House of Commons Hansard #108 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was hrdc.


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1:40 p.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to question the member for Vancouver Quadra, who knows that, in this House, I have never lacked for praise in his regard, emeritus professor of law that he is, he is very knowledgeable about Quebec and he has taught from time to time at Laval University in Quebec City, where I myself did my law.

I listened attentively to his remarks. I know he is concerned about respect for order and good government, except that he has said nothing about the fact that a criminal investigation is underway into the activities of the management of Human Resources Development Canada concerning action taken in the past.

As a man concerned about respect for democracy, could he tell us, I would like to know, how democracy can be abused by a party in power—at the moment the Liberal Party, it could be another party at another time—which uses public funds collected from members of the public of all political stripes in order to put pressure or promote a single political viewpoint, in this case that of the Liberal Party of Canada.

How can democracy suffer in the 17 cases before us at the moment, the ones being investigated?

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1:45 p.m.


Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I readily accept the challenge of the hon. member, who has a lot of technical training in this area.

This is why I said that French thinking in administrative law is way ahead of Anglo-Saxon thinking. I regret, for these reasons, that Quebec's quiet revolution has not yet led to the development of a modern system of administrative law that would apply not only to Quebec, but to all of Canada.

We need a modern process for administrative law, for the monitoring of any government. This is why I pay attention to ideas in that area, to the concept of councils of state, patterned on the great model of Paris, created by Emperor Napoleon, a system in which public officials are accountable before the courts for their actions as members of the administration, for their wrongdoings and even for their negligence in administering the laws. We need Quebec's thinking—

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1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill.

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1:45 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to draw on my colleague's expertise.

In his remarks he mentioned the personal liability for misconduct of people who serve the public trust. As he is aware, the Financial Administration Act and the treasury board guidelines were routinely flouted in the way public funds were managed by HRDC. This was confirmed by memos from officials in the department and by the department's own talking points which say that the rules now have to start being honoured. It was confirmed by the circumstances of a number of these grants where funds were held over past year end contrary to the Financial Administration Act, trust funds set up contrary to the Financial Administration Act, et cetera.

Section 37 of the Financial Administration Act not only says that this is illegal, but section 80 sets out some pretty stiff penalties for individuals holding public office or serving in the public service who allow the law to be broken.

Does the member think that the penalties in section 80 ought to be applied? Would he also give us his opinion as to why no penalties or consequences have ever been applied so far.

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June 6th, 2000 / 1:45 p.m.


Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member, as a very thoughtful graduate of law and a practitioner with some experience, knows that I cannot comment on individual cases.

However, I think I could direct her attention, as I have tried to direct the attention of the House, to the need for a more comprehensive system of administrative law responsibility and the need therefore for an administrative procedure code. It is not difficult to draft. Many countries have it but it would involve our collection in comprehensive form of the rules and responsibilities.

I also believe we need, and this is one of the problems of the Anglo-Saxon common law world where we feel we do not need it, I do think we need a special administrative law tribunal. The Conseil d'État is the model around the world. I hope that the member, with her professional background, will endorse that sort of proposal.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to offer my comments on the opposition motion calling for an independent commission of inquiry into the grants and contributions activities of the Department of Human Resources and Development.

I am pleased to participate because it seems to me that after so many months of relentless attack from the other side of the House it is about time for some sanity to prevail in this debate.

This latest motion is little more than a vain attempt by the opposition to try to keep the issue alive and in the press for a few more hours or days. The old adage, if a story is repeated long enough and loud enough, maybe enough people will believe it. That has certainly been the tactic of the opposition parties.

Day after day in question period they say the same things. Day after day they repeat the same old questions: Where is the billion dollars? How come the minister will not resign because she has lost a billion dollars or more, and so on. Over and over they ask where the billion dollars is that is missing.

I do not think there are too many Canadians left who think the opposition really wants any answers to anything. They are ignoring Abraham Lincoln's famous script “You can fool some of the people some of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time”.

Canadians are very smart and astute people. At some point the truth does comes through. This latest ploy to call for an independent commission of inquiry is not about the real issues that play to Canadians, it is about nothing other than cheap politics. What the opposition does not tell people is that we already have an independent review going on right now by an officer of parliament.

