House of Commons Hansard #60 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was recall.


The House resumed from April 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-22, an act respecting certain agreements concerning the redevelopment and operation of terminals 1 and 2 at Lester B. Pearson International airport, be read the second time and referred to a committee; and of the amendment; and of the amendment to the amendment.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill C-22 which is the Liberal government response to the Pearson airport fiasco it inherited from the previous government.

We all know that over the last number of years the previous government tried to address itself to the cost and administration of regional airports in this country. One of the things it tried to do was follow through on a different policy regarding its budget management by setting up local airport authorities and quasi-independent authorities.

The administration and financing of airports were moved off the government's balance sheet and therefore away from the government's deficit. This allowed these independent authorities to borrow on their own although the loans were guaranteed by the federal government. Because the federal government guarantees a loan it allows them to avoid bringing forth documents to show that the budget would have been that much larger, yet the amount of money borrowed by the government and its institutions would nonetheless remain the same.

This was part of the smoke and mirrors used by the previous government to deceive the Canadian public as to the true situation of this country's finances. The previous government should be ashamed of that approach. Of course the election showed that Canadians had lost complete faith in its approach to the situation.

Because of the magnitude of Pearson airport and because it was the only profitable airport in the country, the Conservatives decided they would take a different approach. They entered into negotiations which were behind the scenes and not public tender to lease, sell and give away property belonging to the taxpayers.

It seems ironic they would choose their friends and those of other political parties to come forth and negotiate with the government behind the scenes. The agreement would allow them to take charge of one of the prime federal assets in this country, hundreds of acres of property close to downtown Toronto. They would have a sweetheart lease on it for many years which guaranteed them income, all at the taxpayers' expense.

When the situation blew up in their faces during the last election this government decided it was time to do something about it and said to stop the deal from going forward. Of course the government did not heed the cries and concerns of the electorate and the last government in its dying days signed a deal.

Now we have the present government's response to that in Bill C-22. It is going to kill the deal signed by the former federal government. It was a sad day for Canada, for government and for administration in this country when the previous government entered into the contract. However, it is an equally sad day when the government presents Bill C-22 in which it is going to use its force and power to override a signed agreement.

The phrase force majeure means if someone of a higher authority exerts their power to kill a legitimate transaction that is already in agreement, it is perfectly acceptable in law. But when the federal government enters into a transaction with the private sector and then changes its mind, no one in the private sector can do that without recourse. Nonetheless the federal government has used its power, the ultimate power in this country, to cancel the agreement which has already been signed.

Our position in the Reform Party is that we do not like the bill. It gives compensation to some people who knew that the Canadian taxpayer disagreed and knew the Canadian taxpayer was being taken to the cleaners in this situation. We do not like the bill because the minister, in the sum of millions of dollars to be determined, is going to compensate them for the costs they incurred in the negotiations on this contract. They knew it was contrary to public policy and contrary to the desires and benefits

of the Canadian taxpayer. Now they feel they are entitled to compensation because they entered into that type of a negotiation.

The taxpayer is being taken to the cleaners. The Canadian taxpayer is being insulted by this bill. In our opinion the people on the other side should not be entitled to any compensation whatsoever. They knew when they signed the contract there was a very good chance if the Liberals won the election that the contract would be gone. For them to wait another week or two for the outcome of the election would have prevented them from being in a position to claim any money from the government whatsoever.

Therefore, being responsible to the taxpayers and being concerned about taxpayers' money, our position is that this bill should be defeated and voted down. No compensation whatsoever should be paid to the group that signed the lease.

I mentioned on a wider topic that the whole local airport authority concept as it was envisaged by the previous government was an attempt to move some borrowing off the balance sheet and off the budget. We disagree with that as well. The Auditor General has looked at these situations over the past number of years. He has been quite critical of the way the government has approached the method of financing and administration of the airports.

It is time this government that is so new in its mandate decided to review the whole area of administration and financing of this country's airports. It should develop a clear, concise policy to ensure this type of boondoggle does not happen again, to ensure that the taxpayers are respected and that their money is spent wisely and fairly for the benefit of all Canadians in the transfer of people moving around in this country.

That is the position of the Reform Party. I hope that the government will take that into serious consideration and if this bill does go forward, when it comes time to negotiate with the other parties that the amount is kept if not to nil, to an absolute minimum.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill before the House today has a very evocative title: the Pearson International airport Agreements Act.

Pearson airport has become a symbol of all the old partisan practices and the more or less above-board lobbying that goes on in a parliamentary system when elected representatives do not have sufficient control.

It is also a test of the present Liberal governement's approach to such practices. I agree that they inherited a deal that had been "negotiated" by the Conservatives, but it seems that, although Prime Ministers have changed, their friends remain the same. On the list of lobbyists who were involved in this deal, we find as many friends or contributors on both the Liberal and what used to be the Conservative side.

The point I would like to make this morning is that we often try to rationalize the lack of development in the regions by pointing to a lack of initiative in these regions or similar arguments.

