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Exchanges in the Senate with Senators Day and Smith about increasing spending on refugees

The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

The Estimates, 2015-16

Supplementary Estimates (B)—First Report of National Finance Committee Tabled

Hon. Lynn Beyak: Thank you, Senator Day, for your always thorough oversight and presentations. It's very much appreciated.

You mentioned that you heard from the immigration and refugee officials at committee and the original budget to bring the first wave was about $250 million. That has now been raised to $277.9 million.

Will you assure me, on behalf of the kind and compassionate senior citizens at home who still think that $27.9 million is a lot of money and who are living on $24,000 a year, that you will watch that this amount doesn't continue to grow and grow beyond what the original budgets were and that you will keep your oversight steady? Thank you.

Senator Day: Thank you, Senator Beyak. Your question presupposes that I'm speaking on behalf of the government, which I'm not. I am an independent Liberal senator here, and I am as interested as you are in protecting the public purse. If that involves criticizing the current administration, then so be it.


We must keep this, and I think that was behind Senator Carignan and Senator Baker's questions as well. There is a real chance that this thing will get out of hand. There are promises being made and statements being made without the opportunity to do the costing that has to be done to determine how much this is really going to cost.

I'm very worried about third parties as well. It's going to be easier for government departments and agencies, the 15 to 20 of them, to come here with Supplementary Estimates (C) saying, "We need extra money because we had to help out Immigration with refugees," but it's not as easy for the provincial government departments and the non-government agencies to get this additional funding that they're obviously going to need.

Hon. Larry W. Smith: Honourable senators, before I follow up with a quick summary, I would first thank Senator Day for doing such an outstanding job as our leader, mobilizing the group quickly. It was a great team effort to go through the process over the last couple of days.

In summary, we're talking about $519 million to the Treasury Board, $277 million to Citizenship and Immigration, $9 million to the house and $3 million for the Parliamentary Protective Service.

Some little facts maybe weren't delivered earlier, through no fault of our chair. In the Parliamentary Protective Service, there will be 500 people working in that particular group, which gives you the dimension of where we were in the past with 100 of our own people. Now there will be 500.

In terms of Treasury Board, some of you asked questions about the thoroughness of the plan with Citizenship and Immigration. The Treasury Board was very good, but they stated that this is a fluid, moving project because of the size of the project. If we go back to one of the last major refugee crises from Southeast Asia, in around 1978, that was the last time we had the scope of the situation we have now.

The other question that was asked, which is interesting, and Senator Baker asked it, was about the total cost of the project over six years. The response we received was $678 million, and then we asked, "Is there a contingency in this?" The answer was that there is a $114 million contingency.

To go to the question that was asked in terms of provincial and local municipal involvement, those people are on their own, and they will have to come back and try to negotiate some form of compensation for their part in this project, if it's doable or not.

We're talking about $812 million. We're talking about a major project, which all of the members of the committee were supportive of. What we want to do, and this goes to Senator Beyak's question, is to make sure that people manage the money properly to protect Canadians in terms of making sure that our interests are best served and we do the best job. It's a fluid project. Don't forget the world is looking at Canada to make sure that we do a great job, so it's in our best interests that this thing is managed professionally and tightly so that we can make sure we get the great results and the feedback we hope to achieve from folks all over the world.

Again, Senator Day has done a great job, and we appreciate it. Probably one of the greatest experiences I have had in my five years is to work with Senator Day, and I thank him for his leadership.