House of Commons Hansard #178 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was guns.


Borrowing Authority Act, 1995-96Government Orders

5:55 p.m.


Gilles Bernier Independent Beauce, QC


(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Borrowing Authority Act, 1995-96Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

It being 6.12 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from February 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-263, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act and other acts in consequence thereof (exempted crown corporations), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Jesse Flis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I present the government's position on Bill C-263 tabled by the hon. member for Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt. I will be speaking to this House about the International Development Research Centre, or IDRC as it is better known, and why it is and should remain exempt from the Financial Administration Act, or the FAA.

It is with great pride that I tell you about this well respected Canadian organization in true Canadian form. It is one of our institutions that is better known outside this country than it is by the taxpayers who support it.

IDRC was the first such institution in the world. Lester B. Pearson, a strong proponent of IDRC, was named as its first chairman. The centre was then copied in Sweden, set up as SAREC in 1975, and in the U.S.A., Australia, Germany and the Netherlands.

The debates here and in the Senate showed there was strong agreement that IDRC should represent a new approach to relations with developing countries. The idea of the centre was to bring together Canadian and foreign experts on the problems of developing economies.

During second reading the Hon. Mitchell Sharp, well known to everyone in Canada, who was then Secretary of State for External Affairs, pointed out that the centre would be "a Canadian institution with an important international dimension. Both the board and staff will include specially qualified people from various parts of the world, including the developing countries. The centre will be structured so as to provide the best possible environment for creativity and problem solving".

Therein lies the reason why IDRC is not an agent of Her Majesty. Canadians must form the majority of its board members but the remainder is made up of prominent residents of developing countries. The current board members include Sir Sridath Ramphal, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, and Dr. Miguel de la Madrid, former President of Mexico. It would be very difficult for non-Canadian governors to serve, without a conflict of allegiance, an institution which was an agent of Her Majesty.

The importance of having staff from outside Canada is the reason the employees are not members of the public service. To this date the centre's staff comprises many scientists from developing countries. These bring to the centre's work a unique knowledge and appreciation of local conditions which is essential to finding practical and useful results. If its staff were to join the public service, it would become extremely difficult to recruit scientists in developing countries.

Now we come to the thrust of Bill C-263, the question of IDRC's exemption from the FAA. When the centre was created the parliamentary subcommittee reviewing the bill noted in its report that there was concern that there be "a reasonable measure of accountability for the use of public funds". At the same time it was recognized that "an essential prerequisite for

such an institution is that it be fully free to exercise purely professional standards of prominence and integrity".

The report went on to say that "constant vigilance will be required to protect the independence and integrity of the centre. The object will be advanced by the diversification of the sources of financial support and this should be a high priority for the governors".

Throughout its existence, IDRC has used its exemption from the FAA to enable it to seek financial support from diverse sources, something which it has had some success in doing. However in the current climate of government fiscal restraint, IDRC has made it a priority within the centre to reduce its dependency on the public purse by raising and leveraging resources from organizations outside Canada: multilateral and bilateral institutions and private not for profit foundations. Many of these, because of their mandates, would be unable to provide funds to the receiver general of a developed country.

In other words, by putting IDRC under the FAA which the member wants to do in his bill, we would make it more reliant on government funding and limit its ability to diversify its revenue resources. I am sure this was not the intention of my esteemed colleague when he tabled this bill.

This exemption from the FAA does not mean that the IDRC is unaccountable. On the contrary, IDRC is accountable to the Parliament of Canada. Its transactions are audited annually by the Auditor General of Canada who has also just completed a second value for money audit undertaken at the centre's request.

The centre's annual report is tabled in Parliament and the centre's chairperson and president frequently appear before House of Commons committees. I know I cannot use props but I do have the International Development Research Centre's annual report for 1993-94 if any member is interested in obtaining a copy.

I have just returned from Montevideo where I visited the regional office of IDRC. I also have a copy of its annual report which is available to any member who wishes to study it.

The current status allows for flexibility and enables the centre to move with great speed when political situations change, as they did in South Africa, Vietnam, Ukraine and who knows, maybe Burundi in the future.

IDRC's work at implementing sustainable development was given a positive mention in the special joint committee review of Canada's foreign policy. Its performance was rated highly by the National Advisory Board on Science and Technology's review of science and technology in Canada.

IDRC's flexibility has brought enormous benefits to Canada and the developing world. The centre is seen internationally as a dynamic, knowledge based and results oriented organization which has helped improve the lives of people in developing countries. It is particularly suited to these times of considerable change and constant upheaval.

I could refer to many examples of the outstanding work of IDRC but I know my time is limited. However, I would like to share a few examples with the House.

Members may have heard of the fog catcher in Chile. Peter Gzowski on "Morningside" a month ago and the extremely influential British magazine The Economist in January had stories describing this IDRC technology which is bringing clean drinking water to the poor people of a Chilean village. It is now being introduced in neighbouring Peru and Ecuador. It has the potential to bring water to many other communities in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

In this its 25th year, IDRC and Canadians who have supported it have much to be proud of. IDRC is a leading Canadian agency for research and innovation, an area this government regards as key to our future growth. Its work benefits not only people in developing countries but also people here in Canada.