I would like to say that perhaps the real reason is that these regions are not part of the more or less legal, sometimes "shady" networks of lobbyists. As a joke, I said to one of my colleagues: I wish there was a bill on certain agreements concerning the development of eastern Quebec. This might give us some insight into why our projects, which are prepared by development agencies, local contractors and regional authorities acting in good faith, or even by citizens groups, are seldom successful in attacking the dollars they need.

In other words, spending $250,000 in my region has always seemed more complicated than spending $250,000 on the Pearson airport deal, where $250,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to what will be paid just to the lobbyists, for instance.

So what we have here is a double standard. In the case of Pearson airport, the big bucks network makes sure everyone around those who set up this deal gets their share.

We would have liked to see this bill specify exactly what form of compensation, if any, will be provided for a given part of the contract and how it will be awarded, so that there is an open process.

One might also ask how we got into this mess. What is it in our system that lets people who are not elected have more clout than those who are? When we look at the list of people involved in the Pearson deal, those who lobby the government for a decision, why do we see so few elected representatives and so many what I would call powers behind the throne?

I think we have a system that has lost control over the way it operates, and I heard the same comment from voters during the election campaign. It does't take a genius to see that, in our current federal political system, there is a lot of waste, a lot of money going down the drain. So why is this happening? Of course we should always allow for some margin of error in the way we do things, but there is no excuse for this kind of behaviour, and I think that the Liberal government which was elected on a promise of transparency will be judged on how it settles the Pearson question. As I see it, what is in this billfalls very wide of the mark and there is certainly a lack of transparency.

What the government proposes is a bill with a kind of fragmented authority, a bill so full of holes that all parties can get what they want out of it. Another reason why this kind of arrangement was tabled is the fact that the political parties which have formed of government in Canada since this country's inception were always financed, more or less openly, by people who do not vote. By this I mean companies, unions and other organizations which, in the final analysis, do not vote and thus do not give a mandate to our elected representatives. In this connection, I would like to mention the public financing bill in Quebec, which has caused a significant shift in the behaviour and authority of elected representatives and lobbyists.

In Quebec, and the same applies to the Bloc as far as party financing is concerned, the only lobbyists who can influence us are people who contributed to our fundraising campaign as citizens and individuals.

In the case of federal parties, and this applies to the current government in particular, funding is provided by these very same people who, merely by changing hats, become lobbyists. They sign on to lobby for a given company, thereby placing the government in a very difficult situation. It can hardly say no to someone who, more as a corporate citizen than as an individual, has made a major financial contribution.

Next week, we will likely proceed to debate a motion on the funding of political parties. I find it totally logical that this motion was introduced by the member for Richelieu and that it ties in with the debate on Pearson airport. I think the government should take a lesson from the opposition in the case of Pearson, take a good hard look at its motives and determine how, in future, it can avoid a recurrence of situations such as this.

Regarding the sub-amendment moved by the Reform Party, my initial impression was that it was a technical amendment. However, on further consideration, since it adds the words "in Canada", it reflects more accurately the Canadian reality.

Why has Ontario always benefitted more from economic development in Canada? Is it because there are more entrepreneurs or more leadership in this province? I do not believe this is the reason. I think it is a question of networks and of contacts people have with political parties. In this respect, the Reform Party's sub-amendment is interesting because it proves to us that, in Canada, some people are more equal than others.

We want the government to take this principle of equality to heart either by amending or withdrawing the bill respecting certain agreements concerning Pearson International airport. In its place, we would like the government to introduce a bill entitled an Act respecting the Pearson airport agreement. This bill would shed light once and for all on whether friends of the government benefitted from this agreement. It would also give us an indication of whether in future the Liberals intend to take a different course of action.

Considering that, during the election campaign, a $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000 a plate dinner was held-I am not sure exactly which it was-this could be viewed as a warning sign of the direction which the government intends to take. In my view, it is important that a clear signal now be sent out that, in Canada and in Quebec, it is possible to have development issues addressed without having to resort to parallel circuits. What matters should be the relevance of the project, not whether a company is an influential friend of the government.

In this respect, it is important that all Canadians be made fully aware of the situation and that this debate uncover the whole truth about this transaction. All aspects of the deal must be fully explored.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, having read through the Nixon report and previewed statements made by the Minister of Transport and other government members, it is very clear to me that the government and the leader of the Liberal Party were wise in raising concerns during the election about this agreement that was struck between the previous government and the Pearson airport authority.

It brings to mind how this deal came about. It was signed October 7 in the middle of a general election. When the deal was signed it was made very clear by the Leader of the Opposition, who it was evident was going to be the next Prime Minister, that when he became Prime Minister the deal would be reviewed and perhaps rescinded. The people who came together and invested in the Toronto Pearson deal knew in advance that it was a risky venture. They knew at that time there was a very real possibility that the deal would be struck down. We applaud the government's decision to revoke this agreement by bringing forward Bill C-22. I quote the minister on the reasons why he felt the need to revoke this deal: "The deal was surrounded by a reliance on lobbyists, by backroom dealings, by the manipulation of bona fide private sector investors and the lack of respect for the impartiality of public servants".

