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House of Commons Hansard #132 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was municipalities.

Topics

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I will be brief, obviously of necessity, which of course is my usual pattern anyway.

I would like to emphasize that I support this motion. It is atrocious that the government is wasting billions of dollars on unaccounted for programs such as the gun registry, the billion dollar boondoggle in HRDC, and the millions of dollars that are spent in advertising in Quebec. It takes all of this money from Canadian taxpayers, including money collected on gasoline, and pays back such a paltry amount to maintain our roads.

I look around at the different roads in this country that I have travelled on and almost universally they are terribly substandard compared to those in the United States. As a matter of fact, whenever I go down there it usually takes me about a month or so to adjust back to the poor road design and construction in Canada. It is time that we put some real money into that because with a country as vast as ours, it is obviously very important that we have good transportation systems.

With the railroads in this country increasingly being cut back, more of our goods and services are being hauled by trucks on our highways. We had better have good roads. They had better be in good shape not only for the efficient movement of our goods and services, but also for safety.

I would like to point out again a couple of my hobby horses. The 1.5¢ per litre tax that the government imposed to reduce the deficit is redundant because the deficit is gone. We thank the Liberal government for taking our advice over the last 10 years and eliminating the deficit. That tax was brought in as a deficit reduction measure and the tax is still here. It ought to be gone because that was the justification for it at that time.

Of course, as a mathematician I must always add that with the 7% sales tax on top of that, it is not 1.5¢ a litre. It is really $1.605¢ per litre that the government is taking from us. It is taking billions of dollars, year after year, and not returning to the provinces the money that they so desperately need to provide for a high grade, up to date, and modern road system.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 5:26 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the business of supply are deemed put, a recorded division is deemed demanded and deferred to the end of the period provided for government orders on Tuesday, October 7, 2003.

Is there agreement to see the clock as 5:30 p.m.?

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from May 16 consideration of the motion.

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I would love to keep talking about taxes, but I am also honoured to be able to expose the foibles of the government when it comes to matters of ethics. I think it should go without saying that this particular motion must be supported by all members of the House.

The motion we are dealing with was presented by the member for Calgary Centre. It is a motion for what is called the production of papers, hence the label of the motion is P-15.

The production of papers, for those who may not understand it, is for the basic purpose of providing information to the member of Parliament requesting it in the motion, and thereby to the public, on something that has happened behind closed doors.

I am sure the member for Calgary Centre has more experience in the House than I probably ever will have. He knows all the rules and he knows about all the things that happen here, so I am a little reluctant to give him this caution, but I will: “Be careful what you ask for, because if you get it, it may not be that useful”.

I speak from experience. The one time that I did get the possibility of having a motion debated was on a production of papers motion that I put myself, at the time when we were talking about the Royal Canadian Mint and its decision to open a coin plating plant in Manitoba. It just so happened that the Mint rejected all my pleas for information so we finally brought that motion into the House and it was carried here.

Lo and behold, the people then came into my office with literal pallet loads of paper. When I checked through them, which I did at some length, I saw that a lot of it was just repeats of memos that were sent. In other words, I was given a copy of a memo that had been sent to someone who had copies of previous memos, so I got the same memo probably 50 or 80 times. It was a huge volume of paper. It took us an awful lot of time to go through it. The amount of information divulged actually was not that great in the end, but it took so much time to wade through it.

Therefore, if the right hon. member for Calgary Centre is actually going to get this motion passed, and I presume he will, because I think the government should be embarrassed to vote against something like this, then he should also be ready to have his staff and maybe he himself go to work for some period of time to read all the paper that will come in the paper blizzard.

This particular issue has to do with the resignation of the then solicitor general. I do not remember the name of his riding, but he was the solicitor general way back then and he was forced to resign. The thing that was so interesting about it was that on his resignation he did not admit he was at fault. He merely said that on meeting with the ethics counsellor, the ethics counsellor had some reservations about some of the things that had happened so he then had to resign because that was the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Let us remember that our ethics counsellor reports to the Prime Minister.

