Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals):
Honourable senators, sometimes in this chamber we wonder about the value of Question Period. We’ve heard about that in the past when it’s been talked about at the Modernization Committee, but today we have a shining example of the effect of question period in this chamber.
Yesterday, and on previous days, I, Senator Cordy and others have asked questions about the Phoenix pay system, and yesterday the government announced that they are going to get rid of the Phoenix pay system.
An Hon. Senator: Well done.
Senator Mercer: I’m not taking credit for it. The government can take credit for it, but what I want to talk about today is who will take the blame for it. Because the other day, I specifically mentioned it was the Conservatives who bought the Phoenix pay system and it was their idea.
So today, I was shocked, after yesterday’s great announcement, to read this afternoon that former Tory minister Tony Clement defends the Harper government’s handling of the Phoenix pay system.
I don’t know about you, colleagues, but that shocks me. But you know what: I knew there would be a Tory who would come to the rescue and accept the blame for this, and Mr. Clement has done that.
My question for Senator Harder is this: Will the government now follow up this extremely positive decision to get rid of the Phoenix pay system with a lawsuit against IBM to help recover the millions of Canadian taxpayers’ dollars spent on this failed system, which was imposed on the government by Tony Clement and his colleagues in the Harper government?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question and his review of the historic detail.
Let me repeat what I indicated earlier: The government is consulting all of its advisers with respect to contract obligations that were undertaken and is determined to see those obligations restored in some fashion in accordance with the contract.
I should also take the occasion to note, I think with some degree of comfort, that the government is not just announcing the launching of a new system but actually a process that will get us to a system that works before you turn the switch. That is why the investments in the existing system will continue to be made so that, as the new system gets developed, we can be assured that we won’t have a repeat.
Senator Mercer: That’s very encouraging, Senator Harder. I know the employees of the Government of Canada would applaud that. My dad is long gone but he was a public servant and if his pay would have been interrupted, I wouldn’t have wanted to listen to the speech I would have heard about that if I had been here at the time.
I would repeat the request of the other day whether Senator Harder could provide us with copies of the documents that show what the responsibilities of the contractor were to supply to the Government of Canada under the Phoenix pay system.
Senator Harder: Again I’ll repeat my answer of the other day: I will make inquiries of what legal obligations of disclosure can allow this to take place. I will be happy to table them, provided they are available under the legal and contractual obligations.