House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

An hon. member

It was my fault.

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Then it was the fault of the hon. member for Elk Island and you ought to have a word with him.

The House resumed consideration of the motion and the amendment.

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October 9th, 1997 / 3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I get to my speech, I would like to review what happened before question period.

On a point of order, I asked that the member for Abitibi table a document he was referring to. He was reading from a sheet. The House gave its consent, but the member for Abitibi asked to keep the paper until the end of the debate.

We have checked all the documents the member for Abitibi tabled after his speech but that particular sheet was missing. It shows that, in 1993, the Tory member of the time, who is now a Liberal member because he switched sides, received eight contributions from individuals, for a total of $1,950 and 29 contributions from businesses for a total of $9,400.

Since the member for Abitibi surely forgot in all good faith to table that sheet of paper, I would simply ask that the document be now tabled.

Do I have your consent, Mr. Speaker? I can tell the answer is yes.

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3:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member is requesting unanimous consent of the House to table this document. Does he have the unanimous consent of the House?

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3:25 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

No, Mr. Speaker, there is no unanimous consent. If there could be previous consultation perhaps that could be arranged, but there is no such unanimous consent at this point.

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3:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There is not unanimous consent. The member for Repentigny.

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3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Abitibi said he was willing to table the document in question, but I see the government leader does not want the document tabled. It does not matter really. I think the public can see the Liberal flip-flop on this whole issue.

Before I start, since this is my first speech in this 36th Parliament, I would like to thank the people who sent me here to represent them. It is my first term as member for the riding of Repentigny, but my second term in this House. So I have the honour of being the first member of Parliament for Repentigny and I hope I will also be the last since that riding will soon disappear.

I want to thank the whole team who helped me get re-elected and who worked very hard throughout the campaign. I want to thank the members of my family for their support and the people of the five municipalities of my riding, namely La Plaine, Mascouche, Lachenaie, Charlemagne and Repentigny, who have placed their trust in me for the second time.

The debate was a bit chaotic this morning. Therefore, it is very important to read the motion again just to know what we are supposed to be debating and put aside the kind of outrageous remarks we have heard from some members, namely the member for Abitibi—if he does not agree, he can stand in this House and say so—as well as the member for Bourassa.

The motion reads as follows:

That this House condemns the attitude of the Government, which refuses to introduce in-depth reform of the legislation on the financing of federal political parties even though the existing legislation allows for a wide range of abuse.

I can see that the members opposite agree, even the member for Abitibi who spoke out against this motion earlier today.

It is important to note that public financing has been part of our tradition for more than 20 years now. It is important to note that all political parties, even federalist parties in Quebec—and by that I mean the Liberal Party—have adopted that type of financing to achieve a healthy democracy in Quebec.

We are proud that, in 1977, the Parti Quebecois passed a law that says that only a voter can make a contribution. This legislation eliminates possible political influence from pressure groups whose objectives are more to change the direction of public policies than to allow a party whose ideology is close to that of their members to assume and retain power. The legislation limited contributions to $3,000 per year per voting citizen.

The objectives of the legislation were to limit to voters—and this is true democracy—the right to contribute to political parties, because we speak on their behalf and we should not be influenced by companies roping us in with lavish contributions.

We have been trying for a long time to make the government understand that this legislation is something normal that should also apply to the federal level, the Canadian level. As early as March 1994, our colleague from Richelieu tabled a motion that read:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should bring in legislation limiting solely to individuals the right to donate to a federal political party, and restricting such donations to a maximum of $5,000 a year.

We know that at the provincial level the ceiling is $3,000. We did not want to be too restrictive and we set the maximum at $5,000 a year.

We may go through a lot of debates and often try to skirt the actual facts, but we have to wonder why the Liberal Party voted against that proposal. Clearly, they had something to hide. This is quite obvious, since they say that contributions to party financing should not be limited to individuals.

In a while, I will give you some figures on the contributors to the Liberal Party. Then we might be able to understand why the party does not want to depend only on individuals for its financing.

Why would anyone oppose a bill which specifically seeks to clarify and to improve the fundraising process for federal political parties?

