That this House condemn the government for having established the Canada Information Office, which gives lucrative contracts to those close to the government party for, among other things, the purpose of gathering, analysing and collating information about a large number of citizens, and that this House urge the government to close that Office.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the question on the order paper, particularly today in the presence of the Deputy Minister responsible for both Public Works and the Canada Information Office, whom I am pleased to see here in the House.
I know that this is a source of great interest and perhaps in certain cases of great concern. As parliamentarians, it is not our purpose to cause concern to anyone, but rather to inform Canadians, and Quebecers in particular, of this formidable propaganda tool, which goes by the name of the Canada Information Office.
As we know, in what the Prime Minister so frequently reminds us is the best country in the world, we imagine that certain attitudes, philosophies and thoughts exist only in countries where democracy is threatened or totally thwarted. We imagine that it is impossible in Canada, for a single instant, for democracy to be attacked, weakened or made to serve purely partisan interests. Unfortunately, history has given us a number of examples to disprove this.
The other day, I heard the hon. member for Winnipeg North—St. Paul say “Find me a single example in Canadian history where democracy has been thwarted, where it has not been respected”. He also asked for examples where new Quebecers or new Canadians had not been respected.
I appreciate the fact that the hon. member for Winnipeg North—St. Paul is a new Canadian, but if he reads the official record of this House, he will realize that toward the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, we had to compensate after the fact Japanese Canadians who have been imprisoned during the last world war, including those who were born in Canada.
This was not a favour to this ethnic group, quite the contrary, because democracy had been abused back then. No doubt good excuses were made up to do this at the time, but nobody can tell me that democracy and freedom of speech are part of the Canadian way.
Most of the time, there is freedom of movement for people and ideas, but not when the issue is Canadian unity. In this case, an agency has been set up to repress those who may have a different opinion.
This agency is exclusively at the service of the Liberal Party of Canada. When it was set up in 1996, it was supposed to counteract sovereignists in the field, and all federalist parties agreed. However, they have been taken for a ride.
I really felt like laughing, because I have always said that when the Prime Minister talks about a chair in the House, we should be very careful, because we cannot be really sure that what he has in mind is the same thing we do. In the Prime Minister's mind, a chair does not necessarily have four legs of the same length, a horizontal seat and a vertical back rest. If we were to ask the Prime Minister to draw a chair—to see what the concept means to him—we would be surprised by the result. We would see that no one in the House has the same idea of a chair as the Prime Minister.
When the Prime Minister and the then deputy prime minister agreed to create the Canada Information Office, self-righteous federalists said: “Here is an organization that will benefit Canadians, by opposing the sovereignist discourse in Quebec”. But they were tricked.
When he created this organ the Prime Minister's devious plan was to use it also for election campaign purposes and partisan promotion for the sole benefit of the Liberal Party of Canada.
This is where the other parties were taken in, including the Reform and Progressive Conservative members, who believed in the Prime Minister's good faith. But we in Quebec have a long-standing tradition of distrusting this Prime Minister as well as his follower, his disciple who follows him like a shadow and who is also in the House this morning. Though they are Quebecers, when they tell us something, we must always be on our guard, because there is always a catch, and history is there to prove that we were taken in by them more often than we deserved.
The Canada Information Office, which was supposed to promote Canadian unity, had to get some furniture first. It not only needed telephones, tables and chairs, but also employees who were trustworthy and able mainly to promote the Liberal Party of Canada and to sell it to Quebec.
Some appointments were made. Hiring these people required an exemption to the application of the public service employment regulations. The first legislative measure passed by this government was to exempt the Canada Information Office, by ministerial order, nothing less, from the application of the Public Service Employment Act and its regulations, including those on hiring.
Of course they wanted docile individuals who would obey unquestioningly the dictates of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs of the day, whose job it was to promote Canadian unity.
They needed docile people and they found them. But, docility comes at a big price. From the questions the Bloc Quebecois put to the Minister of Public Works all week long it is clear that docility pays. We learned that a certain Richard Mongeau, a well known lawyer, the lawyer who defended the members of the RCMP accused of stealing the Parti Québécois membership list, who defended RCMP officers when they torched the barns in Quebec and who defended all those who had to do the dirty work. He was an ardent defender of these people.
In addition, for his last dirty job he was told “You have to come to the CIO. Your service record shows you are quite capable of doing the dirty work required by the current Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Prime Minister and the Minister of public works without remorse or scruple”.
This was how $160,000 was paid to Richard Mongeau to check the spelling and punctuation of the press releases issued by the minister of public works allegedly to inform Quebecers about federal programs available and beneficial to them. Mr. Mongeau earned $160,000 for that. In addition, his firm, Leblanc et Leduc, probably got another $50,000 to correct Mr. Mongeau's own spelling.
