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House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

As always when questions of privilege are raised I am very much interested in them and how they affect the House. You have empowered your Speaker to specifically interpret the rules of the House and to give rulings on the rules we have agreed on as an assembly of the House of Commons collectively.

I am looking at the standing orders that were referred to by the hon. Leader of the Opposition and by the government House leader. Standing Order 69(2) at page 36 reads:

When any bill is brought from the Senate, the question “That this bill be read a first time” shall be deemed carried, without debate, amendment or question put.

We have adopted our standing orders from proceedings in the British House of Commons in which there are ways to introduce a bill. It may be brought in upon an order of the house. It may be presented without an order under the provisions of Standing Order 58(1), which is what we base it on. It may be brought down from the House of Lords which is our Senate.

Members have asked me to rule on a procedure on which the House collectively has decided. Unless and until the House collectively decides that it wants to change the standing orders, as your Speaker I am bound to follow the rules.

I would rule that in this particular case there is no question of privilege.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

October 9th, 1997 / 3:20 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, my point of order refers to question period and a question raised by the Liberal member for Oak Ridges and directed to the Minister for International Trade.

Could the Speaker rule whether the question was in order? He asked the Minister for International Trade how Canada compared to other countries with respect to investment and jobs.

Everybody who reads their own briefing notes and papers that all members get would know that we compare quite favourably. I wonder what the purpose of his question is. Perhaps he did not read his briefing notes.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

With respect to all members of Parliament, I am not here to judge the quality of a question or the quality of an answer. I am here to see to it that a question is properly put and that the minister, the government or the person to whom it is directed has a chance to answer.

What the member is asking me to do is outside the purview of the Speaker. If that were the case, should I judge on the quality of all questions in the House?

I urge all hon. members to pose questions that will be of interest to most Canadians, or at least to a certain part of the country, perhaps a constituency where a specific answer is needed on something.

I decline to ever judge on the quality of either a question or an answer. My colleagues, you are the judges of that. You are the ones who will put the questions and you are the ones who will answer them.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. During the S. O. 31 period the member for Surrey Central gave a tribute to his Sikh heritage and to the anniversary of the Sikh presence in Canada. Unfortunately both the announcement of his name and his riding on the television screen were wrong.

It was the member for Surrey Central who made that statement.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

If something like that occurred I accept responsibility for the simple reason that I—

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

An hon. member

It was my fault.

Points Of OrderOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Then it was the fault of the hon. member for Elk Island and you ought to have a word with him.

The House resumed consideration of the motion and the amendment.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I get to my speech, I would like to review what happened before question period.

On a point of order, I asked that the member for Abitibi table a document he was referring to. He was reading from a sheet. The House gave its consent, but the member for Abitibi asked to keep the paper until the end of the debate.

We have checked all the documents the member for Abitibi tabled after his speech but that particular sheet was missing. It shows that, in 1993, the Tory member of the time, who is now a Liberal member because he switched sides, received eight contributions from individuals, for a total of $1,950 and 29 contributions from businesses for a total of $9,400.

Since the member for Abitibi surely forgot in all good faith to table that sheet of paper, I would simply ask that the document be now tabled.

Do I have your consent, Mr. Speaker? I can tell the answer is yes.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member is requesting unanimous consent of the House to table this document. Does he have the unanimous consent of the House?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

No, Mr. Speaker, there is no unanimous consent. If there could be previous consultation perhaps that could be arranged, but there is no such unanimous consent at this point.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There is not unanimous consent. The member for Repentigny.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Abitibi said he was willing to table the document in question, but I see the government leader does not want the document tabled. It does not matter really. I think the public can see the Liberal flip-flop on this whole issue.

Before I start, since this is my first speech in this 36th Parliament, I would like to thank the people who sent me here to represent them. It is my first term as member for the riding of Repentigny, but my second term in this House. So I have the honour of being the first member of Parliament for Repentigny and I hope I will also be the last since that riding will soon disappear.

