February 17, 2004

LIB

Reg Alcock

Liberal

Hon. Reg Alcock

He was not talking about Mr. Corbeil. He was talking about the ambassador to Denmark. He made a very specific allegation. I would ask him to put evidence on the table.

That is the problem with this debate. I have yet to hear from that party a single substantive contribution on this issue, not one.

I can tell those members that there are members in this party who care, such as the member from New Westminster. I hope he speaks today, because I know he is an individual who has studied this and cares deeply about public management. I know he has a contribution to make, as do others.

The right hon. member for Calgary Centre, at a time in his life after he left the leadership of that party and could have gone off and written his memoirs, came and sat as a member of the standing committee on government operations because he cares passionately about our public service and the public services we deliver. He participated every step of the way with that committee because he can make a substantive contribution, as can the member from New Westminster.

The member for Winnipeg Centre spent a long time on this issue of whistleblowing and protecting public servants. Actually, there was a Bloc member on the committee who has since seen the light, but that does not take away from the Bloc's position. I want to say this quite clearly: in Quebec, they have some of the best privacy legislation in the country. They have some of the best election finance legislation. I am a little annoyed at some of the stuff that comes from across the floor here. The election finance legislation that we put in place was modelled on the best regime in the country and that is the one that is in place in Quebec. If people want to talk about problems and want to assign that to a particular region, is Grant Devine from Quebec? Is Glen Clark from Quebec? I am tired of that.

I think that members would do this country a service if they ratcheted down the rhetoric and personal smears and focused on solutions. I know we can solve this problem, and if the members think that they are a government in waiting, a government in waiting has to have ideas because the Canadian people reject this other debate.

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BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I think the President of the Treasury Board is trying to cloud the issue. The issue at the heart of the motion of the Conservative Party, and the current debate throughout Quebec and Canada, is truly the culture of waste and scandal within this Liberal government. It used, perhaps for national unity purposes, taxpayers' money. Nonetheless, the government is not fooling anyone. The primary goal was to promote the Liberal Party of Canada, particularly in Quebec.

I would like the President of the Treasury Board to comment on this culture of waste. It is manifest in many ways, such as in the fact that, from 1997 to 2002, when the Prime Minister was the Minister of Finance, federal government operating expenditures increased by 40%, which is twice the increase in operating expenditures of the governments of Quebec and Ontario.

There was also the Human Resources Development Canada scandal; a billion dollars vanished who knows where. There was the Business Development Bank scandal with the loans to the Auberge Grand-Mère and also the firearms registry fiasco. Nearly $2 billion was wasted in administering this registry. There was also the sponsorship scandal. Is this not too many coincidences to try to appear blameless in the eyes of Canadians and Quebeckers?

I would like him to comment on this series of scandals and tell us that the government and the Liberal Party have not had anything to do with all these facts. These are facts.

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LIB

Reg Alcock

Liberal

Hon. Reg Alcock

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. I have addressed some of this and I will come back to it.

On the motion that is before the House, it says:

--the liberal government has and continues to nurture a culture of corruption through the abuse of its influence and the use of public funds for personal benefit--

I think it is a rather substantial charge to say that the government is using public funds for personal benefit. If the member has evidence of that, he should put it on the table. It is fine to engage in the hot debate and let us go to it.

The HRDC billion dollar boondoggle was debated in the House. We still hear about it every day. The billion dollar boondoggle is $65,000 in spending that was unaccounted for. It was not $1 billion but $65,000.

The member says, picking up on a report from some mathematical wizard, that the gun registry has cost us $2 billion. The gun registry to date has cost us $814 million, a little less than $100 million a year and that includes the development cost. The reality is it will end up costing us somewhere around $65 million to $68 million to operate.

The Canadian food institute would cost us, using that same calculation, $500 million a year for 10 years, some $5 billion to provide absolute protection of our food to keep it safe. Do I hear the member complaining about that?

