Debates of Nov. 4th, 2005
House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.
- Question Period
- The Arctic
- Remembrance Day
- Canada-Israel Friendship Group
- Remembrance Day
- Veterans Week
- Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association
- Liberal Government
- New Brunswick Businesses
- Veterans Affairs
- Yitzhak Rabin
- Sponsorship Program
- Sponsorship Program
- Liberal Party of Canada
- Sponsorship Program
- Government Appointments
- National Defence
- Sponsorship Program
- Public Works and Government Services
- Sponsorship Program
- Election Campaign Financing
- Government Spending
- Job Creation
- Democratic Reform
- Citizenship and Immigration
- Aboriginal Veterans
- Human Resources and Skills Development
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- The Environment
- Forest Industry
- Airport Customs Services
- Official Languages
- Points of Order
- Government Response to Petitions
- Nuclear Waste Management Organization Report
- Committees of the House
- Excise Tax Act
- Hazardous Products Act
- Employment Insurance Act
- Criminal Code
- National Appreciation Day Act
- Committees of the House
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Question No. 181
- Question No. 185
- Question No. 190
- Question No. 192
- Question No. 205
- Question No. 211
The House resumed consideration of the motion, and the amendment, and the amendment to the amendment.
Stéphane Dion Minister of the Environment
Mr. Speaker, it is not with pleasure that I will use my eight minutes because the debate imposed on us by the Bloc is a sad one.
In the few minutes I had before question period, I think that I showed clearly that we have before us a case of defamation that constitutes a serious attack against my reputation and that of other members of Parliament. I also tried to explain the unexplainable and that is how the Bloc Québécois could fall so low into such cheap politics.
I proposed two possible explanations. I will let you be the judge of their value. According to the first one, in the last two years, the Bloc has been using smear tactics, generalizations and defamation in this House, thus abusing their parliamentary privilege. Members of the Bloc also did that outside of the House, up to now avoiding what could so obviously become a libel case. This time, however, they went too far.
I put forward another hypothesis, that this way of doing things is a symptom of something bigger, of a behaviour that has been characteristic of the Quebec sovereignist movement and which consists in attacking reputations and persons, particularly francophone Quebeckers who defend Canada, and goes as far as demonizing them because they lack rational and reasoned arguments to convince Quebeckers to renounce Canada. I will not belabour that point.
In the minutes that I have left, I call on all members in this House, including members of the Bloc Québécois, to use their sense of honour. If they have the least sense of honour, instead of delaying the work of the House, as they are now doing, immediately following my speech, they will rise to say that they are committed to reimburse the taxpayers money that was used to indulge into character assassination of members of Parliament and to send to all Quebec households, using their own money, the corrections necessary to the householders where my face and the one of other colleagues appear in such an unfair and abhorrent way.
Members of the Bloc Québécois must stop delaying the work of the House. They have violated this institution enough, and they must immediately move forward the process that the member for Bourassa has taken to defend his reputation and his honour. If they continue to delay the work of the House to keep it from providing justice to us, I personally warn them that I will not have much patience and that I will take civil action.
I would also like to say that, if the Bloc Québécois has a sense of honour, it must stop making arguments that are political and intellectually dishonest. I will give some examples.
Some Bloc members said that they did not want to tarnish the reputation of some ministers, because there is a footnote in the householder. Members will excuse me for removing my glasses, but this footnote is in very small print and it says: “Have appeared before the Gomery commission”. If I understand correctly, saying that some witnesses appeared before a commission gives one the right to tarnish their reputation and to imply that they were complicit in criminal actions. This does not hold water and will never hold water before any court. It is as if the bill of sale for the house that you are buying contained a footnote in very small print that said that you will pay three times more than what you think you will pay. There are laws against that. This will not hold water. They will have to find something else.
The members from the Bloc also argued that they received permission from the House to do such a thing. Let them provide evidence that they received permission from the House. We are still waiting. If that were even true, legally speaking this does not clear them from the responsibility they have toward how they use this document. They cannot put that responsibility on an institution.
