Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member who preceded me. She laid the groundwork and foundation for the reason a public inquiry is needed.
This issue involves virtually every Canadian. It involves every member of parliament. It is an indictment not only of the minister of HRDC, but the Prime Minister and every other member of the governing party in the House today. By reflection, there is an indication, almost a draining over to any politician which makes us look as though we are all like that. I want to make it abundantly clear that we are not all like that. One of the reasons we want this inquiry is to be sure that the public understands clearly what it is the minister did not do.
We have to ask ourselves why the inquiry is needed. I would like to put it this way. The minister was supposed to respond in a way that was courteous and helpful, to provide service to her clients and to give a clear accounting to the taxpayers for the money that she or her department dispensed.
What did she do? She bent the rules and generally administered in a manner that was in no way accountable to the taxpayers. That means her work was pointless. Her work was supposed to be accountable to the people and it was pointless. When people do pointless work, the production of whatever it is that is produced is pointless. In the dictionary that is known as a boondoggle. That is what there is in this particular department.
The hon. member indicated what the audit found on the first instance. The auditor general then made a concluding statement. He observed that there had not been proper financial monitoring and there had not been an application of clear and transparent reporting to parliament. Because of that the auditor general said on March 23, 2000:
Large amounts of public funds were spent without the appropriate controls, making it difficult to know whether the funds were used as intended, spent wisely and produced the desired results.
At this point I cannot help but read into the record some of the examples of what has happened. I have before me 28 examples. We do not have time to go into each of them. We will only go into three of them.
One example is very interesting. Harding Carpets in Brantford, Ontario received over $400,000 in job creation grants in 1997-98 and went bankrupt in 1998. Did this produce the desired result? Clearly not. The jobs that were created, if any were created, were of very short duration and today the company is bankrupt.
There are two other examples. The first has to do with 80% of a $1.6 million job creation grant that is in support of a project to revitalize the riverfront in the Deputy Prime Minister's riding of Windsor West. Actually 80% of that money is being spent on materials. It is supposed to be a job creation contribution. It is not for materials in the first instance, yet well over half, in fact 80% which is four-fifths, is being spent on materials. It is mismanagement and misapplication of funds.
The hon. member referred to the MP for Ahuntsic in Montreal who received $7,000 in campaign contributions in 1997 from a clothing company called Modes Conili for which she had helped secure $719,850 in transitional jobs fund grants. She gave it the grant and two months later she received a $7,000 contribution for her campaign. We begin to wonder. The hon. member pointed out that no new jobs were created. In fact it was a transfer of existing jobs from an existing company into a new company that had just been created.
Those are three examples of why we believe a public inquiry should take place. It is so we all know what really happened.
As a consequence, treasury board has come up with a new set of guidelines. I said new guidelines but actually if we read the document, they are not new guidelines at all; they are a revision of existing guidelines. I would like to read a couple of the headings and a few descriptions of what the revised guidelines say.
There has to be effective management practices. This means due diligence to ensure assistance is approved only for eligible recipients and that payment is made only once all the required terms and conditions have been met. It shall be a results based management and what is the first word? Robust. A robust results based accountability framework must be provided when seeking treasury board approval of program terms and conditions including program objectives and expected results, performance indicators and milestones.
The spending shall be responsible which means increased transparency. The assessment criteria used to assess recipient eligibility and entitlement must be determined in advance, communicated to the public and applied consistently.
There shall be effective control. What does this mean? According to treasury board it means a more rigorous review of the proposed terms and conditions of grant and contribution programs will be undertaken by treasury board secretariat prior to submission to treasury board.
Those are beautifully revised guidelines. Very similar guidelines already existed while the minister was running the department and she did not use those guidelines. She bent those guidelines. The question is will she bend these guidelines or will she observe them? The issue is not whether they are good guidelines. These guidelines are good ones. The issue is whether they are being observed and practised. That becomes the issue. That is where the accountability has to be registered.
We need to recognize very clearly that some very serious questions have been raised on the performance of the minister. This has caused the treasury board to begin to react. It is a reflection not only on the operations of HRDC but also on the operations of the treasury board and the Prime Minister.
What did the official opposition have to say when it presented its report and responded to the report of the committee? It is very worth while to look at some of its 14 recommendations. I certainly do not have time to go into all of them, but I do wish to deal with a couple of them that primarily concern political interference.
When the committee reviewed all these grants and contributions it discovered that there had been direct and implied political interference in the granting of some of the contributions. The official opposition has shown that the number of project approvals and the amounts approved rose sharply at election time.
Lo and behold, could it possibly be true that the number of contributions made to the various communities had something to do with an election? They happened to go to ridings where the elected MPs were Liberals and part of the present government. Could it possibly be? That is exactly what we discovered and that is what the committee discovered.
We do not have time to get into all the other things, but I should like to refer to a speech made just recently by the Prime Minister in Europe. I will read a few sentences. He said:
One of the challenges all countries must grapple with is ensuring that all children get a good start in life and that families are given the support they need for the healthy development of their children, so that they are ready to learn and to seize opportunity later in life. Some argue that large, across-the-board tax cuts are sufficient. The Government of Canada has chosen a different path. While parents and families have the primary role in raising children, governments have a responsibility to ensure that the necessary supports are also in place.
He went on to talk about the child benefit program. The big point here is not economics. There is a totally different issue at stake here: the integrity of people, the character of individuals. We need to develop character so that people live by principles which clearly differentiate between that which is right and that which is wrong. What the minister has done reflects that it is not right to do the kinds of things he is doing. Therefore I should like now to amend the motion that was just presented. I would move:
That the motion be amended by adding after the word “public” the words “and that the Commission be required to lay before the House of Commons a final report no later than December 11, 2000”.