House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was women.

Topics

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

March 14th, 2008 / 12:20 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's responses to seven petitions.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics presented on Friday, February 29, 2008, be concurred in.

The particular report from the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics states, in part:

As your Committee has now completed its examination of witnesses in this matter it recommends...“That the Government immediately initiate a formal public inquiry into the Mulroney—Schreiber affair.

The committee has been the subject of much news and the last report I saw was that we had conducted four months of hearings. The fact is that we only had 11 hearing days, only heard from 12 witnesses and only had 25 hours of testimony from those witnesses. We did, however, receive some 3,000 pages.

Having said that, I can think of no other proceeding at a committee that I have been at where I have heard more contradictions, more discrepancies and more situations where people are clearly not being truthful with the committee. This is very important because we have now had a situation where the government has indicated that there will be a public inquiry and that the matter will be going back to Dr. Johnston, who will formalize the terms of reference and the scope.

Dr. Johnston also issued an interim report in which he laid out some of his preliminary thinking based on what he had heard from the ethics committee witnesses up until, I think, December 13. Subsequent to this, we heard from probably some of the more significant players in this matter.

I was prepared to start talking about some of the things that we found which would demonstrate why it was necessary, not just to have a public inquiry but to have a formal public inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act, which would give the Speaker the opportunity to subpoena or the power to subpoena. That is an essential element because we found in our proceedings that there were witnesses who were reluctant to appear. In fact, the committee granted to the chair, myself, the authorization at my discretion to subpoena any witness at any time.

The committee was very aware of the problems that it was having with witnesses and, indeed, it was the situation even with former prime minister, Brian Mulroney, who had declined our offer to come back for a second appearance so that he could answer the questions. That was so serious that in his initial appearance before the committee on December 13, he was asked, and agreed, to provide certain information related to what he did for the moneys that he received from Karlheinz Schreiber.

Mr. Mulroney had indicated that this had to do with international business, not with domestic affairs and nothing related to the government. He also indicated that he visited China, Russia, France, had planned to go to the United States and even to have a meeting with the secretary general of the United Nations to promote light armoured vehicles built by Thyssen Industries.

After two months of waiting, asking and reminding, there was still no response from the former prime minister as to who he had met with, the dates, the locations and the outcome. Those were vital pieces of information, because if the activities were not international, i.e., they were then domestic and may be related to government contracts or other items, such as Bear Head Manufacturing Industries, that would have put the former prime minister in a situation where he would have been in violation of section 41 of the Parliament of Canada Act related to influence peddling.

This was very important and, as a consequence, the committee authorized me, as the chair, to issue a summons for that information to be provided by a certain date before our hearings resumed. That summons was not respected by Mr. Mulroney. He refused to answer and, in fact, the message from his lawyer was to the effect that these were private matters and none of the business of the committee.

If we consider those two issues alone, the failure to honour a summons from the committee which has the right to call for a person's papers and records, as well as not being willing to come forward to give testimony when there were clearly ample questions to ask of Mr. Mulroney after we had heard from 10 other witnesses, this in my view is a very important consideration to take into account when determining the form of the public inquiry. Should it be a formal public inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act? Should it be informal and simply under the Inquiries Act alone which does not have subpoena power? Should it be somehow limited? Or should there maybe even be no inquiry whatsoever?

It is extremely important that questions be answered. People will look at the evidence that has been presented to the committee which is on the official website of the standing committee. There is a litany of contradictions, discrepancies and disputes of information. I cannot think of any issue that people actually agreed upon. There were contradictions on almost every point raised.

The committee could have called more witnesses. It could have tried to corroborate this information and find out who was not being truthful with the committee. It would then have had the option to deal with this matter directly with the House and recommend that certain persons be considered to be in contempt of Parliament for having misled or lied to a committee. That was an option.

However, in the environment that we have come through, it was very clear that the committee was not going to have the time nor the resources or expertise to call the necessary expert witnesses and forensic accountants, to call for banking records, tax returns, and the like. Those activities are best done in a public inquiry.

As a consequence, instead of considering a list of some 40 witnesses, the committee decided to reduce it down to 12 witnesses. Some of the principal witnesses would be able to give us an idea of the dimensions of what was going on and why.

I do not believe for a moment that this matter is simply to do with whether or not Mr. Mulroney received $225,000 or $300,000. That amount of money is inconsequential when we consider the relationship between Mr. Schreiber and Mr. Mulroney which goes back some 20 or 25 years. In fact, Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Schreiber were meeting even before Mr. Mulroney became the leader of the Conservative Party. When he was still a lawyer with Ogilvy Renault they were having coffees back in the early 1980s.