The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel presented another argument in which he played with the words. Yesterday in the House he said, “We do not trace the dirty money trail in that document”. However, the same hon. member, in a householder that he sent out in his riding, used the expression “dirty money trail”. Why say one thing in the House and say the opposite to his own constituents in his riding? He is only making matters worse for himself. He should apologize for misleading the House, which is quite a serious matter.
Enough with the double talk that only sinks the Bloc Québécois further into disgrace. Honestly, they have to acknowledge that this is defamation.
In closing, I want to mention one other thing. The householder does not allude to corruption, but simply a process that was in place. However, other householders say, “We must punish the Liberals for their corruption”. In that case, the word corruption appears next to the faces of the parliamentarians in question. If the Bloc is not accusing them of corruption, then what is it doing? Enough with this intellectual dishonesty. This is truly a case of defamation.
I will end my speech where I began, by defining defamation under the law. It is an attack of a person's reputation exposing that person to hate or contempt. It can be verbal or in writing. It matters very little whether the attack is direct or indirect, or whether it results from a statement, insinuation, connotation or imputation.
This case does not involve a comment as such, but clearly a statement or an insinuation. As the courts have established many times, it is the general impression conveyed by an article, a publication or a comment. In this case, there is no doubt in my mind that the document attacks my reputation. I will take every necessary recourse, since precious little is more important than a person's reputation, honour and integrity.
Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC
Mr. Speaker, first, I am somewhat surprised to hear the Minister of the Environment suggest that we are drawing out the debate. In fact, we are debating a motion by the member for Bourassa, which was ruled in order in this House. An amendment and a subamendment were brought forward, because of the direct link to the Gomery report. It takes a lot of gall for the Minister of the Environment to go on like that considering the situation.
The reality is that this leaflet summarizes what we can call the sponsorship scandal. It lays out known facts. As for the members who raised the question of privilege, the leaflet only states that they appeared before the Gomery commission. Those are facts.
If the Minister of the Environment interprets it otherwise, that is his problem. He is the one who sees things where they do not exist. The best way to draw conclusions is probably to read the summary of the Gomery report and the document that we have here.
I am going to quickly read the findings of Justice Gomery. I am not making this up. It 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...
the use of the Sponsorship Program for purposes other than national unity or federal visibility because of a lack of objectives, criteria and guidelines for the Program...
certain agencies carrying on their payrolls individuals who were, in effect, working on Liberal Party matters...
And the last conclusion, but not the least:
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.
In reality, our document and Justice Gomery's report make the same statement in two different ways. The image we included in the leaflet is the reflection of what the report says. That is why we moved a subamendment to indicate that our leaflet was distributed after the end of the hearings. Everybody was able to draw conclusions from the hearings. Justice Gomery drew his and documented them in his report. I just quoted four of them. In much the same way, we published our conclusions in our leaflet. A majority of the population agrees with us.
I have a question for the Minister of the Environment today. Are the documents tabled here not the proof that our leaflet mirrors the Gomery report? The then ministers whose picture appears in the frame were called before the commission. The key political actors have been identified, and the political executive, the sponsorship program and the financial kickbacks to the Liberal Party highlighted. That is the whole context.
In the end, is the right solution not for the government to take responsibility, call an election and let the people be the judge? This government is responsible for the single most important political scandal in the history of Canada since the Constitution. It is the most glaring example of mismanagement by the federal government. If federalists have to be responsible for something, this is it.
Indeed, the Conservative Party—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)
I am sorry to interrupt the member, but the Minister of the Environment has the floor.
Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC
Mr. Speaker, I do not think that the member himself believes what he is saying. First, he said that the Bloc is not holding up the progress of the House, but the member for Roberval confirmed that this is exactly what they are doing. There is no point in denying it.
Then he said: “Ministers were involved in political interference. The money ended up in the agencies and then in the Liberal Party coffers.” He is accusing ministers of having acted in this manner. That is the thrust of the whole document. He is accusing people of interference and of criminal activities.
