House of Commons Hansard #149 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

Vacancy

November 14th, 2005 / 11 a.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the representation, namely: Mr. Stéphane Bergeron, member for the electoral district of Verchères—Les Patriotes, by resignation effective Wednesday, November 9, 2005.

Pursuant to subsection 25(1)( b ) of the Parliament of Canada Act, I have addressed on Monday, November 14, 2005 my warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for the election of a member to fill this vacancy.

The House resumed from November 4 consideration of the motion, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Privilege

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Prince Albert has six minutes plus the comment and question period.

Privilege

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to give this more thought over the break and I want to start by reviewing the facts as I see them, as it is always good to start from a factual basis. The question of privilege is centred on some mail-outs from the Bloc members to government seats in the province of Quebec. This has certainly caused a lot of anguish to those government members, but I would like to go through what is in the mail-out. It highlights key passages from the Gomery report, which I think is fair. It brings home some facts to people in the key findings of the commissioner. It includes photographs of some of the key government members opposite.

What kinds of messages were left with those constituents in Quebec? One of them was that money was given to Liberal friendly organizations for doing virtually nothing. Millions and millions of dollars were given to Liberal friendly organizations to do nothing. In return, what were these agencies required to do? They were required to make donations to the Liberal Party of Canada. They were required, I guess, to put Liberal workers on their payrolls to do no work for these agencies but to do political work for the party. They arranged for large amounts of money to be deposited with Liberal constituency organizations to make sure Liberals got elected in those ridings. The mail-out also makes it clear that the Liberal Party was behind this. The Liberals conceived this plan, executed it and carried it out to its fullest.

Individual members from Quebec are offended by the mail-out. They say it is being determined that they are guilty by association. They say they are Liberals involved with the Quebec Liberal Party, the federal Liberal Party and the leader of the party, Mr. Chrétien at that time. There may have been a lot of wrongdoing inside the party and in the Prime Minister's Office and in other departments, but they say they are innocent and they were not party to that. Yes, they say they were lobbying the government to get as much sponsorship money into their ridings as possible, but they say they knew nothing about this other aspect of the program. In fact, even in their own riding associations there might have been cash deposited from the program to pay for their re-election, but they knew nothing about that. They were completely oblivious to that.

It brings me back to a sitcom in the 1960s, Hogan's Heroes, with Sergeant Schultz, whose common phraseology was, “I know nothing, I see nothing, and I say nothing”. It almost seems that this might be a problem with a lot of the members opposite. They did not participate in this thing, they were not very aware of what was going on and they did not really want to know what was going on, but they sure lined up for the grants if they could get their hands on them.

In fact, I recall that in one situation a minister from Montreal got $3.5 million in one year for sporting events in a riding, including $250,000 for the Grey Cup. The Minister of Finance did not do as good a job on the sponsorship as that minister did; he only got $50,000 for the Roughrider committee in Saskatchewan at that time. The minister in Quebec got $250,000 for the Grey Cup committee in Montreal. Perhaps the finance minister was not as strong a lobbyist as some of the Quebec members. That particular minister obviously knew about the sponsorship program because she did very well on it in one particular year, that is for sure.

In our society, as everyone knows, the government has a lot of tools for communicating to the public to get its message out. Opposition members really do not have the same powers to communicate that the government does. One of the tools we do have is our 10 percenters. It is a way of getting the message out. Clearly, a lot of government members do not like opposition members trying to get their message out.

Quite frankly, I believe the mail-out that was sent to the people of Quebec was perhaps a hard message. Maybe it was something the Liberals did not want to see because it threatened their political careers, but I think what was contained in the householder was fair comment. That is really the test on these things.

I am surprised that the House of Commons would actually entertain the idea of taking away the freedom of expression and the democratic rights of opposition members to provide fair comment to people in this country. That would take away the charter rights of Canadians, especially those of members of Parliament, which is something the Prime Minister guaranteed his government would never entertain. The motion before the House would shut down the most fundamental of our freedoms, the freedom of expression, our democratic right, and would shut down our abilities as opposition members. I am truly amazed that members opposite would even consider such a motion.

