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House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was recall.

Topics

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

Tory sleaze.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Reform

Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Tory sleaze, yes. I thank the hon. member for helping me out in this presentation.

All we in the Reform Party are doing is asking that the government just do one more small thing to try and restore the confidence of the Canadian voters and that is to let the settling of this agreement, the cancelling of this agreement, the wrap-up of it become one small bit more transparent.

It is not our intention to hold this thing up for a length of time that would in fact cost millions of dollars as the hon. member opposite indicated. We simply want the government once it has determined if any, and I hope that there is none, claims are worthy to be considered for payment that it would simply present these claims either to the Standing Committee on Transport for examination by all three parties or to a special committee formed by the government, whatever the case. It would not entail a long period of time to get a recommendation from that committee.

This is not a huge order in the scope of this. This is just one more small step that the government can take to toward restoring the confidence of the voters and in fulfilling its election promise of transparency and openness in the way the government does business.

People have a lot of questions about the Pearson airport deal. They never want to see a deal like this again in this country. It is incumbent upon the government to consider laying all the facts before the public and the three parties in this House so that they can be examined in detail.

We are not asking for a huge delay, just one more small opportunity to open this up so that the public will be able to see in a timely fashion and not wait until the Auditor General makes a report next year because the voting public wants to see this openness happening now. They want to see examples of it on a daily basis. That is what this amendment would do.

It would actually help the government in power to get its message of openness across. I am surprised frankly that there is any opposition to this by the government. I urge those members to reconsider their position. Let us forget about partisan politics here and put the interests of the Canadian public first and foremost in everything we do. Let us do the right thing in this House.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened attentively to the remarks being made by the opposition parties to Bill C-22, and in particular the amendments that have been put forward, especially by the Bloc member.

Let me begin by saying I am privileged to be the chairman of the transport committee of the House. I congratulate members of the Reform and in particular the Bloc, especially the member for Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans, who worked very hard and diligently in ensuring that the public interest was always held high and that work was being accomplished at committee with the valid, helpful suggestions being put forward by the Bloc member in requesting particular witnesses to appear before the committee.

I will address the last question put to government by the Reform first. The hon. member referred to extending transparency, saying that he simply wants the government to determine that if any claims are made by third party interveners that a government committee examine the payments.

We argued this in committee. It was made pretty clear by government members on the transport committee to the hon. member of the Reform Party, the Reform Party that by the way is against duplication of process, a Reform Party I believe that is against a waste of government members' time or the cost of doing government and the expense involved in having committee meetings. He wants to have the committee examine all these third party expenses being allocated by the government to the third parties.

There is a process available now that will ensure that these payments are above board and that will be done by the Auditor General of this country. Why are we duplicating a process by a Reform request to take what are literally these mounds of third party receipts and requests for payments? Somebody laid down some gravel at the site or somebody made a contract for the outhouses to be placed on site. We have to consider all these things. They are legitimate third party payouts. That process is going on right now.

Why do we want to take all that and look at it all over again when there will be an opportunity for the Auditor General to complete that work? Let us save the taxpayers of Canada some money, I say to the Reform. Let us save ourselves some time I say to the Reform.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

The Auditor General is the third party.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

My colleague from Broadview-Greenwood does bring up the fact that the Auditor General is an independent third party, not three different parties sitting down and looking at receipts. It is an independent third party. That being said, I hope the hon. member is satisfied with that answer.

Getting back to the Bloc member, the hon. member for Beauport-Montmorency-Orleans, he is the critic of course for transport for the Bloc. He is doing a solid job. He put forward the list of witnesses we needed at that committee. I am proud to say the committee said sure, bring them all on.

There were a few exceptions like Mr. Nixon, for example.Mr. Nixon submitted his report. He is more than above board. He has given us a full documentation of all the facts that he could present to us. We dragged him to a committee and asked him the same questions that were answered in a report that he filed with our committee. Again, let us not waste the time of the House or of hon. members. Let us get to the job. Let us get to the bottom line. Let us look at the bottom line, which is that Canadians asked us to kill the deal. Canadians said it was a lousy deal, so just get to it.

Pearson International Airport is an economic hub, a revenue generator, a very important link and element to transportation not only just in southern Ontario but in Canada. It is also an economic engine for Canada, aside from the fact that it happens to be an aviation hub.

We have to ensure that everything that is going on at Pearson airport is being completed on time in a very time sensitive industry, the airline industry. We have to plan today for what that airline policy and industry is going to look like tomorrow. If we do not, we get caught with our pants down. We will. It has happened in the past under Tory administrations. But that will not happen with this government, with this party. That is not going to be allowed to happen. We are going to keep on top of it and we congratulate the Minister of Transport for keeping on top of it.

