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

Business of the House
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member, as a new member, has worked very hard to have some influence here.

One of things that has concerned me in all of this debate since the Gomery hearings and the report is the continued use of the word “corruption”. Corruption is an illegal activity. Even in the Mulroney government there were three Conservative cabinet ministers who in fact were charged with corrupt activities and lost their cabinet posts as a consequence.

I raise that because under the charter we have legal rights. We have the right to due process, the rule of law, to be able to defend ourselves. As the member will know and as the House will know, when we discussed Justice Gomery's mandate, he did not have the authority to determine criminal liability. That matter has to be dealt with by a court of law where people have the opportunity for due process.

Does the member believe that all Canadians are entitled to due process, for us to respect the rule of law, that once the RCMP completes its investigation, charges may be laid and that everyone who may be named in those charges is entitled to due process and the legal rights guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy, NB

Mr. Speaker, we use the word “corruption” because these activities were corrupt. Justice Gomery found that bags of cash were exchanged under tables. There was an orchestrated, organized attempt to take money from Canadian taxpayers, money that the people in my riding worked so hard for, families trying to put their children through university, and single parents. These tax dollars were being taken from Canadian taxpayers and given to the member's party.

That is corrupt. That is why we use the word “corruption” to describe these activities.

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1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Boulianne Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, what is at issue, really, is democracy. From day one, we have noted the lack of respect. The Liberal Party trampled democracy.

Quebec and Canada have worked hard to get this parliamentary system, and ministerial responsibility in particular. We could also mention the courts, and what not. However, ministerial responsibility, as defined by the Liberals, is lack of respect.

They say they did not know, they are not responsible, they were not aware, no one told them. That is not ministerial responsibility. It is an important choice, and those whose actions bring scandal ought to resign.

We have had several scandals: the gun registry, the HRDC boondoggle and, now, the sponsorship scandal. The problem with that is that the public no longer trusts the day-to-day management of the finances.

That is what we are told by everyone. If there is no money, they figure it is because it has gone somewhere else: into the pockets of close friends of the Liberal Party. That is what is at issue. That is the issue. The punishment for the Liberals, the public insists, is to get rid of them as soon as possible.

Here is my question to the hon. member. Is this motion not appropriate punishment? Is it not reasonable for the public to think that, once and for all, they will be getting what was coming to them and face the consequences of their actions, of their lack of respect for democracy?

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy, NB

Mr. Speaker, absolutely, this is about restoring accountability. There has to be accountability.

Justice Gomery found that the Liberal Party was responsible for these activities. It was the Liberal Party of Canada that benefited from these illegal activities, from taking taxpayers' money and indirectly or directly lining the pockets of Liberal Party activists and Liberal Party workers.

Absolutely, someone has to be responsible. The Liberal Party of Canada has to be responsible. The Prime Minister has to be responsible. The current Prime Minister was the minister of finance at that time. He was the minister responsible for the nation's financing. He was the caretaker of taxpayers' dollars. He was also responsible for this program that was being administered.

The then minister of finance, the current Prime Minister, should have known what was going on. It was his job to take care of our finances. The Liberal Party of Canada benefited from this program. Ultimately that responsibility is on the Liberals and now is an opportunity for Canadians, having heard what Justice Gomery said about the sponsorship scandal, to pass judgment on those responsible.

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the question is why do we need an election? The non-confidence motion says that this House has lost confidence in the government. To put it in simple terms, it is because it is time to clean house. Specifically, it is an indictment of the government by the House saying that the government is condemned for its arrogance, for its culture of entitlement and for the corruption, the scandal and the gross abuse of public funds for political purposes. The government has lost touch with the common people and it is here to serve only its own ends.

Why do we need an election? Because it is time to clean house. There is a job that needs to be done and it needs to be done now. In fact, the majority of people will take the time in a responsible way to exercise their duty and responsibility to set the country on the right course by electing a new government.

