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House of Commons Hansard #242 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was culture.

Topics

KosovoOral Question Period

June 10th, 1999 / 2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Reform

Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, all members of the House welcome the news that NATO and the Yugoslav generals signed an agreement last night, since ratified by a UN resolution today, that clears the way for implementing a peace plan in Kosovo.

The bombing has been suspended. Yugoslav security forces are withdrawing from that province and hopefully hundreds of thousands of refugees will soon be returning to their homes.

Is not today an appropriate time for the House to formally extend its congratulations to our Canadian Armed Forces that have done us proud once again and to our NATO allies for this great achievement, but also to extend our goodwill to those moderate Serbs who have demanded that their leaders accept this peace agreement?

KosovoOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. That is exactly the reason I wanted the occasion at 3 o'clock to make a statement extending congratulations to our soldiers who have done an excellent job there and to the Americans.

I talked with President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair earlier this morning. There will be more to say when I give my statement.

I take this occasion to thank the parties in the House of Commons for the support they have given to the position of the government. Despite the differences we might have, when there is a question of principle like this we have shown that we can be united and stand strong and firm in defence of the values which are so dear to Canadian people.

KosovoOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Reform

Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the maintenance and enforcement of the Kosovo peace agreement, including the protection of returning refugees, is very much dependent on the success now of the peacekeeping operation which must take place.

The peacekeeping forces, now under a UN mandate, will roll into Kosovo within days and Canada will be among them. Canadians would now like to know the details of what our troops will be doing.

I ask the defence minister what specific role our troops will be called upon to fulfil and how long we can expect them to be in Kosovo.

KosovoOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the initial group that will go into Kosovo, hopefully tomorrow, will involve approximately 100 Canadians who will accompany the British fourth brigade. They will be the engineers who will go in to help clear the roadways and routes for the troops who will follow them.

We also have a reconnaissance contingent. Part of them are already in Macedonia. Some of them are leaving Greece where they picked up the equipment, the Coyotes, the helicopters, et cetera, and will now be moving them in.

I expect the full contingent of 800 will be there in just a matter of days. They will stay there until the peace and security for the people of Kosovo are secured and the refugees can return to their homes safely.

KosovoOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Reform

Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the estimated number of peacekeepers required to enforce the Kosovo peace agreement continues to increase.

The defence minister has talked about sending more than the current 800 Canadian ground troops to Kosovo, despite warnings from the chief of defence staff and other military experts that say our forces are already stretched to the limit and that any further commitments are unrealistic.

Will the defence minister now confirm whether or not he intends to make further commitments to Kosovo and, if so, where he proposes to get those resources?

KosovoOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

York Centre Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, that matter is still under consideration. There are a number of aspects of it that require examination, including what would fit in with the team in Kosovo.

There are many countries contributing to the NATO core UN authorized team. They need to provide complementary skills and roles. We are looking to see what is possible in that regard.

Let me at the same time say that those who have been there to this point in time, particularly those who have contributed to task force Aviano, have done an absolutely superb job. They have done Canada proud.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister threw quite a bash last night for his biggest contributors. The so-called Laurier Club showed up at 24 Sussex yesterday for a gabfest that no doubt included just a little seminar on how to be discreet when doling out money to the Prime Minister.

Want a contract? Hold off on that real estate deal until after CIDA has said yes.

I would like to ask the Prime Minister just how many government contracts were handed out last night as door prizes.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I was delighted to receive some Canadians who came from across the land to tell me and my colleagues how happy they are with the good government that we are providing.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, it must have been just like the Shawinigan hotel convention. I am sure the Prime Minister's shindig was just fabulous, particularly for him.