I want to thank the whole team who helped me get re-elected and who worked very hard throughout the campaign. I want to thank the members of my family for their support and the people of the five municipalities of my riding, namely La Plaine, Mascouche, Lachenaie, Charlemagne and Repentigny, who have placed their trust in me for the second time.

The debate was a bit chaotic this morning. Therefore, it is very important to read the motion again just to know what we are supposed to be debating and put aside the kind of outrageous remarks we have heard from some members, namely the member for Abitibi—if he does not agree, he can stand in this House and say so—as well as the member for Bourassa.

The motion reads as follows:

That this House condemns the attitude of the Government, which refuses to introduce in-depth reform of the legislation on the financing of federal political parties even though the existing legislation allows for a wide range of abuse.

I can see that the members opposite agree, even the member for Abitibi who spoke out against this motion earlier today.

It is important to note that public financing has been part of our tradition for more than 20 years now. It is important to note that all political parties, even federalist parties in Quebec—and by that I mean the Liberal Party—have adopted that type of financing to achieve a healthy democracy in Quebec.

We are proud that, in 1977, the Parti Quebecois passed a law that says that only a voter can make a contribution. This legislation eliminates possible political influence from pressure groups whose objectives are more to change the direction of public policies than to allow a party whose ideology is close to that of their members to assume and retain power. The legislation limited contributions to $3,000 per year per voting citizen.

The objectives of the legislation were to limit to voters—and this is true democracy—the right to contribute to political parties, because we speak on their behalf and we should not be influenced by companies roping us in with lavish contributions.

We have been trying for a long time to make the government understand that this legislation is something normal that should also apply to the federal level, the Canadian level. As early as March 1994, our colleague from Richelieu tabled a motion that read:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should bring in legislation limiting solely to individuals the right to donate to a federal political party, and restricting such donations to a maximum of $5,000 a year.

We know that at the provincial level the ceiling is $3,000. We did not want to be too restrictive and we set the maximum at $5,000 a year.

We may go through a lot of debates and often try to skirt the actual facts, but we have to wonder why the Liberal Party voted against that proposal. Clearly, they had something to hide. This is quite obvious, since they say that contributions to party financing should not be limited to individuals.

In a while, I will give you some figures on the contributors to the Liberal Party. Then we might be able to understand why the party does not want to depend only on individuals for its financing.

Why would anyone oppose a bill which specifically seeks to clarify and to improve the fundraising process for federal political parties?

It is suspicious to say the least. When people will know who is making contributions to the Liberal Party fund, perhaps they will understand why Liberals are opposed to such and such a bill or why they are against a motion like this. An article published in La Presse on July 22, 1993, revealed that Bombardier had given $29,932 to the Liberal Party. Air Canada gave $957 to the Liberal Party and $31,000 to the Conservative Party, after receiving a subsidy and being awarded contracts worth $75 million. Imperial Oil chose a more balanced approach and covered all the bases by giving $34,000 to the Conservatives and $34,000 to the Liberals. They were covered in any case. Following these generous contributions, the company was awarded contracts worth $186 million. Canadian Airlines gave $11,415.08 to the Liberal Party, while Pratt & Whitney made a $7,500 contribution to the Liberals.

Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I will continue to tell the House who is giving money to this generous party. In 1994, the Royal Bank of Canada gave $88,700 to the Liberal Party; RBC Dominion Security, $99,000; the Toronto Dominion Bank, $77,000; Wood Gundy, $106,000; Richardson Greenshields, the investment firm, $99,000.

We would have thought that, after coming to power following the 1993 election, the Liberals would have gained some wisdom. We would have thought that, after having written in the red book that it wanted to increase the voters' confidence in their elected representatives, the Liberal Party would have changed its ways and accepted a bill on the financing of political parties that would make things a little more transparent for the public. But no, the Liberals did no such thing.

