May 4, 2004

LIB

Claude Duplain

Liberal

Mr. Duplain

And what about the $17 billion?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paquette

You broke the rules.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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?

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Order, please. We will have order in the House. Please take your disagreement outside the chamber.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Palliser.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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NDP

Dick Proctor

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Halifax.

In this budget speech I will focus a good deal of my remarks on child poverty, a subject I campaigned on in 1997 and spoke about in my initial speech in the House in the fall of that year. It is something I know Canadians feel very strongly about, as I do.

Last week, in response to a question by the member for Winnipeg--Transcona, the Minister of National Defence talked about star wars being a 1980s concept just like Ed Broadbent. I want to say, through you, Madam Speaker, to the Minister of National Defence that child poverty was also a 1980s concept. In fact, Ed Broadbent moved a motion in 1989, which the House unanimously supported, that we would eliminate child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. We did not make that deadline and we are not even close to making that deadline. I think that is one of the reasons that Ed Broadbent is running again to come back to active politics. I think one of the reasons he will be elected in Ottawa Centre is that too many Canadians are appalled at what has not happened in the area of child poverty since that motion was passed unanimously by all parties in November 1989.

How is it, after all the hand wringing, the outpouring about child poverty that has been expressed and the lip service by probably all parties in the House, that we have seen so little in the past decade and a half? How is it that countries like Sweden, Norway and Finland have found ways to reduce poverty rates well below 5%, while English speaking countries, like Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, have poverty rates in excess of 15% and as high as 22.3%?

The answer from the experts is two-fold. First, a lack of a government investment, depending on our perspective, high investment by a government to reduce child poverty. Second, minimum wage. Low minimum wages almost certainly guarantee child poverty and Canada has a terrible track record, second only to the United States when it comes to low minimum wages.

Those are the main differences in child poverty levels when we look at it across the world.

In this country, low income families with children remained far below the poverty line throughout the 1980s and the 1990s. There are different categories of low income families, and lone parent families headed by a female is one category. The average gap between the median income and the poverty line is $9,000 per year, and 46% of families headed by a lone female parent live in poverty.

Children with disabilities is another crucial area because of financial stresses, first, due to the disability, and second, probably having one of the parents needing to quit his or her job, more often her job, in order to look after the disabled child.

The third category is immigrant families. Members will be interested to know that in 1980, less than one-quarter of immigrant families were living in poverty. The number has risen to nearly 36% in the intervening 20 years. It used to take 10 years for a newly arrived immigrant family to have a median income with their Canadian counterparts. That has now grown by 50% to 15 years. Forty per cent of immigrant children, where both parents are recent immigrants, are living in poverty, and the pressures are most profound in our largest cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver.

The fourth category is our aboriginals. They have one of the highest rates of child poverty. Of aboriginals living off reserve in 2001, 41% of those children live in poverty.

In my home city of Regina, aboriginal people are more than three times as likely to be in low income in the general population, as in the census of the metropolitan area of Regina. The census data showed that almost 6 of every 10 aboriginal people in Regina were living in low income in 2000.

In metropolitan areas the low income rate included three groups: the lone parent headed by a female, immigrants and aboriginals. In the 1980s most metropolitan area residents, regardless of their income, shared in economic growth to a certain extent. It is true that higher income families increased greater, but everybody got a larger piece of the economic pie. Contrary to what the parliamentary secretary said in his speech this morning, in the 1990s the growth was concentrated among high income families.

This is not NDP group think. This is from the Statistic Canada report of April 7, 2004. The two areas that are singled out are Toronto and Vancouver. It directly counters the parliamentary secretary's feel happy argument that wealth and health have both been enhanced in the country since the miracle of October 1993 when his party came to power.

The solution to child and family poverty is a structural systemic reality, and it has to be dealt with in that way. The problems are caused by a low wage economy on the one hand and inadequate income security on the other. Neither provides assurances in our country or lifts families out of poverty, nor establishes a solid income floor to ensure that they stay out of poverty. Unless and until structural sources of child poverty are addressed, there will always be new vulnerable groups that will fall into that trap, such as the immigrant parents and families, which I referenced a moment ago.

