House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ethical.


Open Government ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

An hon. member

And the documents.

Open Government ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Exactly, Mr. Speaker. My colleague says that we would be able to see the documents and the dollars. Right now, who knows what happens? As my colleague from the Bloc alluded to, we get a piece of paper that is blanked out, with one or two words on it. All that does is leave more doubt in people's minds as to where the government is going and what it is trying to hide.

If a government wants to stand on the claim that it is open, that it wants to improve a perceived democratic deficit, that it wants to enlist the trust of Canadians, then these are the kinds of changes needed, and not just in word. They must be followed up on by deed, by implementing these kinds of ideas and putting them into place.

As my colleague from Fraser Valley also mentioned, an information management system would be another good, third pillar to the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act. Also good would be putting in place a structure to make sure that we have the documents. Sometimes around this place the shredders go faster than a speeding bullet. Who knows how fast they have been working lately?

My colleague's bill also looks at the idea of including cabinet confidences in the Access to Information Act. It is a novel idea and I am sure it is one that worries some people. At the same time, I refer back to the current situation with the scandal that is going on. The Prime Minister mentioned the other day in this place that he would be willing to unseal some cabinet memos related to the current misspending of the government. That would be more of a routine practice if this act were to be implemented.

My worry is that the good suggestions that are contained in this act are not going to be implemented, that they are not going to be listened to by the current government because of the culture that is there now, the culture of maintaining a cloak or a control of information in such a way that there is no openness. We can clearly see that in this place. Extracting information through access to information requests, or however that information may come to us, is a very hard and convoluted process much of the time. Why not put in place these kinds of reforms that are going to send a message to Canadians that this government cares about openness and transparency and that put in place the tools to do it in this place and across the country?

Those are the kinds of things that are going to reduce the cynicism of Canadians. They are not just going to see hollow words but structural changes, so that if they have a concern they will be able to get information about where their tax dollars went. As is said to people now, “I am sorry, we cannot find out where those dollars went because that happened under a crown corporation or that happened under an agency of the government”. That is just not acceptable. Canadians across this country work very, very hard and send their tax dollars here. When the government puts them into questionable use, as in this scandal we have seen through the crown corporations named just recently, that just shakes the confidence of all Canadians.

In many ways, this bill has been a bit of a foreshadowing. Really, it tells a tale of neglect within the current government. The member has alluded to this: that the current Access to Information Act has not had significant change to be modernized, to bring it up to where it should be. As a result, we find ourselves in a situation in this place in which the government is wearing the scandal and trying to get out from underneath it but in many ways cannot.

I will conclude my remarks by again congratulating my colleague for his hard work, particularly through his endeavours with the ad hoc committee, for his continued efforts with the bill even prior to that committee and now after the committee in staying with it and pursuing it, because he sees it as a way to increase people's trust in the government if we change the systems of government and reform them in such a way that there is more access to information, not less. It is a laudable goal. We should make these changes and we should put them into place as soon as we can.

Open Government ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to address Bill C-462 introduced by my colleague.

While I have the floor, I would like to thank the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot once again for all his work. I was on this committee, along with the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques. We have worked on this for over a year. We also need to look at my colleague's intention.

A task force was set up by the Department of Justice and the Treasury Board, because the government was beginning to have a few twinges of conscience. Since 1982, there had been no changes to the act. When we look at the evolution of society and the current importance of transparency, it is important for people to know what the government is doing. We all thought it was important to get this act updated.

The government saw it coming, a little, and set up a task force that submitted a report. Following that report we waited—and we were still waiting. That was when my colleague decided to set up a committee of members, acting independently, representing various parties, to move the issue forward.

One thing remains, and that is the huge tradition of secrecy at the heart of this government. We have had more flagrant proof again today. It is as if there were a state of panic every time an access to information request is sent in to the government. They try to find out how they can block it or slow it down, give the least information possible, apply as much censorship as possible, so that the thread is lost and the citizen, the member of Parliament, or anyone at all in Canada cannot get all the information or gets incomplete information.

There was a huge amount of work done. This government's tradition of secrecy is so strong that at one moment, it panicked, when it saw that our work was serious and that we were making progress. When we asked senior officials to come and testify, the House leader at that time sent a letter to all civil servants forbidding them to appear before us. Of course, the reason they gave was that it did not meet House of Commons standards and was not a recognized committee. The government's true intention, however, was to prevent this committee from doing what it set out to do.

