House of Commons Hansard #98 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was guidelines.


Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to indicate to the hon. member that her 40 minutes has expired.

It is my duty, pursuant to our Standing Orders, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Malpeque-Agriculture.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Gar Knutson Elgin—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in support of Bill C-41. I encourage all members to support the legislation.

I say with the greatest respect that after listening to the speech of hon. colleague from the Reform Party, I think at times we are looking at a very different piece of legislation. This bill will make support orders more fair. It will make them more consistent. It takes into account the income of both parents.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Val Meredith Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Have you read it?

Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.


Gar Knutson Elgin—Norfolk, ON

I have read it. It helps with dispute resolution at a very difficult time. It is in the best interests of children that the legislation go ahead.

I would like to emphasize that Canadians, regardless of what political party they support, or what part of the country they are from, share some fundamental values. One is that children should come first. All of us in the House acknowledge that children, by the very nature of their childhood, are vulnerable and powerless and that their interests should be put first and foremost in every piece of legislation affecting children. That is what this legislation does.

Those values make up an important part of providing the framework for the legislation. The legislation will provide adequate and consistent child support levels. Those values should respect fathers who make their payments and make sure that those who are obliged to pay actually do.

The starting point for understanding this legislation is to understand that the Canadian family has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. I agree with the sentiment of the Reform Party that oftentimes those changes are not for the better. I do not think any of us are particularly comfortable with the rise in family break-up and divorce.

Over the past 20 years families headed by an individual parent have doubled in number. There are almost one million such families in Canada. In 1990, 61 per cent of single parent families headed by women lived below the poverty line. That is an extremely difficult social problem. It is not the fault of government per se, it is a combination of a number of factors. But government needs to address the issue.

The poverty level for single parent families headed by women is at 61 per cent compared with just 10 per cent for two parent families with children. While the steps taken in this bill will not end child poverty, they are an important part of the Liberal government's program to try to alleviate child poverty.

This measure derives its value from shared principles that we have as Canadians. First is the principle that children should be first in line. These reforms will put them there and keep them there. Child support is the first obligation of parents.

Second is the principle that a child's standard of living both before and after divorce should reflect the means of both parents. These reforms make sure that it does. Children are a shared responsibility of both the mother and father and the income of both parents should be taken into account. A divorce does not change that.

Third is the principle that people in like circumstances should be treated in like fashion. The guidelines mentioned by my hon. colleague are a core part of this legislation. They will ensure that a couple with children who are getting divorced in British Columbia and are in virtually the same circumstances as a couple getting divorced in Ontario will by and large pay the same amount of support for their children.

The strategy that the government has adopted has four interdependent elements. We are introducing child support guidelines to establish appropriate and consistent support levels and reduce the degree of conflict between separating parents. Anyone who has first hand knowledge of a divorce knows that it can be extremely acrimonious and at the end of the day children ultimately are the losers.

The government is also changing the way the child support payments are taxed to make things fairer and simpler. Furthermore, it is enhancing federal and provincial enforcement measures targeted at the wilful defaulters. We are helping working poor families by doubling the level of the working income supplement of the federal child tax benefit over the next two years. I would like to talk about each of these items in a little more detail.

First is the guidelines. As mentioned in my opening remarks, the guidelines are about consistency. We all know and I think agree that consistency is a fundamental part of justice. At the heart of this approach, the guidelines will be used across Canada by the courts, by lawyers and by parents to establish appropriate levels of support payments for children. At present, courts determine support payment levels on a case by case basis. Too often they are inconsistent and it means that somewhere Canadian children are the losers.

The issue of the lack of consistency prolongs litigation and adds to the anguish of parents. Unfortunately, not all judges take the

same approach or have the same philosophy. As a result, levels vary greatly not just across Canada but even from family to family.

The amount that is available to pay for a child's needs should not depend on which province one lives in or to which court room the case is assigned or which party has the more persuasive lawyer. The guidelines will establish without the need for a trial the levels of child support to be paid according to the income of the person paying. The amounts are calculated by a formula that takes into account average expenditures on children at various income levels. If income levels increase or decrease so will the parent's contributions to the needs of children, just as they would be if the family had remained together.

