Mr. Preston Manning (Leader of the Opposition, Ref.)
Madam Speaker, I wish to advise the House that I have written to the Speaker this morning seeking leave of the House to introduce a motion in accordance with Standing Order 52, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration.
I refer to the fact that two bills have been introduced in the Senate by the government and will be considered by the Senate before being considered by the Commons. While I recognize that this is an established practice, this practice in today's Parliament is outmoded and offensive to our democratic principles since the Senate is unelected, unaccountable and unrepresentative of the people of Canada.
In the days when the two dominant parties in the House and the Senate were of the same stripe, the introduction of government bills in the Senate may have been less offensive. However in the last two Parliaments there has been a shift in the political make-up of Canada. Three of the five parties in this House of Commons are not represented in the Senate at all. In addition the party which represents the opposition in the Senate represents less than 7% of the elected members of the House.
I believe that the procedures set out in Standing Order 52 will enable members of the House to immediately debate and communicate to the government that the upper house cannot be expected to fulfil the role of sober first thought since the senators represent a political composition which is a reflection of the past and, in particular, a reflection of patronage appointments of the defeated governments of Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney.
The Speaker's attention to this matter is appreciated.
Topic: Routine Proceedings
Subtopic: Request For Emergency Debate
The Chair thanks the hon. Leader of the Opposition for his remarks.
The Speaker received a letter from the hon. member expressing his intention to raise this matter. After careful consideration the Chair concludes that the application does not meet the terms of the standing order.
Topic: Routine Proceedings
Subtopic: Request For Emergency Debate
That this House condemns the attitude of the Government, which refuses to introduce in-depth reform of the legislation on the financing of federal political parties even though the existing legislation allows for a wide range of abuses.
Madam Speaker, I believe that you will find unanimous consent in the House on the following motion:
That at the conclusion of the present debate on the Opposition Motion, all questions necessary to dispose of this motion be deemed put and a recorded division be deemed demanded and deferred until Tuesday, October 21, 1997, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.
Madam Speaker, I will share my time with the hon. member for Laurentides.
This is the first opposition day for the Bloc Quebecois and the issue is the financing of federal political parties. It is all the more relevant in the current context, given the influence peddling allegations involving employees of the Liberal Party of Canada and of the government.
For about two weeks now, the opposition has been putting questions to the government, but the ministers either refuse to answer or give evasive or contradictory answers. At the very beginning, no one knew anything. Then, thanks to the honesty and perhaps the naivety of the Minister of Human Resources Development, we learned that a few ministers knew about the case. Later on, we discovered that an increasing number of ministers knew. I am convinced that, in the days or weeks to come, we will learn that the whole cabinet knew, except of course the Solicitor General who, I am sure, was not aware of the case.
This is somewhat surprising since in the Airbus case, which came to its conclusion this week, the then justice minister told us that, in such cases, the Solicitor General, not the Prime Minister, had to be informed first. This was the rule as they explained to us by referring to many precedents and to past practice. Today, everything is changed.
Let us set the record straight. On March 6, the Minister of Human Resources Development informed the RCMP of a possible case of influence peddling. He also told the Prime Minister, or his office—which amounts to the same thing, for when the Prime Minister's chief of staff is informed of something, he immediately tells it to the Prime Minister.
He told the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and the President of Treasury Board. The investigation began in mid-June, three months later. As you know, a general election was held in Canada during that period.
One wonders whether an election would have been called so early if allegations or revelations had not been made to the RCMP. Was it not therefore in the government's interest to call an election quickly? Alternatively, one wonders whether the investigation was postponed until after June 2 to avoid any embarrassment to the Liberal Party of Canada during the election campaign.
These two questions come to mind, given that the human resources minister said he informed those concerned. Just who were those concerned? The Prime Minister, since he is the one who calls the election. The Minister of Public Works and Government Services, not in this capacity—even though he gives out many contracts, 35% of which are awarded without tender—but rather as a political organizer for the Liberal Party of Canada in Quebec. He also notified the President of the Treasury Board, not in his capacity as President of the Treasury Board but as the federal minister responsible for Quebec.
One can wonder if it was not in the interest of the Prime Minister, who won his election, winning by a very narrow margin in his riding of Shawinigan, to keep this matter under wraps during the election campaign. One can also wonder what position it would have put them in if the Liberals had had to explain why they were using the same financing methods as the Conservatives, whose methods they denounced time and time again when in opposition. But they are using the same methods, as we have seen in this case. We may discover that the same thing happened in other regions of Canada as well. Quebec may not be unique with respect to financing.
I can just imagine the Minister of Public Works and Governmental Services explaining during the election campaign that his government's code of ethics is different from that of the Liberal Party of Canada. He stated that the Liberal Party was required to comply with the Criminal Code. The reverse would have been surprising. The fact is we are not sure any more, since these allegations were made.
When they talk about their code of ethics, we must ask ourselves: what ethics? It is like the Lourdes or Fatima secret. Revelations are made about something that is never made public. We are aware of the existence of a code, but not of its contents.
It is also surprising that the matter was not submitted to cabinet to ensure government integrity. I am surprised because we are dealing with a system that connects the federal government to the Liberal Party of Canada as far as financing is concerned. The Minister of Human Resources Development told us that confidential lists are handed over to the ministers responsible for the various regions. The minister responsible for Quebec, who is also the President of the Treasury Board, told us, although this was said outside this House, he received confidential listings not only from Human Resources Development Canada but also from other departments.
It was interesting to learn about that yesterday, not during oral questions however, because the minister would not answer. He had more to say outside the House, but what he said was nonetheless interesting.
A member of the minister's staff is under investigation, yet the minister does nothing. That is surprising. He did nothing yesterday and nothing today.
We might ask whether the President of the Treasury Board is the godfather of the government. We might ask. We might also ask whether his department is the clearing house for influence peddling, which can only be explained by the weakness of federal legislation on the funding of political parties.
The deputy minister did not act in order to protect government integrity. The Prime Minister did not think it wise to inform the other ministers of the danger that threatened the government as the result of the actions of his party.
The leader of the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister are, until proven otherwise, one and the same person. What one knows, the other should know. It is strange though that he did not inform his cabinet of the allegations.
This is why legislation on political party funding in Canada must be reformed. This is why the federal government should turn to the laws of Quebec for inspiration. They are, and I use the word advisedly, unique in Canada. These are the laws that the Liberal Party of Canada and the other federal parties ignored in the last referendum. They came and told us how much they loved us, spending all the money they wanted.
This morning, the Supreme Court of Canada invalidated the Quebec referendum act, while the federal government, sitting under the weight of allegations, has no such legislation. We can see that the Supreme Court, biased as it is, is under the control of a regime that puts partisan interests before ethics. That is where things are at today.
Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I was shocked to hear the words of the leader of the party opposite. The words that have been used here today are, at a minimum, contemptuous of the Supreme Court of Canada but they also potentially undermine the entire legal system in this country. They undermine the federation.
I would like to ask the party leader who spoke these words to withdraw them. In the absence of a withdrawal I think he must, like a child, carry these words with him for a very long time.
I am not prepared to sit here and have the Supreme Court of Canada trashed in this House. I would ask him to consider withdrawing and speaking in a more temperate fashion about our high court.