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Cabinet, Growth in
words not only told what was happening at the the purse strings of the nation will continue to
The problem seems to be that the government regards the Auditor General as it regards parliament itself, nothing more than a nuisance. When Maxwell Henderson wrote the following words about the then president of the treasury board, who is now the Minister of Public Works (Mr. Drury), he might just as well have been writing about the entire cabinet. This is what he said:
Drury, by his own admission to me, never understood the function of the Auditor General; he could never comprehend why we reported an those non-productive expenditures in our reports and I had to explain to him that it was done by order of parliament.
The fact that the functions of the Auditor General had to be explained to a minister is bad enough, but it is even worse that the government should object to parliament being made aware of so-called non-productive expenditures. I recall one non-productive expenditure in my own constituency of Leeds where the government had moved in a water testing laboratory to the city of Brockville just prior to an election campaign. It moved it in with much suitable fanfare for local consumption, and supposedly Brockville had received a permanent establishment from the Department of Health and Welfare. Then when the election was over, the government moved the establishment out to another centre, but it remained stuck with the lease and continued to pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars rent for vacant space in a shopping centre until the lease expired some years later.
I would like to return just for a moment to the growth in the Privy Council office and in the Prime Minister's office, which provides an excellent example of the increasing power of the executive branch of government. What on earth do all these people do? On May 22 the Prime Minister tried to pass it off by saying that about half his staff existed to answer his mail, but a look beneath the surface clearly shows some of the things which have happened since 1968, and probably the most obvious indication of the increase in power of the executive branch appeared in the establishment shortly after the Prime Minister took office of regional desks in his office. No longer were the elected representatives to be the ones who reflected the opinions and views of the Canadian people. Instead, an addition was made to the bureaucracy, and further additions have been going on ever since.
Even these additions are not sufficient to satisfy the obvious lust for power on the part of the Prime Minister and some of his associates. They have found it necessary to engage all sorts of outside consultants, brought in for large fees, to perform services which could undoubtedly be performed by those already in senior positions in the public service. Among the vast personnel in the Prime Minister's office is a horde of administrative assistants, executive assistants, special assistants, and so on. I would like to refer briefly to one of these individuals, the princi-
If ever there was a time the bull by the horns and the office of the Auditor
Auditor General pal secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr. Jack Austin. In particular I would like to refer to a recent Southam News story which stated in effect that he was using the facilities of the Prime Minister's office as an information gathering centre to fight a $70,000 personal tax case against the government.
This is a pretty serious allegation, and it is certainly serious enough that it should have been dealt with immediately by the Prime Minister. If the news story is not according to fact, this should have been stated publicly at once. However, a strange silence on the subject is the only thing coming from the government, and it seems to be yet another example indicating that the Prime Minister's office and the Privy Council office are some kind of inner sanctums beyond parliament, beyond criticism by the press, and beyond any accountability whatsoever to anyone.
I realize that I have only several minutes left, so I would like to conclude by saying that there are many unanswered questions. I think the Globe and Mail in an editorial a few days ago put it well when it said, in regard to the appearance of the Prime Minister before this House recently, the following;
But what Mr. Trudeau forgets is that there are a great many Canadi- ans who feel entitled to answers to the questions he dodged: why has the cost of running the Prime Minister's office and the Privy Council office increased 40 times over. ..
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order, please. I regret having to interrupt the hon. member, but the time allotted to him has now expired.
Mr. Serge Joyal (Maisonneuve-Rosemont): Mr. speaker, I am glad that the motion submitted today by the members of the official opposition refers to a bill with a view to increasing and reinforcing the office of the Auditor General of Canada.
I am all the more satisfied, considering that the hon. member for South Shore (Mr. Crouse) is here and that, as member of the opposition, he is presiding over the work of such a committee. Being myself vice-chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and having had occasion since the beginning of Parliament to participate actively in the committee's tasks, one will readily understand, Mr. Speaker, that the motion submitted by the opposition today is not a matter of indifference to me. Indeed, since the publication of the Wilson report on March 27, 1975, I feel that there is not a single member in this House that is indifferent to the office and future of the Auditor General. But before mentioning anything directly about this report, Mr. Speaker, I should like to point out the impartiality, neutrality and honesty with which the hon. member for South Shore is presiding over the destiny of the work of the Public Accounts Committee.
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, ever since I have been attending the discussions of this committee, all members of Parliament who are on the committee, including members of the opposition, have noticed by themselves to what extent the hon. member has mastered the work of the committee and to what extent he is concerned about ensuring its effectiveness.
