House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Iraq
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, before reconstruction, we should see if there is a war, but if there is a war of course Canada would participate in reconstruction. It is something we have always done, and we will do it if there is a war, but we still hope that there will be no war. I am not very optimistic, but if there is a war of course Canada will be there to help the victims of the war.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

March 17th, 2003 / 2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, on April 2, 1996, Brian Tobin, then premier of Newfoundland, wrote to the Prime Minister concerning Hibernia. A month later, the Prime Minister wrote back to the premier indicating that the Hibernia matter had been referred to the former finance minister. By that time, Canada Steamship Lines had already received a major contract to work on the Hibernia project. Could the Prime Minister tell the House why the former finance minister was involved in Hibernia decisions?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I said that the former minister of finance followed the guidelines that existed for conflict of interest when he was minister of finance, and never did I receive any information to the contrary. I have said, and I repeat, that he made sure he did his best to follow all the guidelines, and I have never heard any complaints from anybody about it.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is a pattern here that seems to suggest that the former finance minister was regularly involved in decisions that could have benefited him financially. We now know that on at least 12 occasions the former finance minister was consulted, through the ethics counsellor, on matters concerning the health and well-being of Canada Steamship Lines.

Could the Prime Minister confirm today whether any of those meetings pertained to CSL's relationship with Hibernia?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I have replied and I will say the same thing. When he was the minister of finance in 1993 he did like the other ministers, he conformed to the regulations that existed at that time. He reported and organized his finances with the registrar general so that he would follow all the guidelines that existed for all the ministers. I never heard any complaint from the registrar general or anybody else about the former minister of finance.

Today I cannot comment more. I never had any complaint from anybody so I cannot today go back to that day. According to what I know, every guideline--

Ethics
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Saint-Jean.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, the Minister of National Defence said that the ships that were en route to the Persian Gulf could head for Iraq if there were a conflict.

This afternoon, the Prime Minister told us that the ships will just do their job, which is to monitor terrorists in the Persian Gulf. However, Commodore Girouard will lead a flagship, the Iroquois , and a tactical group of 20 ships. These 20 ships will surely have to get involved in the theatre of operations in Iraq.

Will the Prime Minister agree that, in order to avoid any confusion, what should be done this afternoon is—

Iraq
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of National Defence.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, first, the hon. member should know that this is a multinational operation. It is not just Canada that is there, but France, New Zealand, Greece and the Netherlands are also there.

I am in contact with my counterparts from each of these countries. We are discussing the situation and I have had no indication that these countries will withdraw. For Canada, the war against terrorism is very important. We are fully involved in this respect.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister's reply is far from reassuring. Basically, if we send a Canadian flagship in charge of a tactical group of 20 ships, it is not true that this is justified by an increased terrorist presence in the Persian Gulf.

What I am saying is that any ambiguity must be avoided. As for the unified command, it is the same thing. We currently have at least 25 Canadian officers working with the Americans on war scenarios in Iraq. To allow these officers to stay there would be completely inconsistent with the statement made today by the Prime Minister. The officers at the unified command should also be called back.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, this is not at all inconsistent with the Prime Minister's position. It is precisely the Prime Minister's position. Canada is not the only country involved. As I said, France, New Zealand, Greece and the Netherlands are involved with us in the war against terrorism.

Because of the very sad possibility of a war, the threat of terrorism is greater than before. Would the hon. member want the other countries and Canada to renege on their commitment to fight terrorism when the risk is very high? The answer is no.

Member for LaSalle--Émard
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the former finance minister's company, Canada Steamship Lines, received at least one multi-million dollar contract relating to Hibernia at the same time as the former finance minister was the cabinet's point person on the project; a clear conflict of interest.

Could the Prime Minister tell Canadians how many times the former finance minister excused himself from the cabinet table to avoid these kinds of clear conflicts of interest?

Member for LaSalle--Émard
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I am not in a position to reply to all these questions. I know that in some circumstances, rather than handle the file himself he would give the file to the minister for financial institutions to handle the file. I did not keep account of all that. I knew the registrar general was dealing with the problem, there were no complaints and I had confidence in the integrity of the former minister of finance. I did not keep tab of when he was coming in and out of the cabinet and for what reasons.

Member for LaSalle--Émard
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, when there are projects that are in a clear conflict of interest perhaps the Prime Minister could put the interests of Canadians first and maybe pay attention when there are these absolute conflicts of interest.

From 1994 to 1997 three Canada Steamship Lines ships were involved in Hibernia's construction. At the same time the former minister of finance was in charge of the federal interest in Hibernia.

Could the Prime Minister tell Canadians whether this conflict of interest was ever investigated at all and, if it were not, why not? Do Canadian taxpayers not deserve better?

Member for LaSalle--Émard
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I have said this before and I will repeat that the former minister of finance always respected the guidelines. No one ever mentioned any problems with that to me, either himself, other ministers or the press. Nobody ever mentioned any conflict of interest in these circumstances.