House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was lobbyists.


The House resumed from May 6 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.

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11 a.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, today is the sixth day of debate on this bill. More than 40 speeches on this subject have been made by members of the Official Opposition. No doubt our colleagues opposite think we have talked long enough but as we are expressing ourselves with elegance, I am sure they are delighted.

My career as a teacher has taught me one thing: even the clearest message is never understood by everyone, and we think that if we repeat this message often enough, the Canadian people will require this government to enforce, in the name of transparency, a law on political party financing.

The decision made by this House must reflect the concerns of Canadians and Quebecers regarding the transparency of political power. Supporting Bill C-22 is a vote for non-transparency. The Prime Minister, who calls himself a champion of transparency, would never forgive us.

Much has happened in Canada since October 25, 1993, including the arrival of a group of members for whom the transparency of political power is an illusion without strict legislative regulations regarding political party financing in particular. The shock of our mass arrival in Parliament traumatized Canada but, like some pills that are hard to swallow, I think this shock can only be beneficial.

The current debate on Bill C-22 conducted with competence and determination by the Official Opposition is instructive as its purpose is to demonstrate clearly that the lax federal regulations in effect concerning political party financing goes against our society's fundamental interests.

The traditional Oppositions of the 34 previous Parliaments were justifiably reluctant to point the finger at the friends of the government in office since the stronger the accusations the more likely they were to turn against them. The Official Opposition of the 35th Parliament, of whom I am a member, has demonstrated that the lack of legislation on democratic party financing can only create a vicious circle with a simple, obvious logic.

This logic is as follows: no one has the right to bite the hand that feeds him, the government least of all. The contributions made by large corporations to the election funds of the traditional federal parties, far from being an open secret, are considered as essential as bread and butter by this government. But there is so much butter that it threatens the most efficient liver. Otherwise, how can we explain Clause 10 of this bill, whose purpose is to compensate Limited Partnership if the Minister considers it appropriate to do so.

Who in this House can justify a responsible government giving itself the right to offer reasonable financial compensation when, according to Robert Nixon, this whole contract was nothing less than unreasonable. I urge you, Mr. Speaker, to decide for yourself as Mr. Nixon says this in his report:

My review has left me with but one conclusion. To leave in place an inadequate contract, arrived at with such a flawed process and under the shadow of possible political manipulation, is unacceptable. I recommend to you that the contract be cancelled.

Which the Prime Minister of Canada has done. The investigator he chose was the former Ontario Treasurer in the David Peterson government and leading figure of the Liberal Party of Ontario. His analysis could only be fair.

Let me ask the question again: Is it reasonable to provide reasonable compensation following the reasonable cancellation of an unreasonable contract? Any sensible citizen would tell you without hesitation: no. Why then would this government be tempted to say yes?

I will venture two answers. First, you do not bite the hand that feeds you, when that hand is called Charles Bronfman, Léo Kolber, Herb Metcalfe, Ramsay Withers-I have five fingers. Second, you do not bite the hand that feeds others. What others? Let me give you the list, Mr. Speaker.

Don Matthews, who presided over Brian Mulroney's nomination campaign in 1983 and former president of the Conservative Party; Bill Neville, Conservative lobbyist, former chief of staff of Joe Clark and leader of Prime Minister Kim Campbell transition team; Hugh Riopelle, another lobbyist with easy access to Don Mazankowsky's Cabinet, strong-man of the Mulroney Cabinet; Fred Doucet, yet another Conservative lobbyist and former chief of staff of Brian Mulroney.

We have come full circle. The Pearson Airport affair is a dubious affair. Through its leader, the Official Opposition indicated it refused to proceed with the second reading of Bill C-22, the very principle of which is flawed because the bill contains no provision to ensure the transparency of the lobbyists' work. This government has been harping about transparency for too long. We urge it to finally take actions that are in line with its commitments. The Leader of the Official Opposition said: "The Bloc will oppose Bill C-22 first and foremost because a royal commission of inquiry must be appointed to clarify this dark episode in which the ethical behaviour of the government and some related players was not up to par".

Since October 25, this government has made a number of decisions in keeping with its election promises. In Quebec, the helicopter contract was cancelled. But what compensation was provided for the jobs lost, all those high-tech jobs so essential to Quebec? Are there prospects of industrial reconversion? No sign of a program so far. It is true that Quebec workers are not the biggest contributors to the Liberal Party of Canada fund.

In Toronto, the airport contract is cancelled. In that case, we know who will be compensated. The people of Canada know, and so do the people of Quebec. There will be no jobs lost and the friends of the Pearson Development Corporation will be recompensed, I mean compensated!

On the one hand, signed contracts are being cancelled, while on the other hand, incredibly enough, verbal ones are being kept. I am referring, of course, to the Ginn Publishing affair. We demand that the government be consistent with itself. If it is seeking transparency, then it must put before this House a bill on the democratic financing of political parties. Quebec is a North American leader in that regard. I would therefore urge the government to follow Quebec's lead. There is no shame in trailing behind Quebec in that area, for this is one of many areas where Quebec, perhaps owing to its inherent difference, sees and does things differently.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that whenever Quebec will decide to stop towing the Canadian trailer, my country will gladly continue to co-operate with its neighbour for the sake of contributing to build a fairer and more equitable world.

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11:15 a.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Mr. Speaker, virtually everyone applauded the government when it cancelled the Pearson deal last December. With Bill C-22, the Liberals have watered down their position, so to speak. They would like to hand the minister a blank cheque with which to compensate the contracting parties, mainly, one would assume, their Liberal friends.

The Minister of Transport has said that the government will try to be reasonable and equitable with the would-be developers while negotiating their out of pocket expenses. I submit that in the interests of being reasonable and equitable with the taxpayers of Canada, not one red cent should be paid out. A group of businessmen, all of legal age and presumably of sound mind, played a risky game of political chicken and they lost. That should be the end of the matter.

Let us not forget that prior to the execution of the agreement with the T1 T2 Limited Partnership on October 7, 1993 the then Leader of the Opposition who is now the Prime Minister clearly warned the parties proceeding to conclude the privatization transaction they would do so at their own risk and that a new government would not hesitate to pass legislation to block the deal.

Going ahead under those circumstances was a dumb business decision. We should have no sympathy and the minister should keep a firm grip on our pocketbook.

I find it fascinating that while the government stands ready to pay who knows how many millions of dollars to pacify its friends, the Ministry of Transport is declining to honour commitments made by the previous government to upgrade small airports.

Last year the Hon. John Corbeil approved an expenditure of $230,000 to resurface a runway and improve lighting at the Assiniboia, Saskatchewan airport under the local commercial airport's financial assistance program.

The final agreement had not been executed when the government was defeated. On November 17, 1993 officials of Transport Canada attended a meeting in Assiniboia and presented the town council with an agreement for signature. The agreement was signed and returned to Ottawa for execution and there the matter rests. In February a functionary in the minister's office informed the mayor by telephone that the agreement was on hold and the minister's office is not returning calls on this matter.

We in the Reform Party are not asking for a costly and time consuming royal commission to deliver a report long after the cause for inquiry has been forgotten.

What we do ask is that the Standing Committee on Transport be allowed to exercise its power to subpoena witnesses from the government and private sector. The Liberals promised both open government and greater power for committees. Let us have a few weeks of hearings, find out why the government is determined under section 10(1) of its bill to hand out compensation. Let us turn over a few rocks and see if there is anything underneath them.

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11:20 a.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-22 which provides for the cancellation of a contract. The Bloc Quebecois is, I believe, putting the lobbying process on trial. Several of my colleagues raised this matter during their presentations. The government side is beginning to label us as wafflers or quibblers, but what we are doing in fact is seizing the opportunity to discuss thoroughly a matter which the government only seemed to want to deal with superficially.

I think the government was in for quite a surprise because even though ultimately we would like a royal commission of inquiry to be appointed, this serious debate has allowed us to discuss some very important issues in the House, issues which the government may have preferred to keep under wraps. I want to take the opportunity today to recall the argument I presented last week and take it a little further. Among other things, I drew an analogy between the different airports as far as airport authorities are concerned and I would like to touch on this matter a little further today.

