Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary—Nose Hill.
It is not often that I start this annual debate on the business of supply by congratulating the minister but I would like to do that on the progress she has announced this evening in the things that she is undertaking, about new policies to administer grants and contributions. While she has made these initiatives, they have been at the encouragement and coaxing of the public accounts committee which has been talking about these issues for quite some time. It has been telling the minister to make some real progress in ensuring that the door for grants and contributions is narrow and specific and is not five miles wide so that anybody can drive through and help themselves. It seems that we are making some progress in that direction.
I would also like to commend her because obviously the minister has read my private member's bill on program evaluation which talks about four things. First is that the public policy shall be determined and articulated. After we know what the program is trying to do we then ask how well we are doing it. Then we can ask, are we doing it efficiently and can we achieve the same results in a better way?
I have given talks across the country and people are appalled. They ask, “Are you not doing that already?” I have to say no. Such enlightenment has been beyond the government. Therefore I have to congratulate the minister, because that enlightenment seems to be shining through the window, albeit a small window. Progress is being made and I would like to congratulate her on that initiative.
Today we are approving approximately $50 billion worth of non-statutory spending. Let us remind the general public that the government is working its way through $156 billion of its money this year. That is what it intends to do, which by the way is up $5 billion from last year, and up from the year before and the year before. It has always increased. This year it is $156 billion and I expect that we will see some supplementary estimates between now and next year for another $4 billion or $5 billion, so no doubt it will get to $160 billion.
Of that $160 billion, $116 billion I think the minister said, does not even come to the House for a vote. That has to be changed too. We have to have the authority in the House to speak about the $116 billion of taxpayers' money that is being spent without parliamentary review. Periodically an audit surfaces, as one did last January, and we find that because there is no parliamentary review there are such things as billion dollar boondoggles.
That would not happen if the committees had greater input into the spending and we were able to look at that $116 billion. Then there is the rest, some $50 billion that is called non-statutory, to pay the rent, salaries, phone bills and the grants and contributions, that the minister has suggested we authorize tonight.
The Canadian Alliance party has said we do not mind grants and contributions by and large but the transitional jobs fund has been an absolute disgrace. It has embarrassed the government and has shocked Canadians. That program should be just plain old scrapped.
We have suggested in our motion that $110 million be removed out of the $160 billion. It is not a lot in the whole scheme of things but because it has been such a total shambles, let us cut that program now. There have even been some hints in the newspapers that the government will cut it. Let us do it tonight.
However, the process of the House is skewed so that the minister reaffirms that we spend the money before the House is asked to cut the money. We cannot speak out of both sides of our mouth and therefore the government wins the day.
The last time a nickel was cut out of the estimates was in 1972 when Prime Minister Trudeau had a minority government. The opposition had a bee in its bonnet about the CBC and $1,000 was knocked off the president's salary. The last time was in 1972. That is how ineffectual the House has become.
Approving the estimates has become a perfunctory joke. Because of that there is the billion dollar boondoggle at HRDC. That is the only one we have uncovered. Maybe we could go down the whole line of cabinet ministers on the front bench and find that each department is hiding a billion dollar boondoggle which we have not been able to uncover. That is why we need more parliamentary authority to investigate these things.
We in the Canadian Alliance have tried to be prudent and intelligent by saying cut the $110 million. We will live with the rest of the expenditures.
We have to take a look at the fifth party, the Tory Party. It is suggesting in its amendments that 90% be knocked out of national defence. It is suggesting that 80% be knocked out of fisheries and oceans and that $1 billion be knocked off health care. What kind of responsible party is that? Those members are not responsible.
Our fight this evening is largely with the government because taxpayers deserve better. They deserve to have more openness. The minister is now telling us that we are going to get more openness. The government has been in office for six years and it is only after $1 billion has gone down the proverbial drain that it is now talking about openness.
It is only after the government spent $145 million on the millennium fund that we are finally getting some accountability. The government was doling out money the week before last. I am talking about $25 million. Who is celebrating the millennium today? The Liberals had their big party on December 31. They had a good time. The lights did not go out and everything continued on as normal.
The government is still celebrating the millennium with Canadian taxpayers' money. What did we get? We got trees worth $1 million. We got balloons floating out of New Brunswick at a cost of $215,000. We got the celebration of fire in downtown Vancouver for $25,000. The idiocy went on and on. The government authorizes anything. If money is going to be spent around the millennium, it is called a millennium grant. The idiocy of some of these things makes me weep. We hope that idiocy is behind us.
I have to congratulate the minister because she is trying. She is bringing in some new rules and she is listening to the public accounts committee. She is listening to my private member's bill. She is listening to the Catterall-Williams report in which I played a fairly major role. After seven years in this place I am starting to see the government is finally listening to some of the proposals we are making to make the process better.
I still want to see the process of approving the estimates through the House change. I will work on that on another day, but we have started. On that note, I thank the minister.