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House of Commons Hansard #54 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was witnesses.

Topics

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12:55 p.m.

Kitchener—Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Aboriginal Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the way seems to have ignored the fact that the Prime Minister has gone to unprecedented lengths, lengths that have never been seen before, to ensure the issue comes to the forefront and that those responsible are held accountable.

I know the member opposite and both the leader of the Alliance and leader of the former Progressive Conservative Party have failed to reveal who made donations to their campaigns, something that is totally, completely and utterly in their power to do.

The member opposite was a crown prosecutor and he knows the law. People are presumed innocent until proven guilty. A story in the Winnipeg Free Press today shows that the member opposite has been charged with violating the Manitoba electoral laws when he served as the province's attorney general. The member has been charged but I am assuming he is innocent until the facts have been laid out and the case goes to court.

As a former crown attorney he also knows that the biases of the public accounts committee, chaired by a member from the other side, demonstrate a real lack of credibility and, unfortunately, the committee has turned into a partisan affair. Unfortunately, they do not believe that Canadians have a right to an interim report after the committee has been sitting for months.

Does the hon. member believe in waiting until the facts come out in court or does he believe that the charges that he faces in violation of the election act should mean that he is guilty?

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12:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before I give the floor to the hon. member for Provencher, let me express my discomfort, and I am not sure at this point in terms of the admissibility given the precedents of sub judice in this House. I humbly submit to the House that not having greater expertise on this matter, I can only express my discomfort. I will grant the floor to the hon. member for Provencher to deal with the matter in the fashion that he sees fit, but I did want to put that on the record and, if necessary, I would come back to the House to address the matter more fully.

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12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows that was totally improper. He has prejudiced my trial in respect of that issue. That was on command of the Prime Minister, given his relationship with him. As you have pointed out, Mr. Speaker, that will form the basis of another issue.

However, now that he has improperly prejudiced my position, I would like to discuss the fact that this matter has been going on for four or five years. We know the timing on this matter is politically motivated and that it is coming from the Prime Minister's office, but there is one significant difference. In my case, the issue is not of money that has gone missing or stolen. No money is missing or stolen and no allegation. Indeed, there is not even any allegation of personal responsibility on my part. However, in the case of the sponsorship scandal, it involves $250 million of taxpayer money missing.

Speaking as a former crown attorney, when $250 million is missing outside of the accounts, where is that money? Canadians are entitled to ask that question. The member wants to prejudice my fair trial as he has just done, and I will raise that issue in the proper forum, but what I ask Canadians to do is to ask what happened to the $250 million. They know that in my situation not a dime of public money was taken or misplaced, but $250 million has gone missing under the sponsorship program.

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1 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to be very clear on what I said, and you can look at the blues. What I said was that a story appeared in the paper and that I was withholding judgment on it because the courts were dealing with it. That is the due process and all members of the legal profession should know that. That is what I said.

All I was saying is that the courts have laid charges on the matter before us today and that we should let the process take place.

Furthermore, I was under absolutely no instruction by anyone. I was sitting in the House in a back room and I saw the story in the newspaper. I could not believe that a member, who was a former crown attorney, could say the kinds of things he said, because the Prime Minister is getting at the truth.

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1 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

As I stated earlier, I will look at this matter over the course of the next few hours and, if necessary, I will come back to the House with a further statement on the matter. After verifying the blues and any other information that might have been put on the floor of the House, I will respond to that matter.

Questions or comments, the hon. member for Blackstrap.

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1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for the hon. member for Provencher.

The member raised the point that it has cost taxpayers a lot of money to have the committee sit. What kind of dollars does he think even that costs? When we think of interpreters and witnesses, they all get paid. None of those testimonies will be worth anything by the sounds of it. Are there any particular witnesses that he thinks should have come forward and that probably will not because the inquiry shut down? Can he compare it to the Somalia inquiry where it was just shut down and there was not ever any conclusion?

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1:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, there are 40 witnesses that have been heard from, or thereabouts, and there are another 90 or so. What I would like to point out is yes, there are a lot of witnesses to be heard, but remember, we have heard one-third of them.