We can appreciate the reasons why the minister made this move, why the government made this decision. It causes me concern and it causes the Reform Party concern that anyone would expect to get reimbursed for having put together a proposal for government to consider, and for any out of pocket costs that it might have incurred after submitting the tender.

It causes me concern that the government is asking the House to give it a blank cheque to compensate for out of pocket expenses those investors when the investors knew it was very risky in the first place. My experience with government contracts and tenders is that a cost is involved in preparing documentation for a proposed contract, and that for all those many people who put proposals forward before government, they

never get reimbursed for the expenses incurred in putting the proposal together.

I am concerned in this instance that we have a clause in the bill that allows for compensation to be paid. We have to continually remember the date that this contract was signed, which was October 7, in the middle of a general election. Is consideration being given for out of pocket expenses prior to that date or are we talking about after October 7, after the contract was actually signed? It is very important that the government remember that companies making a proposal for government do so at their own risk and at their own expense. They should not be compensated.

I would suggest that anybody who was made well aware by the media and by the statements of the soon to be Prime Minister that the investment was very risky, going ahead and spending more money after October 7 did so at his or her own peril.

This government, if it is truly committed to rejecting the previous government's way of doing business, the Tory way of doing business, will send a loud and clear message today that if you involve yourself in a questionable arrangement with a government in the dying hours of its mandate, you do so at your own peril. If the government wants to show this group and others in the lobbying business that it was wrong and that government has to take a firm stand, half measures will not do. I would like to suggest to the government that it take out any concept of reimbursing the private sector for doing business with the government.

The minister went on to say that the Minister of Transport may, with the governor in council, approve appropriate payments to the partnership for its out of pocket expenses. I mentioned before that it sounds like a blank cheque. We have no idea what these out of pocket expenses might be. It is definitely going to be in the millions of dollars. I do not think that Canadian taxpayers owe anything to a group of investors that got involved in a risky venture at best.

Canadians want their government to reject the type of patronage that was shown in this instance. If it pays this group, it is completely undermining the message that it is trying to send to Canadians. I do not think this bill should provide a consolation prize.

When one gets into the discussion of the appropriate place for government to be, there are other options of how government can remove itself from direct control of airport operations. It has done so successfully in the Vancouver International airport, the Edmonton International airport, the Calgary International airport and Montreal by establishing local airport authorities, non-profit organizations, with the ability to provide the service that Canadians expect with no consideration for making money for themselves.

Although I am not an expert in civil aviation, I am a frequent customer of the Vancouver airport. It is not because I want to be, it is because I have to be. From a consumer's point of view I am really quite impressed with what the private sector is doing at that airport.

The Vancouver airport is the second largest airport in Canada. It is undergoing major expansion. A second main runway is being built. The terminal is being greatly enlarged. The local authority there is planning ahead to capitalize on the ever increasing Pacific rim market. While this expansion is actually taking place, the Vancouver International airport appears to be running smoother than ever before.

The services in the existing terminal are better and more accessible than they were in the past. Despite some early objections to the airport improvement fee, which is payable by everybody using the airport, it is being used for expansion of the airport.

Canadians are quite prepared to see a user pay system come into play so that the people who are actually using the services are the ones who are paying for it, not the general taxpayer who if ever or very seldom uses the airports under consideration.

The airports have to provide a service but it is best left in the hands of the private sector. The government has to consider this as an option when it is finished with the contract for the Pearson airport. The government has to remember what the role of government should be in the operation of an airport. I feel the government's role is to ensure that the flying public has a safe, affordable and convenient means of travel. It is not to make profits or have politics as a priority.

The non-profit airport authorities appear to be a good way to ensure that public interest comes first and that the service is there for the public.

If the previous government had taken this approach we would not be in this mess with Bill C-22. If the current government wants to avoid problems in the future it should do two things. First, it should scrap any payments to the Pearson Development Corporation and second, it should carefully examine the effectiveness of a non-profit authority running Pearson International airport.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to rise today on Bill C-22 tabled by the Minister of Transport, a bill that cancels the agreements to privatize Pearson airport. This whole affair can certainly not be

held up as an example to follow. It is to me-and to the majority of Canadians, I am sure-a total mess in all respects. A mess founded on blatant patronage on an unprecedented scale.

It is an enormous cloud behind which the players, who are certainly no angels, worked to reach their goal: get their hands on the No. 1 airport in Canada, a profitable and promotable facility, under certain terms of the agreement.

I think this case could be described as anything but transparent and open. Every step is surrounded by very troubling facts. The way this case was handled is no way to promote the role and image of governments and elected representatives.

The Pearson agreement, signed in the midst of the election campaign and whose cancellation was announced by the Prime Minister on December 3, requires a thorough examination. This whole affair must be cleared up quickly and in broad daylight.

