House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was public.

Topics

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebeckers and francophones are tired of hearing excuses from those who enjoy insulting them. Excuses, now that the harm is done, are too easy. Now, a minister of this government has joined those making insults.

Does the Prime Minister, who said yesterday that his minister's words were unacceptable, intend to set an example by demanding the minister's resignation?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Superior North
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Comuzzi Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, after hearing of this early this morning, I issued a statement apologizing for the comments I made last week immediately following the Auditor General's report.

I want to thank my friend on the other side of the House for allowing me again, in the House, to speak to my colleagues on this side, my friends on the other side, and my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois, with whom we have had a marvellous relationship.

I am sincerely sorry for having made those comments last week.

Western Economic Diversification
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Liberal

Sophia Leung Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, Okanagan University College recently received $1 million in funding from Western Economic Diversification for its applied trace analysis facility and nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer.

Could the minister explain how these two projects will advance the economy of the region?

Western Economic Diversification
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Winnipeg North—St. Paul
Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, the wine industry is vital to the economic prosperity of the interior and in fact the whole of British Columbia.

The advanced instrumentation and the research facility being funded at the Okanagan University College by my department, as announced by my colleague, the Minister of the Environment, will enable advanced research and innovation and thereby lead to increased production of grapes and the production of the highest quality of wine and thereby make the wine industry in the region very competitive in the world market.

It is about building a 21st century economy.

Auditor General's Report
Oral Question Period

February 17th, 2004 / 3 p.m.

Independent

Ghislain Lebel Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, in May 2003, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts had asked the President of the Treasury Board to have all foundations scrutinized by the Auditor General and made subject to the Access to Information Act.

In October of the same year, the current Minister of Industry refused this request.

In the light of what we know now, and given the Prime Minister's conversion to the theological virtues of truth and honesty, can the President of the Treasury Board now—

Auditor General's Report
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. President of the Treasury Board.

Auditor General's Report
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I think the member raises an important point.

If I understood his question, it is relative to the applicability of some of the oversight mechanisms of the private foundations. Some concerns have been raised about that, concerns that I raised as the chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations.

I can tell the member that we have a process in place to examine governance in the largest scope possible of looking at these alternative service delivery mechanisms.

I invite the member to join us and work with us because we think it is time to review these mechanisms.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Alvin Curling, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Supply
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have carefully read the Conservative Party motion to be voted on. If we speak of the Conservative Party, we mean from 1984 until today. This motion accuses the Liberal Party of using public funds for personal benefit and to benefit friends, family and the Liberal Party of Canada.

Last night and this morning I made a number of telephone calls to my riding, which, I might mention, is the largest riding in the 10 provinces. I talked to some 30 people, who said I ought to speak. As a Liberal member of Parliament I am here to help the people of this vast riding. Back home, the name on my office and on our documents is “Bureau du citoyen” or citizens' office. It is like that no matter which party occupies the office.

Reading this motion, I see that the opposition is engaging in very partisan politics. Nevertheless, we hear a lot of talk about the report of the Auditor General of Canada. I am very pleased with this report. I understand very well. I was elected in 1984. I spent nine years and two months with the Conservative Party. Since 1997 I have been with the Liberal Party of Canada. I came back to my old political party. We see by this report that the Liberal government believes that the Auditor General fulfills an essential function. She carries out the audits and independent studies of government activities.

We know that this talk of sponsorships has been going on for several months. I made a statement in the House yesterday afternoon in which I said that I had asked a question in June 2003 to try to find out what was happening. In the vast area of Abitibi-Témiscamingue—some 800,000 square kilometres and 2,000 kilometres from end to end, as the crow flies—I have 63 municipalities to work with. I have to tell them about the programs that exist. I particularly wanted to know how they were organized and what applications were accepted.

According to the report I have obtained—which I was waiting to make public, and finally did yesterday—in my riding, all in all, we have received approximately $65,000. When we look at the sponsorship situation in the riding of Laurier—Sainte-Marie, in Quebec, the riding of the leader of the Bloc Quebecois, we see that they received in excess of $5 million. In contrast with a big riding like ours, I do not find it funny at all.

What all the members of this House and the public want is a comprehensive report. It is very hard to get. I cannot understand why the Conservative Party of Canada, Brian Mulroney's party, cannot ask today that the Standing Committee on Public Accounts draw up a list of all sponsorship projects from 1998 to now, by electoral district and political party, with the names of members and projects, the amounts allocated to the projects, the commission paid to the coordinating agency and communication agencies, as well as a complete list of refusals for each riding.

That is what is important to know. We know some of it. The Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the government should make this report public today, riding by riding, so that all members can see where the money went. It will be surprising to see where contacts are made.

