September 1, 1988

GOVERNMENT ORDERS

MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND


The House resumed from Wednesday, August 31, consideration of the motion of Mr. Mulroney that Bill C-l 14, an Act to provide for greater certainty in the reconciliation of the personal interests and duties of the office of the Members of the Senate and of the House of Commons, to establish a Conflict of Interest Commission and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a legislative committee.


PC

Lucien Bouchard (Secretary of State of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Lucien Bouchard (Secretary of State of Canada):

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to take part in this debate concerning the adoption of Bill C-l 14 which deals with conflict of interest. The purpose of this Bill is, basically, to establish a system under which the obligation to observe certain imperative directives on conflict of interest becomes binding by law and which provides for an administrative framework that did not exist under the old system which was a set of basic directives.

I believe that this debate and this legislation are of crucial importance, since the subject matter raises the debate above party considerations. 1 think we all have a duty to approach this fundamental issue with a sense of co-operation and solidarity, whatever our political stripe. We are dealing here with an essential attribute of democracy. If there is any place at all in Canada where we can talk about democracy seriously, without fear of ridicule, it is within these precincts where we have been sent as the elective representatives of the Canadian people.

When we talk about democracy, we are talking about something that is part of the very essence of our civilization. With democracy a new concept was born, the concept that political leaders had to have and deserve the trust of those elected by the people. The concept is not brand new. Democracy was born in Athens, and it was Pericles who was first faced with a demand for openness and accountability. There is a

rather amusing story that says a great deal about the perennial obligations and problems governments must face.

In the 5th century B.C., Pericles decided to build the Parthenon, and since Athens was very wealthy at the time and had considerable resources and especially a lot of gold, he had instructed Phidias, the famous sculptor and architect, to make a huge statue of Pallas Athena and to cover Athena with a mantle of gold. Since Athens had a lot of gold, this was not a problem. Phidias followed his instructions and covered this huge statue which was 30 feet high with a fairly thick mantle of gold. Subsequently, the opposition parties, since Athens was a democracy, accused Pericles of keeping back part of the gold. They ordered him to show he had not kept any of the gold for himself and had not given any to his mistress, his courtesans, his wife, his friends or his immediate entourage or, I imagine, to those who helped elect him.

But Pericles, who invented democracy, also knew its difficulties and tribulations, and he had the intelligence and cunning to see to it that Athena's gold mantle could be taken apart in pieces. And once the accusation was made, he took apart the gold mantle and had the pieces of gold weighed that corresonded exactly to the weight of the gold given to Phidias.

This is a lesson that we should all have learned from the history of Athens, Madam Speaker. But we know that this question of conflict of interest and public trust is perennial; it goes back to the beginning of democracy. When there is a tyrant or tyranny, no one cares about the trust that should be placed in tyrants. Tyrants rule by terror.

Remember the maxim of Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily: oderint dum metuant, let them hate me, as long as they fear me. He governed by means of terror, as do all the world's tyrants.

But we are in a democracy, and even in Rome, at the beginning of the Republic, Madam Speaker, you will remember that one of the ways for an ambitious young man to go into politics was to accuse a proconsul returning from a distant province in order to force him to account for his management. That is how Cicero, for example, distinguished himself in his fight against Verres, a proconsul of a Roman province who had lined his own pockets and had to make restitution after Cicero, an eager young lawyer and ambitious politician, had convicted him.

We are dealing here with a basic responsibility and we know that the obligation of integrity for elected officials concerns not only the traditional rules of morality and the traditional virtues. Of course, these are constraining, but politicians are

September 1, 1988

Conflict of Interest

more obliged to be honest, to use a general term, than an individual in private life is required to be honest with his employer. This is because politics also affects the stability of institutions and the very essence of democracy. Every time a politician does something wrong, not only are ethical standards violated, but the strength and credibility of the State are also affected. This is very serious and it imposes an additional obligation.

