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.


Esquimalt And Nanaimo RailwayOral Question Period

3 p.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his answer but it is precisely that we on the west coast and Vancouver Island are trying to get at the facts here.

Unfortunately the minister's department has refused a personal request for a copy of the contract between the people of Canada and CP rail and is now stalling again on our access to information request for this contract which would give us the information we need.

Can the minister first explain why the people of Canada are being denied the right to see how their money is spent? Second, will he promise to enter into negotiations to turn the line over to local interests?

Esquimalt And Nanaimo RailwayOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick


Douglas Young LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is going to be very important as we continue with this process of dealing with rail lines, both freight and passenger across the country, that people such as my hon. colleague understand what has to happen.

First of all with respect to this particular situation, we will have to look and see why there has been any refusal to provide information that should be available to Canadians. I undertake to look into that.

As far as the decision on whether VIA should continue to provide services on Vancouver Island, that is a decision that will be based on business principles, whether there is sufficient volume to be able to do it and to ensure that there are alternate means of travel as is the case when we deal with it right across the country.

I want to point out to my hon. colleague that there are many parts of Canada already that do not enjoy VIA passenger services for all kinds of reasons, usually because those particular services were found to be too much of a drain on the Canadian taxpayers who, I have been under the impression since I came into this place for this session of Parliament, were the major concern of the members of the Reform Party, to try to treat the taxpayers as fairly as we can.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

I wish to draw to the attention of the House the presence in the gallery of the hon. Hou Jie, Minister of Construction for the People's Republic of China.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Canada Student Financial Assistance ActRoutine Proceedings

3 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba


Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-28, an act respecting the making of loans and provision of other forms of financial assistance to students, to amend and provide for the repeal of the Canada Student Loans Act, and to amend one other act in consequence thereof.

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

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3 p.m.


Beryl Gaffney Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House today in support of the efforts of Debbie Mahaffy in her quest to have the importation of killer cards seized at the Canada-U.S. border to stop their distribution in Canada.

I applaud the efforts of the Minister of Justice for tabling his draft legislation in the House of Commons on April 30, 1994 dealing with serial killer cards and board games.

Therefore, the undersigned, your petitioners, humbly pray and call upon Parliament to amend the laws of Canada to prohibit the importation, distribution, sale and manufacture of killer cards in law and to advise producers of killer cards that their products if destined for Canada will be seized and destroyed.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 9th, 1994 / 3:05 p.m.


Paul Steckle Liberal Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present this afternoon before the House, under Standing Order 36(6), a petition calling on the government to maintain the present exemption on the excise portion of ethanol for a decade.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Shall all questions stand?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed 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.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before the hon. member for Frontenac resumes his intervention, I want to tell him that he has four minutes left.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would not want to sound like a discontented child, but it seems to me that I had more than four minutes left. I hope you will show some indulgence if I ever need a few seconds more.

As I was saying earlier, a government is responsible to its electors first and foremost. Since we are elected by Canadians, we are responsible to them. If, in addition, we were to be bound hand and foot by the multinational corporations that are financing political parties, we would not have much room to maneuver, especially when the people's interests do not necessarily go hand in hand with those of the corporations.

If financial considerations did not motivate those who govern, people would listen with greater attention to explanations of nebulous situations, as is the case here. Since they know perfectly well that corporations contribute to the electoral coffers of political parties, people put their fingers in their ears and do not want to hear anything. And rightly so, Mr. Speaker, rightly so.

It is obvious that situations like that would not happen if people financing political parties were ordinary people, the electors, not the corporations investing where it is profitable for them.

At this point, I would like to talk to you about the executive of the Bloc Quebecois for my riding, under the direction of Éric Labonté, Vincent Carrier, Raynald Paré and myself. We have visited or called most of our 2,049 members. Those are the people financing the Bloc Quebecois in the riding of Frontenac. As the member for Frontenac, I am accountable to my constituents who with their donation of $5, $10, $20 and, exceptionally, $100, will help us collect between $15,000 and $20,000 for the Bloc Quebecois. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that as the member for Frontenac, I owe absolutely nothing to the multinationals or to our big corporations. I am proud of my constituents, and I am proud of the members of my party who help us finance our election expenses.

During the last election campaign, all Bloc Quebecois members in this House accepted contributions only from registered voters, not from interest groups or companies.

We cannot blame the companies, because their purpose is to make a profit. However, we have a different situation when we look at the Liberal government and the groups to whom the political parties are accountable which are no longer the average citizen but the big multinationals.

Since this government came to power, it has blamed the Conservatives for every peccadillo that might hurt the party. Now it has a chance to shed some light on a number of questionable procedures and to remedy the situation. Why has the Liberal government opposite, in the six months it has been in power, not done that?

Is there more than meets the eye? Is it afraid of a commission of inquiry that would find out the real reasons behind the privatization of Pearson airport, the only airport that was profitable and self-financing? Why did it not privatize the other airports?

No, they privatized the only one that was making money. As the farmers in my riding would say, they privatized the best milk cow. It was easy, you see. They sold the best milk cow to friends of the government. So they stuffed their pockets at the expense of the taxpayer.

