House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was children.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Reform MP for Calgary Centre (Alberta)

Won his last election, in 1997, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999 April 7th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I could not help but notice the hon. member's comments about the farm crisis in Saskatchewan. I know that is his home province and he is very familiar with so many painful stories that have come out of the crisis in Saskatchewan.

I am also reminded that the minister of agriculture has informed the House that moneys will be made available to assist farmers in the crisis situation they are in.

Although it has been stated in the House that millions of dollars are available for financial aid, like so many federal programs, the process to apply and all the various levels of red tape and criteria, et cetera, exclude people who need access to that assistance. It provides, like many federal programs, good optics for the federal government to announce a big program. How much of this money is flowing back to the people that need it? As I understand it, of the farm assistance that has been offered so far only a small fraction, I think at most a third, has been put into the hands of farmers that need it. I would ask the hon. member to speak about the problem of getting through the red tape and actually getting access to the assistance that is so often lifted up by government members opposite.

Canada Development Corporation April 7th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, on July 6 the Ethics Counsellor acknowledges sending CDC minutes to the finance department and informing the department that the documents had to be released under the Access to Information Act. Two days later the finance minister sent a letter to the Leader of the Opposition pretending the department did not have the documents.

What is the department hiding? Why will it not obey the law and release the documents that everybody knows that it has?

Income Tax Amendments Act, 1999 April 7th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of my hon. colleague. I want him to explore another facet that he did not touch on too much in his speech. I think that Canadians are quite willing to pay taxes. They want to do their part to contribute to the state of the nation. However, one of the things that frustrates them is that when they pay their taxes, where does the money go?

I noticed in the finance minister's budget that he proposed to give another billion dollars to HRDC for grants and contributions, in spite of the condemning audit we recently had. Eighty-seven per cent of the files that were audited showed no evidence of any kind of supervision. There was no estimate of job participants or cash flow forecasts for these grants. Ninety-seven per cent showed no evidence that anyone had even checked to see if the grant participants already owed money to HRDC. One grant in particular stands out. The grant recipient submitted a proposal requesting $60,000 and received $160,000. He only asked for $60,000. When the details were examined by those performing the audit they discovered that he should have been granted only $30,000.

Canadians are frustrated. They do not mind paying taxes, but for goodness sake, if they are going to pay, they want that money to be used wisely.

Petitions April 5th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition today, adding 400 signatures to the thousands of signatures which have come in. There is a good rationale for the petition, but I will cut to its main point.

The petitioners are praying, along with thousands of others, that parliament withdraw Bill C-23 and affirm the opposite sex definition of marriage in legislation and ensure that marriage is recognized as a unique institution.

Eric Bishop April 5th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, the sports community across Canada and all of Calgary bids farewell to a legend today.

Mr. Eric Bishop, an institution in Calgary for decades, passed away last week. Today is the day that his legion of friends will gather to reminisce and swap stories about one of sport's most colourful and insightful media personalities.

Eric Bishop was born in Lacombe, Alberta 74 years ago and very early on established himself as a pillar in the sports world.

To quote George Hansen, “One way or another, everyone knew who Eric Bishop was”. He was one of the best broadcasters to ever sit in front of a microphone and one of the most insightful sportswriters to ever sit at a typewriter. We all have our own idea of what heaven will be like. Those who knew Eric Bishop say that for him, there will be green felt covered tables, plenty of good cigars, unopened fresh decks of cards, and rooms full of family, friends and fans.

Our sincere condolences to his loving wife Joan, their seven children and nine grandchildren. He enjoyed life and was a good man who was well loved by all who knew him. He will be missed.

Supply April 4th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, regarding perception and reality, when the perception is continually laid before the Canadian public that grants and contributions are going to the ridings of certain members and that they have had a hand in it or some involvement in it, the problem is that unless there is openness on audit reports, unless there is openness to requests for information, which is the treasury board minister's guideline, there is concern. They will never get away from that perception unless they allow openness in the public reports generated by the government.

If they are really concerned about the perception, they should deal with it by endorsing the motion the opposition has brought forward today and by saying that they will let us have access to public reports paid for by public money for which we have been waiting for more than 45 days.

Supply April 4th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question and I am glad to hear the report was tabled. I hope that the five others from HRDC for which we have been waiting for 45 days will soon be tabled and that the public reports of the seven other departments in government for which we have asked will soon be tabled. Those are the ones for which we have made specific requests to be tabled and we are still waiting.

The member opposite does not seem to understand what the HRDC fiasco has exposed. When grants and contributions are given out to certain entities in certain riding and members of parliament have a hand in it, there is a concern that there is a perception of conflict of interest, that those grants can be used to advance certain political agendas.

Whether or not that is the case, the appearance of the conflict of interest potential is there. That is exactly why there must be openness in government. As the commissioner said, the openness and availability of public reports must be there so that we can protect everyone in the House against the accusations of conflict of interest through having access to the audit reports on various departments of government.

Supply April 4th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, after that interchange, it may be a good time to step back a bit and review the rules, the goal line and what we are trying to accomplish.

Some time ago there were some laudable goals put in place by treasury board and the government. These goals and guidelines were designed to establish a simple and open process for people to get access to public information. That public information included audit reports. A few years back the treasury board, for which the minister who just spoke is responsible, said that it required departments to make the final version of review reports, including internal audits and evaluation reports, accessible to the public without requiring formal access requests. I heard the minister say that. It is a great idea, it is a laudable goal and we applaud that open approach to public information.