The witnesses were not chosen on a partisan basis. The witnesses were chosen by an expert company that we hired to assist us in developing the testimony and bringing it forward in an orderly process. We have spent no doubt thousands of dollars in terms of that process and that will now all be lost. Whether it is tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars, just with respect to the experts from KPMG, I do not know. I believe it was money well spent in an attempt to proceed in a non-partisan fashion. Obviously that now will be lost if the committee is shut down.

We note that the committee will not be sitting next week. There is no reason that it could not continue to sit next week, but the Liberals have specifically decided to shut it down. Hearing more witnesses next week would not be throwing good money after bad. In fact it would ensure that the hard-earned money that we have already put into it would be used to bring forward the necessary conclusions that Parliament needs in order not only to determine what happened but to ensure that it does not happen again.

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1:05 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Liberal

Walt Lastewka LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker I would like to respond to some of the remarks that the hon. member made. I want to make sure that we look at the fact that the Auditor General wrote to the committee, and the member has a copy of the letter, reinforcing that $100 million was not lost or stolen. Those are her exact words.

I know there are a lot of people wanting to twist and turn and make other accusations. The member opposite, including the member from the NDP, did not want the Auditor General to come back to be to share with us more information that she had received.

I ask the member for Provencher, did he or did he not receive the letter from the Auditor General concerning that item specifically? Please answer specifically.

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1:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, the issue was not whether or not we wanted the Auditor General to come back. We all wanted the Auditor General to come back. We were relying on the scenario set out by KPMG in terms of how the witnesses were to come back. Rather than imposing our own political partisan view on when witnesses should come back, I agreed that however the experts in setting out the case decided what should be the order of witnesses, that was how it should be done.

The Auditor General, it is true, did not say that $100 million was stolen. What she said was that $250 million was missing, that the documentation was not there to justify that.

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1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

No, she did not. Once again, misinformation.

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1:05 p.m.

An hon. member

That is exactly what was in the Auditor General's letter.

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1:05 p.m.

Hillsborough P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to discuss and review the government's actions with respect to the sponsorship program.

I want to point out that I have been on the public accounts committee. For the last three months the committee has been meeting on average about four times a day. There are only one or two members on the present committee who have the advantage of having served on the previous public accounts committee. The chair is one of those members as am I. We followed this issue back in 2002 and the investigation that we have here today.

I am not going to stand in the House of Commons to defend the indefensible or to make excuses for the inexcusable. There are certain problems but we have to bear in mind also that these events occurred six to eight years ago. Remedial action was taken about three and one-half years ago. Having said that, it is a serious situation. The committee has spent a lot of time on it and has heard from many witnesses.

I attribute no blame in this; I do not blame anyone. I am not going to stand here and blame people, but because of the timing of the electoral cycle it is my position that to a certain extent politics has contaminated the whole process, especially recently. It is my hope and prayer that we are able to write a report, even an interim report. The committee does have some excellent recommendations to make. If there is an election, the committee can reconstitute itself and continue its work.

We have more than enough information to make a certain number of very bold recommendations to Parliament. We had a great meeting this morning. I hope that a report will come forward containing a number of bold recommendations with respect to the whole issue of ministerial accountability, deputy ministerial accountability and a whole host of other issues that ought to be addressed by the committee.

I would like to spend a few minutes providing members of the House with some background information on the sponsorship program and in particular, some of the decisions that were taken by the former minister of public works and government services, the member for Wascana, who as everybody knows is the present Minister of Finance, to get to the bottom of the matter. I will also address the unprecedented actions taken by the government since the release of the report of the Auditor General on February 10 this year.

There have been questions concerning the program's former delivery mechanism through communications agencies working on commission, and I have my own view on that. There is no place for the Government of Canada to deal with advertising agencies, or any other agencies for that matter, on a commission basis. I hope that will be a firm recommendation from our committee and I hope it will be accepted by the government.

There were also concerns about transparency, accountability and value for money. The previous speaker said that $250 million was missing or stolen, but that is not correct. It was clearly pointed out that was not the Auditor General's position. Those statements will continue to be made in the House and in the streets of Canada. I can say to members here and to Canadians that is not correct and that is not what the Auditor General said. Anyone who says otherwise is not being truthful with themselves, they are not being truthful with the House, and they are not being truthful with Canadians.

