Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented on Monday, November 15, 1999, be concurred in.
I am very pleased to rise today to debate a very important and critical concurrence motion.
I will bring the members of the House, and perhaps those who are watching in CPAC world, up to speed on what is happening. It just so happens that some time ago the auditor general presented one of the quarterly reports. That quarterly report of the auditor general has to do with the accounts of the country and how the public money is being guarded by the government.
As we know, the auditor general's reports are tabled in the House. Following the tabling in the House, they are normally then referred to the appropriate committee. The particular committee that receives this report is of course the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
Chapter 6 of the auditor general's report was tabled in the House in April 1999, almost a year ago. The public accounts committee tabled its response to that report on November 15, 1999.
Something that happens here in the House is that we spend a lot of money operating the Office of the Auditor General and a lot of money on MPs and senators in parliament who try to hold the government accountable. We spend a lot of money in many different departments and many different areas of responsibility asking for reports. The reports are then referred to the committees and in due time the committees report back. That is where it bogs down. The reports are tabled in the House and the government must then bring forward a response. It usually sits on the reports until the next election. Most of those very good reports go completely unnoticed in the country and are not acted upon on behalf of taxpayers.
Today we have the sixth report of the auditor general as responded to by the public accounts committee with its first report being tabled in the House on November 15, 1999.
My motion for concurrence was made just three days later because even back then we were very well aware that expenditures out of the human resources portfolio were not being well managed. This particular auditor's report and the report of the public accounts committee addressed the question back in the middle of November last year. Had we given a sense to that report at that time we probably would have avoided what has now become the billion dollar boondoggle. The recommendations that were made by the public accounts committee should be acted upon on behalf of the taxpayers of Canada.
We need to be very careful. We need to make sure that we do not just routinely sweep this report under the rug. I will take a little bit of time to explain to the members what is actually involved in this particular report. I will urge them to vote in favour of my motion, which is to concur in this report. When we concur in it, the recommendations that were presented by the committee will be enacted. In other words, there will be some accountability to our hard-working, beleaguered taxpayers who send bushels of money—I suppose I should say billions of bushels of money—to Ottawa where it is administered and mis-administered.
We want to address the important questions that address the House these days. The phones in our riding offices are ringing off the hooks these days. Canadian taxpayers want to know what is going on. They want to know how we can tolerate this total waste of money and the lack of accountability for it.
The auditor general identified a number of areas in his first quarter report of 1999. Chapter 6 of the report deals with a couple of the issues that we are dealing with today. It was a program funded by HRDC, the human resources development portfolio. We should listen carefully to what it says.
The report deals with, among other things, the national child tax benefit and the way in which it is administered. The auditor general points out that the benefit has highly praiseworthy goals, such as reducing poverty for children, which is an issue this government has put at the forefront and which resonates with many Canadians. None of us want our children to live in poverty. We know that children who live in poverty are living in families that are suffering from poverty. The very government that has this high goal continues to tax Canadian families with incomes of $20,000 a year or less. It takes $6 billion a year from those poor families in income tax. One really wonders what it is about.
Along comes the auditor general's report stating that the national child benefit, which, among other things, was supposed to reduce child poverty, is not being properly monitored and that there is not an adequate indication that the goals it has struck for itself are being met.
The auditor general raises some important questions. For example, the audit report talks about the definition of poverty and asks for clarification on what it really means. That has never really been done. When we target programs to people who are in poverty we need to know who those families are.
He mentions that there are many short term goals, some political only, and that we should be looking at long term goals as pertaining to the welfare of our families in Canada.
We need to define our goals so that the target we are shooting at is clearly known. When I was a youngster we used to say that if we shot at nothing we would be sure to hit it. Here we have another government program that does not have clearly defined goals. It just generally shoots at random in some location with taxpayer dollars and wherever it hits it is considered a success. Witness the statements made by the Prime Minister and the Minister of HRDC today. What they are getting away with is really atrocious.
The accountability that is required is spelled out in the report from the auditor general. He mentions specifically the national child benefit and the employability assistance for people with disabilities. I emphasize that when I move for concurrence in this report I am speaking in favour of assisting people who need help. Many times when we bring these issues forward the Liberals and some of our other political adversaries try to characterize us as not caring about these people. That is a false characterization. We do care about them. We care about them so much that we would like the money taxpayers give toward helping them to actually get to them and to actually achieve the specified goals.
When the auditor general wrote his report he said that there was lack of accountability. It is a cost shared program with the provinces.
It is not clear who sets these goals or who monitors them to make sure they are being met. There are general statements of accountability. It always makes wonderful politics to say that they want to be accountable. Every politician will say that because it resonates with the taxpayer. However, are they actually doing it? The auditor general said no and the public accounts committee said no. Some specific recommendations were made to correct this.
It is important to have an annual report that supplies in detail the information that is required in order to evaluate whether or not there were proper evaluations and whether goals were appropriately set.
Mr. Speaker, I find it difficult to speak with all the noise I hear with my left ear. I would ask that you intervene on my behalf.