This was not done by the Nixon report, which was conducted in private-again, demonstrating a lack of transparency and openness, and which the Prime Minister commissioned and used as a basis to cancel the agreements. Instead of Nixon's quick and superficial look, people want an in-depth public enquiry to really determine the facts surrounding the negotiations on the agreement, in particular whether the firms involved should be compensated. I remind the government that several members from the Toronto region have demanded such a public enquiry. I hope that the little they got, namely the Nixon report, will lead them to continue to press their case. Let us hope that their party's gag order will not turn them into sheep.

Commissioning the Nixon report shows a real lack of will and courage. They wanted to look at this case and keep it under covers. The Liberals, led by the Prime Minister, preferred not to make waves to avoid splashing anyone. However, many questions remain unanswered. People have a right to know every detail of this case.

In this affair, decision makers were surrounded by many people called lobbyists. As we all know, especially the ministers opposite, various groups call on lobbyists to defend their specific and well defined interests. These lobbyists, that the law divides into two classes: professionals and employees, haunt lobbies, pay visits to decision makers, and communicate with public officials and ministers to influence their decisions.

In the airport case, it is clear that lobbyists played a crucial if not predominant role. At every step of the way, including the Nixon report, the close links between the players produced results. If we look at the parties involved, it is easy to establish close connections between them and the decision maker; we can even picture a big spider web where everyone got caught in the end. Conservatives and Liberals found themselves mixed up in this case. Former ministers, organizers and chiefs of staff, and old friends of the old parties, they all worked together. They used their knowledge of the system, the people and the situation to influence decision makers to their advantage or that of their clients.

One wonders whether these people are not more influential now than when they used to work right in political circles. They have the financial resources they need to achieve well defined objectives.

Faced with all this systematic and well-organized influence, we must question our governments' decision-making process and wonder if our political system and its supporters are preyed on by lobbyists. Are our decision makers independent? Do they make allowances? Are they vulnerable to all this pressure? Do they keep a good measure of realism?

There is no getting around it: the causes worked on and promoted by lobbyists are mainly economic and financial. Lobbyists are paid by big business and, in the end, they exist to make a profit. According to the annual report on the Lobbyists Registration Act, the most popular issues are: international trade, industry, regional economic development, government contracts and, in fifth place, science and technology. All these issues are strictly economic in nature.

The first social issue listed in this report comes in 40th place. Youth issues, 40th place; housing, an issue I deeply care about, 41st place; women's issues, 42nd place; seniors, 43rd place; and in 52nd and last place, human rights.

There is no doubt that lobbyists try to influence decision makers on profit-related economic issues. Social and humanitarian causes lag far behind and stay on the back burner.

The results are obvious and denounced more and more. Everyday reality is the best proof. Poverty which is becoming more entrenched and the unmet basic needs of a growing number of individuals and households clearly show that the decision makers have given up social causes.

Nevertheless, many organizations work in the community and demand thorough changes. Are they heeded? Their power is very small compared to that of big corporations and industries. Nor do they have the same means to exert influence. The big shots have dollars and the little people have cents. The big shots know many friends in high places, and the little people know little people.

For some, it is cocktails, business dinners and fancy meetings. Others have to march in the street, occupy offices and hold hasty meetings with decision makers so that these officials can have a good conscience and get rid of the few reporters who are interested.

The effects are there. The evidence is quite clear. Governments are disconnected from the grass roots and have been for a long time. Considering all the clout wielded by lobbyists and large political contributors, there is very little room left for ordinary people.

Seniors' groups, associations of the unemployed, community groups, housing committees, women's shelters, day care centres-none of these gives thousands of dollars to the old parties.

The Liberals are caught in this system of lobbying and large donors. The Martin budget is a perfect illustration of this. The lower and middle classes are affected and the rich are allowed to breathe easy.

The Pearson issue also shows very clearly all the influence and pressure exerted by the wealthy. We sense that the government is ill at ease and that it is reluctant to get to the bottom of the issue.

The political system and politicians owe it to the people to be open and aboveboard. Secrecy and intrigue are no longer in order. The government absolutely must deal with the present system of influence and also the financing of political parties.

Lobbying must be examined very thoroughly. Who is doing what? Who is working for what? Who is meeting whom? Why? With what results? Voters and taxpayers are entitled to know everything because they are the ones who pay the government. As for the financing of political parties, I call on the old parties to show moderation. I call on them to follow our party and adopt the Quebec formula. Governments must at last be free and independent.

Let us hope that the system will soon be completely open and let us give everyone equal access to decision makers. Democracy can only gain by it.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I usually rise with enthusiasm in this House to speak to various bills introduced by the government. In fact, I often open my remarks by saying it is with pleasure that I will rise in this House to speak to such and such a bill.

Today however, it is without enthusiasm and even with disappointment that I do. I am taking part in this debate with no pleasure, but with the conviction of carrying out my duties and obligations as a parliamentarian.

It is indeed my duty to stand up in this House and publicly denounce the bill now being debated. The debate on Bill C-22 opened last Tuesday has brought to light an absolutely outrageous business. The contract to privatize Pearson airport entered into by the previous Conservative government has turned out to be an exercise in distributing presents to the friends of the system, the whole thing being engineered in an atmosphere of scheming and secrecy.

