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.