Anyway, Finance Canada punts the question off in reference to part (a), which is what is the original purpose of the contract, and part (b), what minister originally approved the contract. They punted it off so that instead it would be provided by OSFI, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, which is odd. I'm not quite sure why the finance department (a) is creeping on parliamentary committees to begin with, and (b) why they need to sole-source $355,000 to the Toronto Star to creep on public committees, and also, why it's Finance Canada to begin with but Finance Canada punted it off and said that it's the responsibility of OSFI.
It's funny. With the rampant issues in British Columbia that we're seeing right now, with money being laundered through the housing market and money being laundered through the opioid crisis, which of course the government hasn't acted on, at the same time we have other issues with Bitcoin, including a Canadian-run cryptocurrency, where the founder and the sole owner, the controller of the key to the cryptocurrency, has passed away with no access to the money, and Bitcoin is being used for money laundering. It's funny that OSFI would decide that what is more important to them are not these issues that are vital to Canada, but actually creeping on parliamentary committees. Unfortunately, we never found out which specific committee they thought they should spy on, so to speak, but anyway....
The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions is an arm's-length independent agency that supervises federally regulated financial institutions. Again, I have to question why the government is directing Finance Canada to have the arm's-length independent agency supervise federally regulated financial institutions and why they would be having them creep on a committee. Anyway, parts (a) and (b) were punted off to them.
In response, OSFI, again, instead of dealing with crime.... It's funny. This month, March, in case anyone is interested, is fraud awareness month. On Monday, we introduced motion 203 on the House of Commons floor, a private member's motion on seniors fraud, which OSFI, I would hope, would actually be spending their time on. One of the issues of seniors fraud is the fake CRA calls. They call and ask people to pay by Bitcoin. Again, this should be in the realm of OSFI. They should be focusing on that rather than spending Canadian taxpayers' money and resources on having the Toronto Star attend committee meetings. Perhaps some of the people at the back could do the work of the Toronto Star instead and report on actual committee meetings.
Anyway, OSFI, when they got around to it, said, “The purpose of the proposed contract was to provide same day summaries of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance meetings”—there we go, they were actually creeping on finance—“and some select Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce meetings.”
Now, the question asked when it came up from the individual who disputed this originally with the procurement ombudsman was, “Do we not have the resources?” Perhaps OSFI, Finance Canada or the bureaucrats have never heard of what we commonly refer to as the blues. Regardless of what side your party is on, whether you're us, NDP, Liberals, or people around this table or in the House, I can't imagine that any of us can justify $355,000 of taxpayers' money to go there, when we already have our translators and everyone recording everything for the blues.
OSFI further went on to say, “No contract between OSFI and iPoliticsIntel”—iPolitics, of course, was bought by the Toronto Star—“was approved or consummated.” It's an odd choice of words, “consummated”, but that's that.
The potential value of the contract was approximately $12,600 per year, plus applicable taxes. The contract would have contained four optional years for a total contract value of $63,000, plus applicable taxes. Again, I want to get back to this money. One of the issues we're finding, which I mentioned earlier, is in terms of opioids. Drugs are getting smuggled and the money is being used for laundering through the B.C. real estate market right now, especially the Vancouver market.
Actually, in the budget, they introduced millions of dollars supposedly to help people access the market. I think it's up to $20,000. I don't know how $20,000 is going to help someone with a million and a half dollar house in Vancouver when they're getting outbid by people from afar with seemingly unlimited money from opioids and money laundering.
Getting back to the opioids, they are driving a lot of the money laundering in B.C., which OSFI should be attending to right now. The opioids are spreading into Alberta. We have a wonderful group in Edmonton West—my riding—called Our House. They support 68 men in recovery from alcohol addictions, opioids and heroin, full time and year round in a converted motel. They provide housing, heating, psychological and psychiatric help, and mental health services to 68 men. They provide food and pay for the carbon tax, all for a budget of less than a million per year.
