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House of Commons Hansard #131 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was copyright.

Topics

Member for LaSalle—ÉmardOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, yes, I was invited to the football game. The people of Saskatchewan, being very nice folks, have invited me. I have not reached a decision as yet.

If there are a lot of premiers there, I imagine ministers and MPs can see them at half time. Canadian football games are always interesting. One team will come out the champion. Will I be there? I do not know, but I have been invited. I thank the CFL for having extended the invitation.

Treasury BoardOral Question Period

October 1st, 2003 / 2:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the President of the Treasury Board.

The Auditor General reports absolute system failure for public employees. In fact, she reports that the privacy commissioner abused funds, abused his employees and abused Parliament itself.

In view of this disaster, what steps has the President of the Treasury Board taken to get the money back, protect employees from abuse and protect Parliament from contempt?

Treasury BoardOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, we have said that we are very distressed with the findings of the Auditor General and that we will implement each of the recommendations.

After the report of the government operations committee, we hired an outside consultant to look at the management practices and how we would implement each recommendation in co-operation with the interim commissioner, especially to recover funds for the performance management awards, the leave expenses and the hospitality and travel expenses. We will implement each recommendation.

Treasury BoardOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I hope, for implementation, the President of the Treasury Board has an internal policy memo for whistleblower protection.

The government House leader, way back in 1991, said “Public servants must be able to report about illegal or unethical behaviour that they encounter on the job without fear or reprisal”. That was 1991.

The Auditor General says that there was a reign of terror for employees and the minister's memo policy absolutely failed. That is all we have.

Instead of another research paper or another study group, will the government unequivocally commit to comprehensive, system wide whistleblower legislation?

Treasury BoardOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my government I will commit to do whatever we need to do to protect employees who disclose wrongdoings. We want employees to do that without fear of reprisals.

We will have recommendations in January 2004. I will expect parliamentarians to look at them and make final recommendations to the government.

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, to justify her inaction in the Radwanski affair, the President of the Treasury Board said that there had been no indication of the magnitude of the problems. Yet the Auditor General is categorical: the Treasury Board was aware of the Privacy Commissioner's outlandish expenses, but the minister did nothing.

Will the President of the Treasury Board admit that, while she knew about it for at least a year, she did nothing to put an end to this abuse, because George Radwanski was the Prime Minister's man and, having protection from the top, he was untouchable?

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that we do not monitor officers of Parliament the same way we monitor departments in general.

That having been said, it is very clear that if there has been abuse or wrongdoing, the appropriate measures have to be taken. That is what we will be doing with the interim commissioner. The indications we had been given did not lead us to believe that public funds were being misused, as the Auditor General found out.

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is not what the Auditor General said. To use the phrase of the minister, who said there was no indication of a need to bring out the big guns, I think that the report very clearly indicates that the Treasury Board failed to take firm action.

Did the minister fail to take firm action because she learned from Alfonso Gagliano's experience that, “If you want to hold on to your job, you had better not impose sanctions”?

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois has a general tendency to exaggerate, instead of looking at the facts and acting accordingly.

I repeat that the indications we had been given did not lead us to believe what happened at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. In fact, nobody could believe it. The Auditor General herself was very surprised by her findings. I think that all of us, parliamentarians as well as the government, should learn from what happened.

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board said yesterday that I like to exaggerate. She also stated that the Standing Committee on Governmental Operations and Estimates was responsible for discovering the truth behind the Radwanski affair. However, the findings of the Auditor General's report contradict the President of the Treasury Board.

How can the President of the Treasury Board continue to deny all knowledge when the Auditor General's report maintains that the Treasury Board Secretariat had known since the fall of 2002 that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner was guilty of heavy overspending?

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General's report makes recommendations to everyone: the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Public Service Commission, the Privy Council and the Treasury Board Secretariat.

In November 2002, the Treasury Board Secretariat was asked to adjust the salaries of employees, which is a standard practice in the course of day to day operations, within all departments, because we negotiate collective agreements and salaries have to be consequently adjusted accordingly.

