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House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:30 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

I hear the hon. member. A dangerous offender walked away from a golf course and he says “Oh, come on”. He should go back to the office and smell some more cork.

Here is the laughingstock of it all. The Liberals came out with a report on recidivism. This guy will not be included in the recidivism count because he was a bank robber and when he went out again he became a sexual assaulter. He is not a repeat offender because he did not commit the same crime. This information is fed into Statistics Canada, out come the reports and away they go.

It is all a bunch of baloney. Every day people continually ask me if I feel safe in Canada. No. I am asked if my wife and I like to take walks in the park. Yes. I am asked if we do. No. When asked why, I say that we like to look forward and see what we can see rather than having to watch over our shoulders to see who is coming.

What does Correctional Service Canada spend its money on? What does it do? Let us take a look. Some $78,000 were spent on millennium calendars that were sent to penitentiaries. I went into several penitentiaries after the calendars were sent and we did not find one calendar hung up in any cell because they did not want them. At one penitentiary they boxed them all up. We brought them back here and delivered them to the solicitor general. I told him that the guards, the penitentiary people and the inmates said they did not need the calendars. For inmates to have calendars it just made the days longer.

Then the commissioner came up with the bright idea of spending $4 million on a plane for Correctional Services Canada. He did not have to spend that much. He could have spent $2 million on a used one. I do not know what they ended up getting but I know they got it. It is my understanding that it was such an embarrassment that they are not using it.

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

They haven't flown it yet.

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Isn't that wonderful? They spent $200,000 on a task force on security and $70,000 for international travel by the commissioner in one year. They have a plan in place to get more and more inmates into the communities. They are reducing the number of inmates. The cost of running the system has gone up tremendously. Expenses to operate penitentiaries have gone up but there are less inmates. It does not make sense. Should they not be going down?

What about the correctional officers, the professional people who work on the frontline, who put their necks on the line every time they go to work? They have not seen a raise for ages. There was a time when they were fairly comparable to the RCMP and other police forces. Now they are a way down.

When they ask for such things as vests that will protect them from knife wounds, the answer is no, that there are no funds. They ask for protective equipment when they make their rounds. They would like to carry more than just a flashlight in dark corners in the event they run into problems. When they ask for a little better backup, the answer is no, that there are no funds available.

There is an easy solution. The commissioner should be fired and a guy put in there who will do the job. No. He follows fuzzy, touchy-feely, good Liberal stuff. It is all a bunch of nonsense.

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member speak and I have to concur with everything he said. I fully agree that we like to say Canada is a nice country to live in, that it is the best in the world.

As the hon. member mentioned in his speech, more and more the elderly talk about a fear of going down to the corner grocery store at night even to pick up a loaf of bread or a quart of milk. During my travels to schools I hear that even children are feeling unsafe going to and from school. Some parents are now taking their children to and from school themselves. Has the member heard such things during his travels?

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:35 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I certainly have heard those very same things. I visit schools quite often. They ask me to speak on justice issues, particularly the Young Offenders Act. I ask most of them if they are fearful going downtown or going back and forth from school. The majority of them are quite frightened. They like to travel in groups as a safety factor. In some cases they are fearful in their own school because of the bullying.

There is a lot of fear out there. We need to concentrate on doing the right things to protect Canadians. After all, our most elemental duty as members of parliament is to provide legislation that protects people and their property.

We have a government over there that figures the best thing to do is to register property. Now the supreme court has come down with a ruling that what the government has done is legal. Because of the supreme court decision I am sure criminals are shaking in their boots. They are all going to run down and register their guns tomorrow morning. Of course they are not. They do not give a hoot about it.

The government comes down with legislation that simply goes after honest law-abiding people and ignore the criminals. That is another brilliant decision. It spends millions and millions, and it is going to be billions of dollars, to try to accomplish something with money that could have well been spent on real protection of people.

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege of visiting the Joyceville prison in Ontario with the hon. member. We were there about some complaints and concerns with regard to the safety of the guards. While we were there we had the opportunity of seeing a system that was in place. Perhaps the hon. member can correct me on the costs, but I think they were between $65,000 and $85,000.

A system was put in place to detect drugs as people came into the prison. I asked the warden at that time, since it had been in place for a few months, how much in drugs had been confiscated. She said none. That is not what they do there. When the alarm goes off they do not search the people or anything. They tell the people to go back home and try again in 24 hours to see if they can come through the system.