I visited the IDRC regional centre in Uruguay just two weeks ago and held a round table meeting with the regional director, the staff and the researchers. I learned how the work of IDRC in developing countries provides information, technology, goodwill and knowledge that can lead to business opportunities for Canadians at home or in those countries.

I also learned that the IDRC can contribute in a unique way in helping economies in transition to prepare for a market economy and build ties to Canada. IDRC's assets in this regard are its in house expertise and its international network of experts in this field.

IDRC helps emerging economies tap Canadian scientific and technological expertise and establish links with Canadian researchers and the private sector. This was the case, for example, in IDRC's work in Vietnam, China, Singapore, Pakistan and India.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that IDRC's exemption from the FAA has served it and Canada well. Removing this exemption would make it difficult for the centre to raise revenue from sources outside Canada. It would make it less flexible. It would thus hinder its fine work and would limit the international component of the centre.

When we have a good institution, a uniquely Canadian institution, why change it? For these reasons and others, the government does not support Bill C-263.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill before the House today, Bill C-263, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act and other acts in consequence thereof, deals with exempted crown corporations, and is, in the opinion of the Bloc Quebecois, entirely useless, and we will

therefore vote against this bill. Let me take a few minutes to explain.

There are nearly 50 crown corporations in Canada in various economic sectors across the country. These crown corporations employ around 115,000 people. In 1992-93, the government spent a little over $4.5 billion through parliamentary votes on these corporations. Their impact on the country's economy is therefore very substantial.

The Financial Administration Act, Part X, sets the management framework for crown corporations. These corporations are responsible for producing certain documents, since they are accountable to Parliament through their minister. Every crown corporation must submit a corporate plan annually to the department and every corporation must also submit an operating budget for approval by Treasury Board.

Every corporation must also produce an annual report containing financial statements as well as accounting data. They must also proceed with internal audits to ensure that assets are protected and that operations conform to the regulations. In addition to the obligation to produce documents, a special audit must be conducted at least every five years by an in-house auditor, to determine whether the corporations develop and implement sound management practices.

Consequently, crown corporations are subject to very strict and very specific rules. However, not all corporations are subject to Part X. In fact, the Act contains a number of exemptions, including the Bank of Canada, the Canadian Wheat Board, to which the hon. member referred earlier, and the International Development Research Centre, but he forgot to say that votes had been cut in this sector. The same applies to the Canada Council, the National Arts Centre Corporation, the Canadian Film Development Corporation-here again, the government has slashed the budgets-and of course the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which we discussed last week.

These corporations were exempted because in 1984, it was felt that it was necessary to protect their arm's length relationship with the government. The bill before the House today wants to do the opposite, except in the case of two corporations, and I am referring to the CBC and the Bank of Canada. I will get back to this later on. These corporations are under no obligation to produce a corporate plan or to be accountable for their results, and they are under no obligation to carry out internal or special audits. Bill C-263 is intended to eliminate exemptions from the application of divisions I to IV, and thus from the obligations I mentioned earlier.

This bill does not, however, affect the Bank of Canada or the CBC. In fact, the CBC is already subject to accountability. Why should we impose additional rules on the CBC or other corporations, through further legislation? And of course that is why the Bank of Canada and the CBC are not part of the group. As far as the Bank of Canada is concerned, the position seems to be that the arm's length relationship of the Bank of Canada to the government could be affected, and that is the reason for excluding them.

This position, in other words, the arm's length relationship to the government, is not as strong in other cases where political interference would not have the same impact. So there is an attempt to open the door to patronage. This bill goes too far in terms of controlling the administration of these corporations. It would subject the five crown corporations to close supervision involving both their accountability and control over their management. Instead, why not make them more accountable?

Since 1985, the Financial Administration Act has been amended 58, yes 58 times, which means an average of once every two months. I understand very well that the aim of the changes over the years was to keep in tune with and to adjust to the so-called changing environment. But 58 times? Think of all the time wasted.

People then wonder why Quebec wants to become sovereign. What choice is there when Quebecers see their federal government being inconsistent to the point of wanting to amend legislation every two months.

Would it not be smarter to take the more flexible approach, proposed in 1991 by the auditor general in his annual report, of incorporating into the legislation the legislator's undertakings? It would also be a good idea to see, after analysis, how best to provide for accountability and a level of control in each corporation, in keeping with its particular mandate and mission.

It would be much wiser, indeed, to make these corporations accountable by giving them more responsibility instead, I repeat, instead of controlling them as the bill proposes.

It is important to give officials in crown corporations more responsibility in all areas. Why? To make them accountable to Parliament and thus enable us to more fairly and better evaluate their individual performances.

This bill accords the same status to all crown corporations, which should not be the case. This bill also gives the minister the power to meddle in the policies of crown corporations that have a cultural mandate, when they should have more discretionary authority in their respective areas.

The comments of the auditor general can help us significantly on this. I therefore say simply that, with regard to staffing, these crown corporations will no longer be able, once the bill is adopted, to recruit employees with training in the disciplines they require. I do not understand why the government, which cut 45,000 jobs in the public service in its latest budget, is trying to

prevent crown corporations from obtaining qualified people from outside the public service.

I repeat; this bill is not needed, and we will of course be voting against it.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

March 28th, 1995 / 6:30 p.m.