On the weekend I went to a meeting. There were 47 people there. The meeting was organized by the regional committee for the Thetford Mines region and was chaired by Nicole Jacques. Monsignor Couture, the archbishop of the diocese of Quebec City, was there, together with local authorities. These included the industrial commissioner, several mayors and the presidents of various interest groups in the riding of Frontenac.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss how to get Quebec out of the poverty cycle, and Saturday morning, several speakers blamed poor management. And we heard the same comment this afternoon.

There was a question on the trips taken by ministers on government jets. My constituents wonder how the government can raise taxes and try to cut assistance to people who, unfortunately, have to go on welfare or on employment insurance, while the hon. member for Hull-Aylmer, spent nearly $170,000 of taxpayers money just so he could make a short ten-minute speech on good management in the public sector.

People in my riding who live on the poverty line have trouble understanding this kind of poor management. It does not make sense that taxpayers have to pay for the government's mistakes. When the investors signed the contract, the Conservatives were on their way out. The investors were taking a calculated risk.

Of course, there were Liberals as well as Conservatives among these investors. As you know, when there a buck to be made, people often set aside their political allegiance and, just to make sure they are not on the wrong side, they give to both. They gave as much to the Liberals as they did to the Conservatives.

That way, they were guaranteed a place at the public trough. And you know perfectly well that when an investor gives $1 to a political party, it is in the hope of getting back not $5, but $100, $200 or even $1,000. It always sounds strange to me to hear about the Minister of Justice attending a $1,000 a plate dinner for 23 guests. Those people do not really pay $1,000. Besides, none of them earn $25,000 or $30,000.

My time is already up, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank you for giving me a few minutes more since I had been interrupted before Question Period.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues are saying: "We are in for it". Indeed, because it is an amazing not to say an ugly issue.

This is a perfect example of an issue in which government officials involved have acted in such a way that doubt remains and will do so forever unless a public inquiry takes place. Doubt as to the way this whole issue was dealt with. Doubt as to the dealings which may have occurred behind the curtains, behind the scenes, under the tables, in places where, unfortunately, the general public, our constituents, those who elect us are not allowed.

We would like to be able to speak about government integrity, about transparency, honesty, justice, fairness of commercial transactions well conducted, about people who justly and rightly claim a profit, a transaction. Unfortunately, this transaction was, I dare say, thrown together in the twilight, in places where one does not know exactly who had what to gain. One does not exactly know what was the goal pursued by the previous government, even less so by the present government.

What is astonishing with that deal-and I will not repeat the long list of friends of the Conservative government that has unfortunately grown longer with the list of friends of the Liberal government-is that the Prime Minister had announced firmly and clearly during the election campaign his intention to cancel that contract because, as he put it, it had been reached in an incorrect fashion and was benefitting friends of the government of the time. What a noble way to campaign by denouncing a government that unfortunately had its hands partly tied with regard to the signature of a contract as important as the privatization contract of Pearson Airport terminals 1 and 2.

Despite the fact that the Prime Minister had virtuously announced during the election campaign his intention to review the whole deal, slowly and gradually friends of this government, people in the Liberal financial comunity, friends of the Prime Minister, friends of former colleagues, acquaintances, "sponsors" are in direct contact not only with the Prime Minister but also with ministers of this government. This issue, which was dominated by Conservative "sponsors" who finance the Conservative Party, is now in the hands of Liberal "sponsors".

Mr. Speaker, the reasons the Prime Minister gave at one point for saying that the whole issue of Pearson Airport would be reviewed and the privatization of the airport would be cancelled because what had happened in this whole deal was ugly are still valid today. Nevertheless,-

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Fernand Robichaud Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Yes, that is what we are doing.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

The member from New Brunswick says: "Yes, that is what we are doing."

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Fernand Robichaud Liberal Beauséjour, NB

That is what we are doing.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Yes. That is what they are doing, Mr. Speaker, except that a small, a very small clause in this bill gives the minister in charge all discretionary powers to pay financial compensation according to his own evaluation of the harm done to the one losing the contract.

They propose a bill seemingly with the best of intentions, but if by chance you examine that bill further, if you analyze the situation thoroughly, you discover some hidden truths that are not very edifying.

Friends of the Liberals, Liberal lobbyists, friends of the people in place have taken over that issue and now, beyond political parties, one can see in the Canadian financial world that some politically diverging financial interests are coincidentally linked to the same group of companies, the same group of persons.

Now the government is asking us to terminate the contract for Pearson Airport and we want to be part of that, but the way this cancellation is being done is totally unacceptable. Here we have an unhoped-for opportunity to pass a law on lobbyists, to clarify the relationship that should exist between the government and professional lobbyists who intervene in that kind of case, but the Prime Minister will not seize it. He had promised a law on that question, he had promised to clarify the lobbyist issue, but all of the sudden it is out of the question.

The second thing is that the ministers are giving themselves an unacceptable discretionary power, which will allow them to give, from time to time, compensation that they consider appropriate. We can see that in many different ways. The minister responsible will be able to decide who deserves compensation, how much and for what prejudice. This is a much too general discretionary power, when one considers that the compensation is going to go to people who are, I remind you, financing the activities of the party across the floor.

Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, the kind of conflict of interest situation that minister is going to be in, considering that, for the survival of his party he must also raise money? He will have to negotiate on his own-that is without guidelines-and determine by himself the amount of compensation.

This is unacceptable. I still have a minute, Mr. Speaker. If it is true that these people are full of good intentions, why is the government steadfastly refusing a public inquiry on the circumstances surrounding the Pearson Airport deal? If its hands are clean, which I am willing to believe, Mr. Speaker, since I do not assume it is ill-intentioned, if it has good intentions and did note enough irregularities or faults in that deal to warrant a bill cancelling the transaction, considering what it implies, if it is ready to give ministers the discretionary power to compensate those affected by the cancellation, if the question of the Pearson Airport is really that serious, there is only one question remaining: Why does it object to a public inquiry which would shed light on the whole deal? The question begs an answer and it is up to the government to give it.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


Bernard St-Laurent Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois refuses to support second reading of Bill C-22, an Act respecting certain agreements concerning the redevelopment and operation of Terminals 1 and 2 at Lester B. Pearson International Airport, in Toronto. The principle behind the bill is flawed, because it does not include whatever measures need to be taken to make the work done by lobbyists more transparent.

What we have to expose here is the questionable ways some of the political parties are financed. Except for the Bloc Quebecois and the Parti Quebecois in Quebec, all individuals and corporations can currently support political parties.

We, in the Bloc Quebecois, are proud, because we are the only ones who can claim that all of our financial supporters are individuals. By relying on $5, $10, $20 or sometimes higher donations, when we got lucky, we collected the money we needed to be elected to this House. You have to understand that it is not illegal to get financial support from big corporations and even mega-corporations, it is just dangerous. It is so dangerous in fact that, since April 26, this is all we have been dealing with, this contract for the privatization of the Pearson Airport in Toronto. This is a fine example of the secret power lobbyists have. Thanks to what? Mainly the financing of old political parties. As the old saying, which still holds true after all these years, goes: "Never bite the hand that feeds you".

That saying applies to all members of this House, including members of the Bloc. However, with a funding arrangement like the one our party has, we could never propose transactions such as the Pearson deal. Why? Because the hand that feeds us is not the hand of businesses seeking ever higher financial summits, fearing neither clouds nor turbulence. The hand that feeds us is that of people who work hard to earn their salary, of unemployed people who are constantly looking for jobs, of senior citizens who want to be sure that their old age pension will not be cut and also of people who stay at home to take care of their children.

The Toronto Pearson airport privatization project puts the government in what I would call a dangerous position. When I talk about political party financing, I relate that to Pearson Airport and also to the Moisie military base in my riding. Six years ago, in the riding I represent, we experienced a similar situation which caused quite a stir in this normally quiet area. Of course, it was on a smaller scale, but we can see that nothing has changed.

To give you a brief history of what happened then, I will take you back to 1985, when the government of the day had to close the military base in Moisie. That closure was very hard on the

local economy because it meant the loss of over 200 military jobs and of over 40 civilian jobs.

The town of Moisie, a small community near Sept-Îles, with about 1,200 residents at the time, saw its budget cut by 30 per cent, which is enormous for a small community. That represented a loss of several millions of dollars for the regional economy.

In early 1986, the Department of Public Works called for tenders to dispose of the CFB Moisie as well as seven or eight other bases at the same time. So representatives of the town of Moisie and of Public Works Canada sat down together to set certain criteria. I will list a few of them that had priority, in the opinion of the town of Moisie.

Job creation was important for us. It was also important to make sure that the company was financially sound, since a military base is more or less like a small town. It has absolutely everything that one could find in any town: bowling alleys, swimming pools, streets, water and sewer systems, churches, schools, everything. So it takes a lot of money to buy it and a lot of money for maintenance. For us, it was important to have a local developer. And it was important that the project help offset a long-term loss of earnings for the regional economy.

In the winter of 1987, we finally got down to two developers who were bidding more or less the same amounts of money, but it was important for us that the spin-offs in the region be as interesting as possible. So, the town of Moisie was naturally in favour of a local developer, whereas the government was in favour of a developer from elsewhere, described by the office of the then Prime Minister, who happened to be the member of Parliament for the riding, as a good friend of the party. Therefore there was a small struggle about that.

Of course, the town of Moisie did not wield as much power as the office of the Prime Minister. In the spring of 1987, negotiations came to a standstill. In the summer of 1987, the good friend of the party was forced upon the town of Moisie. That developer promised 35 permanent jobs and 15 seasonal jobs. What is the situation today, six years later? No permanent jobs and no seasonal jobs. However, 50 houses were sold for a net profit of more than one million dollars.

When we go through the data to find out why, at the time, the Prime Minister's Office and the government insisted so much for that person to acquire the military base site, we realize that, during the 1984 election, the developer had provided to the party's fund $1,500 directly and heaven knows how much indirectly. That is awful. That has to stop.