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada is on this case. It is working closely with the Department of Human Resources Development to address the issues. Who does the auditor general report to? He does not report to the minister or to the Prime Minister. He reports directly to the House, to all of us in the House. He reports to me and he reports to the opposition. He is independent of government. He is an independent officer of the House. He says what he wants to say. He investigates what he wants to investigate. He will report in the fall.

Does the auditor general sound the alarm? Is there a clarion call for the immediate suspension of all government operations and the appointment of a 10 year long royal commission into everything? Not at all.

Here is what the auditor general's officials had to say about the new regime HRD has put in place to rectify the current situation. They said that in their opinion the proposed approach represented a thorough plan for corrective action to address immediate control problems. They also said that some longer term actions were also included that would further strengthen the approach.

Those are the words of the people charged with the responsibility of auditing government programs and reporting this audit to the House.

However, that is not good enough for the opposition. It wants somebody's head on a plate. Solutions do not make headlines, only problems make the headlines. As we and the minister have all acknowledged, it was not an insignificant problem. In fact, it was the minister who brought this problem to the attention of the House. It was the minister who stood in her place and said that books on grants and contributions needed to be fixed because an internal audit showed that the procedures were not followed properly, that complete records were not kept and that forms were not filled out in the entirety.

What was the bottom line? After all the sound and fury from opposition benches about billions of dollars gone missing and after the department reviewed an audited 17,000 additional files, what was the result? The result was that $6,500 remained outstanding, not in money but in documentation for $6,500. All the boondoggle that continues to be talked about was never a boondoggle to begin with.

What is particularly important is that the minister and the department, rather than responding to the great controversy over the way the records were kept with a kind of easy response, a kind of grants and contributions chill that would have seen hundreds of excellent and worthwhile projects go waiting for funds, took steps to rectify the situation which balanced the need for grant recipients and the need for proper accountability and financial controls. In other words, they took the difficult plan. They rolled up their sleeves and got down to business.

Where the audit said that the paperwork was unacceptable, they set about to put it right and to get the right forms in the right places. That was what this is all about. Where the audit said 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.

However, let us remember again what the audit said. The audit said that important paper was missing, not money. In response to that, it went through one file at a time to ensure that everything was done exactly right.

Despite the repeated claims of the members opposite, that has not been the issue since day one. The Canadian public was clearly misled. If that is the role of the opposition, then at some point they owe an apology to the Canadian public, as well as to the minister.

As the minister has said, the paperwork is central to the accountability of her public funds. What is also central is the fact that these programs are there for a reason. They are not just political window dressing, as many of the critics claim. These are programs that help people; programs that members on both sides of the House have long agreed are both necessary and worthwhile; programs that help people get and keep jobs; programs, for example, that have helped reduce the unemployment rate from 11% in 1993 to below 7% today; programs that have contributed to the fact that over two million jobs have been created since 1993; programs that focus on the needs of individuals in all regions of this country and create practical and results oriented ways to help them become productive and contributing members of society and the economy.

The members opposite can sneer at these support programs and how they are administered and they can try to turn Canadians to their real agenda, which is that government should abandon those in need and provide more tax concessions to those better off in our society. I do not believe their plan will work. I do not believe the majority of Canadians would agree with that narrow vision.

The vast majority of Canadians believe in helping our fellow citizens when they are in need. The vast majority of Canadians believe in a sane and levelheaded approach to how we provide that support. I think the vast majority of Canadians will see this motion for what it is: Just another attempt by the opposition to grab some headlines; just another attempt by the opposition to undermine a whole series of worthwhile programs.

I sincerely hope that the House will reflect the opinion of the majority of Canadians and reject this motion.

I just want to say something about the comments made earlier by some opposition members about those of us on the government side being whipped into supporting the motion. I will not be supporting the opposition motion that is before us. I sat on the HRDC committee and listened to all the allegations from the opposition. I listened to the staff and the witnesses. I will be voting against the motion because the work has been done and the corrections have been put in place.

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1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

We will have five minutes for questions and comments, but I was just wondering if we might begin the statements now and then members will have a full five minutes for the questions and comments after that.

Community Access ProgramStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, today the federal and Ontario governments agreed to work together to establish up to 258 public Internet sites in the Ontario public libraries.

This agreement expands the Community Access Program into 35 Ontario communities and represents a federal contribution of $4.4 million for a total $8.8 million.

The Clemens Mill, Hespeler and Preston branches of the Cambridge Public Library and the Pioneer Park branch of the Kitchener Public Library are eligible to expand their Internet access points.

