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House of Commons Hansard #149 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

Privilege

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, I understand that people can get carried away, but nobody in this House is dishonest. Each time we speak, we must ensure that we do not question the honesty of any member of this House.

Privilege

1:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The member is correct. At the same time, I will ask the member for Palliser to continue with debate.

Privilege

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I hope that time is added on because I still have many things to say. Canadians are very interested in having laid out for them, not the Liberal version, but the real version of what went on.

The sponsorship program has divided this country like nothing we have seen before. It is the biggest gift the separatists have ever received. Former prime minister Chrétien almost presided over the breakup of Canada in 1995, and the Liberal government and the current Prime Minister are threatening the unity of this country like nothing we have seen in the history of Canada.

Let us talk about what the Prime Minister knew about the sponsorship program. He sat in a cabinet retreat in 1996 when the Liberal Party hatched the sponsorship program, so he has to accept his share of the blame.

The people in my riding want to know when they will see some justice. They want to know when they will see Liberals sent to jail for their horrendous abuse of tax dollars, money laundering and fraud. These are not little things, but relatively speaking, it is the little things that have incensed people. I am talking about things like Mr. Lafleur who paid his son $245 an hour to pack boxes. How many people in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan have jobs that pay $245 an hour to pack boxes? None. People work very hard to send their money to Ottawa, not to have it funnelled to Liberal friendly ad agencies or to take care of Liberal friends in Quebec, or funnelled into the Liberal Party of Canada to fight election campaigns and shape the outcome of elections. It is shameful. The Liberal Party has said that it is going to clean up things. Let us look at whether it is cleaning things up.

The Liberal MP for Honoré-Mercier, who is also president of the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party, said on November 2 that the Prime Minister's announcement was in part a symbolic one. Seven of the 10 individuals named by the Prime Minister's Quebec lieutenant, the transport minister, are not even members of the Liberal Party, yet Liberal members made a big thing of saying they would be stripped of their memberships. Seven of the 10 are not even members of the Liberal Party.

Let me get back to the member for Bourassa's question of privilege about householders and mailing privileges.

On May 3 the member for West Vancouver--Sunshine Coast--Sea to Sky Country raised a question of privilege after Liberals sent franked mail of a partisan nature into his riding. That franked mail cost 50¢ an envelope, just like it would cost normal Canadians to send mail. It was sent to every household in my colleague's riding.

The member for Toronto--Danforth has sent franked mail to every household in my riding. This franked mail is not like a 10 percenter which costs a minuscule amount in comparison, maybe 5¢ a copy. Franked mail costs 50¢ an envelope. People in Moose Jaw and Regina and the rural part of my riding were outraged at this abuse of taxpayers' dollars. This is not the intent of our mailing privileges. The intent is not to send franked pieces of addressed mail at 50¢ a pop into other members' ridings. The member for Toronto--Danforth should be ashamed of himself.

Justice Gomery has confirmed that there was political direction in the sponsorship scandal. The evidence has been accepted that envelopes of cash were sprinkled through Liberal ridings in Quebec with political direction. Both ad agency executives and senior Liberal deputy ministers have been named. As the Prime Minister stated, there was political direction for this whole sordid affair.

Canadians are asking themselves which politicians are responsible. They will only find that out when the leader of the official opposition sits on that side of the House as the prime minister of Canada.

It is interesting to note, and the people of Canada know this, that the Prime Minister called the Gomery commission only after he was caught. That is a key point.

I will quote a respected Canadian, Mr. Rex Murphy. On the CBC program The National on November 2 he said:

If two years of ad scam, plundering the public purse, reigniting separatism, confusing their party [speaking of the Liberal Party] with our government, and wounding the very system of politics itself doesn't argue it's time for a change, it's time to question why we bother having elections in the first place. Ad scam was institutionalized theft via the party in power [the Liberal Party of Canada].

Rex Murphy went on to say, “That's some platform for a fifth term”. He obviously said that quite facetiously, tongue in cheek.

