Madam Speaker, the bill before the House is needed because of the context in which certain agreements were signed concerning the redevelopment and operation of terminals 1 and 2 at the Toronto international airport. The findings of the Nixon report commissioned by the Prime Minister speak for themselves.
"My review has left me with but one conclusion. To leave in place an inadequate contract, arrived at with such flawed process and under the shadow of possible political manipulation, is unacceptable. I recommend to you that the contract be cancelled".
If this bill is needed to cancel all agreements with T1 T2 Limited Partnership, any responsible government must look into the reasons why we are in this dilemma.
Our gracious Majesty had dealings with unknown persons whose identity is still shrouded in mystery. As recommended by the Nixon report, the Crown must unilaterally cancel those agreements because it was misled by her main counsellors and agents at the end of the 34th Parliament. We will try to explain to the House the role played by certain parties. It will then become clear why they want to remain unknown.
The Nixon report is particularly harsh with those responsible for the signing of those agreements. It is not impossible that very influential people wielded that influence improperly and in a way which is detrimental to the Canadian heritage. According to the Nixon report, there was very high level influence peddling.
If this House has reached the point where it is going to ignore the consensual principle and have our dear monarch lose face by unilaterally cancelling an agreement, I think it is because the Crown was very poorly advised.
What was the rush for a clearly moribund government to pass such contracts privatizing the only profitable air terminals in the country, thus binding for a long time, the next 57 years in fact, future Canadian governments, when the then-Leader of the Opposition and present Prime Minister of Canada cautioned the government not to conclude these deals before the election of October 25, 1993, and even warned that he would cancel the whole thing?
Before the deal was finalized, the future Prime Minister said publicly and warned the parties that he would not hesitate to cancel all that. Following this declaration, the government's chief negotiator in this case asked for written instructions before signing the contracts. On October 7, 1993, the then-Prime Minister, through an internal memo, insisted on the signing being done the same day. During the final phase of negotiations, certain top-ranking civil servants involved asked for a transfer because they were not sure that they were acting correctly.
Can we associate this move with the 500 partisan appointments made about the same time of close friends of the regime which was then collapsing? It is not improbable.
Not only a lot of money was lost because of all what had to be spent in this voluminous case, which some of my colleagues will address later, but it dealt a severe blow to the principles of transparency and honesty. I did not invent any of this; it is all in the Nixon report.
By taking lightly the whole development of an industry of the future which cost Canadians a lot of money, the government seemed to the people to be out to grab what it could, and this is serious, coming from what must be the most honest and upright of our democratic institutions.
The government of the 34th Parliament acted like a real scrounger, thus tarnishing the image Canadians had of it. The verdict rendered a few days later leaves no doubt in this regard.
We also learn in the Nixon report that our government even willingly colluded to deprive the Government of Ontario of its right to $10 million under the land transfer law of this province.
A responsible governement cannot afford to have two different sets of laws: one for itself and another for the citizens. In the past, several forceful rulings by the highest court of the land have reminded us of it in no uncertain terms. But we can see now the unbearable consequences of the former government's doings: unilaterally cancelling a contract is almost indecent.
Ordinary citizens cannot resort to what is called in French "dol", that is fraud by deceit, to seek the cancellation of a contract, except in Quebec, of course, where that procedure is allowed under the new Civil Code. Once more our beautiful province has shown her clearsightedness and sense of innovation, as opposed to some provinces that are incapable of changing their traditional vision of this country.
But I digress, Mr. Speaker. I want to come back to Bill C-22 which reflects poorly on the crown from a legal as well as factual point of view.
Common law principles do not allow ordinary citizens to resort to "dol" and case law has not changed in that regard.
To lose face, Mr. Speaker, is not too strong a way of putting it. How could Her gracious Majesty resort to "dol" to cancel that contract, when she is so well advised by the largest firm of legal advisors, the Public Service of Canada?