There is no wishy-washy decision making here. What do Canadians want? They said it was a lousy deal. Fine. It is a lousy deal. "Do you want us to kill it?"-yes. We killed the deal. Sensitivities are made because we do not want to pay lobbyists and we do not want to pay for potential profits of the future. Come on, potential future profits, give us a break.

After all it was a legal document and the previous administration did sign and we have obligations to the international community. Therefore, we are sensitive enough to say: "Look we are not going to go fully this way and say the deal is cut, finished, done, dry. You are all hung out to dry". No, some legitimate third party claims been made and we are going to respond to them. We are not so insensitive as to not respond to those claims. We are going to do that and they are going to be cross checked by the Auditor General an independent third party.

The bottom line I suppose is that we invited all the witnesses to come forward, except for Mr. Nixon, for example. Let us go to the beginning.

Seventeen names were requested by the Bloc. Except for two or three of those names they were all invited. Those individuals responded. Either they were out of the country or they were going through their third party legal counsel. I do not even want to remind the House of his name. I am seeing a smile and hearing laughter from the Reform. Some of this stuff that was brought forward by this legal counsel for some of these individuals was just ridiculous.

However, they were all invited and either they were out of the country or were unable to attend and we said fine. Then there was a request for the chairman to invite them. The chairman invited a shortened list. Again those individuals said: "Sorry, I am out of the country". Can you imagine Jelinek or Corbeil, who were on the list, coming back? Ghosts from Tory administrations past. Who cares? I frankly do not give a damn what Jelinek or Corbeil have to say about this issue because it was a lousy deal. We cut the deal, we ended the deal and I really do not care about what they have to say.

I was hoping as the non-partisan chairman that the committee would not allow individuals to what, come and clear their name? "Hey, I am really a good guy and it really was a good deal but the Liberals killed it". I do not care. The committee did not care. In the end they were asked and then a subpoena was requested. The subpoena process is there. However, as we know and what Canadians might find of interest, in the rules of the House people can still turn down a subpoena request. Then the whole committee decides to take the subpoena request to the House and the House has to make the request. If the individual does not come then we send the Sergeant-at-Arms and off will go Gus to drag this individual in. The last time that full process was done was in 1913. The person still did not come and went to jail. That is the story behind that. It is a great story.

Canadians asked us and we, the Bloc and the Reform did our jobs. We asked the people to come. However, at some point you have to say enough is enough. We have asked three times and they have said: "Sorry, I can't make it, I'm out of the country, et cetera". The committee, in its wisdom, said: "We know what the bottom line is and we have to get to it. We are not going to stretch this thing out until the fall and dig up some dirty laundry from some sleazy Tory deals of the past. We are doing the job that has to be done". I congratulate the committee members for having done that job. I just hope that we get speedy passage of this bill.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, if we were to go looking for the truth, we would not find it in the mouths of the members across the way who last spoke.

Along with my whip, I sat on the committee responsible-

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Fontana Liberal London East, ON

Mr. Speaker, a point of order. I do not believe we on this side of the House attacked the truthfulness of any of the statements. If you want to review what the member just said, he is questioning the truth of our statements. I think that is unparliamentary. I seek your guidance whether it is a point of privilege and if the member should be required to withdraw those sad comments.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The parliamentary secretary raises the question. I was listening to the hon. member.

I did not hear any unparliamentary words. I will look at the blues, but for the moment, I cannot say that I heard any words that are not acceptable in this House.

In my opinion, what we have is a point of debate between the two speakers. I will review the blues and if there is a problem, I will get back to the House.

Resuming debate.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Scratch my back and I will scratch yours. That is about the extent of what is currently happening between the Liberals and the Conservatives who once occupied these very same seats.

Along with my whip, I attended the committee meeting at which time the question of potential witnesses was discussed. When the Pearson Airport bill was debated on second reading, the Liberals opposite told us: "A royal commission of inquiry is unnecessary. You will have every opportunity to hear all the witnesses you want in committee".

When we got to committee stage, quite a squabble broke out. It was worse than selecting jurors for a trial. As soon as we mentioned the name of someone with ties, however remote, to the Liberal Party of Canada, our choice was rejected. At most, they agreed to let us hear from a few witnesses who were particularly well connected with the Conservatives. Even then, they could not provide us with a great deal of evidence. Therefore, when the members across the way claim that they agreed to all the witnesses we suggested, that is false.

Now they are saying that we will have the opportunity to discuss the deal next year when the Auditor General of Canada releases his report.

This calls to mind an infamous statement which the Prime Minister made during the Oka crisis. He said: "So let the Indians escape. We will catch them later". The Liberals appear to be using somewhat the same tactics in this case. They seem intent on playing the role of the blushing, innocent bride.

