These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Request for More Funding

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General has confirmed that the costs of the universal gun registry have ballooned from $2 million to $1 billion; 500 times more. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Industry and other Liberals are out there blaming gun owners, blaming the provinces and, in some cases, getting it accurate and blaming each other.

Today the Minister of Justice has on the Order Paper a request for another $72 million for the registry. Is he now prepared to withdraw his request today for that additional money?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times, the Auditor General has been pointing at some elements of the program. I have said many times as well that we accept all her recommendations. One more time, all the numbers have been reported through Justice Canada or the other ministries or departments involved in the program delivery.

Having said that, through supplementary estimates, we have obtained an additional amount of money. We are getting ready to vote on $72 million tonight, which we will postpone to give us the time to have access to the audit, if we have unanimous consent of the House.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the government will get consent from this party not to spend any more money, I can assure him of that.

However, for a majority government to walk into the House on the day of its estimates and pull its request for the money is unprecedented political and financial mismanagement. It has already committed to spending $113.5 million. This request for supplementary money was tabled in October.

I want to ask the Minister of Justice this. If we do not proceed with this today, is he assuring us that none of the $72 million has already been spent?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I said, the amount of money that has been authorized through the supplementary estimates has to be voted on tonight.

I said yesterday that we had frozen all major spending with regard to the program. We are keeping the system up and running because on this side of the House we believe in protecting our society. We have said there are problems and we will fix the problems.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, society is protected by being tough on crime, not by spending $1 billion on a gun registry.

The government says that it will go ahead. If the government actually needs the $72 million that it is now not asking for and not spending, how will it finish the gun registry when, by its own admission, 2.5 million to 3 million guns still need to be registered? How will this thing go ahead?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a valid, sound policy which is there to offer good protection for our society. They, of course, do not believe in protecting our society.  The hon. member should repeat what he just said to Vince Bevan, the Ottawa Chief of Police, who has said:

--without information about who owns guns...there is no way to prevent violence or to effectively enforce the law. Information is the lifeblood of policing... this law is a useful tool which has already shown its value in a number--

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: Order, please. I would remind hon. members when they ask questions that they have to be able to hear the answers and the Speaker has to be able to hear the answers.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, what this party will do is tell the chiefs of police across Canada to put policemen on the street to enforce real laws against real criminals including the thing the minister is unwilling to do today, to have tough laws against child pornographers and pedophiles.

Let me go on. The minister has no idea how the policy will work but he continues to defend it. Let me ask him a couple of straightforward questions.

How much more money will he need to finish the gun registry? How much will it cost annually to maintain after that? Does he have any idea?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member believes in protecting our society he should believe in gun registration. As we said--

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: Order, please. I have already urged hon. members that if they do not want to hear the answer to the question they should not ask the question. A question has been asked and we have to be able to hear the answer. The minister might say something out of order and then we would have real objections. I want to hear the minister and I ask hon. members to allow him to speak.

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as we said, we will keep proceeding with the policy because as a society we are starting to see the benefits of it. For example, more than 7,000 firearms licences have been refused or revoked. The number of persons prohibited from firearms ownership has also continued to increase by almost 50%. The number of lost or missing firearms has declined by 68%. Those are the benefits and we will--

The Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, there is not one of those things that could not have been achieved without spending $1 billion on a gun registry and Groupaction advertising and promoting.

I will ask my question over again because I think it deserves an answer. The government has spent $1 billion. It is now coming in today pulling $72 million off the table. How much more will it cost to complete the gun registry and how much more will it cost to run it each year after that?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times, we will fix the problem. To start with we have accepted on this side--

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: Order, please. The Leader of the Opposition said that he wanted an answer but I do not know how the Leader of the Opposition can hear the answer for all the noise. The Speaker cannot hear the answer so I do not know how the Leader of the Opposition can hear it. I urge hon. members to restrain themselves and listen to the answer. The Leader of the Opposition said that he wanted an answer so now we will try to get one from the Minister of Justice. Let us listen.

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I said, we on this side of the House have accepted all the recommendations of the Auditor General. As I also said, we will fix the problem. To start with, I said that we want to postpone the vote on the $72 million but that we need the unanimous consent of the House. Why will he not stand up today and say that he supports that?

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, in response to the Auditor General's scathing report on his department's handling of the firearms registry, the Minister of Justice has hired KPMG to audit the department's financial statements.