The guidelines are standard but they are also flexible. They allow for particular circumstances, such as child care costs and uninsured medical expenses to be taken into account when assessing the award. Furthermore, a court can also change the amounts if undue hardship can be established.

This approach has tremendous strengths. It is simple and it is standard. It ensures that support paying parents with the same level of income will pay the same amount of child support.

Second, I would like to deal with the issue of tax treatment. As most of us know, the change we are making has been controversial. I support the changes to the tax treatment for a number of reasons. Currently child support payments are tax deductible for the payer and taxable for the recipient. This rule was put in place 54 years ago and it needs to be changed.

Child support is not income for the parent but is money intended for children and as such it should not be taxed. While I am not divorced, when I spend money on my children it is not tax deductible. If I were to become divorced why should it become tax deductible if it was sent to an ex-wife?

Even when incomes are different, the courts often times do not take into account the tax liability. Therefore, by making this rule it will be taken out of the equation.

The no deduction, no inclusion approach will not come into effect until May 1, 1997. It will apply to all new awards made after that date but it will not apply after that date to existing awards unless parties agree or unless a court directs that the changes be made. By waiting 14 months, Canadians everywhere, as well as the provincial governments, are being given the time to adjust to these new rules.

The second most important part of the bill is the area of enforcement. The guidelines or any law for that matter are absolutely useless if we do not have the appropriate enforcement in place to make the law work.

Let me make it clear from the outset that I acknowledge that the vast majority of parents make their payments on time and deserve our respect. These parents take their responsibility seriously and they follow through. I want to point out emphatically that this bill is about the chronic defaulter and the enforcement provisions in it will apply to people who are far too many in number but by and large are not typical of the majority.

Wilful and chronic default by people who can pay but refuse to pay child support is simply unacceptable. The bill will do a number of things. Let me just mention a few of them. Federal legislation will authorize us to suspend federal licences and certificates such as passports in cases of persistent default. The provinces will be allowed access to the database of Revenue Canada to help trace persistent defaulters. Money and effort will be invested in upgrading computer systems to share information among the provinces to help in co-ordinating their efforts.

Some of these measures may seem particularly harsh, but when one looks at the consequences of defaulting parents and the negative effects it has on children and the fact that often the family in which these children live have to go to food banks and incur the negative effects of poverty, these measures are appropriate.

The fourth pillar in our child support strategy is the doubling of the working income supplement. I take a particular amount of pride in this measures in because I was part of a group that lobbied the government to double the working income supplement. When the working income supplement was brought in by the previous government it was placed at $500. It is a tax free benefit that goes to working families with an approximate net income of $25,000.

It recognizes that sometimes there is a cost when someone moves off welfare into the work force. It gives people an extra incentive to move off welfare and into the work force. The government has decided to double it to $1,000 and I applaud it for doing that.

I would like to point out that the working income supplement is tax free and will go right to the bottom line for families who need dollars for their children. It is distributed fairly, benefiting children of separated families and families that remain intact. It is targeted to those most in need.

In conclusion, these guidelines will ensure consistent awards at the appropriate levels with diminished conflict and expenses. A tax rule that reflects the social conditions and the values of 1942 will be changed to conform to current needs.

Effective tools will enhance enforcement so that the people who make their payments will know that those in wilful default will be pursued. Every dollar of increased revenue that Ottawa derives from the tax changes will be ploughed directly back into the system for the benefit of children in low income working families. I ask all members to support this bill.

Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech made by my Liberal colleague. There is an issue on which I would like to hear his opinion because he did not address it. As we know, the Liberal government often claims to recognize Quebec's distinctiveness. It says it adopted certain motions to that effect and even accuses the Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition, of complaining for no reason since, finally, the Liberals are recognizing Quebec's distinctiveness.

