House of Commons Hansard #190 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was corruption.


SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Mississauga West Ontario


Steve Mahoney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Crown Corporations

Mr. Speaker, I am sure some members opposite will be pleased to rise in questions and say a similar thing, that they appreciate the tone I intend to bring to this particular debate. I do not care if they do, but it might be interesting if they did.

I should point out this is the worst part of political life. I have been on the other side of accusations in the provincial legislature in Ontario. Knowing that we have been falsely accused of something in a public place, seeing it in the newspaper and attempting to prove our innocence is one of the most frustrating and difficult experiences that any politician can ever go through.

It is also an interesting phenomenon that quite often it is members with whom we may have developed friendships in working on committees or travelling to various places who will lead these charges. So the acrimony just adds to the acidity that develops in a place like this. I honestly believe that the word respect is thrown around much too loosely in this place by many members who indeed have no respect for the institution or for the members who got here.

Let me say at the outset that I do not care what party members represents. They got to this place the same way I did. They put their name on a campaign piece of literature, on a ballot, they knocked on doors, went to meetings, talked to people, defended their integrity and that of their party. They deserve to be in this place, one of only 301 members. It is quite an honour. It is a shame when the wheels come off and we spend question period after question period on issues that I frankly and honestly believe the majority of Canadians do not care about.

What happened to questions about health care? What about our infrastructure? We have a major new infrastructure program. Not once has anyone stood in this place and asked about the $2.6 billion infrastructure program which includes $600 million for border security. Not once have I heard anyone in the last 14 or 15 question periods ask the Deputy Prime Minister about his 30 point plan worked out with Governor Ridge on border security.

What happened to questions about security in our skies? What happened to questions about Afghanistan? What happened to questions about agriculture? Do we not care about that any more? Were we simply sent here to beat up on one another? I do not think so. I think it denigrates the role of parliamentarians when we lower ourselves to the level that we are at today.

I believe this is about frustration by the official opposition much more than it is about $800 for a chalet for a weekend. The frustration is that a regional party has grown up literally from nothing in a short time, roughly a decade. It has grown from one member elected in this place to become the second largest opposition party eventually becoming the official opposition. Opposition members are frustrated because they have not been able to win seats east of the Manitoba border, except for two in the last election. They are frustrated because in essence what they have done is shown up at the front door of this place and said they want to take over. When they find out that Canadians do not want to let them take over, they decide that the best route is to destroy the institution and everything it stands for.

We have ample examples. We have a member opposite who reaches over and grabs the Mace and waves it around in the air. We have members who make accusations and it takes only the Speaker's persuasiveness to get them to withdraw those accusations. Are either one of those acts of respect of this place or its members?

I have no difficulty. I served five years in opposition to Bob Rae and the New Democrats in Ontario. It was scandal du jour, believe me. I have no difficulty with opposition members seizing a particular issue and fighting on behalf of their constituents. To become so myopic and to use the words they throw around of corruption and the aspersions that they cast on the Prime Minister and everyone is so counterproductive.

This is sometimes our biggest problem and it happens on both sides of the House. We think that everyone is seized with whatever it is we are talking about. I talked to a constituent today who happens to be a well informed businessman in Mississauga. I said that everyone was looking over our shoulders here. I told him what was going on, and he did not know anything about it.

I am not saying that things should not be done. Our Prime Minister has introduced some substantial changes that will be brought in. I would agree with the opposition on one point, and that is that they are overdue.

In the Ontario legislature, we have had a commissioner that reports to the legislature for many years. Judge Evans was the judge when I was an MPP. It did not matter whether one was a parliamentary assistant, a minister or a backbencher in the opposition or in the government. We all had an interview with Judge Evans. We would simply lay out what our assets and liabilities were, and he would give us advice as to any conflicting problems that might arise. I found it comforting to be able to go to someone to whom I could say that my wife or my son was involved in this or that and ask for his opinion. He would analyze it, give me an opinion and we would clear the air right away.

It is a good thing that we are doing this. All members on all sides should be prepared to do it. Somehow we must get over this mentality that democracy is broken because a majority of Liberals were elected to parliament three times in a row, because that is what I hear. It is not that democracy does not work because someone lost. That is not true.

This is the most democratic country in the world. All one has to do is travel around the world to see what people think of this country and this place. It is only in this place, in this media, in this political atmosphere, that we destroy and denigrate the institutions and the people who dedicate their years and service. I believe we are all in that category.

We does not come to this place without some serious sacrifice to our family and community, and without the dedication that it takes to work long, hard hours. Every single member in this place deserves that recognition. What I find interesting is that I will talk to constituents who will say that politicians are all corrupt and they do not believe them. Then they say they do not mean me. I talk to other members and they get the same thing.

It is sort of like if we want to make people think something we should keep saying it often enough. I do not suggest that the opposition should stand and sing our praises but why can we not get back to the business of this nation, of building this nation, of continuing to make this the greatest country?

What about our immigration bill? I have not heard a question in weeks about the biggest reforms to immigration since 1952. Does that mean the opposition does not care about that? I find that hard to believe.

The feeding frenzy must stop. We must somehow find a way to work better together. We must be able to define the issues and the roles and respect the opposition. It has a job to do. It is called Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Whether it believes in the Queen or not, that is what the role is. It is an important role. It makes government and parliament a better place.

When it falls down on the job, as I submit is happening now, it destroys the credibility of each and every member of this wonderful institution. We owe it to Canadians to get back to the business of the nation.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the members from the government side for their great comments, casting aspersions on someone else's speech and this sort of thing. I remind the member for Mississauga West that precisely 20 questions have been asked by myself and other colleagues from the official opposition, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, on agriculture during the month of May.

The member constantly says that nothing is being done on agriculture. Why has the member not spoken up with regard to the trade injury compensation program that Ontario farmers are calling for as a result of the U.S. farm bill? Why has he not spoken up about the tuberculosis problem in our wild elk herds? What about challenging the U.S. farm bill under the WTO and NAFTA?

These are questions that I have asked the minister of agriculture and the trade minister 20 times over the last month and received zero answers. Does the member stand by his statement that we have done nothing on agriculture or is he willing to withdraw that statement right now?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I sure do stand by that statement.

Let me tell the House what this caucus has done. If it were not for the efforts of the Liberal caucus on Wednesday morning and all of the work that is done for our caucus committee structure there would never have been any assistance for agriculture. It did not come from that side of the House. It did not come from the media. It came from the Liberal members. A lot of those members represent urban ridings, not rural ridings, who realize that we need our agricultural sector to be strong to help feed our families.

