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House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentence.

Topics

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Balderdash, Mr. Speaker. What is it with the Prime Minister and money? Instead of the original $40 million that was to be spent on the unity fund last year, it turns out that the figure has more than doubled. This is not about the typical Liberal Party slush fund; this is deliberate deceit and massive mismanagement.

Eddie Goldenberg, the former prime minister's chief of staff, said unequivocally that the current Prime Minister had personal knowledge of the secret fund every year since its existence.

Why did the Prime Minister mislead Canadians in the information contained in the last budget about this unity fund?

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, we have said time and again in the House and elsewhere that the Prime Minister has a reserve that can help extend an existing program when it is needed and when there is a legitimate application for money. It needs to be a regular program. It goes through the regular program and it needs to be approved by Treasury Board every time. That is absolutely clear, but the opposition will just not hear about it.

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, the point is it was secret and it did not go through the proper channels. It was not only kept secret from Canadians, but it was kept secret from some members of the Liberal caucus. Not only that, but only those in the upper echelon of the Prime Minister's Office and their staff knew about this fund.

There is a disturbing trend developing here. When the Prime Minister feigns ignorance about something, the truth eventually comes out, whether it is government grants to CSL, contracts with Liberal friendly firms, and now it is the unity fund.

Why is it that the Prime Minister has repeatedly demonstrated that he will only come clean when he gets caught?

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been absolutely transparent about this. He has explained things better than anyone else has ever done it. Certainly, the Prime Minister has ensured that things would be absolutely discussed at the public accounts committee. All the budget lines were approved and discussed at the public accounts committee as well.

These things are absolutely transparent.

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, on March 24, the Prime Minister's Office agreed to make public, within 48 hours, the list of events financed by the national unity fund, a fund that was used to finance the sponsorship scandal. A month has gone by and nothing has yet been disclosed.

Since the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs keeps saying that it will take some time because there is no such list, while the newspapers fill their pages with the list, can the Prime Minister tell us what his government has to hide?

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the Treasury Board Secretariat is working with all departments to collect information on the use of the unity reserve. Getting this information requires close scrutiny of government programs and activities over a number of years. Thus, it will take some time to do it. The Treasury Board is doing its job.

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the list has existed for a number of years. It is all on a list and it exists. This list is being hidden from us. They cannot make us believe it does not exist; it has been seen.

I challenge the minister and the Prime Minister to provide us, within 24 hours, with all the information concerning the national unity fund, namely, what events it funded and what amounts were granted. It exists; it must be shown, otherwise the House has been misled, and the truth not told.

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, if the leader of the Bloc has seen it, perhaps he could make it public. What I can say is that our officials in the Treasury Board are working on this list. It must deal with the last few years because some of the budget lines are recent. I know that the Treasury Board is doing its job with great diligence.

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want this to be clear to the Minister of Health: the list exists; a journalist referred to it in his article. The list was seen. The minister cannot be unaware of its existence.

I am asking the government this question. Is this not another example of the usual government strategy to avoid having to be accountable in the House: pretending they are doing all they can to provide us with the information, when in fact there is a list? Let them table that list.

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the journalist alluded to certain bits of information. However, what the opposition is asking for and what the government wants to make public is a full list indicating all the expenditures from this reserve fund, not just a partial list.

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, what the government wants to do is increasingly clear, it wants to continue looking until the general election. That is what it is trying to do.

We were not told about this list. The amounts were minimized. Furthermore, the former president of the Privy Council just told us that he did not know how it worked, but he found it useful to keep both hands in the bag.

I want to ask the government a question. Who made the decisions and who used our money, who decided how much these amounts would be, and who chose the events? In short, who spent $600 million in taxpayers funds without telling us?

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the House of one thing and that is that the amounts invested from this reserve fund went to very legitimate programs. They were systematically approved by the Treasury Board and made public in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. This did not prevent the riding of the Bloc leader from getting several millions of dollars for several very worthy activities.

HealthOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the health minister said beyond any doubt that the Liberal government would use P3 privatization in health care, allowing private for profit delivery of health care. On Friday, the health minister was crystal clear that he supported the private for profit delivery of MRIs.

