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House of Commons Hansard #7 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was riding.

Topics

HealthOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the auditor general today issued several alarming reports showing serious negligence by the government regarding food safety and health protection.

One example is that Canadian meat exporters to the United States must meet certain standards regarding salmonella and E.coli. If the standards are not met, the establishment cannot export but can continue to produce for Canadian markets.

Given everything we know about salmonella and E.coli and now mad cow disease, how can it be that the government has no such standards? Will it immediately introduce a pathogens reduction program?

HealthOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I confirm to the hon. member and everyone in Canada that the explanation of how this system works is being given to the auditor general.

The United States asks that we use its system of inspection to reach a certain point. It is a different way of getting there. If we get there exactly the same way, only we use a different track with the Canadian inspection system, I can assure her that if a product is not suitable to be exported it will not be provided to the domestic food chain either.

HealthOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the health minister who has ultimate responsibility for food safety.

The auditor general showed that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has unilaterally and arbitrarily decided not to regularly inspect non-federally registered establishments. We are talking about infant formula, unpasteurized juice, peanut butter and other products in a sector where about half the recalls in terms of food happen and which only gets about 5% of the food safety resources of the government.

This is a violation of the Food and Drugs Act. The minister is in dereliction of duty. Will he correct this matter immediately?

HealthOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, as I explained to the House before, the role of the food inspection system in Canada is to monitor and enforce regulations set by the ministry of health. The ministry of health monitors the actions of the Canadian food inspection system.

We have federally inspected plants. By the Constitution, we are not involved in the inspection of food produced in provincially inspected plants. That is the role of the municipality and the provincial governments.

HealthOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Recent disclosed information tells us that the Virginia Fontaine clinic in Montana received $37 million and is owned by Perry Fontaine.

There is evidence of highly questionable funding and spending practices. An exorbitant amount of money was approved by Paul Cochrane, an assistant deputy minister at health who resigned two weeks ago, and whose wife purchased condos at Mont Tremblant on behalf of Mr. Fontaine.

Could the minister explain how his former ADM could authorize such an enormous amount of cash with little or no departmental scrutiny?

HealthOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the transactions referred to by the member are the subject of an inquiry, either by the police, by auditors or by both.

As I mentioned in response to an earlier question, we are before the courts in Manitoba this week to make sure we get access to all the documents necessary to understand how public funds were spent.

I assure the member and the House that we will do everything possible to trace every one of those public dollars, and if any were misspent to recover them on behalf of the public.

HealthOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, it certainly begs the question when did the minister first become aware of it and why did he wait so long to act.

Given the staggering amount of taxpayer money that has been handed out by his department while hospitals across the country continue to struggle under his government's cuts, will the minister confirm that this matter, if warranted, will be turned over to the RCMP? Will the forensic audit also include an inquiry into why his department delayed so long before acting?

HealthOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, on the question of timing, I can tell the member that some months ago when these matters were brought to my attention I directed the department to suspend further payments to the centre until all questions were answered.

On the subject of the RCMP, I can tell the member that the RCMP is already very much involved in investigating many of the transactions to which he has already referred.

HealthOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, native people all across the country are looking for financial accountability.

Let us take the example of the Sayisi Dene nation in Manitoba. The Virginia Fontaine treatment centre sent its staff on a Caribbean cruise. Guess who went along? The assistant deputy health minister who was wheeling and dealing with the president of the treatment centre to buy condos at Mont Tremblant.

The band council reneged on a $100,000 payment to the Russell Funeral Home. It continues to owe $3 million to Wing Construction and band members still do not have decent housing or schools for their children.

How much evidence does the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development need to initiate a forensic audit on this band's books?

HealthOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I have already talked about some of these issues. I share the member's concern. I too am troubled by what we see at this centre.

That is why we have undertaken a forensic audit. In fact we have stopped funding the centre, cut off further funds. We are in front of the court to make sure we get access to all the documents we need. I have assured the House, and I do it again, that we will do everything possible to trace every public dollar that went to that centre, and if any were misused to recover that money.

HealthOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is much more than a matter of the health department. This is really under the jurisdiction of the minister for aboriginal affairs. This issue continues to grow and grow. It is just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately it is one of the many cases across the country.

