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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was million.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for St. John's South—Mount Pearl (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 29% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Government Spending November 17th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives spent $33 million more on advertising last year than the entire Canadian beer industry combined spent. That is over $130 million on billboards and TV ads during a recession. Is the government under the influence?

While Canadian families were tightening their belts, this government was spending “like it was Christmas”. The Conservatives' advertising budget last year was so big that the same amount of money could have helped 100,000 Canadian caregivers.

How is it that the Conservatives can so easily waste taxpayers' money?

Government Spending November 17th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, in a time of economic restraint when Canadians are losing their jobs and are hard hit by a recession, this Conservative government spent the highest amount in Canadian history on advertising. To put it in perspective, the amount was more than all the beer companies combined spent last year.

That is an outrageous amount of spending on advertisements which many Canadians, when surveyed, associated with Conservative Party propaganda.

When will the Conservatives stop wasting taxpayers' money and start doing something about the $56 billion deficit?

November 16th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, that was very interesting. I never got an answer to any of the questions that I asked. I guess it is all because the government of today does not want to give answers to questions when it is considered not within its best interests.

It is too bad the government did not consider the bottom line. The meetings of the G8 and the G20, the Conservatives' billion-dollar weekend, were supposed to be focused on reining in government spending. Yet we saw lavish amounts of spending.

I agree with the member when he says that it is Canada's place to host these meetings. Absolutely, we planned to host the G8. Did we need all the lavish spending? Did we need all the signs in front of all the interesting infrastructure that needed to be put in place?

I will remind the member that we know there was a $1.1 million sidewalk put in, 84 kilometres from the summit site. There was lots of money spent. Why did the Conservatives--

November 16th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, last June I raised the issue of out-of-control G8-G20 spending. Five months and dozens of questions later, some of the information is coming from the Conservative government, but a lot is still left unsaid.

The Thursday afternoon before the House was to rise for a week, Conservatives quietly released the expenditures of many of the contracts associated with the summits. The government finally got around to doing what we had asked for. It was pushed by the Liberal opposition in committee. I had to put forward a motion demanding all the documentation. The government came back and asked for two extensions and then made it more public.

When the government made it public, it offered a technical briefing for the media, but only for the media, and only with two hours notice.

This is the kind of accountability we have come to expect from the Conservative government. It begrudgingly gives in and provides the information to the Liberals, the media and to all Canadians that we should expect and rightfully demand from the government. It is simply unacceptable. The government should be open, accountable and transparent without reservation.

What is also unacceptable is the total cost of summit, over $1 billion, and the way in which borrowed taxpayer money was actually wasted. Let me review some of that waste: $20,000 on flowers and centrepieces; nearly $300,000 on gifts and promotional items; over $3 million on a preliminary meeting at a high-priced hotel in Lake Louise and in Ottawa; $20,000 in ice sculptures; and $57,000 on lapel pins and zipper pulls. The Conservatives have somehow managed to spend more on zipper pulls and lapel pins than the average Canadian family earns in an entire year.

We can see from this very small sample why even the Conservatives are now saying they are “spending like it is Christmas”.

Too many of the contracts awarded by the Conservatives were sole-sourced and too many of those ended up costing far more than they were estimated.

For example, Public Works and Government Services Canada estimated it would spend $172,000 on salaries and fees. In the end it spent $1.7 million. It estimated it would spend $1.8 million for leasing and operating costs of various venues and office space. In the end that number was an incredible $21.6 million. That is over $19 million more than it thought had budgeted for.

I am sympathetic to the fact that circumstances change, but it is a little outrageous. How can we count on a government that simply cannot count?

Public Works estimated it would have approximately $142.1 million in goods and services and leasing expenditures. So far, only $55 million worth of receipts have come in, and this five months later. The Liberals are still waiting on the bills for the rest of the expenditures.

A big part of the Conservative's billion dollar weekend was the security budget. The cost skyrocketed when the Conservatives told security officials, with very short notice, that they had to host a second meeting, the G20 meeting, in Toronto.

The government operations committee heard from the Chief Superintendent of the RCMP, Alphonse MacNeil, who commended the Integrated Security Unit based in Barrie, Ontario. MacNeil was unequivocal when he said, “If you do an event in one place instead of two, the cost would be lower”. He is right. That is just plain common sense.

The billion dollar question is this. Why did the Conservatives decide to hold such a high-profile, security-intense summit in the downtown core of Canada's largest, busiest city rather than find the most cost-effective solution?

We know that other countries have held these meetings for much less. Korea just did so. The U.K. and France will too. Meetings like these will continue—

G8 and G20 Summits November 15th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, they were expensive memories on taxpayers' borrowed money.

Canadians now know about the $20,000 ice sculpture, but they are still only seeing the tip of the iceberg. For instance, it was discovered that the Conservatives spent nearly $100,000 buying a table for the two-day G20 meeting. The Conservatives “inadvertently” forgot to include the $100,000 table in the list of costs for the summit.