Mississauga East Ontario


Albina Guarnieri LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity to participate in this debate on Bill C-263, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act.

The purpose of the bill is to subject five crown corporations to the provisions of Part X of the FAA. Three of these crown corporations, the Canada Council, the Canadian Film Development Corporation and the National Arts Centre Corporation are accountable to Parliament through the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Crown corporations are vehicles permitting the government to reach goals which are in the public interest when it is necessary to distance the crown from the management of day-to-day operations. Each crown corporation has an enabling act which loosely defines its functions, powers and objectives.

Parliament legislates the general governance of crown corporations and the allocation of public funds to individual crown corporations. Parliament votes the estimates to which operating subsides, loans and advances are made to the crown corporations.

The main estimates of the Canadian heritage portfolio are annually submitted to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for review. In conjunction with this review, heads of crown corporations may be called before the standing committee to make presentations and reply to questions from committee members. The committee examines the financial resources provided to these crowns and their plans on spending these resources.

Part X of the FAA outlines the control and accountability framework for crown corporations subject to this section. The framework entails the following six elements. The preparation of a corporate plan for the approval of the the Treasury Board and the governor in council; the tabling of a corporate plan summary in Parliament; a requirement to disclose in their annual reports the extent to which certain objectives have been achieved; the use of generally accepted accounting principles in the preparation of financial statements; the undertaking of internal audits or the establishment of internal audit committees as well as a requirement to undergo special examinations by the Auditor General of Canada.

These agencies have been exempted from part X because of the need to protect the special nature of their relationship to the government, that is, a degree of independence from political and bureaucratic control.

This means that the government does not interfere with the day to day management decisions of these organizations. The government, nevertheless, is responsible for developing detailed policies on issues of national importance and must be able to keep the paths followed by crown corporations in line with the government's main game plan. This arm's length relationship should not prevent these organizations from being fully accountable to government.

In this vein the exempt crown corporations in the Canadian heritage portfolio follow the control and accountability regime outlined in their enabling legislation and many have chosen to voluntarily adopt a number of the key accountability provisions of part X of the FAA.

Founded in 1957, the Canada Council promotes and encourages the study, appreciation and production of works of art. It also co-ordinates UNESCO's Canadian operations and Canada's participation in that organization's operations abroad.

With the assistance of the Canada Council, Canadian artists and cultural institutions have played an integral role in developing a strong Canadian cultural fabric recognized at home and abroad, have fostered a deeper awareness of our history and have bestowed on us new visions of possible futures.

The Canadian Film Development Corporation, now more commonly known as Telefilm Canada was established in 1967. Its mandate is to foster and promote the orderly growth of an independent film and television industry in all regions of Canada through investment and financing of the development, the production, the marketing and the distribution of Canadian motion pictures and television productions. It also administers Canada's co-production treaties with foreign countries and assists with foreign marketing and the promotion of Canadian productions.

Telefilm Canada is a veritable economic and cultural pillar in the Canadian film and television industries. As a key investor in these industries, Telefilm has forged a strong partnership with Canadian film and television professionals, participating in all aspects of production.

Over the years, Telefilm has gained worldwide acclaim for its expert production, distribution and marketing support of Canadian productions of cultural importance. Canadian companies count on Telefilm for many different kinds of financial support. In fact, the works financed by Telefilm Canada produce an economic spinoff of close to $300 million each year.

The National Arts Centre, which opened in 1969, arranges for and sponsors performing arts activities at the centre in the national capital region, across Canada and abroad, as well as radio and television broadcasts of performances at the centre. The NAC plays an important role in the development of the Canadian performing arts.

As such, the centre strives to develop new works and new talents as well as develop audiences for the arts in Canada by showcasing the finest Canadian and international works and talents and to foster the development and touring of Canadian music, theatre and dance.

As a group, the three exempt crown corporations encourage the creation, production, distribution and consumption of cultural goods and services which are essential to Canada's identity as a country. They comply either with their enabling legislation or voluntarily with several of the key accountability provisions of part X of the FAA including the following measures. All utilize generally accepted accounting principles in the preparation of their financial statements. The auditor general audits these financial statements to ensure that the accounts and statements are a fair representation of the financial position of these organizations.

Each organization's board has established an audit committee which reviews and advises the board on its financial statements, reviews its accounting procedures and internal controls, oversees any internal audits undertaken, reviews and advises the council on reports from the auditor general and reviews any corrective measures implemented as a result of audits.

Each organization prepares an annual report which is tabled in Parliament. This document offers to central agencies, parliamentarians and the general public alike valuable information concerning each organization's activities and the important roles they play.

Each organization prepares planning documents which outline missions, issues, objectives and strategies for a specific planning period. These documents contain information similar to that which would appear in a corporate plan required by part X of the FAA.

The government strongly supports the principle of effective accountability of crown corporations to government. The challenge before us is to ensure that an appropriate balance is struck between accountability of crown corporations to Parliament and the public demand for how these crown corporations spend public moneys, and the essential autonomy of these organizations to operate without interference from government on issues such as artistic merit and taste.