In 1996, when they were in power and getting ready for another election, they continued to collect money. Another article from La Presse, this one dating back to 1996, states that it was business which made it possible for the Liberals to collect more money that the previous year. The most generous ones, Nesbitt Burns for one, gave $88 000, $81 000, $73 000. We are not talking here of normal contributions, Mr. Speaker, we are talking of donations of more than $75,000.

In closing, I would like to ask a few questions of my Liberal colleagues, and I would like the answers from the hon. member for Abitibi. Could it be that the Liberals called an election more than six months before the usual time, and a year and a half before the end of their mandate, because the government feared that the RCMP investigation was going to break? How does the Prime Minister explain that the code of ethics has nothing in it about influence peddling? Why did the Prime Minister not give his ministers any guidance on ethics after the minister responsible for human resources development alerted him to the RCMP investigation? How is it that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Works, Pierre Corbeil, and the director general, Mr. Béliveau, were informed of the allegations by the Minister of Public Works himself? Why does the code of ethics not apply to the Liberal Party of Quebec when it applies to the government? Why was Pierre Corbeil not suspended from his duties as soon as this information was learned? I would like all these questions answered, Mr. Speaker.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, in question period this afternoon, we saw the bubble burst as we say back home. I do not know whether the leader of the Bloc Quebecois will be laying people off, but we discovered that some had not done their homework properly. They sullied people's reputations. They named people. There was talk of an investigation, when none existed. I hope they will do the honourable thing and prove their integrity and their honesty by rising and apologizing to Jacques Roy and to the President of the Treasury Board.

One thing is clear, there are two sets of rules. We are used to that, in the Bloc. That is how they are.

They can get loans at preferential rates to finance their election campaign. They can get millions of dollars because they need cash. But does that make them dependent on the Mouvement Desjardins? Does that mean, since the Mouvement Desjardins loaned them money at preferential rates—I could not get preferential rates, but the Bloc did, I do not know why, but it did—,that they are in the pay of the president of the Mouvement Desjardins? To answer is obvious, since the president of the Mouvement Desjardins is a well-known separatist.

We are talking about contributions. We are talking about all sorts of things. We saw that the Bloc quebecois also received contributions from corporations that were higher than $10,000. The member for Drummond received a $1,500 contribution. Is she in the pay of the contributor? The answer is obvious.

Quebec's motto is “I remember”. Looking back at past actions, they might do well to remember that if one spits into the wind, it blows back into one's face.

On October 3, 1993, we read this headline in La Presse : “Témiscamingue enumerators complain about being held for ransom by the Bloc”. The article read, in part: “The methods used by the organization of Pierre Brien, who was running for the Bloc quebecois in Témiscamingue, led to strong protests by Elections Canada enumerators who, apparently, were pressured to hand over half of their salary as political contributions”. They were told this: “If you want to work for Elections Canada, give us half the cheque that you will get and we will give you a job”.

They have principles. They are real Tartuffes, as I said earlier. They try constantly to tell us how we should behave, and yet they bring this kind of pressure to bear on people who have almost no money—as we know, enumerators also need their wages. I hope this does not happen in every riding but the current member for Témiscamingue should really be ashamed of using this method for his own financing. He should be ashamed because those persons need this money. And that is how the Bloc Quebecois gets its financing.

Does the hon. member for Repentigny agree with this method? That is what we want to know.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I remind all members that they must refer to each other by constituency and not by name.

The hon. member for Repentigny.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be pleased to answer all the questions of the hon. member for Bourassa, who has proved quite resilient because he ran three times before winning on the fourth attempt.

He has said that maybe we should be looking at the relevancy and shortcomings of our research services. I could tell him exactly the same thing. When he clipped that story from a newspaper, he should have known that that criticism had been levelled by the man who was running for the Liberals in Témiscamingue, and that it proved unfounded. It is all right to make foolish remarks in this House, but one should at least consider what is actually going on.

Speaking about contributions to candidates—

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Could we have some respect, Mr. Speaker? The hon. member should at least have learned some manners in the four campaigns he ran before getting elected to this House.

