Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to discuss the Auditor General's report, specifically chapter 11 of the report because of my responsibilities within my caucus and within the House of Commons. I will be speaking on chapter 11 which deals with the Canadian aboriginal economic development strategy, but more generally with the Auditor General's report dealing with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development its and programs.
If one is to examine past reports of the Auditor General dealing with northern affairs and aboriginal affairs, going back some 20 years beyond the last government to include the Liberal government before that, the same criticisms come up repeatedly.
These criticisms are that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development cannot assure the people of Canada that the examined program have a clear implementation strategy that is followed in the disbursement of funds or that funds dispersed actually go to the programs intended, that desired results of the programs are achieved and that Canadian tax dollars are spent with due regard for economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
Many of these criticisms are to arise from a confusion in the mandate of the department, it would appear. The dilemma appears to be one of reconciling accountability to Parliament with the transfer of responsibilities of managing funding to aboriginal programs to aboriginal bands through a number of funding arrangements.
As far back as 1986 the Auditor General expressed concern whether the department was accountable for ensuring social and economic gains to aboriginal people or was simply responsible for ensuring the equitable distribution of financial support as native groups pursued their own objectives.
This confusion is still evident today in the implementation of the Canadian aboriginal economic development strategy. This one program was initiated by the Government of Canada in 1989 to address the economic disparities between aboriginal peoples and other Canadians. The overall objective of the strategy is to help the aboriginal peoples to attain economic self-reliance.
The strategy from 1989 to 1993 spent at least $900 million of an appropriated budget of $1 billion. According to the Auditor General the three departments responsible for implementing the program are unable to demonstrate that they are meeting the strategy's objectives.
The auditors were unable to find any co-ordinated implementation strategy and instances were observed in which funds were disbursed for projects before the required business plan documentation was received. There was consistently no evaluation of the projects to see if objectives were being met.
The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development disbursed funding on a per capita basis regardless of the level of economic development within the bands, again demonstrating the conflict between the department's accountability and the devolution of responsibility to Indian bands.
The department could also not demonstrate any follow up assessment of the success of the projects funded with taxpayers' dollars. Upon examination of the projects by the Auditor General the projects examined had a success rate of 50 per cent or less in meeting their objectives and one has to ask if this is good value for the dollars invested.
With this particular program as with many other programs administered by the Department of Indian Affairs, if the Canadian taxpayers are to continue to fund it a number of very important questions need to be clearly answered.
These questions could regard the actual benefit that has resulted from these policy initiatives and whether these activities achieved value for money. Did these policy initiatives take into account aboriginal priorities or could these funds have been used differently to generate greater benefit per dollar spent? Is there a more cost effective way to achieve the same results? What is the definition or criteria to judge when a program is a success or failure?
It is clear we need a thorough review of the mandate and the responsibilities of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. This is particularly pertinent in view of the commitment by the Liberal government in its red book to implement native self-government beginning within six months despite the fact that Canadians and most aboriginal people do not agree specifically with what that term means.
I support, as does my party, the move toward aboriginal control of aboriginal affairs and the eventual dismantling of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. However, I will not accept that Canadian taxpayers, through a misappropriate sense of guilt, continue to throw huge amounts of money into aboriginal programs without accountability or assessment of the success of these programs.
While aboriginal leaders need only be responsible to aboriginal people for moneys and programs received through economic development established within the bands, these aboriginal leaders or the department or both must be totally accountable for
every taxpayer dollar spent, particularly in this time of scarce resources and enormous deficits and debt.
Neither my grandfather nor my father nor I am responsible for the atrocities endured by the aboriginal peoples perpetrated by the governments and churches of England or the governments of Sir John A. Macdonald and Mackenzie King. I believe that present day Canadians and their governments are demonstrating a real willingness to address the problems within the aboriginal community and will continue to do so.
However, at a time when working Canadians are giving well over half their income earnings to governments in taxes while at the same time the very fabric of our social safety net programs are being threatened by high cost and enormous debt, we have every right to demand full accountability and value for every dollar governments spend.