March 8, 2004

LIB

Stephen Owen

Liberal

Hon. Stephen Owen (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure what the member's reference to 1998 is, but with respect to today, the $2.3 million contract through Lafleur Communications to the Bluenose foundation is now being investigated. We have heard that the services were not provided. We have withheld funds from Lafleur Communications and we are suing it in court to recover the funds. This is not a criminal investigation. We do not conduct those in government, but we do conduct litigation and we do withhold funds until we get to the bottom of this.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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PC

Bill Casey

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bill Casey (Cumberland—Colchester, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, maybe the government should conduct criminal investigations.

The minister said the cheque was written for $2.3 million. He also said he was withholding funds. How does the government do that? If it wrote the cheque, it is gone. Did the government write the cheque or is it withholding the funds? Not only that, there are six grants altogether, with three different ad firms. We want to know how much money was stolen from the Bluenose .

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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LIB

Stephen Owen

Liberal

Hon. Stephen Owen (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, we as well want to know how much money has gone astray, which is why we have a public inquiry, which is why we have a special counsel for financial recovery, which is why we have referred 18 matters to the RCMP and which is why we have the public accounts committee, in which all members of the government are participating and cooperating.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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CA

James Rajotte

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the minister of public works, formerly the minister for western economic diversification, stated in July 2003 that his department was ready to provide direct support to workers laid off due to the softwood lumber dispute.

Instead, the softwood lumber money was diverted, stalled, fought over and delayed by internal fighting within the federal government. Four hundred and forty-five days after the original announcement on December 2002, this money has not reached these workers.

Why did the public works minister fail to deliver this money to the people who deserve it; the softwood lumber workers in British Columbia?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Softwood Lumber
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LIB

Rey D. Pagtakhan

Liberal

Hon. Rey Pagtakhan (Minister of Western Economic Diversification, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would say that to have $32 million for 83 projects, creating 2,000 jobs and leveraging another $68 million is good news for the members of the British Columbia community.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Softwood Lumber
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CA

James Rajotte

Canadian Alliance

Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, that is absolute nonsense. The government announced this program in December 2002. Four hundred and forty-five days later, the only money the public works minister has spent is $5 million to hire 60 bureaucrats. Not one dime has gone to the workers who deserve it.

The Liberals has made big announcements on softwood lumber and beef exports, but the money never gets to the people to deserve it. Why is the government failing to deliver to the softwood lumber workers who deserve this money?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Softwood Lumber
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LIB

Rey D. Pagtakhan

Liberal

Hon. Rey Pagtakhan (Minister of Western Economic Diversification, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the member should check his information correctly. They are not bureaucrats. They are members of the community futures development program. We have started due diligence and, therefore, that explains in part the delay in the delivery of the program.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Softwood Lumber
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BQ

Ghislain Fournier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Ghislain Fournier (Manicouagan, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, since 1997, changes to employment insurance have allowed more fishers to be eligible for two claims for benefits a year. Nonetheless, HRDC has never personally advised them that they were eligible for supplementary benefits.

How could the government stay quiet for all these years while the fishers have been publicly denouncing the terrible conditions they and their families have been living in for so long?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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LIB

Joe Volpe

Liberal

Hon. Joseph Volpe (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, obviously, there have been appeals about the current situation. The member has just reminded us that there were different responses, as can happen with a process that allows people to appeal past decisions.

That said, I am happy to announce that the department will respond in a very positive manner to the solution proposed by the court.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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BQ

Ghislain Fournier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Ghislain Fournier (Manicouagan, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, how could the government be so negligent toward workers when it could have spared them a great deal of hardship by personally informing them of their rights with respect to employment insurance?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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LIB

Joe Volpe

Liberal

Hon. Joseph Volpe (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is not a matter of taking away employees' rights. I just said that there was a process in place. There were problems that have just been corrected because, obviously, employees are able to appeal past decisions.

We are now implementing a process that will prevent problems like the current one.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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CA

Jay Hill

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the military ombudsman's report released today found the government forced soldiers into debt by breaking their promise to pay them a mere $50 per diem while on a training course.

George Radwanski, Charles Boyer, Pierre Théberge, Denise Tremblay and now Lucie McClung have spent over a million tax dollars shamelessly on their extravagant meals and lavish travel.

Will the government refund what it has clawed back from our soldiers and instead go after these bureaucrats who have blown hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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LIB

David Pratt

Liberal

Hon. David Pratt (Minister of National Defence, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I can say in all honesty that I am not entirely happy with the way this matter was dealt with by the Department of National Defence, especially because the soldiers involved appear to have received some mixed message with respect to what they were or were not entitled to.

I am in the process of talking to my officials on this. We want these soldiers to be dealt with fairly and equitably. I am hoping we can bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion within the next few weeks.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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CA

Jay Hill

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the government and that defence minister have now had three months to deal with this blatantly unfair decision. It took the ombudsman making his report public before that defence minister decided to ask his officials to look at it. That is shameful.

Why does this government punish our soldiers for a paltry $50 a day, while turning a blind eye to the soldiers' commander-in-chief, Governor General Clarkson, when she blew over $5 million on just one trip?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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LIB

David Pratt

Liberal

Hon. David Pratt (Minister of National Defence, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the Department of National Defence in this circumstance is trying to follow the Treasury Board rules, which were put in place to safeguard the taxpayers' interest. I am attempting to do that. I think we can reach an end state where both interests are protected in terms of the Treasury Board rules and the interests of these particular soldiers.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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LIB

Don Boudria

Liberal

Hon. Don Boudria (Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs about a very important health issue. In May 2003 the World Health Assembly, with the support of the Canadian government, approved the tobacco convention framework to control tobacco use. At the time, we said in Canada that we would ratify it as soon as possible.

Will the minister now commit that the Government of Canada will ratify this important convention, while at the same time remembering to provide incentives for Canadian tobacco farmers to produce other crops?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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LIB

Bill Graham

Liberal

Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell for his important question. As he and the House know, Canada played an important role in the negotiations of this important convention. We are committed to ratifying it as soon as possible.

As the hon. member also knows, Canada does not ratify conventions until such time as provincial, regulatory and stakeholder engagement has been done. This is what we are doing.

As he points out, the convention has important provisions in it for farmers. We will be working with all stakeholders to ensure that the convention applies in Canada, for the good of our health and for the good of our farming community.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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CA

Roy H. Bailey

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, last week Veterans Affairs issued 12,000 health care identification cards. These cards contained confidential and personal information, but they were sent to the wrong people. How did this breach of privacy take place?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Veterans Affairs
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LIB

John McCallum

Liberal

Hon. John McCallum (Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, there was an unfortunate incident in which Blue Cross erroneously sent out quite a number of cards to the wrong destination. I am informing the House that those individuals are being contacted and are being written to by my department.

In addition, my department has been in contact with the privacy commissioner to ensure that there are no serious breaches in this regard.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Veterans Affairs
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CA

Roy H. Bailey

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, who is responsible for protecting the security of our veterans' personal health information, the government or a private contracted company?

Is the Minister of Veterans Affairs willing to stand here today and take personal responsibility for this critical error?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Veterans Affairs
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March 8, 2004