February 11, 1994

REF

John Williams

Reform

Mr. John Williams (St. Albert) moved

That this House call on the government to demonstrate its commitment to accountability and to the efficient and effective use of public funds by reporting to the House, no later than the first week of June each year, what measures have been taken by the government to address unresolved problems identified by the Auditor General in his report such as, but not limited to:

(a) that the Minister of National Defence provide Parliament with an accurate and complete costing of government use of aircraft utilized for Ministerial and other VIP travel, and conduct a comprehensive review of the cost effectiveness of the use of government aircraft to transport VIPs;

(b) that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans clarify the legislative authority for the Northern Cod Adjustment and Recovery Program and clarify the criteria for those eligible under the program's terms and conditions;

(c) that the Minister for CIDA establish a more accountable and results oriented mode of operation for the bilateral Economic and Social Development Programs;

(d) that the Minister of Finance clarify the wording of the legislation relating to resource allowances in the Income Tax Act to ensure that Parliament's intent is met;

(e) that the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs address the problems in the Canadian Aboriginal Development Strategy by instituting appropriate performance and evaluation criteria;

(f) that the Minister of the Environment address the duplication of regulations between the federal government and the provincial governments regarding pulp and paper industry and that the Minister improve the department's Regulatory Impact Analysis Statements to provide better information to Parliament on proposed regulations;

(g) that the Minister of Human Resources Development take measures to better control the administration of payments and the collection of overpayments in the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security Programs and that the Minister of Health provide complete information to Parliament regarding the Senior Strategy Program;

(h) that the Minister of Industry implement the government's established accounting policy in order to more accurately reflect the Department's liabilities.

Mr. Speaker, today the Reform Party has put its first supply motion on the books. We are talking this morning about the Auditor General and the role he plays in the governing of the country and the watchdog of our finances.

It is only fitting that the Reform Party use this first supply day to talk about the Auditor General because during the election we placed such a high importance on the management of the funds of the government, that the taxpayers' dollars be spent wisely. The Auditor General is the watchdog on our behalf to oversee and ensure that these things are followed through.

The office was created in 1878. For about 115 years now we have had an office of the Auditor General to look over and watch on behalf of Parliament how the taxpayers' money has been spent. It has done a tremendous job and has saved the taxpayer millions of dollars over these years.

Before I was elected to the House I had an accounting business. I remember I used to tell my clients that as long as we have money to spend and taxes to pay we will always have accountants and auditors. We are going to see the Auditors General around for a long time because we are going to have taxes to pay and money to count.

If I may change the wording of an old phrase, while old soldiers may fade away, Auditors General will be here for as long as we have taxes to pay and money to count.

Back in 1977 the House felt there was a need to widen the role of the Auditor General. Prior to that time he had only counted the money and made sure that the taxpayers' money had been accounted for. We saw at that time there would be a wider role for the Auditor General and this House expanded his authority,

not just to attest that the money had been spent and had been spent legitimately, but that we had given him authority to do compliance auditing.

In the words of the Auditor General, that means whether the government collected or spent the authorized amount of money for the purposes attended by Parliament. That has become a very major part of the Auditor General's report and job, to ensure that the intent of the House is carried through.

We may authorize money to the government to go ahead and spend and after we make that authorization what real supervision do we have to ensure that the money we have allocated to a particular fund meets the criteria that we have set down? That is why we have given the authority to the Auditor General for compliance, to ensure that the money and the civil service go ahead and the government spends that money as we had intended.

One of the other areas that we have given to the Auditor General is called value for money auditing. Again, in the words of the Auditor General, this is whether the programs were run economically and efficiently and whether the government has the means to measure the effectiveness of the programs that have been authorized.

This is a very real role for the Auditor General because we spend $165 billion in the country that is authorized by the House. We would surely want to know that after that money has been spent we did have value for our money, that the programs we have authorized are doing their job, that the money is being spent effectively and usefully and that what we had intended is being done.

