House of Commons Hansard #57 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was inquiry.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I normally have a fair amount of respect for my hon. colleague and the questions that he asks the committee, but at the present time, I have lost a great deal of that respect because he is exaggerating some of the accusations and some of the comments that I have made.

I have said repeatedly that the committee has a place, but a limited place, to do this work. I have also said that it is a logical inconsistency for the opposition, on one hand, to demand that the committee address this matter and yet not allow the committee to complete the job that it was demanded to do in the first place. It is irresponsible to suggest that we have taken it this far and that we are not going to complete the job that we began in the first place.

The member cannot have it both ways. He cannot, on one hand, say it is imperative that the committee address this matter and then, on the other hand, say everything that the committee did was useless or does not matter or will not bear any reference to what a future inquiry might have to say.

Maybe he could explain his inconsistencies on this matter.

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must say I am a little surprised by my colleague's remarks concerning the new timeframe for a public inquiry. I am surprised because, according to the information I have, this directly contradicts what his leader, the Prime Minister, said in the past. In his statement on January 11, 2008, the Prime Minister said he would convene the public inquiry as soon as the committee hearings—I would like to emphasize the word “hearings”—were over. He did not say that it would be done as soon as the report was available.

The Prime Minister said:

After reviewing the report and consulting Professor Johnston, the government has decided to convene a public inquiry once the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics has finished its hearings.

The committee's hearings have been finished since Tuesday. It is now Friday. I therefore do not understand why the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale is now, a month and a half later, contradicting his leader.

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps my hon. colleague did not hear my speech in its entirety. I will quote just briefly from it because I think it addresses her question.

I, in fact, used the same quote of the Prime Minister that she just referred to:

I have also asked Professor Johnston to finalize his recommendations on the terms of reference for the public inquiry on an expedited basis once the Committee has completed its work.

In order for us to complete our work, I submit, we have to submit a report. We have concluded our gathering of information. We are not going to hear from any more witnesses. However, we have not compiled our data. We have not summarized the testimony. We have not come up with any recommendations. Until we do exactly that, we have not completed our work. I do not understand the accusation made by the hon. member.

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to oppose the motion:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should end its delays and immediately commence the public inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair.

This government opposes this motion for a number of reasons. The House of Commons ethics committee has been conducting hearings into the so-called Mulroney-Schreiber affair since last fall. Hearings were held in late November, December, January and February. These included a review of the former prime minister's relationship with Mr. Schreiber and the alleged cash payments. Mr. Schreiber and the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney have both testified before the committee. After three months of hearings, the committee is expected to table its report in the House today.

On November 14, 2007, before the ethics committee stated that it would hold hearings, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of David Johnston as an independent adviser. Mr. Johnston was appointed to conduct an independent review of the allegations surrounding the financial dealings between Mr. Schreiber and the former prime minister and to make recommendations for an appropriate mandate for a public inquiry.

The independent adviser conducted a great deal of original research, analyzed potentially relevant terms of reference for the public inquiry, and published his thoughtful report in January of this year. Mr. Johnston has accepted, at the request of the Prime Minister, to follow through with the recommendations for the inquiry after the standing committee finishes its work.

The public inquiry has an important aim: to let Canadians hear from their former prime minister about his dealings with Mr. Schreiber, to get to the bottom of the matter once and for all, to discover the truth, and to ascertain if any wrongdoing did occur and what lessons can be learned.

The Right Hon. Brian Mulroney appeared before the ethics committee and made his statement and answered the initial questions of the committee members. It is important that any public inquiry be able to build upon Mr. Mulroney's testimony. The inquiry will not be open-ended or called to review ground that has already been extensively reviewed in other investigations. The purpose of the public inquiry will be to establish facts that remain unexamined.

There are clearly unanswered questions in the so-called Mulroney-Schreiber affair and we on this side of the House want answers to those questions as much as anyone else. As I noted before, we need to wait for Mr. Johnston's recommendations for the inquiry.

It is well established that a public inquiry is neither a criminal trial nor a civil action to determine liability. It is a process by which facts are found and the public can be informed and the recommendations for corrective action can be considered and made. Rushing into the process by starting the public inquiry stands to gain nothing, but risks losing any chance, any chance at all, of getting to the truth.

As courts and commentators have cautioned in the past, investigations and inquiries must proceed carefully with due process to avoid excessive costs, duplication of effort, delay and unduly rigid procedures or lack of focus.

