Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to address a few comments to the minister before he leaves. I hope that he will find it in his code of ethics to hear what I have to say despite his busy schedule. I would like to address three points of his speech.
First of all, if it were not for the calendar in front of me confirming this is September 28, 1994, I could have sworn we were back in 1990, when the Liberal opposition in this House was criticizing former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for appointing new senators to ram the GST bill through the other place. An action considered offensive.
Now the shoe is on the other foot, with the Conservatives in the majority in the other place. The Liberals did make use of their majority in the Senate when the time came to oppose the GST bill. This is the first comment I wanted to make.
My second comment is that throughout the election campaign, the Bloc Quebecois candidates stressed repeatedly-I know I did 250 times a day in my riding of Beauport-Montmorency-Orléans-the fact that Liberal or Conservative, it is one and the same. We have proof of that today in this debate and when we hear the minister's remarks about the Conservative majority in the other place.
The third comment I wanted to make concerns the answer the minister gave me when questioned in a meeting of the Standing Committee on Transport. He said I knew full well that as part of the Auditor General review process, all compensation granted could undergo scrutiny. I just want to point out to the hon. minister that all this auditing by the Auditor General takes place after the fact. After irregularities have been detected, the Auditor General tables three books confirming they took place, but nothing can be done about it. That is why the Bloc Quebecois called for the creation of a royal inquiry commission that could have shed light on this whole matter.
The minister revisited this issue in his speech today and apparently said that various institutions would shed light on this but only after the fact, after compensation has been paid. Of course, if no compensation is paid, the problem vanishes.
On June 14, I addressed this House at the second reading of Bill C-22 and asked that a royal commission be mandated to shed light on the contract awarded to Pearson Development Corporation. I put all my heart and energy in that speech, because I really thought it was my last opportunity to sensitize the House to this deal which was, if not illegal, at least highly questionable.
Although I disagree with the amendments proposed by the Senate, I am still happy to have another opportunity to rise in this House to try once again to shed light on a deal the current Prime Minister himself promised to cancel before he was elected, but I cannot understand how the deal can be scrapped without getting to the bottom of this, once and for all.
I must tell you that I had several opportunities in the Standing Committee on Transport to state, and I repeat it in this House, we heard a few witnesses who agreed to appear before us, before the transport committee. Still, even today, Canadians, Quebecers and transport committee members cannot really say that all the light has been shed on this deal.
My argumentation will revolve around three main themes. First, the interference of an unelected house in an elected house's decisions; second, the compensation to be paid to Pearson Development Corporation; and third, the steps to be taken to shed light on this shady deal.
Since the beginning, since Bill C-22 was tabled, the Bloc Quebecois, of which I am the transport critic, has been against paying any compensation to the developer before we find out the truth about this deal.
Under the bill passed by the House of Commons, the developer cannot go to the courts to obtain compensation from the government. The Minister of Transport-remember the clause in Bill C-22-reserved the right to set the amount of any compensation to be paid. That is why we are still opposed to the principle of Bill C-22.
The other place rose up against this bill and declared that the position taken by the House of Commons was unconstitutional. It has asked that Clauses 7 and 8 of the bill be deleted. As you may recall, these clauses prevent the developers from initiating court proceedings. What right does an unelected house such as the other place have to reject the democratic decisions made by this House whose members have been democratically elected by the people?
I could perhaps take this opportunity to comment on the actions of a representative of the other place appointed by the government party, a former president of the Liberal Party, former leader of the Liberal Party of Manitoba, former Leader of the Opposition in Winnipeg, former killer of the Meech Lake accord, who bluntly stated that the elected members of this House were people with little education or at least less education than the members of the other place. I say to this representative of the other place that we at least have been elected by the people and not appointed because of our friendship with the Liberal Party of Canada, as she was.
That is outrageous and offensive. It really shows the urgent need to abolish the other place, especially since it has been using senators appointed by the Conservative government that was repudiated by the people in the last election to prevent democratically elected members of Parliament like myself from making essential decisions.
I mentioned earlier that the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to any compensation to Pearson Development Corporation as long as all the facts surrounding this issue are not known, and I want to tell the members of this House why it is important to shed light on this case.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, I represent my party on the Standing Committee on Transport. It is important to point out that, contrary to what Mr. Greg Weston wrote in the Ottawa Citizen , it is the Bloc Quebecois which submitted to the transport committee a list of 18 witnesses to appear before that committee, this after our request for a commission of inquiry was turned down by the House of Commons.