Quebec and Canada's taxpayers can no longer afford to favour to excess good friends of the party at the expense of regional economic development. With examples such as the Pearson contract in Toronto and the Moisie military base, it is easy to imagine how many such dubious transactions there must be, transactions which, instead of serving those who pay their taxes, shamefully favour those who, on the contrary, constantly try to avoid paying them.

Yes, the Pearson transaction must be denounced, but it is not enough for the government to pass a bill such as Bill C-22 to pretend that it is doing its job. Pontius Pilate also washed his hands of the matter. Mature and responsible people will see to it that a mechanism is put in place to ensure that the real leaders of the country are those who are democratically elected by the population, and not those who pull the strings of some elected officials that are too well placed.

The Bloc Quebecois says no. We want a royal commission to get to the bottom of this obscure matter. The Canadian people have the right to know all about the hidden side of that affair and the role that lobbyists played and continue to play with the government.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, several questions remain unanswered regarding Bill C-22, an act respecting certain agreements concerning the redevelopment and operation of terminals 1 and 2 at Lester B. Pearson International Airport. The thorough study of this bill and the privatization agreement entered into at Pearson airport are very important to us, since it has become such a controversial matter.

This bill contains blatant contradictions with the commitments made by the Liberals during the campaign. They seem to have forgotten their commitment about restoring the confidence of citizens in the political institutions, even though they wrote an entire chapter on the subject in the red book. We are confused by their attitude. Therefore, we believe it is relevant to remind them of the promise they made to Canadians during the last campaign, which is, and I quote: "A Liberal government will take a series of initiatives to restore confidence in the institutions of government". And further, they wrote, and I quote: "We will follow the basic principle that government decisions must be made on the merits of a case rather than according to the political influence of those making the case. We will take an approach of openness in decision making". To win public confidence, you need to take some concrete measures but unfortunately the population is still waiting.

Clause 10 of Bill C-22 gives the minister in charge the discretionary power to sign agreements in order to pay compensation pursuant to the legislation. Furthermore, we are told no compensation will be paid for paper profits that never materialize or for lobbying. How can the public be certain such compensation payments will be made according to the legislation and be entirely free of any favouritism? Just from looking at it, and without investigating any further, one can see that this case reeks of political manipulation; we are not the ones to say

so, it is the opinion of the Nixon report author who had neither the resources nor the time to complete a comprehensive inquiry.

That is why we maintain that the only way to ensure transparency in this case is to form a royal commission of inquiry which would shed light on the whole issue. The Minister of Transport himself said, as quoted in La Presse of last November 29, that the federal government intended to form a royal commission of inquiry on the privatization of the Pearson airport. Unfortunately, the government did not follow up on that project which, need I remind you, would be essential to the demonstration of proper public funds management. What do Liberals want to hide? We cannot remain idle in front of such an attitude. Where is the promised transparency? What happened to the noble Liberal promise?

A royal commission of inquiry remains the only efficient way to bring things up to date in this case which has all the makings of a scandal. Illegal acts must be brought out in the open. Why are the Liberals not taking any action? Whom do they want to protect? Why not follow up on their project to establish an inquiry commission? Such a commission could bring out in the open illegal or unacceptable actions. In such cases, it would not be necessary for the minister to pay compensation. In other words, section 10 of Bill C-22 would be irrelevant. One must also keep in mind paragraph 8.6.3 of the contract.

We are speaking now about public funds, about the taxpayers' money. We cannot stand idle while the government refuses to act. As the Minister of Transport said so eloquently in his speech of April 26 about the Pearson Airport privatization, and I quote: "We believe matters that could significantly affect our economy and our competitive position as a nation should be decided in an open and accessible process". Which process could be more open and accessible than a royal commission of inquiry? How do the Liberals plan to shed light on this deal?

Regarding compensation, Bill C-22 seems to make an exception of lobbying. If I may, I want to remind the House that lobbying services are already tax deductible.

Therefore, taxpayers already paid part of the expenses supported by the companies which used such services. Nobody should be conned into believing that the shell games, all too common in this case, will not cost a penny to taxpayers. On the contrary, all the political connections that came to the fore lead us to predict that there will be much waste of public funds.

There are more than Conservative lobbyists and key figures involved in this. There are also lobbyists and money-men for the other big party, as it likes to be called. Clearly, this deal was put together by people from the two rival parties. If the minister exercises his discretionary power it will cast a dark shadow on the government and this House. Without a royal commission of inquiry Quebecers and Canadians will never be certain of the integrity of their government. This is a far cry from the openness the Liberal Party promised the people.

Moreover, without a commission, it is quite possible that innocent people could be painted with the same brush as the others. The fact that the government refuses to shed light on this affair will tarnish the reputation of all the people involved. The government cannot act like nothing happened, like it did not have any suspicion regarding the integrity of some of the stakeholders. A public inquiry would restore, among ordinary citizens, confidence in the honesty of the system.

To conclude, I wish to underline the controversy which surrounds this whole affair. True, friends of the previous government are involved, but some people very close to the present government have also a hand in this sordid mess. Quebecers and Canadians have the right to get to the bottom of this saga. That would be transparency, not the kind we talk about but the kind we live everyday of our lives; the kind people expect of their elected representatives and that would help restore people's confidence in their government.

