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House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provinces.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to recognize that the member for Peterborough on the government side acknowledged that there is a brain drain. I am glad to see that the government side is finally recognizing there is a problem in the country called a brain drain and that we should do something about it.

Unfortunately, the government's answer is to throw more money at the problem. I believe it will put in another $750 million for research and development. It has already put in $500 million. I am not sure if my figures are exactly correct, but the allocation is along those lines. However, that is not for this year. This is a “when it gets around to spending the money” type of allocation. It may take the government 10 years to spend this money on research and development. We are not going to see any great cash infusion into research and development.

This goes back to 1997, which the member for Peterborough alluded to earlier. The government set up the centre for innovation, put in $800 million cash and said “This is good stuff”. It still has not spent that $800 million. The taxpayer had to come up with a cheque, it went into a bank account, and there it sat. I hope it was getting some interest along the way. It still has not been spent and we will now see the same thing all over again. We will have to write a cheque for the better part of $1 billion. It will sit in a bank earning interest rather than being put toward the research and development we so desperately need to maintain our competitiveness in the world.

I think back to the millennium scholarship fund that was created around the same time, with $2.5 billion to educate our young people in order to make sure we would be competitive in the world. The money sat in a bank for over two years and just before the election the government got fed up and started spending it so that every student in the country was getting grants and student loans so he or she could go to university in the election year courtesy of the government.

It is an election ploy. This is not good management. This is not sound public policy. This is an election ploy whereby the taxpayer will have to write the cheque now and the money will sit in a bank while we wait for the next election to come along. The next thing the government will do is announce all kinds of research and development projects courtesy of money that has already been paid by taxpayers and the government will say how wonderful it is. That is no way to run a country, no way at all.

The other thing is that we do not even get to vote on this in parliament. We get to vote on the bill, but this is statutory spending and we do not even get to vote that on an annual basis. If we could, we would say that we would vote for it in the year the government spends it, but as for this idea of putting it in the bank and keeping it there for 10 years or more, I do not agree with it at all.

The other part of the bill is the CPP investment board. This just shows how sloppy the government is. When it changed the Financial Administration Act recently, it dropped the fact that it had previously made the CPP investment board exempt from large chunks of the Financial Administration Act. The Financial Administration Act is the organizational piece of legislation that details specifically what each department has to do, what each organization has to do, the hoops that have to be jumped through, the management of the money, the reporting to parliament and so on. The government had a blanket exemption that the CPP investment board, which has $40 billion of Canadians' cash in it, does not report to parliament, and the government wants to keep it that way. I think not.

Not only does the government not want the investment board to report to parliament, but it does not want the auditor general taking a look at it to see how things are. That does not sound like good public policy to me, yet that is what the government wants to do. There is $40 billion of Canadians' money set aside for their pensions to ensure that they will have some kind of income when they retire and we have given it to a dozen or twenty people to play the stock market with, without review by parliament, without review by the auditor general, and we think this is good public policy? I think not. It cannot be.

Why would we want to exempt the largest fund in Canada from public reporting and public scrutiny, especially by our auditor general? I just cannot understand why the government wants to be so secretive with Canadians' money. I just cannot believe it.

The President of the Treasury Board says she will overhaul the human resources management of the public service, and we will get into all these kinds of things, but when it comes to managing Canadian taxpayers' money it is all done behind closed doors. The Minister of Finance wants to sit down and make all of these decisions on behalf of Canadians without telling them what is being done, without telling them how the fund is doing. “We do not want to report to parliament”, the government says, which is getting to be a bit of a joke.

Last week, as you know, Mr. Speaker, I was up on a point of privilege, where the Chair of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, who is an officer of parliament and reports to this House, had a report all over the media the day before it was tabled in the House of Commons. That shows the disrespect that the government and the different organizations that report to the government have for this institution of parliament. I say it is time that we brought back that respect and got their attention.

