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House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

Topics

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativeLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the House will recall that the minister denied there was any arrangement of any kind between Mr. Chrétien and the government.

Now he admits, because we have all got it, that an exchange of letters between lawyers has taken place that does constitute an arrangement, an arrangement that Justice Gomery was apparently unaware of and is quite concerned about.

Why did the public works minister not divulge the details of this when he was asked about it? Why did he cover it up?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the letter from lawyer to lawyer states the fact that Mr. Chrétien has a right as an individual to pursue a course of action as an individual.

The Government of Canada also has the right and has made the decision to consistently support the work of Justice Gomery. We will continue to do exactly that.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, earlier this month, Mr. Chrétien concluded a secret agreement with the government, under which the government would not oppose a right to a future challenge to Justice Gomery. In fact, another challenge could delay the Gomery commission.

Why did the government sign an agreement that could delay the tabling of Justice Gomery's final report and the election promised by the Prime Minister for months?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, once again, the letter from lawyer to lawyer simply states the legal fact that Mr. Chrétien has the right as an individual to pursue a course of action to defend himself as an individual. Beyond that we have acted consistently in defence of Justice Gomery.

The only party that I am aware of that sought to delay the work of Justice Gomery by trying to change his mandate in the final days of testimony was the Conservative Party with its opposition day motion which would have delayed and destroyed much of the work and progress made by Justice Gomery.

This is why no other party in the House supported that ridiculous, poorly worded, poorly thought out motion.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, as a paint salesman, the member obviously would not understand the legal implications of the arrangement discussed in the letter.

The government denied that anything of the sort even existed. Now we know there was a secret deal, including a commitment that the federal government would not oppose a right to a future challenge by Mr. Chrétien to Justice Gomery.

The Gomery report is due in December. The Prime Minister promised an election 30 days after. Another judicial challenge to Justice Gomery will delay that final report. Is this the Prime Minister's secret agenda to get out of his post-Gomery election commitment?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I am not a lawyer but I understand the law of the land. It is unfortunate that a lawyer like the member for Central Nova does not understand the law of the land.

Mr. Chrétien has the right as an individual to pursue a course of action. The government and the Prime Minister have consistently supported the work of Justice Gomery because we want to ensure that the report is there.

As a business person, I signed contracts with individuals. I always kept those contracts and did not rip them up like the hon. member did with his contract with David Orchard.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, on March 4, as Jean Chrétien again went after the head of Mr. Justice Gomery, the Prime Minister said he was prepared to go to court so the commissioner could complete his inquiry.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, they are still shouting, and then they will take offence.

How does the Prime Minister, who said he would go the whole way, now explain his about face in concluding a secret agreement to facilitate the work of Jean Chrétien and his clan?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, there was no agreement; there was nothing secret. There was an exchange of correspondence. The government's position is very clear. Not only is Judge Gomery not partial, but we will oppose any attempt to delay the report.

Now, I would like to quote the letter, “one of the arguments we had put forward with respect to your client's” Mr. Chrétien's—request for a judicial review is the fact that we consider it premature and inadmissible until after the commission's report is released”.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is one thing I am having a hard time understanding. If there was no secret agreement, there was still a letter. That is undeniable. The government has in fact just confirmed it. The Liberals could have told us in the House that there was such a letter.

The letter as much as says to the Chrétien clan “It was a bit premature. It would have been a waste of time. Could you arrange things so it would take longer once the report has been tabled so that we do not have to decide about an election?” Is that not the bottom line?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I will be pleased to table the letter in the House. It says very clearly what we said in the lawyers' factum, which is that we fiercely oppose anything that could delay the report. After that, Mr. Chrétien can exercise his rights.

I would also like to mention that the leader of the Bloc has chosen Canada. I hope he will make the same recommendation to Quebeckers.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Mr. Speaker, we can see that the Prime Minister is keen to debate Canada's attraction for the leader of the Bloc Québécois. We will see about that in the next election.

On March 4, at the start of the Liberal convention, the Prime Minister said he was prepared to go to court if necessary to save the Gomery commission.

