Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege and I hope to be able to present a prima facie case that my privileges as a member of Parliament and even as a Canadian citizen have been breached.
I never thought that I would stand in the House and have to defend myself against false accusations of theft and embezzlement, and I can hardly say the words.
Last Thursday a member of the press, Hugo de Grandpré from La Presse, called my office and asked if there was any update on the charges against me on the accusation of embezzlement.
I knew nothing about this on Thursday. I called him back to find out what it was. He said that he was in possession of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police briefing note to the commissioner that said that the Conservative Party of Canada had asked the RCMP to conduct an investigation against me. It is entitled “A Complaint of Theft”. It says that certain Conservative members, whose names have been whited out, attended the Bible Hill office to report the embezzlement of funds by a member of Parliament.
I cannot tell you, Mr. Speaker, what this means to me. I have been here for 20 years. I am 63 years old. I have built my whole business career and my politics on honesty, credibility and my reputation. To have this happen is devastating. I did not even know how devastating it was until this morning when I had to call my two daughters to tell them I would be getting up in the House to defend myself against accusations of theft and embezzlement.
I hope I can get through this. It is outrageous. I want to present the issue. I have sent a copy of the RCMP report, and I would like to go through it.
First, it says to the commissioner, “For Your Information Only”, just the commissioner and everybody else, apparently. It says, “Issue: Member of Parliament - Complaint of a Theft”. It says, “On September 18th, 2008, Conservative Party” members who are unnamed. They are there, but the names are whited out. It goes on to say, contacted the “RCMP Cumberland County District Detachment”. This is the county where I live, Cumberland county. It continues, “requesting a return phone call”. The next day, on September 19, 2008, an unnamed group of Conservatives “attended to the Bible-Hill Office” of the RCMP “to report the embezzlement of funds by Member of Parliament”.
Then a lot of this is blanked out, but the number $30,000 is in there. It says, something about the Conservative Party and “with a $30,000 dollar cheque”. A lot of it is whited out, so I do not know exactly what the charges are, what the accusations are.
It says, “The cheque was written in the name of”. I do not know whether that is me, but it was not me. It goes on, “was endorsed by the Financial Officer and Director of the Conservative Party”. Then it is blank. There is more, but I will not bother to read it because it does not make sense as much of it is blanked out.
The accusations of embezzlement and theft are not blanked out, but a lot of the other information and the names of the Conservatives who made the accusations are. They are blanked out to protect their privacy. My riding is Cumberland—Colchester and the two RCMP detachments they visited were in Cumberland and Colchester. Not only that, my name was included in the back of this. It is not blanked out.
The Conservatives or whoever did this whited out the names of the people who made the accusations, but they left my name in it. It is in the end, it is in the file name, and it may be an oversight. I do not want to make this worse than it is, it may be an oversight, but there was no oversight when they blanked out the names of the Conservatives who made the accusations.
The current status is somebody was interviewed and a statement was obtained. On one line it says, “The statement provided did not articulate sufficient grounds or cause the merit of a commencement of an investigation”. The next line says, “The investigation determined there was no financial gain by” somebody.
It might be me or it might be a member of my riding association, I do not know. It puts a cloud over all of us because they released the damaging information on this, the accusations and the words “theft” and “embezzlement” but they have not released the rest of it. Then it says, “The return of the money to the Conservative Party”.
I will just go on a bit further. It says, “The investigation could be reopened if circumstances warrant it. H Division, Criminal Operations, will continue to monitor the situation”. Now I do not know whether its criminal operations are monitoring me or what it is monitoring. I do not know what it is doing.
I did not know about this until last Thursday. I want to thank Hugo de Grandpré for the professional way he handled this. He did not put it out. He knew how devastating this was and he gave me the chance to put this case forward in the House of Commons. I am very grateful to be able to do that.
We could pick apart this thing and make it look really bad. There are so many things wrong with this. The only reason that I have any indication of what this issue is about is the $30,000 number.
In May 2007 the minority Conservative government was approaching a confidence vote on a budget. My riding association suggested that we open an account, as required by Elections Canada, and move $30,000 from the riding association to the campaign account, which is required by Elections Canada.
Subsequent to that I was expelled from the Conservative Party, but I was never told I was not the official nominated candidate. Even though I was expelled from the caucus, I was still a member of the party and I was still the officially nominated candidate.
As soon as we learned that I was not the candidate, the $30,000 went back. Not a penny was changed, not a penny was spent, not a penny was used in any way; $30,000 in and $30,000 back, exactly penny for penny. That I assume is what the Conservatives are trying to call embezzlement. They are accusing me of theft and embezzlement.
Every person in the House had to do the same thing. Elections Canada says that we must open a dedicated account for our campaign and fund it from there. That is all I did.
I only learned I was not the candidate when the went on national television and said that there would be a candidate in the riding of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit, but it would not be me. That is how I learned I was not the candidate.
We immediately consulted Elections Canada and returned the $30,000, penny for penny. Not a penny was moved, not a penny was used. The party knew this. It has had since October 19, 2007, all of the bank documents that show the money in and the money back.
This is a total fabrication. It is an attempt to smear my reputation and destroy my character. After spending a whole lifetime trying to build a good reputation and a positive reputation, I am so offended to have people knowingly make false accusations just so they can get it in an RCMP report.
This report is here forever. It is not going to go away. Now it has been made public to the media. Why?
I announced a month ago that I would be leaving politics and would get a new career in the private sector. Now somebody, the RCMP or whomever, has produced a letter saying that I was under investigation for theft and embezzlement.
My last career was with Merrill Lynch, and I was really proud to do the job I did as an investment adviser. People trusted me. They gave me their money, whether it was $1,000 or $1 million. I managed it and they trusted me. I did a good job for them. Now what are they going to think?
