That, given the recent sworn statements by RCMP Corporal Greg Horton, which revealed that: (i) on February 21, 2013, the Prime Minister’s Office had agreed that, with regard to Mike Duffy’s controversial expenses, the Conservative Party of Canada would “keep him whole on the repayment”; (ii) on February 22, 2013, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff wanted to “speak to the PM before everything is considered final”; (iii) later on February 22, 2013, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff confirmed “We are good to go from the PM once Ben has his confirmation from Payne”; (iv) an agreement was reached between Benjamin Perrin and Janice Payne, counsels for the Prime Minister and Mike Duffy; (v) the amount to keep Mike Duffy whole was calculated to be higher than first determined, requiring a changed source of funds from Conservative Party funds to Nigel Wright’s personal funds, after which the arrangement proceeded and Duffy’s expenses were re-paid; and (vi) subsequently, the Prime Minister's Office engaged in the obstruction of a Deloitte audit and a whitewash of a Senate report; the House condemn the deeply disappointing actions of the Prime Minister's Office in devising, organizing and participating in an arrangement that the RCMP believes violated sections 119, 121 and 122 of the Criminal Code of Canada, and remind the Prime Minister of his own Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State, which states on page 28 that “Ministers and Ministers of State are personally responsible for the conduct and operation of their offices and the exempt staff in their employ,” and the House call upon the Prime Minister to explain in detail to Canadians, under oath, what Nigel Wright or any other member of his staff or any other Conservative told him at any time about any aspect of any possible arrangement pertaining to Mike Duffy, what he did about it, and when.
He said: Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I want to thank my colleague from for seconding this important motion.
Today there are basically two issues we hope Canadians will reflect on in this House and pronounce on later this evening.
The first is the role of the 's Office, the senior advisers to the Prime Minister, in a potentially criminal cover-up and a series of events, which the RCMP believes, in fact, have violated three sections of the Criminal Code.
The second issue is the role of senior Conservative operatives and senior Conservative senators in participating in a whitewash of a Senate report in attempting to influence an independent audit being conducted by a national auditing firm.
We think Canadians, increasingly, do not believe the and do not believe his constantly changing version of these events. That is why we think it is important to have this discussion in the House of Commons today. I hope that colleagues will agree with us tonight, in a vote, that the only solution is for the Prime Minister to, in fact, come clean, under oath, and explain to Canadians the exact extent to which he was informed of many of these details.
The real problem here, apart from the fact that the RCMP believes that criminal activity took place in the Prime Minister's Office, is that not only are there multiple versions of the facts in terms of the degree of the Prime Minister's involvement, but the versions put forward by the RCMP and by this government demonstrate that the and his staff acted inappropriately.
It has become clear that Canadians no longer believe the when he tells his changing version of this sordid affair. In fact, the person who is undermining the Prime Minister's credibility the most is the Prime Minister himself, because he has given us so many different versions. His story keeps changing. Every time, new details are made public. We are at the point where people are doubting what the Prime Minister of Canada is saying.
On the one side, we have email correspondence from Nigel Wright, the 's chief of staff, highlighted in a sworn affidavit from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and presented to a judge. Let us look at the first email.
On February 22, Nigel Wright states that Mike Duffy would be made whole through the use of Conservative Party money, but at the end, Nigel Wright wanted to “speak to the PM before everything is considered final. Less than an hour later, according to an RCMP sworn affidavit, Nigel Wright sent a further email saying, “We are good to go from the PM”.
The inference here is very clear: Nigel Wright confirmed the details of the agreement to pay back Mike Duffy with the .
I would very much like to give the the benefit of the doubt when he claims that Nigel Wright did not tell him the details of the agreement. However, Nigel Wright has been very clear. At that time, the agreement was in fact to use Conservative Party funds to pay back Mike Duffy's inappropriate expense claims.
It is ridiculous to suggest that Mr. Wright needed the 's approval to ask Mike Duffy to pay back his fraudulent expense claims with his own money. Quire frankly, this story borders on the ridiculous.
The determining factor in an illegal act such as the ones the RCMP believes took place in the 's Office is not only who gave the corrupt money and when but that such a transfer ultimately took place. The Prime Minister's problem here is that all indications, all the circumstantial evidence, point to his knowing and approving of at least a $32,000 payment to Senator Duffy, plus his legal fees. These funds were originally going to come from the Conservative Party through the hands of Senator Irving Gerstein, who was a senior Conservative member of the caucus and chairman of the Conservative fund.
It does not matter, in the end, that the source of funds changed and that the amount increased. The appears to have approved a plan to corrupt a sitting legislator, and that is the essential element of how this whole sordid affair began. That allegation has met with no credible defence from the government spokespersons, and the RCMP, in its sworn affidavit, tells a very compelling story to Canadians.
Indeed, the RCMP affidavit paints a clear and compelling story of a widespread and directed cover-up at the senior levels of the 's Office, including senior members of the Conservative caucus in the Senate and a woman who, at the time, was a senior Conservative cabinet minister. The RCMP believes that in the totality of the evidence, these actions and the subsequent attempt to cover up these actions constituted a violation of at least three sections of Canada's Criminal Code.
Even if we believe the when he says that Nigel Wright told him nothing and that he was never informed of the Mike Duffy repayment scheme; of the whitewashing of the Senate report, which was ordered by his own office; or of the involvement of four senators in his inner circle—even if we decide to believe all of the excuses, each more ridiculous than the last—there is still a serious problem. This government chose to protect the individuals who were involved in this possibly criminal scheme instead of adequately disciplining them.
I want to share a few of the most blatant examples. Some of these people are still Conservative senators and others were directly employed by the of Canada before being promoted to the highest echelons of Conservative ministerial offices.
Let us start with the Conservative senators. Four of them, senators LeBreton, Carolyn Stewart Olsen, David Tkachuk and Irving Gerstein, were interviewed by the RCMP in regard to their role in the Conservative scheme to whitewash a Senate report that was supposed to be, originally, critical of Senator Duffy's behaviour.
