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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

Presence in the GalleryOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I would like to follow up on the statement by the hon. member for Tobique—Mactaquac, who reminded the House of the tragic death of Cpl. Jamie Brendan in Afghanistan.

I wish to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of a survivor of that explosion in Afghanistan, Corporal Richard Michael Newman, from Hartland, New Brunswick.

Presence in the GalleryOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is the 54th sitting of the third session of the 37th Parliament, with a day to go.

I am wondering if the government House leader could tell us what miracle he has for the next day and a half to save us from probably the least productive session in the 30 years I have been involved in politics.

I also want to say to the government House leader, in all kindness, that I am looking forward to coming back after the election when he will be asking the new prime minister questions from this side of the House.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 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, the true miracle is the number of bills we have been able to pass, notwithstanding their opposition to them.

This afternoon, the House will continue with the opposition day motion. Tomorrow, we will return to Bill C-34, the migratory birds legislation. This will be followed by a motion to refer to committee before second reading Bill C-36, respecting communicable diseases. We will then return to Bill C-33, the Fisheries Act amendments, Bill C-10, respecting marijuana, and Bill C-23, respecting the first nations.

When the House returns on May 25, it will resume this list and take up bills that are introduced or reported from committee in the interim.

Thursday, May 27, shall be an allotted day, something that may not interest them.

Right Hon. Member for Calgary CentreOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today in this House to pay tribute to a fellow Albertan, and an outstanding parliamentarian and public servant, the right hon. member for Calgary Centre, the man from High River.

Although we have spent years on opposite sides of the House, no one can but have enormous respect for the member's commitment to this place and his profound belief in the importance of the democratic discourse that takes place here. Because of that commitment, the right hon. member displayed on a daily basis his love of language and his understanding of its power; its power to inform, to elevate and to inspire, and at times, dare I say, its power to irritate, to exasperate and to move to anger.

Some have said that the hon. member was able to say more in 35 seconds than others could say in 35 minutes. It is perhaps not surprising that the right hon. member understands the power of language.

He is the son and grandson of newspaper owners and his mother was a French teacher. I am told that as a young man he considered a career in journalism. Indeed, he was the editor of the student newspaper, the Gateway at the University of Alberta.

As a student he quickly became involved in his lasting passion, politics. I understand that at the university he debated vigorously the issues of the day with fellow students, such as Jim Coutts, Preston Manning and Senator Joyce Fairbairn. By the late 1960s, the right hon. member had decided to make politics his career. He worked for some time as a speech writer for the late hon. Robert Stanfield.

The right hon. member was first elected to Parliament in 1972, becoming leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1976 and Prime Minister in 1979. He left elected politics in 1993 but returned as leader of the Progressive Conservatives in 1998. His commitment to progressive conservatism has never wavered.

As minister of external affairs, the right hon. member represented our country with distinction around the world. I want to particularly note the important role he played, and our country played, in bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa.

While he served as the minister responsible for constitutional affairs between 1991 and 1993, the right hon. member's commitment was obvious throughout the country, as he worked tirelessly to bring about constitutional reform through the Charlottetown accord.

While the Charlottetown accord was not finally accepted by Canadians, no one could ever doubt this right hon. member's commitment to a strong and united Canada where policies like official bilingualism are at the heart of who we are and what we aspire to be.

As we all know, the right hon. member has never stopped working on behalf of Canadians, both in and outside the House, either in an official party or not. For example, yesterday he asked a key question about the government's commitment to the fight against HIV-AIDS in this country.

It will be 25 years ago this week that the right hon. member became Prime Minister of Canada.

On behalf of the Prime Minister, the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I wish to thank the right hon. member, his wife, Maureen McTeer, and his daughter, Catherine, for their selfless, courageous and inspiring commitment to this country and its people.

Mr. Speaker, the member had the honour to lead the political party that was there at the founding of our country.

Right Hon. Member for Calgary CentreOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, as Leader of the Opposition, it is my honour today to rise and pay tribute to the right hon. member for Calgary Centre and to his political career.

I wish to begin by admitting that we have not always been on the same side of political issues. I think we have spent most of our careers and political lives as opponents, but in this business, while this may colour one's perspective, it should not blind one to the abilities and accomplishments of others.

Because of the rivalries that we have had from time to time, the right hon. member and myself are sometimes compared, and I am sure will be more frequently in the future. These comparisons to me are, from my perspective, not always flattering.

I can give one example. A few months back I was on the road as I often am for a number of days at a time and left my family to travel alone back from the riding to Ottawa. My seven year old son Benjamin found himself seated with the right hon. member for Calgary Centre on that four hour plane flight.

Well, a few days later my harshest critic, my wife, delivered the verdict. She said, “Do you realize that lately you have been spending less time with your son than Joe Clark has?” Man, I tell you, some things hurt.

However, there was a point there. As we all struggle with the challenges of living in public life, we cannot help but admire an individual who has been in public life almost his entire adult life and who has not only managed those challenges but has sustained a strong family life, an enduring and loving marriage to his wife Maureen, and a wonderful father-daughter relationship with Catherine who I understand also grew up at Stornoway, like my daughter Rachel.

