Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the motion introduced today by our friends in the Conservative Party.
First of all, the Bloc Québécois is going to support this very commendable Conservative initiative. As our leader has repeatedly said, I think that our arguments are well-known now, solid and very justifiable in the sense that this government no longer has the moral authority to continue to administer public property, most of all, and the affairs of state. For this reason, my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and I are going to support the motion introduced today by the Conservative Party.
The purpose of this motion is to ask the government to withdraw from these functions, which are supposed to be honourable, and give the people a chance to say now—at a time of year when people are doing their spring cleaning in several ways, including on the political level—that we must be sure that clean people are doing honest work. The money our fellow citizens have provided, especially just recently through their income tax returns, must also be handled a little more honestly. The money provided by these people must flow back to them in the form of quality services. Canadians and Quebeckers have a right to expect quality services.
When I heard the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell shouting himself hoarse a little while ago, I remembered his oratorical flights back in the days when he was in the rat pack along with Sheila Copps, John Nunziata, Brian Tobin and others who have left now. I remember when the member was scathing toward Mr. Mulroney's Conservative government. If the situation were reversed, I wonder what kind of scene they would be making, like the ones we saw back in the days of the Conservative government, when the famous rat pack was in opposition.
I heard the deputy leader of the government, the former chair of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, tell us that Canadians want to wait for the Gomery commission to finish its work. However, if we were in question period, I would ask him why, on May 3, 2004, on the eve of the calling of the federal election, his current Prime Minister said and I quote, “People know enough about the sponsorship scandal; we need to have an election”.
If the Liberals knew enough on May 3, 2004, why do they know less now after hearing all the witnesses who have appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the Gomery commission?
If enough was known on May 3, 2004, it was about how this mess, which we knew about last year, came to be. All we are finding out now really is the who, because we already knew, in large part, about the how. We are hearing about who did what to create this mess.
Some $250 million is involved. Like everyone watching us today, I read the papers. An international firm, Kroll, not to mention any names, is currently following the money, tracking where every dollar went. It wants to find out how the person in charge of signing the cheques at the time, namely the finance minister, could sign $250 million worth of cheques over a few years to make his friends happy. How was this money paid out by the federal government, the Department of Finance, through some large cracks in Treasury Board, thereby flouting the system and government regulations governing advertising contracts and sponsorships? The cracks must have been very large at the time. Perhaps, as the Prime Minister said in his address to the nation, the then President of the Treasury Board will also tell us he was not vigilant enough. No one in that government was vigilant enough, if they let such a mess happen.
The Liberals are saying, “Let us stay in office, we who have grabbed $100 million out of the $250 million. Let us stay in office, and we will be able to fix this”.
They are not wrong there, in part. Let us take the example of a bank manager who steals $10 million from his employer and asks to be allowed to stay on the job because he knows how to prevent someone else from stealing that amount. Of course, he stole the money and knows how he did it. He knows what needs to be corrected so that no one can steal $10 million again from the bank. I wonder whether his employer will say, “You are right. You stole $10 million, and I am so proud you want to fix up the system that I will keep you on. I will even give you a bonus and a raise. Indeed, I will appoint you the ambassador to Denmark”.
There is absolutely no doubt they can rectify the problem, because they created it, they abused the system. However, this is not what Canadians and voters want. They want the people who made the grave mistakes to be punished and more trustworthy individuals to take over from them and clean it all up.
It is not up to the person who starts a fire to put it out. It is not the person who stole who will be asked to rectify the system. There is a bit of a paradox here. It is true, they know the system. They set it up, created it and abused it.
What's more, they tell us a parallel group was involved and they were not part of it. In connection with the parallel group and this government's morality, I am going to mention a few names. If the captain, the coach or the leader of a group of people acting dishonestly is changed, only one person is changed, but the rest of the team remains as corrupt as it was under another leader.
So let us look at the group that is now in power, and see whether they have sufficient moral fibre to continue. The member for Outremont, the Prime Minister's lieutenant, gives us information, does not give it, gives us a little bit, implies or conceals information as to whether he was or was not a lobbyist, did or did not have social meetings, as to whether his meals with Jean Lafleur and some of the people involved in the sponsorship scandal—where they feasted on foie gras and filet mignon washed down with champagne, sauternes and fine wines—were just a quick lunch.
I do not if other members of this House have quick lunches like that, so well organized and with such a high-priced menu and wine list.
When he organized meetings with his friends and with ex-minister Gagliano, these were social get-togethers. When he is asked whether he was paid by contract or on retainer for a set period, he does not dare answer. So here we have players on today's team trying to cast doubt on former team members when they certainly appear not to be as pure as the driven snow, themselves.
We are told that people do not know enough for there to be an election, and that we need to wait until the Gomery inquiry is over. How can it be that the Prime Minister knew enough to recall Alfonso Gagliano from his ambassador's post in Denmark? According to the Liberals, he did not have the right to be presumed innocent. He was recalled before the inquiry was over. If those were nothing but allegations, will there be a public apology? Will Mr. Gagliano get his job in Denmark back? Will they make amends? Can the Liberals stand up and tell us that they will indeed give him back all his lost wages, give him back his position, and make an apology because it looks as if he was recalled based on false allegations?
Allegations serious enough to recall an ambassador are not something one sees every day, you will agree. The allegations are serious enough to get two CEOs of crown agencies dismissed. Now for a flight of political fancy. What if, when the Gomery inquiry was over, the conclusion was that these were nothing but allegations? Would those two get apologies because they were let go in error? Enough was known when they were let go, but today not enough was known to admit to people “this is the mess we have made”.
