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House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cabinet.

Topics

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, as has been said in the House on many occasions by any number of us, of course we were aware of the sponsorship program. However none of us were aware of the details, the allegations put in play by the Auditor General last week.

That is why we called for a public inquiry. We want to get to the bottom of this. We all want to know what happened here. We believe that is what the Canadian public deserves to know.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I note again: no response to the specific question.

We have $250 million, a quarter of a billion dollars worth of taxpayer money, and $100 million of that went for commissions and fees with absolutely no benefit to the Canadian public.

My question once again is: What will it take for the Deputy Prime Minister to get up and tell us when she knew? Does she have to go kicking and screaming to a public inquiry under oath?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I think any number of us have been very clear. As a matter of the existence of the program, of course we knew there was a sponsorship program. However, did we know the details in relation to how the program was being operated? No.

In fact it was a former minister of public works who called in the Auditor General to review this program. It was my colleague, now the Minister of Finance, who froze the program. And in fact it is this government and this Prime Minister who have put in place a comprehensive response to--

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, getting to the bottom is a great idea because that is where they will find all those Liberal Party bottom-feeders. However it will leave a big oil slick on the surface.

Yesterday the Prime Minister told Canadians that spending oversight was not his job; that, he said, was the responsibility of the Treasury Board president.

Perhaps the former president of the Treasury Board could tell us how $100 million could be ripped off from taxpayers right under her nose? How could she stand the smell?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I think we can start with the changes that were undertaken in, I believe, June 1993, by the then Kim Campbell government who removed the comptrollership program, the second line of oversight, something that this Prime Minister has offered to restore.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, so in 10 years that member could not speak up and ensure it was put back in? What is the matter with them?

It was pretty unseemly yesterday to see the Prime Minister tossing women and children out of the lifeboats so he could save himself.

The former president of the Treasury Board was supposed to be minding the store while Liberal Party activists gorged themselves on taxpayer dollars.

My question is for the current industry minister and the former president of the Treasury Board. How does it feel to be left to hang out to dry by the former vice-chair of the Treasury Board, the current Prime Minister?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the member only needs to listen to the speeches I have made in this House and elsewhere on this very issue.

There has been a serious structural problem in public management. It began with the new public management move to destroy the comptrollership. An error was made. The past government did not put it back in. This Prime Minister will.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, when he was Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister paid Earnscliffe, the communications firm that worked on his leadership campaign, very handsomely to advise him on the state of public opinion. The problem is that, in many instances, there is no written proof that the work was actually done, as the Auditor General has pointed out in her report.

Will the Prime Minister admit that he broke the rules and that this is exactly the kind of behaviour the Auditor General has denounced in connection with the sponsorship scandal?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, a commission of inquiry has been set up precisely to find the answers to all the questions that have been raised. There is no reason to assume that some people in this House have a stronger desire than others to find out the truth.

We want to get at the truth. That is the point of our government's initiative, and I will not be happy until we know the conclusions of this inquiry.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is no need for a commission of inquiry to provide an answer to a clear question.

In the sponsorship scandal, the Prime Minister has said repeatedly that, if any ministers knew and did nothing, they should resign. I wonder what fate he plans for those who blatantly broke the rules. In any case, during the Prime Minister's reign in finance, there were five public opinion surveys and no reports were provided.

Is it not true that the Auditor General's report clearly shows that the Prime Minister, who says he wants to shed light on the sponsorship scandal, broke the government's rules himself, by having no report, as was the case with Coffin Communications?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I believe the hon. gentleman may be mistaken. He should, I think, be referring to three specific incidents where the reports were filed verbally, three specific incidents over a period of three years for one incident per year.

In each case I have been told they were live, real time focus groups and they were reported upon verbally while the focus group was in progress. That would be the normal professional way in which the reports would be filed.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, in her report, the Auditor General states that one poll costing $27,000 was sold ten times to ten different ministers of this government.

I ask the government the following question. If the Prime Minister is serious when he says he wants the truth, and questionable practices, to be revealed, could someone tell us which ten ministers each paid $27,000 for a report, for a total of $270,000?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General's report on public opinion research came to the conclusion that in general she found that the public opinion research was conducted in a transparent manner with adequate controls.

She did find, however, that there were some inadequacies in a small number of cases where the voting behaviour and political party image was actually touched on in a syndicated poll.

