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.
Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I stand in this place to speak to this topic. It is a great Canadian tragedy that a government that promised so much has delivered so little to so few, unless the deliveries were to friends and cronies, and then too much was delivered.
Yes, we remember only too well the words of the Liberal Party leader in 1990. He said, and I quote from the February 2 edition of the Ottawa Citizen , “I am not interested in patronage because I am a Liberal”. Those words haunt us today. Well they haunt him more than they haunt us but we should all remember them.
Let us look at this spotless record since 1993. Since assuming office the Prime Minister has sent more grateful Liberals to the Senate than Canadians thought existed. When the Senate was full, he outdid the previous prime minister by appointing them to every public post he could unearth or create. Membership always has had and still has its rewards.
The Prime Minister has established a patronage record of which all Liberals can be proud, a record unlikely to be surpassed by any prime minister in this millennium.
Let us go back to May 3, 1976, and Maclean's magazine. When a constituent was awarded a road construction contract over a lower bidder from outside Saint-Maurice, the then Liberal cabinet minister, now Prime Minister, said “In all honesty, I can say I would prefer that the contract go to a fellow in my own riding”.
What do you say, Mr. Speaker, after you say you are not sorry?
Why should he express regret? He has filled so many Liberal hearts with joy and their pockets with dollars that only a bitter individual would not be filled with self-satisfaction. If we think about how Santa Claus feels once a year, we get an idea of how the Prime Minister feels every day of the year.
When the RCMP investigate grants, including many in the Prime Minister's riding, he told the Montreal Gazette on March 16, 2000, “It is not allegations of big fraud here”.
There is big fraud and there is little fraud and no prime minister has time to waste on the small stuff as evidenced by those words.
To put this another way, the Prime Minister was assuring us that he never sweats the small stuff.
Let us move quickly to the present after establishing the Prime Minister's credentials on this subject. I repeat that it pains my heart to have to stand in this place to talk about this cornucopia of corruption. I am sure Canadians regret as much as the Prime Minister that his government is incompetent even when it comes to corruption but they certainly are skillful when it comes to cover-up.
Let us talk about the recent past. Groupaction Marketing, Groupe Everest and Lafleur Communications Marketing are three Montreal firms that have thrown close to one-quarter of a million dollars at the Liberal Party since 1997. They beat out six other firms for big, fat, juicy government contracts. How much did the other six give the Liberals? Only about a quarter of that amount. Those firms did not know the Liberal number one rule of business: “You have to give it to us if you want to get it from us”.
How much did these successful firms get in government business? They received $158 million in government contracts. It was a terrific return on a $250,000 investment in the Liberal Party.
Groupaction, a corporate love child of the Liberals, received $550,000 from public works in early 1999 for an advisory report on government sponsorship opportunities which vanished into thin air. Segments of it were found, according to Groupaction, and these segments were turned over. However there are suspicions that the contents were nearly identical to the contents of another Groupaction report commissioned in late 1999 for $575,000. We are curious. Is that an environmentally friendly approach to pork-barrelling? Do the Liberals now simply tell their contractors to recycle the previous paperwork?
Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, I got so excited I threw my notes on the floor, but they did not disappear and we did not pay $575,000 for them.
Now there is the present ambassador to Denmark, the jolly Mr. Gagliano. Why would he not be jolly? He did what the Prime Minister wanted him to do. What was that? The Prime Minister has said that it had to do with saving the country. Following that Herculean task, Mr. Gagliano was given Denmark as his reward, either that or it was a safe haven.
Former public works minister Gagliano however was accused of meddling in the affairs of Canada Lands Company, a federal agency that supposedly reports to parliament.
Jon Grant, the former chairman of the company, bravely stepped forward with several allegations, including that the minister insisted Canada Lands hire one of his friends and key political organizers. Mr. Grant said he was told everything outside Quebec was the responsibility of Canada Lands but anything inside Quebec was the domain of the minister. It sounds like an old song. The minister pointed at a map of Canada and sang, “This part belongs to Daddy”.
The Prime Minister is no stranger to political lobbying. He admitted he called the president of the Business Development Bank of Canada whose job existed at the Prime Minister's pleasure. The phone call was about loans to a former business associate of the Prime Minister, loans that did not meet the normal policy or criteria of the bank. The loan was granted after the Prime Minister applied sufficient pressure. The former president of the bank has testified under oath that when he wanted to call in the bad loan he was suddenly out of work.
I hear the Prime Minister saying that is not true. We have a man who has sworn under oath that this is what happened. Who lowered the boom? Perhaps when he rises to speak the Prime Minister might want to enlighten us on that.
I am reminded of the words of Shakespeare, and I know William would not mind if I paraphrase, “The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with stories about their loans”, or words to that effect.
Who can forget the grants? The auditor general has confirmed that the Prime Minister announced a $600,000 grant in his riding just prior to the 1997 election that had not been approved by the department. This is the auditor general saying that the Prime Minister got the grant without having it approved by the department. That business has since gone bankrupt, much like all those promises of integrity and honesty and how the Liberals would govern.
Then there was the grant to Auberge Grand-Mère, a hotel beside a golf course in which the Prime Minister held an interest, contrary to HRDC guidelines. An e-mail from a government employee explained that the Prime Minister had already promised it and added, “I would like to give another answer, but I have no choice”. I wonder where he is today, possibly Baffin Island.
It pains us on this side of the House to have to review this long list of government incompetence and waste and ethically challenged decisions. It pains Canadians too, obviously, because 70% of them think that the government is corrupt. How very painful that must be for Canadians that when they hear the word Liberal, the first word that comes to mind is corruption.
We cannot forget the $25,000 the finance minister returned. What Canadians are unable to grasp is the logic in this. If there was nothing wrong in accepting the $25,000, why did the finance minister send it back? Was $25,000 too trifling an amount? How much money is being sent to other leadership hopefuls by firms doing business with their departments or any other departments of government?
All the work we have done on access to information trying to find out the conversations between the Minister of Finance and the ethics counsellor has come back saying that there is nothing recorded, just conversations I guess.
The sponsorship programs are another fiscal nightmare. Who knows how many millions have been spent sponsoring how many events in how many locations in Quebec? We do not have the answers, but we do know, and the Prime Minister should admit it, that all of that money was shovelled out in the electoral interest of the Liberal Party or as payback to good old friends of the good old Liberal Party.
We were fascinated to learn that the Canadian sportsmen's shows, in existence for over 40 years, did not get a single penny from the government, although they staged shows in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Quebec and Montreal. Yet in Montreal, Le Salon National du Grand Air got according to one media report $1.3 million. That show is run by Groupe Polygone. Who once worked for Groupe Polygone? The present minister of immigration who is also the senior pork barrel minister for Quebec. Why did the older, bigger and more established show get nothing? It was not told there was sponsorship money available. Why was it not told? Only a cynic would suggest it was because it never contributed to the Liberal Party.