November 14, 2005

?

The Speaker

It is my duty to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the representation, namely: Mr. Stéphane Bergeron, member for the electoral district of Verchères—Les Patriotes, by resignation effective Wednesday, November 9, 2005.

Pursuant to subsection 25(1)( b ) of the Parliament of Canada Act, I have addressed on Monday, November 14, 2005 my warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for the election of a member to fill this vacancy.


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The House resumed from November 4 consideration of the motion, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.


?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The hon. member for Prince Albert has six minutes plus the comment and question period.


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CPC

Brian Fitzpatrick

Conservative

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick (Prince Albert, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to give this more thought over the break and I want to start by reviewing the facts as I see them, as it is always good to start from a factual basis. The question of privilege is centred on some mail-outs from the Bloc members to government seats in the province of Quebec. This has certainly caused a lot of anguish to those government members, but I would like to go through what is in the mail-out. It highlights key passages from the Gomery report, which I think is fair. It brings home some facts to people in the key findings of the commissioner. It includes photographs of some of the key government members opposite.

What kinds of messages were left with those constituents in Quebec? One of them was that money was given to Liberal friendly organizations for doing virtually nothing. Millions and millions of dollars were given to Liberal friendly organizations to do nothing. In return, what were these agencies required to do? They were required to make donations to the Liberal Party of Canada. They were required, I guess, to put Liberal workers on their payrolls to do no work for these agencies but to do political work for the party. They arranged for large amounts of money to be deposited with Liberal constituency organizations to make sure Liberals got elected in those ridings. The mail-out also makes it clear that the Liberal Party was behind this. The Liberals conceived this plan, executed it and carried it out to its fullest.

Individual members from Quebec are offended by the mail-out. They say it is being determined that they are guilty by association. They say they are Liberals involved with the Quebec Liberal Party, the federal Liberal Party and the leader of the party, Mr. Chrétien at that time. There may have been a lot of wrongdoing inside the party and in the Prime Minister's Office and in other departments, but they say they are innocent and they were not party to that. Yes, they say they were lobbying the government to get as much sponsorship money into their ridings as possible, but they say they knew nothing about this other aspect of the program. In fact, even in their own riding associations there might have been cash deposited from the program to pay for their re-election, but they knew nothing about that. They were completely oblivious to that.

It brings me back to a sitcom in the 1960s, Hogan's Heroes, with Sergeant Schultz, whose common phraseology was, “I know nothing, I see nothing, and I say nothing”. It almost seems that this might be a problem with a lot of the members opposite. They did not participate in this thing, they were not very aware of what was going on and they did not really want to know what was going on, but they sure lined up for the grants if they could get their hands on them.

In fact, I recall that in one situation a minister from Montreal got $3.5 million in one year for sporting events in a riding, including $250,000 for the Grey Cup. The Minister of Finance did not do as good a job on the sponsorship as that minister did; he only got $50,000 for the Roughrider committee in Saskatchewan at that time. The minister in Quebec got $250,000 for the Grey Cup committee in Montreal. Perhaps the finance minister was not as strong a lobbyist as some of the Quebec members. That particular minister obviously knew about the sponsorship program because she did very well on it in one particular year, that is for sure.

In our society, as everyone knows, the government has a lot of tools for communicating to the public to get its message out. Opposition members really do not have the same powers to communicate that the government does. One of the tools we do have is our 10 percenters. It is a way of getting the message out. Clearly, a lot of government members do not like opposition members trying to get their message out.

Quite frankly, I believe the mail-out that was sent to the people of Quebec was perhaps a hard message. Maybe it was something the Liberals did not want to see because it threatened their political careers, but I think what was contained in the householder was fair comment. That is really the test on these things.

I am surprised that the House of Commons would actually entertain the idea of taking away the freedom of expression and the democratic rights of opposition members to provide fair comment to people in this country. That would take away the charter rights of Canadians, especially those of members of Parliament, which is something the Prime Minister guaranteed his government would never entertain. The motion before the House would shut down the most fundamental of our freedoms, the freedom of expression, our democratic right, and would shut down our abilities as opposition members. I am truly amazed that members opposite would even consider such a motion.