The accountability regimes which the Canada Council, Telefilm and the NAC follow, either in compliance with their enabling legislation or through voluntary compliance with several of the key accountability provisions of part X of the FAA, are strong evidence that the balance between accountability and autonomy can be achieved.

Indeed, in his 1991 report the then Auditor General noted that he was not aware of any accountability problems in the exempt crown corporations that might have been avoided if they were subject to part X.

The proposed bill by the Reform, as tabled, unfortunately would not provide the exempt crown corporations with adequate protection from directive power from the government. The arm's length relationship of these crown corporations and the government is a hallmark of Canada's cultural tradition, one we wish to maintain. Moreover, the bill would bring more employees into the public service at a time of fiscal restraint and downsizing.

Notwithstanding the shortcomings of the bill, in the light of the government's commitment to the accountability of crown corporations, I want to inform the House that the government intends to work with the exempt crown corporations to ensure an appropriate accountability regime.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Ed Harper Reform Simcoe Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-263, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act.

The bill is about a non-partisan issue, one of which we as members of the 35th Parliament should be keenly aware, and that is accountability. Accountability is what Canadians want from their governments, from their elected officials and the institutions which they fund. The last government failed in many areas, but one area that really disturbed the voters was the lack of accounting for funds spent in the name of the taxpayer. That government paid the price for its failings, so I feel confident that this mistake will not be repeated by current members and changes will be made in the way we conduct the nation's business.

The bill does not require anything of the crown corporations listed other than the standard of accountability imposed on most government operations. All that we are asking for is a corporate plan, a budget summary and an annual report.

As a small businessman I can tell the House that without a business plan, proper accounting and auditing, any business is doomed to fail. We are not dealing with a small business though, we are dealing with the nation's biggest business and its funding. It comes in trust from the Canadian taxpayer. We have

a moral obligation to ensure that these funds are spent as wisely as possible.

The Canada Council is one of the affected agencies in the proposed legislation. As a granting council, budgeting should be a fairly simple and non-controversial matter. A corporate plan, setting out the corporate vision, objectives and a timetable for meeting those objectives are fundamental to the proper operation of a granting council. Without such a business plan businesses fall apart. Without such a plan the granting council leaves itself open to be captured by special interest groups. A gap forms in accountability between an organization and those who fund it and the taxpayers feel disenfranchised.

Perhaps this is part of the real problem with the Canada Council. With no ongoing vision, plan or objective, special interests are able to find a measure of control in deciding who or what is worthy of funding. This can be the only explanation for the council to even consider giving $10,000 to the Writers Union of Canada for its "Writing through Race" conference in Vancouver last year. The conference openly discriminated against a segment of our society on the basis of race, and it did so with public money.

Robert Fulford wrote at the time: "The idea of the Writers Union reinventing apartheid for any purpose would have been beyond belief". Unbelievably, when the issue broke in the media, associate director of the council, Brian Anthony, dared to defend the grant. He said that support to such conferences that seek solutions to the problem of systemic barriers, whether they be gender, cultural, artistic or race related, is an essential step in bridging the gap between artists and the public.

These are not the viewpoints of the Parliament of Canada and they are not contained in the statutes that created the Canada Council. However there is no holding the council to account for this outrageous action.

A further example of waste at the council came to light last week when it was revealed that the agency's director is receiving a $1,300 a monthly stipend in addition to his generous salary which is something between $110,000 and $130,000. The allowance in lieu of moving costs is given to the director because he lives in Montreal and commutes to Ottawa to work. My suggestion to the heritage minister is to find a bureaucrat who is willing to move to Ottawa and so save the taxpayers some hard earned dollars.

I was interested to find that the council receives $98.4 million from federal taxpayers each year. Believing that the council was a granting agency, I was shocked to learn that of the 98.4 million in tax dollars, the council spends $21 million on administration. It would appear that the 248 full time cheque writers at the council have managed to create quite a bureaucracy since it was formed in 1957.

Accountability to Parliament over the years might have prevented the current situation from developing and could help the organization to downsize efficiently along with the rest of government as the recent budget requires. A clear corporate vision with financial accountability would help to avoid the paper shuffling and internal policy development that now go on.

There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the purchase of some paintings at the National Gallery recently. A few of the paintings were reported to be worth millions of dollars, even though they appear simplistic to the untrained eye. The question many have asked me because of the controversy is: Were the paintings a waste of tax dollars? The debate that follows usually centres around a question of how art is defined.

According to the Canada Council Act the object of the council is to foster and promote the study and enjoyment of the arts. I believe part of the answer about how art is defined is found in the following phrase. The key word is enjoyment. If Canadians do not like it, if they get angry and upset that their tax dollars are frittered away on such items, enjoyment is lost.

If my constituents come back from Ottawa upset after a visit to the National Gallery, how can we say that value for their money was achieved? We certainly cannot justify it by the statute definition because they felt resentment and not enjoyment as the law requires.

Many proponents of art try to brush off these criticisms and suggest that people such as my constituents simply do not understand art. While this may or may not be true, it is not relevant to whether such art should be funded by tax dollars. If a large majority of my constituents believe that our scarce tax dollars would be better spent on medical research, national defence or policing, I am happy to support their position.