Allow me to recall a number of flaws that led eminently serious observers to come to that conclusion.

In 1993, Pearson airport generated over $23 million in profit. Under the contract passed with the Conservative government in the middle of an election campaign, Pearson Development Corporation was to operate Terminals 1 and 2 for an annual fee of $27 million.

At first glance, it looked like this transaction could be profitable to the taxpayers.

The picture changes completely once you know that the corporation with the winning bid was planning a 350 per cent hike in passenger fees, which would have resulted in a net increase in earnings totalling over $100 million annually, airport users footing the bill, naturally.

Air Canada publicly challenged this decision. To sugar the pill, Air Canada was also given a little bonus in the form of rent reduction, another cost to be absorbed by the taxpayers, naturally.

The reason given by the government to explain why it was not increasing fees itself and pocketing these substantial profits was the necessity to finance major redevelopment work in Terminal 1, to the tune of $100 million. Yet, in a huge fit of generosity, the government granted Pearson Development Corporation a 40 per cent rent deferral for 1994, 1995, 1996 and part of 1997.

While these amounts were to be eventually reimbursed with interest, the fact remains nonetheless that the government was reneging on its promise not to finance the modernization of Terminal 1 by accepting that rent be deferred over four years. Also, it is stunning to see the obvious lack of financial analysis in the development of these privatization agreements. No financial viability study was done, and Paxport, to which the contract was originally awarded, was faced with serious financial difficulties and decided to team up with its only competitor, Claridge Inc., thus creating a monopoly situation.

Yet, for some obscure reasons, the contract was not cancelled, even though it should have been. It must also be pointed out that, because the contract was split in two periods of 37 years and 20 years, the owners do not have to pay provincial tax, which would have amounted to ten million dollars if the contract had been awarded for a period of 50 years. Even if you include the cost of work paid by investors, the taxpayer is still the big loser in this transaction.

I also want to mention briefly that several newspapers have reported that the rate of return of about 14.2 per cent after tax given to Pearson Development Corporation was too high for this type of transaction. The media, the Ontario government, public opinion, and even the Liberal Party at the very end of the election campaign, have all voiced their opposition to that outrageous deal. Common sense dictates that the government should have gone to the bottom of this issue.

Unfortunately, this is not the case at all. Bill C-22 is not the beginning of a new era. It is a smokescreen to cover the dealings that took place. The government wants to avoid at any cost having to go to the root of the problem, which is first an acute lack of transparency in the privatization process, collusion between the old federal parties and certain private businesses, and also a lack of appropriate legislation to regulate the activities of lobbyists.

Last October, the government appointed a former Ontario Liberal minister, Mr. Robert Nixon, to conduct an in camera inquiry to find out about the dealings which led, as Mr. Nixon said in his report, to ``an inadequate contract arrived at through such a flawed process and under the shadow of possible political manipulation''.

Mr. Speaker, I remind the government that you rarely shed light on an issue when you look at it behind closed doors. Also, a former Liberal minister, regardless of his personal credibility, is certainly not the best choice to inquire about a transaction in which some key players are directly linked to the Liberal Party of Canada.

Following that inquiry, and in a moment of clear-mindedness and common sense on its part, the government decided to fulfil its election promise and cancel the formal agreement with Pearson Development Corporation. Unfortunately, the government did so in such a way that everything leads us to believe that it has every intention of paying off its political debts to its friends. When I say its friends, I mean those of both the Conservatives and the Liberals, since the people and companies involved in this mysterious transaction are very closely related to one or the other of these old political parties.

While it is true that section 9 of Bill C-22 provides that no compensation will be given in lieu of unrealized profits, or for monies contributed to lobbying activities in connection with public office holders, the fact remains that, in section 10, the government gives the Minister of Transport the arbitrary right to pay to people of his choice such amounts as he deems appropriate.

Does not that open the door wide for some more abuse? Under section 10 of Bill C-22, the government can compensate and even reward individuals and corporations involved in a rather sordid deal which not only went against public interests, but also bordered on something criminal.

Last Tuesday, the Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport said that the Liberal government had learned from the mistakes made by the previous government. I am not so sure about that. There is something fishy about the government's refusal to get right to the bottom of this nebulous deal, but the government adds insult to injury by giving itself carte blanche to hand out very generous compensation to the loyal contributors to the war chests of the old political parties. The government, which not so long ago solemnly promised to abide by such principles as openness, integrity and sound management of public funds, was quick to turn its back on its pious wish and to revert to its old habits. As the old saying goes: what is bred in the bone will not out of the flesh.

By allowing big corporations to generously contribute to the parties' election coffers, the Canada Elections Act certainly does not help to restore the credibility of federal politicians and political parties. By refusing to change the legislative framework under which such a deal was made, the current Liberal government is asking the public to make another profession of faith and to believe that it is totally impervious to the financial and corporative interests supporting it and to the pressure coming from its good friends.