This member would not know what goes on within the structure of our caucus, but it is a strong, unified organization that cares about issues like agriculture and many others. If the business cannot get done in this place, we will do it there.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Mississauga West is attempting to do what the Prime Minister did this morning. It is to lecture members of parliament and all the opposition parties on the role they are playing in undermining public confidence in government by focusing on scandal.

Yet the speaking notes for the Liberal Party are nothing but an attack on every opposition member in the House and nothing but a collection of sleaze and scurrilous attempts to keep this debate at a level that is reprehensible. The Liberals continue to obfuscate and disguise the difficult issues that are before them by blaming the opposition.

If we look at the notes provided for the Liberal Party, they are nothing but a chronicle of misdemeanors by the Conservative and Alliance parties. The Liberal members tried hard to go after the NDP. They could not find anything with our federal colleagues so they went after provincial governments. They could not find anything so they were forced to recognize that the federal NDP is actually a leader in the field of government ethics. They had to refer to our election campaign which made commitments to amend the Elections Act to incorporate the funding of party leadership campaigns, and to remove the Prime Minister's arbitrary power to make unilateral appointments without any checks or balances.

The only thing they forgot to mention, and this is regrettable, is that the leader of the NDP caucus and other members have introduced private members' bills on a code of ethics for parliamentarians.

Will the member for Mississauga West commit to the House today that we will put an end to this kind of name calling, starting with cleaning up the mess in his caucus so that we can get back to the main issues, so we can get back to debates on health care, agriculture and the environment that many of us have been attempting to do for weeks to no avail. The government is either so buried under in terms of scandals or deflects every serious issue that comes along.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry we did not find enough difficulties with the NDP governments, but fortunately there are not that many of them for us to do the research on.

I do not think that my comments were lecturing at all. I am giving an opinion based on 25 years in public life. I believe what is happening here is simply born out of frustration by members opposite who cannot seem to find their way in the front door so they are tearing down the institution. That is what they are doing.

They think if they yell scandal and corruption enough that all of a sudden Canadians will believe it and they will somehow reward them with the mantle of power. That will not happen. It would be much more productive for us to get back to work.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Canadian Alliance Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is quite a heated debate we are having here today. Certainly the hot air is adding to the climate change the government is working so hard against. We are adding more to it when I hear the pomposity from the other side.

In a recent poll 69% of Canadians said they find the federal government corrupt. We are all here together. The problem is that everybody gets tarred with the same brush. Out of 301 people there are bound to be a few bad apples. We have seen evidence of that in the last little while. Some 69% of Canadians hold us in contempt for the jobs we are not doing here on their behalf. That is despicable and we have to rightly clean that up. The job of the official opposition is to hold the government to account and to bring to the light of day a lot of the things that are wrongheaded and going in the wrong direction.

Out west we had evidence of that from a couple of terms ago with Bill C-68, the firearms bill. A cost of $85 million was talked about. It is now 10 times that and growing and we still have seen absolutely no results.

The Liberals' own pollsters would tell them it is not working to the extent they thought it would so people hold us in contempt. We are all tarred with the same brush. We start to bring programs like that into the light of day and point out the problems with them. We amend things in committee but they never get adopted. We have private members' business that has gone south. Many members over there are nodding their heads because that is their avenue to get their issues before the House of Commons and they have been stymied as well. They cannot seem to get them through and when they do, there might be an hour of debate and then it is scrapped, it is gone. The item cannot be made votable.

We are all caught in that. That leads to low voter turnout. If we look at the last federal election and some of the byelections, there has been low voter turnout. People have written off the federal government system. They see that we are incorrigible and we are corruptible and they write us all off. They flush us all with the same bath water which is unfortunate.

The Liberals did not like those numbers so they had their own pollster do a poll talking about just their party because certainly it could not be them. That poll showed that 45% of Canadians polled blame it on the front bench, the executive of the federal government. That is unfortunate but there are things we can do about it.

The members opposite today have been saying we are not fulfilling the role of the official opposition, that we are not bringing to the light of day agriculture issues, softwood lumber, health care and so on. I heard the senior minister for Saskatchewan on a radio talk show last week. We cannot put on the air shows that we usually have. Moose Jaw has a huge air show. Usually 45,000 to 50,000 people go to it. The one in Saskatoon is just starting to grow with 30,000 to 35,000 people who come to see it. There are other ones across the country. They cannot afford the liability insurance that is now demanded to put those shows on. The government House leader said on the radio that the government cannot afford that because it is working so diligently putting all of the money into agriculture, the softwood file and health care.

Nobody in the agriculture sector has seen any money. The member opposite who just spoke said it is because of the Liberal backbench that farmers were saved. I guess now we know who to blame. If it is the Liberal backbench that gave us AIDA and CFIP and took the money out of crop insurance, then it is their fault. It was not the minister of agriculture after all, it is the backbench. How ridiculous.

Money has been gutted out of health care but we still have no money for a lot of other programs. The softwood lumber file bubbled away for five years and here we are paying a 27.2% tariff. Five years slipped by. The government did not change but a few of the faces over there did. The same folks let it percolate for five years and here we are with a problem. If that is their attention to agriculture, softwood and health care, no wonder people hold us in contempt and say that we are incorrigible and they want to make some changes.

The Prime Minister today announced a new glorious program that will make everything better. He will bring in some more rules and add some more legislation. Many of those are common sense and we cannot disagree with some of them but those same promises were made in 1993 in the first red book. Nobody ever delivered on those.

Where is this ethics commissioner who was going to be independent and table his reports with parliament? It did not happen. We finally got an ethics counsellor with basically a set of training wheels for the front bench. He does not report to anybody but the Prime Minister because that is who hired him.

Now we are being promised another one. Should we believe it this time, the second, third or fourth time? It is just like some of the legislation brought forward; it never quite happens the way it was set out.

There are some good things in those eight points but we are asking, why now? Why is it finally today? I guess the biggest reason, and most people are clueing into this, is that another minister is in trouble.

I understand it is only an $800 bill, but that is not the point. It is not the money. As one person said in question period today, it is not what he or his family gave, the $800, but it is what he got. It is what Claude Boulay, the head of Everest communications got. He got the minister's ear for two or three days, whatever it was. It was an inside track. Shortly after that we saw another $760,000 of ad contracts funnelled to Groupe Everest. That is a problem.

If those guys cannot see that and why people are upset with the way the Liberals are governing the country, then we have a problem. We will have a lower voter turnout in the next election and the status quo will continue. That is great for them but it certainly is not good for Canadians. Canadians deserve better.

The Prime Minister took credit for sweeping changes he has made since 1993. The auditor general can now report to parliament four times a year. Imagine that. How great. The problem is that nobody listens to what she reports. Nobody acts on it.