To recap, in 1977 we expanded the role of the Auditor General to ensure that the money is spent in accordance with the law and legitimately as any auditor would do. He also has compliance auditing to ensure that the money is spent in accordance with the wishes of the House and that the money is spent effectively to ensure that the programs are managed on our behalf, on behalf of this House, to provide the benefits that we envisage for Canadians.

The Auditor General is a servant of Parliament. He is not a minister; he is not a department. He is our servant. He is our watchdog. He is our hands, our eyes and our ears out there to ensure that the money we allocate and appropriate every year is followed through and he reports back to us. On January 19 this year his report was tabled in the House.

He works through the public accounts committee and that is how the House ensures and follows through to examine the areas he has brought to our attention that perhaps require investigation by the House. That is how yesterday when we had our first meeting we elected a chairman who is a member of the opposition. We have government members on the committee and we have five members of the opposition as well. That is how the House monitors the expenditures as approved by the House.

As servants of the House we should always do what we can to encourage and assist the Auditor General in performing his role. We have seen in the past that there have been some recommendations by the public accounts committee to make changes to the Auditor General Act. There is currently a private member's bill on the floor introduced by the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier that would allow the Auditor General to report more than once a year.

We have constrained him to make only one report which is a huge report. Perhaps the House may want to consider supporting the legislation that would allow the Auditor General to report to the House as he feels appropriate.

Therefore I can only recommend at any time and at any opportunity I have the importance of supporting our servants of whom the Auditor General is one.

I would be remiss if I did not mention at this time that we recognize the civil service, the tens of thousands of people across the country who provide a valuable service to this land by performing their jobs efficiently, doing the will of the House and providing the programs that Canadians want and deserve. There are tens of thousands we do not hear about who go on working anonymously. I would like to pay tribute this morning to the contributions they have made to our society.

There are one or two things that the Auditor General would like to bring to our attention that are included in his report. When we look at the Auditor General's report we should remember that our style of government is not only a representative government but an accountable government. That is why we call the ministers and the government to question on matters raised by our servant, the Auditor General, and that is why we are having this debate this morning.

I understand this is the third time in Canada's history that we have had a formal and realistic debate in the House regarding the Auditor General and his report. I can give notice to hon. members on the other side that they will not have to wait so long before we have a fourth debate because the Auditor General has to be given the responsibility and the recognition for what he can do to resolve the problems that we have in ensuring that our money and funds are managed properly.

We will be talking throughout the day on various aspects of the Auditor General's report. I would like to look at one particular chapter concerning travel by government ministers on government aircraft. The horrendous cost of one trip in many cases is more than the annual salary of a taxpayer.

The Auditor General has questioned the costs of such items and we have been able to have the government take notice of the costs of these things and change the policy regarding the use of government aircraft, that they are not just there for jetting off here and there at any time. The role of the Auditor General has to be reinforced. That is a perfect example of how Canadian taxpayers' money has been saved through the highlighting of the actual costs of these trips. Now that we have brought that to

the attention of the government it has decided that perhaps commercial travel would be more appropriate in many cases.

I mentioned also that the Auditor General has a role regarding compliance auditing. Does the money spent by the government fit the authority given by the House? There was $587 million spent on the northern cod adjustment and recovery program that the Auditor General said was spent without clear legislative authority.

I do not dispute that the people in Newfoundland need some money and that we authorized a program to try to help them, but the government should remember that it does not have clear legislative authority to conduct that program, according to the Auditor General, and it should be coming back to the House to get that matter clarified before it continues any further. That is also the role of the Auditor General, to tell us in the House that we are the supreme body that approves these funds. When $587 million of taxpayers' money has been spent without the authorization of the House then perhaps the government should think clearly about coming back here and determining the will of the House in order that it may continue to provide that program.