I can understand why members opposite would be upset with this. As I mentioned before, when political scandals take place there are innocent bystanders and those innocent bystanders are going to go down with the ship. They are identified with the organization. It may be guilt by association, but the point of correlativity is that when the ship goes down, the innocent are going to go down with it. Quite frankly, I think Quebec members should have known a lot more about this sponsorship program than they pretended--


Subtopic:   Privilege
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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Questions and comments.


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LIB

Denis Coderre

Liberal

Hon. Denis Coderre (Bourassa, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am continuing to find increasingly deplorable how much the Conservatives enjoy being in bed with the separatists and saying the same dumb and ridiculous things. I have heard this member suggest that there is basically nothing wrong with making criminal allegations. He said that, in the name of freedom of expression, one can say just about anything.

Does this mean that, in the name of freedom of expression, he agreed with Ernst Zundel, who contended that the Holocaust never happened? Does it go that far? There comes a point when the institution needs perspective. The nonsense must stop. And, more importantly, so does the hypocrisy whereby one can basically say just about anything in the name of freedom of expression.

I would like to ask a question along these lines. I heard an interesting statement. This probably explains why the Conservative Party has no members in Quebec, understandably so. I would like the member to comment on the following statement:

“In a society, attitudes fraught with hypocrisy and innuendo are not to be tolerated. If there is evidence, let it be known, do not let the rumour mill run. Rigour is required at all times; otherwise, we end up with statements starting with 'Someone told me they have heard'. That is hearsay, gossip, and it is not right, be it directed at politicians or anyone else. There is nothing more harmful than rumour because it is not factual. If it turns out that the rumours were unfounded, those who floated them will have to face the consequences. What goes around comes around. It is the reverse slingshot theory. Eventually, it comes back and hits you in the face.”

I do not always agree with him, but this was a quote from the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, the leader of the Bloc Québécois, who probably—


Subtopic:   Privilege
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?

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!


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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Let us listen to the questions and comments, please. Then we will listen to the answers.


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LIB

Denis Coderre

Liberal

Hon. Denis Coderre

Mr. Speaker, does my colleague agree with the statement made by the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie? Personally, I do. Of course, there is a discrepancy because there is a lot of hypocrisy. There is a double standard here. This is acceptable for André Boisclair, who will have to live with the consequences. However, is it acceptable to act as they did with the Liberals? Is it acceptable for the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel to send a document referring to the dirty money trail when he was saying that it was not about that at all?

Could the member tell me if he finds acceptable, in the name of freedom of expression, that criminal allegations be made with taxpayers' money in a flyer, a householder or a 10 percenter?


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CPC

Brian Fitzpatrick

Conservative

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick

Mr. Speaker, I would just remind the member that when the Auditor General first released her report she said that every rule in the book had been broken. Judge Gomery also confirmed that basically every rule in the book had been broken and that this was a conspiracy. The effect of the conspiracy was to unlawfully take tax dollars away from Canadian taxpayers to pay for the Liberal Party and its friends and to run election campaigns and so on.

This matter goes much further than just being a civil tort. The plea of innocence on the part of members opposite is rather strange because the Gomery report confirms that the rules were broken and that the Liberal government was behind this plan to abscond with millions of dollars of taxpayer money. We all know that Judge Gomery could not assign individual criminal liability because the Inquiries Act prohibits him from doing so.

However it raises suspicions in a lot of minds about the list of people who were actually embroiled and directly involved in this massive fraud committed against the Canadian public. I have often been asked by constituents in Saskatchewan where the charges are and when these people will be before the courts and pay their dues. They see it the same way as they saw Enron or WorldCom or, as I mentioned in my speech to the House, the Devine administration where 14 people were convicted on the political side and served time in jail. People in my riding are asking when it will happen here and how far it goes.

For members in Quebec to say that they did not know anything about this program is really hard to accept.