I was just wondering if the hon. member had heard whether or not they have changed the program at all. Perhaps now at least they will stop and search the people and confiscate the drugs on them at that point in time, or do they still just let them go back home?

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I believe they can search them if they have the desire and the direction from the authorities to do so. I do not think that direction is given out very often because we have a group of people who are running the show and they are called Liberals. They have hired a commissioner who is very soft.

They wanted to know whether correctional officers should be uniformed, whether they should wear a military style uniform or a police uniform or golf shirts. The commissioner has said that as long he is commissioner they will wear golf shirts. He does not want them to look like authority and scare the poor little inmates to death. What kind of an attitude is that?

If the scanners my colleague is talking about are set off when someone comes in as a visitor, there ought to be some serious action taken immediately to determine what it is. It is true they may pick up a five dollar bill in my pocket. It might detect that someone had their hands on it at one time. They should find out what it is.

They have a zero tolerance for drugs. Have we ever hear anything funnier in our lives when drugs are more available in penitentiaries than they are on any street in our country? There is no real genuine effort to stop them. Their zero tolerance is nonsense. It does not exit. I wish they would quit saying that is their policy.

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:40 p.m.

Oakville Ontario

Liberal

Bonnie Brown LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the opposition's interventions in this debate are very depressing. They speak of waste, of scandal and of chaos. According to them nothing is good in the country. I beg to differ.

Canada has at present the lowest unemployment rate in 24 years. Inflation is negligible. The annual deficit has been eradicated. Indeed the economy is producing surpluses. Canada is leading the G-8 in economic growth and the UN names us as the best nation in the world in which to live.

By focusing on the negatives the opposition is avoiding the real issue of how government might assist those Canadians who are in need. When the Prime Minister was in Berlin recently he reiterated our Liberal approach which searches for a middle ground between the extremes of left and right, an approach which focuses on real people with practical solutions.

The Canadian model is about more than making money. It is about accommodating diversity. It is about a partnership between citizens and the state. It is about a balance that promotes individual freedom and economic prosperity while sharing in the risks and in the benefits. In other words it is about an understanding that government can be a positive instrument for serving the public interest.

On the issue of HRDC grants and contributions, I want to remind all Canadians and my hon. colleagues that the standing committee fully explored the question of the administration of grants and contributions. This review was conducted to ensure that the best interests of Canadian taxpayers would be addressed.

To the surprise of no one on this side of the House, the report of the standing committee, entitled “Seeking a Balance: Final Report on Human Resources Development Canada Grants and Contributions”, concluded:

Although some of the government's critics allege that HRDC grants and contributions were dispensed to achieve political ends, proof supporting this allegation has never been provided to the Committee....In an overwhelmingly vast majority of cases, HRDC grants and contributions are properly administered and spent.

These findings should have put an end to this protracted and politically motivated debate. Certainly, they reinforce what the original internal audit indicated; that information, not money, was missing from many project files. Do not get me wrong. Proper administration is central to ensuring proper accountability for public funds.

Unless anyone has forgotten, it was precisely because HRDC was committed to strengthening business practices that it initially ordered and conducted the internal audit of its grants and contributions. It was the minister of HRD who first alerted Canadians to concerns that the department's administrative systems needed improvement and who insisted her staff correct the problems quickly and comprehensively.

It was the same minister who sought the expert advice of respected outside experts on ways to improve management, including the design and implementation of a six-point action plan, a plan that has been endorsed by the auditor general. He told the standing committee that the plan represents an exceptional response and a very thorough plan for corrective action.

HRDC is working hard to implement the action plan and to bring the department's procedures up to the standards Canadians expect.

The administrative clean-up is well under way. As the minister explained when she released the first progress report on the action plan, the department has reviewed not just the audited files, but all 17,000 active files, worth $1.5 billion. Where information was missing, it was obtained. Where approvals were not recorded or were carried out incorrectly, they were corrected. Where further monitoring work was called for, it was done.

What is most important to recognize is that of the $1.5 billion worth of initiatives we reviewed, we identified only $6,500 in outstanding debt to the government, not $1 billion as the opposition claimed.