We know the Auditor General must report to Parliament. We know that no such requirement exists for a private firm. Other than the opportunity to hide the report from Parliament, is there any reason why the minister chose KPMG over the Auditor General? Does he think a private firm will be any more successful at getting to the bottom of the mess than the Auditor General?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as we said, we accept all the recommendations of the report of the Auditor General. Basically, as we looked at the situation there were two big concerns.

The first concern was the cost escalation. I have explained in the House the reasons, which were, of course, that the provinces opted out and then there was the challenge in terms of technology.

On the other side is the question of being accountable. Of course the Department of Justice is the single point and therefore is accountable. We are accountable for all other departments and will make sure we put the books in a fashion that will please the Auditor General and the whole population.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, he might want to ask his seatmate for some help on these questions. On second thought, maybe not.

The Auditor General has concluded that the Department of Justice hid from Parliament the fact that there were massive cost overruns. Rather than suspend or cancel the registry, the minister has now called for an outside, after the fact audit. He owes it to the House to not make the same mistake twice.

The current report states that Parliament was kept in the dark. Will he commit today to table the KPMG audit as soon as he has received it?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, everyone in the House and the Canadian population know that all the numbers have been reported. They have been reported for Justice Canada and for all the other departments that were involved in the program delivery.

What I said was that it was a question of accountability, and how we should be accountable for the whole program. We have said that we will make sure that we put the book in a format that will be transparent to the Auditor General, as well as to better inform the Canadian population. We are deeply committed to accountability.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, in case the justice minister did not understand the Leader of the Opposition, who clearly indicated that he would consent to the withdrawing of funding from the gun registry, I would like to ask the question again. How much will it cost to complete the gun registry and how much will it cost to maintain it?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, what we are dealing with now are the recommendations of the Auditor General with regard to managing the program. What we said is that we agree with all the recommendations. I said yesterday as well that we had frozen all the major spending that could take place within the program itself.

I am also glad to hear that we now can postpone the vote on the $72 million to give us time to see the audit. Are we concerned? Yes, we are concerned and we will fix the problem.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I gather from the answer that he does not know what he is doing, so I will ask him again. How much will it cost to complete the registry and how much will it cost to maintain it after that?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member knows very well that the numbers have declined over the past two years. The member also knows that big spending is behind us. We on this side of the House believe that our policy is protecting society and its values. What we want to do on this side of the House is to fix all the problems in order to have a very good and valid program for the whole Canadian population.

Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the answers or non-answers that we are getting from the justice minister with respect to the firearms registry are a complete disgrace. Canadians are very concerned about whether or not the government has any clue how it is spending money on the registry. Today the minister is confirming that in fact it has no idea.

Could the minister tell us how much it will cost to finish this registry and how much it will cost every year to maintain it?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have all the numbers going back to the beginning of the program as well as the past seven years. We have the numbers that we have tabled in the supplementary estimates. If members were to look at the supplementary estimates they would see the situation with regard to justice is very clear in the program.

There is no money missing. Everything has been reported. The question here is, how should we be accountable? How should we make the situation clearer for all Canadians in order to access the costs? This is what we will do in answer to the recommendation of the Auditor General.

Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, if this minister knows the numbers then it is a contempt of Parliament and a contempt of Canadians not to reveal them here today.

What I would like to know is, how much will it cost to finish this registry and how much will it cost every year to maintain it? We want an answer.

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, members know very well what I said many times. We want to fix the problems. There is some question in terms of management involved in the department.

We managed to fix the problem. Having said that, the difference between that side and the Liberal side is that we believe in the protection of our society. We believe in our policy and we also believe in the gun registry. We will ensure it will be a good and valid program to protect our Canadian society.

Mr. Rick Borotsik (Brandon—Souris, PC): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice said today that he will keep the gun registry running because he believes in protecting society. What he does not believe in is ministerial and financial accountability. There is absolutely no proof that gun registration is working for Canadian society.

If it can be proved that the gun registry has no benefit to public safety will the minister cancel the gun registration right now?

Hon. Martin Cauchon (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member says there is no proof.

What about the more than 7,000 firearm licences that have been refused or revoked? What about police agencies that access the firearms on-line registry 1,500 times daily?

The number of persons prohibited from owning a firearm has also continued to increase by almost 50% from 1998 to 2001. The number of lost or missing firearms has declined by 68% from 1998 to 2001. This is why we are going to keep proceeding--