Nonetheless, we managed to move things forward. Today, we have clear proof that we were right. This government has a tradition of keeping secrets. There is no way of knowing anything. The questions always need to be raised in the House. This government will never take the lead and disclose all the details needed to clearly understand all of these issues.

There are certain things about the bill that we like. However, we have reservations about other things. If this bill goes to committee stage, we could make eventually propose amendments to it. We like the title, for example. It is no longer the Access to Information Act, it is the Open Government Act. That is precisely what we have been condemning during the past few weeks with the sponsorship scandal and during this government's mandate. I have been here since 1993, and we always have to dig deep. We always have to endlessly interrogate this government to find out anything at all.

This bill is no longer just about access to information, it is about government transparency. This is a very interesting shift.

Also, what is currently happening with the crown corporations would be covered by an open government act. So, if we request to have access to information about the board of a crown corporation, we could obtain answers and not be told, as is currently the case, that they are sorry but they are not covered under access to information legislation.There is a major problem. This legislation would give us access. We could find out what is going on. We could ask if contributions had been given to the Liberal Party, and the crown corporation would have to answer.

As for the issue of crown corporations, the culture of secrecy is still the same. It exists there too. Unfortunately, tough measures are always necessary to obtain information from crown corporations. I find this should be simplified a little more.

There is also the whole issue of accountability. When we ask ministers questions, they often answer, “It is a crown corporation”. And they slip in the expression at arm's length from government. This issue of government accountability is at play too. I think that, with this bill on crown corporations, we will know a lot more from now on.

The same is true for closed door cabinet meetings. It is understandable that sometimes we have to wait a long time to find out what really happened. Moreover, in time, after 20 or 25 years, we find out the cabinet secrets. As we speak, these are still secrets of the Trudeau cabinet.

It might be important to have more information on a more recent period. Not too many problems going far back in time. Our problems are related to the present or to recent history. A typical example occurred just this week or last week.

And in fact the Prime Minister said, “the government is quite prepared to have those cabinet documents pertinent to this matter released”. Someone in opposition asked, “Can we also have the documents from the previous Cabinet, that of Mr. Chrétien?” To that, the Prime Minister replied, “I will have to ask his permission. I may not get it”.

Thus, we see that this bill could eventually reward us with important things for the improved public knowledge and information.

They continue to protect certain things at any cost, as my colleague mentioned. In my opinion, with regard to the critical infrastructure program under the defence department, a file I am very familiar with, we should not be able to say, “Here is where you will find the weak point in the Pickering atomic plant”. I understand that, and my colleague's bill has a provision for that. We worked for a year on this bill. We got it all together and then released it to the media.

As for ease of access to documents in federal institutions, it is the same thing. There are not only the crown corporations but also the agencies that receive two-thirds of their funding from the federal government. This would also enable us to get access to these institutions and get a little more information.

Access to polls and third party contracts is almost impossible to get today. When it is possible, we end up with a few pages that definitely will have been censored with correction fluid. It used to be done that way; now we see blanks. You start to read a sentence and, all of a sudden, there is a blank; you continue reading and happen upon another blank. What could be hidden under this correction fluid? We have an Access to Information Act, but the access provided is very limited.

All that to say that this is a good bill. Naturally, there are things we would like to see changed a little. Nonetheless, we will certainly support this bill. I feel we must acknowledge the work done by the committee and its spokesperson.

The time has come for the government to open its books a little more, to tell taxpayers, who pay for the government's entire infrastructure, where their money is going. Taxpayers should no longer be provided with censored documents. Things should be made easier for them. It should not be perceived as an obstacle. Someone requesting information under the Access to Information Act should not feel like they have to climb a mountain or pay a small fortune to get it.

Access to information should be easier for people, and that is what Bill C-462 promotes. That is why we will support it, but with the concerns raised at committee stage.

Open Government ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise at this time to comment on private member's Bill C-462, an act to amend the Access to Information Act and to make amendments to other acts, introduced by the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot.