As far as Bill C-41, an act to amend the Divorce Act, is concerned, everyone knows that, one, the Constitution gives the federal government jurisdiction in this area and, two, Quebec has some very special demands. We know that the National Assembly would have liked to be consulted more extensively. It particularly wanted the federal government to specify in the clause dealing with guidelines that it would recognize any guidelines adopted by the National Assembly.

I am asking the hon. member opposite, whose Liberal government likes to brag about its recognition of Quebec's distinctiveness, if he agrees that, if the government really cared about this, it would have provided for Quebec's distinctiveness in Bill C-41.

Why does this bill not provide for Quebec's special legislation? Yes, it deals with divorce, but it is mainly concerned with children. The main purpose of Bill C-41 is to protect children, to pursue a family policy Quebec is developing, as we clearly saw last weekend.

I am asking the hon. member why Bill C-41 does not make special provision for Quebec's distinctiveness?

Divorce Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.


Gar Knutson Elgin—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. I would like to make a couple of points. The way his question came over the translation it was why does the federal government not bind itself legally and put it in the bill?

I would like to remind the hon. member that the only way the federal government can bind itself is by changing the Constitution. The government cannot bind future Parliaments.

If the hon. member would like to engage in a discussion on how we should change the Constitution to deal with these issues, I would be fully prepared to have that discussion with him. From what I understand, it is the position of the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois that they are not interested in a constitutional question.

The issue also raises a broader point. In the current Canadian federal system two people can move in together, not get married, have children and become separated. The rules that apply to their separation and how the children are dealt with are all within provincial jurisdiction.

We can have two other people who happen to get married and have children and yet the rules that apply concerning their children when they break up are dealt with under the federal system. That does not seem to make a lot of sense these days. It should be dealt with constitutionally.

I would invite members opposite to enter into a discussion of how we can change the Constitution while taking fully into account the distinct society in Quebec. We could try to find a way to make the country work better for all Canadians, including all Canadian children.

And the bells having rung:

The House resumed, from November 5, consideration of the motion.

Canadian Bill Of Rights
Private Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the recorded division on Motion M-205 under Private Members' Business.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Canadian Bill Of Rights
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

As is the practice, the division will be taken row by row, starting with the mover and then proceeding with those in favour of the motion sitting on the same side of the House as the mover. Then those members in favour of the motion on the other side of the House will be called.

Canadian Bill Of Rights
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


John Nunziata York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As you know, members of Parliament, other than by the usage of the bells, are not notified of when votes take place in the House. This is especially of concern to members of Parliament who do not belong to a particular caucus. There are some 15 of them in the House of Commons. These members of Parliament are not advised.

My office called the clerk's department and there is no procedure in place for those members of Parliament to be told when a vote takes place and, in my view, that affects the ability of these members to adequately represent their constituents.

We are about to vote on a matter and I am not aware of what the nature of that matter is.

Canadian Bill Of Rights
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member will know that the projected order of business does give the time of the vote. In fact it gives the time of the vote for tonight.

I appreciate that sometimes that does not happen. The member is quite right that sometimes there is no indication of a vote, other than the bells. I appreciate the point he has made to the House.

All those at my left in favour of the motion will please rise.

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

Canadian Bill Of Rights
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being six o'clock, the House will now proceed to today's Private Members' Business.

Program Cost Declaration Act
Private Members' Business

November 6th, 1996 / 5:55 p.m.


Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

moved that Bill C-214, an act to provide for improved information on the cost of proposed government programs, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to start debate on Bill C-214.

The people want to turn the light on the departments of government that are spending their money. They want to be part of the process of government spending and not merely the recipients of the bills through income taxes after the money is spent. They

want to return to the origins of taxation when individuals gave their specific consent to be taxed.

Many look in mystery as they study their weekly pay cheques. They are mystified that so much is gobbled up by taxation and they are at a loss to understand how they were part of a process that allowed this to happen.

Over 55 per cent of our total personal income is accounted for by all forms of taxation, from income taxes, sales taxes, payroll taxes and municipal taxes. Government expenditure is a great confusion to the public. It is an attempt to clarify and shed light on this darkness which my bill before us tonight addresses. The whole concept of taxation was originally based on consent, the consent to be taxed for things which we considered common good, for example sidewalks, snow removal and armies.