Today we pay tribute principally though to a long and distinguished career in public service. Whatever our differences, the right hon. member for Calgary Centre has had a career here of well over 30 years. He has by my count been elected to this House eight times. He has served with distinction in key roles such as the constitutional affairs minister and has been minister of external affairs.

He twice led a national political party. He occupied the post of leader of the opposition during some of the most critical battles ever to take place in the history of this Chamber. And it was almost 25 years ago that he received the mandate, albeit briefly as it turned out, to be Prime Minister of Canada, one of only 21 people in the entire history of this country to be so honoured.

As a consequence, the right hon. member for Calgary Centre will leave here with only history to judge him, which makes him a historic figure. Many people come here with the ambition to be historic figures but very, very few ever achieve this. And for that, we salute his career and we wish the right hon. member and his family health and prosperity into the future.

Right Hon. Member for Calgary CentreOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, throughout his very long parliamentary career—he was first elected in 1972—the member for Calgary Centre performed his duties with dignity, a keen sense of public interest and, I might add, a good sense of humour. He is a gentleman.

In March 2002, he joined us to vote in favour of a Bloc Quebecois motion calling on the government to recognize the fiscal imbalance. He advocated the rejection of the clarity bill. He did so with arguments that we do not support, but nonetheless, he urged his party to vote against this disgraceful bill.

We did not always agree with his stand on the Quebec issue, as it did not meet our expectations or Quebeckers' expectations for that matter. Standing by his convictions, at the end of the 1980s, when the Progressive Conservative Party was in power, he made a sincere attempt to reconcile the aspirations of Quebec and Canada, but unsuccessfully. Nonetheless, he was always open to Quebec, sharing with Quebeckers values common to both peoples.

In all sincerity, I hope he enjoys his political retirement with his family, who supported him at all times. I wish him a good retirement and good luck.

Right Hon. Member for Calgary CentreOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the NDP caucus, I certainly want to wish the right hon. member for Calgary Centre well as this Parliament comes to a close, and to thank him for his distinguished service as a parliamentarian, as a prime minister, as leader of the opposition, as a minister and as a Progressive Conservative.

It should also be said that the right hon. member served Canada particularly well as Canada's foreign affairs minister during the Mulroney years, as I, who was his assigned critic for part of that time, can well attest. It has already been mentioned the role that Canada played under his leadership and the leadership of the prime minister at that time in the fight against apartheid and I think this is a Canadian story that we do not tell well enough or often enough.

One hesitates to be too complimentary about the right hon. member because some of his adversaries have said a political goodbye to him before and lived to hear their praise repeated in a different context. The right hon. member has a history of responding to duty and one never knows where or in what way duty may call again.

The NDP has a relationship, probably not remembered with affection by the hon. member, with one of the most difficult moments in his political life. We moved the motion that ultimately brought down the newly elected government in 1979. We did not, however, determine the government's tactics in response to the motion. That is a responsibility still to be sorted out.

However for the record I want the right hon. member to know that I argued in caucus at the time for letting him govern for a time while we saw what he would or could do. Perhaps it was because it was my first Parliament and I was not anxious to go back to the streets, I am not sure what the reason was, but that was my position at the time and I stick to it.

I would also like to commend the right hon. member for setting an example for western Canadians by being truly open to and aware of Quebec's aspirations and the reality of a bilingual Canada. Although we could debate certain constitutional matters at great length, I think the example he set in this regard is and will be part of the legacy of the right hon. member for Calgary Centre.

I think the right hon. member was also precocious in his attitude toward women, championing the cause of women's equality long before it was always popular to do so.

Finally, I want to commend the right hon. member for his appreciation of the role of Parliament and, in particular, the role of the House of Commons. Remarks have already been made by the leader of the Bloc Quebecois about the right hon. member being a gentleman and about his sense of humour. What I want to say of him and what I think is one of the highest compliments that can be paid a member of Parliament is that he is a House of Commons man who took seriously this place, its procedures and its possibilities, no matter what side of the House he was on, and saw the importance of doing the nation's business in this chamber and not across the street in some other contrived, unelected and unaccountable venue.

We hope he will write a book, for few have more to teach us about the nature of political commitment, through all the ups and downs that political life offers, than the right hon. member for Calgary Centre.

Good luck and thank you very much.

Right Hon. Member for Calgary CentreOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in this tribute to a man who, for over 30 years, spanning four decades, has dedicated his life to serving the public interest.

Canada is a complex country. It has been said that if other countries suffer from having too much history, Canada has too much geography. All that geography makes our great country a place in which diverse and sometimes divergent views and interests coexist and in fact flourish.

Throughout his political career, the right hon. member for Calgary Centre strove to understand that diversity and bridge those divides.

The son of a newspaper man from High River, Alberta, it would have been easier for him to be a man of his roots. Instead, he became a man of the world, always reaching out to the other, whoever the other happened to be.

The right hon. member learned to speak both of Canada's official languages. He named the first woman to serve as foreign affairs minister and the first black cabinet minister. He has always been an ardent supporter of human rights. He fought Canada's fight against South African apartheid. He was instrumental in Canada securing an acid rain treaty with the United States, and he welcomed the Vietnamese boat people.