The fact is in a country of this size, to deliver services to people to protect their safety costs money. The services should be delivered as efficiently and as effectively as they can be. I guarantee that we will do everything we can, with the involvement of other members, to see that that happens. Those members have to live up to their responsibilities also. One of them is not to simply come forward with allegations and smears but to come forward with ideas. I am listening. I am going to read every word that is spoken in the House. I want to hear some ideas.

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BQ

Claude Bachand

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Claude Bachand (Saint-Jean, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague for Lotbinière—L'Érable.

In my opinion, we have just had a clear demonstration by the President of the Treasury Board of what is wrong in this House and in the Canadian Parliament.

The President of Treasury Board tells us, with such arrogance, “I am the one with the figures, the only one with the figures. All the opposition members are barking up the wrong tree, and do not have the right figures.” The news media are all being told the same thing when they criticize the scandals: “You don't have your figures right. I am the only one with the right ones.”

The problem with the Liberal Party, now and in recent years is arrogance. And it is losing it

Yesterday I heard the Prime Minister, who pretty well did the rounds of the TV media in Canada. He was trying to explain that what was going on was terrible, that he was terribly upset, disgusted, found it unacceptable, absolutely inadmissible. But he has been reacting this way only lately.

When he was Minister of Finance, he did not react this way. On the contrary, he played at “see no evil, hear no evil”, even “smell no evil”. Yet he was well aware of what was going on.

So we do not buy them telling us now that the Prime Minister knew nothing of it when he was finance minister. He was after all in charge of finance, that is, number 1 in Quebec and number 2 in Treasury Board. It is not true that he knew nothing.

After he was on TVA yesterday, a listener poll was carried out and 98% of respondents said “We do not believe the PM”. Only 2% did believe him.

This is pretty logical when we look at the tissue of lies around this whole affair. There is nothing complicated about it. They are all ministers. They are all Liberals. They are all people who have worked with them, people in ad agencies, or vice versa. Even in the Crown corporations, the ones involved were all people with past Liberal connections.

Today they are trying to convince us that no one knew what was going on. It is too much. The Liberal Party of Canada is being undone by its arrogance.

What with Groupaction, Polygone, Coffin, Everest, do you think they were not fed up hearing this and seeing the Canadian flag flapping everywhere, on every street corner in Saint-Jean and everywhere else in Quebec? Every time some event took place, there it was. People were not taken in.

They understood that at a time when it was hard to find funding for public services and education in Quebec, Ottawa was investing money in flags to drive home the message that federalism and the representatives of federalism par excellence, the Liberal Party, were our only defenders.

The money did not go where the people of Quebec wanted it to and they reacted badly. That is why there is such a furor today. “Finally,” they say, “what we sensed at the time, what we thought was not right at the time—it has come out now”.

The Bloc is proud to say that we are the ones who uncovered this scandal. It was not the Liberal MPs from Quebec. They knew what was going on in Quebec, but they did not talk about it. It was the Bloc, once again, who did its work by asking an impressive 441 questions in 4 years.

Now the Prime Minister, who was there for all these questions, would like us to believe that he went back to his office after question period and did not ask any questions and did not say, “There is something odd here. There seem to be a lot of questions about this subject”.

Let no one try to tell us that the Prime Minister went back to his office and all was business as usual. That cannot be. Moreover, he did have some trouble with the letter from the Liberal policy chair, who told him in 2002, “I am sending you a letter because there is a problem. You must look into it”. Now we are told that the letter was lost. Nevertheless, the letter appeared on the front page of the National Post , and it was picked up by all the media.

Consequently, there is a major problem. For the crown corporations, it is a terrible scandal. Of course, we know who André Ouellet is. He is a former minister of Foreign Affairs, number 3 person in the government at the time. He is someone important. He was up to his neck in it. Canada Post, of course, was up to its neck. There were many other companies that were up to their necks, too, including VIA Rail. In my opinion, the most amazing is the RCMP. Now the RCMP has had to ask the Sûreté du Québec, “Please do our investigations, because things do not look good”.

It has become almost a political police. We never doubted it at the time. I would rather not remind you of the 1970 crisis, but what we have here is even bigger. These are people whose job it is to investigate individuals suspected of wrongdoing and we discover they too are involved in the business.

