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

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will serve notice at the beginning of my speech that I will be sharing my time with the member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

As the vice-chair of the ethics committee, I have spent the last three months totally immersed in a very dark and troubling period of Canadian history. It seems there was a time when our great country was hijacked by some very bad people, people who abused the power of their office for their own self-interest and benefit, who would break faith with the Canadian people by abusing the checks, balances and rules that we put in place to preclude such a thing from ever happening.

We have been studying an era of Canadian politics where corporate lobbyists were running roughshod over everything that was good and decent about Canadian politics and our democratic institutions. We have been studying an era where corrupt politicians abused the power of their office to line their own pockets. We have been researching a period of history where there were mandatory 5% minimum kickbacks on public works projects.

These are facts. These are not theories before our committee. Some of those corrupt politicians were caught, tried and convicted in subsequent years. Some continue to enjoy the spoils of their malfeasance and their abuse of our system. Some of the key actors in fact of this era continue to operate unmolested in exactly the same way today.

This might be one of the most disturbing things that we realized as committee members. Some of the very key actors in this, the darkest period of recent Canadian history, continue to operate in the same modus operandi that so offended the sensibilities of Canadians at the time and in subsequent generations.

The question as to whether there was political interference in the Airbus purchase for Air Canada has taken us on a long circuitous journey, a journey where we have learned of a parcel of rogues perhaps unparalleled in Canadian history. We have witnessed the dark underbelly of Ottawa, some place that I never care to go again, some place frankly that nauseates me as a Canadian, as it would offend the sensibilities of all good people in our country who expect better from their public office-holders.

Our research took us back to a disturbing period in Canadian history where foreign money undertook a silent coup in Canada. Franz Josef Strauss, premier of Bavaria, a man who the media in his country calls an unrepentant Nazi, and also the CEO of Airbus, rigged the 1983 Conservative convention to unseat Joe Clark and six months later put in place Brian Mulroney. That alone should have been enough to horrify Canadians. They should have taken to the rooftops to scream their derision over this political interference by foreign powers, an unrepentant Nazi from a foreign country running roughshod over our democratic process in Canada.

This was orchestrated by the team that put Brian Mulroney in place: Walter Wolf, Karl Heinz-Schreiber, Frank Moore, Gary Ouellet and the Doucet brothers. Yet Brian Mulroney claimed he had absolutely nothing to do with the Airbus purchase. However, as soon as he was in power, put in place by this dirty money from an unrepentant Nazi, one of the first things he did was fire 13 of the 15 members of the board of directors of Air Canada and put in place 13 Conservative allies, one of whom was Frank Moores, the chief lobbyist for Airbus.

We also took note that the CEO of Air Canada at the time was Pierre Jeanniot. Where did he retire to? As soon as the Airbus purchase was officially announced in 1988, Mr. Jeanniot retired to Toulouse, France, home of Airbus. It was an odd choice, coincidence, I suppose.

These are the things with which we have been dealing. That is where the story started.

We now move on to the issue of the $2.1 million that Canada paid out in the defamation lawsuit that Brian Mulroney filed against the Government of Canada. Brian Mulroney filed a lawsuit for $50 million to sue the people of Canada because they implied that he took money from Karlheinz Schreiber. We now know that he did take money from Karlheinz Schreiber in the most shady of circumstances. This phantom lobbying where he claims that he earned the $300,000, he admits that it was a mistake, but now he would have us believe he earned that money legitimately.

Let me say at the outset of this particular section that no amount of bafflegab will ever take the stink off the image that is tattooed, that is emblazoned on people's minds of a former prime minister of Canada taking sacks full of cash from an arms dealer in secret hotel room meetings. We could have studies for years and explanations by hired mouthpieces on behalf of Brian Mulroney for years. Nobody will ever forget that image and we are horrified even as we speak of it today.

The reason I say “phantom lobbying” is because the very company he says that he was lobbying for, ThyssenKrupp, the arms of Krupp, did not know that Brian Mulroney was on its payroll. We have all read our history books on the second world war. Those are the guys who armed the Nazis and they now own one of the largest companies in the world in terms of arms dealers. How Brian Mulroney could be lobbying for such a huge international corporation and how a huge corporation like that did not know that a former head of state of a G-7 nation was on its payroll, defies credulity, and some of us on the committee simply cannot accept that without some more proof.

