House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was speech.

Topics

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, what the hon. member has failed to understand after three days is the purpose of calling the commission of inquiry. It was called so it could go beyond where the Auditor General could go and in fact go beyond perhaps where the parliamentary committee could go. That is the whole purpose of the inquiry.

In terms of the public servants, let me take this occasion to say that I agree with the Auditor General that those 14 do not make the public service. We can be incredibly proud of our public servants. They are hardworking men and women who give up their lives for the greater good of our country. I am very proud to be part of the institution.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the arguments being used by the Prime Minister are pretty hard to swallow, when the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine says he was present when she raised the issue in caucus, that the report was on the website as far back as the fall of 2000, that he was able to obtain all the details as the Minister of Finance and Vice-President of the Treasury Board. Yet he did nothing.

How can the Prime Minister keep on saying he knew nothing of all this?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the real question is: Why is the member from the Bloc Quebecois not prepared to quote the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine? What she actually said is that there were administrative problems relating to the costs, but it was not a question of theft or anything to do with what has come out about Groupaction. It was strictly an administrative problem relating to the costs, when we look at the way funding was allocated.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

February 12th, 2004 / 3 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment.

The Auditor General has said that many national historic sites in the country are showing serious signs of deterioration. She also mentioned that this issue must be addressed within the next two to five years. Three of the five sites described as being seriously impaired are in Ontario, including Fort Henry in Kingston.

What is the government planning to do to preserve these sites of great historic significance?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, chapter 6 of the Auditor General's report closely reflects the annual report of the park service of last year. We intend to look at the recommendations of the Auditor General very closely, as with other areas of her report. We intend to fully implement measures to take care of her concerns.

I can assure the hon. member that as this proceeds I will be reporting to the House on the success in dealing with the sites that are currently listed as being in poor condition.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, during question period I was asked a question by the chairman of the public accounts committee, and was so disappointed by his lack of responsibility that I used the word “mislead”.

I really do not believe that the chairman of the public accounts committee would attempt to mislead and I would like to withdraw the word.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the Prime Minister.

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for New Westminster--Coquitlam--Burnaby.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, on February 10 the Auditor General tabled her report before the House which has given light to evidence of parliamentary contempt in the 1999-2000 “Report on Plans and Priorities” which was signed by the then minister and deputy minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.

This is the first opportunity I have had to bring this matter to the attention of the Speaker, as this evidence was confirmed earlier today by the Auditor General during today's meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts, both in oral evidence and in private conversation.

In chapter three, the report of the Auditor General states the following on page 30, paragraph 3.100:

Not only was Parliament not informed about the real objectives of the Sponsorship Program, it was misinformed about how the program was being managed. The parliamentary process was bypassed to transfer funds to Crown corporations. Funds appropriated by Parliament to the PWGSC were used to fund the operations of the Crown corporations and of the RCMP.

She goes on to say:

PWGSC's 1999-2000 Report on Plans and Priorities, signed by the Minister and the Deputy Minister, contained the following statement about CCSB:

“The CCSB business line will focus on the following strategies and key activities over the planning period...provide core communications procurement and project coordination services to federal departments that are useful, timely and value added while ensuring prudence, probity and transparency throughout the process.”

The Auditor General then says:

More than half of CCSB's spending was on sponsorships. Prudence and probity in the delivery of the program were certainly not ensured.

That was a statement signed by the minister. So it is clear that the Auditor General has found sufficient evidence to conclude in her report that Parliament was misled. To that end, it is my duty as a parliamentarian to bring forward this evidence and seek appropriate justice on the matter, as I feel there is enough documentation to prove the case.

The Prime Minister himself acknowledged on February 10 of this year that the rules were not followed and that Parliament was not clearly advised. He said:

...the hon. member knows that when money is allocated by a cabinet...it is allocated on the basis that certain rules...will be followed. The problem is that those rules were not followed.

A Speaker in 1978 ruled a matter to be a prima facie case of contempt where the RCMP were alleged to have deliberately misled a minister of the crown and the member for Northumberland--Durham resulting in “an attempt to obstruct the House by offering misleading information”.

On page 225 of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , he describes contempt as “an offence against the authority or dignity of the House”.

In the 22nd edition of Erskine May on page 63, it describes ministerial responsibility and states:

...it is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister....

The House has always insisted on accurate and truthful information. That is why the direct misrepresentation of a ministry's plans and priorities must be treated as contempt.

Parliament must never be misled or lied to. Parliamentarians and the public must rely on the goodwill and the honour of ministerial presentations and submissions.

I trust the Speaker will take my comments under advisement and return with a ruling. Should the Speaker find that this is a prima facie case of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I absolutely and categorically reject the allegations that have been made and, with your leave, I reserve the right to give a more complete answer very shortly.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, page 221 of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada , describes that:

A prima facie case of privilege in the parliamentary sense is one where the evidence on its face as outlined by the Member is sufficiently strong for the House to be asked to debate the matter and to send it to a committee--

What we have here with respect to the sponsorship program is a scandal and a cover-up, a cover-up that no one denies exists.

We also have the Auditor General reporting that misleading information involving the sponsorship program was provided to Parliament.

A cover-up involves deceit. On page 141 of the 19th edition of Erskine May, it is stated:

Conspiracy to deceive either House or any committees of either House will also be treated as a breach of privilege.

It is not inconceivable that the people involved in the sponsorship program scandal were deceitful and knowingly provided misleading information to someone in the department who, knowingly or unknowingly, provided that information to Parliament.

It is not important at this phase to conclude that a minister knew or did not know. As with the case of the RCMP precedent, it was sufficient to argue that someone along the line provided misleading information deliberately.

No one can argue that there is sufficient cause to believe that the people involved in this scandal and the cover-up of the scandal would deliberately provide misleading information about their activities.

Under the circumstances, I would argue that the evidence on its face is sufficiently strong for the House to be asked to debate the matter and to send it to committee.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the House that, by unanimous consent on Tuesday of this week, the House restructured the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. The Auditor General's report that was alluded to has already been referred to the committee and, this very morning, the Auditor General appeared before the committee.

Perhaps we might take it for granted that the House has already passed this matter on to the committee and that we must give the committee some time to do its work, something the hon. members apparently do not to want to happen.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has received the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby and appreciates the comments of the hon. member for St. John's West on the matter.

I also appreciate the comments from the hon. deputy government House leader.

I have listened to the request by the government House leader, who wishes to submit his answers to the Chair soon—probably Monday, or so I hope at least— so that the Chair will have an opportunity to consider the matter raised by the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby.

Accordingly, I will take the matter under advisement, hear further submissions at a later date and get back to the House in due course.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Does that mean we will have a debate on it?

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Whether there will be a debate, as the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River knows full well, depends on whether or not a motion follows.

The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby is prepared to move his motion if the Chair gives authority for him to do so after considering the matter, which the Chair has undertaken to do, of course with all convenient speed.

Business of the House
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if this would be an appropriate time to ask for unanimous consent. Discussions have taken place between the parties and I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, on February 16, 2004, when the question is put on the motion for an Address to Her Excellency, a division thereon shall be deemed to have been requested and shall be deferred to the end of the time for consideration of government orders on February 17, 2004.