House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

The House resumed from November 3 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment, and of the amendment to the amendment.

Privilege

10 a.m.

Ahuntsic
Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Social Development (Social Economy)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on a question of privilege raised by the member for Bourassa.

As the Acting Speaker in the House, I had the honour and the privilege of sitting in the chair for two and a half years. I have the greatest respect for this institution and for my colleagues on both sides of the House.

I want the public to understand the exact nature of the matter before this House and the reason why the member for Bourassa was forced to raise this question here. I will read an excerpt from Marleau and Montpetit, because I know that everyone has not read it. There is a passage on page 121 that perfectly describes the situation before us today:

The House of Commons is certainly the most important secular body in Canada. It is said that each House of Parliament is a "court" with respect to its own privileges and dignity and the privileges of its Members. The purpose of raising matters of "privilege" in either House of Parliament is to maintain the respect and credibility due to and required of each House in respect of these privileges, to uphold its powers, and to enforce the enjoyment of the privileges of its Members. A genuine question of privilege is therefore a serious matter not to be reckoned with lightly and accordingly ought to be rare, and thus rarely raised in the House of Commons.

Any claim that privilege has been infringed or a contempt committed is raised in the House by means of a "question of privilege".

I wanted to quote this passage before commenting.

Once elected to the House of Commons, members have certain rights. One of them is the right to send householders—or ten percenters—to our constituents. We have the right to send these householders. However, rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. It is the responsibility of members on both sides of the House not to send things that besmirch the reputation of other colleagues.

The members on both sides of the House are entitled to mail out householders and 10 percenters. In their mailings, the Liberals try not to sully anyone's reputation but rather to inform our fellow citizens. That is what I have done in the 12 years that I have been an MP.

For 12 years I have respected this institution and the right of each and every member not to have their reputations ruined. That is not the purpose of a householder nor a 10 percenter, and that certainly is not the purpose of anything else we have the right to send to our constituents.

In fact, with that right comes a responsibility. Because there have been abuses of that privilege in the past, I have raised the matter on numerous occasions with the two institutions which I believe should have taken care of that matter and are aligned with the House of Commons, the Board of Internal Economy and the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. In fact, I wrote to the chair of the standing committee, to the Speaker of the House and to the members of the Board of Internal Economy on two other matters.

In the riding I have the honour of representing in this House, there have been two mailings from the whip of the Bloc Québécois. Indirectly, this was also an attempt to tarnish my reputation as an MP.

As to the two points of privilege raised, I have had only an acknowledgement of receipt—if one could call it that—concerning two letters dated June 20 and 27 sent to the Board of Internal Economy of this House. I expected a bit more than just an acknowledgement of receipt. It appears that the board has not yet addressed the matter.

I can tell you, however, that even in the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs our whip attempted to introduce a motion precisely to discuss the 10 percenter issue. I will read that motion:

That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs call upon the House of Commons to instruct its Board of Internal Economy to limit the use of 10 percenters as follows:

a) The 10 percenters be restricted to the member's own riding;

b) Collective 10 percenters be abolished;

c) No partisan logo to be allowed on a 10 percenter or householder.

This motion was brought before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which is responsible for decisions on householders and 10 percenters. That is precisely why we are here today. We respect that institution. We cannot tarnish the reputation of members with impunity.

We expect the members of other parties who sit on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the Board of Internal Economy to consider this issue. I can tell you that we, the Liberals, are prepared to comply with the rules and with the decisions of that committee.

It is no small thing to sully a person's reputation. The Bloc finds it to be justified. I really have the impression that it has no respect whatsoever for this House. That is exactly why the member for Bourassa was obliged to take the route of a point of privilege. As I said, this is not the first time. That is clear.

Other 10 percenters and other publications were sent to different ridings, including my own where I am a resident and have the honour to represent in the House.

However, as I said earlier, with that privilege comes responsibility and respect for this institution, to which we all have the privilege and honour of being elected, and an institution that deserves our respect.

As the hon. member for Bourassa and the member from Westmount said, “Our integrity and our name is the one thing that is sacred in this place”. We cannot allow falsehoods to circulate outside of the House and not use the privileges that we have in the House, the rights that we enjoy, that other Canadians outside of the House--

Privilege

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Privilege

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. The hon. parliamentary secretary has the floor.

Privilege

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Ahuntsic, QC

As I said earlier, we on this side of the House respect this institution. We also respect the right of other members to speak and the right of other members to listen to other arguments.

I want to bring to the attention of the Speaker page 106 and 107 of Montpetit and Marleau.

This is about documents with defamatory content. The Parliament of Canada Act stipulates that:

This right is not intended to protect the publication of libels that may be contained in other documents, such as the householder mailings of Members.

I would like you to take this passage from Marleau and Montpetit into account regarding the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Bourassa.

I have been involved in politics for a long time in Quebec. I have never tried, inside or outside this House, to tarnish the reputation of my Bloc opponents. I have never made a personal attack on anyone.

I can assure you that during the last electoral campaign, some utterly nonsensical things happened. Besides that, I would like to thank the constituents of my riding, Ahuntsic, who once again gave me their support. These people can tell the difference between lies and truth.

I hope the question raised by the member for Bourassa will be taken seriously by the authorities of the House and by Bloc members.

Privilege

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech made by my colleague. I would to remind her that, in our opinion, the leaflet in question presents a summary of what is called the sponsorship scandal. It presents proven facts.

I am wondering how she can pretend that it is libellous. To back up what I am saying, I will read a few of Mr. Justice Gomery's conclusions that are found in the summary of his inquiry, the first being:

The Commission of Inquiry found:

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

The publication, in the leaflet, of the picture of the ministers who appeared before the Gomery Commission is quite normal.

The Commission also found:

—insufficient oversight at the very senior levels of the public service which allowed program managers to circumvent proper contracting procedures and reporting lines;

We are saying the same thing about a political agent, Mr. Charles Guité.

The report says further:

—five agencies that received large sponsorship contracts regularly channelling money, via legitimate donations or unrecorded cash gifts, to political fundraising activities in Quebec, with the expectation of receiving lucrative government contracts;

This is the same information we used in our leaflet. We cannot see any libel.

Here is another finding of Mr. Justice Gomery:

—certain agencies carrying on their payrolls individuals who were, in effect, working on Liberal Party matters;

—the existence of a “culture of entitlement” among political officials and bureaucrats involved with the Sponsorship Program, including the receipt of monetary and non-monetary benefits;

The last finding of the Commission of Inquiry is this:

—the refusal of Ministers, senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and public servants to acknowledge their responsibility for the problems of mismanagement that occurred.

The subamendment proposed by the Bloc seeks to indicate that our householder was made after the end of the Gomery commission's hearings. Finally, is the information published in our leaflet not simply the same as the findings of the Gomery commission? In a sense, we are rendering a service to democracy. The leaflet contributes to a better democratic debate in order to clean up the system. We are sending a message to Canada as a whole by saying that the time has come to change the government, to give a lesson to the Liberals and punish them.

Privilege

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will continue with the highlights. First of all, the pamphlet was sent even before Justice Gomery made his report public. Bloc members showed a great lack of respect by refusing to wait to know the highlights. Now they even maintain their allegations. A lie repeated 1,000 times does not become a truth and they know it very well.

Second, I too read the Gomery report. I am under the impression that they choose the parts that suit them. I personally choose to quote parts concerning the responsibility of other ministers, like this one, on page 430:

On the evidence there is no basis for attributing blame or responsibility for the maladministration of the Sponsorship Program to any other Minister of the Chrétien Cabinet, since they, like all Members of Parliament, were not informed of the initiatives being authorized by Mr. Pelletier, and their funding from the Unity Reserve. Mr. Martin, whose role as Finance Minister did not involve him in the supervision of spending by the PMO or PWGSC, is entitled, like other Ministers in the Quebec caucus, to be exonerated from any blame for carelessness or misconduct.

They can wear themselves out telling the media a different story. They do not want to hear the truth because it does not interest them. They do not respect this House and the electors of my riding and of the ridings of all members on this side of the House. They insist on reading one or two quotes taken out of context from Justice Gomery's report.

The report continues:

—ministers are not responsible for what they do not know about the actions and decisions of the PMO or other Ministers, or about the administration of departments other than their own.

There is no proof in the report. We respect our justice system. We may have different opinions on the future of this country. Indeed, I have been fighting for 35 years against separatists. However, I have the greatest respect for this institution and for the rules that govern it. I do not see the same respect on the other side.

Privilege

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I will say that I welcome the invitation made to all parliamentarians in this House to debate without any name calling, without showing disrespect and by getting to the bottom of things.

I am convinced that no one here would want to tarnish the reputation of any of his or her colleagues. That is not what we need to discuss in addressing the motion by our colleague from Bourassa.

How did a question of privilege come to be put before the House? There is a question of privilege because of a fundamental breach of a principle which must guide the entire course of our political activity, and that is the principle of ministerial responsibility. Funds have been used without Parliament having an opportunity to exercise any control and without any means of democratically finding out what these funds were intended for.

Yesterday, I listened to our colleague from Bourassa as he put forward his case. I have no doubt that he was extremely sincere. I would urge him, however, to consider two elements in this debate. The member for Bourassa has called for a substantive debate, and rightly so.

After being elected member of Parliament for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, I never forgot that, in the history of the sovereignist movement, three individuals founded political parties to ensure that the sovereignist option would periodically be put to the greatest test afforded a democracy: popular ballot.

Lucien Bouchard, René Lévesque and Pierre Bourgault each founded a political party to ensure that this option would have democratic legitimacy. Had René Lévesque, Pierre Bourgault or Lucien Bouchard—and I could add to the list Diefenbaker, Saint-Laurent and every Prime Minister who rose in this House to defend the principle of ministerial responsibility—read the Gomery report, I do not think they would be saying any different from what the Bloc Québécois is saying.

Let us focus on what Commissioner Gomery himself said. He said, “At a cabinet meeting, in 1997, on February 1 and 2, the government realized that federalists and the government were having a visibility problem in Quebec”.

He had the right to make that finding. People have the right to be federalists in Quebec, just like they have the right to be sovereignists. But no one is above the law. When we read the Gomery report, it is obvious that there are individuals,I regret to say that some are on the government side, who said that the end justified the means.

For a democrat, the end never justifies the means. When we lost the referendum by 50,000 votes, in 1995, Lucien Bouchard showed up at the Dorval airport and said: "yes means yes, but no means no". No sovereignist questioned the verdict of the people.

The criticism that we can make of the Liberals and the government is that they tried to promote their option without accepting ministerial responsibility and going through the no camp. I am sorry but, with all due respect to the Liberal members from Quebec, who have the right to be federalists, who were elected like us and who can be just as dedicated as we are in defending the interests of Quebec, I must say that we are divided by principles. We believe that in a democracy, there are two sacred principles: ministerial responsibility and the prerogative of the National Assembly.

Therefore, I regret to say that, when we look at the report from the Gomery commission, we see that these two principles were trampled down by the Liberal Party.

There is a basic, implacable and established fact which will go down in history as one of the saddest moments of our democracy, as expressed by Justice Gomery:

From 1994 to 2003, the amount expended by the Government of Canada for special programs and sponsorships totalled $332 million, [and here is the scandal] of which 44.4%, or $147 million, was spent on fees and commissions paid to communication and advertising agencies.

This is where I have a problem. My friend, the member for Bourassa, has the right to campaign promoting federalism, to write in newspapers, to speak on the radio and to appear on television. The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs has the right to use all the eloquence we know she is capable of. However, no goal, nor political circumstance can justify greasing the palms of agencies with taxpayer money and violating democratic principles.

It gets worse. There is nothing more important than ministerial accountability. This means that members do three things: they pass legislation, they adopt budgets and they represent people. I am ready to debate the fact that the federal government has the right to promote its option. However, to set aside millions of dollars in the Prime Minister's office to interfere in the referendum campaign, without having obtained authorization to use those funds for that purpose and without a debate in Parliament to that effect, cannot be justified.

Let us look at what Justice Gomery said. Jean Chrétien's deputy minister, Ms. Bourgon, the highest public servant in a position of authority, who is supposed to be above partisan considerations said, on December 18 1996, in a memorandum to the Prime Minister in which she expressed her concerns about the question of ministerial accountability for funds allocated from the unity reserve on the basis of the Prime Minister's signature, that she was concerned to see that the Prime Minister had taken on a very large burden of responsibility. She thought that a review of future projects by the Privy Council Office or a group of ministers would provide better management of the $17 million, that became, as we know, $50 million, allocated to Public Works and Government Services Canada. Mr. Chrétien did not reply to Ms. Bourgon's memorandum. She reiterated her concerns in a second memorandum dated September 30, 1997 concerning access to the reserve.

This is what Commissioner Gomery had to say, not the member for Roberval, the member for Hochelaga or the leader of the Bloc Québécois, but Commissioner Gomery, with whom the Minister of Transport says he agrees.

I am a democrat. The member for Bourassa is a democrat. As a democrat, I say today that I will never get over the discovery that they did not comply with the Referendum Act. If they want to debate the national issue, we can do so. We can go on radio and television, write articles in the paper and debate in all forums. However, the National Assembly has a law. It provided, among other things for the 1995 referendum, 50¢ per voter, $5 million for both the yes and the no camps. Sheila Copps, who would get up at night to do so if she had to, approved $4.8 million in spending in 33 days.

Thus they doubled the amount of money available to the no camp. Is that democracy? Is that debating by the rules? Former Premier René Lévesque, who would not be very proud today if he were to read the Gomery report, said that the best way to oppose an idea in a democracy was to put forward another, instead of calling names and not treating people with respect.

In our opinion, our option is the best one. I personally have been elected four times and hope to be elected a fifth time as a sovereignist member.

When I wanted to take part in a debate on the option I represent, I did so according to the rules of the game. Once again, no one in the sovereignist movement is disputing the federal government's right to take part in the debate. No one is questioning the existence of the Liberal Party. The member for Bourassa and all of his Quebec colleagues are just as legitimate as all of us.

Where opinion is divided, however, is about abiding by the rules. I took part a few weeks ago in a the 10th anniversary of the 1995 referendum. I think there are as many Liberal members from Quebec as Bloc members who agree that Pierre-F. Côté is non partisan. He administered both referendums in Quebec, decided by order in council with a 30 hour debate in the National Assembly. People were able to debate it.

Pierre-F. Côté pointed out how the federal government had not played by the rules. When 150,000 people got together in downtown Montreal to promote the “no” side, they were entitled to do so. However, I object to the fact that, when they chartered buses and planes to come to Quebec, they did not declare the expenses that made this rally possible. It is not true that this is part of the democratic process.

There are lessons to be learned from the Gomery report, and I hope that these lessons will be learned. First, I think that the true redress to which the member for Bourassa alluded is that all parliamentarians in this House should make a commitment, whether they are federalists or sovereignists. The Supreme Court went even further. It ruled that there must be public funds voted by the National Assembly to authorize those who want to take part in a referendum campaign, but who do not want to be registered as being in the “yes” or the “no” camp. This ruling was made in the Libman case.

Again, I never doubted the democratic legitimacy of Quebec federalists and their right to defend their country, Canada. Today, regardless of which side of the House members are sitting, I hope they will take part in this debate to acknowledge the reason why we must comply with the Referendum Act.

Indeed, it is the National Assembly which will make the decision on the right to self-determination. That is why this violation really hurt. In a referendum debate, it is wrong to say that the end justifies the means, that might is right, that one can spend at will, that one can resort to influence peddling, or that one can ignore the rules of the game and turn a blind eye.

Quebeckers will not forget the Gomery report's incubator and matrix, known as the sponsorship scandal, because it is the direct result of the fact that the issue was not debated openly and in the respect of the rules. Instead, the government wanted to resort to influence peddling, once again, without respecting a referendum's democratic process. That is unacceptable.

There will be another referendum soon. I cannot tell the House whether it will be in two, three or four years. However, I hope that the rules will be obeyed. All the members from Quebec, no matter who, can express their vision of the future. There is a national liberation movement in Quebec. It is a movement that is rooted in the political parties. Everyone is quite proud that in Quebec, we have never gone armed into the streets in order to promote our ideas. We use words to express our platform because we are democrats.

It was words and votes that got us elected. The Bloc Québécois currently has 54 members here. It is the number one force in Quebec. It is not because we are nicer, better looking or more intelligent, but because of what happened at the polling stations. It is the will of the Quebec people for the sovereignist platform to reverberate here in the House of Commons.

When we will be asked to give our view of the Gomery report, we will not call anyone any names nor will we be disrespectful to anyone. During the next referendum campaign, we will invite the hon. member for Bourassa and all the hon. members from Quebec to make a commitment to respect the Referendum Act. Lucien Bouchard said if we win, it will be yes. If we lose, it will be no and we will respect the public's wishes. We will respect their choice by respecting the rules of democracy.

It is governmental responsibility that is at issue in the Gomery report. We must be clear on the sequence of events. No one can deny that the ad agencies received 44% of the $303 million. No one can deny that kickbacks were given to the Liberal Party, since there is evidence to prove it. How did this all come about? In 250 pages, the Gomery report describes the genesis. The way the events unfolded is not a tribute to democracy.

I am sorry, but the Bloc Québécois cannot sit idly by on this. It is not disrespectful toward the hon. member for Bourassa or the other members of the House of Commons representing the Liberal Party to say that, unfortunately, there was misuse of funds and a complex system of kickbacks in a known network. Public funds went to ad agencies and to the Liberal Party. It is sad. I am sure that some Liberals are saddened by this as well.

I am not suggesting that some ministers got richer because of that. That is not what I am saying. I find it disturbing that, in a democracy, the following two things occurred: the Prime Minister concentrated millions of dollars in the Treasury Board, in his office, without going through Parliament, and kickbacks went to the Liberal Party. It should not work that way.

It is our duty to bring those issues to the attention of the public. We would not deserve to sit in this House if we were to turn a blind eye to those actions. So we will not.

We need to learn from the Gomery report. I hope that every member in the House agrees. For a democrat, the end does not justify the means. If Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and his cabinet had agreed to come to Quebec to discuss the option and allow a real democratic debate, we would not be in the position we are in today.

Somehow, it is comforting to know that this will never happen again. What do Quebeckers say? They say that they will never tolerate such practices again. I hope that the conviction of people like Pierre-F. Côté and of the electorate will get through to the Liberal Party. We are not asking the Liberals to become sovereignists, nor to like the Bloc Québécois, nor to wish a secession, if this is not what they want. In the name of our democratic legitimacy, we urge them to respect the National Assembly and the rules of the game, and to act like democrats. That is what we want, in essence.

Privilege

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, while I totally disagree with some of his interpretations, I sensed a lot of respect in the member for Hochelaga's speech.

That probably explains why he did not send the document in question. That is probably why I sensed regret in his voice, in the way in was talking, because some of his colleagues had sent such a document.

I would not mind, at some point, having a debate on the referendum, in which it would be said that 80,000 ballots disappeared during the referendum. This is what the Chief Electoral Officer reported.

Now, since he is talking so eloquently about respect, could he explain the following and tell me if he agrees with it?

Yesterday, the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel was saying that all they wanted to do was to trace the program's money trail.This document is not, in any way, tracking any dirty money. If the member sees things that I do not see, I would like him to explain them to me.

Could the member for Hochelaga explain to me why the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel sent a document to all his constituents, a document called “La route de l'argent sale”, that is, “Following the Dirty Money Trail”, marked with an arrow? The same kind of arrow as the one used in this table. Would he do that?

Not only did he mislead the House, and this is serious, because no one has ever talked about dirty money, but he says that this document is proving exactly the opposite.

If the ends do not justify the means, and if he really thinks that when you lie often enough, the lie becomes the truth, does he find this acceptable? If he would not do such a thing, could he explain why he has decided not to release that kind of document about me? I am talking about libel and about defamation.