The constitutional accord he negotiated would have, for the first time, recognized aboriginal peoples in our basic law. In each case there was a political risk and a political price to pay.

Not all of these initiatives were in fact successful but together they speak to his unwavering commitment to make this country a place anyone can call home, no matter their history, no matter their background.

He spoke of Canada as a community of communities long before the concept was fashionable. Indeed, our recent history has shown how truly prescient his vision was.

When I was young, I observed the right hon. member, who served our country as party leader, prime minister and then secretary of state for foreign affairs. He played a role, in a number of ways, in my decision to enter politics. His commitment to Canada and his protection of the public interest are an inspiration to us all.

Too often political pundits, media commentators describe what we do in this chamber in terms of winners and losers. That is, of course, important to our system. At its core, our system is in fact adversarial. It starts, after all, after an election, but that, dear friends and colleagues, does not tell the whole story.

At its best, politics is about making the big play in the interest of Canada. In an age of careful political leadership and government by opinion poll, the right hon. member for Calgary Centre stands out as a man who in every circumstance tried to make the big play.

Far removed from the back rooms, focus groups and polling questionnaires, he had a vision and he made his case to Canadians in public places, but more often than not in this House of Commons. He is a fierce opponent in question period and a formidable debater. On occasion, Mr. Speaker, you may have recognized that he is capable of being a tad partisan as well, but his motives were never in question. At all times and in all things he was motivated by the desire to make Canada a better place.

I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to acknowledge his wife and partner in this long political journey, Maureen McTeer, and my friend, Catherine. Political life, as we know it, is hard on families: long hours, time away, stress and hectic schedules, but their approach has always been a team approach. His achievements are their achievements as well.

This House of Commons and indeed this country will always be in the right hon. member's debt, both for the things he did and for the things for which he stood. He has taught me a great deal about the country that we serve and I think we all collectively are better parliamentarians for having known him.

Thank you, Joe.

Right Hon. Member for Calgary CentreOral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that I preferred these parliamentary tributes when they were about someone else but I appreciate deeply the tribute that the House has paid. I thank my fellow Albertan, the Deputy Prime Minister, for her remarks. I want to thank the Leader of the Opposition and, more particularly, his very engaging son, Benjamin.

I would of course, like to also thank the leader of the Bloc Quebecois. He is right, we do not see eye to eye when it comes to certain basic issues relating to Canada, but I think that we both, myself as much as he, appreciate each other's sincerity of commitment to our objectives. He is a little less bilingual than I, but these things happen.

My colleague, my friend and, dare I say, former youth member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, when there was such a thing, has now, I am pleased to see, confessed his collaboration or the collaboration of his party with the Liberals in bringing down my government in the beginning of our life.

I have to express a particular appreciation to my friend and my colleague in the other part of the Progressive Conservative caucus in the House of Commons, the member for Fundy—Royal. I admire him as a parliamentarian and an individual, and I very much appreciate his words today.

Mr. Speaker, I think this will be one of the least controversial interventions of my career. I want to begin my remarks where I began my career, which is with the men and women who elected me in the four constituencies in two provinces which it has been my privilege to represent here in the House of Commons.

I am immensely grateful to the voters of that spectacular but short-lived riding of Rocky Mountain in Alberta; the riding of Yellowhead, which I had the privilege to serve for so long; and the riding of Kings—Hants, from which the Deputy Prime Minister comes as does her now colleague, the current member for Kings—Hants; and of course my constituency of Calgary Centre.

I want to express my thanks to literally thousands of other individuals in Canada and abroad, in this House and outside, who have helped me in good times or in bad times or in both.

Everyone here knows, and it has been acknowledged, just how much members of Parliament owe to our families. That is always true but I have to say that in no case has it been more true than in the case of Maureen McTeer and of Catherine Clark.

Maureen sought election here herself, in a difficult constituency and time. She would have been a formidable presence in this House of Commons. It may also be appropriate for me to say, and this is perhaps the most controversial thing I will say today, that Maureen, Catherine and I, under fire, have learned something about family values.

The spokesman for the NDP referred to the defeat of my government in 1979. I have had the privilege of several dramatic moments in this House. I will not recite each one of them.

I remember clearly how that defeat came about after a vote on our budget in 1979. On that vote, the Liberal Party wheeled in every member who could draw breath. They literally evacuated the hospitals. Members of Parliament, on whose desks cobwebs had grown, showed up miraculously to vote. The present Prime Minister should have seen it because I learned that night that just because a member of the Liberal Party might be worn out, battered and beaten up, he can still come back to haunt you.

Now, almost everyone who serves here leaves with a larger vision than they brought. The diversity of Canada becomes a personal experience which lifts most of us beyond the natural Canadian boundaries of region and language and local experience.

The real privilege of working here goes beyond service to our constituents or to our country. In an age of invention and uncertainty there is no other profession so consistently subject to change and to surprise. In an era where people are always learning, there is no better school than public life.

I learned the other official language here, learned it in my fashion. That helped me understand that the distinct society is not a dead phrase in a constitution, but the living reality of most of French-speaking Canada, and a defining feature of our history and our future.