If this is not confusion and defamation, I wonder what it is. He does not even realize what he is doing anymore. He might even believe what he is saying. He is really confusing everything.
I must therefore quote yet again the same paragraph from the Gomery Commission that is so relevant for us. On page 77, the report states:
On the evidence there is no basis for attributing blame or responsibility to any other Minister of the Chrétien Cabinet, since they, like all members of Parliament, were not informed of the initiatives being authorized by Mr. Pelletier and their funding from the Unity Reserve. Mr. Martin, whose role as Finance Minister did not involve him in the supervision of spending by the PMO or PWGSC, is entitled, like other Ministers in the Quebec caucus, to be exonerated from any blame for carelessness or misconduct.
That is what is there. But I would further go one step further and say that even if the document had talked about Mr. Pelletier, and certainly in the case of Mr. Chrétien, who is mentioned in the document, the responsibility being attributed to them by Justice Gomery has to do with diligence. Justice Gomery does not question Mr. Chrétien's integrity in any way. This document, therefore, is unfair to the former prime minister, and I must emphasize that. It is one thing to say that someone lacked diligence, but quite another to accuse that person of dishonesty. The Bloc does not take into consideration those small distinctions in its efforts to discredit everyone. As a matter fact, they are the ones heading for an all-time low because of the partisan games they are playing.
November 4th, 2005 / 12:30 p.m.
Claude Drouin Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Rural Communities)
Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate my colleague, the environment minister, for the excellent speech he made and his clarity in response to the Bloc, which is capable of the worst abuses to achieve its ends.
I am happy to see that the relevance of the Gomery report was mentioned repeatedly. We agree with the report. This report shows that of the $147 million paid to the agencies, $1.143 million was given to the Liberal Party over a 10 year period.
The members of the Bloc see themselves as staunch defenders of Quebeckers' interests, but where were they five years ago when we found out about the PQ scandal involving Oxygène 9? It was Quebec taxpayers' money that had been squandered. Where were the members of the Bloc? We not did hear from them. That scandal was so bad that the PQ government never held an inquiry. The minister, Mr. Baril, had to resign. He was named vice-president of Hydro-Québec in Chile to ensure there would not be an inquiry. We can see to what lengths the separatists will go to achieve their goal.
I am asking the environment minister to enlighten me on what occurred at that time.
Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC
Mr. Speaker, first, let me say that $1.7 million is $1.7 million too much. We have paid back this amount and we have told Canadians that we will be twice as prudent in order to avoid any such thing in the future.
Second, one scandal does not justify another scandal. But this is not what the member for Beauce did. He simply compared reactions between one leader and another one. Our Prime Minister got to the bottom of things. In all fairness, I should say that the former prime minister and the Minister of Public Works and Government Services at the time, who is now the Minister of Finance, had already started the process by reviewing and clarifying all procedures. Our Prime Minister went to the bottom of things by ordering an inquiry. He opened the books and went from there.
But, what did the leader in Quebec, the former premier of Quebec, Mr. Landry, do at that time? He put a lid on this affair to make sure that we would never know what went on. Unfortunately, I have to tell the member for Beauce that we will never know. If we did, we would perhaps discover that the Bloc benefited from this money. Therefore, it is a matter for the House. We will never know, and we will never have any assurance about this, since there has never been a public inquiry. This lack of transparency is very serious. I see the Bloc as applying a double standard. Instead, it should recognize the Prime Minister for showing an extremely high degree of transparency and an admirable sense of public integrity.
Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC
Mr. Speaker, I must admit that I was very impressed by the comments made by the member for Saint-Laurent, especially when he talked about the courage of the Prime Minister of Canada, who advocated transparency and probity. When the Bloc Québécois refers to the Liberal Party of Canada and to the Gomery report, it uses its own words, not those of Justice Gomery.
Mr. Gomery has heard 172 witnesses and read thousands of pages of documentary evidence, including documents on cabinet deliberations, which, according to tradition, had never been made public. However, the Prime Minister of Canada, a Liberal Prime Minister, made them public.