The Reform Party has developed a policy on cultural industries that will affect the Canada Council, the National Gallery and other arts bodies. The Reform Party will promote the freedom of the Canadian cultural community to develop and grow without needless protection and government regulation, encouraging a free cultural market that offers choice while lowering cost to consumers as services are provided by the sectors that are able to do so most cost effectively. This is our vision of how culture should develop.

Our vision of a new and better Canada allows Canadians to use their own judgment in picking winners and losers in the cultural marketplace. This already happens to a large extent.

If we look at the Canadian television industry we see two private national broadcasters that both manage to make a profit most years. Then we have the CBC which is mortgaged to the hilt and costs over $1 billion a year. The major reason two are winners and one is a loser is based on incentives or lack of them. The winners must produce programming its audiences want to see. The loser can produce whatever it wants and then forget all about the consumer because it already has its funding kindly appropriated by Parliament.

Reform policy would place the government sponsored loser in a situation where subsidies are weaned away and the future of the company is based on consumer satisfaction.

I received a card a few weeks ago, as did all MPs, that asked me to imagine Canada without musicians, painters, writers and other artists. The card implied that without the Canada Council we would lack culture and imagination.

Canadians have culture and imagination in spite of the Canada Council. Our art galleries, theatres, music halls and libraries are full of examples of Canadian culture and imagination that existed long before the Canada Council was ever conceived. No grants were handed out prior to 1957 yet artists have flourished in Canada for centuries.

I was elected on a platform of accountability. I promised my constituents I would represent their concerns before all other considerations. I also promised to help put in place the kind of democratic reforms that would hold myself and other elected officials accountable to the people who elect them. If Parliament is to be responsible about spending tax dollars I believe there must be a direct accounting from all those who receive funding.

The Canadian taxpayer is demanding accountability. The bill moves us in that direction and I ask all members for their support.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Nick Discepola Liberal Vaudreuil, QC

Madam Speaker, I too am pleased to speak on Bill C-263, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act and other acts in consequence thereof, especially with respect to exempted crown corporations.

The bill as presented would remove exemptions from the application of divisions I to IV of part X of the Financial Administration Act for five crown corporations, the corporations being the Canada Council, the Canadian Film Development Corporation, Canadian Wheat Board, International Development Research Centre and the National Arts Centre Corporation.

I believe all members agree that part X was designed to achieve an appropriate system of accountability and control for all crown corporations. The need for such a system was highlighted by the auditor general in his 1979 and 1982 annual reports to the House. The Auditor General reports noted that three main parties effectively participated in the corporate accountability process: Parliament, government and the boards of directors and senior management of the entity involved.

Part X clearly establishes that corporate management was empowered to be responsible for acting in the best interest of the corporation and its day to day operations. At the same time part X ensures that shareholders' rights and objectives are duly considered.

Increasing globalization of trade and recessionary forces have pressured both private sector and crown corporations to be more competitive and efficient. Additionally crown corporations must also achieve the public policy objectives for the reason that their statutory mandates remain respective of taxpayers' dollars.

The government recognizes that crown corporations served the public interest in a business environment. They are expected to use the best available private sector business practices and in practicality are treated in the same manner as private sector firms.

Having rules to govern accountability is one way to cement the expectation. These rules also make roles very clear.

Until 1983-84, the Financial Administration Act did not clearly specify these roles. Because of the resulting lack of co-ordination, it was impossible to ensure effective control or properly account for certain activities such as the creation of new crown corporations and making financial commitments for which, in the end, the government would be responsible.

In 1984 the Financial Administration Act was amended to address these shortcomings and part X as we know it came into existence.

Under part X, a crown corporation annually submits a corporate plan specifying all its projects and operations, including its investments and those of affiliates of which it is the sole shareholder. The crown corporation must describe the mandate of the corporation, its objectives for the duration of the plan and the strategy for achieving those objectives. It is also required to do a comparative study of projected results and annual objectives.

Corporate plans of crown corporations subject to part X require annual approval by the governor in council. Corporations may not carry on any new business or activity that is not consistent with an approved plan.

As well, once a corporate plan receives approval its summary must also be tabled in Parliament by the appropriate minister.

This element of planning and planning approval was regarded as a progressive part of part X of the system.

This accountability framework was not ideal for all crown corporations. The 1984 legislation contained exceptions which may be found in subsection 85(1) of the Financial Administration Act. Under this subsection, seven crown corporations are not subject to part X.

Along with the five corporations mentioned in Bill C-263, subsection 85(1) includes the Bank of Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In addition, the legislation that has been passed but not yet proclaimed would create another crown corporation exempt from part X, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

The grounds for exemption are significant and relate to the uniqueness of corporate mandates. The 1984 inclusion of the CBC was due to its uniqueness as a corporation. It required arm's length protective measures although not from the rules of good planning and accountability but from the possibility of political interference in the actual day to day business choices.

Subsequently, in 1991, amendments to the Broadcasting Act integrated many elements of part X in the legislation governing the CBC, while maintaining the arm's length position of the corporation. The auditor general felt this was a step in the right direction, since he had expressed his concern about the exemption.

Some of the remaining exemptions follow certain part X rules on a voluntary basis. Progress in accountability has been made outside part X. Bill C-263 is well intentioned. Although there may be merit in bringing other exemptions under a modified form of accountability framework similar to the part X regime, I suggest that additional work be done first.

