House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parties.

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The House resumed from May 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-22, an act respecting certain agreements concerning the redevelopment and operation of terminals 1 and 2 at Lester B. Pearson International Airport be read the second time and referred to a committee; and of the amendment.

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10 a.m.

Broadview—Greenwood
Ontario

Liberal

Dennis Mills Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, this morning I would like to begin by giving a short preamble to our viewers who are watching and wondering why we are working on this amendment. I think it is appropriate to read from Hansard the opposition amendment.

The Bloc amendment effectively states that this House should decline to give second reading to Bill C-22, an act respecting certain agreements concerning the redevelopment and operation of terminals 1 and 2 at Lester B. Pearson International Airport, because the principle of the bill is flawed due to the fact that it contains no provisions aimed at making the work done by lobbyists more transparent.

I will go right to clauses 9 and 10 of Bill C-22. Under the heading "No Compensation", clause 9 states:

No one is entitled to any compensation from Her Majesty in connection with the coming into force of this act.

Clause 10(2)(a) and (b) states:

No amount is payable under an agreement entered into under this section in relation to

(a) any loss of profit, or

(b) any fee paid for the purpose of lobbying a public office holder, within the meaning of subsection 2(1) of the Lobbyists Registration Act.

I do not think it could have been stated any more clearly that any activity related to the lobbying on the Pearson airport contract will not have any remuneration at all.

The Bloc motion also calls for an inquiry which is a delay tactic. It is not going to put this file to rest and will not allow us to deal with the real problems at the airport in Toronto.

First, Canadians clearly know that we in the government, we in the Liberal Party did not support the Pearson development contract. It was cancelled immediately. However because we cancelled that contract, it does not mean we are opposed to redeveloping and reworking the Pearson International Airport.

Going back over the last 10 years, we were dealing with a Conservative government that had this ideological thrust to dismantle everything around here. It offloaded to the provinces; it offloaded to the private sector. The last 10 years was like fire sale city. This was that government's last attempt to have a fire sale of the most profitable organization in the Government of Canada, the Pearson International Airport.

Much of the good work the management of Pearson airport accomplished over the years was tainted by this whole exercise. We want to put this file to rest now so that we can come back at it from square one. Does that mean we are going to go out and do the same deal over again with a different set of lobbyists? No.

In fact there are Bloc members over there who have suggested from time to time that there were Liberal lobbyists involved in this transaction. That is a fact.

It is a well known fact that all the lobby firms in Ottawa do not have just Conservative lobbyists. They have Conservatives, Liberals and NDP. In fact they even have a couple of lobbyists who work on the Reform Party, but I do not know about the Bloc.

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10:05 a.m.

An hon. member

No lobbyists for the Reform Party.

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10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Broadview—Greenwood, ON

No lobbyists for the Reform Party. Okay.

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10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

As the hon. parliamentary secretary knows very well, we were supposed to avoid these kinds of across the floor sword waving. If the member would please put his remarks to the Chair, it will avoid getting blood on the rug, so to speak.

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10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, my humble apologies. It must be Friday morning. I think the House is getting to me this week, but I will be going home to my constituency soon.

The problem in the Toronto area is that we have about 600,000 people out of work. It is serious because Toronto has never before been on its economic knees the way it has been in the last two years.

I am speaking on behalf of all members from Toronto at this moment. We talk among ourselves and we rack our brains on how we can get our city going again. Toronto has always been generous to every region in Canada and is happy to do it.

Do not think for a second that a lot of us were not tempted to move ahead with this project because it created a lot of jobs. We knew however that the contract the Conservatives had was not in the best interests of all of Canada. A lot of the money that was made at the Pearson International Airport, unlike other airports in Canada, was used to subsidize the smaller regions of Canada where the little local airports could not stand on their own two feet.

It is very important when we look at Toronto that we do not compare it to the local airport authority in Vancouver. This is a national airport. The profits and the cash flow from this airport service the country.

There was a lot of temptation for us to say: "Wow, this is about a job creation project for 2,000 people", but in the interests of Canada we said no. The Prime Minister, the caucus and the cabinet said we are not striking this deal.

What do we have to do now? We have to revitalize that airport. It invites tourists here, trade shows, people that want to invest not just in Toronto but in every region of our country and we must revitalize it. We have to get it going, but we have to get it going in the interests not just of a handful of developers, and not just in the interests of a few lobbyists.