What about CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency? The Auditor General had some fairly harsh words about CIDA. That is a program that spends our money in developing nations where we recognize that we have a role around the world as one of the developed nations to help our fellow man. CIDA spends well over a billion dollars in this area to help those in need but unfortunately in many cases, as the Auditor General points out, we are turning some developed nations into another welfare program where we continue to pay money but we are not helping them to get up and at it. We are not helping them to improve their situation. We are just paying money to keep them in the style of destitution that they currently have.

We have to look at many areas of CIDA and the House has to ensure that it fulfils the mandate that we have given to CIDA.

I would like to quote one item of the Auditor General's report in chapter 12.57 which states: "Until recently CIDA did not fully acknowledge its accountability to Parliament for managing". It did not fully acknowledge its responsibility to Parliament.

The House has to recognize that we are the supreme body that approves the money in this country. Every agency, every department and everyone in government has to recognize that we in the House authorize the funds and that CIDA is accountable to the House. That is why the Auditor General fulfils a tremendous role in ensuring that we are aware of what is happening in these departments. CIDA may get carried away with what it feels is the appropriate direction to go. The Auditor General points that out to us. We should say to these departments: "Wait a minute, we call the shots around here. You listen to what we say and you recognize that the House has the final and full authority to say what goes on".

What about the resource allowance income tax provisions? There was $636 million of unintended tax refunds to the resource sector and another $538 million was given out as potential refunds of income tax while the department tried to prove a particular point. The government could have changed this tax loophole several years ago but it thought there was a point that it had to prove. It has cost the Canadian taxpayers $538 million to prove that particular point. I would hope that the Minister of Finance can justify to us that there must have been a very major point that the Department of Finance was trying to prove to cost the Canadian taxpayer that kind of money.

Canadian aboriginal development program strategy; $900 million spent by three departments over five years. The Auditor General said that after we had spent $900 million, three departments could not demonstrate that the program was meeting its objectives. We spent $900 million, almost $1 billion, and we are not even sure that we have accomplished what we set out to do.

That is the type of thing that the Auditor General should and does bring to our attention. That is the type of thing that the public accounts committee would want to know from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. How on earth can we spend $1 billion without knowing which road we are even trying to go down?

I hope in future years that various ministers will be able to come back to us and point out that corrective measures have been taken and that from now on Canadian taxpayers will be getting real value for their money, that programs that are approved are working before we spend $900 million.

On the Canada pension plan and old age security, $120 million to $220 million is lost every year through overpayments due to inadequate control. That is a lot of inadequate control to cost us $120 million to $220 million. I would suggest the government take a serious look at that and answer to the Canadian taxpayer where this money is going. Why are we losing this kind of money? That $220 million would go a long way to doing something about the budget deficit.

I know we have a budget deficit of around $45 billion. Harold Hunt, the Texas billionaire, once said that a billion dollars ain't what it used to be, but we have to start somewhere. If we can identify an area where we can save through proper controls on $220 million, that would be an excellent start.

One of the great chapters in the Auditor General's report is chapter 5 which deals with the debt and the deficit. I know that the Auditor General does not have the authority to say exactly what he feels about the deficit. He feels that he has a role to play

and he has pointed out quite specifically in chapter 5 that the House has a responsibility to communicate to Canadians how serious the matter is and how corrective action should be taken and taken soon. I would encourage everyone in the House to read chapter 5. He is saying we should communicate simply and effectively to Canadians how seriously we are in debt and how difficult it is going to be for us to get out of that debt.

I ask the Minister of Finance to take note of that. There is no reason, when he brings his budget down in the next couple or three weeks, why he cannot tell Canadians, as the Auditor General has so clearly pointed out, that it is time we communicated simply and clearly to Canadians what the problem is, how big it is and how seriously it has to be addressed.

In conclusion, we have put this motion forward, which is a serious motion, for debate today asking that the government respond to the Auditor General's report in six months. This is the type of amendment to legislation I think the House will want to consider, giving the Auditor General the authority to require the government to respond to the Auditor General's report. That is why during the course of this debate I would like to see the government take a serious approach to what is contained in the Auditor General's report, that we treat it seriously and look at it as a mechanism to come back, address and recognize the importance of handling our money well for the benefit of all Canadians.