To ensure that we will not see a repeat of the old paperwork problems, we have trained more than 3,000 program and financial staff on the action plan directives and clarified their accountability. We have put to use expert advice from the auditor general, from the treasury board's Comptrollership Standards Advisory Board, and from Deloitte & Touche. We have put in place new conditions to ensure that each and every payment meets all financial and administrative requirements before it goes out.

Throughout this process we have worked hard to ensure accountability for the tax dollars of the Canadian people, while at the same time trying to avoid unnecessary red tape and bureaucratic bottlenecks so that we can continue to provide the programs Canadians need to improve their quality of life.

We have also made a commitment to keep Canadians informed of our comprehensive response to this issue. In addition to quarterly reports, every effort has been made to make as much information available as humanly possible. HRDC has put more than 10,000 pages of details on specific grants and contributions on the Internet. Anyone wanting further information need only visit the department's website to find out more.

Anyone who takes the time to do so will discover the real story behind grants and contributions; the stories of personal triumph of people living in every riding in the country, people who count on federally funded projects to help them overcome challenges that would prevent them from achieving their potential.

The facts are that the dollar values of the grants and contributions projects range widely from hundreds of dollars for targeted wage subsidies to million-dollar agreements with national organizations. More than 60% of the projects are funded for amounts less than $25,000, and more than 80% are for less than $100,000.

Our grants and contributions serve a wide interest, such as vulnerable children through community based initiatives delivered by organizations such as Big Brothers and the YMCA. Youth employment strategy projects reach out to youth at risk, enabling them to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to lead productive lives. There are programs for Canadians with disabilities, such as the opportunities fund. The aboriginal human resources development strategy improves aboriginal people's employability. There are literacy projects run by local literacy groups that are equipping Canadians with the skills they need to function effectively in the job market.

I am talking about federally financed programs that are making a real difference in the lives of individual Canadians, and indeed in the life of our nation.

Our success is clear. Some two million jobs have been created since we took office. As I said before, the unemployment rate has dropped from 11.4% to today's rate of 6.6%. This is the real story that matters to Canadians.

I am proud to be a member of a government that believes deeply in social investment. I know it is what our constituents expect of us. Canadians share our conviction that we have a responsibility to look out for each other and to support each other when it is needed. To penalize Canadians who depend on grants and contributions would be to punish the most disadvantaged.

Some people are at a loss to fathom why the Canadian Alliance persists with this long, drawn out debate, based on worn out misconceptions and wrong information. I am not perplexed. It is clear to me that the reason is their basic disagreement that Canadians want their tax dollars used to help others who are in need.

If there were any doubt about their intentions, one simply has to read Hansard of Tuesday, June 6, when the Alliance's lead critic for finance said that government activity should be restricted to three things: the maintenance of law and order, running the criminal justice system, and a strong national defence. In other words, more policemen, more jails, more jail guards and more soldiers and sailors. In other words, people in uniform.

Did you hear the word health in that outline, Mr. Speaker? Did you hear the word education? Did you hear the word infrastructure? I do not think so.

Members of that party have clearly expressed their depressed view of the world and their pessimistic view of the future of Canada. I reject that and I invite all Canadians to celebrate in the Canadian value that Canadians help one another in their time of need. This government is pursuing that ideal.

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I note that the previous speaker was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development Canada, that infamous department with the billion dollar boondoggle.

I thought I heard her say that they have hired 3,000 extra staff to deal with the issue. I may be wrong. I was actually focused on something else, but I think I heard that 3,000 extra staff had been hired.

The parliamentary secretary gave a long diatribe against other parties in this House. I really would like to know how she feels about a billion dollar boondoggle, gross mismanagement in the department, money being wasted and money that cannot be found, other than the fact that there is a cancelled cheque. How does that actually benefit Canadians?

We know the taxpayers are getting squeezed to come up with the cash. When she has no real idea where the money has gone, why it has gone to any particular area, or what benefit it gave to Canadians, why would we want to support the estimates which will give more money to this department?

A member of the Canadian Alliance has moved that $110 million for the transitional jobs fund be eliminated. We have already had over the previous months the minister of HRDC admit that her pockets of unemployment, which allowed her to channel money into her neighbourhood—

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With all due respect, the member was on debate tonight at least once. Time is running late. I think other members would like a question. Could he not get to his point and allow the parliamentary secretary to answer?

