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House of Commons Hansard #124 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Government Grants and ContributionsOral Question Period

December 4th, 2001 / 2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, after the HRDC billion dollar boondoggle, we would have thought that the government would have cleaned up its act but it has not.

The Minister of Health approves grant programs with no authorization. The Minister of National Revenue is handing out grant money in Quebec without proper documentation. The Minister of Canadian Heritage still does not need an application for her to approve a grant.

My question is for the President of the Treasury Board. Do her new rules on grants and contributions mean anything or were they just some nice words to get the government out of a tight corner?

Government Grants and ContributionsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member forgot to also say that the auditor general recognized that we have gone a long way in revising all our policies. I think she agreed with the fact that we have a new transfer payment policy, the right framework, an audit policy and a program evaluation policy, and now we are on the way to implementing them across government.

I think everyone can be confident that taxpayer money is really well spent in our country.

Government Grants and ContributionsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Industry has ACOA in his pocket and has been asking his officials to work both sides of the fence.

The auditor general says ACOA officials set up a not for profit organization, filled out an application for $1.9 million and sent it to themselves for approval. The money is for sand dunes in the riding of the solicitor general. This is a blatant conflict of interest by Department of Industry officials and a minister who should know better.

Does the minister condone this behaviour or can we expect more of the same from him in the future?

Government Grants and ContributionsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

West Nova Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault LiberalMinister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency)

Mr. Speaker, the member typifies incorrectly the project. ACOA participated in the design, fabrication and installation of interpretation facilities within a great tourism facility in P.E.I., which is part of the priorities of the province and the community for economic development.

Government Grants and ContributionsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the auditor general did not pull any punches in her report this morning to the federal government. She noted significant shortcomings in the management of grants and contributions in all departments.

How can the federal government claim to have made all the necessary efforts to manage taxpayers' money better when a review of the facts reveals that a large portion of the $16 billion in grants and contributions is badly managed and badly used?

Government Grants and ContributionsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, I think that it is very clear that the auditor general recognized that important and significant steps have been taken in the management of all of this government's programs, including our new grants and contributions transfer policy and our new internal audit and program evaluation policy. She recognizes these positive steps.

We must now ensure that this is well entrenched throughout all government departments.

Government Grants and ContributionsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the auditor general also says, and I quote “Where expected results are stated only vaguely, where risks are unassessed, project assessments incomplete, or performance unmeasured, management cannot be confident that [the programs] are achieving value for money.”

Has the attitude of the Prime Minister, who has always played down the management scandal at the Department of Human Resources Development, not sent a signal to all his ministers and officials that he will back them up however they manage?

Government Grants and ContributionsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, the opposition member seems to forget that what happened at the Department of Human Resources Development was brought to the attention of the public by the responsible minister herself.

This was done after an internal audit exercise. This proves that there is an internal audit policy and that an action plan was implemented. This is what the government does each time: it improves its services.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, in today's report the auditor general says that the statement by the Minister of Defence that we are equipped and ready for war “should be taken with a grain of salt”. The Prime Minister's boast in Edmonton that the troops are equipped and ready is without substance. The auditor general says that the Sea Kings cannot fly, that Hercules missions are down 36% but maintenance is up 26%.

My question for the minister is: Who is wrong? The auditor general or the minister who claims that our military is equipped and ready for war.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member forgot the correct option and that is that he is wrong. He continues to distort the facts.

Whenever the Canadian forces have been called upon they have been there to do the job. They are combat capable. That is not just something being said by the government. It is something being said by the military leadership in the country. Whenever they have been called upon, they have been there to carry the Canadian flag and do honour to the country.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, our men and women serving in the forces have done so in spite of the government and the minister cutting back on their budget and equipment. The auditor general also said that there was a conscious decision to decrease equipment readiness because the international situation no longer warranted high states of readiness and because the money simply was not there. That is what the auditor general said.

September 11 has showed how the government gets caught with its pants down and leaves Canadians exposed. Will the minister finally do the right thing, stand up for our troops, stand up for Canadian security and commit at least $2 billion per year to the budget for the Canadian military and pay the extra costs of war on top of that?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member needs a better joke writer.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

An hon. member

The hon. member is a joke.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Art Eggleton Liberal York Centre, ON

He still has it wrong. We are investing money. We have invested $3 billion over the last three budgets. We have put additional money in the last year in the supplementary estimates and in other funds that were allocated to make up for the need for resources. All of our readiness levels post-September 11 have been reviewed and changes are being made.