Before I conclude, I would like to digress very quickly and say this motion brings to mind one of Aesop's fables, The Tortoise and the Hare. I am sure we are all familiar with that story. The hare was forever boasting about how he could run faster than anyone else and was always teasing the tortoise for its slowness. One day the tortoise challenged the hare to a race. The hare was convinced he could win easily, but as we all know, he was beaten by the slow and steady tortoise.

The motion in front of the House today reminds me of this fable because I am wondering what the rush is. Why start a public inquiry now without waiting for Mr. Johnston's independent advice on the terms of the inquiry? This is an old story. It is about setting history straight. It is about getting the facts right. What is the rush? We should not act in haste. We should proceed slowly and ensure that the so-called Mulroney-Schreiber affair is uncovered and the truth is known once and for all. As the tortoise said at the end of Aesop's fable, “slowly does it every time”.

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member did his speech in record time, but since it is almost 11 o'clock, I am going to postpone the questions or comments that are consequent on that speech until after question period, if that is all right with the hon. member.

Accordingly, we will start with statements by members. The hon. member for Vegreville—Wainwright.

Unborn Victims of Crime
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park for his excellent work on Bill C-484, which is an improved version of a bill that I introduced and debated in the House about a year ago.

This bill, if passed, would protect unborn children who are targets of violence when their mother is a victim of a crime.

Mary Talbot, the mother of 2005 murder victim, Olivia Talbot, and grandmother of Olivia's unborn son, said to Joyce Arthur, who is a detractor of this bill:

Please show some respect for my daughter's and her unborn baby's memory....And I feel I can ask the same for the rest of the families who are at this time grieving the loss of their loved ones. I hope you never have to experience the pain, anguish and sense of injustice of losing a beloved family member to violence, only to learn that no crime was committed, only to learn that the one your heart breaks for, was of no worth.

Mary has said it well, and it is enough reason for all MPs to vote for Ken Epp's bill, Bill C-484.

Unborn Victims of Crime
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I think the hon. member meant the hon. member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park. I have had to rebuke one member apparently for using somebody else's name this morning already. I hate to think that this is going to be a constant repeat.

The member for Ottawa—Vanier.

Dr. André Gauthier
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I want to make mention of a recent tribute to a great man, Dr. André Gauthier. The Ontario chapter of the College of Family Physicians of Canada presented Dr. Gauthier with a certificate of recognition for outstanding patient care. Dr. Gauthier received this well-deserved honour during an event held in December to recognize the staff of the Montfort Hospital.

People in Ottawa who know him affectionately call him “our Dr. Welby”, referring to the television series that chronicled the life of a family doctor. With the care he gives his patients, the compassion he brings to his profession, his humility, his dedication to his community and the Montfort Hospital, and his house calls—because he does make house calls—Dr. Gauthier is a perfect example of those who have sworn the Hippocratic Oath.

Thank you, André, and thank you to your family for sharing you with the community.

The Budget
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Raymond Gravel Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance has succeeded in turning all Quebeckers against him. He has even succeeded in displeasing the entire nation of Quebec. The Government of Quebec, the opposition parties, the financial and economic institutions and the manufacturing sector have all stated that this budget is not for Quebec. It is an empty budget that neglects the hardest hit economic sectors and people in need.

Not one of the Conservatives' elected representatives from Quebec—ministers, secretaries of state or members of Parliament—was able to make the Minister of Finance aware of Quebeckers' needs and aspirations. It is these members from Quebec who tell us, in the House, that you have to be in power to make things happen. Where are these Conservative ministers, secretaries of state and members of Parliament when it comes time to respond to Quebec's demands?

Fortunately, Quebeckers know better. They can see that the Conservatives are doing nothing for them, and they understand that the Bloc Québécois is the only party in Quebec that can defend their interests and values.

Public Transit Project
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, last Tuesday the government announced that while a city like Ottawa is in need of funds for its transit system, the government will instead invest in the pork-barrel express.

The pork-barrel express will go from Toronto through Conservative ridings like Whitby, Oshawa, Durham, Haliburton--Kawartha Lakes--Brock to Peterborough.

No one knows the cost of the pork-barrel express, the estimated number of passengers on it, or who will operate it. It will be costly with a comparatively small number of passengers and it is not on Ontario's list of priority public transit projects.

