House of Commons Hansard #162 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was excise.

Topics

Middle East
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but we must proceed to oral question period.

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, this week it was revealed that one of Paul Martin's top fundraisers was also on contract with the Department of Finance.

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. I think the hon. member knows that he cannot refer to other hon. members by name. He will want to refrain from any such conduct.

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, this week it was revealed that the finance minister's top fundraiser was also on contract with the Department of Finance. That was too much for even the Liberal's ethics lapdog who asked the finance minister to cut his ties with Jim Palmer.

Now we learn that there are new guidelines for leadership fundraising by cabinet ministers but they are being kept secret.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister end this cover-up and insist that leadership fundraising rules be tabled in the House?

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I saw the newspaper article on which the member based his question. There are no such rules that have been drafted.

The basic rule that ministers in conducting their affairs need to avoid, real or apparent conflict is the predominant rule. That is one that we need to respect.

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, obviously that has come under question and that is why we are asking the government to be honest with Canadians and table the rules.

The government's approach to ethics is see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Ethics violations that would have had the rat pack screeching under the Mulroney government are tidily hidden away by the ethics lapdog.

How can the ethics rules have any credibility if the Deputy Prime Minister and his colleagues are not prepared to be publicly accountable to uphold them?

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, the system has worked.

There was an issue that came to light. It was dealt with by the ethics counsellor according to the most important rule, that ministers should avoid an appearance of conflict, and corrective action was taken. That is what needed to happen and that is what happened.

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, this has been a consistent pattern with the government. There are always problems when it comes to ethics and accountability. It owes Canadians better than that.

We found out that a minister's fundraiser has been on contract with his department only because he accidentally slipped the wrong cheque into the mail. How many other cabinet ministers have had their leadership bagmen on the payroll?

Could the Deputy Prime Minister assure the House that no other minister has given contracts or government appointments to their leadership fundraisers?

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, unlike members on the other side, we are not in a leadership campaign, although I guess they no longer are either.

The fundamental rule, which is one that everyone agrees on and one that needs to be respected, is that ministers must comport themselves with a great deal of probity, and that includes avoidance of real or apparent conflicts. When they arise, the ethics counsellor is there to provide advice to the minister as well as to the Prime Minister.

The system has worked in this case and corrective action has been taken. I am sure that all ministers will take that into account.

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, the problem continues. Isabel Metcalfe is fundraising for the Minister of Canadian Heritage while lobbying her department. Her husband, Herb Metcalfe, is a lobbyist who is raising money for the Deputy Prime Minister. We know the finance minister keeps a whole stable of lobbyists on the public payroll at Earnscliffe Strategy Group.

Without public guidelines, how can we have faith that there are no conflicts of interest between a minister's public duties and private leadership ambitions?

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I am not accepting the truth of what the hon. member has stated and the premise to his question. However, quite apart from that, I think the rule is very clear. The rule is that one should not be in a real or apparent conflict.

We have created a very transparent and open system for lobbyists to register their activities and to do so in a way that any member of parliament can investigate any person who may be a lobbyist and see who it is they are retaining to lobby and who they represent. It is for ministers to avoid an appearance of conflict.

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, if there are rules why does the government not table them?

The government has kept its conflict of interest guidelines for cabinet ministers secret for eight years. Last fall the ethics counsellor gave the Prime Minister a new report on ministers dealing with crown corporations and it is still secret. Now we find there are more secret guidelines on leadership fundraising.

How can the Canadian public have faith that the cabinet is following the rules when we do not know what the rules are and the Deputy Prime Minister will not table the rules?

Leadership Campaigns
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa South
Ontario

Liberal

John Manley Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, clearly the hon. member is trying to find a set of rules that somehow or other will explain to him what the principles of real or apparent conflict and good judgment are. Those are things that most people understand and they recognize real or apparent conflict. Ministers are expected to avoid that. It is a question of judgment not a question of detailed rules.

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, the problem with the Groupaction affair is more than administrative.

Losing documents, awarding a series of contracts, changing the amount without the work being done, is not explainable only by poor management. It also assumes an organized system of patronage and corruption.

The minister of public works must realize that the auditor general is going to address only the management issue. The minister, who claims he wants to see a cleanup, must realize that only a public inquiry will be able to restore confidence and dispel the atmosphere of corruption and patronage.

Grants and Contributions
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago the hon. member, or rather her colleagues, called for an audit by the auditor general.

To their great surprise, probably, the response was yes. They are having a hard time accepting that yes.

Regardless of the opposition's problem with accepting a yes, the answer concerning the auditor general is still yes.