Mr. Speaker, it is with mixed feelings that I rise today to speak to this motion by the Bloc Québécois. Indeed I believe there is no one in this House today, of any party, who is proud to have to debate a motion such as this.
When our descendants read their Canadian history books, they will see that in 2004-05 there was one of the worst, if not the worst political scandal in the history of Canada, probably since the Canadian National scandal of around 200 years ago.
I do not think those people will be able to believe that the MPs in Ottawa in 2005 were men and women of rigour, honesty and integrity.
When they read their history, they will place all of us in the same boat. Even though the sponsorship scandal is the doing of some politicians and has been slammed by other politicians, unfortunately all politicians without exception—and I think everyone will agree with me—will be sullied by this scandal, and that is very unfortunate.
That is why I said it was with mixed feelings I was rising to speak to this motion today.
I would like to read the motion again because, once again, the Liberals are deliberately using all kinds of subterfuge to try and show that it is not the Opposition motion we are talking about today, but whether the Gomery Commission is correct, whether the Prime Minister of Canada took concrete, consistent action to solve the problem, or whether Mr. or Ms. so-and-so is correct.
I would like to revisit the theme of the motion. It is nice on occasion to know what the debate is about, instead of talking off topic as our friends the Liberals do in their speeches and during question and comment period.
I am here in the House today to call them to order whenever they create deliberate diversions to talk about other things. The motion says:
That the House call on the government to immediately establish a trust account into which the Liberal Party of Canada can deposit all funds received from companies and individuals tied to the sponsorship scandal and identified in testimony before the Gomery Commission.
Only the malicious would consider that the motion accuses anyone of criminal activity on the basis of the testimony before the Gomery Commission. All that the motion says is that the testimony heard at the Gomery Commission is important enough to at least sow doubt about that money. As long as that doubt is not removed, we want the money identified in the testimony to be set aside until these people are found innocent or guilty.
When we are told that the Bloc Québécois is acting in bad faith because it does not want to let the Gomery Commission finish its work, that has nothing to do with the motion. When we are told that the Bloc Québécois is not right, for whatever reason, that has nothing to do with the motion.
To the Liberals who want to portray themselves as cleaner than Mr. Clean, holier than thou and as having a better record than anyone else, we are saying: “Take the money that was identified as dirty by your own Quebec political lieutenant—not by us, by your friend, the member for Outremont, although I am not sure he is everyone's friend in the Liberal Party—put it aside and then, when the Gomery commission is done with hearing testimonies, if that money should not be in your hands, do not touch it. But do not continue dipping with both hands in money which, seemingly, does not appear to us to be very clean”.
That is the only purpose of the Bloc Québécois' motion. The motion is not about recognizing or not the Gomery commission, about finding some people guilty or not, or about anything else. It is very important to point this out from the outset.
Who said it was “dirty money”? Was it mean separatists, as the Liberals would say? No. I mentioned it earlier. The one who said it was “dirty money” was the Liberal candidate in the riding of Outremont. He is now the member for that riding, the Minister of Transport, and the Prime Minister's political lieutenant in Quebec. I want to quote what he said in the March 4, 2004 edition of the Journal de Montréal . If some do not agree with me, let them rise and state that I am wrong. I will be pleased to stand corrected. Silence is consent. The Prime Minister should know. So, the minister said: “We would not run an election campaign with dirty money”. Those are his own words. However, like Jean Lafleur, he has forgotten saying that, he no longer remembers.
He is also the one who said that Jean Chrétien had left a rotten fish in the refrigerator. But he seems to have lost not only his memory but his sense of smell as well. That member said a lot of other things. I will quote some of them before continuing with my speech. We are talking here about the man who first used the term “dirty money”, so it is important to see who that person really is.
A few years ago, this same member said:
The problem, Madam Speaker, is that there are two visions and only one country. What we need is another country, and that is why Quebec sovereignists say to the rest of Canada: Make the kind of country you want. Make your own country. Concentrate all powers in Ottawa. Form an economic union that will turn your provincial governments into municipal governments. Go ahead, but don't expect us to get involved. We don't want to appear anti-Canadian. We realize some people may prefer to live in a very centralized country, but we feel this goes against the initial pact of Confederation.