There is something really wrong with this government, and people are noticing now. It should not come as a surprise to the Liberal Party, then, if this stirs up such a furor. People have had it. In this place, we hear fine Liberal rhetoric about their being democrats and transparent, but the truth is the opposite. On every issue, the opposition is kept in the dark. A few officials in ministerial circles are making all the decisions. That is what happened in this scandal.

Do not tell me that no one knew anything. We suspect that everyone did. That is the Liberals' defence. They are still as arrogant as ever. Evidence of that is what the President of the Treasury Board just said, accusing the opposition of saying any odd thing and throwing figures around. Well, I am sorry but I think that our figures are accurate. I think that the people are currently siding with those who provided the right figures, instead of those who are continuing to hide behind their arrogance, claiming that nobody else has the right figures, that they have all the information, that they are going to make everything right and that the opposition and the public need only follow them and trust them.

I think the remarks the Prime Minister made to the media were pathetic; he was really eager to exonerate himself. When I saw the polls, I realized I was not alone. In fact, 98% of those polled do not believe the Prime Minister. The PM himself had problems with a number of companies. He wanted to have his own companies listed as well to provide marketing services to the government.

What can we say too about the information made public yesterday on Earnscliffe Strategy? There was $6 million in contracts, most of it granted by the former finance minister and current Prime Minister for verbal reports. This reminds me a bit of Groupaction. What are we to think about the famous report that cost ten ministers $27,000 each for the exact same report? This seems awfully similar to when the Groupaction scandal was uncovered; that company had provided three photocopies of the same document for $500,000 per copy.

The corruption goes quite deep. A public inquiry will not save this government. It will likely delay things. That is why we would like to have a preliminary report. I can, however, say one thing: whether there is an election this spring or fall, or in the spring or fall of 2005, the Liberal Party has made a monumental error and people have now had enough.

I am also sick of hearing members opposite and people across Canada say that Quebec politicians are a corrupt group. We are the victims here. We broke the scandal, and today, people want to tell Quebeckers that this is how we play politics. As proof, the minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario said some nasty things two days ago in his private journal. Perhaps he thought that we would never find out, but we happen to have some contacts. We received a brown envelope and we found out about it.

I am a little sick of being blamed for this. We are the victims here. About 25% of this money belongs to Quebeckers, and it was used to fund an unscrupulous deal to shower Quebec with Canadian flags. People are a bit sick of this.

The Prime Minister retroactively saved $100 million in taxes thanks to a bill. He said that he obtained $137,000 in federal government contracts, when he really got $161 million.

People are sick of it. In Quebec, it is even more obvious. A public inquiry is not going to fix things for the Liberal Party, but the voters are going to. No matter when an election is called, we will be waiting for the Liberals in Quebec . Their actions are unacceptable, and they will pay the political price.

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BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask hon. member for Saint-Jean the same question I asked the President of the Treasury Board.

The President of the Treasury Board argues that we are trying to blame the federal public service for all the problems. To talk of problems in this case is an understatement. The word scandals describes the Liberal reign in the past decade.

In the hon. member's opinion, is the fact that operating expenditures increased by 40% in 5 years while the Prime Minister was finance minister, when spending in Ontario and Quebec increased only half as much part of the culture of waste?

The HRDC scandal—the billion dollars that vanished into thin air--the scandal of the Business Development Bank of Canada loan to the Auberge Grand-Mère; the scandal of the firearms registry—nearly $2 billion, which everyone knows about except the President of the Treasury Board--and the latest, the sponsorship scandal, are they coincidences or are they evidence of the culture of waste and of the scandal marking this government?

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BQ

Claude Bachand

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Claude Bachand

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Joliette, who is an excellent economist. He probably knows the answer to many of his questions. He is giving me the opportunity to say that indeed, the culture of waste is widespread within the Liberal Party. Unfortunately, this occurs at a time when there is fiscal imbalance in the provinces. The provinces have to provide all the services, and the government transfers very little money. And meanwhile does not keep its own house in order.

