House of Commons Hansard #45 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was epilepsy.

Topics

International Trade
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, again I would ask the hon. member to go back and read the throne speech and take a look at our position and our stance since 2006, when we first formed government. Our protection and defence of supply management has not prevented us from entering into trade negotiations with partners around the world. The member may think it precludes it, but it actually does not, so we can defend our position on supply management in Canada and still have a pro-job, pro-trade plan for Canada.

Canada-Brazil Air Transport Agreement
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to section 32(2) of the Standing Orders, I have the pleasure to table, in both official languages, four treaties, the first of which is the agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Federal Republic of Brazil on air transport, signed in Brazil on August 8, 2011.

Canada-Costa Rica Air Transport Agreement
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the second treaty is the agreement of the Government of Canada and the Government of the Republic of Costa Rica on air transport, signed in San José on August 11, 2011.

Canada-Kuwait Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement
Routine Proceedings

November 14th, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the third treaty is the Canada-Kuwait Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, signed in Ottawa on September 26, 2011.

2010 Protocol on Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the fourth is the Protocol of 2010 to the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea of 1996, signed in London on April 30, 2010.

An explanatory memorandum is included with each treaty.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 20 petitions.

Motor Vehicle Safety Act
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-344, An Act to amend the Motor Vehicle Safety Act (side guards).

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to move the cyclists-pedestrian protection act, which would help prevent senseless deaths caused by being pulled under the back wheels of large trucks. The bill calls for the mandatory installation of side guards on trucks. It is a safety measure used in many other nations.

The bill is too late for Jenna Morrison, a pregnant mom who was tragically killed while riding her bicycle in Toronto last week, but it is not too late for the ones she left behind. It is not too late for Lucas, her five-year-old son.

Other countries have acted. In Britain and Europe, these truck guards are mandatory, and lives have been saved. Cyclist deaths have been reduced. We have tried to pass this bill before in the House, but failed.

In Toronto tonight, the family and friends of Jenna Morrison will grieve for her in a memorial service. The bill would give them reason to hope that this tragic loss would help to protect others. Let us proceed with this bill in Jenna Morrison's memory.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Report
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

moved:

That the report of the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner in relation to the former Member for Simcoe—Grey, presented by the Speaker on Monday, September 19, 2011, be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and that the Committee study the report with a view to further investigate the Commissioner's findings in order to resolve outstanding questions; and that the Committee report its findings to the House no later than six months after the adoption of this motion.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Report
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Before debate begins on the motion just moved, I would like to make a short statement.

As members well know, the Conflict of Interest Code for members of the House of Commons provides for certain procedures that the House must follow should the Ethics Commissioner conclude that a member has not complied with an obligation under the code. These procedures differ depending on the nature of the contravention and can lead to a debate and a vote on a motion to concur in the report.

In the case of the particular report that has given rise to the motion now before the House and without anticipating what decision the House may make, the chair believes that the House is now faced with a situation never envisaged when the code was first drafted. One basic principle entrenched in many of our rules allows for individuals who are the subject of such reports to be heard--that is, to participate in debate and present arguments. Indeed, section 28, paragraph 9 of the code assumes this in stating that:

Within 10 sitting days after the tabling of the report of the Commissioner in the House of Commons, the Member who is the subject of the report shall have a right to make a statement in the House immediately following Question Period, provided that he or she shall not speak for more than 20 minutes.

This opportunity is, of course, no longer afforded to the former member for Simcoe—Grey, who was not returned after the last election. It would seem to the chair that the House may wish to reflect on the circumstance, and accordingly I would invite the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to examine the code in light of this unforeseen situation and to make any recommendation it deems appropriate.

I thank honourable members for their attention.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Timmins--James Bay.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Report
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that before we began this discussion today, you pointed out that the member who was the subject of this report is no longer in the House. If we are going to look at these issues as parliamentarians, we have to look at the larger implications rather than the individual behaviour of a member who, as you quite rightly pointed out, is no longer here to defend herself. That is something we should be reminded of.

All members of the House are very aware of the issues with the former member for Simcoe-Grey and her husband, Mr. Jaffer, in connection with the question of lobbying improprieties. That was ruled upon by the Ethics Commissioner. Once again, the Ethics Commissioner has given us an excellent report, and we greatly value the work of the Ethics Commissioner.

This matter should be moved to committee for study now because it is important to make sure that we learn the lessons from it, because as you will hear, Mr. Speaker, as I speak today, there are a number of questions about the inconsistencies, the gaps in testimony, the difficulty that the Ethics Commissioner stated she had in receiving evidence. This issue is larger than the behaviour of an individual member. If the Ethics Commissioner is charged to examine an issue, we have to ensure that he or she has the full resources and the ability to open the necessary doors. That is the reason we believe it should be moved on to committee to be examined.

