Mr. Speaker, I rise to participate in what is perhaps one of the most important debates in our country's history. Never before have there been such profound allegations of corruption against the party that is in power.
To quote the, until yesterday, Liberal member of Parliament from Edmonton--Mill Woods--Beaumont, “Here we are, a G7 country, acting like a northern banana republic. What country is seen as more politically corrupt than us at the moment?”
Sadly, many in other countries share his views. This Liberal scandal, is damaging our reputation right around the world. China's People's Daily reports, “Canada's ruling party badly hurt by scandal”. CNN calls this, “Canada's version of Watergate”. BBC World News reports, “Scandal anger mounts in Canada”. The New York Times headline reads, “Canadian Prime Minister Struggles to Keep Job”.
In France, the newspaper Le Monde said: “The Canadian Prime Minister is hanging on to power in spite of a corruption scandal affecting the Liberal Party”.
An article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune gets right to the heart of the matter. It states:
In what some say is Canada's version of Watergate, in terms of magnitude and potential damage, Liberal Party members are accused of having taken $818,000 from advertising agencies hired to promote federalism in the French-speaking province of Quebec.
This is truly a scandal without precedent, without equal in our history. Our country has reached a new and frightening low thanks to this Liberal Party.
In an April 12 Toronto Star op-ed entitled “Canada's Crisis of Responsibility”, Tom Axworthy, principal secretary to Pierre Trudeau from 1981 to 1984 and brother of former Liberal foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy writes:
One of the core problems the Gomery commission investigating the sponsorship scandal has revealed is the absence of any notion of responsibility from many of those in high positions. Neither in the 2003 auditor-general's report on sponsorship, nor in the Public Accounts Committee nor in the Gomery commission hearings have ex-ministers or public servants come forward to say, "Yes, managing this program was my responsibility, and I am accountable for what went wrong.”
Before I continue, Mr. Speaker, I want to let the House know that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Nepean--Carleton.
The Parti Québécois is an example that the Liberal Party of Canada should follow with regard to the sponsorship scandal. When it was accused of having accepted $100,000 in illegal contributions from Groupaction Marketing Inc., it took steps to return the money. Three days later the PQ wrote to Justice John Gomery asking for the names of shareholders and employees of Groupaction from 1994.
That is an example that the Liberals must follow. In fact, on January 14, some Quebec papers said that while in Longueuil, the Minister of Transport promised that the Liberal Party of Canada would reimburse all money that could be linked to the sponsorship program.
In fact, English Canadian papers went further. They used a faulty translation which quoted the minister as saying:
The transport minister said he won't wait for reports from the Gomery Commission, an inquiry into the sponsorship scandal, and a lawyer appointed to study the matter.
Although the Canadian press later clarified the matter, the real reason English Canadian press included the erroneous information was because it seemed reasonable.
In September 2004, the Liberal Party had admitted that both of what the Liberal government now calls audits concluded that the party had received $1.5 million in donations from companies named in the Auditor General's report on sponsorship and advertising abuses. It then stated that it would only reimburse donations from companies whose directors were convicted of crimes.
So when in January the transport minister stated in Longueuil, Quebec that the federal Liberals would reimburse all donations received from groups involved in the sponsorship program, the translator made the fundamental mistake of believing that the transport minister was sincere and that the Liberal Party of Canada would essentially follow a path similar to that which was being taken by the Parti Québécois. What a foolish mistake to trust a Liberal.
There is a huge difference between the reaction of the Parti Québécois and that of the Liberal Party of Canada and it is attributable in part to the amounts of money involved. For the Parti Québécois, it is only $100,000, a relatively small sum, while it is a fortune for the Liberal Party of Canada.
The two external audits made in September 2004, which revealed that the Liberal Party of Canada had received $1.5 million from actors in the sponsorship scandal were not audits at all, but mere account reviews.
Simply put, both reviews showed that the Liberals received $1.5 million from people and firms involved in the sponsorship scandal. However, that does not include the money that Liberal ridings and candidates received. Moreover, the reviews were limited to four bank accounts and to the documents provided.
