Mr. Speaker, it is with considerable amount of trepidation and at the same time a certain sense of responsibility that I rise in the debate on the bill.
What is operating here is a plea for accountability, compassion and responsibility, efficiency and businesslike operation of the affairs of the House.
In particular I draw the attention of the House to Motion No. 7, the Reform Party motion calling for the minister to make a report to the House on where overpayments of CPP and OAS were made and at what cost to the Canadian taxpayer.
I am sure members of the House recognize only too well the largest group of people in Canada that deserves compassion today are the taxpayers. All taxpayers are burdened, be they young or old. They are paying taxes to a point at which they believe it has become excessive. They find themselves unable to do many of the things they want to do. They want to get into some of the larger purchases. They want to buy houses, cars, appliances and they find their discretionary income is getting lower and lower even though their gross salary is increasing.
We need to exercise some compassion. One of the greatest examples of compassion the House could demonstrate is that the money given to us by taxpayers be treated as money given to us in trust, money not to be spent willy-nilly at whatever whim or fancy might strike us at a particular time.
What is being called upon here is for the minister to say to all of his servants, the servants to the House and to the people of Canada: "Do your administration honestly, do it fairly and do it consistent with the legislation".
To the credit of most of our civil servants I must admit to the House that my association with our civil servants has been exemplary. They have done what they could and they do make mistakes, just as all of us make mistakes from time to time. When they make a mistake who is responsible? If the servant to the minister makes a mistake that servant is responsible to the minister but it is the minister who is responsible for the action of the people he has employed who report to him. The minister is responsible to the House for the actions taken by him and under his direction the staff he has appointed.
Therefore we ask that if there is an overpayment a committee do study these issues and they be reported to the House so that the responsibility can come back to the House. This is the Parliament of Canada. Here the legislation is enacted; here the responsibility ought to be demonstrated to all of the people of Canada.
It is with pride that we sit here. It is with the responsibility of knowing we are managing the people's money that we should approach the various aspects of the administration. It is with this intent that I come before the House to say the time has come to be accountable, to be responsible and to recognize it is not just the response we make to a stimulus but that we exercise the ability and the skill we have developed in the background we have so the right decision is made to emphasize that it helps the people who need the help the most.
Another group of people needs compassion. Those are the people who need to be helped by our social safety nets. There are many of them. There are those in our society, sad to say, who abuse the system, who use fraudulent means to apply for these benefits, who are dishonest in the information they include. They are responsible for the actions they have taken and they should be called to account. That is why this recommendation in this particular bill, to amend the bill, so that those overpayments do indeed become a debt to the crown. These are necessary and they ought to be enforced.
Then there is that other group that may well have received through administrative error or something else additional funds. Those people may through no fault of their own have spent more money than they probably should have are now unable to repay even though they may have received the amounts in error. Then a judgment call needs to be made. At that point the minister should exercise his responsibility. If he can defend that decision in the House, I am sure there are enough compassionate people in the House who would say there are those who ought to be forgiven.
We as a nation and as individuals would be the most despairing people and the most despicable people if we could not learn to forgive. Where there are honest mistakes made we ought to forgive; where people demand compassion, we must be able to give them that forgiveness. It can be done; it should be done.
Let us be accountable. Let us be compassionate to our taxpayers so we do not spend more money than we have to and recognize they are already overburdened in the taxes they are paying. Then let us call those to account who are responsible for the administration. They report to the House, they report to one another and they do these things honestly, credibly and efficiently. Let us all forgive where that needs to be done, where there are good reasons to forgive.