House of Commons Hansard #13 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was public.

Topics

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it was the Prime Minister who said that a very few Quebec ministers were involved.

The Prime Minister originally said that he was only aware of administrative errors in the sponsorship program. The truth is that the 2000 internal audit, cited so often by the government, actually outlined double billing and fraud.

The Prime Minister said he saw this report and was very familiar with it. My question is, why has he stayed so silent about incidents of fraud and double--

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the 2000 internal audit identified a number of problems. The two deputy ministers, before and after, came before the public accounts committee to say there was no political influence on them. The audit only included managerial and administrative problems.

The action plan to that report was put on the Internet and indicated the steps that would be taken to overcome the managerial problems. If in the working papers in that audit there is an indication that may lead to some illegality, those are the very things that will be looked into in the various processes--

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Medicine Hat.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is important that the Prime Minister address this issue because it goes to his credibility.

The Prime Minister has used that report to defend his statement that he thought this was only about administrative errors. Clearly, that report indicates many examples of actual fraud.

Does he consider the fraud that was revealed in that report to be only administrative errors?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is using words such as fraud, which I do not believe were indicated in the background papers.

There were some inconsistencies in billing in the background papers and some questions about them. They led to the conclusion that there was a need to improve the administrative practices which were supported by the deputy ministers and reported on by them to the public accounts committee.

If indeed there are any corrupt practices that come to light, they will be brought before the various inquiries that are going ahead and the appropriate action will be taken, whether it is criminal, civil or administrative.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister says he did not know about the sponsorship scandal until May 2002.

Yet, his Minister of Public Works and Government Services told us that there was a comprehensive internal audit in the fall of 2000, but that in the fall of 2001, in the latter part of that year, they realized that there were more than just administrative problems, adding that, in January 2002, Alfonso Gagliano had to resign for these reasons.

Everyone knows that. Only the Prime Minister apparently did not know about it.

How does the Prime Minister explain the total contradiction between his version—that he knew nothing until May 2002—and that of his Minister of Public Works and Government Services?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

2:35 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, in recent days, the past couple of weeks, the questions put directly to us by the Bloc Quebecois are intended specifically to either smear individuals' reputation or assume the findings of an independent inquiry.

Such behaviour is totally unacceptable. If they are serious about wanting to know what really happened, I suggest they wait, as we are doing, and trust the process in place.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, there has to be limit in the end, because the Prime Minister is going all over the place telling people he is innocent. But when we put questions to him in the House, he is the democratic deficit incarnate. He will not answer.

If he is as transparent as he claims to be, I would ask him to answer our questions, instead of trying to hide behind the public inquiry. He says he is prepared to answer. Let him answer in this place.

Why is it that what his Minister of Public Works and Government Services said completely contradicts what he said?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, there is no contradiction. The hon. member can read what I said; I said that there were rumours at the start of 2002, that questions were raised in the House, and there was an article in the Globe and Mail on this issue.

On January 15, I think it was, a new minister was appointed. Later, the Globe and Mail published an article on Groupaction. Following that, the Auditor General's report and confirmed everything.

I have said repeatedly and everyone knows that questions were raised in the House and there were newspaper reports in the early part of 2002.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, questions were asked in the House as early as of 2001, and a minister resigned in January 2002. It is very rare for a minister to resign on the strength of rumours.

However, I want to ask the Prime Minister a question, since he is in a position to answer and stated earlier that he was prepared to release cabinet documents. Yesterday, I asked this question, and I want to ask it again today.

Ten ministers in his government each paid $27,000, a total of $270,000, for a report worth $27,000. Yesterday, I asked the government: given this government's desire to be transparent, as it claims, could someone tell us which ten ministers paid—

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. President of the Treasury Board.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is true the government received an internal audit report which it hid on its website so everyone could see it. I would invite the member to read it and see what he would discern from that.

I might also point out that the Auditor General himself, because it was the previous Auditor General, when auditing the department's books did not discover what this member seems to have discovered. The fact is that the information that was available was relatively coached bureaucratese. It was done by somebody who was not sure what was going on.

I suspect that if the member opposite read that report, and I would invite him to do so, it would be interesting to see the conclusions that he would come to.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister does the rounds in Quebec, he swears to everyone that he is outraged, that he wants the truth to come out. Is this not a very basic test?

If the Prime Minister is telling the truth in Quebec, if he has information to the effect that ten ministers each purchased the same report, I ask the government, and this Prime Minister, who says that he want to be transparent, who are those ministers? It is not complicated.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is really easy for the opposition to come into the House and slander staff and slander, through innuendo, other members of the House, trying to create an atmosphere of distrust. I would ask him to put a single fact on the table that proves his allegation.

Let me tell the House what somebody else thinks about the Prime Minister. This is from today's Globe and Mail . It states:

...Prime Minister Paul Martin deserves more credit than the polls are giving him.