Last week, I asked the following question to the Department's director of internal audit. “How many of the internal audits you have made since you took up your duties have led to an investigation by the RCMP or any other police force before this particular audit?”
His answer was really significant: none. Of all the previous internal audits, none had led to a full blown investigation. If 19 investigations are now being conducted by the RCMP or other police force, it must be because there is something fishy going on. At any rate, this shows there is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed.
Basically, there are two periods that need to be analysed, which is one reason why the House should adopt this motion. The first one is the period during which the current Minister for International Trade was in charge of the Department of Human Resources Development. That is when everything was done wrong. It has been found that, during that period, the federal government managed public funds without proper control.
Day after day, during question period, the minister would tell us “Job creation programs are doing very well and the youth employment strategy is an excellent program. Don't worry, we got tough on the unemployed, but, on the other hand, we are very good at managing the available funds and creating jobs”.
This time last year, the Bloc Quebecois exposed the fact that HRDC officials had quotas to meet. This means that there is a double standard in that department. When it comes to harassing the unemployed and taking as much money as possible from workers and businesses, all the necessary controls are in place. The unemployed worker who receives $275 or $250 a week in benefits should be careful not to make any mistake because he will get caught in no time.
There are investigations under way that cost $150,000. A $1 million dollar loan to the National Bank was supposed to create jobs. No jobs were created with that money, but there is no problem. It is perfectly normal. Jobs were consolidated but no new jobs were created, even though that money was supposed to help create some 40 new jobs. There is no investigation, nothing.
In all these situations, the minister hides behind answers that provide no new information. This is why a public inquiry is necessary.
We tried to find out why the government treated the administrative discrepancies this way. We might have said that had there just been the discrepancies, it would be easy to get out of it. The government should say “There have been errors, we are going to change the situation, look at what was done in the past and try to correct our past errors”.
We wondered why the government had this attitude. The answer lies in its use of the transitional jobs fund in order to win the 1997 election in a number of ridings. Let us look at the facts.
During the 1997 election campaign, in the few months preceding and following it, the government spent 54% of the amounts accorded over three years. In other words, in eight months, 54% of the money was spent on projects. By some chance, 63% of the money was spent in the ridings of Bloc members. That means the government decided to use the transitional jobs fund as a partisan tool, to advertise the Liberal Party of Canada, as a means of criticizing the opposition parties, but they used public money to do it.
They decided to use the transitional jobs fund in order to buy votes. Today, we know why the federal government does not want an inquiry, does not want the facts to come out. It is not because of a malversation of funds. The federal government knows about malversations, mismanagement of public funds; we saw this last year. We have seen the deficits they created. Today we see that the problem in Department of Human Resources Development exists in other departments as well.
The real reason is that it exposed the system put in place by the Prime Minister, a system that allows the government to use public funds to win elections, particularly in ridings where the outcome is uncertain. We will recall that, in the riding of Saint-Maurice, 58% of people voted yes in the 1995 referendum. The Prime Minister of Canada was not at all certain that he would win in his own riding.
As we can see, they decided to turn on the tap. Memos written by officials state that “it is imperative that this particular issue succeed, because that is what the Prime Minister wants”. Numerous cases were exposed, some in stories like the one broadcast by Radio-Canada yesterday evening, which clearly show that, politically, there is something fishy going on in the riding of Saint-Maurice.
To have good political debates, to have people who opposing views, whether they are federalists, sovereignists, Liberals or Bloc Quebecois, is normal. What is unacceptable is to undermine democracy by creating a patronage system designed to influence voters using every taxpayer's money.
Let us not forget that the money given away by Human Resources Development Canada is not that of the members of the Liberal Party of Canada, but that of all taxpayers in Quebec and in Canada. It was intended to help create jobs in all the ridings, in compliance with the rules.
The best example of what the Liberal government did can be found in the riding of the minister responsible for the transitional jobs fund. To qualify for a grant, ridings must have an unemployment rate higher than 12%. The government decided to give grants to businesses located in the minister's riding and invented a new rule to support its decision. Under that rule, in ridings where the unemployment rate is below 12%, grants may be awarded if there are so-called pockets of poverty.
I will conclude with the example involving the minister's riding. The problem is that the other ridings in Canada were never informed of that rule. So, the minister herself used the transitional jobs fund for her own partisan purposes. This is why all Quebecers and Canadians want an independent public inquiry. Action must be taken to correct this unacceptable situation.