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House of Commons Hansard #79 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Government PrioritiesOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I just do not accept the premise of the member opposite's question.

It was this government that made a fundamental commitment to health care, whether that is cancer care, whether it is home care, which is provided by many provinces, whether it is services such as nurses and doctors, to ensure that Canadians and their families get the appropriate health care. It was not always so. At another time, at another recession, we saw members of the Liberal Party, including the member for Wascana, stand in their places and vote to cut health care by $25 billion. I can remember the member for Toronto Centre speaking very eloquently of the devastating effect of these cuts.

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, nine months ago I asked the now Minister of Natural Resources whether any rules had been broken in the awarding of the contract on the north tower of the West Block. He tried to slough off my questions as fictional stories and said next we would ask him to start searching for Elvis in his department.

Will the minister now come clean on exactly who was involved in his “internal...staff matters” that he was so evasive and arrogant about last December?

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, after years of Liberal scandals, it was our government whose first priority when we were elected to this place was to bring in the Federal Accountability Act. As the highest ethical standards ever brought into this House as legislative reform, it was quickly adopted and it imposes obligations on every Canadian when it comes to ethics. Anyone who breaks the rules will face the full force of the law.

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, so why are they not accountable?

They can try all they like to distance themselves from this scandal, but it will end up swallowing them whole.

Gilles Varin, a long-time Conservative organizer, had dinner with Bernard Côté, the assistant to the former public works minister, before the contract was awarded. Gilles Varin helped organize a cocktail fundraiser with the Minister of Natural Resources after the contract was awarded. Senator Nolin's assistant, Hubert Pichet, says Varin talked to him about Public Works, and Varin walked away with $140,000.

Who in the Conservative government had their palms greased?

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, clearly there are rules, laws and guidelines that govern the contracting policy for the Government of Canada. If any of those rules, guidelines or laws have been broken, we expect that they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government told us that Mr. Varin was no longer a member of the Conservative Party and was not a lobbyist. Yet Mr. Varin did lobby the government, most notably for the contract to renovate the Parliament buildings, and he twice contributed to the party's coffers, in 2007 and 2009. Mr. Varin was even photographed in 2008 with Conservative senators and Mr. Bourgon, the former Conservative candidate in Repentigny.

Will the government finally admit that Mr. Varin is an unregistered lobbyist and a non-card-carrying member of the Conservative Party?

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, here are the facts. The individual the Bloc leader is talking about is not and has never been a member of the Conservative Party. He was formerly an advisor to the Conservative Party, but he is neither a Conservative Party member nor an organizer. Those are the facts.

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, he is neither a member nor an organizer, but he is a big party backer.

In other disturbing developments, the contractor who won the $9 million contract to renovate the Parliament buildings, Mr. Sauvé, held a cocktail fundraiser that was attended by not only the Minister of Natural Resources, but a number of other people who worked on the renovation.

Does the Conservative government not feel that this is starting to look like a system where contracts are handed out in exchange for partisan financing?

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, after years of Liberal scandals, our government's first priority after the 2006 election was to bring in the Federal Accountability Act. We are very proud that this initiative sets the highest ethical standards in Canadian history. There are many acts and regulations in place, and every Canadian must obey them. Anyone who breaks the rules will face the full force of the law.

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the members will recall, Alfonso Gagliano once had two responsibilities: looking after the interests of the Liberal Party of Quebec and handing out government contracts. The same is true of Michael Fortier and the current Quebec lieutenant, who have both been public works ministers and fundraisers for the Conservative Party of Quebec.

Does the Prime Minister not realize that by delegating responsibility for handing out contracts and raising funds for the Conservative Party to the same individual—on two separate occasions—he is setting his government morally adrift?

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, clearly, no minister in our government has ever been responsible for party fundraising.

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the contractor who won the contract to renovate West Block organized a cocktail fundraiser for the Conservatives because, and I quote: “It was the thing to do...a small thank you of sorts”. In other words, he was happy with the work his Conservative lobbyist did with his “very close friends”.

Will the Prime Minister admit that when someone decides to return a favour, it usually means he is happy with what he got?

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Absolutely not, Mr. Speaker. This government has always acted with high ethical standards.

Our first priority when we were elected to government was to bring in the Federal Accountability Act, the toughest anti-corruption legislation in Canadian history. That also eliminated the influence of big money in politics. That is perhaps the best thing that this Prime Minister or any prime minister has ever done to clean up the way Ottawa works.