Contrary to what Mr. Weston wrote in the same newspaper, the Bloc Quebecois is also the one which tabled motions to subpoena those who had refused to appear before the committee. It is unfortunate that a journalist would not recognize the good work done by the Bloc Quebecois in its role as Official Opposition. Instead, that person chose to give the credit to the Reform Party which, as the hon. member for Kootenay West-Revelstoke admitted, simply could not believe what was happening.
I want to confirm once again that the Bloc Quebecois did submit a list of witnesses that it felt should be heard by the transport committee. That list contains 18 names. Here are those names, as well as the reasons why we wanted these people to testify and shed light on the whole issue.
The first person on the list is Mr. Peter Coughlin, President of Pearson Development Corporation. The second one is Mr. Leo Kolber, a Liberal representative in the other place, who was an administrator of Claridge when the agreements were signed, this according to the Financial Post Directory of Directors . Mr. Kolber had organized, at his residence in Westmount, a $1,000-per-guest reception attended, among others, by Mr. Charles Bronfman, where the current Prime Minister of Canada showed up, in early October of last year, right in the middle of the election campaign.
The third person we wanted to hear was Mr. Herb Metcalfe, a lobbyist with Capital Hill, as well as an official of Claridge Properties and a former organizer for the current Prime Minister of Canada. There was also Mr. Ramsey Withers, a Liberal with close ties to the current Prime Minister who was Deputy Minister of Transport when the call for tenders was made for Terminal III at Pearson airport, as reported in the Ottawa Citizen , on September 26, 1993. And there was Mr. Otto Jelinek, a former Conservative minister who is now president of the Asian affiliate of the Matthews group.
Then, there was Mr. Don Matthews, who was president of Brian Mulroney's nomination campaign in 1983; he is also a former president of the Conservative Party and a former president of the Conservative fund-raising campaign, as reported in the Ottawa Citizen , on September 29, 1993. We also wanted to hear Mr. Ray Hession, a former Deputy Minister of Industry and senior civil servant at Supply and Services, where
contracts are awarded-sometimes, maybe, to friends of the government, since it might be helpful during an election campaign. He was appointed president of Paxport and hired all the lobbyists who were to work on the privatization project for Paxport Inc. This Mr. Hession left his job as president in December 1992, after Paxport's bid was accepted by the federal government. He was to be replaced by Don Matthews's son, Jack, as reported in the Ottawa Citizen , on September 26, 1993.
There was also Mr. Fred Doucet, a Conservative lobbyist and Brian Mulroney's former chief of staff. He was also a senior advisor during Kim Campbell's campaign and was hired by Jack Matthews five days after Mr. Hession left his job as president. Three weeks later, Paxport created a consortium with its rival, Claridge Properties. Then there was Mr. Jean Corbeil, a former Conservative transport minister, who signed the agreement while all the attention was focused on the leaders' debate, during the election campaign. He had been Minister of Transport for less than three months but, already, there were information leaks to the effect that he was bent on privatizing Pearson airport.
Then there was Mr. Robert Nixon, the investigator appointed by the current Prime Minister, who recommended that the contract be cancelled and who is a former Treasurer of Ontario under the Liberal government of Mr. Peterson, as well as a former leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.
There was also Ms. Kim Campbell. Internal documents given to her last August supposedly described the risks associated with the transaction, and in particular the fee increase for carriers, which would have cost taxpayers a lot of money.
We also asked the Standing Committee on Transport to summon the current Minister of Transport, and this request was agreed to.
We made all those requests not only to get the information I referred to earlier, but also to prove that, despite the fact that lobbyist fees are not compensated under this bill, taxpayers will still have to pay part of the expenses incurred by the corporations to make up for the lost tax revenues due to the corporate tax exemption for lobbying services.
What we wanted to ask the minister and what we did manage to ask him was: How can you justify the involvement of taxpayers in a patronage transaction? This fact alone justifies a public inquiry.
Also, the Minister of Transport himself stated that lobbying services should not be tax deductible, as reported by the Ottawa Citizen on March 9, 1994.
We also wanted to hear from Air Canada representatives, who were involved in this deal, since the government negotiated a decrease in rent for the next few years in return for a commitment by the corporation to remain at terminals 1 and 2 at the Pearson airport in Toronto.
We asked to hear from Mr. William Rowat, assistant deputy minister at Transport Canada, who was appointed by the past Clerk of the Privy Council to help move things along. You have to remember that he was appointed in March of 1993.
We also asked to hear from Mr. Bob Wright, closely tied to the Liberal Party of Canada, who is negotiating, secretly of course, the compensation to be awarded to the consortium.
We wanted to hear from the Toronto Airport Authority, a public agency similar to the Aéroports de Montréal organization, which wanted to be considered as a potential manager for Terminals 1 and 2, but claims to have been intentionally overlooked by the Conservatives.