Let us talk about how we are going to clean up Ottawa. Canadians want to know there is a bright side to this and that we are going to clean up Ottawa.

The Leader of the Opposition has announced that his first piece of legislation as prime minister would be a new federal accountability act which would, among other things, ban corporate and union donations while limiting personal donations to $1,000. Individual Canadians would determine who would be their government, which is a wonderful innovation.

The Leader of the Opposition in his federal accountability act would ban ministers, their staff and senior public workers from lobbying government for five years and would give more power to the lobbyists registrar, Ethics Commissioner, Information Commissioner and the Auditor General. Canadians can be very thankful for the role of the Auditor General.

The Liberal Party used the sponsorship program to enrich Liberals and finance Liberal campaigns. The Conservative Party's accountability act would end the influence of big money in Ottawa and would crack down on a lobbying culture that has thrived under the current Prime Minister.

The government exists to serve ordinary Canadians who work hard and play by the rules. Those in government must serve the public interest, not their own personal interest.

Privilege

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Françoise Boivin Liberal Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully as the hon. member from the Conservative Party raised various issues. He covered many areas and delivered a good political speech. I would like to put a very specific question to him.

We have a question of privilege which was raised by the hon. member for Bourassa concerning an attack on his reputation. The Bloc Québécois apparently abused the tool provided by householders. One might share the view of the hon. member from the Conservative Party that these are horrendous expenses made on behalf of our taxpayers, and for not much. Having been a member of the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, I had the opportunity to hear the various questions of privilege put by a number of members of this House, regardless of political affiliation, on the abuse of the famous 10 percenters, householders and other mail.

My question to the hon. member deals specifically with the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Bourassa. Does the hon. member from the Conservative Party think that the hon. member for Bourassa is somehow involved in the sponsorship scandal? If so, this means that what this flyer says is true. If not, should the member for Bourassa not have the right, like his colleague from Vancouver, the former Conservative House leader, to be heard by the Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to go over the content of this flyer? Does he think that the member for Bourassa is involved in any fraud whatsoever in connection with the sponsorship scandal, yes or no?

Privilege

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I would hearken back to my original comments that it is very difficult to see members of the Liberal Party opposite as victims in this whole scenario. The only victims are the Canadian taxpayers.

The member wanted a yes or no answer. When there are countless money envelopes and millions of dollars flowing under restaurant tables, who knows exactly who was involved?

The member for Bourassa opposite sat in the cabinet at the time this was being discussed, as did the Prime Minister of Canada. He was there when they hatched the whole sponsorship program. It is about the wilful blindness. Who knows who knew what, opposite. Justice Gomery has sorted through this sordid affair. He has used words like “rotten to the core” and “culture of corruption”. It is really difficult to see the members opposite as victims. The member for Bourassa sat in when all those discussions were taking place. I will end by saying that I guess some of the truth hurts.

Privilege

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, we should be looking at the facts. At no time did I sit in cabinet in those days. If the member wants to question my integrity, he should say so now, and repeat it outside this House.

Privilege

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Privilege

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like the member to comment on another thought along that same line.

We know that the Prime Minister spent about 10 years trying to take over the Liberal Party and that during that time he controlled the vast majority of the Liberal riding associations in Quebec, if not all of them.

Those of us who are responsible MPs know what money comes into our riding and what money is in our own kitty for campaigning and those kinds of things. There are requirements to pay very close attention to how that money is coming in and how we are using it.

It seems that during that whole time money was coming in to a number of Liberal Party organizations. Knowing what the member knows about fundraising and how important it is to keep track of the money in our own riding associations, does he think that money could have come into one, two, 13 or 20 of those riding associations under the table without either the candidate being very aware that the money was in the riding or the person who controlled the riding associations knowing exactly what was going on during that time?

Privilege

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, the member certainly would know where the money came from. In studying his finances in his electoral district association of Cypress Hills—Grasslands, his Conservative association, he would know exactly where that money came from and which good honest Canadians had sent in $50 or $100 to help the good member get elected to this honoured place.