Economic growth by itself is not enough. We need instead a comprehensive package that includes labour market income security, early learning and child care and a housing program that concentrates on social programs. We know that the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation has not built a stick of social housing in the past decade.

The second area is the fact that Canada is, whether we like it or not and I do not, a low wage country, second only to the United States. Therefore, we need a significant increase in our minimum wage. People who have looked at child poverty say that we need a $10 an hour minimum wage. I realize that will result in cardiac arrest for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. However, if we are to do something about child poverty, we have to put our money where out mouth is. These experts are saying that we have to come up with not 10¢ an hour or 25¢ an hour, but a significant increase in our minimum wage laws.

I realize my time is winding down, but I want to make a brief comment or two about the phoney debate that continues to take place in the House by members of the official opposition and the government about who is scarier and who will do what to whom. The reality has been that tax rates have been flattened over several years because the official opposition proposed them. The government opposed them but then introduced those flattened tax rates and reduced taxes.

If we recall the debate prior to the 2000 election, the then Canadian Alliance was going to reduce taxes by $65 billion. The government trumped it and made it $100 billion. That is the reality. We just introduced on January 1, $4 billion in corporate tax reductions.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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LIB

John McKay

Liberal

Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member's speech concerning the issues around child poverty. Would he care to comment on some of the material that was contained in a graph in the finance committee report, which states effectively that there has been a general improvement since 1996 in the income of low income situations? The incidence of low income families with children went from 15.8% in 1996 down to 11.4% in year 2000. The absolute number of children on the low income threshold went from 1.1 million to 867,000.

The member and I would probably agree that one is too many, but would he not say that there is significant progress? Would he not agree that in 1996, 14% of everyone was below the low income cut-off line, where in the year 2001 it was 10.4%? In other words that is a 25% improvement. With children it is a 31% improvement over the same period of time, 1996 to 2001. In Ontario there was a 30.9% improvement, from 12.3% down to 8.5% of people below the cut-off line.

One of the more disturbing issues, however, is with respect to a single female parent. There was a significant improvement of 31% decline over that same period of time, but still a fairly significant and persistent problem with poverty and single parenthood.

I put it to the hon. member that over this period of time, coincidentally a period of time in which the government ran surpluses, there was a significant improvement in the lives of some of Canada's most vulnerable people.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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NDP

Dick Proctor

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dick Proctor

Madam Speaker, I guess we can each look at our statistics and challenge one another. I am looking at child poverty rates in Canada between 1973 and 2001. The source is the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto and data taken from StatsCanada, Income Trends in Canada 2001.

Let me just reference 1989 because that was the year that Mr. Broadbent's resolution received unanimous support of the House. According to this graph, the child poverty rate was exactly 15%. Then it went up in the next four years to reach a high point of about 20.3% in 1993. Then there was some slight reduction, but not nearly as dramatic as the parliamentary secretary would suggest. There was a gradual reduction until 2001, where it sits miraculously as 15.2%.

In other words, over the 12 years, between 1989 and 2001, it went up 0.2%, which is hardly anything to get very excited about. Obviously it got worse, not better.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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NDP

Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to briefly speak on Bill C-30, an implementation bill with respect to the government's most recently introduced budget. Sometimes the debate can seem to be somewhat ritualistic.

However, I am very pleased and I want to congratulate the member for Palliser for zeroing in on the issue of child poverty. If the current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, a supposedly Liberal member, is satisfied with this government's record in terms of reducing child poverty, then it illustrates, better than almost any other public policy issue that one could use, how little difference there is today between the Liberal government opposite, the no longer Liberal government opposite and the no longer Progressive Conservative opposition party.

I listened carefully to the words that were uttered by the member for Scarborough East. In itself it is telling that we have now within this so-called Liberal government a parliamentary secretary specifically assigned to advance, and I would presume accelerate, the rate of privatization taking place under this so-called Liberal government.

I listened to his speech on Bill C-30. I then listened a few moments later to the speech by the member for Prince George—Peace River. If we went back 10 years ago, his party was significantly different in terms of its policies and priorities than the Liberal government was at the time. However, when we listened to those two speeches side by side in juxtaposition in the House this morning, I would defy anyone to see any fundamental difference between those two political parties.