Serving in this Parliament became my passport to communities and realities I would otherwise never have known so well: aboriginal Canadians, Canadian Jews and Canadian Arabs confronting ancient tensions, farmers seeing their way of life threatened, the transforming imagination of our artists and scientists.

But this Parliament is more than a school. It is a place to act. It is the principal place where the Canadian community can act together.

This House can reflect our country at its worst or at its best. I have been here for both experiences. At our best this House of Commons defines the public interest of Canada. That happened, I believe, when we argued for and against specific constitutional changes in at least two Parliaments; when we argued for and against a free trade agreement; and when we acted together, as others have mentioned, as a Parliament in a practical campaign against apartheid.

In such debates there are bound to be deep disagreements, because that is in the nature of a diverse country that is continent wide with roots and interests reaching literally everywhere. That very diversity makes it imperative that there be a place where broad public interest can be expressed. There are plenty of voices for private, regional or special interests. At our best in this House of Commons, the whole community can find its Canadian voice.

I have been honoured to serve here. Maureen and I look forward to the next chapters in our lives. I hope my colleagues in the House are able to draw as much satisfaction from their public service as I have from mine.

Right Hon. Member for Calgary CentreOral Question Period

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

I would like to thank the right hon. member for Calgary Centre for his remarks, as well as the hon. members who rose today to speak about their own retirement or that of other hon. members.

In case we do not sit the week after next, I want to say what a pleasure it has been to work with hon. members, particularly on a great parliamentary occasion like this one, where we recognize in the House the election, 25 years ago, of one of our colleagues as Prime Minister of Canada. It does not happen that often.

It is a pleasure to be here on an occasion like this. I am certain all hon. members have appreciated it. I want to pass on my thanks to those who put this together and made this possible.

I also want to thank all hon. members for their cooperation throughout this Parliament which has always been forthcoming from the point of view of the Chair. Thank you very much.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

May 13th, 2004 / 3:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Bryden Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is quite an honour to rise in the House for my final speech just after the tributes to the hon. member for Calgary Centre.

Before I go into a discussion of the subject before the House, I would like to build on a remark of the right hon. member for Calgary Centre. He was saying how this place reflects Canada. My time in the House is much less than that of the right hon. member for Calgary Centre. I have only been here 11 years. However, I can say that it has been a wonderful experience and I have learned something that outsiders perhaps would not really appreciate or appreciate in the same sense as we who serve here, and that is, how very human the House is.

I have found, whether I am on this side or that side, my colleagues to be people who are motivated by sometimes the highest principles and sometimes by the most human principles. We have everything here from debates concerning the grand issues of the nation and the grand issues of the world, to the expression of petty personal and political rivalries.

That latter point is important. What makes this place work--in my opinion after the years I have been here--is the fact that it is so human. It is not just the strengths of people that we see here; it is also our weaknesses. That is terribly important because in a true democracy the human psyche has to be represented in the House. Otherwise we would have an elite.

If Parliament were to select members of Parliament based on their education only, or based on their experience, or on their ability to speak in the House, then we would not have the kind of democracy that this country is so fortunate to have.

It has been genuinely a pleasure here. I am impressed by the fact that, unlike any other democracy I know, the happenings in the House are watched by the nation. We are genuinely a real drama that is followed by Canadians from one end of the land to the other. We have television cameras. We have the scrum after question period. These are all the things that bring parliamentarians before the people.

What is so great and important is that we do not have to be a cabinet minister, and we do not have to be a prime minister to have an effect on the nation. We do not have to be anything more than a member of the House.

This gives me an opportunity to actually mention one of the things that has always bothered me. It is the suggestion that there is some kind of democratic deficit in this Parliament. It is something that the current Prime Minister has commented on or suggested, and also the former leader of the reform party. I remember away back in 1993-94, he was constantly saying that Parliament was broken.

This Parliament is not broken. Any shortcomings that occur here are shortcomings that belong to we who serve here. Anyone, and I like to think I am an example, has an opportunity to speak out in this place, to speak out in caucus, and to promote those items of legislation or those causes that are near and dear to them.

I do not think there is another country in the world in which that type of opportunity is afforded ordinary individuals who become ordinary MPs. I think it is an absolutely marvellous thing.

As always, I always try to take advantage of the time I have in the House. Even though this is my last occasion before the election to speak in this Chamber, I am not going to say goodbye because I am not a person who says goodbye. I like to think that, whether I am here after the next election or not, I will be haunting the corridors of the House in some way or another.

I will use the opportunity of my time here today to promote one of the things that I as a backbencher have been working on for years. That is access to information reform. The reason why it is relevant is the debate we have before us today involves the sponsorship program and the investigation that has taken place over many months, using the public accounts committee and, if I may say so, an investigation in which I took part two years ago.

The bottom line to me in this whole question of transparency and accountability is changing the protocols to make it impossible for this type of situation that we see in the sponsorship program to occur ever again, where it would appear that documents are not in the file, things have gone missing, and we have a senior bureaucrat who declares that one of the reasons why he did not keep the appropriate records was because he was afraid of the Access to Information Act. I fear that in the debate before public accounts, this point, this tangent shall we say, of transparency and accountability, which is the need to reform and elaborate on the Access to Information Act, has so far been lost.

