That, in the opinion of this House, the Liberal government has and continues to nurture a culture of corruption through the abuse of its influence and the use of public funds for personal benefit and to benefit friends, family and the Liberal Party of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be dividing my time today with the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough.
For those who are not familiar with the parliamentary process, this is a day when the official opposition gets to put forward an issue to debate. This is a fairly significant issue.
I want to start by asking, why does the sponsorship scandal matter?
I have received a number of letters over the last week. I want to put some of the statements on the record.
R.G.G. in Victoria, B.C. wrote: “If the Prime Minister were caught in a bank robbery he would claim he was innocent, as he was only driving the getaway car”.
S.M. in Toronto wrote: “The fleecing of Canada, I am absolutely disgusted by what appears to be fraud perpetrated on the Canadian people with a view to coating the pockets of loyal allies of the Liberal government, if not the Liberal Party itself”.
C.T. wrote: “The consensus of my senior citizens group who meet most mornings for coffee in order to discuss the political highlights of the day in order to solve the problems of the world, a modest goal, strongly believe that an election should not be held, at least until a first interim report is issued in order to be able to vote intelligently. Anything less would be undemocratic”.
Someone in my own riding, E. and H.D. in High River wrote: “Private citizens get jail and public restitution. As a heavily taxed Canadian with less write-offs than members of Parliament, I request a cash penalty given to members who are responsible for their poor judgment while entrusted in their portfolios. I'll vote all right. I can hardly wait for the opportunity”.
B. and N.C. from Priddis wrote: “Outrage. This is inexcusable and we trust persons will be prosecuted. The average Canadian would be behind bars”.
Those just reflect a little bit of what the public is saying to me.
Let me quickly summarize this scandal. The sum of $250 million was spent on increasing the visibility of the federal government in Quebec. This of course followed the near loss to the separatists on the Quebec referendum. The sum of $100 million plus of taxpayers' money went to commissions and fees. The companies implicated were Liberal-friendly ad agencies and some big crown corporations, such as VIA Rail and the BDC.
As we pass the BDC I cannot help but mention the fine president of the BDC, François Beaudoin, who has been exonerated publicly for the excoriation that he received at the hands of the Liberal administration. I cannot believe that a man had that fortitude to stand up before that onslaught. François Beaudoin does down in my books as a hero in Canada.
I have been asked if this is their way of doing things in Quebec. The answer is no. This is the way the Liberal Party of Canada does things.
Let us take the example of the possible leadership scandal in British Columbia, where there are allegations concerning the use of narcodollars, or using drug money to buy membership cards. Such is a party's tradition gone adrift.
Why is the Auditor General so credible on this subject? I looked back on the way the Auditor General reported on the firearms scandal. Suddenly, the public paid great attention to that. Our member for Yorkton—Melville had been saying exactly the same thing for months, years in fact. The Auditor General came out and suddenly the figures were credible.
This is because she is non-partisan. She does not have an axe to grind, as politicians do. She backs up everything she says with irrefutable facts. She is cool, calm and collected in her delivery and quite frankly, the Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser, is in my view another Canadian heroine.
What excuses have been offered for this wilful ignorance? Wilful ignorance is no excuse under the Criminal Code of Canada.
First, this scam was carried out by a small band of rogues in the civil service. It was pointing directly at individuals who, in my view, have never, ever been found guilty. Second, the rogues surely must have had some political direction; however, there was no suggestion where that direction might have come from, just innuendo. Third, political direction could have come from Alfonso Gagliano and other ministers yet unnamed. Finally, it was directed at the ex-Prime Minister himself.
Whenever I hear a litany of excuses and the excuses change day by day, I am inclined to doubt the truth of any of them.
How has this played out in the media? Here are some headlines to consider, some are fairly gentle and some not so gentle: “Liberals scramble to contain the scandal”; “Prime Minister must have known”; “Report blasts Ottawa cronyism in the contract scandal”; “Blatant egregious arrogance”; “Your money, their friends”; “Prime Minister blames rogue staff”; “Prime Minister says Chrétien rivalry kept him in the dark”. Here is one that I think is very important: “Eight in 10 Canadians say the Prime Minister knew more”.
An editorial from the Ottawa Sun stated:
An abuse of power, tens of millions of tax dollars diverted to secret bank accounts concealed with forged invoices and laundered through politically-connected businesses. A veil of strict secrecy protects the activities from the eyes of the public.
And when the jig is up and the fraud is exposed everybody claims to know nothing or blames some secret cabal of shadowy operatives in the bureaucracy.
That is describing the Government of Canada. What a disgusting thing to have to say.
There is an alternative to the corrupt culture we have just had exposed by the Auditor General: a competent cabinet untouched by scandal; a new generation with fresh ideas; a party that treats taxpayers' money as a sacred trust; a party that puts health care as a top priority, spending dollars for that instead of siphoning off funds for their friends; and a party that would help hepatitis C victims of tainted blood instead of wasting money on worthless projects and scandals.
That alternative is the Conservative Party of Canada.