The issue is value for money, and because of the whole issue of value for money, the program's credibility had been seriously eroded, particularly in light of the highly critical analysis which was so well done and so well documented by our Auditor General. These questions triggered public concern, and rightly so.

On May 26 the then prime minister appointed the former minister of public works and government services and gave him the mandate to find out what went wrong and to fix it. The former minister's first action following his appointment was to impose an immediate moratorium on all sponsorship initiatives. Everyone in the House has had initiatives in their own ridings. Members on both sides of the House were certainly aware of the moratorium and the problems that followed from that. This action had to be taken. It gave him the opportunity to properly assess the situation.

The former minister would have been lobbied hard by members, his own colleagues on this side of the House and members of the opposition, so he did not take lightly to the decision to impose the moratorium on all sponsorship contracts. The moratorium meant that the full demand for the Government of Canada sponsorships was not met in the summer of 2002. No one, least of all the former minister, wanted to penalize these organizations, these groups, these communities and these events. However, the moratorium was absolutely essential to ensure that the public interest and the public good were fully protected.

I would like to provide a bit of perspective of the former minister's portfolio. Again, this is not to defend the indefensible or to excuse the inexcusable, but we are talking about a very large department. It involves 1,400 public servants handling some 60,000 purchases every year worth approximately $10.5 billion. The Department of Public Works and Government Services deals with everything from paperclips, to vehicle fleets, to consulting and translation services, to office towers and buildings right here on the precinct of Parliament Hill, from information technology to medical equipment and military equipment.

Of that $10.5 billion total, the sponsorship program represented approximately $40 million per year, less than one-half of one per cent. Again, it would not make any difference if the amount was $40 million, $10 million, $1 million or $.5 million; if the Government of Canada, representing the taxpayers of Canada, is not getting value for its money, it is my submission that it is a serious problem. The government recognized that there was a problem and that the problem had to be corrected.

From the outset the former minister made no attempt whatsoever, inside or outside the House, to defend the indefensible. He indicated from the outset that wrongful overpayments had to be recovered and that any files that raised legal issues had to be immediately referred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The sponsorship program was originally created in 1997. In 2000 it was subject to an internal audit called for by the then deputy minister of public works and government services. As we all know now, and I certainly know after what I have gone through over the last three months, this program has been the focus of extensive concern and criticism from inside and outside government, particularly for the period between 1997 and 2000.

As I said when I started my speech, during the latter part of 2000 the total program was revamped. The government knew it had a problem once it received the audit and the correct remedial action was taken about four years ago.

In May 2002 the Auditor General of Canada, Sheila Fraser, released her audit on the three contracts that she had been asked to review. These contracts, which were awarded between 1996 and 1999 through Groupaction, were referred by Ms. Fraser to the RCMP for further investigation. As we know from events that have occurred in the public domain over the past week, charges have been laid.

The former minister continued to investigate the details of the sponsorship program and get down to the fine print. In the spring of 2002, a quick response team was assembled, comprised of financial, procurement and audit specialists from within the Department of Public Works and Government Services. An extensive, comprehensive, complex, case by case review was carried out on over 700 sponsorship files to determine their completeness and report on areas of concern.

The quick response team conducted a detailed review of 126 files of primary interest. In other words, these were the files that they thought were most serious. These files, which were valued over $500,000, had received media coverage or had known deficiencies.

Throughout the review, the former minister's aim was clear. Where irregularities were discovered, they were to be pursued. If there was evidence of wrongdoing, the authorities were to be called in.

The work of the quick response team is included in the final project report which was tabled in the House on October 10, 2002. It contained five recommendations which the department followed up in detail. Several files, as we all know now, were referred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

These include the three specific referrals which I mentioned earlier made by the Auditor General in May 2002, and I should add, 10 additional cases. As I have said, the RCMP has laid charges. It is continuing its investigation, wherever that may lead.

In the meantime, members will recall that in June 2002 the then minister indicated several times in the House of Commons that he wished to remove the communication agencies from the delivery of the program. He also made his opinion known that he preferred to have the sponsorship program delivered in house, by qualified, dedicated public servants. I made this point in the earlier part of my remarks, that in my view there is no way the Government of Canada should deal with any ad agency or any other agency on any type of a commission contract. There is no point in doing that.

