Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC): Mr. Speaker, there is a pattern in the Prime Minister's parliamentarian purchase plan. First, develop plausible deniability by trying to insulate the directions of the Prime Minister. Second, when caught on tape, deny, deflect and divert attention to some tampered tape excuse.
We saw with ad scam no responsibility in the Liberal government, just rogue bureaucrats.
The Prime Minister's chief of staff and his Minister of Health are caught red-handed acting as agents trying to buy Tory votes to save a corrupt government.
Is the real reason the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister's chief of staff remain that they were simply acting on the Prime Minister's instructions to do whatever was necessary to save his corrupt government?
Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I honestly wish the official opposition would stop making these wild accusations and allegations without evidence that call into disrepute, not only their actions, but the responsibilities of all of us as ministers and members of Parliament in this House.
I think if there is any pattern here, it is a pattern being established by the official opposition. Yesterday afternoon the deputy leader said, “It is my understanding that those tapes are pristine. They haven't been altered, edited, nothing of the nature”.
We have the member for Calgary Southeast referring to four hours of discussions.
We have not seen four hours of tapes. They are--
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. member for Central Nova.
Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is on the tape what matters. That is what is in question here.
There is a bad smell emanating from the government's sordid attempts to buy votes, including attempting to get the Ethics Commissioner to take the cloud off an investigation and suggestions as to an RCMP investigation.
Tim Murphy's crass assertions hurt the office of the Ethics Commissioner. The commissioner himself said, “The cloud is over the person who makes the suggestion, not the office”.
Any complaints about his office being bandied about in these negotiations are wrong.
Why has the “let's make a deal Prime Minister” not fired his chief of staff for even attempting to manipulate an officer of Parliament?
Hon. Mauril Bélanger (Minister for Internal Trade, Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Minister responsible for Official Languages and Associate Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Ethics Commissioner is an independent officer of Parliament, chosen by all parties of this House. He himself will make his own determination in this matter.
He also said that he had not been approached by Mr. Murphy.
If any member has any information, such as the two hours of missing tapes, apparently, that can be provided to the Ethics Commissioner, we would ask the members opposite to do so.
Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC): Mr. Speaker, even a senior Liberal member of Parliament is calling for the Minister of Health and the chief of staff to step down until an investigation into the vote buying takes place.
The member for Sarnia—Lambton says, “The situation is totally odious and it makes his skin crawl”. Another senior member says, “The bar is so low...”, probably lower than his mentor, Jean Chrétien.
The Prime Minister promised to bolster trust by ensuring Canadians know, “That it is always the public interest that motivates the public business”.
Why did the Prime Minister let the bar drop so low by allowing his personal ambition to pervert the public interest? What shoddy ethics from the highest office--
The Deputy Speaker: The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.
Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister was absolutely clear. When it came to his attention that a member of the official opposition might be interested in crossing the floor, the Prime Minister made it absolutely plain that no offer was to be made to that individual. It is that simple.
Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, CPC): Mr. Speaker, what is absolutely clear is the level and depth of corruption in the government. The self-proclaimed wire brush of ethics was going to restore integrity to Parliament. That is a joke.
Instead, the Prime Minister's own caucus has this to say about his ethics:
The bar is so low now.... Have you ever seen anything like this?
Everybody gets away with stuff. It's just a joke.
Will the Prime Minister take the first step in restoring integrity to Parliament by doing the right thing and demanding that his health minister and chief of staff step down?
Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if we want to throw quotes around in this House, let us see what the member for Edmonton—St. Albert had to say about the conduct of the member for Newton—North Delta.
I don't think that one-sided taping of conversations is something that we should brag about or be doing on an ongoing basis.
He said that he would not do it. Or let us quote from the member for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, where he says:
"I don't think it helps the atmosphere of a minority Parliament...to be secretly taping conversations.
There are lots of quotes.
Mr. Jay Hill (House Leader of the Official Opposition in the House of Commons, CPC): Mr. Speaker, today we learned from Hardev Bal and Kushpal Gill that as early as April 30 the Prime Minister was trolling to bring the member for Newton—North Delta across the floor to save his government.
Tapes now prove that both the Prime Minister's chief of staff and the Minister of Health were the Prime Minister's agents in this sordid vote-buying scheme. Neither Mr. Murphy nor the Minister of Health have been asked to step aside by the Prime Minister. Is this not because the Prime Minister was ultimately micromanaging this vote-buying scheme?
Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would advise the hon. member to be very careful about the allegations that he is throwing around. He has just referred to two individuals as the agents of the Prime Minister. That is a legal conclusion and it is another example of how those members do not have the guts to go outside and make that claim, but they come in here and are willing to destroy the reputations of innocent people and the offices they hold..........
Mr. John Reynolds (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, CPC): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister claimed there was no intention on the part of the Prime Minister to offer anything to any member who would consider crossing the floor to join the government. Yet the words spoken by the Prime Minister's chief of staff and the health minister indicate the exact opposite. It was wink, wink, nudge, nudge, sort of like Monty Python's flying circus but far more sinister.
Is there anyone on that side of the House who can provide a single shred of evidence that contradicts the evidence on the audiotapes that Liberals are prepared to do anything to maintain power?
Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will simply say again that the Prime Minister was absolutely clear that no offer was to be made to anyone. But let me suggest that when talking about people who are willing to do anything, it does seem passing strange to me that we have this situation where yesterday the deputy leader of the official opposition was talking about pristine tapes, unaltered and so on, and then a few hours later the very same party said that the tapes were altered.
Mr. John Reynolds (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we know that the chief of staff and the health minister met and talked numerous times with the member for Newton—North Delta. There are two possible explanations: either the chief of staff and the health minister have too much time on their hands, or they are addicted to meetings. There is no other explanation for all those meetings between the Minister of Health and the chief of staff, especially after the Prime Minister ordered them not to make any offers.
How many meetings do Liberals have to have before they can say no?
Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think the problem here is that the member for Newton--North Delta would not take no for an answer........
Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's chief of staff is intimating that he could put pressure on the ethics commissioner to hurry up an inquiry report on the Conservative member for Newton—North Delta.
How is it the Prime Minister is still hesitating about suspending his chief of staff who, according to the tapes, indicated his intention to influence the ethics commissioner?
Hon. Mauril Bélanger (Minister for Internal Trade, Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Minister responsible for Official Languages and Associate Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first, the ethics commissioner is an officer of the House. He is completely independent. He is chosen by all parties in this House. He alone will decide on this matter, since it has been brought to his attention, I believe.
Second, the commissioner himself acknowledged that Mr. Murphy had not spoken to him on this matter.
Third, when tapes that have been altered, reduced from four hours to two hours in length, are used as evidence, considerable caution must be exercised in making statements of the type made by the member opposite.
Mr. Richard Marceau (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the commissioner himself has described the remarks of the Prime Minister's chief of staff as unacceptable. He also said that if there are any clouds hanging over anyone they are over the person making the suggestion, Tim Murphy, and not over the office of the ethics commissioner.
In the light of such a blatant allusion to political interference, does the Prime Minister not feel his chief of staff should withdraw immediately?
Hon. Mauril Bélanger (Minister for Internal Trade, Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Minister responsible for Official Languages and Associate Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the ethics commissioner said “if there are any clouds”. I believe the hon. member opposite would do very well to follow this matter.
Judgments cannot be made based on recordings that have been altered. That is recognized now. They were reduced in length from four hours to two hours. I therefore think that the ethics commissioner, this House's independent officer, should be permitted to decide for himself, as he is empowered and is intending to do.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les Patriotes, BQ): Mr. Speaker, on the tape, we can hear the member for Newton—North Delta say, “If we have something then we don’t need to lie to the media. We can tell them that OK, if we do something out of encouragement and conviction, then you have to have something for that. Some reward or whatever”. To which the Prime Minister's chief of staff replied, “Right”.
If that is not indicative of a desire to buy a member's vote, what is it?
Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first of all I go back to the fact that we need to be very careful in terms of the allegations that we throw around in this place.
Yesterday we had an assertion that the tapes that are in the public domain were pristine or unaltered. A few hours after that statement was made, we discovered that this was not the case. I think we need to be very, very careful here in terms of the kinds of allegations that are being made and the basis on which they are being made.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les Patriotes, BQ): Mr. Speaker, since the Minister of Health is challenging the quality of the translation of his remarks from Punjabi, I will read an excerpt from what the Prime Minister's chief of staff said, and he said it in English. He said, “I think it is important that we are honest about it. But [we] also think that those people who take risk are ought to be rewarded for the risk they take”.
If that does not hold the promise of an offer, what did it mean?
Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.): Again, Mr. Speaker, let me be absolutely clear. The Prime Minister said that no offers were to be made and that is as simple as the matter is, but let me say that I think we in fact come back to a very basic proposition here, which is that the hon. member for Newton—North Delta was simply not willing to take no for an answer.