Canadians need a serious progressive alternative. That progressive government in power would have brought in a very different set of priorities in the budget we are now debating, and the implementation bill that is now before us.

I just about fell off my chair when I heard the prescriptions that were offered up by the parliamentary secretary for privatization to genuinely improve the well-being of Canadians. No wonder we are making so little progress in tackling child poverty. We heard the member for Scarborough East say that we needed to grow the pie. When did we last hear that as a banner headline all over this country? It came from one of the contestants for the leadership of the no longer Progressive Conservative Party.

The contention that Canadians are better off today because this Liberal government has pursued vigorously and conscientiously the policies advanced by the Conservative Party is exactly what is wrong with what is happening.

We heard that there were two ways to increase productivity. One is to have people working harder and the other is to have people working smarter. I want to take those two prescriptions and relate them right down on the ground at the grassroots level in my riding of Halifax as to what is happening in the lives of a good many Canadians. They are supposed to be better off as a result of this government's pursuit of those ultra conservative prescriptions to supposedly to do something to ensure that we eliminate child poverty, as this Parliament unanimously resolved to do in 1989.

Let me take first the example of child care. Child care workers in Halifax are working their guts out for terrible pay, and they cannot work any harder, despite the fact that they have taken the training that has allowed them to work smarter.

Child care centres are closing because governments have not increased the per diem funding for those child care centres serving low income families that are also working their guts out, harder and harder, for poor pay. It has not been possible to increase their operating budgets because per diems have not increased. The result is that we have child care centres closing all over the place. How that works to support working people in being able to better support their families and work harder and work smarter, I do not know.

I want to speak about the medical residents, just one example of health care workers in my riding who are working their guts out. They are often working 36 hour and 40 hour shifts to try to meet the needs of patients because hospitals are under-resourced and short-staffed, because the government has taken tens of billions of dollars out of our health care system. Yet the parliamentary secretary talks about people needing to work smarter and harder. Those medical residents with whom I met in the QE II Hospital in my riding on Sunday during a medical residents awareness week initiative could not work any smarter or any harder.

And do we know what? Their families are paying a terrible penalty for how hard the residents are working and they themselves are paying a terrible penalty in massive debt loads. In one case, a husband and wife team of medical doctors has a debt load of $212,000 before they even begin to earn the kind of pay that people imagine medical doctors earning.

I want to speak about disabled persons in my riding. I met with a disabled man in my riding who has been absolutely breaking his back trying to get employment. He has been trying to generate employment with supposed support from programs that have been so shrunken down he cannot even get a foot in the door to get a job to work harder and work smarter.

I am going to finish with a reference to what is happening to our senior citizens. Last Friday I had the privilege of attending a tribute dinner to Dr. F. R. MacKinnon, Fred MacKinnon, who served the Province of Nova Scotia and the people of Canada as one of the most senior long-serving deputy ministers in this country. For 55 years he served the people of my province of Nova Scotia and the people of Canada, driving progressive social policy. He had a lot to say about what is happening to seniors today, particularly as they reach their pension years.

He says they have been robbed of adequate pensions because of the policies corporations have been allowed to pursue due to inadequate government regulations, because of privatization, and because of policies pursued by government itself. Because of privatization, because of contracting out, because of shipping out the risk and shrinking down the benefits, people do not have the kinds of pensions that allow them to deal with the everyday demands of life.

The fact that the parliamentary secretary, presumably speaking on behalf of the government, can be proud of the results of the government's implementation of these ultra-conservative policies is very instructive to the people of Canada as we go to the polls in the next few days or weeks, as we surely will.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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LIB

John McKay

Liberal

Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I find the speech given by the member for Halifax utterly bizarre. For goodness' sake, over the past five years, from 1996 to 2001, the low income rate for all Canadians has dropped by 25%. I would have thought that the hon. member would celebrate that. It will hardly be the end-all, but for goodness' sake, when rates are dropping 25% for all persons, 31% for children, and even 31% for single parents, then surely to goodness this is something to be celebrated rather than criticized.

Is there more to be done? Of course there is more to be done. There will always be more to be done, but for goodness' sake, when the rates are actually moving in the right direction then surely to goodness the hon. member will admit that things are moving in the right direction.