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NDP

Pat Martin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that the member for Bourassa's main complaint is in the content of the literature that was circulated in his riding, not the fact that the Bloc has the right to mail into his riding.

I would ask my colleague from Prince Albert if he agrees that part of this issue is about the fact that the sponsorship money was used to circumvent Elections Canada spending rules in election campaigns and to give envelopes of money to individual Liberal campaigns in the federal election.

Would it not have been perfectly valid for the Bloc Québécois to raise the fact that dirty money was being used to subsidize Liberal election campaigns in Quebec? Also, would it not be suitable if the Bloc had even called upon the Chief Electoral Officer, Jean-Pierre Kingsley, to investigate each one of those ridings that received envelopes of dirty money stolen in the sponsorship scandal and that the official agents of those campaigns be investigated because they clearly signed off that all of the spending in that election was perfectly legal and in accordance with the rules? Would he not also agree that any Liberal members of Parliament elected under those circumstances should lose their seat and not be allowed to run for office again as per the Elections Act?

Would it not have been suitable and within ethical guidelines for the Bloc Québécois to point out these things in mailings to the voters of Quebec? Would he agree that the Chief Electoral Officer should investigate every Liberal Quebec riding where they may have received dirty money and that the official agent should be charged as well as the member of Parliament should be dealt these consequences?


Subtopic:   Privilege
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CPC

Brian Fitzpatrick

Conservative

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick

Mr. Speaker, I have three points on this matter. As Judge Gomery basically outlined, if money went into Liberal constituencies contrary to the Elections Act it was a violation, especially when somebody drops $8,000 or $7,000 cash into a constituency association. My goodness gracious, if any candidate does not have a clue or even asks a question about where the money comes from, it raises clear-cut suspicions among reasonable people. Those are the candidates who want to come to Ottawa and run our government. They do not even know where the money is coming from in their ridings when cash shows up. That is a problem.

People were working in the advertising agencies and on the payroll and they were not doing any work for the advertising agencies except doing political work for the Liberal Party in Quebec.

The other problem is the cash kickbacks, the money in brown envelopes. Anybody involved in any of those activities in my view was part of a criminal conspiracy. This is a serious matter. We need to get a full list of who these people are. We should have no more inquiries. These people should be facing the criminal justice system and the full consequences of our criminal justice system and, hopefully, we will have mandatory minimum sentences in place for the culprits who were involved in this when that day comes.


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LIB

Françoise Boivin

Liberal

Ms. Françoise Boivin (Gatineau, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Conservative member. Does he make a distinction between knowing about the sponsorship program and knowing about criminal acts being committed? He might want to read an interesting article.

I heard the member for Bourassa quoting the leader of the Bloc Québécois who was talking about the rigour required when one talks about public people and individuals. The leader of the Bloc Québécois, who is very vocal these days—and we all know why—made some confessions in the Hill Times . He said that, like probably all those who were in the House at that time, and unfortunately I was not, he knew about the sponsorship program.

Therefore, I would like him to tell us if he makes a distinction between knowing about the sponsorship program and knowing about criminal acts being committed in this program?


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CPC

Brian Fitzpatrick

Conservative

Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick

Quite honestly, Mr. Speaker, not everyone was aware of the sponsorship program. It seemed like there was a club of MPs who were tuned into it.

I remember when I first came here there was a sponsorship for the Montreal Alouettes, the Montreal Expos, the Ottawa Senators and the football team, I believe. Four outfits that participated directly in sponsorship payments but in the CFL, the Toronto team, the Hamilton team, the Winnipeg team, the Rough Riders, the Eskimos, the Stampeders and B.C., they did not know anything about this and did not have any of the money.

Other NHL teams, such as the Oilers or the Calgary team, did not know anything about that but sponsorship money was flowing into the professional teams in Quebec. Obviously somebody was beating the drums in Quebec very well for these programs and people elsewhere in the country were oblivious to even the existence of these programs. It had a secretive nature to it. It is part of a veil of secrecy that the government has brought to the House of Commons where it hides things from the public to keep us in the dark.