The current Minister of the Environment and member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville was minister responsible for the Privy Council at the time when money was being hidden in the Canadian Unity Fund. Today, he is still part of the same team. He is now the Minister of the Environment and sponsor of the referendum clarity bill. And on that topic, we learned at the Gomery inquiry that once again taxpayer dollars were freely used to shove an unspeakably anti-democratic bill down the throats of Quebeckers. I think the public should know that.
We could make an analogy between the clarity bill, Bill C-20, and a game of hockey. Bill C-20 has two main components, it strives for a clear result and a clear question. What is a clear result? They say it will be determined after the referendum. That would be like two hockey teams facing off and the game ending with a score of 4 to 1 for the white team only to have the blue team tell them that, unfortunately, they needed 6 goals to win. The 4 to 1 result would not be enough for them to win the game. How many points do you need to win a hockey game? Under Bill C-20 the number of points needed for a win would be confirmed once the game is over.
Insofar as a clear question is concerned, my leader has already joked that, as long we have been talking about it, there could be two boxes: “Are you for yes?” and “Are you for no?” It would be clear for people. They speak about a clear question, but who is supposed to decide whether the question is clear? They say that everyone and no one should. The Senate, for example, could say that it did not find the question clear. Prince Edward Island could do the same. Maybe Bill C-20 could have been amended to say that the opinion of the Pope and the American president should be sought in order to know whether the question is clear. That is roughly what the Liberal Party was proposing in introducing Bill C-20.
In view of the fact that the clear question was not so clear for Quebeckers and the result that was wanted after the game was over was not clear either, they needed some good ways of selling the idea. So the Minister of the Environment dipped into the Canadian Unity Fund and tried to sell the idea to Quebeckers, telling them that this bill made some sense.
One of the former heads of the Canadian Unity Council was named an ambassador as well. I do not know where he is now, but he was appointed Canadian ambassador to China, in Beijing, immediately after these events. His name is Howard Balloch.
I had the privilege of meeting him. Because he was very far away, he was much more loquacious that some ministers are and some witnesses heard by the Gomery Commission. He told me that he had certain disagreements with former minister Tobin, “Captain Canada”, about organizing the famous “love-in” in Montreal to tell us how much we were loved. If he has returned to Canadian shores and is listening to us today, I will gladly recall his words of 1997-98 for him. There are words one never forgets. He told me, rather boastfully, that the separatists would never find the $18 million that had been hidden in the Canadian Unity Fund. He said that the job had been done so well that the money would never be found. Maybe he too could be recalled to Canada, if he is still the Canadian ambassador somewhere. It is a suggestion of mine, unless my allegations are not as serious as in Mr. Gagliano's case.
Unfortunately for him, his confidence is looking rather unfounded. I think that we will find where the $18 million was hidden, just as we are learning where the $100 million from the sponsorship scandal went.
Jean Pelletier was on this team as well. They wanted us to believe that there was a parallel scandal woven by a parallel group. So, when the Prime Minister's chief of staff is involved in a scandal, is it still reasonable to speak of a parallel group, as the Prime Minister's Quebec lieutenant continues to do?
This morning, Serge Gosselin testified before the Gomery commission. He too has been a chief of staff. John Welch will also be called. He is the former chief of staff of a current minister. I learned something very interesting recently: Claire Brouillet, the partner or former partner of Daniel Dezainde, will be testifying before the Gomery commission.
What I find interesting in this is that she was my Liberal opponent in 1993 in my riding. After that, questionable things were happening in the Liberal Party. It took 12 years to finally prove these things and get the people involved to testify before the Gomery commission. I am very curious to hear what she has to say. I am sure she too knows some interesting things.
I introduced a motion in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, which was supported by the majority. Oddly, the Liberals, who want to know everything, opposed it. The aim of the motion was to have a better understanding of chapter 5 of the Auditor General's November 2003 report.
According to the motion presented by the Conservatives, once witnesses have been heard in the public accounts committee on chapters 3, 4 and 5, a confidence vote is to be held. It is useful to recall that this committee has in fact studied chapters 3 and 4, but set chapter 5 aside on the assumption that Justice Gomery would study it. To everyone's surprise, we learned that the Gomery commission was looking at chapters 3 and 4 only. So the committee wanted to examine chapter 5, since the aim is to discover the truth. However, the Liberals opposed it.
What is so special about chapter 5? It contains a little paragraph, hardly anything at all, paragraph 5.17, if I recall correctly, which provides that, within the Department of Finance and certain other departments, problems were encountered in the awarding of public opinion and research contracts. There is no mention of advertising or polls. Chapters 3 and 4, however, concern the Department of Public Works and Government Services, the Treasury Board Secretariat and the PMO. Chapter 5 involves the office of the Minister of Finance. Who held that portfolio at the time? The current Prime Minister.
Why did he exclude chapter 5 from the mandate of the Gomery commission? Was it a coincidence? Perhaps the answer is buried in the question itself. Why did the Liberals refuse to let the Standing Committee on Public Accounts review this chapter? Indeed, the answer may be buried in the question itself. What was it in this chapter that had to do with this government's morals?
The Prime Minister, who was then the Minister of Finance, stubbornly refused to get involved in the Prime Minister's game, not because he was so pure, but because he had to please his friends, including Earnscliffe, which is a firm located in Ottawa. Who was working for Earnscliffe? There was David Herle, the spouse of his chief of staff, with whom they bought some land. The chief of staff threatened the Department of Public Works and Government Services into giving contracts to Earnscliffe without complying with Treasury Board rules or government standards.
Why did the Liberals deliberately omit the review of chapter 5 by the Gomery commission, and why did they refuse to do so in committee, even though the majority would have allowed such an exercise?
It is because there was another little scandal. We are not talking about a parallel group involved in the same scandal, we are talking about a parallel scandal involving the current Prime Minister when he was the Minister of Finance.
These are, in essence, the reasons why we support the motion by the Conservative Party.