We are most fortunate in Canada to have the Access to Information Act. In its only judgment so far on the act, the Supreme Court of Canada clearly stated that access to information legislation is an integral part of a democratic country. We can be proud that Canada was among the first countries to enact access to information legislation.

The Access to Information Act does not just allow people to get information from the government; it gives citizens a statutory right to avail themselves of certain government documents and governmental proceedings. Having a properly functioning Access to Information Act is, in my opinion, the most eloquent statement a country can make about its belief in government transparency.

While the act provides a right to access information, the act also provides certain exceptions to this right. Such exceptions to providing access to information held by a government institution are limited and specific, and the decision to withhold government information is reviewable independent of government by the office of the information commissioner and, in certain cases, by the judiciary.

The tragic events of September 11, 2001 have made us more aware of our vulnerability and the need for a careful balancing of public interests on the one hand when deciding to release government information. At the same time, on the other hand, the tragedy has also made us more aware than ever that democracy and openness are fundamental values of the society in which we all want to live.

Indeed, the Access to Information Act is not perfect and reform of the way the act is administered and reform of the act itself is probably needed.

A number of things have changed since the act came into force in 1983. The virtual revolution in information technology has changed the way Canadians gather and the way Canadians share information on how we communicate with each other. For a great number of Canadians, the computer is an essential tool of their work today, much as the telephone was more than 20 years ago. Many of our constituents use e-mail to correspond with each other and with us. Our children and grandchildren are accustomed to researching essays on the Internet.

In a knowledge based society, information is a public resource and essential for collective learning. Government information is available through a variety of channels, including hard copy publications, brochures, videos, as well as through government websites.

Over this 21 year period of change, it is not surprising that the number of requests under the Access to Information Act has grown and so has their focus. More than 20,000 requests for government information have been received annually since fiscal year 2000-01, and the requests are now more focused, more detailed and more complex.

There have been four amendments to the act over the past 21 years but none of them constitute the comprehensive reform required to adequately respond to the current environment.

In 1992 the act was amended to ensure that individuals with sensory disabilities could receive requested documents in an alternate format. Later, in 1999, an amendment made it a criminal offence to intentionally obstruct the right to access information by destroying, altering, hiding or falsifying a record or directing anyone else to do so. I credit the hon. member for Brampton West—Mississauga for spearheading that legislative amendment.

A third amendment to the act in 2000 gave effect to the expression “aboriginal government” and included the Nisga'a government under that exemption provision.

Most recently, in December 2001, the act was amended by the Anti-terrorism Act to prohibit disclosure of information for the purpose of protecting national defence or national security.

Bill C-462 contains 37 sections and proposes a major overhaul of the Access to Information Act, including a name change. As well, Bill C-462 proposes to make consequential changes to a number of other statutes, principally the Privacy Act, the Library and Archives of Canada Act, the Parliament of Canada Act and the Canada Evidence Act.

My position, in the face of the bill's proposed amendments, is that there are certain concepts expressed in the Access to Information Act that should be handled with extreme care in the context of legislative reform.

The first concept relates to personal information. The residents of Canada are obliged to give the government all kinds of personal information about themselves. This is referred to as the collection of personal information.

The next important aspect of dealing with personal information is use. The government uses the personal information of Canadians in many ways. What I wish to focus on is disclosure.

Disclosure is probably one of the most controversial aspects of dealing with personal information. I think most people would agree with me that the government should take great care with its rules governing the disclosure of personal information. To do otherwise would shake Canadians' confidence in their government and make them unwilling to provide their personal information. For this reason I encourage the members of the House to give careful consideration to the appropriate circumstances under which the Access to Information Act should authorize the disclosure of personal information.

A second concept relates to information that our government receives in confidence from another government. Not surprisingly, when another government considers whether or not to share its confidential information with us, security of that information is paramount. I think it would be regrettably short-sighted of us not to be careful on this particular issue. We must strike the right balance between striving for increased government openness on the one hand and properly protecting confidential information on the other. If we do not do this, I am quite concerned that other governments will become increasingly reluctant to share their confidential information with us.

The third issue of importance is confidential commercial information. Businesses in Canada are obliged to give the government highly confidential commercial information and the Access to Information Act currently offers a good level of protection for this information. Businesses need to know that their competitors will not have access to their confidential information, and we must exercise caution when amending our current approach.