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LIB

Jean-Robert Gauthier

Liberal

Mr. Jean-Robert Gauthier (Ottawa-Vanier)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for St. Albert on this motion, because first of all, it contains some items that are of particular interest to me, since I chaired the Public Accounts Committee for three years during the last Parliament. I would like to start by informing the hon. member that during the 35th Parliament, the Public Accounts Committee tabled 14 reports in this House, and these reports concerned the same recommendations the hon. member has included in his motion today.

None of the reports were concurred in by the House. I may add that the problem is not the Public Accounts Committee or the government but this House, this particular forum. We will have to start paying attention to what is being done in committee and follow up on the recommendations made by members in committee.

Perhaps I seem a bit frustrated about this lack of action by the House. I do not blame the government of the time. I simply blame my colleagues and myself for not finding the time to examine the recommendations made by the Public Accounts Committee during this 35th Parliament.

Today, a few weeks after we started our new session, I see this motion as a very positive initiative to increase transparency in Parliament. Again, I want to congratulate the hon. member for moving this motion.

Last year, there was a recommendation for setting aside a certain number of days in the House every year, to examine the reports of the Public Accounts Committee. I would like to ask the hon. member whether he and his party are prepared to set aside or allot, as is the case today, certain days to examine the reports of the Public Accounts Committee, so that Canadians will have a better idea of how we deal with the government's problems, and also to ensure that the system works effectively. I think that is the point the hon. member wanted to make. He mentioned effectiveness and that the Auditor General of Canada should, in addition to preparing special reports, examine the ability of departments and the government to be effective in the way they spend funds. We could pass Bill C-207, which I tabled in this House, and whose purpose is in fact-and if I understood the hon. member correctly, he supports this recommendation-to allow the Auditor General of Canada to table more than one report annually.

Would the hon. member also agree that when there is a report from the Public Accounts Committee on a subject as important as public spending, we should set aside a day for consideration of the report and decide, as members, on the follow-up to this serious work done by the Committee?

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REF

John Williams

Reform

Mr. Williams

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has made tremendous recommendations.

I started my speech by saying that this is only the third time in the history of the House that we have had a serious debate on the Auditor General's report. I would certainly encourage and support any action that can be taken by the government that the debate of the Auditor General's report be given much more serious attention and become a standard part of the calendar of the House.

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LIB

Fred Mifflin

Liberal

Mr. Fred Mifflin (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few things very briefly.

First, I want to congratulate the hon. member for St. Albert on his excellent presentation. I will be somewhat less warm in my congratulatory note in a few moments but I certainly welcome this.

As a member of Parliament, I believe the Canadian public is quite happy to see this kind of debate go on in the House. I for one am very interested and enthusiastic to take part in it.

I want to pay respect to my hon. colleague from Ottawa-Vanier who for a few years did an outstanding job in chairing the

public accounts committee. I had the fortune to sit in on some of the meetings that he chaired on issues that were pertinent to my riding, particularly unemployment insurance and training programs.

I have to congratulate him for his enthusiasm and determination in pursuing the kind of issues that we see today. I think the House should be grateful for the kind of activity that he and his committee were responsible for.

I want to clarify a point. I note the member for St. Albert spoke about the necessity to clarify legislation in support of the northern cod adjustment and recovery program. I do not have any argument with that. We do need to have the proper legislation and as a parliamentarian I would not argue with it. However I want to make it clear that this in no way should impede the discussions now taking place on a follow on recovery program for those people in dire need because of the total extinction of their cod stocks.

There are numerous committees in my riding. These people are not just sitting back expecting money to be given to them. There are 40 "Improving your Odds" committees in my riding. Anywhere from 20 to 40 fisherpersons and plant workers are studying among other things what can be done to improve their communities. Some will be on NCARP and others will not.

