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House of Commons Hansard #47 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was housing.

Topics

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize that in my department we have taken particular pains to be open with the public. That is why we made the audit public and why we make our performance results available to the House.

We have one of the largest and most active web pages in the government. The 459 projects, which have been of such great interest to the House, are on that web site.

I would just like to point out that it is the Reform Party which has said that our department has has one of the best access to information offices in Ottawa.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Reform

Val Meredith Reform South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it would appear that there is a pattern here. The minister claims that she was told about her billion dollar bungle on November 17. However, on December 16 she stood in the House and pretended that all was well in her department.

Yesterday she appeared before the committee and denied that there was any kind of master list on the grants. Today we find out from the Liberal newspaper in Toronto that her colleagues were given a copy of just such a list.

Why does the minister not throw away her script and tell the truth?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of points that I would again like to make. First and foremost, a billion dollars has not disappeared. We know where it is.

I was just speaking to a group in Niagara Falls this morning called the Business Education Council. It partners with the Department of Human Resources Development and takes $2.9 million of our Canadian tax dollars and invests the money in youth and in helping citizens in that part of the country, who do not have opportunities for employment, to find opportunities for employment.

We know where the money is, but we will be improving and fixing our system so that we can confirm to Canadians the wisdom of our investments.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Reform

Val Meredith Reform South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday this minister told the House of Commons the proper process of obtaining a copy of a list of grants.

I would like to know from the minister why Liberal bagmen, binder boy and Liberal colleagues can get copies of the list but the rest of the members of parliament cannot? Why does this minister not provide a copy of the list to all members of parliament? What is she afraid of?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I am afraid of nothing and we will continue to be open.

As I have said in earlier responses to questions, I have asked my department to look at the 40 different programs of grants and contributions that we participate in to see if there is a way of bringing that information together on a riding by riding basis, if possible, for the use of members of the House.

Bill C-20Oral Question Period

February 11th, 2000 / 11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government House leader objects to having the legislative committee studying Bill C-20 travel to Quebec to find out what people there have to say. Yet a number of committees travel. We in the Bloc Quebecois understand that this may be necessary and we have never objected to committees being able to travel.

Can the government House leader tell us the reason he objects? Why is he opposed to the committee coming to Quebec and meeting with groups in various regions to find out what they think? It seems reasonable to me and I do not see why he would object.

Bill C-20Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the member is perfectly aware that, in my letter to the House leader of the Bloc Quebecois and in what I have said to others, I did not mention prohibiting travel to Quebec.

We spoke about the fact that the committee had to hold its meetings in parliament. It is not prohibited in Quebec and allowed in another province. So, first of all, that is false.

Second, the member himself must remember the school board study. At that time, he did not even want to hear about a parliamentary committee on this issue, let alone have it travel.

Bill C-20Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, all the parties in Quebec City agreed that it would be debated in the National Assembly. There is a bad habit here of not recognizing what goes on in the National Assembly of Quebec.

The committee traveled, and if it is a question of travelling throughout Canada, not just in Quebec, I can tell him now that I have no problem with it. It was done for prisons, it is going to be done for the fishery, and it was done for free trade.

The government says that Bill C-20 is its priority. The government leader said so himself, I heard him on television. Why is there any objection, what are the reasons behind it? The government House leader's answers seem contrived.

Bill C-20Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there is nothing contrived about it, as the member well knows. I told him earlier. I even drew a comparison with another situation in the past where he himself did not want a committee for another initiative that was before the House.

Members, the House and Canadians should not think that committees automatically travel for all bills. That is not the case.

There are a number of bills where committees do not travel. Some bills are not even studied in committee. They are the exception, I agree, but nonetheless. Even that is not automatic.

We agree that the committee's proceedings should be televised and so forth. We have already said so.

Bill C-20Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Turp Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, the committees of the House travel a lot in fulfilling their responsibilities.

For example, when the foreign affairs committee was looking at circumpolar affairs, it went to such places as Russia, Finland, and Denmark.

Will the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons admit that travel to various communities enables committees to do a better job, that it is customary and normal, and that therefore the committee working on Bill C-20 on the future of Quebec and Canada should be able to travel to Quebec?

Bill C-20Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have already explained all of this to the hon. member across the way. Not all committees travel. The hon. member is well aware of that. It is not automatic for travel to be connected with every bill. The hon. member is also aware of that.

The hon. member's party asked us “Can we have a somewhat broader definition in order to hear witnesses?” We said “Yes, provided, of course, that it does not hold up the bill in question”. “Can the committee be televised also, so as to make the information available to the greatest number of Canadians?” Again, we said yes.

In the opinion of the government, the best place to deal with this bill is here in parliament.

Bill C-20Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Turp Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to get back to the matter of committee travel.

Just a few days ago, the government majority on the foreign affairs committee pleaded the case for authorization of a trip to Asia, to the Caucasus, in order to establish a policy on that region.