I would be remiss if I did not point out an interesting feature in the current bill, Bill C-462. It recommends considerably expanding the coverage of the act to include ministers and their exempt staff, parliamentary secretaries, parliamentary officers, crown corporations and their wholly owned subsidiaries, as well as incorporated not for profit organizations that receive at least two-thirds of their funding through federal government appropriations.

As the House is aware, on February 10 of this year the President of the Treasury Board, the hon. member for Winnipeg South, announced a general review of crown corporations with a specific examination of extending the Access to Information Act to all crown corporations. In light of this, the clause in Bill C-462 proposing to make all crown corporations subject to the Access to Information Act is deserving of consideration.

My final comment is of a general nature. We should bear in mind that there is more than one solution for dealing with legislation that may be less suitable now to the needs of Canadians. I am entirely in favour of improving government openness. At the same time I think we should remember that balance must be found between openness on the one hand and releasing people's personal information or business confidential information in an unreasonable or careless fashion on the other.

The government is supportive of the general direction of the bill but maintains that there are some significant concerns, as I have tried to outline, that must be addressed before proceeding further with this reform.

Open Government ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.


Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on Bill C-462 introduced by my colleague from Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot. I think he was a journalist, if my memory serves me. I was too.

We have questions about the Access to Information Act, which under today's bill would become the Open Government Act. As a journalist, I have often tried in the past to obtain information under the existing legislation, and it was extremely complicated and difficult. One need only mention having been a journalist for the request to be denied.

I just listened to the speech given by my government colleague. He reminded us of the events of September 11. He said that, since September 11, we have realized how vulnerable we were and that the information provided was perhaps too specific; that perhaps we gave out too much information. Ultimately, that is what he is telling us.

This means that the government wants to maintain its bubble culture—not a glass bubble, unless it is an extremely dark glass bubble—to prevent people from having access to information. However, a government is a public institution. It is an institution funded and created by taxpayers and not the other way around.

This kind of culture seems to run counter to how things should normally work in a democracy. Normally, in a democracy, the citizens create a system and a government that is accountable to them.

As my colleague from Saint-Jean mentioned, certain aspects of national security, which in any case must be extremely well defined and clarified, can be excluded. There are also aspects relating to personal and corporate information. In the latter's case, this ensures that companies can avoid getting ripped off literally by their competitors. Otherwise, there is no valid reason for preventing people from having access to information that the government should provide.

I was reading the committee's report, which my colleague from Saint-Jean referred to. It should be noted that this is the final report, which was tabled in November 2001. SInce then, despite the many problems identified with the Access to Information Act, the government has not budged.

I understand why my colleague introduced a bill that is as detailed as it is important. Earlier, he said that agencies, for one, did not have real access to information and that crown corporations, government agencies with increasing authority, were included in this bill.

I want to give an example from the past few years. This government has used taxpayers' money to create a number of foundations. Obviously, we do not know how these foundations are managing these funds. What will we get? There will be an annual report that only a few people, such as specialized accountants, will be able to understand. Previously, we were unable to obtain any information.

Consider the example of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. Obviously a number of foundations were created, including ones in health, and the government put hundreds of millions, even billions, of dollars into these foundations. Consequently, this government was not accountable. No one was truly able to obtain access to information about how the funds allocated to these foundations were being managed and spent, in other words, how the funds had been used.

Since September 11, 2001, there has been a kind of almost panic at this level. We are seeing a tendency to restrict all information, manage things in secret and inform the fewest possible people about what is really going on.

The bigger the government, the more difficult it is for the public to understand how it operates and to obtain information. The bigger the government, the more it should seek to be transparent so as to be accessible and provide the public with real information.

In the report, I also read that my Bloc Quebecois colleagues, including the members for Saint-Jean and Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, had made recommendations with important components.

One of the recommendations was for anyone whose request for information had been denied to be provided more information about the reason why. In fact, these days, public servants make a lot of decisions about what people should be told and what not. It is very difficult to say who has the authority to decide what people should be told and what not when it concerns routine, normal and common information.

The documents we receive in response to access to information requests are literally impossible to read. All that remains are “ands” and commas or just about, as we have seen for ourselves. Such documents are very discouraging for individuals. They provide no information, so results have to be almost invented or guessed at. The meeting or gathering has be almost reconstructed in order to find out what happened and learn anything.