Basically, there have been three types of airport management since 1987. The then minister, Mr. Mazankowski, introduced deregulation and opened the door to the possibility of communities taking over the management of their local airport. Mr. Mazankowski indicated at the time that the administration of 200 airports in Canada could be retroceded to various communities. Thus, interested communities could take over in a reasonable way the administration of their airport.

Of course, prior to 1987, Transport Canada was responsible for all airport administration, with all of the inconveniences this entailed. I recall that when I began sitting on the Montreal Airports Advisory Board, a position which I held for five years, preparations were being made to negotiate with Transport Canada. The history of airport management in Montreal was already being reviewed, along with the cumbersome nature of Transport Canada's administration and its way of handling all changes. We had to contend with a great deal of bureaucracy and it took months to make any headway at all on specific issues.

Naturally, the Montreal region opted for a local airport authority to administer its airport facilities. At that time, we had already gone beyond the great dream of making Montreal the hub for air traffic, which the Liberals had promised when Mirabel was built. The promise then was that Montreal would become the hub for America and Canada.

Unfortunately, with the changes in technology, airplanes perform much better now than they did then, so they no longer have to land in Montreal. We saw that planes went directly to Toronto and the private sector in Toronto realized that pretty well too. That is why Ottawa has always favoured Toronto, Transport Canada favoured Toronto, and we soon lost our position as a hub. We saw that for all major activity slots in Toronto, if we tried to land in Toronto from Montreal-I am talking to you about Michel Leblanc with Inter-Inter, which had broken away from InterCanadian, was offered landing slots that made the survival of a well-managed company impossible. The expected happened: Inter went bankrupt.

We see that when power was left with Transport Canada, it was abused and Toronto benefited compared to Montreal. So when the policy took effect in 1987 and we had the chance to manage our own airports for the future, the greater Montreal area seized this opportunity. They formed a board of directors with an executive that was very representative of the region. The north shore, the south shore and the island of Montreal took charge and decided that they would negotiate the transfer of this airport with the federal government. Remember that the question of having two airports also arose then. The government was pondering whether to close Mirabel or Dorval. Here again is another case where we had very little say in the matter when power was centralized in Ottawa.

In other words, overnight, the federal government could have decided to close Mirabel because it was no longer used enough and to concentrate all the traffic in Dorval, or vice versa. That was extremely dangerous for us.

One of the first things that the Montreal airports authority did was to thoroughly examine this issue of having two airports in the Montreal region. An international panel helped us to see the very great potential of two airports; it is like having one airport with two terminals. The international panel told us that it was wonderful and that we should take advantage of it. Of course, since the Montreal airports authority now holds the cards, it has developed an action plan and a business plan to promote the airports. Finally, we also have our say on landing rights and we

can act much more vigorously and effectively to attract potential clients from all over the world.

While negotiating that transfer, we realized some things. Of course, Ottawa wanted to negotiate a long-term lease and we wanted to look at the purchase options because for companies that come to the industrial park surrounding the airport, it is not easy, never knowing whether in 20, 30 or 40 years the airports will still be there or not, because the government might take them back.

So we raised some interesting issues in the negotiation. From a financial point of view, $30 million in annual revenue is generated and is to be reinvested in the community through infrastructure projects. However, we had to negotiate hard to convince the federal government to give us a $12 million share out of those $30 million. The government told us: We are willing to give that money back to you. However, according to our financial projection, we had $30 million in revenue in the past, but only $18 million was reinvested in Montreal.

It was very important to us that the revenue generated in Montreal would stay in Montreal. We clearly demonstrated that by investing $150 million, that is $30 million annually over a period of five years, in airport infrastructure projects in Montreal, something which would not have happened before.

Of course, the fact that Toronto was favoured made the private sector smell the opportunity. Indeed, the private sector saw an opportunity there and we know what happened during the election campaign. The previous government said: We will give this to the private sector; we have many friends involved. This, of course, brings the whole issue of political party financing. In the end, I think that the Conservative Party bowed to the pressure of friends eager to take advantage of a good opportunity.

What happened then is that the new government realized that it also had many friends involved in the dealings. This situation led to this infamous Bill C-22, which is now before us and which seeks to allow the government to compensate its friends, who also happened to be friends of the previous government. It does not matter which camp lobbyists belong to! I have nothing against them; they look after their own best interests. However, I think that when you spend taxpayers' money, you have to do it in an appropriate manner.

This is why I wanted to take this opportunity to tell once again to this House that local airport authorities are the best protection against this problem with lobbyists.

Of course, if a royal commission of inquiry was set up, the private sector might think twice in the future before asking a minister to table bills such a this one to compensate friends of the regime with taxpayers' money.

In conclusion, I will gladly oppose Bill C-22, but I also think that our amendment asking for the setting up of a royal commission of inquiry should be implemented. I urge hon. members to support that amendment. And while we are at it, this commission could also look at the possibility of letting the Greater Toronto Area manage the airport through a local airport authority. This would provide maximum protection against lobbies, while also ensuring that taxpayers money is well managed in Canada.

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11:30 a.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, killing the Pearson airport deal was a very good thing indeed. The Prime Minister and his government should take some credit for having done that.

The enabling legislation, Bill C-22, contains compensation provisions for the developers. Why is that? As reported in the Ottawa Sun on October 6, 1993 during the election campaign, the then Leader of the Opposition, the present Prime Minister said: ``I challenge the Prime Minister to stop that deal right now. People have a right to know what is in the deal''. The Prime Minister was entirely correct in saying that.

To go further on the side of the government, to quote the Minister of Transport, speaking in the House on April 26, he said: "Our government after careful examination of the agreements has determined that they are not in the public interest. Our examination included a report by Mr. Robert Nixon who described a flawed process clouded by the possibility of political manipulation".

The Minister of Transport went on to say: "This government rejects the previous government's way of doing business on behalf of Canadians. A reliance on lobbyists, the backroom dealings, the manipulation of bona fide private sector interests and the lack of respect for the impartiality of public servants are absolutely unacceptable". I applaud the minister's words.

Therefore if we take the government at face value, it decries the backroom deals and would have everything brought out into the open. However, the fine print of Bill C-22 will allow the Minister of Transport to provide for appropriate payments to the partnership for its out of pocket expenses. There is the problem.

On the one hand the government said: "Get things out into the open" and on the other it says in effect: "Trust us, we will provide whatever compensation we think fit and there will be no need to publicize it".

Only three weeks elapsed between the signing of the contract on October 7 and the order to put it on hold. If there is any compensation payable for work done in that short period, then let it be spelled out in complete detail and let it be made public.

Why would the government now want to keep all the facts from the public? Is it that it discovered that many of its own friends were involved in the deal? It was not just Tories in the Paxport consortium but apparently Liberal supporters in Claridge Properties Limited and in Paxport.

That gives us a possible motivation for the government wanting to pay compensation but not make it public. The Leader of the Opposition spelled it out very clearly in his discourse in the Chamber on April 26. I completely agree with his analysis of the situation but in the end he recommends that a royal commission be established to get at the truth.

We agree that the facts must be made public. How is that best done? A royal commission would cost millions of dollars and would drag on for months or even for years if we go by previous royal commissions. Why not use the existing apparatus of government, specifically the Standing Committee on Transport? If the House chooses we could strike a select special committee of the House to investigate what has happened and bring forward sufficient witnesses to fully expose this Pearson airport deal.

Here is an opportunity to give to the citizens of Canada some renewed faith in the institution of Parliament. They have lost a lot of faith in the political system and perhaps even in this House. They ask: "Why do we have Parliament if you cannot debate things fully and bring this out into the open?" Here is our opportunity. Address this to the people of Canada. Show them that we can have witnesses here and that we can expose every angle of what may be a dirty deal.

Whether it is a select special committee or the existing Standing Committee on Transport, such action of bringing in witnesses and exposing it all could accomplish the following four things for the country and for the House.

First, it would fully disclose to the public all of the facts of the case. Second, it could decide whether or not there are any legitimate cases warranting compensation and, if so, bring these out into the open. Third, such action could save the money that would be spent on a royal commission and that could be a lot of money. Finally, it could, perhaps would, restore some public faith in their Parliament.

In conclusion, I advocate that the House seriously consider completing the investigation into the Pearson airport deal through the existing Standing Committee on Transport or through a select special committee.

