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House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was equality.

Topics

Question No. 189Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

With regard to the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into certain events at the Prison for Women in Kingston: (a) how has the government provided action on the recommendations of the report; and (b) how will the government provide further action on the recommendations?

Question No. 189Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, in response to (a), the Correctional Service of Canada took the recommendations from the Arbour report very seriously; it was the catalyst for pervasive policy change throughout the organization and led to the strengthening of the organization’s focus on respecting the rule of law and accountability.

The report contained 14 main recommendations with over 100 subrecommendations that focused primarily on women’s corrections but had broad policy and management implications throughout CSC. The report broadly addressed issues such as human rights, segregation, the inmate complaints and grievances process, as well as the investigative process.

Various committees were convened to examine the findings and develop action plans to address the recommendations. Many recommendations were addressed immediately, or in the short term, while others required multi-year implementation. A prominent example of an action taken by CSC following the Arbour report’s recommendations was the creation of the Deputy Commissioner for Women, DCW, in June 1996. The DCW and the Women Offender Sector provide corporate expertise on women offender issues, and leadership on program and policy development and implementation.

In April 2006, the Women Offender Sector published the “Ten-Year Status Report on Women’s’ Corrections, 1996-2006” to coincide with the anniversary of the release of the Arbour report in 1996. The “Ten-Year Status Report” addresses the recommendations and changes that resulted from the Arbour Report as well as from subsequent major reviews since 1996.

CSC has made progress in addressing the unique needs of women offenders; however, an ever changing correctional environment requires constant organizational evolution. The service must therefore continue to improve approaches in order to ensure they are current, results focused and demonstrate the highest degrees of accountability. In this context, CSC is committed to meeting the needs of women offenders, while ensuring the protection of public safety.

In response to (b), CSC considers many of the recommendations put forth in the Arbour report that were either ‘accepted’ or ‘accepted in principle’, to be complete. For those recommendations identified in the status report as ‘ongoing’, the corrective actions undertaken have become an integral part of the way the service conducts its business on a daily basis. Nevertheless, the business of corrections is dynamic and work is continually under way to ensure the effectiveness of the women’s corrections system and strengthen the protection of Canadians.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, for moving concurrence in the report from our committee today. As I remember, it was a very straightforward and simple report. It simply announced to the House of Commons that our committee had concluded the witness phase of the study into the Airbus Mulroney-Schreiber scandal, as it has come to be known.

First, I want to thank my colleague, the member from Mississauga, for the work he has done on that committee and for having the fortitude and the wisdom that it takes to be a good chair juggling a very difficult issue of national importance and of interest to the whole country. I think he has done a great service to Canadians by keeping an even keel on this study and making sure that it moved forward to its logical conclusion.

I would like to remark on a few of the points he made.

First, there is no excuse any more for the Government of Canada to postpone the full public inquiry that this report calls for. The Prime Minister said he did not want to begin the public inquiry because there might be overlap between witnesses that the ethics committee calls and witnesses that the public inquiry calls. We have finished with witnesses. We have announced that formally. Our chair stood in the House of Commons and made a public declaration. We are done. There is really no excuse or reason not to begin the public inquiry.

I will also say that there is no excuse for the Government of Canada to announce a very narrow public inquiry, limited, for instance, to just the cash payments given in hotel rooms to the former prime minister, because as recently as today, as my colleague points out, this ground that Dr. Johnston said has been well-tilled and adequately researched is still revealing new truths.

Just today, a senator in the current Parliament of Canada has revealed how important that Bear Head file was to the former prime minister, Mr. Mulroney, how it was key and paramount, and how it was the very first file given to him in the newly struck ACOA portfolio that he was given.

I have a simple question for my colleague. It is my view that no amount of bafflegab will ever take the stink off those sacks full of cash and secret hotel room meetings. There is no amount of excuses that the former prime minister can offer Canadians to defend that, but let me ask my colleague if it is not just as important that we go beyond the sacks full of cash and research the genesis of the scandal, which is Karlheinz Schreiber, an unrepentant Nazi, which is what the German media calls him, interfering with Canadian politics by buying our next prime minister.

That is shocking: the CEO of Airbus creating a prime minister and then having that prime minister buy airplanes from him. If that is not worth investigating, I do not know what is.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not disagree with the points made by the member.

We are going to have a public inquiry. The issue really is what form will it take. In his preliminary report, Dr. Johnston had given a range or a menu of options. Now that we have heard more witnesses than he heard previously, I think he may want to reconsider at least one of the points, and that is that the RCMP did a thorough, effective investigation of the facts.