We could go into a real sidebar here and talk about an independent ethics counsellor or independent ethics commissioner, something which the government is proposing to provide to the Canadian people, but which unfortunately, in matters dealing with ministers, is still going to be exactly the same as before. The whole modus operandi is fairly well identical, with a few minor changes.

So that is not going to be the answer to the problem, but however, in this particular instance there is an interesting dilemma because the former solicitor general never did admit that he was guilty. He never did admit that he had done the things with which he was charged, but we the Canadian people, we the parliamentarians, were never privy to what it was that he had done wrong. What did the counsellor find? What were the grounds?

I think the fact that the solicitor general basically denied guilt would have him now eager to bring all this to light. I know I would be. If the ethics counsellor had decided on an issue with respect to me and I was totally convinced that I was not guilty as charged, I think I would want to have all the information made public so the public could judge for themselves. That is one of the reasons why we have public courts, public hearings and the independent hearings at various levels in the judiciary. These things are public so that people can see what the facts are and draw their own conclusions.

If I were that minister, or that ex-minister, I would welcome this debate. I would welcome the exposure of truth. I would welcome the divulging of all the information from the ethics counsellor on this particular file, because if he is in fact innocent this will show the people of Canada that he is in fact innocent. If he is not innocent but guilty, then we as parliamentarians and Canadians still have the right to know the truth of the matter.

I believe that this motion brought forward by our colleague from Calgary Centre is therefore a very important motion. It is one which I would urge all members to support. Of course I have a difficult task right now because I am persuading members to vote for it who may not right now be hearing me. It is possible that all those members on the other side who have it in their power to decide whether this motion shall pass or fail may not be persuaded by my words since they may not have heard them.

I urge them right now to sit up and listen and take note, because it is very, very important that this motion be carried. I am trying to persuade them now to vote in that way. I also presume that after this little challenge the word will get out, all of them will eagerly look at Hansard , read this speech and the others that have been made, and hopefully they will hear the arguments and make a wise decision.

It is not a good policy to do government business behind closed doors. I know that some of it has to be for matters of national security, and sometimes there are matters of privacy, but when one is a cabinet minister doing government business, I think the general rule, the general principle, should be as much as possible that all of the business is done in a transparent fashion and is open, accessible, and available to parliamentarians, to Canadians and to journalists so that the facts of the matter can be fairly reported.

Of course that is also a great responsibility for us as parliamentarians: to keep pushing and pushing for openness and transparency in all areas. Because if we can get it in areas like this, then hopefully we will eventually change the culture of secrecy and the culture of confidentiality this government has undertaken in order to protect itself.

I know it is not the object of this motion, but I sure would like to see the negotiations that went on with the former minister of public works and government services. I would like to see the communications, copies of notes, phone calls, e-mails, and the letters and faxes between the Prime Minister and that member which led to that member's resignation, not only from cabinet but indeed even from Parliament. And to see him actually extradited to a different country to me is a tacit admission of guilt, and I believe that Canadian taxpayers, Canadian voters, have every right in the world to be aware of the facts in cases like that.

That is the only way. If all of us knew that what we do, what we write and the decisions we make would one day be made public, even if not that same week but maybe at the end of our term of office, it might just tip the balance on making a proper ethical decision rather than an unethical one, just because of the fact that the accountability factor is a very important one.

Therefore, I would urge all members of the House to vote in favour of Motion No. P-15. Let us have those papers produced. Let us expose the truth. No one should ever be afraid of the truth. Let us do this. Let us support it. I hear the hon. members over saying, “Quit talking already; we are already convinced”, so I will do that.

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

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.

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to the motion by the right hon. member for Calgary Centre that was originally introduced in October of 2000. For the benefit of the people who are not aware of what this debate is about, the motion reads:

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.

I find it rather ironic, however, that twice now since this House has resumed sitting I have been called to speak in this place on issues of ethics relating to the terrible record of the current government on and with respect to ethics. It seems no matter how fast the government attempts to force through a highly debatable ethics bill, one incident after another continues to stain and tarnish the old reputation of the current Liberal regime.