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11:35 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government thought that, by introducing Bill C-22 as a token of the political openness with which it wanted to deal with the controversial Pearson deal in Toronto, the opposition would approve of the legislation. Who does the government think we are? The fact is that this piece of legislation covers up a straight case of partisanship and the complicity between the old federal political parties. To help our good friends to a few bucks, everything is possible.

I am probably not the first one to mention that this bill adds to the doubts and the questions we have and stresses the need to have a royal inquiry to get to the bottom of this whole deal once and for all.

On April 26, 1994, the Minister of Transport, not a Bloc member or a Reform member, but a member of the Liberal government, stated in this House and I quote:

Our government after careful examination of the agreements and the report by Mr. Robert Nixon-

Again, the government shows how open it is by appointing a good old Liberal friend and a former minister to conduct this review. That is the person

-who described a flawed process clouded by the possibility of political manipulation.

As if that was not enough, Mr. Speaker, the minister added:

A reliance on lobbyists, the backroom dealings, the manipulation of bona fide private sector interests and the lack of respect for the impartiality of public servants are absolutely unacceptable.

And if we add the millions or rather the hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, we have all the ingredients needed for a real political scandal.

I think we ought to call this Pearson contract the now famous Pearson deal. We must have a royal inquiry to shed some light on this issue and to bring to heel the lobbyists and politicians who do not seem to care about public funds. However, the Liberal government, after careful examination of the ins and outs of this deal, is now realizing that the old chums of the Liberal Party as well as the long-time followers of the Conservative Party were all involved in this thing. And now it has a problem.

What do the Liberals do? They introduce this piece of legislation in this House, hoping that it will pass surreptitiously or that the Opposition will be completely hoodwinked. However, it is thanks to the vigilance of the Bloc Quebecois that were brought to light these dubious actions, which we have been discussing for a few days.

The voters are sick and tired of the political scheming, which allows the rich to fill their pockets while, by osmosis, the taxpayers or the middle class are going broke. At the federal level, everything is bigger, larger, more complex. Budgets, spending, partisanship, scandals, everything is ten times bigger, undoubtedly in the name of the Canadian unity.

Well, yes, handouts must be made to those who will stand up for our beautiful and great country when the time comes. Money

is the sinews of war. The old parties have known it for a long time. That is why they use it while they still can.

That is precisely what is trying the patience of Canadians and Quebecers. Anger is brewing up. Moreover, in this Pearson issue as in every other issue this government dealt with so far, Quebecers and Canadians feel they are taken advantage of and manipulated. This was an opportunity for the Prime Minister to demonstrate to the voters that he is a man of principle and a true statesman, as they have a right to expect, and to call for a royal inquiry before even bringing in this Bill C-22.

But no. It is easy to realize that he is a man of many words who needs a lot of persuading to keep them and to act on them. Yet, in the last election, when the Liberal Party was virtuously asking for the voters' confidence, they had a position on that. In the red book, this little Bible they are quoting times and times again in this House, it is said on page 95 and I quote:

-we will develop a Code of Conduct for Public Officials to guide Cabinet ministers, members of Parliament, senators, political staff, and public servants in their dealings with lobbyists. We will also take measures to better regulate the activities of lobbyists, particularly in the awarding of government contracts.

In particular, a Liberal government will appoint an independent Ethics Counsellor to advise both public officials and lobbyists in the day-to-day application of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials. The Ethics Counsellor will be appointed after consultation with the leaders of all parties in the House of Commons and will report directly to Parliament.

Where is that independent counsellor? When will the government consult him or her? Why is the government taking so long to act on that measure? Is there any political will to act? Where is that desired openness? Nowhere, because today, the Liberals are in power and when a political party takes power, it very quickly forgets its commitments.

Openness is the objective of the inquiry that the Bloc Quebecois desires and demands in the Pearson Airport affair. If the famous red book that I just quoted were not only election rhetoric, a royal commission would already be at work and we in the Bloc would applaud such an inquiry. But no, there is no such thing.

When everybody talks about lobbyists, patronage, political jockeying and shady deals and the government remains silent, I instantly see the image of a man who cannot move or talk because he put himself in a compromising situation.

To prevent any new agreement of this kind and to prevent further waste of public money, we must go to the root of the problem, and that is the financing of political parties.

Why does this government refuse to make the system of political party financing more democratic as we in the Bloc Quebecois have been advocating for months? How can the Liberal government dare say that it is making the system more open since it depends itself on big corporate donations?

How could it explain that the Top One Hundred Club, the party's donor and benefactor clubs or even the Laurier Club, with a membership fee of $1,000, are essential to ensure that the ordinary taxpayer has access to members of Parliament, to the party or to the back rooms where the decisions are made?

How can a party or the leader of a party tie their hands by accepting as much as a quarter of a million dollars from the banks?

For those who do not know, according to the latest figures available, the six largest Canadian banks contributed close to half a million dollars to the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party in 1992. According to the data I have, the Conservative Party received about $240,000 and the Liberal Party $245,000. As these contributions show, financial institutions have a great sense of equity towards political parties.

How much do you think Canada's richest families contributed to the old parties for the government to refuse categorically to review the tax treatment of family trusts?

How much do you think Mr. Charles Bronfman and the consortium he represents contributed to the Liberal Party for the Liberal government to try and hide millions of dollars in compensation in a bill without Parliament ever having the opportunity to consider the matter?

In Quebec, under René Lévesque's government, we cleaned up our act and raised our moral standards in politics. Today, thanks to that new image, Quebecers know that democracy is alive and well in that province, something of which they can be proud.

We have to change our political system to make it more receptive to the people, a move which would breathe new life into it.

Well-known complicity between some political parties and those who make large contributions to them undermines people's trust in our political institutions, which is very unhealthy. Things have to change.

I will conclude my remarks by saying that it is very important for the government to accept and respond to the Bloc's demands regarding the appointment of a royal commission of inquiry which would shed some light on the Pearson deal. It would be a first step towards the transparency that we want.

Then, the next step would be for the government to accept the motion proposed by the hon. member for Richelieu, a member of the Bloc Quebecois, regarding political party financing. The government must set in motion, as soon as possible, a process for the democratization of political party financing.

That democratization process, which has already taken place in Quebec, is undoubtedly the legacy that I would be the most happy to leave to Canada when Quebec becomes sovereign.

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11:45 a.m.


Réjean Lefebvre Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are dealing today with Bill C-22. I have done my homework and read lots of material on the subject of the Pearson airport privatization, but all that still does not answer all my questions.

I must admit that the more I read, the more questions crossed my mind.

With all those unanswered questions, as a taxpayer, I cannot help but roar with indignation when I see the political scheming powerful financiers close to the two old Canadian political formations may have used to achieve their ends, that is the privatization of the airport, a transaction that is so contrary to public interest and to the air transport plan.

Whether one is a politician or a public administrator, common decency requires exemplary integrity and everything to be done out in the open and without cheating. In the case we are dealing with today, it seems that the interest of a few people has come before public interest. The select few with direct access, through their army of lobbyists, to the office of the then Prime Minister or to the office of the then Leader of the Opposition would have got privileged information thanks to that.

I am not the kind of politician who sees scandals everywhere. I like to analyze, search and reflect. The more I search, the more I analyze and the more I reflect, the more I have serious questions about this whole matter.

In this case, everything seems to have gone wrong from the start. If I can draw a quick conclusion from that, one can say that lobbyists, some of whom unfortunately are feeding at the patronage trough, have done their job well, and that the scheming system does not suffer from excessive openness.

Remembering, as a Quebecer, the sad error the Liberals' grand idea led to more than 20 years ago at Mirabel, I hope that this government's liberalism will not plunge us back into expenditures unacceptable for taxpayers. Allow me to relate some disturbing facts in the Pearson airport case.

What is the ordinary citizen, the taxpayer, to think of politicians and public administrators when the federal government, by putting a time limit of 90 days on its call for tenders, was automatically eliminating any company that had not previously been associated with the Pearson airport privatization project? No honest proposal leading to a contract worth several hundred million dollars and good for 57 years could be entertained.

In this request for proposals, no prior financial analysis has been required by the government. It is obscene that for such a major project, the winning proposal was picked without any financial viability check. A couple of months after the company was chosen, it seemed to be in financial trouble and merged with its only competitor. What a lesson in public administration!