Let us take one example. In his testimony in examination for discovery, Mr. Mulroney said that he barely knew Mr. Schreiber, that they had a coffee or two, when in fact if the RCMP had done a thorough investigation, and it even says in Dr. Johnston's report that the RCMP had knowledge of the cash payments, why did the RCMP not advise the Government of Canada at those proceedings in 2005 that Mr. Mulroney just lied in his discovery?

Why not? Does the RCMP not support the Government of Canada in its legal proceedings? This was a $50 million lawsuit. There was perjury there. Canadians are entitled to have that matter reconsidered. In fact, the justice minister of the day appeared before us and said that had he known those payments were made, it would have changed the way the case was approached. Canadians probably would not have had to pay that money.

I think there has been a presumption, somehow, that the RCMP has done a very good job so let us just assume everything the RCMP concluded. I do not think that is a valid conclusion. Errors were made. The ball was dropped.

New evidence has shown this even with regard to Senator Murray's testimony, as it were, through the media today in the Globe and Mail. It is very clear. This is brand new evidence and in fact brings into question the credibility of yet another witness who appeared before our committee to say that he knew nothing about it and had no involvement. Yet this is the same person who was sitting in the Pierre Hotel with Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber when Mr. Mulroney apparently gave a one hour to one and a half hour report to Mr. Schreiber about his international work, which Mr. Schreiber says never happened.

When we ask Mr. Doucet if he knows who the prime minister met with in China, for instance--it is a pretty big country--he says he has no recollection.

Those are the kinds of situations that a formal public inquiry is going to have to deal with. There are people who have lied to the committee and lied to Canadians. The testimony is in contradiction at almost every spot.

It is very clear that to do this properly, to resolve it once and for all, we need a commissioner who is involved in determining the scope and terms of reference. We need to make sure that the commission has the powers to call for persons, papers and records by subpoena, and also that this commissioner has the full latitude and confidence that he will not go anywhere except where the material evidence leads him to determine the truth and nothing but the truth.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Ottawa South might want to look at the Chair as he formulates his question.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a member of Parliament in this House, I am shocked by what I have heard here from my colleague, the chair of the standing committee. It is more than disturbing.

In a question for my colleague, to paraphrase Mr. Mulroney himself, let me say that the government here, sir, has an option. It has an option and that is to proceed in an open, transparent way.

I would like to hear more from my colleague, more information, more shocking revelations, as we have heard from the senator today. I would like to hear more from my colleague to substantiate his call for a fully open, funded, properly empowered inquiry to get to the bottom of this, because I think it speaks directly to the whole question of the office of the prime minister and whether it has been brought into disrepute and sullied.

What exactly happened here? I really need to know more and I think Canadians deserve to know more as well. Perhaps I could put that question to my colleague.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Mississauga South has a minute and a half for his answer.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we asked for records there were no records. When we asked for banking documents we had trouble getting them.

The RCMP did investigations over a long period of time but when we asked the RCMP to share the information it had from its closed investigations, we were denied the information. Why? It said that the investigation may be reopened. Who is saying this to the RCMP? What information do they have? The RCMP has more information. There are more developments and the RCMP is doing further reviews. The details continue to come out.

Let me throw in some of the other facts. Thirteen of the fifteen members of the board of directors of Air Canada, then a crown corporation, were fired and replaced by Mr. Mulroney before the Airbus contract award. It is interesting to note that the president and CEO of Air Canada at the time, after the Airbus contract was awarded, retired. Where did he retire to? He retired to Telus, France, which happens to be the headquarters of Airbus Industries.

When we look at some of the details, everything that we touched looked like an impropriety, but the conclusion that continues to be reached by people is that there is no evidence. It is clear that there is substantial evidence that a full public inquiry should look into and I hope that we proceed--

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon., member. Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister for Western Economic Diversification.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.

South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale B.C.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address the House on this subject.

It comes as a bit of a surprise that we are even having this discussion because I do not think anyone expected concurrence in this particular motion since the motion that we are here to debate is an extraordinarily small motion. In fact, it is quite unique I think in this chamber that we are having this debate at all.

I will give a bit of background. Our committee began its investigation into this matter last November after some spurious allegations were printed in the paper. At that point, the Prime Minister indicated that he would appoint someone to investigate the matter. He subsequently hired Professor Johnston to look at this issue and provide a report to the government that was later tabled in January.

