Buckets of Data

June 1, 2005

June 1, 2005. Hansard. Question period exchange about Grewal tapes

Filed under: Uncategorized — bucketsdata @ 7:05 am

From Parliamentary Hansard:

Member for Newton—North Delta

Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister told the House, “At no time…did I ever say that I would meet with the hon. member”, meaning the member for Newton—North Delta, and yet the tapes show the Prime Minister’s chief of staff saying quite clearly that the Prime Minister was “prepared to talk to you directly, both by phone and in person”.

Why did the Prime Minister tell the House that he was unwilling to meet the member for Newton–North Delta when clearly he was?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member for Newton–North Delta called to say that he was interested in crossing the floor. I essentially said to members of the government and my staff that they could pursue discussions but that under no circumstances could any offer be made, and no offer was made.

Clearly, if the hon. member had indicated that he was prepared to cross the floor under those conditions, obviously anybody would meet with somebody who was interested in crossing the floor.

The fundamental fact is that no offer was made, no request was accepted and under those circumstances–

The Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is shifting his story. Now he admits that he did authorize his senior people to engage in discussions.

Yesterday in the House, I repeat, the Prime Minister said, “At no time, however, did I ever say that I would meet with the hon. member”, and yet his health minister is on tape saying, “I talked to the Prime Minister moments ago. He will be happy to talk to you over the phone or in person”.

Why did the Prime Minister not tell the truth in the House of Commons?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with serious matters here. The fact is for the Leader of the Opposition to deliberately misconstrue what was said, for the Leader of the Opposition to cast that kind of aspersion, is certainly not the level of stability and the kind of debate that Canadians are looking for.

I made it very clear that I would not meet with the hon. member unless it was under conditions that said he would cross the floor with no request being accepted and no offers being made.

Under those circumstances and unless those were there I was not prepared to meet with him.

Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, this is another story. The Prime Minister said that he would never meet with him. Now he says that he would meet with him under certain conditions.

When the government was courting the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, the President of the Treasury Board said, “Only the Prime Minister has the authority to make an offer”.

Is not the reason the Prime Minister wanted to meet the member for Newton—North Delta so that he could make him an offer, just as he did in several other cases that we are aware of?

Hon. Tony Valeri (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister gave his chief of staff one instruction, not to make any offers, and that was the case.

The Prime Minister has been very clear about this. He was aware that his office had been approached and that the member wanted to cross the floor. The member of Parliament did not cross the floor and there was no meeting set up with the Prime Minister.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board has said that only the Prime Minister has the authority to buy off opposition members.

The Minister of Health says that talking to the chief of staff is like talking to the Prime Minister.

Published tapes now reveal that the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Tim Murphy, made offers to the Conservative member for Newton—North Delta.

Does the Prime Minister now admit that he made an offer and that his chief of staff was doing the big boss’s bidding and acting on his instruction?

Hon. Tony Valeri (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister gave his chief of staff an instruction and that was not to make any offers. That instruction was followed.

Mr. Kalia, a friend of the member for Newton—North Delta, confirmed that in his statement yesterday, “they said they cannot offer anything.

Frankly, there are serious questions being raised about the accuracy of the tapes and the transcripts. Let us be clear that if there is any credibility on this particular issue it lies solely with the member for Newton—North Delta.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff is caught on tape saying that he was prepared, “to get the Ethics Commissioner to give an interim report or something to take the cloud off that would be helpful”. Clearly, the government was and is prepared to do anything to cling to power and go to any length, including offers of cabinet posts, for votes or interference with an ethics investigation.

Is the Prime Minister and his staff suggesting he can influence an independent officer of Parliament? Why will the Prime Minister not admit that he is engaged in a sordid, deal making practice? Get up and answer the question.

Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it appears the hon. member rented a dog. If he owned one, he would not be so upset.

However, the member for Newton—North Delta made demands. No offers were made and no demands were accepted. The tapes are faulty. There is no authenticity of the tapes. The translation is faulty. The transcription from English to English is faulty. My mother tongue is Punjabi, fortunately. I can say that Conservative staffers were involved in doing the transcription–

The Speaker: The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.

[Translation]

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in the tape affair, instead of assuming his responsibilities, the Prime Minister is short circuiting reality. It was all very well to state in this House that no offer had been made to the member for Newton—North Delta, but nothing justifies his being so categorical.

Contrary to what he is claiming, will the Prime Minister admit, in the light of the released transcripts, that his chief of staff and his Minister of Health were dangling future considerations, which is just as bad?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I repeat that no offer was made and no offer was accepted. This is obvious from the tapes.

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, let us look at the transcription of the tapes. On the eve of a crucial vote in the House, the chief of staff said “those people who take risk, ought to be rewarded for the risk they take”.

Will the Prime Minister finally assume his responsibilities and recognize that the Conservative MP was promised future consideration in exchange for his vote?

