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House of Commons Hansard #139 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. It would be helpful if hon. members would confine their remarks to the questions instead of a sort of general brouhaha. The hon. Leader of the Opposition has the floor and we will want to hear his question.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian Alliance Calgary Southwest, AB

We seem to have struck some sensitive chords over there on the other side.

Mr. Speaker, there are already leaks concerning the Auditor General's report. The Prime Minister approved these agreements, and the new Liberal leader signed the contracts. The report will reveal the Liberal legacy: 10 years of mismanagement and corruption.

Will the government agree to change the rules to ensure that this report is tabled, even if this House is not sitting?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, they ran the last two leaders they had out of town and now they are joining with another party. I guess they will run this leader out of town as well.

Clearly, there is no report. Perhaps there will be a report prepared by the Auditor General, but any department mentioned in reports should have an opportunity to respond. We cannot discuss something that is at the draft stage.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, an amazing thing happened--

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I remind hon. members that we are wasting time. We are not going to get through the list of questions if there is this much noise greeting everyone who stands up to ask a question today.

I know there is a lot of enthusiasm in the House and there have been many political developments of interest to all hon. members but we need some order if we are going to have questions and responses.

The hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, an amazing thing happened on March 28, 2002. Against the advice of his own officials, the Prime Minister demanded two new luxury jets. The requisition order and the contract were signed and DND took delivery of the aircraft. All of this was done, incredibly, in one day at a cost of $100 million.

The Auditor General now wants to tell Canadians the real story behind that unprecedented purchase and other examples of government waste and mismanagement.

Will the Prime Minister amend the Auditor General Act to allow her to present her report, even if the House of Commons shuts down early, as is planned?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we all know what the signature of the hon. member is worth on a document, ostensibly one that is serious.

There is nothing new in these allegations. We have debated this in the House before. We think that Canadian ministers should fly in planes that are made by Canadian workers and that we need to showcase them to the world. Let us wait and see what the Auditor General's report really does have to say.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I can tell by the look in the Deputy Prime Minister's eyes that he and his Liberal colleagues are united in fright.

It took eight hours to buy two planes for the Prime Minister: eight hours, 10 years and no decision on Sea King helicopters. What a shocking, self-serving, disgraceful abuse of public office.

Will the Prime Minister amend the Auditor General Act to allow her to present her report if Parliament shuts early, or is the Prime Minister so obsessed with saddling his replacement with this scandal that he will hold back on the truth?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that rhetoric. It is what the Reform Party used to say about the PC Party only a few weeks ago. Let us just see how convenient this marriage turns out to be.

We have an Auditor General with the right to file a report. She prepares a draft report and submits it to departments so they can make their comments and respond to it before her report becomes final. Let us see what her final report has to say.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Order please. It is very difficult to hear the questions and answers. The Chair cannot hear them, and remarks could be made which are out of order.

The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.

FoundationsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, last May, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts recommended that all the foundations established by the government be subject to the Auditor General's scrutiny and the Access to Information Act. However, the President of the Treasury Board has just rejected this recommendation.

With the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, the right hand man of the future prime minister, wanting to abolish the sponsorship program to save face, will the minister admit that her refusal is giving the government the means to continue allocating public funds to independent foundations which are not controlled by Parliament?

FoundationsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, foundations are directly accountable to Parliament through the ministers, in the usual manner, by means of reports which are tabled in Parliament by each of the departments.

With regard to the funding agreements reached with each foundation, it is possible to require evaluation and compliance reports. The annual reports of foundations established by statute are tabled directly in the House. Parliamentarians, therefore, have all the necessary tools at their disposal.

FoundationsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, in other words, the minister is saying that the committee was wrong. However, the committee looked at the facts, including the Auditor General's report, which shows that crown corporations were used to launder public funds during the sponsorship scandal. However, these crown corporations are not often subject to the Auditor General's scrutiny or the Access to Information Act, as is also the case with numerous foundations.

It is all very well for the future prime minister to say he wants to abolish the sponsorship program, but is the minister not ensuring that in future it will be the foundations which will benefit the friends of the party with no control by parliament, as was usually the case—

FoundationsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. President of the Treasury Board.

FoundationsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I will not comment on leaks relating to an incomplete report that has yet to be tabled in the House.

That said, some foundations were established by statute. Therefore, Parliament approved the establishment of the majority, over 80% of all amounts allocated to the foundations. Each board is responsible for appointing an auditor, and each audit is submitted to the minister who must report directly to Parliament. Therefore, parliamentarians have an opportunity to ask questions relating to the different foundations.

FoundationsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, the list of heads of crown corporations shows us that these people are all well-known Liberals, involved at the highest levels: André Ouellet at Canada Post, Jean Pelletier at Via Rail and Michel Vennat at the Business Development Bank of Canada.

In the same vein, will the government admit that the foundations created by the former finance minister, which are also controlled by Liberals, will become new vehicles for the government to get itself into another scandal like that involving sponsorships?

FoundationsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, once again, with respect to most of the foundations—the largest ones, such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation, were even created by legislation—the benefits and assistance provided to researchers across the country are visible. I think most hon. members realize clearly the positive impact they can have.

That said, at any time we can ask the representatives, the heads of the foundations, as well as the responsible minister, to appear before parliamentary committees and to answer questions concerning their foundation.

FoundationsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is odd to hear about this kind of audit. There is some $6.5 billion not yet spent by these foundations.

By sheltering the foundations from the provisions of the Access to Information Act, the government is arming itself with the tools to create another scandal, like the sponsorship scandal, more modern tools created by the person who will soon become prime minister.

Are we to understand that what awaits us is a new prime minister, with new tools, but with the same results at the end of the day?

FoundationsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I believe that Canadians can see the results every day, whether from the Canada Foundation for Innovation or the millennium scholarships, which help hundreds and hundreds of Canadian students, or Genome Canada, which supports research in the field of genomics. All of these grants for research are important for the whole country and most Canadians will benefit from them.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

October 20th, 2003 / 2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General is an independent watchdog of government spending. Here is what she found out about the $100 million purchase of luxury jets for the cabinet. First off, the jets were not needed; second, the money was spent suspiciously right at year end; and finally, there was no tendering of the contract.

Why did the former finance minister sign the cheques for this deal when it was so flawed and the priority so low?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure where the hon. member got those quotes because it is my understanding the report of the Auditor General has yet to be released. It would be very difficult for me to comment on a report that I have not read because it has not been released.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian Alliance Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, it has been leaked so that every journalist in the country knows what is in it.

The executive jets for Liberal cabinet ministers are new and flying 99% of the time. Sea Kings are old and spend much too much time on the ground for repairs. My question stands. Why are the priorities of the next Liberal leader so mixed up that he would sign off on this flawed process when the priority was so low?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, since the hon. member mentioned Sea Kings, I might mention that my colleague, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and I have been working diligently to assure the fastest possible delivery of the new helicopter.

Indeed, just as that great economist Adam Smith once said, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher...or the baker, that we expect our dinner”, so too is it not to the benevolence of the helicopter companies that we will seek speedy delivery? That is why my colleague and I are in the process of designing penalties for slow delivery and bonuses for fast delivery, which go to the bottom line--

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Winnipeg—Transcona.