These words from the member for Outremont are quoted from the February 6, 1992, House of Commons Debates , on page 6550.
This resulted in the subsequently defeated member Dennis Mills telling the member for Outremont to “filter his thoughts between his thinking and his speaking.” Those are not my words, but those of that member from the Toronto region.
The member for Outremont also speaks of a parallel group. The sponsorship scandal is the doing not of the Liberals, but of a parallel group. I have also said in this House that he is very well placed to be familiar with that group, since the member for Outremont and political lieutenant of the Prime Minister in Quebec had the immense privilege on November 28, 1999 of sharing a sumptuous meal with some very influential sponsorship scandal friends. I will name them. No guilt by association should be assumed. That is not my intent. He had the opportunity of sharing that sumptuous meal with: André Ouellet of Canada Post , fired by the Prime Minister on the basis of allegations; Marc LeFrançois of VIA Rail, fired by the Prime Minister because of allegations and rumours; Jean Carle, a close buddy of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, and Martin Cauchon. This meal was hosted by Jean Lafleur of Groupaction.
When the member for Outremont was asked if he had eaten and drunk well—let us keep in mind that this was at Jean Lafleur's home—here is his answer and there are no prizes for guessing: “I do not remember”. I do not know where he got that expression, I doubt it was original to him. It came instead from someone who appeared before the Gomery inquiry.
What did they eat and drink at this meal? I will tell you briefly. According to the menu obtained by the Journal de Montréal , this parallel group, with which some took the liberty of associating the member for Outremont, was served 1990 Cristal Louis Roederer champagne, and a 1995 premier cru Paul Goerg brut.
Then foie gras de canard was served with a Château d'Yquem 1990, in addition to other controlled vintages, foies gras, and so forth.
When the member for Outremont, who himself described the money as “dirty” and spoke about “rotten fish in the Liberals' refrigerator”, tells us about a parallel group, we know that he is familiar with the people in this group, he eats with them, he drinks with them, and he says like them, “I cannot remember any more”. There is no problem here.
The minister and member for Outremont reminds me a little of the Iraqi defence minister during the war in Iraq. While bombs were falling all over behind him during press conferences, he kept on saying that all was well, there was no problem. There is a certain resemblance between the two, but a sad reality remains. These words are not mine, and their author shall remain nameless. He said that despite this resemblance between the two, in Iraq the participation rate in the elections was greater than in Canada. That is just to show to what extent democracy is not doing very well.
When we talk about dirty money, the Liberals reply that these are just allegations, nothing has been proven, and we must therefore wait. I think that I said quite clearly that we could almost agree with them. Let us put this money aside and wait to see whether the allegations are true or not.
So where does this $2.2 million come from about which the newspapers and the Bloc are talking? Is it an amount just taken out of thin air because it seemed nice and round, $2.2 million? I will speak about allegations and facts.
The money given officially to the Liberal Party of Canada by Jean Brault's companies amounted to $166,000.
The salary and other payments given to Alain Renaud, who was serving the Liberal Party of Canada, were about $1 million.
The payment to PluriDesign “for the Cause” was $530,000.
Commando, for its part, had $70,000 in phony invoices.
There was $44,000 that went to paying various other invoices: $24,000 for the Liberal Party of Canada video by Nathalie Tremblay, $14,100 for the Verchères golf club, and $6,000 to Georges Farrah for canvassing at the Summit of the Americas.
Another $60,000 was paid for the assistance requested by Corbeil following the 2000 election.
Liberal pals who were hired got the following amounts: Daniel Yves Durand, $500 weekly for two months; Serge Gosselin, $80,000; John Welsh, the now former chief of staff to the heritage minister, $97,000; Wiseman, $20,000 or $25,000, for a total of $230,000.
Richard Boudrault paid $14,790 to Liberal Party campaign workers during the last election, in addition to a $24,307 loan for the 1997 election, for a total of nearly $40,000.