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LIB

Jacques Saada

Liberal

Hon. Jacques Saada (Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec and Minister responsible for the Francophonie, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is with some sadness that I rise today to address the House. I would have preferred to have used the little time we have in the House to talk about issues we consider fundamental. What are we doing together to help the regions? What are we doing together to address globalization? What are we doing together to help people who lose their jobs? What are we doing together to promote the social economy? What are we doing together to prevent young people from having to leave the regions, which are dying as a result? I wish we had the time to talk about all that.

Unfortunately, for some time now in the House, such debates have become increasingly rare.


Subtopic:   Privilege
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?

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!


Subtopic:   Privilege
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LIB

Jacques Saada

Liberal

Hon. Jacques Saada

Mr. Speaker, I know that you will ensure that I can speak without these constant interruptions. I have that absolute privilege.

The Bloc Québécois purports to be the great champion of integrity, rigour and Quebec. I think that, on all three fronts, the Bloc Québécois wants to assume power and an image that it does not have. It is easily proved wrong, in substance, on all accounts.

In 2002, we noticed, as did all the political parties, that the Parti Québécois was involved in a scandal. Before that, 11 Conservative government ministers were forced to resign due to a scandal. We had the sponsorship scandal. I say this because, in 2002, the Parti Québécois was affected by what was known as the Oxygène 9 scandal. Some very senior PQ officials, including a minister in the Quebec government as well as Premier Landry's chief of staff and director-general of the PQ, were involved.

At the time, a well-known and very credible journalist, Mr. Lessard, wrote, “Some influential people in Bernard Landry's entourage—with connections throughout government—too many, according to some— managed to spin a huge spider's web, all the ramifications of which we have barely begun to uncover”. A little later, he talks about “revolving doors” and “cronyism”. He said that “in particular, Oxygène 9 received commissions on funding or contracts obtained” and so on.

Why do I speak about that today? It is because I think that if one wants to be the champion of integrity, moral values and rigour, one must apply the same set of principles to similar events. If, at the time, there had been a scandal involving the Parti Québécois, which financed the Bloc's election campaigns of 1997 and 2000, I would have expected to see the leader of the Bloc stand up in his place to ask for a public inquiry on Oxygène 9, as Mario Dumont, from the ADQ, and Quebec's Liberals did. Apparently, when the Parti Québecois is involved, we must forget everything, but when it is the Liberals, that is a different story.

What is remarkable in this instance is that, contrary to what happened in the past with the Conservative Party or the Parti Québécois, which had the implicit agreement or complicit silence of the Bloc Québécois, our Prime Minister declared that enough was enough and that a standard of ethics and integrity was necessary to restore people's confidence in the political system. The situation goes far beyond the Liberal Party. The Prime Minister of Canada made a decision unprecedented in our democracy. He decided to strike an independent commission of public inquiry to formulate conclusions without knowing how far-reaching they might be or what might be revealed. In spite of those risks, the Prime Minister has been honest, frank and visionary and said that the inquiry was in the public interest.

That public inquiry has been held, and produced some conclusions that revealed certain important points. The first: that certain Liberal Party senior managers had brought dishonour to the party. The immediate reaction was to expel those people from our party, and the amounts given in the report were immediately reimbursed.

Another conclusion was that certain agencies had managed to pocket huge amounts of money through manoeuvres that were dubious, to say the least, some of them even leading to allegations or charges of criminal acts. The Prime Minister made the decision to initiate proceedings against these agencies in order to recover the lost funds, the money that had been misappropriated.

There is a third point. Interestingly enough, my colleagues often raise the first two, but not the third. They do not talk about the one that clearly establishes that the Prime Minister, the ministers, and the current MPs are fully exonerated for any acts of omission or commission, whether relating to administration or misappropriation. All have been fully exonerated. They just happen not to talk of that point. All of a sudden they do not know what to say: either one believes Justice Gomery or one does not.

