allowed to analyse, discuss, debate or act on it. In some cases the problems revealed are very old problems and rarely ever come back to this House to be dealt with.

On page 23 of the current report the Auditor General states: "Parliament is not being provided with the information that would enable us to assess the desirability and affordability of sustaining programs at their current levels within the context of their commitments". He goes on to call for cyclical reviews of all statutory spending programs such as unemployment insurance, international aid and income support. This would be more possible within the framework of the bill under discussion here today.

Further in the report he comments on the current program evaluation. He says: "Based on the office's government wide findings, I am forced to report that the evaluation regime is not working as intended". He also underlines the necessity for objective reporting. "Evaluations for example of crown corporations which originate from within the organizations themselves are unlikely to treat objectivity with the problems encountered".

There are in fact several concerns here which I share with the Auditor General and which I suspect are shared by many members of this House. The issue comes back again to accountability.

In the bill before us we see measures which permit the Auditor General to do his work more effectively and thus permit this House to do its work more efficiently. It is also my belief that no crown corporation should fall outside the mandate of the Audi-

tor General's scrutiny and thus the scrutiny of these members to ensure the performance of their mandates and good fiscal management.

It seems to me that in this Parliament we have a dedication to accountability which has been endorsed by all sides of the House. The government on page 12 of its red book states: "Whether it is in health care or regional development we think that it is important to measure the long term outcomes and consequences of our policies and programs and that is why we have placed so much emphasis on evaluation, innovation and finding the best practices".

Similarly the Bloc Quebecois has had its calls repeatedly for accountability in government. So we are all in accord on this. In fact if we examine the record going back over many years, we have the recommendations of the public accounts committee, the auditors general committee and many members of this House, including the member for Ottawa-Vanier, supporting the changes included in this bill.

I call on all the members of this House to support Bill C-207. It is time to make these changes, changes which will strengthen the ability of Parliament to manage the nation's business with the care with which Canadians demand that we do it.

Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is the House ready for the question?

Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The question is on the motion of Mr. Gauthier. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to seek unanimous consent of the House to suspend until 6.50 p.m. for the Adjournment Debate or at the call of the Chair, whichever comes first, for the benefit of hon. members. If we have succeeded in recognizing that all members present for the Adjournment Debate have returned to the Chamber earlier than 6.50, we could perhaps proceed earlier. That is why I chose to make the request for 6.50 which is the scheduled time for the adjournment today or at the call of the Chair whichever comes first.

Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I thank the hon. member for his intervention.

The House has heard the suggestion of the hon. member. Is it agreed?

Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

The House will stand suspended to the call of the Chair or 6.50 p.m.

Maybe I can help the House. I believe that the government deputy whip's intention was to give members who must answer for the government the chance to arrive in the House.

That was the reason for his intervention. The House will now stand adjourned to the call of the Chair or 6.50 p.m.

The member for Richelieu on a point of order.

Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Richelieu, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Is there consent from the members opposite for the members who are present to make their four-minute statements now; they could get their answer from the parliamentary secretaries later on, in order, when they get here? We could start right away.

Auditor General ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, events are overtaking us. One parliamentary secretary arrived in the interval and we are ready to proceed with at least two of the adjournment debates now. I understand another one is in the lobby. That is three out of the total number. Therefore we could start.

The only thing is that the Chair may need to redo the order of them in order to accommodate the members that are present. That being said, yes, perhaps we could proceed now if the House is agreeable. If that is the case then we could call it immediately as 6.50 p.m.