However, not satisfied with the steps that the government was taking--

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. parliamentary secretary.

The hon. member for Hull—Aylmer is rising on a point of order.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would request that you check whether we have in the chamber the quorum required to continue.

And the count having been taken:

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I thank the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer. We do have quorum in the chamber.

The hon. parliamentary secretary has the floor to continue with his statement.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's vigilance, as he now leaves the chamber and the opposition is now vacant. It is quite ironic that they are calling for quorum when their own members are not even present.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. parliamentary secretary knows full well, as I explained yesterday, that we do not point out the absence or presence of members of the House.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

I apologize for that, Mr. Speaker. It seems ironic that the opposition is calling for a quorum call at this particular moment.

Before I was interrupted, I was providing some background as to how we got to this place. The Prime Minister had asked for Professor Johnston to provide a preliminary report but before Professor Johnston could complete his work, the opposition members took it upon themselves to force this matter on to the ethics committee.

The ethics committee had other issues that it was in the process of investigating. In fact, we had put forward some issues related to the Privacy Act that needed to be addressed urgently but all of these matters were set aside because of this matter that had come before the media and Parliament.

Seized with this new opportunity to investigate a 15 year old incident, the committee took upon itself the obligation of requesting witnesses and the first witness, of course, was Mr. Schreiber. We heard from Mr. Schreiber, I think, on four occasions, for a total of eight hours initially. He later came back and provided us additional testimony. Following that, we heard from Mr. Mulroney and then a number of other witnesses.

I want to note that throughout the entire time, at least at the point when we heard from Mr. Schreiber, it was apparent to government members that there was no evidence of wrongdoing, certainly at that point. The member opposite stated just a moment ago that there was substantial evidence of wrongdoing. In fact, he has declared that a number of the witnesses, without naming them, actually lied to the committee. I find that quite a surprising statement coming from the chair when he himself had the opportunity to confront those witnesses, had he chosen to do so, when they were before the committee.

Needless to say, based on the testimony that we heard, we reviewed the Parliament of Canada Act and the code of conduct that applied at the time and, based on the testimony we heard from Mr. Schreiber, there was no evidence of wrongdoing. However, the opposition insisted on inviting, initially I think it was close to 40 witnesses before the committee, but it later pared that down.

I need to note that Conservative members did not ask for any particular witness. We did not think it was appropriate to do so but we listened to the witnesses who were provided by the opposition.

We went through the scenario every Tuesday and Thursday for two hours, and sometimes double appointments in some meetings. We heard from witnesses who came before the committee and offered what they knew about the Mulroney-Schreiber affair. However, in not one instance did anybody offer anything of substance in terms of ethical wrongdoing.

The reason I can say that with such certainty is that with every witness who came before the committee, I or one of my colleagues dutifully asked the question of whether that witness had any evidence of any wrongdoing by any public official related to this matter. Not one of the witnesses provided such evidence and, in fact, not one of them could even refer to such evidence existing, whether the witness knew it or not. Each one of them, given the opportunity to clarify for Canadians whether they were aware of any evidence of wrongdoing, dismissed the question or denied having any evidence.

However, the committee persisted and we continued to listen, at least on my part, with some hesitation. I was always fearful and said from the very beginning that I thought this was going to turn into a political partisan witch hunt, which, at times, it certainly did, and at other times appeared to be a bit of a political circus.

This continued and we heard from all the witnesses. Mr. Schreiber came back after the other witnesses and had nothing new to offer, despite his claims to the media that he had documents that had not been released. We got to the point where we had heard from all the witnesses and the committee had to decide whether it would call more witnesses or call it a day and try to summarize its evidence.

At that point, the committee had a discussion and decided that enough was enough, that it would not call any more witnesses. The opposition admitted that it had dragged this on long enough and the committee notified witnesses and the chamber that no more witnesses were needed and that it would summarize the evidence.

The committee agreed to the third report of the ethics committee. It is very brief so I will take a minute to read it. It states:

The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics has the honour to present its THIRD REPORT

Your Committee met on Thursday, February 28, 2008 to discuss the Mulroney Airbus settlement and agreed to the following recommendation:

As your Committee has now completed its examination of witnesses in this matter it recommends, as it did in its Second Report to the House; “That the Government immediately initiate a formal public inquiry into the Mulroney—Schreiber affair”.

Then it goes on to give some details of minutes tabled and that sort of thing.