I have practised as a tax advisor to many Canadians and not just the wealthy but also those to whom I have donated my time. The common theme was did we consent to this level of taxation. Why is it important and why have we succumbed to this state of affairs when Canada's tax rates are the second highest in the western world? Graduates of Waterloo university are encouraged to leave the country because of a promise of lower tax regimes south of the border.

Did people rationally weigh the cost of programs which have pushed us to this dilemma? Indeed there are those who think by simply balancing the annual deficit it is good enough, as if we should continue to carry a mortgage of this magnitude forever.

What has caused us to create a deficit of over $600 billion? How can we prevent this situation from repeating itself? This is the real purpose of Bill C-214. People have lived in the dark over the cost of government programs. This does not mean we should turn every citizen into a bookkeeper or an accountant. We have to do away with a thought process that someone else is paying the bills.

I often encountered this philosophy in my professional life. People thought it was their next door neighbour who was paying for programs and not them. The reality of course is that nothing is for free and in one way or another we are all contributors. People want to get out of the darkness and turn on the light.

This is the purpose of this legislation. We have bureaucrats who spend endless hours studying government programs. Indeed recently in the October report from the Treasury Board the minister stated: "We must equip ourselves with better systems for evaluating the actions of government so that we can genuinely answer for our actions, first and foremost to our fellow citizens who are both clients and taxpayers".

Our government has come a long way in bringing fiscal responsibility back to government, from an annualized deficit of $44 billion down to $17 billion. We are on the road to financial responsibility.

The problem that gave rise to the original issue has not been solved. Simply put, everyday people did not understand the process or consent to the process that removed over 55 per cent of their disposable income. I suggest that because of this lack of consent we have watched a burgeoning underground economy and people taking their investments offshore.

Thomas Jefferson stated the people are collectively wise. That is why I believe this legislation will turn the lights on for those who pay the bills. It will allow them to be included.

This bill will not give everybody an economic overview of government but it will encapsulate the costs of specific legislation. It will make the information readily available to the public and to parliamentarians. Think of it, a bill that would shed light on the back rooms of Ottawa where people spend our money.

Members of Parliament jump up and down here all week long. They vote on legislation when many have not the slightest idea of its fiscal impact on individuals and the economy in general. This is because this information is not readily available. This legislation would empower them. It would give them more information and make them more effective in representing their constituents. Accountability is what it is all about. The public is clamouring for it and who are we to deny its rights?

The critics of this bill state two basic objections, that the process itself will increase the cost of government and it will inhibit the legislative agenda of the government. First, the government has prided itself on its program evaluation system which analyses the cost benefits of government programs. This is part of a program known as program review. The tool for doing this is a process called expenditure management systems. This is all very well and good as far as it goes.

The problem is all of this examines costs and benefits which have already occurred. Clearly knowing that programs have been efficient or otherwise is useful but the taxpayer will already be stuck with the bill. We are spending millions of dollars to conduct this after the fact review. It would make more sense to bring this examination process forward to the initial stage of legislation.

There is no question that with a greater degree of financial control and scrutiny the government will save more money than any incremental cost of having bureaucrats cost legislation prior to its introduction as opposed to after it is in full swing. Simple common sense tells us that better cost efficient decisions are made

when people assess them prior to their commencement than after the costs have been incurred.

A press release that was issued this morning by the Canadian Federation of Taxpayers states: "Taxpayers could save billions of dollars if the House of Commons votes to pass Bill C-214, the program cost declaration act, introduced by the member for Durham, to be voted on today"-which is not quite true-"at second reading. It would require government departments to provide a cost analysis for each new bill". The federation has stated that billions of dollars could be saved for the taxpayers of Canada.

Second is the concern that this will inhibit the legislative process. It seems to me this argument goes back to regimes of the past. Nobody would go down to a car lot, look over the car, agree to purchase it, drive it away and say "send me the bill" without knowing the cost, and neither should government. This is the whole point of this legislation.