In this whole CIO business, they have both fists in the trough. There are a few who are really gorging themselves, but this is a Liberal Party tradition. There is nothing wrong with that; it has been going on since confederation. Poor people with good ideas have become extremely rich thanks to all kinds of subsidies and schemes. That is the Liberal way of thinking.
When those people across the way rise to proclaim their adherence to the Liberal way of thinking, we have to be careful. Being a Liberal on the other side of the House means that one is willing to do a lot of things, including creating the CIO, the Canada Information Office.
Under the rules governing the CIO, the conditions of employment of the public service do not apply to that office. It currently employs 83 people, which makes it large enough. It seems to me that with 83 employees the minister should have at least one or two persons capable of revising texts, correcting errors if necessary and putting in the correct punctuation. But no. Employees are apparently asked to write something up, but it is Richard Mongeau, who is paid $160,000 a year, who checks for spelling and punctuation errors. It seems to me that an office which employs 83 people should be self-sufficient, especially with an annual budget of $20 million to $25 million. How is the money given the CIO each year to operate and fulfil its mandate being used?
Contracts are awarded to a lot of people but not to just anyone. We have here the list of those who were awarded contracts over the last few years. They all have one thing in common: they have contributed various amounts to the election fund of the Liberal Party of Canada. Sometimes it is difficult to establish a relationship on a pro rata basis, and in some cases it is almost impossible.
For example, if we look at someone who was awarded a contract for $166,000, or for $1 million, as was the case for Tremblay Communications, we can see that Michèle Tremblay contributed $2,000 to the Liberal Party of Canada both in 1997 and in 1998.
It seems reasonable, a $2,000 contribution for a $1 million contract. But there are other examples of solid supporters of this party who, for much smaller contracts, will give $15,000 while they were awarded a $30,000 or $35,000 contract. Is this an indirect way of saying “I give you work, so pay something back into our election fund and make a financial contribution to our party?” In this case, one has to ask if in fact the work was done. Was the work contracted important and necessary?
It is interesting to read certain work descriptions in some of the contracts. For example, Intersol was awarded a small $28,000 contract. It reads:
—provide advice on the region's organization and on the design team discussions and work with this team to develop an approach meeting the employees' needs.
This is a vague mandate. I am sure that, for $28,000, my daughter, who is in grade 5, could perform a task like that in no time just by searching in dictionaries and finding ideas here and there. She would be very happy to receive $28,000. But this amount is not for her; it is for the friends of the Liberal Party.
Here is another one, “Advising and auditing”, $35,000. This is awarded to individual entrepreneurs, lawyers, et cetera. There is also “Implementation of recommendations regarding the CIO contract award process”. What does that mean? There is another $57,000 contract for the “Classification and writing of work descriptions”. That is a lucrative work. These people are professionals hired by the CIO.
Les Associés RCN received $8,500 for “Consultation with Human Resources Development”. How long did they work? Fifteen minutes, three days, six weeks? We do not know, but we know that they did not provide useful advise to the Minister of Human Resources Development, probably because the contract was not lucrative enough. They were paid $8,500 but they certainly did not give the minister sound advice, because she has been in trouble with Human Resources Development ever since.
The other day I was listening to the hon. member from Winnipeg North—or something like that, I am not sure, and he was quite insulted when I did not remember the exact name of his riding—who told the House that what Human Resources Development did and was now being condemned for was nothing much: an outstanding amount of $2,500 out of several hundred million dollars, $1 billion or $1.5 billion in grants. In his mind, $2,500 in unaccounted for money is nothing, only a venial sin really. On the other hand, it gave work to people with disabilities.
Jobs were created for disabled people in that company, which was given $700,000 just to change its name. It was strictly a request to change its name. Any of my notary colleagues could easily have done that for $1,000 or $1,200. Seven hundred and twenty thousand dollars were given to that company for a request to change its name. The hon. member for Winnipeg North—St. Paul says that it allowed disabled people to work.
When we read the list of those who were awarded all these contracts, it is obvious that the main disability of those who were given grants was that they unfortunately were Liberals. This is what explains the advance and disbursement of funds. The minister has now been struggling for several months to defend herself about that.
Today, I can see that an amount of $8,500 was given to Les Associés RCN to advise the Minister of Human Resources Development. This at least was is written in here. They have advised the minister poorly and she will certainly agree with that.
The Canada Information Office was to be the response to the sovereignist rhetoric in the field. This was the implementation of plan B. It is unfortunate that the role of that agency, which was already not very glorious, was diverted to the exclusive benefit of the Liberal Party of Canada.
I was going to read a list of those who were awarded grants without tender, but I will leave that to my colleagues.
I thank hon. members for having listened patiently to what I had to say.