June 14, 1972

PC

Gerald William Baldwin (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baldwin:

We are sure successful.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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LIB

Herb Breau

Liberal

Mr. Breau:

I think you are successful. I hope that some day I will have the chance to answer some of your questions. I would succeed in scoring political points, too. I think ministers tend to try to be too impartial and nonpolitical when they answer questions. The function of the opposition in this context is not primarily to gather information, because that would imply they were impartial; they are not out to get facts but, rather, to make political points. I admit at once that this is an important function in our political system; on the other hand, the opposition should not, for example, ask leading questions and then say, when a reply in political terms is given, that the government is not supplying impartial information, and relate all this to Information Canada.

The hon. member for Saint John-Lancaster is, as we know, an experienced member and I do not believe he would wish to lead the House into the error of believing that Information Canada has done nothing positive. I should like to refer him to the study conducted in my constituency, one which brings out some very pertinent facts. It was undertaken last year by a group of students with the sponsorship of Information Canada. Again, I wish to emphasize the difference between information

June 14, 1972

which, of necessity, will be biased because the government is asked biased questions, and factual information given in response to a public need.

The hon. member for Saint John-Laneaster would agree, I am sure, that it is a function of government to explain its actions in a political way. On the other hand, there is the function of providing information to people who, for one reason or another, cannot get the facts they need out of the political system or the House of Commons. The study to which I have referred deals with that situation and I again refer the hon. member to this report which was commissioned by the planning services of Information Canada and carried out by two students, Helen Sinclair and Pierre Tremblay. It is a very good study and I will send a copy of it to the hon. member. Once he has read it, I doubt he will again tell the House that Information Canada has done nothing.

In my view, we are only now beginning to realize what the role of Information Canada should be. If there was one error which was made it was, it seems to me, in calling this organization Information Canada. We should not have called it that, because in our political context, the context of the House of Commons, I think it implies information which is biased because of the very nature of our political system, as I have explained. How can one expect a minister to get up and answer a question in a scrupulously non-partisan way when a member such as the hon. member for Saint John-Lancaster, for example, has put the question to him? If I were the minister concerned there would be no chance of my answering him in a non-political way-maybe I would do so in my constituency, but not in any other forum. When that opposition member asks a question, a minister would be foolish to answer in a non-partisan way because the member is smart enough politically to load his question. To appreciate the role of Information Canada in this context, we must admit that possibly the name is wrong. It is true that in terms of semantics, information is the correct word but possibly we should call it a centre of resources-

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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?

An hon. Member:

What?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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LIB

Herb Breau

Liberal

Mr. Breau:

Or, possibly, an animation centre-

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Or, Propaganda Canada.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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LIB

Herb Breau

Liberal

Mr. Breau:

Perhaps the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) was not listening when I explained the difference between propaganda and information. I said there was a need for propaganda in the present system because members like the hon. member for Saint John-Lancaster and the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre are experienced politicians, and when they ask questions a minister would be foolish to answer them in any other way than by propaganda. That is because their role here is purely a political role. Their role is to try to lead the public into believing what they believe. I do not think this is anything to be ashamed of.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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PC

Maclyn (Mac) Thomas McCutcheon (Deputy House Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McCutcheon:

I am rising on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It seems to me that the hon. member who has the floor is imputing motives to various members over here and saying that ministers have to reply with propaganda.

Information on Government Business

I do not think he has the right to impute motives to my hon. friend from Saint John-Lancaster.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Perhaps it might be better if I said nothing about the hon. member's point of order.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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LIB

Herb Breau

Liberal

Mr. Breau:

You know, Mr. Speaker, sometimes one can impute motives which are bad motives, but there is nothing wrong about imputing good motives.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

The rule does not make that distinction.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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LIB

Herb Breau

Liberal

Mr. Breau:

I said I agreed that this was an important function of the opposition in our political system. I would never try to play down the importance of that aspect of our political system. However, I am pointing out that an organization like Information Canada should also be a centre of assistance to citizens-a citizenship development centre or an animation centre.

Citizens groups are forming across the country. Those who were responsible for the study to which I have referred sought to evaluate the way in which an ordinary citizen in a constituency such as mine, which might be called a disadvantaged area where many problems arise, cultural, social and political, derives information about government programs and governmental decisions which directly concern them. Does he get his information through the civil service, or through political channels or by other means? How is this man being reached by governments whether at federal, provincial or municipal level? And, when contact was made, was he supplied with facts, arrived at impartially, or with propaganda? In other words, does he get information by reading in the newspapers that some member of the opposition had posed a political question and been answered in a political way, or did he have access to the real facts? I will go further, Mr. Speaker. What these people need is not only facts but a means of obtaining advice as to methods of implementing intentions they may have in mind-ways of putting into practice projects they have conceived. This study deals with all these matters. It is a most pertinent one and has been well carried out. I believe it shows that in this context Information Canada has an important role to play in our political system and in our society generally.