The auditor general brings in scathing indictments, things like who is minding the store. There are people who should face criminal charges. She said to bring in the RCMP because she thought it was outrageous. Four times a year she gets to say that. It is not the report but the action which is never taken that encourages Canadians to say that we are corrupt and contemptible. I am tired of being tarred with that brush. We do some great work over here and bring to light a lot of the problems.

The Prime Minister talked about having a great rah-rah party for $10,000 a hit. That is wonderful but I cannot see any real people being able to afford the $10,000. Again that gets people his ear for that length of time. I know a lot of people in western Canada would pay $10,000 to get an hour of the Prime Minister's time but they would like to see him sitting on the seat of a dunk tank before they would put the $10,000 there. They would have some fun and maybe he would raise some money. Let us get real.

Canada will sponsor and fund an anti-corruption summit next fall from October 13 to 16. People will come from around the globe. We are seventh out of 91 in the way we handle our affairs. We are in the top 10% but is that good enough? We are going to sponsor a corruption seminar. I guess we are going to tell them what they can and cannot get away with. We are hoping that we bring to the light of day a whole lot more things that are starting to worm their way out.

The next thing the Prime Minister talked about in his eight points was a standalone code of conduct for MPs and senators. He just happened to skip right over the people on the front bench. They supposedly already have one that nobody has ever seen. We do not know what is in it, other than that the ethics counsellor gets to decide what is good and what is not. That is ridiculous. Now there will be a code of conduct for MPs and senators.

I will quote what a Liberal MP said yesterday after caucus. The member for Mississauga West said that they do great work there. Apparently they do. Here is the quote from the National Post :

“Are we the problem?” one MP, who attended yesterday's caucus, said. “It's just amazing. As if we have a lot of clout.... It's going to be interesting to see how [the new rules] go over in caucus. I'm sure members are going to start saying, 'How are we the problem?'”

That is absolutely bang on. It tells us how impotent they are as backbenchers and the frustration level rises. It will be interesting to see a lot of this stuff hit the fan in the next little while.

A code of conduct will come into play for the others who do not have access to public funds like those on the front bench who have discretionary spending amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. Where is the retribution, clawbacks and chance for taxpayers to rear up and say they want the money back?

On Groupaction there were three reports for $1.6 million. We got some photocopied paper. I guess that same photocopy paper works for affidavits, bum cheques and everything else. It is just amazing that the Liberals think they can get away with it by throwing some smoke in front of the fan. Canadians are supposed to bow and say “Well, that is government. They are unaccountable and we cannot touch them”. Yes they can. The best thing Canadians can do is rear up on their high horse and tell those folks it is unacceptable behaviour and they will not tolerate it.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Joe Comuzzi Liberal Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, you and I came to the House at about the same time and I never thought I would have to rise on an occasion such as this to defend a former colleague who is being maligned by the House almost on a daily basis. The opposition keeps maligning his character and his reputation. His character is often brought into disrepute and the member is no longer in the House to defend himself or his position. Above all else this is blatantly unfair. It is inequitable, unfair and should not be done.

The former colleague was a former minister of public works, Alfonso Gagliano, now Ambassador Gagliano. We know the way things run around here and I am positive that if he were to read Hansard or be advised that I am up in the House today defending him, he would be absolutely surprised. I confess that Ambassador Gagliano and I were not the best of friends. We were often at loggerheads on issues that affected my riding of Thunder Bay--Superior North. Many of the issues over the years were never reconciled which thus lead to a stalemate perhaps between two rather stubborn individuals who share the same heritage.

Ambassador Gagliano above all was very dedicated to his job. He worked exceedingly hard. One could often find him in his office late at night. He does not deserve what he is getting. Above all Alfonso Gagliano was a gentleman and a good person.

The problem is not with the present minister of public works who is now under attack, or the previous minister of public works. The Department of Public Works and Government Services is large and cumbersome. It reaches into every part of Canada and is involved in many contracts. It really is a very difficult department to administer. I could cite example upon example of problems I have had with the Ontario section of public works in the area I represent.

I ask the hon. member for Battlefords--Lloydminster, on a valuable day where the whole day is devoted to the opposition, why can we not be constructive instead of destructive? Why do we not--

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I regret to have to interrupt the member for Thunder Bay--Superior North but when members split their time, the period for questions and comments is limited to five minutes. I want to give the hon. member for Battlefords--Lloydminster an opportunity to respond.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Canadian Alliance Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is ever an invaluable day in the House.

When we bring forward issues like this one where we are talking about corruption of government and the perception of the people out there, the problem is that this is the foundation which ordinary citizens, the electorate, think we are based on. We have to fix it in order to get out of their heads the thought process that we are incorrigible. We have to fix that and then get on with the agriculture, health care and defence issues and everything else that has been let slide for the last nine years. Certainly we know there are hundreds of issues out there to fix because no one has attacked them.

In my province of Saskatchewan the government has not fixed the highways or spent the proper money on them for 10 years. Now there is a flurry to fill pot holes that we could lose cars in. The same thing has happened in this place. We have let it slide to the point where we cannot address the major issues because everything has been permeated with that air of corruption.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the motion today. I am not exactly sure where the members of the Liberal Party want to go with it, although I do have their talking points. It is a scurrilous bag of scum if ever there was one. It is just an awful list. It is a litany of accusations and unfounded garbage of the worst kind.

I want to tell the House what I think this is not about today. It is not just about patronage, although we could go on about that. We could go on about the Senate appointments, the appointment of Mr. Gagliano to Denmark or the 5,000 other appointments the Prime Minister gives every year. However I do not think that is really the problem.

I think people understand what is going on and they do not like it. They kind of hearken back to Mr. Mulroney's promise that he would appoint Liberals to these patronage appointments only after every last living, breathing Progressive Conservative member was appointed. That attitude was no good and it is still no good today. However I do not think that is what the motion is really about.

It is also not about influence peddling, although we could go on about that. We could go on about the fact that Pierre Corbeil, a Liberal fundraiser, was convicted of influence peddling. The Liberals have now disassociated themselves from him but he was a Liberal fundraiser who was convicted. In fact, following his conviction we found out that not only was he selling access to ministers but a whole structure was in place in the Quebec federal Liberal wing of dual approvals. Approval was required from not only the minister but from the Quebec Liberal wing for a project to go ahead and the grant to be accepted.

It is totally unacceptable. It is beyond the pale for someone to say that a political party should get to approve who gets the grants, which are taxpayer dollars. However I do not think that is what this is about today.

