Jean-Robert GAUTHIER

GAUTHIER, The Hon. Jean-Robert, C.M., O.Ont., D.Ed.(Hon.), D.C.

Personal Data

Ottawa--Vanier (Ontario)
Birth Date
October 22, 1929
Deceased Date
December 10, 2009

Parliamentary Career

October 30, 1972 - May 9, 1974
  Ottawa East (Ontario)
July 8, 1974 - March 26, 1979
  Ottawa--Vanier (Ontario)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State for Urban Affairs (October 10, 1975 - September 30, 1977)
May 22, 1979 - December 14, 1979
  Ottawa--Vanier (Ontario)
February 18, 1980 - July 9, 1984
  Ottawa--Vanier (Ontario)
September 4, 1984 - October 1, 1988
  Ottawa--Vanier (Ontario)
  • Whip of the Liberal Party (September 17, 1984 - January 1, 1990)
  • Chief Opposition Whip (September 17, 1984 - January 1, 1990)
November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
  Ottawa--Vanier (Ontario)
  • Whip of the Liberal Party (September 17, 1984 - January 1, 1990)
  • Chief Opposition Whip (September 17, 1984 - January 1, 1990)
  • Liberal Party Deputy House Leader (February 2, 1989 - September 1, 1990)
  • Deputy House Leader of the Official Opposition (February 2, 1989 - September 1, 1990)
  • Official Opposition House Leader (February 7, 1990 - January 29, 1991)
  • Liberal Party House Leader (February 7, 1990 - January 29, 1991)
October 25, 1993 - November 23, 1994
  Ottawa--Vanier (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 5 of 1081)

March 25, 1994

Mr. Jean-Robert Gauthier (Ottawa-Vanier)

moved that Bill C-207, an act to amend the Auditor General Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour to introduce Bill C-207 and to recommend that it be passed.

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Auditor General Act, in order to allow the Auditor General to report to the House upon completion of his report or as he deems necessary.

I am the adoptive sponsor of this legislation, since many other members of this House have thought of this initiative. As well, former colleagues in previous Parliaments have tried to have such a measure passed under circumstances which may have been different from those prevailing today.

This private member's bill was approved by nearly all of the Public Accounts Committee chairpersons of the last 15 or 16 years. The bill is also based on several recommendations from the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, and others. I am pleased to say that the Auditor General of Canada, Mr. Desautels, also gave me his support in a three-page letter which he sent to me last March 22, and which I will be glad to show to hon. members if they wish to take a look at it.

The Auditor General of Canada is a senior civil servant of the Parliament of Canada; he is an official of this House. This is a very important position. That person has the responsibility of reviewing expenditures authorized by the House, and must tell us if these expenditures are done in an efficient and effective manner, and if they meet the objectives.

So, the Auditor General's report, which is currently tabled annually-members are familiar with this thick document containing about 750 pages-is very important, since it allows us to evaluate the government's business and strategic management. This report provides essential data to help parliamentarians and government to better evaluate the relevancy of a program, and to correct within a reasonable delay administrative practices which are not sound.

At present, the Auditor General must table his report on or before December 31, in the year to which the report relates. Yet, the evaluation included in the report covers the fiscal year ending on March 31 of the previous year. Since the evaluation of a department or an agency can take up to two years, this means that the information contained in the Auditor General's annual report is sometimes more than three years old. This, in my opinion, hinders the efforts of the House to make the government and its management accountable to Canadians. The information is often not up to date and even less relevant.

Indeed, sometimes, after so many years, managers responsible for the activities scrutinized have been transferred, or the incumbent at the time the Public Accounts Committee conducts its review has no idea of what happened, or was not there at the time, or does not care about what happened or what was reviewed by the Auditor General.

Of course, a department's management team may have changed since the evaluation was done, since the department is informed during the evaluation conducted by the Auditor General. In fact, it even participates in the exercise and it is invited by the Auditor General to submit reasons explaining the situation which will be exposed in the annual report.

Generally speaking, however, it is only after the Auditor General of Canada has tabled his report in the House that we parliamentarians are informed that departments or agencies are under pressure to make the necessary changes to these bad administrative practices.

Delays cost taxpayers billions of dollars. I will give you just a few of many examples. In his assessment of programs for seniors, as described in chapter 18 of his last report, the Auditor General of Canada observed significant deficiencies in the management of the Canada Pension Plan program. For instance, pensions were paid to deceased beneficiaries. Systems and procedures were inadequate to identify, control and collect these overpayments.