I will remind members that two weeks ago in this chamber, this House voted on private member's Bill C-462, a bill sponsored by myself, which is a comprehensive reform of the Access to Information Act. It is a product of many years of work. It is a product of backbench MPs working together on all sides of the House. There is a lot of expertise in this bill. Because of that and because of the will of the House, it was passed at second reading by a unanimous vote of 198 to zero. That sends a very strong message from this House about where we as backbench MPs, where we as every MP, stand on transparency and accountability. Where we stand is that we now know it must come forward.

Now, here is my problem. I have sponsored the bill, and the bill is before the House. An election is coming and there seems to be a very strong probability, if not a certainty, that I will not be returned. Consequently, I will not be there to promote in the next Parliament my access to information bill, which I believe is absolutely in the interests of this House, this Parliament and the country.

Therefore, what I am saying to the members gathered here in the House is to remember, if I am not here, that access to information reform is a backbench initiative, a torch if you will, that has to be taken up by other backbench MPs. I believe the groundwork is covered. I believe the will of Parliament is there. I believe that the leadership on all sides of the House and the leadership in the civil services are behind the legislation, and so I do hope it goes forward, and I will be content. It is not necessary to have one's name attached to a bill. It is not necessary to have one's name attached to any initiative that is positive and in the public interest in the House. The important thing is that it be done.

Let me end on one final note so that people watching can perhaps understand a little more about what motivates us here, what motivates us on all sides of the House when we are at our best. The thing is that we as parliamentarians here, be we ministers, prime ministers or backbench MPs, have an opportunity to change the lives of Canadians and we have the opportunity to change the lives of people who we will never know and never see. I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that this is the highest form of charity, the highest form of good, not simply to help people whom we can see and get the satisfaction in our hearts and souls because we have made their lives better, but the really greatest good is to do something in this House that will help people we will never see, but that makes the lives of Canadians better.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope you will accept the latitude extended to many members today, this day being near the end of what is likely to be the end of our Parliament. I just want to note the hon. member's remarks on this subject, but as he has indicated he may not be back here.

I want to let the record show his contributions to this place, while he has been here on behalf of his constituents, in the area of access to information, public accountability and transparency. He was one of the few individuals in the House who had a background in security intelligence that allowed him to also contribute what I will call value added to this place, not just in that envelope but in many others.

He has in his remarks made reference to his private member's bill. It is the largest private member's bill I have ever seen here and as complex as any. I remember him working on this years ago, not just alone but in collaboration with other members, not just one party but all parties. He is a member who has made contributions here on issues involving members from both sides of the House. He has been able to focus on public interest issues in a value added way. He was able to put the partisanship aside and really focus on what he and others believed were in the best interest of Canadians.

I wanted to make that comment as a form of tribute. I will not take more time, but thanks to the member and thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to say that.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

If I could suggest, maybe what I will do is recognize other members who may want to make a comment or ask a question and ultimately the final word would go to the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Kitchener—Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I too rise to pay tribute to the member. Certainly, in some small way, I assisted in his quest which received unanimous support in the House. Therefore, I think it bodes well to say it will come back, and there is no question the member's fingerprints are all over it.

I spoke about the member on other occasions. I called him really a member of this Parliament, a man of the House. I think Hansard aptly records his many contributions.

I fondly recall when the member and I served on the citizenship and immigration committee together. Come to think of it, Mr. Speaker, you were the whip at the time. We managed to derail a government bill that we believed was not in the best interest of Canadians. After the House passed it, we proceeded together with another member of the opposition to go to the Senate to argue against its passage.

Therefore, I say, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the member that since 1993 he has left a real mark in the House. He has contributed much above his weight. In a very real sense, and I guess in some cases I believe in the tooth fairy, I do hope that he comes back because I think the member still has a contribution to make.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as always I enjoy to be in the House to listen to this member, to share his insight and his knowledge on a substantial amount of issues. We will miss him. We will miss his work ethic and the honourable way in which he discharged himself as a member of Parliament, since he has been in this place.

I simply wanted to rise to pay tribute to a man who I believe has been an excellent member of Parliament. I wish him all the best in his future career.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to briefly credit the member. When we have a House of 301, soon to be 308 members, it is sometimes difficult to be seen apart and different from the large group. However, definitely this member is a distinct individual. As the last member said, I too always listened intently to him because he always had a unique perspective. He has certainly served the House and democracy well and of course his constituents.

I would also like to pay tribute to all members who are leaving and who were paid tribute to before.

It may be my last opportunity to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your ability to referee this rowdy raucous rabble in the House fairly over the term. You have been fair to everyone in the House, no matter where they have sat.

SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my words to those of my hon. colleagues in praising the contributions made by the hon. member for Ancaster--Dundas--Flamborough--Aldershot to this place and the public life of this country over the past several years.

I have always had considerable regard for the talents of the member. I feel he is something close to being a model of what a legislator is supposed to be. Often we forget that. We get so focused on our role as politicians or members of parties that we forget our primary function here is to be legislators.