Funnily enough, the provincial government agency that refers them gets $7 million a year. The reason I bring this up is that recently there were some mould issues at the Our House kitchen. They were threatened with a shutdown by the province unless this was addressed. Our House is supported solely by donations from the public and they get a small per diem for the 68 men who they help day-in, day-out and year round. The cost for renovating the kitchen was $400,000, just barely more than the $355,000 reported that the Toronto Star was going to get. Our House went public saying they were going to have to shut down. If you think about it, 68 lives could be lost, not just this year, but next year, the year after and so on, for the want of $400,000.
I approached our senior minister from Alberta. He was the minister of infrastructure at the time, Minister Sohi. I pleaded with him, wrote him a letter and contacted him to ask for money. Unfortunately, we never heard back from the government. We followed up again and got a letter saying, “Talk to the province.” Here we have our senior minister, when we can find $10 million for a hockey rink on Parliament Hill, and we can find $355,000 for the party mouthpiece, the Toronto Star, to do the work that our wonderful folks are doing right now.... I'll wave to them, but I don't want to distract them. We get the work done anyway in the blues, but we don't have $400,000 in Edmonton West. Why? Maybe it's a Conservative riding, but we don't have $400,000 to save the lives of 68 men year in, year out. It's just purely pennies for that.
The focus of the Department of Finance or this government strikes me as bizarre when they see propping up the Toronto Star as being important, when that work is already being done by the government, but the lives of 68 men, year in and year out, they do not. I was at Our House about a week ago. They actually opened a new kitchen. They managed to get some renovation money through the building trades council, some unions, and Rotary, and the city stepped up a tiny bit, which was wonderful. The kitchen looks beautiful. It's a converted motel. I was in the hotel industry for quite a few years. I have to say I'm quite impressed. They have an open kitchen now. It used to be probably what we would imagine the old Travelodges looked like 30 years ago. They have an open kitchen and space to serve the food. The men there can train on some of the food prep as well. The mould is gone, and it's a beautiful open kitchen and a warm, inviting restaurant.
We know that delivering dignity, serving and helping people with dignity also greatly improves their lot in life. Just because they're down and out and suffering from opioid addiction or alcohol addiction should not mean they're living in filth or living as second- or third-class citizens. It's quite remarkable. I was very happy to see that. I went to see them and got a beautiful tour around. I was very happy for them, that they were able to get their kitchen renovated and that they found the $400,000. It's unfortunate they could not get the money from the federal government, which seems to have money for everything but them.
This leads back to a Huffington Post article that came out over the summer—I actually did a Standing Order 31 on it. It must have been the end of September and we had just come back from summer break. The Huffington Post article came out about Liberals committing $3.5 billion in a spending spree across the country for infrastructure, for this and that. There was one project in all of Alberta.
For every billion.... We traced it. Ninety-five per cent of it was in Liberal ridings, and of course I made a joke that the Liberals do what they do best, which is to go around and hand out other people's money to Liberal ridings. One of the things was $10 million for a factory improvement for flavourings for sausages. Again, I scratch my head. Sausage flavourings for a private company get money, but $400,000 needed for addiction recovery doesn't....
Inside, when I visited to check out the renovated kitchen, they had a wall up. On the wall, they had about a hundred plaques. Every single time a man graduates—succeeds in the program—they put his name on a plaque on the wall. These gentlemen are there for an entire year. This is not a one-week or one-month thing. They are there for an entire year. They had about a hundred plaques on the wall. It was very heartwarming.
There are a lot of people who, for lack of better words, flunk out. Alcohol addiction is very difficult. Opioid addiction is very difficult. There are a lot of men who cannot handle that. They cannot handle the isolation and cannot handle not having access to some of these things. Some drop out after a week. Some fall back into their old ways within a month, some in six months. Some make it through the whole year and get their plaque on the wall, which is heartwarming to see. Some, however, end up back on the streets. I was glad to see, in the renovated restaurant and kitchen, that about a hundred plaques were up.
As I mentioned, Liberals over the summer were announcing billions of dollars for events, etc., in Liberal-held ridings. One of those that I found most offensive was that they spent I think $68,000 for a reception. It was not a reception to announce a new bridge or perhaps a new sausage flavouring at a company. The reception was to celebrate past announcements. The announcement was to celebrate past announcements for $68,000.