This is the motion that we are now debating before this chamber. I find this quite ironic because concurrence in this motion is simply that. We are simply acknowledging that no more witnesses will be called. The silence behind this motion basically indicates that we will be putting together a report, which is exactly what we are doing right now.

We are taking the time to summarize the testimony that we heard from the witnesses and to compile the thousands of pages of documents that were submitted to our committee. We are putting them together so we can fulfill our responsibilities as members of this committee and provide this chamber with a summary, a conclusion or recommendations of what we heard in the four months of testimony that we had.

Why we are now debating this particular motion is rather ironic and perhaps unique to this chamber. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, you might know how often in the history of this chamber such a limited non-motion or non-report has been discussed. However, that is where we find ourselves.

I want to make a few more comments on why I think it is inappropriate for this committee at this point to even pretend that we have a report to discuss.

We are beginning to consider a draft report. It is many pages in length, simply summarizing the issues that we have heard and, as I said earlier, none of it has any evidence of wrongdoing. For the opposition to press this chamber to consider this issue, as it did two weeks ago, is a bit misplaced. I will explain why.

Two weeks ago we had an opposition day motion in this House where we debated whether or not the government should proceed with the public inquiry immediately. At that time I argued very strongly that because this committee had not finished its work it would be improper for us to do so.

Here we are again. This feels a little bit like Groundhog Day, where we are coming back to an issue that was addressed some weeks ago. The bottom line is that Professor Johnston has a mandate to provide recommendations to the Prime Minister as to the scope of a public inquiry. The Prime Minister hired him to do that and he has partially completed his responsibilities by providing an interim report in January. However, he cannot complete his report until he has seen the report that our committee is supposed to provide him.

We are in the process of working on that report but we are nowhere near completion. However, we do hope that in the next couple of weeks we will be able to complete it.

It is a bit nonsensical for the member opposite to suggest that the government proceed immediately to a public inquiry when it does not have the benefit of what our committee has put its hand to for the last four or five months. We have heard 25 to 30 hours of testimony from more than a dozen witnesses. It would be improper for the government or even Professor Johnston to recommend to the government the parameters of a possible public inquiry without the benefit of hearing from our committee.

Again, our job as committee members is not simply to listen to testimony and say, “okay, enough is enough, you guys go off and do the rest of the job for us”. We need to finish our work and for us to finish our work means that we need to compile the testimony and debate whether or not there are recommendations that the committee should make to the House. Perhaps there are some conclusions that we can draw.

Personally, I am quite skeptical as to whether or not there are any recommendations that we can make in light of the fact that there was no evidence of wrongdoing. I am also skeptical of the fact that we may not have any conclusions that we can provide for the very same reason.

Nonetheless, the committee has an obligation to fulfill its responsibilities and finish its work, and, hopefully, that will be done in the very near future.

However, for the party opposite to suggest twice within a two week period of time that it is imperative that the government proceed with this public inquiry before it has had the benefit of a report is a little bit nonsensical.

I would ask the opposition to perhaps put more forethought into its use of the time that this chamber focuses on this in the future. Nonetheless, we are here debating this issue. I think it is a bit hasty to suggest that the government proceed with this without that further information, but that is its purview.

I want to draw attention of the House some points that I made the last time we had this debate, because they are particularly relevant.

I remember telling this chamber about the mandate that was given to the independent adviser, Professor Johnston. The mandate assigned to the independent adviser included four areas: first, to conduct a review of the allegations concerning the financial dealings of Mr. Schreiber and the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney; second, to make recommendations as to the appropriate mandate for a full and public inquiry in these allegations, including the specific issues that warrant examination; third, to determine whether any prima facie evidence existed to suggest that criminal acts had taken place; and fourth, to indicate whether any additional course of action was appropriate.

To fulfill this mandate, the Prime Minister hired Professor Johnston, who is a very reputable individual. He is the president of the University of Waterloo. In fact, he has impeccable credentials, which are widely admired because of his considerable legal experience and expertise.

It should be noted that during the course of his career, Professor Johnston has served on numerous provincial and federal task forces and committees. He is therefore perfectly suited to fulfill this responsibility. However, nevertheless, I think it is improper for us to expect Professor Johnston to fulfill and to complete these responsibilities until he has had a chance to see our final report.

Again, here we have the opposition simply trying to manipulate the process when it is obvious to everybody who has been following this issue that this is not necessary. We are all confident that once our report is complete and Professor Johnston has had a chance to review our ethics report, he will make the recommendations that he chooses to make to the Prime Minister. At that point, the Prime Minister will look at those recommendations and make a wise decision, as he always does.