A comparison could be made to that carny game or midway game where one tries to hit fake groundhogs with a hammer faster than they can pop up, except in this case the hammer is poor government legislation and the groundhogs are ethical disasters.

This government has faced a long list of debacles and ethical blunders that has caused the resignation of four members of the Crown and, in addition, some questions regarding ethical conduct remain unanswered.

Prime minister number one faces unresolved questions regarding the now infamous Shawinigate affair. Prime minister number two faces unresolved questions regarding his blind trust over a multi-million dollar shipping empire, a blind trust that allowed several sneak peeks through venetian blinds when the million dollar deals were on the table, kind of like having a chance to look at one's own quarterly reports.

Most recently a long list of government overspending on travel and hospitality expenses has made it clear that the former privacy commissioner was not alone in his zest for fancy meals and exotic trips.

The motion I am discussing today relates to one particular ethical groundhog that the Liberals keep wishing will just go away. This is the case, obviously, of the former solicitor general.

The motion refers to the finding of the ethics counsellor that the former solicitor general was innocent of any wrongdoing shortly before the member resigned from cabinet. The obvious question that has yet to be answered is this. If the member had done nothing wrong, why would he be forced to resign? There is a real paradox here to which somehow or another I am not quite seeing the answer.

In a court of law it would be unheard of for a man or a woman to stand accused of a crime where the evidence was hidden from the jury and for the judge to proclaim him innocent before sending him to prison anyway. The former solicitor general stands accused, yet the evidence is hidden from the jury of the Canadian public. The ethics counsellor has proclaimed him innocent, yet he was sent to the backbenches of the Liberal Party as punishment.

By comparison, if both prime minister number one and prime minister number two were as innocent as the former solicitor general, then the precedent would be they would resign as well. I realize that does not seem logical, but following the logic that the government has already put into place, that is exactly what would happen.

For those who do not recall the main incident in question today, a brief refresher course might be in order.

In the fall of 2002 it was revealed that the member for Cardigan, Prince Edward Island had been involved in the granting of several contracts that benefited his friends, his supporters and his family. These contracts were awarded to the member's brother, to the president of the P.E.I. Liberal Association and to his personal friend and official agent, Everett Roche. It was obvious that these contracts were not remotely in the spirit of the conflict of interest guidelines as, while they did not benefit the member directly, they did benefit his friends and family. The member in question, despite the evidence, continued to believe that he was serving the interests of his riding rather than conducting a blatant act of political patronage.

Prime minister number one's loyal ethics counsellor has assured us that the former solicitor general did nothing wrong, but refuses to produce the evidence that proves that he did nothing wrong. If the government has not earned the trust of Canadians on ethical issues, why should the people believe the ethics counsellor?

A man who is required only to report to the Prime Minister presents an opportunity for the government to round up all the loose ethical groundhogs and hide them behind the barn on Sussex Drive. Given this record of covering up ethical debacles, it is no surprise that the stonewall of silence has yet again been lowered to defend against the right hon. member's motion for the production of papers. If there is nothing to hide, produce the papers.

But wait, what is this? The government has introduced a new ethics bill that will make the ethics commissioner more accountable to Parliament. The proposed ethics commissioner will have powers to investigate ethical issues, analyze facts and draw conclusions. That information will be released to the prime minister, to the person making the complaint and to the minister under investigation.

Canadians should note, however, that although the bill calls for information to be released simultaneously to the public, the commissioner will also provide the prime minister with confidential information that will not be included in the public report. In other words, the government is reserving the right to edit the public record and hold back any damaging or unethical findings.

To resort once again to my groundhog analogy, and we would call them woodchucks usually in the east coast, the government wants to reserve the right to hide the evil and malicious groundhogs out behind the barn and let the nice, cute innocent ones hop around in the House of Commons. Rural Canadians know how to look after groundhogs.