That relationship grew. In fact, Mr. Schreiber was involved with dumping former prime minister Joe Clark. Mr. Schreiber was also involved with getting the leadership of the Conservative Party for Mr. Mulroney. This is the way that Mr. Schreiber does business. It is clear.

As an example, he was involved with the Saudi government in a $440 million project to sell tanks to the Saudis, special tanks made by Thyssen Industries. About half of that money was grease money, bribe money for officials. In fact, when we look at that particular case we will find that a number of senior government officials were prosecuted and found guilty of influence peddling, bribery, et cetera.

This is the pattern. This is how it is done. Mr. Schreiber clearly was establishing a close relationship with virtually everyone that he possibly could in the Conservative Party. It was not only federal. It was also provincial. There was a lot of activity going on in Alberta. At that time members will know that there were some people who got involved in some activities which turned out to be bad and there was a lot of bad blood. Some deals just went bad.

When we consider some of the activities that went on, such as the former prime minister when in Davos, Switzerland taking a two-hour limousine ride to Zurich to have lunch with Mr. Schreiber and then going back to Davos, we have to get the sense that this is a pretty serious relationship.

Then there is the situation where Mr. Mulroney sued the Government of Canada for $50 million and ultimately settled for $2.1 million. During his examination for discovery under oath, and this is very puzzling, he was asked about his relationship and whether he ever did any business or got any money from Mr. Schreiber. His answer was that he barely knew the guy, that maybe they had had a coffee or two. This was in 2005.

We know now that Mr. Mulroney had accepted, he says, $75,000. He had stepped down as prime minister, but he was still a member of Parliament. This was in August 1993. Subsequently he received at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel another $75,000, he says, and at the Pierre Hotel in New York, another $75,000. We have to ask why. Mr. Schreiber says he was helping us with the Bear Head project. We wanted to promote light armoured vehicles. We wanted to build this plant in Cape Breton. It was going to create jobs. All of a sudden people started to get involved and many people were asked about this.

I found it very interesting to note that in Dr. Johnston's report he considered matters such as Airbus, and the Eurocopter case, and the Bear Head case to be well-tilled ground.

This is a 20 minute spot, Mr. Speaker. Maybe you could advise me how much time I have left.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

There are eight minutes left on the clock. My clock shows zero.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, there were a number of things going on.

It is very interesting to note that according to some of the testimony at the committee, there is an indication that the moneys involved were much greater.

For instance, it is well documented in the evidence tabled with the committee that an employee at 24 Sussex was in fact asked to go to the Prime Minister's Office to see a Mr. Fred Doucet. He would pick up from Mr. Doucet envelopes of cash every week in the range of $10,000 to $11,000. Where did this cash come from? As it turns out, some of it came from cheques from the PC Canada Fund to the chief of staff at the time, Mr. Doucet. Mr. Doucet would cash the cheque and put the cash in an envelope to give to the employee to take to 24 Sussex, apparently to give it to Mrs. Mulroney. One has to ask why the cheque from the PC Canada Fund, or whomever, simply was not sent to Mrs. Mulroney. Why is it that an employee had to go over to the PMO to pick it up?

Interestingly enough, the employee, who appeared before the committee, denied that he did this. However, another employee was occasionally asked to go and get the money when the chef was not available. There are people who witnessed this in the PMO. There are people in 24 Sussex who will testify to this. There are people who had interviewed this employee and have written transcripts of the conversations. There is no question that particular person was not truthful with the committee. We are not sure why, but there is a reason.

The amount of money involved is much more. In fact we found that about $20 million was made available with regard to the Airbus Industrie affair. Half of that was going to Canadian persons. None of the evidence was able to determine or to identify who got that money, but we did find some of the money, and it was clear where it was going.

I could spend a lot of time tantalizing you, Mr.Speaker, but I found it kind of interesting that things did not come out and it was because there was not much time.

One of the issues was about a gentleman by the name of Bruce Verchere. The committee did not do anything with regard to Mr. Verchere, but he seems to be a key player. Mr. Verchere was the manager of Mr. Mulroney's blind trust while he was the prime minister. Mr. Verchere's background would show he had developed a skill in hiding money and that he was involved with Panamanian shell companies and other offshore entities. Moneys would end up, ultimately, in two banks in Geneva, both specializing in wealth management and infinite discretion. He was an expert in hiding money.