With respect to the so-called issue of privatization--and the NDP improperly characterizes triple-Ps as privatization--I put it to the hon. member that other jurisdictions such as Australia, Great Britain and other European countries do not have the juvenile dialogue the hon. member's party represents. They have actually gone to positions where they have put up a PFI and they evaluate a particular project as to whether it is more appropriately done through government-only financing or through P3s. In virtually all instances where it has been decided to do P3s, 88% of the time they come in on budget and on time, whereas the government-only initiatives come in on time and on budget only 30% of the time.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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NDP

Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party

Ms. Alexa McDonough

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond directly to a couple of matters the parliamentary secretary spoke about.

The child poverty rate in this country is higher today than it was in 1989 when this Parliament resolved to eliminate child poverty in Canada. The child poverty rate at the time was 15%. Today it is 16%.

Maybe we need to have a debate on that alone, because the reality is denied by members opposite, not just by the parliamentary secretary--I do not want to pick on him--but by other members as well. The reality is that they deny the fact that we have a deepening of child poverty, that we have a racialization of child poverty in this country and that we have a feminization of child poverty. But however it is described, child poverty is at a higher rate today in the country than it was in 1989 when the Broadbent resolution was adopted unanimously by Parliament.

The government in power for the last 11 years has been the Liberal government, and the more it has implemented the Conservative policies of the Alliance, the more we have seen a deepening of that child poverty.

I want to speak briefly about the privatization that the parliamentary secretary applauds and lauds. He spoke about privatization in Great Britain. I have just received a report on the disastrous effect of privatization of the British railways. It is a disastrous report; they are in such trouble with that railway that they are trying to figure out how to re-nationalize it.

Then we have the airlines. In New Zealand airlines were privatized and deregulated. The airlines turned into a total disaster, looking a lot like Air Canada looks today, and what did the new Labour government in New Zealand do? What was it forced to do when it got back in power? It was forced to re-nationalize the airline because no other way of turning around the situation could be found.

So that member may know of a lot of privatization successes in terms of the corporations making big money: it is public money for private gain. That is what privatization is. When it comes to health care privatization, this government keeps speaking out of both sides of its mouth on that issue. I have to say that if this government thinks it is going to run an election on the contention that it is the champion of public and not for profit health in this country, I say bring on that election.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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LIB

Dennis Mills

Liberal

Mr. Dennis Mills (Toronto—Danforth, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on the budget implementation bill. In my remarks today, I want to deal with accountability of budget dollars and the whole issue of value for taxpayers' money. I think that when Canadians hear about our budget process and the large numbers that go through for various government programs and services, as important as all those program dollars are, it is really important for Canadians to understand that we have a system of accountability for those budget dollars, a system of verifying value for taxpayers' money.

I want to refer to something I said in the House about a year ago:

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by acknowledging the work done by the member for St. Albert as the chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. I have watched his work over the last few years and it is an extraordinary piece of government accountability that he organizes through his committee experience.

Over the last 10 weeks I have had the great privilege of sitting on the public accounts committee, where we are in the process of responding to the Auditor General's report on the whole issue of government-wide audit of sponsorship, advertising and public opinion research.

I believe that most Canadians, and in fact 90% of Canadians, have an understanding, because of misinformed or improperly written journalistic stories, that $100 million of taxpayer money was stolen. In fact, a few weeks ago in our committee, one of the members said repeatedly that Canadians want to know who stole the $100 million. When Canadians hear that on a repeated basis through radio talk shows, through television, and when they see it in print articles, it immediately fractures the trust in the House of Commons. It immediately fractures and breaks the trust in all of us who have been dedicated to public service.

Part of my remarks this morning will be an attempt to try to put on the record during the budget implementation speech some facts that are extremely relevant for Canadians to know in terms of value for money. It is so important, because if we do not have a system of trust with Canadians, then in future times when we decide we need to use government advertising and government communication systems to educate Canadians on the very things we are passing in the House of Commons, we are going to end up creating such a gap between what is going on in the House and where the public is.

