Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Joliette for agreeing to share his time with me in this debate.
I want to come back to the original motion, which was introduced by the member for Bourassa. It reads as follows:
That the matter of the Bloc Québécois Members' householder, which affects the privileges of the Member for Bourassa, be referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
The Speaker determined that we needed to debate this matter, and the Bloc Québécois introduced two amendments. Those are the reasons behind this debate. Our amendment and our subamendment speak to the substance of the motion.
The amendment reads as follows:
That the motion be amended by adding after the word “householder” the following:
“on the subject of the Gomery Commission”;
The subamendment reads as follows:
That the motion be amended by adding after the word “Commission” the following:
“, which had completed its public hearings at the time of the mailing,”.
In fact, when we consider the householder we sent out, its pictures, advertising and information, and when we consider the recommendations in the summary, we see that they are almost identical. One has pictures, symbols, meanings; and the other has the words written by Commissioner Gomery.
For example, our householder identifies Mr. Chrétien and the current Prime Minister. By the same token, the first recommendation in the summary by Commissioner Gomery states:
It is those facts that allow me to draw the following conclusions:
The Commission of Inquiry found: clear evidence of political involvement in the administration of the Sponsorship Program;
It is therefore absolutely normal for a householder like this to include a photo of former Prime Minister Chrétien, judged by Commissioner Gomery as responsible, and of the current Prime Minister, who was then the vice-president of the Treasury Board. Two images of a kind. One is depicted photographically, and the image of the other is in the text of the Gomery report.
There are other recommendations. For example, the third, which refers to:
a veil of secrecy surrounding the administration of the Sponsorship Program and an absence of transparency in the contracting process;
That is what is represented in our document. There was a veil of secrecy surrounding the administration of the sponsorship program, and it took a number of years to lift that veil. There are, however, some elements that are still to come, such as the list of ridings, those 18 eastern Quebec ridings where there were cash payments made. In ten or so of that number, money was paid directly to candidates when the Liberals' national campaign was launched in Shawinigan that year. Those are not my words, the statement is word for word from Justice Gomery's main report.
Once again, our mailing reflects the reality of the report. Our subamendment amendment is therefore important. We mailed this out after the hearings and we reached our own conclusions, which were just about identical to those of the Gomery report.
In the second recommendation, it says:
insufficient oversight at the very senior levels of the public service which allowed program managers to circumvent proper contracting procedures and reporting lines;
This refers to key political personnel and to the political agent, Charles Guité. In my opinion, that connection is very clearly identified in our document and reflects the Gomery findings.
I would like to draw your attention to a fourth recommendation, which also concerns him and reads:
reluctance, for fear of reprisal, by virtually all public servants to go against the will of a manager who was circumventing established policies and who had access to senior political officials;
Did we write anything different in our householder, by identifying Mr. Charles Guité, director of the Public Works sponsorship program? Once again, two images of a kind.
We can see that, for each item in the mailing, there is a similar item in the Gomery report. We have been told that we should not have included the Liberal logo in the householder.
I will quickly read recommendations 9, 10, 11 and 12 from the synopsis.
Here is what recommendation 9 states:
—a complex web of financial transactions among Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC), crown corporations and communication agencies, involving kickbacks and illegal contributions to a political party in the context of the sponsorship program;—
Recommendation 10 states:
—five agencies that received large sponsorship contracts regularly channelling money, via legitimate donations or unrecorded cash gifts, to political fundraising activities in Quebec, with the expectation of receiving lucrative government contracts;—
The agencies involved are listed in the mailing. These include, for instance, Groupaction/Gosselin. The sponsorship money received was of the order of $105.7 million, of which an amount of $36.49 million was retained by the firm. That is a completely staggering percentage. Contributions to the Liberal Party of Canada fund amounted to $171,261. As for Groupe Everest, the amount received was $67.7 million. This firm retained $36.4 million and contributed $194,832 to the Liberal Party of Canada fund.
What we have put in our table simply reflects the facts reported in the Gomery report. The commissioner mentioned something with even more direct relevance, when he stated, “certain agencies carrying on their payrolls individuals who were, in effect, working on Liberal Party matters—”
The use of the word “Liberal” in our householder is merely a reflection of the reality as described by Justice Gomery. There is no reason to consider this mailing as unacceptable. In fact, it paints a picture of the situation that Justice Gomery and ourselves have observed and that the public at large has evaluated. The amendment and subamendment to the motion by the member for Bourassa that the Bloc Québécois has put forward have demonstrated that our householder only reflects the reality. Now, we say that the motion has to be amended to take into account the Gomery report published following the hearings. This clearly shows that, after all, our presentation paints a pretty realistic picture of the events.
I would like to quote another finding, which I think may be the most meaningful of all, “—the refusal of ministers, senior officials in the Prime Minister’s office and public servants to acknowledge their responsibility for the problems of mismanagement that occurred”. This steps into an area that was not part of Commissioner Gomery's mandate. It is legitimate for him to make this observation, but it will be up to the public to pass judgment on this matter.
That is the whole political debate we are now having in Quebec and Canada. One can understand that Quebec has been appalled and upset by what the Liberals have done, for this has struck us to our core. They have tried to organize and buy the minds of Quebeckers. A program designed to promote Canadian unity was transformed into a kind of program to buy the soul of Quebeckers, on top of the fact that money was diverted to the Liberal Party of Canada and certain people profited from this personally. So when we inform the public about this situation, I do not believe we can be accused of anything whatsoever. We have simply done our job.
What strikes me in the description of this situation, particularly in eastern Quebec, is the mention of Mr. Marc-Yvan Côté receiving envelopes of money, and I quote: “Mr. Côté divided the money into ten envelopes, which he gave to the candidates in need of assistance at the time the Liberal campaign was officially launched in Shawinigan, for payment of their personal expenses”. The text also states that of the 21 ridings for which Mr. Côté was responsible, 18 received this type of envelope, about 10 of which were delivered directly to the candidates. At the Gomery hearings, when Mr. Côté was asked to identify these persons, one person objected to their being named, and that was counsel for the Liberal Party of Canada. In no way did he want those names to come out. In a press conference last week, Mr. Marc-Yvan Côté denounced the current Prime Minister and said that he would be prepared to testify if the RCMP has any questions. I can understand that he wants some form of immunity when he makes the names public.
In no way does the Bloc Québécois’ effort to inform the public on the issue of the sponsorship scandal deserve the blame that the hon. member for Bourassa wants to cast upon it. The best solution to the present fiasco is a verdict by the population of Quebec and Canada, and the sooner the better for democracy as a whole in Quebec and in Canada.