Mr. Chair, I will try not to shoot as many questions at the minister as my colleague has just been doing. We in Quebec were used to seeing him in net for the Canadiens and he was known then as able to handle anything that came at him. This feels a bit like another hockey game here.
This evening, we are having a really interesting discussion. We all want the same: help us do more for the community. I think that the solution to all our problems would quite simply be to respect provincial jurisdictions. This evening, in fact, the topic of discussion is a provincial responsibility.
I have been a Quebec MLA. I have worked for the people you have been talking about. I have helped social workers organize. The whole problem is the two levels of government that are butting heads. There is a shameful waste of energy and money. Why are we against the creation of this department? Not because we have anything against the minister or the people that will make up that department, but because the money going to the 14,000 employees will not be getting to the provinces, to Quebec, to meet the needs we are talking about.
l appreciated my colleague's story about helping his elderly parents when they were dying. I had a similar experience in my own family barely three weeks ago. It is true that people need to be helped, but as long as there are two levels of government looking after the same thing, energy and money will be wasted.
The minister was saying “Help us”. Let us go back to the beginnings of this country, the Canadian Constitution, with its division of responsibilities and powers. There were provisions to ensure that each did what was its responsibility.
With the federal government it is not like that. In committee, I saw a diagram that illustrated it, but I do not have it with me. The federal government is feeling an increasing need to be everywhere. Rather than deal with the fiscal imbalance and return the money to the provinces for health, education, help to families and so on, they work along side the provincial government, establish their presence and duplicate the work, as if the two were competing over the same place. This results in wasted money, and on top of that there is a problem with control.
I recall in committee a question being put to the Minister of National Revenue, which caused him a little grief. He said that the department had become so huge that it was hard to control everything. Indeed, the machine has become so big it wastes a lot of money.
I would make a little aside. For as long as I have been an MLA and an MP I have known that it sometimes does not take a lot of money to resolve a problem. The government members know this. They announced $30,000 for a project in Quebec. I will refer only to the stolen part of the sponsorship scandal, the $100 million that has not been found. I am not accusing anyone. I am not referring to the entire budget for the sponsorship scandal, which is open to question, I refer to the part stolen. I divided it by 300 members. Do you know that each MP would have $333,000 for their community?
Do you know what can be done in a riding with this amount? It is pretty big. More can be done than was done with the sponsorship scandal, you will agree. A number of people can be helped. But there are too many people. Two governments are getting in each other's way and duplicating efforts, often causing each other harm.
I think this would be a way to help us carry out all the fine projects. I honestly think they want to see them succeed.
The issue I am concerned with has to do with seniors. A few years ago, it was discovered that thousands of seniors across Canada, some 270,000 cases recognized by the department, had not received the guaranteed income supplement to which they were entitled.
To get to the bottom of this, I toured Quebec and saw some awful things. In Sherbrooke, a woman passed away at age 88 after living through her old age on $6,000 a year. At the time of her death, the government owed her $90,000 in guaranteed income supplement. I have seen some terrible things.
I have two or three questions for the minister. Can he assure us that all seniors who are entitled to receive the guaranteed income supplement will receive it? When this file was handed over to us, there were 270,000 cases in Canada, including 68,000 in Quebec. The tour and the intense investigating that followed allowed us to find nearly half the cases. Some 110,000 seniors across Canada still were not receiving the guaranteed income supplement they were entitled to. I want to know if there are still any cases today and, if so, how many. I have another question I will ask later.