Past governments have promised us all kinds of programs without fully informing us of their costs. A quick look at the state of affairs of the Canada pension plan would leave anyone to conclude that not taking the time or effort to anticipate cost has now led us to a place where we have to make some pretty drastic decisions which will not only affect the younger generations but also some who thought their immediate retirement incomes were secure. What degree of participation did people have in all of this anyway?

It is hard to understand how someone could argue the point of hindrance to the legislative process. It should be part of the legislative process and people should have a right to know.

These are not the issues of the rich but rather the poor and the disenfranchised. As we go through a period of retrenchment of fiscal priorities, many of the poor will be negatively affected. It is to the loss of some of these social programs that this bill directs itself, to the fact that after years of economic expansion that government has extended itself well beyond what it is able to sustain.

Indeed, the auditor general has gone on at length about whether our current levels of deficit are sustainable. That is to say at what point can governments no longer shoulder the cost of servicing the debt? If we have a mortgage on every single Canadian, as our government does, surely these same people have a right to see what the costs are. More important, they want some assurance that we are not going to return to the errors of the past.

This bill does simply two things. First, it requires that the fiscal impact of new legislation be included in a bill at the same time it is presented in this House. This also extends to the regulations of departments.

Second, it requires that the auditor general certify that the method of cost evaluation was fair and reasonable. I would like to underline this matter. The auditor general is only certifying that the method is correct. He or she has no political interference in the worthiness of programs but simply whether the method used to arrive at the estimated costs was reasonable under the circumstances. I suggest that the parallel in the private sector would be the certification of prospectuses.

Like the expenditures in the management system that we now have in place, the role of the auditor general is what is known as ex post. By this I mean he examines costs after they occur. Some of our listeners would equate this to closing the barn door after the horse is out.

This is the whole point of moving this process forward in time. It is small comfort for taxpayers and citizens generally to discover wasteful spending three years after the fact. It only makes them less trustful of their elected officials and government generally. They certainly feel they had no part in the decision making.

By costing legislation prior to its initiation, taxpayers and citizens generally will have available to them the tools by which to judge. It will be up to members of Parliament to justify whether the cost is justified relative to the benefits to be derived. This clearly is what democracy is all about. It makes people part of the decision making of government financing.

I have always had much respect for the people who work for the Treasury Board and also those in finance. I have often thought they were much like a lopsided hockey team where they were the goaltenders and every other department was the offence, all trying to score, and score means budget allocations.

This is why I find it hard to understand why some of them are reticent to accept this degree of accountability. It seems to me that with the support of the general public they will be in a better position to stop the pucks of the spenders of the future. This is the problem. Many legislators equate a zero annual deficit with the end of the story. This legislation would make legislators more cognizant of the cost effects on the general public. Turn the lights on. This is what taxpayers and citizens demand.

Here is what some people are saying about the bill. I have some quotations here. The Auditor General of Canada said: "We share your view that the cost of government programs and operations should be made more visible to Parliament and taxpayers". "I am pleased to inform you that the Certified General Accountant's Association of Ontario fully supports your private member's bill. Your initiative accords with the CGA's Ontario Board of Governors requirements that all action items presented to the board must be accompanied by an explanation of financial implications".

Another quote: "Mr. Shepherd's bill is a good first kick at the can and deserves the consideration of all members of Parliament". That was said by James Forrest of the Alberta Taxpayers' Association.

"I commend you for presenting the right type of legislation which will help the public to understand where their hard earned tax dollars are being spent". That is a quote from the president of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants. I could go on with the list but obviously time will not permit.

We talk a lot about our youth and it is truly the younger generation that will inherit our nation and propel it into the next millennium. Saddling our youth with debts, which they did not incur, will tie their hands. Governments are struggling with this reality as we move toward a more responsible fiscal framework.

