House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was appointments.

Topics

Team Canada
Statements By Members

February 3rd, 1997 / 2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Discepola Vaudreuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to draw your attention to the outstanding performance of the latest Team Canada mission. This two-week visit to three Asian countries made it possible for the Canadian delegation, led by our Prime Minister, to conclude nearly 180 different agreements worth more than $2.13 billion.

This fourth mission by Team Canada included, in addition to the Prime Minister and nine provincial premiers, more than 400 business people, education professionals, municipal authorities and young entrepreneurs.

Team Canada missions are a very effective way to help develop new markets for Canadian companies, in addition to stimulating job creation at home in Canada.

Once again, our congratulations to the Prime Minister of Canada and his provincial counterparts on their excellent co-operation on this latest mission.

Team Canada
Statements By Members

2:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, welcome back to the House of Commons.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Roberval
Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to see you and my colleagues once again. I am happy to see the government members too, because we have a lot of questions for them.

This government's behaviour has been odd for the past three years. The matter of contaminated blood is one example. The Prime Minister says he wants the entire situation brought to light, but he refuses to initiate the process giving Mr. Justice Krever access to the documents that would allow him to get to the truth. In the matter of the GST, despite what the Prime Minister's cronies say about not keeping the promise, the Prime Minister keeps saying he has met his commitments. In the matter of Somalia, the Prime Minister, on the one hand, agrees to get at the truth and, on the other, denies the Somalia inquiry the time accorded it.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Discepola Vaudreuil, QC

Do not forget that this is question period.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Richmond—Wolfe, QC

They are nervous.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

They are already nervous. The session is not over, I guarantee.

My question is this: By cutting off testimony in the Somalia inquiry on March 31 and by denying Mr. Justice Létourneau the time he must have to complete his inquiry, is the Prime Minister not telling the army its days in the hot water it got itself into are almost over and telling the rest of Canada, Canadians, that they will never get to the bottom of the Somalia affair?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues and I are very happy to return to the House. We adore question period. I am particularly sorry to be losing the member for Roberval as my opposite. That is very distressing. I will let him ask questions until he has a replacement.

I think the Minister of National Defence has clearly explained why he did not consider it appropriate to give the commission any more time so that what must be done at national defence may be done as soon as possible.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Roberval
Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister need not delight in the fact that he will be losing me as his opposite. I will counsel my successor well on how to get him to put his foot in it regularly.

More seriously, we have learned that senior officers of Canada's military-and this is very serious-blackmailed the former minister of defence, who was in the race to become Prime Minister at the time.

It is extremely serious when members of the command staff can put pressure of all sorts on the minister of defence in order to cover up certain information they do not want make public.

Will the Prime Minister acknowledge that, in the light of the seriousness of the events that have occurred in the relationship between the army and the minister of defence and the army and the government, his government is making a terrible mistake in cutting off the testimony that may be heard before the Somalia inquiry as of March 31, which is approaching very quickly?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as you know, and as the hon. member knows very well, we have never commented on whom should called by the Somalia commission. We have never commented on the testimony given before this commission.

The commission's mandate was extended to the end of June, which means it will have worked for over two years. If, for its own reasons, the commission wants to hear testimony reflecting the concerns of the hon. Leader of the Opposition, it may do so.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Roberval
Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, how does the government reconcile the statements of the Prime Minister that they absolutely want light to be shed on the Somalia affair, and the statements by the minister of defence, who said on his appointment that everyone could be heard-he was full of good intentions-with the attitude of the government today, where it is limiting the time available to the commission, despite the opinion of Mr. Justice Létourneau?

Essentially, how can they reconcile their words of a few months ago with their hurry today to put the lid on the pot as quickly as possible?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, clearly what counts for the government is getting on with things rather than spending years studying a situation that occurred in 1992-93.

A historical document can have a certain value at a given point. For us, and for most Canadians I think, it is time to act. We have to take steps to try to avoid repetitions in the future.

We could have waited. A number of people think it might have been interesting for the government to leave the thing under cover until the end of the year, or some time next year or even two or three years from now. What counts for us is to make sure that the Canadian forces, which receive a lot of support from the public, may continue to do the fine work its members have been doing for 100 years and are still doing around the world.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jean H. Leroux Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, observers are unanimous in saying that, since the government decided to impose a deadline on the Somalia commission of inquiry, witnesses from the armed forces seem much more at ease before the commission, knowing that, come March 31, everything will be over, and that they only have to hang on until then. Yet, we now know that the military blackmailed the former defence minister. And now, the Prime Minister is gagging the inquiry.

Does the Prime Minister realize that, by refusing to give the commission enough time to shed light on this scandal, he is condoning the actions of senior army officers regarding this whole issue, including the blackmail to which the former defence minister was subjected?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, let us not forget that people involved in this issue have an opportunity to express their point of view.

As I said earlier, it is absolutely not our intention to suggest to the commission that it should call one witness instead of another.

However, it seems rather farfetched to refer, as the hon. member did, to someone who not only was the Minister of National Defence but who went on to become the Prime Minister of Canada. It does not help much to suggest that people of that stature can easily be gagged or forced into situations they do not accept.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean H. Leroux Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the Létourneau commission was set up, we had questions to ask and the new defence minister told us: "We want to find out exactly what happened in Somalia. The commission's mandate is very clear: it must look into every aspect".

My question is for the Prime Minister of Canada. If the Prime Minister wants to show in a concrete manner that he does not condone what occurred, will he agree today to extend the commission's mandate, as asked by Mr. Justice Létourneau, and as needed

by the commission to shed light on what happened before, during and after the events in Somalia?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to listen to our friends opposite who sometimes tell us, quite correctly, that a lot of money was spent on commissions. I will not name them all, but we sometimes hear opposition members tell us that the government has spent enormous amounts of money on such commissions.

But the hon. member must realize that the government has already granted three extensions to the Somalia commission. When the commission was first set up, its deadline was the end of December 1995.

Perhaps the hon. member is more interested in a historical document that could be produced in two or three years. As for us, we felt it was very important to take action and to start implementing policies and procedures that, hopefully, will prevent a repeat of such things in the future.