The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing -- Edmund Burke
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
let's see- no obligation to pay but they want to pay anyway? Was a deal made to have him resign with compensation before he actually resigned?
"When Madely asked Levitt if this could be true, Levitt, who is considered by many to be the premier expert on severance in the country, said flatly, "What McCallum says is patent nonsense." There are no general, universal obligations under Canadian law to pay severance to those who leave of their own accord.
According to Levitt, if anyone of us quits his or her job voluntarily "that's the end of it. We've terminated the contract unilaterally and there's no mutual obligation" that binds our employer to pay us compensation for leaving."
Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act-Whistleblower legislation-ther is much more besides these excerpts...........
Mr. Jeff Watson (Essex, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to debate Bill C-11, the Liberal government's half attempt at protecting public servants who blow the whistle on corruption in government. It is a necessary bill but one, I am sad to say, the Liberal government never took very seriously.
I wish to begin by congratulating the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry for his ongoing determination to see a whistleblower protection act that actually protects those who disclose wrongdoing. The voters in that riding would do well to remember it was that member, not the Liberal government, who pushed Bill C-11 from a woefully inadequate, fatally flawed bill to at least a workable framework for protecting whistleblowers. I believe that member of Parliament will be in the House to see a Conservative government that will finish the job.
With the prospect of a Conservative government to replace this tired and scandal plagued Liberal regime on the horizon, it gives me the opportunity to think aloud about what it will take to root out the Liberal culture of corruption and bring about a better, cleaner government for Canadians. This is no small step. Forming government means that we will take the reins as the largest employer in the land. A Conservative government would have to strive for labour excellence with the public service, not settle for the old Liberal pattern to disregard and demoralize.
Labour excellence is about forging a new relationship with our public servants, recognizing them as valued partners in the quest for open, transparent and fully accountable government that is finally free from the stain of corruption. Labour excellence between a Conservative government and the public service will have to include many things.
Some context for this bill: settling contracts on time or better, not allowing them to languish for months as this Treasury Board president did; bargaining fairly and not counting on public stereotypes of bureaucrats to strengthen the government hand to legislate back to work and impose a settlement, as this Treasury Board president hoped to do last year.
Such a partnership will require real whistleblower protection, not the amended bill we have before us today.
During debate on Bill C-11, I have seen a change in the Liberal tone. There is a jump in their step. They are talking about the wonders of a minority government while they secretly hope the public does not remember the two previous incarnations of this bill that did nothing to protect whistleblowers and everything to protect Liberal corruption.
The Liberal government introduced its fatally flawed bill in March 2004, just after the Auditor General slammed the Liberal sponsorship program and the government for breaking every rule in the book. The Liberals introduced that bill just before pulling the plug on the public accounts committee and on Parliament to keep Liberal ad scam misdeeds from reaching the voters. In other words, the Liberal government never intended to protect those who blew the whistle on its corruption.
I remember Allan Cutler. Most of us remember him for bravely disclosing corruption, but how many other faceless and nameless public servants had their careers, their health and their reputations destroyed for trying to do the same before the Auditor General broke ground on the truth behind the Liberal sponsorship program? They must be devastated listening to Liberals yesterday and today acting like they are actively part of a real whistleblower protection act. In fact, Liberals have been selling the false idea that this is already legislation. What a slap in their faces.
Now I am not fooled. Not only did the Liberal government fake whistleblower protection before the last election, it had the audacity to bring back the flawed bill after the election. Another slap in the face to public servants who have high ethics.
Canadians are not fooled. If former Liberal cabinet minister David Dingwall were not under a cloud of suspicion for bilking Canadian taxpayers with padded expense claims and kickbacks for lobbying the Liberal cabinet for Technology Partnerships Canada grants, the government would not have made a single amendment to Bill C-11, not one.
The Liberal government is in desperate need of an extreme ethical makeover but that makeover does not start with a few half measure amendments that are only better than the original bill because the original bill was so awful. Such an ethical makeover starts with a heartfelt commitment that taxpayer dollars are the delegated trust of hardworking Canadians coast to coast to their representatives, not the personal playthings of a power-mongering Liberal Party desperate to hold power.
