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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

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, how will we get to the bottom of it if the people who knew something will not speak up for themselves?

Canadians are watching that minister very carefully. He has already been caught out being, shall we say, less than candid about his cozy relationship with the president of a Quebec advertising agency, and the courts recently ruled that he misled Parliament.

If this minister is found to have been complicit in this abuse of public money or knew about it in some way, will he immediately resign as a minister?

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--

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Sit down.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. Hon. members know that when they pose questions to the cabinet, any minister may rise to respond. The Deputy Prime Minister has risen to respond and she has been recognized by the Chair. She has the floor. We have to have some order.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Anne McLellan Liberal Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, this Prime Minister is absolutely committed to getting to the bottom of this matter. He has promised Canadians that we will find out what happened here.

Let me again remind the opposition that it was this Prime Minister who immediately put in place a public inquiry. It was this Prime Minister who asked the public accounts committee to take up a study of this matter. It was this Prime Minister who asked the President of the Treasury Board to look at the relationship between government and crown corporations. This Prime Minister--

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Lotbinière—L'Érable.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to the Auditor General's report, and also according to an employee of the Minister of Finance, there were five different investigations at Finance Canada without any written report, exactly the same situation as the untraceable reports from Communications Coffin, which cost the government $116,000 and are now the object of criminal proceedings.

How can the Prime Minister exonerate himself by claiming he was not informed of the situation with the sponsorships, when something very similar was going on in his own department at the same time?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 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, no one in Canada is above the law. Everyone in Canada who is found guilty of reprehensible acts must be punished. This is why the Prime Minister has set up a commission of inquiry, appointed a special council and taken steps within Treasury Board. We can go on and on about these issues, but the important thing is to let the process get to the bottom of things, so that we have the answers Canadians want.

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can the Prime Minister justify having paid such sizeable sums for verbal reports other than because they had more to do with the Liberal Party leadership race than with the interests of the Department of Finance?

Auditor General's ReportOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as I explained earlier, the three reports in question were verbal reports delivered with respect to live, real time focus groups while those focus groups were in progress. The files, unfortunately, failed to explain the nature of the kind of research that was being done. That was the nature of it I am told and that would be the normal way that they would be reported upon. One could not file a written report in the midst of a live focus group.

Government ExpendituresOral Question Period

February 16th, 2004 / 2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, through their taxes, Quebeckers, unfortunately, are paying one quarter of the salary for Don Cherry, who is always insulting them. And now, they have paid one quarter of the subsidy given by the federal government to an American, Conan O'Brien, with exactly the same outcome.

Is the government prepared to invest the same amount of money—through the Government of Quebec—to launch a campaign that would counter the negative effects of these racist and scornful remarks about Quebeckers?

Government ExpendituresOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard LiberalMinister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, the government completely dissociates itself from the remarks made by that person. They are completely unacceptable. The money was given to a non-profit organization in the Toronto area in an effort to promote tourism in the Toronto area. We sincerely regret these incidents.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the heels of the offensive comments by Don Cherry and Conan O'Brien, a government member has joined in the Quebec bashing. The minister from Thunder Bay said, “This is Quebec's problem, and I think that is the way they do politics”.

What is the Prime Minister waiting for to tell his minister that this is the Liberal way, not Quebec's way, of doing politics?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 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, I cannot believe what I have just heard. It is not their prerogative to defend Quebec. Quebeckers are just as committed to justice, the facts and truth as any other Canadians. If they would just support the commission of inquiry, then we could find out what happened. Seeking the truth, that is Quebec's way.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, at least the Minister of Health struggled to his feet and tried to answer a question. It would be okay if the President of the Queen's Privy Council managed to do the same.

It is interesting. Canadians are having their doubts about this inquiry because they remember the other inquiries. We remember the Krever inquiry got bogged down in legal wrangling. The Liberals refused to act on the recommendations of the APEC inquiry. Panellists resigned citing interference. The prime minister refused to testify. It was the usual stuff. In the Somalian inquiry papers were shredded and people were moved out of town. The inquiry cancelled on the eve of the election. Does it sound familiar?

What will be different about this inquiry?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, a highly distinguished judge of the Quebec Superior Court has been appointed, with wide terms of reference, to look into these issues. The rules in terms of a public inquiry have been clarified by the Supreme Court of Canada where inquiries can continue when criminal investigations are underway in a way that will not complicate one to the other.

We expect this to go ahead expeditiously with an urgent report. We do not expect any barriers to the full inquiry of people who have knowledge about this issue.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the inquiry could start today with a few simple answers from a few simple ministers over there.

Unfortunately, we know what happens when Liberals get involved in inquiries. We all remember when the Liberals cancelled the Somalia inquiry on the eve of a federal election, prompting the chair of the inquiry to bluntly say that shutting down the inquiry was done to prevent him from finding out who was responsible for the actions of the government at the highest level. That is why they shut it down.

What possible assurances can be given Canadians who are asking the Prime Minister this question. What is any different about this inquiry? Why not hold off the election until this inquiry reports?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, this Prime Minister has made a very clear commitment to the people of Canada. He has said that he will get to the bottom of this. Part of getting to the bottom of it is putting in place a public inquiry, and this Prime Minister has made it absolutely plain that the inquiry will have the authority to answer all the questions and hear all the evidence it needs to, to get to the bottom of this on behalf of the Canadian people.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, Friday the President of the Treasury Board said that there would be no judgments made about the sponsorship scandal without sufficient evidence. However, yesterday the Prime Minister proclaimed that his former boss, the former prime minister, was innocent of any wrongdoing in this disgraceful Liberal money laundering scheme.

If the Prime Minister knew nothing about the sponsorship scandal when he was finance minister, on what evidence does he now bring in this not guilty verdict?

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, perhaps I could offer some advice to the member for Provencher, the former attorney general in Manitoba. In this country we tend to hold people innocent until there is proof of their guilt, unlike the opposition. I am a little surprised at the concern about the public inquiry. What the public inquiry will do is put out the truth. We are not afraid of it. Why are you?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sure that the President of the Treasury Board meant the member for Provencher in his answer.

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, yet the government had no trouble firing the former public works minister without any hearing. Even before a public inquiry has started, the Prime Minister has said that heads will roll at a number of crown corporations over this Liberal money laundering scheme. This sounds like Alice in Wonderland ; execution first, trial later.

On what basis is the Prime Minister prejudging the innocence of his former boss and the guilt of everyone else? What else does he know that he is not telling Canadians?

Government ContractsOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, there has been no finding of guilt or innocence in any one of these cases. The fact is, and this came out very clearly in the matter of the privacy commissioner, there is another bar and that is the bar of confidence. It was confidence in the member to continue to do the job of representing the country in light of the fact that the Auditor General in her report on more than 20 occasions indicated his potential involvement in this.

His guilt or innocence will be determined by the inquiry and by the courts. However, whether we have confidence in individuals in these positions is a judgment that government makes, and it did.

Public ServiceOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Liberal Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, the air needs to be cleared on rumours and mixed messages in the media regarding the public service.

I ask the President of the Treasury Board this. Is it true that the government is planning: one, another program review; two, job cuts; three, outsourcing; and four, freezing justified promotions and reclassifications?