For example, Bill C-263 contains the provision that employees of the National Arts Centre, Canada Council and International Development Research Centre become members of the public service.

Why does the bill aim to increase the size of the public service? Bill C-263 has clearly not addressed all the issues. The bill does not respect the fact that corporate independence in certain sensitive areas needs to be protected.

In the past, it was felt that it was necessary to maintain corporate independence and to avoid excessive controls as opposed to providing for an acceptable accountability framework.

For instance, the museums, which are crown corporations, are subject to the provisions on accountability in part X. However, under the museum's enabling legislation, no guidelines may be imposed that would affect their decisions on the acquisition and dispersal of works in their collections.

Similarly, one cannot impose guidelines on the CBC that would encroach on its journalistic freedom.

Specific wording in section 27 of the museums legislation states:

No directive shall be given under section 89 or subsection 114(3) of the Financial Administration Act with respect to cultural activities, including

(a) the acquisition, disposal, conservation or use of any museum material relevant to its activities;

(b) its activities and programs for the public, including exhibitions, displays and publications; and

(c) research with respect to the matters referred to-

I ask if there are better ways to ensure accountability for those crown corporations named in this bill.

Subject areas such as auditing, corporate governance, financial management and control, corporate planning, reporting to Parliament and borrowing plans have been thoroughly addressed in part X of the Financial Administration Act. It has resulted in a system which according to the Auditor General is working well.

This system does not rule out modifications which are prepared to meet the specific circumstances of the majority of exempt crown corporations. Whether this is best achieved through one bill or through a series of amendments to existing statutes for each crown corporation is something we may need to further explore.

In concluding, I am convinced that every effort will be made to achieve the ideal combination of accountability and the arm's length relationship enjoyed by crown corporations that are exempted, and that Canadians will continue to consider this to be in the public interest.

In closing, I cannot recommend support for this bill, despite its valiant effort.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill C-263 sponsored by my colleague from Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt regarding bringing five crown corporations under part X of the Financial Administration Act. These five crown corporations are the Canada Council, the Canadian Film Development Corporation, the Canadian Wheat Board, the International Development Research Centre and the National Arts Centre Corporation.

Why would my colleague suggest that they come under part X? It is because part X of the Financial Administration Act requires a corporation to submit an annual report, a corporate plan, and budget summaries to be tabled in Parliament. It seems fairly simple to me that we would want to have that information from crown corporations. Therefore, it seems perfectly reasonable that we would want to put them under part X of the act.

The section also allows the Auditor General of Canada to conduct special examinations once every five years. A special examination is a value for money audit. There are auditors in these crown agencies and external auditors, but it is only the Auditor General of Canada who does value for money audits. When we are spending money by the billions in this country, a lot of it being wasted, it sure is good for Parliament and Canadians to know that somebody is taking a look at these crown corporations to find out if we get value for our money.

I have just come from a public accounts committee meeting. Every time a department or crown corporation comes before us we find that management has been lackadaisical and unfocused. We find there is no real commitment to maximizing the benefits for the money which has been spent. Therefore, I cannot think of any better thing than bringing them under part X of the Financial Administration Act, even if it is only to get a value for money audit once every five years.

This bill will bring greater accountability for taxpayers' dollars. It would ensure that Canadians achieved value for their money.

I understand and I have heard from members on the other side that these corporations are exempted because they are cultural crown corporations and they need independence but I cannot buy that argument. The fact that they are involved in the cultural aspects of our society is absolutely no reason whatsoever that they be exempted from good management, fiscal responsibility and accountability both to this House and to the Canadian people. Therefore, there is no valid reason whatsoever that they should not be included in part X of the act.

I do understand that there are two crown corporations that are also exempt from part X of the act. The private member's bill does not require them to be brought under part X.

One is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and it is already subject to similar requirements of part X under the Canadian Broadcasting Act. The other one is the Bank of Canada. Of course, we know it is absolutely vital that the central bank maintain its independence which is critical for the proper conduct of monetary policy. There is no doubt that we can leave these two corporations exempt and bring the other five in to obtain this greater accountability.

There were 42 other crown corporations included under the Financial Administration Act in 1984 and it certainly has not done them any harm. I understand it has resulted in improved management. Of course, the whole argument being put forward here is improved management and greater accountability. In 1993 the auditor general stated that the requirements for planning, strategy and cost systems resulted in improved management practices for these non-exempted crown corporations.

The auditor general also supports the idea of greater accountability. If I may quote from his 1991 report, section 4.100, he said: "The office strongly supported the strengthened legislative framework for crown corporations, and it is continually urged that those crown corporations that were exempted from part X of the FAA be brought into line with its accountability provisions. It is important that Parliament have assurances that appropriate accountability provisions apply to all crown corporations. When exemptions are granted, means should be found to ensure adequate control and accountability".

More recently the finance minister stated: "The operations of various other cultural agencies, commissions or corporations will be reviewed to reflect tighter fiscal circumstances". That was a quote from the 1995 budget, page 104. When the Minister of Finance calls for greater accountability, I cannot think of any greater way he could achieve that than to support this private member's bill.

