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House of Commons Hansard #30 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was elections.

Topics

Friendship Hockey TournamentStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Canadian Alliance Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, a contest of sporting excellence has taken place in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The Friendship Hockey Tournament between the Brocton Boxers and the Valley Graphics Canadians is international peewee hockey at its best.

Young 12 and 13 year old American hockey ambassadors from Boston met their Canadian counterparts in Fredericton by special invitation of Premier Bernard Lord.

Last year's immature, shameful adult anti-American protestations, learned from Liberal parliamentarians, directed against young American team members are being forgotten by this year's mature 12 year old sportsmen.

Who will win the series is not in question. Both Canada and the United States will win by the much needed renewal of mutual respect and friendship.

Let us thank those responsible for the organization of this international friendship contest and congratulate the real heroes, the peewee players of both countries.

Perdita Felicien and David FordStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Lanctôt Liberal Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to pay tribute to two exceptional Canadians, Perdita Felicien and David Ford, who were named Female Athlete of the Year and Male Athlete of the Year 2003 at the most recent Canadian Sport Awards, held Tuesday evening in Toronto.

Perdita Felicien won world recognition in August 2003 as the gold medallist in 100-metre hurdles at the International Association of Athletics Federations world championships in Paris, at the same time breaking the Canadian record for that event.

David Ford won a silver medal in the senior slalom world championships in Germany and was grand champion of the 2003 World Cup ranking event in kayak slalom.

We will continue to encourage David and Perdita in their quest for gold medals at the Athens Olympic Games this August.

I would also like to congratulate all the other award winners who were honoured for their exceptional performances and their contributions to Canadian sport.

Whistleblower ProtectionStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, current hearings being conducted by the public accounts committee into the sponsorship scandal make clear how much government waste could be avoided if we had some way for employees in each department to get their concerns dealt with. Instead, conscientious employees who see things not being done right often must put their jobs on the line to get action.

Canadians and their federal employees urgently need a new law. According to the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation, “Canada is still the only major industrialized democracy without adequate whistleblower protection for public servants”.

This government has proposed Bill C-25 but it needs amendments. I urge the government in the strongest terms to consult with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the public service integrity officer, Dr. Edward Keyserlingk, to develop the amendments needed for conscientious federal employees to get wrongdoing corrected quickly.

Canadians and whistleblowers deserve no less.

The BudgetOral Question Period

March 26th, 2004 / 11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government is out of control and the unity fund is just the latest example. The finance minister cancelled the secret fund because of all of the problems with it. Even the Prime Minister's own official called it a honey pot.

Yesterday the Prime Minister called the fund a normal operating procedure. Who represents the government's position, the Minister of Finance who rejected the fund, or the Prime Minister who is defending it?

The BudgetOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, when this government came to power in 1993 there were a number of reserve funds across government which had been put in place by the previous Conservative government. This one was used to fund programs in the interest of national unity, about which the government has been clear, that we intended to take a different approach on those issues.

We are taking a different approach in the new government which was sworn in on December 12. That is why we are doing away with this reserve.

The BudgetOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Calgary Centre laid bare that lie yesterday. That just is not so. The Prime Minister is defending this secret fund. He continues to do that.

Eddie Goldenberg, the top aide to the former prime minister, said that the current Prime Minister knew about the fund all along. Even the Auditor General had no knowledge that the half a billion dollars was spent with no rules or program criteria.

Why did the Prime Minister, the former minister of finance, continue to let this fund go unchecked under his watch for 10 years?

The BudgetOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman should be a great deal more cautious in his language. The fact is the hon. member for Calgary Centre did not state as the gentleman has stated in the House. The quote is not his.

When we came to power there were a number of reserve funds across the whole government which had been put in place by the previous government, a fact admitted by the former prime minister, the right hon. member for Calgary Centre.

With respect to Mr. Goldenberg's comments, it has been quite clear and was indeed made clear in a response in the House by the Prime Minister some two weeks ago. He responded by saying that he had never used the fund and that in fact--

The BudgetOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Peace River.

The BudgetOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Canadian Alliance Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the old trick of smoke and mirrors is no longer working. Canadians do not believe the government on this issue.

The finance minister cancelled the Prime Minister's secret Liberal fund because it failed to meet sound fiscal management. The Prime Minister knew about the program for the past 10 years yet chose to hide it from the Auditor General and Canadians.

Why did it take him a decade to cancel this fund? Who really speaks for Canadians these days and the Liberal government in the House, the finance minister or the Prime Minister?

The BudgetOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, once again the hon. member is not telling the House the true situation. The fact of these funds was well known throughout the government. The Prime Minister responded in the House two weeks ago and made it perfectly clear that the existence of such funds was well known, as it was to the previous Conservative government. What he did say, however, with respect to this particular fund, which he has never accessed as Prime Minister, was he did not see the need for it and to abolish it.

Again, the hon. member should once more check what the Auditor General has said because his comments do not reflect the true spirit of the words she used.

The BudgetOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, what is outrageous is that the government took 10 years to cancel the same fund that existed. The finance minister axed the national unity reserve because it fell outside the bounds of normal accounting practices. It was a honey pot for Liberal cabinet ministers. In direct contradiction the Prime Minister has said that it was a normal program adhering to normal accounting practices. In reality it was a program that seeded ad scam.