Indeed the RCMP have found, in sworn affidavits, that these Conservative senators were less than truthful when they were interviewed by Canada's national police force. Senator Marjory LeBreton was a senior member of the Conservative cabinet in the current 's government. She was a key architect in the government plan to whitewash the Senate audit and participated actively and directly in an effort to sweep the whole mess under the carpet.
She presided over an effort in the Senate to potentially hide criminal acts, and for that she has been rewarded by remaining on the internal economy committee of the Senate.
Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen really did the heavy lifting in the effort to whitewash the Senate report. She in fact moved to strip sections out of the draft report that were critical of Senator Duffy's spending. She was an architect of the deal to go easy on Senator Duffy, as was negotiated between the 's lawyer, Mr. Perrin, and Mr. Duffy's counsel, Ms. Payne. She was found, herself, to have been less than truthful in her discussions, in her interview with the RCMP.
For a government that pretends over and over again that it is co-operating fully with the RCMP in this investigation, maybe it should start by suggesting to the senior members of its caucus, as well as Senator Stewart Olsen, the 's former press secretary, that they in fact be truthful when they are interviewed by the RCMP.
Some will remember Senator David Tkachuk as having been involved in the scandal concerning spending in the Saskatchewan legislature. Senator Tkachuk played another critical role. He was chair of the internal economy committee. He subsequently resigned. Canadians will remember that Senator Tkachuk was briefed by Deloitte in a verbal presentation on the progress of its audit.
It was a private meeting. Three senators were present. The auditors came to give a preliminary report on their findings. Deloitte had found that Senator Duffy was claiming per diem allocations from taxpayers in Ottawa at a time when his cellphone records indicated he was in Florida, and what did Senator Tkachuk do? He picked up the phone and called Senator Duffy and told him he had better come up with some explanation as to why he was claiming per diems in Ottawa when in fact he was in Florida.
Ever compliant, their favourite senator, Senator Duffy then sent a phony letter to Senator Tkachuk referring to a conversation they had two evenings previously and saying he had reviewed his records and in fact there was a clerical error in his office as to why taxpayers were paying per diems for his work in Ottawa when he was in Florida.
Senator Tkachuk had an obligation to taxpayers to protect taxpayers' hard-earned dollars, not to call a colleague who is under investigation in a forensic audit and tip him off. That would be like a judge who meets with the police before granting a search warrant, and the minute the police leave his or her office, the judge picks up the phone and says to the target of the search warrant: “Look you'd better get rid of the evidence, because the police are on their way over”. That makes no sense at all. That was what Senator Tkachuk did, and he too has been rewarded for his good work by continuing to serve on the internal economy committee of the senate.
Canadians will know Senator Irving Gerstein as a senior Conservative fundraiser, the chair of the Conservative fund. Surprisingly, he felt it appropriate to pick up the phone, on instructions from the 's Office as we have learned from the RCMP affidavit, and call Deloitte, a reputable national auditing firm, to try to put pressure on it to say that if Mike Duffy reimbursed the money they could just sort of call it kiff and forget about Senator Duffy and the audit. He asked how that might work.
Senator Gerstein is not a member of that committee. He was not involved in the audit function in the Senate at all, but presumably he has a relationship with senior officials at the accounting firm. It might be because it has done $50 million worth of work for the Government of Canada in recent years; that could be. I see my colleague, the NDP House leader, may agree with me that it might in fact be one of the reasons Senator Gerstein felt it was appropriate to just pick up the phone and say, “Look, can we just forget about this?”
That constitutes a huge breach of professional ethics on the part of Senator Gerstein. It is inexplicable why the 's Office would instruct people to contact an independent audit firm. I am very pleased that the Senate internal economy committee, inspired by an intervention from the Liberal Party, will in fact be calling Deloitte before the Senate committee later this week to explain exactly how and by whom they were contacted, when senior Conservative operators called attempting to whitewash an audit.
Senator Gerstein was also willing to pay $32,000 to reimburse Mike Duffy for his potentially fraudulent expenses. As we know from the RCMP audit, Senator Gerstein certainly did not worry about the propriety of potentially trying to corrupt and bribe a sitting legislator. His concern was with the quantum. His concern was with the amount of money involved, and he was willing to take $32,000 of contributions that Canadians made of their personal money to the Conservative Party and flush it to Mike Duffy to try to make a problem go away for the and for Mr. Wright, but at the end he decided that the amount was too much; and then Nigel Wright entered with a bag of money.
Now let us take a look at the steps taken by the 's employees, those who played some sort of role in this sordid affair and who still work for the Conservative Party and the Canadian government, namely Chris Woodcock, David van Hemmen, Patrick Rogers and Ray Novak. I want to look at what they knew, when they knew it, and what the Prime Minister did for his own employees who were responsible for this scheme.
I will start with Mr. Woodcock. He was director of issues management in the PMO. In other words, if there was a fire, it was up to Chris Woodcock to put it out. RCMP documents show that he participated in whitewashing the Senate report and, what is worse, Nigel Wright sent him an email on March 8 to inform him that Mike Duffy would be receiving a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright's personal bank account.
Rather than informing the police or perhaps even calling a lawyer, what did he do? Clearly, he could not call the 's lawyer in the Prime Minister's Office, because we are well aware that Mr. Perrin was also involved. Instead, Mr. Woodcock helped to do more to cover up the scandal. In the private sector, he would have been fired and the police would have been called. As a member of the Conservative Party, he became the chief of staff to the .
David van Hemmen was Mr. Wright's executive assistant in the Prime Minister's Office. Not only was he aware of the illegal plan to pay back Mr. Duffy, but he also helped to transfer the funds. He took the cheque to the bank of Mr. Duffy's lawyer. He was aware enough of what was going on to be in possession of that cheque, which the RCMP described as key evidence of corruption. Once again, what was his punishment? He was promoted to the position of policy adviser to the .
Patrick Rogers was the director of parliamentary affairs in the PMO. According to the RCMP, he and Senator Gerstein were involved in trying to put an end to the Deloitte audit in order to protect Mike Duffy. Mr. Rogers also had dealings with Senator Tkachuk and Senator Stewart Olsen, who whitewashed the Senate report about Mike Duffy by removing any criticisms of his behaviour. What happened to Mr. Rogers as a result of this unacceptable behaviour? He is now the director of policy for the .
