Madam Speaker, as much as the Liberal government would like to portray those who knew about, accessed, and benefited from the sponsorship fund as isolated individuals far removed from the corridors of power in Ottawa, it has become increasingly clear that this is not the case.
Liberals in cabinet knew about the sponsorship fund and used it. We now know that when the Prime Minister was finance minister, his office intervened on behalf of a Liberal supporter seeking federal sponsorship money.
The proceedings of the Gomery inquiry cannot and should not prevent the Prime Minister nor members of the Liberal government from standing up and answering to Canadians. That is their job. It is why they receive a paycheque. It is why they should be accountable to the millions of Canadians who want to know why their hard-earned tax dollars have been funnelled away from real priorities and into the back pockets of Liberal cronies.
Unfortunately the people of Canada have become accustomed to the government's lack of accountability. They have watched the government blow over a billion dollars and counting on a gun registry instead of getting tough on crime, or waiving the CAIS deposit for struggling producers.
If the sponsorship scandal was just about the waste of 100 million taxpayer dollars, that would be bad enough, but in fact the scandal is about more than waste. The scandal has revealed cronyism, a blatant misuse of public tax dollars to reward friends of the Liberal Party, and the blind pursuit of narrow, political self-interest. It has implicated senior government officials and elected members of the Liberal Party in what can only be described as an enormous misuse of public funds for personal and political purposes and it has uncovered criminal activity.
The longer this scandal drags on, the more it undercuts the faith and trust that Canadians have invested in their government. That is why the Prime Minister is obligated to answer the questions being posed by the opposition.
Previously the Prime Minister claimed he never made use of the national unity fund. In this very House he said, “Mr. Speaker, first, the answer to the question is: none. I have not used it”. That is in Hansard of March 10, 2004. However, documents reveal that the Department of Finance, headed by the now PM, had accessed the fund for $1 million in 1999-2000.
It has also come to light that in 1999, when the Prime Minister was finance minister, his office called Alfonso Gagliano's office about a sponsorship request that came from Serge Savard, who headed a sports group, seeking $600,000. After the phone call, Serge Savard's group was given $250,000. The Prime Minister defended this by saying his office was helping a constituent. That is simply not true. Mr. Savard is not a constituent. He is, however, a prominent benefactor of the Liberal Party and was a major fundraiser for the Prime Minister's leadership campaign.
The question I posed to the Prime Minister was simple and straightforward and it deserves a straightforward answer. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister's designate, the Minister of Public Works, chose not to answer that question on October 22.
Instead of responding to an inquiry made on behalf of the hard-working residents of Palliser, whose courage in the face of a BSE crisis and a crop disaster deserves better than Liberal game playing, the Prime Minister's designate avoided the question.
Instead of being straight with the people who send their tax dollars to Ottawa to fund noble causes such as the defence of this great country and not Liberal slush funds, the Prime Minister's designate instead chose to delay and deny. I will give the Prime Minister or his designate another opportunity today to answer by repeating my original question.
Did the Prime Minister's office make any other calls to Gagliano's office to secure sponsorship money for any other benefactors of the Liberal Party who did not reside in the Prime Minister's constituency?