Quebecers and Canadians are tired of playing games with their governments. It is their money which is at stake. Let us put an end to political manoeuvring and dirty tricks, whether real or apparent. People have the right to know. It is fundamental. A democratic country, which takes pride in its Charter of Rights and Freedoms, cannot afford to put a lid on this whole thing. The only way to get to the bottom of the Pearson Airport privatisation deal is to order a royal commission without further delay. In view of the fact that voter confidence for their elected representatives is the cornerstone of democracy, it is unacceptable to allow the minister in charge to pay any compensation as long as all the ins and outs of this deal have not been made public through an independent and impartial process.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 3, the House of Commons rejected the amendment of the Reform member for Simcoe Centre.

Although my colleagues in this House made this decision, I will now try to convince them to pass the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Official Opposition, whereby a royal commission of inquiry would shed light on the circumstances surrounding the signing of the contract between the government and T1 T2 Limited Partnership.

As I pointed out in my last speech, Bill C-22 contains 12 clauses. We find it impossible to agree with one in particular, namely Clause 10(1) authorizing the Governor in Council to pay T1 T2 Limited Partnership such amounts as considered appropriate in connection with the coming into force of this act, subject to the terms and conditions considered appropriate.

When I say I cannot agree with clause 10(1), I am also confident that the people I represent would not agree with a party refusing to shed light on disturbing facts, when the Liberal Party of Canada claims to be transparent and to protect the interests of taxpayers.

The Liberal Party of Canada now in office made the decision to cancel the privatization of Pearson Airport because it knew the facts that led the former Conservative government to sign this agreement.

Most of these facts have been confirmed by the Nixon report. This government is also aware that it did not give the Nixon commission enough time to uncover all the facts behind this peculiar decision by the Conservative government.

They still uncovered enough to allow the current government to end the scandal and give back to the Canadian people an asset that belonged to them.

Why would the Liberal government now spoil things by granting an organization compensation for losses and damages that are not clearly identified? Why would it refuse the public the right to know how lobbyists acted, people who we rightly thought we were getting rid of along with the Conservative government? Why would it assume the right to distribute our tax money to an organization that may have no legal right to it?

Although the Prime Minister thinks that he is still popular, he can be sure that he will lose his popularity, what remains of it, if he takes this action that is fraught with consequences. We will not be shy about reminding the people that this government refused to allow a royal commission of inquiry in order to hide from the people the doings of the former Conservative government and perhaps of some lobbyists close to the Liberals now in power.

This is in order to protect the friends of the Conservative regime, which could lead people to believe that the two traditional parties have the same friends. We will not be shy either about letting the people know the reasons for which the Leader of the Official Opposition called for such an inquiry. They are numerous and I will give some:

First, the present government itself administers the Toronto airport through the Department of Transport, instead of entrusting it to a non-profit organization, as in Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton, where the managing authorities are made up of community representatives who are therefore able to defend their interests.

I give the Montreal airports authority as an example. It administers Montreal's two airports and its board is made up of seven representatives of the business community, who are also on the board of the corporation that promotes Montreal's airports, SOPRAM.

The eighth member is the chairman and chief executive officer of Montreal airport authorities. It is also interesting to note that SOPRAM is a non-profit organization, whose 21 members are appointed by the following: the City of Montreal, the City of Laval, the conference of suburban mayors, the Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, the corporation for promoting Mirabel airport (COPAM), the Société montérégienne de développement (SMD), and the City of Longueuil. This representation ensures that the Montreal airport authorities have an approach which is sensitive to local interests, and which is deep-rooted in business.

Second, we are asking for a commission of inquiry because, on reviewing the Nixon report, we noted that the time frame for the call for tenders was surprisingly short, namely 90 days, which made it impossible for groups not already involved in the management of the airport, as Claridge and Paxport were, to come up with a competitive bid. That explains why only two bids were received. Indeed, Paxport had already submitted a privatization proposal in 1989, which it had had to withdraw, and Claridge was operating terminal 3.

Third, why was the contract signed on October 3, 1993, in the midst of the election campaign, and after the chief negotiator expressed reservations and demanded written instructions before signing?

Fourth, what was the precise role played by lobbyists, and whom did they approach? Fifth, how much did Canadians have to pay for this hasty decision, and who benefited from it? Sixth, why did the Conservative government want to privatize Pearson Airport considering that it is the most profitable airport in Canada?

Seventh, why did the government allocate T1 T2 Limited Partnership a rate of return of 24 per cent before taxes, and 14 per cent after taxes?

Eighth, why does the Nixon Report recommend no compensation for lost opportunities and lobbyists' fees? Did Mr. Nixon uncover even more irregularities than we know of?

Ninth, what was the role of some stakeholders with close ties either to the Conservative Party or to the Liberal Party of Canada?

Tenth and last reason-but more could be found-why this Liberal government did not include in Bill C-22 a clause authorizing the transfer of the Pearson Airport management to a non-profit corporation?

These are a few of the reasons why a royal commission of inquiry is required, to make an informed decision. It is essential that this commission show clearly the impact lobbyists have had in this matter. It will look into the costs to the public purse, employment implications in the greater Toronto area and impact on transportation in Canada in particular.

