Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise in this House to speak to this question of privilege.
We have had some debate on whether the document in question was or was not a prop, but everyone will agree that it was propaganda. I would go so far as to say that it was propaganda in the worst sense of the word: something that is not produced or distributed to inform anyone, but to influence people’s ideas, to misinform them and lead them to conclusions that are not strictly consistent with the facts.
They chose not to wait until Judge Gomery, a respected figure and a leader in his profession, had finished his work. He is a man with a great deal of experience and had access to all the documentation he wanted. He asked for millions of pages of documentation. For the first time in the history of our country, if I am not mistaken, he was immediately given cabinet and Privy Council documents, not only those of the current government, but those of the previous government. We said we were raising the curtain on secrets that are not normally divulged. Judge Gomery had access to all the expertise he asked for, whether accountants or lawyers. He summoned hundreds of witnesses and prepared his report.
And what did the Bloc Québécois choose to do? As a political party, they published this flyer bearing a photo of the leader, a letter from the leader and numerous references to the party. The matter was then raised here as a question of privilege. I acknowledge that, as a member of Parliament, I have certain privileges and certain rights. I also have responsibilities. I am given the tools to do my job. I have an office and the right to take a plane to visit my riding, which I did all last week. I have the right to send householders and parliamentary newsletters in which I can state my opinions. I can inform people about government programs. If I do not agree with the government's actions, I can also say so. I can give people an opportunity to contact me and tell me about their opinions and concerns.
I believe it is essential to be correct in terms of my responsibilities, to give all the information rather than to make allegations interspersed with photographs of people without any captions, which can only lead to suspicions of inappropriate acts. This kind of activity by a member has no place in Parliament. In this case, the judge has examined the facts and most of the people were exonerated.
Are we now going to do what should be done? Will the Bloc Québécois send the corrected information to those 26 ridings and 1.2 million households to tell them that the Prime Minister and all ministers from Quebec have been exonerated? To me, that would be the reasonable and respectful thing to do.
It is important that we show respect to one another here in the House. Our debates must remain honest and focused on the matters of the day, on the future and on our plans for our country and its communities. However, we know that what we are talking about right now is not necessarily in everyone's best interest.
Some people would like to destroy our institutions, to demean them, because these institutions represent our country and they do not want our country to work. Other people, who will ride on their coattails when it suits their political ambitions, will sometimes enter into socialist, separatist or opportunist alliances. They will seize any opportunity to demean our institutions. We experienced it at the time of the “beau risque”. We saw the Bloc coming.
Some say there have been scandals. To me, the worst scandal in the history of our country was when the Bloc formed the official opposition. A party whose objective was to destroy our country was the official opposition. They are here, they have been elected and they have the right to be here. They are entitled to their statements and their ideas. They have every right to take part in the debate, because they have been elected, just like me and just like you, Madam Speaker. However, they have the responsibility to be honest and to use the tools available to them carefully.
They must not use these tools just to spread propaganda and to attack individuals or their reputation. I do not agree with this practice.
I am told it may be slanderous it is so unethical. We should have our own sense of ethics. We should not have to refer to any documents. In my opinion, this is not ethical. There is no justification for this type of document that tarnishes reputations. These hon. members work hard for our country, for their province and their constituents in order to advance matters. The Bloc has decided to tarnish their reputations and to blame them. That is not right.
The Bloc will use any tool it can to tarnish our institutions because it is trying to convince people that every problem will be solved with Quebec's independence: dogs will smell better, blueberry season will last longer, and everything will be perfect in Quebec. However, nothing will change.
The Minister of the Environment summed it up quite nicely. The Bloc members said we should break up this country and destroy it for economic reasons because we had a deficit and a national debt. Now they are arguing that Canada has too much of a surplus and too many jobs. Too much money goes into the EI fund. We should now dissolve this country. In my opinion, this is the most successful country in the world. It is certainly one of the best places to live. According to them, those are the reasons we should break up this country. Nothing will stop them.
I understand why people from Quebec feel this way. However, I am also confident they will be realistic. They will consider this carefully. If we have an honest debate with all the information and a clear question, then we have to talk about the advantages that Canada offers to all residents of all the provinces. We must certainly never accept Canada as it is. We must always strive for better. We must see what we can do with our country in the future.
I think the people of Quebec, like those from Nova Scotia, will see that Canada is the best country, the best institution and the best tool we have for advancing our issues.
We use the argument of language and culture. One million French-speaking Canadians live outside Quebec. As an Acadian from Nova Scotia, I cannot imagine a Canada without Quebec, New Brunswick, Manitoba or Saskatchewan or without the francophones from British Columbia or from any other province or territory. They are all parts that make up this country. When we work together, when we help each other and give each other a hand, we can succeed in the international arena, as someone said earlier. We have had the value of cultural products recognized and had them removed from international trade negotiations in order to protect our institutions and our cultures.
I do not know if a small island or a small country of 8 million people could have as much success. With 30 million people, and that includes all of our people, we are not a very big country on the international scale. We have advantages, however, in this country, which I think works well and must continue to make progress.
This document is one of the tools being used to undermine credibility once again. Credibility is being destroyed by some parliamentarians, not by Parliament. It is the credibility of the Bloc Québécois which is in doubt with that publication. I would invite the Bloc to apologize and take corrective action. I think that it is time to get back to work and discuss important issues. In Nova Scotia, people want a budget and want to see the bills that are now before us get passed. That is what we should be discussing. Improvements are needed. I think that it is important to invest more in the seaports of the Atlantic provinces.
As for the Conservatives, who made an alliance with the Bloc, they have no interest in these issues since Atlantic Canada is barren ground for them and a “culture of defeatism”.
What has the Liberal Party done and what does it continue to do? We continue to invest in Atlantic Canada, not in a culture of defeatism. We continue to invest in the future and the gains of our champions.
We have seen incredible improvement. Canada is at its lowest rate of unemployment in 30 years. I have seen great improvement in Nova Scotia and all Atlantic Canada. I have talked to people who are fighting for the future. They have a dream of where they want to go. It is important we provide that.
All the discussion has been on Gomery and the sponsorship program. The sponsorship program was managed well in Nova Scotia. I am very proud of Liberal Party volunteers in Nova Scotia. I do not like the idea that people took advantage of the program. In my mind they are crooks. They are unethical people and they should be dealt with.
I am very proud of the institution to which I belong. Like Nova Scotians, I believe we should wait for the full report of Justice Gomery and the response of the Government of Canada on how we implement its measures and recommendations.