By the way, I have a lot of friends who are in the lobby business. Yes, I do. I can tell you there have been many times when we have had tough debates on this, but I have always been consistent. I believe in a strong national government.

We have to put this piece of legislation to bed. We have to finish it off. Then we can put people who look at the macro picture of Canada in place to start revitalizing this airport.

I appeal to all members. If you want a good discussion on lobbyists then stand by and wait for the lobbyists registration act. It is going to be coming before this House in the not too distant future. It will be in committee and we can have a good solid constructive debate.

Do not think for a second that we on this side of the House do not share a lot of your views on the way the lobby industry went up by 10,000 per cent in the last 10 years. Many of us who were MPs in the last government felt that the lobbyists around this town had more influence and more power than even the cabinet. If you think for a second that all of a sudden we are going to look the other way, we are going to have a very transparent constructive piece of lobbyists registration legislation.

Everyone knows I have always been emphatic about the fact that tourism is one of the greatest job creators in this country. Linked to tourism is the fact that our transportation instruments must be healthy and must represent the type of community and country we have. Nowhere is Pearson more important than in the tourism industry. Therefore I am asking members from all regions to put this bill through the next phases quickly so we can get on with the business of revitalizing the Toronto market.

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10:15 a.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me real pleasure today to speak to the issue of Bill C-22 on behalf of the Reform Party of Canada. I am pleased because it is always a pleasure to expose the facts about a bad deal, but also because it gives me an opportunity to show how the Reform Party presents a better option for Canadian voters than the old line parties, the Liberals and Conservatives.

I want to describe something for my attentive audience in the Chamber today and those across the nation who are listening in. I want to tell my audience about one aspect of how a political party is organized and the major problems that this sometimes engenders.

The old line parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, are nearly as old as Canada itself. Even before 1867 they were loose political alliances based on culture and other associations. When we look at the ideology of the two main parties they believe much the same things.

Both parties believe in the great concepts of democracy, the rule of law, the parliamentary system and the general viability of the free enterprise system. Both parties, at least until a few months ago, were national parties. Both have elected English and French Canadian Prime Ministers. In fact there are so many likenesses that a person not acquainted with this country might ask what makes them different.

There is one telling difference. I would describe a political party as a circle of friends committed to a common political purpose. People who are not friends will not be able to work together to achieve this purpose and a group of friends not committed to the political purpose will of course accomplish almost nothing. Both elements must exist in order for an effective political party to exist; a group of friends and a common political purpose.

When we consider this definition the difference between the Liberals and Conservatives becomes crystal clear. They are simply different circles of friends. The Conservative Party is just such a circle of people bound together by common association, bearing allegiance to one another within the party because of generations of common involvement and association. I say generations because this is the case of the old line parties. The Conservatives have been around for over a century. Today's young Conservative might say: "My father was a Conservative, and my grandfather. I am going to vote Conservative".

Imagine how deep party roots go; old friendships, old acquaintances, old loyalties, old trusts and yes, old favours and old debts. The bad goes with the good. Where there are common political commitments there are inevitable favours that go back a long time, and how are these favours repaid? Sometimes they are paid by patronage, sometimes by prestige, sometimes by simple influence and sometimes by money.

When I began my talk today I noted that a political party must have two elements, a circle of friends and a common political purpose. Over generations of political life the purpose begins to waver. Because the political direction seems secure people lose sight of the great political purpose for which they were bound together in the first place and the circle of friends becomes ever more important.

In time unfortunately the circle of friends can completely overshadow the political purpose and the friendships take over. The public interest becomes lost somewhere between the shuffle of favour after favour and the public interest begins to suffer.

This is how political corruption develops. This is exactly how the Conservative Party of Canada has corrupted itself in this Pearson airport deal; a tight circle of friends, bound together no longer by common political purpose but by using their political associations to benefit financially from the public purse.

This is why I believe Canada needs the Reform Party. Canada needs a new circle of friends, people who feel a deeper friendship for the people of Canada and their interests than with each other; a circle of reform minded friends who are joined in a passionate, idealistic political purpose, Canadians for whom that common political purposes stands far above any of these associations for personal gain.

After developing the background in this way, let us now turn to the bill before us. The media did a fine job of exposing the corruption inherent in the Pearson airport contract, the Conservative circle of friends who were benefiting very handsomely from their political friendships in the dying days of the Tory administration.

The Liberals did a fine thing, the right thing, when they promised during the election campaign to stop the deal on behalf of all Canadians. It is not unethical to scrap a contract that was corrupt in the very first place.