As the member for Palliser, I know exactly when someone has made a donation to the Palliser Conservative Association. It is completely within the rules. A receipt is issued from Elections Canada. I know exactly who has given what money to help me in my efforts in the Palliser Conservative Association to send good honest representation to Ottawa. If I were to receive $50, $100 or $200, I would be thanking those individuals personally by calling them or sending them a card.

The member alluded to the fact that the current Prime Minister of Canada plotted for years to take over and become leader of the party opposite. The members opposite who have sat in the House for a long time will remember that when he left cabinet--and one has to wonder why that happened--he was holding cabinet meetings at the same time as the then prime minister, Mr. Chrétien. He was taking over the Liberal Party of Canada riding by riding by riding, knowing who the power players were. He would know how much money was in the kitty and how much was there to fight election campaigns.

We are talking about millions of dollars in this scandal. The Liberals themselves admit that $1.14 million was stolen from Canadian taxpayers. It had to show up somewhere, and it showed up in the coffers of some of the electoral riding associations. The members opposite smile, but Canadians are not smiling. They are outraged. This money showed up in their kitties to run election campaigns. It is dirty to the core. The Liberals cannot paint themselves as victims in this scandal. The victims are the taxpayers in this country, in Palliser, in Cypress Hills—Grasslands. It is terrible.

Privilege

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to hear the comments of our colleague from the Conservative Party on the fact-finding report.

On page 329 of the report, after having given the list of a number of Liberal members and heads of crown corporations who profited from the liberalities—so to speak—of Mr. Lafleur, a representative of an advertising agency with which these Liberal members were associated, Mr. Justice Gomery writes:

Some of these same persons were members of an informal “club des cigares” (cigar club) and would meet a few times a year to eat, smoke cigars and talk. Mr. Lafleur was the only representative of an advertising agency to attend meetings of the “club.”

Other politicians less directly involved in the sponsorship program did not hesitate to accept Mr. Lafleur’s hospitality. There was, throughout the period when sponsorship funds were being freely handed out by PWGSC, a sort of culture of entitlement according to which persons enjoying Mr. Lafleur’s largesse apparently did not feel that there was anything wrong in being entertained by someone who was receiving, and hoped to continue to receive, lucrative federal contracts.

I would very much like to hear the member's comments on this extract from Mr. Justice Gomery's fact-finding report.

Privilege

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for pointing out the exact page in the report of the Lafleur example, the lengthy report detailing Liberal corruption and the culture of entitlement. I did not have that with me today.

We were supposed to wait for Gomery. The Minister of Public Works constantly said that we should wait for Gomery. We have seen it and phrases such as “the cronies club”, “the cigars club”, and “the culture of entitlement”. I thank the member for bringing all this forward to the House today.

The residents of Palliser, the good people in Regina, Moose Jaw, Caronport, Wilcox and Mossbank are sick of the club. They do not want to be in the club. They want good honest government, which is what the leader of the official opposition is ready to deliver as soon as we go to the polls, hopefully not over Christmas but that is up to the Prime Minister of Canada.

Privilege

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to take part in this debate. Attempts have been made in recent years to hugely minimize the impact of this sponsorship scandal. We should be very clear. Beyond the fact that we are talking about $250 million, 40% of which went to kickbacks to the ad agencies, it is primarily the democratic principle, and the fact that they were trying to buy something, that should be our focus here.

Madam Speaker, I wish to indicate to you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

Beyond the $250 million and the 40% in kickbacks to the ad agencies, there is a democratic principle which I believe has been violated. They tried to use an advertising campaign to buy the soul and conscience of Quebeckers. Obviously, this did not work. Still, one would have to have a rather low opinion of the conscience and soul of Quebeckers to think that visibility operations could be a means of selling Canadian federalism to the Quebec nation. This is an abuse which must be denounced over and above the financial scandal as such, which is unacceptable.

