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Results: 1 - 30 of 186
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
A few weeks ago I submitted an Order Paper question. For those who are watching this committee, members of Parliament have the ability not only to ask questions verbally in the House of Commons, but to submit written questions that the government is supposed to answer. These are usually a bit more specific.
I asked a very specific Order Paper question about the number of infrastructure projects across all government departments, specifically asking about those that are behind schedule and what the delays in those projects have cost Canadian taxpayers. I was pretty alarmed with what came back from Parks Canada. Some of the numbers are very large and, quite frankly, staggering. I'm trying to make sure I'm not missing something, so I'm wondering if I can ask the officials or the minister to explain some of these cost overruns.
For example, for the Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site, the original total estimated cost of the project was $8.3 million. There's a delay of one year. No specific reason for the delay was given. The revised estimated total cost is now $18 million, a $10-million increase.
For the Province House National Historic Site, the original total estimated cost of the project was $20 million. It was supposed to be completed in 2019. There's now a five-year delay on this project. No specific reason was given for the delay. The new cost is $91 million. That's a little over $70 million in additional costs due to the delay.
Maybe we'll start with those two. What kind of explanation can be offered to this committee, and to Canadian taxpayers, as to the reason for these delays, and why it's adding so much money to the cost of these projects?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
I recognize that on a project-by-project basis, it might be helpful for the committee to have that longer explanation.
You said something I'm kind of wondering about. I can understand that on normal infrastructure projects there are sometimes many moving pieces. You have municipalities, towns, RMs and large cities. You have provincial layers of government, and the federal government has one-third of the control or ability to manage the projects.
In fact, usually, for most infrastructure programs, the federal government acts as the person who reimburses other levels of government. For delays in projects, you can usually look to municipal governments or provincial governments or whatnot. However, with Parks Canada, we're talking about, in many cases—I'm reading through them—historic sites, like the Rideau Canal, the Trent-Severn Waterway and Jasper National Park. These are facilities that are owned and operated 100% by Parks Canada. There aren't other levels of government that are participating in this.
Again, understanding you might have to come back to the committee with a more specific example, if we go to Jasper National Park, the complete reconstruction program of Whistlers Campground—you're talking about upgrading a campground—was originally estimated to cost $6.7 million. It's jumped up to $62 million. That's a huge jump.
There are a few of these examples, and so far, a quick math shows 46 pages' worth of projects that are behind schedule and now over budget.... You said most of them are on time. Fine, but we're in the business of trying to give the very best results to taxpayers. We're halfway through the list, and I believe the number we've calculated is $400 million in project overruns.
Can you explain how Parks Canada can—
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I appreciate the Auditor General's work. This is my first time on this committee, but we've been studying the various infrastructure programs at the transport committee, so I appreciate my colleagues' allowing me to sub in today.
There's a lot to unpack, with such a large department administering a large amount of money, as you point out, over many different funding envelopes. I suppose that's one of the reasons we flagged the challenge of getting accurate information back on the department's spending, based on the fact that it is spread out over so many projects.
I have a couple of questions for the Auditor General, just to get some clarity on them.
In your report, you indicated that there was quite a significant delay in terms of the program spending, and that not all the money that was allocated was being spent every year. We just heard from the deputy minister—I believe she said this but she can clarify if I've misquoted her—that they have spent 43% of the funds 40% of the way through the plan.
Is there a contradiction there? Is the plan behind? Have they taken that lapsed money and put it onto later years? Are we currently behind, or am I misreading something?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Thanks very much for that clarification. We are hyperaware of the difference between funding commitments and actual results. We've been studying the Canadian infrastructure bank at the transport committee. That is perhaps the most famous example of money allocated without results to show for it: $35 billion allocated and so far not a single project completed, so thank you very much for clarifying that.
Can you speak to the dynamic of the legacy projects and the lack of reporting on those? In your report and your news release, you flagged this, or someone flagged this, because this issue was raised as early as 2017 by one of the plan's oversight committees. Why is it important that the previous government's previous legacy programs be included in terms of the reporting? If they are going to claim the money as money they're spending and allocating, why is it important that the reporting follow it?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Were there shortfalls in reporting only specific to the legacy projects or, within the newly created programs by the current government, were there also some reporting shortfalls in those envelopes, as well?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much.