That being said, those members who have broken the code of ethics should not be protected if they are guilty of crimes of which they stand accused. Further, the electorate needs to know if its representative has broken its trust.

Therefore the Progressive Conservative Party is pleased that after many years of deplorable ethical conduct, prime minister number one's last gift to Canada is to impose a stricter code of conduct on his successor.

Canadians will wonder however whether the timing of the bill is for the good of the country or is it one last joke at the expense of prime minister number two? Perhaps so. It is the hope of the Progressive Conservatives that it will not be lame duck legislation and that it will be a first step in leading to improved ethical standards and parliamentary reform in Canada.

With respect to the motion in question today, the Liberals will likely hide once again behind Beauchesne's citation 446 as an excuse not to disclose information citing papers that may reflect negatively on the personal competence or character of an individual or papers that should remain within cabinet confidence should be hidden from the public. The Liberals have pulled the manoeuvre consistently since October 2002, citing that protection of an ethical groundhog's personal character is more important than the fact that they are eating every crop in sight.

Having said that, Beauchesne's citation 446 also cites that in 1973 the Liberal government tabled in the House of Commons its views on the principles and exemptions governing motions for the production of papers. The House of Commons never accepted these principles and exemptions, which is kind of remarkable actually, outlined in Beauchesne's and the House has never agreed to the government's self-preserving restrictions and has always reserved the right to call for the production of any necessary documentation, as it should.

Therefore, I would urge the government to stop hiding its ethical disasters and instead deal with them in a manner that is open, forthright and final. A good place for the government to start addressing these ethical questions would be to produce the papers of the ethics counsellor regarding the member for Cardigan, the former solicitor general.

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, let me remind the House what it is we are voting on:

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.

A former Prime Minister of Canada, a privy councillor, and a senior one at that, is asking for documents taken under oath of confidentiality to be made public. He is asking the present government, the present Prime Minister of Canada, having accepted under secrecy from one of his ministers, personal information, confidential information about himself, perhaps his personal assets, perhaps everything involving family matters, and anything else, to be made public on the floor of the House of Commons. That is what the motion says.

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

That is right.

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

The hon. member across the way says that is right. We will soon have a code of conduct for MPs, and I will see whether the hon. member from across the way feels the same. We voted on the bill last night and members across the way voted against it. We will see whether the hon. member would want his own personal, private information given under sworn secrecy to be made public against an oath previously made. The right hon. the former Prime Minister of Canada is asking members of the House to do something like that.

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Is national security addressed?

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

The hon. member across the way, who usually has an opinion about just about anything whether he knows anything about it or not is asking what the person may have to hide. Can I suggest to the hon. member that it is none of his business. If any hon. member of the House has personal liabilities, a mortgage, personal difficulties of another kind that he or she might have discussed with the ethics counsellor, they are not matters for the public record. Does the hon. member reveal to us what he says in a confessional? That is the secular equivalent of what is being asked on the floor of the House of Commons.

What kind of nonsense is this? If it was coming from an hon. member who did not know better, we would half excuse it, but it is coming from the right hon. the former Prime Minister of Canada. In his dying days politically in this Parliament, is that what the right hon. the former Prime Minister of Canada, the member for Calgary Centre, has to say to all of us in the House? Is this prime ministerial for someone who, for a very brief period of time best qualified as gestational, was in office for some nine months, some 20 something years ago, and returns to the House after having gone all over the country and taken almost a year to take his seat? The last thing he can do in the House before leaving is to say to another hon. member that because he is no longer in cabinet the oath of secrecy, the undertaking that was made to someone to reveal private information and anything like that, does not count because he thinks that individual should show the information to the Canadian public and the House of Commons should vote on it.

I cannot use in a parliamentary sense the words that come to mind to describe what I am thinking. I can say to hon. members across the way that the day may come when they would not want that kind of situation inflicted on themselves. Perhaps they should not try to inflict it on others.

