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House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was heritage.

Topics

CrtcOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is very simple. A minister should not interfere or put pressure on anybody like the CRTC. He can, and it is his duty, as you would do for your constituents-

CrtcOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Order. My colleagues I would ask you to please address the Chair in all of your questions and answers.

CrtcOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, for one thing I am not a minister and not in the same position as the hon. minister.

There is a simple guideline that applies in these cases and it is a most elementary one. It is understood in most jurisdictions. That is that ministers do not communicate with quasi-judicial regulatory bodies except in three ways: through statute, through orders in council, and through public formal submissions to that body. They do not communicate through telephone calls or casual conversations or casual letters on behalf of applicants or interveners.

Can the Prime Minister assure this House that that simple guideline, which is understood in most jurisdictions, was given to the ministers of his government, including the Minister of Canadian Heritage?

CrtcOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I explained that every cabinet minister is a member of Parliament. When you are in your riding on Saturday, Sunday or Monday receiving your constituents you have to receive them. In this case, this person asked his member of Parliament if he would make sure that his application would be considered, and he just asked the CRTC to do exactly what is their duty to do. He did not put apply pressure. He just asked them to consider this application, as it was his duty to ask as a member of Parliament.

CrtcOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the Prime Minister read all of the letter that the minister sent to the chairman of the CRTC. In his last paragraph he said this: "I trust that you will keep me abreast of developments in this matter and please do not hesitate to contact me should you require additional information".

What was the minister thinking of? Was he contemplating entering into an ongoing dialogue with the chairman of a regulatory authority over an application?

Is the Prime Minister really saying that this type of activity is acceptable? Will he not ask the minister to resign?

CrtcOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

According to the House of Commons circumstances the minister has explained what he has done. I said that he made an honest error in sending-

CrtcOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

CrtcOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Liberal Saint-Maurice, QC

No, he did it. When he realized that it was interpreted as trying to apply pressure he clarified it on his own without pressure from anybody from anywhere. He said to the commission: "Do not interpret that as wanting to support or oppose this application" and that he was just asking them to look at the application and render the judgment that they have to render under the law.

CrtcOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

In his letter to the CRTC, the Minister of Canadian Heritage wrote that he wished to be kept abreast of developments in the matter. Does the Prime Minister not realize that in so writing, the Minister of Canadian Heritage is putting pressure on the CRTC to issue a licence?

CrtcOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I think that the hon. member should read the letter that the minister sent. When he heard that his action was being interpreted as bringing pressure to bear, he made it clear to the CRTC that he had not intended to support or oppose the application, but that he had merely referred it, as a member of Parliament, to the Commission.

CrtcOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his letter on ministerial letterhead, the minister goes even further, offering to provide the CRTC personally with additional information on the licence application.

Has the Prime Minister really read this letter, and if so, how can he not conclude that the CRTC would assume that he was writing in his capacity as minister?

CrtcOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the minister should have used the letterhead he keeps for his correspondence as the member for Laval West, just as I could use a letterhead identifying myself as the member for Saint-Maurice. But everyone knows very well that Jean Chrétien is the Prime Minister, and if I used a different letterhead, people would perhaps find it a bit ridiculous.

I did indeed read the original letter and the letter of explanation. It was an honest mistake on the part of the minister and he took corrective action himself without any pressure from anyone. Under the circumstances, I think that it is my responsibility to declare the matter closed at this point.

I consulted the government's ethics counsellor and one I appointed myself, and both confirmed that I had made the right decision in this matter.

CrtcOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Jan Brown Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

The CRTC received two applications for a 24-hour Greek language specialty service to be played on radio. The first is by CHOM from Montreal and the second was by a Mr. Daniilidis in Telemedia.

On May 5 of this year the CRTC rejected the CHOM application. On March 15 the Minister of Canadian Heritage intervened by sending a letter of support for the application of Mr. Daniilidis.

The minister's intervention supporting the second application came prior to the rejection of the first application. How can the minister deny that his intervention did not influence the CRTC decision?

CrtcOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Laval West Québec

Liberal

Michel Dupuy LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the letter I sent to the CRTC was the letter of an MP designed to ensure that a constituent received due process.

