Mr. Andrew Saxton (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board, CPC)
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Prince Edward—Hastings.
This government has brought forward an aggressive multi-year plan to help Canadians in tough economic times.
This plan is timely, targeted and temporary. It will enable individuals, families and communities in all regions and provinces across Canada to access funds.
It puts in place measures to ensure that funding flows to those who need it most, while ensuring that due diligence is done. One of these measures is a special central vote in main estimates of $3 billion assigned to the Treasury Board Secretariat for budget implementation. The funds allocated by this vote will allow our government to provide immediate funding for ready-to-go initiatives announced in the economic action plan in advance of the normal parliamentary supply schedule.
These are extraordinary times. We cannot wait for the normal supply period in June before getting money to some of the ready-to-go projects. We have to act immediately if Canadians are going to feel the positive impact of the economic stimulus this year. Time is of the essence. I would ask all members of the opposition to get on board instead of playing political games with the well-being of Canadian families and businesses. Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The hon. members opposite risk doing the same.
This government has a job to do. We need to get money flowing to the people who need it most. Even the International Monetary Fund said as much. In a recent report it said that Canada's immediate focus should be on implementing the budget to mobilize spending.
That is why we are working day and night to get everything lined up now, and we are doing this responsibly. We are striking the right balance between the rapid delivery of stimulus measures and appropriate due diligence and transparency.
The process we have in place to provide accountability and transparency in the use of these funds is the same as the normal process we use when asking for parliamentary approval. The only difference is the timeframe has been moved forward from June to April so that these funds can be applied to the ready-to-go projects at the beginning of the construction season rather than at the end. That makes a huge difference when we are trying to create jobs so that people can feed their families.
We will be reporting to Parliament so that Parliament can hold the government to account on the use of these funds. The process is completely transparent.
There seems to be an assumption among some members of the opposition that there is an ulterior motive here. I can tell members that the only motive is to help Canadians during these difficult times. Our record speaks for itself. We brought Canadians the Federal Accountability Act. We brought Canadians the Lobbying Act.
Given the Liberals' record of scandal, they are not the people to lecture us on accountability.
All of the funds distributed through the $3 billion appropriation will be thoroughly accounted for. In keeping with this government's desire to be responsive and responsible, we have established clear conditions for the use of this vote to ensure that the appropriate checks and balances are in place.
Let me be clear about this. The $3 billion can only be used for economic action plan initiatives announced in budget 2009 and approved by this House. Every initiative funded from this vote requires the approval of Treasury Board. Existing policy requirements on accountability and reporting must be met. For example, grants and contributions payments are subject to the transfer payments policy. The use of this vote is time limited. Funds can only be allocated between April 1 and June 30, 2009.
Contrary to what has been reported, we chose to create a special vote to provide bridge funding for departments to ensure due diligence in approvals, transparency in reporting, and accountability for its use.
We will also streamline the review and approval of policies and programs, while ensuring appropriate controls and respect for parliamentary authority. For example, we will use simplified or omnibus Treasury Board submissions for straightforward program extensions or top-ups. We have better aligned the timing of the budget and estimates. Parliament will have full disclosure. Reporting on allocations on the vote will be done in supplementary estimates and in regular reports to Parliament on the economic action plan.
In addition, thanks to our efforts to strengthen accountability and transparency, the public service is better equipped to handle this process than ever before. For example, over the past three years, financial management standards across government have been improved, departments have independent audit committees that include members from outside government, and steps have been taken to ensure departments have qualified chief financial officers. Departments have also bolstered the management of their operations.
Under the management accountability framework assessments, large departments and agencies, representing over 90% of government spending, have improved in the area of financial management and control. Recent results show that financial management indicators rated acceptable or strong have risen to 90% from 59%.
We have also increased departmental oversight with a committee of deputy ministers who will be tracking progress and overseeing the implementation of these measures. The Auditor General will also audit spending. For the second year in a row, the government plans to use early spring supplementary estimates as a vehicle for budget measures.
We all appreciate that we have a big job ahead of us. We will be balancing appropriate due diligence and transparency, while getting money out the door to help Canadians. We are up to the task and intend to help Canadians in these difficult times. That is more than I can say for some members of the opposition, who want to play games with the $3 billion needed to prime the stimulus pump.
The economic stimulus, including the $3 billion, is money invested to assist Canadians when they need it most. I hear from my constituents in my riding of North Vancouver daily. They are excited about the economic action plan. They know that the projects outlined in our plan will improve our communities and provide much needed jobs.
Some of the programs my constituents are excited about include investments in trails, recreational centres and green infrastructure projects, to name a few. Communities across the country will benefit from our plan. The people in North Vancouver and all Canadian communities are looking forward to these important investments and jobs.
I am getting to work for North Vancouver and all Canadians. I encourage the hon. members opposite to put aside politics and get to work as well.
I am shocked that some members of the House are playing politics at a time when Canadians are turning to government for help. I am disappointed in their insistence on opposing for the sake of opposing and making political hay out of nothing when they could be pitching in to help, not hindering Canadians in their efforts to climb out of this pit. I am saddened they would put scoring cheap political points before compassion.
I am proud to be part of a government that believes in Canadians, a government that has remade the way Ottawa works under the banners of accountability and transparency, a government that is dedicated to ensuring every tax dollar delivers results.
This is the government that will get dollars out of the door with due diligence and respect for the Canadian taxpayer. This is not the time to play politics with our economy. We do not need more roadblocks; we need more roads built.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Business of Supply