The gun control issue is truly despicable. The program was supposed to cost $2 million. I do not want to contradict the President of the Treasury Board, but at last count, the program has cost $2 billion--1,000 times more.

In Quebec, we have nothing to learn from the Liberal Party when it comes to managing public funds. We manage them and we do not have the means to waste anything because we are not getting enough funding. After stealing from the unemployed and cutting transfer payments, they think they can waste everything.

My colleague from Joliette has done excellent work with a former PQ minister in examining the waste and lack of spending control within the current Liberal government. In the provinces, this seems to be much more controlled and much better managed.

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CA

Howard Hilstrom

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, last night on the national news the Prime Minister said, “the Liberal Party is not corrupt”. That is the exact statement he made. It reminded me of that famous United States president who said, “I am not a crook”.

I think that the public service, as mentioned by the President of the Treasury Board, is not corrupt. We know that. The public servants of this country are great. But someplace there is corruption in this whole mess of the sponsorship program. If it is not the public servants, which the President of the Treasury Board has assured me it is not, and I know that myself as I was in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 30 years, then where is the corruption?

The corruption then can only rise up to the political level. At the political level there is very little difference between me and the Conservative Party and little difference between the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party.

Seeing that this type of contract shenanigans is happening in all provinces across the country, including Quebec, who does the member think is actually responsible in the end for this mess?

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BQ

Claude Bachand

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Claude Bachand

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question because it is a question of accountability. I agree with my colleague. Naturally the Prime Minister knew what was going on. It is corruption from top to bottom.

Let us look at how the Prime Minister has reacted since the beginning of this scandal. He started by saying that a handful of officials were to blame. After that, he expanded by saying that it was the former regime and he was not involved. Next he tried to say that political masters were likely involved. Indeed, this could not have gone unnoticed by the political masters.

The Bloc Quebecois is saying that the current Prime Minister was one of the political masters. He knew what was going on. Yes, the regime is corrupt from top to bottom and I think the voters know it. They are waiting for an election to settle their score with the Liberal Party.

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BQ

Odina Desrochers

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Odina Desrochers (Lotbinière—L'Érable, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, our presence here today is the result of a political event that occurred in October 1995, the referendum. Fifteen days before the referendum, the polls clearly showed that the Yes camp was winning.

So, there was panic here in the House of Commons, particularly among the federal Liberals. Quebeckers had to be shown that Canada was a beautiful country and an ad campaign was needed to do that. That is why the sponsorship program was created, and that is also where everything started, like the famous love-in held two days prior to the referendum.

So, when I am told in the House that the current Prime Minister, all of the current ministers and all of the federal Liberal members did not know what was happening, I must say I have serious doubts because everyone knew that Jean Chrétien's Liberal government had to flex its muscles to save the country. That is what we were told by the person who set up this program when he testified in July 2002 about the sponsorship and Groupaction scandals.

Do you know what Mr. Guité said? “We were at war. Something had to be done. The separatists were going to win”. What more proof do we have to give here in the House? The sponsorship scandal is inextricably linked to the future of Quebeckers. Now, today, they are trying to tell us that the present PM did not know what was going on.

I remember my days on the public accounts committee when we tried to have some witnesses appear who could cast some light on this. You should have seen the stonewalling that went on, as the federal Liberals systematically prevented the Standing Committee on Public Accounts from doing its job.

Today we hear from the new President of the Treasury Board. It was he who opposed those amendments, before the present Prime Minister came along, when we were debating the importance of the Public Service Act and when the Bloc and the NDP were trying to introduce amendments to protect public servants who might act as whistle blowers about ministerial political interference. The Liberals themselves blocked those amendments to Bill C-25.

This morning, it is quite fantastic what the President of Treasury Board can say when he talks to us about democracy and transparency. I need not remind hon. members that, the night before the Auditor General's first appearance to explain the content of her report, an emissary of the PMO called together the Liberal members of the Public Accounts Committee. I would call that interference and controlling behaviour.