What is hardest for us is to uncover a ring of thieves. When thieves want to rob government, a city or a company, it takes time to flush them out. The Auditor General got hold of the file. The Prime Minister of Canada stood firm. This is the first time I have seen a Prime Minister of Canada intervene so regularly. Even the opposition, even the Bloc Quebecois are not too pleased to see our Prime Minister on television standing firm. This Prime Minister will be doing his homework, he will clean house, regardless of whose name comes out.

There is something odd in all of this. We look at the Conservative Party across the way; it is not a new party, it has been around since 1984. I want to tell the members of the Conservative Party that I am the one who ensured that individual members' expenditures are made public. Every year, a report entitled, “Members' Office and Travel Expenses”, is produced. This report is tabled annually.

In the days of the Conservatives, this was not done. It took me months and months to obtain this report on the members' expenditures. Even today, this information is confidential. The Bloc Quebecois members are not doing this on the provincial level.

When the Parti Quebecois was in power, there was no authorization to divulge the details of expenditures by members of the Quebec National Assembly, meaning costs for travel, lodging, party dues—frankly, there is no party in Quebec anymore. The Parti Quebecois went to the Superior Court to prevent their expenditures from being disclosed. Today, there is a new government in power.

We in the federal government do disclose such expenditures. They are made public in a report tabled with the Speaker of the House. The report is referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, which notes the travel expenses. Given the size of my riding, people must be made aware of these expenditures.

This morning something odd occurred. I asked a question concerning travel paid for by sponsors, travel all over the world by one influential Conservative Party member. This is no secret, yet the person answering called it a stupid question.

However, Standing Order 22 stipulates that there must be a public registry of foreign travel by MPs. It provides details of travel by members, particularly those in the Conservative Party and the Bloc Quebecois.

This morning I was again looking at the details of trips by, among others, those of the member for St. Albert, Alberta, whom we often see on television and who is calling for the production of expense reports for Liberal MPs, the government, and executive assistants.

I find it odd that this member has neglected to mention that he has travelled all over. In the past ten years he has been away a total of 3 months and 23 days. He has been to Russia, India, Bangladesh, Belgium, the Ukraine, and several other countries, at a total cost of more than $500,000, that is half a million dollars. This is all very bizarre.

We have Standing Order 22, but the official opposition is not calling for expenditures to be made public. All spending by all members can be found in a report to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. The opposition is not talking about Standing Order 22. We can see that the member for St. Albert spent in excess of half a million dollars on accommodation, entertainment and plane tickets. We know that a flight costs between $7,000 and $8,000. I have the list.

The oddest thing about all of this is in a report I have before me. When we comment on others, we must speak of ourselves as well. I have made but the one foreign trip, and I will tell this to the public today. I kept notes on it because I knew one day I would have to talk about it.

In 1986, my wife and I were invited by the government of Belgium. That trip cost $1,941 for me and $1,948 for my wife and I received a $420 per diem for travelling from May 11 to 17, 1986. That is what the Speaker of the House of Commons at the time, Mr. John Fraser, wrote to me in a letter dated December 30, 1991.

I can now state my travel expenses for all the trips I have made in the world since 1986 at the taxpayer's expense, just think about that. I hear members from the Conservative Party of Canada saying this is bizarre. I find it very bizarre when they receive sponsorships almost on the sly from large global agencies to travel the world.

If they know of such travels, they have until the end of the day to disclose all the expenses. I can stand here and say that in 1986, my trip for two people cost nearly $4,000. However, I know what the Conservative Party of Canada opposite is talking about when it refers to sponsorships. They receive sponsorships to travel to Haiti, Hawaii and Russia.

When they are not present in the House, no need to ask questions. The same is true for the Bloc Quebecois. They travel all over the world. The NDP less so. They travel less, it is true. I also do not travel much; once in 15 years is not excessive.

The Conservative Party of Canada should ask for the tabling in the House of Commons of the complete list of all the trips made by Conservative, Liberal, Bloc Quebecois and NDP members who have travelled outside of Canada between 1984 and the present as well as the cost of these travels including flights, meals, and accommodation paid by the taxpayer and especially by the sponsors.

Major sponsors are involved in this. People would be interested in knowing. And yet, looking at things overall, we wonder why they are not declaring that now. They are prepared to corner the government during question period. That is their job.

It is the same thing with the Bloc Quebecois member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, who recently published a book that may have been funded by taxpayers in Quebec and Canada. The book criticizes the Prime Minister of Canada and his sons, their companies and the Barbados.

There is one thing to know about the companies that do business around Barbados. Of the 1,900 companies in Canada, there are about 700 in Quebec that do business in foreign countries.