Either the reserve is a honey pot of corruption or it was a normal program. Who are we supposed to believe, the finance minister or the Prime Minister?

The BudgetOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General was aware and her predecessor was aware of the use of reserve funds. That is something that governments do, both at the federal and provincial levels, this government, the previous government of the previous prime minister and indeed the previous Conservative government used such funds. They are used by individual departments. They report their spending in their annual statements to the public accounts and therefore to the public accounts committee. There is nothing secret about such a process. It is all in the open.

The BudgetOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, what is secret is the way the government abused those funds. That is what the secret is.

Let us see some facts about this unity reserve. One, it was used as seed money for the sponsorship scandal. Two, the finance minister, now the current Prime Minister, had to sign off on the usage. Three, it cost taxpayers half a billion dollars. Four, its existence was hidden from even the Auditor General.

The Prime Minister claims that it was nothing more than “a normal accounting procedure”. If so, why cancel it?

The BudgetOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, first of all the facts as outlined by the hon. member vary from the true facts of this situation by a considerable margin. It would be helpful in the House if more accuracy were used.

He has asked a direct question: Why was it abolished? Because, as the Prime Minister made clear in his responses to questions in the House during question period, he has not accessed that fund and does not intend to. Therefore, the fund, in his mind, had no further purpose and he axed it. I should add that Treasury Board is looking at all such submissions from 1992 to identify the funds of this type that were used.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, Huguette Tremblay confirmed that the President of the Treasury Board regularly telephoned Pierre Tremblay, the director of the sponsorship program. The President of the Treasury Board himself acknowledged this, adding that he had never exercised any pressure to help a communications firm secure a contract.

Can the President of the Treasury Board tell us whether he followed the same policy of non-interference when he was the Secretary of State for Amateur Sport and a senior official wrote, “The firm the secretary of state wants hired is Everest”?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:20 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 think the answer to that has been given a hundred times in the House, and I will not waste my time on it.

The second thing that strikes me as important is that the party opposite, which is so keen on transparency, never called for a public inquiry into the Oxygène 9 affair in Quebec. It never called for a public inquiry into the collusion or, at any rate, the suspicions raised by the fact that the head of the SGF was the husband of Quebec's finance minister.

There were never any questions forthcoming from that party on the integrity of all this. They had nothing to say. They played dead. Now they have taken on a holier than thou attitude.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, in an e-mail dated March 17, 2000, the director of the national sport policy task force, Roger Farley, wrote, “The firm the secretary of state wants to hire is Everest”. There it is in black and white. The President of the Treasury Board did indeed interfere in the contracting process in favour of Everest.

How, in that context, can we believe the President of the Treasury Board when, in connection with the sponsorship scandal, he claims to have never told Pierre Tremblay, “You will take this or that agency, this or that contract. You will give it to this or that person”? How can he be believed?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:20 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, he can be believed because I think that, in a democratic system such as ours, people are presumed innocent, and not guilty, particularly when the presumption comes from someone seeking direct political gain by sullying the reputation of a member of Parliament. This is totally unacceptable.

How is it that they have a double standard, depending on whether it involves what goes on here, or what goes on where they come from?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I hope that, when the minister says they, he includes himself. The Prime Minister stated that he had questioned each of his ministers about their integrity before appointing them to cabinet and that he was satisfied with their answers.

Can the President of the Privy Council tell us whether he informed the Prime Minister that the firm he wanted to hire at the time was Everest?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:25 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, the Prime Minister made it very clear in this House that he put the question to all his ministers, that he got satisfactory answers and that, as far as he is concerned, the question was very clear.

As for including myself when referring to where he comes from, I disagree. Like him, I am a Quebecker. But, unlike him, I am not going to sit on the Conseil de la souveraineté, I am not paying for studies by LeHir, and I am certainly not paying to promote Quebec's sovereignty.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us get back to the main issue. Does the Prime Minister still trust his minister, now that he is aware of the existence of this e-mail, which clearly shows that the President of the Privy Council got personally involved to help Everest secure the contract?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister trusts all his ministers, and particularly the minister to whom the hon. member is referring.

HealthOral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, the real scandal is not sponsorship. It is the privatization of health care.

After 11 years of starving the system, now we read today that the Liberals want to reopen the Canada Health Act to make it easier for premiers like Ralph Klein to privatize health care. We hear of a secret Liberal plan to help corporate friends own their own hospitals.

How happy is the government today to learn that Ralph Klein thinks the secret federal Liberal privatization plan is a good thing?

HealthOral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Gerry Byrne LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the pretext of the hon. member's question comes from an anonymous report that there are changes being considered to the Canada Health Act. Let me say very clearly that the Canada Health Act will remain public, comprehensive, universal, portable and accessible, the five pillars. It will remain so.

HealthOral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

But not accountable, Mr. Speaker, which was the sixth principle that people wanted.

The fact of the matter is that the privatization of health care has grown exponentially under this government. The Liberals have already changed a law to make it easier. In fact, the lead B.C. staffer in the Prime Minister's office was a lobbyist for health care privatizers days before entering the PMO.

Did the B.C. Liberal premier know in advance of this secret Liberal plan to privatize health care? Did Gordon Campbell let private clinics grow because he knew the Liberal government in Ottawa would not stop him?