We have not even looked at this. I do not know whether the RCMP ever looked at this. It is going to be difficult. There is some evidence. Not too long after the Mulroney Airbus settlement, I believe it was in August 1996, Mr. Verchere walked into his bathroom, put a shotgun into his mouth and blew his head off.

These things have happened.

Mr. Schreiber also testified that in the early 1990s Mr. Doucet asked him to send to Mr. Mulroney's lawyer in Geneva a portion of the secret commissions from the 1988 Airbus sale to Air Canada. Mr. Doucet denied the claim, calling it a fabrication. But Mr. Schreiber went on and told the committee that the Geneva lawyer was in fact Bruce Verchere. He was the lawyer. Mr. Mulroney may have been correct in saying he never had a lawyer in Geneva. He was from Montreal. He just happened to have accounts there.

All I can suggest is there are more questions than there are answers.

An absolutely astounding story was published in today's Globe and Mail. It is an interview with Senator Lowell Murray. He was the first minister to head up ACOA, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, when it was started.

On the day he was appointed, Mr. Mulroney gave him a file. What was the file on? The file was on Bear Head Industries and the building of this plant in Cape Breton to do those Thyssen vehicles. This is the plant and the project that the RCMP included in its list of well-tilled ground. This has just come out today.

We have brand new evidence. In fact, when we look at some of it, it is clear that this was a proposal that was important to Mr. Mulroney. It goes on. There is some great information.

I do not have time to go through it, but suffice it to say that things happened. For instance, Mr. Fred Doucet, who was working for the prime minister, suddenly left government after the Airbus contract was awarded, and within three months, on November 2, 1988, billed Karlheinz Schreiber $90,000 for professional services.

Frank Moores of GCI also, on the same date, billed Karlheinz Schreiber for $90,000. Gary Ouellet of GCI also billed $90,000 to Mr. Schreiber. Gerry Doucet, Fred Doucet's brother, also billed $90,000 for services. Then, GCI, as a lobby firm that was the linchpin in all of these activities, billed $250,000 on the same date.

That is $610,000 just three months or so after the Airbus contract was awarded, and paid on November 15, just days before the 1988 election was called.

These are not coincidences. It is not a coincidence that there is no paper trail, that cash was used, that thousand dollar bills were appearing everywhere, which have been described as falling from the trees.

We have an hon. senator, who knows nothing about what is going on, saying that these things were happening, and it was clear Mr. Fred Doucet was totally involved even though he told the committee he had no involvement with Bear Head. Senator Murray has now shown that Mr. Doucet was not truthful with the committee.

All that being said, I only have to conclude that the circumstances we are now passing over to Dr. Johnston and the public inquiry must be dealt with by a formal public inquiry under the public inquiries act, with subpoena powers, because it is very clear the people who are now engaged in this have been caught in lies and mistruths and have shown contempt for Parliament.

I do not believe we should tie a new commissioner's hands in any way. He should have an opportunity to be involved in determining the scope and terms of reference and he should be able to follow the money.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to seek unanimous consent to deal with the responses to Question No. 161, Question No. 183, Question No. 184, and Question No. 189.

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House?

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Question No. 161, Question No. 183, Question No. 184, and Question No. 189.

Question No. 161
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON

With respect to allegations of administrative error and erroneous advice under section 66(4) of the Canada Pension Plan, what are the statistics for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 concerning: (a) the total number of allegations made; (b) the total number allowed in the client's favour; (c) the total number still pending; (d) the total number not allowed; and (e) the total number of clients who proceeded to Federal Court?

Question No. 161
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Medicine Hat
Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a) through (d), statistics on investigations of allegations of erroneous advice and administrative error for the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 cannot be provided as they were not maintained since such investigations were considered part of regular business operations. However, steps are now being taken to ensure that these statistics are collected in the future.

In response to (e), the approximate numbers of Canada pension plan, CPP, section 66(4) cases which proceeded to the Federal Court for the fiscal years 2003-04 to 2005-06 are as follows:

Question No. 183
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

With respect to An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act and chapter 47 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005, assented to on December 14, 2007: (a) what steps must be taken for the government to issue an order of the Governor in Council for the sections of this act to come into force; and (b) what is the expected time frame for the government to issue the order of the Governor in Council?

