I appreciate the indulgence of my colleagues, since I believe these issues are very important. They certainly are these days as we listen to the big questions on the billion dollar boondoggle.
I will now talk a little bit on why I am moving concurrence in this report.
The report makes a couple of important points. Every province and territory in the country, with the exception of Quebec, has reached an agreement with the federal government on the new social union and on the way in which they will fund some of these shared programs. I think there is probably a consensus across the country for that initiative.
I have been in a number of different parts of the country, but primarily my own province, and I have not met people who want to withhold assistance from those fellow Canadians who are in need. However, they are demanding and insisting that the money be properly managed. It is a very simple question: Is it going to be properly accounted for?
The objective is to improve the work incentives for those people involved, to provide benefits and services for low income families with children, and to give those with disabilities the added ability to get jobs and look after themselves as much as possible and to get assistance from fellow Canadians who would like to assist them. We would like to do this through an accountable tax program. The key element is accountability.
In the report, the committee said “Accountability is a key element in the design of both programs. In official statements, all signatories have made commitments to account for expenditures of funds and of outcomes”. Having signed onto this shared program idea, the provinces and the federal government have made the commitment. The report goes on to say “Notwithstanding these commitments, it is unclear how the accountability for overall results of these programs will be achieved”. There are then some observations and recommendations.
An official from the department, who attended the committee meeting, said “Citizens, legislative bodies and audit offices may justifiably seek assurances that these new arrangements increase or at least do not diminish accountability for expenditures on shared social programs and their outcomes”. That is a very desirable goal. As I said, in the milieu that we are in right now in parliament today, it is so appropriate. That is why I chose to bring forward this motion for concurrence today. We believe we need to meet those joint goals together.
I will move on to some of the recommendations that the committee is making. Let me be very clear on this. On the floor right now is my motion for concurrence. If the House concurs in the report, it means that these recommendations are adopted by the House. I want to read them into the record because they are so important.
Recommendation number one from the auditor general via the public accounts committee is that Human Resources Development Canada and its signatories determine specific quantitative expectations of performance for their respective program goals along with implementation time lines for the national child benefit program and the employability assistance for persons with disabilities program.
Recommendation number two is that Human Resources Development Canada and the other signatories regularly report on progress in setting quantitative goals and implementation of deadlines in their respective reports to the public and their parliamentary legislatures.
This is a critical recommendation and ought to have been implemented about six months ago. That is that there be a regular report and that it be tabled in all of the provincial legislatures as well as in this House so that there is openness and accountability and we do not have to get out the damage control troops to try to ease a problem.
The third recommendation is that Human Resources Development Canada with the other signatories develop a common data reporting framework and protocol aimed at achieving quality, consistency and comparability of program data.
I am running out of time so I cannot explain this, but it is very important that there be consistency from province to province on what the goals are and how the achievement of those goals is measured. If we do not have that, then these reports can be fudged and will be meaningless. Therefore that is a very important recommendation.
Recommendation number four is that Human Resources Development Canada and the other signatories endeavour where feasible to present audited data in the annual progress report. The executive summary of that is simply that we want the data to be reliable, hence the call for it to be audited.
Recommendation number five is that HRDC together with the other signatories ensure that the annual progress reports of these initiatives are tabled in their respective parliamentary legislatures at the earliest opportunity after the report is released to the public. Again we have this accountability to the public and to the legislatures.
Recommendation number six is that HRDC and all the other signatories commit resources to implement the necessary evaluations of these programs. I will not read the names of the programs again. What we have is the necessity for adequate staffing so that accountability can be achieved.
I am personally very upset. Imagine if a bank said it had lost $100,000 of our money and that we could not have it back and when asked to explain where it went, the bank said “We are sorry, we had to cut back our staff”. Would we accept that from a bank? No. Will the taxpayers accept that from the government? No, they will not. It is a lame excuse. It is an unjustifiable excuse and the government may not use it. The government must put adequate resources to the accountability of these programs so that we do not get a repeat of the billion dollar boondoggle.
As a little aside, the auditor general also reported on programs such as TAGS. The jobs training fund has been the focus of the media and of the public in the last month, but the issue is much larger. Again it was last April, almost a year ago, when this was said.
The auditor general in looking at TAGS said that 26% had no clear objectives and 33% did not meet the criteria for the labour adjustment measure under which they were approved. Eighty-four percent did not have verification of contracts and 83% had no supporting documentation. This is a completely different program. The auditor general has pointed it out. It has been reported to the committee which said, “Let us deal with these things” and the House said, “No, let us sit on it”.
Canadian taxpayers are sick and tired of being sat on. We are being taxed to death. Meanwhile the government through its different agencies is totally failing Canadian people in providing accountability on how the money is spent and also that the objectives that are said to be met are being met.
If members have questions I would certainly be happy to expand on what I have said.