These are but a few of the reasons we will clearly set out to the people to make them realize this government should have allowed a royal commission of inquiry to be held if it was rejecting the amendment put forward by the Official Opposition.

The House will notice, based on the evidence provided, what a far-reaching decision the federal government has made in cancelling the privatization contract and putting back in the hands of the people of Canada the control of one of the means of transport essential to Canadian industry and economic development.

As I said earlier, and I am saying it again, let us not spoil the whole business by paying compensation to friends of the regime. Instead, let us invest that money in the transport industry, whether air, rail or water transport. And I am quoting examples of which the Minister of Transport will approve, I am sure.

The Jean Lesage International airport is in dire need of financial support to be international in more than name only. Over the last few months, our party has asked several times in this House that the radar control facility at the Quebec City airport remain in operation and serve as a back up for Montreal's system, in case of a breakdown. Moreover, Quebec City airport needs investments to improve its infrastructure and adequately serve our provincial capital which, we hope, will host the Winter Olympic Games in 2002.

The marine transport sector would also be pleased to receive the compensation which the government is about to pay to T1 T2 Partnerships and use it to have a safe ferry built by the best people in the trade, MIL Davie's employees, in Lauzon, for the proud Magdalen islanders. This compensation could also be used to build the so-called "smart ship", which would do so much for MIL Davie's recovery, while also helping Canada to fulfill its role in international peacekeeping missions.

Also, I cannot help but mention again what would be the greatest achievement, namely the construction of a high speed train line. Given the statement made by VIA Rail's president, I am convinced that he would gladly accept that compensation to launch this prestigious project. The Minister of Transport is delaying his answer by arguing that he is consulting with the provinces and that a report will be tabled in June. Does the minister intend to wait until the House recesses for the summer? It would be unacceptable if the elected representatives of this House did not make a decision on a project of that magnitude. We do hope that we misread the minister's intentions and that a bill will be tabled in early June.

I will conclude by discussing the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition to Bill C-22, and by reminding hon. members of the importance of the vote which will be taken in a few hours. If we are to keep some level of credibility-and I do say "some" level of credibility, since Canadians are more and more losing confidence in their politicians, as I am told during the week-ends, while I am working in my riding, by my constituents who say that, from what they can see on television, the House of Commons proceedings are turning into a real circus and politicians are no longer credible-we must show that we are not afraid of transparency and do everything we can to make our work more transparent. What better than an unbiased royal commission of inquiry to do so? This is the kind of initiatives that will allow us to govern with the support of the people when we have tough choices to make.

Even with a majority in the House, the government cannot afford to dismiss the fair demands made by the Official Opposition, because its popularity rating outside Quebec could melt away like snow and turn into an angry outcry the Liberal government will remember for a long time.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

You can be sure, Mr. Speaker, that I am pleased to speak for the second time on Bill C-22, an act respecting certain agreements concerning the redevelopment and operation of terminals 1 and 2 at Lester B. Pearson International Airport, in Toronto.

The Pearson Airport is the biggest airport in Canada, with 20 million passengers yearly, that is some 57,000 daily. It occupies 1,792 hectares, includes three terminals and employs 15,000 people. Some 800 aircraft land every day at Pearson and take off for 300 destinations in 60 foreign countries. This is the only Canadian airport that can be considered a true crossroads.

According to a 1987 Transport Canada study, Pearson has a $4 billion direct economic impact on the economy of the province of Ontario and was directly and indirectly responsible for over 56,000 Ontario jobs. It is by any estimation more than the sum of its parts or the total of its assets and liabilities. It is a critical national gateway and a hub service to travellers, families and shippers. It cannot be duplicated by any other facility in the area, indeed the province or the country, although Vancouver is getting there and Montreal has the potential. This combination of its economic and social importance to the region, the province and the country, and the fact that it is a unique service for which there is no alternative, transforms the airport, in my opinion, from a simple transportation facility into one of the most important public assets in the southern Ontario and Canadian economy.

After all the speeches we in the Official Opposition made on the subject, you surely know that our biggest reservation about the bill, indeed our strong protest, relates to clause 10, which reads as follows:

10.(1) If the Minister considers it appropriate to do so, the Minister may, with the approval of the Governor in Council, enter into agreements on behalf of Her Majesty to provide for the payment of such amounts as the Minister considers appropriate in connection with the coming into force of this Act, subject to the terms and conditions that the Minister considers appropriate.

That is the problem. You also know by now that the opposition supports the cancellation of this shocking contract because there are many reasons to do so. What convinced me, I must say in all humility, is the Nixon report that I read in full several times. I understood why Mr. Nixon, Liberal as he is-and an honourable man, close to the circles we are talking about, including the Prime Minister's friends-because of his fairness and his sense of responsibility, had no choice but to talk about "manoeuver".

A careful reading of his report shows why he used such strong language. In Webster's New World Dictionary, "manoeuver" is defined thus:

To manipulate or scheme.

So this is indeed strong language.

I would like to bring to the attention of the House some excerpts from the report that are very informative and illustrate the cloudy, obscure and shocking nature of this affair.