Privilege

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, in all friendship, I invite the member for Bourassa to be very careful. He has risen several times in this House to talk about libel and defamation. First, you yourself, Mr. Speaker, should not tolerate those statements. I am sorry, that is not libel.

I do not like excesses, from any side. However, one cannot say that the information in this householder is false.

What it says is that there were kickbacks in the amount of $250,000. Moreover, it identifies the agencies that received money.

I am sorry, but based on the information contained in the householder that was sent, I think that on a factual basis, all members in this House can refer to elements, either within the Gomery report, or within testimonies before other bodies and which attest to its veracity.

However, I agree with the member for Bourassa when he says that we should not call each other thieves, nor call each others names.

I invite the member for Bourassa to be very careful when he makes accusations. He might get caught at his own game. Yesterday, he kept on talking about libel and defamation. It is just as unparliamentary to call someone a thief as it is to characterize someone's comments as libel and defamation.

I understand the disappointment of the member for Bourassa at finding out that kickbacks were paid by the Liberal Party using public funds. In addition, I am certain that the member for Bourassa himself, as a democrat, condemns those actions. I do not doubt either that all members from Quebec are quite uncomfortable with the whole thing. That being said, we cannot turn a blind eye on a sophisticated and well maintained system. Commissioner Gomery talked about a well-oiled machine.

I am certain that the member for Bourassa shares our disappointment, but as we are democrats, we will not shut up.

Privilege

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Richelieu, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague from Hochelaga for his eloquent and relevant speech.

I listened carefully to my colleague, and I was asking myself a question when he pointed out everything that happened during the referendum and the fact that democratic rules were not respected.

In reading the Gomery report, I learned, for example, that money that went to the Liberal Party as kickbacks was used to pay permanent employees or so-called volunteers doing undeclared work, and even candidates. We have to wonder. I hope none of them is sitting here, since some were from that region.

Nonetheless, the electoral officer, Mr. Kingsley, said that he would implore the government to reinforce the Election Act, because it allowed incredible abuse. Indeed, people were paid under the table and these amounts were never included appear in election expenses.

Thus, during the last election, the previous one and probably the 1997 election, some members opposite were elected by benefiting indirectly from dirty money, since the campaign machine that helped them to defeat their opponents was funded illegally.

Thus, they were illegally benefiting from funds, in total disrespect of the Election Act and regular democratic standards, while the Bloc was campaigning according to the percentage of funds allocated for each voter and by respecting election limits. The Liberals were pretending to do the same, but the big machine in Montreal or Toronto, which was using dirty money, was helping them indirectly.

Do they feel today that they have been elected democratically? Do they feel so honest, as the minister was saying yesterday, for having benefited indirectly from these kickbacks from commissions?

My question is for my colleague. Is he not outraged to see that they may have been elected in this way?

Privilege

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to thank my colleague from Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour. I will never forget that one of his great contributions to public life is to have been among the first members of the Bloc Québécois to introduce a bill on the democratic financing of political parties, and it is probably the reason why he is asking me this question.

Again, I think we need to quote from the Gomery report. We are not impugning motives. We are not being disrespectful to one another. We are not calling each other names. We are just sticking to what the report says. Therefore, I will quote three findings from page 6 of the summary of the Gomery report. The first one says this:

Five agencies that received large sponsorship contracts regularly channelling money, via legitimate donations or unrecorded cash gifts, to political fundraising activities in Quebec, with the expectation of receiving lucrative government contracts.

Therefore, when we talk about a scheme involving public funds, agencies, contracts and kickbacks, it is not a figment of the Bloc Québécois' imagination. The report also talks about:

Certain agencies carrying on their payrolls individuals who were, in effect, working on Liberal Party matters.

This is somewhat troubling from a democratic point of view. I certainly do not want to suggest that members from Quebec agreed on that; perhaps they did not. However, it is impossible that this information did not find its way to Liberal party headquarters.

What should be of concern to us as democrats is the background to these events. The intellectual reality that surrounded Prime Minister Jean Chrétien made him believe that the end justified the means. Heaven knows that a prime minister has a whole bureaucracy to guide him, support him and motivate him. Despite the advice and recommendations of the Clerk of the Privy Council, who told the Prime Minister that having his office administer the funds was a mistake, he chose to brush away democracy and believe that the end justified the means.

When people believe that the end justifies the means, they are more likely than not to put themselves in a deplorable situation. I think it is our duty as parliamentarians to deplore the sad events that went on during all those years, events that are totally unacceptable in a democracy.

Privilege

10:45 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I am speaking to the member for Hochelaga in particular, and also to the other members of the House. Such words as “defamation” and “libel” are not considered unparliamentary. However, terms such as “to lie” or “to mislead” are closer to that notion. Accordingly, I would ask honourable members to be very cautious in selecting their vocabulary. I know that tempers get heated as the day goes on. However, let us be careful.

The honourable Minister of the Environment.

Privilege

10:45 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I rise today to speak to what appears to me, because of the Bloc, to be the darkest aspects of our profession as politicians. The Bloc drags us in the mud and takes us to the seamy side of political life.

The brochure in question certainly is libellous. It is a grab bag of smears. If the Bloc had any sense of honour, it would stop paralyzing the work of the House as it is doing now and would acknowledge having made a mistake and recognize its duty to fix it, since it has compromised reputations in a most unfair fashion.

Let me tell the House from the outset exactly where I stand. If I cannot get justice in this House by means of a rectification that must come from the Bloc, then we will meet in court. As my reputation is at stake, I will go to court.

I want my colleagues to understand the situation I find myself immersed in with my family and friends, every morning. We think about the fact that Quebec households have received this piece of trash and that people figure that the individuals they see mentioned in there are linked to some criminal activity. I cannot let that happen, neither for me, nor for my family, nor for my friends. I will have to get to the bottom of all this.

I just wish the Bloc Québécois would correct its mistake right now and admit that it went too far. I would like to do two things in the time that I have: first, show what the Bloc did; second, try to find an explanation for the unexplainable. Indeed, how could they go so low?

First, what is defamation? It is an attack on a person's reputation that exposes that person to hate or contempt. It can be oral or written. It matters little whether it is direct or indirect, or whether it is the result of a statement, insinuation, innuendo or imputation. In the present case, there is no doubt that the document tarnishes my reputation and that of my colleagues. As our courts indicated repeatedly, what matters is the general impression left by an article, a publication, or a comment. Since these are not comments as such, but, rather, statements or insinuations, it is clear that this is a case of defamation.

This is a very serious case of slandering. The document suggests that I, and others, played a role in the money scheme that allegedly made the Liberal Party benefit from a large sum of money. It goes without saying that this insinuation is a direct attack on my reputation and integrity. Worse still, this accusation is of a criminal nature, since it suggests, among other things, that influence peddling was involved. There is no doubt that Bloc Québécois members went too far.

I tried to explain how they could do such a thing. It is not easy. It is true that they have been making this kind of insinuations in the House for the past two years, under the cover of their parliamentary immunity. This time, they can no longer be protected by their immunity. Perhaps the fact that they made a habit of being unfair in the House led them to also be unfair outside the House. That might explain it.

A case in point is the statement made by the member for Laval, and I will take that example, but I could use many others. Yesterday, during oral question period, she said the following:

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister may say and claim he did not know anything about the sponsorship scandal, he has zero credibility.

Even Jean Chrétien confirmed that the former Minister of Finance was aware, as he himself was aware and as the other ministers were aware.

The member is insinuating that anyone who knew also knew about the misappropriated funds. That is what she is insinuating. Because the sponsorship program was common knowledge. The Bloc members were crossing the floor to ask for assistance in the form of sponsorships. It was common knowledge. It is dishonest to imply that anyone who knew about the sponsorship program also knew about the misappropriated funds and the influence peddling and, therefore, was also complicit. The member cannot say in the House that the former finance minister was complicit with regard to influence peddling, because she knows that she would end up in court if she did. However, she is making the insinuation, and that is dishonest. This dishonesty has become such an integral part of the work of this House over the past two years. In my opinion, that is why the Bloc members stooped so low as to publish this householder.

They have lost their sense of decency. They have no idea of how low they have stooped.

I am trying to show them, clearly, what they are unable to admit in the House. They did it and they need to stop doing it. Such insinuations are libellous. I am trying to rationalize this.

I would like to suggest another explanation. Quite some time ago, the sovereignist movement in Quebec started making personal attacks, because it had failed to find good reasons for Quebeckers to leave Canada. It adopted this strategy. This, ultimately, explains why it has stooped so low.

I do not need to mention the personal attacks on Mr. Trudeau or Mr. Chrétien. We often see such attempts to besmirch the reputation of francophone Quebeckers who support Canadian unity. Their reputations are being smeared by members who want to convince Quebeckers that these people are bad and are working against them and against Quebec. By making it emotional, these MPs hope to reinforce support for Quebec's independence.

I suggest they stop doing this. All of us, as members, are filled with good intentions. We have disagreements. However, no one necessarily wants to undermine anyone else.

We believe that by working together, all Canadians and Quebeckers can reach their full potential.

We are incredibly lucky to work with our friends in other provinces and territories, our fellow citizens, and it would be a serious mistake to turn them into strangers.

We say that in good faith, with valid arguments. There is no point in dragging us through the mud, making personal attacks on us, a habit of some decades now. That is unacceptable.

I think we probably have guessed the reason. What valid arguments could they use to calmly convince Quebeckers, in a rational and respectful debate, to renounce Canada? There is no doubt that they think they have some, so let them reveal them to us. I have never heard any.

Let us look at the kinds of arguments they have been using. For example: the threat of linguistic assimilation. That is not confirmed by facts, figures, or even trends. The French fact in Quebec is more vibrant and diversified than ever in Canada. Canada supports the cause of the francophonie throughout this country and throughout the world. The governments of Canada, Quebec, New Brunswick and other provinces do this also, working together in a good partnership.

Then there is the threat of the disappearance of our culture. The government that invests most in culture is the federal government. For decades, it has been promoting expressions of French culture in Quebec and everywhere else.

We have created great institutions with Mr. Lévesque, and my own father played an influential role as well. The first efforts were via federal institutions, because of course there were very few possibilities under the Duplessis regime.

The Government of Quebec came on side later and we worked together. We have enjoyed great international success recently on behalf of cultural diversity. That is what Canada is, when we all work together.

They have tried using the argument of the Constitution Act of 1982. The procedure by which it was created could be debated endlessly, but the outcome remains the same: the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That charter is the envy of others throughout the world. Is there any point in their going into the international arena and claiming we have no charter of rights and that is why they want to separate? There is not a lot of logic in that. Let them find some better arguments.

Another outcome is the strengthening of the rights of French throughout Canada. These are far stronger since 1982 than they were in 1867, there is no denying that. Another: the bolstering of equalization payments. This Canadian constitutional principle is more recognized than ever. So that too is not much of an argument.

They also advanced another argument when Canada was on the verge of bankruptcy. They had to get out to avoid bankruptcy, even though Quebec had the highest level of debt of all the provinces. That was their argument ten years ago. Now they are arguing that we are having surpluses. They have to separate, because the government has surpluses.

There is a very vigorous debate in Canada over the use of these surpluses. As always, our democracy is very vibrant.

Some provinces are saying it should go to the provinces. The federal government does not disagree, since it has increased transfers to the provinces. However, it does have enormous responsibilities. Speaking for my own bailiwick, there is, for example, the Kyoto protocol and health and so on. My colleagues can identify others. We have seen recently that massive investment is required in native matters. Our responsibilities are enormous.

Regardless, in the history of humanity I have never seen a case of adults calling for separation because of surpluses. This is a first.

We have recently seen how much needs to be invested in native issues. We have huge responsibilities. In the history of mankind, adults seeking separation because of a surplus is a new one on me.

Globalization is another argument. They have to separate from the rest of Canada because of globalization. The logic of this argument is obscure. In fact, we help each other more than ever in globalization. The last thing we should do is set up an international border with Ontario. From an environmental perspective, they send us their water.

We are now more familiar with the limits of free trade. While it is beneficial in overall terms, governments are remaining protectionist and causing huge headaches. Please, do not make strangers of Ontarians, the people of the Atlantic and the western provinces, if you have the interests of our children in Quebec at heart. It is ridiculous to do such a thing. We have to draw on mutual help within the federation. As India and China emerge from the wings as economic powers, strengthening the west but creating problems in central and eastern Canada, let us all support one another within Canada.

The Arctic
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, sovereignty in the Arctic is about responsibility, not just ownership.

Canada can be proud of its record in the north. The Territory of Nunavut and our agreements with the Inuit of the N.W.T., Nunavik and Labrador are examples to the world.

The fact that we have negotiated claims with virtually all first nations in the territories is a source of pride and a signal that we take our sovereignty responsibilities seriously.

Decades of sensible negotiation of our Arctic pipelines are a positive contrast to damage produced by poorly developed oil fields in other parts of the north.

Canada's acceptance of responsibility for a 200 mile limit in the Arctic Ocean under the Law of the Sea showed that we cared.

Our research in the north is good but still needs work. The new research icebreaker, ArcticNet, the RADARSAT 2 polar orbiter and the Climate Change Foundation are indications that things are getting better.

2007-2008 has been designated as the International Polar Year. I urge that Canada continue to fund that year.

Housing
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to offer my sincere congratulations to the people of Eganville for their recent success in developing affordable housing for their community.

Fairfields was truly a community affair. Under the leadership of the chairperson, Preston O'Grady; the vice-chair, Gerald Tracey; chair of finance, Mayor Zig Mintha; the secretary-treasurer, Harry Goulet; the property chair Terry O'Brien; the property manager, Paul Kilby; and the board members, Elsie Zadow, Tom Green, Susan Taylor and Gertrude Berger, as well as hours of donated labour and materials from local residents and contractors, too numerous to list, Fairfields' affordable, supportive housing project is a dream that has become reality.

In the words of Fairfields chair, Preston O'Grady, “It's impressive what a community that pulls together can do in six months”.

While six months may represent the physical building, residents in Eganville and the surrounding area recognize the years of efforts that Preston and his board devoted to this project to see it to completion.

I congratulate Fairfields.

Remembrance Day
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, one of the great privileges of being an MP for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour is the opportunity to represent a constituency with a strong military tradition.

In my community, people are acutely aware of the sacrifices that have been made to preserve freedom. As a major base of Canadian military operations, we know all too well the sacrifice that men and women from Dartmouth--Cole Harbour have made to win and preserve peace around the world.

Next Friday, in both Dartmouth and Cole Harbour, our veterans will be honoured and their sacrifice acknowledged.

One of the most positive aspects of Remembrance Day in recent years is the increasing number of children who come out to pay tribute to Canada's heroes. I will have the opportunity next week to visit a number of schools in my riding where children are actively connecting to this important part of our history.

As more of our veterans leave this Earth, it is encouraging to us all but particularly to them that their dedication and courage will continue to be remembered. There is no more fitting nor encouraging tribute to our great veterans than to see a child standing by the cenotaph in the cold at full attention and in awe at the sacrifice of these great Canadians.

We will continue to remember them.

Rotobec
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Lapierre Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, on September 16, the firm Rotobec of Sainte-Justine, in my riding, celebrated its 30th anniversary. More than 350 people took part in the celebrations and visited the facilities.

Rotobec is a family business which employs 220 people and generates $36 million in sales annually.

Because of the dedication of its employees and because it is distributing competitively priced quality products, Rotobec has emerged as a major player on the forestry equipment market.

It distributes products in Chile, Indonesia and New Zealand, among others. Faced with a serious recruiting problem, management developed innovative approaches which set Rotobec apart from its foreign competition.

Congratulations to all the employees, the founders and owners on what they have done for the economic development of our region.

Canada-Israel Friendship Group
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, on October 27, the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Friendship Group held its annual general meeting. It was a resounding success.

Never before did a friendship group have the substantive goals we have set for ourselves, nor the energy that everyone felt during the session. Already on Monday our members spearheaded an all party motion adopted by this House condemning the anti-Semitic remarks of the Iranian president.

The Canada-Israel Friendship Group plans on being very active. Just this week, in cooperation with the Canada-Israel committee, we hosted on the Hill a roundtable meeting to explore the anti-terrorism issue.

We are setting up an information service for all members to highlight Israel's scientific, cultural, social and educational achievements.

I take this opportunity to encourage anyone in this House or the other place who is interested to join the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Friendship Group.

I will be there--

Canada-Israel Friendship Group
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Macleod.

Agriculture
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canadian farmers are dealing with one of the most difficult years ever due to wet field conditions combined with the lowest grain prices in over 100 years.

Low commodity prices, slow grain sales and movement are at the root. The Canadian Wheat Board, the railways, the subsidies and domestic support programs in other countries, and our government's agriculture and trade policies, or lack thereof, are all to blame for the situation facing Canadian agriculture today.

Last week I met with the parliamentary secretary, as well as the Minister of Agriculture, and heard the same old responses: the CAIS program is in place, farmers have crop insurance and the Canadian Wheat Board has asked for an increase in initial prices. None of these will put money in farmers' pockets.

Producers still do not have the tools or the opportunities to add value to what they grow.

The government has failed to address this and many of the failures in CAIS and foreign subsidies. I will continue to push the Liberal government to reach an agreement at the upcoming WTO ministerial meetings that will help farmers. This is on the 12th anniversary of the government taking office.

Remembrance Day
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, one week from today Canadians from coast to coast will put aside their daily duties for a moment of silence in remembrance.

November 11 marks a very important day in this country. It is the day we honour those Canadians who serve and have served their country, especially those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.

With 2005 as the Year of the Veteran, this Remembrance Day is an opportunity for all Canadians to learn more about the tremendous contributions of veterans. From Vimy Ridge to Juno Beach, from soldiers to peacekeepers, let us pay tribute to those who proudly wore the maple leaf into the front lines of history.

Our armed forces, past and present, are a subject of pride for all Canadians. My thoughts and prayers are with all our war veterans, the current members of our armed forces and their families. May their courage, devotion and commitment never be forgotten.

Veterans Week
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the week of November 5 to 11 is dedicated to our veterans. I am proud to pay tribute to the men and women who went to war either in global conflicts or in peacekeeping operations.

This occasion reminds us of our obligation to take care of our veterans, including the more recent ones who often have a hard time fitting back into society because of the after-effects of their mission, for example post traumatic stress.

Let us be grateful and respectful to these thousands of men and women who made such a sacrifice in defending our freedom and democracy.

Let peace be our primary focus. The Bloc Québécois salutes those who defend this peace—

Veterans Week
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Davenport.

Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association. At 1,300 members strong, the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association serves as the voice of the residential construction industry in the GTA.

The residential construction industry in the greater Toronto area is an economic powerhouse, accounting for more than 244,000 jobs, $10.4 million in wages, $18 billion in GDP and $5.4 billion in taxes paid.

I wish to congratulate Julie DiLorenzo, the president of the GTHA, for her dedication and tireless efforts to serve the members of the association. Thanks to her leadership, the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association has committed itself to improving the standard of living in the greater Toronto area. The GTHA's continuous support of Habitat for Humanity has also helped change the lives of families in times of need.

I am proud of the association's work and I am pleased to celebrate such an important and generous stakeholder in the greater Toronto area.

Liberal Government
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, here is the record of 12 years of Liberal government.

Government spending on programs of hard-earned tax dollars has increased by 44%, or $49 billion. Health care is worse with longer waiting lists. Taxes have increased. Red tape has worsened. Seniors are worse off. Farmers are worse off. There is the $2 billion gun registry.

In fact, who is better off? Only the Liberals' friends. The list of scandals is long with Shawinigate, strippergate, Earnscliffe, ad scam, Radwanski, Dingwall, Ouellet, Pelletier. It starts to sound like the old country song I've Been Everywhere by Hank Snow. It is all Liberal names.