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I think we have 10 minutes for questions and comments. I admit that it will not be the full 10. I do not think the hon. member has been unduly long in his question. He has been two minutes. I know he will want to move to the point.

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:50 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would be glad to allow some time for the hon. member of the Tory Party, except that he did not rise fast enough and I was up first. Therefore, I get the first question. That is the rule around here. If he wants to be smart, he can get up first.

The minister acknowledged that there were pockets of unemployment which she used to justify money going into areas in and around her riding. At first she stood by those grants as following the rules, but then she had to admit that they did not follow the rules.

I would like to know from the parliamentary secretary, how can we believe that department when it says it is going to live by the rules from here on in?

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

First, Mr. Speaker, I disagree with the premise of the hon. member's question. He calls HRDC an infamous department. It is not infamous. Rather, it is famous to all those senior citizens who get old age security cheques every month and to all the unemployed who get employment insurance cheques. It is helping people to keep the wolf from the door. Millions and millions of Canadians have been the recipients. To those people, when the cheque comes, HRDC is their best friend. It is not infamous at all.

If it is infamous in anybody's eyes, it is because the hon. member's party has been irresponsible in blowing up 1/60 of this department's budget into what it incorrectly calls a billion dollar boondoggle, despite proof that has been put forward in the House day after day that a billion dollars is not missing and that there is no boondoggle. Even tonight, on the last night of the House, those members disgrace themselves by reiterating that discredited phrase that no one else in the House believes.

I find it odd that the hon. member suggests that my speech, which had one paragraph pointing out what that party has been doing, was a long diatribe against another party. Actually, I find it odd that he said that because his party is the expert on long diatribes. We have been exposed in the House and the Canadian public on television to a five month long diatribe from that party which was filled with incorrect information, personal attacks on the minister and the lowest possible form of unintellectual debate that the House has ever witnessed.

Canadians have to know whom they can trust. We are the ones who care about those in need. We are the ones with programs and they are the ones who would cut those programs and stick to policemen, jail guards and the army.

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it rather symbolic that, at the end of this debate, it is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development who defends the department, not the present minister, who neglected to warn the public of this scandal. Although she had been aware since August 1999, she waited until January 2000 to inform us. I find it symbolic as well that it is not the Minister for International Trade who answers questions, while he is the one responsible for all of this scandal.

Does the parliamentary secretary not find it astounding that, when the Minister of Human Resources Development started talking about the active files for which no money is recoverable, she spoke of those containing no problem? She puts all the files under RCMP investigation in the inactive files.

Is the federal government, in the end, not primarily responsible for the doubt cast on the job creation programs through its partisan management of public funds?

SupplyGovernment Orders

8:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I disagree with the premise of the hon. member's question. The minister did not forget to tell the House. The minister first heard about the problem on November 17, ordered a stronger action plan than the department had brought forth, and on January 19, I believe, announced these things to Canadians. The minister did not forget to tell anybody. The minister has been the most open and clear minister that probably this House has ever seen.

When the hon. member talks about cases that were troublesome and referred to the RCMP, he forgets to mention that there are but a few of them. Out of 17,000 there are a few. We are not happy about it. We have referred cases where there was any evidence of mishandling of money. We have required receipts. We have done everything we can to make sure that everything is up and above board.

Again, I am surprised that the member opposite, who believes in grants and contributions, is also insisting on emphasizing the negative instead of emphasizing the positive good that these programs have done for the thousands and thousands of files touching the lives of millions and millions of Canadians.

SupplyGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 9 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith all questions necessary to dispose of the supply proceedings now before the House.

The House resumed consideration of the motion and the amendment.

SupplyGovernment Orders

9 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to order made on Wednesday, June 14, 2000, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Division No. 1366Government Orders

June 15th, 2000 / 9:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the amendment lost.

The next question is on the main motion.

Division No. 1366Government Orders

9:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe you would find consent to apply the results of the vote just taken to the motion now before the House.

Division No. 1366Government Orders

9:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

Division No. 1366Government Orders

9:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Division No. 1367Government Orders

9:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion lost.

The House resumed consideration of Motion No. 1.

Division No. 1367Government Orders

9:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of several recorded divisions on motions relating to the main estimates standing in the name of the hon. the President of the Treasury Board. The question is on opposed item no. 1.