I also do not think the debate is about broken promises. We talked quite a bit about the need to have an independent ethics commissioner. I do think it is still necessary. I think the Prime Minister finally understands that there is a problem. Today was the first time I ever remember the Prime Minister respond to an opposition motion. He spoke today to address the fact that his government is embraced and embroiled in many scandals and he needs to find a way out of them. He may feel the need to appoint an ethics commissioner somewhere down the road. Who knows? It was a promise from the red book and I think it is long overdue. I think it is like many other broken promises. People kind of shrug their shoulders and say “What do you expect? How do you tell when a politician is lying? His lips are moving”. It is sad but that is where we are at right now.

I also do not think the debate is about a refusal by the government to listen to the other independent watchdogs of parliament. We could go down the list. It has refused to listen to the auditor general. When the auditor general said that the finance minister did not use accepted accounting practices, what was the government's response? It said that it was too bad but that was the way it was.

The auditor general said that it was almost beyond belief how many rules were broken under the Financial Administration Act, the treasury board guidelines and the minister's own guidelines on allocations of contracts. The debate is not about ignoring that, although in and of itself that would be a good debate. However I do not think that is what we are talking about today.

How about the auditor of the EI fund who said that the government was consistently overcharging EI premiums and taxing workers and employers for creating jobs in the country? The government refused to listen to that independent auditor.

The government refused to listen to the privacy commissioner who warned the government that the bills it had just brought forward attacked the privacy of Canadians and warned the government of the fact that we were becoming almost a police state. I am not overstating that. That is what the privacy commissioner said.

The access to information commissioner, who is another independent officer of parliament, said that the government had almost a code of secrecy regarding what it did. He warned Canadians and parliamentarians that the access to information that we deserve was being compromised by the government. That would have been a good debate in and of itself but again I do not think that is what we are talking about today.

When things get really bad and warrant inquiries, such as the Krever commission on the tainted blood scandal, the Somalia inquiry, the APEC inquiry and the Nixon inquiry into the Pearson airport deal, time and again those inquiries are shut down, the funding is withdrawn, the mandate is changed and the appointments to those commissions are cooked.

Time and again there are problems with those inquiries. There is no independence. They are not allowed to come to a conclusion and, even if they could, nothing happens to follow. We could talk about that at length and, in and of itself, would be enough to be debated today, but I do not think that is the core of the issue.

We could even be talking today, and there has already been some discussion, about the long overdue reforms of parliament and the frustrations in this place from not only the opposition side but the government side about the lack of respect for private member's business. People have asked why the member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca touched the mace the other day. It was in utter frustration over his private member's bill being eviscerated and emasculated by the government.

This is the same frustration felt by the government backbenchers who sit wringing their hands over the fact that their private member's business is often not votable, that they cannot get something into the hopper and when it does it does not go anywhere. Even if it does get to the floor of the House, passes and goes to a committee, the committee spends 90% of its time emasculating it and nuking the clauses out of the bill.

Even when a private member's bill gets as far as the Senate, the Liberals use their power in the Senate to make sure it does not progress to actual law. They make sure it never comes up on the order paper, never gets debated and never becomes law.

We were stuck patting ourselves on the back when we created the new Canadien horse, which was not a bad thing in and of itself, but what a minor role for legislators to say that our crowning glory was that we were able to stand in support of creating an official Canadien horse. What a moment. Neither the Liberals nor the opposition members came here to be glorified in trivial legislation like that.

Therefore, the debate could be about the exasperations in the House, the lack of free votes and the lack of influence. We are seeing it manifest itself on the Liberal side to the point where people are starting to push back both in the newspapers and even a bit in the House. They are starting to get so exasperated that they are standing up and speaking out. We could go on about that and it would be a good debate, but again I do not think that is what we are talking about today.

What we are talking about today is a malaise that has hit the government after nine long years in power. It is a malaise that cannot be explained away by an $800 cheque, when it was issued, when the priest saw it, when it was cashed and all of that. That is not the issue.

This is not an issue of whether Mr. Gagliano should have been appointed an ambassador or whether he went out of town before the RCMP moved in to check the books.

The issue is about the new Minister of Public Works and Government Services, a man I have a lot of respect for because I worked with him for quite a while when he was House leader, not seeing the train coming down the tracks where he was standing. That is the problem the Liberal government is facing today.

Why on earth did the minister of public works allow himself to be put in the position of a conflict of interest like that? I cannot believe it.

I know the man and I know him to be a good sort but he is the minister of public works and he is in charge of handing out millions of dollars in contracts, some of which have had huge controversy over the last few weeks and months. For him to stay at someone's place who is intricately involved, in a business sense, in acquiring more contracts, in essence, from him, the public works minister, I cannot believe he would let that happen. He said himself that he would not do it again. I do not doubt that because, in retrospect, I think he has seen how bad it looks and how wrong it is to sit in the cottage of someone who wants to influence the minister. It is just wrong to do that.

This train was coming, the light was on but he did not even notice. That is the problem. What we are talking about today is that time and again the members on that side of the House stand on the tracks with the train coming and say that there is nothing wrong with this. When they get caught, like the auditor general caught them, like the independent auditor caught them, like privacy commissioner caught them or the independent retired generals from the armed forces caught them, time and again they say that they had better change.

When the Minister of Finance found out that a lobbyist in Alberta gave him a cheque for $25,000 to help with his future leadership campaign, he said “Oh, my goodness, I got caught. That is so wrong. I will give the cheque back”. The train ran right over him. He did not see it and did not even hear it.

The Liberals are so desensitized that they have not realized that time and again these examples are proving to Canadians that the government has lost its moral compass. I think that malaise is the subject of today's debate. It is not about any one of those things. It is the fact that they have been desensitized to an important issue to the point where they do not even know when they have done wrong.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member just did a great job proving to us that the speech from the member for Mississauga West was just a crock. He gave illustrations of the problems in this place.

The member for Mississauga West said that the Canadian Alliance was trying to destroy this institution but we are not the government. The Liberals are the government. They are the ones destroying it by their scandals and their outrageous behaviour.

The member for Mississauga West claimed that we have never asked questions in the House about immigration or agriculture. Our agriculture critic already pointed out that we have asked 20 questions in the last few days. Just a week and a half ago we spent the entire question period and a whole day talking about the immigration process and how bogus refugees come in from the United States. The terribly racist idea we had of actually stopping them was suddenly adopted by the government a few days later as a good idea.

He then talked about how we were the problem, how we were trying to pull this place down.

Today the member for Scarborough—Rouge River sent out a whole bunch of suggestions in a booklet on how to improve this place, how to deal with the problems and the inability of members to influence the actions of the government.

I think the member for Fraser Valley has done a great job of pointing out the frivolous nature of the speech given by the member for Mississauga West. I congratulate him for the work he just did today.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member from Mississauga has made his way back here. We would have loved to have asked him a few more questions but we ran out of time.

At the beginning of his speech he said that he hoped members would be able to say at the end of his speech how he had changed the tone of the debate today. I would love to be able to say that but if we go back and read Hansard , he did not improve the tone of the debate at all.

