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 gomery.

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Commissioner of Official Languages

May 31st, 2005 / 10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I have the honour pursuant to section 66 of the Official Languages Act to lay upon the table the annual report of the Commissioner of Official Languages, in both official languages, covering the period from April 1, 2004 to March 31, 2005.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)( f ), this report is deemed to have been permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

Canada Foundation for Sustainable Development Technology
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.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 2004 corporate plan summary of the Canada Foundation for Sustainable Development Technology.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on the United Nations oil for food scandal investigation.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 12th report of the Standing Committee on Health. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and a motion adopted by the committee on Thursday, May 19, your committee recommends that Health Canada initiate a campaign to ensure compliance with the Tobacco Act.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. The committee has studied the supplementary estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006, and has agreed to report them without amendment.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition with respect to an organization called STAND Canada, Students Taking Action Now: Darfur. Between March 16 and April 7 they put together signatures from universities across the country and from various high school campuses as well. The petitioners call upon Canada and the Government of Canada to take a leadership role in Darfur by broadening the AU mandate, gathering international support for the African Union, bringing criminals to justice at the ICC, and considering intervention with like-minded states.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of a number of Canadians, including petitioners from my own riding of Mississauga South, on the subject matter of marriage. The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that the majority of Canadians believe that the fundamental matters of social policy should be decided by elected members of Parliament and not by the unelected judiciary.

The petitioners also wish to point out that it is the duty of Parliament to ensure that marriage is defined as Canadians wish it to be defined. Therefore, the petitioners would like to call upon Parliament to use all possible administrative and legislative means, including the invocation of section 33 of the charter, commonly known as the notwithstanding clause, to preserve and protect the current definition of marriage as being the legal union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

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

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

moved:

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.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster.

I am pleased to rise today to speak to our first Conservative opposition day motion in what is coming up to a couple of months now. Although we would have liked to have had one sooner, I can assure the House that we are here to work, to ensure that democracy is upheld and to continue to do the business of the House.

I would like to read for members the motion that would change section (k) of the Gomery commission's terms of reference:

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.

For the benefit of those who are not familiar with section (k) of the Gomery commission's terms of reference, the current wording 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 and to ensure that the conduct of the inquiry does not jeopardize any ongoing criminal investigation or criminal proceedings;....

Because of the current wording, there is some ambiguity about whether Justice Gomery has the ability to name names or organizations responsible for the ad scam.

We want to make it absolutely crystal clear so that there is no ambiguity. We want to ensure that he can deliver a report on what went wrong in terms of process, but more important, recommend changes and also ensure that if there are people who should be further investigated this will be done. It is critically important that at the conclusion of Justice Gomery's commission people are held to account and will suffer consequences.

It is of some concern that under the current terms of reference the commissioner is directed to perform his duties “without expressing any conclusion or recommendation”. That is our concern. We want to make this crystal clear. I know that the government's response has been that under the current wording he now has the ability to assign responsibility and name names. If that in fact is the case the government members should support this motion, because this just really confirms that.

By almost any measurement, with the money involved and the depth of the corruption in ad scam, with the involvement of senior activists, the sponsorship scandal is the worst scandal in Canadian history. We owe it to Canadians to use every available tool to get to the bottom of what happened and punish those responsible.

Members opposite are fond of saying that we should let the commission do its work. I agree. The problem is that the limitations of section (k) in the current Gomery commission could prevent Justice Gomery from completing his task. It is arguable, and I acknowledge this, that the government would say this is already there. If the government truly believes that, then it will have no problem in supporting our motion because it removes any ambiguity.

It is the Liberals who have established a $1 million taxpayer funded war room in the PCO to help reduce the damaging daily testimony from the Gomery commission. When we see the actions of the government and when it sets up a war room to spin its way out of this using taxpayers' money, one has to question what its motives are and where it is going. Political parties set up war rooms. Governments do not.

Let us imagine the current Prime Minister, days after the commission started, taking a million dollars of taxpayers' money to set up a war room to do damage control for the Liberal Party. It goes from bad to worse. The Liberals just do not learn. Political parties spinning a story using taxpayers' money is absolutely unacceptable. That is exactly what they are doing. That party across the way does not need a wire brush. Those members need to finally acknowledge and make a commitment to the truth.

Let us look at what has happened over the past 10 years. We have had information about what has been going on in the program, yet nothing has ever happened. Let us look a few of the facts.

