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House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was going.

Topics

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Hamilton East and former heritage minister said that in her opinion, there certainly had been questions about the sponsorship program at the Treasury Board, and that the vice-president of the Treasury Board and finance minister at the time should have taken the necessary action.

How can the Prime Minister justify doing nothing, when he knew what was going on and it was his duty to act, as the former heritage minister has said?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the former minister of public works, in January 2001, sent a letter to members of Treasury Board attaching an action plan which was to address the administrative difficulties that were identified in the internal audit, with the action plan spreading over approximately one year to deal with these administrative issues. That was what was sent to Treasury Board and that is on the record.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General said in her report that the Treasury Board approved supplementary estimates for the sponsorships and that her responsibility was to check that everything was in compliance.

Why did the vice-president of the Treasury Board not do this?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, it is true that Treasury Board approved the request for additional funding for the delivery of the sponsorship program in November 1997, as departments are required to do. The money was approved. It went to the department to process and it handled the program from then, until such time as concerns were raised, at which time the auditor was brought in and action was undertaken. It is not that complicated.

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

February 12th, 2004 / 2:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the right hon. Prime Minister, whose excuse on both corporate and government scandals is that he is blameless because he is clueless.

The NDP has told him what is really going on with star wars and it is in the public record in the United States, but the Prime Minister still pretends that he has no clue that missile defence is in fact star wars.

Is the Prime Minister not coming clean on star wars because he believes that there are 14 clever rogue employees in the Department of National Defence who are not asking cabinet's permission to weaponize space?

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I think there are some rogue members over on the other side, who perhaps will have an opportunity to debate this issue. On Tuesday night in the House, we will have a full take note debate about this issue. We can examine all the potential benefits of the program which we are looking at and all of the problems.

One thing I can assure you of, Mr. Speaker, and the Prime Minister made it clear in question period and this government has made it perpetually clear, we are not engaging in a program which will lead this country to or be engaged in any program which has anything to do with the weaponization of space or star wars.

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a funny way to deal with the democratic deficit to have the Prime Minister willing to talk outside the House for half an hour to reporters but not answer questions inside the House from members of Parliament.

I have a question for the Prime Minister. No doubt some Liberal prime minister will one day want thanks for wanting to get to the bottom of how we helped to weaponize space, but it strikes me that both the Prime Minister and President Bush both have trouble being wholesome when it comes to the question of weapons.

Therefore I ask the Prime Minister this. Mr. Bush lied about why he went to war in Iraq and now he is talking about weapons again. I have one very simple question. Does the Prime Minister trust President Bush?

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is correct for the hon. member to suggest that when the minister responsible for foreign affairs answers a question about foreign affairs in the House it is something to do with the democratic deficit.

This Prime Minister has trust in his cabinet and he has trust in caucus. We work together on this issue. Our caucus is united. We discussed this. This will not take Canada toward star wars. We will engage in discussions with the United States about the security of our country in the North American continent for the best interests of Canada and Canadians, finale.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the sponsorship scandal continues to spread through this whole government. Indeed, we learned that the companies involved in this scam gave money for the election campaigns of the Minister of Health and of the government House leader.

I want to know if the Prime Minister will suspend these cabinet ministers during the public inquiry?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, political donations are a matter of public record. There is no evidence before the House, before us in government, that links money paid to companies under the sponsorship program directly to political parties or individuals. However, donations are a matter of public record.

What I would like to say is we have four processes going on at the moment: a public inquiry, the public accounts committee, RCMP investigations, and a special counsel appointed for financial recoveries. If there is evidence of any link, please, hon. members, bring it forward to any one of those processes and it will be dealt with appropriately.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, earlier today the Prime Minister said the real question is what happened to the people who got the money. Some of those people are sitting in his cabinet. Some of their campaigns received this stolen money funnelled through these sleazy Liberal ad firms in Quebec.

Will the Prime Minister taken action against his members or ministers who received money that was stolen from the public through this scandal and funnelled through to their campaigns?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we are engaged in a very important debate. It is a debate as to what happened in the past and it is a debate about what we do going into the future. I have to say that it is to demean the debate, demean the House and demean the members of the House by those kinds of scurrilous statements that do nobody any good.

