Mr. Speaker, unlike the previous speaker from the Liberals, I would like to speak specifically about the motion that is before the House today and hopefully not get into the same kind of rant that he decided to get into.
The motion reads:
That this House condemn the government for the poor management seen at the Department of Human Resources Development, particularly in the award and use of grants for partisan purposes, and that it recommend the creation of an independent public commission of inquiry, whose members will be appointed by the House, and whose mandate will be to inquire into all practices of that department and to report to the House by September 19, 2000.
I will be keying in very specifically on the issue of the independent public commission of inquiry. There is nothing more important to this scandal than that we get to the bottom of it and the only way we will get to the bottom of it is with an independent public inquiry.
The last thing the Liberals would want is an independent public inquiry. I know this because of my experience in attempting to pursue the involvement of the Prime Minister in the APEC affair as it happened and unfolded in November 1997 in Vancouver.
This government knows by experience that the longer the process is drawn out the less relevant it is. Clearly, it has managed to bury the Prime Minister's involvement in the suppression of Canadians' freedom of expression and their fundamental rights that they hold as Canadian citizens. It has managed to bury this in a totally irrelevant process which, again I say, is why I am speaking specifically to the issue in the motion of the importance of an independent inquiry.
The government's answer to accountability is damage control. It deflects the issue hoping that people become bored and it complicates the issue until it is no longer recognizable. As I said, the APEC inquiry is an absolute classic example of this.
In the Prime Minister's 36 years of public life, he has learned how to use the system to protect himself, particularly by burying the issues.
The Canadian people want simple answers to the question in APEC: Was the Prime Minister involved in suppressing Canadians' freedom of expression? Is there support for my position that indeed that was the case?
Here is why that matters, as expressed by Craig Jones, one of the jailed protesters. He said:
The root issue for me is to what extent we are going to accept the political control of the RCMP by the executive branch of the government.
Why it is important to the people of Canada is the significance of the separation of executive and enforcement or politicians from police. Where there is a dictatorship there are politicians directing the police. Where there is a democracy we are supposed to have a firewall between politicians and police.
To the issue of accountability and to the issue of an independent inquiry, I refer you, Mr. Speaker, to September 21, 1998 when I asked the Prime Minister the following question:
I would ask the Prime Minister one more time...Will he admit that his fingerprints are all over this process, that he is fully responsible for the fact that democratic rights of Canadians were taken away as a public statement, a political statement by him?
The solicitor general of the day said:
I would appeal to the members opposite to recognize the appropriate role for the public complaints commission that was established by parliament. It deserves our support and I would ask the members opposite to give it to the commission.
The relevance to this motion is that the public complaints commission was the incorrect body to be looking into this issue. The relevance to this motion is that I suggest that the human resources development minister's appraisal of the problem, as she sees it under her so-called six point program, is the incorrect vehicle to be taking a look at this.
Let us take a look at the APEC affair to see how this became convoluted and how a proper inquiry ended up being twisted and pulled out of the realm of possibility.
I asked the following question on September 24, 1998:
There is no level of inquiry. There is the public complaints commission, and I quote from the RCMP Act “They only may look into any member or any other person employed under the authority of this act.
That is what the public complaints commission can look into. It is strictly a snow job that the solicitor general is doing—
The solicitor general again said:
This inquiry has exactly the same powers as the kind of inquiry that the hon. member was demanding, very specifically the powers of a broad inquiry.
I point out again that throughout this entire affair the respective solicitors general and the Deputy Prime Minister all said that this was the correct vehicle, which is why we support the Bloc Quebecois motion.
If we are going to get to the bottom of this scandal at Human Resources Development Canada, the only way we will get there is through an independent public inquiry.
On October 20, 1998, I asked the Prime Minister, with respect to the APEC affair, why he was trying to bury this affair under the public complaints commission. I quote the Prime Minister, who said:
I want people to understand that it is the opposition that should apologize for depriving the Canadian people of an independent body to look into that problem.
He was either unaware, uninformed or in fact wilfully said things that were not accurate when he made that statement because this has never been an independent public inquiry. This has always come under the public complaints commission which was never ever designed to uncover the fingerprints of the Prime Minister with regard to this issue.
I must say that Commissioner Ted Hughes has a tremendous task ahead of him. In my judgment he has been doing an outstanding job, yet he is still not getting to the bottom of it.
In February 1999 the Prime Minister committed to the House that everyone from his office and the government would be available to testify. Considering the number of fingerprints the Prime Minister had on the APEC affair, we assumed everyone included himself.
However, totally contrary to the representations made by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the respective solicitors general, and contrary to the answers to the questions that we had posed in question period, the lawyers for the government, understandably, argued in front of the commissioner that the Prime Minister should not appear. It was something of a surprise that the solicitor for the commission itself also argued to the commissioner, in public at the commission hearing, that the Prime Minister not appear. However, it went over the top when the lawyer for the RCMP argued at the public complaints commission that the Prime Minister should not appear.
Again I say that the reason we support the Bloc Quebecois motion that is before the House is because of the importance and significance of an independent public inquiry to get to the bottom of the HRDC scandal.
On February 28, 2000 the Prime Minister said that he did not have to go to the inquiry because he could reply to questions in the House. He has repeatedly stated in the House that he will not answer questions and that we should let the commission do its job. However, forget that, the commissioner is trying to do his job. When it was convenient, the Prime Minister hid behind the incorrect vehicle and this government chose to cover up for the Prime Minister.
I pointed out that there were three important differences between the House and the APEC inquiry: First, witnesses are under oath; second, witnesses may be cross-examined and their statement of facts may be challenged; and furthermore, the answer from a witness may exceed 35 seconds.
In summary, from the example Canadians have before them about the coverup by the politicians directing the police at the APEC inquiry and the fact that the government wilfully chose to hide that inquiry under the incorrect vehicle, the public complaints commission, clearly the House must support the Bloc motion to call for an independent inquiry to uncover the facts relating to the scandal at HRDC.