Under a clause in the deal, Transport Canada has to refrain from all alternative airport development within a 75 km radius of Pearson that could take traffic away from Pearson. Who can benefit from that clause? Certainly not the taxpayers in the Deputy Prime Minister's riding.

What of the interests of passengers, since obviously it would have been more expensive for airlines to use those terminals? The fees would have gone up 350 per cent, that is from $2 to $7 per passenger. What of public interest, since the firm to whom the contract was awarded did not have to modernize the terminals for 50 years? Do we know what the needs will be in 50 years from now? What a "sweet heart deal". What of public interest, since the government gives control over an airport to a private firm that could face financial trouble or go bankrupt, or let airport services deteriorate at the expense of passengers and regional development? Is it not the policy of the government that airports be operated by local groups of elected representatives and business people the way it was so successfully done in Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton?

Mr. Robert Nixon wrote in his report: "It is my opinion that the process to privatize and redevelop Terminals 1 and 2 at Pearson fell short of maximizing the public interest". That conclusion is in every regard similar to the position of the official opposition.

That whole Pearson deal is not only a matter of figures and companies. There are also key men involved I would describe as professional schemers, including a former political organizer of the present Prime Minister and well-known lobbyist, a Liberal lobbyist who was a deputy minister at Transport Canada at the time the request for proposals was sent out and who apparently has close ties with the right hon. Prime Minister. Not to mention this dear Liberal senator who, it appears, was a director of the lucky company and hosted key political figures at a $1,000-a-plate dinner at his residence, right in the middle of an election campaign. Some of these guests maybe had special interests in the Pearson Airport deal. Allow me not to refer to the many Liberal as well as Conservative lobbyists, who were involved in this deal. I have little use for them.

In his report, Mr. Nixon emphasizes: "This, together with the flawed process I have described, understandably may leave one with the suspicion that patronage had a role in the selection of Paxport Inc.".

The Pearson Airport affair proves once again the need to review the law on the registration of lobbyists in order to stop scheming and patronage by certain lobbyists, including those who have ties to the party in power.

Knowing the Prime Minister, I hope he will order such a review as soon as possible. Besides, he has already committed himself to this in the Liberal Party's red book.

The people of Ontario, Quebec and Canada as a whole have a right to know what happened. You and I, all my colleagues and all taxpayers entitled to know if they will get their money's worth. When he says that "failure to make public the full identity of the participants in this agreement and other salient terms of the contract inevitably raises public suspicion," Mr. Nixon only touches on the problem. We parliamentarians must go one step further and let the people know what really happened.

Given the disturbing facts in this whole affair, we, members of the Bloc Quebecois, ask for a public inquiry to get to the bottom of the whole situation. Refusing this inquiry, Mr. Speaker, will be interpreted as wanting to hide things and prevent taxpayers from knowing the plain truth. It is only by holding a public inquiry that we will be able to determine if compensation should be paid. And it is Parliament's duty to set the amount, if any. The public interest must prevail and guide our action.

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11:55 a.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to make sure that I understood well. I think I heard the hon. member accuse some members of this House of being in conflict of interest on the Pearson Airport issue. If I understood well the scope of the hon. member's words, you will realize, Mr. Speaker, that one cannot accuse other members of this House of committing illegal, and possibly, criminal acts and get away with it.

So, I would ask the hon. member opposite to explain exactly what he just said to us and, if he accused some members of this House, he should at least tell their names. Then, Mr. Speaker, you will take the action that you see fit regarding the people who make such accusations.

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11:55 a.m.


Réjean Lefebvre Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would ask my colleague to reread my speech; I attacked the party, not the members.

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11:55 a.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

There is a fine line.

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11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

There seems to be a conflict of interest here. It depends on the circumstances; if one says that the other members committed some, let's say, criminal acts, that is one thing, but if one says that this is a conflict of interest in general, that is another thing. After hearing the hon. member's remarks, I think that this is an issue of debate, because I did not hear an hon. member accuse someone else of a criminal act.

I will look at the blues. If there is another problem, I will be able to get back to this. For the time being, I think that the hon. member has concluded his remarks. Does he want to continue, because he has still-

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11:55 a.m.

An hon. member

He has finished.

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11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

He has finished. Resuming the debate. I will then give the floor to the hon. member for Ahuntsic.

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11:55 a.m.


Michel Daviault Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, during my last intervention in this House on Bill C-22, I had the opportunity to deal somewhat with the work done by some lobbyists and some friends of the government.

I will remind you particularly of the following names: Léo Kolber, Herb Metcalfe, Ramsey Withers, Ray Hession, Don Matthews, Fred Doucet, without mentioning the names of the companies and consortiums on behalf of which they interceded in this contract on the Pearson Airport privatization.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. I will spare you the list of the generous direct and indirect financial contributions made by all those people and firms to electoral funds of the Conservative and Liberal Parties.

So, what are we going to do about this tangle of ties woven over the years between those firms, their lobbyists and governments that follow one another and look strangely similar? One really has to bury his or head in the sand to ignore the real political weight of all those people crawling around the government and within organizations of traditional political parties.

Lobbyists have learned how to influence governments. You will better understand why we demand not only a real act on lobbyists but also an act on the financing of political parties. An act that would prohibit any financial support from corporations and that would limit individual contributions, because by contributing judiciously to the electoral funds of the two main political parties, corporations are able to negotiate iron-clad contracts through their lobbyists. That way, each new government does not really have any choice but must honour those contracts or offer compensation, as it seems to be the case with the bill we are discussing today.

Bill C-22, with clause 10, brings into question the so-called openness of this government in this matter. What is the difference between the Liberal government and the previous Conservative government? There is very little difference.

With regard to lobbyists and Bill C-22, I would like to refer to some aspects of Bill C-44, an act respecting registration of lobbyists, which was sanctioned on September 13, 1988 and which came into effect on September 30, 1989. It was the first act of that type ever to come into effect. The act was amended by Bill C-76, wich was passed on February 22, 1993, but it never came into effect. Rather strange, is it not?

Regulations were adopted under power given by Bill C-44, but they only deal with procedural issues, undoubtedly important but raising few substantive questions.

What is the purpose of the act on lobbyists? It is based on several fundamental principles, among which are:

The public has the right to make its views known and to have free access to the government. That is the principle of accessibility. Activities with the government should be clear and open, and the system should be easy to manage.

A standing committee has been struck to study, in particular, this whole issue of lobbyists and released, in 1993, a ninth report on the registration of lobbyists.

I would like to discuss a few points of this report, because there is an obvious link with Bill C-22, and this link is the lack of openness. For example, it is reported that many witnesses acknowledged that lobbyists were playing a role in effective policy development and improving communications with government decision makers. They are said to be an essential part of a modern decision making process. Nevertheless, lobbying is as old as the hills.

However, and according to me, that is the heart of the problem. It is reported too that when lobbying is conducted without the public knowing anything about it, there is greater opportunity for decisions to undermine the public interest.

The purpose of the act respecting the registration of lobbyists, Bill C-44, was to create a system for paid lobbyists to register with a public office holder. Lobbyists were to be divided into two categories, tier I, or "professional" lobbyists, and tier II, or "other" lobbyists.

Each category was to have its own set of reporting rules. However, let us simply say that those rules are not the same for each category. There are two sets of rules.

I do not intend to explain to this House all the elements of this complex act. We will have an opportunity to come back to those if the government fulfils its commitment to implement the report of the standing committee which reviews the Lobbyists Registration Act. For now, I will just raise a few problems related to this act and establish a link with Bill C-22.

As regards registration and subject matter disclosure requirements, Bill C-44 provides that tier II lobbyists, the other lobbyists, only have to give their name and the name of their employer. The standing committee argues that by doing so, one cannot discern all the matters of interest to an organization. It recommends that the disclosure requirements for all lobbyists be made uniform.

Thus, let us try to know why lobbyists got involved in the privatization of Pearson airport. That cannot be done without a thorough and independent inquiry.

Furthermore, the committee feels that the current method of facilitating subject-matter disclosure is clearly unsatisfactory and fails to meet the needs of office holders, lobbyists, and, most importantly, the Canadian public.