I probably got carried away in my description of those talking points earlier. It is just that I am repeatedly offended by the government's defence of its actions and that it has come to the conclusion that the only defence is a good offence.

The Prime Minister is intent on retiring, sooner, hopefully, rather than later, being able to say that he has never had a minister resign under his watch. Well they do not resign. They get shuffled off. They get sent to the Senate. They get sent to Denmark. They get sent to the back bench. They get sent to be chairman of the justice committee. The Prime Minister wants to be able to stand at the end and say that none of his ministers have had to resign under scandal.

I do not know what it would take to get a minister of the government to resign. The Liberals have blinders on. They are determined they are right. It is like they are telling everyone who has anything to say to them “look at the prime ministerial rules around here. The rule says that we are never wrong. I have told that to my independent ethics counsellor. My independent ethics counsellor knows that the number one rule in this House is that we are never wrong. Therefore, if we are never wrong, we cannot be wrong”.

It is a beautiful circle and it comes from having an ethics counsellor who no doubt pleads with the Prime Minister from time to time to do something but he says “Check the number one rule. We are never wrong”. The Prime Minister wants to leave his office as being the man who never had someone resign.

However that is not an honourable situation. It is because the whole thing is cooked, the malaise has set in and it is pervasive now on the entire front bench.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec


Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Kitchener Centre.

I would like to quickly read the motion we are debating today. It says:

That, in the opinion of this House, the reason why 69% of Canadians polled in a recent survey viewed the “federal political system” as corrupt is because Ministers of this government have failed to make public their secret Code of Conduct, have broken their own Liberal Red Book promises such as the one to appoint an independent Ethics Counsellor who reports directly to Parliament and have failed to clear the air over allegations of abusing their positions to further their own interests and those of their friends.

I must inform all members of the House that I am opposed to the very principle of this motion. This motion is confusing and misleads Canadians about the significance of the survey in question and about the work of this government.

Politicians from every party, not just the party in power, need to take some responsibility for the way Canadians view the political system. When I speak about the political system, I mean the provincial, municipal or federal political system. However, I will limit my remarks to the federal political system.

As the Prime Minister told this House in 1994, “trust in the institutions of government is not a partisan issue, but something all of us elected to public office have an obligation to restore”.

The public trust must be earned day after day. It is the cornerstone of good government. It promotes acceptance of our democratic institutions and creates a sense of confidence in the ability of our governments to improve the wellbeing of our society and of our citizens.

The word “honesty” is not an empty word for me or for my government. In a report tabled in 2000, the former Auditor General of Canada told us that a prerequisite for the success of ongoing measures to promote values and ethics is the leadership of parliamentarians, ministers and senior officials.

This government has shown leadership by putting in place mechanisms and procedures to protect the integrity of public affairs. All is not perfect, as we are the first to admit. But I would like to mention something the new auditor general said when she tabled her report in December 2001.

She was commenting on how this government responds to the conclusions in her reports. She said:

Although we do mention examples of good management throughout our report, sometimes these get lost in the glare of publicity that surrounds the bad examples. I'd like to mention just a few examples of good management, most of which came to light in the course of our follow-up work:

--Human Resources Development Canada's improved management of grants and contributions.

--Meeting the deadline for bringing departmental financial systems on-line as part of implementing the Financial Information Strategy.

--The processing of GST refunds.

--The successful management of Y2K readiness.

--The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade's management of capital projects.

I am encouraged to find these examples of good management throughout government.

These are the words of the auditor general herself, who felt it necessary to underline examples that she has found of good management because she finds that unfortunately the few bad examples catch the glare of the publicity. This is one of the points that leads to the perception within our Canadian society that all politicians and all political regimes in Canada suffer from corruption.

We could look at a few of the mechanisms put in place by our government to protect the integrity of public affairs. These include the 1996 amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act, increasing transparency and casting the light of day onto the lobby industry, and the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders applicable to ministers and senior officials.

The government has also introduced more transparency into the work of parliament: it holds more policy debates; it introduced pre-budget consultations; and it has allowed members to play a larger role in drafting legislation.

In addition, as other members have already mentioned, the auditor general can now table up to four reports a year in parliament, instead of one annual report.

In my opinion, by adopting measures such as these, the government is showing the leadership mentioned by the former auditor general. In this regard, the Prime Minister has truly orchestrated all our efforts. He is personally responsible for the standards and conduct of the government as a whole.

I would like to mention—even though a colleague across the way has already done so, but it bears repeating—the issue of our government's transparency and probity.

There is an international non-governmental agency known as Transparency International. This agency is dedicated to rooting out corruption and promoting transparency in governments throughout the world. It therefore enjoys unparalleled respect worldwide.

It has consistently ranked Canada as one of the cleanest and most transparent governments in the world. In fact, Transparency International ranks Canada as the cleanest and most transparent of all the G-8 countries. I think this needs to be highlighted.

When a member of the opposition tables a motion, as was done and which we are debating right now, the very nature of that motion in my view is only to continue to throw sand into the eyes of Canadians, to continue to encourage and push Canadians to believe that government is corrupt, to bandy about those words that are of such a serious nature in such a cavalier fashion knowing very well that they disinform and misinform.

We had an example just moments ago. A member of the Canadian Alliance, citing the survey, said the survey showed that 69% of Canadians think this federal government is corrupt. He knew full well that was not what the survey said. Members on the government side had to correct him several times before he finally made the correct factual statement.

I will not be supporting the motion. That is the first thing. The second thing is that I would like to encourage all 301 members of the House, and I would call on our colleagues in the other House as well, to do our part as individuals to make sure that if we are going to lay accusations they are based on fact, that there is no exaggeration, no disinformation or misinformation, and that the debate that takes place is one of seriousness, gravity and mutual respect.

If we are going to take the auditor general's word on one, she has proven her qualifications, so we have to take it on all. When she says that there are many examples of good management and good governance on the part of the government, I ask that members recognize that as well.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the member for the Liberal Party very carefully. I appreciate her attempt to put a good face on a very bad situation, but it is hard to accept the statement that in fact the government is beyond reproach.

The member will know that since the last election of November 2000 this place has been consumed with one issue after another that has been the result of some wrongdoing, some inappropriate action, on the part of a number of members on the government benches. This place has had to deal with that. If we do not deal with those issues, we clearly leave the perception with the public that we condone wrongdoing.

The other problem for all of us is that it is part of a bigger issue. The fact is that the arrogance of the government on those issues of wrongdoing pervades everything else. It pervades the whole debate in this place and our ability to ask questions on substantive issues. It leads the government to in fact evade substantive issues in question period, to deride members who ask serious questions and to offer empty platitudes.

