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House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was million.

Topics

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member was paying attention when the announcement was made in October 2000 to reduce a whole series of taxes and charges on the Canadian public, amounting to $100 billion over five years. Included in that has been reduction in EI charges, and the member will know that next year alone that amounts to over $800 million.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is a little like the bank robber who pleads not guilty because he did not steal all the money.

Yesterday the Auditor General said that it was Parliament's intent that the employment insurance program be run on a break even basis over the course of a business cycle. I guess the finance minister has break even mixed up a little bit with break and enter.

How much longer will the finance minister perpetuate the EI rip-off started by his predecessor, the member for LaSalle—Émard?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I know the arithmetic is really tough for the hon. member. Maybe he can try to figure it out for himself if I give him a little help.

We have a whole series of sources of revenue. Relating to EI premiums, they include taxes of a variety--

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

John Manley Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, they do not want to listen so perhaps I should just wait.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I am having trouble hearing the minister myself because there is so much noise. The noise seems to be coming from the side of the House where the question was asked, which perplexes the Speaker on every occasion because one would have thought that if you asked the question you would want to hear the answer. I invite hon. members therefore to be duly attentive so I can hear the answer. It is the most we can do.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

John Manley Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the point that the hon. member fails to acknowledge is that we have a variety of taxes and charges that we can reduce. If we compare Canada to the United States, we would see that on payroll taxes Canadian businesses in fact are in a rather favourable position. On income taxes, perhaps we are a little high. With--

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General has come down hard on the mismanagement of the firearms registration program. While not challenging the program's objective, she noted that, to date, the implementation of this program has cost taxpayers $688 million, instead of the $119 million initially anticipated.

Not only has the firearms registration program been mismanaged, but could the Minister of Justice tell us why the federal government also spent $16 million in advertising to cover up its mismanagement, an operation that was conducted by Groupaction?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as I said on a number of occasions, I think the government's policy is a good one and it is supported by all Canadians. It is essentially a choice that we made as a society.

The Auditor General's report, which was tabled yesterday, proposes a number of recommendations. We accepted all of them. Of course, the Auditor General refers to a number of issues, such as the program's costs, which we explained.

There was a great deal of opposition when we decided to go ahead with this program, but today we are beginning to see the benefits. We will continue with this program. Of course, this does not mean that we will not take a closer look at how it is administered—

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we agree on the principle of the program. This is not what we are talking about. What I am saying is that, over a period of 18 months, from April 2000 to February 2002, the Department of Justice awarded advertising contracts and paid big bucks to friends of the government, specifically $16 million to Groupaction.

Could the Minister of Justice explain to taxpayers why he gave priority to federal visibility at the expense of good management? Why look after the friends at Groupaction, instead of ensuring sound management?

My question is for the Minister of Justice. He is the one who is responsible for this.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, as I have reported to the House before, the government took prompt action during the summer to make sure that the relationship between the government and any advertising agency whose accounts were impugned was terminated. That action has in fact been taken.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, we know that Groupaction provided advertising services for the Department of Justice for an 18 month period from July 2000 to February 2002. We now know that spending on the firearm registry program is out of control and has reached $688 million so far.

Of this $688 million, could the minister tell us how many millions of dollars went to advertising and to which firms the contracts were given between the time the bill was passed and now?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, a question of that detail requires information that could perhaps be more adequately provided through the order paper, but in the interests of transparency, which is always of paramount concern for me, if the hon. gentleman would like to provide me with the details that he is looking for, I will do my very best to provide him with that information.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Here are the details, Mr. Speaker. In addition to the $16 million paid to Groupaction for advertising the firearms registry, our research indicates that more than $3 million were spent by the Department of Justice to invite hunters on an unforgettable hunting experience.

Are we to understand that this money is on top of the $16 million paid to Groupaction for the firearms registry contract?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman has been rather vague in specifying the exact contract that he is looking at, but if it is indeed the same contract about which he and other members of his party asked questions earlier in the year, I can provide him with the same information, and that is that those relationships were in fact terminated and, where appropriate, we are seeking to recover the money.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

December 4th, 2002 / 2:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, 10 years ago 80% of employees were protected by unemployment insurance benefits when they lost their jobs. The government has shrunk that to less than 40%.

By systematically withholding benefits from workers who need them the government has generated an enormous surplus of $40 billion. For three years running the Auditor General has pleaded with the government to explain this perversity.

What is the finance minister's explanation?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, there has been a $100 billion reduction in total taxes and charges to the Canadian public. The employers and the employees benefit from that also. That is a lot of money, even for the NDP.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the finance minister does not see a problem, but a lot of Canadians I know consider this to be the systematic theft of workers' money.

The Auditor General keeps asking the finance minister to justify the enormous surplus of $40 billion and the finance minister keeps stonewalling.

The gap between what workers pay into EI and what they receive back when they need it is obscene. How does the finance minister justify sitting on this pile of cash while he leaves workers out in the cold?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, first I can assure the House that I am not sitting on a pile of cash.

Second, what the hon. member ought to be recognizing is that even this year alone the Canadian economy has created over 450,000 jobs.

People do not want unemployment insurance benefits. They want jobs. That is what we have seen being produced.

Firearms RegistryOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, here is the Liberal legacy price tag thus far: $1 billion wasted in the HRDC grants; hundreds of millions on an ill-conceived advertising campaign; hundreds of millions lost in a helicopter cancellation; and now it is $1 billion wasted on the faulty firearms registry.

Almost 10 years ago the Prime Minister was quite prepared to play politics in cancelling the helicopter contract replacement for the aging Sea Kings. Will the Prime Minister today cancel a program for the right reasons and cancel this firearms registry fiasco?

Firearms RegistryOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times, on this side of the House we are strongly committed to that policy. It is a valid policy. We will keep proceeding with the policy.

Having said that, of course I have some concerns after reading the report of the Auditor General. In her recommendations basically she is talking about reporting, about the way we should be accountable to Parliament. She is talking about the question of cost escalation as well, which there are reasons for, as I have explained.

We will be working hard in order to make sure that we will keep that policy and we will fix the problems.

Firearms RegistryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, on that side of the House the members should be concerned.

They have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the Auditor General. She has exposed the government's shell game. Evidence shows that the registry does not save lives, but it sure can waste taxpayer dollars. What is worse, the minister is about to ask the House for millions more dollars.

I know he is between a rock and a hard place, but will the Minister of Justice withdraw his request for an additional $71 million until this mess in his department has been cleaned up? Will he do that?

Firearms RegistryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we have to be precise here. All numbers have been reported through Justice Canada or through other ministries.

The question raised by the Auditor General's report and her recommendations is that Justice Canada, being the single point of accountability, should be able to table a report that is clear about all of the spending regarding the gun registration system, which we will do.