We asked Mr. Mulroney to please present some documentation to prove that he did meet with the leaders of China, Russia and France to earn the $300,000 he was given. Some of us think that was awfully rich compensation for three brief meetings with three heads of state, but it also begs the question as to why Mr. Mulroney would he be trying to sell tanks to China right after Tiananmen Square when he was so outraged and we had international agreements to not arm those Communist countries at that time. The story simply begs for further investigation and validation.

Our committee was wrestling with a number of issues that time does not permit me to go through, but let me know say that as of 12:10 today, the chair of our committee introduced the third report of the Standing Committee on Ethics which clearly states that the work of our committee is now concluded. We are not hearing anymore witnesses. I am proud of the work that our committee did. I would be happy to debate any of the armchair quarterbacks who have criticized the work that we did, mostly Conservative Party members in the country who do not like this era of Canadian history being dredged up.

We did a great deal in a short period of time at no cost to the taxpayers because, I remind colleagues, that our committee meets every Tuesday and Thursday whether we have Brian Mulroney as our witness or anybody else. It was at no cost to the taxpayer and we moved the puck down the ice a great deal in the struggle to shed some light on this dark era. It is now time to pass the puck to those best able to put it in the net and that means the public inquiry should begin without delay. This is the subject of our opposition day motion we are debating today. The Liberals are trying to change the channel from the humiliation of having to vote in favour of the Conservative budget, so they want us to talk about Schreiber-Mulroney, which is fine, we have this opportunity.

The Prime Minister of Canada and the justice minister have both stood in their place promising Canadians that there would be a full public inquiry. They said, “let's wait until the ethics committee finishes hearing witnesses”. We are finished. All some of us want to do is go home, take a shower and pretend it never happened, but we now are passing the files, passing the baton over to the public inquiry. It should be implemented and begun without delay. We understand that it takes some time to set up a full public inquiry but that process should begin today.

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

1 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I look forward as well to a public inquiry but I am not sure it would be scoped out broadly enough to include an examination of the money that went missing from Airbus to some individuals. I wish it would because it is clear that some money changed hands.

I know it is a bit inappropriate to mention names but I have always been intrigued by the notion that a role might have been played by Lucien Bouchard. I think an inquiry would clear his name if he was not involved at all. At the time of the Airbus transaction, Mr. Bouchard was the ambassador for Canada to France. It is no secret that Airbus is a consortium which involves France and it is probably no secret to conclude that Mr. Bouchard may have felt stronger allegiances to France than to Canada because as a separatist he does not have too many allegiances to this country. In fact, he became leader of the Parti Québécois some time later. I have always been curious.

Airbus at that time was anxious to establish a presence in the North American airplane market, especially the passenger market because it did not have any presence there and it was desperate to get a leghold on the North American market. Its competition was Boeing. If money did change hands, this is probably why.

At the same time, Air Canada had a very rigorous evaluation of the bids. A group evaluated the bids from Boeing and Airbus along a number of different lines, such as operational efficiency, capacity, fuel economy, price, et cetera. Airbus really sharpened its pencils and had a very good bid proposal because it wanted to penetrate the North American passenger airplane market. I am quite confident of that fact.

With respect to the point about the board of directors, I personally believe that Prime Minister Mulroney probably did not receive much directly in terms of the money from the Karlheinz Schreiber's of the world, but I do believe a lot of these other people did get some money. Sometimes I think it is a question of showing one's influence.

However, in my wildest dreams I cannot imagine the former prime minister picking up the phone and saying to the chairman of Air Canada that they really had to do this with Airbus. It goes beyond the realm of possibility in my mind.

The member for Winnipeg Centre touched on the question of the appointment of board directors sympathetic to Mr. Mulroney and other aspects. I wonder if he could comment on whether he believes Mr. Lucien Bouchard may have been involved.

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

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's knowledge and his flushing out of some of the details about the Airbus sale which added to the debate.

I will simply say that Mr. Bouchard's name has come up a number of times in our inquiry. We do not know the extent of his involvement but I too would be very interested to learn what influence he may have exerted as the ambassador to France. I have no doubt that he was involved or included in this process in some way.

I did not have time in my speech to deal with where the money went but there were millions of dollars of grease money. It was not unusual for European companies at that time to realize that in order to grease the wheels of commerce for a sale of that size they had to sprinkle some money around. In this case it was $20 million, about $10 million on the European side and $10 million on the Canadian side. We do not know who the beneficiaries were of that grease money.