Finally, the report on the lobbying industry recommends that the Act contain a general anti-avoidance provision to encompass abusive or artificial schemes designed to circumvent the registration provisions. The committee also recommends that a professional association with an industry-wide code of ethics be established.

Should not this government nominate an independent adviser whose mission would be to write a code of ethics for lobbyists? What is this government waiting for? Is it waiting for Bill C-22 to be passed?

In his report on the Pearson review deal, Mr. Nixon himself, notes that the role of the lobbyists exceeded the permissible norms. That's where the shoe pinches. The whole issue of the transparency of lobbyists' work and power is again questioned.

Like my colleagues from the Bloc, I subscribe to the recommendations contained in the standing committee's report on the Review of the Lobbyists Registration Act because I feel that a number of lobbyists exceed the permissible norms and do not abide by the law. Only an independent inquiry commission will be able to prove it.

Regarding the funding of the political parties, I would like to quote some numbers. My colleagues mentioned the generous contributions of our friends from the banks. But more generally, if one considers the contributions made to the federal political parties in 1992, at the corporate level, the Progressive Conservative Party received $6.7 million and the Liberal Party $3.5 million. At the individual level, the Progressive Conservative Party received $4.7 million and the Liberal Party $4 million. Which means that 58.9 per cent of the $11.5 million contributed to the Progressive Conservative Party and 46.7 per cent of the $7.5 million contributed to the Liberal Party came from the corporate sector.

Surely, one can assume there will be an increase in the contributions made by businesses to the Liberal Party, now that they are in office.

In 1993, the Bloc Quebecois, abiding by the Quebec law on the financing of political parties, was able to obtain $3.3 million from its 113 000 donors, compared to approximately 30 000 donors to the so-called national parties. That means 113,000 individual donors whose donations were limited to $5,000 each a year.

Our hands are free. With such numbers, how can the government claim to be completely free in its decision making process when it is tied to our country's financial establishment?

This Liberal government also received direct and indirect financial donations from friends of the party who are more or less associated with this contract. That is why we are requesting a public commission of inquiry.

As Mr. Nixon himself said in his private inquiry report: "Failure to make public the full identity of the participants in this agreement"-once again the lobbyists bill-"and other salient terms of the contract inevitably raises public suspicion. Where the Government of Canada proposes to privatize a public asset, in my opinion, transparency should be the order of the day".

Mr. Nixon goes on: "My review has left me with but one conclusion. To leave in place an inadequate contract, arrived at with such a flawed process and under the shadow of possible political manipulation, is unacceptable".

Could it be any clearer? In view of such comments, to compensate people or companies who tried to take advantage of these irregularities would be unacceptable. What about all the wonderful promises of transparency in the Liberal Party's red bible?

That is why we insist that there be a public and independent inquiry, so that the government can get to the bottom of those sad events.

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12:05 p.m.


Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, as you can well imagine, I too am going to speak on Bill C-22, because apparently, our colleagues across the floor have not yet understood how essential and urgent it is to have a royal commission of inquiry to get right to the bottom of this matter.

I am going to go over the arguments presented to help them in their reflexion. We have to know first if the plan to privatize terminals 1 and 2 at Pearson airport in Toronto was in the best public interest. If not, who benefited from this project?

I remind you, because this was repeated time and again, that at the end of the request for proposals process which was rather brief, only two bidders had made a proposal for a 57 year lease-yes, Mr. Speaker, you heard it right, 57 years-to administer the two terminals.

In fact, we had a proposal from Paxport and another one from Claridge. Then, on December 7, 1992-and I am quoting the Nixon report here-"Paxport Inc. was announced as the best overall acceptable proposal". Very interesting: between two bidders, they chose the best. Well, yes and no.

No, because on February 1, 1993, Paxport and the other company, Claridge, joined forces to form a joint venture partnership called T1 T2 Ltd.; T1 was probably for terminal 1 and T2 for terminal 2. These two distinct bidders whose proposals had certainly been prepared separately decided to join forces when one of them was awarded the contract. I am sure it was pure coincidence.

However, on October 7, 1993, the then Prime Minister gave explicit instructions that this transaction, that is the signature of the agreement with the new company, be concluded the same day, even though the current Prime Minister, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, had indicated clearly during the election campaign that if ever an agreement was signed, he would cancel it.

We can ask ourselves this question: Why would a Prime Minister get up one morning and decide that on this marvellous day, she was going to act stupid? No, a Prime Minister does not get up one morning with such a thing in mind. I am convinced she believed she was doing something intelligent. Well, according to the Nixon report, that intelligent thing was, and I quote: "-the concluding of this transaction at Prime Ministerial direction in the midst of an election campaign where this issue was controversial, in my view flies in the face of normal and honourable democratic practice. It is a well known and carefully observed tradition that when governments dissolve Parliament they must accept a restricted power of decision during the election period. Certainly-and I am still quoting the Nixon report-the closing of a transaction of significant financial importance, sealing for 57 years the privatization of a major public asset should not have been entered into during an election campaign". And Mr. Nixon concludes:

It is my opinion that the process to privatize and redevelop terminals 1 and 2 at Pearson fell far short of maximizing the public interest.

My question thus brings out a first conclusion: it is not likely in the best interest of the population that one morning the Prime Minister decided to have that agreement signed. In whose interest then? Or for what reason? And why?

I would like to be naive, but as you can see I have a hard time believing, and an even harder time stating, that this decision was made only for altruistic purposes on the part of the parties involved.

Therefore, I am quite happy that the Prime Minister of this 35th legislature decided to terminate that agreement through Bill C-22. However, a second question comes to mind. That bill gives the minister the authority to pay compensations, which are for all intents and purposes quite discretionary, to those involved who might have sustained losses. I repeat: Is that in the

best public interest? There again, I might be a bit naive, but I must say that anyone with a twisted mind could say that strictly speaking this section of the bill is tantamount to a blank cheque to the minister, with taxpayer's money. This is not only dangerous, it is unacceptable.

Once more, to whom could this benefit? Who are these altruistic people who were part of this deal for the greater interest of the public? Let me give you a few names of these generous people. Who was part of Paxport, the company which won the contract? A few key figures: Don Matthews, former chairman of Mulroney's leadership campaign, in 1983; Ray Hession, former Industry deputy minister and a top civil servant at Supply and Services during the Trudeau era; Bill Neville, Conservative lobbyist, hired by Hession when Paxport was formed; Hugh Riopelle, a lobbyist hired by Hession as soon as the call for tenders went out. He had access to Mr. Mazankowski, the Deputy Prime Minister and strong-man of the Mulroney cabinet. John Llegate, another lobbyist hired by Hession and who had access to the Conservative cabinet, more precisely to Michael Wilson. Fred Doucet, another Conservative lobbyist, former chief of staff of Brian Mulroney, and senior advisor to Kim Campbell during the election campaign. This is for Paxport.

Let us look now at Claridge, because we know that the two companies have merged. Peter Coughlin, a senior officer; Senator Léo Kolber, member of the board according to the Financial Post Directory of Directors . He was host to Charles Bronfman at a $1000 a plate dinner at his residence, where the present Prime Minister went at the beginning of October during the election campaign. Herb Metcalfe, lobbyist with the group Capital Hill, which represented The Claridge Properties, and former organizer for the present Prime Minister. Pat MacAdam, Conservative lobbyist and college chum of Brian Mulroney. Bill Fox, Conservative lobbyist, former press secretary and personal friend of Mr. Mulroney. Harry Near, Conservative lobbyist and long-standing Conservative activist. We could also mention Gary Ouellet, David MacDonald and Scott Proudfoot, all well-known Conservative lobbyists. Ramsey Withers, Liberal lobbyist with strong links to the present Prime Minister. Otto Jelinek, former Conservative minister, now chairman of the Asian branch of the Matthews group.

Mr. Speaker, I am convinced just as you are, because you and I are, shall we say, somewhat naive that all these people acted in the best interest of the public. They all deserve to have their name cleared, their reputation absolved of any wrong-doing, and for that we have to know what really went on.

That is why, Mr. Speaker, we need a royal commission of inquiry. My colleague from the Reform Party said that it would be too costly and that a committee would be more appropriate. A committee does not have the authority to subpoena witnesses and to have them testify under oath. What we want is the truth and the only way to get it is a royal commission. Quebecers and Canadians deserve it.