Today they are trying to make us believe that transparency and democracy exist among the Liberals, but I am not buying it. You know what the press is saying today? Today's headlines describe the PM's actions of yesterday as “damage control mode”, in other words that he was in a panic. Do hon. members want to know what the PM reminds me of with his protestations of not being aware, that he will clean house, that he is outraged, and so on? He reminds me of someone who claims to have left his past behind, but then keeps on talking about it. After two hours of hearing about it, one is tempted to say “Hey there, you have not left your past behind you at all”.

That is what the Prime Minister is doing now. He keeps on saying he knew nothing, keeps on saying his government will change its behaviour, change its mentality, that his government will become the most democratic government anyone has ever seen in this House of Commons.

That is a monumental joke. The people of Quebec are starting to react to what the Prime Minister intends to do, because it knows that the sponsorship scandal is intimately related to our national future.

If current polls are clearly showing that the Bloc Quebecois has made significant gains in Quebec, regardless of what happens in coming months, this means that the people of Quebec understand what took place in October 1995. It means that Quebeckers are a good, proud, and different people.

There are phone-in radio show hosts, in Toronto and Vancouver, and even a minister who are currently suggesting that this whole issue is indicative of Quebec's way of doing things. We have certainly never seen anything of the sort.

The current Prime Minister, who proclaims himself a Quebecker, should take more aggressive action to stand up for Quebec when under such attacks. There is more to come. Anytime the Quebec people sets out to achieve sovereignty, these kinds of racist remarks pop up all over the place in English Canada. Forgotten are all the nice things said in Montreal, one day or two before the referendum.

Light will definitely be shed on this issue. The Standing Committee on Public Accounts has set the process in motion. On Thursday, we will have a meeting where the Auditor General and officials from the three departments concerned will try to explain the complex nature of this program. There are so many complexities that it is hard to make out the authors. All this was apparently done without any political interference.

Now we can see one president after another speak up. André Ouellet said he did not know what was going on at Canada Post. Jean Pelletier—and this is worse—is Jean Chrétien's former chief of staff and now heads VIA Rail. He would have us believe that he knew nothing.

I look forward to hearing what Alfonso Gagliano has to say. He made us a promise and I hope he will keep it. He said he did not want to comment on a political situation while posted in Denmark, but would clarify the whole situation upon his return to Canada. I am sure that, listening to Alfonso Gagliano, there are ministers from Quebec, federal Liberal ministers, who are going to blush.

We are talking about a Prime Minister who says he was not in the loop. It is funny that the same day the report was tabled he held a press conference to announce his measures. He preferred to speak to the media rather than to Parliament. The next day he said that it was a small group. When he felt that people were beginning to have increasing difficulty believing him, he went back to the media at 1:30 p.m., to tell the journalists that it was no longer just a small group, but that it was quite a lot bigger than he thought and that there was some political direction involved.

Not only are the polls unanimous, but all of our colleagues were discussing it when they returned to the House. On the weekend, no one was talking about anything else. We heard how revolted the people felt, especially since this Prime Minister had made cuts in transfer payments for health care and education and in employment insurance, so that the government and good friends could make millions and millions of dollars. That is unacceptable. It does not matter whether the election happens on May 4, May 10, in the fall, or in 2005, the people of Quebec are going to say, “Liberals, begone”.

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CA

Howard Hilstrom

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member from the Bloc was on the agriculture committee with me. I would like to talk for a few seconds about the dollars and cents being thrown around about this business.

The Treasury Board minister was talking about a 1/2000th spending of the total federal government involving this corruption, even though that adds up to $100 million which I believe is what the Auditor General said. Right now there are potato farmers in P.E.I. and farmers and ranchers out west particularly in the cattle business who are suffering to the point of having to use the food banks to feed their families. That is the gospel truth. The average Canadian is sitting out there listening to us discuss hundreds of millions of dollars, especially the Treasury Board minister, as if it was just a mere pittance of no concern. These people are starving to death and financially are going to ruin.

I would ask the member to relate the dollars and cents that are being thrown around here, or perhaps it should be the lack of sense. How do they relate to the average person, in particular the beef farmers who are suffering so badly today?