Finally, let us talk about Ray Novak, who was the 's deputy chief of staff. We know two things about Ray Novak. He knew enough about this sordid affair to call Mike Duffy a serial liar, and he worked on the Senate file with Senator LeBreton. If we are thinking about accepting that the Prime Minister knew nothing about what was happening—and that is a big if—then clearly Ray Novak knew much more and he never shared that information with the Prime Minister. What was his sentence? Ray Novak replaced Nigel Wright as the Prime Minister's chief of staff.
Canadians have the right to wonder how the can trust Ray Novak to be his chief of staff. Why replace a chief of staff who, according to the Prime Minister himself, misled his boss with another person who allegedly did the same thing?
The concept is very simple. At the end of the day, in the private sector, if any chief executive officer presided over such chaotic behaviour from his or her senior staff, or if any board of directors was faced with a chief executive officer who the RCMP, in sworn affidavits, knew presided over an operation that may have violated three very serious sections of Canada's Criminal Code, that chief executive officer would have been shown the door. That chief executive officer would not have then promoted all the incompetent and deceitful staff who participated under his watch in what may in fact be a criminal conspiracy to subvert three important sections of the Criminal Code.
In his own guide for ministers and ministers of state, the outlined what ministerial responsibility allegedly should be. If one hires all the players, then one is responsible ultimately for their behaviour. The current Prime Minister is not living up to his own standard of responsibility, and Canadians are increasingly distrustful and disbelieving of the words of the Prime Minister.
The government's stories and answers make no sense at all: Mr. Wright was a great Canadian; then, all of a sudden, he accepted full responsibility and resigned; then, suddenly, we find out that he was fired.
The idea that he took sole responsibility for a criminal act has no basis at all in law. If a group of people conspire to violate the Criminal Code, it really is not acceptable at the end of the day if one of them says, “You know what, let me take the blame on this one and then you guys will owe me something down the line”.
That basis has absolutely no credibility, and Canadians are increasingly distrustful of a government that has lost its moral compass and simply is unable to tell the truth in the face of this very serious scandal.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise on this. The hon. member from the Liberal Party touched on the by-election results last night. I want to take a very brief moment to congratulate the two newest members of the Conservative caucus who will be coming to the House very soon. I want to congratulate all those who ran. It is never easy running for an election. It is certainly not easy in a by-election, running when a candidate is left alone and the focus of the world is on other areas, but again, congratulations to the newest Conservative members and congratulations to all members who ran and who were victorious last night.
I will start by continuing along with the question I asked of the member opposite. All Canadians have been very saddened by the behaviour they have seen by a number of senators. The vast majority of Canadians expect that when they elect members of Parliament or when individuals are elevated to the Senate, they will do their best to use the money that Canadian taxpayers provide them to do their job. They expect the senators will do their best to use that money in a respectful way, in a way that respects the taxpayers. When Canadians see that does not happen, they rightfully demand that action be taken.
As others have tried to do, I will not defend the actions of these senators, because I think they are very indefensible. We have seen throughout this debate the need to have significant reforms in the Senate. This government has been trying to do so for a number of years. We have brought forward legislation that is right now being debated in the Supreme Court of Canada because we want to have a road map for the reform of the Senate.
Canadians at the same time have said that they want a reformed Senate. They want a Senate that they can once again be proud of, but at the same time, they do not want to see the attention of the elected members of Parliament be turned toward constitutional battles that would take us away from what should be the main focus of government, creating jobs and opportunity and hope for Canadians across this country. That is why we have put forward a number of reforms to the Supreme Court, which we hope will again provide us with a road map for going forward.
I note also that the Senate did take some steps last June to improve accountability measures in the Senate. It was unfortunate, and I hear this often in my constituency, that it took them so long. Why did it take so long for the Senate to catch up with the House of Commons with respect to accountability and how their expenses are being handled? I wish I had the answer to that, and perhaps had these measures been undertaken earlier by the Senate, the senators would not be in the position they find themselves now.
Having said that, the member for raised a number of points. He talked a little with respect to the and the actions of the 's Office. The member has heard me say this on a number of occasions, and I will reference the report itself. It is on page 21. I will read some of the relevant sections. This is the RCMP speaking on page 21:
Rob Staley, legal representative for the PMO, advised my office that he had clear orders from the Prime Minister to provide complete cooperation with the investigation, and to provide any assistance or documentation the RCMP requested. The PMO employees (current and former) whose e-mails I deemed relevant, have all provided privacy waivers though their legal counsel, relating to the content of their e-mails. The PMO has also waived solicitor-client privilege for those e-mails....
Upon learning of the allegations, and the subsequent RCMP investigation in May 2013, [the] Prime Minister...ordered that all e-mails of PMO staff were to be retained for the RCMP, should they be required.
It goes on to say:
The process resulted in the initial identification of approximately 260,000 e-mail items of possible relevance. E-mail item refers to either e-mails, or attachments to e-mails. Through a review process that number was reduced to approximately 19,000 items. Further detailed analysis of that data reduced the number of e-mail items containing possible evidentiary value to approximately 2,600.
For months we have been hearing from the opposition. First, last spring we heard the opposition suggesting that the was not participating or assisting. Clearly, evidence shows that the opposite was actually happening. The Prime Minister moved very quickly upon hearing of the allegations to make sure that his office not only assisted but participated in the investigation.
I bring that up as a contrast because the member for raised a number of points, and sometimes we have to go back to judge what the member is saying. I think there is a context, so I want to talk a bit about the income trust problem that the previous Martin government found itself in. I want to go over some of it and I will bring it back around and show the contrast. I will quote some sections here from a report.
[The member for ] was also interviewed by the Mounties about an e-mail he sent to an acquaintance at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, the day before [the member for 's] announcement.
This was with respect to the approach that the then-government was going to take on income trusts. The member for Kings—Hants wrote in that email that the recipient “will be happier very soon”. That was a quote from the member for Kings—Hants.
The investigation then went on a bit further. The member for Wascana said that he was contacted by the member for Kings—Hants and asked to state publicly “that my recollection of events was the same as his”, so what would appear to have been happening is that the member for Kings—Hants was trying to convince the member for Wascana that they should somehow talk about things in advance of the RCMP investigation, figure out their story, and go public with it.
