Held accountable in the House - Macleans.ca

Held accountable in the House

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Some years ago, speculation arose that the Prime Minister of the day was preparing to prorogue Parliament, consequently delaying the delivery of a potentially damning report into his government’s conduct. Suffice it to say, the leader of the opposition and his de facto deputy of the day were quite displeased by this possibility and said so during Question Period that fall afternoon.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, we learned this past weekend that the Auditor General’s report will be a scathing indictment of 10 years of mismanagement, incompetence and corruption by the Liberal government. What we are also learning, once again, is that the Liberals, apparently, want to prorogue the House. They want to run out of town, get out of town just one step ahead of the sheriff. Is the Liberal government committed to staying here as planned throughout the month of November so that it can be held accountable in the House for its actions?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first, we ought to congratulate and acknowledge the fact that the Leader of the Opposition seems to have engineered the takeover of a once great political party. We look forward to seeing how he goes about selling his views on Confederation and regional economic development in all those parts of the country where the PC Party have had faithful adherence over the years. As to his question, I do not think there is any need for us to talk on a draft leaked report. As is the case with Auditor Generals’ reports, we know that departments have the opportunity to respond, and they will do so before the report becomes final.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, let me be clear. We are entering into a partnership for Canadians, something the Prime Minister and the next Liberal leader were incapable of doing. The Auditor General will report that the government bent the rules in its own interest: Challenger jets for the Prime Minister instead of new helicopters and new equipment for military personnel; federal funds to Liberal friends through advertising contracts instead of federal funds to health care and the other needs of Canadians. The Prime Minister approved the deal. The former finance minister signed all the cheques. Now is it true that the government will prorogue the House so that it will not be held accountable for its shameful record?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not know what kind of partnership they put together but over the last 10 years, not only has the disunited right had 10 leaders, but the official opposition itself has had three different names. We will see what comes. Before we start to get into the details of a possible Auditor General’s report, I think we should give the departments, which may be mentioned in any report that is being prepared by the Auditor General, the normal right to respond before that report becomes a final document.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, of course no leader over here is being driven out of town by his own party.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: Order, please. It would be helpful if hon. members would confine their remarks to the questions instead of a sort of general brouhaha. The hon. Leader of the Opposition has the floor and we will want to hear his question.

Mr. Stephen Harper: We seem to have struck some sensitive chords over there on the other side. Mr. Speaker, there are already leaks concerning the Auditor General’s report. The Prime Minister approved these agreements, and the new Liberal leader signed the contracts. The report will reveal the Liberal legacy: 10 years of mismanagement and corruption. Will the government agree to change the rules to ensure that this report is tabled, even if this House is not sitting?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, they ran the last two leaders they had out of town and now they are joining with another party. I guess they will run this leader out of town as well. Clearly, there is no report. Perhaps there will be a report prepared by the Auditor General, but any department mentioned in reports should have an opportunity to respond. We cannot discuss something that is at the draft stage.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, an amazing thing happened–

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: Order, please. I remind hon. members that we are wasting time. We are not going to get through the list of questions if there is this much noise greeting everyone who stands up to ask a question today. I know there is a lot of enthusiasm in the House and there have been many political developments of interest to all hon. members but we need some order if we are going to have questions and responses. The hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough.

Mr. Peter MacKay: Mr. Speaker, an amazing thing happened on March 28, 2002. Against the advice of his own officials, the Prime Minister demanded two new luxury jets. The requisition order and the contract were signed and DND took delivery of the aircraft. All of this was done, incredibly, in one day at a cost of $100 million. The Auditor General now wants to tell Canadians the real story behind that unprecedented purchase and other examples of government waste and mismanagement. Will the Prime Minister amend the Auditor General Act to allow her to present her report, even if the House of Commons shuts down early, as is planned?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we all know what the signature of the hon. member is worth on a document, ostensibly one that is serious. There is nothing new in these allegations. We have debated this in the House before. We think that Canadian ministers should fly in planes that are made by Canadian workers and that we need to showcase them to the world. Let us wait and see what the Auditor General’s report really does have to say.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, I can tell by the look in the Deputy Prime Minister’s eyes that he and his Liberal colleagues are united in fright. It took eight hours to buy two planes for the Prime Minister: eight hours, 10 years and no decision on Sea King helicopters. What a shocking, self-serving, disgraceful abuse of public office. Will the Prime Minister amend the Auditor General Act to allow her to present her report if Parliament shuts early, or is the Prime Minister so obsessed with saddling his replacement with this scandal that he will hold back on the truth?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I recognize that rhetoric. It is what the Reform Party used to say about the PC Party only a few weeks ago. Let us just see how convenient this marriage turns out to be. We have an Auditor General with the right to file a report. She prepares a draft report and submits it to departments so they can make their comments and respond to it before her report becomes final. Let us see what her final report has to say.