And yet, in this morning's Globe and Mail , not the Journal de Montréal , Terence Corcoran reports the following: ``Not a shred of evidence has been produced to demonstrate that the Pearson contracts are anything but honest, legal, sound and desirable agreements to redevelop the airport''. This is not me talking, or the separatist Journal de Montréal , but a Toronto newspaper.

This reporter also mentions that Torontonians are beginning to get fed up with the attitude of the Liberals. Furthermore, he states clearly that during the election campaign, the Liberals lied to the public. And they act like prima donnas. How sad, a contract that should not have been signed in the first place is going to be cancelled! Did they include a compensation clause when they cancelled the helicopter contract in Montreal? Did they include a little clause to make sure their friends were taken care of? No, there was none. These people are acting in bad faith.

I call the people of Canada to witness and I tell them this: "See, people of Canada-and of Toronto in particular-how easily you are done out of $250 million, with a stroke of the pen in a transaction that will make the national deficit grow. You are being taken for a ride". These people have been taking us for a ride for over 25 years, and now on the pretence of remedying, resolving a problem, they cancel a small contract which may not have been desirable, a contract we probably would not have signed. Now that their friends have been caught red-handed, they are trying to backtrack, they are putting on the brakes, so to speak. They are trying to spare as much as possible those of their buddies who meddled in this business. That is a disgrace!

It is too bad that certain people, in Toronto in particular, may decide not to listen to what is being said on this side because it is coming from Bloc members, those mean separatists. Torontonians might then realize that we would rather get out of this confederation before the members opposite sink us and, by favouring their buddies, leave this country in such a sorry state that it will never be able to recover and that dismantling Canada will make sense after all, financially speaking. The bottom line is these people are not acting in good faith.

When I first spoke on this bill, I asked what had led the government to introduce such a bill when we are dealing with a valid contract-I did not say legitimate, but valid as in legally

signed- one which normally, based on rulings regularly made by the Supreme Court of Canada, was binding on the government that was in office at the time and had the power to enter into contracts.

In this morning's paper, Terence Corcoran also tells us: "Any reading of Bill C-22 makes it amply clear the special law was crafted to avoid a legal expropriation process-and to avoid embarrassing the Liberals rather than Mr. Matthews". He is one of the Tories involved. "If there are any smoking guns at Pearson, they're in Liberal hands".

That is how highly the Liberal Party is regarded by the people in Toronto. I always knew when the leader of the party currently in power spoke of a chair, that the chair he had in mind was not of the kind that generally comes to mind. In the Prime Minister's mind, a chair can have two horizontal legs, a tilted seat, a horizontal back- That is the Prime Minister's idea of a chair. His perception must be contagious because I think the members of his Cabinet and his ministers' parliamentary secretaries, some of whom are sitting across from us, have had their minds warped by all kinds of inconsistencies or by the tendency to mislead everyone.

The Pearson contract is a disgusting scheme-I hope the term is strong enough-and they are taking at least $250 million out of the pockets of Canadians who have trouble making ends meet, in an effort to put out the fire.

The smoking guns referred to in this morning's press review are what they are attempting to hide. Try to make our friends happy? Always. Scratch my back and I will scratch yours, and the Liberals are the best at this kind of scheme.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not with joy in our hearts that we speak to a bill like this one, except that this afternoon's amendment would make it more reasonable.

My colleagues talked about various provisions earlier, about the state of mind that prevailed at the transport committee. I would like to add a few things myself. Earlier I heard Liberal members refer to their commitment, to the fact that the people asked them to cancel the Pearson Airport contract signed by their Conservative predecessors on whom they put all the blame in this.

The deeper we dig into this issue, the clearer things become. People are starting to dig deeper and that is why the government is in a hurry to get rid of this case once and for all to avoid getting to the bottom of things.

Reference was made to witnesses who found it difficult to come before the transport committee. Obviously, it was not in their interest to shed light on this issue and the government did not want to do it either. Why? Because it is not true that only the Tories or those very close to them were to blame in this.

On top of all this, the government found a way to compensate its friends and I do not think that was what the people asked for. The member for Hamilton West just said: "The people asked us to destroy this agreement, to cancel it". Except that the people never asked them to compensate their friends. They never as

Yes, we were told that next year the Auditor General could look into it. As in all the other cases, it will be on a page in his report, denouncing some other anomalies buried among all the other scandals involving the management of public funds. It will make the news for a day, a few hours, and it will be drowned in other bad news, so the government will be able to get away with it and never have to face the people and be accountable.

That is why the Reform Party's amendment at least suggests that these things should be more transparent, that this compensation should be submitted to the House and debated more publicly and openly.