In a democracy, it seems to me totally responsible for a government, first of all, to go about the proper spending of taxpayers’ money. We have had an example, which was mentioned in the debate. Unfortunately it is not the only one.

Consider firearms control, for example. How do they explain to us that they reached nearly $2 billion in spending for a program that was supposed to cost $2 million a year? Certain computer firms certainly benefited from this. I hope that the Auditor General’s report will enlighten us as to where this nearly $2 billion went.

There is also the whole scandal surrounding the billion dollars spent under the Canadian job creation program, which was used for all sorts of things, including hiring dancers in bars. I even believe that this was here, in the Outaouais region. Another billion dollars irresponsibly spent by the Liberal government. There is no end to the other examples that can be added here.

From the standpoint of good governance, the Liberal government, the federal government under the current Prime Minister, as under the other one, Mr. Chrétien, no longer has the moral authority to govern. The polls tell us so, especially in Quebec. People no longer have confidence in this government so far as good governance is concerned. As I was saying earlier, this abuse of having employed visibility operations to try and buy the soul of Quebeckers must also be denounced.

On the international level, the damage is quite major. I am not saying that it is irreparable, but it is major for Canada. Members were able to see in the newspapers, as I did, that Canada's position in terms of various indices related to transparency and good governance has greatly dropped. This drop is largely due to the government's management.

It is important to go back to the conclusions of the Gomery report. Not only did the government mismanaged taxpayers' money, not only did it try to buy the conscience and soul of Quebeckers, but, in doing so, the operation went further astray, because it became an operation to fill the coffers of the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party of Canada. The facts are obvious and cannot be denied. Judge Gomery himself mentions this on page 7 of his summary: “certain agencies carrying on their payrolls individuals who were, in effect, working on Liberal Party matters”. These are not coincidences or unfounded allegations, since Judge Gomery wrote this himself. Earlier, he talks about:

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;

It is not only the government but also the Liberal Party of Canada that committed wrongdoing and that must be punished in the next election.

They cannot wash their hands of it. The current Prime Minister cannot wash his hands of it. He was number 2 in the government as the Minister of Finance and was the vice-chair of the Treasury Board, whose job it was to oversee all government spending.

On a number of occasions, Mr. Chrétien himself told us so. He turned to his ministers on the Treasury Board, including the current Prime Minister, saying that he heard things —I imagine it was more than hearing in his case—about there being difficulties, asking them what should be done. He was reassured a number of times. So the Prime Minister had to know. I am not saying that he was directly involved in the management of the program, any more than certain Liberal members were. However, he knew. He could not be unaware of the existence of this system.

In this regard, the present Liberal Party of Canada, the current Liberal government and the current Prime Minister are all just as responsible as the former Liberal Party of Canada under Jean Chrétien, the former Liberal government under him and former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien himself.

They cannot wash their hands of it. Quebeckers know that very well, and I am certain that this is the case in Canada. Canadians are well aware of it. Polls indicate that some 70% of people questioned do not believe the current Prime Minister was unaware of what was going on.

They can also tell us—and this is the argument of the current Prime Minister—that there was an undeclared leadership race and that Jean Chrétien kept things from him. That does not hold water. A candidate in a leadership race, as is currently taking place in the Parti Québécois, tries to keep a listen in all regions and listening posts at all levels of the party they hope to lead. The current Prime Minister should therefore have been aware of even the rumours circulating in his party. It does not hold water.

Furthermore, toward the end of 1999, as we know, the papers were already alluding to some difficulties—I am using the term difficulties as a euphemism—with the sponsorship program, to such an extent that not only were the rumours persistent, but the facts troubling. In the Bloc Québécois 2000 election platform, to which I contributed, we identified the very agencies that are now named in the Gomery report as responsible for some of the misappropriations that occurred in the sponsorship scandal. In 2000, the Bloc Québécois knew it. I certainly never dreamed that the current Prime Minister or any Liberal MP read the Bloc Québécois 2000 platform, but they should have at least read the papers.