All of this is from the illegitimate Liberal government elected on stolen taxpayers' money funnelled to the Liberal Party.

It is time for a Conservative government led by the current Leader of the Opposition. His first piece of legislation as prime minister would be the federal accountability act, which would ensure that Canadians never again would get corrupt government like we have had from the Liberal government for the past 12 years.

New Brunswick Businesses
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate two extraordinary entrepreneurs. Two weeks ago, Enterprise South East recognized Mike Breau, president of Ocean Pier Inc., located in Scoudouc, New Brunswick, for his significant contribution to our economy.

Founded in 1989, Ocean Pier is a leading manufacturer of prepared seafood products. It employs over 90 people year long.

The young entrepreneur prize was awarded to Eric LeBlanc of Shediac Bay Cruises. Eric operates this very successful tourism business from the Pointe-du-Chêne wharf. He offers thousands of tourists a dramatic and interactive Acadian cultural experience each year.

I have known both Mike and Eric for a number of years. I can attest to the great merit of these two outstanding award recipients.

I also want to congratulate Enterprise South East, its executive director, Serge Doucet, and the president, Léandre Cormier, for the outstanding work they do in our community.

Veterans Affairs
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, recently sod was turned for the Korean war memorial in a prominent place in Burnaby's Central Park. The memorial will commemorate the legacy of over 500 Canadian soldiers, 36 from B.C., who gave their lives in the Korean war.

This memorial will only be the second specific Korean war memorial in Canada. It will be a reminder of the contribution of over 30,000 Canadians who served in Korea. It will also be a bridge, a bridge between Canadian and Korean culture, a bridge between the generations that experienced the horrors of this war and those who only know the story, and a bridge between those memories and our hopes for a peaceful future.

This project is led by the Korean Veterans Association Western Canada Chapter and the Canadian Korean Veterans Association Pacific Region, and is supported by many others. The city of Burnaby and its Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission are key partners.

In this Year of the Veteran as we approach Remembrance Day, we pay tribute to the brave men and women who defended freedom and democracy. Their sacrifice shall not be forgotten.

Yitzhak Rabin
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, today marks the 10th anniversary of one of the most tragic events in the history of the state of Israel. It was on November 4, 1994 that prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated after attending a peace rally. This came a year after Mr. Rabin had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Yitzhak Rabin was a champion of peace because he understood the cost of war. He had served in the Israeli military for 27 years, culminating as chief of staff.

It was under his command that the Israeli defence force defeated three belligerent armies during the six day war. It was under his political leadership that Israel conducted the brilliantly successful rescue of Air France passengers hijacked and held hostage at Entebbe airport.

To such a man skilled in the arts of war, the value of peace was painfully clear.

During his second term in office as prime minister, in 1993, Mr. Rabin signed the Oslo accords, which seemed to point the way to a historic peace with the Palestinians. It was for this effort that he was forced to pay the ultimate price.

His example of courage should never be forgotten.

Sponsorship Program
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, after orchestrating one of the worst scandals in Canadian political history and after this scandal came to light following five years of repeated questions here in the House, the Liberal government has not learned a single thing.

The Prime Minister's admission that, in an attempt to buy Quebec, public funds were shamefully played with and his condemnation of those who transported the envelopes full of dirty money is a first step. However, it is just as important to know who used this dirty money.

The Prime Minister still refuses to tell us who received the $120,000 that Marc-Yvan Côté, Liberal Party of Canada organizer for eastern Quebec, got from Michel Béliveau.

After trying to make Quebeckers and Canadians believe that he knew nothing about this scandal, the Prime Minister is now hiding the identities of those who campaigned using dirty sponsorship money.

Iran
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Russ Powers Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, 65 years ago, statements similar in tone to those made last week by the President of Iran became a reality almost overnight.

The statements are distressing to my constituents, the residents of greater Hamilton and all of Canada.

The Iranian president's declaration that “Israel be wiped off the face of the earth” is not only deeply offensive, it is a major assault against the ongoing Middle East peace process, let alone what else it says about the mindset of the current Iranian administration.

Following this declaration the Iranian president summarily dismissed many senior members of the Iranian diplomatic corps, diplomats who obviously supported the pursuit of normal relations with western Europe and North America.

These events which are unfolding before our eyes in Iran are a very sad and disturbing development. They are producing new and awesome challenges for Iran's neighbours as they seek peace and security.

Without hesitation, qualification or reservation, I condemn these actions by the Iranian president. It is urgent that the international community find ways to engage in meaningful dialogue with moderate elements--

Iran
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Oral questions, the hon. member for Central Nova.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Justice said, “The government has made the determination that this is what the party owes”. He feels that the Liberal government and the Liberal Party can agree that $1 million is an appropriate amount of repayment for what Liberals stole from Canadians.

Is the professor of justice now so far up the ivory tower and so far removed from basic tenets of law that he actually thinks the guilty party gets to determine its own sentence and decide what amount of restitution is repaid? When will the Liberal government sue the Liberal Party of Canada and recover the full amount of money that it stole from Canadian taxpayers?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, once again the Liberal Party of Canada has paid back any money received inappropriately to the Canadian taxpayer.

In fact the calculations were based on analysis of Justice Gomery's facts in his report. Justice Gomery reviewed 28 million pages of documents, heard from 172 witnesses and in fact did a thorough analysis of the facts. We based our analysis on his facts and every penny has been repaid.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I guess we should just take his word for it.

The culture of favouritism of this Liberal government has been demonstrated once again. The Minister of Justice has decided to set the amount his party has to pay back to the taxpayers.

In our justice system, sentences are not set by the guilty party. Justice Gomery has said that the Liberal Party was responsible.

When will proceedings be initiated against the Liberal Party to recover all the money stolen from Canadians?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party of Canada—not the Minister of Justice—in conjunction with its lawyers and accountants, has gone over each page of this report. Every amount deemed to have been deposited incorrectly in the coffers of the Liberal Party has been paid back cent for cent, for a total of $1.143 million. The content of the report was the basis used by our accountants and lawyers to determine the amount.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, more nonsense from a founder of the Bloc.

The Liberal Party was found guilty by Judge Gomery of the worst theft of public money in modern Canadian history. Of the 28 lawsuits that the government has launched to recover the dirty ad scam money, there still is not a single one filed against the Liberal Party. It has made a down payment of $1.14 million, a paltry portion of the money that it stole, and less than the ad scammer Paul Coffin paid.

With $40 million still missing, why has a lawsuit not been launched by the government against the Liberal Party of Canada to recover the entire amount it stole from taxpayers?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, before a government or any other entity would launch a civil action against another entity, it would typically calculate, based on its analysis of the facts, the amount that would be appropriate to collect. If in fact the other entity offered voluntarily to pay that amount, there would be no need for a legal case.

I know the hon. member is a lawyer and perhaps he is trying to stir up all kinds of business for lawyers, but the fact is if two individuals can settle their differences and have full payment of what is appropriate, why do we need to bring lawyers and court cases into it?

Liberal Party of Canada
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister says he wants to ban 10 individuals from being members of the Liberal Party for life, yet many are wondering why the Prime Minister has selected these particular individuals and not others.

If the PM thinks it was wrong to handle illegal donations in the form of envelopes of cash, was it not also wrong for Liberal organizers and candidates to accept that cash and use it? When are they going to lose their memberships?

When will the Prime Minister stand and apologize to all the honest candidates who ran in the last election, who stuck to the rules but did not have a chance against a corrupt political machine? When are they going to get their--

Liberal Party of Canada
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

The Speaker

I have grave reservations about the admissibility of that question. It appears to deal exclusively with membership in a political party which, as the hon. member for Niagara Falls is well aware, does not involve the administrative responsibilities of the government. Perhaps he could move on to the next question and tie it in to the administrative responsibilities of the government, which question period concerns.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, we will get the answer to that eventually.

For many years the Prime Minister was in the private sector. I think it is a fair question to ask what he would do if he had a chief financial officer whose company was found guilty of kickbacks, submitting false receipts, fraud, having out of control employees and absolutely no accountability. I bet he would ask for the resignation of the CFO.

I have a suggestion for the Prime Minister. Why does he not take a close look in the mirror and see who that CFO is and I bet he will want to do the right thing and pack it in, will he not?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, all last winter opposition members were attacking the Prime Minister and accusing him of being directly involved and responsible for malfeasance. The fact is Justice Gomery, in his report, has said absolutely that the Prime Minister is exonerated from blame in this affair.

They do not support Justice Gomery. They do not believe in his report because it does not fit into their narrow partisan goals. Canadians, who deserve the truth and want the answers, believe in Justice Gomery but they do not believe in the Conservative rhetoric on this issue.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the aftermath of the Gomery report, the Prime Minister announced a number of measures. He has, however, refused to disclose the identities of the Liberal candidates who received dirty money from Marc-Yvan Côté. Yet those candidates profited from the kickback system denounced by Justice Gomery. It is even possible that some of those candidates are sitting in this House or are working within the government.

Why does the Prime Minister refuse to disclose their identity? Why is he covering up for people who profited from the dirty money,when he has banned from the party the people who distributed that money ?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Bloc Québécois is starting up again on an attempted character assassination operation affecting certain people who might be sitting here or other public figures.

If the leader of the Bloc Québécois has accusations to make concerning anyone whatsoever, let him rise and name names.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are asking for names. It was they who expelled people, including Marc-Yvan Côté. During the 1997 election campaign, Marc-Yvan Côté was responsible for 21 ridings in eastern Quebec. Eighteen of them received funds and some ten got cash from Marc-Yvan Côté.

By not revealing the names of the candidates, does the Prime Minister realize he is fuelling the suspicions currently swirling around all the Liberal candidates in the 1997 election?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, if there is one person doing his level best to fuel suspicion, to try to damage reputations, it is once again the leader of the Bloc Québécois, who has no proof of what he is contending. If he wants to accuse somebody, he should have the courage to make the accusations in the House and outside it. Otherwise, he should be quiet.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is not hard to understand. The Gomery report states that Marc-Yvan Côté oversaw 21 ridings and distributed money to 18.

This is our question for the government. So far the government has been against naming names. Why will it not release the names of the people at the end of the line who received money from Marc-Yvan Côté, who was suspended for doing so? Those who took the money must be just as guilty as he who handed it out.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois House leader is on another fishing expedition in an attempt to tarnish reputations. The reality is that the government does not have to comment on anything that is not in the Gomery report. We trust in Justice Gomery's findings and he blamed certain individuals.

I do not have any additional information and I have no names to disclose. If the Bloc Québécois has such information, then it should make it known and name names rather than try to tarnish the reputations of all—

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, something is not right here. The Gomery report we are quoting states that the money was handed out to 18 Liberals. These Liberals might be anywhere, they were not identified. They might be here or in ministers' offices. We do not know.

What we are asking the government is this. It said it wants to clean things up. Cleaning up does not mean sweeping things under the rug.

Name names so that we know who is involved.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this is a real witch hunt. The Bloc Québécois House leader is once again flinging accusations at all the hon. members on this side of the House without any evidence, without any names, and without any specific charges. This is nothing more than a smear campaign.

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Gomery report found what we know to be so true. Ottawa is suffering from a Liberal culture of entitlement. No matter where we look, it lurks.

Since the Prime Minister took office, his friends and a disgraced cabinet minister are in the Senate, a staffer is off playing ambassador, totally ignoring the votes in the House to oppose patronage.

Would the Deputy Prime Minister answer this? How do government members reconcile their rhetoric on ethics with the glee and arrogance with which they practice patronage and cronyism in everything that they do, every day in every decision they make?

Government Appointments
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, let us look at the record of the Prime Minister and this government. He cancelled the sponsorship program the very first day he became Prime Minister. He put in place an independent commission of inquiry, Judge Gomery. He introduced new ethical guidelines for ministers, senior staff and crown appointees. He established a fully independent Ethics Commissioner who reports to Parliament, the House of Commons and the Senate. He ordered the re-establishment of the Office of the Comptroller General.

In the history of our country, no prime minister and no government have done more.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister's capacity for self-congratulation seems to know no end. The Liberals continue to be ethically challenged with respect to their own behaviour, but I would hope against hope that they are not ethically challenged when it comes to something like torture.

Given the recent revelations about secret CIA prisons on top of what we already know about Guantanamo Bay, could the Minister of National Defence or the Deputy Prime Minister tell us whether the government is reconsidering its policy of uncritically handing over those captured by Canadian Forces to the American forces?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, when our Canadian Forces apprehend members from Afghanistan, those people are questioned, some are released, some are handed over to U.S. troops and some are handed over to Afghanistan authorities. For all of them, we notify the Red Cross about their whereabouts and the conditions upon which they were released. All are treated under the Geneva Convention. We feel utterly confident that our Canadian Forces members are treating those people in full accordance with humanitarian law.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, Justice Gomery's report indicates that there was widespread corruption and criminal activity within the Liberal Party of Canada. Simply put, the Liberals owe the Canadian taxpayer over $40 million and it is the government's responsibility to recover that money.

Will the Prime Minister commit today to launch a lawsuit against the Liberal Party of Canada to recover the millions of dollars that were stolen from Canadian taxpayers?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I have already answered that question and the Liberal Party has responded as well.

It is interesting to note that the leader of the Conservative Party operated for four years as an unregistered lobbyist. He failed to register under the Lobbyists Registration Act. Furthermore, during that period of time, the National Citizens Coalition that he led, that right-wing organization that fights against health care, that fights against child care and that fights against Canadian institutions, was charged six times with violations of Canada's Elections Act. They break the rules. They do not follow them.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, that was complete nonsense. On Page 438, Justice Gomery describes the sponsorship scandal as:

--inappropriate political interference in administrative matters...excessive concentration of power in the Prime Minister's Office, carelessness and incompetence and blatant disregard of Treasury Board policies, greed and venality. The public trust in its system of government was subverted and betrayed, and Canadians were outraged, not only because public funds were wasted and misappropriated, but also because no one was held responsible or punished for his misconduct.

The Prime Minister has been aware of this for a long time. Why have no Liberals gone to jail yet?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has never been charged with violating the Canada Elections Act. However, the organization that the leader of the Conservative Party led for four years, during which he failed to register under the Lobbyists Registration Act, did break the rules, was convicted once under the Canada Elections Act and, furthermore, was charged six times. He is now trying to create the impression that he believes in the rules when the organization he led broke the rules, and he knew it.

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, here is another one. What does a well connected Liberal company run by Jean Chrétien's son-in-law do when it has a mouldy, leaky, toxically dangerous building that no one wants? The answer is: sell it to the Liberal government. Never mind that the building needs $80 million in repairs and that it would have been cheaper to buy a new one of the same size and quality. As long as Power Corp., the Prime Minister's old company, gets its money, taxpayers can clean up the mess.

Why did the Liberal government reward the Prime Minister's old company and hit taxpayers with an $80 million cleanup bill?

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member ought to realize that we, as a department in our real estate dealings, always seek the best possible value for the Canadian taxpayer. The purchase of the former Nortel building was consistent with that. In the real estate markets it was being sold far below the actual value. The investments to upgrade it to an appropriate status for public servants has been made. This deal does meet the requirements of best possible value for the Canadian taxpayer.

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

And the building has been empty for almost two years, Mr. Speaker.

This is not just any company, though. Power Corp. hired the current Prime Minister when he was just a young lad and handed him CSL in a sweetheart deal. The Prime Minister is deeply indebted to Power Corp. No wonder he wanted to help his old friends when they needed to drop this mouldy monstrosity.

The government could have built a brand new building for less than the cost of repairing this one. Why did the Liberals stick taxpayers with this $80 million cleanup cost all to help the Prime Minister's old friends?

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

The Speaker

I am very concerned about the preamble to the hon. member's question. Personal attacks, as he knows, are out of order. The hon. Minister of Public Works and Government Services may choose to respond.

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I will respond to the tiny bit of substance that the hon. member tried to put into his pithy partisan personal attack against the Prime Minister of Canada.

Our professionals, on an ongoing basis, monitor real estate markets to identify the best possible accommodations for Canadian public servants at the best possible value for the Canadian taxpayer. This acquisition and the subsequent renovations meet that standard.

If he wants to take his question period questions off the news wire this morning from an unsubstantiated report, he can do so. Otherwise, we can give him a briefing so he really knows what happened.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Mr. Speaker, the reason why the Gomery commission could not make a list of the Liberal candidates who received dirty money from Marc-Yvan Côté is that the government strongly opposed it, through its lawyer, Doug Mitchell.

By objecting to the identification of these candidates as part of the Gomery inquiry, and by refusing to identify them now, the government is acting as accomplice and is clearly showing that the cleanup promised by the Prime Minister was not done and will never be done.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, is the member saying that Justice Gomery did not do his job properly, that he did not ask the right questions? Is he trying to discredit Justice Gomery? Let us hear him say so openly.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not Justice Gomery who did not do his job, it is the government and the Liberal Party, by preventing Justice Gomery from getting answers.

The Minister of Transport, who has been playing Mr. Clean since getting into politics, and who swears in front of every camera that the cleanup will be done, is losing face because one of the only things we are asking of him is that he identify the nine candidates and the 18 ridings, out of the 21 for which Marc-Yvan Côté was responsible, but he refuses to do so.

How could he let himself get swallowed so quickly by the machine—

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Transport.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I will read something that hurts the Bloc Québécois. It is on page 430 of the Gomery report. It reads as follows: “[The Prime Minister] is entitled, like other Ministers in the Quebec caucus, to be exonerated—”.

This is what is hurting the Bloc Québécois, and this is why they are trying to change the conclusions. They cannot accept that. They did everything they could to say the contrary, and they even prepared an advertising campaign for that purpose. Now, they know that it would be defamatory libel if they were to say something other than what Justice Gomery wrote.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Gomery report does not list the Liberal Party candidates who had dealings with Marc-Yvan Côté. The Minister of Transport refuses to provide this list of candidates who received dirty money in 1997, even though this is information he could very easily obtain.

In spite of the major cleanup announced by the Prime Minister, does the Minister of Transport not realize that his actions are bringing all candidates into disrepute because, instead of clearing those who have done nothing wrong, he is undermining the reputation and credibility of all of them, nothing less?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, what we have just heard is the height of hypocrisy. These people have disagreed with the findings of Justice Gomery from the beginning, and they lack the backbone to say so. Now, they are trying to smear more people, to cast doubt on the reputation and integrity of a great many people. The member claims that the list can easily be obtained. If it is that easy, let her table the list.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his report, Justice Gomery commented that those who took the dirty money they were offered brought disgrace on the Liberal Party.

Does the Minister of Transport not understand that, by refusing as he has been doing for the past two days to produce the list of those who received dirty money, he is acting as accomplice, and all his efforts to whitewash only confirm that he is not prepared to go through with the promised cleanup and would rather just sweep the dirt under the rug?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, Justice Gomery's mandate was to seek the whole truth. He heard testimony, he got to the truth, and everything is set out in his report. Bloc Québécois members are not pleased with the work of Justice Gomery because he exonerated not only the Prime Minister, but also the members on this side of the House. This is why Bloc Québécois members are now out to smear more people. We will not let them. These people will not accept the truth from Justice Gomery, but they lack the backbone to say so. They should come clean once and for all.

Election Campaign Financing
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, last year the Minister of Transport attended a gala where over $40,000 was raised. Since then, the Liberals have lost all trace of these funds.

The assistant campaign manager for the Liberals in that riding stated, “There is no longer anyone who knows where this money went. Our questions go unanswered. I wash my hands of those scumbags in Ottawa”. This person is now a member of the Conservative Party.

How can they lose $40,000?

Election Campaign Financing
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, like the member, I have read the newspaper articles. I am told that everything was tabled with the report on the 2004 election. So, everything has been tabled. The Chief Electoral Officer has the documents. Such accusations are unfounded.