It then goes on a bit further.
Under RCMP questioning, the member for Wascana seemed uneasy about discussing his one-time cabinet colleague. “I guess others will have to make the judgment call about how to characterize [the member for Kings—Hants'] activity”.
That is important because it shows the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party on so many fronts.
Then when asked about emails and BlackBerrys, the member for had this to say. He told the RCMP that:
...he has no email service, either on a handheld device or even his desktop computer, saying “it just ticks me off”, especially when colleagues thumb their BlackBerries at meetings.
That is the Liberal approach to something as serious as the income trust.
The decision on whether the government was going to tax income trusts or not would have had a massive impact on the market. We would have seen the market move. People had significant holdings and resources that would have been impacted by the government's decision.
It would appear on the surface that when the member for was telling a person at the CIBC that he would be happier very soon, the day before this would be released to the public, I am making the assumption that he was actually letting him on the fact that the member for , who was then the finance minster, was about to make a decision on the income trusts that would make this person at the CIBC happier.
What appears to have happened here is that the member for informed the member for , who then informed somebody at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Forgetting about cabinet secrecy, what they seem to have done is to try to find a way to positively influence the people who were at that time donating massive amounts to the Liberal Party.
As members will recall, one of the first acts of this government was the Federal Accountability Act, which removed the influence of big money and big unions from banks. Then when they went on a little further to investigate, apparently he had no email. He did not have a BlackBerry, nothing of the sort.
I contrast that to our . The moment he found out, the moment he was informed that there might be problems within his office, he immediately goes back. His staff is asked to sign waivers so that they could appropriately assist in the RCMP investigation. Hundreds of thousands of emails are turned over. Everything that the RCMP is asking for is provided to them so that they can assist in this investigation.
In addition, talking a bit further about some of the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party, this is apparently a priority. It is a priority for the Liberals. I am going to say, and we will disagree on this, that the economy is a priority for Canadians. I think jobs and opportunities are priorities for Canadians. I think public safety is a priority for Canadians. I think resource development is a priority for Canadians.
Apparently the Liberals have a different philosophy. They think that is important. It is such a priority that the Liberal leader sits down every day in this House and is not allowed to talk about other things. It seems that it is not important enough for the Liberal leader to come into the House and talk about these issues. It is not important enough for him to come and ask the questions that he deems to be the most important questions of the day. He does not do it. He sends another person, a surrogate, to do it and to ask those questions.
As I said before in another debate we had, while I disagree that this is the absolute priority of Canadians, it is a priority of at least one of the two opposition parties. On a daily basis the shows up in the House and asks questions. It is every single day.
Every single day the asks questions, because he says it is a priority, and I assume it is a priority because he shows up and asks those questions. I may disagree. I might not like the questions he is asking and I know he does not like the answers I am giving back, but at least he is somewhat consistent in that he is making it a priority.
That is in contrast to most of the Liberal Party members, who when a camera might be on or when they think they might be able to score a cheap political point, will rise in their place and try to make a point.
We also have the leader of the Liberal Party, who gets up and says, “Oh, I am Mr. Positive. I am Mr. Happy”, but then he gets somebody else to get up and make slanders and slurs against either the official opposition or the government. He is neither accountable nor honest in how he deals with the Canadian people.
More and more, every single day, Canadians are coming to the same conclusion that we did a long time ago: that this is a person who is in way over his head. His inability to speak to motions that he deems to be the most important to Canadians reflects either his lack of trust in the parliamentary process or his inability to actually back up the things that he is saying with evidence.
There has been a lot of discussion with respect to the actions of Mr. Wright and why, on February 22, there was an email that seems to have caused a bit of grief.
These documents are a very impressive body of work, and I congratulate the RCMP. However, people are asking why the would need to tell Senator Duffy to repay his expenses. As I said in the House yesterday, on February 7 Senator Duffy defended himself, saying that his expenses were perfectly fine. On February 11 Senator Duffy again tried to defend the fact that he had claimed these inappropriate expenses.
On February 13 he approached the , again trying to justify these inappropriate expenses, and the Prime Minister told him he had to repay them.
On February 19 Senator Duffy tried to defend his inappropriate expenses. On February 20 Senator Duffy tried to defend his inappropriate expenses. On February 21 Senator Duffy tried to defend his inappropriate expenses. At no point did the senator ever agree that he had to repay them.
As I have also said on a number of occasions, just because someone can find a way around the rules does not mean that he or she should find a way around the rules. There is the spirit of the law, as the has said, and there is the letter of the law. When these rules are put in place, we do not envision members of Parliament or senators finding all kinds of convenient ways around the rules and justifying them. Canadians give us a lot of money to be here, they provide us with a lot of resources to be here, and they are fair in what they give us, but they also want to be treated fairly. Part of being treated fairly is not finding a way to scam or get around the rules.
Therefore, when Senator Duffy came to the on February 13, the Prime Minister said to repay the expenses, despite the fact that the senator, on February 7, 11, 12, 13, 19, 20, and 21 was still objecting to the fact that he had to pay. Finally, on February 22, it appeared that he was going to repay them. Of course, we have all learned that such was not the fact, that he had somebody else repay those expenses.
That, at its core, is what this investigation by the police is about right now. It is about the fact that Senator Duffy claimed expenses that he did not incur and that it was made worse by the fact that Nigel Wright repaid those expenses on his behalf. As I have said countless times—and if people read this, it is quite evident—Nigel Wright said he is prepared to accept the consequences of the decisions that he made. He is working also, it would appear, with the RCMP on this matter. However, despite his pronouncements in the Senate a number of weeks ago, Senator Duffy is in no way co-operating with this investigation. He said he would turn over lots of emails, but every time he is asked, he finds a reason he cannot turn them over.
It also says on page 72 of the RCMP report:
I am not aware of any evidence that the Prime Minister was involved in the repayment or reimbursement of money to Senator Duffy or his lawyer.
The RCMP, after reviewing thousands of emails and documents, has come to that conclusion.