I want to make it clear that apart from the need for legislation there will be a necessity to accept that the discussion for a follow on program beyond May 15 should not in any way be impeded by the need for the House to clarify the legislation.

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REF

John Williams

Reform

Mr. Williams

Mr. Speaker, I confirm to my hon. colleague again we recognize there is a problem and it has to be dealt with as far as the dearth or extinction of the fish in the Atlantic and the Grand Banks and the need for Canadians to help the fishermen there is concerned.

I just want to point out there has to be clarity in the role. the House has set forth a specific direction within the legislation that perhaps was not clear. The Auditor General has picked that up. As our servant he is telling the House that we should revisit that and ensure our instructions to the government are crystal clear and the government can then follow through.

I do not in any way whatsoever dispute the need to help the fishermen in Newfoundland and other areas which have been hard hit by the extinction of the fish stocks.

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The Deputy Speaker

Unfortunately the time has expired. Is there unanimous consent to continue with questions and comments?

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Some hon. members

Agreed.

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BQ

Maurice Bernier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Maurice Bernier (Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead)

Mr. Speaker, I would like, first of all, to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for St. Albert, for the motion he put forward to the House. It will certainly generate a good debate. It is quite appropriate to review government spending as a whole. Everyone will agree with that. Year after year, the Auditor General tables reports that raise disturbing matters about public spending.

This motion is pretty much in line with what we discussed yesterday during debate on the motion of the Official Opposition. Several of my colleagues in the Official Opposition asked for a House committee to be established in order to review all government spending, item by item. We were told, in particular by our colleagues on the government side, that such a committee already existed, the Public Accounts Committee, and was responsible for such reviews of government spending. I believe the comment by the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier shows the need for a committee mandated by the House of Commons. I hope this would make the House more responsive to its recommendations and more likely to follow up on them.

I will conclude this comment by referring to the speech of the hon. member for St. Albert-I had to go out for a few seconds and I may have missed a short part-because I did not hear him talk about the duplications mentioned in the motion. This aspect, and I will conclude on that, Mr. Speaker, is a great concern for Quebec in particular, but also for the whole of Canada, because the costs are estimated to be in the billions of dollars. I would like to have the opinion of the hon. member for St. Albert, as well as other Reform members, on this issue of duplication of services.

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REF

John Williams

Reform

Mr. Williams

Mr. Speaker, I think we actually talked that motion to death yesterday. Therefore we should pertain to other matters contained in the Auditor General's report.

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LIB

Ben Serré

Liberal

Mr. Benoît Serré (Timiskaming-French River)

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to congratulate the hon. member for St. Albert and go back to a particular point that he raised in his comments about CIDA.

First of all, I would like to point out that I agree with the foreign aid policies of the Canadian government. I think that it is the tradition in Canada to assist those countries which are less fortunate.

However I agree with the member for St. Albert that there are better ways of using foreign aid. We are sending hundreds of millions of dollars to foreign countries with no accountability

whatsoever. There is no follow up. We do not know where this money is going. Often I believe it is going to buy a limousine for some local politician. I have an idea of how we can better use that money. I would like the advice of the member for St. Albert on it to see if he agrees with me.

We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars helping agriculture in Russia and the east bloc countries. Many of Canada's institutions are not being used. In Timiskaming-French River there is the New Liskeard College of Agricultural Technology. The provincial government is closing it in May. We have state of the art facilities there. We have the academics and the infrastructure.

Instead of sending millions of dollars to foreign countries why not use some of that foreign aid money to bring people to Canada and make use of our facilities by teaching them new skills. They could then return to their countries with new skills and technology.

We would accomplish two things. We would pursue the aims and objectives of helping those nations feed themselves and it would improve our exports because we could sell new technologies and skills to those countries.

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REF

John Williams

Reform

Mr. Williams

I appreciate the comments made by the hon. member. These types of things can be brought out in a debate such as we are having today on the Auditor General's report.