We asked to hear from Ms. Huguette Labelle and, finally, from Mr. Robert Vineberg, Pearson Development Corporation's lawyer and board member.
In each and every one of these 18 cases, there were discussions in the committee on transport as to whether or not to call these witnesses before the committee. If the Liberals have nothing to hide, why did they refuse systematically to summon the people on our list so that we could clarify this deal?
Let us start with Mr. Robert Nixon, a key player in this issue. Mr. Nixon was the one who carried out the inquiry into Pearson Development Corporation at the request of the current Liberal Prime Minister. Last November, he recommended that the deal signed by the Conservatives and the Pearson Development Corporation be declared void.
Yet, the Liberals have refused to ask Mr. Nixon to appear before the committee on transport. Our resolution was defeated, four to two, by the Liberal majority. Is this normal? Do they have something to hide?
As for Mr. Robert Wright, who is no less important than Mr. Nixon, the answer of the Liberal majority in the committee was the same: "No." Believe it or not, only six of the 18 people I invited were heard by the committee. These were Mr. Ray Hession, the current Minister of Transport, Mr. Peter Coughlin, Mr. Don Matthews, someone from Air Canada and Mr. Robert Vineberg, representing Pearson Development Corporation.
I have used up all arguments to convince my colleagues from the committee to subpoena people on the Bloc Quebecois's list of witnesses. At that time, I remember very clearly the chairperson of the transport committee, the hon. member for Hamilton West, telling me: "Come on, sir, you know perfectly well that this is a procedure which has not been used in Canada since 1917 or 1918". But that was totally false. I sincerely hope that the chairperson of the Transport Committee did not knowingly try to mislead me because I checked and I found that that procedure was used in 1989, in 1990 and in 1992 to summon witnesses.
There was even one instance, in 1989 or 1990, when the present government House leader used that special procedure to summon witnesses to appear before the committee. I sincerely hope that the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Transport was not acting in bad faith.
I will give you another example. I told the committee members that since Leo Kolber was a parliamentarian from the other place, he would surely co-operate with us given his duties. Furthermore, at the time the contracts were signed, the Ottawa Sun reported that on October 10, 1993, that parliamentarian was a member of Claridge's board of directors and owned 60 per cent of the shares in Pearson Development Corporation.
You have to admit that he was a key witness who could have helped us shed some light on the matter. On top of that, the Ottawa Citizen reported on November 9, 1993 that the same member of the other place had given a reception at $1,000 a plate in his Westmount residence at the beginning of October, a reception attended by Mr. Charles Bronfman, among others, and by the present Prime Minister who, at the time, was in the middle of his election campaign.
If I had the time, I could also talk about the cleaning up of political party funding. We saw again, as recently as yesterday, that some people preferred to receive contributions from large firms rather than to have a clean election fund. The Bloc's position is clear and that is why the hon. member for Richelieu moved such an amendment.
I could give other examples. All those arguments that I put forward were useless since my request was denied by the Liberal majority on the committee. I could also mention the case of Mr. Otto Jelinek, a former Conservative minister who is now president of the Asian subsidiary of the Matthews group. The answer was the same as in most other cases. The Liberal members on the Transport Committee told me that it would be premature to subpoena Mr. Jelinek since he intended to appear voluntarily.
You will understand that, given the refusal of my Liberal colleagues to summon the people who could have helped this House understand the situation, I have no choice but to say that this matter is not transparent. I wonder if the Liberals are protecting the same people as the Conservatives or some other people. I also wonder if it is possible that the friends and backers of the system contribute to the election funds of both old parties.
What is troubling is that Canadians still do not know all the facts as to why the contract was awarded to Pearson Development Corporation. And I find it sad that the Liberal majority is enjoying hiding the truth.
It must also be pointed out that if the Bloc Quebecois does not know all the facts, it cannot be expected to decide on the validity of the financial claims made by each of the concerned groups.
When we look at the Nixon report, some words leave us with a bitter aftertaste. We could wonder what Mr. Nixon meant when referring to malversation in connection with lobbyists. Did he have any real evidence of this? Do you know anything about it, Mr. Speaker? If you do not know, I do not know either. No witness knows. Nobody but the opposition seems to want to know about it on the Hill. But then, who does know? We are being asked to make a decision involving the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars when nobody really knows what the Nixon report meant.
The Minister of Transport spoke about criteria governing compensation claims. Could the minister make these criteria public? If he has nothing to hide, I am sure he will not hesitate to do so.