I want to first of all clear up something, because it is in fairness to the Auditor General. Again, a few years ago in the House I stood and asked that the Auditor General's budget be quadrupled, because I did not think that $1 million a year per department for audit fees was really sufficient. If we do not have sufficient resources to really do a job thoroughly, in the end we all suffer.

I do not want anyone to take my remarks in any way, shape or form as being critical of the Auditor General because I have always supported Ms. Fraser. However, I want to illustrate where misperception can cause great frustration for all of us as parliamentarians.

I want to begin by reading into the record that Ms. Fraser said yesterday that she had never, ever said that $100 million was stolen. I think most Canadians saw that on television last night and it was reported in some press this morning. The point I want to illustrate in my remarks today is that the system of doing the audit on the whole sponsorship file is something that I personally believe needs review.

We all know that over the last five years, for the period that the Auditor General did her analysis, there were 1,986 special events or projects all across Canada. I stress across Canada because initially the press reports were that $100 million went to Quebec Liberal-friendly ad agencies. That is a dangerous thing when it is factually not correct. The reality is that about $65 million went into projects in Quebec over the five years but the balance, approximately $30 million, went to agencies outside of Quebec, to agencies in Atlantic Canada, British Columbia and Ontario.

This is a key point for all Canadians to realize. I have been very concerned about the fact that this was becoming a Quebec-centred mistake. The reality is that the program was to serve all of Canada. It was to serve every region of our country.

The second point is very important for Canadians to understand. This goes back to the work in public accounts on accountability and value for taxpayers' money. I refer to a letter that was delivered to the committee on April 26, signed by Sheila Fraser, Auditor General, wherein she identified the 53 special events that formed the basis of her formulation or judgment on the entire 1,986 events.

Paragraph 3.60 of her report states:

Most of the 53 files in our audit sample contained no assessment of the project's merits or even any criteria for assessing merit. No file contained the rationale supporting the decision to sponsor the event. Furthermore, in 64% of the files we reviewed, there was no information about the event organizers, no description of the project, and no discussion of the visibility the Government of Canada would achieve by sponsoring the event.

The Auditor General, using that criteria, has judged certain events, and I am going to name a few of them, where there was no assessment of the projects' merits or no discussion of visibility. These are some samples: the Pan Am games; the Bluenose , which went to 38 cities in Atlantic Canada and even through the Great Lakes; the Molson Indy in Vancouver; the Montreal Canadiens hockey club; the Rimouski minor hockey tournament; the Nagano winter Olympics.

Just think, there was no assessment of the projects' merits or visibility of the Government of Canada. I say humbly that all of Canada saw all of those events. We all know those events happened. I personally question why in the audit process we would not double check and make sure that the Pan Am games happened, that the Olympic games happened. If one would check, it would be pretty obvious that these things happened.

I want to give a very specific example about Rimouski because I was the one responsible on that particular project. I was the chair of the House of Commons committee on sport at the time. The member from Rimouski approached me about a small minor league tournament in the member's riding. I appealed on behalf of the member for a $10,000 sponsorship in the Bloc Quebecois member's riding. The event happened and it was widely reported.

Under paragraph 3.60 it says there was no assessment of the project's merits or no discussion of the visibility. With respect and humility, I have to ask myself, is this a fair analysis? I am not saying that there were not other projects where maybe we did not get that, but to extrapolate from 53 projects when all 1,986 were in the same category I think is something that needs to be reviewed.

Paragraph 3.69 of the Auditor General's report states:

There was little evidence that any communications agency had analyzed the results of sponsored events in our sample.... There was no post mortem report and therefore no evidence that the government had obtained the visibility that it paid for.

I have difficulty with this because one of the projects that was identified in the Auditor General's list of 53 was the team Canada China project.

Canadians should know that Vickers & Benson, an award winning agency from English Canada, received a little over $9 million, almost 10% of the total fees and production costs, to produce 30 28-minute specials that went on television all over China. Those 30 28-minute shows talked about doing business with Canada, the cultural assets of Canada, tourism in Canada, and on and on. A third party did a post mortem. It was reported in committee two weeks ago by the chairman of the board of the agency, Mr. Hayter, again from Toronto, that the value added on that investment of $9 million was $51.5 million. However, it is one of the clouded programs; it is one of the stained programs.