I can understand why members opposite would be upset with this. As I mentioned before, when political scandals take place there are innocent bystanders and those innocent bystanders are going to go down with the ship. They are identified with the organization. It may be guilt by association, but the point of correlativity is that when the ship goes down, the innocent are going to go down with it. Quite frankly, I think Quebec members should have known a lot more about this sponsorship program than they pretended--

Privilege

11:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Questions and comments.

Privilege

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am continuing to find increasingly deplorable how much the Conservatives enjoy being in bed with the separatists and saying the same dumb and ridiculous things. I have heard this member suggest that there is basically nothing wrong with making criminal allegations. He said that, in the name of freedom of expression, one can say just about anything.

Does this mean that, in the name of freedom of expression, he agreed with Ernst Zundel, who contended that the Holocaust never happened? Does it go that far? There comes a point when the institution needs perspective. The nonsense must stop. And, more importantly, so does the hypocrisy whereby one can basically say just about anything in the name of freedom of expression.

I would like to ask a question along these lines. I heard an interesting statement. This probably explains why the Conservative Party has no members in Quebec, understandably so. I would like the member to comment on the following statement:

“In a society, attitudes fraught with hypocrisy and innuendo are not to be tolerated. If there is evidence, let it be known, do not let the rumour mill run. Rigour is required at all times; otherwise, we end up with statements starting with 'Someone told me they have heard'. That is hearsay, gossip, and it is not right, be it directed at politicians or anyone else. There is nothing more harmful than rumour because it is not factual. If it turns out that the rumours were unfounded, those who floated them will have to face the consequences. What goes around comes around. It is the reverse slingshot theory. Eventually, it comes back and hits you in the face.”

I do not always agree with him, but this was a quote from the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, the leader of the Bloc Québécois, who probably—

Privilege

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Privilege

11:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Let us listen to the questions and comments, please. Then we will listen to the answers.

Privilege

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, does my colleague agree with the statement made by the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie? Personally, I do. Of course, there is a discrepancy because there is a lot of hypocrisy. There is a double standard here. This is acceptable for André Boisclair, who will have to live with the consequences. However, is it acceptable to act as they did with the Liberals? Is it acceptable for the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel to send a document referring to the dirty money trail when he was saying that it was not about that at all?

Could the member tell me if he finds acceptable, in the name of freedom of expression, that criminal allegations be made with taxpayers' money in a flyer, a householder or a 10 percenter?

Privilege

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would just remind the member that when the Auditor General first released her report she said that every rule in the book had been broken. Judge Gomery also confirmed that basically every rule in the book had been broken and that this was a conspiracy. The effect of the conspiracy was to unlawfully take tax dollars away from Canadian taxpayers to pay for the Liberal Party and its friends and to run election campaigns and so on.

This matter goes much further than just being a civil tort. The plea of innocence on the part of members opposite is rather strange because the Gomery report confirms that the rules were broken and that the Liberal government was behind this plan to abscond with millions of dollars of taxpayer money. We all know that Judge Gomery could not assign individual criminal liability because the Inquiries Act prohibits him from doing so.

However it raises suspicions in a lot of minds about the list of people who were actually embroiled and directly involved in this massive fraud committed against the Canadian public. I have often been asked by constituents in Saskatchewan where the charges are and when these people will be before the courts and pay their dues. They see it the same way as they saw Enron or WorldCom or, as I mentioned in my speech to the House, the Devine administration where 14 people were convicted on the political side and served time in jail. People in my riding are asking when it will happen here and how far it goes.

For members in Quebec to say that they did not know anything about this program is really hard to accept.

Privilege

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that the member for Bourassa's main complaint is in the content of the literature that was circulated in his riding, not the fact that the Bloc has the right to mail into his riding.

I would ask my colleague from Prince Albert if he agrees that part of this issue is about the fact that the sponsorship money was used to circumvent Elections Canada spending rules in election campaigns and to give envelopes of money to individual Liberal campaigns in the federal election.