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, today we learned that the Liberal government spent $751,000 of taxpayers' money on a ball at a football stadium for the Governor General, even though she wanted a more modest event.

I respect the new Governor General, but this issue is simple. The Liberals used the gala to invite hundreds of Liberal donors, lobbyists and fundraisers, all at taxpayers' expense.

It was just another way of getting around the rules to reward their friends and supporters. Is this how they do business?

Government Spending
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber
Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, the installation of a Governor General is the most important state ceremony in Canada's constitutional and ceremonial structure.

If the Conservatives want to abolish the constitutional monarchy to save money, to abolish governors general and lieutenant governors, they should say so and explain it to western Canadians.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice says that those who commit serious sexual assault could get house arrest under exceptional circumstances. For Canadians, house arrest for sexual assault under any circumstances is just unacceptable.

Can the minister explain how he defines exceptional circumstances, or is that just code for more soft on crime Liberal justice?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, all federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice agreed at their last meeting in January that conditional sentencing is a valid instrument, but it should not be used for purposes for which it was not originally intended, for example, serious and violent offences such as child sexual offences.

With regard to child sexual offences, not only is there not a possibility of a conditional sentence for youth but there are mandatory minimums which would exclude even its application in exceptional circumstances.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, the minister better put his money where his mouth is. With all due respect, there are many sexual perpetrators on the street right now. Their judgments are not very stiff.

Will the minister get tough with these sexual predators instead of providing them with another Liberal loophole?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we agree that sexual offences against children are the most pernicious and predatory of practices. That is why we adopted, with the support of all parties, the most comprehensive child protection legislation in the world. If members opposite want to engage in fearmongering, they can. We will engage in effective law enforcement.

Job Creation
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we learned that Canadian businesses created more jobs in the month of October than in any single month over the last two years, lowering our unemployment rate to a 30 year low of 6.6%. We also see that our GDP growth is up 3.2%.

Can the Minister of Finance tell the House when he will give us the full picture of the impressive performance of the Canadian economy through his economic and fiscal update?

Job Creation
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, Canada has the best job creation performance in the G-7. We have a near record participation rate in the Canadian job market. We have the lowest unemployment in 30 years. The Canadian economy is a world-class performer. Our fiscal situation is robust.

I will be more than happy to elaborate on our current triple A situation and our exciting plans for the future in the 2005 fall economic statement and fiscal update on Monday, November 14.

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Gomery report has exposed the inner workings of a corrupt government. When he took office, the Prime Minister promised “transformative change”. He promised to end the all pervasive culture of entitlement contaminating the government, but nothing has changed.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister tell Canadians if the government has any plans whatsoever to plug the loophole which allowed David Dingwall to legally collect a $350,000 lobbying fee that was illegal for the company to make?

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the member asked the question, “Does the Prime Minister have a plan?” I can respond very strongly that of course he does. He has the plan he began with when he took the job of Prime Minister on December 12. It was a plan to strengthen Treasury Board, restore comptrollership, strengthen financial management, and restore internal audit. It was a plan to bring integrity to the management of the finances of the Government of Canada and Judge Gomery has verified that.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, this week the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration boldly announced that he was above the law of the land. He announced that he would not uphold the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and would not implement the refugee appeal division that is a key part of that law. This was Liberal legislation. It was debated in the House and in committee. It was passed by Parliament. The refugee appeal division is supported by every immigrant and refugee-serving organization in Canada and some internationally.

Why does the minister believe that he is above the law? What entitles the minister to refuse to abide by Canadian law?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I can say that the minister does not believe he is above the law. The minister has been working exceptionally hard across this country with immigrant communities to strengthen the immigrant communities and the services that are offered.

If the members on the other side would spend some time on the committee paying attention to these issues, instead of cutting $200 million in support to the immigrant communities, we might all be better off.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my riding of Cambridge a man was chased down in the street and hacked to death with a machete. It was a brutal and bloody slaying that shocked the region. One of those involved was just sentenced to 19 months of house arrest.

After participating in what the minister must agree is an exceptionally serious and violent murder, he was sent home to watch DVDs.

When will the Liberal government learn that a warm couch, a night of movies and popcorn, is not punishment? It is not rehabilitation. It is not justice. It is plain and simple stupidity.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Mount Royal
Québec

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, our reform with respect to conditional sentences was intended to send a message with respect to denunciation. All serious offences and violent offences with regard to the proportionality principle, and I cannot comment on individual cases, will not be the subject of conditional sentences.

Aboriginal Veterans
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Jeremy Harrison Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, this morning the contribution of aboriginal veterans was rightfully honoured in the other chamber. I would again like to offer my gratitude for the service and sacrifice of these brave veterans.

Last year this House passed my private member's motion to fairly recognize the contributions of these courageous warriors. The entire Liberal cabinet voted against this basic call for equality. The Liberal government has since failed to address the inequality of post-war treatment for aboriginal veterans.

When will the government respect the will of this House and fairly treat our aboriginal veterans?

Aboriginal Veterans
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Don Valley West
Ontario

Liberal

John Godfrey Minister of State (Infrastructure and Communities)

Mr. Speaker, it seems ironic that this question should be put today after the Minister of Veterans Affairs has just returned from Europe with an interparliamentary group to honour aboriginal veterans. The focus of today's ceremony in the Senate was precisely to honour aboriginal veterans.

Human Resources and Skills Development
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, Imperial Tobacco recently announced the closure of its Guelph plant, eliminating over 500 jobs. These jobs support hundreds of area Guelph families. The government should be doing all it can to cushion the blow. We have proposed a $1,000 grant for apprentices, an employer tax credit for their salaries, and a $500 deduction for their tools. Our proposals will help these workers retrain for the tens of thousands of skilled trades jobs that go unfilled in this country.

When will the government follow through on a recommendation and help these workers and the 100,000 other workers who have lost jobs in manufacturing?

Human Resources and Skills Development
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Liberal

Belinda Stronach Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and Minister responsible for Democratic Renewal

Mr. Speaker, any time there are a large number of layoffs this is something that we are very concerned about and we take very seriously. The department goes into the workplace and works with the employers and the employees to ensure that we can do everything possible, including EI temporary income support to make it easier for those workers.

Having said that, we are also very concerned about the upcoming skills shortages. We have launched a workplace skills strategy, which includes apprenticeship training programs and also workplace partner panels, where industry comes together with labour to devise that strategy so that it makes sense and is more relevant in today's workplace.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, in September the fishing vessel the Melina and Keith II sank off the Newfoundland coast with a loss of four lives, one dying only 15 minutes before rescue arrived. It took a half an hour to verify the original distress signal and determine the location. This is understandable.

Can the minister tell the House why it took another two hours to get a chopper in the air, particularly when the distress signal was received while the search and rescue crew was still on shift?

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows full well that the response time from our search and rescue team was well within the norms that is allowed. We profoundly regret the loss of life of those people who were far away from shore.

I can assure the House that those members in our search and rescue team, who respond admirably and with courage at every opportunity, responded well within the times that were humanly possible to save those people's lives.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Quebec National Assembly yesterday passed a motion requiring a bilateral agreement to be signed with the federal government to respond to Quebec's concerns. Unable to agree with his counterpart, minister Mulcair has decided to go over his head and negotiate directly with the Minister of Transport.

Why is the federal government refusing to sign an agreement that responds to all the concerns expressed by Quebec, which has the best record with regard to greenhouse gases in Canada?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, first off, the Minister of the Environment has the full confidence of the government. He alone is negotiating for all the provinces. He is currently working to put an extraordinary plan in place in connection with the Kyoto protocol. And we have every confidence in the negotiations he will undertake, not publicly but privately, with his colleagues.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the contribution by the major polluters is a very small part of the minister's plan. In reality, the minister is drawing attention away from the $10 billion Ottawa is trying to send Alberta and Ontario, to the detriment of Quebec taxpayers.

I am addressing the government's real negotiator, the Minister of Transport, and not the immovable object criticized by minister Mulcair. Does the Minister of Transport plan to sign a bilateral agreement with Quebec on climate change that recognizes past efforts prior to the international conference to be held in Montreal on November 28?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the first thing that strikes me in this question is that the member appears to be finally acknowledging that the Government of Canada's plan for Canadian industry is perfectly fair and calls on each industry in each province to do its share. That is why, in Quebec, as greenhouse gas emissions are lower and fewer tonnes are available, Quebec industry will produce 3 tonnes regulated out of 45.

The second point concerns the distribution of funds by province. That is being negotiated with the provinces in polite terms with nine of them and less polite terms with—

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for North Vancouver.

Forest Industry
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian forest industry has paid $5 billion in unjustified softwood lumber tariffs to the U.S. The final NAFTA decision in August confirmed that this $5 billion must be returned to the Canadian industry.

Last week, however, the Prime Minister puzzled everyone, including people from the industry and the provincial governments, by calling for the return of only $3.5 billion of the $5 billion.

Why does the Prime Minister continue to undermine the Canadian position on softwood?

Forest Industry
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, that is absolute nonsense. The Prime Minister has always said that the NAFTA has to be respected, and that means the return of all the duties.

Airport Customs Services
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, the town of Collingwood and I are working hard to establish the Collingwood regional airport as a port of entry. It is key to both industry and tourism in Simcoe--Grey.

I wrote the minister in 2004, my staff have left several messages and I wrote the minister again on September 8 and still no response.

An email from a predecessor's office stated:

The decision to bring customs service to Collingwood will be strictly political.

It is the minister's decision. Will Collingwood airport get custom facilities, yes or no?

Airport Customs Services
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I actually am not aware of the particular situation to which the hon. member has referred but I will undertake to follow up on this right away.

Obviously the CBSA assesses where the needs are across the country. We try to provide the highest quality service possible. In fact, based on a needs assessment, if it appears that Collingwood qualifies for full time customs service, then it will be provided.

Official Languages
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Godbout Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has just tabled its mid-term report on the implementation of the action plan for official languages.

Given that the development and vitality of official language communities are a priority for our government, could the minister tell us how the communities reacted and what should be the next step in acting on this important issue and speeding things up?

Official Languages
Oral Questions

Noon

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Minister for Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question.

Indeed, this report was tabled last week. We have innovated by including in this mid-term report the feedback and assessment of the communities themselves. We will see that, on the whole, the reaction was positive, especially in the areas of early childhood, health and justice, among others.

Now that the structures and mechanisms that needed to be developed to implement the plan are in place, we can expect that, for years 3, 4 and 5, accelerated investments will be made, as planned, to ensure that all the objectives in the plan are met by 2008.

Agriculture
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, farmers, farm groups and even the minister's own Canadian Wheat Board have been asking for an increase in the initial price of grain. Weeks and weeks have gone by and yet the minister has not made an announcement for what really is a simple decision to be made. The minister's inaction has also caused the low initial price to withhold safety net moneys under the CAIS program.

Farmers need more than talk. They need action and they need it now. I ask the minister to do the right thing and announce the amount of the increase in the initial prices here and now, and to quit playing games with Canadian farmers.

Agriculture
Oral Questions

Noon

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the last time the member asked this question he was criticizing the Wheat Board for inaction. In fact, the Wheat Board has been out. The farmers who represent the Wheat Board and who are responsible for the Wheat Board have been out selling grain all around the country and have had some very successful sales just recently. They have come back to me and asked for an adjustment to the initial payment, something I will be responding to immediately.

Airports
Oral Questions

Noon

Independent

Carolyn Parrish Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, in a question posed earlier this week to the Minister of Transport on the patently unfair rents being levied on Pearson International Airport, he suggested air carriers go to Montreal. He went on to say that everyone has to pay their rent. What arrogance.

Pearson has recently been upgraded at no expense to the government to be one of the most modern hub airports in the world but its future is in jeopardy.

Would the minister responsible for Ontario please explain why he and the members of the largest government caucus have allowed this usury to occur?

Airports
Oral Questions

Noon

The Speaker

I think the hon. member will have to direct her question to a minister who is not responsible for an area, as she knows. Is see that the Minister of Transport is rising to answer the question.

Airports
Oral Questions

Noon

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Jean Lapierre Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the hon. member that we have a new rent policy which will ensure that airports across the country will save $8 billion over the course of their leases. I have to say that out of that $8 billion that the Minister of Finance accepted, $5 billion will go to the airport in Toronto, which is a savings of $5 billion.

Airports
Oral Questions

Noon

The Speaker

I believe the member for Edmonton--Sherwood Park has a point of order arising out of question period.

Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, as you know, I was involved several years back in one of the most grievous cases of using props in the House of Commons for which I was chastised and I apologized.

I noticed today, Mr. Speaker, that every time, except the last one, the Minister of Transport held up his copy of the Gomery report he never once opened it or read from it.

I say that he was using it as a prop and I think, Mr. Speaker, you should chastise him.

Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

The Speaker

The Gomery report has been held up a lot in the House over the last few days on both sides of the House. However I can say that the Minister of Transport did indeed quote from the Gomery report. I shook my finger at him because he read out the name of a member when he was quoting from it instead of using the member's title, so I have no doubt that he was reading from the report. He even said which page he was quoting from.

While there may have been some infractions of this rule, and I do not remember that of the hon. member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, I warn hon. members that the use of props is something that is not recommended but obviously a document that has recently been tabled in the House and is being quoted by members or being used as the basis for either an answer or a question may sometimes be lifted up, pointed at and even quoted from.

There are props and there are props, but I thank the hon. member for his admonition. I am sure it is appreciated by all hon. members.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, the government's response to eight petitions.

Nuclear Waste Management Organization Report
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Natural Resources and pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I am pleased to table, in both official languages, the final study report of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization.

Nuclear Waste Management Organization Report
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present the report of the Canada Taiwan Parliamentary Friendship Group visit to Taiwan in September 2005. Members of three parties met with the president and ministers of the Taiwan government and with the speaker and members of the Legislative Wan.

Nuclear Waste Management Organization Report
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I think the hon. member knows that the group is not an official one and therefore the report cannot be tabled under reports from interparliamentary delegations without unanimous consent.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Health.

The committee recommends that the Minister of Health temporarily stay the scientific advisory panel on silicone gel breast implants and its proceedings and to not make a decision or proceed until such time as the minister has appeared before the committee to address this issue.

If the House gives its consent I intend to move concurrence in the 16th report later this day.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 15th report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

In accordance with its order of reference on Monday, April 18, your committee has considered Bill C-333, the Chinese Canadian Recognition and Redress Act, and agreed on Tuesday, November 1, to report it with amendments.

It is not a common occurrence in the House to congratulate two private members on successfully having a bill reported back from committee with unanimous consent of the committee by and large. I do want to compliment the members and the government representatives who worked closely to make this a matter of collaboration and cooperation both here in the House and with the community at large.

Excise Tax Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-435, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (no GST on books or pamphlets).

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to introduce a bill to amend the Excise Tax Act to eliminate the goods and services tax on the sale of books and pamphlets.

The GST on books and pamphlets and the federal decision to impose HST on education books with CD-ROMs erect senseless barriers to education materials and literacy objectives. The government must remove these barriers, these counterproductive measures, and invest instead in serious literacy initiatives which would have lasting effects.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Hazardous Products Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-436, An Act to amend the Hazardous Products Act (prohibited product—hooks).

Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to introduce this bill which is an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act.

The purpose of the bill is to prohibit the advertising, sale and import of elongated display hooks that can cause a threat to the safety and health of persons.

Together with the unsafe products act introduced by my colleague the member for Halifax--Needham in the Nova Scotia legislature, these measures are designed to remove dangerous display hooks from the marketplace that have caused blindness, sight impairment and brain injury to countless children and some adults. The continued use of these deadly hooks should be illegal, period. I hope all members will see fit to support this simple effective measure.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-437, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and the Canada Labour Code.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to table this bill today. It is a short piece of legislation that would open the definition of family member within the HRD code to include siblings and in-laws, something which was certainly an oversight by the government.

There has been a lot of talk about it. The government is paying some lip service. There have been motions by other members in the House. I am certain that this is the type of bill someone will grab and run with and that it will receive unanimous consent when we finally speak to it.

The Liberals originally announced $200 million to address this shortfall. They were not able to spend any more than close to $8 million, so there is certainly room to expand that definition.

We look forward to debate on the bill. The genesis of the bill is from a woman named Heather Chisholm in my riding. She is a seniors worker and understands the need for this type of legislation.

I look forward to speaking to the bill in the future.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-438, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (murder of parole officer or firefighter).

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Fort McMurray for seconding the motion. My colleague from Calgary Centre also vehemently supports this bill.

The bill, if adopted, would amend the Criminal Code. The bill is aimed at basically bringing parity to Criminal Code section 231(4) which I believe is just an oversight. Reference to a parole officer or firefighter has been left out of the listed individuals where a murder occurs and it would be considered first degree murder.

The bill itself is introduced in memory of the horrible murder of Louise Pargeter and out of respect to her parents, Mike and Judy and her partner, Anne Lynagh. The murder occurred in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories when Louise Pargeter was working as a parole officer. In a letter to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the family asked that this type of legislation be tabled.

Currently, parole officers and firefighters are not specifically mentioned. The distinction is very important. Police officers, wardens and jail guards are currently listed in the section. It would make perfect sense to include parole officers as well.

An automatic first degree murder charge would create a significant deterrent and would minimize similar offences being committed against parole officers in the future.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

National Appreciation Day Act
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-439, An Act respecting a National Appreciation Day.

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly like to thank my colleague from Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre for kindly gracing me with seconding the motion. It is a national issue and a national concern.

Today I am pleased to introduce a bill entitled the national appreciation day act . This enactment designates the third day of March in each and every year as the day for the people of Canada to express appreciation for the heroic work of members of the Canadian Forces and emergency response professionals, including police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

I believe all members of all parties in the House of Commons would agree to support a very speedy passage of this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Health, presented to the House earlier this day, be concurred in.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition from the congregation of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in Tavistock, Ontario, most of whom are constituents of mine.

They call upon Parliament to ban the production, promotion and distribution of a film based on the murders of Tammy Homolka, Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy by Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, children suffering from autism spectrum disorder, ASD, are among the most vulnerable sector of Canadian society. Diagnosis of ASD is increasing at an alarming rate. Currently, it is one child in 195. Therefore, I would like to thank my young friend, Josh Bortolotti, for taking the lead on this issue.

In this petition, the petitioners are requesting funding for intensive behavioural intervention and applied behavioural analysis for children with ASD and to provide teaching of these therapies at the Canadian university and college levels.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to introduce three petitions today, the first of which deals with the issue of autism spectrum disorder.

The petitioners call for a national strategy for autism and specifically want the amendment of the Canada Health Act and corresponding regulations to include IBI and ABA therapy for children with autism. As well, they are calling for research to happen through the university chairs in each province to teach the proper treatments necessary to assist persons with autism in Canadian society.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, my second set of petitions relates to the issue of employment insurance.

There are several hundred petitioners who are calling upon the government to make it 360 hours to qualify for the entry level of employment insurance benefits anywhere in Canada. They call for a benefit rate of 60% of normal earnings based on the worker's 12 best weeks. They also call for an increase in maximum benefits during the duration of 50 weeks as employment insurance is a backstop to many different problems.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, this petition is regarding a very serious issue. The member for Windsor—Tecumseh as well as hundreds of petitioners across Windsor-Essex County are calling upon the government to assist the minister of immigration to enact his ministerial powers by granting Mr. Ahmad Abou Ramadan a ministerial permit on humanitarian and compassionate grounds before his removal date of December 22, thus allowing Mr. Ramadan to remain in Canada.

This is a very important issue. I hope the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration will take this issue very seriously.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition from residents in my constituency and the surrounding area on the issue of autism.

The petitioners recognize the tremendous burden that is placed on families who have children with autism. They are calling upon Parliament to amend the Canada Health Act to include IBA and ABA therapy for children with autism and to contribute to the creation of academic chairs at universities to teach IBA and ABA treatment. It is my pleasure to present this petition.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, before presenting the petition, I would like to thank the Speaker for hosting a lunch yesterday for the Governor General's performing arts awards. It was very much appreciated.