A program of Industry Canada, the CAP, is a key component of the federal government's Connecting Canadians initiative.

The CAP shows that the government is committed to equipping all Canadians with the tools necessary to lead and succeed in today's knowledge based economy.

World Petroleum CongressStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Eric C. Lowther Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, from June 11 to June 15, Calgary will host over 3,000 delegates from over 80 countries at the 16th World Petroleum Congress in my city's new Telus Convention Centre.

The congress is dedicated to the application of scientific advances in the petroleum industry, environmental issues and to the use of the world's petroleum resources for the benefit of mankind.

This is the first time that the congress will be held in Canada and Calgarians are determined to set a new high standard while hosting this international event.

As evidence of Calgary's strong community spirit, more than 1,300 people have signed their names to the volunteer roster for the congress. In fact, my own twin daughters, Beverly and Gina, will be singing the national anthem with the Calgary Children's Choir at the opening ceremonies.

I offer my congratulations to Jim Gray, the chairman of the Canadian organizing committee, and to all the hardworking men and women of Calgary who are involved in making this event a great international success.

Board Of Governors Of The Royal Military College Of CanadaStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to bring your attention to, and applaud the efforts of, the Board of Governors of the Royal Military College of Canada who are in Ottawa today for their quarterly meeting.

This group of prominent Canadians works tirelessly and with little compensation to review and approve the strategic direction of one of Canada's finest post-secondary institutions.

Please join me in honouring the Chairman of the Board, the hon. Gilles Lamontagne, former minister of defence; Vice-Chairman Major-General J. R. Pierre Daigle; Colonel Bill Brough; Dr. Roch Carrier; Dr. John S. Cowan; Mr. Willian Coyle; Colonel Mel Dempster; Dr. Gwynne Dyer; the hon. Mme Paule Gauthier; Brigadier-General Kenneth Hague; Mr. William Johnson; Captain J. A. Denis Rouleau; Mr. Kenneth A. Smee; Rear Admiral David C. Morse; and the Executive Secretary of the board, Lieutenant-Colonel, retired, Peter N. Dawe.

56Th Anniversary Of D-DayStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, on this day 56 years ago, young men from across the country and part of the Third Canadian Infantry Division were landing on Juno beach in Normandy, many of them never to return home.

Today, names like Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beaches are but briefly mentioned. We often forget that each and every one of these men had a family, a story and dreams for the future.

Although many of them perished on those bloody beaches, some like Dr. Bernard Laski are still with us. On June 6, 1944 Dr. Laski was with the troops in Normandy. After the war he chose Toronto as his home and has since been a devoted and well respected pediatrician.

Today we pay tribute to those who fell and gave their lives, but we should also take a moment to say thanks to all the veterans who are still with us. Today we must all remember them.

The Liberal Party Of CanadaStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Werner Schmidt Reform Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, it seems the Prime Minister's latest proposal, the Canadian way, has very little to do with Canadians.

One of his own backbenchers has exposed how dismal the democratic process sometimes is in the Liberal Party. Liberal MPs feel that they have become voting machines, that most of the important decisions are made behind closed doors, in backrooms.

Voting machines? Backrooms? Important decisions made behind closed doors? Is this progressive government?

The dissatisfied rumblings of the Liberal backbenchers are only the beginning. Canadians have had enough of politics done the backroom way and are getting ready to show the government the way out.

In the next election Canadians aim to take back the decision making. They will begin by showing the government what they have known for some time, that the only way is the Canadian Alliance way.

56Th Anniversary Of D-DayStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, 56 years ago today, as dawn was breaking, thousands of young Canadian soldiers in northern France were struggling to fight their way on to the beaches of Normandy. They faced murderous fire and hundreds died on those beaches.

Well disciplined, properly equipped and magnificently trained, they penetrated the defences of the Axis and moved inland. The Canadians pushed farther inland that day than any other allied unit.

The Royal Canadian Navy provided 109 ships and 10,000 sailors in direct support. The Royal Canadian Air Force attacked coastal defences and contributed to the battle for air supremacy, so essential to the success on the ground below.

Victory on the beaches of Normandy was critical in the struggle to free Europe. Let us today remember and honour those who gave everything, including life itself, in that struggle.

Bill KirkeyStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Paul Steckle Liberal Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, small rural towns are often described as a family. With this in mind, it is an honour for me to recognize one of my brothers, Bill Kirkey, for his outstanding community spirit and involvement.

