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House of Commons Hansard #5 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was democratic.

Topics

Public Works and Government ServicesOral Questions

October 22nd, 2007 / 2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the weekend we learned that all references to accountability have been removed from the Public Works procurement handbook. This department is responsible for procurement to the tune of $13 billion and the minister is shirking his responsibilities.

How can Michael Fortier sign contracts if he does not want take responsibility for them?

Public Works and Government ServicesOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, these changes meet the needs and requests of the Auditor General for contracts where responsibilities are shared between departments. Obviously Public Works is responsible for the contracting process. In the meantime, the departments are responsible for the needs and the details of individual needs. After years of scandals and problems, this government is determined to ensure the highest level of accountability possible in contracts.

Public Works and Government ServicesOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have cloaked themselves in a false rhetoric of responsibility, but their actions betray them. The changes made to Public Works policies create an environment that is conducive to waste.

What is Michael Fortier there for if not to protect Canadian taxpayers?

Public Works and Government ServicesOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, as I was saying, these changes meet the needs and requests of the Auditor General and the studies conducted by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

What we are doing is making absolutely clear that the public works department is responsible for the integrity of the process of contracting. At the same time, individual departments are responsible for their needs and for the specs. On those individual contracts, the Auditor General and others have demanded that the process be clarified so we can ensure that we have greater accountability than we had in the past under that government. That is exactly what this government is doing.

Public Works and Government ServicesOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, we already knew that Michael Fortier was unaccountable to this House. Now we learn that by removing accountability from the public works supply manual, he is also unaccountable to his own department and to Canadian taxpayers.

This is really preposterous. When will the Prime Minister stand up and stop this abdication of ministerial responsibility? Where does the buck stop?

Public Works and Government ServicesOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, what is preposterous are the statements of the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, who clearly does not understand the policy.

It is important, as the Auditor General has said, that when there is shared responsibility for contracting between public works and other departments that the lines of that responsibility be clear and distinguished between each so we can in fact hold the government accountable. That is precisely what we are doing.

Public Works and Government ServicesOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the word “accountability” is deleted how can someone be accountable?

The government has broken its promise on everything from income trusts to the Atlantic accord. Now it has broken its promise on their centrepiece promise, accountability. It has been revealed that all references to accountability have been deleted from the public works manuals, that they will continue to prepare and award $13 billion in contracts, but that the minister and his department will be absolved of all responsibility.

How can the Prime Minister justify this breach of trust? I would ask his minister, but he is not even a member of the House.

Public Works and Government ServicesOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has managed to get it exactly wrong. What we are doing is increasing accountability. We are listening to the Auditor General. We are doing what Canadians want us to do, which is to have clear lines of accountability and responsibility between departments.

We are the government that appointed a procurement ombudsman. We are the government that created the code of conduct for procurement. We are the government that passed the Federal Accountability Act.

We have no lessons to learn on accountability of procurement from Liberals. We are the government that is getting the job done for Canadians.

Public Works and Government ServicesOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, by deleting the word “accountability” from its mandate, it is clear the government has no interest in living up to its promises, especially on accountability.

Billions of dollars are spent by public works each year. Billions of dollars are now spent without any checks, any guidelines or any measures to keep them honest. There is nothing to keep it accountable.

Public works is responsible for safeguarding the integrity of all public contracts. The government has rendered that responsibility a joke.

Whose idea was it to make the department of accountability unaccountable? Was it the Prime Minister or was it the individual he appointed to the Senate?

Public Works and Government ServicesOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has raised the issue of keeping promises and accountability. The government is keeping its word to Canadian taxpayers and getting value for everything that we purchase.

We are cutting taxes for Canadians. We are paying down our debt. We are standing up for farmers. We are standing up for families.

When it comes to respecting taxpayer dollars, from the beginning to the end, this government understands the needs of taxpayers and the needs of families. We are getting the job done.

As the Prime Minister has said on this file, we are listening to the Auditor General, we are respecting tax dollars and we are following the appropriate line. If my hon. colleague does not understand that, I am not surprised.

Charter of the French LanguageOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has recognized the Quebec nation. Even so, thousands of Quebec workers who fall under the federal Labour Code, such as bank employees and telecommunications and port workers, are not covered under Bill 101 and therefore do not have to work in French, the language of work in Quebec.

Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that recognizing the Quebec nation means recognizing French, the language of work in Quebec, in all workplaces, including those that fall under federal jurisdiction?

Charter of the French LanguageOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc and its leader have clearly run out of issues to justify their presence in Ottawa. They have been in the House of Commons for 17 years, and not once have they raised this issue.

