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House of Commons Hansard #250 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Public Works and Government ServicesOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I will leave the characterization of the former Liberal government's actions to the member opposite.

However, as the member knows, these actions did occur under the former government. Since this is still before the court, I am not going to comment any further.

Public Works and Government ServicesOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, when I asked the President of the Treasury Board about the $2.4 billion in consultation contracts awarded in secret, often without details and sometimes to companies with unknown numbers, he told me “I may be able to find other ways of achieving this transparency.” I should hope so. That is his job.

There is no information available on the awarding of 90% of the consultation contracts disclosed. Canadians have no idea how their money is being spent and who it is being given to.

Can the minister tell us what practical measures he intends to take to improve the management of the public purse?

Public Works and Government ServicesOral Questions

May 9th, 2013 / 2:35 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member does make a fair point. I do not think it is too much to ask that when departments engage in management contracts for perfectly appropriate reasons, such as first nations health branch using nurses, for instance, that there be a line or two added for publication on exactly what the contract is.

I agree with the hon. member, and I think we should require this in the future.

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives cannot even keep track of billions of dollars in contracts, but they are the champions of monitoring their own MPs.

We now know that they are going so far as to waste millions of taxpayers' dollars on media monitoring to keep tabs on their own backbench MPs.

We are talking about $2.4 million of our taxes to track 65 of their own MPs. It is ridiculous.

Can the Conservatives explain how they could spend and waste so much of the taxpayers' money?

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, the member might be disappointed to find out the media monitoring services are used and accessed by the government but that they are also used and accessed by the opposition.

They are there because on this side of the House, we do want to be aware of all of the media reporting about our members of Parliament, because we are very proud of the work they are doing. They appear in many articles across the media, doing excellent work on behalf of the government, and we are happy to receive those clippings.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make it clear that the Conservatives spent millions spying on their own backbench while they lost $3.1 billion. Then they funnelled another $2.4 billion out the back door in contracts they cannot explain. Today, Conservative and Liberal senators are found guilty of ripping off the taxpayers.

The Conservative government seems to think it is above accountability. It is a simple question: When is the Prime Minister going to take responsibility for this staggering level of incompetence? Why are there no consequences?

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, today the independent expert audit was tabled in the Senate.

Its principal finding was, of course, that the rules were not clear. The Senate has already actually taken action to strengthen and improve those rules. Of course, from our perspective, the government expects the Senate to act and I understand the Senate is acting to ensure a higher standard of judgment applies.

Thus, the senators in question are being asked to repay the sums that were claimed, which were deemed inappropriate by the Senate.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, there they go again. The Senate was ripping off the taxpayers because they just were not very bright. How is that accountability?

We have Brazeau now, and Duffy and Harb who ripped off the taxpayers for close to $200,000. We still do not know what Ms. Wallin ripped the taxpayers off for.

If an ordinary Canadian engaged in behaviour like that, they would call it fraud, and the authorities would be brought in. Even some of the senators think the cops should be brought in.

Where is the accountability? Will the government insist on accountability? Will it insist that documents are turned over to the police and that these people are held accountable for ripping off the taxpayers? It is a simple question.

EthicsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the independent expert auditors actually do not agree with the assessment of the hon. member as to what took place. They indicated that the rules were not clear. As a result, the Senate is taking action to correct them, but certainly, the expert audit found no evidence of anything that would be approaching criminal activity.

That being said, the expectation of this government is that the spirit of the rules must be respected. For that reason, Liberal Senator Mac Harb and independent Patrick Brazeau are expected to repay the funds they claimed inappropriately, as was done by another senator some months ago.

EmploymentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, every month, this government wastes $100,000 of taxpayers' money on media monitoring to track its own MPs. It is incredible.

In the meantime, it is eliminating jobs for our young students who are looking for work, putting a greater burden on the families that support them. This $100,000 represents 30 students who will not have a summer job.

Why is this government wasting taxpayers' money in such a partisan way instead of finding jobs for our young students who so badly need them?

EmploymentOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, maybe the member missed the announcement, but today we announced the launch of Canada summer jobs, which will be creating 36,000 jobs for students.

Beyond that, in budget 2013, our economic action plan, there is funding for the creation of 5,000 internships for graduates who have had trouble finding work. Unfortunately, the Liberals may bray about it, but they do nothing to actually help young people get jobs, because they are voting against that budget.

EmploymentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, despite their self-congratulations, the Conservatives are supporting only half of the student summer jobs they used to. Meanwhile, they are finding $3,300 a day for media monitoring of their own MPs. Each single day of monitoring would fund a student job for the entire summer. A day spent peering over MPs' shoulders is deemed more important than a student's job.

Will big brother please stop wasting taxpayers' money on monitoring its own members and hire a summer student to help figure out how to do free Google alerts?

EmploymentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, on top of the 36,000 jobs being created this summer through the Canada summer jobs program, there is more to helping young people to get a job, like apprenticeships. In fact, through our apprenticeship incentive and completion grants, there are almost 400,000 of those that have gone out to young Canadians to help them prepare for the skills and jobs that are in high demand, jobs for these young people. That is really helping them.

The Liberals should have supported those initiatives.

EmploymentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, half as many summer student jobs now than when they took power is shameful.

Let us put it in perspective. Conservatives spent $3,300—three thousand three hundred taxpayers' dollars—every day just to monitor what their backbench MPs have to say, because they have to toe the party line. They have to make sure they regurgitate the PMO talking points.

It is shameful what they are doing over there. Every day, that is a summer student job that they are gassing. Why do they not back off on what they are doing with the monitoring and give summer students a job rather than looking after the parents at the PMO?

EmploymentOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, if the Liberals truly wanted to help young people get jobs then they would want them to get the skills they need for those jobs that are in demand. That makes it pretty difficult to explain why the Liberals voted against the apprenticeship incentive grant for young people. Those 400,000 apprenticeship incentive and completion grants have been distributed.

They voted against funding for the pathways program that is helping 10,000 young people get the skills they need and get connected with the job market. They also voted against improvements to the Canada student loan program, expanding its eligibility. We are helping young people get the skills they need.

Search and RescueOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, information obtained by Le Soleil indicates that the Conservatives are preparing to backtrack on their irresponsible decision to close the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre.

Under the pretext of eliminating the deficit, the Conservatives wanted to close the only marine rescue sub-centre providing services in French and thus put lives at risk. This centre responds to more than 1,500 distress calls every year.

Can the minister confirm that there will be absolutely no changes to the activities of the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre now or in the future?

Search and RescueOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, we have always been clear that safety is our number one priority, and certainly language capability is very important for the centre in Quebec.

We are not going to comment on speculation. The safety of mariners remains our top priority. The Canadian Coast Guard will delay consolidation of the eastern portion of the Quebec region until it is confident that a bilingual capacity is there in the system.

Search and RescueOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, we still do not have a clear answer. If they would talk to one another instead of spying on one another, we might not be in this predicament. We are talking about public safety. A responsible government must provide some reassurance and not leave the people who use the river and the centre's employees and their families in limbo. Keeping the centre open is the right thing to do.

Can the minister confirm that he will not transfer the Quebec City marine rescue sub-centre to Halifax, Trenton or Montreal, yes or no?

Search and RescueOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we are making: a responsible decision. The Canadian Coast Guard will delay consolidation of the eastern portion of the Quebec region until it is competent in the bilingual capacity of the system.

Search and RescueOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the Conservatives greatly reduced the search and rescue capacity in this country by also closing the maritime rescue centres, like the one in St. John's, Newfoundland. Massive protests and public outcries did not stop the Conservatives from shutting down the St. John's rescue centre, which received more than 500 calls for help a year. Now they are starting to see the impact of their irresponsible, unexplainable choices.

Will the Conservatives reverse their shortsighted decision to close the maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's?

Search and RescueOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, we closed the sub-centre in St. John's a year ago, and the facility in Halifax has been handling the work quite well. We have had no problems with the service at all.

Search and RescueOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that when it comes to listening to Canadians, the government has a tin ear.

The Kitsilano Coast Guard station was unceremoniously closed because the government wanted to save a buck. This closure is putting the lives of Canadians at risk. New Democrats have been fighting against these closures while local Conservative MPs have gone silent. Why will they not listen to their local communities and reopen the station?

Search and RescueOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is wrong, as usual. We are confident that the changes in Vancouver have not had any negative impact. In fact, since the closure of the Kitsilano base on February 19, the Canadian Coast Guard on Sea Island has responded to 38 search and rescue maritime distress incidents in the greater Vancouver area. These incidents involved 48 lives at risk and the reaction time was less than 10 minutes in each of those incidents.

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, our government has been working hard to ensure that the Experimental Lakes Area facility is transferred to a non-governmental operator better suited to conducting the type of world-class research that can be undertaken at this facility. The federal government has been leading negotiations in order to secure an operator with an international track record. This matters so much to my constituents in Winnipeg South Centre.

Could the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans kindly update the House on the important milestone reached today for the Experimental Lakes Area?

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank both the member for Winnipeg South Centre and the member for Kenora for their continued hard work on this file.

I am pleased to announce that we have just signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Institute for Sustainable Development, an internationally renowned public policy research institute. This agreement is an important step for the future operations of ELA and will allow us to support research projects during the upcoming summer season. Our government looks forward to working with IISD on the future of this facility.