I would like to hear the comments of the member for Saint-Laurent regarding the first paragraph on page 436 of the Gomery report, which states:
According to evidence presented on behalf of the LPCQ, reforms to the Party's management and systems make it less likely that such irregularities will reoccur.
Given the conclusion of Justice Gomery based on all the evidence that he heard, what does the member think of the fact that the Bloc Québécois does not urge its provincial counterparts to do the same when there are alleged wrongdoings in the fundraising campaigns?
Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC
Mr. Speaker, the answer is more or less the same. I do not want to use one scandal to justify another. There are however two things I would point out.
First, the effort to ensure transparency was much greater in Ottawa, with the Liberal government, than in Quebec, with the PQ government. There is no question about that. Second, the member is absolutely right about the excerpt she referred to.
There is something that I want to mention. The government has worked hard to ensure that such abuse will never happen again and to enhance Canadian confidence in the honesty and transparency of government.
However, we are also looking forward to Justice Gomery's second report. While he has said that we have done a lot to rectify the problem, he will certainly have useful suggestions that we will carefully review with the greatest respect for him.
Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON
Mr. Speaker, today we are debating a motion on a question of privilege raised by the member for Bourassa. The member takes exception to members of Parliament communicating with Canadians on the subject of the sponsorship scandal. It is remarkable.
What we amazingly have in front of us is a motion that suggests that members of Parliament should not be permitted to discuss the sponsorship scandal with Canadians. Coming from the Liberal government that is not surprising, but as a democracy it is particularly alarming.
We should be permitted to discuss the most important issues of the day with Canadians of which the sponsorship scandal is perhaps the most important. We should not be surprised that the motion came from the government. It has consistently taken the stand that we should not discuss the sponsorship scandal. The government will do anything to keep that from being discussed by Canadians.
If we think back in recent months to questions asked in this very chamber, the Minister of Public Works consistently said that discussion of the sponsorship scandal represented mere allegation, therefore it should not be discussed. Thanks to Justice Gomery we now know that those mere allegations were not mere allegations. He found those mere allegations to be fact and accurate.
We also were told by the Minister of Public Works that we should not be permitted to comment on that evidence. The member for Bourassa is carrying on in the very same vein by suggesting that members of the House should not be able to communicate with Canadians about the sponsorship scandal. We have heard the government consistently try to shut down discussion. It is a pattern of cover-up. It is a pattern of whitewash. It is a pattern of preventing these issues from seeing the light of day in any way possible. We also see that pattern extended through the denial of opposition days, which have been shut down so these issues cannot be discussed with Canadians. Taken all together, we see a consistent effort by the government to suppress discussion and debate with Canadians on the sponsorship scandal. Now we have this motion.
We heard earlier from the member for Ahuntsic. She said that we should respect the institution and our rights and privileges. Perhaps the most important privilege in a democracy and in a democratic institution like Parliament is freedom of speech and expression. It is that very same freedom of expression that the member for Bourassa seeks to suppress with his question of privilege.
We have those rights that we hold dear. To me the right of freedom of expression is perhaps the most important of those rights. We are alarmed by what the motion by the member for Bourassa suggests and for our very right to express ourselves on these important questions.
Let us look at the substance of the sponsorship matter that he takes exception to us discussing with Canadians. The government does not want to see us communicating with Canadians. The substance is found very simply in the findings of Justice Gomery and his report entitled “Who Is Responsible?”.
Members of the government are fond of going into about 700 pages or so in the report to find some fine detail that can be taken out of context that suggests in some way somebody somewhere in the government did not know something about it or was not involved in the sponsorship scandal. If the government can find one person who is clear, then somehow the Liberal Party or the government is clear. Justice Gomery told us something very different.
The commission of inquiry found clear evidence of political involvement in the administration of the sponsorship scandal. That is a critical finding of Justice Gomery and is in his report in black and white.