Mind you, we got the government's attention last Thursday afternoon on the vote, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately it was not a big enough motion to really jerk the government's chain so that its members would realize that parliament does have powers and that we are the guardian on behalf of the Canadian taxpayer and the Canadian people to ensure that the government does things and does them right.

If that is the case, why would the CPP investment board be exempted from reporting to us? Why would it be exempted from the auditor general taking a look in to see how well the board is doing? The expertise that exists in the office of the auditor general to perform management audits, value for money audits, is the best in the country. Our auditor general, who just retired last Friday night, was recognized around the world as being a man of integrity and stature and one of the most competent people around in doing these types of things.

The government does not want to hear about it. The government does not want to hear about Shawinigan. The government does not want to hear about the Grand-Mère golf course and hotel and the Auberge hotel. The government does not want to hear about these things. It says “don't worry, we're doing fine”. Appearances would suggest otherwise.

Why would we allow the government to build this wall around the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board so it can just say “don't worry, everything is fine” without a real third party analysis to say “yes, it is fine”?

My colleague, the previous speaker, talked about the Canadian Wheat Board. For almost 50 years now it has been exempt from reporting to parliament and exempt from scrutiny by the auditor general. We know how sorry a state the Canadian Wheat Board is in, how it has lost the confidence of the Canadian wheat producers, how it has seen its mandate as selling wheat to wherever it could find a market, to sell it on credit with the government picking up the tab, so if it was a bad loan we would end up giving it away. We cannot get that information because it is protected and we do not need to know that. We do not need to know how much wheat the Canadian Wheat Board has sold on credit for which it has never collected the debt. We do not need to know how much these commissioners are making. They make maybe a quarter of a million dollars a year or more, and what are they producing? The government thinks Canadians should not ask these complex questions. I say they should.

The Canadian Wheat Board's mandate was basically to sell wheat. We now take wheat from the Canadian prairies, ship it to the states where they make pasta and ship it back to Canada where we buy it, because it was not in the board's mandate to create jobs on the prairies. We allow the jobs to be created in the United States because it is easier to sell 100,000 tonnes or a million tonnes with one contract than have value added pasta manufacturers across the prairies.

We will see the same situation with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. We already see it with the centre for innovation, where the stated facts from the government are quite different from the real facts when we get behind them. That is why we oppose this bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, while listening to the comments of the member just now, I noticed an inconsistency in the debate that emerged from the Alliance Party across the floor. I was not totally surprised or shocked by that because it is quite commonplace.

If I recall, earlier on in the debate the member's colleague, the finance critic, attacked the amendment that dealt with the amendments made to the Canadian Wheat Board Act in 1998, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board was deleted in error. The member for Calgary Southeast commented that because of that the government, through the finance minister, could have been involved in some decision making with respect to the investment board. He went on in quite a diatribe about that.

The argument of the member for St. Albert went along quite a different track. He asked why we would exempt the pension plan investment board from the Financial Administration Act. It seems to me that the party is really inconsistent. Could the member for St. Albert would comment on that?

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. The Financial Administration Act is about an inch thick and has an awful lot of stuff in it.

This particular bill says that it wants to exempt itself from divisions I to IV of the Financial Administration Act, which is the bulk of the Financial Administration Act. We are saying we have no problem with that, except we should leave in the small sections that say the auditor general can audit it and that it should report to parliament.

The amendment says that sections 89 to 119, 127 to 130.2 and 153 to 154 will not apply to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. It is simple to say let us keep the good stuff and exempt it from the stuff that should not be there. This is not rocket science. It is called good public policy. Yet the government just wants to make a blanket policy and exempt it from everything.

The Financial Administration Act is about an inch thick. We are saying do not exempt it from everything. Exempt it from the things that are appropriate and leave it responsible and accountable for the rest. We thought that was simple stuff.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Durham Ontario

Liberal

Alex Shepherd LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member for St. Albert intently. Does he mean to suggest or tell the general public that somehow this board will not be audited? He is leaving in everybody's mind that somehow it will not be audited. I think what he is trying to say is that he wants the auditor general to audit the fund as opposed to an outside party.