It is the solemn responsibility that must be exercised as a cloud falls over the present government. It is a fundamental change that the people of Canada are about to make and make it they will with all the seriousness and determination that will be required, despite the time of year or the exact call of the day, because it is the right thing to do and it is the very thing that needs to be done to set our country on the right course and in the right direction.

Why does the Prime Minister want to wait until the second part of the Gomery report when the first part has been the fact finding part, and all the facts are in? It is not because he hopes to learn more about what happened, but rather it is the hope on his part that the public will have forgotten what happened, that the attention will be drawn to something else, that the real transgressions, that the severity and the magnitude of them will somehow be softened by the lens of time.

The Prime Minister is afraid to face the music, or shall I say the consequences. It is the cowardly act of not wanting to face the consequences here and now when the evidence is still fresh. The government has taken away supply days and the opportunity for earlier confidence votes. Now it is trying to say that somehow the opposition is forcing an election at this time of the year.

I am a lawyer, and Gomery indicated that on the evidence he could not find any blame or responsibility. That is not saying there is not any blame or responsibility. A case can be won or lost based on the evidence that is presented. One can have a winning case and still lose if the evidence is not presented or the necessary evidence is unavailable at the time of the hearing, or it is not pursued with the vigour required to unearth it to bring it forward. In fact, it may be because the nature of the evidence is buried and cannot be brought forward.

To the use the words “based on the evidence” makes the finding very qualified. Let me reiterate what I mean. Justice Gomery said in respect to one aspect of the hearing:

It is extraordinary that no witness is willing to tell the Commission exactly what transpired in the period following the political decision made by Cabinet on February 1-2, 1996....It is impossible to believe that there were no meetings or discussions involving the Prime Minister and his staff during that period concerning the implementation of the decision, but Mr. Pelletier conveniently purports to have no recollection of what actually happened.

That does not mean that there were no meetings. It only means that based on the evidence, he could not find that meetings took place.

He also spoke about Lafleur Communications and how he had the suspicion that the objective of public works was to qualify them as quickly as possibly so it could be one of the suppliers, although he had a suspicion the evidence was not there.

Somehow the Prime Minister interprets or takes the words of Justice Gomery to say he is exonerated from blame or for any carelessness or misconduct. The one person who knew of the evidence is the Prime Minister who made a national address saying the following with respect to his involvement. He said:

Let me speak plainly: what happened with the sponsorship file occurred on the watch of a Liberal government. Those who were in power are to be held responsible. And that includes me.

That sounds like a confession. He went on to say, “I was the Minister of Finance. Knowing what I've learned this past year, I am sorry that we weren’t more vigilant”. Then he had a stroke of conscience and corrected himself, “That I wasn't more vigilant. Public money was misdirected and misused and that is unacceptable”.

This happened on his watch, while he was the finance minister, when he knew where every penny moved, where every dollar went. He was not there to ensure that it did not happen. He must now face Canadians and let them judge. The facts are in and it is time for the jury to make its decision.

When the captain was involved, we have to wonder about the involvement of the first officer. The Prime Minister either knew of the general climate in Quebec or he otherwise turned a blind eye to what was going on around him. He was an able minister and he had the pulse of what was taking place when he orchestrated a silent coup to displace the then prime minister. He stated that he knew nothing, saw nothing, yet nothing moved without his knowing.

One would think that the government would have learned from the Gomery experience, but it is clear that it has not. We have only to look at the Dingwall affair and the Herle affair to see for ourselves that despite the multitude of promises and assurances from the Prime Minister that things would change, they have not. Nothing has changed.

Let us look at the Dingwall affair. An executive quits his job, the Prime Minister issues high praise for him, yet his expense account would make the most liberal of Liberals blush. That is okay, let us pay him a severance of $500,000 without even blinking an eye. Only when extreme pressure was placed on the government, did the Prime Minister blush at his earlier comments.

Let me give the House a more current example of the culture of which I speak.