It is suspicious to say the least. When people will know who is making contributions to the Liberal Party fund, perhaps they will understand why Liberals are opposed to such and such a bill or why they are against a motion like this. An article published in La Presse on July 22, 1993, revealed that Bombardier had given $29,932 to the Liberal Party. Air Canada gave $957 to the Liberal Party and $31,000 to the Conservative Party, after receiving a subsidy and being awarded contracts worth $75 million. Imperial Oil chose a more balanced approach and covered all the bases by giving $34,000 to the Conservatives and $34,000 to the Liberals. They were covered in any case. Following these generous contributions, the company was awarded contracts worth $186 million. Canadian Airlines gave $11,415.08 to the Liberal Party, while Pratt & Whitney made a $7,500 contribution to the Liberals.

Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I will continue to tell the House who is giving money to this generous party. In 1994, the Royal Bank of Canada gave $88,700 to the Liberal Party; RBC Dominion Security, $99,000; the Toronto Dominion Bank, $77,000; Wood Gundy, $106,000; Richardson Greenshields, the investment firm, $99,000.

We would have thought that, after coming to power following the 1993 election, the Liberals would have gained some wisdom. We would have thought that, after having written in the red book that it wanted to increase the voters' confidence in their elected representatives, the Liberal Party would have changed its ways and accepted a bill on the financing of political parties that would make things a little more transparent for the public. But no, the Liberals did no such thing.

In 1996, when they were in power and getting ready for another election, they continued to collect money. Another article from La Presse, this one dating back to 1996, states that it was business which made it possible for the Liberals to collect more money that the previous year. The most generous ones, Nesbitt Burns for one, gave $88 000, $81 000, $73 000. We are not talking here of normal contributions, Mr. Speaker, we are talking of donations of more than $75,000.

In closing, I would like to ask a few questions of my Liberal colleagues, and I would like the answers from the hon. member for Abitibi. Could it be that the Liberals called an election more than six months before the usual time, and a year and a half before the end of their mandate, because the government feared that the RCMP investigation was going to break? How does the Prime Minister explain that the code of ethics has nothing in it about influence peddling? Why did the Prime Minister not give his ministers any guidance on ethics after the minister responsible for human resources development alerted him to the RCMP investigation? How is it that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Works, Pierre Corbeil, and the director general, Mr. Béliveau, were informed of the allegations by the Minister of Public Works himself? Why does the code of ethics not apply to the Liberal Party of Quebec when it applies to the government? Why was Pierre Corbeil not suspended from his duties as soon as this information was learned? I would like all these questions answered, Mr. Speaker.

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3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, in question period this afternoon, we saw the bubble burst as we say back home. I do not know whether the leader of the Bloc Quebecois will be laying people off, but we discovered that some had not done their homework properly. They sullied people's reputations. They named people. There was talk of an investigation, when none existed. I hope they will do the honourable thing and prove their integrity and their honesty by rising and apologizing to Jacques Roy and to the President of the Treasury Board.

One thing is clear, there are two sets of rules. We are used to that, in the Bloc. That is how they are.

They can get loans at preferential rates to finance their election campaign. They can get millions of dollars because they need cash. But does that make them dependent on the Mouvement Desjardins? Does that mean, since the Mouvement Desjardins loaned them money at preferential rates—I could not get preferential rates, but the Bloc did, I do not know why, but it did—,that they are in the pay of the president of the Mouvement Desjardins? To answer is obvious, since the president of the Mouvement Desjardins is a well-known separatist.

We are talking about contributions. We are talking about all sorts of things. We saw that the Bloc quebecois also received contributions from corporations that were higher than $10,000. The member for Drummond received a $1,500 contribution. Is she in the pay of the contributor? The answer is obvious.

Quebec's motto is “I remember”. Looking back at past actions, they might do well to remember that if one spits into the wind, it blows back into one's face.

On October 3, 1993, we read this headline in La Presse : “Témiscamingue enumerators complain about being held for ransom by the Bloc”. The article read, in part: “The methods used by the organization of Pierre Brien, who was running for the Bloc quebecois in Témiscamingue, led to strong protests by Elections Canada enumerators who, apparently, were pressured to hand over half of their salary as political contributions”. They were told this: “If you want to work for Elections Canada, give us half the cheque that you will get and we will give you a job”.