It's so important, because when a government says to Canadians that this is how it is going to address economic decline and kick-start the economy, especially moving out of the impacts of the pandemic, in order to be able to trust the government, we have to be able to see if the money is actually doing what it is intended to do.
I'll go back to your point about committing money. Yes, it's easy to commit money. It's more challenging to spend money, but it's even more challenging to spend money properly. That's why these reporting mechanisms are so important.
If I have time left, Madam Chair, maybe I could ask the deputy minister....
Again, I've tried to take notes as you've spoken, so if I misquote you, please clarify. I believe you said that some of the programs don't require reporting by design. When we're talking about tracking the effectiveness of taxpayers' money, can you explain which types of programs you would specifically design not to have some kind of a reporting or tracking mechanism?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
I can come back to that in my follow-up round, Madam Chair, if you'd prefer because of time.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I have a few questions for, I believe, Ms. Bowers from CMHC.
What would you say is the largest demographic in terms of income of Canadians who use the mortgage insurance that CMHC provides?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
In terms of income, would you say that it skews towards the lower and middle brackets than wealthier Canadians, first-time homebuyers who can afford to put down more than 20% and therefore don't require the products you offer?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
First-time homebuyers who can't afford to put more than 20% down on the mortgage are the people who pay CMHC premiums.
Now, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, you fund housing programs and various social benefit programs within your own agency. Is that correct? Do you manage and fund your own programs?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
This year, on March 31, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, CMHC, announced a special dividend payment of $3.5 billion to the Government of Canada; that is, a transfer from CMHC directly to the Government of Canada. This means the premiums of those first-time homebuyers, who are low- and middle-income Canadians who can't afford to put more than 20% down on their mortgage, went to pay a $3.5-billion dividend to the government. Is that correct?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
It says here on CMHC's website that that quarterly dividend is $250 million, so that's exactly a billion dollars a year if it's $250 million a quarter. That's off the backs of premium payers. That special dividend that goes into the government's coffers is directly on the backs of low- and middle-income Canadians and, as you just mentioned, first-time homebuyers. The federal government has scooped up the profits made on the backs of hard-working first-time homebuyers. Is that correct?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to echo what the chair said about the very interesting presentations by our witnesses today. We heard a lot of different aspects of Canada's infrastructure needs addressed by a very interesting group of witnesses.
I particularly liked the mention of the idea of these trade corridors. This was something that of course the previous Conservative government really championed with the Asia-Pacific corridor. Many communities throughout Canada were able to upgrade everything from roads to rail yards to port facilities in order to help deal with some of the logistics challenges that prevented Canadian companies from accessing Asian markets. That was a very successful corridor program. It's nice when you see those types of legacy projects continue and benefit diverse communities, from Newfoundland all the way to British Columbia.
I want to touch on that a little bit with the representatives from the port authorities in Corner Brook and Hamilton-Oshawa. Obviously, hard assets are a huge benefit to being able to expand our trading opportunities and export more. I think I heard the gentleman from Corner Brook talk about the ability to buy a crane. It's easy to understand how that benefits and enables the ability to expand operations. Sometimes, though, government rules and regulations get in the way of some of the expansion of some of the operations.
I want to ask a question specifically about cabotage and your view of the current rules relating to cabotage here in Canada and the ability for ships bringing goods to Canada to stop at multiple points of entry. We have two different ports here, two different parts of the country, and I'd love to hear your different perspectives on the way that rule affects your ability to grow and expand.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
I'll try to very briefly get to our two mayors.
Like you, we get very frustrated when we hear stories of the billions of dollars that go lapsing in government programs or the fact that the Canadian Infrastructure Bank hasn't yet been able to complete a single project and it's supposed to be a signature government program. We've heard your recommendations, but I just want to give you one more opportunity to talk about what you're looking for in terms of flexibility for local areas.
What we've heard in previous meetings is that sometimes, when the criteria get set here in Ottawa, there are a lot of great projects that are getting filtered out because they don't quite fit in to what the government in Ottawa has set. What would you like to see in terms of flexibility to empower local decision-making?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I really appreciate the testimony that we've heard. I certainly appreciate the different perspectives. I always find it interesting when proponents come in and give governments ideas on how they can do a better job of things. It's not necessarily always about just spending more money. The expenditure of money is not necessarily the best metric to determine success. It's the efficiency of that program. When you spend a lot of money but get poor results, we've got something wrong.
