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House of Commons Hansard #27 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was products.

Topics

EthicsOral Questions

April 16th, 2010 / 11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, today we learned that on September 9 the former minister for the status of women sent a letter to the most senior municipal officials in Simcoe county, her cousin, no less, urging that he and his council hire Wright Tech Systems and adopt its bio-dryer technology.

What the letter failed to mention was that her husband, Rahim Jaffer, and his business partner were in a position to personally profit from a company whose business plan had a projected value of more than $1 billion.

Has the government obtained this letter and provided it to the RCMP? What other letters written by that former minister pumping this company is the government aware of?

EthicsOral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the member in question is no longer a member of the ministry. If the member opposite has any concerns he would like to forward to the Ethics Commissioner for her to look into, I would urge him to do so.

EthicsOral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister has to do better than that. That member was a sitting member of cabinet.

The government has further documents that must be provided to the RCMP. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has admitted to the media that he met with Mr. Jaffer and his business partner and that last August they sent him three funding proposals for the green infrastructure fund. One of these proposals was for a biomass drying system, the exact same technology provided by Wright Tech Systems.

Has the parliamentary secretary handed over the proposals he received from Mr. Jaffer to the RCMP and, if not, why not?

EthicsOral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, when this issue arose, the Prime Minister referred the matter to the relevant authorities. We are certainly prepared to co-operate in any way possible, if asked.

I do know that the letter the member mentioned is on the front page of the Toronto Star, which is why I suspect it would not be terribly difficult to get.

EthicsOral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, let us review what the Prime Minister actually did in this case.

The Prime Minister claimed that his government did three things when he received the allegations last week. He claimed that he had referred the matter to the Ethics Commissioner. She now says that she received no formal request and is only monitoring media reports. He claimed that his officials briefed the former minister on the nature of the serious allegation. The former minister said that they had not. Finally, he claimed that he was referring the matter to the RCMP.

My question is for the minister responsible for the RCMP directly. Has the RCMP launched a formal criminal investigation into these allegations, yes or no?

EthicsOral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister did the right thing. When serious allegations were brought forward against one of his ministers, he immediately referred the issue to the relevant authorities. It is not our place to direct them to do or not to do anything. We have confidence in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to do the right thing. The matter has been referred to them.

The most important thing is that the Prime Minister acted expeditiously and ethically. The Prime Minister did the right thing.

EthicsOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have now learned that the former status of women minister was promoting a firm that her husband and Mr. Gillani wanted to buy and then take public in a $1 billion deal. She even wrote a letter to the senior municipal official of Simcoe County, her cousin, suggesting he use this company.

A proposal that Mr. Jaffer submitted to the green fund looks an awful lot like this company's business plan. Will this information be provided to the RCMP?

EthicsOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Let us be very clear, Mr. Speaker. No funding was recommended and no funding was given with respect to this project. The government acted ethically, properly and expeditiously. When these concerns were raised with the Prime Minister, he did the right thing. He referred them to the relevant authorities and we have confidence that they will do the right thing.

EthicsOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said that he referred the allegations to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, but the commissioner said that she has not received a formal request and that she is getting her information from the newspaper. He said that his team informed the former minister about the allegations, but she says this is not true. He also said that he referred the issue to the RCMP.

Can the Minister of Public Safety tell us if the RCMP has launched a formal criminal investigation? Yes or no?

EthicsOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister was made aware of these serious allegations, he did the right thing. He forwarded them to the relevant authorities so they could make a determination as to what to do.

Obviously, those authorities will make those determinations, as is appropriate. It is not the place of the government, it is not the place of a political actor to stand on the floor of the House of Commons and announce a criminal investigation. Maybe that was the way the previous government operated but it is not the way this government operates.

EthicsOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, we have now learned that the former minister for the status of women personally intervened to promote a business with which her husband, Rahim Jaffer, the former chair of the Conservative caucus, was connected. By writing to the municipality of Simcoe to encourage officials to purchase technology distributed by Wright Tech Systems Inc., the former minister allegedly used her elected office to help her husband, who was trying to become a partner in the business.

Can the government confirm that it was these allegations of influence peddling that were passed on to the RCMP?

EthicsOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, when we were made aware of the allegations, we forwarded them to the appropriate authorities. The allegations do not concern the activities of this government. Needless to say, we support the Prime Minister's decision to refer these documents, the allegations in question, to the authorities concerned.

EthicsOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the problem is that the former minister has always claimed that she did not use her position to help her husband. Yet by intervening directly, using her office letterhead, that is exactly what she did. Not only does this violate the House code of ethics, but it may be a criminal offence.

When will the government confirm that it is these allegations of influence peddling that were forwarded to the RCMP? Just a minute. This circus has gone on long enough. It is time—

EthicsOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.

EthicsOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the members of this House that the Prime Minister acted as soon as he was made aware of these allegations. He forwarded the documents and the allegations to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner so that she could take the necessary action, and he also referred them to the RCMP.

The Prime Minister did the right thing under the circumstances.

EthicsOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, every day, we learn more about the allegations that prompted the government to remove the former minister for status of women from the Conservative caucus. First came the cocaine, the prostitutes, the compromising photos and the bank accounts in Belize. Then we found out that the Conservative couple may be involved in a complicated accounting scheme to inflate the value of an environmental company with the help of federal subsidies.

When will the government reveal the information that was supplied to the RCMP?

EthicsOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, serious allegations were brought to the attention of the Prime Minister and let us look at what he did. He immediately referred the matter, not just to the Ethics Commissioner but also to the competent police authorities so that they could make a determination as to how to follow-up on the issue.

The Prime Minister showed that he did the right thing. He acted expeditiously. I support the way the Prime Minister handled this important issue.

EthicsOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister does not seem to understand that the atmosphere has become unhealthy. We are doing our best to find out whether the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and the RCMP are going to investigate the matter, but the process has already begun in the media: drugs, blackmailing, secret bank accounts in a tax haven, influence peddling, misuse of the minister's office and equipment, and on and on. More and more troubling revelations are coming to light.

To put an end to speculation and promote healthy debate, will the government tell us what information was supplied to the RCMP?

EthicsOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, as I have said before and I will repeat again, serious allegations were brought to the attention of the Prime Minister. He acted expeditiously and ethically and referred the entire matter to the relevant authorities. That was proper. That was the initiative that Canadians would expect from someone with high ethical standards. I support the way the Prime Minister handled this important issue.

EthicsOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister can repeat his message over and over again but the government is doing a really sloppy job.

Government members say that they forwarded to the Ethics Commissioner serious and credible allegations about wrongdoing by a member of cabinet but the Ethics Commissioner said that she had received no substantive information.

The Prime Minister will not tell the public what the information is, and he has not told the Ethics Commissioner either. Has he at least told the RCMP or is he keeping the Mounties in the dark as well?

EthicsOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, let me very clear to the member for Vancouver East. When the allegations were brought forward to the Prime Minister, he referred the matter to the competent authorities.

He is not in a position to say whether they are true or untrue. It is not for his judgment or conclusion; it is for the relevant authorities. That is why he acted ethically, that is why he acted expeditiously, that is why the Prime Minister did the right thing.

EthicsOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, now we learn that the former minister wrote to officials in Simcoe to promote a company in which her husband was involved. This is, to use the government's own phrase, a serious and credible allegation of misconduct.

There is a simple question. Will the Prime Minister file a formal complaint with the Ethics Commissioner or will he, once again, only pretend to do so?

EthicsOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, let us be very clear. There are allegations against a member of Parliament who is no longer a member of the ministry.

If the member opposite has evidence that anything that has happened is inappropriate, I would encourage her to do the right thing, to follow the example of the Prime Minister, and forward any allegations or any information she has to the relevant authorities so that they can do the right thing.

EthicsOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the Prime Minister will not take action on this latest allegation, then we will. We have written to the Ethics Commissioner to inform her of the former minister's actions and to ask her to undertake a formal investigation, something that this government will not do.

Apparently, the Prime Minister does not even know how the Conflict of Interest Code works. Maybe we should teach him, if he wishes, or does he believe that now that he has tossed the minister out of the Conservative cabinet and caucus, no investigation is needed? What does the government believe?

EthicsOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we believe that it was important that when serious allegations arose that were brought to the Prime Minister's attention, he took action expeditiously. He took action in the best ethical sense and he referred the matter to the RCMP and the relevant authorities. That demonstrates good judgment.

I support what the Prime Minister did and, ultimately, obviously, the member for Vancouver East has learned a lesson from the Prime Minister and she has followed suit.