Such an ethical makeover requires seeing public servants as public guardians of ethics in the processes of government, not potential leaks that must be quashed to preserve Liberal corruption. These public guardians deserve our utmost consideration as full partners ensuring that the dollars taxpayers pay in good faith help fellow Canadians in need and are not syphoned off to reward the friends and cronies of an institutionalized Liberal government.
Such an ethical makeover is not possible for the Liberal government. The evidence of that is in this amended Bill C-11. Liberals had the chance to get it right and chose not to. The Liberal government had the chance to shed a light into the darkest corners of every government department, but since Canadians would likely have seen Liberal rats scurrying about, the government chose to adopt a cover-up clause instead.
First the Liberals wanted 20 years without disclosure. They would never take zero. They would go no lower than five years. For five years, disclosure of wrongdoings can sit inside a government department before coming to light. Not only this but the Liberals had the chance to broadly apply whistleblower protection without strings attached. They chose not to.
The cabinet will retain the unilateral power to pull protection from whistleblowers, for example, at crown corporations. Disgraced David Dingwall was just forced out of a crown corporation by the official opposition's digging to expose his outlandish abuse of taxpayer dollars, not because the government was forthcoming about it. If Liberals had their way, he would still be CEO of the mint, bilking taxpayers for lavish dinners and golf memberships in secrecy. The Liberals cannot undertake an extreme ethical makeover because they had the chance and did not.
I will reluctantly support the bill, quite frankly because it is the best we will get from the Liberal government. This is better than the naked exposure public servants of high integrity and ethics faced for 12 Liberal years for doing the right thing by disclosing corruption, abuse and waste.
It is too bad the Liberals could not muster the courage to end their self indulgence with a comprehensive whistleblower protection act that would once and for all slap constraints on their corruption addiction. Because the Liberals are incapable of cleaning up corruption and cannot handle disclosure of the truth about their corruption, Canadians will have to sweep them from power.
Only the Conservative Party can clean up Liberal corruption and restore better government to a great Canada. The Conservative Party is ready to step in and do the job of protecting all whistleblowers, not just most.
The member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry is ready. As the next Government of Canada, Conservatives will end the cover-up clause and apply whistleblower protection to all agencies of the government. That is the clean government Canadians deserve.
Mr. Jeff Watson: Mr. Speaker, the member's last comment was probably the most telling. I applaud the Auditor General, not the government.
The government has been dragged kicking and screaming by the exposure of its own corrupt misdeeds into making changes. It was forced. The Liberals are not forthcoming. It was not that the Liberals said that they were going to clean up the way government was done and that there would be great openness and transparency. That is not what they did. They were forced into it because of the damning disclosure of the wrongdoings that were going on under the Liberals' watch.
I applaud the Auditor General, not the government. It is too little too late, quite frankly. It deserves some real consequences. Every time I hear technical arguments, there is often the candid admission that the government does not want people to look at the broad strokes. It gets everybody to focus on this or that little detail in order to miss the big picture of what is going on.
What is going on here is that the Liberal government does not want any consequences. The bill has been radically changed. In fact, the member for Peterborough did not even want to defend the original bill, Bill C-25, quite frankly, giving credit to everybody in the House that it has been changed. That is a candid admission of how bad Bill C-25 a year ago and Bill C-11 really were.
They were fake attempts at whistleblower protection. It is sad that the government could not muster the courage to get protection for all whistleblowers this time. That is what should have happened. The government did not do it. It does not deserve any credit.
Technology Partnerships Canada
Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister. It has been admitted that, besides his extravagant spending, David Dingwall was involved in unregistered lobbying and in instances of breach of contract to the tune of $350,000.
Could the Prime Minister tell us why, instead of calling in the RCMP and instead of trying to go after Mr. Dingwall for the money, he is praising him here in the House and trying to negotiate a golden parachute for him?