Nigel Wright has also said that he did not bring the into his confidence with respect to this matter. Therefore, it is very clear that the Prime Minister did not know. Had he known, he would have put a stop to it. What Nigel Wright did was inappropriate. It should not have happened, and he should suffer the consequences of that decision.
Ultimately, what Senator Duffy, Senator Mac Harb, Senator Brazeau, and Senator Wallin did is something that all Canadians are infuriated with, and rightly so. In addition to working with the RCMP, that is one of the reasons that we have to move forward as a Parliament with substantial reform to the Senate.
On all these matters, it is very clear that the has shown leadership, he has worked with the RCMP, has been open and honest and that he, just as badly as everybody else, wants to see the conclusion of this.
As we have said on a number of occasions, we will continue to govern for all Canadians. We have an incredible record of some 61 bills, and 19 private member's bills that have been passed. We have a very impressive record that I know a majority of Canadians look at everyday and are very proud of. That is why I am so proud to work with the Prime Minister.
Mr. Speaker, I rise with great honour, as always, to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay who put their trust in me to represent their interests. All of us are here to represent the public good, including the office of the .
I will definitely be supporting this motion. It shows the concern and sadness of the House of Commons that the Prime Minister's Office is under investigation for bribery, corruption, breach of trust, fraud, and that the RCMP is seeking warrants to get production orders from all the key players in the Prime Minister's Office, except one. Benjamin Perrin is the only person the RCMP is not seeking production orders from because his emails have been erased.
Today, rather than get into the cast of dubious characters in this disgraceful scandal, I would like to focus on Benjamin Perrin. I find his role to be particularly interesting because his role in the Prime Minister's Office is as lawyer to the of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
As a lawyer, Mr. Perrin had certain obligations and responsibilities. He was to protect the interests of the and work for the Prime Minister. The question is this. What role did Benjamin Perrin play in this deal that is now being investigated for fraud, corruption and breach of trust?
On May 21, Benjamin Perrin said, “I was not consulted on, and did not participate in, Nigel Wright’s decision to write a personal cheque to reimburse Senator Duffy's expenses”. However, the RCMP affidavit seems to suggest otherwise. Mr. Perrin also said, “I have never communicated with the Prime Minister on this matter”. However, as his lawyer, I would find that sort of a strange situation.
Let us go through this.
Mr. Perrin becomes involved in this scheme on February 19. So Duffy's lawyer, Ms. Payne, has a legal person in the Prime Minister's Office to talk to, Benjamin Perrin steps up.
Nigel Wright on February 20, stated the “cash for repayment scheme”, which is what it is called, and that Deloitte would not find against him.
Therefore, Benjamin Perrin was involved in these negotiations. Who authorized him to get involved in these negotiations? As the lawyer for the , was he just doing this on his own working against the express position of the Prime Minister, as has been reiterated in a very dubious way by the parliamentary secretary?
February 21 and 22 are key in this scandal.
Nigel Wright contacts Benjamin Perrin and they talk about setting up this story for Mike Duffy, the media lines for Mike Duffy. Nigel Wright says to Mr. Perrin that he does not like the optics of sending lines to a lawyer and wants to do it over the phone.
Now if this was a legal agreement, an honourable agreement, is it something that the would support? Why would they not want to put the deal in writing? However, no, they did not want to talk to the lawyer, but tell Duffy over the phone. This is the lawyer for the being involved in this.
On February 21, we found out that Benjamin Perrin, the personal lawyer to the of the country, came back with a five-point deal.
The first was to kill the audit and say that Duffy's expenses were okay. Now the audit is on whether or not Mike Duffy had defrauded the taxpayers of Canada. Therefore, the first thing they would do is kill that audit and say that Mike Duffy did not defraud the people of Canada.
The second was that Duffy meet the requirements for residency. Well, they knew he did not because, as Chris Woodcock says, “Describing Duffy's arrangements in Charlottetown as a ‘residence’ may be too cute…I’ll cross that line out”. However. they were going to pretend that Duffy's summer place was his residency.
The third, and this is the key element, was that his expenses stemmed from his time on the road working for the party and that his legal fees would be reimbursed and he would be kept whole. As the RCMP tells us, financially, Mike Duffy will not be out of pocket.
The fourth, the old Duffster, if they changed the rules back, he would like to be able to claim his P.E.I. residence again and start scamming the taxpayers one more time, but that was in the deal.
The fifth was that the Prime Minister's Office would take all reasonable steps to ensure the Conservative caucus would stick to the media lines. This meant that nobody was going to bad mouth the Duffster.
Therefore, Benjamin Perrin writes back that they have negotiated this deal. Once again, who is Benjamin Perrin negotiating this deal from?
Then Nigel Wright said to him, “I now have the go-ahead on point three, with a couple of stipulations”. The go-ahead is that they are going to pay Mike Duffy's expenses and pretend that he paid them back. Who gave the go-ahead, with the stipulations? Are we to assume that the phantom was not the one they had to get the go-ahead from?
Later on that day, as the negotiations go back and forth, they go back and say that they need the final word from the before this deal is okayed. The Prime Minister's own lawyer has laid out a deal, which we now see is under investigation for fraud and breach of trust. Then they say that they have the okay. “We are good to go”.
How can the Canadian public be expected to believe that a lawyer as important as Mr. Perrin, with all the professional and legal obligations he has, would have been involved in the negotiations on his own, would have misrepresented those negotiations to the , would have argued with some fictitious person in the Prime Minister's chair about the stipulation on point number three that they were going to cover off, through the Conservative Party, Mike Duffy's expenses, and would have then turned around and said that he did not know a thing about this and further that he never bothered to tell the Prime Minister? I would find that very surprising for a man of integrity and for a man with the professional and legal responsibilities Mr. Perrin has.
The other interesting point here is that Senator Duffy's lawyer wanted the agreement in writing, and Mr. Perrin did not want to put it in writing. He says, “we aren't selling a car here”. It sounds like we are reading Goodfellas. This is the lawyer for the of the country saying that we are not selling a car here; we are not putting it in writing.