The Liberals like to pretend that they do not want what the Conservatives want on health care, but what the minister is saying is exactly what the Conservatives want on health care.

How can the Prime Minister pretend there is a difference, when his own health minister keeps talking about private for profit delivery of health care?

HealthOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I do not have a clue about what the member is talking. I have never talked about privatization in the way he is attributing to me.

The government stands by the five principles of the Canada Health Act. I am looking for ways of better enforcing the five principles of the Canada Health Act, and working in cooperation with the provinces.

HealthOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, if the minister does not know what I am talking about, he should open up his ears. It is indeed true that private, for profit health care has increased under the Liberals because they support a private health care system, just as the Conservatives do.

On the other side of the river, in Gatineau, a person can enter a private MRI clinic and receive health care more quickly. This is not a hypothetical solution. That is what the Liberal Minister of Health wants to implement.

Can he explain why he wants a system in which a person can enter a private clinic and pay to receive health care more quickly? Now does he know what I am talking about?

HealthOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, it is the current governing party that created the health insurance program based on the experience in Saskatchewan. Our government is totally committed, along with the provinces, to ensuring that the system lasts for a long time because it is very dear to Canadians.

Nonetheless, we are going to sit down with the provinces in order to determine the best approach for promoting this system across the country.

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, one would think that after the sponsorship scandal, the Liberal government would be too embarrassed to bend the truth about slush funds, but I guess I underestimated it. It seems to have no shame at all.

Why would Canadians believe that the Prime Minister wants to clean up the sponsorship slush fund, when the government is so actively hiding the true size of the unity slush fund?

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, this is absolutely false. The Prime Minister has already stated quite clearly in the House that he has, as Prime Minister of Canada, initiated no new projects at all using this reserve.

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the problem is that the Prime Minister simply was not telling Canadians all the facts about what was going on.

The Treasury Board president promised that there would be a list of unity projects by the end of the first week, but we just cannot count on him.

The finance minister said that it cost $40 million. It actually cost $80 million.

The Prime Minister said that he had never heard of the unity fund. Then all of a sudden Eddie Goldenberg blew the whistle on him and said that he did know about it.

Is it not clear that the last people to tell the truth about the sponsorship scandal are the same people who are bending the truth today on the unity fund scandal?

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, as is becoming increasingly characteristic in this place, what the hon. member just said is absolutely untrue.

What I have said on this is that we are assembling the information. Most of it has been reported in public accounts. We are collecting the rest. It has been already shared with people. We will share the whole list once it is brought together. We have been saying that over and over again.

Remember, this covers two governments and three prime ministers. There is a great deal of detail to be dug out here and we are working on it. However, these accusations that there is a secret are completely untrue.

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board said clearly, on March 25, that all unity funds were identified in the estimates. Thirty-two days later, the unity funds are still not identified.

Is the minister responsible for the Treasury Board keeping the information hidden to cover up Liberal incompetence or to avoid another scandal prior to the next election?

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I think I also offered to run a workshop for the members on how the federal government finance works.

The existence of reserves in the fiscal framework is quite common. There are a number of them that are used for a variety of purposes because it is impossible to predict the exact amount of spending, and one wants to ensure that we never go into deficit.

The Auditor General has commented on the use of these funds as being perfectly normal.

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is just a lame answer. The President of the Treasury Board has pointed Canadians to imaginary Ernst & Young audits in the past. Thirty-two days after pointing to the national unity funds in the estimates, the list of projects has yet to materialize. Where is the list? We need to see it.

Is the minister making up more imaginary lists, which he is perfectly capable of, or is he hiding them until after the next election? Which is it?

National Unity FundOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, it is true that my attribution to Ernst & Young was wrong. However, the information was correct. It is freely available, publicly, on the website of Public Works and Government Services.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, reliable estimates have set the losses by the unemployed of the Gaspé Peninsula, the Lower St. Lawrence, the North Shore and Charlevoix at $1.5 billion over 10 years. This does not even include the huge losses in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean and other regions of Quebec.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the decisions he himself made while finance minister to raid the employment insurance program have penalized the Gaspé Peninsula, the Lower St. Lawrence, the North Shore and Charlevoix at $1.5 billion from the pockets of those in need. This is disgraceful behaviour, no doubt about it.