One must also realize that things have evolved, of course. Like it or not, we all sometimes say, "when I was young," or "In my father's or grandfather's day, people were more honest." I do not believe that is true. 1 believe that we are really witnessing a positive development in institutions and public attitudes. For instance, it is very obvious that morals have evolved and have become more refined as democratic standards have grown more sophisticated, to the extent that what was acceptable 50 years ago no longer is so these days. The extremely clear and evident outcome is that politicians- men and women alike-simply have to be better, if you will, more rigorous than their predecessors.

From day to day, from one year to the next, and from one Government to another, an extremely difficult adaptation has to be made in keeping with the rising expectations of the people, and these expectations can readily be perceived with respect to controls, for example. One of the essential controls these days-not the only one, yet patently basic-is the one exercised by the media.

The media are ever more vigilant. I, for one, do not believe they ought to be taken to task, for they are the realistic image of a parallel phenomenon between public expectations, higher democratic standards, and additional media responsibilities. As guardians of public life and of a minimum of integrity and decency in public endeavours, the media as well must shoulder heavier responsibilities in response to the expectations of the people.

Of course this highlights the fact that public life is becoming ever more trying, that sometimes one wonders why anybody would want to go into politics, that sometimes when a decision has to be made one would even ask the question: should I jump into this lion's den? Should 1 agree to give up most of my own private activities to meet the new requirements of political life? And so we now find ourselves in a position such that we have to make an assessment in the context of the rules governing public life.

Madam Speaker, you are looking at a Bill introduced by a Government which did experience some difficulties and did make the odd mistake with respect to problems of this kind. If we forget all about the acrimonious political and biased debates, if we forget all about the passions which prevail in our obviously partisan proceedings in a venue such as this one, and when we take a closer look at ourselves, we come to realize that such problems have always been part and parcel of political activities and that, generally speaking, they have been much more complex than others we may have experienced during the first years of this Government.

I suggest it would be frivolous and vain to put on trial all Governments which preceded us in Ottawa. We could list names and identify people. We are all aware of the facts of public life. We have all been affected by the news which were published in the newspapers. We could mention a series of episodes throughout the Canadian history, but we will not, Madam Speaker, for fear of losing sight of the main purpose of this legislative initiative.

Madam Speaker, the main purpose is to look to the future, to meet the expectations of Canadian citizens, in order to prevent a repetition of what happened under a Government in 1910, under another Government in 1920 and again in the years after that. And the perfect place to start is right here.

It is not the newspapermen and reporters who can devise an enforceable system. It is not our fellow citizens watching television in their own homes who can change things. This is our responsibility. If we cannot achieve this here, nobody will. The buck stops here! If we should allow the system to continue as it has until now, Madam Speaker, we are well aware that all the Governments which will follow us, because they are made up of fallible human beings, will be exposed to temptations. All Governments are made up of human beings.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

An Hon. Member:

Oh, oh!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Lucien Bouchard (Secretary of State of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bouchard (Lac-Saint-Jean):

Listen! I know that the person who has the floor should remain indifferent to all these shouts, but since I am not as thick-skinned as my hon. colleagues, I should like to be able to say quietly what I have to say, without being interrupted by all these untimely remarks, Madam Speaker. This is undoubtedly the rule of the game here and one should be able to accept that. However, I am extremely disappointed to realize that it is impossible in this House to say anything significant, to deal with basic issues, and to meet the expectations of Canadian voters. I was chosen by 50,000 people and sent here to say what I have to say, and I should like to be able to do so without being exposed to constant harassment.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

Some Hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Lucien Bouchard (Secretary of State of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bouchard (Lac-Saint-Jean):

I know, Madam Speaker, that this will not stop people from screaming, but I will go on.

I was saying, Madam Speaker, that every one of us, wherever we sit in this Chamber, will be held accountable by history for this exercise we are engaged in. Little by little, we are in the process together, whether we agree or not, of making things progress, of advancing the exercise of democracy in Canada.