On a second point, concerning contributions to the Bloc Quebecois, I do not think there is any comparison between a total contribution of $7,000 to five or six candidates, or a $1,000 contribution in one riding, and contributions of $100,000 by Air Canada, $90,000 by the Toronto-Dominion Bank and other contributions of about $100,000.

In the riding of Abitibi alone, nine individuals and 29 corporations made contributions to the 1993 campaign. In that same riding, 397 individuals contributed to the Bloc Quebecois candidate's campaign.

In conclusion, I notice that the hon. member for Bourassa has learned something from his colleague for Abitibi, because he does not make any distinction either between a loan and a contribution.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment since this is the first opportunity I get to do so. For the next few minutes I would ask you to be patient because, as this is the first time I have had the opportunity to take part in debate, I would like to offer a few thanks.

As you mentioned, I am the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine. First, I would like to thank my constituents. Then I would also like to thank the team of volunteers who worked with me during the election campaign. For most of them, it was their first experience in politics and all of them marvelled at our political process, our political system.

I would also like to thank my family, my husband Luciano, my daughter and all the other members of my extended family who supported me and will continue to do so during this mandate.

Now I would like to give you some of my background to explain what I am going to say about the Bloc's opposition motion.

I am the daughter of a Black American man from Alabama who emigrated to Canada in 1944 and who was able to vote for the first time in his life in Canada, thanks to our democratic system and to the election system we had at that time.

My mother was a French Canadian from Manitoba, of Belgian, French and Metis descent. The Metis background is Cree, Montagnais and Attikamek. So, my roots in Canada go back to the natives, to the first nations, and my French roots go back to an ancestor who came from France to Canada, to Quebec, to New France, in 1868.

The reason I give you this description, these details on my past, on my life and on who I am, is to point out that, if it were not for the election system we have in Canada, I would not be here today. I swear, I would be willing to bet with anyone in this House, that the vast majority of members here in the House today would not be here either if it were not for the election system we have.

One of the pillars of a real democratic system is the election system that allows residents, citizens to make themselves heard and to decide which political party will form the government and which political parties will sit in opposition.

This political system must allow the widest access possible to all citizens, not only to make themselves heard on voting day, but even also to participate in the process, whether as candidates, organizers or volunteers.

Our system allows this. I was able to see that myself during my first experience in politics in the last election campaign. About a hundred citizens came to work as volunteers, the vast majority of them working for the first time in an election campaign, and they did it wholeheartedly.

The Bloc Quebecois contends that only by limiting to individuals, private persons, the right to donate to political parties will it be possible to ensure integrity in our election system. I must say that I beg to differ, in fact I completely disagree.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Why?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Bear with me, I will be glad to explain. My family always said I had the gift of the gab and that it is not easy to get me to shut up, but I do respect authority. So, as soon as the Speaker will indicate that my time is up, I will stop.

Our political system is such that it encourages thousands and thousands of Canadians to do volunteer work. That is right, even Canadians living in Quebec. In past elections, including the last federal election, these thousands and thousands of Canadians played an active role in the political process, as campaign workers for the candidate of their choice and the political party of their choice. Our electoral system allows and promotes this.

As I said earlier, if we in Canada did not have the legislation that this government passed, many of the members of this House would not be here today, and this is true for our colleagues opposite as well.

Any discussion about a democratic electoral process with integrity must address the principles openness, transparency and accountability, and that is what we have today with our electoral system in Canada. It is precisely because the Canada Elections Act guarantees a transparent process by providing control over the amount of contributions. Anyone can have access to a candidate's report and check the figures. It is because such measures are provided in our legislation that the process, and democracy, are protected.

What does transparency mean? It means precisely what took place last week and today in this House. Had it not been for our election system and the Canada Elections Act, those who reported these alleged offences under the act would never have openly talked, the Minister of Human Resources Development would never have been informed, and no police investigation would ever have taken place.