Hon. David Emerson (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I have said over and over again, in the case of Mr. Dingwall and any other lobbyist who has been in receipt of a contingency fee, our recourse is to the company. Our contract is with the company. We are dealing with the company. We have recovered the money and the company may in fact choose to take action against Mr. Dingwall.
Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I am simply going to again ask the Prime Minister to answer the question. David Dingwall apparently received $350,000 in breach of contract. He is not entitled to it. The Prime Minister used to be mad as hell about this stuff. Why, instead of being mad as hell, is he praising Mr. Dingwall and negotiating a golden handshake for him?
Hon. David Emerson (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have recovered the $350,000. That has been dealt with. The company may in fact choose to take action of its own. That is up to the company. That is its decision. The government cannot go after him for that particular money.
* * *
Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I do not think I am going to give up.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Speaker: Neither am I, but we will have some order. We want some order so we can hear the question that the Leader of the Opposition is about to ask. He has the floor.
Hon. Stephen Harper: Would the Prime Minister explain? We know David Dingwall received $350,000 he should not have received. Why, instead of trying to recover that money, is the government actually contemplating giving him perhaps up to half a million dollars more?
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Speaker: Order, please. We have a question. The Minister of Industry has the floor to answer the question. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will not be able to hear it with all this noise. We will now hear from the Minister of National Revenue.
Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, with respect to the severance package, the government lawyers have been asked to advise the government on what is the minimum separation package that the government can pay given the relevant laws and given the policy framework.
I can list the relevant laws if the members will listen. They are the Royal Canadian Mint Act, the Financial Administration Act, and the crown corporation general regulations.
Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I know that a couple of days ago in the House this minister liked to quote the common law. There is no common law saying the government has to pay severance to someone who voluntarily quits. That may be the common practice of the Liberal Party, but it is not the common law.
Once again, given that there is no requirement to pay severance to someone who quits voluntarily, and given that Mr. Dingwall received hundreds of thousands of dollars he should not have received, why is the Prime Minister contemplating giving him any money at all?
Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, perhaps the Leader of the Opposition ought to take some legal advice, because according to the government's legal advice, his facts of the law are wrong. Indeed, it is the case that without a mutually agreed separation package, even when somebody resigns voluntarily there is most definitely the risk of a long and expensive lawsuit.
Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, David Dingwall hired Chuck Guité, the man behind the sponsorship scandal. He has broken the rules governing lobbyists and the awarding of contracts for his own personal gain. He ran up quite a few expenses on his expense account at the Royal Mint.
Does the Prime Minister really think that buying David Dingwall is the way to put an end to corruption?
Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government has sought legal advice as to the minimum amount the government has to pay under the relevant legislation and its policy. That is the government's objective...........
Mr. Brian Pallister (Portage—Lisgar, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the waiting list for leadership gets longer all the time.
When the Prime Minister replaced Jean Chrétien, it was out with the old and in with the old. Canadians were hopeful that we would have Mr. Clean but what we have instead is Sergeant Schultz, “I know nothing, I see nothing”. That wilful ignorance is costing Canadian taxpayers.
The Privy Council's own rules stipulate that appointees are entitled to one week's pay for each completed year of service, but that is only for terminations not for spendthrift quitters.
David Dingwall does not deserve one penny. Will the Prime Minister admit—
The Speaker: The hon. Minister of National Revenue.
Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my advice comes from those Privy Council lawyers. They have been asked to tell us what the minimum amount is that the government must pay given the relevant laws and the policy framework. I have already listed those laws and the policy framework includes the desire to avoid the cost of a long lawsuit. Those are the factors that enter into the consideration to get the minimum amount that the government is required to pay.
Mr. Brian Pallister (Portage—Lisgar, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the minister says that he is for a rules based system but if there is one thing David Dingwall has taught the people of Canada, it is that the government believes in two different sets of rules: one for Liberal patronage appointees and one for everybody else.
When working Canadians quit their jobs there is no golden parachute for them. In fact, there is no unemployment insurance either. When the minister rules that Dingwall's golf club memberships are acceptable while Revenue Canada's own rules say that they are not, then there is a problem of a double standard that exists here.