There are many ways to skin a cat and the member has put forth a positive and sincere suggestion. If the debate continues this way for the rest of the day we will come away from here with some serious proposals and suggestions to ensure that our taxpayers' dollars are spent wisely and effectively and that we get the best bang for our buck. That is what we want to ensure every time, at all times.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Reform Party I would like to advise the House that pursuant to Standing Order 43(2) from now on our speakers on this motion will be dividing their time.

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LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Arthur C. Eggleton (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure)

Mr. Speaker, I rise for a second day to speak to the report of the Auditor General and the initiatives the government is taking to deal with many of the concerns he raises.

I must say there is a lot of community of thought on this, both in the remarks made yesterday by the hon. members of the Bloc Quebecois and in the remarks made today by the hon. member for St. Albert on behalf of the Reform Party. We all want to address these issues of how the taxpayers' money can be spent most efficiently and effectively and how we can cut down on the problems that the Auditor General raises so that in future years we will have a lot less of what are known as horror stories and a lot more success stories. There is a lot of common ground on what we want to try and achieve. There may be some differences, both yesterday and again today, on just how we go about achieving it.

Certainly I came to Ottawa with an understanding and appreciation of the role of an auditor. I spent 22 years in municipal government and worked with an auditor to ensure the frugality, efficiency and effectiveness, cutting overlap and duplication and all of these necessities.

One of the first things I wanted to do when I came here was to meet with the Auditor General. I have done that on a couple of occasions. I have discussed his report. I intend to meet with him regularly because his work is important to us. His many recommendations are ones I very substantially agree with and the government would like to have them implemented.

The hon. member for St. Albert raises many specific issues today in his motion and various speakers will follow me addressing each one of those points. I want to get back to what I said yesterday for a moment. I suggest the vehicle for dealing with the concerns raised yesterday and again today is the public accounts committee.

I understand the public accounts committee is up and operating. The hon. member for La Prairie who was here a few moments ago but unfortunately has departed has become the chairman.

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The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. Perhaps the hon. member will take his seat. The hon. member may not realize but we do not comment on the absence of a member from the House. That is strictly unparliamentary.

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LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Mr. Eggleton

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry. I was attempting to make a complimentary remark. I will certainly bear that rule in mind.

The public accounts committee is the committee to deal with these issues. To suggest a motion such as is put forward which provides for a very tight timeframe for the committee to be able to do its work could be unproductive for what the members want to accomplish.

The public accounts committee can start dealing with each one of these issues contained in the motion or any other aspect of the Auditor General's report. I do not know whether it will accomplish all that by the first week of June. I can say the government has already dealt with some of these issues and will continue to deal with them. It is not going to wait until the first week of June to deal with them or even to report on what it is doing with respect to many of them.

The public accounts committee has every opportunity to bring ministers before it and to have a full hearing on each one of those matters. That is within its control. I hope it will be within the control of members of Parliament. After all we said we wanted

more involvement by members of Parliament in such processes as the Auditor General's report.

That is the approach to be taken. That is where the follow up can take place, in the public accounts committee. The government is going to follow up. Of course the Auditor General in his annual report has a section on follow up and deals with what the government has done in respect of his previous recommendations.

I am suggesting the hon. member's motion is already covered by process and procedure that is quite extensive in getting to the issues and dealing with and rectifying the problems. That is the appropriate route to go as opposed to this additional suggestion the member makes today.

It is important to reiterate that the Auditor General in his report has talked about the need for strengthening internal audit, program evaluation and strengthening controllership. Those are very important to the government.

The red book has talked about the need to understand the consequences or the outcomes of our programs and the need to understand what value we are getting for the taxpayers' dollar. That can be achieved better than it has been through strengthening the internal audit and through strengthening program evaluation functions.