In this regard, this amendment is a second option. We would prefer not to have any compensation at all, especially with all the scheming-that is really the word for it-surrounding this whole contract and its cancellation. If we had gotten to the bottom of it or if someone some day is able to get to the bottom of this story, there would be a big political scandal that would greatly affect the credibility of the government and of all politicians who were here in the 1980s doing business that way.

It is traditional in those parties. Whether it is the Liberals or the Conservatives, they act the same way and there are other agreements made in all sorts of other ways that the people mistrust, perhaps rightly, because when something is rotten in a deal, they refuse to clear it up.

For once we would have had an opportunity to start over on a sound footing, to find the causes and sources of these problems, why politicians are subject to all sorts of-how should I say this?-temptations that make them do deals which are far from beneficial for everyone.

The original idea behind all this of turning airport management over to the community was not necessarily bad. Except that when we see how it is done in practice, we realize that there are many problems. It now casts great doubt on the whole process of privatizing airports or conceding them to community corporations. Now everyone is on the defensive about the process. This is what I had to say regarding comments made a little earlier in the debate.

As for the amendment tabled by the hon. member for Beauport-Montmorency, it has the effect of abolishing clause 10 of the bill. In order to put things in perspective, I will read clauses 9 and 10, and then explain why we propose that the latter be deleted. Clause 9 reads: "No one is entitled to any compensation from Her Majesty in connection with the coming into force of this Act". Good! That clause is just fine; the problem is clause 10, which says: "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 clause includes the expressions "If the Minister considers it appropriate" and "the approval of the Governor in Council". In other words, the cabinet could and will grant compensation, because the hon. member for Hamilton West said earlier that we must compensate those who incurred costs related to this project. Is it normal in the private sector to compensate people who, for all sorts of reasons, try to get a contract or work on a project, when their efforts are fruitless?

Some hard thinking is in order because if we did that with every public contract, regardless of the outcome, we would open the door to an endless process. That clause is terrible and it sets a rather serious precedent. After all, no compensation was provided in other cases. In the case of the helicopter contract, for example, any compensation must be approved by cabinet and the Governor in Council. All this is very worrisome.

Who does the government want to protect with this clause? You can be sure that some evidence will have to be produced, or that requests will have to be made by those who participated in the project. Two groups were involved: Claridge and Paxport. One is closely identified with friends of the Liberals, while the other has closer ties with the Conservatives. I am prepared to say that the requests made will not be reviewed in the same way, and this is why it would be appropriate to have a much more open and transparent process. I understand that some information is of a private nature. In reference to the public domain and compensation paid by taxpayers-these same taxpayers, whom the government must represent by cancelling the Pearson Airport contract, will have to pay compensation at the discretion of Cabinet. This is scandalous.

We have seen some of these enemies with Claridge, specifically all of those people who are closely identified with the Liberal Party, such as Senator Kolber, Peter Coughlin, Herb Metcalfe and others. Those people are not identified with the Conservative Party, and a way will be found to compensate them in a bill. So I think the thrust of our amendment-in fact, I am convinced of this-is that there will be no question of compensation in a completely crooked process. Particularly since, in the light of the work of the Committee-as my colleague mentioned earlier-it was never clearly demonstrated that compensation should be paid. The whole story is very nebulous, and there has been a refusal to get to the bottom of it.

Behind the scenes, it is said in secret said that it will be possible to shed more light on all this and get the clarification necessary to provide appropriate compensation, although we know full well that lobbying fees are tax deductible anyway. This is the kind of thing that the public finds extremely irritating. It makes people mad to see this type of process, to see the government caught red-handed in the act of compensating its friends. We cannot subscribe to such a policy.

Why should Canadians and Quebecers pay compensation for a project that was poorly managed, a project that has now been cancelled and that some day will be back on the agenda. The public will have to pay, but it is not unlikely the same parties will resurface in some other form. They will be the big winners. Do not believe for one minute that these people will just disappear. They are still around. Do not be surprised if they become players in the same project, in some other configuration. They will find a way. No one in this group is going to be on the bread line tomorrow morning.

I think it is important to tell the public that the government tried to sneak this bill through. At every stage, in committee, and at second and third reading, we had to go to the very limit of the time available for debate to show there were a number of discrepancies and give people with a more than casual interest more time to take a close look at what was happening. The government is trying to get this bill through the House in record time, and that alone is sufficient cause for concern, both for the public and the opposition parties. I hope the government will wake up and support the amendment that would delete clause 10 of the bill.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 76(8), a recorded division on motion No. 1 stands deferred.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-12, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Canada Business Corporations ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 1994 / 1:05 p.m.

Richmond B.C.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Liberalfor the Minister of Industry

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to.)

Canada Business Corporations ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

Canada Business Corporations ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.