According to the Auditor General, overpayments range from $120 million to $220 million. If the act had allowed him to, the Auditor General could have tabled his report four months earlier, thus helping to save a large part of the hundreds of millions of dollars lost.

The dividends paid to Canadian companies by foreign affiliates have deprived the government of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues. I am not exaggerating, as close to $400 million have been lost.

Before the 1993 general election was called, the Committee on Public Accounts tabled a substantive report proposing measures to correct these practices costing money to the government. In the time available between the audit and the tabling of the report, the committee would have been able to ask the

Department of Finance, before the election, to submit its response to Parliament within the 150 days provided for in the Regulations for tabling a departmental response to a parliamentary committee.

The delay is frustrating for the members of the Committee on Public Accounts who worked hard to try to correct a situation that is very costly for the government. If we go back ten years, many of you will remember the scientific research tax credit, which cost the government some $2 billion over ten months.

In 1985, the Committee on Public Accounts sharply criticized the Auditor General of Canada for not bringing earlier before Parliament the results of his audit. But the act forbids him to do so. He may table only one report annually. That is where my bill comes in. I want to change this situation. Had he informed Parliament seven months earlier, the Auditor General might have allowed us to save over $1 billion.

In his last report the Auditor General of Canada devoted an important chapter, chapter 22, to airport transfers. The auditor might have easily presented his report in May or June 1993 when his evaluation was terminated. If so, the report could have had a great influence on the Pearson airport transaction, for example. Unfortunately the auditor's report was tabled after the event.

Chapter 15 in the same report indicated that $587 million was spent by the government on the northern cod adjustment and recovery program without clear legislative authority. The Auditor General of Canada raised grave doubts regarding some of the hurried allowances given to those ineligible persons who ought not to have benefited from that program. The auditor might have tabled his report in March of last year rather than wait for December thereby again saving Canadians millions of dollars.

Particularly in this era of budgetary restraints it is imperative to improve governmental management practices. It is imperative for us to have better accountability for public funds. Moreover, I say that we in the Liberal Party said in our red book during the election that we would exercise unwavering discipline in controlling federal spending and would reorder current spending priorities to make sure that maximum return was obtained on each investment.

I am of the opinion that punctual reporting by the auditor without being the only solution would give the Liberal government of today additional tools to allow cutting of waste while realizing valuable objectives. Therefore the adoption of my bill would constitute a step in the right direction.

Some would suggest that punctual reporting, and I have heard it, would possibly reinforce or feed the media hype over this annual report. As we all know it gets the attention of the media for maybe two or three days a year, possibly a week sometimes, but no more. After that it pales into oblivion and the public accounts committee is asked to look into some things that sometimes date several years and sometimes are frustrating for us to examine because we know the press are not interested.

Let us not kid ourselves. Some people want to eliminate waste. We as parliamentarians have an obligation to the people of Canada to do our best to try to meet that challenge. Canadians want to be assured that legislators have all the information to reduce wasteful spending in the government infrastructure.

Moreover, the last annual report of the Auditor General for 1992-93 contains 775 pages. As I said it is a huge volume. It is complicated. It is indeed technical sometimes and it is very important in my view. The report, in my experience having chaired the public accounts committee, is a source of invaluable information for members of Parliament who want to know how the government administers public funds.

It brings forth information to improve the management of public funds. It would make us more efficient. It would make the government certainly more effective in trying to come to grips with the huge administration of some $160 billion a year.

The public accounts committee, as we all know, has been a very non-partisan committee over the years. That is the way it should be. It should be able to plan and order its business in a more efficient and quicker way of doing business. It should be able to profit from the examples set in England, Australia, New Zealand and other parliamentary systems similar to ours where the study or the overview of public accounts is done on a more regular basis by Parliament.

I would be astonished, for example in my riding of Ottawa-Vanier, if a business person or somebody said to me that he had to wait a year and a half before knowing if he made a profit and that he had to wait another two years to figure out which corrective he had to use to reduce the losses. Nobody could operate a business that way. The government should not do it that way either. I would hope the House would see fit to support the bill which only presents a small amendment but in my view a very important change to the way we do business.

I mentioned at the beginning of my speech it is useful to note that the Auditor General wrote to me on March 22, 1994. I want to read into the record one paragraph of that letter if I have time:

This office would benefit from efficiency improvements resulting from completing work in progress rather than having to put it aside and then pick it up again at the time of tabling of the annual report. This disruptive effect of the annual report tabling on the smooth and orderly flow of work through this office cannot be overemphasized.

