House of Commons Hansard #101 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

6:35 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Hull—Aylmer has actually managed something quite incredible. In such a short amount of time he has put out so much false information it is very difficult to actually respond.

First but not least of which is the fact that he just cited a meeting of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates and what was said there and what happened there. The member was not even there. He is not a member of the committee. He does not know what happened in the committee. He was not there for the testimony. He was not there for the questioning. He was not there for any of the information that he is now splicing and dicing, and trying to put forward as some kind of an explanation for something that in fact did not at all happen.

This is not unusual. It is not original. We know that the Liberals have been putting forward, led by the member for Ajax—Pickering, a bunch of falsehoods on this file. The other day the member for Ajax--Pickering, in fact, said:

I am worried that politics is being boiled down to irrelevance--to splashy conflicts--

Yet, he gets up in the House day after day and all the time under the cover of parliamentary privilege and immunity and takes some of the most outrageous shots and smears at staffers of cabinet ministers and cabinet ministers themselves.

The fact of the matter is, and this is the central fact that I would ask my hon. colleague from Hull to understand. The central fact is that Treasury Board, under the current Minister of the Environment, the member for Ottawa West--Nepean, approved funding for the light rail project, but it was the democratically elected Ottawa City Council that voted against the light rail contract. Treasury Board approved the money and it was the city council, elected by the people of Ottawa, that voted against the light rail contract.

As for the contract the member opposite knows that it was five former Liberal party candidates who voted against the previous light rail project at the Ottawa City Council.

I want to return for a second to the member for Ajax—Pickering who has led the charge on this issue. He filed a frivolous complaint on this subject with the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services. What did it do? It threw his complaint out completely. It threw it out. It was so frivolous that it would not even listen to him.

As a matter of fact, OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino was interviewed on CFRA radio about this very same issue earlier this week. He confirmed that the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services had completely dismissed baseless complaints from the Liberal member for Ajax—Pickering. He also said that it was interesting that the member for Ajax--Pickering was making these complaints because that very own member's office was calling up the OPP on several occasions.

It gets better. Commissioner Julian Fantino said what he thought of these Liberal claims. He called them “ludicrous, frivolous, vexatious” and an “attempt to interfere with due process”. He also said the following about the accusations by that Liberal member. He said, “I don't know how anybody other than those of feeble mind could ever jump to these conclusions. Absolutely it's preposterous”.

The only thing left to do on this subject, other than leave it behind as a non-scandal, another one of these Liberal non-scandals where they throw mud and try to make something after the fact, is for the members of the Liberal Party, the member for Ajax—Pickering and unfortunately now my friend from Hull—Aylmer, to withdraw these ridiculous attacks, recognize that what they have alleged here is entirely wrong, and that what happened here was the appropriate due course of action.

Again, as I said, Treasury Board approved the money. The democratically elected council of the City of Ottawa voted it down. It took the action on behalf of its constituents and the City of Ottawa does not need the member of Parliament from Hull getting in its face and telling it what it did democratically was inappropriate.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, before going any further, I would like to point out two things to my colleague. First, all committee evidence, as we know, is available because it is transcribed. Second, it was Treasury Board that agreed to provide some funding and it was the minister, the President of Treasury Board at the time of the election campaign, who temporarily withdrew this funding.

In any event, a civil suit was launched against the City of Ottawa and the outcome will show that the then minister was wrong. It is a question of political judgment. We know that the Conservative government will not win a medal for political judgment.

The current Minister of the Environment interfered in the last municipal election campaign. Will the minister stop using the excuse of confidentiality, which should not apply to the names of Treasury Board ministers? Will he come clean and will he conduct himself like a minister worthy of trust?

When was the meeting held and which Treasury Board members were in attendance?

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, again, this is entirely contrary to what my colleague says. He says that there is some kind of effort here to hide information.

The Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, of which I am a member and have been for over two and a half years, and of which that member is not, had the then president of the treasury board and now current Minister of the Environment before the committee and for two hours he availed himself to all party members of all political parties for questioning on this matter.

He was there. He answered these questions in a televised committee room. We had all the people before the committee who wanted to ask questions. It is interesting that this member apparently has an interest in this issue, and I know he is the deputy whip of the opposition so maybe he is doing this as part of his parliamentary responsibilities, but the fact is the minister made himself available.

He was at committee to answer all these questions. He answered these questions numerous times. He availed himself to his local media. He has spoken to the local city councillors and has made himself entirely open on this process from start to finish.

He has answered all these questions. As a matter of fact, if my memory serves me, at that committee meeting the Liberals ran out of questions and the meeting itself adjourned early. If the Liberals are so concerned about this, they have run out of questions and the minister has already answered all these questions.

6:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Kitchener Centre not being present to raise the matter for which adjournment notice has been given, the notice is deemed withdrawn.

The hon. member for Gatineau.

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 11, I asked the minister responsible for official languages the following question:

Francophone athletes and media representatives with the Canadian mission will be welcomed by bilingual volunteers during the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games. However, by bilingual, the Canadian Olympic committees mean mastery of English and Mandarin. They have forgotten one of Canada's official languages, our language: French.

Is that yet more proof that nobody really cares about the Quebec nation or its language, and that French has no place in the Canadian Olympic delegation even though it is the official language of the Olympics? Will the government intervene to ensure that French is also required?