Considering what we have done in the past two years, although I was not here, I believe I have reason enough to be proud of being a Member of this Government which, for the first time, has enacted regulations under which the process for the appointment of judges will be more impartial and objective than ever before. I am not saying, far from it, that bad appoitments have been made, that judges who are now dispensing justice in Canada are not good judges.

September 1, 1988

On the contrary. I have practiced law for 20 years and I can testify that justice in Canada is in good hands, that we have judges who are responsible and at all times aware of their obligations. That being said, the situation must also be perceived as being such; citizens must be certain that the judges appointment process creates the widest possible range of options. We must put an end to the practice of appointing judges because they happen to be members of a Party. We could keep on appointing the best judicial minds within a party and they would prove to be very good judges. However, people would not like a criterion based on partisan politics. The judges appointment process must be diversified. I will not name any names; I do not want to hark back to the past. I believe that we must keep improving the system.

This Government is the first Government in the history of Canada, the first Government in the history of this democracy that has enacted regulations stipulating that eligibility lists must be made up without any intervention by the Government in order to allow a better selection.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

An Hon. Member:

Not true!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Lucien Bouchard (Secretary of State of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bouchard (Lac-Saint-Jean):

It is also this Government, Madam Speaker, which introduced the very important bill on lobbyists registration, in an attempt to deal with a phenomenon common to all democracies in the world, which is the fact that powerful interests can afford to be represented in the national capital by people who are well acquainted with the government machinery, who often know decision makers personally and can therefore sometimes have more influence on a decision, good or bad, than ordinary citizens in the course of their daily occupations who, of course, have no such influence.

It is therefore very important. We cannot prevent people from being represented here, from promoting their points of view. It is a fundamental rule of our democracy that everyone must have freedom of expression. But those whose interests can be represented on a systematic basis must at least be forced to indentify themselves. People must know who is lobbying here, and for what interests and the extent to which they can influence decision making. Here is a government that, for the first time in the history of Canada, has accomplished that. And now this Government wants to go one step further and pass this bill, as I hope it will, with the unanimous support of all Members of this House who can hardly object to legislation so beneficial for democracy.

There was a code of conduct, a code of ethics referred to as a conflict of interest code, but it was not backed by legislation. In a society like ours, there is no substitute for the rule of law. The rule of law is democracy at its best, because it is lasting, because it can be supervised by the courts and because it provides all the necessary guarantees that the desired goals will be reached.

Conflict of Interest

What is being proposed to the House and the citizens of Canada is a set of very important restrictions that this country's elected representatives who are here today will apply to themselves and, through this legislation, to subsequent governments and parliamentarians. I believe it is a measure whose time has come. I do not believe it will make things any easier for people, but we need it just the same. Not just because we think people are dishonest, but there are always exceptions, and we must keep those exceptions to a minimum. The parties themselves must be very vigilant with respect to their own members, each individual must be personally vigilant. We must realize that people have to protect themselves. We have to protect the public, of course, but we must also protect their elective representatives.

We are living at a time, and I have seen this in the four months I have been here ... I have done a number of things in my life. I have been involved in the private sector, where I practised law for a number of years. I was in Paris, where I had the privilege of representing Canada as its Ambassador to France. I know what it's like to be under pressure and to be rushed all the time, but I never imagined, Madam Speaker, that political life could be as stressful, as arduous and as disruptive as it is. Major decisions are made daily in Cabinet and in the House, fundamental decisions that affect Canada's future. They are sometimes taken very quickly, and there are all kinds of priorities that intervene in the life of a man or a woman who is involved in politics. It is very easy to overlook something. And it is very easy to forget the importance of how we are perceived. In politics, perception is far more than just that.

Some people think politics have become a matter of image. I agree that the emphasis on image has been increasing. Yesterday, for instance, we saw people who took advantage of the visual aspect of our proceedings to show the Canadian flag and to wave it as if it were their personal flag and as if Members who did not have a flag in their hands, in front of the camera, were excluded from that national identity. No, I agree the emphasis on image has increased. However, in politics image is far more than that, just as perception is more than perception. In politics, perception is one aspect of reality. When Canadians see the Government at work and when they see all the inner workings of that Government which are so complicated and so difficult to control, they must have the assurance that there are controls and guidelines to which men and women in public life, to which politicians can refer in their daily decision-making.