Under paragraph 3.60 it was no in terms of assessment of the project's merits, but the auditor said yes in paragraph 3.69 that the post mortem was there. I would go one step further and say this is an example where the value plus, the net gain to Canadian taxpayers, was in excess of $40 million on that one project.

I want to give an example of another project. I have the reports in my hand. They were listed as well. It is 17th on the Auditor General's list of the 53 out of 1,986 projects she reviewed. It is the post mortem and economic impact analysis and has to do with the Government of Canada and the Molson's Indy in Vancouver.

The report analyzes every bit of GST and PST. It is the most sophisticated breakdown of taxes: initial, direct, indirect, business, property, personal. Again, the value in excess of the investment is 10 to 1. When we are dealing with Canadian taxpayers' money and we are talking about budget implementation, I believe that when projects are being evaluated, if there is a value plus or a value added, especially if it is an incredible amount, it should not be put into a file where there is a cloud over it.

For the Molson Indy in Vancouver, which is a car race, under paragraph 3.60, it says that no, there was no assessment of the project's merits. It says that there was no rationale supporting the decision to sponsor the event, no discussion of the visibility the Government of Canada achieved by sponsoring the event. On the Molson Indy in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, the Government of Canada's presence is not only national, it is international. It goes to literally hundreds of countries.

It was no on the assessment of the merits but it was yes, the auditors did in fact see the post mortem. Even though the auditors saw the post mortem and the value added was there, Canadians feel that the project was stained.

We have a very difficult challenge here on a good day of building trust with Canadians. It is really important that when things take off in the media that are not factually correct, even if it is unpopular, even if it means we have to go against the wind in terms of public opinion, it is our responsibility to get to the facts and the truth and not just piggyback on a whole tirade of factually incorrect statements.

In the books and records on some of these files, 53 files in fact, the Auditor General said that in 49% of our files, there was no post mortem. I am not suggesting for a second that we cannot keep better books and records on this file, but it is the idea that we leave with Canadians. And thank God for the Auditor General who came in yesterday and corrected statements that were being made and articles that were being written that $100 million was stolen. It is the duty of all members when they are working on value for taxpayers' money that they do not just go with the lemmings, but that they stand up and get to the facts, that they get to the truth.

Therefore, I move:

That the question be now put.

I want to end my remarks by saying that in no way, shape or form am I questioning that those files were not up to speed, but we also have a duty to get to the bottom of this file, as we have been doing so well in the public accounts committee. Where there is value for money, we should also acknowledge that. Those files that are stained, that is the work for the RCMP.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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CA

Garry Breitkreuz

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Once a member has made a motion like that, he cannot continue to speak according to the rules of the House.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member is right. He should not have spoken, but the damage is done, so let us move on to questions or comments.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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CA

Randy White

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Randy White (Langley—Abbotsford, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, in the budget the government has talked much about a lot of general issues, but I am concerned about the avian flu in my area and why such contingencies like this are not addressed in budgets.

In my area in particular, we have tried to draw out the government for commitments: a cheque for the chickens it is killing; a cheque in advance for the other costs related to neutralizing material; shipping material out; downtime on farms, which could be very extensive; and also a deferral of income tax on the money that government provides to farmers.

In addition to that, we are looking for uniqueness in the way farmers are treated: specialty farmers in terms of their quail, ducks, pigeons and so on; and a national strategy on how to deal with such catastrophes.

I would like the member to address the House on why it is that we have so much money in this country--the Liberals seem to find ways of spending it, even blowing it out the door the wrong way--yet, hardworking farmers in our country have to go on hands and knees to the government rather than the government coming to our farmers and asking what they need, how soon they need it, and how can it get them back on their feet again.

I find it really discouraging that we have tried to wring out answers on this stuff from the government and we still cannot get them. Maybe this member, who is influential in the money area, can tell us why?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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LIB

Dennis Mills

Liberal

Mr. Dennis Mills

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments. I used to be influential, but I have my own problems in Toronto and I am seemingly having challenges there too getting money out of the system. I understand that there has already been $300 million committed for the influenza file.

