April 23, 2004

LIB

Anne McLellan

Liberal

Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)

I can only say again, Mr. Speaker, that nothing could be further from the truth. Let us in fact look at the record. First of all, this has nothing to do with the sponsorship program. Everybody should keep this in mind.

Then, again, when I look at these documents from 1994 that people keep referring to, all these documents speak to a desire on the part of those working for the then minister of finance to open up the process, to have a more competitive process. In page after page of copies, nowhere is Earnscliffe mentioned in any of these documents. In fact, one of these documents goes so far as to say that if there are any other firms that have indicated--

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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?

The Speaker

The hon. member for Calgary Southeast.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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CA

Jason Kenney

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC)

That is just plain wrong, Mr. Speaker. Documents tabled by Mr. Guité do refer to Earnscliffe Research, and of course the documents we tabled earlier this week show that the Prime Minister was up to his neck in trying to break the rules.

Is it not interesting that yesterday we heard testimony that Terrie O'Leary, the then finance minister's chief of staff, called Mr. Guité and met with Mr. Guité at the finance minister's office? Scott Reid, the Prime Minister's spokesman, denies that these meetings ever happened. Where did Mr. Reid come from? Earnscliffe Research. Why is the Prime Minister's own denial man denying his connections to the very firm that he came from?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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LIB

Anne McLellan

Liberal

Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, again let me clarify the record. No one in the Prime Minister's Office has ever said that Terrie O'Leary did not meet or speak with Mr. Guité, but what the Prime Minister's Office has made clear is that at no time--no time--did Terrie O'Leary intervene on behalf of Earnscliffe.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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CA

Diane Ablonczy

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, if the Prime Minister was so innocent, why did Public Works rap his knuckles? Why did public works say his actions were completely unacceptable? The fact is that the Prime Minister did try to intervene in the process and it was improper, and he did get his knuckles rapped because it was improper. How does the Prime Minister's supposed anger over ad scam square with his direct interference in advertising contracts?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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LIB

Anne McLellan

Liberal

Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)

Again, Mr. Speaker, it is outrageous that hon. members of the House would make allegations like that.

As I have said, first of all, let us go back to the basics. This has nothing to do with the sponsorship program. Let me go further and say this: that which was done by the staff of the then minister of finance was all about ensuring there was a more open process, a more competitive process with names of companies which the then minister's office wanted added to ensure that the taxpayers of Canada got the best possible service.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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CA

Diane Ablonczy

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, interference in contracting is interference in contracting. It does not matter which program is at issue.

If all of this was so innocent, why did the documents that were leaked this week show that there was such a rigging of the process that only Earnscliffe could qualify? That is what public works found; not what we found but what public works found. Public works castigated the Prime Minister for it and said it was inappropriate that he rigged the system in favour of Earnscliffe. Yet the Deputy Prime Minister--

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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The Speaker

The hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill I think may have been here yesterday when I suggested that the use of the word “rigging” had more to do with sailing and we would not be using it in relation to members of the House in arranging matters. The hon. member for Calgary Southeast came close on that, but the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill I think has stepped over the line, and we will not have that. I would urge hon. members to use appropriate caution in their remarks.

The hon. Deputy Prime Minister may respond.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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LIB

Anne McLellan

Liberal

Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)

Again, Mr. Speaker, all contracts that are in question here were let in an open and transparent way. All requests for proposals had criteria and in fact the whole import of any involvement on the part of the then minister of finance's office was to ensure that more firms were able to bid so that in fact they could be assured that the taxpayers of Canada got the very best quality product for their money.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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BQ

Michel Guimond

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, in the sponsorship scandal, Charles Guité has confirmed that the system that allowed the worst abuse of public money was dreamt up at the highest echelons of the government. Mr. Guité said that his role was to do as he was told and that it was not him, but the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister's Office that decided to run the program that way.

Will the Prime Minister, who says he wants to get to the bottom of the sponsorship scandal, now have the courage to take the blame and admit that the political direction, whose existence he himself has acknowledged, came directly from Jean Chrétien's office?