Hiding behind the fact that they did not know is not a valid excuse in a democracy. I believe that Quebeckers and Canadians are entitled to penalize this government as soon as possible because it no longer has the legitimacy to govern.

Whether we like it or not, election campaigning has already begun. In my home region of Lanaudière I have never seen as many federal Liberal ministers walking around as I have in the past few weeks. Last week the former President of the Treasury Board was in the region, as was the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. This is the first time we have seen them in years. The hon. member for Bourassa comes quite regularly, but—I will share a secret—he got married at the Joliette cathedral and is therefore a member of the community.

The opposition parties cannot accept the fact that the Liberals are already campaigning with taxpayer dollars in yet another attempt to buy the conscience not only of Quebeckers, but also of Canadians. It is the moral duty of the opposition to ensure that this government is brought down and that it is penalized by voters as soon as possible. The Bloc Québécois is prepared to fully assume this responsibility.

Privilege

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague for bringing back wonderful memories of my wedding, in my home town. I would also congratulate him on his decision not to distribute this rag. So the first question he should be asked is why he did not do so. We may disagree on a number of points. The member for Hochelaga is an eloquent speaker. I do not agree with the substance of the question, but we have always been able to have frank and honest debates without sullying people’s reputations.

I would like to know what the member for Joliette thinks of the comments made by his leader. Are we not in a situation of “Do as I say but not as I do”?

On November 10, 2005, in Le Soleil , he tried desperately to defend his friend Boisclair. He said. “In a society, attitudes fraught with hypocrisy and innuendo are not to be tolerated.” I agree with this comment.

He also said: "If there is evidence, let it be known, do not let the rumour mill run. Rigour is required at all times; otherwise, we end up with statements starting with 'Someone told me they have heard'. That is hearsay, gossip, and it is not right, be it directed at politicians or anyone else. There is nothing more harmful than rumour because it is not factual.” I do not know why, but he has become an expert in the Salem witches. He ends by saying, “If it turns out that the rumours were unfounded, those who floated them will have to face the consequences. What goes around comes around. It is the reverse slingshot theory. Eventually, it comes back and hits you in the face.”

Does the member not agree with me that the most honourable thing to do, in this House, is to accept this question of privilege and to apologize formally, to repay the money that his 26 colleagues used improperly to sully reputations and to make appropriate amends?

Privilege

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, what has struck me from the start of this debate is the Liberal's capacity to play the victim. I am greatly impressed. Every time they are presented with facts, whether by us, by the Conservatives, or by the NDP, there are accusations of rumour mongering and character assassination. We are basing ourselves solely on the contents of the Gomery report. Yet we had to ask questions of the government in order to get that report.

As the member for Bourassa often says, in recent years question period has not been answer period. So we have had to keep our questions coming. Had any answers been forthcoming, things might not be where they are today.

As for the fact that I have not used the material, I was preparing to but preferred to wait for the release of the Gomery report. So as far as future mail-outs are concerned, there is nothing to prevent my using the material that has been made available to Bloc Québécois members in the weeks to come, if we have the opportunity to do so, of course. I believe that it was absolutely their responsibility as elected representatives to denounce these unacceptable situations. In that, I wholly support their decision.

That said, the Gomery report is not a rumour. When I read the Gomery report, I always come back to the brief summary, which refers, first to “clear evidence of political involvement in the administration of the sponsorship program”. We had our suspicions. So, we asked questions, questions that went unanswered.

Since 2000, as I mentioned, this has been part of the Bloc's platform. I was vice-president of the Bloc Québécois prior to the 2000 election, and I remember quite well that we were accused of spreading rumours about these allegations.

In 2000, we asked questions, which went unanswered. We had to wait for the Auditor General's report before the federal Liberal government was no longer able to pass the buck and was forced to accept its responsibilities. At first, it was very minor. Mr. Chrétien did not consider it to be a major scandal since it was to defend Canadian unity, an end that justified almost any means. So, there was no recognition or any real admission of guilt.

