Mr. Speaker, again we are talking about the Government of Canada reinstating bills lost in the last Parliament when the House was prorogued.
This morning was an example of how dedicated the Prime Minister is to the democratic deficit and the reforming and democratizing of this House. He rammed through closure after having been here in the House as Prime Minister for only six days. This is the earliest closure motion ever introduced in the history of this place, so he is not committed to democratizing Parliament and he is not committed to the democratic deficit, that is, doing something about it. This morning was a perfect example.
What is this reinstatement motion all about? It is really all about a rush to an election, an early election.
Let us remember the history of the Prime Minister. He was an ordinary backbench member of Parliament last summer who was caught up in the leadership race. Most of us assumed that he would replace the former prime minister and in fact become the Prime Minister of Canada, but he was thinking very strategically in terms of how long he would have to stand in the House, day in and day out, and answer questions put to him by the opposition.
In other words, he did not want to be put under close scrutiny by the House of Commons so he asked the Chief Electoral Officer whether or not he could speed up the redistribution process and in fact change the election act so that he could be ready. In other words, the Prime Minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard at the time, asked the Chief Electoral Officer if he could be ready by April 1 in terms of redistribution. The Chief Electoral Officer said of course he could.
That is what Bill C-49 does: it speeds up the redistribution process so that in fact the Prime Minister of Canada can call an election as early as April 1, versus August 25 when those new boundaries would have automatically kicked in. Basically, the Liberals changed the electoral act. This is one of the bills that is caught up in this reinstatement package. The government wants that bill more than any other bill, but it just so happens to be one of the 28 bills it wants reinstated.
If we think about it, I can understand why the Prime Minister does not want to be in the House of Commons. He is doing everything to bury some of these issues that are haunting the government. I have a list here, but I will just go through some of them.
One of the first things the present Prime Minister did was to have the Government of Canada expand the reference to the Supreme Court on same sex marriages, which of course will delay any Supreme Court decision by many months, possibly a year, because obviously he knows the same sex marriage issue creates a lot of problems on the government side, on his side of the House. That is an easy way to sweep that one under the carpet. He effectively did that.
In the Maher Arar case, he has asked for a public inquiry. Obviously, once he asks for a public inquiry, which he has, it basically shuts down debate on that issue in the House of Commons. In other words, we can no longer question the government on that.
Then, of course, there is the biggest one of all. This is more personal than anything else: Canada Steamship Lines. Until the Prime Minister gave it to his sons, which would not be an arm's length transaction, until he gave it free and clear to his sons, he was the sole owner of Canada Steamship Lines. One of the questions that our members put to the Prime Minister was the question of how many contracts CSL, the Prime Minister's own company, got from the Government of Canada. The answer from the Prime Minister came back: $137,000.
We persisted and we wanted more. We knew that figure was not accurate. Finally last week the government coughed up what it believed to be the right answer but we are not sure. We found out that the number was not $137,000 that the Prime Minister's shipping company received from the Government of Canada. The number was $161 million. How could one miscalculate by over $160 million? Only a Liberal could do that and get away with it.
The Prime Minister has effectively buried this one as well. He has asked the Auditor General to investigate those numbers and find out what the real number is.
Our leader suggested that he pick up the telephone and call his two sons who now own the company outright and ask them what that figure would be. Canada Steamship Lines brags, and I think it does have bragging rights because it has very modern, up to date, good computer systems and with one press of a button on that computer system they could tell us today what that number is. The Auditor General does not need to spend months to come up with that number. That is another one that the Prime Minister is trying to duck because the figure is embarrassing and it is going to cost the government popular support.
It is interesting. The Prime Minister was asked when did he realize that figure was wrong. In other words why the figure of $137,000, Prime Minister? He should have known that it would be more than that. When did he know that it was more than that? He said, “It was a number of months ago, but I was sort of tied up in a leadership race so I didn't say anything about it”. Is it not conceivable that the outcome of that Liberal leadership race might have been different if card-carrying Liberals had known that this man, the Prime Minister of Canada, had received $161 million in contracts from the Government of Canada? He tried to cover that up until the leadership race was over.