It was the parliamentary secretary responsible for the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics who answered my question. To the great surprise of everyone present, he assured us that the 2010 Olympic Games will be completely bilingual.

The problem with the parliamentary secretary's answer is that he was talking about the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver-Whistler, British Columbia. I was asking about something entirely different, namely the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in Beijing in the People's Republic of China in summer 2008. That is the problem with the answer.

When the parliamentary secretary completely derailed, I gently told him that I was asking about Beijing. However, he did not change his answer.

I am generous. After question period, I ran into the parliamentary secretary and he acknowledged that he made a mistake because he did not understand my question at first. I can overlook that.

However, I would like to take advantage of this debate to hear an elected representative of the government explain the adjustments to the bilingualism criterion.

Why Mandarin and English? How did they come up with that? Is this the Conservative government's new approach under its action plan for official languages? By the way, we have been waiting for the government to unveil its new plan since April 1, 59 days ago.

Are the Conservatives planning a round of constitutional talks to eliminate French as an official language of Canada and replace it with Mandarin? We have to wonder.

It would not surprise me in the least. The Conservatives recognize Quebec as a nation on paper only. The Prime Minister, who used to belong to an active coalition that fought among other things against Bill 101 in Quebec, would see it as a way to crush Quebec's identity and French language.

Is the Canadian Olympic Committee, some of whose member sports federations make headlines occasionally for their lack of respect for athletes from Quebec and francophone athletes, also in on the Mandarin movement, in order to eradicate French once and for all?

Canada has been trying to eliminate the French fact for some 245 years. We have only to think of the Durham report and the Union Act in the 1840s, after the patriots in Lower Canada were denied parliamentary democracy. Canada allowed the English-speaking provinces to abolish French-language schools and services. You know as well as I do. Consider the following examples: in 1871—

6:45 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. He is right about his question. About a month ago, or a little more than a month ago, I misheard the beginning of his question and I answered as if he had asked a question about the 2010 Olympic Games instead of the 2008 Games. That was my fault, I was wrong, but I am grateful for the chance I have here today to correct my answer and give the real answer to his question.

The answer is quite simply that he agreed. I think the origin of his question in April and again today goes back to the articles that were published in Le Droit, which expressed the concerns some people had about the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, in terms of services and respect. In fact, there was a lack of respect. Not everything had been done to show respect to athletes from Quebec and all Canadians and Quebeckers who want to see the games and listen to them in the official language of their choice.

I can assure my colleague that we are aware of the concerns or problems there are. We are in the process of fixing those problems to the satisfaction of all Canadians, of all Quebeckers, of all francophones and all anglophones, so the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing will be enjoyable for all Canadians.

6:50 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am indeed reassured to see that my colleague, the parliamentary secretary to the minister responsible for the 2010 Vancouver-Whistler Games acknowledges the situation. In any event, we had talked about this.

My colleagues may rest assured that I am not going to run through all of the occasions on which Canada has failed in its responsibilities regarding the French fact in Canada and Quebec. In any event, the Bloc Québécois, Quebec athletes and trainers and the francophones of Canada will certainly be watching to make sure that Mandarin is not in fact the other so-called official language of the Canadian contingent in Beijing. Both French and English do have to be used. It is extremely important that no confusion remain on this point.

Out of respect for the Quebec nation, it must be understood that it is a French-speaking nation with its own culture and that French takes precedence there. We respect our anglophone minority, the official minority of Quebec, and we want Canada to respect both official languages, and will insist on this, for as long as we are part of the Canadian federation.

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, we will keep all our commitments in this regard. We certainly respect Canada’s two official languages.

I am sure that my colleague from Gatineau is very sincerely concerned about this. I can assure him that Sport Canada and our government take their official languages commitments very seriously and support policies and initiatives that promote the use of both French and English in the Canadian sports system.

I am certain that my colleague will be satisfied with the steps that Sport Canada and its partners have taken to deal with this problem. Thanks to their efforts, francophone athletes and representatives will be served in the language of their choice at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

6:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

That concludes the adjournment proceedings. Pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been withdrawn and the House will now resolve itself into committee of the whole to study all votes under Foreign Affairs and International Trade in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2009.

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

I do now leave the Chair for the House to go into committee of the whole.

(Consideration in committee of the whole of all votes under Foreign Affairs and International Trade in the main estimates, Mr. Bill Blaikie in the chair)

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09
Business of Supply
Government orders

6:50 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Bill Blaikie

I might just remind members that pursuant to the motion that was adopted with respect to yesterday evening and this evening, each party will have rounds of 15 minutes and that the answers on the part of ministers should be approximately, generally speaking, the length of time that opposition members or, for that matter, other members take in answering questions or making comments that the minister will then be called upon to respond to.

We will begin with the official opposition, the hon. member for Toronto Centre.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09
Business of Supply
Government orders

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, it is nice to be working with you again. I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Mount Royal in the first round of 15.

Just to start with a fairly mundane set of questions, just to try to find out about Madam Couillard. Did she have a diplomatic passport? Do we know what kind of passport she had?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09
Business of Supply
Government orders

6:55 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Chair, Passport Canada has an approach for diplomatic passports and, in those cases, anyone travelling with a diplomatic passport must be on official government business or be married or be a common-law spouse of someone who is.