[English]

Hon. Tony Valeri (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think the Prime Minister has been very clear. The Prime Minister gave his chief of staff one instruction: not to provide any offers. The member for Newton—North Delta said that he had four hours of taped conservations. He has released less than two of those. Is it any wonder that his credibility is being called into question?

I guess the real question is why so many members across the way want to leave the Conservative Party.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister’s only defence is to repeat that he made no offer to the MP.

If the chief of staff’s intention was not to buy the vote of the member for Newton—North Delta, could the Prime Minister clarify the interpretation to be given the remarks by his chief of staff that the Liberal Party, “is a welcoming mat that has a lot of nice comfy fur on it”?

[English]

Hon. Tony Valeri (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the issue is that I see the hon. member as picking and choosing different parts of a tape, not all of which have been released.

The member for Newton—North Delta has four hours of taped conversations and has released less than two. If there is any credibility in question with respect to what has happened, I think the member would have to speak to the member for Newton—North Delta. The Prime Minister has been very clear on this.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the PM’s chief of staff ruled out all direct discussion of a seat in the Senate before the May 19 vote, but mentioned there would be more manoeuvring room after the vote.

How can the Prime Minister keep saying that no promise was made, when the remarks of his chief of staff leave no doubt as to his intentions, that is, to influence, in exchange for future consideration, the vote of the Conservative MP for Newton—North Delta?

Hon. Tony Valeri (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member for Newton—North Delta approached, wanting to cross the floor. He wanted an offer. He did not get an offer. He did not cross the floor. There was no meeting with the Prime Minister. That is what happened.

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I need to know whether the Prime Minister condones the remarks by his chief of staff or the health minister.

The real tragedy is that we should be discussing the important issues of the nation, but these tapes are deeply concerning, so much so that Canadians are wondering what goes on in this place and whether they can really trust the political process any more.

We have now heard discussions of plausible deniability of positions. Will the Prime Minister tell us whether he condones the remarks that are now available to all Canadians to read and to listen to?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health was approached by a third party on behalf of the member for Newton–North Delta who said that he wanted to cross the floor. A meeting was held. The Minister of Health and indeed, my chief of staff in subsequent discussion made it very clear that there would be no offers forthcoming and that we would accept no requests. That is what happened.

However, I do agree with the leader of the NDP that it is a tragedy we are not discussing important issues, such as the aboriginal meeting which took place yesterday.

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP): Mr. Speaker, we may have just witnessed an example of plausible deniability being exercised here. I am not sure.

However, I was asked, for example, what would I do if my minister of health were to have been involved in something like this. I can tell members that I have no doubt that she would have offered to step aside while the investigations from the RCMP and the Ethics Commissioner were under way so that the air could be cleared.

Does the Prime Minister have a plan to help restore confidence in this place?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the best way to restore civility to this place is that regardless of the debate, it take place in a civil way, that arguments be made in a way in which they can be made, that the leaders of the opposition stop yelling, trying to shut people down when they are on their feet, that we do what Canadians want us to do, and that is to deal with the principal issues that concern them, and that we do it in a way that would make them proud of this place, as opposed to the catcalls over here from the other side.

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC): Mr. Speaker, there is nothing more important than integrity in government. Once again the Prime Minister’s version of events is at variance with the facts.

He said that the member for Newton–North Delta approached the government, and he just said it again, but the Prime Minister’s own chief of staff is caught on tape saying, “you didn’t approach us”.

Then the Prime Minister claimed the member was refused unequivocally and he would not take no for an answer, but the word “no” does not appear once in these four hours of discussions. In fact, the chief of staff says that the Liberal Party is a welcoming mat that has a lot of nice, comfy fur on it.

Why does the Prime Minister’s version of events–

The Speaker: The hon. government House leader.

Hon. Tony Valeri (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member across the way talks about four hours of tape. They have released less than two hours of tapes and that is all we have seen or heard. There is some credibility that is being called into question. As well, there are certainly some serious questions being raised about the accuracy of the tapes and the transcripts.

I guess the real question that needs to be asked again is this. Why are so many members wanting to leave the Conservative Party and why are so many members questioning the leadership of the official opposition?

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC): Pretty pathetic diversions, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister is sticking to his story just like his chief of staff predicted when he said, “The PM will say we are not offering and making no offers. And I think that is the narrative that we have to stick to”, just as his health minister said, “I’m sure rewards are there at some point, right? No one can forget such gestures, but they require a certain degree of deniability”.

Is it not clear that the Prime Minister has invented a story that he is sticking to, rather than admitting to the fact that his chief of staff tried to buy the vote of a member of the opposition?

Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the fact is I was approached by a third party, Sudesh Kalia, with demands of the member for Newton—North Delta. Those demands were rejected. He reasserted the demands. Those demands were again rejected. No offers were made. None were accepted. That is why he is not sitting on this side of the House.

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