Health care is probably the best example we have seen in the last little while. Question after question has been posed to the government, but we get nothing back from the new Minister of Health but accusations of fearmongering. There is no attempt to seriously deal with the questions we are raising.

It is a pervasive attitude that has set in because of arrogance on the part of Liberals who feel they are above and beyond the concerns of Canadians and the concerns raised by members in this place.

I would ask the member if she would not agree that in fact we have to deal with those repeated incidents of allegations of wrongdoing, of evidence of wrongdoing, so that we can in fact get down to the important business that Canadians want us to do.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that I am quite disappointed. One of the points I made was that I called on our members here to try make statements as accurately as possible. I expected at least that from the member who just made some statements and finished with a question.

She said I made the statement that the government was beyond reproach. I never once, in any part of my statement, made such a statement. It is an example of what I attempted to show. It can create false perceptions within the public. If I were not here to correct it, one of my constituents could see a transcript of that member's statement and beat me over the head figuratively and ask me how I could make such a statement. I did not.

Neither did I say that the government has not committed mistakes. The government itself, because of mistakes, which either its own internal audits within the various departments have brought to light or the auditor general's audit have brought to light, has changed processes, procedures, rules and guidelines.

The auditor general herself stated that in follow-ups to her reports and audits that showed problems. An example is Human Resources Development Canada and the grants and contributions program. On her follow-up, the auditor general commended HRDC and the minister responsible for, and let me quote, “improved management of grants and contributions”. She used that as an example of good management, which she cites throughout her report, “but which gets lost in the glare”, and I am using her words, “of publicity that surrounds the bad examples”.

What I ask is that when accusations are made they are based on fact. I ask that members not distort the facts because there is some other objective out there. I honestly believe that if there are reasons why our government has been re-elected three times they are, first, because most Canadians think we are a good government, and second, because the opposition, in my view, has fallen down on its job.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Kitchener Centre Ontario


Karen Redman LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the supply day motion. It is not that most speeches I deliver in the House do not have a lot of passion in them, but this is probably the most personal speech I will ever deliver in the House.

We come as 301 individuals to this place and we are clearly divided by partisan policies and philosophies. I believe that we are basically united in our will to make the nation a better place for all Canadians. We reflect very much the diversity of Canadians in this House through our different religions, ethnicity, careers and life experiences. I know that I serve with doctors, accountants, lawyers and former educators. We even have a member who is currently a member of ACTRA.

We each enter this House with a desire to contribute to public policy as well as to serve the public's best interest. That is true on all sides of the House. Members are elected to serve, not because of their economic credentials, business success or academic achievements. Instead, the majority of the members in the House are here because the people they represent believed that they were the best candidate to represent their interests in this place. Entrusted with the public confidence we are empowered to take a seat in this House and we must earn that trust every day.

On every occasion that my schedule permits, I visit school children and I always tell them that this seat does not belong to me. It belongs to the constituents of Kitchener Centre. This is an incredibly historic place that we have the privilege to serve in. We must earn that trust every day and the government does that.

The eight point plan outlined by the Prime Minister today would build on the significant steps that we have taken since first being elected to earn the trust and confidence of Canadians. The government has been consistent in its efforts to raise the bar on the standards of ethics in government.

We introduced a conflict of interest code for public office holders. We created the post of the ethics counsellor, the first of its kind in a Commonwealth country. We made substantial reforms to the Lobbyists Registration Act, increasing transparency and casting the light of day onto the lobby industry.

We also increased the frequency of the auditor general's report to four reports per year. That is up from one in previous governments. We expanded the role of internal departmental audits to publicly identify and publicly correct administrative errors. The government has never shied away from its convictions that the system can and should be better. When it is necessary we call in the auditor general and examine the systems. If it is warranted, we ask the RCMP to investigate.

I must comment, as many of my Liberal colleagues have, on the courage and the leadership shown by the Minister of Human Resources Development. I admire the courage of her convictions in identifying a problem that existed within the grants and contributions program within her department. It was an internal audit which happens all the time in government departments.

Human Resources Development Canada is a huge department. One in three Canadians is touched by the services of this department. As a result of her dealing upfront and head on with the issues that were identified, she devised a six point plan and brought it forward to the House that remedied that program's shortcomings.

The real work of parliament goes far beyond the sound bites that people catch when they happen to tune in to the 6 o'clock news and listen to question period. Aside from the histrionics and the competition for the sound bite and the elbowing amongst the five parties, this House does a lot of productive work. We do work in committees. We do person to person and government to government outreach in substantive programs around the globe as is fitting of members who represent the government and the people of Canada.

This House is a very historic place. It is representative of the democratic processes which are how we define ourselves as a nation. These processes must transcend any individual, any party or any government. These aspects come and go, but this institution remains the best of Canada.

I cannot help but reflect that recently an Alliance colleague, for whom I have a great deal of respect, admitted that he entered the House, grabbed the Mace and waved it over his head for publicity. It is historic in its inappropriateness of behaviour in the House. I worry about the integrity of this place. I am saddened to see that kind of political opportunism being taken.

Currently there are attacks on a minister and his character. Those attacks denigrate this place, our role as representatives and our communities. The member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell is somebody for whom I have a great deal of respect. He is a fellow graduate of the University of Waterloo which he accomplished while serving in this place.

I happen to be the mother of four children. I finished my education while continuing to be an at home parent. The member accomplished no mean feat when he continued to be dedicated to the public good while personally getting his degree. I am proud to serve with my caucus colleagues.

Politicians from every party need to take responsibility for the way Canadians view our political system. As the Prime Minister told the House in 1994, trust in institutions of government is not a partisan issue, but something all of us elected to public office have an obligation to restore. Ethics, trust and integrity are not partisan issues. They matter to all Canadians. They are essential if we as a parliament want to keep earning the trust of Canadians and ensure their faith in democracy.

I will do something that might be a little bit shocking for those of us who have served on the Hill. I want to speak about the dedication of the bureaucrats who make the business of the House and the business of Canada move forward. I recall my goodbye speech when I was a councillor in the city of Kitchener. I took a moment to reflect on the people who served the public at that level of government. They are often drawn into public service for very much the same reason that we in public life are drawn, because they feel that they can do something that is in the public's best interest.

We are not looking for glory or riches, because truly there are faster and shorter roads to that than serving the public interest. Bureaucrats do their best to work within the system. If the system is not working, it is a political responsibility to rectify that and it is a responsibility that the government takes very seriously.

Canada is known worldwide as a good place to do business. In no small part it is thanks to the trustworthy political system. We do not wrestle in the aisles as in some systems of government. I am confident that the government will continue to take steps to make the Government of Canada open, transparent and characterized by ethics and integrity. However it is something that is the responsibility of all elected members in the House.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with a great deal of attention to the speeches we have just heard from our Liberal colleagues in connection with the motion we are debating today.