That being said, the government accepts those criticisms, although the program in general was supported, and it has made changes to make sure that does not happen again.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government should not think those listening are fools. I repeat my question.

Ten ministers among those present purchased the same poll at a cost of $27,000 for the first copy, $27,000 for the second copy, $27,000 for the third copy and so on, ten times.

Does the government not realize that these are not more or less appropriate practices but rather practices strangely similar to those used with regard to the Groupaction report that has yet to be found? That is unacceptable. A total of $270,000 was paid for a report that cost $27,000.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the Auditor General made these observations with respect to the preferred or the recommended bulk buying of syndicated public opinion research polls.

The government has accepted that criticism and is taking steps to ensure that happens in the future.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister wants us to believe he is getting to the bottom of all these Liberal scandals but Canadians are way ahead of him. They know that Liberal corporate cronies and backroom boys have seen the public purse as a branch plant for their corrupt party.

The Prime Minister also wants us to believe that he is really mad about all of this. Let us see if is he mad enough to ask the Liberal Party to give us our money back, starting with the almost $300,000 it received in kickbacks from its corporate cronies at the centre of this scandal. Is the government willing to start with the $300,000 and give it back to the Canadian people?

Auditor General's ReportOral 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, I believe the member got all of her hot words into the question but what she has not provided is a single shred of evidence. She should put evidence on the table that says that and it will be responded to. However to simply sit here and come to judgment before anybody has had a chance to look at the facts does not help the dignity of this place.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the evidence is there but the member chooses to ignore it.

I have homelessness in my riding, seniors who cannot afford prescriptions and kids choking on smog. While these scandals are going on, people are literally dying on the streets in our major cities, thanks to this Prime Minister's conservative budget.

We want our money back so we can do what the government should be doing, which is helping Canadians who are hurting, not stuffing money into Liberal pockets.

Again, when will the Liberal government ask the Liberal Party to give Canadians their money back?

Auditor General's ReportOral 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, I think it would be exceptionally important for us to have a discussion on the very issues the member raises. I would like to be talking about how we deal with homelessness and about children.

If the member would like to pose a question that is substantive on that subject, I am more than willing to debate it.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health is described as the Prime Minister's strongman in the province of Quebec. Since 1996, he has sat at the table of every government and has had full access to all the government's business for the province of Quebec.

We want to know how long the Minister of Health has known about this horrible scandal in the province of Quebec. When did he know and when did he talk to the Prime Minister about the scandal?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Brossard—La Prairie Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, it seems strange that, instead of following the path we have chosen to get to the bottom of things and to find out the truth about everything that happened, the hon. members continue to ask questions as if they were on a fishing expedition.

If my colleague has any evidence, I suggest he should submit it to the commission of inquiry so that we can get to the bottom of things and find out what really happened.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Canadian Alliance Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, if it seems like we are going on a fishing expedition, it is because the government seems to put up one or two ministers to answer the questions. My question was specifically for the Minister of Health. If the government would allow ministers who knew the information to get up in the House and answer the questions, we may not have to do some of these fishing expeditions that he describes.

My question is for the Minister of Health. When did the Minister of Health know about this scandal and when did he ask the prime minister to investigate this? When did he know?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, like the Auditor General of Canada, I have noticed the excellent work the Minister of Finance did when he was the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. The Auditor General said that the work was much appreciated and that the government had cooperated with the Auditor General's office since 2002.

We are the ones who asked the Auditor General to do the work. We have taken a series of measures—and that is unprecedented—with the judicial public inquiry. We have the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and we have the special legal counsel for the recovery of money.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I notice the minister did not say he did not know about it. The Prime Minister has told Canadians he would leave no stone unturned to get to the truth in the sponsorship scandal, so has he kicked over some of the pebbles in his cabinet?

The President of the Queen's Privy Council has been in the thick of Liberal Party politics in Quebec for more than 20 years. I wonder if the Prime Minister has asked this minister what he knew about the scandal.

Will the minister tell the House whether he and the Prime Minister have discussed the minister's possible role in the sponsorship program?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, this Prime Minister and this government have been absolutely plain. What we want to do is get to the bottom of this. That is why we have put in place a public inquiry. That is why we constituted, with the support of the opposition, the public accounts committee as quickly as possible. That is why the President of the Treasury Board has put in place a number of reviews, including our relationship with crown corporations.

Canadians should be under no misapprehension: this government wants to get to the bottom of this matter.