A couple of key elements are germane to this discussion. One is that at the very beginning of her report, the Ethics Commissioner talks about how she was contacted by the Prime Minister's Office, which advised her to seek advice from a private investigator who would provide more information to the Ethics Commissioner on the allegations against Ms. Guergis and her husband. The Ethics Commissioner writes that she did contact the private investigator and was told that he had no allegations to present. At the time, this move by the Prime Minister attracted a great deal of media attention and perhaps may have prejudiced the case against Ms. Guergis somewhat. There is the question of why the Prime Minister intervened, sent the letter and told the Ethics Commissioner to speak with a private investigator, and then the private investigator clearly said that he had nothing to offer.

This is not the first time that the Ethics Commissioner has been led down the garden path by government members looking to deal perhaps more with partisan protection of their own party than with the larger issue at hand. We know that just a few weeks ago the Ethics Commissioner had to speak out on the role of the ethics committee and on the allegations made by the member for Peterborough against the New Democratic Party in a letter, thus creating a whole committee hearing based on allegations. The Ethics Commissioner had to come and say she was never presented with any evidence. She wanted to know how she could be expected to do her job if a member on the government side--the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, in this case--made wild, unfounded accusations against an individual or against a political party and then refused to back them up. The impact in the media is that something terrible has occurred.

The Ethics Commissioner's job is to go through the evidence. She had obviously asked the member for Peterborough to present the evidence to back up the allegations. He did not bother to do that. He actually took it to committee, where he made further, and in some cases, wild, hairy, outrageously bizarre accusations. However, not one of these accusations was backed up with any evidence. I think the Ethics Commissioner felt she was being used politically in a stunt, so the question of why the Prime Minister asked the Ethics Commissioner to speak with a private investigator who was not able to provide any evidence is certainly among the first questions that need to be asked.

As well, numerous inconsistencies and gaps in witness testimony were raised in the report. In particular, the Ethics Commissioner points out that Ms. Guergis and Mr. Jaffer, the husband and wife couple, both former members of Parliament, appeared to have difficulty remembering details around the events of August and September of 2009, including the letter that she wrote, the details surrounding that letter and the business dealings Mr. Jaffer had with the companies of Mr. Wright. She was unable to get a clear answer from them.

This is the central issue of the investigation. What was that business relationship? How did Mr. Jaffer play his role as an amateur lobbyist, while his wife was a cabinet minister? We should have been able to get clear answers, but none of those answers were given in a clear or straightforward manner. The Ethics Commissioner reported on this. Ms. Guergis and Mr. Jaffer are not here to explain their roles.

We need to look at this in terms of parliamentary procedure. We have to ensure that when the Ethics Commissioner is tasked with examining serious allegations of conflict of interest, that she is able to get the answers.

The other element that the commissioner raised in her report was the difficulty in obtaining documentary evidence. This again is key for us in order to ensure that the rules were followed.

I think members will agree with me that the case of Mr. Jaffer offering to help friends of his by opening doors to the Prime Minister's Office and the Conservative Party represents the new face of lobbying that we are seeing. Former members, former people with ties to the Conservative Party, are using their role to offer influence, but are not necessarily coming forward as lobbyists. They are flying under the radar.

There is a larger question of Mr. Jaffer and his role with Green Power Generation. Under the Lobbying Act, are we ensuring that the way this system is set up is actually working? We know the vast majority of the 5,000 or some lobbyists who troll various parts of the Hill at given times follow the rules. They write down with whom they meet. Some of them represent small volunteer organizations, while some represent very large powerful interests. The fact is free floaters like Mr. Jaffer come in and set up meetings. He was under the radar. This could have serious implications on the credibility of our system.

The difficulty faced by the Ethics Commissioner in getting documentary evidence on such a case needs to be examined.

Mr. Jaffer told the Ethics Commissioner that he did not engage in work with Green Power Generation between his arrest on September 11, 2009, and mid to late October 2009, yet the Ethics Commissioner found that he was involved with Green Power Generation. He had discussions with Mr. Gillani's lawyer on September 16, 2009, about a contract. Emails were going back and forth. There were several discussions and at least one meeting with Mr. Wright in late September and ongoing 2009 about continuing work with them. Clearly the evidence that he gave contradicted the evidence the commissioner found.

What was used in their defence was the fact that they were not compensated. My friend from Winnipeg has often said, “Just because you're a bad lobbyist doesn't mean you are not a lobbyist. Just because you didn't end up making any money, doesn't mean you didn't contravene the act”.