The rules say that bids are to be solicited before any contract is entered into. There are certain exceptions, pressing emergencies, contracts under $25,000 and so on. Mr. Herle, known to just about everybody as the national Liberal campaign co-chair and party pollster, was given a contract to the maximum amount of $23,112, just under the $25,000 rule limit, where he billed about $3,000 without bids being solicited. He was contracted to provide advice, including advice on public opinion research, regarding the Minister of Finance's mini-budget or economic update. Was there anything wrong with that? He said that the contract had been given by the Department of Finance. It was within the rules, and the guidelines were followed.

The government does not get it. There is something with that culture of entitlement with benefiting its own. It is the idea as Rex Murphy stated of “tacit license to feed and appoint its own, to make merry with the public purse and a mockery of all the established rules under the self-serving gloss that it is acting in the public good”. As he further put it, “It's a closed, incestuous circle in which elected office is seen as a lever to reward friends or party workers or as the ideal base to prepare for lucrative careers on the public purse after elected politics”, the whole gauntlet of reward appointments for the well connected. He went on to say, “But outside of those extremes, they've hit the bottom of the barrel, dug underneath the barrel, and found an even lower place where there are no self-respecting barrels at all”.

That is why we must have an election and why the government must go.

New rules to show the way are important, but what is more important is a brand new set of people and a brand new government that will truly be the people's servants, who will be prepared to take a loss and sacrifice for the good of the country, for the good of its people, not because that is what the public would expect but because it is the right thing to do.

All of this is best highlighted and shown for what it is by the recent announcement by an individual who was prepared to pay a huge personal price and to make a personal sacrifice in order to do the right thing. The epitome of what I say, Mr. Allan Cutler, who blew the whistle. He knows all about this. I am reminded of his words earlier this week when he said that he took a look around and was impressed with what he saw in the federal accountability act, but more important, in the leader of the opposition as well as those around him.

Mr. Cutler wants to see accountability in government. Canadians, people who work hard, pay their taxes and play by the rules also want to see accountability in political leaders, and our leader exemplifies that. Mr. Cutler and all Canadians want to see the end of the influence of money in politics. Our leader is the right man to do the job. Mr. Cutler, along with all Canadians, value honesty and integrity in a leader and that is something our leader exemplifies.

This team will clean house and will implement the tough federal accountability act to ensure that this does not happen again. We have the plan, we have the rules and we have the right people. We do not have to wait for Justice Gomery any longer. We need an election because it is time to clean house. It is this culture of corruption and entitlement that must go and it must go now. The people of Canada will see to this.

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1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Boulianne Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member on his presentation. He explained the issue really well, particularly when he talked about the responsibility of the current Prime Minister in the sponsorship scandal. Everyone knows that he was aware of what was going on.

It is true that the Prime Minister is not directly blamed in the Gomery report. However, if we read between the lines, it is clear that, considering the positions held at the time by the current Prime Minister, namely that of vice-president of the Treasury Board and Minister of Finance, he had some responsibility.

In fact, Justice Gomery talks about this in his Summary. He defines the Treasury Board as follows: “The Treasury Board...functions as a management board overseeing all federal government operations”. This means that nothing happens without first being checked by the president or the vice-president of the Treasury Board. And who was the vice-president at the time? It was the current Prime Minister.

Similarly, if we read between the lines, we notice that Justice Gomery refers to ministerial accountability. We mentioned it earlier. He said: “Law, tradition or convention dictate that the Minister has sole authority for the management and direction...”. Contrary to the definition of ministerial accountability given by the Liberals, if we read between the lines, it becomes very clear that the current Prime Minister was responsible.

I have a question for the hon. member. He concluded his speech by saying that this government deserves the punishment that the public will mete out. Does he think that the government should step down immediately?

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1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, if I ran a department or were a head of government, I would take responsibility for what happened on my watch. One cannot have billions of dollars going by without knowing something is wrong.