He found deliberate actions to avoid compliance with federal legislation and policies, including the Canada Elections Act, the Lobbyists Registration Act, the Access to Information Act and Financial Administration Act, as well as federal contracting policy and the Treasury Board transfer payments policy. These are not, in the words of the Minister of Public Works, “mere allegations”. These are major findings of fact of Justice Gomery.
He found a complex web of financial transactions among Public Works and Government Services Canada, the minister's department which he does not want us to talk about, Crown corporations and communication agencies, involving kickbacks and illegal contributions to a political party in the context of the sponsorhsip program. Guess which political party? It is the Liberal Party, but he was kind enough not to mention that.
No wonder the government and the member for Bourassa do not want us to discuss this with Canadians. I can understand why. He does not want Canadians to hear about the Liberal Party receiving kickbacks.
Then the report states that five agencies received large sponsorship contracts, regularly channelling money via donations or unrecorded cash gifts to political fundraising activities in Quebec, with the expectation of receiving lucrative government contracts.
We know what that is. That is the offer of a payback. This is Justice Gomery's finding of fact, a major finding, that these people made donations because they expected to get contracts in return. The member for Bourassa does not believe we should be allowed to discuss this with Canadians. Through his motion, he is trying to suppress that debate, that freedom of expression and that exposure of the guilt of the Liberal Party in findings of fact by Justice Gomery.
Furthermore, Justice Gomery found, and it is in black and white, that certain agencies carried on their payrolls individuals who were in effect working on Liberal Party matters and that government money was being used to pay partisan Liberal Party workers. It is a clear conclusion.
Next he found “the existence of a culture of entitlement among political officials”. I guess that culture of entitlement extends so far that we cannot have the temerity to get up and question that entitled. If we dare suggest to Canadians that this culture of entitlement is wrong, the member for Bourassa will stand up and say his privileges have been offended and we should not be allowed to discuss that with Canadians.
It is a remarkable effort to shut down free speech and free discourse on perhaps the most important question facing Canadians. We have clear evidence by Justice Gomery, after having heard the testimony of dozens and dozens of witnesses, having sat for days and days, having been subjected to cross-examination, that we have a political scandal of enormous consequences, the biggest in Canadian history.
His finding of fact at the end, which is entirely consistent with what we see in the motion, is the refusal of ministers, senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office and public servants to acknowledge their responsibility. Not only will they not acknowledge their responsibility, but they do not want anybody else to point it out, even though Justice Gomery has said it is there, in black and white.
These are issues about which Canadians care. My constituents of York—Simcoe constituents care greatly about these issues. They care greatly about this matter of political corruption and that it should be addressed, debated and resolved. That is why this effort to shut down debate and discussion is most alarming to them and to me.
We are told that the great offence committed is that the communication went into the member's constituency, that it came from another member, and I do not recall which member, and that is a terrible thing. Guess what I have in my hand? I have a piece of correspondence that went into my constituency entitled “A message from the Prime Minister”. The headline does not talk about the Prime Minister. The headline is a personal attack on the character and integrity of the member for Calgary Southwest.
This was not sent by some backbencher, rogue member of the government. The communication was sent into my constituency by the Prime Minister. Guess what he discusses in it? He discusses the Gomery inquiry and he attacks the member for Calgary Southwest, the Leader of the Opposition, for questioning the government about the Gomery inquiry because Justice Gomery should be left to do his work.
How dare the member for Calgary Southwest and the opposition try to hold the government accountable and how dare they ask Canadians to hold the government accountable. Is that not a terrible thing? I guess if the Liberals are trying to escape accountability every way, they may as well bring a motion like this to say that the opposition should not even be allowed to talk to Canadians about the corruption of the Liberal government. It is entirely consistent with the pattern.
What is more, some of the suggestions in the message from the Prime Minister about policy are entirely inaccurate. They are attributed to what my party or I myself would do as a member if I were in government and they are false. This communication from the Prime Minister is certainly far greater an offence of privilege than anything concerning the member for Bourassa.
