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

Topics

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the law in question applied to only eight companies, including the Prime Minister's. That law allowed him to avoid at least $100 million in taxes. On February 10, 1998, a director general at Finance suggested that, with a few structural changes, CSL could indeed take advantage of the new provisions in Bill C-28.

How can the Prime Minister maintain he was not in conflict of interest, while sponsoring legislation which, even according to an employee of what was his department at the time, would benefit him and a company like his?

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, CSL is a Canadian company, headquartered in Montreal. The vast majority of its employees are Canadians. The vast majority of its vessels are Canadian. This is very clear. If there is anyone who has fought against tax havens on the international level, it is I. We have debated this issue here in this House, I have debated it at the OECD, and I will continue to debate it.

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

It is very hard for the Chair to hear the answers when there is so much noise. I would ask for a little more order in the House, if you please.

The hon. member for Joliette.

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, not only was this legislation tailored so as to allow companies, such as his CSL International, to save millions of dollars in taxes, but furthermore, it is retroactive to 1995.

Does the Prime Minister know many taxpayers able to benefit from tax legislation that is retroactive, as Bill C-28 was for companies such as his?

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the opposition continues to perpetuate a line of reasoning that is absolutely devoid of logic. It is also false.

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, there seems to be a three line whip on applause for the Prime Minister today no matter what he says.

The Prime Minister has asked the Auditor General to look at the government spending with respect to CSL. Given what we have now come to know about the $21 million related to Hibernia, would the Prime Minister be willing to ask the Minister of the Environment to investigate all the ways in which CSL is involved in exploration of fossil fuels? Perhaps this is the reason we do not have a plan for Kyoto yet.

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:30 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, it is quite interesting that our NDP colleague is asking a question about Hibernia. Were he better informed, he would know that Question No. 37, asked by the hon. member, dealt with crown corporations, government departments or agencies.

Hibernia was never a government contract.

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, there was government money involved. It is the Prime Minister who gives orders to the Minister of the Environment, not the government House leader.

I am asking the Prime Minister a question. Is he willing to have the Minister of the Environment look into all the ways in which CSL is implicated in the fossil fuel industry? Why is the oil patch happy? Why are those who opposed the Kyoto accord happy with the election of the Prime Minister? What is, after all, happening to the Kyoto accord?

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:30 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, the matter referred to the Auditor General deals with issues relating to Question No. 37. What my hon. colleague opposite is asking has absolutely nothing to do with Question No. 37.

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that there are astronomical errors in the government's accounting for the Prime Minister's companies and the money they received from the Canadian taxpayer.

I would like to give the government House leader an opportunity to cut through the fog and explain how the final amount was so massively underestimated a year ago. How does the government explain the huge difference between the original figure of $137,000 of February 2003 and the apparently final figure, which now appears to be growing, of $161 million last week and counting?

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:30 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, the question raised by the hon. member is rather strange because it is addressed in the specific answer I provided him in a letter. It is also on the Internet site. It is very clear.

First, there was a longer period; second, crown corporations were exempt; and third, serious errors were made, for which I have apologized.

The errors of which I speak were purely administrative and were never made in bad faith. They can be explained, and I have taken steps to ensure that they never happen again.

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government cannot hide behind administrative errors and mistakes made. That is simply a slap in the face to Canadian taxpayers. This is an issue of trust.

The government said the gun registry would cost $2 million. It is a billion dollars and counting. The government said that there was $137,000 in contracts to the Prime Minister's companies. Now it is $160 million and counting.

How can Canadians trust anything the government says with respect to their tax dollars?

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:30 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, I would like to thank the hon. member opposite for giving me the opportunity to detail some of the measures we have taken.

From now on, before a minister can reply to a written question, the most senior public servant involved in the file will have to guarantee the minister that all the work has been done accurately.

There is something else. When a number of departments are involved in the same question, one department will be designated responsible for collecting information.

Canada Steamship Lines
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.