That is why I believe we must vote in favour of this legislation which will protect us, which will give us control, and which seeks to strike a balance with a concept that is equally delicate: the concept of privacy.

September 1, 1988

Conflict of Interest

Last week, the Canadian Bar Association held a convention and a conference in Montreal. The main conference was on the limits of privacy for politicians in relation to the media. And a Member of this House, a Member of an Opposition Party, also attended this extremely interesting discussion. Perhaps since it took place outside this Chamber, it was at least somewhat unemotional and objective. There was a very worth-while exchange of views with distinguished representatives of the Canadian media also present. It was clearly apparent that there was a fundamental problem, which I believe this Bill is trying to correct, because we all recognize more and more that respect for individual rights and liberties in a society like ours implies that anyone is entitled to his or her freedom and privacy.

On the other hand, we all know too that the press has an extremely important role to play in watching over politicians and what they do. But where do the rights of one stop and the obligations of the other begin? That is a good question, an extremely important one. So it is a dangerous situation if in future being a politician means giving up one's private life. I find that prospect horrifying and personally, I do not agree that we can ask politicians to give up their private lives, because without it, they would become monsters. You cannot live without at least some private life. I believe that it would be very dangerous to have people who had to give up their private lives controlling the levers of power. They could easily become unbalanced and lose sight of reality; they need to keep in touch with poetry, with nature and with the real world.

Now, this Bill seeks to strike a balance by requiring politicians to disclose their assets. If this is done publicly, it may violate one's privacy. A commission is therefore created to receive this information, which it will have to keep secret. I think that this combines the obligations of democracy and respect for privacy very well.

1 see that my time is almost up. I will have to try to conclude. I shall conclude, if you allow me, Madam Speaker. We have a very important decision to make. I hope that we can set aside our partisan differences. I hope that we will not lose sight of the fundamental interests of this country and of democracy.

1 hope that when we vote on this Bill, we look to the future- the distant future, not the immediate future-not the future of partisan concerns, but the future of the public interest of Canada. That is what we are all here for.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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LIB

Sheila Maureen Copps

Liberal

Ms. Copps:

Madam Speaker, just how much credibility can this Bill generate if we consider that the former Minister, the Hon. Member for York-Peel (Mr. Stevens), who was found guilty in 14 cases of conflicts of interests, will be running as a candidate in the forthcoming election, with the blessing of the Prime Minister? So where is the credibility in this measure? [English]

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Lucien Bouchard (Secretary of State of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bouchard (Lac-Saint-Jean):

Madam Speaker, I would remind everyone in the House that what we are dealing with today is a measure to establish a system which will look to and address the problems of the future. We are trying to prevent any Government-ours or Governments formed by other

Parties-from having the type of problems that we have seen over the course of the history of Canada.

I was a witness to what happened in Quebec. During the forties and fifties the Government of Quebec was very much considered all over Canada, as well as in Quebec itself by many people, as being corrupt. It was a very bad thing for the image of Quebec. It stained the image of Quebec. I was very young at that time. Many people like myself admired people such as Jean Marchand, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Gerard Pelletier, Claude Ryan, and Rene Levesque. Many of those people fought against the Government then in power in Quebec, and suffered a lot from the image that that gave to Quebec.

In Quebec in the 1960s and 1970s we adopted laws such as this one which succeeded in cleaning up the image of Quebec. For many years now Quebec has been a model of honesty. I hope it will always be the same. It is the case because people in Quebec had the courage to stand up in the House and propose legislation such as this.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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NDP

John R. Rodriguez (Deputy Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Rodriguez:

The Secretary of State (Mr. Bouchard) made a very nice speech. No one could disagree with some of the sentiments expressed: a clean slate, look to the future, bad practices of the past, and politics should not be image. Fine words!