Underlying this Mr. Desautels said: "Ultimately the taxpayers of Canada will be the main beneficiaries". Earlier reporting of audit results will lead to faster correction of problems. In my view this means greater savings for Canadians, reduced risk, better management and generally better government.

Therefore for these reasons I ask the House, in a spirit of better accountability to Canadians, in a free and open spirit, to assure the passage of the bill. By the way I am proud to say I have the support of many members of Parliament. I have at least 70 letters of support for this bill from this House. I am very proud of that. I think it is a good sign. It is a hopeful sign.

I hope the bureaucracy does not meddle in this issue, that it stays out of this debate and does not start trying to prevent this from happening. It did it before. I hope this time we parliamentarians keep our minds open, that we do it with an open and free will. Let us not have the bureaucracy tell us what we should be doing in this House.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Auditor General Act
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March 15, 1994

Mr. Jean-Robert Gauthier (Ottawa-Vanier)

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask a question to the hon. member for Ottawa-Centre.

He had started discussing the importance of international trade and I wonder if he could, in the few minutes at his disposal, elaborate a little more on Canada's important role on the international scene, as well as on the usefulness of trade to stimulate employment, support foreign aid and all those other issues raised by the hon. member this afternoon.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canadian Foreign Policy
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March 15, 1994

Mr. Gauthier (Ottawa-Vanier)

Madam Speaker, it is a very hard question to answer.

I believe there are two aspects to our study. One of them is the collective aspect of interest groups that have a particular message to put to the committee. We would invite those people to send us their written presentations and we could go through them. I expect the committee will get many of those.

The other aspect is the individual approach, the grassroots approach, the individual Canadian who has ideas and who wants to put them to the committee. We will have to hear those persons.

I am going to propose that we hive off smaller subcommittees of this large committee of 22 people. I do not know yet and I may be doing this in anticipation of the decision but the proposal before us today is that there be 15 members of the House and seven senators. I take it if that happens then we could hive off

smaller groups of say five or six parliamentarians and really go into the grassroots areas of this country, the communities, and hear how they see our direction in the coming few years and possibly into the next century.

Having said that, it will be up to us to give them a fair chance to be heard but as far as the groups are concerned I see them presenting us briefs, as we call them, memoirs-

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canadian Foreign Policy
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March 15, 1994

Mr. Gauthier (Ottawa-Vanier)

Madam Speaker, some of the answers I will be giving are my own. The steering committee of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade has not yet set its agenda for work and consultation.

I hope we will be ready to go by the end of this month. We will be consulting with Canadians as individuals but also as groups. There will be interest groups and people with a special message to give us. The schedule of meetings has not been established as yet. I wish I could give that schedule tonight. It would save some money on advertising.

The second question was on the work of the defence committee which is presently holding its meetings. It has started work on its order of reference. I believe there are areas which overlap.

Foreign policy first and foremost is the why issue of this exercise. Why Canadians would like to participate in peacekeeping rather than peacemaking is a debate; why Canadians tie environmental issues to the questions of aid and human rights and so on.

Defence is more or less the how we do things and that is a special study that defence will be doing as to how best to put into effect the why decision, the policy issues, decided by government and proposed by parliamentarians. I see foreign affairs as the committee that decides why we should be doing these things and defence on matters of defence telling us how best to do that.

I see all the other agencies such as CIDA telling us also as professionals in the field how best to put into action the why decision, the policy issues, that this House will recommend in its report.

I do not know if I answered the member in a satisfactory manner but I tried to address some of his points.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canadian Foreign Policy
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March 15, 1994

Mr. Jean-Robert Gauthier (Ottawa-Vanier)

Mr. Speaker, I find it rather telling that today's debate is the fourth major debate on Canada's international relations in the first two months of this new Parliament.

I am no stranger to this House. Having taken part in debates for the past 20 years, I can attest to the fact that I have never before had or been given so many opportunities to debate these issues.

Therefore, the government is taking a new, very important approach at a critical point in our country's history. Against what backdrop is this debate taking place? In my view, there are many great reasons why we have to have this debate.

First, to state the obvious, we live in a very different period of world affairs from the rather more predictable one of almost a

decade ago. That was when the last comprehensive updating of Canada's foreign relations policies was undertaken.