It is also appropriate that we conduct a post mortem. That does not mean that we are dead, but it certainly means that financially we are very much on the ground. When we conduct this port mortem we must ask ourselves how this situation occurred in the first place and ensure that we cure the disease so that it will not happen again. That is what my bill attempts to do.

We need to give people the tools to make conscious choices about government policy. Our younger generation will accept nothing else. It is to these people that we address the need for a more consensual form of government.

This is the day after the U.S. election. I was in the United States on the weekend and I actually took part in some of the electioneering. I stopped people on the street and I knocked on doors. The mood was: "They are nothing but a bunch of crooks. It really does not matter anyway". Corrupt election financing practices, together with the fact that people cannot see how they would count, has brought their voter turnout to less than 50 per cent. Imagine, more than half the population of the so-called strongest nation in the world do not consent to their government.

It is this issue which this legislation addresses here in Canada. Turn on the lights and let the people decide. Include them in the decision making process. To do otherwise is to court divisiveness and exclusivity which may well lead to violence.

I have studied many regimes in Australia, Great Britain and the Netherlands that are all moving in the direction of providing more accountability for the actions of government to the people. Think about it. Every piece of legislation that comes before the House would have a cost attached to it. Some in the bureaucracy are going to say it is very difficult to do. But the reality is that we already have an evaluation and internal system of calculating the cost of programs. It simply means moving the thought process up a little bit closer to the legislative process.

How can we as legislators go around the country talking about various pieces of legislation without understanding the full impact it will have on the economy and on government spending? As I researched this issue in other countries, I found that other parliamentarians were doing much of what I am suggesting: moving in the general area of greater accountability, greater awareness of the programs for the general public.

There is nothing unusual about any of the things I am suggesting. It is done in business every day. I am not saying that government is a business. It is not. We have a very different social purpose here. But government needs to be run a little bit more like a business. People have to know the costs.

My fear is that even though we are going down the road of financial and fiscal responsibility and we have moved the ship of state, if you will, maybe 10 degrees on the course where we want to go, there are people who will move it back the other way and we will be off course again. People want to be part of the process. They want to be involved in the process that allows them to make judgments on how governments spend.

People are not going to sit down with a calculator and figure out how much every piece of legislation impacts them, which is why I have included a clause that says: "divided by the population statistics". That way, everyone will know exactly how much every piece of legislation costs him or her.

This could be a good thing. This is not a negative thing for government programs. It could well be a good thing. For instance, we may find that the cost of day care, if we extrapolate it over our population base, is really quite small. People would have a greater degree of acceptance of that if they saw that it was a small cost on an individual basis. On the other hand, there would be those programs that people would not think were particularly cost effective. They would be able to make those kind of judgment calls.

There will be those people who could not care less. They will not use the information at all but the bottom line is that they will have the ability to do so.

The longer I sit in this House and the more legislation I see come by, I cannot figure out what the financial impact of it is at all. I feel it is really part of my responsibility, as a legislator, to know that and to explain it to my constituents. I do not feel that I have the ability to do that with the present legislative format.

Finally in summary, just simply turn the lights on here in Ottawa.

Program Cost Declaration Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Nic Leblanc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Durham, a Liberal member, has put forward Bill C-214, a bill to provide for improved information on the cost of proposed government programs.

The hon. member for Durham, who sat on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts as vice-chairman, is very interested in any administrative or legislative measure that would make the government more responsible or accountable for the enormous amounts taxpayers invest every year in the federal public service.

I want to assure the hon. member of my support in requiring the estimated annual cost and cost per capita of every new program be published as soon as the bill that authorizes it is introduced in Parliament or the regulation that implements it is issued.

The bill also requires that the auditor general be called upon to determine whether the method of calculation is valid and the cost is a good estimate. This assessment and the method to calculate the estimated cost used by the auditor general would go a long way to reassure the public on the objectivity of the calculations and cost estimate.

To increase public awareness of the actual cost of government programs and enhance transparency, as promised by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign, transparency that never really materialized, this bill also requires the total cost and cost per capital of each program to be displayed at any place where the program is delivered to the public.