Her Majesty must surely not be very happy with what is happening right now. If it had not been for her unlimited authority, Her Majesty would have been had. Fortunately, as we were taught during the first term of our BA in law, the only thing the crown cannot do is to change a man into a woman, and I would add "and even that remains to be seen".
The Queen can do no wrong. It is because of this principle of common law, so dear to our fellow citizens across the floor, that this fool's deal can still be cancelled and its effects avoided, thank God.
Earlier, I was wondering how come we had gotten there. I agree that we should cancel for all intents and purposes the agreements concerning terminals 1 and 2 of Pearson airport, but I do not want this to be done at the expense of our public servants. It is understandable that we would want to hold the previous government responsible, as this government always does, but I would advise the Liberals against casting the first stone because the Conservatives just pushed a bit farther the puck that had been put into play by their predecessors.
What does the government intend to do, to avoid further insults of this kind to our beloved sovereign? In its famous red book, the party now in power, rightly criticizing the agreements reached a few days before election day on October 25, had definitely promised Canadian taxpayers to introduce a bill which would have the effect of restricting lobbying activities on Parliament Hill. Did it keep its promise? Not at all.
The present Prime Minister and member from Saint-Maurice had promised us legislation governing lobbyists' activities on Parliament Hill. This legislation has yet to come.
In the daily Le Droit of March 21, David Zussman, in charge of the lobbying issue for the Prime Minister, said regarding the introduction of such legislation that, although the principles were clear, it sometimes takes more time to write the rules than to agree on the principles. He also said that there are so many elements and so many players in all of this that it will require much more time than one could have imagined.
There is reason to be confused, especially when one remembers that the Prime Minister, when given a rough ride in his own riding, said recently that it was all in the red book, that one had only to read between the lines.
Good legislation must be clear, concise, and precise. Its principles must be clear and not be subject to interpretation. Its scope must not be mitigated in any way neither by the number of people concerned nor their political or social status. If such legislation is written on the basis of the corporative interests of all the friends of the government, it can only be legislation difficult to write, evasive, permissive and easy to circumvent. It becomes questionable legislation. Must we understand that this is the kind of difficulty that the government is having with the development of this bill at this time?
The Pearson airport contracts were awarded in its last days by the former government, when it felt the carpet slipping under its feet. What does the government intend to do to protect itself against such a temptation at the end of its present mandate? I trust that such a vision of the future will not dictate that it uses the same self-control as it is using in the development of its code of ethics.
Could the present government, which is as alike as two peas in a pod as its predecessor, not reassure our dear sovereign, Canadians and Quebecers that such absurd actions as those that were perpetrated by the previous government with regard to the Toronto airport will not likely occur again?
Those divine banquets at $3,000 per person, which were attended by the most powerful members of the present government and the Senate, and those brunches at $1,000 per person, that is where the main activities of the most powerful lobbyists are likely to occur, because the Prime Minister's eloquence alone cannot justify such an investment.
Far be it from me to cast aspersions on our Prime Minister. After all, his political longevity is proof positive of his integrity. However, I think we can say the Prime Minister was being a little careless about his image when he appointed Robert Wright, a Liberal fundraiser from away back, to negotiate the cancellation of the agreement on privatization of the air terminals in Toronto, especially when we realize that Mr. Wright, who has many qualifications, was the Prime Minister's fundraiser during his campaign for the leadership of the Liberal Party in 1984.
Section 10 of the bill before the House today says that, if the Minister considers it appropriate, he may enter into agreements on behalf of Her Majesty to provide for the payment of such amounts as the Minister considers appropriate in connection with the coming into force of this act. That is what it says.
This provision adds insult to injury. Not only did Her august Majesty get the short end of the stick in these agreements, she will also have to deal with the fall-out that will come as a result of this legislation. Is the government again using Her long suffering Majesty to get several million dollars for its friends?