I find it shocking that they are trying to use fine words and dulcet tones to show just how purely they are administering this big beautiful country of Canada.

However, if they abandoned their fine words and got down to some fine actions, did things properly, perhaps we would have some credibility with the public, with Canadians and with Quebecers.

It is insulting to be told all that has been done to improve the system. What I am going to say is not, however, demagoguery, but truth. When it comes to a page of advertising that costs 25 or 30 times what it is worth, rather than saying: “Maybe we made a mistake”, maybe they should admit it, correct it and call for an investigation in order to show they are prepared to do more than drone on with fancy speeches.

They talk about the appointment of an ethics counsellor. This is one appointed by the Prime Minister, reporting to the Prime Minister and writing the PM's responses. Is it not high time to stop making Canadians laugh? If we want to take a bit of the tarnish off our image and regain a bit of credibility, would it not be high time for the hon. member to admit that this system is a fake?

To be credible, an ethics counsellor should be answerable to the House and not to the person who appointed him, hired him and asks him to investigate what he wants investigated.

This is why Canadians and Quebecers are starting to be fed up with the way they are being made fools of. Money is being wasted, because when a page of advertising costs 25 times what it should, there might be something else to do than to say “Maybe we made a mistake”. There should be an inquiry. This must stop happening. The money we administer here is not ours, it belongs to all Canadians.

I would ask the hon. member, who has given a very fine speech, if she would not be more in favour of a proper correction of this situation, for instance having the ethics counsellor become a true ethics counsellor, playing a proper role and not answerable solely to the person who hired him, but rather to the House. We are talking of a neutral ethics counsellor, one who would be unbiased in any blame that had to be laid. This is what Canadians want of their government. This is what we are reproached for, when it is said that we lack credibility with the public. We are not credible. I would like to hear the hon. member's reaction to this.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the hon. member opposite was listening closely. I am sorry if I have a soft voice and I am shorter but we come in all shapes and sizes in the House.

I would point out that the eight point plan the Prime Minister tabled today indicates we are taking corrective action. At no point in my speech did I say we were perfect. We should be judged by what we have done. Regarding HRDC, we dealt with it. We called the auditor general in. We reacted to the auditor general's report and we will continue to do so.

That is what will give Canadians confidence, not only in the government but in this place of democracy which represents all of us. The eight point plan would cover off so many of the objections and concerns of the members opposite that I am surprised they are even able to rise and ask questions.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars are being squandered by the government on contracts that were untendered and awarded to its friends, yet the member opposite stood and criticized a CA member for bringing attention to the appalling state of private members' business in this place.

The public is not fooled by diversionary tactics. Two polls, one of them by the government's own Liberal pollster, has shown that a majority of people in the country do not believe that the government is honourable and straightforward. They think it is corrupt and that there are problems with the political system.

Is the member ignoring the results of that poll? Can she not see that the public thinks this place is dysfunctional?

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be the first to admit that I do not believe in governing by polls, however the Alliance colleague opposite wants to misrepresent what I thought was a badly worded poll.

I can think back to an earlier Bloc member who took his chair and walked out of this place because he was objecting to the disparity between the rich and poor in this country. I really tried to make the segue from that action to that issue. I would tell my hon. colleague opposite that I had the same problem with the frustration and the misguided attempt by someone who had otherwise been a credible colleague. This hysterical action had little to do with the fact that he was trying to draw attention to private members' legislation.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Selkirk--Interlake.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to get my name on the Speaker's list for today. As I started thinking about putting a speech together I wondered why I would even do this. It is as upsetting to me as it is to many other members, that we are today having to discuss this topic.

I started thinking about why it was bothering me and I thought back to an analogy from being on the farm. A couple of years ago we had a combine with a very slow hydraulic leak. A high pressure line was leaking. It was spraying a little oil consistently onto the inside and under the covers of the combine. Over the first day or so there was just a little oil but as we went more oil and more dirt attached to it. Eventually the chaff built up. We ended up with a situation where not only was it filthy but it was dangerous.

I could not help but think that we have a situation something like that. With the combine we could not get close to it without getting dirty. It seemed like we did not even have to touch anything and we had chaff and oil all over our clothes and ourselves.

I guess I was thinking that we needed to fix the oil leak on the combine or we could never clean it up. It is the same with the situation we are talking about today and the problems with the government. There is an oil leak that needs to be fixed. It starts off spraying very quietly and gently. It does not seem to be make a big difference but over time it adds up to an awful lot of oil and dirt.

This afternoon the member from Mississauga in particular, but the previous member also, spoke about us having disrespect for the House if we questioned anything that went on here. I would argue that if we are going to see our way through to having a healthy machine, we need to fix the problems we have. We need to fix the leak.

There are a number of things that we need to examine. We can look at some of the examples like the $40 million in unsupervised sponsorship money, the advertising contracts, ministers getting personal favours, quiet deals being made on the side and those kinds of things.

I grew up in western Canada. As a young person John Diefenbaker was one of the main politicians in our area of the world. He was a person of perseverance. It took him many times to get elected to the House and he was very successful with that. He was a popular person. When one talks to a lot of people in Saskatchewan, virtually everyone of them is sure that they met him at some time or another and talked to him. He was very popular. Eventually his career was brought to an end by some of the machinations that happened in Ottawa.

The prime minister who followed him was Mr. Pearson. It was the beginning of a long list of Liberal prime ministers who really had no connection with western Canada. Mr. Pearson always struck me as being someone who was as bland as beige paint but he was certainly followed up by someone who was not, Prime Minister Trudeau. In our part of the world I guess he has always been seen as having charisma but no content at all. It is more obvious as time goes on that his influence still guides the Liberal Party. Today we see that he was the architect in a lot of ways of so much that divides and splits the country. I think he was also the architect of a spirit we see permeating the Liberal Party.

He was the gentleman who came out to western Canada and so casually flipped the bird to people who were daring to question some of the things that he had to say. He came out to western Canada another time and asked western Canadian farmers, when they had absolutely no choice but to go through his mandatory marketing system “Why should I sell your wheat?” People wonder why we had little patience for him.

Once he was done, the PCs came to power and again we saw terrible results. Western Canadians rejected that way of doing business. Now we see this government following up on the PCs. It should know better. It should have been able to prevent the things that have happened because it should have seen what happened with the previous government did and avoided it. However it does not seem to have learned from that.

The main reason people in my part of the world do not support the Liberal Party and this government is because they have seen this wasteful foolishness for years. I found a quote by H.L. Mencken, which is an interesting one because it applies. It is part of the government's philosophy and attitude toward the people of Canada. He said “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard”. This government has an attitude like that toward the people of Canada.