The NDP will not be found supporting this kind of cynical, runaway political train wreck of physical policy backed by the Liberals. We will put our stock in the needs of hard-working, everyday Canadians who want more investment in all cities, child care, nurses and doctors.

While the Conservatives put pork first, we in the NDP put everyday people first.

Bravery
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, please join me in congratulating two Canadian heroes who are a living embodiment of what our Canadian Forces stand for.

On April 26, 2005, during a blizzard in the Northwest Territories, search and rescue technicians, Master Corporal Brian Decaire and Sergeant Darcy St-Laurent, parachuted from a 17 Wing based Hercules aircraft to assist a downed aviator near Boland Lake.

In complete darkness, they performed a challenging night drop. The rescuers and the downed pilot were forced for five days to wait out terrible weather conditions.

As I speak, the Governor General is bestowing medals of bravery on both these men. The motto of search and rescue techs is, “These things I shall do that others may live”.

These two men exemplify the selfless duty that our men and women in uniform perform every day.

Let me say on behalf of all Canadians a humble thank you to these men and every one of their comrades in uniform.

Poverty
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, in stark contrast to the Conservative fend for yourself philosophy, Liberals believe that poverty affects everyone and governments have a moral responsibility to help springboard Canadians to success, dignity and independence.

The Liberal leader is showing leadership on poverty, outlining a bold vision committing to cut poverty by 30% and child poverty by 50% within five years of being elected.

The Liberal leader is showing leadership in this file by presenting an ambitious program and promising to reduce poverty by 30% and child poverty by 50% in the five years following his election.

For the working poor, Liberals would create a making work pay benefit to lower the welfare wall and improve the child tax benefit to support families. Liberals would honour the historic Kelowna accord, which the Conservatives cut, and would work with all levels of government on affordable housing and universal child care.

I believe that when we invest in Canadians, Canada succeeds socially and economically. I ask my colleagues on the other side to take this issue seriously and work toward ending poverty now.

Kenya
Statements By Members

February 29th, 2008 / 11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, Kenya's government and opposition signed a power sharing agreement yesterday to end the post election crisis that plunged the country into its worst turmoil since independence. Canada is hopeful that the power sharing agreement will lead to peace and stability, as well as create the foundations for a strong and democratic Kenya.

Canada had repeatedly called upon Kenya's political leaders to come together in direct discussions to end the crisis and to put its weight behind Kofi Annan's mediation efforts. The Government of Canada also announced in January that it would provide up to $4.3 million in humanitarian assistance to those affected by the post-election violence.

We want to thank former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the AU chairman for their efforts. We look forward to working with the government of Kenya in facing the challenges ahead for the country.

Infrastructure and Gasoline Taxes
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, upon reading the budget we see that the government is going to permanently transfer the gas tax to municipalities. That is good news; however, we have to realize that this measure does not provide any additional funds for the sorely needed renewal of municipal infrastructure.

This government refused the Bloc Québécois request to increase the refund of the gas tax to municipalities to the equivalent of 5¢ per litre, commencing in 2008-2009. This increase would translate into an additional $1 billion for our municipalities, which already have too much debt. The Bloc Québécois is asking the government to reconsider its decision given that it has the means.

In addition, given that municipal revenues are not like those of higher levels of government, why not adopt the Bloc Québécois suggestion that, in every tripartite agreement, municipalities receive 15%, provinces 35% and the federal government 50%.

These are the types of proposals that are in the best interest of Quebec municipalities.

Prague Spring
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday it was a particular pleasure for our Prime Minister to meet with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek in Ottawa. This is the 40th anniversary of the Prague Spring and also, sadly, of the subsequent Communist invasion and crackdown.

Czechs can nowadays travel freely in the world, and I am happy to report that last year Canada removed all visa requirements for visitors from the Czech Republic. Our two countries share a commitment to a principled foreign policy that promotes freedom, democracy and human rights.

Therefore, on the 40th anniversary of the Prague Spring, let us remember not only the past victims of European communism, but also the victims of present day communism who are still persecuted, imprisoned in gulags and re-education camps and tortured or murdered for the high crime of believing in human freedom.

And, in honour of the Czech nation, which blazed the path to freedom that so many others have subsequently followed, let us offer a warm welcome to a friend of Canada and a friend of freedom as he visits our capital.