Friday, September 30, 2005

Hansard excerpts-Question Period- Sept 29,2005

Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I would urge the government to keep on top of the situation. We will, of course, aid it in anything we can do.

Yesterday while David Dingwall was resigning for his scandalous spending, the Prime Minister was defending him in the House. What a change for the man who said that he would clean it all up.

Will the Prime Minister now do the right thing and ask the Auditor General to do a thorough investigation of Mr. Dingwall's spending and contracting practices at the Canadian Mint and at Technology Partnerships Canada?

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Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): First, Mr. Speaker, not only did David Dingwall turn the company around financially but he also produced a new positive spirit and higher morale as indicated by the fact that employees, as we speak, are writing a petition that he not resign.

That having been said, no performance in this regard is an excuse for breaking the rules. There is no evidence he did but, and this goes to the question, the board will be appointing external experts to conduct an independent review of the policies to ensure that he did not break any policies and to consider—

The Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, David Dingwall is accused of a wide range of misspending. There are suspicions about what exactly happened with moneys at Technology Partnerships Canada.

If the minister wants, he can negotiate with him some kind of golden parachute. The Treasury Board president can continue to urge him to stay and the Prime Minister can proclaim him to be the St. David of public service. If they are so certain, why do they not call in the Auditor General to investigate what actually happened?

Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): First, Mr. Speaker, I would have thought the Leader of the Opposition would know by now that the Auditor General is the auditor.

In addition to that, there is no evidence that Mr. Dingwall broke any rules. The expenses were signed off by the chief financial officer and approved by the board. However, for greater certainty the board is gong to two highly reputed external experts to ensure he broke no policy and to analyze whether the existing policies are the right policies for the future.

Mr. Brian Pallister (Portage—Lisgar, CPC): Mr. Speaker, a year ago the Prime Minister was saying that he wanted to get to the bottom of all the wrongdoing. Yesterday he was nominating David Dingwall for the Order of Canada. What the heck happened?

It seems he is only a proponent of cleaning things up when he can send the bill to Jean Chrétien, but this happened under his watch. This is his dirty laundry. These lavish expenses should have been stopped by him, and Canadians are mad as hell. When will the government understand that they are not willing to take it any more?

[Translation]

Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, given that the member has not apologized for questioning the right of a francophone to speak French before a parliamentary committee, I am happy to reply to him in French.

The answer is the same as the one I have just given: there is no proof Mr. Dingwall did not follow the rules. The evidence will be examined by outside experts.

Mr. Brian Pallister (Portage—Lisgar, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the minister is saying a lot, and nothing, at the same time.

[English]

Yesterday the Prime Minister tried to defend, as his colleagues are doing today, the indefensible. The Prime Minister had a choice yesterday: Liberal crony or Canadian taxpayer. He chose Liberal crony. He chose wrong.

The Prime Minister makes these bold pronouncements about improving governance, but they are nothing more than bogus. Now he is planning to add insult to injury by giving David Spendwell a severance package. Why is the Prime Minister giving more money to Dingwall when he should be getting it back?

Hon. Reg Alcock (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not think the member opposite should play fast and loose with the truth. Would he please identify a single law that has been broken, a single rule that has been broken?

How does he defend the fact that he seems to think it is inappropriate for the head of a $400 million corporation, which generates $182 million offshore, to travel to do that business? This whole thing is nothing more than a character assassination on somebody who has done an excellent piece of work.

[Translation]

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the president of the Royal Canadian Mint resigned after embarrassing revelations on his spending while in that position. In 2004 alone, Mr. Dingwall and his entourage claimed miscellaneous expenses of $750,000 for such things as maintenance of the minister's BMW, a golf club membership and even chewing gum. Despite the extent of the scandal, the president of the Treasury Board asked Mr. Dingwall to stay on.

How, with such an attitude, does the Prime Minister have the nerve to say that his government has learned a lesson from the sponsorship scandal?

¸ (1425)

Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Bloc should know that this $750,000 figure is not accurate because most of that money was for office expenses and not personal expenses.

That being said, there is no evidence that Mr. Dingwall broke any rules. To be still more certain of this, the board is appointing two outside experts to conduct an audit and make recommendations to determine whether policies should be changed.

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, that sounded just like Alfonso Gagliano answering the initial questions on the sponsorships. It is the same tune.

The minister responsible for the Royal Mint even thanked the fallen president for “his service to Canadians”.