Members may also recall that the former minister informed the House that in instances where money was paid, but where no services were delivered or inadequate services were delivered, he would attempt to recover the money. That is exactly what he proceeded to do, and that is exactly what this government continues to do. Outstanding payments were withheld and new business was halted with certain communication agencies associated with troubled files. The minister commenced the process to recover overpayments.

In early July 2002 the moratorium was lifted for the balance of that fiscal year. That is the fiscal year which would end on March 31, 2003. Subsequently, the communication agencies were removed from the delivery of the sponsorship program, which was the correct decision to make.

In December 2002 the former minister announced that a re-designated sponsorship program would be put in place for a one year trial program, ending on March 31, 2004. The new program was to be limited to not for profit sporting, cultural and community events, with the goal of achieving an equitable distribution of sponsorship funds in all provinces and territories. That is exactly what happened.

Certainly the members of the House, who were elected in the election of 2000, have dealt with the sponsorship program, and I can say it was administered with extreme rigour. We did receive complaints. There were mainly two complaints. The first complaint was the timeliness of the response. That was a constant complaint.

When small community groups, organizations, events, festivals would apply for limited funding, the biggest complaint in my riding was they could not get an answer quick enough. Sometimes the events would be scheduled for a weekend and they were still trying to get an answer out of the Department of Public Works and Government Services three or four days before the event.

The other complaint was the rigour with which they had to follow up after the event to get their money. They had to file documents and pictures to prove that the event took place. This was quite onerous and rigorous. The larger ones had a staff or infrastructure to handle it. The smaller ones had great difficulty. As we know, the sponsorship program was cancelled quite some time ago, but there are still situations in my province where organizations still have not been paid for events that occurred eight or nine months ago. I think these things will be ironed out, but I point this out to show the rigour that this department administered. Again, that is since 2000, not before that.

Communication Canada was responsible for managing this program without the use of any intermediaries. As everyone is aware, that has all changed with the Prime Minister's decision to cancel totally the sponsorship program due to the government's belief that the program was fundamentally flawed.

In response to the Auditor General's report on February 10, the government announced a comprehensive set of measures to ensure we that we would get to the bottom of the matter.

The first measure includes the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry, which is already fully mandated under the Inquiries Act. We had a report from the chair of that inquiry, Mr. Justice Gomery of the Quebec Supreme Court. I expect that Mr. Justice Gomery will add a lot to why this was done the way it was.

The second measure was the appointment of a special counsel for financial recovery. The third measure was the introduction of whistleblower legislation. The fourth were measures to strengthen audit committees for crown corporations and the possible extension of the Access to Information Act to crown corporations. The fifth measure was the initiation of review and changes to the governance of crown corporations on changes to the Financial Administration Act and on the accountabilities of ministers and the public service.

The sixth measure were steps to allow the public accounts committee to begin immediately examining the report of the Auditor General, which, as everyone is aware, is what we have been doing for the last three months. The government has taken unprecedented steps in allowing the committee to have full access to cabinet documentation, cabinet memoranda and records of government. We have done a lot and that has assisted the committee greatly.

As I indicated previously, the public accounts committee has been at work for more than three months now and it has heard testimony from 51 witnesses. I believe committee members from all sides should be commended for their work.

Also, over the last three months we have had full cooperation from all government departments and crown agencies. Ministers, former ministers, deputy ministers and former deputy ministers have all testified before the committee. The government has provided the committee with valuable documents when it requested them.

The independent mechanisms of a public inquiry, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the special counsel for financial recovery are all in motion. On a cumulative basis, these will get to the bottom of this situation. All these mechanisms will provide the results publicly as they become available.

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1:25 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Liberal

Walt Lastewka LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I heard very clearly the sequence of events that happened over the last six or seven years. The public accounts committee has been sitting for a number of months. Could the hon. gentleman explain some of his findings and recommendations after hearing all the testimony, including Mr. Quail a couple of times and the Auditor General a number of times?

Also, could he possibly outline his recommendations about how we should be go ahead, since the task of the public accounts committee was to find out what went wrong, why and recommend fixes to the system?

