House of Commons Hansard #157 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

Questions Passed As Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 184
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey North Nova, NS

With regard to the government’s position and actions regarding employment insurance (EI) benefits for spouses of employees of the government or private sector employees who have been posted overseas and who are unable to receive unemployment insurance benefits, even though these citizens are still registered in constituencies across Canada: ( a ) how many spouses of Canadian diplomats, Canadian foreign-service employees or private sector employees have filed complaints with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), or Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) with regard to the their inability to receive EI benefits, even though they are still Canadian citizens who are registered in federal constituencies across Canada and still pay taxes to the government; ( b ) does the CRA collect the payment of EI premiums from the spouses of Canada’s diplomats, foreign-service employees and those from the private sector, and, if so, why is it that these individuals cannot receive the EI benefits for which they have paid through their salaries, and earned from Canadian employers either just prior to, or while living overseas; ( c ) is there a conflict between the CRA and HRSDC definitions of residency of a Canadian citizen and, if so, why; ( d ) has any action taken place between officials of CRA, HRSDC, Foreign Affairs Canada or Elections Canada to update or correct conflicts in the definition process for determining an individual’s residency; ( e ) has any action taken place within the CRA to update the NR-73 Determination of Residency Status form and resulting process to correct any determination conflicts with those of other federal departments for Canadians living and working overseas; ( f ) have HRSDC, CRA, Elections Canada or Foreign Affairs Canada ever discussed using a standardized or shared definition for determining who is a “spouse”, in cases of spouses of government (including diplomatic and foreign-service staff) or private sector employees who have been posted overseas and wish to claim employment insurance benefits; ( g ) which nations does Canada have reciprocal treaties/agreements enabling the payment of employment insurance benefits to Canadians outside of Canada, and when were these treaties/agreements established; ( h ) is the government actively negotiating with any other nations with regard to achieving a reciprocal employment insurance agreement; ( i ) has the government sought, or been approached, to establish reciprocal treaties or employment insurance agreements with Canada’s NAFTA partners, with the European Union or any of its member states, the United Kingdom or any another G-8 nation; ( j ) was the subject of reciprocal employment insurance benefits treaties or agreements discussed or proposed during the drafting of Canada’s newest foreign policy review, or in negotiations with the World Trade Organization, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiations, or the Trade and Investment Agreement negotiations; and if so, what concerns or suggestions were raised regarding the implementation of these EI treaties or agreements; ( k ) have any spouses of Canada’s diplomatic corps or foreign-service employees been contacted with regard to ascertaining their opinions or suggestions for improving the present conflict with employment insurance benefit regulations; and ( l ) what progress has Foreign Affairs Canada, HRSDC and CRA achieved towards creating a solution to spousal overseas EI issues?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 195
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

With regard to the federal funding of centennial celebrations in the province of Saskatchewan for 2004 and 2005: ( a ) which organizations and governments received funding; ( b ) how much did each organization and government receive; and ( c ) were there any pre-existing criteria determining which organizations and governments would be eligible to receive this funding, and, if so, what were they?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 198
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

John Reynolds West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

In relation to the dinner that followed the installation of Her Excellency the Governor General: ( a ) who made the decision not to hold the reception at Rideau Hall, as is customarily done; ( b ) why was the decision made; and ( c ) who was on the guest list?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 212
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

With regard to the testimony given by Mr. Michael Saucier (Director General, Labour Market and Official Language Minority Communities, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development) to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on March 8, 2005 (Meeting No. 22, 38th Parliament, 1st Session) and the response by the government to question Q-159 (38th Parliament, 1st Session), tabled on September 26, 2005: ( a ) how many Calls for Proposal (CFPs) were issued by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, resulting in how many projects, since the new process came into force; ( b ) for each project or contract awarded between July 4, 2005 and October 4, 2005, what was (i) the amount awarded, (ii) the name of the winning organization, (iii) the constituency of the sponsor, (iv) the constituency of activity; and ( c ) how many more CFPs have been issued and are awaiting approval?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 226
Routine Proceedings

November 24th, 2005 / 10:20 a.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

With regard to the H5N1 bird flu, what steps is the government taking to ensure that this country has an adequate early warning and crisis management system in place, as well as a sufficient supply of vaccine available for Canadians?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 226
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question No. 226
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 226
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Leader of the Opposition

, seconded by the hon. member for Toronto--Danforth, moved:

That this House has lost confidence in the government.

Mr. Speaker, it has now become evident to all observers that the government has lost the confidence of the House of Commons and must be removed.

After 17 months in office, the record of the government--or I should say in many instances its lack of record--has become unacceptable to a large majority of the members of the House, representing an overwhelming majority of Canadian voters.