We have a better idea of where the commissions went. They went to Frank Moores and GCI. Some have alleged that GCI was a lobby firm set up by Brian Mulroney's closest associates to act as a piggy bank, to hold the loot until such time as the smoke cleared and the beneficiaries could avail themselves of the loot. There were foreign bank accounts.

It is extremely complex, which this is why a public inquiry may be able to put the puck in the net where we can only move the puck down the ice.

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

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think I will get most of my 10 minutes in and I may be able to avoid questions. I would expect one or two intelligent ones from this House but that may be a fond hope.

My opening comments will be somewhat critical of this motion coming forward at this time. As one looks at it and at the other issues confronting us in this Parliament right now, the budget and the debate around that in particular, one cannot help but wonder about the motivation of the Liberals. They obviously do not want to be confronted with their flexibility on the budget and their unwillingness to stand up, as they should as the formal official opposition, and challenge the government on a great deal of this budget. They would rather sit on their hands, as they have so often done in these last six months, and not play the role they properly should and protect the Canadian people in the kind of budget that we have. Instead, they move on this.

I do not want to downplay in any way or demean the significance of the Mulroney-Schreiber and Airbus inquiry and the need for it, but that message has been clearly sent out by the ethics committee, by a great deal of the positions of all political parties, except for the Conservatives, and by the Canadian public generally.

This debate today, I would suggest, is not really necessary because all the points that I have heard so far today have been made repeatedly in the past. The political pressure is on the House and, more specifically, on the government to get the public inquiry going as quickly as possible.

It is quite obvious that the government is very interested in prolonging the establishment of the public inquiry until the next election occurs and have the election done and over with before the public inquiry gets started and certainly before it completes its work.

In that regard, I think the crucial issue here is not only to get the inquiry going, but that a mandate for that inquiry be given. If it follows the very clear message from the government at the present time and, to some degree, the recommendations that came from Dr. Johnston, this will be a very limited mandate that basically will do nothing.

I would argue strongly that, if we see that limited mandate, it is intentional that it will not do anything. We will spend a chunk of money on it, we will put a lot of resources into it for a very limited mandate and we will come to no conclusions.

I want to acknowledge the work that my colleague from Winnipeg has done on the committee and the work of the committee generally in moving this forward. We also need to recognize the limitations it was functioning under. It lacked the financial and professional resources and, in particular, the forensic accounting resources that would have allowed the committee to move it even further along.

It has been a rather significant problem for me as I analyze how Parliament and our committees function as opposed to the way committees function in other Parliaments around the globe. As we see with the present government and as we saw with the prior Liberal government with the sponsorship scandal, we do not provide sufficient resources in the structure within this House and within the committees. Our structure is not flexible enough and not resourced enough to do the job that we are required to do or expected to do when we are faced with this kind of an issue and these kinds of facts. I address it specifically as a situation where we as a committee are expected to conduct a quasi inquiry without having anywhere near the resources.

We saw that very clearly during the sponsorship scandal. I remember speaking at that time with the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, who was an accountant himself, and saying that this was everything we had and that there was no way we would be able to get to the bottom of it. The committee did excellent work but, because of the limited resources, it took the Gomery inquiry to get much further along that line.

We saw the same thing here. Excellent work, as I saw it, by the ethics committee, as far as it could go. But we saw with Mr. Mulroney his refusal to give documentation to back up what was a fairly incredible story. However, the one that really got me was when he claimed that his income tax returns were sacred.

My relationship with my wife is sacred. My relationship with my children is sacred. I want to be very clear to this House that my relationship with my accountant and the Revenue Canada office is not sacred, and neither should Mr. Mulroney's be.

That is what we are up against and not having adequate resources to really challenge that. That is why we need the inquiry established as quickly as possible and follow the report that was tabled today. We say to the Prime Minister that he must do it now and must make it with a mandate that is broad enough to get at all of the issues and to finally put this to bed for all Canadians.

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

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 1:15 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?

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

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

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

1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five members or more having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the recorded division stands deferred until Monday, March 3, 2008, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

The member for Selkirk—Interlake on a point of order.

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

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you see the clock at 1:30 p.m.

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

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

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

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from December 12, 2007 consideration of the motion that Bill C-394, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (sponsorship of relative), be read the second time and referred to a committee.