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12:20 p.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again I welcome the opportunity to speak to the bill before the House today. A number of opposition members apparently do not understand that this bill is necessary in order to close a gaping hole left by the previous federal administration.

I say necessary, because we must establish certain parameters, which is not at all what the opposition has tried to do in this debate today. The motion of the Bloc Quebecois is aimed at shooting down the bill because it allegedly contains no provisions aimed at making the work done by lobbyists more transparent.

Let me start by explaining what to me seemed quite obvious: the purpose of the bill before the House today is to cancel a particularly unsatisfactory agreement. Granted, this agreement has shown that the process left much to be desired. We will learn from the mistakes of the previous government.

This bill will fix a leak in the roof and we intend at the appropriate time to fix the way roofs are built so that they all get built the right way. The hon. Minister of Industry has made it quite clear that he will bring forward the legislation to do just that.

This motion is a rather pitiful attempt to combine the two issues and frankly it is a smokescreen to delay a necessary task.

I must say I look forward to the debate on future amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act, and I am sure the Leader of the Official Opposition will be able to give us all the details on the system that caused all this, a system that turned out to be a disaster. If it were not for the abuses to a system he helped put in place, he would not be here today to criticize one of the most flagrant abuses of that system.

One wonders why the Bloc Quebecois insists on delaying the passage of a bill whose purpose is to establish the parameters for an agreement. We do not claim this bill deals with all the problems of excessive lobbying. The bill is clear, however: the government will pay no compensation to lobbyists for this agreement. There is nothing to add.

And how does the Bloc Quebecois react? It wants another study. Why? Everything has been said. In his report, Mr. Nixon stated that there was no evidence of any illegal action. He observed that relations between political staff and lobbyists were tainted by excessive influence, but there was nothing

illegal. If there had been, we would need a police investigation, not legislation.

As so often happens, there comes a time we must concede that enough has been said and it is time for action. And why is it time for action? So that a major transportation facility can become operational, and so we can decide how this utility will be managed in the future. Why can't we do that now? Because there are some very tough obstacles to be overcome before we can make decisions concerning the future of Pearson International Airport.

What does the opposition propose? That we sit back and conduct another study, another inquiry, and probably another one after that if it does not like the outcome any better than it seems to like the one from Mr. Nixon?

Have opposition members thought through what they would need to do after their inquiry was finished? Maybe then they would realize that they have to draft legislation to put an end to this deal. Maybe then they would realize that they would have to draft legislation to set the parameters for negotiating a settlement with the developers. Maybe they would even realize that the legislation should contain a provision to ensure that negotiations do not drag on interminably; that when enough is enough tell the developers that they will not get anything.

That sounds like pretty good legislation. I wonder what words they would use. I suggest they have to look no further than the legislation before us today.

We never spoke of compensating developers and I want to stress this point. The only possibly negotiable item is the amount of compensation for any expense qualifying under a signed agreement with the state.

Lost opportunities and profits are excluded. Fees paid to lobbyists will not be refunded, and we must remember that last October, members opposite wanted us to pay some compensation after the contract with Paramax was cancelled. The Leader of the Opposition even said that we should pay one billion dollars in compensation to Paramax, after its contract with the government was cancelled. Just think, on the one hand they tell us not to compensate and on the other to do it.

I have to say that I have been surprised by the attitude of the Reform Party on this also. It supports the motion from the Bloc with its own particular brand of subamendment. I am truly surprised to know that it wants to delay a resolution to the situation facing Pearson airport, that it too wants to conduct an inquiry at taxpayers' expense. We on this side of the House always thought it was against any frivolous expenses on inquiries.

Sure, it is redefining its position to say that the standing committee could do it. It does not need to be a royal commission. I hate to point out the obvious, but the standing committee does not need any special direction from the House to conduct a study; it already has all kinds of authority to choose what kind of business it will conduct. Does it need to conduct a huge and expensive inquiry? I submit the answer is no, at least in part because I am sure the members of the committee have all read the Nixon report and recognize that no further information is required to reach the conclusion that this deal needs to be ended.

I have let myself get carried away here a little.

I simply wanted to take this opportunity to set the record straight. First, under clause 10, the Minister of Transport must obtain the approval of the governor in council to enter into any negotiated agreement.

Besides, the criteria governing such an agreement could not be more specific: no compensation is to be paid for any loss of profit or any fee paid to lobbyists. Out-of-pocket expenses, evidence of which must be provided, are really what developers have spent on any fully-justified activity related to the transaction concluded with the previous government.

The government must ensure that there is no roundabout way for developers to claim that profits totalling such and such amount could have been made had they received the green light. As well, the approval of the Governor in Council ensures that the decision is up to the government, and not strictly up to one minister.

Fourth and finally, I wish to remind the House that there is an incredibly wide range of opportunities for further and continuing scrutiny of any potential settlement by members of the House, by the media and by the public at large.

Let me only say, for example, that the financial commitments made by the Canadian government can be duly examined by the Auditor General.

They can also be discussed and called into question here daily, or be included in budgetary review process in the House and in committee. Detailed questions can be asked about them. Under the Access to Information Act, the public and, of course, the media can follow the matter closely. These commitments can also be the focus of letters and petitions sent to the minister and to the government.

I truly hope my remarks have gone some way to dispel the confusion the amendment has attempted to cast over a perfectly straightforward piece of legislation.

All that needs to be done is to fix the plumbing, so let us get to work. You can rest assured, however, that I will speak again about our treatment of the plumbers. For that, I will certainly rely on the help of the opposition.

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12:30 p.m.


François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on this bill and on the motion tabled by the Leader of the Opposition. I listened carefully to the hon. member for Saint-Denis and, before her, to the hon. member for Portneuf.

Before pointing out a few ill-chosen comments made by the hon. member for Saint-Denis, I will briefly discuss the general provisions of Bill C-22, and particularly clauses 9 and 10. Clause 9, which reads as follows:

No one is entitled to any compensation from Her Majesty in connection with the coming into force of this Act.

It is absolutely clear. No recourse is possible against the Crown. If Bill C-22 is passed, an individual will not be allowed to go before the courts, explain how he suffered a prejudice, and ask to be compensated following a measure taken by the Parliament of Canada under the powers granted to it by the Canadian Constitution.

However, the following section has the effect of undoing what is established in section 9. In fact, section 10 goes even further, since it provides that the Minister may provide for the payment of such amounts as he considers appropriate. In other words, the government is saying: Do not sue us; we will give you something. There is no need to sue the government. People who have, or who claim to have suffered a prejudice, will simply submit their claim informally, without any legal proceedings, by simply making a phone call, or through a behind-the-scenes lobbyist, and they will receive a cheque from the government of Canada. It is much more faster than an open process, either court proceedings or public hearings, that can be appealed to the highest courts, so we close that door.

We should be more honest and clear about section 9. Instead of saying that no one is entitled to any compensation from Her Majesty, we should say that no one is entitled to compensation from the courts, because the companies seeking compensation can always go directly to the minister. To say that no one is entitled to compensation is not exactly true. No one is entitled to compensation from a court of law.

I would bet a few dollars that the compensation that will be awarded by the minister will probably be much more generous than any that would have been granted by the courts, because it is so much easier to come to an agreement between friends about any loss suffered. When we talk about friends, we always come back to the same basic question: "Tell me who pays you, and I will tell you who you work for". Who is financing the current government? The current government is being supported, although to a lesser degree, by the same backers than the previous Conservative government.

Why do these big companies and corporations give huge amounts of money to political parties? Because they support the leader or his or her colleagues, or even the party's platform? Of course not! They do it in order to have access to the government. They want a good return on their investment.

The Leader of the Opposition gave us, in the Bloc Quebecois, a meaningful demonstration of that when he demanded that each and every contribution to our party be made only by people who can vote in Canada. The Bloc Quebecois is financed only by individuals; we do not take contributions from legal entities, which are not always good citizens, especially when it comes to the funding of political parties. Indeed, one can wonder why they finance political parties.