The Reform Party of Canada does not oppose the broad outlines of this bill. We agree with its general concept and we agree especially on section 9 of the bill which reads: "No one is entitled to any compensation from Her Majesty in connection with the coming into force of this act".

If the contract was a corruption on the bidding process in the first place so the parameters of the tender were written to suit just one bid then the entire process is rightly null and void. No compensation should be owed by the crown to these people.

Unfortunately while the Liberals were making a political promise during the election there was a fly in the ointment.

Amid the good things that are being done, toward the end of Bill C-22 in clause 10 there is a statement which causes us to stop short: "If the minister considers it appropriate to do so, the minister may, with the approval of the Governor in Council, enter into agreements on behalf of Her Majesty to provide for the payment of such amounts as the Minister considers appropriate".

The intention of the act is to right a wrong. It is to stop corruption. It is to reverse a deal which benefited a circle of friends in an unethical way. The government declared rightly when it said that it owed no compensation to anyone.

Why then does the act contain a clause which allows the minister to make any payment he chooses, only needing the approval of cabinet which makes its decisions behind closed doors?

After trumpeting self-righteously about the evils of the deal, the minister now gives himself and the cabinet the authority to make a secret deal with the old Conservatives instead of being up front with the people of Canada. Why would that be? Instead of Conservative friends, it could be that there are Liberal friends who took part in this deal whom the minister has not forgotten.

After publicly exposing and denouncing the corruption inherent in the Conservative deal are the Liberals now having the same thing to do with their Liberal circle of friends?

I would note for the public record, and not particularly with glee but with sadness, that there are also many Liberals involved in the contract. Claridge Properties is a company heavily involved. It is controlled by a prominent Liberal Party supporter and fundraiser. There is a Liberal senator involved, a Liberal organizer and a lobbyist. And of course Liberal veteran Bob Nixon was coincidentally named to investigate all the factors in this organization.

Where there is smoke there is fire and the smokescreen that surrounds this thing is starting to get thicker and thicker. Might there be a possibility that there are prominent Liberals and others we do not even know about who are directly or indirectly involved in this and will be entitled to some compensation?

In order to keep the public interest on centre stage and to take the political favours off the scene altogether the minister should not be making these decisions about compensation. The decisions should be made in public on a non-partisan basis by the Standing Committee on Transport in which all members of all political parties can have a say and invite witnesses to come before it.

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10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

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10:20 a.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC

This is where everything related to the deal will be made public. If real economic losses have been suffered by innocent parties the committee will make a joint decision in front of the television cameras, in front of the Canadian people to show that no political influence peddling has been involved.

The Reform Party does not believe that it is cost effective to go to the length of having a royal commission on this. We do not think that is necessary. However, we would prefer to see the issue discussed openly before the standing committee with a good number of guest speakers and all willing witnesses coming forward to give their perspectives on the issues.

This royal commission, despite all of the other Pearson flaws, would be like using a hammer to kill a fly and would undoubtedly become a prime example of yet more millions spent uselessly. Therefore, it is becoming more and more obvious that the old line parties are no longer focusing. They need to focus on the public interest rather than on the political interest or the line of friendship that I talked about earlier.

Even when they try to address political corruption they are no longer able to act without making sure that their friends are being taken care of, or at least that impression may be given. Section 9 is claiming no compensation is owed but it is already mitigated and contradicted by section 10 which says that the minister, if he feels so inclined, may give any compensation he feels fit to give.

This whole issue highlights the crying need for change in Canada's political system. It is time for a new political association to wipe the old ones off the map for a while, to erase the old blackboard covered thick with old IOUs. It is time to start with a clean political slate. I would suggest it is time to start with the Reform Party of Canada.

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10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would also like to acknowledge all those taking part in this debate. I understand that we do not all share the same views. I would also like to remind those listening to us that it was two weeks ago that the Official Opposition undertook to shed some light on the now unfortunate tale of Pearson Airport.

The more we debate this issue, the more this sad tale reminds us of how the traditional political parties equate politics with favouritism and lobbying. Indeed, lobbying, favouritism and politics are often viewed as one and the same thing. That is why the Official Opposition, being the responsible group that it is, wanted to shed some light on this transaction. Surely you have never doubted that we are a responsible party because we have never acted other than responsibly since being elected to sit as the Official Opposition.

Mr. Speaker, could you ask the hon. members to applaud my comments?