However, at this time, I have said all that is necessary to be said on this topic.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.

Earlier, he said it felt like Groundhog Day. It certainly does. Does he know why? In fact, it is exactly like in the movie. As long as an individual has not developed an honest, responsible attitude, and figured out the proper way to behave, it is indeed like Groundhog Day, and that day just keeps starting over and over. That is what is in store for the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.

On January 11, his leader, the Prime Minister, announced that a public inquiry would be called once the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics had completed its public hearings. He did say public hearings. Then, this member came and said that it would be called after the final report was tabled.

Let me ask him this. Once this final report has been tabled, will the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale once again contradict his leader and change the timing again or think up some new obstacle to holding a public inquiry?

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the member would ask this question. If I recall correctly, this was the same question she asked about two weeks ago when I spoke to the matter as well.

She misrepresents the facts. She is suggesting that the government made a commitment that it did not make. The government made a commitment to address this matter at the appropriate time, based on the recommendations of Professor Johnston.

Professor Johnston's mandate is clear, I spoke to it a moment ago. His obligation to the Prime Minister, not to this chamber, is to provide some recommendations as to the scope of an appropriate mandate for a public inquiry.

At no time did the government or the Prime Minister say that as soon as the committee had completed listening to witnesses, that they would proceed with a public inquiry. What the Prime Minister said, and this was affirmed by Professor Johnston, is once the committee had completed its work, or words to that effect.

Our work is not done until we submit a report to this chamber. To suggest otherwise is a bit offensive to the members who serve on the numerous committees in the House.

It is not our job to listen to witnesses and then once they are finished speaking, to say that our work is done. That is not the case at all. Our obligation is to listen to the witnesses, synthesize and consider the testimony we have heard. Once the witnesses have all departed the chamber, then we take some time to summarize the testimony we have heard, thankfully, with the able assistance of so many of the researchers on these committees. The researchers are able to help us with the draft of the testimony, summarizing the key issues.

Once that is all considered and we have had a chance to look at it, we put our minds to recommendations or to the conclusions that we have heard, things that we can share with the government based on our new-found expertise in a particular subject matter, things from which this chamber and this government can benefit from.

The member opposite is suggesting that we should not take the time to do any of that. Because we have finished hearing from witnesses, the government should immediately proceed with a public inquiry. That is a little irresponsible.

She is suggesting that her own contribution to our report would not be worth reading or listening to. That is an offence not only to me, but to her own contributions on this committee. She diligently works on other reports that are currently before our committee. In fact, she puts forward numerous motions, recommendations and amendments to the draft documents that we have considered from previous studies we have done.

Yet now she inconsistently suggests that the contributions she makes in one study should not be considered in another area of study. It is quite hypocritical for the member opposite to think that her contributions in the area of the Afghanistan report, which we are currently working on, are worthwhile and deserve the time to diligently make amendments, word by word, throughout the document. However, on this other study, she has nothing to add. In fact, she is making the assertion that no member should have an opportunity to review a report or to make edits or recommendations to a report. It is a bit hypocritical and ironic that the member makes such a statement.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the hon. member for his comments on the article in today's Globe and Mail, entitled, “How one file set of Schreiber's string of mystery payments”, “Mulroney's Atlantic minister speaks out on proposed arms plant”. I want to connect that to the rather curious statement by the hon. member that they had done everything they possibly could do at the committee and there were really no more questions to be answered.

The articles states, “Mr. Murray said he couldn't recall speaking about the factory with Mr. Ouellet”, Mr. Murray is Senator Lowell Murray, one of three Progressive Conservatives remaining in the chamber, “and he said he has a vague recollection of meeting with Mr. Moores”, who is the former premier of Newfoundland, “but said he couldn't remember the exact date”. It goes on to say:

Fred Doucet's only public comments about his role with the Bear Head project came in February when he testified before the House of Commons ethics committee. In his sworn testimony, the former Mulroney staffer was asked--when he started working for Mr. Schreiber. His answer--“I believe I got on the payroll in February of '90”--was 14 months after he issued his $90,000 invoice to Mr. Schreiber. When the contradiction was exposed in the media, Mr. Doucet's lawyer sent a letter to the committee apologizing and explaining that his client was “mistaken”--but neglected to explain how Mr. Doucet came to make that mistake.