Could the minister, who is also the revenue minister, tell us whose rules apply to Dingwall, his or his?
Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are indeed committed to a system in which not only do we enforce the rules but under the leadership of the Treasury Board president we have been improving the rules in a significant fashion over the past month. The crown corporation governance has been strengthened.
On this specific point, if Pricewaterhouse finds any expenses by Mr. Dingwall that it deems to be inappropriate, then those expenses will be, dollar for dollar, subtracted from any severance package.
* * *
Technology Partnerships Canada
Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton—Leduc, CPC): Mr. Speaker, at least five companies have been found to be in breach of their Technology Partnerships Canada contracts. In one case, David Dingwall received a payment of $350,000 after successfully lobbying for a government grant.
Does Dingwall have to pay the money back? No. Has the company that hired Dingwall had its government grant revoked? No.
Why is the industry minister not going after David Dingwall and forcing him to pay back the $350,000 he received in violation of the government's own rules?
Hon. David Emerson (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is getting a little tiresome answering the same questions over and over again.
The government has recourse to the company with which it has a contractual relationship. The company has the opportunity to deal with Mr. Dingwall. It can choose to do that or not to do that. We have dealt with the company with which we can deal.
Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton—Leduc, CPC): Mr. Speaker, this is taxpayer money. The government should be showing some leadership instead of passing the buck to the companies.
We further learned today that six lobbyists connected to this scandal have been referred to the lobbyists registrar for further investigation. My question for the industry minister is simple. Has the RCMP been called in to investigate any of these lobbyists and when will taxpayers finally get their money back?
Hon. David Emerson (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the taxpayers did get their money back. The reality is that where there was an unregistered lobbyist, we have referred it to the RCMP or to the registrar of lobbyists who can also refer it to the RCMP. That is where there is a legal issue at play here and that has been done.
Mr. Paul Crête (Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, BQ): Mr. Speaker, 11 companies have reportedly paid lobbyists commissions for grants obtained under the Technology Partnerships Canada program, a kickback for successfully securing grants, which is prohibited.
My question to the minister is very simple. Could he table before this House the list of companies at fault and the names of the lobbyists, registered or not, involved in this affair?
Hon. David Emerson (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if I were the hon. member I would not call it kickbacks outside the House.
The answer is that when we have completed the audits and we have satisfied the requirements of the privacy laws of this country, we will release the information. I promised to release it. I will release it. We will release it when we have the information to release.
In the meantime, we will not be putting companies out of business that are out there transforming our economy and investing in technology. That is not what this government is trying to do.
Mr. Paul Crête (Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, BQ): Mr. Speaker, we refuse to allow the government to strike secret deals behind the scenes with companies at fault in the TPC program affair. We know the name of at least one of these companies: Bioniche. And the lobbyist was David Dingwall.
We want the names of the other 10 companies at fault and the names of the 10 lobbyists who illegally received kickbacks. Who are these people?
Hon. David Emerson (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we will release the results of those audits when the results of those audits are complete and when we have satisfied the requirements of the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act.
The hon. member knows that we have been very open and will be very open. We will be releasing that information......
Ms. Helena Guergis (Simcoe—Grey, CPC): Mr. Speaker, last week Ruby Thompson, an 83-year-old lady, was mugged in broad daylight in Toronto. She is a double amputee who was doing her Christmas shopping because it is too cold for her in the winter. She was knocked out of her wheelchair by a 16-year-old and received a broken arm and an injured hip.
Under the Liberal justice system there are no serious consequences for this type of crime. Why is the Prime Minister so out of touch that he will not close the loopholes on these horrific crimes?
Hon. Paul Harold Macklin (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Speaker: Order. The hon. parliamentary secretary has the floor. Members might want to restrain themselves so we can hear the answer from the parliamentary secretary.
Hon. Paul Harold Macklin: Mr. Speaker, clearly, violent crime is totally unacceptable. This government has responded through the Youth Criminal Justice Act in ways in which it is capable of providing proportionality in the sentencing process. Those with the most violent crimes are also going to be subject to the most violent penalties. In fact, adult sentences can be applied to those most violent offenders.