We in the Bloc Quebecois can freely discuss this bill, since our hands are free. Individuals who give $20, $50 or $100 to the Bloc Quebecois know very well that they will have no influence on their member of Parliament or that they will not be able to blackmail him into doing anything. If voters wanted to blackmail us for their $200 or $300 contribution, we would simply write them a cheque for $200 or $300 and bid them goodbye. It is as simple as that in the Bloc Quebecois.

Thus, the motion recently put forward by my friend, the hon. member for Richelieu, and aimed at limiting the public financing of political parties to a maximum of $5,000 per person would allow for great progress in the control of their elected representatives by voters, giving them reasons to regain confidence in this institution.

The hon. member for Saint-Denis mentioned earlier in her speech that the Leader of the Opposition had made remarks about Paramax, among others, to the effect that people must be compensated. Quite on the contrary, what the Leader of the Opposition demanded in the Paramax issue was that the funds which were not invested in the helicopter contract be reinvested in the development of a high-speed train. That is quite different. We asked to reinvest the same amounts, not to pay lobbyists or to compensate speculators for anticipated losses. We asked the government to reinvest that money in high-technology industries so that it is not lost for Quebec. We never ever asked that money be paid to people who had stood to gain in any form.

For me, the most difficult provision of Bill C-22 to swallow is that some people who remain anonymous will be compensated because their speculative scheme failed. The previous government, the Conservative government, had decided to privatize the airport. People thought that it was a good opportunity to make

money but now that their deal failed, they will be compensated for any lost profit, if the bill is adopted without amendment.

That is not how the Liberal Party said that it would deal with the Pearson airport privatization contract during the election campaign. They said it would be terminated but never talked about compensation. We could compare the situation to some marriages: it is not the same thing before and after the ceremony. Once the Liberals were elected, it was the same old story: they are the servants of those who finance them. So we have clause 10 allowing compensation.

Yet, the situation was clear. The Prime Minister's position was clear, at least as I heard it during the election campaign: Pearson Airport would not be privatized and nobody would receive compensation. Things like that may be partly true while other people are given to understand that there is nothing to worry about, the losses will not be too great. I would almost wish that clause 9 were not included in the bill:

  1. No one is entitled to any compensation from Her Majesty in connection with the coming into force of this Act.

Let us allow people who feel that they are wronged to appeal to the courts. Let people plead their case in court according to the rule of law and the general principles of law, but let us say no to the payment of administrative compensation, no to government by decree acting behind closed doors or negotiating over the phone or in person with party organizers. Let all these people who feel that their rights were infringed on ask the courts for redress, as all other citizens do. I submit that justice by order in council is not justice and it is unacceptable. That is why the Official Opposition cannot support the provision now before the House.

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12:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I will now give the floor to the hon. member for Beauharnois-Salaberry. I have the wrong list.

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12:40 p.m.


Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

For Témiscamingue, Mr. Speaker.

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12:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Why not! The Chair now recognizes the hon. member for Témiscamingue.

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12:40 p.m.


Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, so there is no confusion, I want to remind everybody that I do represent the riding of Témiscamingue.

I was in my riding over the weekend and people asked me some questions. They noticed that we were debating the bill before us at considerable length and they asked me to explain a little bit to them what was going on. They said: "We see a lot of members of the Bloc Quebecois express some reservations about this bill, but the government is not saying much. The last time we heard it speak on that subject was during the election campaign".

I tried to explain to them the difference between the contents of this bill and what they heard during the election campaign. After listening to what I had to say, they were wondering what happened to the transparency that the government had been talking about so much since it came into office and that had been promised during the election campaign.

I explained to the people of my riding that this bill provides in principle for the cancellation of a very bad contract, a contract which was concluded as a result of considerable lobbying that was not done maybe in the most positive way. I also told them that it may be necessary to call into question the way lobbying is being done, something that the government promised to do, something that it says it will eventually look at.

A party that spent more than eight years, almost nine, in opposition and that has a long-standing tradition like the Liberal Party should be able to act quickly to control lobbyists and to put something on the table immediately if it really wants to do so. But now that the Liberals form the government, they want to try to take advantage of the situation a little bit before doing a clean-up job.

I also explained to my constituents that some compensation payments will be made following the cancellation of this contract. Clause 9 states that there will be no compensation, but clause 10 provides for exceptions with the approval of the Governor in Council; this amounts to allowing the Minister to give compensation for costs incurred to whomever he considers it appropriate to do so. It might not be quite abnormal, but it is very worrying.

Of course, we are dealing with respectable people, but if their integrity were above reproach and if we were sure that things would be done in a more open way, we would be a lot less worried. However, I am not sure that public opinion is extremely confident about the process and that it will ultimately provide for fair compensation.

They might even be able to differentiate between good and bad friends among those people who incurred costs, since it would be up to the Cabinet to determine which costs are eligible for compensation and which are not. Will we even be able to know the total cost of all that? I do not know, we will see at the end of the day, but that might be cause for concern. Maybe we will not even know. Maybe they will not even have to report to this House the whole cost for that operation.

I would like to refer back to the electoral campaign for a moment, because this government made many commitments during the campaign, all the while often making reservations in a much lower tone of voice, with a lot less strength. What made the headlines was simply: "We will cancel the Pearson airport

deal". They never mentioned compensation. They never talked about this compensation mechanism. Once in office, of course, probably under the advice of influential people, they got to that point.

That leads me to make the connection with what is probably the real cause of the problem. One of my colleagues, the hon. member for Richelieu, put forward a motion here in this House. We discussed the financing of political parties by the people. Of course, our friends opposite were not very talkative on the subject, nor, in fact, were members of the Reform Party, who expressed support for the matter. Yet, this appears to me as something that would help solve in part a lot of problems, as we now see with these rather doubtful transactions. I will elaborate a little further, because people tell us: "You talk about financing by the people, but what do you mean exactly?"

As a political party not even subject to Quebec's law on political party financing, we nevertheless complied with this obligation during the election campaign in order to have a lot more freedom.

Those who finance a political party, be they individuals or companies, are not disinterested. But, of course, the person who donates $5, $10 or $15 does so out of conviction, as a show of confidence in the local member, the party and the leader. They donate small amounts. It is ordinary people who come to political rallies, who are phoned, who register as members, who are canvassed each year; they are canvassed very often, in fact.

These people contribute according to their means at the time. Also, political parties are not sheltered from recessions. Financing campaigns are made. There is truly a direct contact with grass-roots militants. It is an excellent operation.

Sure, it is not the most interesting thing for a policital party to do because it is a lot of work. We must ask volunteers in the entourage of members and local associations to get together, call people, drive to the far end of the riding to get $5 or a membership renewal. But we do it. We do not necessarily look at what it costs to do it; we do it out of principle. Those people, when we call them or contact them, express their opinion, say what they like or do not like about the government, about the party which has the finances; they say what they would like to have, say what their expectations are. It is a contact with the grass roots.

I was talking with people whom I will not name on the government side and they told me: "I find it much easier to get donations than new members. I have difficulty recruiting new members, but for donations, it is not a problem".

When their party, during the election campaign, asked them to get a certain number of new members, they simply did not understand that approach at all. It is the very principle of a party that is in touch with its grass-roots members. We do not sell membership cards just to win a leadership race. In major parties, leadership conventions are about the only occasions when there is a flurry of recruitment activity. Those parties concentrate more on lucrative fund-raising. They make a cost-benefit analysis of the time to be invested and conclude that they should concentrate on big contributors. Some people, including some of our members, asked: "Why not do the same? You would stop asking us for funds, we would enjoy more freedom, and we would still believe in you". I objected.

When business people or representatives of companies or big private interests give considerable amounts of money, you should not think they are not hoping for something in return. It is not true that they dish out big money just for the sake of the democratic process.

What are their real motives? They frequently hope for favours and they often get them. That is the root of a real problem. We never talk of that new way of looking at political party financing. Nobody ever talked about that before we did. We are the only ones who raised that question in the House.

But we get no reaction whatsoever. We cry out in the desert. Somebody asked me: "Why should you bother? Bloc members want to leave this Canadian system, anyway". My answer is that if there is a heritage we would like to leave before we go, if that is the will of Quebecers, it would be a law on the financing of political parties that would introduce a much higher level of public morality.