This deal is about transferring money from the Conservative Party, whitewashing an audit, and claiming that a man who is not eligible to sit in the Senate meets the constitutional requirements, and doing all of this but not putting it in writing. Again, who is Mr. Perrin, the 's lawyer, representing when he says that they are not selling a car? One has to sign a big legal agreement to sell a car, but they would set up a potentially illegal deal in the Prime Minister's Office, not put it in writing, and not tell the Prime Minister.
We know that the deal goes off the rails on February 27, when poor Nigel Wright is gobsmacked to find out that Mike Duffy has scammed so much money that instead of the $30,000, it is $90,000. Senator Gerstein balks at this point and walks. Nigel Wright is in a pickle, and for whatever bizarre reason, he agrees to cut the cheque himself so that the deal stays in place.
Then we go back again to the lawyer for the of this country, Mr. Benjamin Perrin. On page five of the RCMP's affidavit it says:
Nigel Wright decided that he would personally cover the cost of reimbursing Senator Duffy. After back and forth negotiations between Janice Payne and Benjamin Perrin (legal counsel within the PMO) terms of the agreement were set.
Benjamin Perrin told us on May 21 that he was not consulted on and had not participated in Nigel Wright's decision to write a personal cheque to reimburse Senator Duffy's expenses, and further, he had never communicated with the on this matter.
What we are seeing in this scandal is that a cover-up was orchestrated in the 's Office. We have named the names of the senators who were involved in attempting to whitewash the audit, including the call from Wright to Gerstein and from Gerstein to Michael Runia at Deloitte, a friend of his, to try to whitewash an audit. What does whitewashing an audit mean? The audit was about whether Mike Duffy defrauded the people of Canada of $90,000 and had set up a housing scheme to collect the per diems.
We see Senator Tkachuk and Senator Stewart-Olsen involved. We see Senator LeBreton and Senator Gerstein. All of them have acted shamefully, but within the office of the , there were two key people: Nigel Wright, the chief of staff, and Benjamin Perrin, the lawyer for the Prime Minister. How can we believe that nobody told the Prime Minister when, on February 22, they were needing the go-ahead on point three. Point three is about coming up with a scheme to pay Mike Duffy to make him shut up and make the problem go away.
Mr. Speaker, I will not say that I am honoured to discuss such a subject, because I am very depressed at having to rise to speak again about scandals. The particular scandal we are discussing could be the plot in a John Grisham novel, and I would not be surprised if it were outright fiction.
For several weeks now, if not months, we have been pounded by all kinds of speeches. This motion from the Liberal opposition calls for the actions of the Prime Minister's Office to be condemned and for the Prime Minister to testify in committee under oath, among other things.
I agree with my colleague from that we all swore an oath here, before even entering the House, when we were elected as members of Parliament. I hope that when we speak, we do so under oath.
The Liberal leader seemed to suggest that having the testify under oath somewhere would change something, but I do not agree. However, it would be interesting to look into this issue in committee and ask the all kinds of questions. Again, I highly doubt this will change anything at all.
I say this with unimaginable sadness. The is doing his job, but I still think he is being thrown to the lions. He is trying to handle things as well as he can. Clearly he is in no way involved in this scandal, but he was chosen to play this role and to lend some credibility to the whole affair. It is rather unfortunate for him that he has to do this, although it does give him an opportunity to exercise some of his natural talents.
That said, if he thinks that this is not a concern for Canadians, then he is just a little too busy with this issue and too focused on learning his lines. He would find it useful to visit his riding and talk to his constituents.
When I go to Gatineau, all that people have to say is, “Don't let up on the Senate.” Seriously, this is what people most often say to me. The reason for that is that Canadians, including the people of Quebec and Gatineau, are fed up with being taken for fools.
We, too, feel that their version of the story is changing little by little. This is not a minor matter. This situation concerns an extremely important institution, one that has gained great importance in recent years. Whether the government is Liberal or Conservative, power has become increasingly concentrated in the PMO.
No one in government can speak or even sneeze without the PMO's prior permission, and this is a good indication of how much power that office wields. When a scandal erupts from that office, it rocks one of the main pillars of our great democratic institution, Canada's Parliament.
I already knew that the government does not have a great deal of respect for the legal system, judges, courts and, now, even for the Supreme Court of Canada. Still, it is incredible that the Prime Minister of Canada's office is so deeply involved in such a situation.
Make no mistake. The holier than thou Conservatives can feign indignation as much as they want and swear, with their hands on their hearts, that they wanted Canadian taxpayers to be reimbursed, but the information obtained proves the contrary. Perhaps that is where their problem lies.
They now have no credibility because their versions of the story, from the first day to yesterday, and perhaps even up to today, are diametrically opposed, different and conflicting. People are hungrily following this story because it reads like a thrilling political suspense novel.
People are wondering what went on. Everyone has an idea in their mind, but if you do not, I will help you out. Everyone remembers the 's absolutely extraordinary meetings with Mike Duffy. He was the star they brought in to make the Prime Minister look good on so many occasions that it is almost laughable.
Now they are distancing themselves from Mike Duffy, even though he used to play an extremely important role for the Conservative Party and the government. The Conservatives could meet people all over Canada and Mike Duffy would help make the seem a little more human. No one has a hard time believing what is in the sworn statement from the RCMP, in which it appears that they wanted to protect someone who was very important to the party.
However, when you make up a story and try to manipulate the truth and rationalize, you eventually reach a point where you have problems knowing what is right and true. At some point, your story stops making sense, so you are forced to do a complete 180 and distance yourself as much as possible from the situation. That is what we are seeing here.
I once asked the parliamentary secretary a question and told him that it would be much easier to apply the saying, “a fault confessed is half redressed”.
The Conservatives could have said that there was a misunderstanding about the expenses but that they were going to take care of it, instead of inventing this absolutely nightmarish scheme in which they are trying to defend the indefensible and change things by the back door. Then, they rise and try to suggest that they did this for Canadians, to ensure that they were not out that $90,000 we keep hearing about. Someone repaid the money, and it was not just anyone. It was the person closest to the .
In view of the notes that the government blithely hands out to everyone, I think that it—and the PMO in fact—are confusing the concept of responsibility with the concept of finding a scapegoat.