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

October 7th, 2010 / 2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, veterans are still coming forward to tell us that after they had criticized the government their health records were raided and put before ministers of the government. The Privacy Commissioner has now made it very clear that the laws of this land have been broken by the government in these actions.

What does the government do? It blames the bureaucrats, as usual, refuses to take responsibility, and then says that some insider will somehow fix things up. That does not cut it.

When will the government announce a public inquiry to get some accountability into Veterans Affairs?

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, our country and every Canadian owes a great debt to our veterans. They served Canadians bravely in world wars and peace missions around the world. They are serving Canadians very well in Afghanistan right now as we speak.

I want to be very clear. Protecting the privacy and the dignity of Canadian veterans is a significant priority for this government. No effort will be spared. Any violation of the law will not be tolerated anywhere in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Privacy Commissioner's report on the Department of Veterans Affairs is devastating.

The minister says he plans to make some changes. We already know what he will do: dismiss two or three staff members to appease the critics.

That is not enough. An apology is needed. Many are calling on the government to apologize and allow independent authorities to investigate.

When will they call a public inquiry to determine who broke the law, as well as why and how?

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have two things to say.

First, the independent Privacy Commissioner has looked into this matter. We appreciate the fine work that she has done and every recommendation in her report will be listened to.

Second, veterans in this country can count on the Minister of Veterans Affairs to forcefully advocate for their interests and to ensure that their privacy and dignity is respected. That is a solemn pledge. The minister has delivered more for veterans in the last few months than in Canadian history.

Veterans AffairsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, if that were the case, we would be hearing an apology on the floor of the House today given that we have heard that the law has been broken. This is completely unacceptable.

We need to remember what these veterans have done. These veterans stepped forward to say that adequate health care was not being provided to veterans. They stepped forward to say that pensions were being clawed back when they should not be. They stepped forward to point out that veterans have to go to food banks in this country. That is what they have stood up to say. What do they get? They get their health records spread around in the ministries of the government. It is unacceptable.

Veterans AffairsOral 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 will stand by our veterans and we will do everything that is humanely possible to ensure their privacy is respected.

Our government has stepped up to the table with record investments to support our veterans and our men and women in uniform. We are showing the greatest respect possible for those who serve and who have served our country.

Regrettably, far too often when we bring an issue to the floor in this regard it is the NDP that stands up and votes against it.

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the government is trying to cover its tracks as the stench of corruption wafts around a well-connected lobbyist's role in a $9 million construction contract.

Yesterday, the government House leader tried to snow the media when he claimed that Gilles Varin did not have any involvement in the “new Conservative Party”. Again today, he is at it.

Well, the Conservative Party knew Varin well enough to cash his big donation cheques in 2007 and 2009.

Why is the Prime Minister's Office trying to mislead Canadians about the Varin connection? What else are the Conservatives covering up?

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the individual is not a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. He has never been a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. He has never been an organizer for the Conservative Party of Canada. He has never been an adviser to the Conservative Party of Canada.

I do understand that a few donations have been made but, of course, they could not be big donations thanks to the Federal Accountability Act.

Maybe the member opposite should check his party's own records. I understand that the individual has also donated money to the member for Bourassa.

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, he is a well-known, long-established Conservative and the minister knows it.

Yesterday, the Minister of Public Works said that no member of the government was being investigated by the RCMP. How could she know that? Has the RCMP briefed the Prime Minister?

The government House leader's parliamentary secretary says that they mean that the Mounties have not contacted any ministers. It is not the same thing.

Why did the Prime Minister not say that? Why could he not be straight with Canadians? Are the Conservatives in this deeper than they wish to admit?

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, no members of this government are part of this inquiry.

There are rules, guidelines and laws that govern the Government of Canada's contracting policy. If there are any individuals or contractors who have broken these rules, they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of Natural Resources admitted that he attended a cocktail fundraiser hosted by Mr. Sauvé. Mr. Sauvé candidly said it was the thing to do to please the government.

Can the Minister of Natural Resources and the Quebec lieutenant tell us who organized this?

Government ContractsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have asked questions about giving big campaign contributions to the Conservative Party caucus. In fact, it is our Prime Minister who eliminated the influence of big money from politics. There are no more $5,000 cocktail parties and no more evenings where a couple of million bucks are raised in a night. That is something the Prime Minister can be very proud of.

Still, small, modest donations can be made to political parties, just as I understand one of these individuals made to the member for Bourassa.