I want to reflect on the reasons why things have come to this.

In the last election, the Liberal government was narrowly re-elected, with only a minority. In effect, the Canadian people put this government on probation. Why?

Why the limited confidence? Because already in June 2004 the government was seriously tainted by the sponsorship scandal. Ever since Sheila Fraser's devastating report indicating that some $100 million in taxpayers' money was unaccounted for, the public has been deeply mistrustful of the Liberal record of waste, mismanagement and corruption. Events since then have only confirmed the depth and breadth of the sponsorship corruption. Perhaps more important, they have shown that the Liberal Party has no desire to change, no intention to change and no ability to change.

The opposition parties did not begin this Parliament with the hope that it would fail. We have all tried different ways of making it work.

Last fall, all three opposition parties developed consensus amendments to the government's Speech from the Throne rather than just the traditional opposition motion rejecting everything. How did the government respond? It responded by threatening an immediate election.

In February, this party decided that we would support the government's budget based on a number of priorities we shared, including some very modest steps toward tax relief, the Atlantic accords on resource revenue sharing, and the transfer of gas tax revenues to municipalities for infrastructure.

But by April, we believed that the evidence revealed before the Gomery commission left the Liberal Party without the moral authority to govern this country. The testimony before the commission began to confirm a sponsorship program that was a front for massive kickbacks involving organized crime, used by the Liberal Party to fill its own election coffers.

At that point, the New Democratic Party had a serious disagreement with the other two opposition parties. Its preference was to wait to see whether Justice Gomery would confirm the testimony of Jean Brault and others in his report and whether it could find common ground with the government on other issues in the meantime.

The government survived in the spring, thanks in part to its deal with the NDP. However, it ensured its survival by resorting to unprecedented anti-democratic tactics, such as cancelling the opposition days and ignoring non-confidence votes.

Also without precedent was what the government did next, which was an unprecedented and hopefully never to be repeated effort to buy off and to attract members from this party and from other parties, even to the point of being prepared to exchange cabinet seats to do it.

In the eyes of the official opposition, this government has lacked the moral authority to govern ever since.

At the same time, we knew that it would be impossible to bring the government down until the NDP also came to the same conclusion. We knew that without a three-party common front, the Liberals would try once again to beg, borrow or steal votes in order to survive.

The moment of truth finally came with the release of Justice Gomery's report on November 1. This report removed the benefit of any doubt about the depth of corruption within the Liberal Party of Canada.

In his report, Justice Gomery noted:

clear evidence of political involvement in the administration of the Sponsorship Program;—

a complex web of financial transactions—involving kickbacks and illegal contributions to a political party—;

the existence of a “culture of entitlement” among political officials and bureaucrats—

These statements can no longer be dismissed as media speculation or as partisan attacks. These are the findings of fact by a judge in a judicial inquiry. As Judge Gomery concluded, “The LPCQ...cannot escape responsibility for the misconduct of its officers and representatives”. The Liberal Party itself is part and parcel of this scandal and corruption.

There is no way that a political party that has been named for its involvement in a massive corruption scandal can be entrusted by the House to remain in office. So far, criminal charges have been pursued against relatively small fry in the sponsorship scandal and no one has gone to jail. As long as the guilty party remains in governing the country, as long as it remains in office, nobody will ever be held truly responsible, nobody will ever be firmly punished and no real reforms will ever be made.

Notwithstanding Jean Chrétien's role, the current Prime Minister himself was part of that fateful cabinet meeting of February 1996 that made it a government priority, a taxpayer priority, to strengthen the Liberal Party of Canada in Quebec, which Judge Gomery pointed out was highly inappropriate as, “Cabinet is expected to deal with the interests of the country as a whole, leaving partisan considerations aside”.

As Judge Gomery said, the arrogant attitude of the cabinet to define the interests of the Liberal Party as synonymous with the federation itself “is difficult to reconcile with basic democratic values”. The Prime Minister should have known that. He cannot get away with saying, “Don't blame me. I was only the piano player. I had no idea what was going on upstairs”. As Jean Chrétien said, “He knew what I knew”.

Clearly, this Prime Minister has done nothing about the sponsorship scandal, because the current Prime Minister and his Liberal allies share the same culture of entitlement as Chrétien's Liberal Party.

Since the Prime Minister came to power, we have seen one Minister of Immigration have to resign over favouritism in giving out visas, while the next one billed taxpayers $138 for pizza, all defended by the Prime Minister. We have seen Art Eggleton, a man that Jean Chrétien fired from the cabinet for giving an untendered contract to a former girlfriend, get rewarded with a seat in the Senate.