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BQ

Odina Desrochers

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Odina Desrochers

Mr. Speaker, in fact, in the agricultural sector we are getting crumbs once again. This government is the expert in announcing the first phase. The second phase is being studied and perhaps there will be a third phase. The reason they say there is a first phase, a second phase being studied, and perhaps a third phase, is that they claim they have no money.

There is a problem here, because they had the money, but they spent it badly. They spent it so badly that they let some situations get really rotten, such as the mad cow crisis, the softwood lumber crisis and their continued stealing from the unemployed.

The way the money is managed at the moment, or the way it was managed by the former finance minister, the current Prime Minister, and the current Minister of Finance does not change. Why not? Because it can only be described in one way. This Liberal government is dishonest; it penalizes the little guys and fattens the big.

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LIB

André Harvey

Liberal

Hon. André Harvey (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am sure you have noticed that my colleagues from the Bloc have been very happy for the past few days. They have been on life support in Quebec for the past few months. What is interesting is that the current crisis is isolated. There was the sponsorship problem and the Bloc MPs spend their time telling us they are asking questions. Canadians and Quebeckers want people to do more than just ask questions, they want people to take action.

I would like to ask my colleague if he thinks the futility of their role is going to catch up with them soon. For 10 years, they have been elected on promises to Quebeckers that they would ask questions. Over the past few months, Quebeckers have realized they want people who take action, like the Prime Minister has done in this exceptional case, as we have just seen. The tools are in place. There is a standing committee, a public inquiry and an investigation into the RCMP.

I would like to reiterate my question to the hon. member. Does he not believe that the reality of the futility of the Bloc Quebecois, which is a party that only asks questions and does not have power, will catch up with it very soon? They were elected in 1993 and said they would exercise real power. I would like them to show us what real power is.

They are extremely happy here in this great Parliament, which is called the Parliament of Canada. They are very happy and certainly do not want to lose their jobs. They ask questions, two or three small questions a week, then go off and are content.

The Prime Minister honoured his commitment to bring order to this program. There are thousands of programs within the Canadian government. Clearly we must learn from this experience.

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BQ

Odina Desrochers

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Odina Desrochers

Mr. Speaker, I note that the Jean Lapierre strategy has already been adopted by the Liberals. The only comment Jean Lapierre was capable of making when given the nod as the Liberal candidate for Outremont, was that the Bloc Quebecois had no reason to exist, although he himself was a founding member of that party. I have trouble understanding the Liberals and their inconsistency.

When we are told we are doing nothing but ask questions, let me tell you that our questions are what has made it possible to cast some light on this scandal. There have been more than 450 questions concerning the mess with Groupaction and the boycotting of the public accounts committee. Action was needed. Some heavy guns were required to get to the truth. They did not take kindly to that. So much for transparency and democracy. They are beginning to learn their lesson but it is taking a while.

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NDP

Lorne Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lorne Nystrom (Regina—Qu'Appelle, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Winnipeg North Centre.

The motion before the House today is very important. I have seen many scandals over the years in the House of Commons and across the country, but this scandal is one that involves more money than I have ever seen before. I think the Liberal Party is implicated in this thing lock, stock and barrel.

I noticed in the paper on the weekend that the Prime Minister of Canada referred to other scandals such as this taking place before. He referred to Grant Devine and the Conservative Party in Saskatchewan. This reminds me a lot of that particular scandal. I am from Saskatchewan. A number of years ago when Grant Devine was the premier, and do not forget that it is the Conservative Party that sits here in opposition, the same party, the same people, decided that they wanted to defraud money from the people of Saskatchewan.

In the end, after an RCMP investigation, 16 people were convicted of criminal offences. Many of them went to jail. Many of the Conservatives went to jail, including the deputy premier, Eric Berntson, and the chairman of the caucus, the minister of labour, Lorne McLaren. That was for stealing tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money.

Across the way we are talking of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money. It may be hundreds of millions of dollars. I do not want to prejudge ahead of time how much money is involved, but certainly it is a lot more than the Conservatives stole in the province of Saskatchewan.

