Mr. Speaker, I admit that speaking after the member for Matapédia—Matane and also the member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans is a pleasure, but also a challenge. Nevertheless, I shall try to introduce new elements into the context of our consideration of Bill C-55.
As my colleague from the Quebec City region pointed out, the Bloc Quebecois has reason to be somewhat proud of the Liberal's openness toward amendments made to the old bill, Bill C-42, to introduce Bill C-55. It is a new and improved version, thanks in part to the main arguments and concerns raised by the Bloc Quebecois.
The government did follow up on our arguments to provide a better definition of what was and still is called controlled access military zones. This is good. However—and I think this was already eloquently stated earlier, but it bears repeating—we are very worried that it is still the Minister of National Defence alone who will decide on the definition and description of the controlled access military zones.
Imagine for a moment, if the bill were passed as is, the trust that would be placed in the Minister of National Defence, or the good judgment that we would hope he had. Imagine for a moment that the Minister of National Defence was the former minister of defence, the one who just left, and that he had to make a difficult decision. This is the same one who forgot to notify his cabinet colleagues, the Prime Minister and just about everyone that Canadian soldiers had captured prisoners in Afghanistan. Under this bill, we would have had to trust him to designate a controlled access military zone. I believe that this is putting too much faith or giving too much authority to this minister of defence.
What is more, last weekend he demonstrated to us that this faith that we could have, or should have given him would have been completely unwarranted when we learned that he awarded contracts worth $36,000 from his discretionary budget to his ex-girlfriend for a study already underway in the Canadian army.
The minister probably would have consulted the Prime Minister, or the decision might have been made by the Prime Minister.
This is again a matter of judgment or confidence in the Prime Minister. We are once again faced with a problem of judgment or confidence in the Prime Minister, who was himself investigated in the matter of the Auberge Grand-Mère and the golf course, who was also investigated for contracts awarded to Liberal organizer friends in his riding of Saint-Maurice, with Placeteco, and who is again under investigation, directly or indirectly, because of contracts awarded without competitive tendering and against all the criteria established at CIDA. Now he should be trusted to make a decision on a controlled access military zone. I think that even with the Prime Minister, we could not feel safe.
Suppose or imagine that Alfonso Gagliano were the Minister of National Defence. Under Bill C-55, he would have had the power to create a controlled access military zone. Does he deserve our trust or have enough judgment to make such a decision? I am sure that the Prime Minister would answer yes to this question, given that he named him Canadian ambassador to Denmark instead of the second in command in the Paris embassy. Still, Mr. Gagliano is the one who awarded Groupaction, among others, tens of millions of dollars in contracts. We all know that Groupaction is also under criminal investigation for having obtained money from the government under three contracts that produced in fact three copies of a single report. If Alfonso Gagliano had been the Minister of National Defence at that time, one could have wondered.
Just think for a minute that under Bill C-55 as it stands, the Minister of National Defence could have been the former ex and now new government House leader who was also very briefly the minister of public works. Trust would have been put in the former new government House leader, who would have been told “You do have the authority to designate a controlled military access zone”.
However, let us not forget that this is the same minister who enjoyed the hospitality of the president of Groupe Everest in violation of the code of ethics.
How could such power be conferred upon the former and current House leader when he does not even have enough common sense to know that he was violating the code of ethics and the most elementary rules of a public works minister with a huge budget, into which he was shamelessly dipping to reward his friends?
He is also the one who awarded contracts to Coffin Communication. This is worse than what we saw with Groupaction, since Coffin Communication was paid for reports that do not exist. At least, Groupaction made photocopies of a report, which shows that it had a minimum of decency.
However, Coffin Communication, a company without any employees, believe or not, received government contracts, never produced any report, and the whole thing was approved by the government and by the minister of public works.
If he were the minister of defence, knowing the powers associated with that office, I think that he would not deserve our trust because he would not have enough judgment to make these decisions.
However, concerning Bill C-55 as proposed, let us suppose that the position of minister of defence is held by the current minister of immigration. He could designate a controlled access military zone one day, forget that he did by the next day, and then come back the day after that and say “Yes, it is true, I did make such designation”.
The minister of immigration is also the minister of amnesia. When we put questions to him, he does not remember anything. If he had spent only one night at Claude Boulay's, it is conceivable that he might have forgotten about it. But if a person spends six weeks somewhere, he should remember it. We may forget about a period of ten or fifteen minutes. But if we forget about a six week period, we should seek medical attention, and this is very relevant.
If the minister were the Minister of National Defence, could we put our trust in him or believe that he has enough judgment to make a decision? To ask the question is to answer it.
There are others in this government who can fulfill the duties of Minister of National Defence. Let us suppose that it is the solicitor general. Would the current solicitor general deserve our trust to hold a power as important as that of designating controlled access military zones?
I should point out that it is this same solicitor general who made representations to people in his own department to further the cause of his brother in his region.
Would the solicitor general deserve our trust? Does he have enough judgment to alleviate our main concern about Bill C-55, which has to do with the designation of a military zone? Again, to ask the question is to answer it.
Suppose the Prime Minister makes changes and says that none of these ministers will be involved. Upon hearing him announce that the Minister of Justice will be the Minister of National Defence, we would have to ask ourselves if he is worthy of the trust that is required to hold this important power.
He just made an admission very candidly, because he is lacking visibility. He said “This is no fun for me. My colleague, the minister of immigration, is always making headlines these days. My other friend, the House leader, is also making headlines these days, but not me”. So, he made an admission to journalists, who did not have to look for long. He said “Do not bother searching. I accepted fishing trips from Groupe Everest. I went on these fishing trips. I went to the Moisie River. I travelled to Sept-Îles, and it was pleasant”.
Would he deserve the trust that is required under this bill to hold such an important power? To ask the question is to answer it.
However, if the Prime Minister ignored all this and appointed the first woman defence minister, namely the current Minister of Human Resources Development, would she deserve our trust and have the judgment required to hold the important power of designating a military zone?
Let us recall that there were 17 investigations into this minister's department because of a scandal of almost $1 billion. Indeed, she was making up new terms in the Employment Insurance Act in order to find pockets of poverty in her riding. Such pockets of poverty did not exist in ridings with an unemployment rate of 14%, whereas the unemployment rate in her riding was only 8%. Yet there were pockets of poverty. Even the Tories, at that time, did not find it very amusing, I would remind the House.
However, what if the Prime Minister chose none of these ministers, but the heritage minister instead. That would be even worse. She has handed out flags to everybody. She has given $2 millions to her friend, Robert-Guy Scully, something under investigation by the RCMP.
I know that the my time is almost up. However, if the transport minister, who had to resign when he was defence minister because he had tried to shut down the Somalia inquiry, had had this power, would he have deserved our confidence?
I think we have every reason to wonder about the appropriateness of giving the minister this kind of power.
I could talk about the former solicitor general, who said certain things on a plane. I could talk about Michel Dupuy, the former heritage minister. I could talk about all the other ministers who have been caught up in conflicts.
I think I have shown pretty well why we are so reluctant to support the bill as it stands now.