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10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

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10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

We must not, however, lose sight of the fact that this is a serious issue. Since my hon. colleague is speaking about facts, it would be a good idea to remind him that as we speak, the Liberal government has yet to make the details of this deal public. Yet, we are discussing a transaction that has major financial implications. Our listeners should know that we are conducting this debate without the actual contract in hand, without knowing in detail the contractual obligations which bound the former government to the consortium in question.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to review some of the events leading up to this transaction. They clearly show that in our political system, until such time as we have lobbying legislation with teeth, it will always be possible for a government to indulge in favouritism.

The following question arises then. How is it that this government, when in opposition, stressed many times the need to review the lobbying legislation and even made this issue a priority? And how is it that six months after coming to power, it still has made no attempt to conduct such a review? We are critical of the government for its failure to act on this matter.

While we may agree with its decision to cancel the Conservative deal, we can only wonder why it did not see things through to their logical conclusion. Since the two parties are in agreement, something that does not happen often during the life of a Parliament, why will the government not attack the root of the problem by urgently introducing legislation here in the House to deal with the explosive issue of lobbying? Both the Reform Party and the Official Opposition would be ready to move on this matter immediately and would make themselves available.

There would have been no question of an agenda or of a timetable. We would have devoted all of our energies and efforts to studying this legislation as quickly as possible.

It so happens that, like the Conservatives, the Liberals have their political friends. Therefore, they are duty bound to support them. When you have a national party like the Liberal Party and you are looking for financial backup like they do, it is understandable that you be bound by the election fund that allows you to be in politics.

Of course, we, in Quebec, have freed ourselves from such a thing. This is part of René Levesque's legacy, this great political figure Félix Leclerc said was part of a much too short list of liberators of the people. The main thing we have inherited from the Levesque era was this piece of legislation he gave the National Assembly, one of the very first ones introduced in the Parti Quebecois government's mandate. Those were the days, the early days of the Parti Quebecois government, days that will come back though!

You are aware of the political situation. I will not elaborate on the subject, but some optimism is permitted on this side of the House. The reason we are in this predicament is because we do not have legislation "that has teeth" respecting lobbyists.

So, in March 1992, the government called for tenders-also known as bids in government language-for the privatization of Terminals 1 and 2 at Pearson Airport.

If you were the least bit concerned by the issue, you were already wondering: Why privatize Pearson Airport? In terms of public facilities, can you think of something more common, more public than an airport? Why privatize Pearson Airport then, if for one thing, it was the main airport in Canada and, for another, it was profitable? This was an airport that actually showed profits on its books, an airport that did not carry losses. Already, people were wondering: why privatize a piece of our national heritage which is crucial to the Ontario economy, as we know, when it showed profits?

You will tell me this is typical of the silly way of thinking of a Conservative government in bed with-and almost incestuously so-the private sector. That is what the ideological motivation was.

In the end, in June 1992, two bids were received. Strangely enough, the public tendering process on such a major public stake had produced only two bids, both bidders already having ties with the airport administration. And, let us not forget the time limit potential suppliers were given to submit tenders; the entire process lasted but 90 days. That was the first technical irregularity. Every member who knows anything about administrative law knows, for instance, that the labour standards committee gives 90 days to initiate whatever collective agreement grievance, even for matters much less binding. That is the minimum time allotted in the notice of dispute.

Yet, it was decided to apply this minimum time limit to something as major as a multimillion privatization process. So, that was the first irregularity, and observers did not fail to point it out. That is the crux of the controversy and this is where we really get the feeling of doing our job as the opposition, by raising these facts.

Who were these bidders? Who are they? Paxport is a consortium controlled by Don Matthews group. Don Matthews was president of Brian Mulroney's leadership campaign in 1983. My apologies to Joe Clark for saying this, but Don Matthews was president of Brian Mulroney's leadership campaign. This man is part of the Conservative Party machinery. He is so much a part of it that he was the mastermind behind four or five national fund-raising campaigns. And you know that Tory national fund-raising campaigns generally involve several zeros and that most of the money comes from private enterprise.

So the first bidder is directly linked to this great Tory family, now a kind of nuclear family, we agree, but once a little more extended than it is now.

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10:30 a.m.

An hon. member

Almost a single-parent family.

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10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Almost a single-parent family, I am told, Mr. Speaker.