So, there was nothing to lead us to suspect any abuse within the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. What is important now is that action is taken to correct these abuses.

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, the report did not make recommendations in this respect, but rather provided findings. How can the President of the Treasury Board maintain that this report does not single her out when the Auditor General is saying that the Treasury Board Secretariat, which reports directly to her, and the Public Service Commission did not take strong action when they learned there were problems? We want the President of the Treasury Board to explain why she failed to act.

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I want the hon. member for Châteauguay to make the distinction between the Public Service Commission, which reports directly to Parliament, and the Treasury Board Secretariat, which plays a role in monitoring the financial administration of the entire government.

This role has always been limited when it comes to officers of Parliament. The current situation is encouraging us to take a closer look at accountability and oversight as they relate to all officers of Parliament.

Veterans AffairsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Veterans Affairs has said the only reason why 23,000 widows were being excluded from the veterans independence program was a lack of funding from the Minister of Finance.

We cannot have two classes of veterans' widows. We cannot divide these loving war widows and caregivers based on when their husbands died.

When will the Minister of Finance give the Minister of Veterans Affairs the money needed to treat these brave women with dignity and equality?

Veterans AffairsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North—St. Paul Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan LiberalMinister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Science

Mr. Speaker, when we sat down with the leadership of the veterans organizations, we were facing six urgent veterans issues.

They included: benefits for children of members of the forces killed in the line of duty; Canadian, allied and overseas veterans; and older veterans. As per the latter, we did not want to distinguish between health needs due to infirmities and those due to pension conditions.

One of the issues was the extension of the VIP. We did what we could with what we had.

Veterans AffairsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want the Minister of Finance to answer this question.

The National Council of Veterans' Associations has called May 12, 2003, a black day in May. I call it the blackest day in Canada that we have ever had.

If a veteran died before that date, his widow will be unfairly excluded from the extended benefits of the VIP. Not only is this the worst form of discrimination, it dishonours the memories of our national heroes.

When will the Minister of Finance do the right thing and give--

Veterans AffairsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans AffairsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North—St. Paul Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan LiberalMinister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Science

Mr. Speaker, we have done a lot for veterans and their families. As I said in debate in this House, this issue will always be in the heart of this minister. It is not for lack of heart. It was the reality of the times in terms of limited resources.

International AidOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, Jack Layton and the NDP have consistently called on Canada--

International AidOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

International AidOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I am sure the hon. member for Vancouver East appreciates the assistance being offered in asking her question, but we do want to hear the question, notwithstanding all the able assistance.

International AidOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am sure members would like me to repeat the name. The NDP has consistently called on Canada to start the flow of cheap drugs to Africa.

The government has promised treatment drugs before, but it has increased the patents instead. It must do better this time because humanity demands help for Africa now. If it was prepared to take on the drug companies over anthrax, surely our humanity requires us to take them on over AIDS.

I have a simple question for the Prime Minister. When will legislation be introduced?

International AidOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I think she is short of questions because yesterday she had a meeting on that very piece of legislation with the House leader.

We are ready to look at timing in order to proceed with that. We must make the proper decision, but while the House leaders are discussing the timing for legislation she needed to grandstand, I guess, because that party does not have much to complain about.

International AidOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP has clearly given the green light so my question is, what are the Liberals waiting for? Are they waiting for the Alliance to ponder their fate with big pharma?

The fact is that today 15,000 people around the world will be infected with HIV and 8,000 people will die of AIDS. Nowhere does this pandemic threaten more than in Africa.

I repeat the question because it is in the power of the government to bring forward legislation immediately. Will it do it?

International AidOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I am happy that the hon. member has given me the opportunity to talk about the activities of the government vis-à-vis Africa.

We initiated the Nepad initiative so that there would be an opportunity for the people of Africa to experience growth and prosper again.

HIV-AIDS is one of the problems that has been on the table in all these discussions. We have discussed it at many G-8 meetings. Canada has always been at the forefront fighting this problem in Africa and elsewhere in the world.