I grew up expecting more from government. When I came here I expected more from the Liberal government. I am disappointed and afraid that it seems to be worse than I thought it would be in terms of attitude, arrogance and corruption.

I have to admit that this is a bit of a puzzle to me also because many of the Liberal members seem to be decent people. It seems there is an ethos or a core philosophy of their party that is rotten. It is like a boat floating with no direction. With no solid principles around it, sooner or later it is bound to crash on the shore and that Liberal boat has just hit that shore.

I do not think it is just western Canadians who want higher standards. Canadians as a whole deserve much better.

This has been an interesting day. I guess I would call it a day of justification rather than a day of apology from the government. I kept track of some of the things that had been said today. This morning the PM referred to the HRDC scandal. His explanation for it was that it had some bad housekeeping, some poor administration and some administrative mistakes. That was as far as he would go in admitting that there was a problem with the billion dollar boondoggle. He also said some mistakes had been made but went on to explain that the government had saved Canada in spite of those mistakes. I guess anyone on this side knows that is just rubbish.

Later a PC member, the member for South Shore, made the good point that the government today is making excuses for the inexcusable.

Apparently the Deputy Prime Minister was trying to take the high road a little earlier today but he still did not seem to get his own facts right. He said he knew the red book spoke of an ethics counsellor. We want to see one answerable to parliament as soon as possible. He was also defending his ability to influence the awarding of sponsorship money.

The most interesting thing I heard was the member for Ottawa Centre said that he thought he heard the Prime Minister take responsibility for the standard of conduct in the government. He said that the PM set the standard for the government. I guess that is one comment we would definitely agree with, particularly after seeing Shawinigate and some of the results of that.

He also claimed that the government was build on integrity, openness and accountability. I wonder if it was he who wrote in his last householder that he had been given $1 million for a project in his urban Ottawa riding to address the issues of homeless aboriginal people. I wonder if he would be open to us perhaps looking at that to see what kind of value we are getting for that money? I am from Saskatchewan and that money probably would be very well spent in a place like Regina or Saskatoon where those issues are a major problem. In his quotes he reminded once again that the emptiest barrel seems to make the most noise.

This government's arrogance is longstanding and it shows up in my constituency. I come from an area of rural people. The government does not seem to know us at all but it always seems to know what is best. It seems it is more of the problem not the solution in my part of the world. This goes back years. For example, in the 1990s the Canadian Wheat Board felt that it needed to take issue with some of the farmers who had been hauling grain to the States. All of a sudden it was a big issue.

I found it interesting that the government brought together the RCMP, the justice department, customs and revenue and Canadian Wheat Board officials just to take on ordinary people. Those who are familiar with the situation will know the names of Desrochers, Sawatsky and McMechan. Their homes were raided and they were locked up in jail. Mr. McMechan spent months in jail and was strip searched for having the gall to actually try to haul his grain to the United States.

There are a number of other areas I could talk about. The helicopter fiasco, for instance, has cost us hundreds of millions of dollars. It already could have been done, if the Prime Minister had just admitted that he was wrong and had let that project go ahead.

To wrap up, we do have some suggestions that would work here. One of them is, as we have heard from other members today, that we need an ethics commissioner immediately and we need that person to be responsible and accountable to parliament. We need immediate standards that are public, set for members of cabinet in particular. The Prime Minister thinks it is important to put standards in place for the members of parliament. That may be okay, but it is not the members of parliament who are abusing their position.

Most of us do not have a lot of authority or ability to influence the public in the awarding of contracts or any of those kinds of things.

The government obviously needs to get a vision for the country. It is getting very old and it needs a vision. We need to deal with the attitude of corruption here.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the debate all day. I listened to my colleague opposite and his predecessors. I would like to address the difference between denigrating and undermining public institutions and healthy criticism. The House is as good an example as any that healthy criticism is necessary all the time, not only for public and private institutions but for us as individuals and for our families. Criticism is necessary and as often as possible it should be constructive.

My colleague and I were elected to run a business which is a billion dollar working day business. A billion dollars of government business has been done on this opposition day in which I am glad to participate. In the department of public works, which is being focused on particularly, a few hundred contracts have been signed today representing some tens of millions of dollars. That is an average day although I do not know about this day specifically.

Given the scale of that, it is very important that we criticize properly, that we find out problems and that we dig out problems. However we do not want at the same time to undermine the validity of the whole institution.

The member mentioned strip searches for the wheat board. He also mentioned the helicopter issue but did that without taking note of the fact that shipborne helicopters are being delivered at the present time. I know there are other helicopters but that is a fact.

His colleagues have asked what is transparency. I view one of the roles of the House as being a window on this great big government system which we are all elected to operate. I would suggest that this is one of the most transparent windows of its type in the world.

For example, this session is being televised. Committees whenever possible are televised. A good example of transparency is that we have numerous opposition days. The opposition picked the topic for today and has had all day on television to deal with it. Our question period is the most open transparent question period in the world. No notice is given. The cabinet and the Prime Minister are here virtually every day and not just for a few minutes.

I ask the member this and I wish he will comment genuinely. Does he truly believe that the government system and the House are corrupt? Does he not accept the fact that we have a transparency in Canada of which we can be very proud?

SupplyGovernment Orders

May 23rd, 2002 / 4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, when I am asked about this job and the fact that I have it, I tell people that it is a privilege. I say, as other people have done today, that there are 301 of us who have the privilege to do this job and to have this position in the country. I am glad that I have that opportunity.

I do not consider the House to be corrupt. However I used this illustration before. If we have an oil leak and it is gradually polluting everything around it. At some point we have to fix that. I would argue that the attitude of the government has become the oil leak that sprays around the inside of the House. At some point we need to repair that leak or it will bring this House into disrepute.

It is not the opposition's problem that we brought these things to the attention of the public. The government needs to respond in ways that will correct that situation and not leave things the same way. The Canadian people perceive that there are problems here because there are problems. Those need to be fixed.

I would suggest that individuals members, such as the one across the way, need to take the initiative within their caucus and within the leadership of that party to say that there are some things that need to change because the Canadian people deserve better. If not, we expect that the Canadian people will choose next time to put a different government in place.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Julian Reed Liberal Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member used a phrase “quiet deals” in his speech, trying to become as extreme as he possibly could. He should stand up and name the quiet deals or withdraw the phrase.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the member wants me to go into this but I would suggest that the issue we have been talking about all day today and in question period would be one of those situations where things were going on behind the scenes which people were not aware of. They never would have been brought into the public's eye unless the opposition had brought them up. We see people getting special favours, spending weekends--