When this went into my constituency I did not like it. I can understand the member not liking it, especially since there were falsehoods in this communication. However just because I did not like it I did not get up in the House and say that the Prime Minister should not be allowed to communicate with Canadians. I did not get up and say that my personal privileges had been offended as a member of Parliament. I said that was part of debate, democracy and freedom of speech and that I should be allowed to enter the debate and answer those concerns. That is how democracy is supposed to work.
That is the party that pretends to be the party of the charter and of freedom of speech standing up to suppress freedom of expression. It is remarkable. The Liberals are turning themselves inside out. Freedom of speech extends, according to the government, as long as no one criticizes the government, as long as no one exposes its corruption and as long as no one exposes its misdeeds, but as soon as one crosses that line to talk to Canadians about corruption, freedom of speech must stop. Forget the charter, forget parliamentary privileges, forget the debate that should take place in this institution and forget the debate that should take place outside.
The Liberals seek to avoid accountability at every opportunity possible, which is why they did all the remarkable things, including a deal that cost $4.6 billion. They made announcements of $26 billion in the weeks of late April and early May to try to avert an election and that accountability. Those tactics will cost every family in Canada, a typical family of four, $3,030 of their own tax dollars to avoid accountability.
The government takes the tax dollars and the Liberal Party uses those tax dollars to fund its own partisan activities. It uses those tax dollars to stay in office by hook or by crook, by whatever deal they can make with whatever party, by doing whatever it can to keep the numbers and avoid the accountability.
Now that the accountability has been rendered in black and white by Justice Gomery, accountability that the Liberals know will be communicated some more, they launch their initiative here in the House to suppress further debate and discussion of the findings of Justice Gomery. That is what this is all about.
Members should make no mistake about this. This is an effort to shut down that debate. In fact, if it were not for this motion being brought forward, paradoxically, this is the only way we are getting to debate this question in the House. What an irony that the only way we can do it is in response to an effort to shut down debate. I am sure the member for Bourassa did not anticipate that when he brought forward the motion but that is the implication.
When things like this happen, it is called democracy. It is called debate. When I look at the communication in question, I see quite a few things with which I do not agree. I happen to believe passionately in my country and in the importance of keeping this country united. My friends in the third party in the House do not share that view but I do not believe their right to speak on that issue or any other issue or to expose the government's corruption should be shut down because it is inconvenient or uncomfortable.
The reason I became involved in politics is because my family roots go back to Estonia where my family grew up. My mother and grandparents only came to Canada because with World War II came successive waves of Soviet and Nazi occupation. Because many in the family had the temerity to have views and to believe in democracy and freedom, they were seen as enemies of the new Soviet state of the occupying forces.
Many of my relatives were sent to Siberia where they lost their lives. Some were brutally murdered in their beds by Red Army soldiers or other Communist sympathizers, or killed in any remarkable number of other fashions in that conflict all because they believed in democracy and freedom and wanted to live their lives in peace. They wanted to enjoy the democracy they had enjoyed as a free country for a number of decades.
I was fortunate in that my mother and grandparents did manage to flee to Sweden and, ultimately, to Canada. They reason they chose Canada was because it was a land of hope and opportunity but, most important, because it was a land of freedom. It was a land where they thought that democracy flourished and the country did treat them very well. I have been fortunate to enjoy the benefits of that country myself and fortunate to enjoy our democratic process.
My family did not choose Canada because they thought freedom of speech was suppressed here. That is what they were fleeing. They did not choose Canada because they thought it was a country with a corrupt government run for a narrow self-interest. No, that is what they were fleeing.
The question we are debating, which is whether we should be allowed to discuss these questions and communicate with Canadians about them, is very profound and very deep. It is one of our greatest freedoms. No, it is not always nice to hear certain things being said about us. Sometimes there are personal attacks and I do not like them, but there is a difference between what is poor form, what is rude and what is actually wrong. Freedom of speech includes the right to say things that people may not want to hear and sometimes, as the government is discovering, the truth is quite painful and we do not want to hear the truth. However the country and democracy are strengthened when the truth does come out.
