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House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was victims.

Topics

Ministerial ResponsibilityOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the law is very clear. All ministerial aides, all public servants are expected to comply with the law. It was our government that fought hard to bring light where there was darkness. It was our government that fought hard to expand the Access to Information Act.

When this government sought to expand the Access to Information Act to the Canadian Wheat Board, it was that member who fought us every step of the way. Thank goodness the House thought otherwise and brought light to the Canadian Wheat Board.

Ministerial ResponsibilityOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, with the answers in the House today, obviously not only is the minister not living up to his responsibility, he is hiding behind the coattails of the House leader.

When will the minister take responsibility for his action, for his staff that broke the law? The minister either oversaw this information cover-up scheme or he blindly allowed it to happen. In either case he should resign. If not, will the Prime Minister accept responsibility for this coverup and fire the minister?

Ministerial ResponsibilityOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this government accepts its responsibilities. It brought in the Federal Accountability Act, the biggest ethics reform our country has ever seen. It expanded access to information. When we did that, the Liberals, including that member, fought it every day, tooth and nail.

The minister has accepted the resignation of his assistant and has referred the matter to the commissioner. That is the right course of action on this matter.

Ministerial ResponsibilityOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, the noose is tightening around the Minister of Natural Resources's neck. There is more and more evidence that Mr. Togneri, his scapegoat aide who just resigned, was not acting alone. Another two of his assistants seem to have been in on the plot.

Two emails obtained by the media concerning access to information requests show that Mr. Togneri referred departmental officials to his colleagues, Marc Toupin and Julian Andrews.

Now that the Prime Minister has just said that the minister is responsible for his staffers, will the minister also ask his two assistants to resign?

Ministerial ResponsibilityOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I think the minister has acted appropriately. He has accepted the resignation of one of his political assistants. He has done the right thing. He has referred the matter to the Information Commissioner.

I guess the member for Bourassa would like to adjudicate these matters on the floor of the House of Commons. We would rather have confidence in the independent commissioner looking into this important matter.

Ministerial ResponsibilityOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, if this goes on much longer, the minister will be out of staffers. He will have to go recruiting.

Here is another example of an email. When an official asks Mr. Togneri for an explanation, saying, and I quote: “Please exclude what is highlighted”, the minister's former aide answers, “Please contact Marc Toupin on that file.” That proves that Togneri was not acting alone.

Instead of pleading ignorance, the minister should have the courage to shoulder his ministerial responsibilities. If he is a man of honour, is he prepared to resign?

Ministerial ResponsibilityOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the Liberal Party would ask questions on access to information. I have right here a book from a Liberal cabinet minister's office, in which political staff have to tick off a box and initial. It asks whether something is okay to release, yes or no. Then the political assistant initials it. This is very interesting.

Maybe we should refer this book to the commissioner, along with some of the dirty tricks the Liberals would use when they were in power.

InfrastructureOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the federal government's deadlines for the completion of infrastructure work are making life impossible for municipalities, which are faced with a shortage of pipes and labour, the first frosts of the season, and ballooning construction costs. Quebec's municipalities may end up with a $200 million bill or lose their projects.

Will the government stop being paternalistic, do away with its case by case review process, and confirm that every approved project can be completed without penalty, regardless of any deadlines?

InfrastructureOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel ConservativeMinister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Fédération Québécoise des Municipalités convention alongside 1,100 mayors. I had a number of conversations with people who praised the results of our Economic Action Plan. We talked about the thousands of projects completed throughout Canada. Discussions are underway regarding the current projects between my colleague, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, and the Quebec government. We are awaiting the outcome of those discussions. We will be fair and reasonable, as usual.

InfrastructureOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

It is funny, but the Fédération Québécoise des Municipalités passed a resolution calling on the federal government to act. Did it do this for nothing?

Let me give you an example from the minister’s riding. In Roberval, there are no contractors to do the work. In East Angus, in the Eastern Townships, a water and sewage treatment plant project is in jeopardy due to a shortage of pipes. In Montreal, the cost of expanding the Deux Mondes theatre will rise because the deadline is going to force builders to work over the winter.

Will the government ever listen to reason and extend the deadlines, which is what the Fédération Québécoise des Municipalités and the Union des municipalités du Québec have been calling for?

InfrastructureOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel ConservativeMinister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, if it were left up to the Bloc, all the machinery would still be in the contractors’ backyards. There would be thousands of excess pipes because not a single project would have been completed. Our government has made these projects happen. As usual, we will be fair and reasonable.

AfghanistanOral Questions

October 5th, 2010 / 2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, before the Military Police Complaints Commission, Major-General Guy Laroche said that 20% of Afghan detainees alleged that they had been mistreated. Despite these allegations, the transfers continued. According to Major-General Laroche, he needed evidence of abuse before he could stop the transfers. But according to the Geneva convention, transfers must stop if there is a suspicion of torture.

