Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I speak to the motion introduced by my party, which reads as follows:
That this House condemn the government for the poor management seen at the Department of Human Resources Development, particularly in the award and use of grants for partisan purposes, and that it recommend the creation of an independent public commission of inquiry, whose members will be appointed by the House, and whose mandate will be to inquire into all practices of that Department and to report to the House by September 19, 2000.
I am all the more pleased to speak to this motion today because of the horror story I am about to tell the House in the ten minutes allotted me. It is a horror story because not only were lies told to the citizens I represent in the House, but because they were also told to yours truly, the member for Rosemont.
I would like to tell the story of a numbered company, 3393062 Canada Inc. This company was formed on July 16, 1997. At that time its headquarters were at Place Ville-Marie in Montreal. On August 4, 1997—a mere three weeks after the company was formed on July 16—it applied to Human Resources Development Canada for a grant under the transitional jobs fund.
On October 21, 1997 HRDC officials faxed my office a copy of the project, which I am now holding, a 35-page proposal to create 106 new jobs in my riding. This $2,750,230 project was supposed to be located in Rosemont and to create 42 jobs in 1997 and 64 additional jobs in 1998-99. This business was supposed to be set up in my riding, specifically at 5800, rue Saint-Denis in Montreal, in what is known as Place de la mode.
On October 27, when I recommended this project, I sincerely believed and thought I had the department's assurance that the jobs which were supposed to be created would be in my riding, that the jobs which were supposed to be created would serve the riding of Rosemont, one of the poorest ridings in Montreal, one of the ridings in the neighbourhood known as La Petite Patrie, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in Montreal.
I personally supported the project and it was naturally recommended by the Government of Quebec. In addition, on December 16 Human Resources Development Canada supported and approved the sum of $165,984, which was supposed to be used to create these 42 jobs.
Except that on March 5, 1998, at the HRDC office in my riding in Montreal, we learned at a meeting with the promoter and president of the numbered company that was going to create 42 jobs that there was no longer any space available at 5800 Saint-Denis Street. It was therefore impossible to create jobs in the riding of Rosemont, it was impossible to create jobs in Montreal and it was also impossible to create jobs in the metropolitan Montreal area. The company had no choice but to move and create these jobs, not in Rosemont, as had been recommended by the member for Rosemont, but in the riding of Saint-Maurice, the Prime Minister's riding.
Mr. Goldenberg indicated to Human Resources Development Canada that there was no longer any office space available at 5800 Saint-Denis Street. I personally phoned the promoter of that building and learned that 40,000 square feet are available at the address where that business was supposed to settle.
Why did HRDC officials not bother to check things at the time? Instead, they looked the other way. The fact is they preferred to see these jobs created in the town of Saint-Élie-de-Caxton, in Saint-Maurice, in the Shawinigan area, rather than in a riding represented by a Bloc Quebecois member.
But there is more to tell. On March 19, a few days after the March 5 meeting, we learned that the president of that company had submitted invoices for the purchase of machinery and the renting of space in a building called, guess what? Confections Saint-Élie. Where is that company located? In Saint-Élie-de-Caxton.
Who is Confections Saint-Élie? If members would like information on that company, I invite them to read the election folder distributed on the eve of the Prime Minister's election campaign. The president of that company said “Our exports to the United States have doubled, which means we had to increase our staff quickly to meet the demand. The grant received with the help of Mr. Chrétien allowed us to do that”.
This is from the president of the company called Confections Saint-Élie. It was this company which found space for the company which was supposed to create jobs in Rosemont, which was supposed to create 106 jobs in my riding. Furthermore, we have learned that the number of jobs created by this numbered company was five, not 42. This is completely unacceptable.
There is more. We learned on March 19, less than one month later, that officials at Human Resources Development Canada nonetheless decided to give the $166,000 grant to the company knowing full well that only five jobs, not 42, had been created.
What became of the money? We asked the Prime Minister and we asked the minister. No response was forthcoming until February 25, 2000 when the deputy minister responsible for human resources development in Quebec confirmed for me everything that the Bloc Quebecois had been saying.
That was when the government and the minister decided to ask a Toronto firm to look into the matter. That was when the minister was informed of the results, one week later. On the 19th, she had to quickly recommend a police investigation into what is now known as “Shawinigangate”.
What we are calling for today is for the minister to immediately make public the report by the Toronto firm into the Rosemont affair, in the interests of transparency and out of respect for my constituents, and for members of the House to vote in favour of the motion presented by the Bloc Quebecois today for an independent public commission of inquiry.