As I say, more and more citizens' groups are forming in this country, calling themselves poor people's groups, animation groups and so on. We all agree with the concept. Those who join them and organize them find they need facts on the basis of which to counter propaganda and biased information. It is of great importance that those we are trying to help should have access to impartial information, to non-partisan information outside political channels. As long as this can be done, organizations like Information Canada have a pertinent function to perform. In the absence of such facilities, people are apt to mislead by the role played by opposition parties in the House of Commons, or in legislative assemblies.

As I have explained, it is not always possible for governments, which are politically motivated, to give completely unbiased information. What is the situation with regard to animation programs carried out through the Department of Regional Economic Expansion and other branches of the federal government? Provincial governments have

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June 14, 1972

Information on Government Business

experienced difficulties in this direction, also. I think the role played by Information Canada is an important one. It is the sort of thing that makes the political system in this country work. If we want to change the name, then let us go ahead and change it. But if the information that Information Canada gives is interpreted as biased information or as propaganda, then it is not functioning properly.

Another function of Information Canada is to collect resource information on behalf of the people of Canada. For some reason or other, it has not been able to fulfil this role or to implement what it conceives to be its role in the political system, be it municipal, provincial or federal. I suggest that an agency like Information Canada will stop the trend that has led these groups in Canada to allege they are being given propaganda or biased information. Hon. members opposite say that they are being put in the position of giving biased information to the people they represent because of the infrastructure that collects such information. They include in this infrastructure the media, big business, the big labour organizations-anything that is big. They claim that the little man has no access to information. It seems to me that a role Information Canada can play is to try to find ways to help these groups get not only the facts but any information they need to fulfil their aims.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
Permalink
PC

Alfred Dryden Hales

Progressive Conservative

Mr. A. D. Hales (Wellington):

Mr. Speaker, at the outset I should like to compliment the mover of the motion, the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Baldwin), for presenting a motion that is not only important to the members of the opposition but to every member of the House. Information should be provided when requested. At no time should there be concealment of information.

Before proceeding with my very brief remarks, I would be remiss were I not to say thank you to the chief government whip, the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra (Mr. Deachman), for paying some very glowing tributes to me as chairman of the public accounts committee and to members of the committee generally. I can only say that this committee could not function as it does were it not for the co-operation of government members as well as other members of the committee. I see that my right hand man on the committee, the former vice-chairman, the hon. member for Pontiac (Mr. Lefebvre), is in his seat and I should like him to know that I appreciate the work on the committee that he has contributed down through the years. I also include the hon. member for Halton (Mr. Whiting), the present vice-chairman of the committee.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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LIB

Thomas Lefebvre (Deputy Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal

Mr. Levebvre:

That is a good place to stop now.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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PC

Alfred Dryden Hales

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hales:

Yes, I will stop while I am ahead. We on the committee have achieved results because we have tried to be as non-partisan as we could. Sometimes it is a little difficult, but most times it works very well.

The motion before the House states that the government has failed to keep the Canadian people and Parliament adequately informed. I am prompted to speak to it because of something that occurred no later than this morning. I telephoned the Department of the Secretary of State asking if I could be provided with the name and address of the area project co-ordinator for an Opportuni-

ty for Youth program. I am sure that many members of this House have programs in their areas about which they would like to know a little more or in regard to which they may have received complaints, as I have about projects in my area. Many complaints have been made by parents to the effect that they could not locate the person in charge of this particular program. They were given a name, an address and telephone number, but they could get no answer either to their telephone calls or to their letters. These parents wanted to enrol their children for a canoe trip program for which the person in charge was provided with $7,162.

Naturally, I wanted to know what could be done about this so I telephoned the Ottawa superintendent responsible for projects in Ontario, Mr. Izlesias. He relayed my inquiry to the co-ordinator for the province of Ontario, and it is his telephone number that the minister told me today was available. However, when I got down to the grass roots and attempted to talk to this person, I was refused his name, his address and his telephone number. I say this is concealment of information. Every elected member in this House is entitled to have this person's name and address, and I see no reason whatsoever why I or any other member should be unable to talk to him. He is the on-the-job man, and I should like to tell him that I am receiving complaints about the project and to ask him to look into them. Why does the minister not want to disclose this man's name and address? The only reason I can think of is that he is afraid his area representative will get him into trouble or will tell us too much, or something of that kind. But the point is that information is being concealed which every member of the House has a right to have. As I said, we are the elected representatives of the people and are entitled to this kind of information.

While on the Opportunity for Youth program, I learned today that there is going to be a lot of concealment of financial information regarding programs. I am told that this year only projects costing $15,000 and up are going to be audited. Just imagine, Mr. Speaker, any project worth only $6,000, $8,000 or $10,000 is not going to be audited; the people in charge will be home free! Last year there was a floor of $25,000 and up, and only those projects were audited. The taxpayers' money is being used to finance projects that are not even audited. This again is concealment of information. There is no access to information here. I am told that the Secretary of State's department asked the Department of Supply and Services audit services bureau to audit only those projects costing $15,000 and up and said that they should forget about the others. This is ridiculous and I was unaware that this sort of thing was happening today. Certainly spot audits should be made of projects.