Then, the Auditor General tabled her report and they had to do some talking. The opposition parties, especially the leader of the Bloc Québécois, asked their questions again in order to clarify things based on the Auditor General's report. Once again, no answers were forthcoming. The public started to ask some serious questions, as did journalists, the media and the opposition parties, which led the current Prime Minister to create the Gomery commission. So, without pressure from the opposition parties, especially the Bloc Québécois, the facts laid out in the Gomery report would never have come to light. So it is thanks to the Bloc, the opposition parties and the public that the government and the current Prime Minister were forced to do what they did and it is not over yet.

Privilege

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

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.

Privilege

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I can only speculate that the member for Bourassa wishes he had never ever moved his question of privilege because rather than having one day of humiliation in his riding with his constituents reading this literature, he is getting three days of bombardment about the malfeasance of the Liberal Party in Quebec.

There is one particular phrase that I want to ask my colleague about. He was quoting from the Gomery commission and in fact from the leaflet that was circulated in the riding of Bourassa that says that the sponsorship scandal was channelling money in unrecorded cash gifts to Liberal election campaigns, which I have learned was in as many as 18 ridings. Would he agree with me that it is illegal to give unrecorded cash gifts to candidates in election campaigns?

Would he agree that where we come from, elsewhere in Quebec and from ridings like my own, the official agent would be in serious trouble, in fact would be guilty of a criminal offence, if that person signed off on the election papers of any campaign where there were illegal cash donations given to that campaign? That is out and out fraud.

Would he agree with me that the recommendation should be that any members of Parliament who were elected in the 1997 or 2000 campaigns under these conditions should be stripped of their seats, thrown out of office, and their official agents should be led away in handcuffs and put in prison for knowingly violating the Elections Act by which the rest of us are bound? Would he agree that it would be a suitable punishment to throw them out?

Privilege

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Madam Speaker, I think that the most negative effects of this situation are on the candidates who did not get this money. What is important is that we are speaking of about ten candidates in 21 ridings. A number of people have been tarnished so far because the list is not known. It is important to find out as soon as possible who benefited from this money.

The Minister of Transport tells us that the Gomery report ends everything, all is settled, they are absolved, there is no problem, and nothing more will be done from here on. But I think that the Gomery report should be an implement we use to finally clean things up. The people will decide in the next election on the legal steps that should be taken, if applicable. In this particular regard, Mr. Côté must be allowed to provide the list as soon as possible in order to clear those people who are not guilty and ensure that those who took money and did not record it suffer the consequences. Finally, we must see the real situation as it actually was and get to know these people. As things currently stand, the situation is neither clear nor transparent and it is impossible to determine the extent of everyone's involvement.

In conclusion, a member of the Liberal Party of Canada with an important position in the Quebec organization in 21 ridings accepted cash that he should not have taken and gave it directly to people, as he himself stated. The people who received the money did not have to account for it. This entire situation is due to the political involvement or is the responsibility of the Liberal Party. In my view, the Liberal Party is the main culprit and must take responsibility in the next election.

Privilege

2 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, the issue is very clear. If the member does not want anyone to be smeared, why did he smear the member for Bourassa without waiting for the results of the Gomery report? These results are very clear in regard to what is in the householder and show very clearly that we were exonerated. Was he inspired by the member for Argenteuil—Papineau, who sent out a householder explaining the dirty money trail?

Privilege

2 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Madam Speaker, this is why we proposed a subamendment saying that our householder was sent out after the hearings ended. Actually, we were able to pass the same judgment as Mr. Justice Gomery. We said that some cabinet ministers appeared before the Gomery commission. These are proven facts. If the member for Bourassa feels uncomfortable with this, he will just have to live with it.