Recently, the same concept was reiterated by the information commissioner. He said that he regards the right of access as one of the cornerstones of the democratic process and one of the best tools available to ensure responsible government. The problem today, and why this motion is on the floor, is that something has changed in recent times. Although those are the goal lines and although that is what we are trying to achieve, something is off the rails. That is why we brought this motion forward.

Currently, there are audits done which are public reports. To get access to these public reports, we have made formal requests. It is clear that we do not have to make a formal request, but to make it official we have made them formal. We are now waiting to get access to these audit reports.

I should mention, Mr. Speaker, that I am sharing my time with the member for Dewdney—Alouette.

In the past when we made these requests for information, the response was generally not too bad. In recent times something has changed. In fact, there are reports, which are public information and paid for by public money, that we have made formal requests for and 45 days later we are still waiting for them. I do not think it is any coincidence that five of these audit reports are directly related to Human Resources Development, the area where the billion dollar boondoggle was exposed by a previous audit report. There are five more reports that we are waiting for. It has been 45 days plus and there is no sign of those reports.

It does not stop at HRDC. This delay tactic seems to be spreading. It is not only HRDC. Now we have requests for public reports, paid for by public money, from a number of other departments and agencies in the government that we are still waiting for: Agriculture and Agri-Food; Canadian Customs and Revenue, the new Revenue Canada; Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation; the Department of Citizenship and Immigration; the Department of Fisheries and Oceans; the National Capital Commission; and the list goes on. This delay approach is spreading to other departments. That is the reason for our motion today. It is the government's own guidelines and own rules and we as the official opposition have to bring a motion forward to get it to respect its own rules because we see a trend of delay in getting access to public information in these audit reports.

When did all this start? I do not think it takes a genius to figure out that when the report for human resources development came out, when we got access to it and the minister for that department was aware that this was going to be exposed, that is when it all started.

The government now has put in it appears a new vetting process of any new audit. This vetting process requires that audits, before they are released to the public as a public document of reports and audits, be now cycled through the treasury board and the Privy Council Office. They want to know what has been requested, what is being asked for and what this public report says. Then they develop a media spin to make sure that when the report is released they have all the answers ready and they can package this in a way that can do damage control, which is basically what it comes down to.

The problem is that this is causing increasing delays. That begs another question. How big are the problems? If the HRDC audit which has exposed a billion dollar boondoggle is an example, I am wondering if perhaps we have just seen the tip of the iceberg with that particular boondoggle.

Why are so many audits being held back for so long? It is taking 45 days for the government to figure out how it is going to spin some of these audits in the public arena. It is more than 45 days. We have been waiting 45 days. How much damage control does it take to release a public document which reports on the working of the government? Apparently it is taking more and more.

In light of that, let us reflect again on the statements of the information commissioner. He said, “The right of access is one of the cornerstones of our democratic process, one of the best tools available to ensure responsible government”. I like another quote from the information minister. He said, “Information delayed is information denied”. That is effectively what has been happening with these damage control tactics of the Liberal government on reports that expose things like the billion dollar boondoggle which we suspect, and could make a pretty good case for, is probably the tip of the iceberg based on these many audits that we are waiting for.

What did we find in the HRDC audit when it came out? What is being hidden here? Let us look at the HRDC audit for a moment. This audit of a billion dollars a year in grants and contributions handed out by HRDC revealed some interesting things which have concerned Canadians across the country: 15% did not have an application on file; 25% of these grants that were handed out did not have a description of the activities to be supported; 87% showed no evidence of supervision.

To quote from one of the specific examples, McGill University submitted a $60,000 proposal. It received $160,000, but when it was audited it should have only been $30,000. If that is the tip of the iceberg, we can see why the official opposition is asking that these public reports not be hidden from the public so that appropriate action can be taken and these out of control programs can be dealt with in the light of the scrutiny of the public.

The minister who spoke before me talked about modern management practices and that being why these delays were put in place. I submit to her that modern management practices are open, accountable and responsive to the problems and do not use delay tactics to cover up problems and spin-doctoring to misrepresent facts to the people.

In light of that, if the minister really wants to modernize the approaches taken by the Liberal government she would support the motion because it is modernization and enforcement of their own guidelines.

It should be easy for government members across the way to support the motion on information being given to the public in a timely manner from an open and accountable government. That is what the motion is all about. We look forward to them supporting it.

Supply April 4th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I think the minister is missing the point here. She talks about modern management practices. Modern management practices require some accountability.

The simple intent of this motion today is to make reports that are, as she professes, public documents to be made available to people within a 15 day window of being completed. If we are to have modern management practices that call for accountability, this motion is in keeping with her own department's guidelines which she gave us and which she wants us to support.

How can this motion move us away from what we want? In fact, it moves us closer toward the accountability that she says she wants by making these documents available to people within a reasonable window of time.

Petitions April 3rd, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I present a petition today. Signatures are coming into my office at a frantic rate of some 800 to 1,000 a day.

The petition calls upon parliament to withdraw Bill C-23 in light of the motion that was made on June 8, 1999, in the House to affirm and secure the definition of marriage. In light of what Bill C-23 does the petitioners call on parliament to withdraw it.