I must say that I listened to the last speech from the Conservative member who talked of the code in the future and those things that we are undertaking to do in order to improve this House of Commons that we love so dearly, and that is fine. But that is not the same as breaching undertakings in the past and asking a member of this House to--

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The minister unfortunately has run out of time.

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, on a point of order, it is my understanding that the right hon. member for Calgary Centre would have had five minutes to wrap up. It is also my understanding that in order for me to speak on his behalf I need the unanimous consent of the House and I would ask for that.

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed?

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member for South Shore has five minutes.

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I thank the members present for allowing me this five minutes. It is very much appreciated. I intend to take at least as many of those minutes as I can.

I have to appreciate the debate from the Liberal House leader and the passion which he brought to it. I also understand the politics behind it. I also understand his ability in the House of Commons and I applaud that.

Fancy speeches aside, that is not what this is about. This is not at all some sort of witch hunt on parliamentarians to get information that is totally deleterious to the debate. It is not about hanging someone's soiled linen on the clothesline for the world to see. That is not what we are discussing here.

We are discussing information that has been hidden from the Canadian public that is not accessible from a minister of the crown. A minister of the crown is not a regular MP. A minister is not a backbencher in the opposition or in the government. It is a minister of the crown, someone who is a privy councillor. The person has a greater responsibility, a greater public trust, than other members of Parliament.

The individual was forced to resign for something that occurred in his office. Members of Parliament and the Canadian public do not know the reasons. That is why the papers are being asked for.

It is nothing about the character of the individual. It is nothing about wanting to find out something about his personal life. I am sure the right hon. member could care less and certainly I could care less, but I do care to know if the Treasury Board rules were broken. I do care to know if the rules of Parliament were broken. That is important. That is not just a question of ethics. That is a question of law.

Nobody has the right to abuse the privilege of their office, not an opposition member of Parliament nor a government member of Parliament, and especially not a minister of the crown.

This is not a witch hunt for all members of Parliament. This is not to ask for the personal papers of a member of the Privy Council or a member of the Treasury Board who has not been forced to resign. This is to ask for papers from a minister of the crown who was forced by his own government to step down. Then that same government said, “No he did not have to step down for ethical or criminal reasons. He stepped down because we told him to, but he did not do anything wrong”.

To the guys on that side of the House, if that is the reason that one has to step back from cabinet, that is dangerous. I am sure one does not want to do that.

Although I appreciate very much the passion and the eloquence of the Liberal House leader and his years of parliamentary experience, which obviously show when he comes to debate any issue in the House, I do not agree with him. It is very basic and fundamental. Canadians do have a right to know why a minister of the crown was forced to resign.

I do not care to know what his financial statement looked like, whether he was having problems with his family or his wife, or if he did not make a car payment. I could care less. I want to know if any of the rules, regulations and laws governing Canadians and parliamentarians were broken. I believe that as a parliamentarian I have a right to know.

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 6:09 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of Motion No. P-15 are deemed put and a recorded division is deemed demanded and deferred until Wednesday, October 8, 2003 at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Are we all in agreement to see the clock at 6:30 p.m.?

Ethics CounsellorPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Ethics CounsellorAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this evening to talk about the failed Liberal long gun registry.

Canadians do support gun control. We all understand that and we all believe in it. In fact Canada has had a handgun registry since the 1930s. It is high time that we did a thorough review and analysis of that registry which goes back to the 1930s. Historically, Canada during the second world war had a long gun registry which ran for a few years and after the war was over it just kind of disappeared.

Regarding former Bill C-68 and the long gun registry, Canadians are sick and tired of having their taxes wasted on a failed registry. It is time for the Liberals to face the music and understand that yes, they as a party can make mistakes, and I am sure Canadians would forgive them, but the Liberals continue to waste our dollars. In the recent estimates under the Solicitor General there are $10 million in new allocations to the failed long gun registry.

