February 18, 2004

LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we all have to avoid in the House is deliberately setting out to destroy the reputation of any single person.

It is perfectly valid for the hon. member to pursue a line of questioning, but when he deliberately seeks, by association, to damage somebody else's reputation, a public servant who is not here in the House capable of defending himself, it really is despicable.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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CA

Diane Ablonczy

Canadian Alliance

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister seems to have had time to talk to everyone in the entire country about how he was clueless about the wagonloads of cash that were being shovelled into Liberal-friendly advertising agencies on his watch.

He has had time to run around doing everything except get a few straight answers from his own Quebec ministers. I invite the Prime Minister to remember that he himself implicated the Quebec ministers in this fiasco.

Why is he not busy getting the truth out of them?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I was very clear when I gave my answer. In fact, I asked all the ministers around the cabinet table, and I do not really think that we should be singling out Quebec ministers. The fact is that I asked all of the ministers, and all of the ministers said they had no knowledge of those activities.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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CA

Diane Ablonczy

Canadian Alliance

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I can understand why the Prime Minister has a hard time getting his story straight. Now his story is that not only was he asleep at the switch, but every other Quebec cabinet kingpin was as well. They took absolutely no notice when a cool $100 million was diverted out of the federal treasury.

The Liberal Party must have been rolling in ill-gotten gains, yet Canadians are to swallow the fiction that Liberal cabinet ministers were not at the front of the line to divvy up the loot. Is it not true that the Prime Minister's real problem is the fact that he himself was one of those ministers?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, this kind of activity taking place within the political process is a breach of trust and nobody supports it. It has happened elsewhere in this country, unfortunately, and we must do everything possible to ensure that it does not happen again.

However, what is very despicable is when the hon. member singles out a province and then the rest of her colleagues stand up to applaud the fact that they are engaged in Quebec bashing. Let us not have any more of that here in the House of Commons.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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CA

Monte Solberg

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it was the Prime Minister who said that a very few Quebec ministers were involved.

The Prime Minister originally said that he was only aware of administrative errors in the sponsorship program. The truth is that the 2000 internal audit, cited so often by the government, actually outlined double billing and fraud.

The Prime Minister said he saw this report and was very familiar with it. My question is, why has he stayed so silent about incidents of fraud and double--

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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?

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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LIB

Stephen Owen

Liberal

Hon. Stephen Owen (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the 2000 internal audit identified a number of problems. The two deputy ministers, before and after, came before the public accounts committee to say there was no political influence on them. The audit only included managerial and administrative problems.

The action plan to that report was put on the Internet and indicated the steps that would be taken to overcome the managerial problems. If in the working papers in that audit there is an indication that may lead to some illegality, those are the very things that will be looked into in the various processes--

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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?

The Speaker

The hon. member for Medicine Hat.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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CA

Monte Solberg

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it is important that the Prime Minister address this issue because it goes to his credibility.

The Prime Minister has used that report to defend his statement that he thought this was only about administrative errors. Clearly, that report indicates many examples of actual fraud.

Does he consider the fraud that was revealed in that report to be only administrative errors?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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LIB

Stephen Owen

Liberal

Hon. Stephen Owen (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is using words such as fraud, which I do not believe were indicated in the background papers.

There were some inconsistencies in billing in the background papers and some questions about them. They led to the conclusion that there was a need to improve the administrative practices which were supported by the deputy ministers and reported on by them to the public accounts committee.

If indeed there are any corrupt practices that come to light, they will be brought before the various inquiries that are going ahead and the appropriate action will be taken, whether it is criminal, civil or administrative.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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BQ

Gilles Duceppe

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister says he did not know about the sponsorship scandal until May 2002.

Yet, his Minister of Public Works and Government Services told us that there was a comprehensive internal audit in the fall of 2000, but that in the fall of 2001, in the latter part of that year, they realized that there were more than just administrative problems, adding that, in January 2002, Alfonso Gagliano had to resign for these reasons.

Everyone knows that. Only the Prime Minister apparently did not know about it.

How does the Prime Minister explain the total contradiction between his version—that he knew nothing until May 2002—and that of his Minister of Public Works and Government Services?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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LIB

Jacques Saada

Liberal

Hon. Jacques Saada (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, in recent days, the past couple of weeks, the questions put directly to us by the Bloc Quebecois are intended specifically to either smear individuals' reputation or assume the findings of an independent inquiry.

Such behaviour is totally unacceptable. If they are serious about wanting to know what really happened, I suggest they wait, as we are doing, and trust the process in place.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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BQ

Gilles Duceppe

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, there has to be limit in the end, because the Prime Minister is going all over the place telling people he is innocent. But when we put questions to him in the House, he is the democratic deficit incarnate. He will not answer.

If he is as transparent as he claims to be, I would ask him to answer our questions, instead of trying to hide behind the public inquiry. He says he is prepared to answer. Let him answer in this place.

Why is it that what his Minister of Public Works and Government Services said completely contradicts what he said?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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LIB

Paul Martin

Liberal

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, there is no contradiction. The hon. member can read what I said; I said that there were rumours at the start of 2002, that questions were raised in the House, and there was an article in the Globe and Mail on this issue.

On January 15, I think it was, a new minister was appointed. Later, the Globe and Mail published an article on Groupaction. Following that, the Auditor General's report and confirmed everything.

I have said repeatedly and everyone knows that questions were raised in the House and there were newspaper reports in the early part of 2002.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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BQ

Michel Gauthier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, questions were asked in the House as early as of 2001, and a minister resigned in January 2002. It is very rare for a minister to resign on the strength of rumours.

However, I want to ask the Prime Minister a question, since he is in a position to answer and stated earlier that he was prepared to release cabinet documents. Yesterday, I asked this question, and I want to ask it again today.

Ten ministers in his government each paid $27,000, a total of $270,000, for a report worth $27,000. Yesterday, I asked the government: given this government's desire to be transparent, as it claims, could someone tell us which ten ministers paid—

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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?

The Speaker

The hon. President of the Treasury Board.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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LIB

Reg Alcock

Liberal

Hon. Reg Alcock (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is true the government received an internal audit report which it hid on its website so everyone could see it. I would invite the member to read it and see what he would discern from that.

I might also point out that the Auditor General himself, because it was the previous Auditor General, when auditing the department's books did not discover what this member seems to have discovered. The fact is that the information that was available was relatively coached bureaucratese. It was done by somebody who was not sure what was going on.

I suspect that if the member opposite read that report, and I would invite him to do so, it would be interesting to see the conclusions that he would come to.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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BQ

Michel Gauthier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, when the Prime Minister does the rounds in Quebec, he swears to everyone that he is outraged, that he wants the truth to come out. Is this not a very basic test?

If the Prime Minister is telling the truth in Quebec, if he has information to the effect that ten ministers each purchased the same report, I ask the government, and this Prime Minister, who says that he want to be transparent, who are those ministers? It is not complicated.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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LIB

Reg Alcock

Liberal

Hon. Reg Alcock (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is really easy for the opposition to come into the House and slander staff and slander, through innuendo, other members of the House, trying to create an atmosphere of distrust. I would ask him to put a single fact on the table that proves his allegation.

Let me tell the House what somebody else thinks about the Prime Minister. This is from today's Globe and Mail . It states:

...Prime Minister Paul Martin deserves more credit than the polls are giving him.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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February 18, 2004