Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to make some submissions with regard to this bill before Parliament, Bill C-22.
As a member from metropolitan Toronto I took a particular interest in this matter not only during the election campaign in the fall but indeed a number of years before when I chaired a federal Liberal Party task force studying the future of Pearson International Airport.
The committee submitted its report on June 12, 1989 and in this particular report we concluded that it would be a mistake to proceed with privatization of any of the terminals at Pearson. We as a party have maintained that position throughout the last number of years.
Much to our chagrin the previous Tory administration decided in its wisdom, if you will, that it would privatize terminals 1 and 2 at Pearson, having already allowed private interest to build and operate terminal 3.
It became abundantly clear over the last year and the months preceding the general election campaign that what was happening with regard to the privatization of the airport terminalswas that Tory ministers and, I would submit, the Prime Minister, Mr. Mulroney, and Prime Minister Campbell knew exactly what was going on with regard to the privatization and in fact gave their blessing to a process that Mr. Nixon would subsequently call flawed and have a lot of very strong comments on.
The negotiations took place behind closed doors. The deal was consummated in the shadows. Lobbyists were involved. Lobbyist earned hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars as a result of what was occurring.
I keep repeating Mr. Nixon's quotation: "My review has left me but one conclusion, to leave in place an inadequate contract, arrived at through such a flawed process and under the shadow of possible political manipulation, is unacceptable". He went on to say: "The role of the lobbyist was extensive, going far beyond what I consider to be appropriate activities of consultants that are available to businesses to approach government". He also pointed out in his report that senior transport officials were replaced when they objected to the contract.
Imagine, the previous government when faced with bureaucrats who had as their preoccupation the public interest objected to this particular contract. They in effect were constructively dismissed from their positions and put elsewhere. They were replaced with people who would agree with a contract that in effect rewarded Tory loyalists and supporters.
During the election campaign the government, indeed the consortium, recognizing that the Conservative government was on its last legs, tried to and in fact did sign the contract on October 7, 1993, two and a half weeks before the general election.
It thought that having signed the deal the new Liberal administration would not cancel the contract. It had another think coming because during the election campaign the Prime Minister, as the leader of the Liberal Party, made it clear in advance of the signing of the contract that if elected he would cancel the contract.
He said on October 6: "I challenge the Prime Minister to stop the deal right now". He went on to say: "You do not make a deal like that three weeks before an election when hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. We will not accept it. I am dead serious. To anybody involved in that, I say: `Don't get too excited tomorrow. We will review the deal when we form a government. If it is not a good deal, we will not proceed"'.
He also said: "It is the Mulroney mentality at its worst. They are really trying to put one over on us at the last minute and I say it is totally unacceptable". This is the Prime Minister speaking in the election campaign: "I am warning everyone involved that if we become the government we will review this transaction. If necessary, legislation will be passed to overturn the deal".
What could be more clear from the Leader of the Opposition in advance of the signing of the deal? What could be more clear that his government would cancel the deal? To have Mr. Charles Bronfman and the consortium come to the taxpayers of Canada, cap in hand, after doing what they did to get this deal signed and after signing the deal when warned by the man who was destined to become the next Prime Minister, for them to come seeking $200 million from the taxpayers of Canada, that takes a lot of balls. It takes a lot of audacity to do that.
I say shame on Mr. Bronfman and shame on his corporation for having the audacity to do that after what Mr. Nixon had to say and what the Prime Minister had to say when he was the Leader of the Opposition.
This bill allows for limited compensation. I have to take exception to any compensation being paid at all. No one has established why any compensation should be paid. All kinds of reasons can be given. We have heard from various members as to why there ought not to be any compensation at all. I have not heard anybody say that because they were acting in good faith or because they expended money unbeknownst, they were innocent, they deserve some compensation. I have not heard that reason.
There is not a reason. That is why members have not heard any justification or rationalization or rationale for paying the Pearson Development Corporation any money at all. For that reason I believe that paragraph (10) which allows the minister to pay compensation should be deleted from this bill.
I would urge members of the committee who study this bill to delete paragraph (10) because that is the paragraph that empowers the minister, in effect gives the minister a blank cheque, subject to no compensation for lobbyist fees or lost profits but short of that, to compensate not only the Pearson Development Corporation but everyone involved with them for out of pocket expenses.
I would submit that it would be unconscionable if they were paid any money whatsoever not only because of what was said during the election campaign, and what happened behind the scenes, but also because of the very clear statement and the request for proposals that was put out in March 1992. At paragraph (8.6.3), it says this. Again Mr. Bronfman and all those who were participating in this contract were well aware of what was in the request for proposals.
It said: "All costs and expenses incurred by proponents relating to proposals will be borne by the proponents. The government is not liable to pay for such costs and expenses or to reimburse or to compensate proponents in any manner whatsoever for such costs and expenses under any circumstances, including the rejection of any or all proposals and the cancellation of the project".
What could be more clear than the statement in the request for proposals that said to all those who wanted to contract with the Government of Canada, that wanted to enter into this contract, that you are doing so at your own risk, that not only might your proposal be rejected, but even if it does happen to be the best proposal the government reserves the right not to proceed with the project.
Why then would there be any compensation at all? The request for proposals goes on to state at paragraph 8.7.1: "The government has the right, number one, to reject any or all of the proposals; number two, to accept any proposal, and three, to elect not to proceed with the project, all as it so determines in its sole and absolute discretion".
What could be more clear? If that is the case and they were all aware of what they were doing, why would the poor taxpayers be requested to pay anything at all to the Pearson Development Corporation, which is majority owned by billionaire Charles Bronfman from Montreal?