What we have here is a very serious scandal. We have to clean up government in this country.

We have had these scandals and this corporate corruption from Brian Mulroney's Conservatives right through to the Liberals of today. It is the same old thing, these corporate scandals and corporate sleaze, this lack of accountability. We saw it in spades with Brian Mulroney and the Conservative Party and we are seeing it right now with the Prime Minister. That is why we have to change the system in this country.

It is interesting that the man behind the new Conservative Party, the master puppeteer is Brian Mulroney. We are seeing it in spades in that party across the way.

I want to warn people who are watching today that some of this language is not very good language. I am quoting a gentleman here, not Alfonso Gagliano, but I am quoting a gentleman from July 15, 1984, Brian Mulroney, the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. This is why the rot is there when there is this kind of an attitude from a prime minister following right on through to today.

The Conservatives are very embarrassed about their master puppeteer. They are very embarrassed about this leader of their party, the guy that they are worshipping and following as they form a new party today. Brian Mulroney said:

Let's face it, there's no whore like an old whore. If I'd been in Bryce's position, I'd have been right in there with my nose in the public trough like the rest of them.

Brian Mulroney, when he was campaigning on July 15, 1984, was talking about Bryce Mackasey's acceptance of a diplomatic post. That is Brian Mulroney, the godfather of the Conservative Party of Canada.

That set the tone for that party's reign in power. We saw scandal after scandal and sleaze and corporate sleaze. Now we are seeing exactly the same thing across the way. Whether it is Brian Mulroney or the present Prime Minister or the former prime minister, their ties to corporate Canada and this corruption and sleaze are all there. It is so hypocritical to see Conservatives getting up here and acting as if they are offended and questioning the very thing that they did for year after year.

Of course in Saskatchewan former premier Grant Devine is running for a Conservative Party nomination. We know exactly what that new party is about. Sixteen members of that government, ministers, received criminal convictions for stealing the public's money. Many of them went to jail. Now there is a similar thing across the way involving not just tens of thousands of dollars, but millions and millions of dollars of taxpayers' money.

The time has come to change the system. When I look at who the Prime Minister of Canada has hired to run his office and to run his campaign, I see the tie between corporate Canada and the tie between the lobbyists and the Prime Minister. I could go on and on. I am going to mention a few names and talk about their current role and their campaign background.

I see from the Earnscliffe group, Andre Albinati. I see the principal of the Earnscliffe group who was the campaign manager of strategy for the Prime Minister, Elly Alboim. Also from Earnscliffe, there is Charles Bird, campaign manager logistics to the Prime Minister. I see Eric Bornman whose current role for the Prime Minister is vice-president of communications. He came out of Pilot House Public Affairs group. Dennis Dawson was a member of the House at one time. He came from Hill and Knowlton where he lobbied for many years. There is Jamie Deacey from Association House and John Duffy from the Strategy Group.

They are all people who were members of the campaign team of the Prime Minister when he ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party. David Herle is well known. He works for the Earnscliffe Strategy Group and is a key strategist for the Prime Minister of Canada. The list goes on and on of the many people who have worked as lobbyists or in the corporate world and are now working for the Prime Minister of Canada.

Francis Fox, for example, was a minister at one time and was the president of strategic affairs for Rogers AT&T and a lobbyist for the Rogers corporation. Brian Guest was with Association House. There are a number of other people who are working with different lobbyists and different parliamentary associations around the country.

We get this tie of greed and then there are the groups involved in the scandalous sponsorship program that gave all kinds of money to the Liberal Party of Canada. At the very least they should be immediately reimbursing the people of this country from the Liberal Party coffers the money that was given to them from groups that received contracts under the sponsorship program.

If the Prime Minister is serious about cleaning this up, that money should be reimbursed by the Liberal Party of Canada. I do not see him doing that.

I also wonder where the Minister of Finance stands. The Minister of Finance was made Minister of Public Works, I believe it was back in May 2002. He had a long time to get to the bottom of this scandal. What did the deputy minister of public works say to him? What did the ADMs, the senior management in public works, say to him? What information did the minister have? Why did it take so long before all this information became public?