I attach great importance to my role as a member of Parliament. I am sure that my colleague feels the same way when she has constituents coming to visit her constituency office. She takes account of what they are requesting.

CrtcOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Jan Brown Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the issue is clear and the minister did not answer my question.

My supplemental is for the Prime Minister. The Minister of Canadian Heritage has stated in the House that the CRTC is a quasi-judicial agency and that the Canadian government, including the Minister of Canadian Heritage, should not interfere in the process.

His current action is an obvious and flagrant breach of the judicial principle. Will the Prime Minister now demand the resignation of his minister?

CrtcOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I said earlier that I would look into the matter very carefully. I have consulted those who have responsibility in the matter.

The minister made an honest error. He corrected it immediately without any pressure. It is one of those things. Every member of the cabinet is confronted with the same problem. Some constituents write to me about problems in every department and I have a responsibility over every department. I send requests to ministers and ask that they be looked into. It is part of my job as the member of Parliament for Saint-Maurice.

In this case, I concluded after consultation, as explained to the House, that there was no need for a resignation.

CrtcOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, who has told us repeatedly over the past year that he attaches the utmost importance to the integrity of his ministers, is now turning a blind eye to a very serious mistake on the part of the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

How can the Prime Minister be taken seriously when, at the first opportunity to come his way, in view of such a serious mistake, he chooses to forgive and forget rather than enforce his code of ethics? Clearly, the Prime Minister is not equal to the situation.

CrtcOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I said that I had consulted the government's ethics counsellor who told me that the minister had been careless but had taken corrective action himself as soon as he realized that sending the letter was being construed as interference. It was put in very clear terms. Under the circumstances, I accepted this piece of advice as well as the explanation provided by the minister. I believe that he has done his job as a member of Parliament.

Some people say that MPs who do not do their job as MPs should be relieved of their duties. I find it somewhat surprising that a member who insists that MPs should do their job would expect MPs who are ministers as well not to do their job as MPs.

CrtcOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister hides behind the advice of his advisors. But they are not the ones who have been elected. He should assume his responsibilities.

Are we to understand from the decision of the Prime Minister of Canada that he puts personal friendship above the integrity of his Cabinet?

CrtcOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I take full responsibility for this decision. Never did I attempt to evade my responsibilities in making this decision. In response to a question, I said that I could have not requested any advice, but chose to do so and was told that, under the circumstances, it was totally acceptable, and I take full responsibility for that.

Again, I find it somewhat surprising to hear the Bloc Quebecois come here and talk about integrity when employees are blackmailed by its parent organization to retain their jobs. What is going on in Quebec City is a disgrace. It is embarrassing!

CrtcOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, first we hear the Prime Minister say that he was making a representation as an ordinary MP. Then in the next breath the Prime Minister said: "Well, it was an honest mistake".

We want the true answer to this. Was it representation or was it a mistake?

CrtcOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

Order. We must presume that our word will be taken at face value in this House. I do not know that the truth should be questioned like that. Perhaps the hon. member could rephrase the question.

CrtcOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Canadian Heritage claims that he wrote the letter to the CRTC on behalf of a constituent to ensure that he received "a fair hearing and due consideration".

He also claims he had absolutely no intention of influencing the CRTC. Does the minister have any reason to believe that the CRTC would not give his application a fair hearing and due consideration unless he personally wrote them a letter?

CrtcOral Question Period

October 27th, 1994 / 2:35 p.m.

Laval West Québec

Liberal

Michel Dupuy LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I have the fullest confidence in the CRTC. The CRTC is an arm's length agency, which I respect, as I stated in this House on several occasions when some members of the

opposition were suggesting that I should interfere in its operations.

When there was an indication that the letter I sent could lend itself to misinterpretation, I quickly made arrangements through a second letter to make sure the original meaning was understood.

CrtcOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, this gives new meaning to the phrase "the six month's hoist". Improper ministerial influence is apparent when only one application to the CRTC is favoured with a personal introduction by the Minister of Canadian Heritage on ministerial letterhead.

This morning the minister said that he "never for a moment had any hesitation or misunderstanding about my role or responsibilities as a minister".

If that is the case then he knowingly and grossly violated that understanding by favouring this application. For his incompetence and his incredible lack of judgment, will this minister resign?