This petition is from residents in Langley, British Columbia. They are saying that charging GST on the federal tax and other taxes is double taxation and they would like to see that eliminated.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 181, 185, 190, 192, 205 and 211.

Question No. 181
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier, QC

With respect to the Revenue Canada Agency’s Scientific Research and Experimental Development Program, since 2000, what were the total tax credits allowed to each of the following companies: ( a ) Magna Entertainment Corporation; ( b ) MI Developments Inc.; ( c ) Intier Automotive; ( d ) Cosma International; ( e ) Magna Donnelly; ( f ) Decoma International Inc.; ( g ) Tesma International Inc.; and ( h ) Magna Drivetrain?

Question No. 181
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Markham—Unionville
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, the scientific research and experimental development, SR&ED, tax incentive program is designed to encourage research and development in Canada.

Under this program, businesses with qualifying SR&ED expenses may receive refunds, tax credits or both.

Businesses claiming the SR&ED credit are subject to scientific and financial reviews by the Canada Revenue Agency to ensure that all eligibility requirements, as set out in the Income Tax Act, are met.

Confidentiality provisions of the Income Tax Act, section 241, preclude the disclosure of taxpayer information.

Question No. 185
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

What steps has the government taken to give effect to the motion adopted by the House on February 8, 2005, that called on the government to immediately drop the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization deposit requirement and honour the commitments it has already made to Canadian producers; if no action has been taken, what explanation can the government give to justify its decision?

Question No. 185
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, in the 2005 budget, the federal government committed to replace the deposit under the Canadian agriculture income stabilization program, CAIS, with “a better means of effectively engaging producers in joint management of business risk under CAIS”. As the CAIS program is a cost shared initiative, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food discussed the issue with his provincial and territorial counterparts in July and it was agreed in principle to replace the deposit requirement with a fee based approach in time for the 2006 program year.

The fee based approach will respect the basic program principles that producers must be actively engaged in managing their business risk and share in the cost of the program. However, the approach will not require producers to tie up large amounts of operating capital—the principal producer concern related to the deposit. Options for replacing the deposit were developed in consultation with the industry advisory groups set up to support the program and there was general acceptance of a fee based approach.

Ministers agreed in principle on a fee that would approximate the differential between the cost of borrowing funds to make a full deposit under the program and the interest that would be obtained on that deposit. The fee would be calculated at 0.45% of the historical reference margin (a measure of farm profit) that the producer chooses to protect under the program, or $4.50 for every $1000 of protection. A farm with a reference margin of $100,000 would pay $450 for full protection, a substantially lower financial commitment than setting aside $22,000 in an account to gain similar protection.

Early in 2006, producers will receive a notification of their coverage options and the related fees, as well as the deadline for application

Question No. 190
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bill Casey North Nova, NS

With regard to the pilot projects and other activities undertaken by the Public Service Commission of Canada in an effort to create a national area of selection for all federal Public Service jobs: ( a ) what is the current status in designating all federal Public Service jobs as being part of the national area of selection, following the national area of selection designation for senior and executive level positions of the federal Public Service; ( b ) at what time will the Commission be in a position to include all junior, and mid-level federal Public Service positions in the national area of selection; ( c ) what is the Commission’s time frame to have 100% of the federal Public Service job postings included within the national area of selection; ( d ) what percentage of federal Public Service employment positions, as of September 1, 2005 are open to job-seekers within a designated national area of selection; ( e ) what are the specific reasons the Commission has not yet realized a national area of selection for all job-seekers in Canada wishing to work for the Government; ( f ) what are the total expenditures to date by the Commission towards the creation of the national area of selection; ( g ) is there a multi-year estimate for expenditures required to create the national area of selection; and ( h ) what is the status in the on-going development of policies and guidelines for the government-wide use of e-recruitment software?

Question No. 190
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber
Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, the reply is as follows:

a) Since 2001, a national area of selection has been required for all senior officer level jobs in external recruitment. The commission has encouraged departments to use a national area of selection, whenever appropriate, for jobs in external recruitment. The commission reviewed its policy and on October 6, 2005 outlined its decision to take an incremental approach in establishing national area of selection in external recruitment.

b) The commission has decided to extend the policy requirement to use a national area of selection for all officer-level jobs in external recruitment within the National Capital Region, effective April 1, 2006. The commission will then take an incremental approach to national areas of selection. Following assessments, April 2007 is targeted for establishing national area of selection in external recruitment for all officer level job across Canada.

c) The overall goal is by December 2007, subject to the results of an impact assessment and to the availability of continued funding, to establish a national area of selection for all external advertised appointment processes for all positions across Canada.

d) In 2004-2005, about 19% of jobs open to the public have used a national area of selection, approximately 2300 jobs. For the same period, about 28% of National Capital Region jobs open to the public used a national area of selection, approximately 1300 jobs. Beginning April 1, 2006, the policy change announced on October 6, 2005 would roughly double the overall use across Canada of a national area of selection for positions open to the public—an increase from 19% to about 32%, from 2300 to approximately 3800 jobs. Regarding only the positions open to the public in the National Capital Region, the use of a national area of selection would double—an increase from 28% to about 60%(from 1300 to approximately 2900 jobs).

e) Geographic areas of selection, allowed under the current and new Public Service Employment Act, PSEA, are used to manage large volumes of applications to public service jobs open to the public. The intent is to ensure that staffing actions are in keeping with staffing values in finding qualified candidates while upholding the public trust in the wise use of public funds. The PSC’s announcement to further expand the use of national area of selection was made possible by the flexibility derived from the new PSEA and the result of the PSC’s investments to date on technological tools, with funding support from the Treasury Board, to deal with the expected increase in the volume of applications

f) Between April 1, 2001 and March 31, 2005, the PSC spent $16.5M on national area of selection. This figure includes the development of a web-based tool, public service resourcing system, the employee benefit program, research and evaluation of technological alternatives, hardware and software for operation, training of staff and system users, and evaluation of the system pilot. From April 1, 2005 to March 31, 2006, the PSC expects to spend $8.4M including maintenance on national area of selection.

g) The PSC estimates that the future expenditures required to create and maintain the national area of selection will be $13.4M. The total multi-year estimated cost to create national area of selection is therefore $38.3M. This figure includes the cost of the employee benefit plan, enhancement of the tool to address the broader range of external staffing needs, training of departmental officials, impact assessments, and evalution. Ongoing public service resourcing system maintenance costs are estimated at $5.5M per year, starting in 2007-2008.

h) The public service staffing modernization project, PSSMP, is a multi-year effort which contributes to providing Canadians, public servants and public service managers with a federal government that is a leader in staffing by providing a world-class automated tool to support a modern staffing approach. The PSSMP is divided into two streams. In the first stream, the PSC will expand the current automated screening tool, the public service resourcing system, to all PSC regions for use by departments for external staffing by the end of November 2005, and then directly to interested departments and agencies beginning in April 2006. As part of the expansion plan, PSC regions and departments will receive training on the use of the tool. The second stream of PSSMP looks at developing a long-term solution focussed on both external and internal staffing. This second stream has not yet been fully costed. Related policies and guidelines for the government-wide use of e-recruitment software will be developed in consultation with stakeholders.

Question No. 192
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

With regard to Bill C-60, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, does the government plan to bring forward amendments to this legislation in order to ensure that teachers, researchers and students at educational institutions continue to have access to publicly available material online?

Question No. 192
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Vancouver Kingsway
B.C.

Liberal

David Emerson Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the government has been asked whether it will not be seeking an amendment to Bill C-60, an act to amend the Copyright Act, that would ensure that teachers, researchers and students at educational institutions continue to have access to publicly available material online. The government will not do so as nothing in Bill C-60 changes the existing copyright treatment of this access. That being said, the government does recognize that it is an issue.

For this reason, on March 24, 2005, when the government announced in its statement on proposals for copyright reform that it would be tabling a bill to address certain priority copyright issues related to the Internet, it also indicated at the same time that the issue of the educational use of publicly available Internet material requires further public input and consideration such that it would not be addressed in the bill, but that a consultation paper would be released as soon as possible after introducing the bill.

Bill C-60, an act to amend the Copyright Act was introduced into Parliament on June 20, 2005.

The government held a consultation meeting with stakeholders in December of 2002 to discuss the educational use of Internet material and its impact on copyright. Subsequent to that meeting, in an effort to explore possible options, the government established a working group consisting of representatives of the educational and rights holder communities. The group held several meetings in 2003 and issued a report in December of 2003 outlining its conclusions and areas of common understanding regarding educational use of Internet copyright material. However, representatives from the educational sector and rights holder groups were unable to come to an agreement regarding several key issues such as how best to approach the issue of educational use (i.e., whether through an exception to copyright or through licensing arrangements), the uses to be allowed, and how the material should be identified as “publicly available”.

Question No. 205
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

With regard to funding by the government for the Sisters in Spirit campaign: ( a ) why has the funding been delayed; ( b ) when will the Native Women’s Association of Canada receive the funding; and ( c ) is the government still committed to delivering the funding in phases, as originally planned?

Question No. 205
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Jeanne-Le Ber
Québec

Liberal

Liza Frulla Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, the reply is as follows:

a) The government will fund the Sisters in Spirit initiative to an amount of $5 million over 5 years. As with any funding, there is always a rigourous process to follow to ensure accountability to the public.

b) Status of Women is finalizing a contribution agreement with the Native Women's Association of Canada. Once finalized, the funding will be released in compliance with the Contribution Agreement clauses.

c) The government is committed to delivering the funding in phases and will continue to work collaboratively with the Native Women's Association of Canada to implement the Sisters in Spirit initiative.

Question No. 211
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Is the mandate of the Patented Medicines Prices Review Board (PMPRB) to protect Canadian consumers by ensuring that prices charged by manufacturers for patented medicines are not excessive and, if so, is the PMPRB exceeding its mandate by regulating prices of patented medicines that are being sold to non-Canadians outside Canada?

Question No. 211
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Vancouver South
B.C.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, PMPRB, is an independent, quasi-judicial, administrative agency, created in 1987 under the Patent Act.

The PMPRB is responsible for regulating the prices that patentees charge, known as the “factory-gate” price, for prescription and non-prescription patented drugs sold in Canada to wholesalers, hospitals, pharmacies and others, for human and veterinary use, to ensure that they are not excessive. The PMPRB regulates the price of each patented drug product sold in Canada including each strength of dosage form.

The PMPRB regulates the first sale of a patented drug in Canada from the manufacturer. While a manufacturer’s sale of a patented drug product to any pharmacy in Canada falls squarely within the jurisdiction of the PMPRB, the subsequent sale of the product from the pharmacy to a consumer does not. Thus the circumstances of such pharmaceutical sales (i.e. whether to a resident of Canada or a person outside Canada) as in the case of cross border drug sales is outside the PMPRB’s mandate.

Question No. 211
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question No. 211
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 211
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it is not with pleasure that I will use my eight minutes because the debate imposed on us by the Bloc is a sad one.

In the few minutes I had before question period, I think that I showed clearly that we have before us a case of defamation that constitutes a serious attack against my reputation and that of other members of Parliament. I also tried to explain the unexplainable and that is how the Bloc Québécois could fall so low into such cheap politics.

I proposed two possible explanations. I will let you be the judge of their value. According to the first one, in the last two years, the Bloc has been using smear tactics, generalizations and defamation in this House, thus abusing their parliamentary privilege. Members of the Bloc also did that outside of the House, up to now avoiding what could so obviously become a libel case. This time, however, they went too far.

I put forward another hypothesis, that this way of doing things is a symptom of something bigger, of a behaviour that has been characteristic of the Quebec sovereignist movement and which consists in attacking reputations and persons, particularly francophone Quebeckers who defend Canada, and goes as far as demonizing them because they lack rational and reasoned arguments to convince Quebeckers to renounce Canada. I will not belabour that point.

In the minutes that I have left, I call on all members in this House, including members of the Bloc Québécois, to use their sense of honour. If they have the least sense of honour, instead of delaying the work of the House, as they are now doing, immediately following my speech, they will rise to say that they are committed to reimburse the taxpayers money that was used to indulge into character assassination of members of Parliament and to send to all Quebec households, using their own money, the corrections necessary to the householders where my face and the one of other colleagues appear in such an unfair and abhorrent way.

Members of the Bloc Québécois must stop delaying the work of the House. They have violated this institution enough, and they must immediately move forward the process that the member for Bourassa has taken to defend his reputation and his honour. If they continue to delay the work of the House to keep it from providing justice to us, I personally warn them that I will not have much patience and that I will take civil action.

I would also like to say that, if the Bloc Québécois has a sense of honour, it must stop making arguments that are political and intellectually dishonest. I will give some examples.

Some Bloc members said that they did not want to tarnish the reputation of some ministers, because there is a footnote in the householder. Members will excuse me for removing my glasses, but this footnote is in very small print and it says: “Have appeared before the Gomery commission”. If I understand correctly, saying that some witnesses appeared before a commission gives one the right to tarnish their reputation and to imply that they were complicit in criminal actions. This does not hold water and will never hold water before any court. It is as if the bill of sale for the house that you are buying contained a footnote in very small print that said that you will pay three times more than what you think you will pay. There are laws against that. This will not hold water. They will have to find something else.

The members from the Bloc also argued that they received permission from the House to do such a thing. Let them provide evidence that they received permission from the House. We are still waiting. If that were even true, legally speaking this does not clear them from the responsibility they have toward how they use this document. They cannot put that responsibility on an institution.

The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel presented another argument in which he played with the words. Yesterday in the House he said, “We do not trace the dirty money trail in that document”. However, the same hon. member, in a householder that he sent out in his riding, used the expression “dirty money trail”. Why say one thing in the House and say the opposite to his own constituents in his riding? He is only making matters worse for himself. He should apologize for misleading the House, which is quite a serious matter.

Enough with the double talk that only sinks the Bloc Québécois further into disgrace. Honestly, they have to acknowledge that this is defamation.

In closing, I want to mention one other thing. The householder does not allude to corruption, but simply a process that was in place. However, other householders say, “We must punish the Liberals for their corruption”. In that case, the word corruption appears next to the faces of the parliamentarians in question. If the Bloc is not accusing them of corruption, then what is it doing? Enough with this intellectual dishonesty. This is truly a case of defamation.

I will end my speech where I began, by defining defamation under the law. It is an attack of a person's reputation exposing that person to hate or contempt. It can be verbal or in writing. It matters very little whether the attack is direct or indirect, or whether it results from a statement, insinuation, connotation or imputation.

This case does not involve a comment as such, but clearly a statement or an insinuation. As the courts have established many times, it is the general impression conveyed by an article, a publication or a comment. In this case, there is no doubt in my mind that the document attacks my reputation. I will take every necessary recourse, since precious little is more important than a person's reputation, honour and integrity.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I am somewhat surprised to hear the Minister of the Environment suggest that we are drawing out the debate. In fact, we are debating a motion by the member for Bourassa, which was ruled in order in this House. An amendment and a subamendment were brought forward, because of the direct link to the Gomery report. It takes a lot of gall for the Minister of the Environment to go on like that considering the situation.

The reality is that this leaflet summarizes what we can call the sponsorship scandal. It lays out known facts. As for the members who raised the question of privilege, the leaflet only states that they appeared before the Gomery commission. Those are facts.

If the Minister of the Environment interprets it otherwise, that is his problem. He is the one who sees things where they do not exist. The best way to draw conclusions is probably to read the summary of the Gomery report and the document that we have here.

I am going to quickly read the findings of Justice Gomery. I am not making this up. It states:

It is those facts that allow me to draw the following conclusions:

The Commission of Inquiry found:

clear evidence of political involvement in the administration of the Sponsorship Program...

the use of the Sponsorship Program for purposes other than national unity or federal visibility because of a lack of objectives, criteria and guidelines for the Program...

certain agencies carrying on their payrolls individuals who were, in effect, working on Liberal Party matters...

And the last conclusion, but not the least:

the refusal of Ministers, senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and public servants to acknowledge their responsibility for the problems of mismanagement that occurred.

In reality, our document and Justice Gomery's report make the same statement in two different ways. The image we included in the leaflet is the reflection of what the report says. That is why we moved a subamendment to indicate that our leaflet was distributed after the end of the hearings. Everybody was able to draw conclusions from the hearings. Justice Gomery drew his and documented them in his report. I just quoted four of them. In much the same way, we published our conclusions in our leaflet. A majority of the population agrees with us.

I have a question for the Minister of the Environment today. Are the documents tabled here not the proof that our leaflet mirrors the Gomery report? The then ministers whose picture appears in the frame were called before the commission. The key political actors have been identified, and the political executive, the sponsorship program and the financial kickbacks to the Liberal Party highlighted. That is the whole context.

In the end, is the right solution not for the government to take responsibility, call an election and let the people be the judge? This government is responsible for the single most important political scandal in the history of Canada since the Constitution. It is the most glaring example of mismanagement by the federal government. If federalists have to be responsible for something, this is it.

Indeed, the Conservative Party—

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I am sorry to interrupt the member, but the Minister of the Environment has the floor.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think that the member himself believes what he is saying. First, he said that the Bloc is not holding up the progress of the House, but the member for Roberval confirmed that this is exactly what they are doing. There is no point in denying it.

Then he said: “Ministers were involved in political interference. The money ended up in the agencies and then in the Liberal Party coffers.” He is accusing ministers of having acted in this manner. That is the thrust of the whole document. He is accusing people of interference and of criminal activities.

If this is not confusion and defamation, I wonder what it is. He does not even realize what he is doing anymore. He might even believe what he is saying. He is really confusing everything.

I must therefore quote yet again the same paragraph from the Gomery Commission that is so relevant for us. On page 77, the report states:

On the evidence there is no basis for attributing blame or responsibility to any other Minister of the Chrétien Cabinet, since they, like all members of Parliament, were not informed of the initiatives being authorized by Mr. Pelletier and their funding from the Unity Reserve. Mr. Martin, whose role as Finance Minister did not involve him in the supervision of spending by the PMO or PWGSC, is entitled, like other Ministers in the Quebec caucus, to be exonerated from any blame for carelessness or misconduct.

That is what is there. But I would further go one step further and say that even if the document had talked about Mr. Pelletier, and certainly in the case of Mr. Chrétien, who is mentioned in the document, the responsibility being attributed to them by Justice Gomery has to do with diligence. Justice Gomery does not question Mr. Chrétien's integrity in any way. This document, therefore, is unfair to the former prime minister, and I must emphasize that. It is one thing to say that someone lacked diligence, but quite another to accuse that person of dishonesty. The Bloc does not take into consideration those small distinctions in its efforts to discredit everyone. As a matter fact, they are the ones heading for an all-time low because of the partisan games they are playing.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Beauce
Québec

Liberal

Claude Drouin Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Rural Communities)

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate my colleague, the environment minister, for the excellent speech he made and his clarity in response to the Bloc, which is capable of the worst abuses to achieve its ends.

I am happy to see that the relevance of the Gomery report was mentioned repeatedly. We agree with the report. This report shows that of the $147 million paid to the agencies, $1.143 million was given to the Liberal Party over a 10 year period.

The members of the Bloc see themselves as staunch defenders of Quebeckers' interests, but where were they five years ago when we found out about the PQ scandal involving Oxygène 9? It was Quebec taxpayers' money that had been squandered. Where were the members of the Bloc? We not did hear from them. That scandal was so bad that the PQ government never held an inquiry. The minister, Mr. Baril, had to resign. He was named vice-president of Hydro-Québec in Chile to ensure there would not be an inquiry. We can see to what lengths the separatists will go to achieve their goal.