Such a law would force parties like the Liberal Party to be much more in touch with its membership. They would realize that getting a much greater number of smaller contributions of only $5, $10, $15, or $20 would bring them much closer to their grass-roots. They would hear people say they do not like the budget because of drastic cuts in unemployment insurance. They would get that message, which they are not getting now.

Liberal members could have an even more direct response from their grassroots, and even from their own rank and file; they would notice it and make some pressure on their ministers and tell them: "Listen, even our own rank and file say we are taking unpopular actions. There are things that are not working".

Of course, the government cannot be only popular, but it would be able to know if its actions are appreciated. In that way, even to a certain point, that would be a major gain for democracy. That is where real transparency should start, even before the lobbyists control. Even before that, the government should deal with political party financing. It should adopt much more severe legislation.

As I said earlier, my colleague from Richelieu had tabled a motion where he suggested a ceiling and proposed copying the Quebec model that already exists. There is no need to start all over again. We are not talking about something that we have to get from nowhere. There is a model, and Quebec's political party financing legislation has been recognized all over the world as a model. But here, and for all kinds of reasons, now that the Liberal Party is in office, it is tempting to go around those people who hope to benefit from the financing of a political party in office, and who will do so. It can wait a couple years, in order to fill its coffers and, of course, to take advantage of the fact that the coffers of their former political enemies are empty and they have a lot more trouble getting financing because they are very far from power.

For all these reasons, I spoke briefly on Bill C-22. I had talked about it previously because there are too many things that were obscure in the old transaction and that the government does not necessarily want to solve. This government could have shed much more light on that issue in order to get to the bottom of the problem, but it is not really interested in doing that. It is then impossible for the members of the Bloc Quebecois to support this bill. In concluding, I would even like the government to get this message well: if it wants to deal with real problems, it has a golden opportunity to connect this with the Pearson Airport issue and to put on the table a reform of political party financing which could very widely be inspired by the Quebec legislation.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Bloc Québec-Est, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this House to discuss Bill C-22 regarding Pearson airport. The Minister of Transport stated in this House that the government decided that the agreements were not in the public interest, that the negotiating process was questionable and that there even might have been some political patronage in the Pearson airport issue. In cancelling the contract, the government is trying to negotiate amounts they consider to be fair and reasonable to compensate for expenses incurred in this transaction.

We feel that this gigantic issue is fishy in many respects, given the millions of dollars involved. It is why the Bloc Quebecois refuses to support second reading of Bill C-22 because it says the principle of it is flawed since it does not provide for any measure to make the work of the lobbyists transparent. In fact, as we all know, the matter of the Pearson airport contract is closely related to the role played by lobbyists. It is very disturbing. We all know the influence lobbyists can have on the government when it comes to legislation. We all know they can get from the government millions of dollars which should probably be allocated to more constructive projets than this one. This is why we would like a royal inquiry commission to be set up. This particular issue could end up being one of the most serious cases of political patronage in the history of Canada. It is therefore an issue which deserves attention and which could help us clarify the role of lobbyists and the wasteful spending of the government.

As I said, this very large transaction of $700 million would have given a private firm control over Pearson airport for 57 years. Several irregularities can be found in the process. The bidding process took only 90 days, that is three months, a period of time which is quite unusual. Only two firms participated in the bidding, one directly linked to the Conservatives, the other to the Liberals.

Of course, the firm which was close to the then Conservative government was chosen. That firm was not required to give any guarantee of financial capacity. Sure enough, it got in financial trouble later on.

Then, there was a merger with a firm which was close to the Liberal Party. Part of the reason why the government is attempting, with Bill C-22, to give financial compensation to lobbyists is because many of them are friends of the Liberals, who are now in power.

During the electoral campaign, the Prime Minister promised to bring to light the circumstances under which the agreement had been reached and to cancel the deal. It is done, the deal was cancelled, but we are still waiting for an explanation on how it was reached in the first place. There was only an in camera inquiry conducted by a former Liberal minister from the Ontario government who was close to the Liberal Party.

In fact, the only purpose of Bill C-22 is to cover up the whole thing without getting to the bottom of it. The government wants to determine, without Parliament having one word to say about it, the amount of potential compensation to be given to those thwarted investors.

Imagine! The government wants to have all the powers, to determine the amounts to be paid and to decide to whom those amounts will be paid. What a great way to deal with their friends. That is why the Bloc Quebecois is asking for a royal commission of inquiry. That is the only way to know if the investors who were involved in this deal have to be compensated, to determine the amount of compensation and to know the role that lobbyists played with the government.

Bill C-22 is unsatisfactory in several respects, and above all, it falls short not by what it says but what it does not say. According to the government, the bill sets no limit on the amount of potential payments and does not prevent negotiations. It says what the government is prepared to consider and what it is not prepared to consider. It says negotiations may not continue indefinitely. However, the nature of such payments should be specified. This bill should specify the kind of payments that may be made and not the kind of payments that will not be made.

Unfortunately, the decision is restricted to cabinet itself. The government will use section 9 to discourage all kinds of people from trying to make a case, and the rest will be up to the decision of the minister, in the privacy of cabinet. It is unacceptable to exclude Parliament, as the government is trying to do here, from such important decisions and to give Cabinet a blank cheque. And on top of that, to give so much latitude to the Minister of Transport who has already made a mess of the grain situation in western Canada. It is unacceptable to authorize payment of compensation without being sure such compensation should be paid.

There are several reasons why we would like a royal commission of inquiry.

Why a royal commission? To find out why the government officially requested proposals for the privatization of Terminals 1 and 2 at Pearson. Why would everything be done in a single phase? No pre-qualifications, unlike the process for Terminal 3, which included two phases. Why was the time frame in the request for proposals so short? Only 90 days. It was impossible for groups that, unlike Claridge and Paxport, were not already involved in the airport's management, to submit a valid bid.

Why was the contract signed on October 7, 1993, in the middle of an election campaign, after some reluctance on the part of the chief negotiator who demanded written instructions before signing? What was the exact role of the lobbyists? Whom did they approach? What was the cost to the taxpayer of this hasty decision? Who really benefited? Why did the Conservative government want to privatize Pearson, the most profitable airport in Canada?

In fact, there are a number of questions that arise, a number of fundamental questions about lobbying and the government's role. The government wants to try to cover up this affair. The Bloc Quebecois, including me, will vote against Bill C-22, and we will demand a royal commission of inquiry to shed light on what happened.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Richelieu, QC

Mr. Speaker, while interventions are limited to ten minutes, I would like to say a few words on that horrible and surprising bill. Surprising, yes and no, since, in this Parliament, when the Liberal Party forms the government, we are used to hearing two different tunes: one during the election campaign and another after the election. In my region, we call that speaking out of both sides of one's mouth. When they were in the opposition, they sang another tune.

When we started the debate today, I think that the hon. member for Bellechasse, who is a notary, did a marvelous job of outlining the legal aspect and the legal contradictions of that bill. The hon. member for Québec-Est has just finished his speech with at least ten questions. Very precise questions calling for clear answers. Only a commission of inquiry empowered to call for sworn testimony could find the answer to those questions.

Yet, the deal was made by the previous government. Why is this government covering up a deal made by its predecessor? Previous speakers of the Bloc Quebecois also mentioned that. The reason is that the same gang is running both parties. This is why we had a budget similar to Conservative budgets. This is why the reform of the unemployment system is similar to the one brought forward by the Conservatives with Bill C-113. This is why the elderly are now under attack as they were under the Conservatives.

This is the reason why the salaries of our courageous civil servants are frozen. The constables that I see up there have their salaries frozen for six years, but that is not a problem. All this is done in an official way in order to be transparent. But when time comes to pay friends that are part of a gimmick like the one at Pearson airport, then it is left to the discretion of the minister or of the cabinet. That is the situation and this is why we are asking for a royal commission of inquiry.

Why should a minister be allowed to reward a chum? And the list of chums of the party is known. The list is there with the names of organizers, senators, people who have generously contributed to this party, as well as to the other, both of which are maintaining such an unacceptable system.

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1 p.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like a ruling from you. Is it appropriate that the member from the opposition could say that there was a payoff involved with the Pearson airport and Liberal Party funds? That is not really appropriate for this type of debate.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The parliamentary secretary will appreciate that the word payoff is a word that means many things to many different people. I will not find that a point of order in these circumstances.