The second bidder, Claridge Properties Inc., is a company owned by Charles Bronfman, who is not exactly the most destitute of Canadians or the closest to the Optimist Club or the Salvation Army. He is, however, quite close to the Liberal Prime Minister. And we saw during the campaign the tenuous cocktail-circuit links connecting Charles Bronfman to this Liberal family he is still a part of.

The two bidders are going to merge and, whether Tory or Liberal, it all amounts to the same thing. Our two bidders are going to merge into T1 T2 Limited Partnership, which will be the new company responsible for privatizing Terminals 1 and 2. It reeks of scandal, patronage, nepotism. That is why the Official Opposition thinks we must shed light on this issue. And to do it as expeditiously as the government wants-a government that has still not made public the legal text of this privatization deal-we say a commission of enquiry is needed to deal with this blot on, this breach of democracy.

This case reminds us that the federal administration will be faced with this kind of situation until we have, as demanded by the Official Opposition and the Reform Party, a lobbyists law with teeth. The government must resolve the issue.

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10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to take part in the discussion on the cancellation of the contract to privatize terminals 1 and 2 at Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto, a very profitable airport. The former Conservative government concluded these agreements only two and a half weeks before the election of October 25, 1993. They would have turned over to private sector interests for a 60-year period the development and operation of terminals 1 and 2 at the largest airport in Canada.

In the last election campaign, the Liberals promised to cancel this outrageous contract that by all appearances was a case of patronage and end-of-mandate political manipulation. Clearly, this questionable transaction is contrary to the public interest and the Conservative government's only purpose was to enrich its fund-raisers.

Some provisions of Bill C-22 are contradictory and controversial; for example, clause 9, which says that in principle the government will not have to compensate the parties concerned. However, further on, the bill gives the Minister of Transport full discretion to conclude agreements on payment of money, to pay these same parties the amount he deems appropriate under this law. I think that no compensation should be paid in this case. This latter provision is disturbing. It leaves the way open for lobbyists involved with the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party to obtain the compensation they want.

Furthermore, I very strongly support the proposal of the member for Lac-Saint-Jean, the Leader of the Official Opposition, to create a royal commission of inquiry to get to the bottom of one of the biggest scandals I have seen in Canadian public life and politics since coming to this country in 1974.

Obviously, there was no openness in this affair.

Even the investigator appointed by Mr. Chrétien, Mr. Nixon, says that: "The public should have the right to know the full details of the agreement". Besides examining this questionable transaction, this commission should also deal with the administration of all federal airports in Canada.

This transaction that the Conservative Party wanted to put through was condemned at the time by the labour movement, especially by my old union, the National Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers Union of Canada (CAW), by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. These unions also represent the employees of Pearson Airport.

Consequently, I want to pay tribute to the union movement for its clear and firm position against the privatization of that airport, and in particular to CAW president, my former colleague Basil "Buzz" Hargrove, as well as to Cheryl Kryzaniwsky, president of local 2213 of the same union, which represents 8,000 workers from that industry. I spent the last two days in Banff, close to your riding. I met with over 100 delegates from this local chapter representing airline industry employees. These people passed excellent resolutions to face the current crisis in this industry.

These unions opposed policies to privatize and regulate their sector of operation at any cost. For example, they opposed the privatization of Air Canada. Indeed, as a consequence of these policies, several Canadian and Quebec companies have gone bankrupt, thousands of jobs have been lost, and big American carriers are now exerting greater control over those companies which are still in operation.

I want to take this opportunity to draw your attention to the fact that TAP-Air Portugal will stop flying to Canada, that is to Montreal and Toronto, after doing so for 25 years. I was informed of that decision in the last couple of days by the CAW union, which represents employees of that company in Canada, and also by the Portuguese community, which is one of the largest ethnic communities in Canada with close to 500,000 members who reside mostly in Ontario and Quebec. Its leaders have formed a coalition and unanimously oppose that decision.

I therefore ask the Canadian government to make representations to the Portuguese government and to the management of TAP-Air Portugal, to have that decision reversed, because it could have a very negative impact for the travel industry between the two countries, and it will result in the loss of numerous jobs.

At Pearson Airport alone, 56,000 workers depend on direct and indirect airport activities. The annual total payroll for these workers is $1.9 billion, an amount which greatly contributes to the economy of the Greater Toronto Area, including the $630 million in taxes paid to the three levels of government. This gives an idea of the impact of that industry on Canada's economy.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I submit that any agreement of any nature must have, as one of its primary objectives, the protection of the rights and interests of workers.