All of this disgraceful incident just goes to prove how crucial it is to act as soon as possible and pass an act concerning the financing of political parties, something similar to Quebec's current legislation. This would release federal political parties from any obligation to the big financial interests and make politicians accountable to those they are supposed to represent, that is the people of Canada.

The other major problem stems from the fact that the legislation concerning lobbyists is full of holes and does not define specifically enough the nature of lobbyists and the nature of their activities. The identification of the individuals who are subjected to pressures raises also serious ethical problems.

The Nixon Report speaks of dealings by members of the political staff who got too much involved in the transaction. It seems that lobbyists are directly responsible in the case of several officials who were reassigned and others who asked to be replaced. The promoters behind the privatization proposal knew very well that a future Liberal government would revoke the privatization contract, so they decided to take a risk. The government should not have to compensate for investors' miscalculations. The reform of the Lobbyists Registration Act would greatly contribute to prevent such muddle which, I must say, borders on something illegal.

I urge the present government to do its utmost to avoid making the same mistakes as the Conservatives. It was a mistake, for example, to entrust the airport management to private interests while everywhere else in Canada and in Quebec it was agreed that the best solution was to establish a non-profit group composed of local interests. It was also a mistake to deal with this issue without taking into account the will and the choices of the province concerned.

To conclude, I will join the opposition leader in asking for the establishment as soon as possible of an independant royal inquiry commission to get right to the bottom of this nebulous privatization deal so that never again organized and well-funded interests may influence the decision-making process in such a big way. This public inquiry could pave the way for the reform of the Lobbyists Registration Act. At the same time, it is imperative that the government amends the Election Act so that

Canadians begin again to trust their political institutions as well as politicians.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Gaston Péloquin Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, with its Bill C-22, the Liberal government is reviving the debate on what is now commonly known as the Pearson affair. However, the provisions contained in this bill take the debate one step further than a mere discussion on the sale of Pearson International airport. They bring to light one of the biggest flaws in the Canadian political system.

The Pearson airport issue, which may only be the tip of the iceberg, is a perfect example of the influence of lobbyists and various pressure groups on government decisions, which have the unfortunate tendency of always favouring special interests rather than the public interest.

It is important that Canadians finally realize what goes on behind the closed doors of their federal Parliament. In fact, it is the whole decision-making process that must be called into question. Right now, the most effective way to make your grievances known to the federal government is to hire a lobbying firm which, for a few thousands dollars a day, will put you in touch with the highest government authorities. Needless to say, only large corporations and very rich people can afford to hire a professional lobbying firm.

There is another effective means of establishing contact with the government in office, and it is, of course, by making a substantial contribution to the election fund of the party that will form the government. As for ordinary Canadians, after having had their say in the federal elections, they must now sit and wait to see how the government will manage its resources. People do not always realize that their vote does not carry much weight compared to the powerful corporations and the rich friends that the government will support during its term. The Liberals and the Conservatives have certainly helped to reinforce the image of lobbying as an obscure phenomenon.

But what is a lobbyist? The image that most people have is that of a mysterious individual who, in a dark corner, hands over a big envelope to a minister or a senior official to obtain some favour from the government. Unfortunately, reality is much more subtle than that since very often, the lobbyists who are active today behind the scenes are former ministers, deputy ministers or lawyers of political parties who, thanks to their contacts inside the government, are able to make the case of those who hired them.

Their work is made easier by the fact that, most of the time, their bosses contributed richly to the campaign fund of the party in power. The lobbyists' task is to remind the government of its political debts towards those interest groups. In fact, the real elected representatives, that is the hon. members of the government side as well as those from the opposition side, collectively get less of a hearing from ministers than any of those obscure professional lobbyists. That tells us a lot about their clout in the decision-making process of government.

About fifteen years ago, political analyst Stanley B. Ryerson argued that the Canadian federation had been formed in 1867 in response to the demands of some interest groups. If you allow me, I would like to quote what he said: "Macdonald and Galt were representing the general interests of English Canadian business circles".

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

It being eleven o'clock, pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), the House will now proceed to Statements by Members, pursuant to Standing Order 31.

I will add, dear colleague, that you still have five minutes left to finish your speech when we resume after question period.

Serial Killer Cards And GamesStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Derek Wells Liberal South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to commend the Minister of Justice for introducing draft legislation to deal with the availability of serial killer cards and board games in Canada.

Our government is committed to dealing with the growing incidence of violent crime in this country. Therefore, the exploitation of violent, cruel and horrible crimes must not be allowed to undermine our crime prevention measures.

The glorification of people whose acts have taken lives, hurt families and shattered the security of communities is inappropriate and unwarranted. The government must seek to curtail access to these products.

Mobilized by those who have been dramatically affected by violent crime, people are signing petitions and indicating to Parliament that these cards and games must not be made available in Canada.

By introducing this draft legislation the minister has shown that this government is listening and taking action. We must not lead the children of this country to conclude that violent acts of a Clifford Olsen or a Son of Sam are in anyway comparable with those of-

Serial Killer Cards And GamesStatements By Members

11 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please.