Human Resources Development CanadaOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, in the aftermath of the scandal at Human Resources Development Canada, the auditor general called for the department to assess its programs against nine specific criteria.

How can the Minister of Human Resources Development explain to the general public listening to us today that her department has never, according to the auditor general herself, used more than two of those nine proposed criteria, and what is more has applied them to its own choice of programs? This is just one more scandal to cover up a previous one.

Human Resources Development CanadaOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, it really should be no surprise that I welcome the report of the auditor general because today what she indicated was that the department has indeed made good on its commitments.

We indicated that we could do a better job in managing our grants and contributions. We committed to ensuring we did do a better job. Today the auditor general has said quite clearly that she is very pleased at the undertakings.

Human Resources Development CanadaOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the minister's six point plan covers only the period after 1999. Yet this government has been responsible for mismanagement at HRDC since 1993, or six years prior to the proposed corrective plan.

Why is the minister refusing to cast light on the mismanagement of public funds during that six year long blackout period, a period during which her government wasted the money of the taxpayers listening to us today? Why?

Human Resources Development CanadaOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Brant Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the hon. member was last year, but we certainly made it absolutely clear that we felt we could do a better job at administering our grants and contributions. We provided 10,000 pages of detailed information to every member in the House. We have been working tirelessly to implement a strategy of improvements that the auditor general says today are precisely the kinds of mechanisms that were needed in the department.

Canada Customs and Revenue AgencyOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister in charge of customs said in the House that the government is striving “to keep the border open through greater reliance on technology”.

Could the minister tell the House what measures have in fact been put in place to reflect this, or is his idea of reliance on technology high tech U.S. helicopters?

Canada Customs and Revenue AgencyOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of National Revenue and Secretary of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, the decision taken by the United States to put national guards at the border is, as far as I am concerned, normal considering the fact that on the Canadian side we have more customs officers by far.

Let us take, for example, the fact that we have more than 2,000 customs officers on our side. The Americans have something like 1,000. Therefore, to give those customs officers, who have been working hard since September 11, a hand is just normal.

Having said that, we on this side of the House have said that we want to make sure that we keep the border open to trade and that we use more technology to proceed with a much better risk assessment. Indeed, this is what we will do. I have been talking with the secretary treasurer, as have my colleagues. It is going well. We will—

Canada Customs and Revenue AgencyOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Edmonton--Strathcona.

Canada Customs and Revenue AgencyOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate those customs officials who have been working so hard on behalf of Canadians to protect Canadians where this minister has failed, especially to provide the technology required.

The revenue minister talks a lot about technology at our borders and how changes in Bill S-23 would improve security, yet the auditor general says that the technology is inadequate.

How can the minister stand in this House and say that he is using technology to protect Canadians when the auditor general says that it just will not do the job?

Canada Customs and Revenue AgencyOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of National Revenue and Secretary of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, in her report, the auditor general said that when she had a look at the customs action plan we were indeed going in the right direction.

Speaking about the customs officers who have been working hard since September 11, of course I believe we should thank all the Canadian customs officers who have been working hard to protect our society.

Speaking about technology, Nexus is fantastic technology. The customs self assessment, which we will announce shortly, is fantastic technology as well. The Canpass at airports, which we would like to announce shortly, is fantastic technology. We are moving ahead in the right direction.

Dairy IndustryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Claude Duplain Liberal Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, the appellate body of the World Trade Organization reached the decision that the United States and New Zealand had not successfully proved that Canada's dairy product export mechanisms were contrary to the WTO rules.

Can the minister tell the House what this decision means for Canadian dairy product exporters?

Dairy IndustryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, we are of course all very pleased with yesterday's WTO decision on Canadian dairy products.

I wish to thank all the stakeholders with whom we worked very closely on this: the industry, the provinces, Quebec in particular, the staff of the various departments involved, including Agriculture Canada. This is the first time in WTO history that a ruling has been overturned on appeal.

The sceptics notwithstanding, we persevered. We worked from beginning to end, defending our case doggedly and with the greatest attention to detail. As a result, our dairy producers will be able to continue to export.