I think that the Conservatives truly believe that standing up and saying that Nigel Wright accepts responsibility should be good enough for the rest of us. We should just accept that and say, okay, we have the person responsible. It does not work like that. We are talking about the PMO in the same way we talk about a department being the responsibility of the minister. This Canadian democracy and its democratic pillars have to mean something. We have a system of ministerial responsibilities that does not seem to mean much of anything any more, when the government can hide behind the Nigel Wrights of this world to justify not taking responsibility.
Whether things happen with the 's knowledge or not, whether he is aware or not, the fact remains that when something happens on his watch, it is his responsibility. It is up to him to stand before Canadians and apologize and tell them that something inappropriate happened and that he is going to get to the bottom of things and find the truth. He should not say this, learn that, change his story, take three steps back, move ahead two steps, step to the side and let his parliamentary secretary answer for him and so on and so forth.
In closing, the unfortunate thing about all of this is that, once again, after the sponsorship scandal and the Gomery commission, after being promised the moon and the stars by this Conservative government, which was supposed to be squeaky clean, all we have seen is one scandal after another. This is having an impact on all of us, on all members from all parties. It will not be easy to regain the trust of Canadians. Right now every Canadian thinks that we must get to the bottom of this and ensure that the truth comes out about the Senate.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal motion moved by my hon. colleague from calls on the House to do three things.
First of all, it invites us to condemn the unacceptable and irresponsible actions of certain members of the Prime Minister's Office. Second, it reminds the that, according to his own guide entitled “Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State”, he is personally responsible for the actions of his office. Third, it calls on the to testify under oath in a context in which he must stop avoiding the questions, as he always does in the House.
The rationale for the Liberal motion currently before the House is RCMP Corporal Greg Horton's sworn affidavit, which indicates that fraud has been committed by the 's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, and Senator Mike Duffy. It states, “[They] have committed...frauds”.
The first perpetrator, Mr. Wright, secretly gave a $90,000 cheque to the second perpetrator, Mr. Duffy, to pay back his ineligible expense claims. The second perpetrator, Mr. Duffy, accepted the cheque on the condition that he state publicly that he was paying the money back himself. According to the RCMP, they committed fraud. The RCMP seems to be accusing them not only of fraud, but also corruption and breach of trust. This is very serious.
Who else knew about this fraud, besides Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy? Who was involved? Who closed their eyes? Are the accomplices still members of this government? Do they still work for this government? If so, why?
The government refuses to answer these questions. It keeps repeating that only Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy are under investigation and are entirely responsible for this matter.
The government's refusal to answer this simple question—Who knew what?—is very disconcerting. This evasiveness comes from the top, from the himself, and makes us fear the worst.
Some are concerned that the himself was involved and that he did know about it. He is behaving as though he has something to hide and not like someone with a clear conscience. He avoids questions, repeats the same stock phrases and is not being forthright.
At this point in this lurid business, there are only two possible scenarios. In the first, the knows the truth, but is hiding it from Canadians. In the second, the Prime Minister did not know, and members of his staff kept him in the dark. It is either one or the other. Either he knew, and lied, or he did not know and they lied to him. “They” refers to people other than Mr. Wright, if we are to believe Corporal Horton's affidavit.
The claims otherwise: Nigel Wright was the only staff member who hid the truth from him.
On Friday, November 22, when the Prime Minister was in Manitoba, a CBC journalist asked him the following question: “Do you believe that others, besides Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright, kept you in the dark? That was the question. The Prime Minister answered no. That is impossible. The Prime Minister's answer cannot be true. He misled Canadians with that answer. That answer cannot be true because we know that other members of the Prime Minister's office were aware of efforts made so Mike Duffy would not have to pay back what he owed. Some knew that Nigel Wright had written him a $90,000 cheque. If the Prime Minister did not know, a number of his staff members kept him in the dark, not just Nigel Wright.
Let us follow the sequence of events as outlined in the statement given under oath by Corporal Horton, starting with what happened in February 2013.
In an interview with police, Nigel Wright confirmed that he asked the Conservative Fund of Canada chairman, Conservative senator and bagman Irving Gerstein, to repay Senator Duffy's bogus expenses of $32,000.
On February 21 Benjamin Perrin, the Prime Minister's personal lawyer in the PMO, and Senator Duffy's lawyer exchange emails detailing the plan to have the Conservative Party pay Duffy's $32,000 in bogus housing claims as well as his legal fees. The agreement describes this as keeping Duffy “whole on the repayment”.
On February 22 Wright confirms with Gerstein that the party will pay the expenses and the legal fees. Later on February 22, Wright emails Perrin and states, “I do want to speak to the Prime Minister before everything is considered final”. Less than an hour later, Wright sends a follow-up email to Perrin that says, “We are good to go from the PM once Ben has his confirmation from Payne”, Ben being Mr. Perrin, the PMO lawyer, and Madam Payne being Mr. Duffy's lawyer.
The PM's chief of staff and personal lawyer are specifically discussing a plan that is contained in an email from Duffy's lawyer that includes covering Duffy's bogus expenses and legal fees. When Wright says that he has to check with the Prime Minister before everything is final, he can only be talking about the deal that they have negotiated with Duffy's lawyer. When Wright says that the Prime Minister is “good to go once Ben has his confirmation from Payne”, the only thing they had discussed with Payne was the plan to have the Conservative Party repay Duffy's expenses and legal fees.
The email evidence and chronology presented by the RCMP are clear. Nigel Wright sought the approval of the Prime Minister for something. At the exact same time as this approval was sought and received, the PMO was negotiating a deal with Duffy's lawyer to have the Conservative Party repay Duffy's bogus expenses. Given that the emails show that finalizing the points of the deal with Duffy's lawyer was what Wright and Perrin were focused on at the time, what else could they have been seeking approval for from the Prime Minister?
The evidence is so strong that it is simply not believable for the Prime Minister to claim that he was authorizing Duffy to repay his own expenses. Not only is that patently absurd and unbelievable statement, the emails tell a very different story.
For the 's version to be credible, Nigel Wright would have had to lie to the Prime Minister and make him believe that Mike Duffy was going to pay back the money himself, and he would have had to lie to all of his accomplices and make them believe that the approved the Conservative Party making the payment. That is rather unbelievable, is it not?