We listen to the government side giving us all the reasons it should not be. There are all the reasons from the Bloc because it is culture and therefore it should be exempt from all kinds of examination allowing them to do whatever they want as far as Quebec is concerned. We therefore need to have the accountability for Canadians that they deserve. They are the ones who put up the money. They are the ones who have to dig deeper and deeper every year so that these crown corporations can spend money on culture.

Remember back to the big outrage we had in the National Art Gallery a few years ago with the "Voice of Fire". A couple of million dollars was spent for a piece of canvas painted red and blue. Or was it red and white? Or red and green? I cannot remember. It made a great impact upon me.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Yellow and green.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Yellow and green. I think we will have to take a vote on this. It seems that I do remember red. These are the types of things the Canadian public want to know about.

Accountability cannot be oversold in this day and age, when we have a debt of $550 billion and a Minister of Finance who adopts a policy of gradualism to deal with a budgetary crisis. I

think this bill has to be supported. It should be supported because it makes sense.

The Auditor General talks about accountability. The Minister of Finance talks about accountability. The Reform Party talks about accountability. Surely, we should get all kinds of co-operation and perhaps even all-party support on this bill.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

St. Boniface Manitoba


Ronald J. Duhamel LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak this evening on the bill presented by the hon. member for Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt.

I believe wholeheartedly, as do all of my colleagues I hope, that the objectives of the bill are well intended. I am in favour of ensuring that accountability for all of our crown corporations is adequate.

Before indicating whether or not this bill should be supported, I want to examine it objectively and in some detail. What we want is responsible accountability. This is a fairly technical bill.

We are talking about a bill that has as its basic purpose the removal of exemption from application of divisions one to four of part X of the Financial Administration Act for five crown corporations. These are the Canada Council, the Canada Film Development Corporation, the Canadian Wheat Board, the International Development Research Centre and the National Arts Centre Corporation.

The accountability framework set out in part X is widely viewed as being very well designed and progressive. However, it has some shortcomings where some crown corporations are concerned. The act passed in 1984, which first included part X, contained exemptions which are now found in subsection 85(1) of the FAA. This subsection exempts this crown corporation from the provisions of part X, which deals with operations.

As I said earlier, this is not bedtime reading. It is a fairly technical bill. Along with the five corporations named in Bill C-263, two other crown corporations are exempt, the Bank of Canada and the CBC. In addition, legislation has been passed but not yet proclaimed that would create another crown corporation exempt from part X, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

Perhaps when examining what Bill C-263 is trying to accomplish hon. members should also be willing to examine the grounds for exemption. Why were these particular crown corporations exempted from part X when others were not? This is an important fundamental question. While not found in any written or formal criteria or regulation, the reasons for exemption reflect some of the very special sensitivities in the relationship between the government and these particular corporations.

I note that all of these corporations were created by special acts. All have mandates carefully specified in these acts and for some they involve administration of resources provided by third parties.

The Canada Council as an example is mandated to foster and promote the study, enjoyment and production of works in the arts and to co-ordinate United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization activities in Canada and Canadian participation in various UNESCO activities abroad. Part of its activities involve administering an educational fund created by its act and other funds established through private donations.

Certain of these funds specify the payment of grants and scholarships in the arts field "in such manner as the council shall determine". Would contributors to these funds feel as comfortable if the Canada Council were not an independent crown corporation?

I believe that the hour reserved for consideration of this bill at this time is drawing to a close, so I will finish in the next hour of debate.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper and will come up again for a third hour.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Financial Administration ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, on February 7, over 500 members of the RCMP marched for the first time in history here on Parliament Hill to denounce the attempt of the Liberal government to deny them their fundamental constitutional rights to free collective bargaining and in fact to even punish them for talking about collective bargaining.

The next day I asked a question in the House of the Solicitor General. I asked him to explain why the government intended to proceed with Bill C-58, legislation that would clearly deny the most basic rights of members of the RCMP.

At that time the minister stated that the bill does not add to the powers of the commissioner and it does not take anything away from members of the force.

The bill has now gone to committee, has gone through committee and has been reported back to the House. What is very clear is that statement of the minister suggesting the bill does not take anything away from members of the RCMP is completely and utterly false.

What the bill does very clearly is deny and override the effect of the 1994 judgment of the Federal Court in the Yvon Gingras decision. Pursuant to that decision it was clear RCMP employees are guaranteed certain rights under the Public Service Staff Relations Act. In other words, the commissioner of the RCMP was not free to simply rule arbitrarily with respect to all working conditions of members of the force.

In addition there is a strong argument that part II of the Canada Labour Code, the provisions with respect to occupational health and safety, are guaranteed now prior to the bill to members of the RCMP.

The effect of this legislation, this draconian bill, is to take away those existing rights. The bill may as well dramatically affect entitlement to other benefits, to other entitlements such as the bilingualism bonus which will now be completely discretionary.

The current provisions of governing labour relations within the RCMP are totally unsatisfactory. The divisional staff relations representative system has been vigorously condemned by among others the E Division Members Association from British Columbia and the C Division. I want to pay tribute in particular to the president of the E Division Members Association, Michel Funicelli, and members of his executive.

I would also like to pay tribute to Mr. Gaétan Delisle who has been fighting in Quebec for some time now for the rights of members of the RCMP stationed in that province.