Just how many other items have been left off the list, and how much did these forgotten expenses cost taxpayers?

G8 and G20 Summits November 15th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, for three days of meetings the Conservatives spent nearly $20,000 on flowers and centrepieces. They spent nearly $300,000 on gifts and promotional items; $57,000 on pins.

The Conservatives managed to spend more money on zipper pulls and lapel pins than the average Canadian family earns in an entire year. No wonder the Conservative member for Saskatoon—Humboldt said that they were “spending like it is Christmas”.

When will the Prime Minister apologize for wasting so much taxpayers' money?

Government Spending November 3rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, what we are told is that the increases for the PMO are for communication, yet the Prime Minister has not had a single public meeting since taking office.

Instead of giving fiscal updates to the House of Commons, he wasted $250,000 to hold two closed press conferences. The PBO now estimates that the Conservatives have added $210 billion to the national debt. With all due respect to drunken sailors, this government is spending like one.

When will the Conservatives stop wasting hard-earned taxpayers' money?

Government Spending November 3rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, last week the public accounts were released.

What a tale of out-of-control spending they tell: $3 billion more on professional and special services since the Conservatives became government; $9.5 million more on cabinet since 2007; and $2.5 million more on the Prime Minister's office.

At a time when Canadians have had to make hard economic choices, their government chose more spending on press releases, management consultants and cabinet. When will this borrow and spend government get its reckless spending under control?

October 28th, 2010

Madam Speaker, yes, I was at committee this morning and my colleague did attend part of that meeting. However, if he had stayed to listen a little further, my colleague from the Liberal Party pointed out that we had received the information on the $4.1 million on the quarry from the order paper responses that we received out of a request from another colleague from the Liberal Party who was asking questions about the expenditures. It is clear in the order paper responses that it cost $4.1 million for a quarry. However, let us not quibble about $4.1 million when we are talking about over $1 billion.

When the member asked me to be patient and asked me to wait until December, maybe January or February to find out those expenses, that is all fine, well and good, but the people of Canada are waiting for an explanation on how over $1 billion of their taxpayer dollars could be spent over 72 hours.

In allocating that amount of money, how in the name of goodness was the government not able to budget for it?

October 28th, 2010

Madam Speaker, on September 27, I asked why this government had not released about 85% of the spending details on the G8 and G20 summits.

To date, the Conservatives have disclosed only about $200 million of the costs associated with the summits. Now, about one month later, nothing really has changed. Despite the public safety minister's assurances that the government is prepared to release the cost of the summit, we have not received any new information.

In fact, after several meetings on the G8 and G20 summits at the public safety and government operations committees, we have learned that the government really does not know the final costs.

We have been told by the Conservatives that they will wait for the receipts to come in before telling taxpayers the total cost. Are they telling us that they have no real budget assumptions, no tracking of the costs, the overruns, or the matching of those expenses? I find this hard to believe.

Ward Elcock, the Privacy Council Coordinator of the G8 and G20 summits, told the members of the government operations committee, of which I am one, that “until you actually have a plan, you don't know precisely what the cost will be”.

The G8 and G20 summits are over with. I am sure they had a good plan in place. What we need to know is whether or not they actually knew the expenditures, the budget, and the associated costs. Surely they must have had some idea of what they were budgeting, how they were budgeting, and on what they were spending the money, on a go-forward basis.

We know that the Prime Minister's own department, the Privy Council Office, had the final oversight. They are the ones taking all the budgets and doing the integrated review. They have the sign-off on all the expenses and decision-making.

They signed off on $4.1 million to rent a quarry near Huntsville. They signed off on $27.5 million to rent, convert, and dismantle a building in Barrie. And they signed off on $334,000 for sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and bug spray.

I am sure that those expenses have been allocated, noted, and that someone is doing some cost comparison on them. I am sure the Prime Minister is not just handing out blank cheques on these costs.

This morning in the government operations committee we heard from the Chief Superintendent Alphonse MacNeil, the commander of the Integrated Security Unit in Barrie, Ontario. Superintendent MacNeil was quite clear. He said that if an event is done in one place instead of two, the costs will be lower.

That makes good common sense to me. The question becomes, why did the Conservatives decide to host it in two different locations? I think we are going to get some information on that over time, but the Conservatives made some political decisions to host this in two locations.

The other interesting point we should note is how late they were in telling the security people involved in this, the RCMP and the Integrated Security Unit, when the G20 would be held in Toronto. They did not know until just a few months before. In December 2009, they were told the G20 was going to be held in Toronto. They had to scramble. In scrambling, they probably spent money hand over fist to become prepared for a G20 summit that was going to be held in June.

First, why did we not know that we were going to be hosting the G20 summit? Why did Canada not plan to host the G20? Why did Canada not put forward a good process to ensure that the integrated security had time enough to plan properly?

Second, the costs associated with the G20 and G8 summits must be known by someone within government. They must have some details. We have some, about $200-million worth. Now we need to know the rest.