Mr. Speaker, you are a lawyer and you know very well that due process was not followed by Mr. Nixon. In French law too there is the rule of audi alteram partem, the right of both parties in a case to be heard. I am sorry, but this rule does not seem to have been followed, no more than due process, by Mr. Nixon.
It is unfortunate that the minister should rely on a report full of half-truths to request-and that is what he is doing under clause 10 of the bill-the authority to spend tens of millions of dollars.
When will the minister launch a public inquiry to get right to the bottom of this matter? Several Liberal members approved of this inquiry, but they were gagged and had to toe the party line.
If the government motion is passed, obviously the bill will be passed too, but would the Minister of Transport agree? For want of a public inquiry, I ask him once more to have the Standing Committee on Transport examine any agreement and make recommendations before he signs it. If the minister says that the agreement was rejected because it was not acceptable for Quebecers and Canadians, why not give elected representatives the opportunity to make the necessary recommendations? The government would demonstrate its openness. Otherwise, a feeling of frustration will linger, and doubts will remain in our mind and that of the public in Quebec and Canada.
The best way to protect reputations is visibility and openness, and a public inquiry. Of course such an inquiry will be costly and will take time, but I ask this House if democracy costs something. Is democracy too costly? Are the costs more important than living in a democracy? I am sorry, but democracy is priceless. You cannot put a price on getting the facts and spending taxpayers' money wisely.
However, if the minister refuses to conduct a public inquiry because of costs and delays, he could ask a parliamentary committee to do it. Does the minister realize that the whole tendering process was botched? Consequently, will the minister take the necessary steps to prevent such a fiasco from happening again?
The government could refuse to order a parliamentary committee or the Standing Committee on Transport to conduct a public inquiry; this would bring us back to square one. If that happens, can the minister tell us how long the compensation claims process will take? As we know, the Nixon Report mentioned obscure dealings by lobbyists. Since these schemes were not revealed to the public, can we fear that such scheming will taint the compensation process?
At the transport committee hearings, when Robert Vineberg, Pearson Development Corporation's lawyer, appeared before us, I had prepared some very tough questions. If you do not believe me, you need only refer to the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Transport. It is an aberration. We had written to the representative, Mr. Vineberg's client, who told us that Mr. Vineberg would answer for him. I asked Mr. Vineberg over and over again if he was speaking for his client and he assured me that he was not, that he was speaking in his own name and that he could not speak for his client.
What happened was that two people were not only mocking us to our faces, but were arguing back and forth and we never got an answer. Mr. Vineberg is a well-known member of the legal profession here in Canada and I asked him four questions: Should an already flawed contract- because the rules of assent were flawed from the beginning-provide for compensation in case of cancellation? Would he agree with a public enquiry? Would his firm willingly submit financial analyses? Finally, I made a brief comment saying that those who live in glass houses should not cast stones.
I will not quote the answers because not one of them is worth repeating in this House. We would also have liked to get answers to other questions. For example, while he was involved in the case, had he ever been aware of any malversation in connection with lobbyists or of civil servants or political personnel being too closely interested in the Pearson issue? Also, did he agree with the profit analysis in the Nixon report which indicated a 14 per cent profit after taxes? I also asked him if he did not find it a little bit strange that bidders were only given 90 days to prepare their bid for a 57-year contract worth $1.6 billion? Are such things normal and reasonable in a democratic society? We have to wonder. The answer is obvious. There is not one Canadian who will find that it makes sense.
I am only relating some of the juiciest parts of what Mr. Vineberg said. I understand that Canadians and Quebecers will be able to read the whole thing in the minutes of the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Transport. It is a jewel in its own right, but the answers are not worth repeating in this House.
I could go on talking all day long about this famous Bill C-22 and the proposed amendments. I have already spent a lot of the taxpayers' money to convince this House to satisfy Canadians by keeping them informed of ongoing negotiations between the government and Pearson Development Corporation.
When I talk about money spent, I am talking about the transport committee's hearings, and the salaries of federal civil servants, researchers and MPs. This is a lot of money spent to achieve very little. I would like to add that my party and I agree with the government's motion to reject all the amendments presented by the other place. I am in agreement with the government but for different reasons.
First, as I mentioned earlier, I cannot accept that non-elected individuals try to have the upper hand on decisions in this country. Second, I cannot accept that the Pearson Development Corporation be given compensation for any loss incurred before April 13, 1994 since the circumstances surrounding the awarding of the contract were flawed to start with. This being said, if we reject the amendments proposed by the other place and adopt the government's motion, a doubt will always linger in the minds of Canadians for lack of a public inquiry.
Once again, I plead with my hon. colleagues to allow a royal commission of inquiry to get to the bottom of this so that trust in our leaders may be restored.