Some $50,000 in cash was given out, in a suitcase, in 1997; $50,000 in cash was paid to delay the bidding process related to the gun registry.
Finally, Gaby Chrétien, Jean Chrétien's brother, provided a fake $4,000 bill for a donation to the Liberal Party of Canada.
The grand total is $2.2 million.
Given that this $2.2 million, the source of which is questionable, is in the Liberal Party coffers, here is what we want. We are asking for this $2.2 million to be set aside until it has been proven that it is clean, that is what we want.
We are not calling the Gomery commission into question. Perhaps, once all this is over, all these allegations will prove to be false—although I would be quite surprised—and the Liberals will be able to keep the money.
Why refuse to put this money aside, unless they have no money for the next election and want to use dirty money for it? This is the only reason we can think of for the Liberals' refusal to put this money aside.
The figure of $2.2 million is based on Jean Brault's testimony. We have yet to hear all of the testimony of Luc Lemay, who received $40 million in the sponsorship scandal. We have not heard the testimony of Jacques Corriveau, who received $7 million. We have not heard the testimony of Claude Boulay of Groupe Everest and of Paul Coffin. Who knows, there might be more money to be put in trust if the Liberals were to face the facts.
As we say in English, the bottom line in probity and honesty would be to put this money aside while its source remains unclear. They will not do so, as I said earlier in questions and comments, because, first, they may have spent it already and, second, they might not have enough money for the next election campaign and, adding a third point, they are perhaps prepared to run another election on dirty money.
If this is the message they want to send the public, their dramatic drop in the polls of some 16 to 20 points in two or three weeks, will be all the greater. The message sent to Canadians and Quebeckers amounts to: “Not to worry, we do have dirty money in our coffers, yes we do have money we will withdraw if it is shown to be of dubious origin, but, for the time being, we will continue to play with it, buy advertising and votes in Quebec and elsewhere and illegally pay election workers”.
When they subsequently rise in the House to tell us that the Bloc and opposition parties are not nice because there are honest elections workers out there, they are right. They are the ones who undermine the work of volunteers, election campaigns and democracy by not knowing who, in the team, is paid under the table. If five or six people are paid in that fashion out of a team of twenty-two, will the others who are there as volunteers know about it? Indeed, in Quebec, we have volunteer workers who dedicate themselves to the cause, and I have a lot of respect and regard for these men and women who work during election campaigns. Did the volunteers for my Liberal neighbour, who was campaigning in the same riding as I was, know that two or three of them were being paid under the table by the Liberal Party with a cheque from Groupaction or through the Prime Minister's brother-in-law or sister-in-law?
Such activities undermine the work of volunteers. It is not the Bloc Québécois members nor those of the opposition who are the culprits. Who sent a cheque for $14,700 to election workers for the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party of Canada? It was not the Bloc Québécois. If they want to play the violin for us, they will need a new orchestra, because the House of Commons has heard that tune in the past and it still sounds off-key.
In conclusion, this government created a law whereby if a crime is committed in a structured manner with several individuals, with a clearly established method—I am referring to the front page of the Journal de Montréal and the release of Jean Brault's testimony—those individuals have to prove, under the reversal of the burden of proof, that the assets they acquired were obtained legally. I am not saying this law applies here—I do not want to go that far—but we could almost go so far as to ask the Liberals to prove that they legally obtained this $2.2 million. Prove it to us. Until you prove it, put the money into a trust account.
Throughout the debates we will adhere firmly to Standing Order 11.2, which asks members not to persist in irrelevance or repetition, or else you, Mr. Speaker, may direct the member to discontinue his or her speech.
The members of the Bloc will receive this Standing Order in writing in order to prevent members opposite from blaming all this on the separatists and making us listen all over again to the entire separatist saga in Quebec, and how we want to put an end to the Gomery inquiry, and then hear the whole history of the Gomery commission.
We are asking for the dirty and dubious money to be set aside until it is proven that it is dirty or clean.