Should he not instead have condemned Mr. Dingwall for helping himself to public funds?

Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think we should be honest and if someone did a good job, that should be recognized.

The government is extremely serious about the possibility of rules being broken. That is why the board is hiring two experts.

That being said, the fact that employees at the Royal Canadian Mint organized a petition for Mr. Dingwall to stay on suggests that he served the employees and the government well.

Mr. Odina Desrochers (Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is incredible to hear the government pay tribute to David Dingwall after he resigned following revelations in the newspapers yesterday on his administration's laxity.

How can the Prime Minister explain the fact that he supports someone who has resigned as a result of poor administration and who made Chuck Guité responsible for the entire sponsorship program after ensuring the latter was a faithful Liberal?

Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it seems that the Bloc Québécois has trouble understanding whenever there is a two-part answer.

First, we are going to look into whether there were any irregularities. However, to date, there is no evidence that there were. We take this point very seriously.

Second, the facts suggest that, yes, he did a good job at the Royal Canadian Mint, with regard to both its profitability and company morale.

Mr. Odina Desrochers (Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, BQ): Mr. Speaker, whenever we asked questions, back then, about Alfonso Gagliano, the government had exactly the same attitude it does now and it gave the same answers: he is beyond reproach, he is a great Canadian.

Given its arrogance with regard to the Dingwall scandal, is the government not showing that it has learned nothing from the sponsorship scandal and that it has no more respect for taxpayers' dollars now than it did back then?

[English]

Hon. Reg Alcock (President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think the concern I have is that members take an area where there was a significant problem that is being addressed and then use that to slander anybody they choose. The reality is that Mr. Dingwall has not been accused of anything. Nothing. What we have is an opinion on his expenses.

Let me tell members this. On the reforms that we have put in place, Dave Brown, the past chairman of the Ontario Securities Commission, says they are very positive steps. They are practices adapted from the private sector. This clarifies the accountabilities within the crown corporation structure and between the corporations in a responsible manner. It reaffirms the essential stewardship of the crowns.......

Technology Partnerships Canada

Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton—Leduc, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we have just seen ministers defend Mr. Dingwall because they said he did not break the rules. He did break the rules. It is expressly forbidden for lobbyists to receive contingency fees when they help to secure a Technology Partnerships Canada grant for their clients.

In spite of this rule, former Liberal cabinet minister David Dingwall received at least $350,000 as a reward for securing a TPC grant and he sees nothing wrong with this. Yet this government is not pursuing Mr. Dingwall or any other lobbyist who has defrauded the taxpayers by receiving kickbacks. Why will this government not force Mr. Dingwall to return this fee to the government, to the taxpayers of Canada?

Hon. David Emerson (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member knows that there is a prohibition against companies paying contingency fees to lobbyists under the technology partnerships program. We have dealt with the company. The company was in breach of contract. The company can deal with Mr. Dingwall. We have recovered the money.

I might also say that the technology partnerships program has led to $14 billion plus in research and development and innovation in Canadian companies

Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton—Leduc, CPC): Mr. Speaker, this is unbelievable. This thing is a racket. The taxpayers of this country deserve some respect. There is no punishment for those who break the rules because in fact the lobbyists may be allowed to keep the money they take, against the government's own rules.

The fact is that David Dingwall is not alone. Up to 15 lobbyists have received kickbacks for securing TPC grants. The minister admitted yesterday that this number could be growing. Why is this government not going after former Liberal cabinet minister David Dingwall? Why is it not standing up for Canadian taxpayers?

Hon. David Emerson (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if only the hon. member would remind himself that nearly 90% of the companies that are assisted under Technology Partnerships Canada are small companies. The Government of Canada is in the business of supporting small businesses in Canada and helping them to become competitive, not in the business of punishing them.

We are getting the money back, we are correcting the breaches and that is the right thing to do.

¸ (1435)

Mr. Michael Chong (Wellington—Halton Hills, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it has been a year since the government ordered a partial audit of the TPC program and still we have no answers. Thirty-three contracts have been audited. Eleven, one in three, have been found to have been in breach. It looks like there are eleven more David Dingwalls out there, yet the government refuses to reveal their identities and how much they received in kickbacks.

The public deserves to know today who was involved in these breaches and how much money was siphoned off. Who are these eleven other David Dingwalls? How much did they receive in kickbacks?