Foreign AffairsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, let us talk about sovereignty and Hans Island, which is halfway between Greenland and Ellesmere Island at 81

o

N. This 1300 x 1100 metre and 150 metre high rock was named after an Inuit during an expedition of 1871-72. It has fresh water, but otherwise is an inhospitable place.

As currents funnel ice down the channel between Greenland and Canada, it is a good spot for ice impact studies providing useful information for marine engineering. Canada-based companies conducted such experiments there in the 1980s, watching ice bounce off the island.

The channels on either side of the island are only 20 kilometres wide. In 1963 a big piece of ice hit the island and jammed up the passage on the Greenland side for two years.

There has been bickering about the sovereignty of Hans Island. We should try to get back to the days when Canadians and Danish groups used to leave bottles of Canadian Club and Danish Aquavit for later visitors.

Meanwhile, let us ensure Canada strengthens its sovereignty and makes a great contribution to the International Polar Year.

JusticeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Madam Speaker, the Liberal government is responsible for crime being exported from the big cities to our nation's rural communities.

We now have marijuana grow-ops, even in Haldimand--Norfolk. Why? Because the government's lax laws and weak sentences have taught criminals that it is worthwhile to target small towns.

The Liberals naturally try to escape responsibility for their own misdeeds, and now they are also allowing the gangs and drug dealers who are ruining communities and killing Canadians to escape justice. Canadians want mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug dealers, gunmen and the perpetrators of serious violent crimes. They do not want a justice minister promising social programs.

Canadians will hold the government accountable for the Liberal use of home jail and house arrest for repeat and violent offenders.

Yitzhak RabinStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the assassination of the former Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin.

The first native born Israeli prime minister, he was a general who waged both war and peace. Not only was he a military leader, he was also a diplomat, a statesman and a politician.

A consummate tactician, he had a leadership style that was said to be both candid and direct. His was a career that was marked by both successes and challenges, always focused on ensuring the security of the state of Israel. He was gunned down by an extremist at a peace rally on November 4, 1995, and he was cited by president Clinton at the time as a martyr for peace.

Mr. Rabin believed that peace was a prerequisite for the building and viability of the Jewish state. His legacy which was articulated in his memoirs and reiterated that fateful night was, “There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the risks of peace are preferred by far than the grim certainty that awaits every nation in war”.

May his words have meaning today.

SeniorsStatements By Members

November 14th, 2005 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, last week focussed on seniors' safety. This year's theme was “It's easy to make your home a safer place”. Seniors whose eyesight is failing or who are becoming less independent are most likely to have an accident at home, such as a fall.

Falls account for nearly two thirds of the injuries requiring hospitalization in persons aged 65 and older and more than 40% of admissions to nursing homes. They are the main cause of fatal injuries among the elderly.

Most falls occur at home. We must therefore pay particular attention to stairs and bathrooms, the two most dangerous locations.

Let us work to keep our seniors healthy so they will remain active in our society.

Foreign AffairsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Kadis Liberal Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister spoke in Toronto at the annual meeting of the United Jewish Communities General Assembly. The meeting is the largest yearly gathering of Jewish community leaders in the world.

I am very proud that the Prime Minister expressed his support for Israel. As he said yesterday, Canada will continue to press for the kinds of reforms that will eliminate the politicization of the United Nations and its agencies and, in particular, the annual ritual of anti-Israel resolutions.

I was equally pleased that the Prime Minister again spoke out against the hateful remarks made by the Iranian president. Canadians should be encouraged by the Prime Minister's message yesterday.

Foreign AffairsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to condemn the remarks of the Iranian president calling for the annihilation of Israel.

Speaking to an audience marking Jerusalem Day in Tehran, an audience which contained known terrorist organizations, the president of Iran's words shocked the world and must be condemned. The Government of Canada should, at this moment, rally other nations of the United Nations in support of a motion to remove Iran from membership of the world body of nations until Iran explicitly withdraws and repudiates these words.

This is shocking and dangerous, and cannot be tolerated. The government must put action to words, take leadership and demand Iran withdraw these words.