In other words, it is almost certain that the Liberal Party actually received substantially more than the $1.5 million it had publicly admitted; $1.5 million in dirty money.
Further, because of the way the money was hidden it is possible that a significant amount of money went to various leadership and riding campaigns, as well as to the 1997 and 2000 national campaigns of the Liberal Party, and we will not find out these amounts for quite some time.
Therefore, if the Liberal Party admits, after an incomplete review based on the balances of four bank accounts and missing documents, that it received $1.5 million in dirty money, one could assume that the real total could be double that, if not more.
If the amount of money that the Liberals will be allowed to spend nationally in the next campaign is roughly $18 million, and if they had received say $3 million from companies and individuals involved in the sponsorship scandal, that would mean roughly $1 out of every $6 that the Liberal Party of Canada will spend in the next election will be dirty money. That is right, $1 out of $6 TV ads alleging Liberal integrity will be paid for with dirty money and, quite possibly, produced by a tainted agency.
The dirty money also paid for one out of six pamphlets, which may have been printed by a company controlled by someone involved in the scandal.
When you see a Liberal advertisement, you can be proud because you paid for at least one-sixth of it.
This is outrageous, hideous and in the literal sense of the word “scandalous”.
The sad truth of the matter is that not only does the Liberal Party not want to return the money, it cannot return the money. In fact, it received millions in dirty money. There is no way that it would consider repaying it or putting it into a special account, as the transport minister has proposed, or putting it into a trust account, as the motion today requires.
Quite simply, the Liberals require all of the money that they can get their mitts on to fight the next election. Their promises to return the illegal funds right now are hollow. In truth, the Liberals would rather campaign with dirty money than have a campaign with less money. It is a most pathetic situation in which the Prime Minister finds himself.
It cannot be said that the Liberals lie; it is enough to say that their conception of truth and that of the Canadian taxpayers do not coincide. So, when they promise to return all monies received illegally or improperly, or from any source found guilty of wrongdoing related to the sponsorship program, I do not believe them.
In his April 11 press release, “Liberal Party of Canada Collaboration with the Gomery commission”, Mr. Michael Eizenga, president of the Liberal Party of Canada, states:
Every single dollar received [by virtue of any illegal or improper transaction] will be returned...It is imperative that we hear from Justice Gomery in order to reconcile the amounts using testimony he has heard.
Nonetheless, in the Prime Minister's open letter to Liberals that can be found on the Liberal Party website, the Prime Minister does not see any possibility of returning the dirty money. He writes:
The Liberal government has filed...a lawsuit against 19 defendants, including several communications companies and their directors, to recover $41 million...With Justice Gomery's conclusions in hand, I will act swiftly and surely to ensure those who did wrong face the full consequence of their actions.
In the same letter the Prime Minister writes:
Canadians are looking for someone to step forward and to be accountable for cleaning up this mess and as prime minister and Liberal leader, I accept that responsibility.
However he does not really want to accept that responsibility and so he refuses to answer any question that might involve him personally. We saw that today in question period when he was asked whether or not he actually had lunch with Claude Boulay of Groupe Everest and whether their conversation resulted in a $500,000 contract for his million dollar fundraising friend Serge Savard.
Finally the day of reckoning is here. Mr. Dithers, the Prime Minister, cannot run away. This motion will force him to choose between truly accepting his responsibility or running a campaign in which he knows that his campaign is being run and financed with dirty taxpayer money.
The Prime Minister could show moral fortitude. He has a choice. I urge him to support this motion and do the right thing in the name of accountability and also to do the right thing in the name of national unity.
I almost had to laugh this morning when I was walking into the office and I grabbed the National Post. On the front page was a story written by Mark Kennedy which stated, “Liberals to make national unity a key election issue”. In 1995, when the Liberal government created the sponsorship program, there were 54 Bloc Québécois MPs in the House. Today, 10 years later, there are 54 Bloc Québécois MPs in the House and they are set to win more seats.
Not only that, sovereignty is on the rise in the province of Quebec and there is not a single Canadian in the country who is not offended by the corruption of the Liberal government.
If the member for Etobicoke North wants to challenge me on the question of who is in bed with separatists, I would be glad to hear it.