Hon. David Emerson (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I see that the hon. members have finally got back to their core niche, which is to drag people through the muck rather than talk about the public policy issues of this country.

We have worked closely with the Auditor General to audit the technology partnerships program. We will find any breaches of the program. We will correct them. We will recover the money. The hon. member should just sit down and think about what the best interests of Canadians are.

Mr. Michael Chong (Wellington—Halton Hills, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the facts speak for themselves. The auditor's interim audit states that one-third of the 33 randomly selected contracts are in breach. There are 160 contracts in the TPC program. It would only be logical to assume that one-third of them are also in breach.

We do not need more reports and hyperbole from this government. What this House needs is answers, answers as to which contracts are in breach, who is involved and what are the amounts of the kickbacks.

When will this government come clean on the $2.4 billion TPC program? Who else other than David Dingwall received these kickbacks and how much did they get?

Hon. David Emerson (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member knows or should know that it is not illegal to hire a lobbyist under Technology Partnerships Canada. The only thing that was in breach of contract was either to not be registered or to have a contingency fee or a success fee.

That program has accounted for over $14 billion of small businesses investing in research and development and technology. For the member to malign a program that has that kind of positive impact on Canada I think is just wrong.

* * *

Sponsorship Program

Mr. Gary Lunn (Saanich—Gulf Islands, CPC): Mr. Speaker, yesterday we asked the Minister of Public Works whether the RCMP had recently seized documents relating to the sponsorship scandal. The minister responded by claiming the RCMP had asked Public Works for a single invoice.

For the third time, is the minister aware that the RCMP attended the Public Works offices in Gatineau, Quebec on September 14 and seized over 100 boxes of documents from the records management group? Can the minister confirm or deny that this in fact happened?

Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands actually claimed that Public Works provided information to the RCMP that had been withheld from the Gomery commission. I said yesterday in the House and I will repeat again today in the House that the information provided to the RCMP to help cooperate with their ongoing investigations was provided in fact twice to the Gomery commission.

That hon. member ought to rise in the House and correct what he said yesterday because he was wrong when he tried to bring disrepute on the work of Justice Gomery....

Sponsorship Program

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, in response to a question from me about the apparent seizure of documents from the Department of Public Works, the minister said, “I am informed that last week the RCMP contacted Public Works [which] provided an invoice to the RCMP...”.

Is it the position of the minister that the invoice ran over 100 boxes long? Is it not true and will he not confirm that over 100 boxes of information were taken from the offices of his department by the RCMP related to the sponsorship inquiry?

Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, yesterday that hon. member said on the floor of the House of Commons that in fact the information that was voluntarily provided by Public Works to the RCMP in full cooperation with the ongoing investigations of the RCMP was in fact withheld from the Gomery inquiry.

He was wrong. In fact, that information had been provided to the Gomery inquiry on at least two occasions previously. In fact, over 28 million pages of documents have been provided by the Government of Canada to the Gomery commission.

That hon. member should rise and apologize to the House.

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC): Mr. Speaker, is that not interesting? The minister will not deny that he claimed yesterday that an invoice was seized when in fact, by all appearances, over 100 boxes of evidence were taken from the offices of his department.

We are not going to accept the transparent diversions of the minister. We would like a straight answer. Were over 100 boxes of information seized by the RCMP from his department and were those boxes of information relevant to the sponsorship inquiry, yes or no?

Hon. Scott Brison (Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the fact is that there are several ongoing RCMP investigations and Public Works has cooperated fully with the RCMP.
Hon. Scott Brison: Mr. Speaker, the fact is that Public Works is cooperating fully with any RCMP investigation. That is the right thing to do. Beyond that, Public Works is cooperating fully with the Gomery commission by providing over 28 million pages of documents to the Gomery commission.

We are interested in getting to the truth. We are interested in supporting the work of Justice Gomery and working with the RCMP to do the right thing on behalf of Canadians.

All they are doing over there is in fact bringing disrepute on the work of Justice Gomery and disrepute on the important work of the RCMP.

1 Comments:

TonyGuitar said...

Looks like everyone is picking you up and not leaving a comment.


I saw this early this morning and had to run before print-out.

Later I couldn't find it. I thought I saw something about 24 boxes.

Anyway it's on CQB's and:
http://YoungConservative.blog.ca

Extra good stuff! 73s TG

8:56 PM  

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