Justice Gomery was on television for months. Everyone knows just what a man of integrity and extreme credibility he is. People respect him to the utmost. If that integrity is accepted, then the integrity of his findings must be accepted as well. There cannot be a double standard; people cannot pick and choose what to believe and what to reject. There must be consistency and integrity. I would humbly submit that this is exactly what we have done. We have adopted, approved, received in their entirety, as presented, all the findings by Justice Gomery, both good and bad

If I am revisiting this question, the reason I really felt the need to speak of this today—although, like many of us here, I was a simple MP at the time—is because the Bloc Québécois has had its scandals as well. It did not bat an eyelid over them nor said a word; it has demanded no independent investigation as it did when the Liberal Party was concerned. Now that is a double standard.

Therefore, I wonder why. What is the ultimate objective of the Bloc Québécois? Is it trying to disparage the Liberal Party because of the misconduct which may have occurred and for which some people should be blamed? No, it is even more important. The objective of the Bloc is to use all available means, including slander, to systematically undermine the credibility of any spokesperson of the federalist cause in Quebec. The ultimate objective of the Bloc is to attempt to muzzle anybody who is at the same time proud to be a Quebecer and a Canadian and who wants to speak up for this country.

The objective of the Bloc is once again to try to destroy the spokespersons of an idea which is not their idea. Its goal is not integrity, nor transparency, nor objectivity, nor the limpidity of the public accounts. The objective of the Bloc is the independence of Quebec, and it does not care at all if it needs to destroy reputations to reach this objective. This is why, in the mailing, very credible spokespersons of the federalist cause are shown as being involved. Be it the member for Bourassa, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Minister of the Environment, the Prime Minister or other persons, we are all devoted, on this side of the House, to defending our country because this is the best solution for Quebec. The Bloc does not like this idea. It does not act for the sake of integrity.

For some time now, and I regret it deeply, a new standard has been used in Quebec, under the influence of the Bloc Québécois and the Parti Québécois. Either we agree with them, and therefore we are very good, very nice and very intelligent, or we do not agree, and then, they try to shoot the messenger.

They did this recently with commissions and political spokespersons. This is a grand scheme that goes way beyond the Gomery case. They do not realize that this is a totally unfair and outrageous tactic to destroy those who been the voice of Canada in Quebec. This is what the Bloc Québécois is doing.

What saddens me is to see how arrogantly they manipulate this House, the debates and public opinion in order to advance a cause that, in the beginning, might have been noble. I do not share it, but it was noble. It is being misrepresented. Is the kind of country that the Bloc Québécois wants to build based on defamation, on rejecting the right of speech, on rejecting debate, on a lack of integrity? Is that the kind of country that Quebec would build under the Bloc Québécois? This is what that party is trying to do now. To build that country of Quebec, it wants to rely on fraudulent tactics. It is intellectual fraud to try to smear in order to destroy spokespersons.

No one anywhere is perfect. We do not have a perfect country. We have had our scandals, as have others. The difference is that we faced them with integrity, while they refused to do the same.

I find something extremely interesting. I understand the objective of the Bloc. I even understand the positioning of the Conservatives. Defending Canada may not be a top priority for the Conservatives. Let me quote something.

In saying this, I am relying not on sensational political allegations, but on direct quotations that I will read. In a speech made during the Colin Brown Memorial Dinner, when he was chair of the National Citizens Coalition in 1994, the current leader of the Conservative Party said:

Whether Canada ends up as one national government or two national governments or several national governments, or some other kind of arrangement is, quite frankly, secondary in my opinion—

This is a direct quotation. The fact that the Conservatives are joining forces with the Bloc Québécois does not even surprise me. The truth is the Conservatives are placing their own political interests ahead of the national interest of the country that is Canada. This is what the Conservatives are guilty of doing.

I accuse the Conservatives of placing their own political interests, in the short term, above the interests of Canada.

