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House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was representation.

Topics

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I never thought I would see the day that I would have to set the member for Roberval straight about the structure of the Parliament of Canada, but I will have to do so.

The Privacy Commissioner is a senior officer of Parliament. The Public Service Commission does not report to the President of the Treasury Board, but directly to Parliament. That is why members of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates have started to review the spending of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. That is why they have also started to question the Public Service Commission. That is exactly what should be done. We are in a situation—

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough.

Public Service CommissionOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, the reign of terror for Canadian taxpayers continues. There has been a major breakdown in controls over financial management in the government. The Auditor General noted a lack of visible action by the Public Service Commission to address staffing abuses.

What action has the Prime Minister himself taken to ensure accountability? More important, what is he doing to ensure that the Treasury Board guidelines are being followed to protect Canadian taxpayers?

Public Service CommissionOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the Public Service Commission reports to the House of Commons. There is a committee of the House of Commons that looks at the supervision of all the commissions that report directly to the House of Commons. These are not the responsibility of the government. We do not want to intervene too much because those members would be the first to say that we are trying to take away the independence of the people who have the job to oversee the government.

Public Service CommissionOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, the fact remains that the Auditor General has uncovered serious financial abuses by the senior officials in the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. This is unprecedented. These offences involve falsifying financial reports and potential criminal offences.

My question for the Prime Minister is, just how many Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigations are currently underway in his government and what is it going to take for this abuse to stop?

Public Service CommissionOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we have a system that works. If somebody is abusing public funds, the Auditor General does her job. If there are criminal activities, it is referred to the RCMP.

I can see the frustration of the leader of the Conservative Party at this moment, but I want to tell him, I do not want to be a marriage counsellor because he has problems with the marriage with his friends in front.

TaxationOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, today the Auditor General said she was outraged by George Radwanski's spending, and rightly so. In her words, “he abused funds”. However, the amount of Canadian tax that Canada Steamship Lines avoided paying is at least 12 times bigger than the amount wasted by Mr. Radwanski.

I would like to ask the Prime Minister, if the Auditor General's report about Radwanski, as he said a few minutes earlier, shows the system is working, does the government's failure to listen to the Auditor General on tax havens show the system is broken?

TaxationOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we have been through this discussion with respect to the treatment of business income earned through active business entities based in other jurisdictions in the past. In a number of cases we have tax treaties with countries like Ireland and Barbados. In those cases, in order to make changes, obviously a renegotiation of those treaties would be required. No, we do not unilaterally abrogate them and they do serve some important other purposes.

Ottawa Centre ConstituencyOral Question Period

September 30th, 2003 / 2:30 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, one would think that the government would want to get a little more comfortable, a little more forthright, about defending the former finance minister's corporate record before the election.

Mr. Radwanski's waste of public funds is truly appalling, but the cost attached to Mac Harb's Senate appointment is eight times bigger than the amount wasted by Radwanski.

I would like to ask the Prime Minister, when will the voters of Ottawa Centre get to decide whether Mac Harb is worth the cost and call a byelection?

Ottawa Centre ConstituencyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, there will be a byelection when the decision is made, but I do not know why the NDP is so anxious to lose another fight.

Voyageur Colonial Pension FundOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is supposed to protect the pensions of federally regulated workers, but that is not how it is working. In OSFI rulings, the new Liberal leader got an $82.5 million payout on his pension plan, his managers got $10 million, but his Voyageur bus drivers just got stiffed. Their pensions went down 30%.

My question is, does the finance minister really think that those rulings are fair?

Voyageur Colonial Pension FundOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member knows first of all that OSFI operates on an independent basis. Second, the review of the pension plan is based on the agreements that were in place between, in one case, the union and the company and in the other case, on behalf of the non-unionized employees and the company. OSFI's responsibility to ensure that the terms of the contracts were fully respected was one that they undertook and which they carried out with the independence upon which the office is based.

Voyageur Colonial Pension FundOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest the minister take a look at the backroom dealings that the former finance minister was involved in.

The Liberal leader's pension payout: $82 million. His Voyageur manager's pension payout: $10 million. Reductions in the pension for Voyageur bus drivers: 30%. Revealing the scandalous behaviour of the new Liberal leader: priceless.

When will the Minister of Finance do his job and order an independent audit of that file?