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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, I heard the member's question, but I would like to see the committee write a report. I believe it is up to the committee, collectively, to come with in these recommendations. I have my views and I have shared them with the committee. The chair has shared some of his views.

As everyone in the House is aware, he has chaired the public accounts committee since 1993, I believe. He certainly understands this issue. He understands the whole concept of accountability in government. I consider him an expert on that issue.

I would rather not get into my specific recommendations, but the overarching issue is the issue of ministerial and deputy ministerial accountability. That has to be addressed by the committee.

We had before us on the committee, and this is public knowledge, the embarrassing spectacle of a minister coming before the committee and saying that he was too busy to run his department. We had the embarrassing spectacle of a deputy minister coming before the committee and saying that he was out of the loop. That is not acceptable to Parliament. Nor is it acceptable to the committee. That is the whole issue of accountability.

I think we have seen a better approach followed in the United States with regard to extremely unfortunate incidents that occurred in some of the prisons in Iraq. They were embarrassing to the United States. However, in that case, when Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld appeared before a congressional committee, he stated that there was a problem, that it occurred on his watch and that he was responsible. He had accountability for that issue.

We cannot have it any other way. The issue of ministerial accountability is a tenet upon which our democratic system is built. Once we pull that out, the whole thing falls down. It does not work. I do not think we can throw that principle out the door, as some people might suggest.

Again, with regard to the whole issue of deputy ministerial accountability, they cannot be accountable for policy, but they certainly should be accountable for the financial administration of their departments, as is stated in the Financial Administration Act. In this case it is my view and my position that did not occur.

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1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member gave what in my view is a fairly thoughtful speech on the topic. What is his opinion with respect to the actions of the then prime minister in grossly demoting the then minister of public works and government services, Alfonso Gagliano?

I always think that if he were not guilty and if the prime minister of the day did not know anything, then the transposition of this person from being in cabinet, right out of Parliament, right out of the country, right to a position in Denmark is most bizarre. What would motivate it, if the prime minister did not know that there was going to be a lot of stuff, shall we say, hitting the fan very shortly and he wanted to maximize his distance from accountability?

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, I was not involved in the demotion of the then minister of public works and government services or the subsequent posting to the country of Denmark. In my own view, there was certainly enough in the public domain and enough issues and material brought before this House at the time that one would conclude the minister may have lost the confidence of the prime minister and the public at that point in time. That is why he was no longer the minister of public works and government Services.

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1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to press this member because I think the Canadian people have a right to know what actually happened.

I believe from my point of view that this move was a totally cynical damage control measure. The fact that he received a very prestigious appointment does not reflect that the Prime Minister has lost confidence in the person. If he had lost confidence in that person he would have turfed him right out. I believe that if it was known then that illegal things had gone on, he should have been investigated by the RCMP. Instead, he was shuttled away which, to me, smells of a cover-up.

I do respect the member as an individual MP and I think he is trying to do the right thing but adding to the cover-up is not the right thing.

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, all I can say is hindsight is twenty-twenty vision. I am not aware of the criteria and the process that goes into appointing an ambassador. We are going back a couple of years and I am not exactly sure what facts were either in the public domain or in the domain of the central agencies, including the Office of the Privy Council and the Prime Minister's Office.

All I can say is that I would perhaps agree with the hon. member. If the Prime Minister's office had, and it most likely did not, the benefit of the knowledge that I have, after sitting through months of hearings in the public accounts committee, it certainly would have been a questionable appointment.

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1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I believe this scandal has very much been one that has been concerning the Canadian people. I am sure not everybody is concerned but I think a large majority of Canadians are concerned about it. It is probably not the greatest scandal in terms of the amount of money that we have seen the government fritter away in other areas, but I think it has become concerning to Canadians because of some of the implications of linkages to the Liberal Party and to the patronage problem we have in our political system.

The accusations have been made that the advertising companies, which received these contracts, were companies known to be very friendly to the Liberal Party and that they were awarded these contracts sometimes without proper documentation. The Auditor General and others have been concerned that there is no paper trail to connect the awarding of the contract to the individual company.

Has the public accounts committee really been able to discover where the money has gone? Is it true, from anything that the member has seen in his deliberations on that committee, that this money has then been kicked back to the Liberal Party or any political party?