The newspapers over the last couple of days illustrate how bad it really is. A headline in the paper reads “Ottawa report blasts gun registry: Unreliable data threaten key screening goal of the program”. That is the reason we had the long gun registry in the first place, to help the policemen on the street. The report says that one of the chief goals of the program, continual screening to make sure gun owners remain eligible for licences, is threatened by unreliable information contained in a massive database that is supposed to tip police and the Canadian Firearms Centre to individuals who should not own firearms.

Another headline reads “Country's gun-death rate drops to an all-time low: Anti-gun groups hail firearm regulations, but don't credit the federal gun registry”. What does that say? It is basically a waste of money to register the shotguns of duck hunters and target shooters.

According to the Canadian Press the rate of gun deaths in Canada fell to an all-time low last year providing fresh ammunition for gun control advocates and drawing envy from south of the border. The 26% of homicides committed with a firearm was the lowest proportion since statistics were collected in 1961. Statistics Canada reported yesterday that stabbing was the most common method of killing, accounting for 31% of the homicides, beatings resulted in 21% of the deaths, while strangulation or suffocation came in at 11%.

In other words, it is time that we suspended the long gun registry and that we had a public inquiry into this mess. There are many reasons that we need to have an inquiry.

More than half a million gun owners in Canada failed to obtain a firearm licence and cannot register their guns without one. Are they criminals if they are caught with an unregistered firearm or if they are unregistered themselves? More than 600,000 individuals still have to register or re-register their firearms.

Justice Department officials admitted they had received only 53,000 letters of intent to register this summer. The government refuses to release the entire--

Ethics CounsellorAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada.

Ethics CounsellorAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I did not hear a question, but I will address some of the comments made by the member for Dauphin—Swan River concerning the firearms program and its administration.

First, I wish to assure the House and Canadians listening that the program is indeed working. The hon. member spoke about waste of money and talked about $10 million in new money. He clearly knows that is not the case. The $10 million that we voted on last week was money that Parliament had already approved in a previous financial exercise and it was a technical way to ensure that the money carried over into the new fiscal year.

Second, members of the House will recall that on April 14, 2003, the Canada Firearms Centre was transferred to the portfolio of the Solicitor General from the Minister of Justice and on July 31, the centre became an agency.

It is a natural fit for the Solicitor General portfolio. The Solicitor General's main focus is on enhancing public safety and as such no department officials were involved in the delivery of the program between April 14 and April 30. Public servants from the Solicitor General's office were involved.

What are some of the things that the program has managed to do? Let me list them. On May 30, a commissioner of firearms was appointed. The commissioner reports to the Solicitor General and has full authority and accountability to all federally administered elements of the Canadian firearms program.

In addition, the position of registrar of firearms was recently moved from the RCMP to the Canada Firearms Centre. The registrar now reports to the commissioner of firearms.

In addition, in keeping with the government's action plan, announced this past February, the positions of head of the financial branch and head of operations have been staffed.

The Canadian Firearms Centre continues to take steps to improve the management and operation of the program, in order to enhance its efficiency, transparency and service to the legal users of firearms.

For example, licence applications must be completed in 45 days and registration applications in 30 days. Licence and registration applicants can now check their application status on-line. Internet registration remains available at no cost and businesses can now transfer firearms to other businesses and to individuals over the internet.

Canadians support the firearms control program.

Ethics CounsellorAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Canadian Alliance Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Madam Speaker, if the program is so successful, why is it that eight provinces and three territories either want the gun registry suspended or scrapped altogether, with western provinces refusing to prosecute Firearms Act offences? Why is it that three constitutional challenges by aboriginal people are currently before the courts, and gun registration for Inuit people has been stopped by a court injunction?

There are tens of thousands of licensed gun owners who cannot be located in the registry or licensing system. If it is so successful, why are there so many provinces and territories opposing it?

The fact of the matter is that the issue is about getting votes in urban centres. It is about division of rural Canadians versus urban Canadians.

It is not about safety. If it were really about safety, we would put that same money into police forces so that we would have policemen on the streets. We would deal with criminals in a more constructive way and put money into the youth justice system. That is how to deal with infractions.