This is a serious, serious scandal. No wonder people are cynical about politics. A former prime minister, who is the founder of the new Conservative Party, Brian Mulroney, talked about how he would put his nose in the trough like the rest of them, that there is no whore like an old whore. That is what he said. It continued on through the Jean Chrétien days and it continues on with the present Prime Minister. The Prime Minister was the minister of finance. The Prime Minister was the CFO and for about nine years a senior cabinet minister. This is not good enough.

I walked around and talked to people in my riding in Regina over the weekend. People are disgusted by this. Liberals are disgusted by this. Everybody is disgusted by this. In my province, and I speak personally, it reminds people of the rot of the Conservative Party with its scandals and its sleaze and its corruption, and Brian Mulroney and Grant Devine and Eric Berntson. This is the legacy of the Conservative Party of Canada and the legacy of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Because of that, I would like to ask for unanimous consent to move an amendment adding, instead of the word liberal, the following: 20 years of Conservative Mulroney and Liberal corporate sleaze and corruption.

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The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member for Regina--Qu'Appelle have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

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Some hon. members

Agreed.

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Some hon. members

No.

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CA

Roy H. Bailey

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I received calls from three different people in my constituency who were condemning those of us in the opposition for spending too much time asking questions about the corruption going on over there. They told me they already knew about it.

These people are asking for some immediate support from the government because they cannot get social services. Under normal terms, their assets would be worth $200,000 or $300,000. Their cattle are worth nothing. They have no money. They cannot foresee getting groceries. They are condemning the opposition for what is going on over there. My response to them is that we have no choice.

The $2 billion that the government took away from these people could have been given back to the Prairies. It could have been put into the industry, and everything would have been alive and well. Instead, we have reached our lowest since the mid-1930s, yet the government sits idly by and lets that huge part of western Canada go down the drain. All three individuals have said that without help within 45 days or thereabouts, they do not know what will happen.

It is fine to argue this issue, but instead of coming up with piecemeal things, the government should give back the $2 billion it stole from the hunters who registered their guns. The government should give that money back to the people from whom they took it. If it did that, gun owners, ranchers, and people in western Canada would be happy today.

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NDP

Lorne Nystrom

New Democratic Party

Hon. Lorne Nystrom

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague from Souris--Moose Mountain, my neighbour in Saskatchewan. People are really angry and fed up. The $200 million could have been used for agriculture, or for health or for education. It could have been used for a number of things in Canada.

Many people do not realize that in the last year farm income in the province of Saskatchewan was a negative $13 million. I cannot remember the exact statistic, but I believe the national level is a negative of over $100 million. That is the lowest farm income since statistics started to be kept back in the 1920s. No wonder people are in trouble. No wonder people are angry.

We have to change the system. We need democratic reform, but not just in this place. It means getting rid of the unelected Senate. It means changing the voting system and bringing in some system of proportional representation. It means giving parliamentary committees more power so we can hold the government properly accountable.

There will be a surplus of $6 billion or $7 billion at the end of the fiscal year. This year, why do we not take half of that surplus and transfer it to the provinces for education, for health and for the farm crisis? That would do something real for the people of Canada.

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PC

Rex Barnes

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Rex Barnes (Gander—Grand Falls, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I have a great deal of respect for the hon. member, but for some reason or another it seems as if he likes to play the games of the past rather than the future. As a result, he sounds more like a Liberal. This is like the devil made me do it sort of thing, and blame it on the past.

It is important for the House to realize that the Conservative Party of Canada is a new breed of politicians who are here to help the people. We are here to ensure that the corruption which has taken place today and which happened in the past is not acceptable to taxpayers of Canada and to the new breed of politicians. We need to move forward with a new vision for Canada. That vision is not putting blame on our predecessors for what has happened.

What has the hon. member's party done to ensure that Canadians are fully aware that this corruption is front and centre? What has the hon. member's party done to ensure that money which was spent could be used for other programs, such as health care and social programs for which Canadians are so proud?

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February 17, 2004