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 misrepresents what Mr. Guité said yesterday. He said very explicitly that there was no political interference with respect to which advertising companies should be chosen or which events should go on. He said the only information he received was advice on which event should be sponsored. Then he made the decision, exercising his authority as the manager for that program.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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BQ

Michel Guimond

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, since the government is so big on transparency it should stop playing on words. Let us look at what Mr. Guité said. He admitted that the Prime Minister's Office and the ministers took some decisions with respect to granting contracts to specific companies, that he and Alfonso Gagliano agreed on the awarding of contracts, that he looked at the list with Jean Pelletier, and that it was Jean Chrétien who signed the requests for funding.

Will the Prime Minister admit that the political direction given by Jean Chrétien's office was so specific that it went so far as to indicate which Liberal-friendly companies should receive the contracts?

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, we have heard mentioned previously this morning the memo from Terrie O'Leary dated May 30, 1994, explicitly asking for more competition in this process. Against that, we have some testimony from Mr. Guité yesterday, going back in memory to a conversation he says occurred 10 years ago.

We know that in fact-finding processes when there is a difference of opinion, it is much more credible to rely on the printed word contemporaneous with that time rather than a 10 year old memory of a conversation.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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BQ

Monique Guay

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, not only is the government now refusing to condemn the actions of the politicians fingered in the sponsorship scandal, but at the time the office of the now Prime Minister, who knew very well how the whole thing worked, interfered politically to benefit his own friends at Earnscliffe.

Charles Guité confirmed yesterday that, in 1994-95, the chief of staff to the current Prime Minister indicated to him that “Paul would prefer”, “Paul would be happier” if Earnscliffe were chosen. Who is that Paul, if not the current Prime Minister?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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LIB

Anne McLellan

Liberal

Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I go back to what I said earlier. In fact, if we look at the documentation from that period of time, we see that what the then chief of staff of the former minister of finance said was that she wanted a more open process.

There are lists of firms which were to be added in a competitive, open process, a process of requests for proposals where there were criteria. In fact, what the then chief of staff of the then minister of finance was trying to achieve was an open, competitive process where the taxpayer got the best value for their dollars.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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BQ

Monique Guay

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, there is still more. What Charles Guité has said is confirmed in a letter from Warren Kinsella complaining about political interference by the then finance minister, who not only was funding the scandal but also wanted to see his friends benefit from it.

Is this not proof that this Prime Minister, who claims to be as pure as the driven snow, also sought to favour his friends?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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LIB

Anne McLellan

Liberal

Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)

Again, Mr. Speaker, I go back to the fact that the record does seem to be pretty clear here in that what the then chief of staff of the then minister of finance was trying to do was ensure that more firms could tender, could in fact bid in relation to important work being done by the Department of Finance and the Government of Canada. There were criteria in these requests for proposals. Everything was transparent.

In fact, looking at these documents, I think we should be applauding what the then chief of staff of the minister of finance did, because she wanted to ensure--

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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?

The Speaker

The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Government Contracts
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

New Democratic Party

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, over the past 24 hours we have heard how close associates of the present Prime Minister curry favours for his friends. Over the past 73 days we have heard how close associates of the last Liberal prime minister curried favours for their friends.

Canadians are simply sick and tired of the cronyism, corruption and government over martinis that the Liberals represent.

Is the reason the public inquiry has not started that the Prime Minister knows Liberals are knee-deep in this mess no matter which side of the feud they are on?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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LIB

Anne McLellan

Liberal

Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, let me remind the hon. member that it was this Prime Minister who made it plain that we wanted to get to the bottom of this matter. It was this Prime Minister who put in place a public inquiry.

That public inquiry is independent. Mr. Justice Gomery will carry that inquiry forward as he sees fit, but it was this Prime Minister who asked that the public accounts committee get to work quickly so that Canadians, all of us, could get to the bottom of this matter.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Sponsorship Program
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April 23, 2004