Also the Canadian Police Association and its executive officer, Scott Newark, who have worked long and hard to expose this attack on the basic rights of members of the RCMP.

I am calling today on the government to realize it has made a mistake, to come to its senses and to back off on this legislation, to allow members of the RCMP to make their own decisions about their future, about their labour relations.

This bill would eliminate any possibility of third party intervention in employee-management relations. It would basically put all power in the hands of the commission. It is a bad bill. I call on the government to withdraw it now.

Financial Administration ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Burnaby-Kingsway says Bill C-58 will if passed deny RCMP members collective bargaining rights.

RCMP members have never had the legal authority to enter into collective bargaining. How can they possibly be denied these rights by the passage of this bill if the right is one they never had? He is misleading the Canadian public when he makes that statement. They have never had the right to engage in collective bargaining. Therefore they are not being denied these rights by this bill.

Collective bargaining is not a natural or inherent right but a right granted by Parliament. Collective bargaining rights have never been extended to RCMP members under either the RCMP act, the Public Service Staff Relations Act or the Canada Labour Code.

The Solicitor General has repeatedly said Bill C-58 has one purpose and one purpose only, to confirm the status quo that existed before the Gingras decision and with regard to the management of the RCMP.

Financial Administration ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Kingsway, BC

Point of order.

Financial Administration ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

The hon. member knows there are no points of order during the adjournment debate.

That continues to be the case. Collective bargaining is a completely separate issue from Bill C-58 and would have to be looked at by both the government and Parliament as a separate matter. The RCMP already has its own labour-management forum for members to raise and discuss issues of concern regarding forced management.

Created in 1974, the RCMP division staff relations representative, the DSRR program, was intended to respond to concerns expressed by members for greater involvement in management issues. That program has proved to be successful and workable-despite the assertions of the hon. member for Burnaby-Kingsway-at which members at all levels can voice their opinions through representatives elected by the force's general membership across Canada, regardless of rank, category or grade.

Each division elects at least one full time representative and two part time representatives. These people met three times with the Solicitor General in the last 14 months. They continue to meet. The system works well and the RCMP members are represented well at those meetings with the Solicitor General.

Financial Administration ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, for the past 16 months the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has been consulting with

native leaders and native groups across Canada on the issue of native self-government.

To date the minister has provided funding to national and regional native organizations in the amount of $5 million to assist these groups in preparing their briefs and input on the consultation process. The consultation was to last six months and culminate in a report on self-government.

Last week, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Ovide Mercredi, called a press conference to protest the minister's procrastination and to ask him to release a document that he said the minister was using in his meetings but keeping secret from the Assembly of First Nations and others.

Chief Mercredi released copies redone from memory of the minister's document that Chief Mercredi was allowed to read and that the minister allowed to be read to a meeting with Alberta chiefs in Calgary.

I am concerned with the minister using and allowing the contents of this still secret document in meetings and not being forthcoming with the House and Canadians on an issue that affects us all.

On March 23 and again on March 24, I questioned the minister on the contents of the document. I asked him the nature of the document and why parliamentarians had to rely on the chief of the Assembly of First Nations to shed light on this undertaking and make the process public. The minister told the House on March 23 that it was not a secret document. If it is not a secret document, the minister should release it today.

My further concern was with the delay in completing the projected six-month undertaking which has now run over 16 months. I am concerned that the consultation on the inherent right to self-government does not become another aboriginal royal commission. That is now two years overdue and over budget with spending at $58 million from an original projected cost of between $8 and $12 million.

I am not satisfied that my question of March 24, taken as notice by the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs on behalf of the minister of Indian affairs, will prompt the minister and government to finalize its consultation on self-government and to release the contents of what the minister has called "not a secret report" to Parliament and the Canadian people rather than only to individual chiefs and the Assembly of First Nations.

Financial Administration ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Nunatsiaq Northwest Territories


Jack Iyerak Anawak LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond on behalf of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to the question raised by the member for North Island-Powell River on March 24, 1995. More specifically I wish to reply concerning the status of the so-called secret federal document on the inherent right of aboriginal self-government; the $5 million price tag referred to by the hon. member; and finally when the federal government's consultations will conclude.

First, I wish to comment on the $5 million referred to by the member. That is the amount of funding provided by the federal government in 1994-95 to some 69 aboriginal groups across Canada to support their participation in the inherent right consultation process.

Second, the so-called secret document is personal speaking points that the minister is using in his discussions on the proposed general approach to the inherent right that federal ministers first set out in Quebec City in May 1994 at a meeting with their provincial and territorial counterparts and leaders of the national aboriginal associations.

These discussion points are intended to continue the minister's consultations with the parties concerned, aboriginal people, provincial and territorial governments and third parties, on how to proceed. The minister has used them extensively in his recent meetings with those parties.

The government has not yet taken any policy decisions. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has clearly stated he wishes to ensure the views of all parties are considered before proceeding further. He has not picked a specific date for concluding his consultations. However, the minister has indicated he wishes to complete the consultations as quickly as possible. This will enable him to report back to his cabinet colleagues.

Financial Administration ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Pursuant to Standing Order 38, the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, it being 7.26 p.m. the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7.26 p.m.)