I reported yesterday in my remarks that we had already moved in a number of areas to address the issues the Auditor General has raised. We have streamlined the cabinet making it smaller. We have cut cabinet expenses. The cutting of some of the expenses of Parliament has been dealt with. We should open up the budget process, open up debate on different issues before the government takes a position. We have stopped the deal of the previous government with respect to Pearson airport. The question of selling the airbus was one of the issues raised by the hon. member for St. Albert today concerning government aircraft. The rules have been tightened in the use of government aircraft. It is the last resort. The first resort is to take commercial aircraft. Where a government aircraft is to be used it must be fully justified to the satisfaction of the Minister of National Defence. It must be with complete cost accounting and complete reporting. These are tightening up of procedures that both the Minister of National Defence and the President of the Treasury Board have instituted to respond to the kind of concerns raised. This matter will be addressed further by another spokesman on behalf of the government.

The government is also strengthening controllership. The Auditor General expressed a concern that the previous government had put the office of the Comptroller General under Treasury Board so that the Secretary of the Treasury Board is now in effect carrying on those functions previously carried on by the comptroller. It is a function to which he is deeply committed, as am I.

We recently sponsored a government conference on the question of controllership with many participants from the financial and audit communities, as well as government employees, to focus on the kind of skills and energies that we wanted to direct into the area of better controllership, internal auditing and evaluation programs for the very reasons that he outlines. There is that firm commitment and will to strengthen the controllership function of government.

Improvements are being made in the regulatory process of government. It is something that we have to be most cognizant of because of the kind of impact that regulations can have on business and on the economy in general, as well as the quality of life of all Canadians. Indeed regulatory reform is a very important part of the government's endeavours.

Yesterday I reported on the business impact test which the Canadian Manufacturers Association and the Treasury Board helped to launch as a means of understanding the impact we have on businesses with the different regulations that we put in place. In this way we can minimize the detrimental impact, whenever it is, to their operations which in turn makes it detrimental to the growth in the economy of the country.

I mentioned the follow up chapter, a key part of the Auditor General's annual report, and one that I expect will show next year a substantial amount of progress on many of the issues that we have talked about today.

In closing, I would like to note that the government is committed to demonstrating improved management through the public accounts committee, through the Auditor General follow up, through our own follow up in Treasury Board and the various other government departments. We are committed to delivering quality, efficient and effective services to the people. In that respect, we have a lot in common with people on both sides of the House.

The procedures are in place to be able to deal with this. If further procedures are needed then let the public accounts committee come forward with suggestions that might be helpful for the House to deal with the business of the Auditor General's report.

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REF

John Williams

Reform

Mr. John Williams (St. Albert)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments by my hon. colleague in recognizing that the Auditor General's report is working and that action has been taken on these particular reports. He also acknowledged that the report now in front of us has caused a change in policy in the use of government aircraft. While he said many things and defended the current system of government response to the Auditor General's report one of his colleagues, the member for Ottawa-Vanier, proposed earlier that perhaps the Auditor General's

report should be tabled and discussed in the House on an annual basis, or perhaps certain days should be set aside.

Does the President of the Treasury Board agree with his colleague from Ottawa-Vanier it would be a good idea that specific days be set aside to debate the Auditor General's report on an annual basis?

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LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Mr. Eggleton

Mr. Speaker, I very much respect the opinions presented by the hon. member for Ottawa-Vanier who, as has been pointed out, has a long and distinguished career in this House and also a quite distinguished career in serving as chair of the public accounts committee.

Certainly I value his counsel and will be seeking it with respect to this and many other issues that are relevant to the committee and relevant to dealing with the Auditor General's report.

Topic:   Government Orders
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LIB

Eugène Bellemare

Liberal

Mr. Eugène Bellemare (Carleton-Gloucester)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the President of the Treasury Board for the list he just gave us of projects the Liberal government has launched since last October 26. What he told the Reform Party member for St. Albert is that the government of the present Prime Minister is setting the pace, that we will be doing things the correct and honest way.

The accountability of the Liberal government will soon be recognized as an example showing that our government knows how to make fair and reasonable cuts and knows also how to govern in a honest and proper fashion. The minister set the tone, gave us examples like the Toronto airport and the helicopter project which represented considerable waste.

