Since my colleague refers to it, are my friends in the Reform Party prepared to go along? I have listened carefully in the months we have spent in the House together. Time and time again we disagree on some issues, but on one issue I think we have a lot in common. I have tried to do some things at Transport Canada that will improve services to the Canadian public but reduce the burden on the Canadian taxpayer. I think we understand what we are trying to achieve together.
It is not just a question of principle or of letting people go to the courts or of trying to have due process and all the rest of the things we hear talked about. We are talking about Canadian taxpayers faced with cuts being levelled at them by every government in the country, no matter what their political stripe. Cuts are being requested of us by members of the official opposition and the Reform Party. We understand that.
I cannot believe anyone would agree with those in the other place who say they do not care that their amendments would put at risk hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money. Do they believe or does anyone believe Canadian taxpayers should be asked to compensate developers for 57 years worth of lost profits because they cooked up a deal with the Conservative government that days later lost every seat in the greater Toronto area and only held on to two of them in the whole country? Tory senators do not want us to settle for out of pocket and reasonable expenses. They want $445 million on this last trip to the trough for their friends.
I cannot believe that at least some of the Conservative senators in the other place will not understand that Parliament cannot condone this outrageous raid on Canadian taxpayers.
The leader of the Liberal Party, now Prime Minister of Canada, warned all the parties not to sign the agreement. If the promoters were so sure that this was a good deal for Canada, why did they not wait and try to convince a new government and the public? Was it because they knew their friends were going to lose if there was no cancellation clause in the contract?
Our government is pledged to dealing with the private sector in an open, fair and responsible manner; but we will always take the taxpayers' interest into account. Our decision to cancel this contract came after a clear and absolutely unequivocal signal to all parties that abuses of the political process and practices we consider to be unacceptable would not be tolerated. Last minute deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars rammed through the system in many instances against the will of members of the public service will not be rubber stamped.
The facts I have outlined today and the details we have learned in our negotiations to compensate out of pocket expenses have all contributed to my resolve to see the bill passed into law unamended.
The House passed Bill C-22 to ensure the future of Pearson International Airport. The government is willing to consider paying an amount up to $30 million. It is a lot of money. We understand our commercial obligations and the need for the crown to respect appropriate undertakings.
We have looked at the claims and we think a fair analysis of reasonable business practices will allow us to compensate up to $30 million to both the developers and third parties for the reasonable out of pocket expenses that are at the core of the bill.
The majority in the other place wants the Canadian taxpayer put in the position of having to fork over maybe $445 million. The distinction is simple. The House recognized the need to right a blatant wrong. The House recognized the need to formally make the odious contract null and void. The House recognized the need to return the parties to their pre-contract status and to cover their legitimate out of pocket expenses incurred in the ordinary course of business.
The other place, I regret to say, in its majority decision to bring in these amendments has ignored the interest of Canadians. It has amended the bill so as, if we accepted those amendments, to force the dispute into the courts where no one in the House or in the other place would then have anything to say about them. Then it would be a matter for the courts to decide on legal interpretation and on argument how much the bill would be for Canadian taxpayers.
I am not prepared to run that risk. I hope a majority of my colleagues in the House and a majority of senators in the other place will not run that risk either.
One has to ask whether the Tory scheme all along was to ignore what was patently obvious in October 1993 and to set the scene to make one last snatch at the public purse. Quite a money grab it would be. If the majority of the other place perseveres and wins this case, this scheme could result in the biggest rip-off in Canadian history, $445 million of taxpayers' money.
Mr. Speaker, I want to assure my friends through you that the government is not going to play Russian roulette with the Tory majority in the other place with half a billion dollars of Canadian taxpayers' money on the table. That is simply not an option.
This deal resembles what might have been done in a banana republic by a dying government during its last gasps. There is no doubt and I readily admit it that this bill is an extraordinary measure to bring before Parliament but I do not believe that anyone in their right mind would deny that this was an extraordinary deal and it has to be undone.
It is time to get on with the business of providing the country with a safe, efficient and affordable national airport system with Lester B. Pearson International Airport at Toronto at the centre of this hub.
It is time to get on with the future of Canada's largest and most important transportation facility and it is time that the Conservative majority in the other place recognized that Canadians understood that this was a bad deal and agreed that it has to be dealt with resolutely.
We intend to ensure that Canadian taxpayers are not going to get a $445 million bill from the consortium and their friends in the other place.
Mr. Speaker, I ask all my colleagues in the House of Commons from all parties to join with us in sending a clear message to the Senate that Parliament will protect the interests of Canadians and that Bill C-22 must be passed without amendments.