The other factor that seems important is requiring the federal institutions involved to be accountable to citizens. When we talk about being accountable, we mean knowing how many requests for access to information the government has received, how many of those it responded to and in what length of time and in what manner. This is very important. It is a type of quality control that is needed under the law. We need to verify whether the law has truly been enforced properly and whether the bureaucracy has truly responded to citizens.

Changes are proposed in the bill, specifically with respect to time frames. That is another thing. Time frames must be respected when there is a request for access to information. People should be able to obtain a response within the time frame set out by law, not six months later. Sometimes people have to keep returning to the charge. It is extremely frustrating for someone to make such a request and almost never get a response.

Earlier my colleague also talked about opinion polls. We have seen this recently. A poll was bought 10 times, I think, at a cost of $27,000 each time. If the Auditor General had not investigated we might never have known. We have just found out which departments purchased the polls.

How can these things happen? It happens because there is no transparency in the government. The culture in the federal government needs to change on this score. We need to get to the point where those who are elected and those who work within the bureaucracy understand that they are there to serve the public, not the reverse. When, in a democracy, people think that the public is there to serve them, then the democracy has a problem.

Since we heard our colleague speak about this earlier, I will close with a look at how the federal government uses the information provided to it. Every citizen has provided an enormous amount of information to governments at all levels—federal, provincial and municipal. In general, this information is shared with the senior levels. The registration of information about citizens begins at birth. September 11 was mentioned. Governments have given themselves more and more power to cross-check this information in order to get to know every citizen almost intimately, knowing almost everything about them, as soon as an individual is born.

This is extremely dangerous when a government has a non-transparent culture, because it may use this information for other purposes than those for which it was gathered. This was seen in the case of HRDC, when information was sent by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. Ordinary citizens were penalized as a result.

I will conclude by saying that the act must be amended. This is an excellent bill, despite the fact that it contains a few elements we disagree with. Nonetheless, I am pleased to have spoken on this bill.

Open Government ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Open Government ActPrivate Members' Business

February 24th, 2004 / 7:30 p.m.


John Bryden Independent Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, there seems to be consensus, as a matter of fact, unanimity, in the House that this is a piece of legislation that should go forward immediately. I would therefore like to move a motion to the effect that this go directly to committee now.

Open Government ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member for Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Aldershot have the consent of the House to propose the motion?

Open Government ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Open Government ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Open Government ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, last week I asked a question of the minister of ACOA in regard to past behaviour in his department by the former minister responsible for ACOA. I want to acknowledge that the minister himself is in the House tonight to respond to this, which is probably a first for the House of Commons. I am really pleased to see the minister here.

I do want to point out that the question which I directed to the present minister last week has nothing to do with his watch. We will watch the minister very carefully and if he messes up we will take him to task, but the question was directed at the former minister.

In fact the former minister is the member for Humber--St. Barbe--Baie Verte. I go back to some questionable funding that occurred on his watch as minister responsible for ACOA last year. It was so bad that I refer to it as being pork-barrelling. I think that word is parliamentary, Mr. Speaker. The minister at that time was using ACOA as his own personal treasury to support himself and his riding at the expense of other members of Parliament, including his Liberal colleagues.

This question arose in terms of his pork-barrelling, taking advantage and abusing his role as minister, because of complaints that came from Liberal members of Parliament. We entered into the debate as well, but I will just read one headline out of the Halifax Daily News . This goes back to last November. The headline reads, “MPs angry ACOA minister's riding gets bulk of Nfld. employment funds”.

I will quote one paragraph in that article which really sums up the argument I made the other day. I am demanding that the present minister conduct an audit of the past behaviour of the previous minister. In other words, I am asking the minister to do an internal review of ACOA to find out how a minister of the Crown could abuse an agency like ACOA and run roughshod over the board of directors to feather his own nest.

One paragraph of the article which appeared in the Halifax Daily News last November states:

Liberal and Conservative legislators from the province are furious that the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is doling out millions of dollars in federal employment funds and rural community works projects to his riding of Humber--St. Barbe--Baie Verte.