While I am on that subject, let me say that I was a member of the public accounts committee for five years under the Tory government and I think our chairman, the member for Ottawa-Vanier, is perfectly right in asking that the reports and recommendations of the accounts committee be debated here in the House. The Auditor General does a fantastic job in protecting our tax money, expenditures and projects, yes projects; the Reform Party would like to implement only cuts and no projects, not even reasonable ones, but the objective is also to develop projects.

The Canadian government is there to initiate projects designed to improve the quality of life for everybody. The government does not exist only to cut, cut, cut; it should cut in areas where there is waste. The Auditor General presents annual reports. The member for Ottawa-Vanier is right. When I was on the public accounts committee, we recommended that the Auditor General report his findings not every year but maybe every month. When the report is published annually, it has the effect of a bombshell; the media jump on it and report on the main points without digging into it. That is only a show and we should stop making a show of things and start doing some management. We should bring the reports of the Auditor General here to the House, through public accounts committee recommendations so that we may discuss them and improve government operations.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Mr. Eggleton

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree more with my colleague.

The government is also concerned with debt and deficit and out of that comes the need for some further cutting. As we have said time and time again, there must be a balanced approach. There must be an endeavour to get Canadians back to work.

In the program we put forward during the election campaign we made it very clear we had to act in a responsible fashion. We showed where we were going to make additional investments to get Canadians back to work and where we would have to make additional cuts. We said were going to cut what we felt were lower priorities and the kinds of wasteful spending that is pointed out in the Auditor General's report. Therefore, we are taking action and have taken action as my hon. colleague and I have pointed out to implement those measures that are going to cut down on waste, on overlapping. That will show we are spending the taxpayers' dollars in an efficient and effective manner.

I welcome the public accounts committee to be part and parcel of that process. It should take a greater role in the process of ensuring that in future Auditor General's reports we will have far more successes to talk about than failures.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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BQ

François Langlois

Bloc Québécois

Mr. François Langlois (Bellechasse)

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that, pursuant to Standing Order 43(2), speeches from the Official Opposition will be limited to ten minutes.

I have the pleasure to rise today to speak to the motion presented by my colleague, the hon. member for St-Albert, which comprises eight different points, and gives us a lot to talk about. I will limit my comments to the Auditor General's role.

His role is painfully obvious, once a year, when he presents his annual report. Instead of focusing on one annual report, Bill C-207, presented by the member for Ottawa-Vanier, offers a very different approach which could be a good starting point for discussions on allowing the Auditor General to present, on a regular basis, periodic reports that would enable the House to regain control of the budget.

Historically, the role of the House of Commons has been mainly to control government expenditures. Take for example the case of the aircraft carrier Bonaventure ; a few years ago, it was one of the first of a long list of white elephants uncovered by the Auditor General every year. Year after year, we have watched this horror show presented by the Auditor General of Canada. From one annual report to the next, time goes by and

very little is done to remedy the deficiencies revealed by the Auditor General.

I wonder if this famous red book we have heard so much about for so long suggests specific ideas to improve the image of parliamentarians, by presenting such reports for example. We will have the opportunity to see what the government's position is in this respect. I was rather surprised when the minister did not squarely state his position regarding Bill C-207.

I wonder whether the government is ready to go as far as amending the Auditor General Act to allow presentation of progress reports. This would make less alarming the problems the Auditor General of Canada could bring to the attention of the House for review, not once a year, but from time to time. It seems to me that such an approach would open up the process. In view of the $28 billion Quebec contributes every year to the federal purse, the Official Opposition, the Bloc Quebecois, would be well advised to take part in this exercise which, far from being futile, is a fundamental aspect of the parliamentary system, even more so if we were able to study more in-depth-

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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?

The Speaker

Order, please. I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. member, but he will have to continue his presentation after Oral Question Period.

It being eleven o'clock a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), the House will now proceed to statements by members, pursuant to Standing Order 31.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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February 11, 1994