Bill was born in November 1935 and, although he was born with cerebral palsy, he worked hard and beat the rather bleak odds forecasted by his doctors in the medical community of the day.

With his determination forged by fire, Bill has since become a highly respected and productive member of his community. Indeed, it would be very difficult to find anyone in the town of Goderich who does not know and respect Bill Kirkey. I would suggest that this is primarily due to the thousands of volunteer hours that Bill has invested in the community.

For the past several decades, numerous charities and community minded initiatives have been the benefactors of Bill's selfless generosity and devotion to his fellow man.

As Bill prepares to celebrate his 65th birthday, I along with all the citizens of Goderich pass on our sincere appreciation for his hard work. Happy Birthday, Bill.

MalnutritionStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is estimated that 6 million children under five die each year of causes associated with malnutrition, and that over 2.5 billion of the world's 6 billion people consume inadequate amounts of micronutrients, that is, tiny amounts of essential vitamins and minerals that are not produced by the human body but are essential to human health.

Malnutrition leads to blindness, decreased learning capacity and productivity, stunted growth, below average weight, susceptibility to common infections such as diarrhea and pneumonia, and increased rates of maternal and child death.

I take this opportunity to compliment CIDA through its strategy in partnership with United Nations agencies, IRDC, governments and NGOs on tackling specific nutritional deficiencies and working to end micronutrient malnutrition.

The HomelessStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Raymonde Folco Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, on June 2, the Canadian government announced that $56 million would be allocated over a three year period to deal with the issue of homelessness in Quebec.

With a budget of $305 million, the community action partnership initiative is a key component of the $753 million national campaign launched by the federal government to help the homeless.

That program must be really effective, since even the Quebec Minister of Health was pleased with this announcement. There are 12,666 homeless people in Montreal alone. The Canadian government cares about providing these people tools to help them help themselves and improve their quality of life.

This initiative will help us elicit the Quebec government's co-operation, so that we can unite in our efforts on behalf of those who need help.

Fight Against PovertyStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance's false outpourings of compassion for the disadvantaged during the meeting of international institutions held in Washington in April did nothing to cover up the fact that the minister is much more interested in passing legislation to protect his fleet of ships than ending poverty in Canada.

What the minister did not say at the meeting, but did do in his last budget, merits our attention: he took $30.5 million out health care, education and social services.

Despite a surplus of $140 billion, the minister did not earmark any funds for social housing or for the thousands of families that must spend more than 50% of their income on accommodation. He continues to exclude six out of ten unemployed workers from benefits in order to better serve his friends.

That is why the Bloc Quebecois is making a solemn pledge to Quebecers living in precarious situations and isolation on the fringes of society to do what it takes to get the federal government to put right the wrongs it has committed.

56Th Anniversary Of D-DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Oak Ridges, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can think of no better way to honour our veterans on this 56th anniversary of D-Day than to share my late father's recollections.

He was a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He said: “We had mixed feelings on that late spring day. Some were apprehensive, some with zeal, but all had a prayer on our lips as we huddled in our assault crafts. The sky was blanketed with allied aircraft and the great ships fired continuous salvos at the French coast. It is a wonder how the enemy could have survived. The noise was deafening. The channel was very rough. A destroyer came close to us. The waves from her bow were higher than our craft and she looked the height of the Queen Mary to me”.

Many of the soldiers were seasick and just wanted to get to shore, no matter what was waiting for them.

“Finally we neared the beach, and then my assault craft hit a mine or was hit by a shell, I am not sure, but I was thrown into the air and then into the water, semi-conscious, weighted down with my grenades and bandolier. I struggled free and then passed out. I was picked up and was in hospital in England when I awoke. I was one of the lucky ones”.

We are the lucky ones because they left us with a lasting reminder of their courage and devotion to their country—freedom.

Francophone GamesStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 26, we learned that all levels of government involved had confirmed their financial contributions for the next Francophone Games.

This is good news for the Ottawa-Hull area, because we are seeing an excellent example of co-operation and partnership to the benefit of the francophone population.

Let us remember that the 4th Francophone Games will be held in Hull and Ottawa in July 2001. The Government of Canada is contributing over $12 million for the event.