Ms. Helena Guergis (Simcoe—Grey, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the government does everything it can for criminals and nothing to protect our law-abiding citizens. It has mobile units giving heroin addicts a free fix, and adult criminals who commit gun crimes can be back out the very next day only to terrorize their victims again.
Why do the Liberals continue to dither on violent crime and why is the government doing nothing to protect vulnerable Canadians like Ruby Thompson?
Hon. Paul Harold Macklin (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not believe the hon. member had the benefit of hearing my answer. In fact if she had listened, she would have heard that we are very much interested in proportionality in sentencing so that those who do participate in the most violent crime will receive the most severe sentence that we can possibly have brought and deal with them in the appropriate manner.
Technology Partnerships Canada
Hon. Ed Broadbent (Ottawa Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister, who is ultimately responsible for the ethical standards of the government.
Today in the House the Minister of Industry continued to say it is up to the company to retrieve the illegal $350,000 payment that Mr. Dingwall got. The Minister of National Revenue continues to imply that Mr. Dingwall is entitled to some kind of severance pay, which according to the law he is not.
Will the Prime Minister clarify this ethical situation? Does he support these low ethical standards of his ministers, or does he support the people of Canada who believe Mr. Dingwall does not deserve another cent and should repay the $350,000?
Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, both members have spoken of the law as it is. Both members have spoken about their desire to make sure that the right thing is done. Both members are working very hard.
I take considerable exception to the reference by the hon. member to the low ethical standards of the ministers. I want the member to know that the ethical standards of this cabinet and the ethical standards of this government are the highest and they should not be called into doubt.
Hon. Ed Broadbent (Ottawa Centre, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has a chance to deliver on his rhetoric now. Does he maintain the highest ethical standards? If so, will he get to his feet and demand publicly that Mr. Dingwall repay the $350,000?
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Speaker: It is clear the Minister of Industry who has risen to answer the question is a very popular minister. We have to have some order so we can hear his answer. The difficulty is we are wasting time and some members are going to miss their questions.
The hon. Minister of Industry has the floor.
Hon. David Emerson (Minister of Industry, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the reality is we have recovered the $350,000 from the company, which is the party with whom we have the legal relationship. If the party wishes to pursue Mr. Dingwall, it can do that. It has a legal relationship with Mr. Dingwall. We have a legal relationship with Bioniche. We have recovered the money.
* * *
Citizenship and Immigration
Mr. Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton—Strathcona, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we have all seen the pizza flyers at our doors, two for one pizza, $19.99 pizza, pizza with chicken wings, and the list goes on, but I have never heard of a $138 pizza like the immigration minister spent for him and a guest on July 4 at Camarra Pizzeria in Toronto. I have heard of extra toppings, but this is ridiculous.
When the most expensive item on the menu is $34, how did he manage to spend $138 for two people at a pizzeria?
Hon. Joseph Volpe (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for recognizing that one of the functions of the minister is to have consultations and to think in terms of developing a plan for immigration.
I will be pleased when he recognizes, as the press has today, that three cities in Canada, Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, have made it to the top 10 list of most desirable cities. They have one thing in common and that is they are filled with immigrants.
I look forward to discussing those issues with the House as we unfold the plan.
Mr. Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton—Strathcona, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we have been asking pretty straightforward questions of the minister but he seems to always complicate the answer.
Managing to spend $138 at a pizzeria for two just does not add up. Either he ordered some very expensive wine, or maybe he ordered a lot of take-out, or maybe he is a very generous tipper. The most incredible thing is he is trying to justify that the taxpayers picked up this bill.
I ask the minister again, how did he manage to spend $138 on pizza for two?
Hon. Joseph Volpe (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, once again, everyone in the House is aware that one of the reasons we post these on a proactive disclosure is so everyone sees exactly where the money is spent and how it is spent. I am quite happy that the House is going through a period where it is beginning to understand all of these.
As for the member, it is difficult to appreciate what he says because he is one of those individuals who has not seen a $3 bill that he would not idolize.