'Twas the night before recess, they snacked on sweetbreads When visions of contracts just danced in their heads

Gales of laughter were heard while the Prime Minister told jokes about this—

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. Under the circumstances, I would ask the hon. member to go to her question.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was mentioning the gales of laughter we could hear on Sussex Drive. The Prime Minister was telling jokes about the taxpayers who do not even get it, about brain drain—

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

The question.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, the question is: Did anyone go away empty-handed, without a government contract last night?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

That question is marginal.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, they came to 24 Sussex and they were very happy because I was in a position to tell them, for example, that in the first quarter of this year the growth in Canada has been 4.2%.

I told them that there was to be a party tonight at Stornoway, the place that was supposed to be a bingo hall, the place that was never to be occupied by a certain person but that he seems to enjoy. I hope he will be there for a long time and that the united alternative will not lose him as a leader.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we know that the Prime Minister has a thin skin when it comes to integrity.

He was trigger-happy and quick to judge his predecessor, Brian Mulroney, in the Airbus affair.

Before we break for three months, too much remains unexplained in the case of Compagnie 161341 Canada Inc. On this last day of the session, does the Prime Minister realize that he owes the public an explanation?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, on May 6 of this year, the ethics counsellor testified. He gave all the information about this operation and established clearly that I was absolutely not in any conflict of interest.

I have complied with all the rules. I had Mr. Wilson examine them. He confirmed that my conduct in this affair was what was required in the circumstances.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot understand how the Prime Minister, who is thin-skinned when his honour is at stake, is still unaware of the scandal slowly taking shape and undermining his credibility.

The Prime Minister cannot afford any ambiguity. With the troubling facts that have come to our attention, does he not understand that prevarication will not help Canadians judge his conduct?

The Prime Minister would like us to take him at his word. We would like him to table the bill of sale. Let him do so.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I have nothing to add to the answer I have just given.

I have complied with all the rules and Mr. Wilson confirmed this to the committee on May 6, at which time the opposition parties had an opportunity to question him. He gave all the facts and said that there was absolutely no conflict of interest nor any appearance of one.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, under the previous Progressive Conservative government, the present ethics counsellor, at the time with the Department of Industry, showed great sensitivity to government pressures. He was even faulted for that.

Does the Prime Minister realize that, by placing all of his defence on the testimony of the ethics counsellor, he is placing enormous pressure on that individual?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, every minister in every circumstance has sought the opinion of the ethics counsellor. Mr. Wilson has appeared regularly before committees and has explained all the procedural rules he followed. He has made himself readily available for press questioning.

I believe Mr. Wilson is doing a good job. Before him, the position did not exist; now there is someone who can speak on behalf of the ministers, on behalf of the administration, even on behalf of MPs, when a conflict of this nature arises. This ensures the openness required by everyone, as well as respect for the private affairs of each member of the House of Commons.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the Prime Minister feels Mr. Wilson is doing a good job, but we do not share that opinion. The Prime Minister himself chose the ethics counsellor. He appointed him, and Mr. Wilson is under his control.

By seeking the support of his own ethics counsellor, is the Prime Minister not setting himself up as both judge and jury on the matter of his own virtue?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, of course I select many people in the administration. I have an excellent cabinet, because I used good judgment in selecting those who are with me at present.

Hon. members can see the smiles on the faces of the ministers of Finance, Transport, Labour and Human Resources Development. I always take my responsibilities very seriously, and for each position, I select the person able to do the best job, under the circumstances, to serve Canadians well.

CultureOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

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

The government time and again assured Canadians that our cultural identity and cultural sovereignty were not at risk and not up for negotiation, but later today when the House votes on the magazine bill the hollowness of those assurances will be exposed for all to see.

The U.S. threatened illegal trade action. The eagle squawked and the beaver caved. Given empty past assurances, why should Canadians believe similar assurances about the Canadian health care system?

CultureOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am frankly surprised that the NDP is not recognizing that for the first time in any international agreement the United States has agreed to accept the concept of Canadian content.

It has never happened before in any international agreement. It is our belief that this should be a portent of future negotiations at places like the World Trade Organization. We recognize, as does the American government for the first time, that culture is unique and quite different from other commodities.