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House of Commons Hansard #197 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-15b.

Topics

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I never believed that he could be the messenger.

The letter that I sent to him on Sunday afternoon reflects the discussions that we had, he himself, people in my office and myself, during the previous 48 hours.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, by downplaying the numerous scandals in which his ministers are involved, by acting as he is doing with the Minister of Finance and by answering us the way he is doing in the House of Commons, is the Prime Minister not showing that he is a head of government with few scruples?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I have been the head of this government for nine years and all of us on this side of the House are proud of its performance.

On Friday, the newspapers mentioned that economic indicators for the first quarter of this financial year show a 6% growth in Canada.

Government of CanadaOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister will be aware that there are a number of votes on Thursday night. These are supply votes. They are confidence votes by their very nature.

Could the Prime Minister tell the House whether, should the government lose any such votes on Thursday, he will respect the obvious and ask the Governor General to ask some other Liberal to form a government, one that enjoys the support of the Liberal caucus and therefore, in the present context, of parliament.

Government of CanadaOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, that is purely a hypothetical question and nobody wants to have an election at this time.

Government of CanadaOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

That is precisely my point, Mr. Speaker. There would not be a need for an election in that context if the Prime Minister was willing to respect the judgment of his caucus should it be that judgment.

Given that the Prime Minister has answered the question, could he tell the House whether he will be reversing many of the damaging policies inflicted on the country by the member for LaSalle—Émard with respect to cuts in health care, housing, EI and all the other things that have been done to Canada by the former finance minister?

Government of CanadaOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, if the opposition party wants to dare us and wants to have a campaign arguing against the minister of finance, who quit on Sunday afternoon, and the policy of our government with this minister, we will never be afraid to face the NDP across the land.

Member for LaSalle--ÉmardOral Question Period

June 3rd, 2002 / 2:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

The Prime Minister should quit saying that, Mr. Speaker.

The former minister of finance did not submit a letter of resignation. He refused to sign a joint letter drafted by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said: “We mutually agreed he was to leave”, yet the former minister of finance said he learned about the cabinet shuffle on the radio.

Why does the Prime Minister not just admit that he fired the former minister of finance and tell this House of Commons and the Canadian public why?

Member for LaSalle--ÉmardOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, after the letter had been read and some lines in it corrected by the former minister of finance, he knew that he was not the minister of finance any more. No, I did not tell him that I would have a ceremony right after that because it was irrelevant. He was no longer the minister of finance. I had already talked with the Deputy Prime Minister, who will be, as his predecessor, an excellent Minister of Finance.

Member for LaSalle--ÉmardOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government is too preoccupied with its internal strife to govern. Yesterday, in his own special way, the Prime Minister dismissed his former Minister of Finance.

Did the Prime Minister ask the ministers of finance, industry, Canadian heritage, health, human resources development and justice personally and directly to stop their campaigns? Did the Prime Minister receive assurances from these ministers that their campaigns were indeed shut down?

Member for LaSalle--ÉmardOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I asked all members of cabinet who legitimately want to become Prime Minister one day to stop campaigning at this time for various reasons and to focus strictly on government business.

Everyone fully understood. At this time, everyone has accepted this decision, including the former Miniser of Finance.

Member for LaSalle--ÉmardOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have to wonder if the government would not be on a more even keel if the Prime Minister had accepted that invitation and gone to Kabul himself on Saturday night.

The words quit and fired have been used. The Prime Minister just used the word quit. The former minister of finance said that he heard about his dismissal listening to CBC radio while driving his car from Montreal back to Ottawa.

Will the Prime Minister tell Canadians this because they have a right to know. Was the former minister of finance fired or did he quit?

Member for LaSalle--ÉmardOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I wrote a letter to the member for LaSalle--Émard on Sunday afternoon. This letter was read to him Sunday afternoon. A couple of hours later we had a new Minister of Finance. The facts are clear. The letter is on the record.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, when we look across the aisle at the other side, we are reminded of the Glen Clark government in British Columbia: aloof, arrogant, indifferent and chaotic. The Prime Minister's choices have put the government in chaos.

The Prime Minister said in Winnipeg that it was okay that millions and millions may have been stolen through an advertising and sponsorship program.

If the Prime Minister is willing to fire his finance minister for “matters unrelated to government”, why is he not fired up about this theft of tax dollars from his government?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, at the request of the opposition, we have asked the auditor general to look at these files. The auditor general referred some cases and the department referred some cases to the police for inquiries. If money was taken and a crime was committed, they will have to face the system of justice in Canada.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has candidly admitted that a few millions may have been stolen here and there in the course of the sponsorship program. His reaction was to remove from cabinet the person he believes to be an informer.

Does not such unacceptable behaviour on the part of the Prime Minister only make a public inquiry even more essential so that we can finally get to the bottom of the misappropriation of funds represented by the sponsorship program?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, let us be very clear, a departmental review of the sponsorship program is underway. There is an examination government-wide by the auditor general. There are police references if and when that is required.

Where there are administrative problems, they will be corrected. Where there are overpayments, they will be recovered. Where offences have been committed, they will be investigated and prosecuted.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the minister responsible for enforcing the law, the Minister of Justice himself, says that the hypocrisy must stop and tries to explain after the fact that it is normal for ministers to be directly involved in granting contracts to cronies, is this not a sign that the problem is widespread in the Prime Minister's cabinet and that a public inquiry is needed, and fast, to clean up this whole mess?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the most ironic of all is that the minister of public works decided to suspend the sponsorship program for a while.

Only a few days ago, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois wrote the minister of public works to recommend sponsorships, probably for some of his friends.

National RevenueOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have learned that one of the reasons for the falling out between the Prime Minister and the finance minister was what to do about the $3.3 billion the government has overpaid to the provinces. Against the finance minister's advice, it seems that the Prime Minister wants all the money back and he wants it now.

Will the Prime Minister tell Canadians if he is asking their provincial governments to cut spending on hospitals, schools and policing in order to pay back his government's $3.3 billion mistake?

National RevenueOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan LiberalMinister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, we have been very clear. The issue was identified. We called the provincial auditors together. The provincial ministers and so forth are working with them to ensure that we have all the information and that an appropriate solution is found.

National RevenueOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the Prime Minister will confiscate his competitors' campaign accounts to pay back some of this debt.

We have learned that the previous finance minister wanted to offset any repayments from the provinces with increases in health transfers.

How does the government expect provinces to pay back this $3.3 billion that the government has lost? Do they want the provinces to mail back the hospitals and schools they have built brick by brick?

National RevenueOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member will recognize that where there is an overpayment it is normal not just for the federal government but also for provincial governments, whether it is workers' compensation, welfare or other payments, to usually endeavour to recollect it.

No decisions on this have been taken. The auditor general is reviewing some of the years in question and when her reports are ready, we will review them very carefully.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister fired his Minister of Finance, explaining that he was not doing so for administrative reasons. Everyone knows perfectly well that it was because his leadership was being challenged.

How can the Prime Minister justify being so much more tolerant of those involved in the theft of millions of dollars, which was how he described it, in the sponsorship programs than of those who challenge his leadership?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I never said that ministers or members of the House were involved in the theft of money. I said that if money was stolen, those who stole it would be prosecuted.

This is very clear. The Minister of Public Works and Government Services suspended the sponsorship program. Together with the auditor general, public works has immediately referred any questionable cases to the RCMP for any necessary investigations.