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House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was appointments.

Topics

Government PoliciesOral Question Period

February 3rd, 1997 / 2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, when this Prime Minister came to power in 1993 he promised he would establish a higher standard than the Mulroney administration with respect to accountability, integrity and responsibility.

Since that time he has broken the GST promise, denied that he broke it, has botched the Airbus investigation, has gagged the Somalia inquiry and has stonewalled the tainted blood inquiry on which human lives depend. The trust of the Canadian people in their government has been abused in each of these instances.

Given this record of abuse, why should Canadians trust either him or his government any longer?

Government PoliciesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, in the last three years and three months this government has offered the Canadian people a good government, a competent government and in all circumstances we have done our best.

That is why while I was travelling with the premiers in the Pacific and later on in France, people were asking me how we managed to turn things around in Canada in a way that all these countries envy Canada today.

Government PoliciesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, good government includes keeping your word.

The Prime Minister promised to scrap the GST, then he denied making that promise. He promised Canadians jobs, jobs, jobs and there are 1.5 million unemployed. He promised the Somalia inquiry would be allowed to get to the truth. He stood in this House and said that was the case and yet last month the government decided to shut it down. The litany of broken promises, denial of responsibility and abuse of trust goes on and on.

How can Canadians believe what the Prime Minister says in the future when they cannot believe what he has said in the past?

Government PoliciesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, most of the matters to which the hon. member referred, for example the inquiry, we gave some very good answers. You may not be satisfied but the people of Canada believe that the time has come on the Somalia inquiry for the Minister of National Defence to restore the confidence in the armed forces and to make sure that they can do their job properly. That is exactly what the Minister of National Defence is doing at this time.

The hon. member can talk about all these things, but I remember his party talking about the standards it wanted to use in the House of Commons. I hope the leader of the third party will read the memo about disturbances in the House of Commons and not ask questions which require answers which may make the government look bad. With the recipes that they have put forward today, if there is a group that has gone down in the last three years and three months, it is the Reform Party.

Government PoliciesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, we do not have to make the government look bad. It is doing an excellent job on its own.

On June 12, 1991 in this House, when he was in opposition, the Prime Minister promised that every minister in his cabinet would assume full responsibility for any bungling in their departments. When we question the conduct of his ministers, the Prime Minister has said again and again that the buck stops with him.

Will the Prime Minister now assume responsibility and hold these ministers accountable today in this House-the defence minister, the health minister, the justice minister-for the serious blunders they have made in the last two months?

Government PoliciesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I watched the debates. The ministers answered all the questions very well. When the press asked them questions they took full responsibility for their departments. When there was something that needed to be remedied, they moved very quickly.

The leader of the third party accused the government a few months ago of wanting to postpone the inquiry on Somalia until after the election. Now he is complaining because we are assuming responsibility right away. He should make up his mind.

Airbus AffairOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister. The more we know about the Airbus affair, the less we understand.

What do we have here? A justice minister who claims not to be involved, but apologizes anyway; a solicitor general who admits having known for eight months, but takes no responsibility and did not inform any of his colleagues; the Clerk of the Privy Council, Jocelyne Bourgon, who denies knowing anything in spite of information to the contrary; a commissioner of the RCMP who denies any responsibility because he did not see the letter until January 1997, when the letter was written two years earlier; and a Prime Minister skirting the whole issue by saying it is none of his concern.

How will the people of Canada know who is responsible for the mistake that will cost them millions of dollars?

Airbus AffairOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, what is very clear in all of this are the first principles. There was no political interference in the police investigation in the Airbus matter. That is a principle of real importance to this government and to Canadians.

The hon. member talked of responsibility. According to parliamentary tradition, ministers have a responsibility to address weaknesses in the system openly and directly. That is exactly what we have done. The justice department has already changed its procedures so as to address the weaknesses and improve both the system and the procedures. To act responsibly is to make the changes required to improve the system, and that is what we did.

Airbus AffairOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, if there is one principle this House recognizes, it is that of government accountability.

In this case, the Prime Minister has denied any responsibility. So have his ministers and the commissioner of the RCMP. But the decision to write the Swiss authorities and denounce a former Prime Minister was nonetheless made by someone somewhere in this government.

My question is for the Prime Minister, and I would like him to answer it. Who in his government is responsible for this blunder that will cost Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars?

Airbus AffairOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as I said, we have acted responsibly. We have changed the procedures. We have been accountable to the public and to Parliament. We have addressed the weaknesses in the procedures. That is what being accountable is all about, under parliamentary tradition. We have been and continue to be accountable.

I have hired a former justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal to review all the changes made to date and recommend more changes, as required. We have acted responsibly.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I quote: "The time has come to let the commission do its work". That is from April 1996. Second: "The Somalia inquiry has a job to do. Let them do their jobs". That was September 1996.

This was our Prime Minister in his finest hour, but now he is shutting down the investigation of a murder and a cover-up. How can he defend his zigzag integrity? What page of the red book is that on?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we have to be very clear about who is zigzagging.

I quote from the House of Commons Debates on Tuesday, September 17, 1996, page 4,308 during oral questions: ``Mr. Manning: The question-''

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

Although it is a direct quote, I would ask the hon. minister to use the term "the leader of the Reform Party".

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Douglas Young Liberal Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I suspect Canadians will know who we are talking about.

This is the quote from the hon. leader of the third party in this House from September 17, 1996: "Mr. Speaker, to ensure that there is no ultimate cover-up in the Somalia inquiry, will the Prime Minister guarantee to this House that the results of the inquiry will be made fully public before the next federal election?"