When we look at what happened in the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party, it was quite deep and vast and a lot of funds were misused. One would have to wonder at some point. They had a specific meeting to set up this fund. Moneys were going through with no particular audit trails or approval processes. I would have thought one might have wanted to ask if moneys were being dispensed in a proper way when one part of the province was doing very well in meeting its expenses and paying its employees.

There is an obligation on those who are responsible to ensure not only that the systems are in place but to be vigilant. To use the words of the Prime Minister, “I should have more vigilant”. He could have said “we”. Corporately we have a responsibility to be more vigilant, but he personally had a responsibility to be more vigilant and to see that this kind of thing did not take place.

As elected members of this House, there is a responsibility that goes with the office. If things happen under our watch, the responsibility has to kick in. The public will see to it that the ultimate justice is paid in this case. It is a culture that has pervaded government. The Liberals almost do not recognize that there is a problem. It is for that reason that a cleaning of this House is required.

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1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am just listening to the debates this morning and I hear all the members of the House talking about what the Liberal government has done to Canadians for the last decade, stealing money and funneling it into its Quebec arm, et cetera. I want to know if things have changed with the government.

Clearly, $40 million is still missing. Right now the Liberal government refuses to sue itself to recover any of that money. Therefore, I do not see anything changing. We still hear about the Prime Minister running around the country on taxpayer dollars, in corporate jets paid for by taxpayers, for Liberal fundraising and Liberal Party initiatives.

We even see now an orgy of spending by the Minister of Finance of billions of dollars. Here is the crux of the issue. Nothing has changed with the government. Our aboriginal communities are still on boil water orders. Even in Ontario, 40 reserves are still boiling water.

The government has not done anything in 10 years. Is not the best thing for Canadians--

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1:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Souris--Moose Mountain.

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1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that it would be awfully difficult for a person to make the decision whether he was going to sue himself or those close to him. Those decisions should be made at least at arm's length and perhaps should be made by those who have no connection or anything to benefit by it.

In terms of a change in direction, we have had ample time now in the House, in this session, to see that very little has changed. The means are whatever are necessary to get to the end. If the end is staying in power, to continue the culture of entitlement to benefit those around them, if it means the Liberals have to drop billions of dollars, in fact, empty the entire vault just to stay in power and do things a day or two before an election, or buying votes, that is wrong. This is the exact thing that needs to be rooted out of this place.

Anne Pennell
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, Lawrence Pennell, who served his country with great distinction as Solicitor General of Canada during the mid-1960s, recently suffered the loss of his wife of many years.

Anne Pennell was a woman of class and dignity who, behind her modest and retiring nature, was a lady of ability, character and strong social conscience. She was active in the cause of education in my riding of Brant and was for many years an unflagging volunteer canvasser for several charitable organizations.

In spirit and thought, she lived a wonderful unchanging life and was a person of faith and hope who brought the sweetness of love and laughter into the family home.

On behalf of my community, I wish to express our collective heartfelt gratitude for her life, her work and her example of an extraordinary human being. As someone once said, I desire to live worthily as long as I live and to leave to those who come after my memory and good works.

Member for Westlock—St. Paul
Statements By Members

November 24th, 2005 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am proud today to pay tribute to my friend and colleague, the member for Westlock—St. Paul.

The member first arrived here with his Reform Party compatriots in the rebellion of '93. The political landscape was forever changed as they began a process of tearing down big arrogant government, something we will finish next week.

The member for Westlock—St. Paul was re-elected three more times with tremendous plurality, showing the growing respect and admiration held by his constituents. The member was born in Westlock and produced grain and cattle while becoming a highly regarded expert in gas and oil exploration.

He is a man who personifies the work ethic that has built Alberta into the economic powerhouse it is today. My friend from Westlock—St. Paul is the consummate Albertan, a gentleman of soft speech and iron will, a man of principle and dignity. He has sacrificed neither during his years in the chamber.

On behalf of his constituents, the Conservative Party of Canada and all members of the House, I wish all the best in the years ahead for Dave and his family.