That is the question the committee and Parliament has to grapple with. I would submit that the overwhelming majority of members of Parliament would agree that in the circumstances there should be no compensation.
There is a Latin phrase which says: "Ex turpi causa non oritur actio". It is something they taught us in law school way back in first year. When you go to court you have to go with clean hands. You cannot be the author of your own misfortune or you cannot be party to a fraudulent transaction, or you cannot be culpable in any way, shape or form and then expect to go to the court to seek out justice, equity or compensation.
It could hardly be said that Mr. Bronfman and the Pearson Development Corporation and its predecessors, Paxport and all those involved in putting together this unhappy and unfortunate transaction were not aware of what they were doing and what was going on behind closed doors.
The Canadian people were hoodwinked by the previous Tory administration. We were told for example that there would be competition at the airport and yet the contract was awarded to a friend of the Prime Minister, Mr. Mulroney. Then, for financial reasons, he goes to Mr. Bronfman and says: "I can't carry this out". Mr. Bronfman, who owns terminal 3, all of a sudden becomes the monopoly owner of all the terminals at Pearson International Airport.
Where was the public interest? Was there anybody considering the public interest throughout this whole sorry matter? I would submit not. There were a lot of people who were more concerned and people who are presently before this Parliament seeking compensation, were more concerned about somehow gathering and squeezing out of the taxpayers as much money as possible. They were prepared to border on activity that could be
conceived as criminal or fraudulent in order to strike a deal which, as I have said, is totally unconscionable.
All the responsibility lies with the previous administration. The present Prime Minister made it clear during the election campaign that he would cancel the deal and that is what he did. No one could ever call into question the integrity of the Prime Minister as far as the cancellation of the Pearson contract deal is concerned. He conducted a review. The review took place and the deal was cancelled. In effect, the deal was cancelled on December 3, 1993. The bill before Parliament today gives legal effect to the decision of the Prime Minister on December 3. It goes further. While I agree in principle that the deal ought to be cancelled, I disagree fundamentally with compensation being paid pursuant to paragraph 10. More important, I disagree with the proposition that Parliament be called on to discuss, in effect, a proposal that we do not know about.
The consortium led by Mr. Bronfman has put forward a claim. I would submit that the people of Canada are entitled to know exactly what that claim is. Where is the claim? What exactly does he want to get paid for? We know he is not going to get paid for lost profits, but he is still seeking, reports indicate, some $30 to $35 million in compensation for out of pocket expenses.
Before Parliament can effectively deal with this matter, the committee should request and Parliament must have a detailed listing of exactly what the compensation is for if Parliament is to give the consortium anything at all. In my submission it ought not to be given anything.
I hope the minister is not prepared to sign a cheque to the consortium and keep the taxpayers in the dark as to what the cheque is for. I have considerable confidence in the integrity of the Minister of Transport and I know he will not allow that to happen, and that the claim will come before Parliament. At committee I hope a request will be made that whatever claim is being made the details will be put forward.
Those are my submissions on the issue of compensation. I agree that the deal has to be cancelled by law. It is obvious that the consortium, the Pearson Development Corporation, will not simply walk away. It should, in effect, be told to take a hike but it appears it is not. It is pushing the issue.
The other issue that has to be dealt with is the future of Pearson International Airport. In the few minutes remaining I want to make a few comments about that.
Having decided to cancel the transaction, the government now is faced with making a decision as to what ought to happen at Pearson International Airport. The debate will decide ultimately whether a private group, a local airport authority, should control Pearson or whether Transport Canada should continue to have direct control over a federal government asset that generates close to 100,000 direct and indirect jobs and is responsible for billions of dollars in economic activity.
A more thorough debate will have to take place but in my respectful submission, given the importance of Pearson airport to the national economy, to the national transportation system, the Government of Canada should continue to have direct control over Pearson through the Department of Transport. We ought not to transfer responsibility to a local airport authority. A local airport authority would be concerned primarily with the local area of metropolitan Toronto, in this case, as opposed to the impact that Pearson will have on the nation as a whole.
I hope the minister at some point will allow Parliament to deal with the greater question of the future of Pearson International Airport and who should control it. I think most members will agree that it ought not to be privatized, that that is a mistake. Our main international airport should not be handed over to the private sector for private profit and gain.
We all want to see Pearson refurbished but some say that the government simply does not have the money to refurbish Pearson. That is not quite true. Looking at the profit and loss statements of Pearson International Airport over the last 10 or 20 years and in particular over the last few years when we were in the midst of a recession, the airport in effect has been making significant profits. Those profits could be used to refurbish.
Some 20 million passengers travel through Pearson annually. If push came to shove, given the numbers of passengers, if a $5 fee were levied to refurbish Pearson which is not unreasonable then the necessary funding could be received without having to privatize the airport.
Given the importance of Pearson, the task force I was part of recommended that a royal commission of inquiry look into the future of Pearson International Airport, its purpose and use, the problems with air traffic control, the need for additional runways and their environmental impact. I do not believe we can look at any one aspect of Pearson in isolation from the overall picture.
I urge the minister to engage this Parliament in a debate as to the future of Pearson and what the best mechanism will be to determine what route should be taken.
In closing let me reiterate this bill must be amended to make it absolutely clear that no compensation should be paid whatsoever to the Pearson Development Corporation. In any event, before this Parliament can effectively deal with this bill the claim that is being put forward by Mr. Bronfman should be made public so the taxpayers of Canada know exactly what the nature of the claim is.