They have principles. They are real Tartuffes, as I said earlier. They try constantly to tell us how we should behave, and yet they bring this kind of pressure to bear on people who have almost no money—as we know, enumerators also need their wages. I hope this does not happen in every riding but the current member for Témiscamingue should really be ashamed of using this method for his own financing. He should be ashamed because those persons need this money. And that is how the Bloc Quebecois gets its financing.

Does the hon. member for Repentigny agree with this method? That is what we want to know.

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3:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I remind all members that they must refer to each other by constituency and not by name.

The hon. member for Repentigny.

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3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be pleased to answer all the questions of the hon. member for Bourassa, who has proved quite resilient because he ran three times before winning on the fourth attempt.

He has said that maybe we should be looking at the relevancy and shortcomings of our research services. I could tell him exactly the same thing. When he clipped that story from a newspaper, he should have known that that criticism had been levelled by the man who was running for the Liberals in Témiscamingue, and that it proved unfounded. It is all right to make foolish remarks in this House, but one should at least consider what is actually going on.

Speaking about contributions to candidates—

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3:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

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3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Could we have some respect, Mr. Speaker? The hon. member should at least have learned some manners in the four campaigns he ran before getting elected to this House.

On a second point, concerning contributions to the Bloc Quebecois, I do not think there is any comparison between a total contribution of $7,000 to five or six candidates, or a $1,000 contribution in one riding, and contributions of $100,000 by Air Canada, $90,000 by the Toronto-Dominion Bank and other contributions of about $100,000.

In the riding of Abitibi alone, nine individuals and 29 corporations made contributions to the 1993 campaign. In that same riding, 397 individuals contributed to the Bloc Quebecois candidate's campaign.

In conclusion, I notice that the hon. member for Bourassa has learned something from his colleague for Abitibi, because he does not make any distinction either between a loan and a contribution.

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3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment since this is the first opportunity I get to do so. For the next few minutes I would ask you to be patient because, as this is the first time I have had the opportunity to take part in debate, I would like to offer a few thanks.

As you mentioned, I am the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. First, I would like to thank my constituents. Then I would also like to thank the team of volunteers who worked with me during the election campaign. For most of them, it was their first experience in politics and all of them marvelled at our political process, our political system.

I would also like to thank my family, my husband Luciano, my daughter and all the other members of my extended family who supported me and will continue to do so during this mandate.

Now I would like to give you some of my background to explain what I am going to say about the Bloc's opposition motion.

I am the daughter of a Black American man from Alabama who emigrated to Canada in 1944 and who was able to vote for the first time in his life in Canada, thanks to our democratic system and to the election system we had at that time.

My mother was a French Canadian from Manitoba, of Belgian, French and Metis descent. The Metis background is Cree, Montagnais and Attikamek. So, my roots in Canada go back to the natives, to the first nations, and my French roots go back to an ancestor who came from France to Canada, to Quebec, to New France, in 1868.

The reason I give you this description, these details on my past, on my life and on who I am, is to point out that, if it were not for the election system we have in Canada, I would not be here today. I swear, I would be willing to bet with anyone in this House, that the vast majority of members here in the House today would not be here either if it were not for the election system we have.

One of the pillars of a real democratic system is the election system that allows residents, citizens to make themselves heard and to decide which political party will form the government and which political parties will sit in opposition.

This political system must allow the widest access possible to all citizens, not only to make themselves heard on voting day, but even also to participate in the process, whether as candidates, organizers or volunteers.

Our system allows this. I was able to see that myself during my first experience in politics in the last election campaign. About a hundred citizens came to work as volunteers, the vast majority of them working for the first time in an election campaign, and they did it wholeheartedly.

The Bloc Quebecois contends that only by limiting to individuals, private persons, the right to donate to political parties will it be possible to ensure integrity in our election system. I must say that I beg to differ, in fact I completely disagree.

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3:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Why?