Mr. Speaker, as you know, we will be voting later this evening on almost $160 billion worth of government spending, and we will be voting after only three and one half hours of debate. We are given three and a half hours to examine $160 billion worth of spending. That is because parliament has lost control of government spending. There is no meaningful examination of government spending. We just vote it through as a matter of course.
The Canadian Alliance has introduced a motion to reduce government spending by $110 million. Out of $160 billion we are saying that $110 million should be taken from the grants and contributions program of the Department of Human Resources Development. It would be a tiny reduction, but it would be very significant. That $110 million represents the annual expenditure by the Department of Human Resources Development on the transitional jobs fund and the Canada jobs fund.
Let us look at this TJF/CJF program. First, 51 of 122 ridings across Canada which received TJF grants had been identified by the 1996 census as having less than 12% unemployment. In other words, 51 of 122 of those grants did not meet the criteria for the program. That is number one.
Number two, the riding of the member for Edmonton West, who happens to be one of only two Liberal members in Alberta, received three grants worth over $2 million from the TJF. All but $70,000 of the moneys were given three months before the last election, and the unemployment rate in that member's riding was 7% at the time, not 12% as the program required.
The riding of the leader of the Bloc Quebecois had an unemployment rate of 15% in 1996. That riding received only $100,000 over three years. However, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, having the neighbouring riding right beside the riding of the leader of the Bloc, and having a lower unemployment rate, received over $5 million. It was $100,000 for the Bloc leader's riding, and the Liberal riding next door received $5 million. That is how the program is being applied.
The minister signed off on 49 grants during the writ period of the last election, which is almost twice the program period. In other words, there was an accelerated approval that nearly doubled during election time.
In total, $13 million in TJF grants were approved by the minister during the election. Six grants were approved by the present minister the day after she was briefed on the disastrous audit of this program. She then approved nearly another $1 million worth of grants, the very next day, knowing that there was a serious lack of controls in the way this program operated. By December 3 she had approved a total of 19 grants worth almost $3 million. Yet the minister stated in the House many times that she took the audit very seriously and was going to make sure that everything was all right with the program.
Let us look at some of the grants that were given. First of all, there was the Auberge des Gouverneurs. This was a $6.4 million hotel project owned by a Belgian businessman and confessed embezzler. He received $600,000 in March 1997, which was first announced under the HRDC targeted wage program, but then later changed to the transitional jobs fund program because he needed the capital immediately. He did not want to wait until he actually created some jobs to get the money.
Then he lobbied for and received another $100,000 under TJF. This is a confessed embezzler and the subject of some real concern.
Then there is the Auberge Grand-Mère. This is a hotel beside a golf course, one-quarter owned until September of last year by the Prime Minister himself. Even after the sale of his golf course fell through in January 1996, he helped get a TJF grant for the hotel worth $164,000, knowing that improvements to the hotel might improve the value of the golf course beside it. The grant was announced by the Prime Minister's friend, René Fugère, just two days before the election, but it was only approved by the minister afterward in July 1997.
Then there was Globax and its daughter companies Placeteco and TechniPaint. They got over $2 million from TJF, which was announced just a month before the election. They gave nearly $20,000 to the Liberals, including $4,000 to the Prime Minister's personal campaign.
On the last day of the fiscal year over $1 million was placed in a trust, contrary to treasury board guidelines, set up by a law firm headed by a two-time political appointee of the Prime Minister and administered by that individual for a handsome fee.
One of the companies that got some of this money went bankrupt and was then repurchased by someone who had been involved in this whole business. The purchaser said that he was not bound by any of the conditions of the grant and set up business with half of the jobs that had existed previously. In other words, public money went into a company that cut jobs.
Then there is Les Modes Conili, which was given three quarters of a million dollars in 1997. It gave $7,000 to the personal election campaign of the Liberal member of parliament for Ahuntsic, who had lobbied for the grant. All of the workers from company A were simply moved to company B , and in the process they scooped up three quarters of a million dollars of taxpayers' money. The RCMP is now investigating this matter.
Then there is Iris Hosiery Inc., which got the largest single transitional jobs fund grant. It was over $8 million. It was supposed to create 3,000 full time jobs. This company gave over $21,000 to the Liberals, including nearly $6,000 to the Liberal candidate in the riding. This grant helped to put an undisclosed number of competitors out of business and killed untold jobs.
Then we have Duchess Foods, which helped the HRDC minister entice a company from Hamilton to her riding. The federal government financed 90% of that move. The unemployment rate in Hamilton at that time was 5% and in Brantford it was 6%.
Then there was a call centre that was induced to move into the HRDC minister's riding, RMH Teleservices. It got $1 million. It later said that it was just icing on the cake. Now we find that this same prosperous American company has received another $1 million in TJF money to operate another call centre in Sault Ste. Marie.
We have Media Express Telemarketing, which gave $10,000 to the Liberal Party and got nearly a million dollars of the TJF.
We have Superior Industrial Rail, which got over a million dollars from the TJF and the CJF. It just closed its doors on June 9. HRDC said that it needs to meet with the company to find out where the money went and whether it met the terms of the department. This is a good time to try to figure out where the money has gone.
The point is that it has been over 25 years since the House voted to reduce any of the main estimates. If anything begs to be cut it is this boondoggle program of $110 million a year for CJF and TJF which has been the subject of untold scandal and political pork barrelling. We are asking the government to finally stand on its hind legs, on behalf of Canadians who have to foot the bill for this kind of nonsense and wrongdoing, and simply say that it will cut a program that is clearly not in the best interests of Canadians.
Liberal members have been complaining that they are voting machines and trained seals and have to do whatever the government tells them to do. Here is a chance to vote down $110 million. It is a small amount, but it would send a very big signal that wasteful programs will not be tolerated by members of parliament.