Questions about what Mr. Mulroney knew about the commission deal, and why he selected the Thyssen file as the only file to hand Mr. Murray during his first day on the job remain unanswered.

The public relations firm handling inquires for the former prime minister declined to comment.

In December, Mr. Mulroney testified before the House of Commons ethics committee that he was “supportive of the project” but was never asked about the money that was funnelled back to Canada...

I am therefore a bit surprised that the hon. member seems to have no interest in speaking to Senator Murray at the committee, or Mr. Doucet, or Mr. Doucet's public relations firms, or Mr. Mulroney's public relations firms, or Mr. Mulroney's lawyer, or Mr. Mulroney again. It seems to me that the hon. member would prefer to know much less about this file than more.

I would be interested in his comments on this Globe and Mail article, which is quite an extensive article.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will certainly respond to my colleague's question, although I regret he has not had an opportunity to follow this matter as closely as perhaps he would have liked. Had he had that opportunity, he would know it was the opposition, his party in fact, that provided the list of witnesses. Perhaps he should be asking his own colleagues on the committee why they did not call Senator Lowell Murray as a witness before our committee.

In fact, they have called absolutely everybody else who could be considered. Why they did not include Mr. Murray, I am not sure. In fact, they called so many witnesses that they stretched the bounds of credibility by even calling the former chef of 24 Sussex Drive, Mr. François Martin, who, unfortunately for him, was put on the spot with nothing to offer to this committee. He did offer his recipes, but they were not really relevant to the study we were taking upon ourselves at that time.

However, if he has to question as to why Senator Murray was not invited, perhaps he could call on his colleagues to answer that very question.

My colleague from the Bloc earlier made a statement that suggested that the Prime Minister would call a public inquiry immediately once our committee had finished its work. I want to quote what the Prime Minister stated on January 11, which clarifies this matter. He stated:

I have also asked Professor Johnston to finalize his recommendations on the terms of reference for the public inquiry on an expedited basis once the Committee has completed its work. I am pleased that he has agreed to do so.

There we have it. Once the committee has completed its work, we will be in a position to have Professor Johnston provide recommendations to the Prime Minister. However, we have not completed our work yet. As I have said earlier, our work will be done when we have tabled the report to this chamber, which summarizes our testimony and perhaps includes some recommendations and conclusions.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, in response to the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, I must say that as I understand it, on January 11, the Prime Minister said that he would launch a public inquiry as soon as the committee wrapped up its hearings.

Furthermore, the Conservative Party's House leader repeatedly said in the House that he did not want to launch the public inquiry until we had finished our hearings, because he did not want two public hearings to overlap.

There is certainly no danger of that happening. Everyone knows that it can take six months from the time an inquiry is launched to the time it begins its hearings. In the case of the Gomery commission, it took seven months.

But those were just excuses. The Conservative Party seems to be using one excuse after another to delay the public inquiry for as long as possible. The Conservatives are doing everything they can to delay the inquiry, and they are doing it in the committee too. As Justice Gomery said—and this was reported in the papers this morning—if they have nothing to hide, why are they hiding?

I can see that I have very little time left and that I will not benefit from the regulation time, so I will move on to my conclusions. I will then return to the beginning of the argument I wanted to make.

Here is the most recent explanation I have heard: the money Mr. Schreiber paid to Mr. Mulroney was a private transaction, and none of the government's, the public's, the voters' or the taxpayers' business.

Canadians learned that their former Prime Minister had received $225,000 or $300,000 in cash from one of the most powerful lobbyists around. They learned that that same lobbyist had cashed in on a windfall of contracts that allowed him to collect $225 million in commissions, and those were just the commissions that he told the committee he had received. The contracts themselves were worth some $2 billion.

The $225 million was spread around to people in the former Prime Minister's entourage. Right after he left office, and perhaps even before then, Brian Mulroney began depositing cash into a bank account. People in my riding—if not those in South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale—cannot help thinking that the cash he deposited was received in return for services rendered while he was in office. That is why the transaction in question is not a private transaction, and that is why we have to look into this affair.

We have heard some contradictions. The member from Mississauga pointed out several of them. Indeed, there is a long, endless list of these contradictions, facts that do not add up and people playing tricks on one another. When there are so many contradictions, some light must be shed on them.

Furthermore, some light needs to be shed on the correspondence addressed to the Prime Minister's Office. We know that Mr. Schreiber sent some letters to the Prime Minster denouncing some of the facts that were heard during the hearings held by the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. Some light must also be shed on how that correspondence was managed within the current Prime Minister's Office.