The organizing committee and the signatory governments are satisfied with the agreement concluded. This important step shows that, when efforts are united in one cause, great things can be achieved. The francophone and francophile population, as well as participating athletes, will be the beneficiaries.

We wish all participants in, as well as organizers of, the Francophone Games the best of luck.

Revenue CanadaStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, in 1991 a Revenue Canada tax ruling allowed one of the wealthiest families in the country to avoid a $700 million tax bill by transferring a $2 billion family trust out of the country.

In 1996, on behalf of all Canadians, George Harris charged Revenue Canada with failing to enforce federal law by not collecting the taxes it was owed. Last week the federal court of appeal tossed out the federal government's appeal and allowed this case to proceed. Four judges have now ruled that Mr. Harris has standing in this case.

The government should stop obstructing this case with appeals and let the matter proceed so that a ruling can be made before the 10 year agreement with the family in question runs out and Ottawa is unable to collect the taxes owed.

Canada's tax system must be fair for everyone. Revenue Canada should not be allowed to act illegally to give special favours to some taxpayers and not to others.

Importation Of PlutoniumStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 1996 the Prime Minister gave the OK for up to 100 tonnes of MOX plutonium to be burned in Canadian CANDU reactors. We will shortly be receiving a second shipment of this radioactive material from Russia.

The attitude of the government is deplorable, especially during Environment Week. With no public consultation whatsoever on importing this dangerous substance, it is acting in an underhanded manner, to the detriment of both human and environmental health.

The Environmental Assessment Panel to Nuclear Waste Management and Disposal Concept indicates that the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Natural Resources had promised a full environmental study, including a public investigation by an independent panel. So far, nothing has been done.

Knowing that close to 50% of the initial mass of MOX will remain in the form of radioactive waste, and that plutonium has a life of 24,000 years, this is enough to have the public shaking in its boots.

High Tech EducationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is essential that our education system keep up with the growing demand from the high tech sector for technically skilled workers.

In Ontario, in the automotive industry alone, it is estimated that 14,000 new skilled workers will be needed over the next 10 years.

To help train more workers for the value added manufacturing sector, the city of Brampton recently proposed the establishment of a high tech training centre.

By partnering with Sheridan College, Humber College and various local firms, the city of Brampton hopes to create a post-secondary institute of technology.

As the MP for Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale, it is my sincere hope that this worthy proposal will be approved this year and ready for students in the near future.

Cape Breton Development CorporationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, last week the federally appointed arbitrator tasked with determining whether the severance and pension packages available to the Devco coal miners were equitable made his ruling public.

Mr. Outhouse ruled that 246 more miners will be eligible for the early retirement package by stating that anyone with 25 years of experience in the coal mines would qualify. This was in contrast to the federal government's position that only miners with a combination of 25 years experience and a minimum age of 50 would qualify. This brings the benefits package in line with those offered to other crown corporations when they were privatized.

The arbitrator also ruled that medical benefits will be paid as long as employees receive severance payments.

The arbitrator's ruling closely follows what the PC Party has been calling for to improve the Devco bill. The PC party noted the need for improved medical provisions and for more inclusive severance packages. The federal government ignored those ideas, but the arbitrator's ruling shows that the PC Party was once again on the right track.

YukonStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Derrek Konrad Reform Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, at the end of the 19th century the '99ers created an economic boom in Yukon when they took part in the Klondike gold rush.

Now the economy of Yukon is in ruins, a victim of total mismanagement by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Consider these facts. Since 1996 the mining industry has declined by an incredible 87%. It is currently sitting at a 30 year low and is expected to drop even further this year. The population has dropped 10% and the stagnant economy is imploding.

Yukon is rapidly becoming almost entirely dependent on government transfer payments and a 90 day tourism season that contributes little to a sustainable economy.

Yukon needs mineral development and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development's policy of suffocating developers in red tape is turning them away.

The evidence is clear: The minister and his bureaucracy have failed Yukoners. It is time for a change.

Human Resources DevelopmentOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Edmonton North Alberta


Deborah Grey ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I just thought of a great comedy series. The main character would be a political figure, say a minister, who was in charge of a huge department. She would be responsible for billions but she would have no idea what was going on because those bureaucrats would keep her in the dark. Sinister officials would funnel millions into fountains, hotels and canoe museums, the crazier the better. The minister could just sort of doodle happy faces on those boring old internal audits.

Does the minister think this is a plot she might star in or should we just turn it over to Leslie Nielsen?