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House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was system.

Topics

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the fall of 2000, the director of government communications took part in a secret meeting, the purpose of which was to cover up the sponsorship scandal. Mr. Laguë is now the current Prime Minister's communications director. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister said that he had personally questioned each of his ministers and caucus members to learn if they knew anything about the scandal, and they all said no.

Did it not occur to the Prime Minister to ask his communications director the same question before he hired him?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:30 a.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, let us consider the facts. Mr. Laguë never took part in this meeting. He simply was not there. Allegations that Mr. Laguë's conduct was questionable during a meeting he never attended are nothing more than smear tactics. This is unacceptable. Repeating something 100 times will not make it come true.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the entire media knows, how can the Prime Minister, who says he wants to get to the bottom of things, explain that he has chosen as his close advisor a man who tried to cover up the sponsorship scandal?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:30 a.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 is quite unbelievable to see the opposition members so obsessed by their questions that they do not even hear the answers. The answer is simple. Not only did Mr. Laguë not attend that meeting, but he offered to appear before the parliamentary committee or commission to respond and have a normal opportunity to defend himself against a totally gratuitous and unfounded accusation. It is a matter of fundamental justice to wait for someone to appear to defend himself.

Business Development Bank of CanadaOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, the Board of Directors of the Business Development Bank of Canada renewed its trust in its President, Michel Vennat. Contrary to what the Minister of Industry has stated, she does indeed have the authority to revoke his mandate under section 6 of the Business Development Bank of Canada Act.

Now that the bank has decided not to appeal the ruling in the Beaudoin case, and given the harsh findings in the Michel Vennat case, will the Minister of Industry confirm that she will proceed with the revocation of Michel Vennat's mandate?

Business Development Bank of CanadaOral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the BDC is a crown corporation with its own board of directors. The board of directors has reaffirmed its confidence in its president. We will obviously re-evaluate this based on the board of directors' response. After we evaluate the situation we will make a recommendation to government.

Business Development Bank of CanadaOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, in light of Michel Vennat's blatantly reprehensible actions, which were condemned by the tribunal in the strongest possible terms, does the minister intend to call for Michel Vennat's resignation from the position of President of the Business Development Bank of Canada? Since the legislation gives her the authority, she should take action, and this government should take a stand.

Business Development Bank of CanadaOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, crown corporations operate at arm's length. They have a board of directors. The board of directors has a fiduciary responsibility. The board of directors has, in fact, reasserted and reaffirmed its confidence in the president.

We will look at that situation and make a recommendation to the government. The Minister of Industry will do that, and we look forward to that recommendation.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, we do know where some of the sponsorship money went. Several thousand dollars of taxpayer money was misappropriated by one member of Parliament in order to put his name on a Quebec college mural. This was a clear abuse of public funds for the personal advertising benefit of a member of Parliament.

Has the Minister of Public Works and Government Services asked the member of Parliament for Beauce to pay back the $5,600?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:35 a.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 am absolutely convinced that my colleague acted in good faith. There is a commission to investigate. There is a standing committee of the House dealing with these matters. My colleague is quite prepared to appear before them. I would suggest that we do not jump to conclusions too fast just in case it might be another case of smearing.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, obviously the writing was on the wall for the member of Parliament for Beauce. However it is a clear misuse of public money, an abuse of parliamentary office and just another chapter in this Liberal culture of corruption.

Will the Minister of Public Works and Government Services demand the money be paid back?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue, among a number, that is being looked into by all of the processes set up. If there was money improperly spent it will be asked to be repaid.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

February 20th, 2004 / 11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, so many scandals, so little time.

Lost in scandalmania over the last two weeks is the biggest scandal of them all. No, it is not the $100 million handed to Liberal friends and cronies. No, it is not the hundreds of millions for Challenger jets. And no, it is not even the billions of dollars for the failed gun registry. It is bigger than that. It is the $44 billion EI overcharge. The Prime Minister has politicized EI and has used it as his personal cash cow.

Will he commit today to restoring an arm's length, independent, rate setting process for employment insurance in Canada?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Ahuntsic Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (Social Economy)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question but let us stick to the facts again. Let us quote what the Auditor General said in her report on March, 19, 2002. I quote:

Since 1986 the activities of the EI Account have been included in the accounts of the government....

In our view, this is the correct method of accounting and it complies with accounting standards.... The EI Account is an important component of the government's reporting entity and should be included in the government's accounts.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Canadian Alliance Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a blatant ripoff and the member knows it.