Clearly what they demonstrate is that the opposition has no idea of what has to be done. The opposition can only engage in that kind of verbal abuse, those kinds of ad hominem arguments, because it refuses to do the real work of a parliamentarian.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, a few minutes ago, the Prime Minister said that everything should be open. My question to the Prime Minister is this. Is he prepared to make public the minutes from cabinet meetings where the sponsorship program was discussed and minutes from any Quebec ministers' meetings where the sponsorship program was discussed? Will he be open, as he claims that all Canadians should be on this issue?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I could pose a question also. Yesterday the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough said, and I quote, “the auditor has said that the ethics of this government are the worst in a hundred years”. When the auditor was asked that question, she said, “I never said that”. Perhaps he could be a little more accurate when he brings information forward.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is an outrageous response. I asked a serious question. The Prime Minister, a few minutes ago, lectured the country on how he wants to be open. He can be open by releasing those minutes. My question is, is he prepared to do that, yes or no?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the public inquiry has the broadest powers possible. It can go wherever it chooses to go. The difference between this Prime Minister and the opposition is that he does not fear the truth.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services stated that the findings of the internal audit which revealed serious irregularities in the sponsorship scandal were posted on the department's website as early as in the fall of 2000.

How can the Prime Minister still plead ignorance and allude to vague rumours when he knew full well and, moreover, held strategic positions that required him to take action?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the internal audit was posted, as well as an action plan which was sent to Treasury Board and which identified a number of administrative failures that needed to be corrected and a timeline with which to do it, including training staff, ensuring that there was compliance with the Financial Administration Act, and a number of other processes that were to be undertaken.

That was the report to Treasury Board. That was the response to the internal audit. As far as those members understood, that was being carried out. It turned out that some of those issues were not corrected until the following year.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me be clear. Considering that the Prime Minister held such key positions as Minister of Finance and Vice-President of the Treasury Board, that he knew about irregularities taking place on a daily basis in the sponsorship program, and that he refused to take action, does this not make him unquestionably guilty?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister has said, once there is a program approved and the money has been allocated, then it was, in the former practice, the responsibility of the minister and the department to take responsibility for the proper expenditure of those funds within the rules set for the program and within the Financial Administration Act. Unfortunately, as we have found, during that period these rules were broken. That is why we have a series of inquiries going into the facts.

As the Prime Minister has said, we want to know the facts, we want to know where the money went, we want to know who is responsible and hold them to account, and they will be.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, to explain the Prime Minister's inaction in the sponsorship scandal, one of his close advisors stated that the current Prime Minister complained just once about Jean Chrétien's behaviour with regard to Quebec and had been punished for his attitude by being relieved of his responsibility for the regional federal spending program in Quebec.

Are we to understand from that statement by a close advisor to the Prime Minister that he refused to intervene in the sponsorship scandal because he was afraid of getting rapped on the knuckles a second time? What strong political courage.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, all I can say is, look at what we did. The former public works and government services minister undertook a study and made fundamental changes in this regard.

On December 12, we cancelled the sponsorship program. We have just implemented a full review of the entire matter to determine who should be punished and to implement measures to improve the situation.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister had all the tools he needed at the time to act, but he preferred to keep quiet and not do anything, because he was afraid of getting his knuckles rapped again.

Will the Prime Minister admit that, by not doing anything, by keeping quiet about the sponsorship scandal, he has put his personal interest and his political career before the public interest?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the day that the Prime Minister was sworn in, he gave instructions that we need to begin work on restoring transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility.

Within minutes of the Auditor General's report being made public, he ordered a full public inquiry. He issued instructions to review and change legislation, to respond to every single concern that she raised. What is not fast about that?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, according to the former heritage minister, the current Prime Minister was aware of the scandal while he was finance minister. Yet, the Prime Minister claims he knew nothing.

What version are Canadians supposed to believe: that he knew that millions of dollars had been stolen from Canadians, or that he was too incompetent to properly manage their money?