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, the unfortunate thing about this is that the discussion is taking place at an unfortunate time. The member, like some of his colleagues, has made wild and totally unsubstantiated allegations that are not true. He knows they are not true but he is quite comfortable getting up here in the House and making them anyway. It is unfortunate but that is what we have seen.

He talked about patronage. One of the most difficult and offensive pieces of testimony I heard was the way these ad agencies were hidden during the Mulroney government. At that time they had three political appointees.

This might make members blush but there were three Conservative appointments in the bureaucracy that did the ad work. They were paid for by the taxpayers and they reported to a committee chaired by Senator Lowell Murray. That was totally reprehensible and that was probably the most offensive piece of testimony that the committee heard in the whole three months. That was one thing that did happen.

The hon. member will be pleased to hear that in 1993, when this government came to power, it did away with that. The Conservative appointments were fired. Lowell Murray did not have that job--

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1:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The Chair has been as generous as it can be with the time.

Debate, the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill.

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1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot.

Our motion today is very simple. It is to make sure that the parliamentary inquiry into the sponsorship program continues even though Parliament will be dissolved in a few days time for an election call. We think this is very important because two key questions remain unanswered.

The first question that remains unanswered is who gave the orders that allowed this program to be so badly mismanaged. The second question that remains unanswered is where the money really ended up.

I would like to refresh the public's memory about what the Auditor General said about the sponsorship program which involved a quarter of a billion dollars. She said:

What is particularly disturbing about these sponsorship payments is that each involved a number of transactions with a number of companies, sometimes using false invoices and contracts or no written contracts at all. These arrangements appear designed to provide commissions to communications agencies, while hiding the source of funds and the true nature of the transactions. The parliamentary appropriation process was not respected. Senior public servants in CCSB and some officials of the Crown corporations were knowing and willing participants in these arrangements.

We observed that from 1997 to 31 August 2001, there was a widespread failure to comply with the government's contracting policies and regulations, a pervasive lack of documentation in the files, and little evidence in many cases that the government had received value for its sponsorship—in some cases, no evidence.

The Auditor General concluded:

Considerable amounts of public funds were spent, with little evidence that obtaining value for money was a concern. The pattern we saw of non-compliance with the rules was not the result of isolated errors. It was consistent and pervasive. This was how the government ran the program.

If the government ran the program that way, we know that someone in government gave the orders to break the rules. In fact, the Prime Minister himself said over and over, after the report became public in February, that there had to be political direction. Yet there has been no identification of the politician, the elected person or people in government who said to the bureaucrats and civil servants that they should break the rules because that was how they wanted a quarter of a billion dollars to be dealt with.

No one has taken responsibility. We heard evidence from Professor Franks to the effect that the Privy Council Office had interpreted the doctrine of parliamentary and ministerial responsibility in such a way that no one could really be held accountable. That is the most disturbing thing, but I will get back to that.

We need to have a clear understanding of who gave the orders because if no one is responsible then we can never be sure that this will not happen again. Canadians have to be sure that when they give money into the hands of government, into the hands of the people administering their country, that it will be dealt with according to the rules, the law and the highest standards of accountability and, if it is not, that someone's head will roll and someone will pay the price. Right now no one is paying the price because no one has been identified as giving the orders.

What has been troubling a lot of Canadians is where the money has ended up. Media reports have been very disturbing about where the money might have ended up. CTV reported back in February that the allegation “is that senior political figures used the ad agencies to launder money.

“So, for example, the wife of a senior politician goes shopping in downtown Montreal buying very expensive clothes and a person from the ad agency goes along with a VISA card and goes, “click, click,” and it gets charged back to the advertising agency and then charged back to the Government of Canada”.

Canadians are justifiably concerned about this. Another media report in the Ottawa Citizen quotes an ad executive as saying:

Well, we'll do the dry cleaning for you.

We do it all the time. You know, dry cleaning--we pick up the expense and charge it to you (the government).

If this is going on, then it must be stopped. The people who are doing this, conniving at this, giving the orders and looting the public treasury in this shocking and unacceptable manner, must be brought to account.

This is Canada and we pride ourselves in having the highest first world standards of uprightness, fairness and right dealing in a democratic way with public money. Yet we have seen in the Auditor General's report that the rules were thrown out the window and where the money really ended up might well be in a cynical and even criminal defrauding of the public.