The document which says that I am under investigation for theft and embezzlement has been released and there is nothing to it. It is worse than nothing to it. It has been fabricated. They know there is nothing to it. Whoever released the document knows there is nothing to it. They had the documents to prove it, and they still went ahead with this 10 months later, after they received the documents.
I am outraged and I am sad for this institution. I have been here for 20 years. When I was expelled from the Conservative Party, I was the longest serving member in that party. I am proud to be a member of Parliament. Great things happen in this room to help people, but this is not one of them.
I am sad to see the level of our parliamentary rapport and process and whatever go downhill so far that RCMP investigations are being used when accusations to defame members of Parliament are wrong. It does not matter if one is a member of Parliament or a regular person, it should never happen.
There are a whole lot of things about this. There are some big questions.
Everybody in my riding wonders why the Conservative Party did not accept local candidates to run for it in the last election. The party would not accept people who wanted to run. Instead, I assume the nominated or appointed a candidate. There was no nomination process.
A candidate was appointed but not from my riding. This person was from Ottawa and had never been to my riding as far as I know. He worked for the minister in charge of the RCMP. The first thing his election team did when he came to my riding was engage the services of the RCMP to launch this cruel accusation against me. I do not know if there is any connection or not. I am not making any accusations, but it is a fact.
The man they appointed to run against me was a member of the staff of the minister in charge of the RCMP. I think that man's representatives went to the RCMP and made these allegations. I cannot say that for sure because the names are whited out. However, if it turns out that the names in this accusation are agents of an employee of the minister of the RCMP, we all have to ask ourselves some questions.
When I was expelled from the party, I think 27 members of the executive came with me as an independent. There were not enough people to form an executive for the Conservative Party, so the national party took over the party. It had access to all these records and bank statements. It knew the cheque for $30,000 went out and the cheque for $30,000 came back and not a penny was changed. I had nothing to do with that. That was the riding association and the campaign team and they act independently of me. I had no say. My name is not on any of the cheques. I did not sign anything and I did not do anything.
I had nothing to do with it. I am so glad and lucky that my team followed the letter and spirit of the law with this, along with the Elections Canada regulations. I am strong because it did that. It did everything right. In fact, it even did more than that right. In my opinion, at the time it returned the $30,000, I thought it should have deducted the bank charges. It did not even do that. It was over $30,000 back and they accuse me of embezzlement and theft.
A whole lot of things need to be done on this. My job as a member of Parliament is completely compromised. As you know, Mr. Speaker, we deal with people on their RRSPs, tax problems with the government, investment incomes and loans and programs for their businesses. That requires trust. They have put this cloud over my head that I want them to remove. They put a cloud over my head and have hurt my ability to do my job as a member of Parliament. They have hurt my credibility. Who is going to feel comfortable coming in to my office knowing that the Conservative Party of Canada, the governing party, has had the RCMP investigate me for theft and embezzlement?
My hon. colleague says that they are not going to buy that and I hope they do not. I have built a lifetime of credibility. I have taught my kids that credibility and honesty is everything. I have had a standard speech I have given them all my life and they know it. I know they have repeated it to others, about how important credibility is. I had to call them this morning and tell them that I had to defend myself against accusations of theft and embezzlement. It is unbelievable and really sad.
The timing of this is, on October 19, the money went back. It was done. They had all the documents, but they waited until the election started. The employee of the minister in charge of the RCMP came down. Then they launched this criminal accusation against me with two RCMP branches. Now that I am leaving Parliament, out comes this copy to the media of an RCMP investigation.
How is that going to help me going forward? Who in the investment business is going to say that they we would love to have me, after I get those things straightened out about the little thing about the theft and embezzlement. Think about it. Everybody in this room is as guilty of theft and embezzlement as I am, and that is, we are not guilty at all. There is no reason for these accusations.
For the RCMP to leave this open by saying that there are not sufficient grounds to proceed again with the investigation is not enough. Not sufficient grounds insinuates that there are grounds. There are no grounds. I want the Conservative Party to say that these accusations should never have been made. That is what I want it to say. If it has an ounce of justice and fair play, it will do that and not hesitate, because there were no grounds for these accusations.
I want to make the main points regarding my question of privilege. First of all, I want to say that if my credibility is in question, I cannot do my job to the full extent that I am able to. Credibility is everything. Trust is everything. In my world it is anyway. I have lost that now until this is fixed.
I want to know who made the decision to white out the Conservative names on this but leave mine in. It may have been an oversight but it was done. The Conservative names are left out, mine is not. I think the government owes us an explanation on that.
Someone I talked to this morning suggested that to lay false accusations against me may be against the law. I am not a lawyer, so I do not know, but perhaps the Crown should have this investigated or considered to see if anything wrong happened here. Certainly, my reputation has been damaged. It is character assassination as far as I am concerned of the worst order. If anyone did wrong I would ask the Crown to investigate that.
I was thinking about Danny Williams this morning. Danny Williams is often animated but he says he often uses the word “vindictive”. I think we should be listening to Danny Williams perhaps a little more because this is vindictiveness.
However, it goes further than vindictiveness. This is malicious and it is vicious. It is terribly hurtful. I am so glad that La Presse gave this to me. I do not plan to run again and if I had left the House and then this came out, everyone would say, “That is why he left. He was under investigation by the RCMP”. I did not even know it until Thursday but that is what would happen. I am so glad that I have had this opportunity.
I said I was not going to run again, but I am not leaving here until the Conservatives who made these accusations in this RCMP report, whoever they are, make it right.
Mr. Speaker, if you were to agree that I have a prima facie case that my privileges were breached and my ability to do my job has been affected, I would be prepared to move the appropriate motion and I will leave that with you.