March 17, 2000

LIB

Jane Stewart

Liberal

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, as I have said on a number of occasions, when I discovered that these trust funds had been created I asked the officials to look at them closely. I would like to quote from a letter from my deputy minister to me on this very issue wherein she wrote:

While the creation of a trust fund as a mechanism to flow funds is unusual, it is not prohibited by the Financial Administration Act. Our management approach on learning of such issues is remedial rather than punitive unless there is evidence of fraud or theft, in which case we refer the matter to the police for investigation.

In this case there was no indication of fraud or theft and, as I said before, if they have information then let them bring it forward.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources Development
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REF

Grant McNally

Reform

Mr. Grant McNally (Dewdney—Alouette, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, the information comes from the minister's own employees. She says she is going to look at the information closely, but she is not lifting a finger to do anything about it. She takes it as an opinion instead of doing something about it.

We do not ask these questions just to watch the minister blush. We want an answer to these questions because she has not answered why there has been a policy of violating an act of parliament that has gone untouched by her department.

Why did she not inform the police? Was it because she was afraid of being caught, or was it that she was trying to protect the Prime Minister?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources Development
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LIB

Jane Stewart

Liberal

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, again all I can say is this is more Reform mythology. In all these undertakings what we see is members of that party talking about in the first instance $3 billion missing, and that is not the case. Why do they not say that? They then said $1 billion were missing. That is not the case. Why do they not say that?

In this case we have closed the trust funds and taken action, yet they persist. If they have information then bring it forward or else—

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources Development
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?

An hon. member

Shut up.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources Development
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LIB
?

The Speaker

Order, please. Of course the word shut up is not parliamentary, but I told members about open microphones.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources Development
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BQ

Gilles Duceppe

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, several aspects of the Placeteco affair remain rather troubling. A sum of $1 million was used to pay off a National Bank of Canada loan; $200,000 is still unaccounted for.

Will the minister tell us whether she intends to call for an investigation into Placeteco?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources Development
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LIB

Jane Stewart

Liberal

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, again we are talking about a file that has been discussed in this place on a number of occasions: on June 10, 1999; on November 4 and 5, 1999; and on March 13 and 15, 2000.

My officials have confirmed, as I have said to the House, that the moneys invested in Placeteco were for expenditures that were according to the terms and conditions of the program. Again I say in this case we are one partner and this undertaking was supported by the Government of Quebec.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources Development
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BQ

Gilles Duceppe

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit surprised by the minister's answer.

She told us to get in touch with her department for information, which we did. They told us that they could not give us the information about Placeteco that we requested because the project was currently under investigation.

I would like to know who is telling the truth: departmental officials, who tell us that the project is under investigation, or the minister, who tells us that there is no investigation, or perhaps she does not know? Who is telling the truth in all this? Why is it that we are being told that the project is under investigation?

It is her department that has answered us. I will send her the letter. She tells us there is no investigation. Who is telling the truth?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources Development
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LIB

Jane Stewart

Liberal

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have answered questions almost on a daily basis on this file. I say again that the expenditures to this company were according to the terms and conditions of the transitional jobs fund program.

This program has created employment opportunities for Canadians who otherwise would not have had them. I say again that we are but one partner and this undertaking was supported by the municipality, by the company, and by headquarters of the Bloc Quebecois, the Government of Quebec.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources Development
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BQ

Paul Crête

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, this gets harder and harder to understand.

On the one hand, the minister does not know that Placeteco is under investigation and, on the other hand, her department tells us that it is. I will read her the letter again: “In response to your request, we are unable to send you the information you requested because this project is currently under investigation”.

Will the minister tell us whether there is an investigation under way, yes or no?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources Development
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LIB

Jane Stewart

Liberal

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am standing here answering questions on this particular file. We have talked about this undertaking and again we find we have an investment that is ensuring that people in the province of Quebec are working when they otherwise would not be.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources Development
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BQ

Paul Crête

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the minister presents a sorry spectacle.

Either the officials' information is inaccurate, or the minister has completely lost control of her department.

Does the minister intend, yes or no, to have Placeteco investigated, now that we have provided her with all the facts?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources Development
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LIB

Jane Stewart

Liberal

Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to give an answer and I am glad to say that in the case of Placeteco we have a transitional jobs fund that is according to the terms and conditions of the program.

Employees are working where they would not otherwise. In fact, as is usual in all these cases, we are one partner and this was viewed to be an appropriate investment in the province of Quebec for the people of that province.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Human Resources Development
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NDP

Bill Blaikie

New Democratic Party

Mr. Bill Blaikie (Winnipeg—Transcona, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been quoted as saying that one of his goals has been to prevent the Americanization of Canada. To me this sounds passing strange for someone who allowed a major piece of Canadian infrastructure, the CNR, to go from being wholly owned by the Canadian people to being largely owned by American shareholders.

That being said, we now have another proposal before us which is the proposed merger between the CNR and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads.

I want to ask the Minister of Transport, given the many concerns that have been raised about this, how does the government propose that this issue be dealt with, both in terms of process and in terms of some of the concerns that—

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Railways
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?

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Transport.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Railways
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LIB

David Collenette

Liberal

Hon. David M. Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I think we should look at this proposed consolidation of the railways as a great opportunity for a great Canadian company. Obviously there are ramifications to the transportation policy that have to be examined.

I do not think it is particularly wise or acceptable to have Canadians go to Washington for the surface transportation board hearings all the time. I think we have to find some way here in Canada to formalize hearings on the particular merger. Perhaps that is through the standing committee. I will have a chat with my good friend the chairman of the standing committee about that in the next few days.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Railways
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NDP

Bill Blaikie

New Democratic Party

Mr. Bill Blaikie (Winnipeg—Transcona, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, we would certainly welcome an opportunity for the Standing Committee on Transport to hold hearings on this and to hear from Canadians in Canada about the possible ramifications of this merger.

While I am talking about railroads, there was speculation before the budget that there might be more money for VIA. Nothing has come forward so far.

Could the Minister of Transport tell us what the status of the future of VIA is and whether there will be more money going to VIA Rail?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Railways
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LIB

David Collenette

Liberal

Hon. David M. Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, as you know there has been extensive debate and analysis of all the options on the future of passenger rail transportation.

The standing committee talked about the renaissance of passenger rail. The government is committed to the renaissance of passenger rail. Very shortly I will be making an announcement that will guarantee passenger rail service we can be proud of for future years.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Railways
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PC

Greg Thompson

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Greg Thompson (New Brunswick Southwest, PC)

Mr. Speaker, it has been two years since the government announced its hepatitis C compensation package. Sadly not one cent has flowed to the compensation victims, not a nickel. The lawyers have been paid. Can you believe it? The lawyers have been paid but not the victims.

My question for the minister is, what excuses is he now offering up for this dismal performance? Will he personally intervene to make sure that these victims get their compensation?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Hepatitis C
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March 17, 2000