I am not Eaton's but I am trying to deliver.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, Eaton's would have had those documents delivered in a catalogue.

Allegations of cover-up have occurred under this Liberal government, not just under Kim Campbell and the Conservatives. It is no coincidence that the inquiry will not have enough time to question friends of the government like Bob Fowler.

Another quote: "We have to respect the rights of each individual to be heard and we must wait for the commission to render its

judgment". That was October. That was not Eaton's. That was the Prime Minister of this country.

How in the world are we supposed to be able to trust this government to run the country when it cannot even keep its promise of getting to the bottom of a murder, a cover-up and blackmail?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, if this is an example of the ethics and integrity that one finds in Hawaii, I do not think this will take you very far.

When we look at what was said in terms of the Reform Party strategy to try to operate in this House during this session, the first question that has to be asked of the hon. member is: Does she agree, yes or no, with the hon. leader of the third party who in September said he wanted it shut down before the next election? Which is it going to be?

Airbus AffairOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

Brian Mulroney's former chief of staff, Norman Spector, stated that he had informed the present Clerk of the Privy Council, Jocelyne Bourgon, about an RCMP investigation of former Prime Minister Mulroney, one month before The Financial Post made this information public. Yet Mrs. Bourgon continues to deny that she obtained this information and passed it on to the Prime Minister or his advisers.

How does the Prime Minister explain the contradictions between the version given by Mr. Spector and that of Mrs. Bourgon?

Airbus AffairOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, Mrs. Bourgon briefed me fully on this file, as was stated in a document released on November 20, when I was in Asia with the Commonwealth and at the APEC meeting.

Mrs. Bourgon's statement to the press was very clear. And I am completely satisfied with the answer she gave when questioned.

Airbus AffairOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are in a somewhat special situation. Mr. Spector apparently passed this information on to Mrs. Bourgon in September 1995. Mr. Spector and Mrs. Bourgon have one thing in common: they both enjoy the confidence of the Prime Minister. The latter appointed Mrs. Bourgon Clerk of the Privy Council and Mr. Spector head of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

In light of the circumstances and in light of the mess, what is the Prime Minister waiting for to set up an independent commission of inquiry in order to shed light on the Airbus affair?

Airbus AffairOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, debate on this topic was closed when we offered our apologies to Mr. Mulroney and the two other people. In Canada, no one is guilty until so declared by a court of law. Apologies were made.

Mr. Mulroney's own lawyers said clearly in their statement that there had been no political interference in this matter.

AirbusOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has always pretended to have high standards for his cabinet. He has always promised that every one of his ministers will have to take full responsibility for bungling in their departments. Well this has turned into a national joke.

Who is taking responsibility for the botched investigation into Airbus? The justice minister says he is not responsible, even though the letter to the Swiss authorities was written by his department and signed on his behalf. The solicitor general says he is not responsible; it is all the fault of an RCMP sergeant.

My question is for the Prime Minister. Is blaming RCMP sergeants his interpretation and understanding of ministerial responsibility?

AirbusOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is a very well known practice that when there are criminal investigations the political part of the government is not informed. It has always been that way.

Yesterday it was confirmed in a debate on TV between two of the most respected public servants who have served this country for a long time, Gordon Robertson and Arthur Kroeger. They said that everything was conducted according to tradition. When there is a criminal investigation it is for the police to conduct the investigation and the prime minister and the ministers are not involved in the investigation. This has been a very clear practice for a long time.

I do not believe it is the business of a minister or a prime minister to give instruction to the police to investigate one guy and not investigate another.

AirbusOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the evidence shows very clearly that the justice minister knew what was going on and what the content of the letter was back in November 1996 and he chose to do nothing about it.

When I look across at the Liberal cabinet, all they seem able to do is botch up, cover up and make the taxpayer cough up. The

backroom Airbus deal soaked taxpayers for over $2 million which kept the abuse of the justice system from coming out during a public trial.

Despite all of the Prime Minister's promises, his cabinet refuse to be accountable themselves and refuse to demand accountability from senior officials. I ask the Prime Minister: When will he stop making speeches about accountability, integrity and responsibility and start acting on it?

AirbusOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is part of the parliamentary tradition, for which I have great respect, that ministers show responsibility in cases such as this one by acting responsibly to address the problems in the system squarely, quickly and effectively. That is exactly what I have done. To be sure, there were problems in this system. To be sure, there were weaknesses to be overcome. We have done just that.

The very month this letter became public, I directed that there be changes made in the system for sending letters of request from the Department of Justice. In the past year we have made a variety of changes to minimize the risk of such a thing ever happening again. Two weeks ago I engaged the services of a former justice of the court of appeal for Ontario, a person of impeccable reputation, to look at the changes we have made, to examine the entire system and to recommend any other changes that he thinks should be made to improve the system.

That is how a minister acts responsibly in these circumstances, and that is exactly what we have done.

Tainted BloodOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Prime Minister.

This Liberal government was elected on a platform of transparency and good government. Nearly three and a half years after they came to the power, their record is a disgrace. Not long ago, the information commissioner severely criticized Health Canada officials who destroyed documents vital to the inquiry into the tainted blood scandal. This is outrageous.

Does the Prime Minister realize that the apologies of the Minister of Health are not enough? Does he realize that taxpayers do not want empty excuses but assurances that never again will an official be able to conceal or destroy government documents with impunity?