I am asking the environment minister to enlighten me on what occurred at that time.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, let me say that $1.7 million is $1.7 million too much. We have paid back this amount and we have told Canadians that we will be twice as prudent in order to avoid any such thing in the future.

Second, one scandal does not justify another scandal. But this is not what the member for Beauce did. He simply compared reactions between one leader and another one. Our Prime Minister got to the bottom of things. In all fairness, I should say that the former prime minister and the Minister of Public Works and Government Services at the time, who is now the Minister of Finance, had already started the process by reviewing and clarifying all procedures. Our Prime Minister went to the bottom of things by ordering an inquiry. He opened the books and went from there.

But, what did the leader in Quebec, the former premier of Quebec, Mr. Landry, do at that time? He put a lid on this affair to make sure that we would never know what went on. Unfortunately, I have to tell the member for Beauce that we will never know. If we did, we would perhaps discover that the Bloc benefited from this money. Therefore, it is a matter for the House. We will never know, and we will never have any assurance about this, since there has never been a public inquiry. This lack of transparency is very serious. I see the Bloc as applying a double standard. Instead, it should recognize the Prime Minister for showing an extremely high degree of transparency and an admirable sense of public integrity.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must admit that I was very impressed by the comments made by the member for Saint-Laurent, especially when he talked about the courage of the Prime Minister of Canada, who advocated transparency and probity. When the Bloc Québécois refers to the Liberal Party of Canada and to the Gomery report, it uses its own words, not those of Justice Gomery.

Mr. Gomery has heard 172 witnesses and read thousands of pages of documentary evidence, including documents on cabinet deliberations, which, according to tradition, had never been made public. However, the Prime Minister of Canada, a Liberal Prime Minister, made them public.

I would like to hear the comments of the member for Saint-Laurent regarding the first paragraph on page 436 of the Gomery report, which states:

According to evidence presented on behalf of the LPCQ, reforms to the Party's management and systems make it less likely that such irregularities will reoccur.

Given the conclusion of Justice Gomery based on all the evidence that he heard, what does the member think of the fact that the Bloc Québécois does not urge its provincial counterparts to do the same when there are alleged wrongdoings in the fundraising campaigns?

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the answer is more or less the same. I do not want to use one scandal to justify another. There are however two things I would point out.

First, the effort to ensure transparency was much greater in Ottawa, with the Liberal government, than in Quebec, with the PQ government. There is no question about that. Second, the member is absolutely right about the excerpt she referred to.

There is something that I want to mention. The government has worked hard to ensure that such abuse will never happen again and to enhance Canadian confidence in the honesty and transparency of government.

However, we are also looking forward to Justice Gomery's second report. While he has said that we have done a lot to rectify the problem, he will certainly have useful suggestions that we will carefully review with the greatest respect for him.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating a motion on a question of privilege raised by the member for Bourassa. The member takes exception to members of Parliament communicating with Canadians on the subject of the sponsorship scandal. It is remarkable.

What we amazingly have in front of us is a motion that suggests that members of Parliament should not be permitted to discuss the sponsorship scandal with Canadians. Coming from the Liberal government that is not surprising, but as a democracy it is particularly alarming.

We should be permitted to discuss the most important issues of the day with Canadians of which the sponsorship scandal is perhaps the most important. We should not be surprised that the motion came from the government. It has consistently taken the stand that we should not discuss the sponsorship scandal. The government will do anything to keep that from being discussed by Canadians.

If we think back in recent months to questions asked in this very chamber, the Minister of Public Works consistently said that discussion of the sponsorship scandal represented mere allegation, therefore it should not be discussed. Thanks to Justice Gomery we now know that those mere allegations were not mere allegations. He found those mere allegations to be fact and accurate.

We also were told by the Minister of Public Works that we should not be permitted to comment on that evidence. The member for Bourassa is carrying on in the very same vein by suggesting that members of the House should not be able to communicate with Canadians about the sponsorship scandal. We have heard the government consistently try to shut down discussion. It is a pattern of cover-up. It is a pattern of whitewash. It is a pattern of preventing these issues from seeing the light of day in any way possible. We also see that pattern extended through the denial of opposition days, which have been shut down so these issues cannot be discussed with Canadians. Taken all together, we see a consistent effort by the government to suppress discussion and debate with Canadians on the sponsorship scandal. Now we have this motion.

We heard earlier from the member for Ahuntsic. She said that we should respect the institution and our rights and privileges. Perhaps the most important privilege in a democracy and in a democratic institution like Parliament is freedom of speech and expression. It is that very same freedom of expression that the member for Bourassa seeks to suppress with his question of privilege.

We have those rights that we hold dear. To me the right of freedom of expression is perhaps the most important of those rights. We are alarmed by what the motion by the member for Bourassa suggests and for our very right to express ourselves on these important questions.

Let us look at the substance of the sponsorship matter that he takes exception to us discussing with Canadians. The government does not want to see us communicating with Canadians. The substance is found very simply in the findings of Justice Gomery and his report entitled “Who Is Responsible?”.

Members of the government are fond of going into about 700 pages or so in the report to find some fine detail that can be taken out of context that suggests in some way somebody somewhere in the government did not know something about it or was not involved in the sponsorship scandal. If the government can find one person who is clear, then somehow the Liberal Party or the government is clear. Justice Gomery told us something very different.

The commission of inquiry found clear evidence of political involvement in the administration of the sponsorship scandal. That is a critical finding of Justice Gomery and is in his report in black and white.

He found deliberate actions to avoid compliance with federal legislation and policies, including the Canada Elections Act, the Lobbyists Registration Act, the Access to Information Act and Financial Administration Act, as well as federal contracting policy and the Treasury Board transfer payments policy. These are not, in the words of the Minister of Public Works, “mere allegations”. These are major findings of fact of Justice Gomery.

He found a complex web of financial transactions among Public Works and Government Services Canada, the minister's department which he does not want us to talk about, Crown corporations and communication agencies, involving kickbacks and illegal contributions to a political party in the context of the sponsorhsip program. Guess which political party? It is the Liberal Party, but he was kind enough not to mention that.

No wonder the government and the member for Bourassa do not want us to discuss this with Canadians. I can understand why. He does not want Canadians to hear about the Liberal Party receiving kickbacks.

Then the report states that five agencies received large sponsorship contracts, regularly channelling money via donations or unrecorded cash gifts to political fundraising activities in Quebec, with the expectation of receiving lucrative government contracts.

We know what that is. That is the offer of a payback. This is Justice Gomery's finding of fact, a major finding, that these people made donations because they expected to get contracts in return. The member for Bourassa does not believe we should be allowed to discuss this with Canadians. Through his motion, he is trying to suppress that debate, that freedom of expression and that exposure of the guilt of the Liberal Party in findings of fact by Justice Gomery.

Furthermore, Justice Gomery found, and it is in black and white, that certain agencies carried on their payrolls individuals who were in effect working on Liberal Party matters and that government money was being used to pay partisan Liberal Party workers. It is a clear conclusion.

Next he found “the existence of a culture of entitlement among political officials”. I guess that culture of entitlement extends so far that we cannot have the temerity to get up and question that entitled. If we dare suggest to Canadians that this culture of entitlement is wrong, the member for Bourassa will stand up and say his privileges have been offended and we should not be allowed to discuss that with Canadians.

It is a remarkable effort to shut down free speech and free discourse on perhaps the most important question facing Canadians. We have clear evidence by Justice Gomery, after having heard the testimony of dozens and dozens of witnesses, having sat for days and days, having been subjected to cross-examination, that we have a political scandal of enormous consequences, the biggest in Canadian history.

His finding of fact at the end, which is entirely consistent with what we see in the motion, is the refusal of ministers, senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office and public servants to acknowledge their responsibility. Not only will they not acknowledge their responsibility, but they do not want anybody else to point it out, even though Justice Gomery has said it is there, in black and white.

These are issues about which Canadians care. My constituents of York—Simcoe constituents care greatly about these issues. They care greatly about this matter of political corruption and that it should be addressed, debated and resolved. That is why this effort to shut down debate and discussion is most alarming to them and to me.

We are told that the great offence committed is that the communication went into the member's constituency, that it came from another member, and I do not recall which member, and that is a terrible thing. Guess what I have in my hand? I have a piece of correspondence that went into my constituency entitled “A message from the Prime Minister”. The headline does not talk about the Prime Minister. The headline is a personal attack on the character and integrity of the member for Calgary Southwest.

This was not sent by some backbencher, rogue member of the government. The communication was sent into my constituency by the Prime Minister. Guess what he discusses in it? He discusses the Gomery inquiry and he attacks the member for Calgary Southwest, the Leader of the Opposition, for questioning the government about the Gomery inquiry because Justice Gomery should be left to do his work.

How dare the member for Calgary Southwest and the opposition try to hold the government accountable and how dare they ask Canadians to hold the government accountable. Is that not a terrible thing? I guess if the Liberals are trying to escape accountability every way, they may as well bring a motion like this to say that the opposition should not even be allowed to talk to Canadians about the corruption of the Liberal government. It is entirely consistent with the pattern.

What is more, some of the suggestions in the message from the Prime Minister about policy are entirely inaccurate. They are attributed to what my party or I myself would do as a member if I were in government and they are false. This communication from the Prime Minister is certainly far greater an offence of privilege than anything concerning the member for Bourassa.

When this went into my constituency I did not like it. I can understand the member not liking it, especially since there were falsehoods in this communication. However just because I did not like it I did not get up in the House and say that the Prime Minister should not be allowed to communicate with Canadians. I did not get up and say that my personal privileges had been offended as a member of Parliament. I said that was part of debate, democracy and freedom of speech and that I should be allowed to enter the debate and answer those concerns. That is how democracy is supposed to work.

That is the party that pretends to be the party of the charter and of freedom of speech standing up to suppress freedom of expression. It is remarkable. The Liberals are turning themselves inside out. Freedom of speech extends, according to the government, as long as no one criticizes the government, as long as no one exposes its corruption and as long as no one exposes its misdeeds, but as soon as one crosses that line to talk to Canadians about corruption, freedom of speech must stop. Forget the charter, forget parliamentary privileges, forget the debate that should take place in this institution and forget the debate that should take place outside.

The Liberals seek to avoid accountability at every opportunity possible, which is why they did all the remarkable things, including a deal that cost $4.6 billion. They made announcements of $26 billion in the weeks of late April and early May to try to avert an election and that accountability. Those tactics will cost every family in Canada, a typical family of four, $3,030 of their own tax dollars to avoid accountability.

The government takes the tax dollars and the Liberal Party uses those tax dollars to fund its own partisan activities. It uses those tax dollars to stay in office by hook or by crook, by whatever deal they can make with whatever party, by doing whatever it can to keep the numbers and avoid the accountability.

Now that the accountability has been rendered in black and white by Justice Gomery, accountability that the Liberals know will be communicated some more, they launch their initiative here in the House to suppress further debate and discussion of the findings of Justice Gomery. That is what this is all about.

Members should make no mistake about this. This is an effort to shut down that debate. In fact, if it were not for this motion being brought forward, paradoxically, this is the only way we are getting to debate this question in the House. What an irony that the only way we can do it is in response to an effort to shut down debate. I am sure the member for Bourassa did not anticipate that when he brought forward the motion but that is the implication.

When things like this happen, it is called democracy. It is called debate. When I look at the communication in question, I see quite a few things with which I do not agree. I happen to believe passionately in my country and in the importance of keeping this country united. My friends in the third party in the House do not share that view but I do not believe their right to speak on that issue or any other issue or to expose the government's corruption should be shut down because it is inconvenient or uncomfortable.

The reason I became involved in politics is because my family roots go back to Estonia where my family grew up. My mother and grandparents only came to Canada because with World War II came successive waves of Soviet and Nazi occupation. Because many in the family had the temerity to have views and to believe in democracy and freedom, they were seen as enemies of the new Soviet state of the occupying forces.

Many of my relatives were sent to Siberia where they lost their lives. Some were brutally murdered in their beds by Red Army soldiers or other Communist sympathizers, or killed in any remarkable number of other fashions in that conflict all because they believed in democracy and freedom and wanted to live their lives in peace. They wanted to enjoy the democracy they had enjoyed as a free country for a number of decades.

I was fortunate in that my mother and grandparents did manage to flee to Sweden and, ultimately, to Canada. They reason they chose Canada was because it was a land of hope and opportunity but, most important, because it was a land of freedom. It was a land where they thought that democracy flourished and the country did treat them very well. I have been fortunate to enjoy the benefits of that country myself and fortunate to enjoy our democratic process.

My family did not choose Canada because they thought freedom of speech was suppressed here. That is what they were fleeing. They did not choose Canada because they thought it was a country with a corrupt government run for a narrow self-interest. No, that is what they were fleeing.

The question we are debating, which is whether we should be allowed to discuss these questions and communicate with Canadians about them, is very profound and very deep. It is one of our greatest freedoms. No, it is not always nice to hear certain things being said about us. Sometimes there are personal attacks and I do not like them, but there is a difference between what is poor form, what is rude and what is actually wrong. Freedom of speech includes the right to say things that people may not want to hear and sometimes, as the government is discovering, the truth is quite painful and we do not want to hear the truth. However the country and democracy are strengthened when the truth does come out.

I attended the University of Toronto's Victoria College, my undergraduate university. Carved in the sandstone over the main building of Victoria University are the words “THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE”. That is what we are talking about here, truth, freedom and the ability to bring these matters forward in a legitimate debate, which is what the motion from the member for Bourassa seeks to stifle.

My constituents do care about the questions in this. Let us think about the consequences. We have clear evidence of political involvement in the administration of the sponsorship program. That corrodes our democracy.

I have had the experience, as I am sure many members have had, of going door to door and speaking to constituents and voters and there is a great deal of cynicism about the business we are involved in. It is cynicism that is bred of spin, of people making promises and breaking them in politics, and it is a cynicism bred, sadly, of the findings of Justice Gomery and similar programs and similar sponsorships.

What we can take heart in is that when the truth comes out hopefully our country is a little more strengthened; debate can ensue and cleanse. When the light shines in they say that is the great antiseptic. It cleans things when people can hear the truth and discuss the truth. Suppressing debate and discussion is not the way to get there. Suppressing the way in which we approach our democracy and suppressing the free debate is not the way to get there.

The conclusions in the report are important findings. The work of Justice Gomery into the sponsorship affair was very important. The sponsorship scandal was, undoubtedly, the most defining political event of the past several decades. It is perhaps the saddest event in the history of Canadian democracy in terms of its impact. We have seen corruption through the bureaucracy, through contracting, through the work of ministers and through suggestions by the prime minister's office.

The report says, “a refusal to accept responsibility in the Prime Minister's Office...among ministers, a refusal to acknowledge their responsibility”. It is time we took that responsibility and it is time we took seriously the role of debate. I absolutely urge the House to turn down this effort to suppress the freedom of speech in debate that will make this report meaningful in the end.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have known the hon. member for some time and I know him to be a decent individual, an individual who is not easily given to slandering or defaming the character of anybody in this House, let alone, I am sure, his constituents.

Mr. Speaker, I think the member would agree with your findings that there is in fact a question of privilege that arises from the householder that was sent to many ridings across Quebec, compliments of the separatists in this House. I know the hon. member will try very hard not to see himself as aligning himself with the separatist tendencies in this country.

I also know that when the hon. member talks about truth he will also take into account what this Prime Minister has done for democracy, something that no other prime minister or leader of a country has done, and that is to expose government open, regardless of its consequences and certainly above the question of partisanship.

I also know that hon. member served as the president of the Conservative Party of Ontario during which there were such wonderful examples of where his government that he supported under Mike Harris gave us the Dudley George inquiry and the Walkerton inquiry, albeit begrudgingly.

I understand the hon. member wants to talk about the words engraved on the little stone. I just want to say that engraved at my old university are the words, “The truth will indeed set you free”. Is it possible that the member is actually saying that to arrive at his version of the truth he is prepared to defame the reputation of anybody in this House? If that is the case, let that member stand in his seat right now and say that he will go to no ends to determine what he believes is his version of the truth.

I am prepared to tell the truth about that member as long as he is prepared to continue slandering members of Parliament, abide by it or abet the slandering of members of Parliament in this House.

The hon. member was the president of the Conservative Party of Ontario during the period of former Premier Harris. We had a number of concerns and allegations about kickback schemes. We had a number of allegations that were done over various campaign managers around the previous premier making money through Ontario Hydro. These things came out in the public domain without discussing any issue.

Why did the hon. member not say anything about those activities and his Conservative government did nothing about it to begin with?

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

May I remind the hon. members of this House to be very careful with their vocabulary and the history they are bringing into this debate.

Nevertheless, I will recognize the hon. member for York—Simcoe.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have to say, with the greatest of respect, that I know nothing of the fantasies of which he speaks. They are remarkable flights of fancy. They are not the subject of the findings of Justice Gomery.

What we are talking about and what we are debating is not slander. We are discussing what have been proven to be and established to be findings of fact of Justice Gomery.

The member may wish to suggest--

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. We were able to listen to the question. Let us try to listen to the answer.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member may wish to suggest, as he has, and I understand why, that Justice Gomery is not the last word and perhaps we should go to a court of appeal.

I think the purpose of this report and the confidence that Canadians have in it, and I have even heard his own Prime Minister say he would prefer to rely on what was said by Justice Gomery. Justice Gomery made findings that there was clear evidence of political involvement in the sponsorship program. That is a clear finding of fact.

I was a practising lawyer at one time in my life and I remember learning that on questions of slander and defamation truth is an absolute defence. I am inclined to think that what Mr. Justice Gomery has found as fact, as a learned justice, would at least qualify as perhaps being truth in a court of law. I would hate to think that my reliance upon the findings of Justice Gomery and the things he has put in his report would expose me to intimidation or a lawsuit from any member of this government for slander or accusations of slander and defamation.

However, I am not the least bit surprised because that is consistent with the motion we are discussing. As soon as one talks about what has been done or discusses the facts of what is in Justice Gomery's report, one is accused of defamation or slander. The implication of that is that people are being threatened with lawsuits because they have the temerity to discuss the findings of Justice Gomery, to raise the debate with Canadians, and ask them to consider the implications of what these findings of corruption mean for Canada and its democracy. It is remarkable.

Hearing that from the member in his question does not surprise me at all because it is consistent with the Liberal pattern of behaviour, which is not to dare talk about it. That is what we are told again and again. The Minister of Public Works and Government Services in question period said they were mere allegations and how dare we repeat them. The Minister of Public Works and Government Services said in question period that it was before the commission and how dare we possibly speak about it.

The member for Bourassa said how dare we say that he actually appeared in front of the commission as a witness, which he did as a matter of fact, because he did not want that talked about as it was very unpleasant for him. Guess what? It happened and it is the truth. It may hurt, but that is what debate is about. If one wants to be serious in this business, one has to accept responsibility and the rules by which this game is played. Part of those fundamental rules are the rules of freedom of debate and freedom of expression. I believe that this question of privilege simply does not serve those ends.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Conservative member who just spoke.

Every time the Liberals ask a question or talk about the Conservatives in this debate, they deliberately and knowingly try to associate them with the Bloc Québécois and Quebec sovereignty.

I would like the member to explain that if the Conservatives are supporting the same motion the Bloc is supporting, it might be mainly because we share the same values, which are honesty and integrity. I would like to hear his comments on that. If the Bloc Québécois, the Conservatives and the NDP share values like honesty and integrity, I do not think that we should be ashamed to say so here in the House.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons why this whole subject matter of the sponsorship program alarms me is because of the harm it has done in Quebec to the cause I care about, the cause of Canada. The reality is that the Liberal Party has never been able to conceive the cause of federalism as being distinct from the cause of its party.

