House of Commons Hansard #105 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was care.

Topics

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place among all parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding the order made on November 2, 2004, the Standing Committee on Finance be authorized to present its report on the study of fiscal imbalance by Friday, June 17, 2005, instead of Thursday, June 2, 2005.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Supply
Government Orders

May 31st, 2005 / 4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to the motion put forward by the Conservative Party on the Gomery terms of reference. This commission is becoming a pivotal issue in Canadian political history. Its implications are far wider than we can imagine, as are the implications of its findings and its report. We have seen the Prime Minister on television pleading with Canadians to let the Gomery commission do its work before he calls an election, so a lot of things hinge on this.

What is of more importance about this commission is that Canadians are angry. For the first time, Canadians have seen the biggest political scandal in the history of this country. Everywhere we go, we see that Canadians are angry. They have put their trust in the government. They said, “Here are our tax dollars”. They expect us to use common sense and fiscal responsibility in spending their money. What has happened is that their trust was completely shattered and absolutely broken.

But it took the Auditor General to point it out. The Auditor General said there was something seriously wrong. The trust that Canadians have put in government has been broken, battered and abused, as we have seen. Of course, then what did the Liberals do? They needed to protect themselves, so they called the commission because that trust was broken by the Liberal government, by the governing party.

Day after day in front of the commission, as I have stated, we see Liberals coming in and talking about how money was misused for their personal use, for gain for their party. Every day it is not a good picture for Canada, which prides itself on having a transparent system. The transparent system was broken and it was broken by the Liberals sitting on the other side and their friends out there.

What is amazing, as we can see from the reports coming in, is that this was done in election 2000. I was part of election 2000. Never could I have imagined that taxpayers' money would be used for personal gain by that party, that it would be used to gain votes. What is coming out at the commission is unbelievable.

There is anger out there and the Liberal Party knows it. The Liberals know that something rotten happened. They know that something wrong happened.

It is amazing. I am talking about election 2000. How many members sitting on the other side are from election 2000? They get up and pretend that this was something from the distant past, that these are new faces and they do not have anything to do with the past.

So we have the commission. We have heard what the Prime Minister says when he gets up. Of course, day after day the public works minister, a new face because the old face is gone, says quite simply, “Let us wait for the Gomery inquiry”.

Yet the Prime Minister had no problem firing the former public works minister when he was our ambassador to Denmark. It did not take him long. It begs the question: why did he fire him? Obviously the Liberals knew something was wrong. We saw them fire the CEO, Mr. Pelletier. Why?

So actions have already been taken which the Liberal Party knows are pointing a finger at them about what was rotten and what went wrong. Canadians want to know. First, through the commission they want to know how. Then they want to know why this happened. We all know why it happened. It is not a big secret.

They want to know how. Through the hearings of the commission we are finding out how it happened. They also want to know who is responsible and who will take the blame? That is the crux of the motion we are debating. As has been stated, the government in clause (k) in the terms of reference has said, “without expressing any conclusion or recommendation regarding the civil or criminal liability of any person or organization”.

That says it quite clearly that the Gomery commission cannot point out who was responsible. That big question will remain. If the Gomery commission is let go without answering that question, Canadians will have no confidence in the political system of the country. We have to gain back the trust in this institution. We are held responsible for the use of taxpayer moneys. As I stated before, that trust has been broken.

All we are asking for is that Justice Gomery be allowed to name names and assign responsibility. Subsequently, the RCMP and other enforcement agencies can pick up whatever evidence comes out of that. It is important that Canadians know.

We all know it was the Liberal Party. It was under its rule. The Liberals are the ones who benefited the most. Therefore, it is not the issue who is responsible. We know it is them. We want to know who did not fulfill the responsibility of his or her job. We want to know people ultimately will be held responsible.

I will be sharing my time, Mr. Speaker, with my colleague, the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.

Back to the main subject and that is the political landscape has changed. We now have a minority situation and hopefully we will not in the next election. We will throw those guys out hopefully and we will take over. We are telling Canadians that we will bring responsibility and transparency. One of the platforms we are looking at is giving more resources to the Auditor General to ensure that Canadians feel that their tax dollars are being spent wisely by the government.

Canadians are law-abiding citizens. They do not mind paying taxes. Ours is an honour system. We ask Canadians to be truthful about how much money they earn. Then we tell them how much they need to pay so we can run the government responsibly. Canadians agree to that. Yet when that trust is shattered, they must be made aware of the answers.

It is absolutely necessary and important that we know the commission can say who was responsible for this. That is what the motion states. I know the members of the Liberal Party will not support the motion because they are on the hot seat.

Supply
Government Orders

5 p.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Liberal

Walt Lastewka Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, when the Gomery commission began, Justice Gomery repeated very clearly in his opening remarks that:

I am entitled to draw conclusions as to whether there has been misconduct and who may be responsible for it.

In fact, he used an example:

--whether there was political influence involved in the activities and, if so, by whom, to what purpose, and to what effect...whether any person or organization in the Government of Canada gained an advantage financially, politically or otherwise from the activities and, if so who, to what purpose, and to what effect;

I understand the NDP gets it. I understand the Bloc gets it. The members of the government on this side get it. I have a hard time to understand why the member and his party do not get it.

Did the member not read or not hear what Justice Gomery said very clearly?

Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, precisely, he just said it, so why is he having difficulty supporting this motion? This is exactly the motion. You should be supporting it.

Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I could just encourage the member to address his comments through the Chair.

Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, again I am asking the hon. member this. He said fine, so why is he having difficulty supporting this motion? If he thinks that what Gomery has said has been done, then he should support it. Why are the Liberals standing now saying that they cannot support the motion, using all kinds of excuses?

However, to continue on this, he said that such findings would be the focus of an inquiry only to the extent that they would be necessary to carry out the mandate in the terms of reference. The reference that is there does not allow that to happen.

Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, at this juncture I believe it is important to read the precise wording of the motion before us. The reason for that is most Canadians I talk to are absolutely unaware that Mr. Gomery is so restricted in terms of what he may or may not come up with in the process of his inquiry. The motion states:

That this House call on the Government to amend section (k) of the Gomery Commission's terms of reference to allow the Commissioner to name names and assign responsibility.

It is quite amazing. Most Canadians are absolutely shocked at all the money, time, witnesses, effort and energy going into this commission and at the end of the day, Mr. Gomery is not going to be allowed by law, by the terms of reference of the commission, to assess responsibility.

I challenge any of the Liberal members opposite to go for a walk with me after I am finished my remarks. I will buy them coffee. We will go for a walk down the street, stop people and ask, “Are you aware that Mr. Gomery is not allowed to name names or to say at the end of the investigation where the responsibility lies?” I will guarantee that 9 out of 10 citizens on the street will say that we have to be kidding and ask us why we are doing this.

Liberal MPs are saying that Mr. Gomery said this or Mr. Gomery said that. Judge Gomery has all the right intentions and a huge task before him. I do not diminish that one bit. In fact, clause (k) of the Gomery commission states:

the Commissioner be directed to perform his duties without expressing any conclusion or recommendation regarding the civil or criminal liability of any person or organization...

I find that is amazing. I again challenge any of the MPs to come with me. I will guarantee that 9 out of 10 Canadians do not know that at the end of this multi-million dollar commission Justice Gomery cannot assign responsibility or even suggest who is responsible.

I think well intended citizens will ask us what the point is. That is what the Conservatives are asking, what is the point? The Liberal government has used these tactics before with similar commissions. The Krever commission on tainted blood, the Somalia commission and the APEC commission all went the same way. It is a deliberate method to tire Canadians, to get them so afflicted with scandal fatigue that they will be glad the thing is over.

Too much has gone on to allow people who are responsible to escape being held responsible. This is not us, it is the Auditor General who has said that this is the biggest financial scandal in the history of the country.

Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

An hon. member

Hardly.

Supply
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Somebody over there just said hardly. Members over there can question the Auditor General if they want, but that is what she said. This shows how the Liberals so diminish this tragedy in their own minds by saying that it is hardly a problem. I can remember the former prime minister saying that it was a few million dollars and that people were going to steal a few million dollars. Just a few million is absolutely unacceptable and we are into the tens of millions, possibly the hundreds of millions.

Judging from the types of questions we are hearing from the Liberal MPs, this is a wonderful opportunity for them to actually show their sincerity. If they are saying it is no big deal, then support the motion. If they re saying they want to see people held responsible for this, we want them to be named. If they are saying that is what they want, then they should support it.

One member of Parliament said this is frivolous. I invite the Liberal members of Parliament to come out on the street with me right now and ask people on the street who are footing the bill. Ask them if they think it is frivolous the opposition to simply ask that Mr. Gomery be allowed to name names and assign responsibility. I would challenge any one of them over there to come with me as soon as we are finished. They are shaking their heads and saying no, they do not want to do that. They do not want to face the people. That is all the motion is asking. It is not frivolous and is not something to be laughed at. It is very simple.

If the Liberal MPs are sincere, if the commission is not set up as a giant smokescreen and they want to demonstrate that to the people of Canada, they simply have to vote with us to allow Justice Gomery to name names. It deserves to be mentioned.

I was a former finance minister who sat with other finance ministers around the finance ministers' table with the present Prime Minister when he was finance minister. He knew every single provincial fund we talked about when we were asking for money for health care, post-secondary education and some of the environmental issues related to Kyoto. When he said no to all of those things, he could quote the name, the number, the chapter and the verse of why that money could not be sent. He knew every fund and if he did not have it right at his fingertips, he had officials sitting with him. He could snap his fingers and they knew where every dollar was. They said they had turned over everything and they could not find the money for health care.

Members will recall that is how he reduced the deficit. He slashed the health care transfer to the provinces overnight without warning by 34% and it was gone. He knew where every dollar was and why he could not give money to the provinces. He knew every fund and now he says that for 10 years, as he sat as finance minister, he had no idea where hundreds of millions of dollars were being blown out the door. Sheila Fraser found out and discovered the biggest financial scandal in the history of the country.

We had a federal finance minister who is now the Prime Minister saying he knew nothing. There is responsibility to be assigned and if responsibility is not assigned as this process unfolds and unrolls, and nobody is brought to task, nobody stands up, and nobody steps up and takes responsibility, government MPs on that side will never fear the voters again. The types of people who would rob from taxpayers, rob from Paul to pay whoever else they want to pay, they will never fear a commission again. They will never fear the law. They will never fear the RCMP. If people get away with this, there will be no fear for those who want to steal from taxpayers again.

We are asking the Liberal MPs to show their sincerity, simply vote with us and support the motion. That is all we ask.

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 5:15 p.m. it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.