Far be it from me to cast any doubts on the integrity of the Minister of Transport who, I am sure, is capable of exercising his discretionary powers with the requisite honesty and restraint, but I think this is a truly herculean task which we cannot reasonably ask him to perform.
Those who dealt with the government in this particular matter had been warned by the present Prime Minister that the deal was a dead end and that, if the Liberal Party came to power, the contracts would be cancelled. That is why the government negotiator asked for instructions before proceeding with the signing of the agreements. Those who dealt with the government were aware of all the implications. They gambled, and they lost. Moral turpitude is not a defence.
In any case, the parties to these contracts never lost money in their dealings with the government in power, and for reasons I mentioned earlier, I wonder on what ethical grounds we would owe them anything at all.
Throughout my speech, I consciously and purposely used the terms "Majesty", "Sovereign", "Queen", and the "Crown". The people in this House know that when we refer to Her Majesty, we are talking about the people of this country, which means all Canadians. But do Canadians realize this? Do they realize that they also got the short end of the stick?
Do the citizens of this country realize that the Toronto airport deal is only the tip of the iceberg? For 127 years, for as long as the Canadian federation has existed, the citizens of this country thought they owned this country and were the masters of its destiny. A cold, northern country, very austere, but a country of the strong, the brave and the adventurous. Those who chose it did so out of love, because they had a dream to build a life and were prepared to suffer, to forego sun and heat and make do with very little, but always with a great love for the land.
They were exploited by foreign fur traders, misled by power-hungry or simply money-grubbing politicians, leading a life of few dreams and limited prospects. What are we going to leave our children? Six, seven, eight, nine hundred billion dollars worth of debt!
I am ashamed, Mr. Speaker, ashamed. Why? Because I am part of the generation who made off with the cashbox. I inherited a beautiful, clean country, and in less than 50 years, see what I have done, see what will be left for the next generations: a country burdened with debt, polluted, dirty, torn apart by sorry politicians who cared only for their personal comfort.
This country has been ruined by greed, vandalized by those who feel no loyalty to any country, by mudsucking tadpoles, by well-educated politicians who lack vision and are blinded by their personal ambitions.
A great philosopher once said: it is not the last drop that makes the cup overflow, but the first one. It is true.
The Toronto airport could very well be the last drop. There is too much doubt, too much confusion here, as well as too many mistakes, for us not to start asking questions.
In this whole mess, some senior officials resigned, others asked to be transferred, and others said nothing for fear of retaliation. The operation was so gross that only those few who had absolute authority thought they were untouchable.
The steamroller was in motion. They were marching on against all common sense and advice; greed had no limits, the project was the only purpose and cupidity ruled.
Proud people were made into servants, honest ones were made deceitful and truthful ones turned into liars. Things have to change, this country must regain its dignity, regain respect and redefine its aspirations; most of all, it must re-establish the rule of law. That is why we must immediately, even at the risk of collectively hurting ourselves, revive justice and pride to give hope once again to those who follow; we must take our destiny into our own hands.
Consequently, we must immediately set up a royal commission to inquire into the Pearson Airport deal and we must implement its recommendations. We must put a stop to false bidding and allow Canadians, including Quebecers, to regain their sense of pride and dignity. The nobility of the principles of equality, fraternity and justice must be restored. This way, perhaps we could considerably reduce disputes between Quebec and Ottawa. Perhaps people could understand that Quebecers who choose emancipation have decided to free themselves from this kind of socioeconomic and financial colonialism that holds too many Canadians hostages.
Que bene annat, bene castigat, or "spare the rod and spoil the child". This age-old latin maxim is still valid today. If our Prime Minister is tabling Bill C-22 for honest reasons, if he wants to restore the principles of justice in this country, he must proclaim now the appointment of a royal commission of inquiry on Terminals 1 and 2 in Toronto. The conclusions of the commissioners will allow us to prosecute all those who are at fault, as rich as they may be, under one justice, honourable and righteous, the justice of Canadians.