He did it to the point where 50% of all of the funding went to the former minister's riding. I know the new minister has been around this place a long time. He came here at the same time as you and I did, Mr. Speaker, in the class of '88. We are asking the new minister of ACOA to take a serious look at how this abuse of that agency could take place on the previous minister's watch.

In addition, I have requested that the Auditor General look at that same file and see whether or not she and her department can find out how a minister of the Crown would be allowed to abuse an agency like ACOA.

Open Government ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Egmont P.E.I.


Joe McGuire LiberalMinister of Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency we strive to invest taxpayers' money with great care and due diligence. Our commitment to the funds allocated through the short term adjustment initiative was no different.

The projects submitted and evaluated under this program had to meet defined criteria to be considered, and the projects approved met those requirements.

That is why when the Auditor General was asked by the hon. member's colleague from Gander—Grand Falls to look at this initiative, she declined to do an audit.

As the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest knows and has stated in the House, the short term adjustment initiative program for affected fishers and fish plant workers is not and has not been the subject of a special audit from the Auditor General. All ACOA programs, including this one, undergo an internal audit.

Results of this audit will be found on our website and the hon. member is welcome to join other Canadians in reviewing the results of any of our audits at his leisure.

This program is an example of communities working hard to create opportunities during a difficult time. The important numbers now speak for themselves. ACOA designed this program to address 1,200 short term opportunities. Instead, the initiative to date has created some 2,700 opportunities for employment, bringing jobs to families in need and bringing new investments to communities in need of hope.

They are communities such as the historic Labrador town of Red Bay, which is enhancing its tourist potential and developing a venue for small scale manufacturing enterprises thanks to this program.

The town of Channel-Port-aux-Basques will upgrade its railway heritage centre and the Bruce II Sports Complex thanks to this program.

The Banting Historical Trust in Musgrave Harbour honours the legacy and memory of Dr. Frederick Banting, who died with others in a plane crash there in 1941. This centre will build on its interpretation facilities of that event, along with the unique natural history of the area, thanks to this program.

The historic community of Moreton's Harbour will improve its town museum to better serve the growing number of visitors to Newfoundland and Labrador.

As anyone listening will hear, Newfoundland and Labrador's history is also playing an integral part in its future.

Through the short term adjustment initiative we are alleviating this economic setback while building a stronger tourism product for the province as a whole.

Our goal with these and all ACOA programs is to meet the demands of our communities in Atlantic Canada. The greatest demand for this program came from northwestern Newfoundland, which had the largest share of communities impacted through the closure of the cod fishery.

The government does not design programs to meet financial targets; it designs them with people in mind. The government believes in helping those most in need and those affected by economic challenges.

This program was not in the end about dollars and cents. We did our due diligence and we followed our guidelines, but our real goal, one we achieved, was to bring opportunity where there was disappointment and hope where there was no hope.

Open Government ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, for the record, the Conservative Party and I support ACOA and the good work that ACOA has done.

Unfortunately, the actions of the previous minister tarnish that agency. In fact, an article ran in the Montreal Gazette at about the same time as the article that I quoted from the Halifax Herald . The article in the Montreal Gazette states, “Atlantic agency is a useless boondoggle”.

That is what happens when ministers take advantage, overstep their authority and monopolize the funding for their own riding. It simply is not right.

We believe in funding and we believe in fair funding. We believe in funding for all the ridings in Newfoundland, not just one riding.

What we are asking for is a thorough public audit so we know. Let us not leave it just to the minister and the agency and pretend that everything is okay. We want to know how this type of behaviour on behalf of a minister is allowed to happen without any consequences.

Open Government ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.


Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is entitled to his opinion, but I do not think his opinion will stand up on a fact based analysis.

This program was created as a humane response to the end of a traditional fishery. We were acutely aware of the impact of the cod closure. We responded with a planned, meaningful program to bring development with long term benefits to communities in transition.

Let me close by saying that the Government of Canada takes its responsibilities seriously for all citizens. When communities such as those in Newfoundland and Labrador face challenging times, they know the Government of Canada will be there to support them, much as we have supported western farmers in the BSE crisis and much as we supported those who lost their homes in last summer's devastating fires in Kelowna.

We have a responsibility to help our citizens. That is what we did. It was the right thing to do and I know the hon. member agrees with this principle.

Open Government ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24.

(The House adjourned at 7:41 p.m.)