We need to be clear about this. The public is not just a big mass out there. The public is people like my constituents in Calgary—Nose Hill, people with children, people struggling to get by, to pay the mortgage and to pay the cost of putting gas in their vehicles so they can get back and forth to work, people who are struggling to pay their taxes, people who are just barely getting by. When they find out that the government is taking their money that they struggled to earn and using it to buy luxuries and in a money laundering way, this bothers them, to say the least, and it should bother them.

This is a gross betrayal of trust and we should not rest for one moment until the people who have engaged in this, in any way, shape or form, are brought to justice and brought to a place where they will pay the price.

A lot has been made about the fact that there will be a public inquiry. I sat on the public accounts committee looking into this and I can say very frankly that it is a very imperfect instrument for getting to the truth. All members of the committee have eight minutes to get some facts and some evidence out on the table. That includes the witnesses taking up air time and, in some cases, taking up air time just to burn up our time. It is almost impossible to get a concentrated line of questioning that really gets to the facts in those brief few minutes. Sometimes it is only four minutes.

Yes, the parliamentary committee is an imperfect instrument and those rules do need to be changed, but to shut it down when it could keep going, does not serve Canadians' interests. The judicial inquiry will not even get going until next fall. Even if the inquiry pushes full bore ahead, it is not going to report until the end of 2005, if they are lucky. Canadians will not know until 2005 what is happening.

Let us look at the mandate of the judicial inquiry. One of its mandates is that the commissioner, Judge Gomery, “be directed to perform his duties without expressing any conclusion or recommendation regarding the civil or criminal liability of any person or organization and to ensure that the conduct of the inquiry does not jeopardize any ongoing criminal investigation or criminal proceedings”.

The judicial inquiry will not be able to say if someone defrauded the public or money laundered through the ad agencies. That it is not in its mandate. It cannot talk about civil or criminal liability. I really believe the government does not want the truth to come out.

When a motion was moved to bring forward the Gagliano papers because he was the key minister involved at the time, the Liberals in the committee voted it down. When a motion was moved to allow the committee to see the Privy Council briefings to the Prime Minister about the sponsorship program, the Liberals voted to keep that evidence hidden. The reason is that Liberal dealing with the sponsorship money, with quarter of a billion dollars, cannot stand the light of day and that is why they want to shut it down.

There is a bigger issue here and that is the reputation of our country. Parliamentarians from our Parliament, from the House of Commons, go to other countries in the world and say, “Let us help you do things right”. My colleague from St. Albert started the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption. They go around the world helping other parliamentarians clean up the mess in other countries, and what happens? To our red-faced embarrassment and shame, we find out that our own government is misusing and mismanaging hundreds of millions of dollars and is hiding the evidence and not letting it come forward, is shutting down the inquiry and putting off the day of reckoning until after an election. It is wrong. It is wrong to do that.

That is why we brought forward a motion that we keep the evidence coming, that we keep working to get to the bottom of this issue, so that we can win back the trust of Canadians, so that we can win back the trust of the international community. In that way we can show by our deeds that we will not leave a stone unturned until we get to the bottom of this issue, until we find out who gave those orders, until we find out who really got the money. We must get the bottom of this terrible allegation of money laundering.

I urge the House to support the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege for me to rise today, as it has been an honour to stand in this chamber for the last 10 years.

If the conventional wisdom is accurate, the Prime Minister will call the election some time in the next week. If that is true, this will be my last opportunity to speak as a member of Parliament in the House of Commons. While I support the motion before the House, I hope and trust that my colleagues will permit me this brief moment reflection.

Thirty years ago as a wife and a mother whose home was flooded because our neighbourhood was built on a flood plain, a generation later I stand here, a three term member of Parliament and the first woman to have been mayor of the city of Saint John, and a very proud grandmother.

Growing up in Saint John it was never my ambition nor my intention to seek elected office. I did not aspire to a career in public service beyond helping my friends, my family, my church and my community. Yet with each passing year and every election, I discovered there was more that needed to be done. As a councillor, I realized that the challenges facing our great city could not be solved unless we changed city hall. As mayor, I realized that the solutions to many of our most pressing problems were in the hands of the federal government in Ottawa.