In 1995 a memo from Public Works warned that the program was seriously flawed but nothing was ever done. In 1999 the Treasury Board Secretariat warned that Groupaction was charging exorbitant amounts of money for work that was never done and yet there was no response from the government.

In 2002 an internal audit at Public Works showed that the sponsorship was not being properly tracked. Nothing was done. Worse than nothing, a new agency was created to run the program which had even fewer financial controls.

In 2002 the Prime Minister, then minister of finance, received a letter from the Liberal national policy chair stating that there were “persistent and growing rumours that funds from the sponsorship program are being diverted to partisan purposes”.

What did the current Prime Minister do when he received that memo? He did absolutely nothing. Instead, we have seen nothing but procedural delays ever since this scandal came to light in 2002.

First the government claimed the Auditor General would solve the problem. The Minister of Finance, then minister of public works, stated, “in terms of the management issues, the value for money issues, the proper government framework and administrative issues, there is no more public forum...than the Auditor General”.

The current Minister of Finance, who was then the minister of public works, said that the Auditor General would look after it and solve it. However at the same time we saw years and years where millions of dollars of taxpayer money was being funnelled into the Liberal Party.

It is worth nothing that the minister made these statements as an argument against holding a public inquiry. They refused at the time to have an inquiry. When the Auditor General's report was ready in November 2003, was it tabled? No. What happened? It was the government that prorogued Parliament, another delay. What were they doing? The Liberals were buying time.

In February 2004, the report came out but now it appeared the Liberals required a public inquiry. This decision was something the opposition had been calling for over two years.

However the Liberals were not done with procedural delays. They had a few more tricks up their sleeves. First they used the majority to shut down the public accounts committee before key witnesses could appear. They had some witnesses prior to that but they shut down the committee before all the key witnesses were about to appear. It is important to emphasize that this was not a government scandal but a scandal inside the Liberal Party, so obviously they knew the damaging witnesses.

Today we see yet another concern with section (k) of the inquiry's mandate. It is important to note that section (k), which I quoted earlier, states that:

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 heard the Minister of Public Works state in a news conference that the commissioner does have the authority to name names and assign responsibility. If they believe that, then they should just support the motion. We are not asking them to do anything that would be inconsistent with recent Supreme Court of Canada rulings with respect to inquiries or the Inquiries Act. We just want to remove any ambiguity.

Members have heard the litany of the involvement of the Liberal Party in this file. It is our duty in this House to ensure that the public gets answers, that we get to the bottom of this and that people are held to account.

This issue is incredibly deep with corruption. Millions of dollars were improperly taken from taxpayers. Over half the money was used to buy votes, the other half was used to pay Liberal friendly advertising agencies and millions more were funneled back to the Liberal Party. This is the worst kind of corruption that we have seen in Canadian political history, where millions and millions of dollars were funneled back to the Liberal Party. We have heard witness after witness all implicate--

Supply
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It may be helpful to the House to deal with this matter right at the outset. To suggest that all of the activities the member has just gone through, of buying votes, of funneling millions of dollars and saying that this about the government, as you know, Mr. Speaker, all of these are illegal acts but they have not been proven in court.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest it is improper to allege these things. We should clarify whether or not the Chair will accept in this place a definitive statement that there is corruption. It has to be qualified that it is allegation or it is based on somebody's testimony but it is not based on the rule of law of innocent until proven guilty.

Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I thank the hon. member for Mississauga South. In the debate members will have to be careful of course not to ascribe motives or actions to members of Parliament that are improper or illegal. However in a debate like this we will probably get into discussions about political parties and their involvement or lack thereof and the innocence and guilt on both sides. In that case we are going to hear it.

However we will not accept accusations against individual members of Parliament, nor should we. I have not heard anything like that. I have heard talk about parties and so on and that is something different than members of Parliament. I think we have to accept that.

Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Chair has often ruled consistently that the only way this will be a matter of concern to the Chair is if an individual member is accused of committing a criminal act. What could be worse than accusing all the Liberal members of being corrupt and of having done illegal acts?

Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I thought I was clear but let me repeat it. I have not heard any accusations against Liberal members of Parliament at all or any other members of Parliament. We are all hon. members. What I have heard are accusations about a political party. We are going to accept that because I think those discussions will take place throughout the day.

Again, that is different than someone saying that members of Parliament have engaged in some illegal or improper activity. No one has said that and we will not get into that but we will hear discussions about activities of political parties and that will be heard on both sides of the House throughout the day.

I urge members to be careful about the difference between talking about activities of political parties and individual members of Parliament.