If I were Mr. Rock sitting down in New York in a new job, I would be a little annoyed by that, as would be the member for Hamilton East who was a contestant in that leadership race. He had an unfair advantage and he took advantage of it because he did not want the truth to come out. He has effectively buried that one.
Now the burying job of all burying jobs came about today when the Auditor General reported on the sponsorship program. By the way, that is the sponsorship program where the Government of Canada wasted, it basically threw a way $250 million of taxpayers' money on work that was never performed or work that was given to the government's political cronies with no accounting mechanisms in place.
We asked the Prime Minister about this one today. In fact the question was put to him by reporters before he came to the chamber, which is the insult of all insults to this chamber. He should have been here explaining to the House what he knew about the sponsorship program. One of the journalists was clever enough to ask, “Prime Minister, how could the Government of Canada spend that kind of money and you not know about it?” He said, “You know, that kind of detail kind of gets lost in government”.
Everyone says that the Prime Minister is a policy wonk. He fancies himself as being a master at detail. How could that escape the attention of, today's Prime Minister, the former finance minister and also vice-chair of the Treasury Board when he in fact is the man that determines what programs get funded and which ones do not? That $250 million is still a lot of change.
This is intolerable when that kind of government money is basically wasted and those kinds of contracts are given out without close scrutiny. The Prime Minister today said, “Those responsible will be held to account”. He is only talking about the bureaucracy. He is not talking about his own Liberal cronies who are sitting right there supporting him through the thick of all of this and who sat with him in cabinet when they allowed these decisions to be made.
If there is anyone to be recalled or held to account, it should be the Prime Minister of Canada. There is no way that he did not know what was going on with those sponsorship programs.
The insult of all insults in terms of intelligence and what the Prime Minister expects us and the Canadian public to believe is that this was happening in his home city of Montreal. That is where most of the contracts were given out. His old friend Mr. Gagliano is obviously the fall guy. I guess he was the man who orchestrated it. He will be back in Ottawa, I guess. He is coming back under protest obviously. It will certainly be interesting to hear what he has to say about this when he rats on the Prime Minister and what the Prime Minister and his people knew at the cabinet table with regard to this boondoggle of all boondoggles. There is no end to it.
One other point the Auditor General brought out today was the hurry up purchase of two Challenger jets. That only cost the Government of Canada $100 million. The interesting thing about that is the minister of defence and his staff said that we did not need them because the current fleet of Challenger jets are operating at something like 99.1% efficiency and dependability. That is almost better than your car, Mr. Speaker. When the Prime Minister of Canada wants to get on one of those jets and take off, 99 times out of 100 there will not be one single problem with those jets.
The government made that decision. That decision was made when the present Prime Minister was vice-chair of the Treasury Board and finance minister. Within 24 hours that decision to purchase $100 million in jets was made and the Government of Canada, according to its own sources, did not need them. The government simply wanted it done. Worst of all, it was not a contracted bid. It was a sole source bid. The bid went to the government's friends again and to no one else.
This is what the motion to reinstate bills is all about. Simply put, the Prime Minister does not want to be around the House to talk about all the things that are going to come back to haunt him and his government. The Prime Minister does not want to take any responsibility for his own actions as finance minister, as vice-chair of the Treasury Board and even as Prime Minister today, because the buck stops at his desk now.
It is hard to believe that the Prime Minister of Canada could stand in his place and pretend that he had no idea of what was going on, none. In fact, about a week ago there was that public forum, and I am sure the Prime Minister is thanking CBC for the free advertising. During that public policy forum or encounter with the Prime Minister last week, a question was put to the Prime Minister by a woman who I believe was from western Canada. She asked, “Prime Minister, why did you not do something about that?” Believe it or not, he stood in his place and said, “Only when I became Prime Minister of Canada did I really have my hands on the levers of power that I could actually get the right answers”.
There would not be one member of Parliament even on the government side that would believe that. As an individual member of Parliament, just about every one of us on this side has spoken to or written to the Auditor General when we have seen something wrong. When something stinks, we have the power to do something about it. What does the Prime Minister of Canada do? He simply covers his tracks and pretends it was not happening.