I really enjoyed the feedback on the impact of cabotage rules and the consequence on our shipping industry and our logistics industry. I'm hopeful that we can continue on with this line of questioning.
Mr. Chair, we have had a motion before the committee for the last few meetings. Many members have had the opportunity to express themselves. Hopefully, we can quickly take care of some housekeeping and then move back to give our witnesses more opportunity to discuss this very important topic.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to move that we resume debate on the motion and the amendment we were dealing with at the last committee meeting.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I would like to simply move that the committee be now adjourned.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Minister, you indicated that about a third of the funding in your department goes to the established telecoms. Is that correct?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Is it safe to say that, out of the universal broadband fund, money is going to the large, established telecoms as well?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
I'm looking at the project list, and I see quite a few entries for Bell and for Telus. Notably, there are no projects listed in Saskatchewan, Manitoba or Quebec so far.
We have this situation in Canada where the telecoms get special, privileged protection from competition. The federal government protects the large, established telecoms from all kinds of normal competitive dynamics. In return for that protection, they're supposed to give back to Canadians. Canadians pay some of the highest cellphone fees in the world, some of the highest fees for service when compared to most of our major trading partners.
The telecoms are massively profitable. In fact, Bell Canada just released its Q4 results a little while ago. They made $932 million in the last quarter. They made $2.7 billion in profit in 2020. Here we have a situation where these large telecoms are benefiting from their privileged protection from competition. Then they ask for a handout from this government, and your government is writing them cheques. We've seen this kind of corporate welfare under the Canadian Infrastructure Bank just recently. We've seen this kind of corporate welfare when this government gave $12 million to Loblaws and $50 million to Mastercard.
Can you tell this committee exactly how much money Bell Canada has received from the various broadband funds that your department administers?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Just very quickly, Minister, how much money have you given Bell Canada through the various funds that your department administers?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you.
Minister, we were talking about the amount of money established for the large telecoms. You had asked your officials and they said they wouldn't be able to provide a response. Can you commit to this committee that you will break down how much each of the large established telecoms—Bell, Telus, Rogers—has received from the various envelopes that you administer?
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Just for clarification, because I know we're coming close to the end of my time right now, you had asked which website I was looking at. I am looking at “selected universal broadband fund projects”. I don't know if this is yet to be updated. This is one particular fund, and I recognize that, but so far it's only showing projects in Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia and Ontario. There do seem to be a few provinces who have not yet had projects announced.
That's more by way of clarification—
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
I appreciate that clarification.
On a point of order, Mr. Chair, procedurally I was hoping that we could move to resume debate on the motion that Ms. Kusie had proposed at the last meeting. I'm more familiar with my House procedure than I am with committee procedure. I would like to use my time here, having the floor right now, to resume debate on the motion that Ms. Kusie had proposed last week.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Bringing people together.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I know that we heard some of these arguments at the last meeting. It's not going to surprise members that I'm not swayed by Liberal members who are advocating for secrecy around this deal. The only shareholder in the Canada Infrastructure Bank is the Canadian government—it's the Canadian taxpayer. The government is right to say this is the first of its kind, because the Canada Infrastructure Bank has so far been unable to complete a single project; and as the Parliamentary Budget Officer has told us, the projects that it has announced so far do not include private sector money.
Now, here we have a situation where the bank is subsidizing a project that will primarily benefit a private company that is owned by another company, Fortis Inc., which made $9 billion in revenue and paid out over $800 million to its shareholders. I don't need to repeat the staggering financial position of Fortis Inc. It's in a very positive position in terms of cash flow, in terms of revenue, in terms of bragging about increasing its dividend every year; and it decided not to put any extra money into this proposal.
Ms. Jaczek talked about how this project is going to be so good for Ontario. The Ontario government hasn't put any money into this project. If the Ontario government has decided not to put its skin in the game, what does that tell us about the project? The problem here is that we don't know a lot of details about it. I think it's incumbent upon this committee to have that detail.
This amendment is about the timeline. I'm looking at the calendar, and I think 45 days puts us awfully close to the end of the parliamentary session. I think it's very important that this committee have this data before the House rises, before the government can get out of, or dodge this, so to speak. If there are things that come out of this deal that opposition parties, or even government backbenchers, decide they'd like to know more about, we lose so many parliamentary tools at our disposal.