The Hon. Minister belongs to a Party that made image the issue. Everyone knows in this country that the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney) was a great believer in the image-maker. The Minister's presence in Parliament followed a by-election where the Government and the Prime Minister had stated we should never buy voters with their own money. He bought his seat in the House with over $100 million.

When this Bill leaves so many loopholes, how can the Minister say "look to the future", when there is what we call the "Gucci" clause which eliminates the declaration of moneys loaned or advanced to Party leaders? Why does the Bill have the loophole that there be no public disclosure? Why does the Bill set up a quasi-judicial body, a bureaucrat, to decide what will be made public, if anything at all? Why is there no abandonment of the blind trust, after Justice Parker, with millions of dollars of taxpayers' money, gave us advice on what a Bill such as this should contain? How can the Minister talk about looking to the future when we have a Bill that is so obviously flawed, or is it just empty rhetoric and nice professorial treatises about what a conflict of interest Bill should contain? I would ask the Minister to come to grips with those types of questions before lecturing Canadians.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Lucien Bouchard (Secretary of State of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bouchard (Lac-Saint-Jean):

I essentially thank the Hon. Member for giving me the opportunity to say what I think about a few things. First, those sleazy sayings about the Prime Minister, and the "Gucci" clause, and things like that, I am sure are some of the reasons for which many good people will always refuse to become involved in politics and serve Canada. When they see that those things can be said in the House, false things-

September 1, 1988

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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NDP

John R. Rodriguez (Deputy Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Rodriguez:

Come on!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Lucien Bouchard (Secretary of State of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bouchard (Lac-Saint-Jean):

I personally know the Prime Minister. He is one of the most honest men I know in the world. He is a friend of 25 years. 1 would not be in politics and be here if I did not believe that the Prime Minister is a man of great honesty. It is completely disgraceful that people in the House of Commons, at this great historical moment when we speak about adoption of great legislation for the future, think about the shoes of the Prime Minister.

There is one further thing I want to say about my election. I could not answer any questions previously, because nobody ever asked a question before in the House and I have been here for four months. I read all the rubbish in the newspapers about the fact that my seat was bought. A few days ago in the newspaper 1 read that $1.5 billion was spent to buy my election in Lac-Saint-Jean. That is awful. It was a perfectly clean election, and no money was spent to buy anything.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Bouchard) simply announced that the pavement of the airport would be redone. That has been a project for four years, and it simply came up at that time, and it is only $1.10 million. We established a fund of $1.4 billion to create jobs, and that is all, and a few things like that.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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LIB

Sheila Maureen Copps

Liberal

Ms. Copps:

A few millions here and a few millions there.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Lucien Bouchard (Secretary of State of Canada)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bouchard (Lac-Saint-Jean):

The Opposition attempts to make the people believe that the federal-provincial announcement of $120 million for the development of the region of Saguenay, Lac-Saint-Jean, was tied to my election. It is ridiculous, everybody knows that, and the opposition Members know it themselves perfectly well. It was simply the renewal of the framework agreement between Quebec and Ottawa, signed each five years, for the development of the regions of Quebec. It was late, it was due, and it has been waited for and expected for four or five months, and it was only announced then.

It was also announced that the Government would spend $100 million for the cleaning of the St. Lawrence River. Opposition Members all attribute that to my election. 1 must say that I am very proud that the Government assumed its responsibilities for the environment and the cleaning of the St. Lawrence. It would be a scandal not to do so.

In conclusion, one has to accept such things in politics, and I know it. It is very difficult. I am sure more and more we will see fewer people ready to accept it.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Andrée Champagne (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Champagne):

Order, please. The question and comment period has expired. Resuming debate. The Hon. Member for Hamilton East (Ms. Copps).

Conflict of Interest

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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LIB

Sheila Maureen Copps

Liberal

Ms. Sheila Copps (Hamilton East):

Madam Speaker, I am damned surprised that a Minister of the Crown would deliver ...

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEMBERS OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF COMMONS CONFLICT OF INTEREST ACT MEASURE TO AMEND
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September 1, 1988