From the House – Week of May 1 to May 7, 2015 – John Rafferty MP

Parliament Hill
John Rafferty MP
John Rafferty MP

OTTAWA – POLITICS – This week in Ottawa I brought some local history to the floor of the House of Commons, and the Auditor General tabled his annual spring report on the government’s activities.

This week I had a Private Members’ Statement and I opted to share some local history with my fellow MPs from across the country, and it may even surprise a few readers to learn about it as well. Here is the full text of my statement delivered on Thursday April 30…

“Mr. Speaker, This past weekend, it was my distinct honour to be invited to the 69th Military Ball hosted by the Officers of the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment and Garrison Officer’s Mess. Let me offer a special thanks to Major David Ratz and the entire 2015 Ball Planning Committee for organizing a wonderful evening, and a special mention to the incomparable MacGillvray Pipe Band. Thunder Bay is known as the ‘City of the Poppy.’ On July 5th, 1921, the Great War Veterans Association, a forerunner of the Royal Canadian Legion, held their national organizational meeting in Port Arthur, Ontario. There, they approved the poppy to be worn on the anniversary of Armistice Day. Within a year, all Legion branches across the country wore the poppy as a means of remembrance. Thousands of men and women from Northwestern Ontario have served in the defense of Canada. Lest we forget.”

As May 3rd this year is the 100th anniversary of the writing of the iconic poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae I thought this statement a few days ahead was a fitting subject.

On the more serious side of my work this week we also received the annual spring Auditor General’s report on the government’s operations. Each spring the Auditor General takes a look at some specific government programs and evaluates their effectiveness to ensure that we are getting value for our money and that the services we are provided are being provided in a competent manner. This year, the Auditor General looked at many programs and services, including; the parole system for convicted criminals and access to health services for First Nations among others. Here are some of his findings;

  • Correctional Service of Canada officials recommended fewer people for early release in 2013-14 than in 2011-12, even if the offender was assessed as a low risk to reoffend, leading to an additional $91-million annual cost.
  • People living in remote First Nations in Manitoba and Ontario aren’t guaranteed to have access to clinical and client care services, with major health and safety problems at the nursing stations, and only one of the 45 nurses evaluated finishing the five mandatory training courses chosen for the audit.

The Auditor General also looked at the Conservatives’ promotion and use of various specific tax credits (ie: Child Fitness Tax Credit, First Time Homeowner Tax Credit) to see how much those tax credits are costing the government and how much they are being used by Canadians. His key findings include;

  • Information provided by the Department of Finance Canada on tax-based expenditures does not adequately support parliamentary oversight.
  • Evaluations prepared by the Department were generally not published.
  • Examples were found where the Department of Finance Canada identified issues in relation to certain tax measures before implementing them. Despite those issues, the Department had yet to evaluate these tax measures.

In a nutshell, the Auditor General’s finding are that the Department of Finance is keeping parliament in the dark about the usage and costs of these tax credits, that they are also keeping the information from the public, and most importantly that in many cases the government has no idea much these tax credits cost, if they are even being used, and by whom. Put even more concisely; when it comes to these and other tax credits the Conservative government is both secretive and incompetent.

So another busy week is behind us, but it was a week where parliament learned a bit more about Thunder Bay, and the Auditor General found many ways to improve the way in which our government can improve the services it provides to us.

John Rafferty MP

Thunder Bay Rainy River

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John Rafferty is the current Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay – Rainy River and a member of the New Democratic Party caucus in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Ontario. John was first elected to serve as MP in the 2008 federal election and was subsequently re-elected on May 2, 2011 with 48.1% of the vote.