How can the Prime Minister speak in such contradictory terms? He says one thing and then the opposite. He says he defends Judge Gomery while he negotiates with Jean Chrétien to disqualify him.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, once again there was not a negotiation. There was not an agreement. In fact, the hon. member is quite right to restate what the Prime Minister said and what the government did.

The government was clear that it supported the work of Justice Gomery and would take action to ensure that Justice Gomery had the opportunity to complete his important work on behalf of Canadians. We will continue to support the work of Justice Gomery. That is the right thing to do. That is what Canadians want. They want the truth and Justice Gomery is delivering exactly that.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Mr. Speaker, would the Prime Minister not be circumventing his commitment to call an election in January by negotiating with Jean Chrétien and supporting Mr. Chrétien's challenge of Judge Gomery?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, it should not surprise anyone in this room that lawyers representing clients before a judicial inquiry sometimes communicate with each other. In fact, that is what lawyers do: they talk. Sometimes they exchange letters. Sometimes they state the obvious. In this case they stated the obvious fact that Mr. Chrétien had the right as an individual to pursue a course of action, but that government would not support that course of action. The government consistently has and will continue to support the work of Justice Gomery.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

First we hear his chief of staff say he can interfere in the work of the Ethics Commissioner. Now we hear that he and Jean Chrétien have concluded an agreement to attack Judge Gomery.

If such an agreement did not exist, why did the government lawyer write this letter? Why such a letter? This is my first question for the Prime Minister.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the reason for the letter is very clear when one reads it. It is because we fiercely opposed anything that might delay Judge Gomery's report. We want that report out.

Mr. Chrétien has his rights. It is not up to us to interfere with his rights. Clearly we want Judge Gomery to have all the time he needs to complete his report and absolutely nothing to delay him.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again my question is for the Prime Minister. It is clear then that this letter was not required to be written. It amounts to an insurance policy. What has been reported, is serious. The Liberals just do not seem to let public inquiries go if they are going to expose any fault of the Liberal Party: Somalia, APEC, Maher Arar. It is a consistent practice and that is our concern.

People do not want Jean Chrétien and the Prime Minister to team up once again. The last time that happened we had the sponsorship scandal. Why are the Prime Minister and Jean Chrétien teaming up once again to attack--

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the fact is the government and the Prime Minister not only appointed Justice Gomery but provided exceptional support to the work of Justice Gomery, providing over 20 million pages of documents, including cabinet documents, and beyond that providing millions of dollars worth of resources, full transparency, accountability and openness and a complete focus on ensuring Justice Gomery completes his work.

This party, this government and this Prime Minister are changing the culture of government for generations of Canadians. This is worth any short term pain that is involved. We are doing the right thing, not simply the partisan thing.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has just offered, very generously, to table the letter, which was leaked, between justice department lawyers and Mr. Chrétien. How kind of him. The question is this. Why did he or his government not table that letter two weeks ago in this place when we asked about it and his public works minister denied it existed?

Why did the public works minister, rather than tabling the document, say that the allegations of its existence were false and ridiculous? Why did he not tell the House the truth?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the public works minister was correct when he said several weeks ago that there was no agreement made by the Government of Canada with Mr. Chrétien. The fact is the letter does not say that there was an agreement made with Mr. Chrétien. The letter simply restates the obvious legal fact that Mr. Chrétien has the right as an individual to pursue a course of action before an independent judicial inquiry.

Beyond that, what is clear is, through the actions of the government, the Prime Minister and the government consistently support and will continue to support the work of Justice Gomery.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister is now referring to himself in the third person. I guess it has not gone to his head.

We want to know why the Prime Minister is offering to table the document that was leaked to the press today? When we asked about it two weeks ago, on two consecutive days, in six questions, the government denied it existed. The Prime Minister knew about it all along, sat in his place and did nothing to correct the record.

Why did he allow his public works minister to do something other than tell the truth to the House? Why did he not stand and offer to table the document two weeks ago when he should have?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the member has said things in the House that have been patently false and he has refused to withdraw those statements. Beyond that, I notice on an ongoing basis the hon. member asks me these questions in the House. I continue to spank him on the floor of the House of Commons. By the fact that he comes back with the same types of ridiculous questions, one can only assume that he is enjoying the spankings he is receiving here on the floor of the House of Commons.