Several things must be taken into consideration. Why did Brian Mulroney make this mistake? Why did he admit—mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa—that he had made the worst mistake of his life?

Here is what we must ask him: why did he make that mistake? Why did he accept so much cash from one of the most powerful lobbyists under his government? Why did he do it? What was clouding his judgment at the time? How did he rationalize it? What were his motivations?

He must be asked these questions. Brian Mulroney told us that Schreiber always paid in cash. Marc Lalonde told us the opposite. Mr. Lalonde, who is a former justice minister of this House, also added that it made no sense to sell armoured vehicles to China, as former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney claims was the case. Instead of correcting the negative perception of his actions, Mr. Mulroney tried to show that he did nothing illegal.

Brian Mulroney should have corrected that negative perception, but he was too busy showing us that he had done nothing illegal. He told us a preposterous story which did not add up.

This is about a contract, but what contract? The two parties do not agree on the nature of the contract. I have never seen such a thing; it is quite extraordinary. The parties do not agree on the amount of the contract. Obviously, one of the men is telling the truth, and the other is lying. One is talking about $300,000 and the other is talking about $225,000. Clearly, one of them is lying; that is the only explanation. One man said that he got the contract to travel the world, and the other man said that he awarded the contract for lobbying the Government of Canada. This is also rather unbelievable, because at that time, it was no longer a Conservative government. The two versions are unbelievable.

Furthermore, Brian Mulroney reported the money to the tax authorities five years later, when he started to worry that the truth would come out, because Mr. Schreiber was having legal problems and was facing extradition.

Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber will have to provide solid evidence to prove that the money that changed hands, whether it was $225,000 or $300,000, was not a payment for services rendered or a thank you or a bribe for the contracts awarded to Karlheinz Schreiber by Brian Mulroney's Conservative government.

Taxpayers have a right to know whether or not their taxes directly or indirectly paid for commissions so that large corporations could obtain government contracts. They have the right to know whether these taxes then helped pay—too much—for airplanes or helicopters or anything else as part of the contracts obtained by Mr. Schreiber. As I said earlier, all the contracts obtained between 1984 and 1993 by Karlheinz Schreiber totalled at least $2 billion, which would be $225 million in commissions. And those are the amounts we have been told about; we do not know about the rest.

A public inquiry must be launched as quickly as possible, with as broad a mandate as possible, and it must absolutely require proof. Brian Mulroney will have to testify, and this time, he will have to do so under oath.

Back now to the contract I mentioned earlier. The Mulroney-Schreiber contract was dealt with as if there was something illegitimate about it. The very nature of the contract was questionable. Both explanations that were given are equally unbelievable.

In addition, Brian Mulroney contended that he had the approval of his law firm to accept contract work as a sideline, so to speak. I realize that may not be the proper term, but it says what I want to say. We asked him how come his law firm would allow him to accept such contracts, such sideline work. He told us he was allowed to do so and would provide us with the contracts signed with his firm. We have asked him on several occasions to produce them and, eventually, a sheet of paper with a single paragraph, and a very vague one at that, was produced. There was no proof that this paragraph on a sheet of paper was part of a legitimate contract between the firm and Brian Mulroney and that the clause in question was indeed in effect at the time when Brian Mulroney accepted money from Karlheinz Schreiber.

The public inquiry will have to demand from Brian Mulroney's legal associates office that they provide the actual contract and scrutinize it to determine whether that clause is indeed part of the contract and was in effect at the time when Brian Mulroney was accepting contract work outside his law firm.

Access to Information, Privacy and EthicsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings on the motion at this time. The debate on this motion is deferred to a later sitting. When we resume consideration of the report R-72, there will be 10 minutes left for the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert to finish her presentation and 10 minutes allocated for questions and comments.

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from February 7 consideration of the motion.

Status of WomenPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to debate Motion No. 400, which asks the Government of Canada to include equality in the mandate of the women's program at Status of Women Canada.

As hon. members know full well, our government has already included the word “equality” in the mandate of the women's program at Status of Women Canada. I know some opposition members were surprised by this announcement, when the minister appeared in committee, but it is the reality.

I have to admit that I do not really understand why we are still debating this motion, when it has already been rendered obsolete. The word “equality” is, as I said, included.

I am a member of the standing committee and I recall a question that the member for Beaches—East York put to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages during her appearance. She asked:

Are you saying that you've now changed the policy and you've put the word “equality” back in the mandate? That's what I understood you to say.