There was $3.5 million in New Brunswick to build a tourist site where there used to be a French village a hundred years ago. History is great, but again, I'm not sure putting up a plaque and a couple of rocks around an empty field that used to be a French village is going to attract anyone, or how that's more important, perhaps, than the lives of those suffering from alcohol addiction. Again, I think it was still trumped by the $10 million for sausage flavourings.
Again, though, I digress a tiny bit.
OSFI says it was only $12,000 but over five years. They punted off the other questions. They went to parts (c) and (d). Again, I'll just remind everyone that this is with regard to the reports of a $355,950 sole-sourced contract they paid Torstar—the Toronto Star—which was cancelled following the complaints.
We've dealt with parts (a) and (b). Parts (c) and (d) asked, “(c) does the government have enough employees to monitor committees without hiring the Toronto Star; and (d) what is the total number of government employees whose job” involves “monitoring parliamentary committees?”
This one is quite funny, because we discussed it again in the House today, you know, with the SNC scandal and the Liberals putting their hands into the justice committee and the question, does the government have enough employees to monitor parliamentary committees without hiring the Toronto Star. I think the answer is, yes. We've seen it here. Both sides play the game. Let's be up front and honest. I'm sure the Conservatives in the past did it. I'm sure that the Chrétien government did it, the Martin government did it and the Mulroney government did it, and I'm sure the Harper government did it as well.
We've all seen the parliamentary secretary stick his head in at votes. We've seen the people from the whip's office come. I actually saw, a couple of weeks before, I think, when we had the minister here.... We were going to put in a motion about a procurement study, and I walked by and the whip from the Liberals' office had gathered several of the committee members. I walked by and couldn't help but hear her giving direction on how to vote if I brought up the motion. We all know that the government directs committees and interferes. We certainly see it with the SNC scandal and the justice committee.
The response was quite funny. Again, the question is, does the government have enough employees to monitor the committees? We know they do. We see it day in and day out. We saw it Monday. The lady from the whip's office, from the government, was in and discussing things with government members here. The government, instead of offering yes or no to the question—and this is great, because it's almost taken right out of question period—with respect to whether or not the government has enough employees, gave this answer, “The government recognizes that committees are masters of their own domain.” I'm not sure if we've heard that before except in question period in the constant answer about the Liberals messing with the justice committee.
The answer continues with, “Under the previous government....” Here we go; blame someone else, of course. Again, I acknowledge that Conservatives, I'm sure, did it. I'm sure Mulroney did it. I'm sure Martin did it. I'm sure Chrétien did it. It states, “Under the previous government, parliamentary committees lacked independence and lacked resources. Instead, the current government has shown respect for the work of committees.”
On the lack of resources, I will note that there was no committee travel allowed. I think my friends in the NDP were denying unanimous consent for any committee travel.
An hon. member: It was out of concern for taxpayers' money.
Mr. Kelly McCauley: Yes, there was wonderful concern about taxpayers' money. I fully respect that. I had the same concern about taxpayers' money when I objected to our paying $5 for an Uber to go and look at a server over in Gatineau or a couple of doors down for Shared Services.
We know that this whole thing about their respecting the independence of the committees is BS. Then there's this whole bit about their actually providing funding. What they're actually providing is junkets a lot of the time. This committee of course went on a Canada Post cross-country tour of 22 cities in 16 days. I think one day we had five different flights. We started at 4 a.m. and ended up back home at 5:30 the next morning, so it was a long day. There's no difference in the funding for the actual committees. The only difference financially has to do with committees being allowed to travel, period.
For their answer to the question about whether government has enough people to spy on their own committees—well, apparently OSFI is needed, but anyway—they say, “For instance, parliamentary committees have been strengthened by giving them more funding through the Board of Internal Economy so they can undertake the appropriate research and engage with Canadians.” This is not so much more funding as it is just the reality that we don't have an opposition that has been denying unanimous consent for travel.
They state, “The government has also ensured that the practice of electing committee chairs by secret ballot has continued.” I'm not sure; I've been on this committee from day one, and I don't know if I recall voting for the current chair. I'm sure that should be secret, but I think I should go on record as saying I oppose the current chair.