Even though I have not always agreed with him, he has always struck me as somebody who is diligent, honest and understands the legislative process in a fashion that a vast majority of us do not. He deserves great credit for the very substantive and thoughtful contributions he has made to public policy in this place over the better part of the last decade.

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4 p.m.

Conservative

John Bryden Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not have adequate words to respond to the fine things that were just said. Of all the things that one can acquire in life, material things, abstract things, there is no greater thing of value than the respect and the honour of one's colleagues and particularly our colleagues in this place.

I thank those who spoke. I can tell all of them and all the people who are watching that it has been a tremendous privilege to be a parliamentarian. I love this place. I wish that Canadians could somehow feel what I feel in my heart for the 10 years I have spent here. I know they will be unable to feel that, Mr. Speaker, but I will leave the House and I will always know it. I thank all.

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4 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

During debate this morning the hon. member for Provencher rose to object to remarks made earlier by the hon. member for Kitchener--Waterloo and I undertook to return to the House. I have now had an opportunity to review the blues and wish to make a brief comment on the exchange.

Let me refer hon. members to page 534 of Marleau and Montpetit concerning the sub judice convention:

The sub judice convention is first and foremost a voluntary restraint [the emphasis is mine on voluntary restraint] on the part of the House to protect [a]...party to a court action or judicial inquiry, from suffering any prejudicial effect from public discussion of the issue. Secondly, the convention also exists, as Speaker Fraser noted, “to maintain a separation and mutual respect between legislative and judicial branches of government”. Thus, the perception and reality of the independence of the judiciary must be jealously guarded.

I believe that both hon. members have made their positions clear and the Chair need take the matter no further.

I do caution members to be judicious in their comments, however passionately they may believe in the differing positions they hold on issues.

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4 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I briefly want to add my tributes to the tributes we had after question period today to the right hon. member who has served a distinguished time in this Parliament and who dedicated a greater part of his career to Canadians. I think his family should be proud of him. His words were very well spoken. As a tribute to him, a lot of members stayed in the House to listen to his final words of wisdom as they go forward into their future roles in the House.

I welcome the opportunity to take part in the debate today. I will begin by providing some background information on the sponsorship program. I will review some of the events that led up to the program's cancellation and I will discuss the measures taken by the government since the tabling of the Auditor General's report.

The sponsorship program was originally created in 1997. In 2000 it was subjected to an internal audit directed by the then deputy minister, Mr. Ranald Quail. Since then the sponsorship program has been a focus of extensive concern and criticism, both from within the government and outside, especially for the period between 1997 and 2000.

The 2000 internal audit found deficiencies in documentation, contracting, internal controls and management practices. An action plan was implemented and corrective measures were put in place, such as new guidelines, better documentation of files and post-mortem reports, to name a few. Both the audit and the action plan were made public on the Internet.

In March 2002, the Auditor General of Canada, Ms. Sheila Fraser, was asked by the then minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada to audit three contracts awarded between 1996 and 1999 to Groupaction. In May 2002, Ms. Fraser released her audit on the three contracts and referred the government's handling of these contracts to the RCMP for further investigation.

When the former minister was appointed on May 26, 2002, his first act was to impose an immediate moratorium on future sponsorship initiatives until he was satisfied that the program criteria was sound.

On July 3, 2002, the former minister lifted the moratorium on the sponsorship program for the balance of the fiscal year. It was also confirmed that the interim program would proceed without the use of external communications agencies to deliver it.

While the program was being reassessed, a detailed review of past sponsorship files was undertaken. Under the senior authority of the financial officer of Public Works and Government Services Canada, a quick response team was assembled comprising financial and procurement specialists within Public Works and Government Services Canada and auditors from Consulting and Audit Canada.

Between May and July 2002, a case by case review of 721 sponsorship files was carried out to determine their completeness and to report on any areas of concern. These files were from several agencies with which Public Works and Government Services Canada had sponsorship contracts.

The quick response team conducted a detailed review of 126 files which were deemed to be of primary interest because they were: of a high dollar value, that is over $500,000; had received media coverage; and had known deficiencies, such as absence of post-mortem reports.

The QRT file review yielded a great deal of useful information and recommendations, which the QRT presented in their final project report tabled in the House of Commons on October 10, 2002.

Members will note that this file review of the quick response team is in addition to the government-wide audit of advertising, sponsorship and public opinion research that was launched by the Auditor General. Our officials cooperated fully with the work of the Auditor General.

Throughout the review of the 721 files by the quick response team, when irregularities were discovered they were pursued. If there was evidence of wrongdoing, the authorities were called in.

The final review report of the quick response team included five recommendations, which have been acted upon. The first recommendation was that the files requiring the attention of Justice Canada and/or the RCMP be recommended for referral.

In addition to the three referrals made by the Auditor General, a number of additional cases are currently under investigation by the RCMP.

As the House knows, the RCMP has laid charges as a result of its ongoing investigations.

It should be noted that it is the RCMP that determines which files warrant investigation. I can assure hon. members that members of the RCMP are following the facts wherever they may lead.