Why would travel be necessary for that committee, yet superfluous for the one addressing the future of Quebec and of Canada? It seems to me the argument is not reasonable and does not hold water. The minister knows very well that it does not.

Bill C-20Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear the hon. member speak of this whole matter, of what is reasonable and what is not.

The government introduced the bill in the House in December. It has been before the House since then. Who was it who spent all their time tabling press clippings in the House instead of debating the bill? The Bloc Quebecois. Is this reasonable? Who is it who spent all their time tabling motions to hold up the debate? The members across the floor. Is this reasonable? No.

The government has been reasonable. The ones who have not been reasonable in this matter are the opposition.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development, and it has to do with the so-called master list.

It seems to me that either the master list exists and the minister is refusing to reveal it, or the master list does not exist and the leaflets that binder boy was passing to the Prime Minister originate more in his old rat pack imagination than anywhere else.

Why does the minister persist in refusing to reveal this master list? Why does she insist on questions on the order paper and access to information? Why does she not just come clean with all the information now as she apparently has done with the government House leader?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I assume from the hon. member's question that he would like a master list that would cover all the grants and contributions that are supported by my department. That is 40 different programs. Some of them can be managed and focused riding by riding but for others we just do not have data riding by riding.

As I indicated earlier, I have asked my department to look at these 40 different programs to see if there is a way of bringing the information together so that members of parliament can have it in a consolidated fashion for their ridings. I would be glad to continue to report to the House on this as we make progress.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, if that kind of information does not exist in that organized fashion then how did the government House leader have that kind of information about Winnipeg Centre? He had everything that ever went into that riding, including the salaries of HRDC employees who work in that riding.

Does the minister not realize that it is not a question of the credibility of the Liberal Party or the Liberal government, it is the credibility of government per se as a positive instrument for job creation that is at stake here? She should be concerned about that. Not everybody is. We are, she is. Why will she not act in a way to restore the credibility of government as a job creating agent and provide this information?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more with the hon. member. Indeed that is why, when I received the results of this internal audit, I took it seriously and why I made it public so that Canadian people could understand that in the context of the operation of my department there is work that we can improve upon.

I could not agree more with the hon. member that grants and contributions from my department are a fundamental way that the government partners with individuals and communities in the country and engages in ensuring that we do not leave anyone behind so that we can all benefit from the greatness of this country. I am taking it seriously and indeed that is why—

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, the minister continues to choose her words very carefully. Truth and accountability have been absent during this scandal.

Yesterday I asked the minister a question about when she was aware. She pretended to be even unaware that a problem existed. I ask her one more time when she was first aware of problems in the transitional jobs fund in her department.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, when the hon. member asked when I was made aware of problems in transitional jobs fund, as you know and as the House knows, I was answering questions about the transitional jobs fund almost on a daily basis from time to time. I was very aware of issues in the transitional jobs fund and I was forthcoming in my responses. If the member checks Hansard he will see that I identified circumstances, administrative challenges in particular projects.

When we talk about the transitional jobs fund, it was one of the first areas of interest to which I turned my attention upon becoming minister.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I guess she still was not aware. The minister seems to indicate that the TJF information is secret.

The Canadian public is kept in the dark about the biggest case of government mismanagement in history, and yet Liberal MPs were privy to all this dirty detail yesterday. Could this be because companies in the minister's riding that cannot be identified received $11 million in HRDC funding? How about some truth or consequences from the minister and the government?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, what makes this issue so difficult for members of the opposition is that they will not take the time to understand the difference between the internal audit and what it represented and a particular program, the transitional jobs fund. They should spend some time on that.

With regard to the hon. member's particular question about grants and contributions in my riding, I am glad to say that the numbers he is speaking about are numbers that were provided to individuals in my riding for training, for fee payers, but because they are individuals the Privacy Act stops us from listing them name by name by name.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Reform

Rahim Jaffer Reform Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister wants us to believe that only $251.50 was misspent. What a joke. Let us see here: a $100,000 overpayment to McGill University; $200,000 to a bankrupt water bottling company; and $1 million to a bankrupt Panda Aircraft. Let us not forget the $600,000 to Shawinigan crony Pierre Thibault who was a confessed embezzler.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. Is not the real reason he is trying to dodge this boondoggle that his fingerprints are all over it?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalDeputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I see Rick Anderson's fingerprints all over the unwarranted question of the hon. member. No wonder that party is going down the tubes. He cannot even write his own questions any more.

The Prime Minister has acted perfectly properly in these matters. He has not personally involved himself in the decision making which, as far as we are aware, has been carried out according to the rules.

In any event, the audit in question does not show misappropriation. It does not show a basis for allegations of criminality and, furthermore, the audit methodology is being followed up by the auditor general in his own report. That is the answer for the hon. member.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Reform

Rahim Jaffer Reform Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, what a waste. The little guy from Shawinigan has turned into the little guy that shagged the taxpayer. It reminds me of a modern day story I saw in a film where a modern day Dr. Evil sent out his evil henchmen to take and then bungle $1 billion—