The purpose of Bill C-214 is to require all departments to provide detailed financial or cost analyses for any new legislative measure.

Estimating these costs on a per capita basis will help individual citizens understand more clearly how much each new piece of legislation costs them personally, how much is actually taken out of their pockets each time the government put a new program in place.

This bill will make legislators and public service officials more aware of the financial impact of various legislative measures. It will also encourage the public to pay closer attention to government spending.

I agree with the hon. member for Durham, when he says that, had such a legislation been in place in the past, the debt burden facing the taxpayers would have been much lower today.

I sympathize with the hon. member for Durham. His background and personal experience, as well as his work at the public accounts committee level, have all contributed to leading him to put Bill C-214 before this House. However, while he has our support, the problem for the hon. member, who sincerely wants to prevent the setting up of programs that are useless and too costly, is that his own government, his own party turns a deaf ear to his bill.

Indeed, the cost of government programs is the least of the Liberal's worries. Since the days of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the Liberal Party of Canada has buried Canadians under a mountain of debts, and the current Prime Minister is carrying on the tradition. The notion of cost-benefit analysis is a foreign to this government as its understanding of Quebec is flawed or, for that matter, the existence of two distinct peoples in Canada and the partnership that could exist between them. This Liberal government's constitutional policy is based on confrontation. The Liberals prefer covering up to transparency and to analyzing the real costs of government programs.

For these reasons, Bill C-214 stands little chance of being supported by the hon. member's own party, even though such legislation is urgently required.

A good illustration of the Liberals lack of support for Bill C-214 is an E-mail note we received in which the Liberal member for Bruce-Grey writes the following to his colleague for Durham, and I quote:

"While I find the objective of the bill laudable, I am concerned that it could prove to be costly and cumbersome, particularly if applied to all new programming proposals regardless of materiality".

While cost estimating is the very basis of the evaluation of any new product or service in the private sector, the Liberal member for Bruce-Grey tells us that estimating the cost of any new program would be too costly when we do not know whether the program will actually be implemented. The member for Bruce-Grey seems to be implying that it is better to implement a new program without knowing its costs, then to know the costs of a new program whose financial impact would lead us not to implement it.

Such is the Liberal philosophy: it is better to not know the costs of a new program, because this information could arouse the suspicions of the media, of the opposition parties and of the taxpayers, who would strongly object to its implementation.

Better to keep the public in the dark about the real costs of programs, and above all to keep the auditor general, with his objective and transparent opinion about such information, at a distance.

We saw this, during hearings of the finance committee on the transfer of two billion dollars of Canadian capital tax free to the United States. Members of the Liberal majority and the chairman of the committee himself tried to put the auditor general on the

spot, because he had dared to give a dissenting opinion on the controversial decision by the revenue department and the finance minister regarding this unusual transfer of funds to the United States.

The final report by the Standing Committee on Finance, with which the Bloc Quebecois was not in agreement-we tabled a dissenting report-is devoted largely to trying to refute and undermine the auditor general's opinion.

As political debate and public morality, we have seen worse. Instead of attacking the message, Liberals attack the messenger.

At the end of his note to the member for Durham, the Liberal member for Bruce-Grey says, and I quote:


"With respect to the role of the auditor general, his mandate is one of ex-post review. Indeed your proposal may create a conflict of interest for his office".

The Liberals want to continue to maintain the role of the auditor general's office as one of intervening after the fact, when the deed is done and taxpayers money has already been committed and spent.

As for the possibility of conflict of interest in the auditor general's role, the Liberals have put themselves in a conflict of interest situation for some time by attacking the auditor general during hearings of the finance committee and in their subsequent committee report to the House. The auditor general is accountable only to Parliament, and that is why the Liberals are so afraid of him, do not want to extend his mandate and are trying to undermine his credibility to diminish the impact of his views. This is petty politicking.

Bill C-214 presented by the hon. member for Durham, will unfortunately not be supported by his own party, because it calls for innovation in administration, for transparency-

Program Cost Declaration Act
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry, but the hon. member's time has expired.