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View James Cumming Profile
View James Cumming Profile
2020-01-28 16:19 [p.600]
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon.
I rise today on the opposition day motion regarding this mind-boggling infrastructure spending debacle that the Liberal government has gotten itself into.
It is a very simple motion that would allow the Auditor General to determine whether “the government’s Investing in Canada Plan, including, but not be limited to, verifying whether the plan lives up to its stated goals and promises; and that the Auditor General of Canada report his findings to the House no later than one year following the adoption of this motion.”
The program that the Liberals had come up with was supposed to do a few things. It was going to have these tiny deficits that would improve economic growth. They said that the program would improve productivity and suggested it would create a lower-carbon environment. All of those things are measurables and should have outcomes which we can look at. There is no accountability and there are no measurables.
Therefore, this is not about the spending necessarily, but the principles of the program. It is about no deliverables, no follow up, no transparency, no economic growth and no tracking of productivity, all the things the Liberals promised to do within the program. It is important for taxpayers to see they are getting value for the dollar.
The way the Liberals have crafted this program, there are over 50 individual programs scattered over 32 departments. It is like an octopus across government, with very serious gaps. It is like Swiss cheese. It is really difficult for anybody to determine where the spending is and whether we are getting value for the spending.
Looking at this from my business background, if I had a strategic plan that was to make some investments and spend some money, I would certainly have measurables and outcomes and I would be able to report back to the shareholders that we were getting the things we said we were going to invest in. This, according to the PBO, is sadly lacking.
From the taxpaying end, the funding recipients are not being held accountable. When the cash is being put out, it should certainly be incumbent upon the grantees to report back to government. We should be able to see results from them and they seem to be amiss on this.
Most of the projects in place, according to the PBO, have either been behind schedule in delivery or have not even been started, and there should be some accountability around that. This is why the Conservatives are asking the Auditor General to look at this use of funds and ensure we are getting these deliveries.
One of the reasons the deliveries are behind schedule is because the government has gone ahead with funding portions before the provincial governments have been able to come up with all the money. There seems to be a lack of coordination, another thing on which the Auditor General could report back. Sometimes provinces are not even contributing to shared projects and shared costs because the feds are not collaborating in advance.
Therefore, there are a lot of flaws and problems within the program, and we are here to protect taxpayer money. We are here to ensure there is accountability for any kind of investment spent and we get the results we expect.
On the productivity front, all the spending was supposed to enable or increase it; However, in good old Liberal fashion, the government has not been able to tell us if it has been able to increase productivity, and that was one of the main goals of the program. Therefore, some kinds of measures should be in place to ensure we get productivity. In fact, on the spending side, only 3% goes toward trade and transportation, which strikes me as a big productivity issue in the country, and we are not investing in it.
We seem to get a lot of answers that are predominantly word soup and we do not really get the hard answers for which we are looking.
On failed spending, the PBO has shown that the Liberals have failed even to get their own infrastructure money out the door and that infrastructure money lapses 60% per year for the first two years. One cannot force-feed the infrastructure with potential amounts of money. These projects have to be well thought out and designed so we get the outcomes on productivity and growth. We certainly are not seeing that today.
The truth is that nobody really knows what is being spent. This business of spreading it out over a large area into a bunch of different programs and departments makes me think it is like a shell game that we would see at the circus: Where is the ball? We never know where the ball is. That is what this looks like. We are having a hard time finding the truth.
The PBO analysis also showed that despite all of the promises and spending, there was no annual increase in infrastructure in Canada. Here is a quote: “Never has a politician boasted so loudly and spent so much to achieve so little.” That was Andrew Scheer. Just 3% of spending is designated for trade- and efficiency-enhancing infrastructure that would increase productivity and GDP.
All in all, the reason we want the Auditor General to get involved is that there is a lack of transparency. The PBO asked some very specific questions about very specific projects and could not get any answers. They said it was a secret, so the projects could not be divulged.
It strikes me that if we really want to make improving the economy and dealing with productivity our goals, then no one should have an issue with a motion like this. It is just good governance to get the Auditor General involved. It is not uncommon to ask for something like this, and it is worthy in this particular case. The motion certainly should have the support of all parties.
I fail to understand why anyone would have difficulty with asking the Auditor General to review this entire program to make sure that the core fundamentals are fulfilled. The core fundamentals that the government said it wanted to be accountable for were productivity, an increase in GDP and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It is not too much to ask the Auditor General to look at that and report back to the House in a timely fashion. It would be in the best interests of taxpayers. That is why we are here. We need to make sure that taxpayers get the answers they deserve in a timely fashion.
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