Would it not have been perfectly valid for the Bloc Québécois to raise the fact that dirty money was being used to subsidize Liberal election campaigns in Quebec? Also, would it not be suitable if the Bloc had even called upon the Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, to investigate each one of those ridings that received envelopes of dirty money stolen in the sponsorship scandal and that the official agents of those campaigns be investigated because they clearly signed off that all of the spending in that election was perfectly legal and in accordance with the rules? Would he not also agree that any Liberal members of Parliament elected under those circumstances should lose their seat and not be allowed to run for office again as per the Elections Act?

Would it not have been suitable and within ethical guidelines for the Bloc Québécois to point out these things in mailings to the voters of Quebec? Would he agree that the Chief Electoral Officer should investigate every Liberal Quebec riding where they may have received dirty money and that the official agent should be charged as well as the member of Parliament should be dealt these consequences?

Privilege

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have three points on this matter. As Judge Gomery basically outlined, if money went into Liberal constituencies contrary to the Elections Act it was a violation, especially when somebody drops $8,000 or $7,000 cash into a constituency association. My goodness gracious, if any candidate does not have a clue or even asks a question about where the money comes from, it raises clear-cut suspicions among reasonable people. Those are the candidates who want to come to Ottawa and run our government. They do not even know where the money is coming from in their ridings when cash shows up. That is a problem.

People were working in the advertising agencies and on the payroll and they were not doing any work for the advertising agencies except doing political work for the Liberal Party in Quebec.

The other problem is the cash kickbacks, the money in brown envelopes. Anybody involved in any of those activities in my view was part of a criminal conspiracy. This is a serious matter. We need to get a full list of who these people are. We should have no more inquiries. These people should be facing the criminal justice system and the full consequences of our criminal justice system and, hopefully, we will have mandatory minimum sentences in place for the culprits who were involved in this when that day comes.

Privilege

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Conservative member. Does he make a distinction between knowing about the sponsorship program and knowing about criminal acts being committed? He might want to read an interesting article.

I heard the member for Bourassa quoting the leader of the Bloc Québécois who was talking about the rigour required when one talks about public people and individuals. The leader of the Bloc Québécois, who is very vocal these days—and we all know why—made some confessions in the Hill Times . He said that, like probably all those who were in the House at that time, and unfortunately I was not, he knew about the sponsorship program.

Therefore, I would like him to tell us if he makes a distinction between knowing about the sponsorship program and knowing about criminal acts being committed in this program?

Privilege

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Quite honestly, Mr. Speaker, not everyone was aware of the sponsorship program. It seemed like there was a club of MPs who were tuned into it.

I remember when I first came here there was a sponsorship for the Montreal Alouettes, the Montreal Expos, the Ottawa Senators and the football team, I believe. Four outfits that participated directly in sponsorship payments but in the CFL, the Toronto team, the Hamilton team, the Winnipeg team, the Rough Riders, the Eskimos, the Stampeders and B.C., they did not know anything about this and did not have any of the money.

Other NHL teams, such as the Oilers or the Calgary team, did not know anything about that but sponsorship money was flowing into the professional teams in Quebec. Obviously somebody was beating the drums in Quebec very well for these programs and people elsewhere in the country were oblivious to even the existence of these programs. It had a secretive nature to it. It is part of a veil of secrecy that the government has brought to the House of Commons where it hides things from the public to keep us in the dark.

Privilege

11:25 a.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Minister responsible for the Francophonie

Mr. Speaker, it is with some sadness that I rise today to address the House. I would have preferred to have used the little time we have in the House to talk about issues we consider fundamental. What are we doing together to help the regions? What are we doing together to address globalization? What are we doing together to help people who lose their jobs? What are we doing together to promote the social economy? What are we doing together to prevent young people from having to leave the regions, which are dying as a result? I wish we had the time to talk about all that.

Unfortunately, for some time now in the House, such debates have become increasingly rare.