The minister responded with the word, “Exactly”.

Yet, here we are debating a motion asking that the focus of the women's program be equality. So, what do the opposition members do? They change their minds.

Through the shock and surprise of the minister's words at that committee, the opposition members decided that what they really meant was to say that equality means advocacy, and groups that receive funding for advocacy.

Indeed, the raison d'être of Status of Women Canada is the advancement of equality of women in Canadian society. As a country, Canada has a strong legal framework for protecting human rights and this foundation has provided a fertile ground for promoting equality, including equality for women.

The women's program at Status of Women Canada reflects this legal foundation. It focuses on promoting the equality and full participation of women in the economic, social and democratic life of Canada. Equality for women and their full participation are not only important for women, their families and their communities but also for the country.

In the future, to ensure Canada remains one of the most prosperous countries in the world, we must increase the participation of women in the workforce and fully support their career choices. Canada's population is aging. During the next two decades it is predicted that the ratio of older persons to active workers in Canada will increase by some 20%. Most of those people will be women.

More than ever, we will need strong female leaders to keep our country strong, economically, socially and as a democracy. Having more women in the labour force, including older women, will fuel economic growth and productivity gains in the long term, and that benefits all Canadians.

It is because our government remains committed to equality that we fully support this motion. But actions speak louder than words. In December 2007 our government amended the terms and conditions of the women's program at Status of Women Canada to include equality.

In support of this noble goal, the women's program provides financial and professional assistance to organizations. Organizations in turn carry out vital projects that improve women's lives at the local, regional and national levels. The projects selected for funding focus on key areas, such as women's economic status, violence against women and girls, and all of this within an accountable and transparent framework.

Strengthening the women's program at Status of Women Canada is just one of our government's impressive list of accomplishments that are improving the lives of women across this land. Included in this list is this government's increase in the women's program budget to $20 million, an increase of 76%, the highest level ever.

This is proof positive of our confidence in the program's work and our commitment to achieving results for women. With the creation of two new funding components, the women's program is poised to continue to achieve results for women directly in their respective communities throughout the country.

As a result of the first call for proposals, which took place in June 2007, $8 million in funding has been distributed to 60 projects across the country through the women's program. Over 260,000 women and girls will benefit from these projects.

These projects will address everything from the barriers they face, help to teach them about violence prevention, educate them on how to achieve better financial literacy, and encourage cooperative peer support networks.

The second call for proposals took place in November of last year for the women's community fund. We received a record number of proposals with a total of 342 proposed projects. Of these projects, 107 have been accepted and will best achieve results for women by promoting women's economic security and prosperity, health and safety, and ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women.

With the newly added convenience of online application forms, the women's program can reach more organizations than ever. With the funding of the women's program now being at its highest level ever, the number of proposals receiving funding and the number of new organizations accessing funding is growing. The best news is that the number of women expected to benefit directly increases as well.

All projects funded must support the advancement of all women in Canada, and that is exactly where equality comes in. It is a complex legal concept, but it lies at the very heart of what Canadians hold dear and what Status of Women Canada is working to achieve.

In recent months women's program funding has supported invaluable projects. For example, in the Atlantic region one project will result in a strategic model for mentoring and intergenerational consultation dealing with the obstacles faced by younger and older women who live in official language minority communities.

A project in the Ontario region will result in the development of tools, training, mentoring and networking programs for aboriginal women, immigrants, older women, and members of racial minorities who are trying to establish their own businesses based on microskills.

In the western and northern regions there is a project to develop a program that community groups and governments can use to support female sex trade workers during their transition to a new and better life.

These initiatives, focusing on the economic security of women, will provide meaningful results for women and girls today and in the future. They will bring about real and lasting change. They represent a rapid increase in opportunities for women and girls to participate in the life of their communities and their country, and to enjoy a life that offers financial security and the freedom that brings.

In other words, they advance equality for women who might otherwise continue to face disadvantage, discrimination, poverty and violence as daily realities.

As announced in the last budget, over the next year we will develop an action plan that will advance the equality of women across Canada through the improvement of their economic and social conditions and their participation in democratic life.

In addition, we will be fostering the participation of women in leadership and decision-making bodies. Women's participation in governance bodies in Canada is vital to achieving enhanced economic prosperity now and in the future.

An organization's actions should accurately reflect its goals. With equality now included in the mandate of the women's program, the mandate, actions and goals of the women's program once again reflect a synchronicity that is fitting and makes sense.