The second recommendation was that time verification audits be carried out. Consulting and Audit Canada has pursued time verification audits at several communications agencies which previously did work under the sponsorship program. Through the time verification audits, the government exercised its right to examine these agencies' detailed records. Unfortunately, the records maintained by these contractors were not adequate to support proper investigations of this nature, and most of the audits have been closed or terminated.

The third recommendation was that the government initiate the recovery of funds where warranted. The government has written to five private sector firms requesting they provide evidence that the goods and/or services paid for by the government were delivered, and that no overpayments were made.

To safeguard taxpayer dollars, the sum of $3.65 million is being withheld to be used if necessary to offset the amounts which were previously paid out but for which appropriate deliverables to the government cannot be ascertained.

The fourth recommendation in the final report by the quick response team stipulated that potential breaches of the Financial Administration Act, and Treasury Board and Public Works and Government Services Canada departmental policies be investigated.

During testimony before the public accounts committee in June 2002, the former deputy minister committed to undertake an administrative review. Two reports were prepared by an independent forensic audit firm. They identified potential issues of non-compliance with the Financial Administration Act, government contracting policies and regulations, and delegated contracting authorities.

A departmental review committee then conducted employee interviews. None of the individuals involved in this review are currently Public Works and Government Services Canada employees. Recommendations were referred to the relevant departments and agencies that have taken appropriate disciplinary action.

The fifth recommendation called for the issue of subcontracting to be reviewed and recommended for referral to Justice Canada to determine if recovery action was appropriate. A number of subcontracting situations are being examined and we are pursuing these with Justice Canada officials.

In December 2002, the government announced that a redesigned sponsorship program would be put in place for a trial period of one year 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. Communication Canada was responsible for managing the program, without the use of intermediaries.

Of course, all this has now changed. The Prime Minister's decision to cancel the sponsorship program reflects the government's belief that the program was fundamentally flawed. The Prime Minister also announced the disbandment of Communication Canada as of March 31, 2004.

Further, on February 10, 2004, in response to the Auditor General's report, the government announced a comprehensive set of measures to ensure that we get to the bottom of the matter. These measures include: the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry, which is fully mandated under the Inquiries Act; the appointment of a special counsel for financial recovery; the introduction of whistleblower legislation; measures to strengthen audit committees for crown corporations and the possible extension of access to information to crown corporations; the initiation of a review on changes to the governance of crown corporations, on changes to the Financial Administration Act and on the accountabilities of ministers and public servants; and the early start up of the public accounts committee.

The public accounts committee has been working hard for the last three months. Members from all sides should be applauded for this work. The government has cooperated fully with the work of the committee, including the unprecedented release of all cabinet documents.

If after three months of testimony from numerous witnesses, the committee decides to prepare an interim report, it would seem reasonable to me.

The government already has independent mechanisms in place for getting to the bottom of this. These mechanisms are working and will continue to provide Canadians with the answers they deserve.

The government recognizes the mistakes of the past and has taken measures to ensure that all aspects of the sponsorship program are thoroughly ventilated.

I now want to give my personal views on a couple of items. The member who spoke before me raised the issue of the democratic deficit and suggested there was none. I thoroughly agree with the member.

When I first arrived in Parliament I was very busy trying to keep up with my constituents' demands, but in the House there was all this conversation from the other side of the House related to the democratic deficit and the problems in Parliament.

Members have probably noticed that since the new Prime Minister has come in we have heard very little of this because there have been master changes in the House. Appointments are being reviewed, committees have more freedom and we have more free votes in the House, which the new Prime Minister promised. This was a new vision that he put forward and he has followed it. People have seen it.

Members just have to read Hansard to see the dramatic changes in the House in this respect. In fact, it is almost curious that if we look at Parliament now, the decisions on the country are largely being determined by the government party because the government party is voting freely on everything except the budget and confidence motions. The government is quite often voting on different sides of an issue, depending on members' beliefs and what their constituents direct. If we check the record, we see that opposition parties are more often all voting together. I think that is why this has been such an exciting change for me.

I have certainly taken the opportunity to vote against government initiatives. I want to tell a personal story about the Prime Minister. The first time I voted against the government was on a major initiative under this new government. I was mildly worried because it happened to be a project which I think was dear to the Prime Minister. We were in a private meeting, the time to air one's laundry but also the time when one would expect to be chastised for such an action. The Prime Minister spoke to us in private; he was not trying to convince the public or put on a show. He said to the people who had voted against the motion that it was fine, it was great, that was how the system was supposed to work. I say that for Canadians who are worried about the sincerity of his efforts to improve the democratic deficit.

Of course, people from different parties will say that more needs to be done in different areas and they will pick out specific situations, but I do not think there is anyone in the House who can deny that there has been major progress in some areas. I certainly pay tribute to the Prime Minister for taking that on and moving that file forward in the areas that he has.

I want to talk a bit about controls on government programs, when they go wrong and how we fix them. As everyone knows, there is a huge bureaucracy, hundreds of thousands of employees, and there are 301 of us here to try to make sense of and keep up with the programs. It is a very daunting task.