I do not understand why the NDP is playing along. I believe the NDP acts in good faith. And so I would ask it to recognize that, manipulating the House for election purposes in the short term, it is adding both strength and credibility to a movement intended not to protect Canada and Canadians but to protect the sovereignist option, which the Bloc is trying to promote. The NDP cannot align itself with that, because if there is one party here in this House, aside from the Liberal Party, with a tradition of defending the country's interests, it is the NDP. I cannot therefore understand why childish short term strategies for an election we have already promised, in any case, are leading the NDP to support action that has nothing to do with Canada's best interests, but with Quebec's independence. That is what I find deplorable.

I would now like to speak of democracy for one simple reason. In my opinion, it is the ultimate objective of our efforts here. We are elected by our fellow citizens because we want to initiate progressive measures to help the public and in the most democratic manner possible. When we speak of democracy, we must speak of justice and, accordingly, of the fair treatment of similar questions. The Bloc Québécois members, however, have refused. Democracy involves debate. Killing debate by shooting the messenger is what they have just done. It limits debate and therefore one of the most important and fundamental components of our democracy. They are prepared to prevent debate and force an election to be held at a moment particularly inopportune for Canadians to be going to vote because they are prepared to sacrifice public participation in the election on the altar of personal political ambition. It is democracy gone wrong.

I rose today because I have a fundamental belief in our party's integrity, in our country's future and in the need for everyone to come to the defence of beleaguered democracy.


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CPC

Ken Epp

Conservative

Mr. Ken Epp (Edmonton—Sherwood Park, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the musings of that member would be funny if it were not so tragic. His accusations against our party are totally unfounded. I know I have to stay within parliamentary rules, so I simply say that he is full of hops.

I will exercise my freedom of expression in saying this. It is very sad that he can stand in the House and somehow defend what happened in the province of Quebec in the last election and over the last number of years. Judge Gomery has put it right on the line. All one has to do is read the first six pages of his report, his executive summary, and it is very clear. All the things that we suspected and that were reported by the Auditor General took place.

The member is somehow trying to deflect what should be a contriteness of heart on the part of the Liberals by blaming us. It is like blaming the policeman who came across a bank robbery and stopped the robbers. What he is doing is complaining about the policeman for breaking up a very good party. This is incredible. I really am ashamed of that member.

Is it possible that none of the 30 members of Parliament from Quebec had no knowledge whatsoever of the fact that money was being shipped to them, cash in brown envelopes? I can hardly believe that.

I would like the member's comments on that. As well, I recommend to him that what he should do is stand up, hang his head in shame and say to Canadians, “Sorry, we blew it”. I would like him to say that.


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LIB

Jacques Saada

Liberal

Hon. Jacques Saada

Mr. Speaker, allow me to make a suggestion to my colleague. If he had kept reading the report beyond the first six pages and had read the entire thing, perhaps he would have gotten the whole picture, including the fact that the Prime Minister and the current ministers were exonerated.

Again, the statement made by the leader of the Conservative Party during a speech, for which I gave the exact reference, goes entirely against the interest of national unity. My colleague stands there looking shocked. Will he ask his leader to stand up in this House and apologize for his statements that cast doubt on the integrity of our country? Does his leader have the courage to apologize for his statements that go against our national interest?

Short of not paying any attention to what goes on around here, it was hard not to know about the sponsorship program. Everyone knew about it. The Bloc Québécois took advantage of it and applied for sponsorships for some of its ridings. Everyone did. That is not the issue. The issue is whether anyone here knew that some people were using the program to commit any wrongdoing. I say no.


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BQ

Raynald Blais

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Raynald Blais (Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to comment on the statements of the Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada and to ask him some questions on the speech he just delivered. To me it sounds like he is in a panic.

When he talks about sadness when we are currently discussing a topic that was presented in this House by his own colleague from Bourassa, he is targeting the person who raised the question of privilege. The debate could have easily been on something else, given the chance.

The minister talks about sadness and wanting to teach others a lesson. I will humbly remind him that he should take a second look at his own work. Just recently he made a long awaited announcement on an initiative for the fisheries, an announcement he even postponed. In this initiative, he forgot—


Subtopic:   Privilege
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November 14, 2005