As we in the Official Opposition have repeated on many occasions, we need a royal commission of inquiry to determine whether or not there were shady dealings involved.

For example, on page 5, there is a short paragraph that gives us a hint on the scheming. Scheming is the common thread that runs through the entire Nixon Report. Let me quote the following paragraph:

In the calculation of gross revenue (on which rent will be based), there are 10 deductions which I am advised are unusual in commercial transactions.

Mr. Nixon also goes on to say that T1 T2 Limited Partnership, which would oversee the airport's administration, is a multiple rather than a sole purpose corporation.

According to Mr. Nixon:

The lease does not restrict the freedom of T1 T2 Limited Partnership to carry out an undertaking other than the management, operation and maintenance of Terminals 1 and 2. Therefore, the financial health of T1 T2 Limited Partnership could be adversely affected by the financial failure of a venture which has nothing to do with the management, operation and maintenance of Terminals 1 and 2.

With respect to passenger traffic, the report states the following:

The Government of Canada undertakes not to permit development of any airport facility within 75 km of the T1 T2 complex that would reduce passenger traffic at Pearson by more than 1.5 million persons per year, until the volume of passenger traffic at Pearson reaches 33 million people per year. Present projections predict this number to be reached by approximately the year 2005. If the Government of Canada chooses to engage in such proscribed development-

The scheming is clear, as is the understanding between those who are close to and exert undue influence on the government.

Another interesting and revealing point is worth citing:

About the end of September 1993, T1 T2 Limited Partnership represented to the Government that it had entered into 10 contracts with non-arms length parties-

therefore parties with ties to the project, Mr. Speaker-

-prior to October 7, 1993. One of these was said to be a construction management agreement with Matthews Construction. This information was not publicly disclosed.

We must know that Matthews is directly involved. It is a party to the whole deal and closely linked to Paxport's operations. It goes on to say:

After permitting the privatization of Terminal 3 at Pearson, the process to privatize Terminals 1 and 2, the remainder of the largest airport in Canada, is inconsistent with the major thrust of the policy of the Government of Canada announced in 1987.

It is under this policy that the government rejected the offer made in 1989-90 by the same players. Time and undue influence having done their job, the government showed a great deal of interest in 1993, and we know what happened.

Another very important finding of the Nixon report concerns the proposal submission time frame:

The RFP having as it did only a single stage and requiring proponents to engage in project definition as well as proposal submission and, all within a 90 day time frame-

As we know, even with a $700 million investment, people have only 90 days to decide. I now continue with the quote:

-created, in my view, an enormous advantage to a proponent-

namely Paxport. That is what I call scheming, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Nixon goes on to say:

-that had previously submitted a proposal for privatizing and developing T1 and T2.

That is why, Mr. Speaker, given everything surrounding this deal, we are surprised, first, that the report itself does not make that suggestion and, second, that the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party, despite all its claims to transparency in the red book, did not do it. A royal commission of inquiry must be set up to shed light on this shocking event that, in my opinion, brings shame to Canada and its institutions.

I remind my friends opposite that the Liberal red book emphasizes in several places the need to restore people's trust in their government by making it more transparent. Disturbing facts in this case lead us to question the transparency of the Liberal government and the previous government as well as the legitimacy of any decision to compensate the businesses involved. The Lobbyists Act is a key element of this transparency. I will close by quoting an excerpt from chapter 6 of the red book dealing with the question of transparency and lobbying:

The most important asset of government is the confidence it enjoys of the citizens to whom it is accountable. If government is to play a positive role in society, as it must, honesty and integrity in our political institutions must be restored.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the last election campaign which led to the formation of this Parliament, our government colleagues travelled across the country waving their philosophy manual, better known as the red book. Making all kinds of promises in their speeches, our colleagues were particularly keen on promising all Quebecers and Canadians that a Liberal government would restore integrity to our political institutions-red book, chapter 6.

The essence of that promise was a formal commitment to giving our country a government that would be more transparent, a government that would not play cat and mouse with taxpayers, a government made up of people who would preach by example and give back to Canadians the confidence they had lost in their elected representatives. I heard the Prime Minister make that kind of statement in a formal tone that would leave absolutely no doubt in anybody's mind. I heard him say very convincingly that his government would clean up the way politics are played in our country and would stay away from all the questionable practices that we had grown accustomed to under the Conservative government.

Now, it seems to me that the Pearson airport privatization deal is a golden opportunity for the government to follow up on its election promises. The influence exerted by friends of the government in this deal gives the present government the chance to fulfil its commitments. If it does not seize this opportunity right now, does that mean that it will not keep the promises of integrity and transparency made during the election campaign? Why is the government refusing to get to the bottom of this matter? If we have any respect for taxpayers, we have to tell them how their money is spent, who makes the decisions and in whose interest. If we do not agree, and rightly so, on a matter such as the Pearson Airport deal, we have to say why we do not. If we fear that there have been some shady dealings, we should not avoid the subject.