When I worked in one of the departments over the last decade there were a lot of central controls. The President of the Treasury Board brought up this very important point a few months ago. We have put some of them back in response to the problem with the sponsorship program.

There were a lot of central controls and things were very bureaucratic. If a department, including the one I worked in, wanted to do something, it would go through excessive mechanisms to get something done. Sometimes that is not very efficient. In theory, of course, there are economies of scale and controls on things, but one could see how it would aggravate people. Of course, the person on the street is aggravated to no end by delays because of the mechanisms.

At that time there was a modernization which put some authority back in the hands of the departments themselves so that they could make decisions from where they stood on local things relating to their department. Obviously too many controls were taken off in some areas and that opened up the situation we have now.

Everyone in the House has heard for a long time that the controls will be put back in place so that cannot happen again. It is a lot harder for individual fiefdoms to happen, but of course problems will always occur. When there is a huge operation of hundreds of thousands of employees and hundreds of politicians and their staff, there are going to be problems, but there are measures of success. What people are looking for is how those problems are dealt with. As we know, there is a huge list of items, some of which I mentioned, that we have put in place to deal with that problem. I think Canadians are happy with the efforts to put new mechanisms in place.

The last thing I want to say is we have to be careful when we deal with problems that we do not go overboard putting in many controls. The reason I raise this is related to another program that had a problem. A number of constituents and organizations have come to me because there is so much bureaucracy and so many controls that the clients who have limited financial resources who really need the service and access to those resources are being hurt. I want to caution everyone that as we come up with solutions for things like this that we do not go overboard so that we cannot do the business and we end up hurting the clients that we are meant to help.

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4:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I must say that when the member for Yukon was first elected, I was rather sorry to see him here. Prior to that, the riding had been represented by Louise Hardy, as I recall, from the NDP, a very fine, very gentle person. I was rather surprised that the member was able to displace her in the 2000 election. However, since he has been here, he has participated a lot in the debates in the House. He is usually a thoughtful member. I have appreciated his interventions. Now, let us put the nice things aside.

Having said that, he spoke for 20 minutes and essentially did not address the issue of the motion of the day. The motion of the day basically calls for the investigation that is being done by the public accounts committee to continue and that steps be taken so that would be permitted. Notwithstanding the usual rules of the House that all committees are dissolved the instant an election is called, the committee should continue its work. There is a very good reason for it.

Sure the committee has heard from approximately 50 witnesses, but the call has gone out that anybody with information should make themselves known to the committee and be prepared to come forward to shed light on what actually happened. The burning question for Canadians is, where did the money go and who has it? That is the question.

Another burning question is, where was the political direction for this? That is something which the Prime Minister acknowledged, that there had to have been political direction, but we do not know where it came from. That is another question which has to be answered.

I was watching a replay on CPAC the other night, around 2:00 in the morning. I guess I have some serious problems being awake at that time of the night watching CPAC replays. I noticed along the bottom of the screen there is a little tickertape line. It gives the phone number for the legal counsel of the committee and indicates that people who have any information and would like to come forward can phone that number in confidence and the committee counsel will talk to them to see whether or not they have relevant testimony.

There have been some 80 more witnesses identified by that means and other means. These witnesses have a right to be heard but more important, Canadian citizens have a right to hear them.

I say to the hon. member, hey, I loved the speech, it was wonderful, but it did not address the question. Is the reason that he avoided the question that the Liberals, and he is one of them, simply would like this problem to go away, to be swept under the rug and the truth to be hidden perpetually?

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the first part of the member's comments, the tribute. I have to pay tribute to him as well. We have shared many late nights and he is the last person here on evening debates, until four in the morning. I congratulate him for that.

Then the member went on to ask tougher questions. What he suggested was that I did not talk to the motion of the day. I think I was trying to get at that in some of my items at the end of my speech. The reason is that out of thousands of government programs, on one program related to a limited number of individuals, we have had incessant and lengthy debates. We are debating it all day today, and it has been debated in committee for months. I do not think there is any lack of information or debate on that topic.

What I was trying to say is that I hope we do not lose sight of the rest of the governing, the other hundreds of thousands of things that hundreds of thousands of federal government employees are doing to help Canadians. We as politicians should have oversight. As the government, through our regular checking procedures we should make sure that they are working as efficiently, effectively and as productively as possible. The opposition should be spending a lot of time inquiring into a lot of those areas as well.

I have made the point a number of times previously in the House, that since Christmas there have been very few questions by the opposition relating to other things which suggests there is no platform. However with other things that are going on in the government I am sure the opposition does not think everything the government is doing is perfect, that the hundreds of other programs of the Government of Canada are working perfectly, that we are allocating our funds perfectly and that we are collecting the correct amount of funds. I want to make sure that we look at the bigger picture.

As we look at the remedies, there have not been many comments or discussions on the remedies. I do not know if the member has seen it in his riding, but in my riding groups of constituents have come in to my office to discuss how the remedies are harming them. I would think that the member would like to ensure that the remedies were effective but did not hurt the constituents.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if I heard correctly, but did the parliamentary secretary say that the government was putting legislation forward that crown corporations will be included in the access to information legislation?