As a member of Parliament I saw that our hopes and dreams were the hopes and dreams of all Canadians and that Saint John was not alone in its struggles.

As I stand here today, I am proud of what we have accomplished together. I am proud that we helped get the compensation package for our merchant navy veterans and for those who were used for testing mustard gas and chemical weapons. I am proud that we helped force the government into finally replacing our aging Sea Kings. I hope that continues to happen. I am proud to have worked on a daily basis on behalf of the men and women of the armed forces. I am proud that we continue to bring attention to the challenges faced by Canada's growing number of seniors as well. Most of all, I am proud that we were able to make a difference.

There comes a time in our lives when we must decide whether the journey is ours to continue or whether the torch must be passed to another. I have faced that decision many times, but this time was the most difficult. Being a member of Parliament is a great honour but it involves great sacrifices. It means being away from the people and places we love and it means our time is not our own.

For close to 30 years I have had the most wonderful and understanding family anyone could have. My husband, Richard, has been a source of constant strength and wisdom. He has stood by me through good times and bad, willing to share the obligations of an office he never asked to hold. Whichever decision I made, I always knew that I could count on his unconditional love and support. That was the greatest blessing of all.

As much as I love this place, and although there are many more adventures on the horizon, there is nothing I would rather do than spend more time now with Richard, our boys and their families. Therefore I decided some months ago that I would not seek a fourth term. Let me be clear that I am no less committed to the people back home in Saint John and no less grateful for their continued kindness.

While this marks an important change in my life, one thing will never change: Saint John is now and forever the greatest little city in the east and I hope everyone knows it. Although I will not hold elected office, I will continue to be a passionate advocate for the city in whatever capacity I can best serve.

The fact remains that our country and our city are now facing serious questions about the course we will take in the years to come. No one person has all the answers and no one party has all the answers. We need vigorous public debate between a principled government and a powerful opposition. Our common goal must be to improve the lives of individual Canadians and their families.

It has been a rare privilege to serve the people of Saint John and I have cherished every moment of it. I am indebted to the hundreds of people who have helped me in my various campaigns and the thousands more who gave me their trust.

To my colleagues on both sides of the House who have shared this great experience with me, let me thank each and every one of them for their friendship and wise counsel. To those Canadians who have written to me with their words of encouragement and their prayers, let me thank them for their kind words.

I want to thank the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker for their friendship and their guidance. I really appreciated it.

When I leave this place today it will be for the last time. I want to thank all the young pages for serving me my water each day.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MatagamiStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, the city of Matagami has compiled an opportunities wish list. It reflects the community's demands as expressed during a consultation process held on February 21, 2004, and was prepared with the help of members of the action committee of the city of Matagami with a view to counteracting the negative effects of the Bell Allard Mine closure by the Toronto-based Noranda group.

The city of Matagami, founded in 1963, owes its existence to the mining industry. Forestry now holds an important place in the local economy, and the tourist industry is developing a very strong presence as well.

Matagami has about 2,000 citizens and is located strategically in northern Quebec, strategically in terms of both location and access. This is why Matagami is the gateway to James Bay.

The Government of Canada ought to follow the example of Mayor Robert Labelle and his fellow citizens, who have injected the sum of $50,000 from the city's surplus to help implement the community's plans.

Rights of the UnbornStatements By Members

May 13th, 2004 / 1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, thousands of Canadians have gathered on Parliament Hill for the annual March for Life. Addressing the crowd were Archbishop Gervais and Rabbi Bulka of Ottawa, various clergy and members of Parliament from both political parties.

Tragically, surveys reveal that nearly half of the women who have abortions do so because of pressure from abusive or unsupportive boyfriends, husbands or family members. They feel betrayed by their doctors and medical personnel who do not tell them the truth about their babies or the high risk procedure they would undergo.

Denise Mountenay and Linda Menon are here for the March for Life. These are courageous women who represent a group called Canada Silent No More. They spoke of their own suffering because of a procedure that they say was neither safe nor medically necessary. They are concerned about long term physical and emotional consequences of abortion.

It is the women themselves who are asking us as parliamentarians to open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to hear this cry for help. They are determined to be silent no more.