Just look at countries that are known for being corrupt. Their citizens, whether they are company officials or ordinary individuals, do not dare inform authorities of any alleged corruption, because they know their system condones and covers up such acts. It is not the case here. A police investigation is going on.

So, unlike Bloc members, I believe that the mere fact we are discussing alleged fraudulent practices, and I insist on the word “alleged”, shows the integrity of our institutions. I am a lawyer by training, and having worked in Quebec on a code of ethics for the police, I have some knowledge of the issue.

I know a thing or two about the integrity of our institutions, professional conduct and ethics. That is why I choose my words very carefully when I talk of “alleged” practices during the last election campaign. So, the very fact that we are having this discussion proves the integrity of the existing Canadian electoral system.

Perhaps you are wondering who I am—I just said a few words about myself and my professional background—to be stating so confidently that our Canadian electoral system is open and transparent and makes sure that all who are governed by the elections act are accountable.

Before taking up politics this year, as I said a moment ago, I worked in police deontology in Quebec. And, by the way, I was not appointed only by the Liberal government. The PQ government saw fit to reappoint me on the basis of my qualifications and to suggest that I get involved at the national and international level on the issue of civilian monitoring of law enforcement, at my own expense and not at public expense of course. They had enough confidence in my expertise in these matters to reappoint me.

I am coming to the motion, so you should be happy now.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

An hon. member

Finally.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Yes, finally. It was said time and again that the very fact the solicitor general had not been informed by the Minister of Human Resources Development of the allegations to the effect that fraudulent actions were allegedly committed proved there was something fishy about the whole thing. On the contrary, this demonstrates the system's transparency and integrity.

Bloc members say Quebec must serve its citizens. If so, how can the Bloc Quebecois justify its mission to partition Canada, given that Quebeckers have twice said they wanted to live in a united Canada? All the questions asked by opposition members lead us to think they do not believe in the integrity of a police investigation.

Is it true? For years, surveys conducted across the country have been showing that the public has a high level of confidence in our police forces and in the integrity of their investigations. I find it reassuring that these allegations are being investigated by the police, and I hope other members of this House will also find it reassuring. Given the professionalism of the RCMP, I am confident the investigation will shed light on the whole issue and will establish whether there is enough evidence to lay charges.

Would we be protecting our democracy by allowing only contributions to political parties from ordinary taxpayers, from individuals? Let me point out some facts. If the financing of political parties works so well in Quebec, why did the Bloc Quebecois change it to increase the amount of eligible contributions?

How can the Bloc Quebecois justify that, in 1994, Bloc Quebecois members and candidates accepted 27 corporate donations of over $10,000?

The Bloc Quebecois can sing the praises of the Loi québécoise sur le financement électoral, but that does not mean there are not serious discrepancies. If the Bloc Quebecois wants to suggest that corporate financing can have an unlawful impact on the awarding of government contracts, perhaps we should remind it that, despite Quebec's legislation on financing political parties, the Parti Quebecois still manages to reward contributors and sympathizers generously.

As an example, we have only to recall the sorry episode of the Le Hir report and the irregularities observed in the contract awarding process. Yvon Cyrenne, one of the authors of the Le Hir report, contributed $900 to the Parti Quebecois in 1994. Yvon Martineau, who was appointed president of Hydro-Québec, made a contribution of $1,000 to the Parti Quebecois in the year preceding his appointment.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

He is an individual.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Now you get my point. It is not by limiting individual contributions that we are going to guarantee the integrity of the system of financing political parties. Rather, it is by ensuring that, first of all, the legislation itself contains adequate provisions for ensuring control of all contributions and the accountability of political parties and individual candidates receiving contributions, and for ensuring that they are properly and openly reported and that this process is open to taxpayers, voters, the public and residents of the country.

Now you get it. It is not by limiting the contributions to party financing to individuals that you will ensure the integrity of the system. That is the point of my speech. Now I am sure you see what I mean. I will close with that point.