There are many Canadians who are not Liberals. There are many Conservatives in Quebec and the rest of Canada who care passionately about this country and unfortunately, by the actions of this government and the Liberal Party through the sponsorship program, our cause has been tainted, damaged and hurt. The greatest damage to the cause of Canadian unity in Quebec has been caused by the corruption of the sponsorship scandal.

For Canadians to have any confidence that there is a future for national unity there has to be today a different alternative in Quebec if they seek the federalist option of unity. That is why it is important that there be a debate and that they realize there is more than one party. The Conservative Party, for example, is a party that cares passionately about national unity, is willing to fight for it, and in fact, is now the only remaining credible standard bearer for the cause of national unity and federalism in Quebec and across the country.

It is said that the last refuge of a scoundrel is patriotism. That is what we see in the Liberal government, a desperate effort to defend its corrupt behaviour and track record.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Just like the Bloc, this member is trying to sully our reputation. He is probably sitting too close to the Bloc members.

However, one thing is certain: it is important for the Speaker to state that the question of privilege was in order. We are debating today a question of privilege approved by the Speaker, which has nothing to do with the government. The member for Bourassa was granted a question of privilege.

I guess the member, when he was a lawyer, did not charge a lot per hour.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would simply like to remind the House that the motion was brought forward by the member for Bourassa, but that we have an amendment and a subamendment that deal with the Gomery inquiry.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Are the hon. member's comments related to the point of order? He is simply stating what everyone already knows. Maybe it is my role to remind all hon. members that we are now debating a subamendment which, ultimately, relates to the motion brought forward by the member for Bourassa. I recognize that emotions are running high today, just like yesterday afternoon.

However, I want to remind hon. members to keep the utmost decorum during this debate. I urge them to be very prudent with the vocabulary being used. I am sure that we will continue in a very orderly fashion to debate this particular motion. Resuming debate.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to bring this debate back to a level closer to our parliamentary standards. I am sure I will be treated as someone who is thin-skinned. I am not embarrassed to admit that this whole matter can exacerbate someone's sensitivity, but at the same time it can toughen up a person quite quickly.

I have just been elected in 2004. I can tell you that my campaign took place with all kinds of innuendoes and allegations in the background.

If the member for York—Simcoe, who spoke before me, thinks that the Liberals are afraid of freedom of expression and do not want to debate the Gomery report, I have news for him. It is a Liberal government who commissioned the Gomery inquiry.

Personally, I think that, since we were able to finally read the report this week, we are now able to speak from facts, instead of being left with uncertainty, gratuitous attacks and reputation being discredited. This does not mean that we are proud of every word written in the report, as Liberals, politicians or public servants.

I hope that this will perhaps give us some forward momentum and help us make sure that some things never again happen.

Some people say that we are afraid to express ourselves, that we are against freedom of expression and the Charter. I think that people forget that freedom of expression has its limitations too. I would remind some of my colleagues in the House of some very important principles stated by the Supreme Court of Canada about this. Freedom of expression does not mean that we can say everything which comes through our minds, any way we please, and that we can attack gratuitously just about anybody.

The member for Bourassa reminded us earlier what basis we were supposed to be discussing on, and the opposition mentioned that we could discuss the Gomery report. It has practically been years since they first started debating issues addressed by the Gomery commission. Now, we are going to talk about real facts and the motion.

I look at what the member for Bourassa has submitted to this Chamber. It was accepted prima facie by the Chair as being a question of privilege. The motion was amended and there was an amendment to the amendment, I will grant you that. In my opinion, the idea was to play with the concept and to make it possible to keep making public innuendoes instead of simply recognizing rights.

When I was elected, I was appointed to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I was flabbergasted by the astounding number of questions of privilege referred to that committee. I have to tell you that I am extremely happy to sit now on the Standing Committee on Finance, as it was quite tiresome to see the kind of games that were being played left and right, by all political parties.

I did not get elected to engage in such petty political games, nor to belittle people. Some questions of privilege were accepted and referred to the House Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, because an insert had been placed in a mailing by a member, or because one member had attacked another member for voting in such and such a way.

What are we being told here? The money trail is being shown with photographs. They can be smart alecks, indulge in chicanery, but doubt remains and impressions stick when people look at things like that. When one reads some of the comments that are made, one cannot play the innocent and stick one's head in the sand. A mere asterisk does not lift all blame from individuals.

The intent behind all this was to say who the crooks were and how the money was funnelled. This affects people's reputations.

Indeed, according to the information that we have obtained in the House, 1.2 million households in Quebec have received this kind of rag, and it is not over. I even have the “pleasure”, in my riding, to receive similar offerings sent by the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, the subject matter of which is again Liberal corruption. No distinction is made: they do not say “certain members of the Liberal Party”, but “the Liberals”.

They have been generalizing and laying it on thick for months and months. Here is one of the phrases we have been hearing most frequently: “We believe in values.” Earlier, I heard the member for Repentigny say that he shared with the Conservatives the values of honesty and integrity. I am not afraid to say in the House that I have the same values, and I hope that the member for Repentigny will admit it. The people who are around us also have the same values of honesty and integrity. However, what we do not share with the members of the opposition, irrespective of which party they belong to, is the propensity to make unfounded attacks on people's reputations.

They use the Gomery report to cite it, but they only cite its summary, which is just that, a summary of the general findings made by the commission. To know what Justice Gomery really thinks, you must read the whole report, which is totally clear.

I will read the passage that probably affected me most because I believe that some members will never read the report. The issue affects me and when I met my voters last night, I told them how difficult this has been. I am convinced that even colleagues from the opposition feel it. Maybe they will say that it serves us right, but I am not going to accept guilt for someone else's wrongdoing. When I make a mistake I am ready to accept the consequences of my acts.

Since the publication of the report and even before, some people have taken great delight in lumping us all together. I thought that that would stop because I had confidence in the intelligence and the rational thinking of members across the way. Unfortunately, people continue spreading messages and misinformation among the population. Maybe I am naive. I probably am since I am a new member here. I am losing my illusions one after the other. However, I still believe that we are here to serve Canadians. For its part, the Bloc is there to break Canada apart.

I will quote the passage that Canadians ought to read. I am not sure that every Canadian will read it. They will certainly judge us without reading it. The government used to say back then: “we must await the conclusions of Justice Gomery”. In the preface of the report, it is stated:

Because of the sensational nature of some of the evidence presented at the Commission's hearings, the publicity given to it, and the political context in which the Inquiry took place, the impression may have been created that in Canada the administration of public affairs by the federal government is generally careless, incompetent, and motivated by improper considerations. People may also be persuaded that the persons involved in Canadian political life [we, the MPs] are inspired by improper motives, and unscrupulous. Let me suggest that the Inquiry proves the contrary. Without diminishing the importance of the findings of impropriety and wrongdoing in the Report, the evidence presented reveals that, in general, the administration of government programs by the federal bureaucracy is competent and praiseworthy, a conclusion that has been emphasized by the Auditor General herself.

Those are Justice Gomery's words. They do not appear in the summary, but in the report. I support each and every one of those findings and recommendations, and the fact that we need to be accountable.

That takes courage. I have heard all sorts of insinuations. A matter of settling a score. A person had to be a real masochist to go through this daily flagellation just to settle a score. The people of Canada are far smarter than that.

This is a government, and a Prime Minister, who have had the courage to make sure that nothing is swept under the rug. The Canadian public was entitled to know what had happened within such a highly charged context as the post-1995 referendum period. In a brief aside, in connection with that 1995 referendum, people have said that we stole the referendum from Quebec. That is the danger, with this sponsorship business: people are mixing apples and oranges. We stole the referendum, we did this, we did that. Come on now. Quebeckers are far smarter than that.

Justice Gomery goes on:

Let me also suggest that a system of government that would impose upon itself a searching inquiry by an independent commissioner,—

I do not think there are any allegations being made in this House that Commissioner Gomery was not independent. It continues:

—armed with the authority to compel the production of incriminating documentation from the public administration and able to subpoena witnesses from every level of society, with a far-reaching mandate to investigate and report on matters that could prove to be embarrassing to the Government itself is proof that our democratic institutions are functioning well and objectively. There are very few countries in the world where an inquiry commissioner has the power to summon the sitting Prime Minister and his predecessor, to be examined under oath concerning their administration of public affairs and their involvement in what is publicly referred to as a scandalous affair. The fact that the Inquiry has been held demonstrates that in this country persons at even the highest levels of government are accountable for their actions, not only to Parliament but also to the citizenry

Those are strong words, but they are not mine, they are Justice Gomery's. He continues:

There is no reason for the public’s confidence in the integrity of our democratic institutions to be shaken. In the administration of the Sponsorship Program, certain government officials failed to meet the high standards of ethical behaviour that our laws and traditions expect, and political interference in the Program and in the advertising activities of the government resulted in deviations from acceptable standards. The persons responsible for these irregularities have been identified and reproached for their errors and misconduct.

We are not talking about everybody, not about every Liberal, not about all the members in the House. Actually, we are not talking about anyone. Is that strong enough? Justice Gomery continues:

The procedure for uncovering wrongdoing is ponderous and expensive, but in the long run it works fairly well. Canadians should not forget that the vast majority of our public officials and politicians [and he is not saying “except the Liberals”] do their work honestly, diligently and effectively, and emerge from this Inquiry free of any blame.

Those are very strong words from Justice Gomery. If Bloc members want to start laying it on thick and sending out rags filled with innuendo, they have to take full responsibility. They have to talk about Gomery, about what happened and to make sure something like that never happens again. The opposition believes that the Liberal Party simply wants to sweep this under the rug. Our constituents, our loyal supporters, want to be assured that no one will ever point fingers at them. Because that is how they felt.

The Bloc would have me believe that Mr. Tremblay of Gréber boulevard is a crook because he is a Liberal? Come on. These are people with ideals, who believe in a political party that has an absolutely extraordinary history. When people ask me if I am a proud Liberal, I say yes. Am I proud that, from 1996 to 2000, some individuals did some vile things that broke our trust and that of Canadians? Absolutely not.

If certain people want to add even more fuel to the Liberal Party fire, they should read page 435 of the Gomery report. I am surprised because there are a number of lawyers here. Perhaps they have been on the Conservative side too long and they have forgotten how the law works. By trying to lay all the blame on the Liberal Party, they are confusing two separate concepts: the Liberal Party and the advertising agencies. We must consider the legal relationship behind all this.

Furthermore, what did Justice Gomery find the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party of Canada responsible for? The report states:

The LPCQ as an institution cannot escape responsibility for the misconduct of its officers and representatives.

I have enough legal experience, in my previous career, to know that an organization, be it a company, corporation or association, is responsible and has to answer for misconduct by its members.

However, we are not talking about the sponsorship program from a to z , or about some $40 million. We are talking strictly about kickbacks to the party, people using small scams to send money to the party. So, at some point, we need to stop, once again, adding fuel to the fire.

In my opinion, we have heard enough, in the House; the answer is clear. I am not sure how else to say this. However, the Prime Minister and former and current members of cabinet and the Quebec caucus are completely absolved of any wrongdoing. Nor can it be said that they wilfully turned a blind eye, as some people are implying; they had no idea.

Once again, we have to read the report and not only the summary. In this context, as Justice Gomery did, I urge Canadians to read the report. They will find a copy on the Commission's website at www.gomery.ca. I encourage all Canadians, and especially Quebeckers, to read it.

My heart bleeds for the people of Quebec who have heard nothing but horror stories in the last two years. Why? Because the Bloc Québécois has finally found a bone it can chew on. That party knows full well that, whatever it is claims, aside from the sponsorship scandal, it is not here representing the interests of Quebec, but rather promoting the separation of Quebec.

When everything goes wrong, we like to talk about it. In this regard, Quebeckers deserve a bit more. I would say that they were duped with a certain amount of media collusion, because some people like to get carried away.

I think that, at one point, we will have to turn down the volume of the speech-making, sit down and stop generalizing. This is what is dangerous. We sometimes try to paint everyone with the same brush. The answer is generally negative when we privately ask our friends from the Bloc, “Does this mean that you think I am a crook?”

Besides, as we can recall, one of the Bloc members started questioning in the heat of the moment, during our debates in this place, my election in Gatineau. He talked about dirty money. Except that he was required to withdraw those comments, which he did at the earliest opportunity.

At some point, something has to be done. We must move forward and honestly look at what was done to question our way of doing things. I would add that, when talking about the party, Justice Gomery clearly said, once more:

According to evidence presented on behalf of the LPC(Q) reforms to the party’s management and systems make it less likely that such irregularities will reoccur.

We insist on having a code of ethics. Why? Because our reputations are all at stake, not just mine.

I represent the people from Gatineau. Therefore, I want to ensure that these people, who work with all of their heart and who believe their member of Parliament, stop being attacked. Indeed, they are being attacked when people say that the members of the Liberal Party are all corrupt, when they say that federal Liberals must be punished for their corrupt behaviour in the sponsorship scandal. They do not even admit that there can be exceptions, and that is the problem.

I encourage my colleagues in the House. We were able to refer to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs some issues which were quite a bit more difficult than this one.

The question of privilege raised by the member for Bourassa deserves at least to be examined by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. However, I do not know how the committee will be able to do it due to the number of its members in a conflict of interest situation. But this is another story.

I will not read to the members the e-mails I am receiving about the rags being distributed in our constituencies.

However, I know that people who write to me also write to the authors of this trash. It is unfortunate, but my time is up. I will continue some other time.

We need to think it over, because it is costing taxpayers money.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member carefully, and she made some very good points. The result of the scandal has hurt our political system. It has hurt this Parliament. It has hurt the Government of Canada. We cannot deal with this by hiding it and sweeping it under the rug. The way to deal with it is to talk about it, and that is exactly what we should do.

The member has talked about it very selectively. She quoted two parts in the Gomery report which are somewhat favourable to her party. The rest of the report is very damning to the Liberal Party.

To fix this system, the Liberal Party has to start from scratch and build a brand new political party. That has been necessary from time to time in the history of our country. This is the time. The Gomery report has put the nail in the coffin of the Liberal Party. I hope the member will seriously consider taking that action. It will take some time, but it is worth doing.

I am the first to acknowledge that throughout the past 100 years the Liberal Party has provided periods of good government. However, the last 12 years cannot be included in that period. That party needs to be replaced. I hope the building process will take place.

The Gomery report is extremely damning. The member is nodding, so I guess she knows the damage that has been done. Where do we go from here?

Today the leader of the Conservative Party put out his proposed federal accountability act, which would be the first piece of legislation passed by a Conservative government. There are four main points in the proposed legislation. I do not know whether the member has read the information, but if she has and if she is still here after the next election, would she support and vote for the proposed federal accountability act?

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for what I consider a generally well thought out question. I would like to be able to answer some of his comments.

Where I do not agree with him, however, is his statement that everything has to be virtually torn down and started again from scratch. I would like to send a message to the Canadians who are listening to us just about everywhere. As Justice Gomery stated so aptly, the bulk of our elected representatives, the people who have committed to public life, and our public servants, are good people. They are honest and hard-working.

What bothers me the most is that this notion, wrong though it is, does not merely affect the member for Gatineau, but nearly all of us in this place. This is unfortunate. It also affects all those who might be interested in entering politics. Our young people are disillusioned. They might have been interested in getting involved in politics, but are less interested after seeing all this. Women will be affected the same way.

I would like the hon. member to know that we do not need to start all over from scratch, because there is still a lot of good within this party. Given the steps that have been taken by the government, the Gomery findings, the steps taken by the President of the Treasury Board, by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and by the cabinet as a whole, and given all the government initiatives, something can be done.

Not done overnight. I have never claimed that it could. I am one of those who feel some work is needed to restore people's confidence in politics, and even in the party. I am sure the truth will out, however.

As for the member's question relating to the bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition, I am in favour of anything that will improve the job we have to do. Unfortunately, for many of those who are listening to us, political party financing is often where the problem lies.

I myself have no worries. Everything done in my riding is done in an extremely open way. We even report $25 donations, which we do not have to do. I do not want anything at all to make people suspicious.

However, I would like to say the following in response to the member's question. I tend to want to support measures that build taxpayer confidence in our system. That is extremely important. I consider it much more important than this sort of question and appreciate it.

If this is to be debated, it is the sort of debate we should have now, in the wake of the events concerning the sponsorships. That is what we should do as responsible individuals. We are supposed to be political leaders. We wonder why we are so low in the polls across Canada. It may not bother the people here in the House, but it bothers me. I find this one of the most noble of activities, not because it has privileges, but because people place their trust in us. When the relationship of trust is broken or one of us breaks it, we all feel the impact.

This is unfortunate, because our country has one of the most open and extraordinary systems of democracy. When I see one party trying to destroy it and break up the Canadian federation, it breaks my heart. We have a worldwide reputation.

It has been said in this House that we dropped down the ladder of corruption, for example. We are ahead of the United States and France. France is very popular with the Bloc. We should be proud of that. However, we can and must do better.

Thankfully, we are not into partisan politics. The Chair ruled this to be a prima facie question of privilege. In this context, for it to be sent to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. We cannot hijack Parliament—an expression everyone will understand—for partisan debates again.

I personally have had my fill of it.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have question for my colleague. She mentioned she was a lawyer, like many members in the House. Lawyers play an important role according to her since they often have to interpret the law.

We will have to go back the Gomery report and I will refer the members to the same page she did, so we should all be there fairly quickly. I will read the same paragraph, but in its entirety:

The LPCQ as an institution cannot escape responsibility for the misconduct of its officers and representatives. Two successive Executive Directors were directly involved in illegal campaign financing, and many of its workers accepted cash payments for their services when they should have known that such payments were in violation of the Canada Elections Act.

My colleague practised law for a long time. In her view, whether one carries, delivers or receives money, isn't it all the same thing, especially if it is dirty money, like Marc-Yvan Côté pointed out? So why are the Liberals acting as both judge and jury and why are they not telling us the names of the eight or ten candidates who received dirty money from Mr. Marc-Yvan Côté?

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, we keep hearing the same question; the Bloc Québécois is capitalizing on it in the media. The answer is very simple. In fact, receiving dirty money is as bad as funnelling it. There is no doubt about that. Nobody in this party is arguing that.

Now, let us put aside the innuendoes. There have been a lot of them once again. Even the Bloc leader has suggested that some people here may have been involved. Of course, they cannot say such a thing outside the House. Unfortunately, we do not have any names to submit to the Bloc Québécois for this.

However, I will refresh the memory of my colleagues from the Bloc and all members in this House. What did the Prime Minister do after the Gomery report was made public? He gave a copy of it to the RCMP. What does that mean?

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Members can make fun of the RCMP, but I do not laugh at an institution that enforces our laws and regulations.

Maybe certain people received money illegally without knowing where it came from. There will be an investigation.

The Bloc should stop laying it on thick and accusing everybody because, in so doing, they are attacking the reputation of others.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the Chair that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. She will have the opportunity to make her comments in a few moments.

I want to discuss the motion presented by my colleague, the hon. member for Bourassa, and express my outrage and disgust following what was done to him and to some other colleagues of mine.

When I was elected, in June 2004, it was for the purpose of working to improve the well-being of my fellow citizens. It was certainly not to adversely affect it. I remember, in 1998, when I was elected city councillor in my hometown for the first time, watching MPs and politicians in general, and telling myself that more needed to be done to gain respect. We must show Canadians what we have to do to earn its respect.

Members of Parliament, like officials from all levels of government, are in office to serve the public. We are here to ensure that what we do is for its well-being. One thing is sure: denigrating others will not make us automatically look better. The role of an MP is to work to improve things. We should not hit each other on the head, thinking this will improve our image and help us do better come the next election. That is definitely not how Canadians and Quebeckers see things. Later on, if I have the opportunity to do so, I will explain my position clearly by showing that Quebeckers do not think like that.

We have to look at the situation and show respect for our institution, the Canadian Parliament, but, more importantly, we must show respect towards each other. There are two very important aspects. The first one has to do with Canadians. If we look at the national polls, if we listen to the comments made by the public about politicians, we see evidence of cynicism. I think it is largely because of us, politicians, if Canadians have a problem of sorts.