Question No. 183
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a), in respect to the insolvency provisions of Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, the Wage Earner Protection Program Act and chapter 47 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005, the act, there are numerous steps that need to be completed to issue an order of the governor in council for the sections of this act to come into force.

First, the necessary regulations must be in place. In this regard, the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy, OSB, must consult with stakeholders in order to draft regulations for the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, BIA, and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, CCAA. The OSB will need to prepare a regulatory package which includes the triage questionnaire, the regulatory impact analysis statement, the draft regulations, a communications plan, a supplementary note, a notice of pre-publication, a letter of transmittal addressed to the Assistant Clerk of the Privy Council, and a draft ministerial recommendation. Once the regulatory package has been approved by the Department of Justice and the Minister of Industry, it has to be approved by the Privy Council Office and Treasury Board, TB. The regulations need to be pre-published in part I of the Canada Gazette for a period of 30 days. The OSB will then need to update the regulatory package and include a draft order in council. Once the package has received approval, the regulations will need to be approved by the governor in council, registered, published in part II of the Canada Gazette.

In addition to preparing regulations under the BIA and CCAA, the OSB will need to amend forms and directives under the BIA, update their computer systems, and offer information to trustees in bankruptcy who are responsible for the day to day operations of the BIA. For the issuance of an order of the governor in council for the sections of this act to come into force, Industry Canada will also have to prepare an order in council package. After approval at the TB meeting, the order in council will need to be sent to the Governor General for signature. The order in council will be effective on the date set forth in the document.

In response to (b), certain transitional provisions of Bill C-12 came into force upon royal assent on December 14, 2007. However, most of chapter 47, as amended by Bill C-12, will come into force on a day or days fixed by the governor in council, which is expected to be within six to 12 months of royal assent of Bill C-12.

The OSB, which is responsible for regulations under the BIA and CCAA, requires this time to prepare regulations, revise certain directives, and revise forms and prepare new ones. In addition, the OSB needs to update their computer systems to implement the legislative reform. The OSB will also need to develop a new computer system to fulfill its role as depository for CCAA filings and to assist in the superintendent’s new role to oversee the conduct of monitors. Furthermore, the OSB will need to train their staff and offer information to trustees in bankruptcy who are responsible for the day to day operations of the BIA.

Question No. 184
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

With respect to An Act to establish the Wage Earner Protection Program Act, to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, assented to on November 25, 2005: (a) what steps must be taken for the government to issue an order of the Governor in Council for the sections of this act to come into force, specifically section 1; (b) what is the expected time frame for the government to issue an order of the Governor in Council for the sections to come into force, specifically an order of the Governor in Council for section 1 to come into force; and (c) what is the expected time frame for eligible workers to receive payments under the Wage Earner Protection Program provided for in the bill?

Question No. 184
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a), there are a number of steps which must be completed before the Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP) act and its amendments, Bill C-12, can come into force, most notably, the development and adoption of regulations.

In order to advance the regulatory process, the labour program, Human Resources and Social Development Canada, prepared draft regulations prior to the amending legislation receiving royal assent, but steps could not be taken to commence the formal regulatory process until after the amendments were adopted. The formal regulatory process involves targeted consultation with stakeholders to refine the draft regulations for the WEPP Act.

The regulatory package is then approved by the Department of Justice, DoJ, the Minister of Labour, the Privy Council Office, PCO, and Treasury Board, TB. The regulations must be pre-published in part I of the Canada Gazette for a consultation period to be established by TB. Following this step, the documents need to be revised taking into account comments received and then approvals must be obtained at all levels. Once approved by the governor in council, the regulations are registered and published in part II of the Canada Gazette. Lastly, the government will issue an order in council to proclaim the WEPP Act in force.

Work also remains to be done in preparation for the coming into force of the WEPP Act, for example, setting up automatic systems for processing applications. Furthermore, licensed trustees who administer the insolvency system, and who will play a role under the WEPP, will need to update their information technology systems to account for the legislative and regulatory changes.

In response to (b), the coming into force of the WEPP Act will depend upon the time it takes to finalize the regulations. Development and finalization of other recently adopted regulations by the labour program, such as the hazard prevention program, ergonomic, regulations, workplace violence prevention regulations, and the non-smoking health regulations each took about six months.

In response to (c), initial processing of applications for the WEPP will depend on when the legislation comes into force. Work is under way to ensure that initial processing of applications for the WEPP could begin in the summer of 2008. A fully automated system for processing applications is expected to be in place in autumn 2008.