Then we wondered whether Mikhail Gorbachev was for real. Almost no one would have believed or predicted the German reunification at that time, or for that matter the swift collapse of the Soviet power. As Mr. Gorbachev, the last President of the Soviet Union observed rather wistfully during the final throes of that momentous upheaval: "Once again history has accelerated its pace".

In retrospect it is clear that the international community was not prepared for so much unprecedented change so soon. There was hardly time to rejoice at the fall of the Berlin wall and to embrace the prospect of the so-called peace dividend when the rhetoric of the gulf war and the new world order took over.

That too proved to be ephemeral. As sober second thoughts set in other conflicts flared. Foreign policy analysts and pundits turned their attention to the new security risks of the post cold war era.

Most hopes of the 1990s had been pinned on developing new multilateral arrangements and on strengthening forms of economic and political co-operation. However even at this level as we approach the midpoint of this decade there are still many questions awaiting answers.

The United Nations for example will mark its first half century next year as a financially strapped organization that is in demand in a positive sense and more embattled and in need of reform than ever.

Canadians understand that difficult choices are needed in order to formulate a rational plan for managing our common future which is at risk. This brings us to a second important reason for reviewing Canadian policy.

Before the government proceeds to make these choices, as it will have to do sooner or later, Canadians will have to reflect on this issue and share with members of Parliament their views on our country's foreign policy.

Before decisions are made on important aspects of the management of public affairs, Canadians are entitled to be heard in an open and democratic consultation. When institutions responsible for foreign affairs spend Canadians' money, the members of this House, elected to represent their interests and their values, have a responsibility to demand results in return.

We in the Liberal Party were aware of this attitude of Canadians when we began a consultation process several years ago to develop a renewed, more democratic and more independent foreign policy. I hope that such dialogue will enable us to find a consensus among all Canadians on the nature of Canada's key international interests, on what Canada can afford as a nation and on the best way to meet the challenges of the 1990s and of the next millennium.

I only have a few minutes but I would like to elaborate on what in my view is a balance of caution and inspiration in this populist approach this government has taken in terms of consultations with Canadians. There is caution because we have to be careful not to give the impression of doing all things in all places.

This morning the minister responsible for foreign affairs commented that we must learn to do better with less. Canada as we all know has been spending about $12 billion a year on defence matters and about $4 on foreign affairs and trade programs. Given the constraints on those budgets in the foreseeable future it becomes even more important to me to look closely at where and how the dollars are allocated and to get the best value for that in terms of clearly defined, clearly identified priorities and objectives.

Inspiration will be needed. In doing this we will need to look at how key trade-offs should be made and how the different strands of foreign policy can be tied together. How for example should aid, trade, human rights and environmental policies be interrelated? It will be an interesting debate and one that I hope will give us some direction. However it is going to be a tough debate.

Do we have the right structures and institutions for implementing these policies? It may be time to rethink how we organize our foreign policy machinery and processes to meet the new challenges.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs told us that he wanted public consultation to be as broad and as thorough as possible.

I am sure that I speak for all hon. members when I say that we approach this review with an open mind and the desire to hear as many Canadians as time and resources will allow.

As Chairman of this committee responsible for consulting and listening to Canadians, I personally undertake, along with most of the members of the committee I think, to do my best to understand where we are going and to explain in a report to be tabled in this House by the end of October what we will have heard and understood from testimonies and how we see things.

Let Canadians be warned however that we will not be able to meet all expectations. That is impossible. We will do our best however to meet as many as possible and to take as much time as possible to look for a fair and equitable solution. As I said earlier, we cannot please everybody. When all is said and done, we are the ones who will have to set priorities.

When I say we, I mean all of us Canadian parliamentarians. We will be the ones who will have to take into account the representations made to us, the values, the special interests, the day-to-day concerns of Canadians about employment, security, well-being, all of this within the framework of a fair and equitable foreign policy.

That is the challenge facing the members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade if we want to lead the way for Canada's international relations at a time when world events not only happen much faster but are sometimes very troubling.

To quote an ancient Chinese curse, we live in interesting times. In this high risk, multi-choice world decisions will have to be taken. That is why it is so important to use this review to prepare ourselves well. We are counting on the knowledge, experience, common sense and the goodwill of Canadians to help us as their elected representatives to carry out this task.

I hope we are successful. I pray we will be successful. I will give it my best.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Canadian Foreign Policy
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