We have seen the PM's good friends, Francis Fox and Dennis Dawson, also compensated for “good and loyal services” by a Senate seat.

We have seen the unseemly spectacle of a government negotiating severance pay with David Dingwall, the man who hired Chuck Guité to run government advertising, an unregistered lobbyist who received contingency payments that were against government contracting rules, a patronage appointee who quit his job.

We have seen the Prime Minister flying around the country on Challenger jets doing a few hours of government work, then spending the rest of the time campaigning and fundraising, often at exclusive cocktail parties where big Liberal donors pay $5,000 a ticket to discuss public business. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

The Liberal culture of entitlement goes on. The public must be given a chance to put an end to it.

Unfortunately, and tragically, because this government was so consumed by disinformation and petty politics, so obsessed by its own scandal sheet and its own survival, some things essential for this country fell by the wayside.

Where the government has acted, it has become increasingly erratic and irresponsible. Take for example the government's budgetary policy. In the first budget in February, the government announced modest surpluses and small tax relief measures. But in May, after the deal with the NDP, the Minister of Finance produced the second budget, claiming that the cupboard was bare and that there would be little or no surplus. He then removed the tax relief.

Two weeks ago, in the third budget in less than nine months, all of a sudden there was an enormous $97 billion worth of surpluses over the next five years, enough for a $30 billion package of corporate and personal tax relief. Since that budget two weeks ago, policies have appeared and disappeared at the rate of $1 billion a day, many of them not in any of the budgets.

At this point nobody can believe a word the government says about economic or fiscal policy or anything else, especially the on again off again policies on income trust, which I will not even get into.

Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Harper Calgary Southwest, AB

We are witnessing the same sort of failures on just about every front.

On criminal justice, we see a government that has lurched from one position to another. For years the Liberals denied Canada had any crime problem. They pushed drug legalization. They said that mandatory minimum sentences did not work. That was only a few weeks ago in the House of Commons. Now, today, they are talking tough on crime in response to 48 shootings on the streets of Toronto.

On trade, the Prime Minister, who came to office promising a more mature relationship with the United States, is now reduced to lecturing the President of the United States for the benefit of the Canadian media because the U.S. administration stopped listening to him a long time ago.

On health care, the Prime Minister promised to fix health care for a generation and considered health care waiting times his top priority in the last election. Now he is content to let the provinces come up with a patchwork scheme of wait time benchmarks and to wait until 2008 before setting targets to reduce wait times. Medical wait times have doubled under the Liberals and the current Prime Minister has only added one more wait time, the time we will have to wait to get action from that do nothing government.

Finally, on the national unity front, the Prime Minister, having missed opportunity after opportunity to work with the most committed federalist premier we have had in the province of Quebec in my lifetime, now wants to sound tough, talking against the new leader of the Parti Québécois, who not only is not the premier of Quebec, he does not even have a seat in the Quebec legislature. He wants to be tough over the Clarity Act, legislation his own Quebec lieutenant does not support.

My position on clarity is known, which is in contrast particularly with that of the Prime Minister, who refused to speak of it during the Chrétien years. Quebeckers, however, be they federalist or sovereignist, do not want to debate the rules of the next referendum. What they do want to debate is how to construct a stronger Quebec within a better Canada. They want more than a choice between corruption and separation, which is all this Prime Minister and the Parti Québécois want to offer them.

A party, and I think this is important to repeat when we are talking about the Clarity Act and the rule of law, that has been named in a judicial inquiry, a royal commission, has been found guilty of breaking every conceivable law in the province of Quebec with the help of organized crime cannot lecture the separatists or anyone else about respecting the rule of law.

The Liberals cannot lecture about respecting the rule of law. They cannot move forward, at least in a straight line on reducing taxes, fighting crime, standing up for our trade interests or reducing wait times in health care. The country cannot go on without a change of government. That is why the House has lost confidence in the government.

The Prime Minister will claim that all this is about trying to provoke an unnecessary Christmas election, as if we all would prefer to campaign in the snow. Even now the Prime Minister could choose to accept the recommendations of the House last Monday and agree to call an election in January for February. The choice to call an election at this time is the Prime Minister's. I acknowledge fully the leader of the New Democratic Party who has given the Prime Minister every conceivable opportunity to do that.

If the Prime Minister does not want to accept the NDP compromise, the official opposition would be prepared to face the public in a general election. The government will say that such an election is about making Parliament work, or about the economy, or about some ghastly, frightening policies of the opposition parties, but that will be nothing but a smokescreen.