I attended the University of Toronto's Victoria College, my undergraduate university. Carved in the sandstone over the main building of Victoria University are the words “THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE”. That is what we are talking about here, truth, freedom and the ability to bring these matters forward in a legitimate debate, which is what the motion from the member for Bourassa seeks to stifle.
My constituents do care about the questions in this. Let us think about the consequences. We have clear evidence of political involvement in the administration of the sponsorship program. That corrodes our democracy.
I have had the experience, as I am sure many members have had, of going door to door and speaking to constituents and voters and there is a great deal of cynicism about the business we are involved in. It is cynicism that is bred of spin, of people making promises and breaking them in politics, and it is a cynicism bred, sadly, of the findings of Justice Gomery and similar programs and similar sponsorships.
What we can take heart in is that when the truth comes out hopefully our country is a little more strengthened; debate can ensue and cleanse. When the light shines in they say that is the great antiseptic. It cleans things when people can hear the truth and discuss the truth. Suppressing debate and discussion is not the way to get there. Suppressing the way in which we approach our democracy and suppressing the free debate is not the way to get there.
The conclusions in the report are important findings. The work of Justice Gomery into the sponsorship affair was very important. The sponsorship scandal was, undoubtedly, the most defining political event of the past several decades. It is perhaps the saddest event in the history of Canadian democracy in terms of its impact. We have seen corruption through the bureaucracy, through contracting, through the work of ministers and through suggestions by the prime minister's office.
The report says, “a refusal to accept responsibility in the Prime Minister's Office...among ministers, a refusal to acknowledge their responsibility”. It is time we took that responsibility and it is time we took seriously the role of debate. I absolutely urge the House to turn down this effort to suppress the freedom of speech in debate that will make this report meaningful in the end.
Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Speaker, I have known the hon. member for some time and I know him to be a decent individual, an individual who is not easily given to slandering or defaming the character of anybody in this House, let alone, I am sure, his constituents.
Mr. Speaker, I think the member would agree with your findings that there is in fact a question of privilege that arises from the householder that was sent to many ridings across Quebec, compliments of the separatists in this House. I know the hon. member will try very hard not to see himself as aligning himself with the separatist tendencies in this country.
I also know that when the hon. member talks about truth he will also take into account what this Prime Minister has done for democracy, something that no other prime minister or leader of a country has done, and that is to expose government open, regardless of its consequences and certainly above the question of partisanship.
I also know that hon. member served as the president of the Conservative Party of Ontario during which there were such wonderful examples of where his government that he supported under Mike Harris gave us the Dudley George inquiry and the Walkerton inquiry, albeit begrudgingly.
I understand the hon. member wants to talk about the words engraved on the little stone. I just want to say that engraved at my old university are the words, “The truth will indeed set you free”. Is it possible that the member is actually saying that to arrive at his version of the truth he is prepared to defame the reputation of anybody in this House? If that is the case, let that member stand in his seat right now and say that he will go to no ends to determine what he believes is his version of the truth.
I am prepared to tell the truth about that member as long as he is prepared to continue slandering members of Parliament, abide by it or abet the slandering of members of Parliament in this House.
The hon. member was the president of the Conservative Party of Ontario during the period of former Premier Harris. We had a number of concerns and allegations about kickback schemes. We had a number of allegations that were done over various campaign managers around the previous premier making money through Ontario Hydro. These things came out in the public domain without discussing any issue.
Why did the hon. member not say anything about those activities and his Conservative government did nothing about it to begin with?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)
May I remind the hon. members of this House to be very careful with their vocabulary and the history they are bringing into this debate.
Nevertheless, I will recognize the hon. member for York—Simcoe.
Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have to say, with the greatest of respect, that I know nothing of the fantasies of which he speaks. They are remarkable flights of fancy. They are not the subject of the findings of Justice Gomery.
What we are talking about and what we are debating is not slander. We are discussing what have been proven to be and established to be findings of fact of Justice Gomery.
The member may wish to suggest--
Some hon. members
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)
Order, please. We were able to listen to the question. Let us try to listen to the answer.