Frankly, this is a paradox. Since coming to power, Canada's new government has respected Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. Now the Bloc is using a provincial law to encroach on areas under federal jurisdiction. How ironic.

Charter of the French LanguageOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister has not been here for long, but she has already run out of ideas and out of answers. She does not understand.

I mentioned the federal Labour Code, which falls under the responsibility of this government. Maybe that is not the case on some other planet, but it is here. Nevertheless, take minimum wage for example. The federal Labour Code states that the minimum wage for federally regulated workers is the same as minimum wage in each of the provinces.

If that is how the federal Labour Code works for minimum wage, then why not for language of work? Federal laws are Ottawa's responsibility. The minister should understand that.

Charter of the French LanguageOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, one thing that I understand and that all Quebeckers understand is that the Bloc has run out of issues here in Ottawa.

That being said, the results of the latest provincial elections make it clear that Quebeckers believe in federalism and in our policy of open federalism. Moreover, at the risk of opening old wounds for the Bloc leader, Canada is the country here. Our role is to promote this country's two official languages.

Charter of the French LanguageOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, about 10% of Quebec workers are governed by the Canada Labour Code and thus are not subject to Bill 101, which makes French the language of work.

Can the Prime Minister explain why those working in Quebec in banking, broadcasting, telecommunications, airports, and air, marine and interprovincial transportation do not have the right to work in French as do other workers?

Charter of the French LanguageOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Neither the Canada Labour Code nor the Quebec Code deal with the issue of language. It is our responsibility to deal with labour standards. It is in this context that the Canada Labour Code covers workers under our jurisdiction in Quebec.

However, I went into some banks on the weekend. There are no banks in Jonquière that provide people with service in English. We were served in our own language, in French.

The Bloc Québécois is trying to start arguments. That is the only reason they try to ride along, in this House, trying to pick fights with all of us.

Charter of the French LanguageOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, recognizing the Quebec nation definitely means something. Logically, it should be accompanied by recognition for its common language, French.

Does the Prime Minister realize that his continued refusal to recognize that Bill 101 must apply to all Quebec workers, including those governed by the Canada Labour Code, is another indication that the motion on the nation adopted by the House of Commons means nothing to him and is inconsequential?

Charter of the French LanguageOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, I also had the opportunity to meet with our partners at banks and in areas under our jurisdiction in particular. At our meetings, I asked them in which language they offer their services in Quebec. The partners we consulted told us that in Quebec, in Quebec's regions, the language of service is French. When their headquarters do business with Canada as a whole or other countries, both official languages come into play.

Government LegislationOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the throne speech last week, we learned that the government will delay action on the environment by watering down the clean air and climate change act. Now it is very clear that it will also delay action on the justice bills. The government is going in the wrong direction.

Will the Prime Minister agree with the NDP's proposal to split the omnibus justice bill and to move forward on those items of legislation to where they were in the House before we broke, those items that could rapidly be made into law today?

Government LegislationOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, everybody knows that the attempt to split the bill is simply a delaying tactic. These bills have been before the various House committees for months, I think for a total of nine hundred and some days.

I would say to the leader of the NDP and to any other leader who wants to facilitate passage of the bills, that this government would certainly be willing to agree to the passage at all three readings today.

Government LegislationOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, why do we not just start with the impaired driving bill?

One of the easiest things the government could do to respond to the 17 year campaign of Mothers Against Drunk Driving would be to take that bill, which has already passed this House and, by motion, send it directly today to the Senate where it could be adopted. In fact, had it not been for the action of the government, it would already be law and we would be taking action on drunk driving today.

Will the Prime Minister accept our suggestion or will he continue to pontificate?

Government LegislationOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I could not outdo the leader of the NDP in that regard and I would not even try.

Let me just say once again that the leader of the NDP wants to advance one bill so that he can in fact delay the other bill. These bills are together so they can no longer be buried in committee and delayed. Members of Parliament should pass all of them.

Access to InformationOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, the cone of silence has descended on the Conservative government and Canadians are paying the price. Reports today expose that this government is deliberately blocking access to information requests to prevent embarrassing information from becoming public.

The Conservative government has broken its promise of transparency and accountability. What is it trying to hide from Canadians?

Access to InformationOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the Information Commissioner, an independent officer of this Parliament, has said that the response to access to information requests has improved under our government. Nine institutions got better grades from the Information Commissioner over the previous year, three moving from an F under the previous Liberal government to an A under our government.

Access to InformationOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, day after day, the Conservatives continue to prove that they are not to be trusted. Since it took power, this government has neglected, delayed and censored access to information requests. What is more, it is the Prime Minister's own Privy Council that has blocked this information. This is totally unacceptable.

Why is the Prime Minister afraid of transparency? What is he hiding?