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House of Commons Hansard #43 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was referendum.

Topics

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is trying to shift responsibility for the loss of control of the Department of Human Resources Development onto the department's officials. The person primarily responsible for this administrative bungle is the deputy minister, Mel Cappe.

How can the Prime Minister justify his promoting to the position of top government manager the very person who is responsible for the administrative mess involving billions of dollars at the Department of Human Resources Development?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talks about the employees of the department. I really wish she could have been with me when I addressed hundreds of employees in Ottawa and thousands across the country.

The employees of Human Resources Development Canada want a better system. They want the tools they need to provide a quality system to Canadians. The department is fully supportive of the initiatives that we are undertaking to fix this problem, and we will fix it.

Jean Lesage AirportOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Claude Drouin Liberal Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transport and concerns the privatization of the Jean Lesage airport in Quebec City.

Given that this issue was identified as a priority by economic agents in the region, will this agreement protect the 52 employees, who are doing an excellent job at the airport, and ensure its development?

Jean Lesage AirportOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, last Friday, the government announced a financial agreement with the Société aéroportuaire de Québec. Negotiations on the legal and human resources aspects are continuing, but we do not anticipate any problems or major delays. In my view, the prospects for future development at this airport appear to be excellent.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

February 7th, 2000 / 2:45 p.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the human resources minister seems to be having a little trouble facing reality. In early August she received the damning internal report saying that her department was a mess.

Instead of getting to the bottom of this mess she stood in the House, smiled and told us everything was okay. In the meantime she doled out almost $1 million to her own riding, a riding that did not qualify under her own department's rules. The minister has been caught. Why does she not do the honourable thing and just resign, just quit?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I categorically reject everything in the hon. member's question.

When we look at the riding of Brant I want to confirm yet again that no rules were broken. The riding of Brant was identified as a pocket of high unemployment and therefore eligible for the transitional jobs fund and then again for the Canada jobs fund.

I want to point out that there were 250 projects across Canada that qualified for transitional jobs fund money where the unemployment levels were less than 12%, and half of them were in opposition ridings.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, in December the minister stood in the House, looked you in the eye and these cameras in the eye and said “Folks, everything is all right in my department”, despite the fact that she had on her desk an internal audit that said her department was a mess.

She now says “We are going to fix everything”. How can she say to the House and all Canadians that everything is okay? How can we believe her now after she misled the House in December?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

The Speaker

As much as possible I would like members to stay away from the word misleading because it sort of excites everybody.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I cannot resist pointing out the double standards of the members and the leader of the party that wants to abolish all these programs. I do not know about the critic. He made a mistake.

In relation to this member, on September 30, 1997, he wrote “I am pleased with the museum's development over the years and your support of this project will have a significant and long lasting effect on our rapidly growing community”. He wanted the money and now he is criticizing the government.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, rather than take responsibility for the findings of the HRDC audit the minister blames public servants. Our democracy depends on ministers taking responsibility, yet the government refuses to do so.

I remind the minister that the internal audit raised serious concerns about projects that were approved for political reasons and that a regime already exists of public expenditures. The problem is that the government has ignored it.

Given the extent of mismanagement and political interference, the minister simply cannot run away from her own responsibility. Will the minister do the honourable and the democratic thing and resign?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, they should stop a little bit of this double talk that is going on here. She talks about political interference and she is a member who writes all the time to the department to get money for her riding.

She has been successful. She has got money for the Learning Disabilities Association of B.C., the Vancouver Volunteer Centre, KidSafe Project Society, and the Boys' and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. That was successful political interference.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, as usual the Prime Minister is holding up a smokescreen. The issue here is the transitional jobs fund.

We have to say that the Canadian public is not fooled for a moment that this is some sort of administrative foul up. People see it for what it is, a Liberal slush fund.

In the last few weeks alone Canadians have watched in disbelief as a government stood ready to give millions to hockey millionaires and then millions to bank billionaires.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The hon. member is very close to my chair and I could not hear. The hon. member can begin her question again.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have to say again that the Canadian public is not fooled for a moment that this is some sort of administrative foul up. They see it for what it is, a Liberal slush fund.

In the last few weeks alone Canadians have watched in disbelief as the government stood ready to give millions to hockey millionaires and then millions to bank billionaires instead of students. It has mismanaged billions in programs that should be helping the unemployed, not the Liberal Party.

These misguided priorities of the Liberal government have lost the trust of Canadians. Will the minister resign? That is the right thing to do.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is getting funny because she talks about the Liberal slush fund. Here is what she wrote to the minister of this department on June 24, 1999, in relation to summer career placement programs in her riding: “This additional funding was sorely needed. Additional jobs mean more opportunities for students and community agencies”. I agree with you, Madam.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I ask all hon. members to address their remarks through the Chair.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal research department's has been working overtime. Earlier in question period in response to a question from the member for Madawaska—Restigouche the minister said “I had to improve the audit”.

Was changing the date on the cover page only part of the improvements to the audit? I suggest changing an audit is illegal. Why was the minister trying to hide the truth about when she received the report?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I am not trying to hide anything. I made the report public, for heaven's sake.

From my point of view the appropriate thing to do when you get information that says there are problems is to let Canadians know so that Canadians can appreciate the significance of the undertaking and they can also measure the impact of our results.

I am going to be looking forward to presenting on a quarterly basis the results of our reviews, the information that we get on the improvements that these undertakings are going to hold. There is nothing to hide here. We are going to fix the problem and it is not going to exist after.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, if there was nothing to hide the minister should have been in here in November explaining what was wrong in her department.

This morning at a press conference we heard from the same HRDC officials described by the minister as being in the dark ages. Over the course of this scandal the minister has blamed everyone from the previous minister to the press.

Would the minister now have Canadians trust the same officials she claims created the problem to investigate themselves? Before the minister resigns will she embark on a full, impartial, independent investigation into this scandal in her department?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, it was the internal checks and balances of the department that brought this information to my attention. It was my review of the audit that suggested we had to take it seriously. It is the response of the department that is now going to fix this problem.

We are going to make the results of that work public to Canadians so that they can measure our results. That is what Canadians want. That is the responsible thing to do.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister's department had an audit that showed severe mismanagement of public funds last summer. Yet all through the fall she kept giving Canadians the clear message that everything was as it should be, everything was under control, everything was being done that should be done.

In December, after the minister acknowledged that she saw the audit, she again kept giving the clear message that everything was fine, that everything was under control and that there was no problem. How can we tolerate anything less than this minister's resignation?

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, again, there is nothing that I said previously in the House that was misleading. I stand by that.

We are talking about accountability. When this hon. member goes back to her riding I wonder what she will say to the taxpayers who ask her why she did not know that tax dollars were being spent in their riding and why did she not know that $7 million was invested in community undertakings. Her answer will be that she had no idea where the money went, but that she hopes it did some good.

I can tell her that that money has done good and it has made a difference in the lives of the citizens of Calgary—Nose Hill.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphan Tremblay Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, recently, the current Minister for International Trade, who used to be the Minister of Human Resources Development, was telling the minister responsible for Emploi-Québec how to run job programs.

Will the minister, who has the arrogance to tell others how to do their job, now have the decency to answer questions from the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on how he did his job?