I'm willing to meet the government. I think Mr. Bachrach had an idea last week of 30 days. That is eminently possible. I know the government's trying to talk about how much work this will be for translators and how much documentation could be provided. We've all been at committee or heard about other work done by committees where they have had much tighter timelines on much bigger projects. The House of Commons translation staff is excellent. It has very quick turnaround times.
We're not talking about digging back into the archives. This is not a cold-case file exercise where we have to find the keys to the basement and go downstairs with the flashlight and dust off the microfiche machines. This is a current project. All of this information would be on deposit, at the CIB. They've just gone through whatever work they have done to approve this project.
I think the need for a longer timeline is a complete red herring. I think 30 days is eminently reasonable. It does give the bank more time. As I said at the last meeting, if the Infrastructure Bank comes back to this committee with a compelling reason that it hasn't been able to fulfill this order, or if the translation staff at the House of Commons tells this committee that there's some impediment to meeting that deadline, then this committee can evaluate that. But I would like to stick to the 30-day deadline so that we can ensure that we get this information back before the House rises.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Like Mr. Bachrach, I will keep my remarks brief because I am anxious to get to the vote on this. I have never heard an argument so ridiculous as the one I just heard from Mr. Iacono. I mean—stop the presses, everyone—this is the first time a member of the Liberal government has been concerned about efficient use of taxpayers' dollars. By that logic, we'd save a lot of money on translation if we didn't even allow Parliament to hold the government to account, but of course we've seen this government try to do that. The first thing this government did during the pandemic was try to write itself unprecedented powers, sidelining the role of the opposition. We saw why when we saw the various scandals that came out through the WE contracts and things like that. This is just ridiculous.
Parliament's provision of oversight on government departments and agencies is essential. That is the core function of this Parliament. We come together to provide accountability for how the dollars that are entrusted to us are spent. That is the very essence of the House of Commons, dating back over almost a thousand years of parliamentary tradition now.
We've seen this bank waste so much money already. It lost over $500 million last year and it hasn't completed a single project. This argument about the cost of translation is just a red herring.
Congratulations, Mr. Iacono, you got me to bite on it. I just couldn't let it go. What an insult to every parliamentarian, everyone who shows up to fight for our constituents to ensure that their tax dollars are treated with respect and only spent in their interest. That's what this motion is about. If there's nothing to see here, if everything is fine, this committee will come to that conclusion, but it's essential that we provide that kind of oversight.
With that, I won't engage again on this debate, Mr. Chair. I think, as Mr. Bachrach said, we may as well come to a vote on the timeline here and then we can resume debate on the main motion.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
No, I was going to speak to the main motion. I don't have anything to say to this amendment.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
CPC (SK)
Mr. Chair, this is what happens when Liberals are exposed to accountability and transparency. They react very vociferously when they get backed into a corner, and they fear the sunlight that was supposed to be the disinfectant has become the thing that gives them some burns.
Where to begin? It's said that Canadians would lose out if the Infrastructure Bank ceased operations. Lose out on what? The bank has completed nothing. The only two projects this government can point to are projects that were already going to get funding. The government just made a political decision to provide funding through the CIB, and the parliamentary budget officer has revealed that there is no private sector investment in them.
We have here a first-of-its-kind type of arrangement whereby, instead of public dollars leveraging private sector money to get public infrastructure built, the Canada Infrastructure Bank has proposed a model in which private money has leveraged public funds to get private infrastructure built. Instead of having the private sector play a role in designing, operating or maintaining a public asset—something that Canadians own either through municipal, provincial or federal governments—this is now going to be an asset owned by a private sector company.
I could litigate every single point. I know Mr. Fillmore can recite lots of quotes from his ideological soulmates in various institutions who benefit from the Liberal government and support their ideology. If this debate goes on beyond this committee's meeting, I can come to the next meeting with lots and lots of quotes from ethics experts talking about this government's scandalous decision to grant a sole-source contract of almost $1 billion to their friends in the WE Charity; how the Prime Minister and his family personally benefited from the WE organization; how they benefited politically by giving the WE organization a platform.