When I ran in the 2004 election, it was to improve Parliament, to show the Canadian people that we were capable of working for them and of being honest. Certain members of the House are having some difficulty.

When we look at these leaflets that were widely distributed, it is easy to say, as certain members have mentioned, that asterisks are used to refer readers to explanations. You know as well as I do that when we buy an insurance policy or get a mortgage, there are often notes or asterisks that refer us to some other section. We all know that most people will not read these explanations. We are not much different from one another. That is what we will do.

However, doubt is put in the people's mind. Was that done in a spirit of malfeasance or really for the improvement of the politicians of Canada? This is what we must ask ourselves. That issue must be cleared because we cannot continue to create situations such as these forever and ever.

These leaflets were not distributed in my riding. I am convinced that the members of the Bloc Québécois will certainly not send leaflets to New Brunswick. However, if they do, I will say clearly that I do not believe that they should do it. All they want to do is sow doubt in the minds of Canadians. A doubt is not the same thing as reality or the truth.

We must be extremely careful with this. I have always said that the problem is not necessarily a matter of conflict of interest, but rather of what is perceived as a conflict. Sowing doubt in people's mind may hurt those who defend the interests of Canadians, including the 308 members of the House of Commons.

I was talking earlier about respect and I must say that, when I was elected, I said to the people who were working around me and to my constituents that, what they see on television is not very edifying. People look at the politicians in the House of Commons. I was looking at them before I was elected. Before and after the election, voters, my friends and constituents told me that the debates in the House of Commons were certainly not the best way to enhance the image of a federal member of Parliament.

When people from my riding come here, I always wonder if they really deserve to see what is going on in the House. When a member asks a question, he certainly wants an answer. I am pleased now to be able to make my speech and to express my opinion without any noise in the House. This is important, but it is not always the case. It clearly shows people that the most important thing is respect toward other politicians. I just made the comment and already I hear voices getting louder. Hopefully at least some members present try to do things the right way. When they express their opinion, they express it and, when others express their opinion, they listen. I wanted to point out this important fact.

When our constituents come here to see our debates and question period, they are certainly not going home with a good impression. As federal members of Parliament we must show respect. Respect must be reveal itself through what happens not only in the House, but also in our ridings. The image of federal members of Parliament or of the Canadian institution that the House of Commons is cannot be restored with negative messages. We are all here with the same objective, which is to move things forward for our fellow citizens. I can never insist enough on that. We are here to make positive things happen and to improve the quality of life of Canadians. No more, no less. That is what is really important to us.

In 1998, the second time I was elected as a city councillor, I put that into practice to show people how important respect is for a politician, even at the municipal level. I had to be a model of respect for the population of my community. That is how we can be sure to make things happen. One thing that is clear in this whole issue of propaganda—perhaps that is not a strong enough word for it— is that during elections, candidates are entitled to say their opponent's vision is right or wrong. They can explain their position on the issue and put their own vision forward. The pamphlet that was sent out is certainly not a way to advance things. And neither is sowing the seeds of doubt in the public mind.

I could go on all day long, but I will conclude to allow my colleague from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine to speak. The act of using our privileges and the taxpayers' money to disseminate propaganda in random ridings, with the goal of questioning the credibility of some of my colleagues is unacceptable. I think that is something our friends from the Bloc should be aware of in future.

It is important to have a conscience, we all know that. It is also important that parliamentarians and elected officials be respected. However, one must not forget that they have been elected by the population. Respect is a two-way street in the House. Attacking the integrity of individuals will in no way improve our image or enhance our value.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, during the 12 years I have been here, there has been the HRDC scandal, the tainted blood scandal, the pepper spray scandal, Pearson airport, Airbus, the sponsorship program, Dingwall, Ouellet, stripper scandals, scandal after scandal. The Liberal government has a real problem in its family in preventing these scandals. The Liberals are getting completely out of hand.

Now there is this householder issue. All those other scandals are usually triggered by lies and fraud and theft. I have a little trouble with French, so I would like the member to tell me what is in the householder that is not true. Is there fraud? Are there lies? Is there theft? If not, why are we raising such a fuss?

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the member for Wild Rose for his question. We are not trying to hide the truth or to set anything aside.

I can, however, tell you something that will shed some light with regards to my colleague's question. We must not always be finger-pointing or trying to identify the problems or the situations caused by so and so. We could do the same thing with what happened before 1993. I am convinced that the member would have an interesting time trying to explain some situations from that period.

We must bear one thing in mind. In this case, we had a government and, better yet, a prime minister who decided to get to the bottom of things. We can therefore ask ourselves who set up the judicial commission of inquiry to clarify the situation that came about following the sponsorship program. The three opposition parties did not set this up. We did and we did it for a simple reason: we wanted to get to the bottom of things to find out what happened in some programs. We had the courage to move things forward.

Some things occurred that may have been negative or perhaps should not have happened, but we have to move on, find solutions and improve things for the future. That is how we will advance Canadian society. It is certainly not by pointing the finger at anyone that we will resolve the situation or improve life for Canadians.

As far the use of this householder is concerned, I have a hard time explaining the situation. I use my householders, my 10 percenters to inform the public on important matters, the achievements I have made on behalf of my constituents. I also use them to inform Canadians on all the good things going on in the Canadian government, things that they should know, and to explain them.

You have no idea how happy the people in my riding are to be informed. It is not always easy for the public. If I am sending out a householder, I think about it first.

A householder like this contains no information, which begs the question. Are the Bloc Québécois members really able to do anything positive for their constituents? Are they able to inform the public on concrete things that are important to them? The answer is no.

As I was saying earlier, the only purpose of a householder like this is to put someone down in order to make oneself look good. It is a cheap shot. This is certainly not the way to engage in proactive politics to advance matters for your constituents.

In this situation, including certain things in a householder instils doubt in the reader and we certainly do not expect the reader to think this does not hurt anyone. No way. This householder harms the reputation of members of the House. I certainly would not accept that in my riding, nor do I accept it in the ridings of my colleagues.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the debate so far about the motion brought forward by the member for Bourassa who, like me, is a member of the Liberal Party Quebec caucus.

I heard a lot of innuendo and a lot of conclusions. Some opposition members claim that their conclusions are the same as Justice Gomery's. In reality, they are making up their own summary of Justice Gomery's report.

I will quote only what Justice Gomery says in his report. I will start by reading the second paragraph on page xx of the preface:

One of the disadvantages of a public inquiry is that it may seem that justice has been done. This perception is misleading for the reason I have just given, and also for another reason: the dramatic revelations at public inquiries and the media attention given to them tend to distort reality and to make the misconduct that the inquiry uncovers appear to be more widespread than it really was. I fear that that has occurred in this case.

Because of the sensational nature of some of the evidence presented at the Commission’s hearings, the publicity given to it, and the political context in which the Inquiry took place, the impression may have been created that in Canada the administration of public affairs by the federal government is generally careless, incompetent, and motivated by improper considerations. People may also be persuaded that the persons involved in Canadian political life are inspired by improper motives, and unscrupulous.

Let me suggest that the Inquiry proves the contrary. Without diminishing the importance of the findings of impropriety and wrongdoing in the Report, the evidence presented reveals that, in general, the administration of government programs by the federal bureaucracy is competent and praiseworthy, a conclusion that has been emphasized by the Auditor General herself.

There is no reason for the public’s confidence in the integrity of our democratic institutions to be shaken....Canadians should not forget that the vast majority of our public officials and politicians do their work honestly, diligently and effectively, and emerge from this Inquiry free of any blame.

I will now quote the last two paragraphs on page 4 of the report itself:

Public hearings took place commencing in Ottawa on September 7, 2004, for approximately six months and continuing in Montreal until June 17, 2005. One hundred seventy-two witnesses were heard, some of them for several days and some on more than one occasion, over a total of 136 hearing days. A list of witnesses who testified is attached as Appendix D.

Ordinarily the deliberations of Cabinet are secret and privileged, but the government of Canada agreed to waive this privilege by two orders in council which permitted a full inquiry to be made of the question of how certain decisions were reached when the Sponsorship Program was first conceived.

I turn now to page 9. In the second paragraph, the judge says:

Just as it is important to identify persons who failed to fulfill their responsibilities or who might have been guilty of misconduct, it is equally important in this report to identify persons who, on the basis of the evidence, are innocent of any misconduct or mismanagement. Such persons who, in the publicity surrounding the Commission or elsewhere, might have been accused or suspected of improprieties, are entitled to have any blemishes to their reputations explained or removed.

I will now go to page 47 where Justice Gomery reports on the implementation of the federal budget and the responsibilities of a finance minister and draws relevant conclusions. The last paragraph on this page states that:

The minister of Finance is responsible for preparing the federal budget. This is the minister's primary responsibility, although he or she is also charged with developing tax and tariff policy and legislation; managing federal borrowing on financial markets; administering major federal funding and transfers to provinces and territories; developing regulatory policy for the country's financial sector; and representing Canada at international financial institutions.

On page 48, it states:

With respect to the Budget, the Minister of Finance is responsible for establishing the fiscal framework within which overall government spending takes place. He or she is, by tradition, the Vice-President of the Treasury Board. However, by custom the Minister of Finance does not attend Treasury Board meetings except when the President of the Treasury Board is unable to attend or when a matter to be discussed by Treasury Board is of special concern to the Department of Finance.

Once the fiscal framework is set, departments are responsible for the management of the expenditures allocated to them, although Treasury Board has its general oversight role. The Department of Finance and its Minister do not play a role in the oversight of expenditures made by other departments.

This is from the part of Justice Gomery's report dealing with responsibilities. He is talking about other ministers' responsibilities:

On the evidence there is no basis for attributing blame or responsibility for the maladministration of the Sponsorship Program to any other Minister of the Chrétien Cabinet, since they, like all Members of Parliament, were not informed of the initiatives being authorized by Mr. Pelletier, and their funding from the Unity Reserve. [The Prime Minister], whose role as Finance Minister did not involve him in the supervision of spending by the PMO or PWGSC, is entitled, like other Ministers in the Quebec caucus, to be exonerated from any blame for carelessness or misconduct. Ministers are not responsible for what they do not know about the actions and decisions of the PMO or other Ministers, or about the administration of departments other than their own. Sponsored events that took place in a Member’s riding, or that may have been supported or advocated by the riding association, do not create a presumption that the MP in question was familiar with the Sponsorship Program as a whole.

As I have one minute left, I will quote from page 435, concerning the responsibility of the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party of Canada:

The persons who accepted contributions in cash and other improper benefits from Mr. Corriveau and Mr. Brault on behalf of the LPCQ have brought dishonour upon themselves and the political party they were supposed to serve... They disregarded the relevant laws governing donations to political parties—

Moving now to the last paragraph:

According to evidence presented on behalf of the LPCQ, reforms to the party’s management and systems make it less likely that such irregularities will reoccur.

The key point to remember is that Justice Gomery started off his presentation by saying that his responsibility was to find the facts and, on the basis of these facts, to decide on the responsibility of each person alleged to have responsibility, as well as to exonerate from any blame those persons who might have been suspected of participating in or having committed wrongdoings, which are potentially criminal acts. In fact, some of these acts are, since one person has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced.

In closing, I would just ask that the members in this House who wish to take part in the debate on the motion stick to the Gomery report.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, one could think by the comments made by my colleague opposite that she has yet to read the whole Gomery report. She has trouble quoting some excerpts. I would have assumed that a Liberal member would have rushed to read the whole thing. Here is how they go about it in the House since the tabling of the report: they quote short paragraphs to justify the sponsorship scandal. I have one simple question for the member. Did she take the time to go through all three parts of the Gomery report?

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, the first thing a person with legal training learns in law school is that at a trial, one should never ask a question if one does not know the answer. There is no doubt that the member opposite will not be happy with my response.

I read the Gomery report in full, in English and in French. I would not dare comment on his report or quote excerpts without knowing that it is well presented or being sure that I was not distorting his statements or conclusions, contrary to Bloc members who unabashedly put conclusions and so-called facts in Justice Gomery's mouth. This is why I went out of my way not to add a single personal word. I have merely read out excerpts from the report. The only time I was forced to use my own words was when the name of the former Minister of Finance, who is the current Prime Minister, appeared in the quote I was reading aloud. I then had to use instead the name of his riding, LaSalle—Emard, and his current title, that of Prime Minister of Canada.

In the few minutes I had, I tried, not doubt successfully because the Bloc seems bothered by my remarks, to read some excerpts from the report, but I would have read the entire thing if I had had the time. The Bloc is certainly not going to inform and educate Quebeckers and Canadians about Justice Gomery's findings. As proof: the householder that at least 26 of them shamelessly mailed to their constituents and perhaps even to other ridings, in which they insinuate that some members of the Quebec Liberal caucus who are now or who were ministers should be condemned for having taken part in irregular and even illegal funding activities.

Justice Gomery himself heard from 172 witnesses, presided over 136 days of hearings and read thousands of pages of documentary evidence. The Bloc did not do this and did not even bother to wait for the report. It showed just how much it dislikes Quebeckers who do not share its vision of society, a vision that excludes anyone that does not share its opinion. The Bloc members sent their householder even before the Gomery report was released. No one who has taken part in this debate has had the courage to mention this point yet.

The Bloc members claim that their householder is based on the Gomery report, but the only way they could have done that is by having a spy, either at the printer's or even Justice Gomery's office, tell them what was in the report. They did not. So they acted before the report, thereby showing their disdain for a judge respected by Canadians from coast to coast and particularly by Quebeckers.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to determine the sensitivity of government members to the mailout. We have asked questions, and I suddenly understand where they are coming from.

There was a political scandal involving the Devine administration in the province of Saskatchewan in the 1980s. People were convicted of fraud. However, a lot of members of that administration were innocent. They did not partake in it. They were legitimately innocent, and I have always had a good deal of sympathy for them.

What do we have with Judge Gomery's finding? We have a criminal conspiracy. He outlined the accomplices, Corriveau, Pelletier and others. Who was the principal in this criminal conspiracy? To whom did Gomery point as the inner core of this conspiracy that defrauded Canadians of $100 million? It was the Liberal Party of Canada.

I am sure there are members of the Liberal Party of Canada who did not partake in this conspiracy. They were out of the loop. They were sleeping at cabinet meetings when it was discussed. They had their heads stuck in the sand. They feel they are innocent. I can understand that. My parents always told me to be careful because I would be judged by the people and the organizations I associated with.

I have the greatest of sympathy for innocent members of the Liberal Party who are going to have their political careers destroyed by this scandal. There will be many of them. Their political careers are going to be over. I am certain that has happened in Quebec. I see a lot of people from Quebec fighting for their political lives. I can understand that. They are in a lot of trouble.

I want to bring this topic back to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We should be debating this from a charter standpoint. Even before there was a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Supreme Court said that the essence of a democracy was freedom of speech. That is the bedrock foundation of a democracy and the democratic process. Those two principles are embedded right in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Freedom of expression is a fundamental freedom. It is not a secondary freedom.

I heard the Prime Minister say that he would never permit his Liberal government to take away charter rights from any Canadian citizen. I have heard him say that in the House numerous times. What are we doing here today? Through their motion, Liberal members are trying to muzzle a party in Quebec from communicating the contents of the Gomery report to the citizens of Quebec. I can understand why Liberal members in Quebec do not want the contents to be communicated to Quebeckers. It is making them nervous and it is very unsettling, but it is freedom of speech. The Bloc has a perfect right to communicate the contents of the Gomery report.

I want to bring to the forefront another bit of hypocrisy that took place in the House today and which pertains to the same issue.

The Minister of Public Works today--

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I draw the Chair's attention and the member's attention to page 127 of Marleau and Montpetit where it states:

Members are subject to the rules of relevance and repetition and the Speaker must ensure that the debate is focussed on the terms of the motion.

We have not risen to talk about relevance, but that certainly has nothing to do with the privilege motion.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:20 p.m.

An hon. member

What was the last discussion about?

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Yes, it was really relevant.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order. I wish to thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for her comments. The hon. member for Prince Albert has sufficient experience in the House and I am sure he will get to the gist of his point momentarily.

The hon. member for Prince Albert.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, the real issue with this entire debate is our fundamental freedom of expression. That cuts a wide swath on this debate, I am sorry to say. We are talking about freedom of expression of members of Parliament and that covers a lot. If members across want to muzzle and shut people up on freedom of expression, they are welcome to do it, but I am not prepared to take charter rights away from people in the House.

I will give just a bit of a refresher course. The government passed an election act stating that during the election period third parties cannot participate in election campaigns, a very important charter issue.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. We have seven minutes remaining. We have been successful 99.9% of the time in this debate today to respect the decorum of the House. I would greatly appreciate it if we could continue to do that for seven minutes prior to the adjournment of the House. I will ask the hon. member to please continue with his speech. We will have an opportunity to discuss rights and decisions of the Supreme Court at another time.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, what happened at that time? Different organizations in this country took it upon themselves to challenge under the charter what they saw as being a legitimate interference with the democratic process and freedom of speech of Canadians during a political election.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am a little concerned that the decision taken by the Speaker that there was an infringement of the hon. member's rights would be contradicted by the member saying that it is contrary to the charter to restrict him.

On top of that, the member has suggested--

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I thank the hon. member for Mississauga South, first, for raising this, but may I suggest that this would be much more of a point of debate than a point of order. We now have five minutes left and it could be five points of order being called or it could be five minutes of debate by the hon. member for Prince Albert without provoking anybody else.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, to make this story rather short, an advocacy group, not a lobbyist group, and there is a big distinction, took this matter to court. The Alberta Court of Appeal unanimously agreed that the Canada Elections Act infringed fundamental rights and freedoms. It then went on to the Supreme Court where it became a major case. That was a very important case because it helped to define the limits of freedom of speech and our political freedoms in this country. It might be the landmark decision in this country.

For people to label them as a bunch of lawbreakers, I find that contemptuous of not only the people involved in that organization but contemptuous of the whole concept of political freedom and freedom of expression in this country. I find the whole thing a massive distortion and an insult to the intelligent people here. To label that organization as a lobbyist organization is totally without foundation. It is ridiculous.

In fact, I would not be surprised if the person who made that accusation had been a member of that organization at one time.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. Would the hon. member explain very briefly how this is really relevant to the subject on hand today? I had assumed that your experience in the House was bringing you very rapidly to the question and I understand that the quickly has now arrived.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear. The gist of the concern of the government members is somebody is bringing excerpts of the Gomery inquiry into the households of Quebec people. Bits and pieces have been taken from it and put into a householder, and the government is very upset about that.

The main part of the Gomery inquiry is what principal party was in this massive conspiracy to steal $100 million from Canadians? Put up your hands on the other side. You guys know what the answer is.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. My speakers are in good functioning order. I understood that you were asking me to raise my hand if I was involved. You will not be surprised that I did not raise my hand. May I remind the hon. member to address his comments through the Chair, please.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Sorry, Mr. Speaker. The right thing that these members could do today is stand in the House and say, “We are Liberals”. Jean Chrétien said “a Liberal is a Liberal is a Liberal”. Assume responsibility for this criminal conspiracy. The best thing you could do for Canada is to tell Canadians “I'm sorry--

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. May I remind the hon. member again that his comments have to be through the Chair, please. If you could control your emotions, you only have one minute left in the debate today, and that goes fast.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, let us go to Enron and WorldCom and use that by analogy.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

2:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. The member will have six minutes remaining at the next sitting of the House.

Having reached the expiry of the time provided for today's debate, the House will resume consideration on the privilege motion at 11 a.m. on Monday, November 14.

I wish to inform the House that, pursuant to Standing Order 94, private members' hour will be suspended.

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until Monday, November 14, at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)