Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the debate so far about the motion brought forward by the member for Bourassa who, like me, is a member of the Liberal Party Quebec caucus.
I heard a lot of innuendo and a lot of conclusions. Some opposition members claim that their conclusions are the same as Justice Gomery's. In reality, they are making up their own summary of Justice Gomery's report.
I will quote only what Justice Gomery says in his report. I will start by reading the second paragraph on page xx of the preface:
One of the disadvantages of a public inquiry is that it may seem that justice has been done. This perception is misleading for the reason I have just given, and also for another reason: the dramatic revelations at public inquiries and the media attention given to them tend to distort reality and to make the misconduct that the inquiry uncovers appear to be more widespread than it really was. I fear that that has occurred in this case.
Because of the sensational nature of some of the evidence presented at the Commission’s hearings, the publicity given to it, and the political context in which the Inquiry took place, the impression may have been created that in Canada the administration of public affairs by the federal government is generally careless, incompetent, and motivated by improper considerations. People may also be persuaded that the persons involved in Canadian political life are inspired by improper motives, and unscrupulous.
Let me suggest that the Inquiry proves the contrary. Without diminishing the importance of the findings of impropriety and wrongdoing in the Report, the evidence presented reveals that, in general, the administration of government programs by the federal bureaucracy is competent and praiseworthy, a conclusion that has been emphasized by the Auditor General herself.
There is no reason for the public’s confidence in the integrity of our democratic institutions to be shaken....Canadians should not forget that the vast majority of our public officials and politicians do their work honestly, diligently and effectively, and emerge from this Inquiry free of any blame.
I will now quote the last two paragraphs on page 4 of the report itself:
Public hearings took place commencing in Ottawa on September 7, 2004, for approximately six months and continuing in Montreal until June 17, 2005. One hundred seventy-two witnesses were heard, some of them for several days and some on more than one occasion, over a total of 136 hearing days. A list of witnesses who testified is attached as Appendix D.
Ordinarily the deliberations of Cabinet are secret and privileged, but the government of Canada agreed to waive this privilege by two orders in council which permitted a full inquiry to be made of the question of how certain decisions were reached when the Sponsorship Program was first conceived.
I turn now to page 9. In the second paragraph, the judge says:
Just as it is important to identify persons who failed to fulfill their responsibilities or who might have been guilty of misconduct, it is equally important in this report to identify persons who, on the basis of the evidence, are innocent of any misconduct or mismanagement. Such persons who, in the publicity surrounding the Commission or elsewhere, might have been accused or suspected of improprieties, are entitled to have any blemishes to their reputations explained or removed.
I will now go to page 47 where Justice Gomery reports on the implementation of the federal budget and the responsibilities of a finance minister and draws relevant conclusions. The last paragraph on this page states that:
The minister of Finance is responsible for preparing the federal budget. This is the minister's primary responsibility, although he or she is also charged with developing tax and tariff policy and legislation; managing federal borrowing on financial markets; administering major federal funding and transfers to provinces and territories; developing regulatory policy for the country's financial sector; and representing Canada at international financial institutions.
On page 48, it states:
With respect to the Budget, the Minister of Finance is responsible for establishing the fiscal framework within which overall government spending takes place. He or she is, by tradition, the Vice-President of the Treasury Board. However, by custom the Minister of Finance does not attend Treasury Board meetings except when the President of the Treasury Board is unable to attend or when a matter to be discussed by Treasury Board is of special concern to the Department of Finance.
Once the fiscal framework is set, departments are responsible for the management of the expenditures allocated to them, although Treasury Board has its general oversight role. The Department of Finance and its Minister do not play a role in the oversight of expenditures made by other departments.
This is from the part of Justice Gomery's report dealing with responsibilities. He is talking about other ministers' responsibilities:
On the evidence there is no basis for attributing blame or responsibility for the maladministration of the Sponsorship Program 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. [The Prime Minister], 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. Ministers are not responsible for what they do not know about the actions and decisions of the PMO or other Ministers, or about the administration of departments other than their own. Sponsored events that took place in a Member’s riding, or that may have been supported or advocated by the riding association, do not create a presumption that the MP in question was familiar with the Sponsorship Program as a whole.
As I have one minute left, I will quote from page 435, concerning the responsibility of the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party of Canada:
The persons who accepted contributions in cash and other improper benefits from Mr. Corriveau and Mr. Brault on behalf of the LPCQ have brought dishonour upon themselves and the political party they were supposed to serve... They disregarded the relevant laws governing donations to political parties—
Moving now to the last paragraph:
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.
The key point to remember is that Justice Gomery started off his presentation by saying that his responsibility was to find the facts and, on the basis of these facts, to decide on the responsibility of each person alleged to have responsibility, as well as to exonerate from any blame those persons who might have been suspected of participating in or having committed wrongdoings, which are potentially criminal acts. In fact, some of these acts are, since one person has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced.
In closing, I would just ask that the members in this House who wish to take part in the debate on the motion stick to the Gomery report.