I could stick to infrastructure and bring in Auditor General and parliamentary budget officer reports and read, not quotes from editorialists or columnists with their own opinion, but cold hard facts, black and white numbers. The reality is that what we offered in the last election was a recognition that this government had cut infrastructure through its lapsing of that funding. In the first few years of this government's existence, it lapsed $8 billion in infrastructure spending. That was commitments to municipalities, towns and rural municipalities and villages. They were going to get help to upgrade their water systems, expand their roads, all kinds of different types of assets that would improve the lives of people in those communities. This government lapsed that funding, effectively cut that funding by $8 billion in the first year, and continues to lapse that money year over year.
This motion has been referred to as a fishing expedition. By that logic if the CRA looks at anybody's tax return, then CRA is on a fishing expedition. We have mechanisms in our government whereby oversight is provided. That's not to say that every time a committee exercises its oversight function that it always uncovers something, but it's the fact that oversight exists to ensure proper behaviour by government departments. If this committee and other committees just decided they would never cast a second look or have another run at the numbers or the proposals, it would be hugely detrimental to the accountability and transparency our Parliament is based on.
We have discovered through all kinds of studies gross examples of missed expenditures. I submitted an Order Paper question asking about infrastructure cost overruns due to delays. I believed we would probably get some projects here and there in the infrastructure department. I was shocked to find out how much extra costs for the taxpayer Parks Canada has caused through project delays. I wasn't expecting to find it, but the very fact that I asked the question forced government agencies and departments to answer the question, and now we can see the millions and millions of dollars that Parks Canada has cost taxpayers by failing to manage its own asset. That's what this motion is all about.
As I mentioned at the last meeting, if private sector companies don't want to have these types of accountability measures imposed upon them, there are a lot of lenders who will provide confidentiality and secrecy to them. I believe it's safe to say that every chartered bank in the country has all kinds of commitments to its clients about maintaining secrecy and confidentiality about their clients' operations. This is different. This is the taxpayer who is funding this.
Mr. Fillmore wants to talk about cuts that the Conservatives promised in the last campaign. Let's talk about the cuts to corporate welfare that we promised, corporate welfare that this government just can't get enough of. Liberals and corporate welfare go hand in hand.
We've seen so many examples of hard-working Canadians struggling to get by during this pandemic. I know so many people in my riding who have lost everything, as I'm sure every member on this committee—regardless of party—does in their communities. These people have been forced to shut their doors because of the pandemic and have lost their life savings. Friends of mine have had to sell their homes to pay off the bills from their small businesses. They've owned restaurants that they're not allowed to open.
It's heart-wrenching and it's heartbreaking. Then, when you see this announcement coming on the heels of this government giving $12 million to Loblaws for fridges—multi-billion dollar companies—as well as $50 million to MasterCard.... A credit card company that makes its living off the backs of working Canadians who can't pay their full balance is getting $50 million in taxpayers' money. Now we have an example where, through its subsidiary, a private sector company worth billions of dollars gets a cheque for $655 million. This whole exercise is to find out why that decision was made and how the agreement is structured. That is what this is all about.
Now, I did mention in our last meeting that I was sympathetic to the argument about some types of information where there would never be an expectation of disclosure on the part of the third party here, ITC Holdings. In the spirit of co-operation, and inspired by Mr. Bachrach's enlightened compromise of 30 days rather than the original 20 days, I would propose a motion that was first put forward by Ms. Kusie. I can assure members that I have consulted with the law clerk's office today to ensure this is worded properly,
In the spirit of compromise and in trying to ensure that the motives of this are clear—that this is about accountability and understanding why this motion is necessary and the information from the committee is being asked for—I would propose the following amendment after the words “within 30 days of the adoption of this order”. We've just amended that with Mr. Bachrach's words. The motion would have the amendment added to it. I would have to amend that whole sentence as follows:
That the documents be provided in an unredacted form to the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel within 30 days of the adoption of this order;That the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel redact from the documents, except for the agreement itself, its appendices or schedules: (a) any information that constitutes a trade secret, (b) any information the disclosure of which could reasonably result in material financial loss or gain to ITC or a third party or prejudice their competitive position, (c) any information the disclosure of which could reasonably interfere with contractual or other negotiations of ITC or a third party, and (d) any personal private information;That the CIB, in consultation with ITC, may propose redactions to the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel respecting the information that should be redacted pursuant to this order; andThat the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel provide the redacted documents to the committee as soon as the redactions are completed.
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