Today, as it happens, I was looking at another book entitled, Ces riches qui ne paient pas d'impôts . This member of the Bloc Quebecois, who is a former Progressive Conservative by the way, and who travelled all over the world about twice a month, should get out his list and calculate his spending. But if one looks closely at what is written on page 166 of this book, one finds something bizarre.

This Bloc MP, who dumped on the family of our Prime Minister in his book, should have a look at his family, because it is written here, about his brother:

Nevertheless, it is interesting to look at the Irish “exile” of Luc Plamondon.

That is, the brother of the hon. Bloc Quebecois member.

Ireland is a very popular jurisdiction with artists, writers, composers and sculptors because they can take advantage of a tax exemption. By settling in Ireland, they do not have to pay tax on the income derived from their art.

It is important to point this out. The book has just been released, and I look forward to seeing the hon. member rise—

Supply
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, on a point of order.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, that man just insulted one of the world's greatest francophone creators, my brother. Everything he says is a web of untruths.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is a saying where I come from that the truth hurts. We have just seen proof. We just witnessed it.

I have here a book written by Brigitte Alepin, CA, tax expert, entitled, Ces riches qui ne paient pas d'impôts . It is about business people, politicians, actors, officials of crown corporations and even church officials.

This book was published a few days ago. It is still a hot potato. When I read page 166, I was confused, because there is an attack on the Liberal Party.

A woman wrote this. By launching insults as he just did in the House of Commons, he is insulting the good woman who wrote this book. This books tells about all the people in Canada, all the rich people, who are not paying taxes. I find her competent, because she has appeared on television shows and been interviewed on the radio. She appears on shows and I have a great deal of respect for her.

I respect the book that the hon. member has written in terms of the knowledge it contains. However, if he can talk about the family of the Prime Minister of Canada, his sons and all his companies, we too can talk. I see that he intervened rather quickly. I think he ran. He was out of breath, because he was unable to speak for more than 30 seconds. We will come back to this book during the election campaign.

But, today, the important thing is to speak out. Consider sponsorships by major international corporations and countries. They are known as endorsements, but I still call them sponsorships.

A first class ticket costs about $7,000 or $8,000. We have the list today. We have studied it. It is quite simple. It is public information in Parliament. The strangest thing in all this is that there is no figure corresponding to each trip made by all the members of the House.

I indicated how much this trip cost me, about $4,000. I am not afraid to say so, because I have kept the records since 1986. I can say so today.

The book I mentioned earlier, published by Mérindien and written by Brigitte Alepin costs about $19. We need to know what is happening.

Coming back to the sponsorships, both opposition and Liberal members are right to speak up. However, the motion before us is very partisan. Our family, my wife, my grandson, my friends are under attack. I had telephone conversations about that last night.

There is nothing wrong with the opposition attacking the system, but it should be careful not to implicate everybody. Strangely enough, it is not rising in the House to accuse every member one after the other on this issue.

As regards the ring of thieves, a friend of mine in Val-d'Or just found one in his company. It took him four year to find it. He was disappointed, because one of his best employees was involved. There are many examples like this one.

What happened to the taxpayers' money? I am mad. I made statements on FM 102.7, in our region, with Félix Séguin. The public noted what I said. I said some pretty harsh things. I used words that I cannot repeat in this House for fear of being interrupted and told that it is way off base. Hon. members know me. When I have something to say, I say it. And many people get angry when you tell the truth.

Today, I am taking part in the debate on this motion. I am disappointed with what this motion says, but we are going to fight. The Prime Minister will continue to hold the reins of government and take action against those who misused the taxpayers' money. It makes no sense.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, what a rant. I find it just totally unacceptable for the member opposite to say the things he has.

He talks about the wealthy paying no taxes. Whose fault is that? Who has been running the tax system for the last decade? It is these Liberals over there. Then he has the nerve to complain about his own tax system. Hello?

He says members of Parliament took trips. It might interest the member to know that no Conservatives took the most expensive trip of all, which was with the Governor General. The Governor General took a trip that cost over $5 million. Who went on the trip? No Conservatives did. Were there Liberal members on the trip? Yes, there were. I did not hear the member mention that, for some reason.

Then he has the nerve to criticize an artist for moving to Ireland. People move out of Canada and back into Canada every day of the week, but he singled out somebody for having the nerve to move somewhere. Is this person opposite in touch with reality?

I would like to ask this member what he has to say about a Prime Minister who was a finance minister and who owns a huge shipping company, a finance minister who was in charge of the tax system that obviously this member finds somehow deficient. This former finance minister, now Prime Minister, registers his shipping company in a loophole that he himself created and allowed to stay so that he can avoid paying Canadian taxes. Now he wants to be the leader of our country.

What does the member have to say about a former finance minister who will not pay Canadian taxes, will not fly the Canadian flag, sets up a system that shelters his own company, and then asks to be Prime Minister? Why is he not outraged about that?