Last year I refused to deliver the cheque for a project because a U.S. draft dodger was in charge of it. However, the government forwarded the cheque to him and as a result I asked some questions about the project. Let me give you two answers I received. I was told it was not the policy of the department to divulge publicly either the name or the place of residence of each employee of a project. Why are we not entitled to that information? I asked whether an audited statement was available, and from whom. I was told that the audited statement would be prepared by the Department of Supply and Services,

June 14, 1972

but this statement constituted an internal document for the use of the department and other government agencies only. How often do we hear that answer? We cannot get the information because it is for the use of the government. I suggest this is concealment of information.

Why was I not told on that occasion that only projects involving $25,000 and more were audited? I understand this particular one was audited because I asked that question. When I put the question on the order paper, I sent a copy to members of the civil service who knew what I was doing. That is the reason this particular one was looked into. Because those answers were not satisfactory, I followed up this year with more questions about the same project. These questions have been on the order paper since March 16, but I have not received an answer from that date to this. I am sure this is another example of concealment of information, or the curtailment of freedom of information.

We are happy to have these programs in our area, and we hope that in most cases they will work out all right. Out of a total of some $80,000 to be spent on these projects in our area, only those involving a total expenditure of some $60,000 will be audited. I will enlarge on this subject later on at the proper time and place. When we realize that the Opportunities for Youth program involves the expenditure of $34 million this year, with only a small percentage of that expenditure audited, it is time some serious thought was given to steps to correct the situation.

Another matter which has been brought to my attention is the fact that the National Harbours Board annual statement for 1971 has not yet been tabled. According to the law passed by Parliament, that statement should have been tabled by March 31, 1972, yet some three months later this report has still not been tabled. This is a violation of the regulations of this House. This is concealment of information. I am told the reason it has not been tabled is that the Auditor General cannot certify the financial statement contained in the National Harbours Board report.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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PC

Gerald William Baldwin (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baldwin:

What about the Northern Canada Power Commission?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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PC

Alfred Dryden Hales

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hales:

That is another matter for concern. This involves an attempt to conceal information, hide the facts or sweep them under the carpet, and it is not right. It is contrary to the rules and regulations of Parliament. I could go on with other examples, but I do not wish to take the time of the House to do so. I could talk about contingency vote No. 5.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
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PC

Gerald William Baldwin (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baldwin:

What about Deputy Minister's salaries?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
Permalink
PC

Alfred Dryden Hales

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Hales:

We cannot find out what a deputy minister is paid today. We can find out within a certain range but we cannot pin it down exactly. There is no difficulty in finding out what Members of Parliament are paid. That information is published all across the country so everyone will know. Deputy ministers are paid more than Members of Parliament, but we cannot find out how much they are paid.

Information on Government Business

In connection with contingencies votes, at the end of the year the reserve for retroactive salaries, or the balance thereof, is transferred to the reserve account. I think the last amount was $100 million. Once that amount gets into that reserve account, there is no accounting for it. This is a very complicated matter and I will not take the time of the House to go into it further.

Those are a few of the things that have come to my attention. My participation in this debate was brought about by the refusal to divulge information to which every member of this House should be entitled. For that and other reasons I was happy to take part in the debate.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
Permalink
LIB

James Alexander Jerome (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. J. A. Jerome (Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Privy Council):

Mr. Speaker in entering this debate I will adhere to the 15-minute rule we agreed upon earlier in the day. The terms of the motion indicate that this House, conscious of the failure of the government to keep Canadian people and Parliament adequately informed, urges that steps be taken by legislation and otherwise to provide clear rules for freedom of information with regard to public business. I would submit that, therefore, the most meaningful step to be taken is an examination to understand the rules and procedures of the House as they exist now in affording opposition members the opportunity to get information from the government through Parliament. I am dealing specifically with the area of the motion which concerns itself with the criticism of this government in respect of information given to Parliament.

In that respect, it is appropriate to point out at the very beginning the rules and procedures of this House which accrue to the benefit of opposition members in their appointed task of getting information from the government. To begin with, in the number of days which make up each session there is now allotted a fixed number of opposition days, divided into trimesters. There are, in addition, certain days set aside for debate on the Speech From the Throne and for the budget debate. It is well known that on all of those days the input in the debate of this House is controlled by the opposition. It is a time when opposition members are entitled to deal with a wide range of subjects. On these days hon. members seek information on a wide variety of subjects. In addition to that, on each day, as Your Honour has pointed out on many occasions in the past, it has become the practice of opposition members to misuse Standing Order 43, taking up several minutes each day seeking the unanimous consent of the House to debate a motion of the opposition's choosing, or individual member's choosing.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
Permalink
PC

Gerald William Baldwin (Official Opposition House Leader; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baldwin:

Like the hon. member for Fraser Valley East (Mr. Pringle).

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Sub-subtopic:   ALLOTTED DAY S.O. 58-ALLEGED FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE INFORMATION WITH REGARD TO PUBLIC BUSINESS
Permalink

June 14, 1972