People have been concerned about their investment funds for a long time and think that the Canadian pension plan has not been an appropriate vehicle to see their moneys grow. The government put this legislation in place to segregate this.

There may well be a good number of people who can see why maybe they do not want politicians involved in the decision making that affects their retirement pension because they have had such a bad track record. Is the member suggesting that the members of parliament should have some kind of judgmental authority over people's investment funds?

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams Canadian Alliance St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member is a chartered accountant. He knows full well that when an auditor audits the financial statements he or she certifies that the financial statements are correct.

However, the auditor general has a far greater latitude value for money management auditing to ensure that Canadians are being well served. It is not just the fact that somebody did not run off with the cash, it is the audit of the management of the fund.

He raised another point. We are not asking for politicians to get involved in the decision making. We are asking for the fund to report to the House so that all Canadians know exactly what is going on with their pension plan. Is that too much to ask? I do not think so.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know I only have a few minutes, but I will get right down to business. Bill C-17 is about innovation.

I would ask the government to allow innovation to start at home in this House. I have been here for seven years and never have I been in an environment where we have seen the death of innovation like this. Every member of parliament has had their rights to speak out freely destroyed and innovation has been choked off. If MPs try to be innovative, they are forced to put their ideas through an interminable series of committees where their ideas are chewed up and destroyed. At the end there is nothing more than pablum, gruel and useless stuff that does not challenge the status quo.

The press cannot speak to MPs. It is directed by parties as to who it can or cannot speak to. The individual MP cannot be innovative.

If the public wants to know why their MPs are having a very difficult time being innovative and challenging the status quo, it is because they are not allowed to. They are ostracized if they do. We should be dealing with issues like reforming health care and saving pensions. We should be putting forward new ideas to improve our environment. We should be putting forward new ways to deal with federal-provincial issues, defence issues, our role in the world, innovation that prevents conflict, innovation that enables people to get jobs and innovative ways to reform our tax structure. We should be dealing with large issues in the House. That is a pox on all of us if we do not do these things.

The bill before us is about creating a Canada fund for innovation and spending $1.25 billion. As my colleague from St. Albert mentioned very eloquently, why not allow the fund to be audited? Why not allow the auditor general to look at it? Why leave it up to the government? We know that if governments were allowed to dispense funds through such a mechanism, those funds would not be spent wisely. This has to be done in a different way.

There is a model to do that. The government wisely created the Canadian Institutes of Health Research which works well. It is a public-private partnership. It is at arm's length from the government. It has and will be audited. The institute provides public scrutiny for the disbursement of funds. It is innovative. It allows dynamism and flexibility. That is what this fund needs to be.

It not that we do not support the notion of being able to fund and give our Canadian researchers the ability to innovate, it is the manner in which this fund will be disbursed. That is the problem. It is a matter of accountability and transparency. The government is sorely lacking in foresight if it thinks the public will watch $1.25 billion of its money be given away without having an opportunity to scrutinize it.

There are other things we need to do to allow innovation. First, we must decrease the tax structure. Second, why not put into the tax structure our ability to create foundations like the United States has done? This will enable us to tap into a huge pool of funds that could be used and dispersed according to what the foundations wanted. It will provide researchers and non-governmental and charitable organizations an enormous pool for innovation.

We should allow individuals to donate to non-governmental organizations and innovative groups that do research like the Canadian Juvenile Diabetes Association or the Heart and Stroke Foundation. We should allow individuals the same tax write-off that another individual would receive if they donated to a political party. What is the difference? Why not allow a person who feels compelled to donate to the Canadian Cancer Society the ability to have the same tax write-off as somebody who donates to the Liberal Party or the Canadian Alliance? This is simply an issue of fairness and equitableness.

While the government has been removing funds from these organizations, why not allow the organizations to have the ability to provide for themselves?