On the contrary, we have to face up to it so that leniency does not resurface in the future and we do not fall into the same traps. Quebecers and Canadians have the right to know about this, not just a small part of it, from a government that refuses to talk about it and is quick to evade its responsibilities by trying to ram through Bill C-22. We have to get right to the bottom of this matter through a genuine commission of inquiry and leave it to the House to determine, after the inquiry, whether compensation is appropriate or not.

I am rising in this House to tell you so because, as members of Parliament, we have to denounce the actions of some members of the political class of this country. More particularly, we have to denounce the quasi-incestuous practices that are part of the culture of persons who daily try to influence government decisions.

Using every lever at their disposal, from childhood friendships to favours done, right through electoral organizing and political party financing, these persons contribute to trade public interest for private good and, sadly, contribute to relegate the role of duly elected Parliamentarians to a position of secondary importance. I rise therefore in this House with this bitter aftertaste left by Bill C-22, by the nebulous aspect of the Pearson Airport privatization matter that seems to involve lobbyists, politicians, former officials and friends of the government.

The investigation into the Pearson airport issue should not be restricted to the debate on Bill C-22. The government is making a mistake by refusing to go to the bottom of this issue. By simply repressing the whole matter and granting under clause 10 generous compensation payments that it wants to set as it pleases behind closed doors and without consultation with parliamentarians, is the government revealing the real truth to the Canadian people and the Quebec people, a truth which is quite different from what we read in the red book about a code of ethics and lobbyists? Have the powerful lobbyists that hound the government already managed to change its mind? I hope not. The government is faced here with a perfect situation where it can demonstrate its good will, propose a new way of dealing with government business, and restore in the population a minimum of trust for the political class.

At a time when all surveys and opinion polls indicate that people mistrust and have little respect for their political leaders, should we not face the old demons that dwell in the back rooms of government and give the people what it wants, that is openness and the simple, plain truth? The Pearson airport issue is the perfect opportunity for that exercise, and I am sure that with a free vote, all members would act acording to their

conscience and lean towards openness, parliamentary legitimacy and restriction of ambitions.

It is the government's duty to launch a public inquiry into the privatization of the Pearson airport. If it refuses to do so, it will be remiss in its duty, it will break its electoral commitments and pardon the ways of the Conservatives in order to better follow them. Quite clearly, the only thing that will have changed is a few of the people at the trough.

I would like to give you a little bit of background, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Nixon wrote in his report that the Pearson airport privatization is an obvious example of political manipulating, improprieties and manoeuvering. Whence the importance, if we have nothing to hide or to protect, of fully examining this matter so that it can serve as an example and ensure that such a situation does not happen again.

In 1987, when the federal government announced a new management policy for Canadian airports, it did so mainly to involve local authorities in airport affairs and sites development. Such was the case for Vancouver and Montreal, among others, where non-profit organizations manage airport installations. In Toronto, however, things were quite different. Is it because Pearson Airport was Canada's most profitable airport? In this era of sacro-sanct economic liberalism, why let the government manage a profitable facility when there are so many that are not profitable within its reach?

Far from protecting the public interest, the transaction occurred right in the middle of an election campaign to the benefit of the only two bidders, two former competitors now united to make a profit. Paxport Inc., whose bid was selected by the government without any financial analysis, could not get enough money to complete the transaction for terminals 1 and 2. Paxport Inc. joined with Claridge Inc., which already controlled terminal 3, through the Pearson Development Corporation. This alliance was sealed in the T1 T2 Limited Partnership. And there you have it. Pearson Airport, a very profitable airport, was completely privatized in the hands of the same group.

We in the Official Opposition are not attempting to launch a witch hunt or to bring back the rules of the Grand Inquisition. We simply want to get right to the bottom of the issue and regulate certain types of questionable practices that have no place in our parliamentary system.

When we analyse the disturbing facts referred to in the Nixon Report, we cannot just forget about this issue, as the government is doing with Bill C-22.

In his report, Mr. Nixon refers to political manipulation, which is a serious observation. Are we going to keep moving in that direction and give the minister, under section 10, a blank cheque for the payment of compensations as he sees fit to do? The Nixon report shows that lobbyists in the financial community really tried to take us all for a ride, taxpayers of Quebec and Canada, in that project. Are we going to help them do it again?

No, Mr. Speaker, the taxpayers have already paid too much and moreover, they must know why. Therefore, we must reject Bill C-22 and quickly set up a royal commission of inquiry.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, finally I am rising after many months on a point of order that has to do with references made by hon. members in the Bloc Quebecois to Canada and to Quebec as separate entities.

In fairness, I do understand the wish of the Bloc to separate from Canada. However it is also not permitted in the House for members to indicate any information which they know is not true or is somehow misleading.

I would therefore simply ask the Chair if it would please rule on whether Canada in fact includes Quebec today and whether the language the member has used is in fact inappropriate in the House.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the same point of order, if you intend to rule on this matter, I would appreciate it if you would also give us some indication of how we should behave and what words we should use in the House, because I would like to know whether it is wrong to mention the words Canada and Quebec. Does this mean, Mr. Speaker, that in this House, we can no longer use the word Quebec? If that is the case, let us be frank and forthright about it. If the hon. member wants us to stop talking about Quebec in this House, he should say so. I am not saying we will change, but at least we will know what he thinks.