Voyageur Colonial Pension FundOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, accuracy of allegations: zero. Responsibility of accusations: zero.

I am getting a little fed up with the fact that these people come into the House and cast aspersions against an honourable person, suggesting that in no circumstance can somebody with broad business interests ever hold an important office in Canada because somebody over there is going to come in here and make unfounded allegations that are completely scurrilous. They are irresponsible.

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has stated that the office of the Privacy Commissioner does not report directly to Treasury Board. The Auditor General, however, is clear. She said, “Nevertheless, if central agencies”—such as the Treasury Board— “become aware of wrongdoing by parliamentary officers,”—such as the Privacy Commissioner—“they are obliged to take corrective action.”

In the light of this analysis by the Auditor General, will the Prime Minister admit that his statements are only intended to create a diversion and protect the President of the Treasury Board, who has not done her job?

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, let us be a little more careful about what the Auditor General actually said. I have quoted her exact words, from her report and from the other statements she has made.

At the moment, we are on entirely new ground. The Auditor General is auditing another officer of Parliament, which raises questions of accountability and oversight of officers of Parliament. It is very clear that I will work with the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates and with the officers of Parliament to put a new system in place.

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is not new ground; this is old Liberal territory. Every time there is a problem, it is the fault of the public servants. Every time there is a problem, no minister is responsible. That was the case with Alfonso Gagliano, and he became an ambassador. The minister will soon become a senator or whatever. It is their way of burying problems, by blaming other people.

I ask the Prime Minister, who has spent his career accepting the unacceptable, if, for once, he will say, “What was done was wrong and it is our responsibility. Radwanski was wrong and the President of the Treasury Board—

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

The right hon. Prime Minister.

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we did. When the House committee responsible for these matters looked into the affair that led to Mr. Radwanski's resignation, we asked the Auditor General to carry out this study, on the recommendation of the committee.

The Auditor General is also an officer of the House of Commons, as is the President of the Public Service Commission, which reports to the House of Commons. It is the duty of members of the committee, which includes some members of the Bloc Quebecois, to examine the issue and make their recommendations. At present, this matter has been treated fairly and equitably by all the parties involved.

Sex Offender RegistryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, last week the Supreme Court ruled that the government's changes to dangerous offender laws made it easier for murderers and rapists to serve their time in the community rather than the prison they deserve.

Now the Liberal government is trying to pass a sex offender registry that excludes the names of those convicted of preying on children.

Why does the Solicitor General insist on protecting the interests of convicted criminals when they are destroying the lives of Canadian children?

Sex Offender RegistryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member on the other side knows very well that Bill C-23, the sex offender registry, was based on a consensus of all federal, provincial and territorial ministers.

They are meeting this week and should all the jurisdictions come to a conclusion that there should be retroactivity, the Solicitor General is more than open to discussing it, but all jurisdictions will have to agree.

Sex Offender RegistryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is absolute nonsense. There was no such consent. Provincial ministers are telling this minister that there is no consensus on that point.

In 1995 the government changed the law to provide house arrest for dangerous offenders instead of prison. Now, despite the protests of provincial ministers, convicted child molesters will be exempted from the national sex offender registry.

The Solicitor General continues to ignore the interests of children. Why?

Sex Offender RegistryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, in the interest of fact, the member should recall that in Calgary on November 6, 2002, the federal, provincial and territorial ministers approved the registration scheme as set out in Bill C-23.

The bill was then tabled in the House on December 11, 2002. When the hon. member says there was no consensus, he is not stating the facts. The fact is there was a consensus.

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board has been totally remiss in her duties by sanctioning all the errors committed by the former Privacy Commissioner.

How can she justify not having followed up on the Public Service Commission investigation triggered by two complaints from employees speaking out against the way things were being done in the Privacy Commissioner's office?

Former Privacy CommissionerOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, once again, we are mixing apples and oranges. The Public Service Commission reports directly to Parliament. When it carries out an audit and finds staffing shortcomings, the organization in question must take corrective measures, directly. The commissioner is an officer of Parliament.

That said, there are recommendations relating to the Treasury Board Secretariat in the Auditor General's report, and it is clear that, with our interim Privacy Commissioner, we have already undertaken to implement all necessary measures to remedy the shortcomings pointed out.