Maraloï FamilyStatements By Members

April 29th, 1994 / 11 a.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Maraloï family, who had to put up with a lot of hostility from the federal Department of Citizenship and Immigration, and a good deal of procrastination from the department of immigration and cultural communities, will finally be allowed to stay in Quebec.

As the Official Opposition, we want to pay tribute to the courage and determination of these people who found themselves, quite unwillingly, at the centre of bureaucratic wrangling over immigration. After being wrongly told by the federal government that Quebec had the power to accept them as permanent residents, and then, turned back at the U.S. border while facing threats of deportation to Rumania, they finally saw an end to their troubles with the bureaucracy.

We are welcoming the Maraloï family in the Quebec society and we wish them all the success and happiness they deserve, at the eve of their new life in Quebec.

Canadian Armed ForcesStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Jack Frazer Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday near Saint John, New Brunswick two airmen died and two were seriously injured in service to our country. We do not know yet how this accident happened and will not for some time know why.

What we do know is that every day, whether it be here in Canada, in Croatia, Bosnia or in other parts of the world our Canadian forces service men and women willingly serve and take risks for their country.

Nothing can change what has happened in this instance and nothing can alter the impact it has on the families of those involved.

On behalf of all members of this House we extend our best wishes to Owen Hanam of Baddeck, Nova Scotia and Michael Langdon of Canadian Forces Base Shearwater, Nova Scotia for a full and speedy recovery.

To the families of Major Walter Sweetman of Peterborough, Ontario, and Major Robert Henderson of Victoria, British Columbia, who died in the crash we offer our heartfelt sympathy and the hope that will help you to know that you are not alone in your sorrow.

South AfricaStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, when Nelson Mandela cast his ballot Wednesday morning at the Ohlange High School north of Durban, people around the world watched and cheered. Nobel Peace Prize winner and democratic pioneer, Mandela stands as a pioneer of integrity and dedication in our chaotic world.

Canada played an active role during the 1980s mobilizing world opinion against apartheid and supporting sanctions. Our effort in South Africa includes the participation of some 57 Canadians in the observation groups of the UN mission. We have sent electoral experts, NGO sponsored observer missions as well as the Canadian bilateral observation mission led by the Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa.

These observers come from all walks of life and all regions of our country. Nova Scotia is represented by her provincial Chief Electoral Officer, Ms. Janet Willwerth, and a few others.

Neither bigotry nor bombs can deter the democratic spirit in South Africa. The secretary of state told the Cobourg Star that the international community must continue its support for South Africa after the election. The problems that lie ahead are formidable, but when the results come out on Saturday, Canadians and people all over the world can share in this victory for equality.

Fishing LicencesStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Fred Mifflin Liberal Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans last Wednesday announced the results of a review of inactive groundfish licences following a meeting in Halifax with fishing industry representatives.

The minister agreed on new measures that would return frozen licences to groundfish fishermen who meet the following criteria.

They are head of an inactive multi-species fishing enterprise. They have fished full time for seven years and have made 75 per cent of earned income or recent annual enterprise revenues of $20,000 from fishing.

Earlier in the week the minister agreed to amend the seal licensing policy for eastern Canada to allow retired fishermen who are eligible for a sealing licence in 1993 to take up to six seals a year for personal use. This approach to the frozen inactive groundfish licence and to the seal licensing policy is a step in the direction of economic viability in the groundfish industry without jeopardizing conservation objectives. It moves toward the fishery of the future by promoting multi-species licensing.

Gold ReservesStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Peter Thalheimer Liberal Timmins—Chapleau, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently the Minister of Finance announced that Canada would stop selling off its gold reserves which was initiated by the previous government and which has resulted in the depletion of Canada's gold reserves and has no doubt put pressure on the downward trend of the price of gold on the international market.

This is good news for Canada and to my riding Timmins-Chapleau, in particular to the city of Timmins which is known as the city with the heart of gold.

I want to acknowledge in this House the hard work of His Worship Mayor Vic Power, the mayor of the city of Timmins, for having brought pressure to bear on the government to stop the sale of Canada's gold reserves.

I am confident that this move by our government will have positive results and that gold will once again regain its glitter on the international market.

12Th Regiment Of ValcartierStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, a group of soldiers, most of them from the 12e Régiment blindé de Valcartier, arrived in Quebec City yesterday, on their way back from several months of peacekeeping duty in the former Yugoslavia. The remaining troops from the 12th Regiment are due to arrive in a few days.

On behalf of all the Bloc Quebecois members, I would like to pay tribute to these Quebec and Canadian soldiers for the dedication and sense of duty they have shown in the accomplishment of their task, during their long and difficult stay in the former Yugoslavia. I believe that several of these soldiers deserve that their acts of bravery be officially recognized.

The UN peacekeeping mission in that country is not over, and the 12th Regiment is being replaced by troops from Calgary. We wish them all the best.

Federal ElectionStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, Reformers have been telling the government for months that it is possible to do more with less.