If the Prime Minister chooses to call an election this time, the election will be about the choice that Canadians must make: which party can ensure the change of government needed to restore accountability in Ottawa. It will be a choice between old style politics and sweeping new reforms. It will be a choice between a culture of entitlement and corruption and a culture of accountability and achievement, between benefits for a privileged few and honest government for all citizens. That is the choice we face.

While I have complete confidence in the choice the Canadian people will make, I have no more confidence in the choices the government would make if it serves any more time in office.

That is why I move, seconded by the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth:

That this House has lost confidence in the government.

Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, section 11 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, subsection (d), says that any person charged with an offence or alleged to have committed an office is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

My point for the leader of the official opposition is that he knows very well the Gomery inquiry did not have the mandate or the authority to find criminal liability. That report has had findings and those findings have been referred to the RCMP.

The member has made the point that no charges have been laid. He knows very well that at this point, other than referrals to the RCMP made prior to Gomery, those are the only ones for which charges have been laid. Now we have a situation where the RCMP is looking at those charges and it will do its job.

In his speech the member referred to corruption and he ascribed it to the Liberal Party, but did not once ascribe it to the Liberal government. He was very careful to do that. Since Gomery cannot find criminal liability, will the member confirm to the House that he intends to support the charter, the rule of law, the presumption of innocence and the right to due process, which all parties involved in the Gomery commission have not had as yet?

Supply
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Harper Calgary Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, I almost like that question.

The member talks about innocent until proven guilty. However, from the beginning of this scandal, the Prime Minister had no difficulty ascribing guilt or punishing those who just happened to be his enemies within the Liberal Party. We even know now that in the case of Mr. Pelletier he was apparently fired improperly. There is a double standard even within the party.

After Justice Gomery spent all this money and heard all these witnesses, he determined that the Liberal Party played a central role in the sponsorship scandal and that in fact the Liberal Party was the linchpin of the sponsorship scandal. It was the only entity or agent that conceived the program, ran the program and benefited from the program. Is the member seriously suggesting that the people of Canada would wait to remove the government from office only when its leading officials are carted off to jail in handcuffs? Surely we all believe that the people of Canada have higher standards of political accountability than that.

The member tried to make the distinction between the Liberal government and the Liberal Party. If that is a distinction he seriously believes in, and I know the member is an individual of sincere belief on a range of public policy issues, then I would invite him and all members who share that distinction not to campaign in the upcoming federal election under the banner of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Supply
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I would suggest and seek guidance at some future time as to how we could submit the Hansard copy of this speech to the Governor General as our submission for the Governor General's prize for literary fiction.

I do not know how the member can attribute blame to the Prime Minister for the problems in sponsorship when Justice Gomery, who was appointed by the Prime Minister, has looked over millions of pages of documentation and the records of two cabinets under two prime ministers, heard experts from across the country, forensic accountants and legal experts, et cetera, and exonerated the Prime Minister. For the simple minds opposite, exonerated means that he was cleared, which means there was no responsibility.

I hear the Conservatives say that there is an out to this election. They say that they have lost confidence but if we wait a week they will have confidence for a week. Perhaps I could get a dictionary to look at the meaning of “hypocrisy”. We hear the expressions “culture of very easy”, “culture of entitlement” and the leader saying Atlantic Canada is a “culture of defeatism”. Canadians will know that they are entitled to a government like we have now that believes in the potential of all regions of the country and of the strength of the country itself, not on multiple capitals like the leader has said that he could live with multiple capitals of this country.

There must be one Canada, and one Canada only.

Supply
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Harper Calgary Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, if the hon. member believes that my speech could get a literary award for fiction, he must believe that Justice Gomery has written the longest novel in Canadian history. Unfortunately, those are the facts.

I have said to people in my own party and to others that if I belonged to an organization and led an organization that was found to have been involved in a massive corruption ring using organized crime to defraud taxpayers, I cannot understand why anyone found in that position would want to be associated with that organization.

However that is a decision that the Prime Minister has to make and has to explain. I think Canadians understand now. It is a little rich for the Prime Minister who built his political career and reputation on his so-called detailed knowledge of government finance to now say that he did not know what was going on with the finances of the country.

However we can have that debate another time. My point is that the problems we have do not restrict themselves just to the sponsorship scandal. We have seen just in the last week revelations about David Herle, the Liberal campaign manager, getting an untendered government contract, and a Liberal polling firm led by Michael Marzolini, the Liberal pollster, receiving a verbal contract after the Auditor General said that these were inappropriate. It continues.

All we get over there is trying to justify it. Canadians should not justify it. They must defeat the government to make the statement that it is not acceptable.