Auditor General Indeed, Mr. Speaker, I should like to re-establish in the minds of Canadians the credibility of the Public Accounts Committee. It happens too often that one relies on the sayings of an Auditor General whose mandate has ended, and not enough attention is given to the work of the present Auditor General and that of the committee. It is a known fact, Mr. Speaker, that since the beginning of this Parliament, the Public Accounts Committee has already submitted a first report and is now drafting a second one. This second report, Mr. Speaker, is being drafted following submission of the second report of the Auditor General on March 31, 1974. Since the beginning of April, the committee for public accounts studied ten paragraphs of the report of the Auditor General for the financial year ending in 1974; I think it should be able to table its report within the next two weeks.
That is to say, then, Mr. Speaker, that since the start of the 30th Parliament, that committee has already brought the House two reports. If there was no agreement between the members of the committee to accelerate the work, to avoid partisan attacks, to attempt to diversify the work of the committee by bringing discussions to the table bearing on various subjects, I doubt that we could be as proud as we are today of the work of the committee.
Still, Mr. Speaker, I must point out that the attendance of the committee members during this Parliament is not what it should have been. For instance, I must mention to the hon. member for Roberval (Mr. Gauthier) that his party has failed completely to show up for the work of the committee since the opening of this Parliament.
I should also point out to the member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) that his party is very seldom represented. It is too bad, because each time we had to rely on a colleague of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, he always raised pertinent questions which could be included as recommendations in our report. I would therefore hope, Mr. Speaker, that this party will be more assiduous from now on.
I would also make the same comment, Mr. Speaker, about the two main parties in the House. The proceedings of this committee often cannot be immediately concretized in recommendations because we do not have quorum. Thus, for example, when we agreed with the Auditor General that a special meeting would be held on October 12, we had to wait to get a quorum while the whips went to fetch some of their colleagues who were sitting on different committees.
I deplore the fact, especially since the members opposite have loudly brought forward the issue of the credibility of the proceedings in the Public Accounts Committee. If they are so anxious to criticize the government administration, they should be the first ones to sit in majority on this committee. Well, I say so, Mr. Speaker, and without any partisan thought, that has never been the case since the beginning of this 30th Parliament. And I deplore it all the more so that the business of this committee is conducted, I think, as I said earlier, in a nonpartisan manner.
I would like to point out, Mr. Speaker - and this has been mentioned directly in the Wilson Commission Report - that the Auditor General's Office has experienced considerable changes since Mr. James Macdonell has been appointed. I want to point out also the excellent work accomplished by Mr. Macdonell in the public accounts committee.
You know, Mr. Speaker, in the Middle Ages there was a saying that when a new monarch was crowned in replacement of one who had died or had resigned, the palace had to be redecorated. Sometimes, that was done to the accompaniment of drums and trumpets, but some other times, it was done in a silent manner, but not less efficiently. I believe that is the course Mr. Macdonell has chosen to follow when he took up his duties.
For instance, when his predecessor, Mr. Henderson took office, 10 per cent of the staff in the Office of the Auditor General were professionals. When he left, half were professionals a quarter of which were chartered accountants, members of Canadian acknowledged institutions. On the other hand, the report of the Wilson Commission stated that out of 395 authorized positions in the office of the Auditor General, only 290 had been filled.
Of course, Mr. Macdonell could have assumed his post, made profound statements, awakened interest in mass media, solicited interviews with newspapers, radio and television stations and attempted to make a fuss about the lack of personnel in the Office of the Auditor General. Such was not the case, Mr. Speaker, he was rather efficient. I am surprised that members of the opposition failed to point this out.
Judging from what the previous speakers said, most of them did not read the Auditor General's report for the year ending March 31, 1975. The hon. member for Leeds in particular most certainly did not read paragraphs 70 and 71. Mr. Speaker, these paragraphs do not deal directly with shortcomings or breakdown in government administration. It is much more general. It is a study on financial administration and control.
This paragraph would authorize the Auditor General to carry out a thorough investigation into the financial administration and control of each and every department and Crown corporation. With his personnel of 290 people, the Auditor General would certainly have been unable to complete this study to which he refers in his report for March 31, 1975, without the assistance of additional personnel. What did he do? Did he call a press conference? Did he complain on TV or on the radio about his lack of personnel? No, Mr. Speaker, he was a lot more resourceful. What did he do? He met the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, as stated in his report on page 75, and asked to take part in the public service executive transfer program.
What is this program all about? It is quite simple. It is a program which permits a department or a Crown agency to call directly upon the private sector and request for the government the personnel who could be associated to an assignment or particular duties. The Chairman of the Public Service Commission agreed to the Auditor General's request, so that 19 accounting firms throughout Canada were called upon to provide the Auditor General with the additional personnel.
Mr. Speaker, although I realize time passes quickly, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to go on with my remarks.