This morning several Canadian newspapers reported how much each party paid for its seats in this House. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the party that sank the nation so deeply into a sea of red ink was the Conservatives, spending well over $10 million for two seats. That is over $5 million per seat. The NDP was also extremely wasteful, spending more than $825,000 per seat. The governing Liberals fared a little better, spending $56,000 per seat.

If the government wants to see how real fiscal responsibility is practised it should take note of the party that spent less than $1.5 million for 52 seats. That party is Reform which kept the cost per seat down to only $28,000, half of what the government spent and miles ahead of the others.

Canadian taxpayers are very concerned that much of their tax money is wasted. Federal party spending in the last election illustrates that the Reform Party would be the best stewards of taxpayers' money because the party also completed the election campaign in the black.

Goods And Services TaxStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place today to thank the members of our Standing Committee on Finance for the sterling work they did on behalf of this House on the issue of replacement measures for the GST.

I commend them for the many long hours and the many thousands of miles they travelled on our behalf, listening to the suggestions of Canadians as to how we can replace this detested and very damaging tax.

This week I was privileged to testify before this committee here in Ottawa to discuss my proposal for a tax on gross business output at a rate of 2 per cent to replace the GST at 7 per cent.

Our government pledged in the famous red book to look at options through public consultation to replace the GST. I believe this committee deserves our sincere thanks for its diligent efforts to consult seriously with Canadians to provide a real alternative to the GST.

CrimeStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, crime in our society is a very serious matter and is becoming more of a problem every day.

In 1992, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics reported 3,270,000 criminal incidents, 87 per cent of which were Criminal Code incidents.

Violent crime has been steadily on the rise every year since 1977 at an average yearly rate of 5 per cent. Youth crime has become a major concern for many Canadians. In 1992, 135,348 youths aged between 12 and 17 were charged under the Criminal Code. Fifteen per cent of these incidents were violent crimes.

Canadians want decisive action to curb the increase in crime-

CrimeStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

I regret to interrupt the hon. member.

TradeStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Jim Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the haranguing continues with Canada and the United States over trade disputes on everything from beer to softwood lumber. Sometimes it reaches the level of near harassment.

The minister of trade in the last government was correct when he said in the House one day: "It is too bad that we could not have agreed on a definition of what a subsidy is". This government should take a much needed initiative and call a meeting of trade reps of Canada, United States and Mexico and arrive at a definition of subsidy before things further disintegrate.

International Workers DayStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois wishes to draw attention to the International Workers Day, also known as May Day, which will be celebrated on May 1.

To mark this event, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois met this morning, as he does every year, with the leaders of the three main Quebec unions to talk about the problems that workers presently face.

This year, Quebec bishops will be part of the rallies which will be held Sunday to denounce the growing poverty problems that our society is experiencing.

The Bloc Quebecois urges workers to come to these rallies to show their pride and remind society of their vital contribution. We also invite the unemployed to participate and thus denounce the lack of action of governments in the area of job creation.

Parliamentary ReformStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, many Canadians believe that the key to parliamentary reform lies in the principles of direct democracy. This would include freer votes in the Commons, referenda, citizens' initiatives and of course recall.

Much of the dynamic and constructive changes that have occurred throughout our history have been due to citizens who have insisted on renewal and reform of government.

Canadians have become cynical about politics. Parents, when asked if they would be pleased to see their children become politicians, replied no 98 per cent of the time. These responses and the perceptions behind them reflect a serious sickness in our parliamentary system and bode ill for the future of democracy in Canada unless we reform now.

Accountability is the key word here. If an MP fails to do the job that he or she was elected to do or abuses a position of trust, their constituents should have the power to remove them. The three r s are still alive. Let us be radical. Let us reform the system. Let us be subject to recall, like every other worker in the country.

Official Languages ActStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding statements of some members across, the support for the Official Languages Act in Canada remains strong. A recent Angus Reid Southam News report reveals that 64 per cent of Canadians support the policy of having two official languages.

Some members take pleasure in adding the costs of bilingualism. How many of them took time to evaluate its benefits. For example, the former president of Air Canada, Claude Taylor, said that the company flourished because of the language ability of its employees. How many similar cases can we find?

A good knowledge of French and English allows us to deal with these two great cultures. In fact, 33 countries have French as a working language, while 56 use English. As Canadians we are privileged.

Let us remember how lucky we are. Let us cherish the wealth of using two great languages, the languages of Shakespeare and Molière.

Drug PatentsStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Alfonso Gagliano Liberal Saint-Léonard, QC

Mr. Speaker, contrary to the claims of several opposition members, the pharmaceutical industry is neither surprised nor alarmed by the federal government's position regarding Patent Drug Act.

Not only is the industry in good shape, to use the words of Mr. Charles Pitts of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, but it has a time trying to understand the concerns of the Bloc Quebecois. There is no need to reassure an industry which is not worried. I find it unacceptable that the Official Opposition is using the pharmaceutical industry as a pawn to further its own political ends!

The people would be better served by political leaders working at building a stable and thriving environment that would encourage industry to create jobs, instead of playing politics.