Does the Major-General's admission not prove that Canada has failed in its obligations regarding torture and that it violated the Geneva convention?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, what it proves is that on each and every occasion the Canadian Forces and the professional public service working in Afghanistan have done the right thing.

When credible allegations came forward, the transfers were stopped. Since that time, we have put in place a very rigorous examination of what has been happening inside holding facilities. We have increased the ability to go inside and to follow up on what happens after transfers. We have invested heavily in the justice system, as well as in the infrastructure.

Canadian Forces personnel and those working in the public service continue to distinguish themselves in accordance with the highest levels of behaviour.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, contrary to the Major-General's statements and the response that the minister just gave us, the convention does not require proof of torture. Even mere suspicion means the transfers should stop.

Does the government admit that by not applying this precautionary principle to Afghan detainees, it failed in its obligations under the Geneva convention?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the member has said, we continue to meet the highest standards internationally.

We continue to meet all of these obligations. In fact, we perform beyond those obligations, always in keeping with the high standards of the Canadian Forces personnel. They continue to do the work that we expect of them in very difficult circumstances, as do our professional public servants.

We continue to make massive investments in that country at a high cost to life and limb. I am proud of the work of the Canadian Forces and all our public servants. I am proud of what we have done in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister's OfficeOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, it seems that the Prime Minister was bullying us when he said that he would like to see strict post-employment rules so that a company cannot unfairly receive a government contract. Nigel Wright is leaving his position as an executive at Hawker Beechcraft, and he plans to return there immediately after he finishes his temporary job at the Prime Minister's Office.

Given that Hawker Beechcraft has millions of dollars in government contracts, why is the Prime Minister not applying the post-employment rules to Mr. Wright?

Prime Minister's OfficeOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let me be clear. I understand that the Ethics Commissioner appeared before a parliamentary committee this morning. What did she have to say? She reported that she and her office have been very vigilant in the area of conflict of interest.

I can confirm to the House that Mr. Wright has sought and has followed all the advice given by the independent commissioner. That is exactly what taxpayers can expect.

Prime Minister's OfficeOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, Onex owns Celestica, one of the world's largest manufacturers of electronics and computer systems. They have holdings in the automotive industry, plastics and steel, warranty insurance, and even American private health care. The possibility for conflicts of interest are enormous.

The minister mentioned the Ethics Commissioner. Today the Ethics Commissioner said that only Mr. Wright or the Prime Minister's office can release the details of Mr. Wright's employment contract with Onex. She said, “I would love to have them do that”. So why does the minister not do it right now?

Prime Minister's OfficeOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, in keeping with the standard for all such staff, this individual will disclose all of his public holdings to the commissioner and will place them in a blind trust.

Let me explain this different kind of blind trust we have now. It is not a Venetian blind trust.

Prime Minister's OfficeOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, the post-employment code for public office holders is supposed to prevent corporations from benefiting from their links to government by imposing a one-year cooling-off period before they can work with a company that had dealings with government.

Are we to believe that Mr. Wright, the Prime Minister's temporary chief of staff, on loan from Onex, will have no dealings with any file related to that company, the largest private sector employer in the country?

If the government is so sure there is nothing of concern and nothing to hide, why does it not release the full details?

Prime Minister's OfficeOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let me say this. I believe it is fantastic that someone who has been very successful in the private sector and very successful outside government is responding to the call of public service and coming to Ottawa to serve the national interest. Canada is blessed.

If members of the Liberal Party had their way, I suppose that they would want to discourage talented people from outside government from coming to Ottawa to contribute. Thank goodness this was not the case, or we never would have had a Paul Martin or a Belinda Stronach.

Prime Minister's OfficeOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, the Ethics Commissioner said she would love to have the details released. I do not know why they will not.

Onex is the second largest employer in Canada, second only to the federal government itself. It is involved in energy, defence, manufacturing, aerospace, computer equipment, financial services, even medical diagnostics.

How could a chief of staff to the Prime Minister possibly avoid having dealings with a Canadian company as wide-ranging as Onex? How can he be the top adviser to the Prime Minister when the rules say he should not be at three-quarters of the meetings?

Prime Minister's OfficeOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let me say this. I can confirm that Mr. Wright has sought the counsel of the independent Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, and he is taking direction from that office.

It was our government that brought in the toughest ethics reforms in Canadian history. When we did so, it was the Liberal Party that said we were going too far.

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, over the past weeks allegations have surfaced concerning the misuse of veterans' private information.

There are many veterans across Canada who are now concerned that their private files have not been protected by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Could the Minister of Veterans Affairs please inform the House of what he is doing to ensure that the private information of our veterans will remain confidential?

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, we take the protection of personal information very seriously. We are currently re-examining the sanctions in place for those who discover information they should not have access to. Currently, individuals can be suspended for up to five days, and we are looking into the possibility that they could even lose their job.