Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today to this motion by the hon. member for Calgary Centre, which I shall read:
That an Order of the House do issue for the production of copies of all reports of the Ethics Counsellor concerning the former Solicitor General.
When ethics are being discussed, one always gets the impression that what is involved happened a rather long time ago. Obviously, however, the former Solicitor General's problems with the Ethics Counsellor and his own ethics are fairly recent events. The former Solicitor General had to resign on October 23, 2002. Last year, that is just under a year ago, we were discussing the problems of the Solicitor General and, obviously the Ethic Counsellor's report.
This is important for those who are listening to us in Quebec and in Canada, because the title of Ethics Counsellor is a rather fancy term for a person whose job it is to see that elected representatives behave properly.
I have had experience with this situation involving the Ethics Counsellor just because I am a product of the 2000 election campaign. I had never been involved in any political organization before, being involved in politics at another level, the municipal level. I announced my candidacy on the day the election was called. I must admit that two weeks prior to that, I myself did not know I was going to run. It was just something that happened. I am happy to represent the people of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, who saw fit to place their trust in me.
The election campaign was tainted with scandal, the Auberge Grand-Mère affair. The Prime Minister of Canada was accused of all manner of wrongdoing, obviously, because he had been involved in decisions concerning an investment in which he had shares, shares he had, or had not, sold. Finally, in mid-campaign, Ethics Counsellor Howard Wilson quite simply declared him not guilty of all the accusations made against him.
As for me, just getting into politics, I figured that if an ethics counsellor declared him not guilty of the accusations people were making, then he was cleared of everything they were trying to pin on him. The public also let the Prime Minister off. They said that in the end, he was cleared by the ethics counsellor.
Once I took my seat as an elected member of this Parliament, then we had the discussions about the ethics counsellor. What is an ethics counsellor? An ethics counsellor, to my great surprise, is a person appointed by the Prime Minister, who reports to the Prime Minister; that person provides documents only to the Prime Minister. Obviously, the grand, sad outcome of the Auberge Grand-Mère scandal was that the Prime Minister was cleared of all accusations by someone he himself had appointed.
That was my introduction to the wonderful workings of Canada's Parliament. During the election campaign it was a big decision, a big announcement. A person no one had ever heard of, the ethics counsellor, had cleared the Prime Minister. For me, as a new candidate, it was important to see this result.
After all that, once I was in the House, I found out that it was, in the end, a person appointed by the Prime Minister, who reported to the Prime Minister and gave documents only to the Prime Minister. I can understand that the hon. member for Calgary Centre wants to get what he is asking for with this motion today, that is, to find out whether this has happened to other politicians in the House, besides the former solicitor general.
I would like to remind you of what happened. I will make it brief. The former solicitor general was the subject of an investigation by the ethics counsellor, Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson began this investigation on October 4, 2002, based on accusations of favouritism directed at the former solicitor general in a matter concerning a $100,000 contract given to a firm in which his official agent had a financial interest.
At the time, the Prime Minister explained that Mr. Wilson had cleared the former solicitor general of any breach of ethics in the matter I just referred to.The Prime Minister added, and I quote:
In the case of a public institution owned by the provincial government, the ethics counsellor said that he should not have intervened.
Furthermore, once he received the report from his ethics counsellor, the Prime Minister said that he had seen the documents and then he made a statement to the effect that no files should have been referred to the ethics counsellor, and that the latter should not even have handled the case.
It is extremely difficult for the public to understand how Parliament can appoint an individual responsible for overseeing the Prime Minister's machinations when this individual reports solely to the Prime Minister and never has to disclose any information to anyone in this House or outside it concerning his reports to his boss.
For that reason, the Bloc Quebecois will support in its entirety the motion introduced by the hon. member for Calgary Centre. The Solicitor General decided of his own accord to step down as minister. The Prime Minister can say all he wants that he did not fire him, the investigation was serious enough for the Solicitor General to decide to hand in his resignation. This is a key point.
The public has never learned the contents of the report, nor have the members of this House, who are however elected by voters to represent them and to try to expose the truth about such machinations. This is probably why many politicians have a bad reputation, because the truth is never exposed.
When it comes time to vote on the motion by the hon. member for Calgary Centre, all the Liberals in the House will probably stand and vote it down. I am pleased that my colleague from the Canadian Alliance asked the House to vote in support of this motion. He can ask, but we are well aware of what the answer will be. The Liberal members will stand and vote against this motion. They do not want the truth to be exposed.
I am certain that no Liberal member knows what is in the report, and none want to know. That is what is sad. This is how they handle things with an ethics counsellor.
However, I know that bills are introduced in this House in an attempt to change the status of the ethics counsellor. This often leads to confusion. When the government senses that things are going poorly, it seems open to the idea of introducing a bill to try to change things so that the public will have a better perception of what it is doing.
However, this is 2003, and the infamous ethics counsellor still has the same authority he did when he was appointed ten years ago. He still reports only to the Prime Minister, is accountable only to the Prime Minister, and never tables any reports in this House. This is 2003.
Perhaps in a year we will have new legislation requiring him to be more transparent to Parliament. I find it absolutely normal for the member for Calgary Centre to put forward a motion in this House, as he did, saying that in the case of the former Solicitor General, the ethics counsellor should, in all transparency, table all the evidence and documents related to this case, before parliamentarians. That is an example of how to be completely transparent.
But I know how things will turn out. We in the Bloc Quebecois will vote in favour of the motion. The Canadian Alliance will likely vote in favour, as will the Conservatives. The Liberals, however, will again decide to conceal from the public what went on in this matter. This is aberrant, but not the first aberration I have seen in this House since I came here in 2000.
I am not going to list all the scandals that have affected the government: sponsorships, HRDC, all the others that have not been clarified. Part of the response to all these is connected with the ethics counsellor problem.
I will give another example of what the Ethics Counsellor can do. He even managed to authorize meetings in the case of the former finance minister, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard. He even allowed that member to meet with the administrators of his company, Canada Steamship Lines, and thus obtain certain information. Each time we ask the member for LaSalle—Émard about his dealings with his company, he tells us that he acted with the approval of the Ethics Counsellor.
Once again, there were discussions, speeches, minutes of meetings and reports, none of which will ever be seen in this House.