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not see any relevance in the member's remarks to the bill which is at hand. I think you should rule accordingly.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I would ask the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca to tie his comments to the bill that we are debating.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will spell it out for the hon. member. It is called innovation. How do we innovate? I am talking about new innovative ways the government should look at in terms of enabling this particular fund to be used wisely. I am tying my comments to those of my colleague for St. Albert.

I know the hon. member has a strong desire to make sure that this fund will to be used wisely, not improperly. What we are doing is saving the government's backside. We are providing it a way to make sure that this money is spent wisely, with temperance, and usefully. At the end of the day the money is not ours, it is that of the Canadian taxpayer.

If we are going to have innovation and spend the money wisely, it must be spent by those who will be innovating. If we look into a crystal ball, we will have a enormous lack of individuals who have the ability to do the innovation. There is a crisis and it will only worsen because of lack of professors and teachers in our research institutions. Not only is there the brain drain but there is not enough money in the system right now to provide for these people. Many of them are moving to other parts of the world.

How do we rectify the problem? The following can be done. Let us get back to basics. Let us make sure our children are taught properly and that they are taught the basics of arithmetic, reading, writing and other skills, such as computer skills. We need national standards. They are important if we are to measure our functioning and ability against those in other parts of the world. We need to ensure that we invest in education so that professors can engage in the research.

We have a serious crisis in our education system today. We need to address this by working with the provincial ministers of education. If we do not have the teachers for our youth, they will not be able to utilize this fund. They will not be able to interact or be at the centre of excellence. They will not be the producers of the cutting edge research, which is required if Canada is to be on the leading edge.

The cost of education has gone up so much. For example in the field of medicine, I could not go to medical school today because the tuition fees are about $14,000 a year. The professional faculties are becoming the purview of the rich.

In my alma mater, the University of Toronto, the average family income is over $65,000 for those who are in medicine. How can someone who makes $35,000 a year send their child to medical school? They cannot do it. As time passes our professional faculties and the students who attend will merely be children of the rich and privileged. That is not what we want in Canada. We want to make sure that everyone, regardless of socio-economic status, has an equal ability and opportunity to engage in his or her chosen profession based on the merit of that individual. That is not happening.

This is a clarion call. It is a call for the government to wake up and listen, to work with its provincial counterparts to make sure that we have an education system that is affordable to all students. We have produced the income contingent loan replacement plan which would have been very useful in enabling that to happen.

In closing, we have to innovate in the House, We have to give MPs the ability and freedom to innovate. We have to revamp this bill and fund so that it is accountable to members of the public from coast to coast.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-2, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Employment Insurance (Fishing) Regulations, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Pursuant to order made earlier today, the House will now proceed to the deferred recorded divisions on Bill C-2 at report stage.

Call in the members. Before the taking of the vote :

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

The Speaker

The question is on Motion No. 4.

(The House divided on Motion No. 4, which was negatived on the following division:)

Division No. 61Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare Motion No. 4 negatived.

The next question is on Motion No. 8.

Division No. 61Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it I believe you would find unanimous consent that members who voted on the previous motion be recorded as voting on the motion now before the House, with Liberal members voting no.

Division No. 61Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the House agree to proceed in this fashion?

Division No. 61Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Division No. 61Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadian Alliance members present vote no.

Division No. 61Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bloc Quebecois members will vote yes to the motion.

Division No. 61Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, members of the New Democratic Party present in the House vote yes to the motion.

Division No. 61Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, members of the Progressive Conservative Party present vote no.

(The House divided on Motion No. 8, which was negatived on the following division:)

Division No. 62Government Orders

April 2nd, 2001 / 6:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare Motion No. 8 negatived.

The next question is on Motion No. 9. If Motion No. 9 is negatived, Motion No. 10 will be put to the House.

Division No. 62Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe you would find unanimous consent in the House that members who voted on the previous motion be recorded as voting on the motion now under consideration, with Liberal members voting nay.

Division No. 62Government Orders

7 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

Division No. 62Government Orders

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Division No. 62Government Orders

7 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadian Alliance members present will be voting yes.