The fact that they did not end up making money out of this might be indicative of a couple of things. First, fortunately the light was shone on those corners fairly quickly and we saw them scurry off. Second, we understand that they were not doing this because it was seen as a benevolent society. There was clearly an understanding that if they were not compensated now, there would be compensation down the road. This is exactly the findings of the Ethics Commissioner. She states:

Even if Mr. Jaffer and Mr. Glémaud did not expect to be compensated specifically for their work...it would be reasonable to conclude that the prospect of a longer term relationship with International Strategic Investments or Wright Tech and Green Rite would depend on Green Power Generation’s ability to add value to the business projects related to these companies....I therefore conclude that the work of Mr. Jaffer and Green Power Generation...was carried out with the expectation of future financial reward.

This is something that any average Canadian is going to understand. Obviously, if they were opening doors for a company to get contracts, they were doing it for the sense of financial benefit not just for the betterment of the human race. The fact that Mr. Jaffer was using his position as a former parliamentarian and as the husband of a key cabinet minister was obviously a question of conflict of interest.

This then relates to the other part of the marriage partnership. It was Ms. Guergis who said that she distanced herself and yet she wrote letters on behalf of interests. It was clearly found for the purposes of this inquiry that she had acted to further a private interest or had attempted to do so.

The findings of the Ethics Commissioner stand. They are not surprising to anyone who followed the case.

The issue is how often is this happening behind the scenes? How many other former parliamentarians are opening doors to friends? How many people are making financial arrangements based on the fact that it is who one knows in the PMO?

That is why the document does need to be examined. Even though it relates to an event that happened before the last election, the issues are still germane now.

I am more than willing to take any questions from my good friends and colleagues in the House.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Report
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am persuaded by the argument of the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay that these issues are not moot.

The former member for Simcoe—Grey was not re-elected. I think Helena Guergis' name was shabbily treated by people in her party in the way in which she was vilified and basically thrown to the RCMP for criminality when those charges were clearly false.

The reality is the conflict of interest and the use of the role of lobbyist by a former MP. There is a tremendous amount here that could use clarification for future guidance to clean up our roles and ensure the ethical behaviour of members of Parliament and former members of Parliament who continue to use the offices of their friends to advance business interests. The hon. member is quite right.

I ask for his view as to whether this issue could go forward even if the previous members are no longer in the House.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Report
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, we should have stated clearly at the beginning that everyone knows Ms. Guergis was made to be a political scapegoat for this party. The Ethics Commissioner pointed that out in the opening statement of her document where she talked about the Prime Minister contacting her about his allegations to the RCMP. We never even heard what those allegations were. There is an obvious sense that she was thrown under the bus.

However, out of this study there are clear questions about whether people are able to fly under the radar of the Lobbying Act and open doors for their friends. There is certainly a sense in Ottawa right now that the Conservatives are open for business with their buddies and that is done in the backrooms.

This report came out. We were dealing with this issue just before the last election, but these issues have not been solved. We need to take this to committee. We need to look at the role of the Lobbying Act. We need to look at whether the Ethics Commissioner has the ability to ensure that the light is shone in the dark recesses of that Conservative gang over there.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Report
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, ironically when I read what is called the Guergis report, there is another name I could put, that being the President of the Treasury Board report. The recent $50 million boondoggle event which occurred in his riding is eerily similar to what is happening here. The member is right. It is not what one knows; it is who one knows. Obviously some people knew who he was because he was able to divert $50 million from border security into everything else in his riding.

The Conservatives have not learned anything from the Guergis report or from what happened to Helena Guergis. Therefore, could my colleague elaborate on whether he sees a trend within the cabinet of the Conservative Party?

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Report
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly we have a minister who had his hands on $50 million he never should have had his hands on in the first place, blew it and then claimed he did not have a paper trail.

If the Canada Revenue Agency phoned folks back home, said that it heard they got their hands on a couple of million dollars, blew it and asked what they spent it on and if they said that they did not have a paper trail, do people think the agency would say that it was okay, that the next time it would do things differently?

We see a breach to the sense of obligation that parliamentarians are meant to be held to a code. I think the Conservatives believe they are above that code. I cannot think of a precedence other than perhaps Huey Long, the long-standing governor in Louisiana who used to give out pork off the back of a truck, or Maurice Duplessis in Quebec. However, there is a sense now that the way they do business is out of the back of their vans driving up the country roads of Muskoka. Apparently, they are giving out so much pork in Muskoka now that some members seem to have little curly tails behind them.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Report
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, could the member for Timmins—James Bay elaborate on what he hopes would come out of the procedure and House affairs committee if the matter were referred there?