We are coming to the end of the session. Some of us will come back and some of us will not. I want to say to the hon. member that the greatest frustration I have had in the 16 years in this town is getting things through the system after prime ministers and ministers have announced them.

My greatest fear with this whole new regime of whistleblowing and the way we have put the whole public service into an almost frozen mode is that the net losers are the very people the member was talking about. Rather than creating a public service where ingenuity is sponsored, celebrated and rewarded, we are creating a public service right now--and we have great talent in our public service--where we are putting our best and brightest public servants in leg chains because they are afraid to make a decision in processing something for fear they will get their heads chopped off.

All I can say to the member is to be persistent and keep reminding the people who write the cheques in this place about the pain of his constituents.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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NDP

Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by the member for Toronto—Danforth. I do not want to be unfair, but it was a combination of defend the indefensible and blame the messenger. By the time we heard about how it was the problem of news stories not properly written that people had a figure of $100 million in their minds, I was left wondering if the member failed to understand the clarification provided by the Auditor General yesterday.

As I understand, the $100 million figure is not the right figure for people to have in their minds. In fact, the right figure for people to be concerned about is $250 million because, as the Auditor General said, in fact $250 million is unaccounted for. It is only, and I say “only”, $100 million that appears as though it may actually have gone straight into the patronage pot and to line the pockets of Liberal friends, but all of the $250 million needs to be accounted for.

I would like to ask the member something much more specific and something I hope he would be concerned about on the ground. I am sure he is aware that there is a vast range of charitable organizations--community based, non-profit organizations--providing various programs and services to Canadians who are absolutely nickeled and dimed to death to account for every single solitary penny that they spend. So much so that sometimes it seems as though there is a make work project for hard pressed understaffed community agencies to have to account for every single cent.

Can the member indicate whether he shares the concern of a great many hard working citizens working through non-profit and volunteer organizations, that as a result of the whole ad scam--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Order, please. The hon. member for Toronto--Danforth.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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LIB

Dennis Mills

Liberal

Mr. Dennis Mills

Mr. Speaker, I will create a list of the cultural organizations, amateur sport organizations, and festivals that were supported by the government over five years. I will send that list to Jack Layton, the leader of the NDP. I will ask him to check off those cultural and sport organizations that the NDP does not want to support. I defy him to check off one because if he did, he would lose a tremendous number of votes.

On another specific example, I totally agree with the member. I think that the excessive paper burden that the Government of Canada is putting on social organizations, that do not have the resources or the equipment, is pathetic.

Let us remember how that all started. That was exacerbated by the 37 files that were part of Human Resources Development Canada that we now know, when it did a thorough analysis, that it was not a billion dollars that was missing. It was a very small amount. The fact that it was small is not unimportant. It is important.

However, the reality is that 99% of that money went for good social causes. Again, I would defy Jack Layton to strike off one of those social causes in my riding that were properly funded over the last 10 years.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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CA

Dick Harris

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Richard Harris (Prince George—Bulkley Valley, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on something that my colleague from Langley—Abbotsford said earlier. It concerns the government's failure to provide contingencies for disasters that may happen throughout the country such as the avian flu in the lower mainland of B.C.

I also want to talk about the disastrous pine beetle epidemic in the forests of British Columbia which has at this point devastated the interior of British Columbia which is far bigger than the entire area of Vancouver Island. That infestation has been going on for about seven, eight, nine or ten years now. While the government has been aware of it, it has sat back and offered zero help to fight that infestation. In fact, it has denied it. That beetle is now on the western side of Jasper and Banff national parks and due to infect forests under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Almost two years ago the Province of B.C. put forward to the federal government a six year beetle attack plan requiring about $500 million in total to be successful. The province asked the federal government to come to the table with half of that money in consideration of the billions of dollars of taxes that have come from the forest industry of B.C. to the government's coffers. To this date nothing has happened.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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LIB

Dennis Mills

Liberal

Mr. Dennis Mills

Mr. Speaker, I have read Brian Fawcett's book on clear cutting where he talks extensively about this particular issue of the beetle.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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CA

Dick Harris

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Richard Harris

Brian Fawcett is not necessarily an expert on the beetle.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Budget Implementation Act, 2004
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May 4, 2004