The Prime Minister has tried to point the finger at everybody. He has pointed the finger at the bureaucracy, pointed the finger at Quebec politicians and pointed the finger at Chrétien loyalists. The Prime minister is running out of fingers.

However, I know who will give him the finger. It is the Canadian taxpayer. If he wants a finger, he should talk to them. The $44 billion is owed to them. It does not belong to the Liberal Party.

When does the government plan to stop pointing the finger of blame at everybody else and start pointing the finger where it belongs, at itself?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Ahuntsic Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (Social Economy)

Is there a question there, Mr. Speaker?

I reject the premise of the hon. member's question. I will repeat what I said earlier. The EI surplus is a national amount only. Its purpose is to inform the setting of premium rates. I know the other side is not interested in the facts but, as the Auditor General said, it is the correct method of accounting.

Public ServiceOral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Liberal Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, our public servants often hesitate to disclose certain activities such as the waste of public funds because they fear the consequences for their career advancement, as well as other possible retaliation.

Could the President of the Privy Council inform the House when he intends to introduce a bill that would protect whistleblowers' careers in the federal public service?

Public ServiceOral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Bourassa Québec

Liberal

Denis Coderre LiberalPresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, that is a very important question because, in fact, we have an extraordinary public service with a sense of loyalty and a sense of duty.

Thus we must do everything to protect them, if they become aware of things. I am pleased to tell the House that in a few weeks I will be introducing a bill on whistleblowing to protect our public service, which does an extraordinary job.

Trust FundsOral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Deputy Prime Minister.

The Chief Electoral Officer has expressed grave concern that many MPs, like the member for Trinity—Spadina, have trust accounts or trust funds that are in fact secret bank accounts totalling millions of dollars. Bill C-24 election expenses did not cover trust funds.

I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the government to introduce legislation requiring MPs to disclose whether they have trust funds, how much money might be in those trust funds and what the source of funding would be if they have a trust fund,

Trust FundsOral Question Period

11:40 a.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 believe my colleague is not quite correct when he says that Bill C-24 does not cover trust funds. It does cover the possibility of any moneys being held outside of political riding associations to be transferred to these riding associations before January 1, 2004. Otherwise, these other organizations would be limited in their contributions for political purposes to the $1,000 maximum cap.

Indeed, whatever decision had to be made had to be made within the purview of the law, and it was.

Income Tax ActOral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, for four years now, with the futility of Diogenes, I have asked the government to put an end to the outrageous tax loophole where companies can write off their fines and penalties as a business expense.

It adds insult to injury to consider that thieving Liberal communication firms will now be able to avail themselves of this public policy perversity.

The government could put an end to this mockery of justice with one simple sentence added to the Income Tax Act. Why will it not do the right thing before the sponsorship scoundrels thumb their noses at us again and write off their fines as a business expense?

Income Tax ActOral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Brome—Missisquoi Québec

Liberal

Denis Paradis LiberalMinister of State (Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, we are looking into this matter to determine the appropriateness of imposing new legislative restrictions on companies.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that fines and penalties could be deductible in so far as they constitute business expenses, unless the breach is so egregious or repulsive that the fine subsequently imposed could not be justified as being incurred for the purpose of producing income. It is being looked into.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, we know the surplus in the EI fund could pay tuition for a five year program for three million students in the country. One can imagine what that could do for the workforce.

The Auditor General remarks that the current surplus in the EI account is now three times the maximum reserve that the chief actuary of human resources development considers sufficient.

Accordingly, in my opinion, the government did not observe the intent of the Employment Insurance Act.

Why is the Prime Minister breaking the laws of the country?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Ahuntsic Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (Social Economy)

Mr. Speaker, I said this earlier but I think I had better repeat the facts. It was the Auditor General who said that the EI account has been consolidated with the books of Canada since 1986 on the advice of the Auditor General. I want to repeat again what she said, and I am quoting:

In our view, this is the correct method of accounting and it complies with accounting standards.... The EI Account is an important component of the government's reporting entity and should be included in the government's accounts.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, let us look at the sponsorship scandal. In Newfoundland and Labrador, $250 million could have paid the salary of 556 new police officers for eight years. It could have bought 8,333 police cruisers. It could have paid an additional 213 full time nurses for 25 years. It could have paid for 175 MRI machines and two months of the total Newfoundland and Labrador health budget.

Will the Liberal government start focusing on the priorities of Canadians rather than the priorities of its friends?