In the throne speech the government stated that it would support first nations communities, implementing more effective and transparent administrative policies. I recently heard the minister say “It is time to stop the talk and start the walk”.

If he is serious about walking the walk, will he today order his department to initiate a full forensic audit of this band's affairs and offer its members and all Canadian taxpayers full financial accountability of taxpayer money?

HealthOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I welcome our new critic. The first thing he probably should do is get himself a full briefing by the department.

If he had bothered to take us up on our offer of a full briefing, he would already know that the department has put the Sayisi Dene under third party management. The department is looking after the books on behalf of the members of that band until their financial situation is rectified.

Softwood LumberOral Question Period

2:50 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister met with the new American president. We know that softwood lumber is one of the most contentious issues between Canada and the United States.

Could the Prime Minister confirm that the position he presented to the American president on the softwood lumber issue is a complete return to free trade?

Softwood LumberOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, this is the position that our government has always advocated. However, we must also take into account the fact that the Americans have some responsibility.

I think the president very clearly indicated that he was in favour of free trade and that one of his main concerns at this point was to make sure that the free trade that exists between Canada, the United States and Mexico was extended to the other countries of the hemisphere.

I then pointed out to the president that the principle which he was upholding should also apply to softwood lumber.

Softwood LumberOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, could the Prime Minister tell us whether the American president gave him the assurance that, when free trade resumes on April 1, the United States will not impose countervailing duties on Quebec exports of softwood lumber, as they did in the past?

Softwood LumberOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I did not get any such indication. We undertook a dialogue with the Americans and we hope to find a solution by March 31 of this year.

We know full well, however, that under the free trade agreement the Canadian government does not provide any subsidies to any lumber producer and that Canadian products can enter any part of the United States at no cost.

Auditor GeneralOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, first it was the billion dollar boondoggle at HRDC. Then it was the Shawinigan problem in the Prime Minister's riding. Then it was the problem with the native treatment centre in Manitoba under the Minister of Health. Now it is the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

The auditor general said today that an internal audit by the department states that 19% of files reviewed did not meet minimum standards of due diligence. It goes on to say that 37% of files are borderline acceptable.

Is the end of the line with the Minister of Canadian Heritage, or is everybody involved in incompetence and mismanagement?

Auditor GeneralOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, the audit which the auditor general refers to occurred last year, almost a year ago. All the recommendations which the auditor general made have been implemented.

Auditor GeneralOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is totally unacceptable. The auditor general said in 1998 that they could not assure themselves that departmental officials had exercised due diligence. In 2000 he said they found that while some remedial action had taken place, it was not good enough. He went on to say that the department's response to the audit was unsatisfactory. I do not believe the minister—

Auditor GeneralOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Auditor GeneralOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

It is most unhelpful for the member to suggest who he believes or who he does not believe. I know he would not want to suggest anything else. Perhaps he will put his question directly and avoid that kind of reference in his remarks.

Auditor GeneralOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

I will put my question directly to the Minister of Canadian Heritage. What does it take to light a fire under her to get the job done right all the time?

Auditor GeneralOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry the hon. member thinks it is unacceptable to have implemented all of the auditor general's recommendations.

AsbestosOral Question Period

February 6th, 2001 / 2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gérard Binet Liberal Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am a little ways away and there is a lot of noise.

My question is for the Minister for International Trade and has to do with the safe use of asbestos.

The asbestos industry and its workers in Canada are being threatened by the arbitrary and unjustified decisions by a number of countries to ban asbestos, thus breaching the rules of international trade.

What is being done, and what does the Government of Canada intend to do to ensure that the rules of international trade are respected? Is the World Trade Organization the only avenue open to the Government of Canada to protect the asbestos industry and its workers?

AsbestosOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Frontenac—Mégantic for his interest in this matter. I also wish to congratulate him on getting elected, and welcome him to the House.

In October of last year, we appealed the ruling by the WTO panel on chrysotile asbestos. The panel should hand down its ruling sometime in March.

I would emphasize that our government worked hand in hand with the industry and the Government of Quebec on the wording of the appeal, and we can be proud of this close co-operation.