However, even if we accept this version that Nigel Wright is a double liar, we would then have to conclude that the other parties to the scheme also hid the truth from the . They knew that Mike Duffy would not make the payment. They apparently never told the Prime Minister.
If that is the case, why are some of them still working for the government? Why, for example, is Senator Gerstein, who allegedly hid the truth from the , still a member of the Conservative caucus? Why is it impossible to get an answer to this question from the Prime Minister or any member of his caucus? Do our Conservative colleagues have no desire to help Canadians get the truth?
Let us see how this unfolded.
On February 27, Duffy's lawyer emails Perrin and informs him that the amount Duffy owes in bogus expense claims has now risen to $90,000.
Wright also told police that, in addition to Perrin, he informed the following people that he would personally provide Duffy with the $90,000 to repay his bogus expenses: Conservative Senator Irving Gerstein, Chair of the Conservative Fund Canada; Benjamin Perrin, as I said, the 's personal lawyer in the PMO; David van Hemmen, formerly Nigel Wright's assistant and now policy adviser to the ; Patrick Rogers, then legislative assistant to the and now director of policy for the ; and Chris Woodcock, then director of issues management and now chief of staff for the .
For example, on March 8 Nigel Wright advised Chris Woodcock by email that he was personally covering Duffy's $90,000. On March 23 Nigel Wright sent an email to David van Hemmen that said “My cheque is in the correspondence folder”. The same day, Wright wrote an email to Benjamin Perrin that said “I will send my cheque on Monday”.
It is true that there is no proof that the was aware of the cheque, but according to Wright, he was aware of something. He wrote in an email, “The PM knows, in broad terms only, that I personally assisted Duffy”. The was aware of that.
Even if we accept the 's story that he knew nothing about the financial aid to Mike Duffy, why is he keeping in his government individuals who hid the truth and the fraudulent activities from him? Why is David van Hemmen still a policy adviser to the Minister of State for Finance? Did he not hide the truth from the ?
Why is Patrick Rogers still the director of policy for the ? Did he not hide the truth from the ? Why is Chris Woodcock still the chief of staff for the ? Did he not hide the truth from the Prime Minister? Why is Senator Gerstein still a member of the Conservative caucus and the Conservative Party's bagman? Did he not hide the truth from the Prime Minister? Unless these people did not hide anything at all from the Prime Minister. That would then mean that the Prime Minister was aware of the fraud and is trying to hide that from Canadians.
The Conservatives have to choose between the only two possible scenarios. Either the was aware of the fraud and is trying to hide that from Canadians, or the Prime Minister did not know anything about the fraud and key people around him hid the truth from him. If so, why is he keeping them on staff?
In fact, the Conservatives can do better than choose between these two scenarios. They should tell us which one is the truth. Canadians have a right to the truth. They have the right to know whether their is an honest and straightforward man or a secretive manipulator who thinks that hiding the truth is acceptable conduct in Canadian politics.
Canadians can rely on the Liberal leader and the Liberal opposition not to let up on the Conservatives and the until the truth, the whole truth, has come out into the open.
Canadians are entitled to the truth.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate being recognized in the House today in support of this Liberal motion.
I would like to, at this point, start my speech by talking about the narrative that is talked about not only here but when it comes to public discourse, public discussions. I speak of politics, of course, but I speak about politics in the general sense of what we do here, which is to enable the discussion to be centred right here, at this focal point, because this is what Canadians are talking about.
A lot of people would say the issue we are debating today is not germane to everyday goings-on, the machinations of how we live and how we operate as a society. The economy, yes, jobs, yes, as we have talked about, and crime are all important products of this place.
However, I will say this. We also compel our politicians to strive to be the utmost in ethical behaviour.
We have heard it. Many people in this House have either been accused or have been brought to a court and found guilty over the years. Many have admitted their guilt. Many of them have been found guilty. Some of them have been found innocent of all accusations.
However, this is the type of discourse we have here. This is the type of conversation we need to have to get to the bottom of the matter as to what behaviour took place in the office, funded by taxpayers, the office we put trust in every four years, via a ballot box, being the democracy that we are—the greatest democracy, I might add, in the whole world.
Let me go back to the narrative. The narrative of the story is that we expect public officials to strive to be the most ethical individuals and, also, to be the caretakers of our finances, of our taxes, to exercise authority in this office to ensure they are doing it at the utmost level of the ethical standards and, of course, to do it as any reasonable person in this country would expect them to.
Let me go back. Let me flash back for a just moment to when I first arrived here in the House of Commons. It was 2004 when I arrived here in the fall, for the first time. I sat on the other side of the House, in the Liberal Party, which was government at the time.
What I faced was an absolute barrage of angst, hatred and accusations, some true, some not, but the hatred and the vitriol that was in this House was palpable and was incredibly thick.
Flash forward a few years and we found ourselves overturned in an election. We then, at that time, sat in the opposition.
I heard it on the doorstep during that 2004 period, but a lot of this vitriol and a lot of this hatred was put forward by the opposition parties of the day, including, I might add, the current government. Many of those people are in this House today.
However, a lot of the people who are in this House today, I would even say the majority of the people in the government in this House today, were not here at that time.
I hear the argument, every time we lay out what has happened and we say to Canadians and we say in this House, in public discourse, “Look. Here is the situation that happened within the Prime Minister's Office. It is something that is substandard. It is something that does not measure up to the ethical expectations of this country”, and we get back, “Well, the Liberals did this back then” and “But back then, you did this”, without answering the question.
My response to this is always that if the government can only say to us what was done in the past, as opposed to what we are dealing with in the present, then it proves that the government has become everything it said it would not be.
There we have it, the narrative that goes from then to now.
The problem with many politicians today, sometimes me included, is that we need to own up to what was done wrong. We need to tell ourselves that there has to be a time when we reflect upon what we say, what we do and the actions we take, and ask if they are up to the standard of what a reasonable taxpayer and citizen of this country would expect. I would say that in many cases we do not and turn a blind eye.
What bothers me the most is that when we turn the blind eye by avoiding the topic and talking about something else, we have to make one base assumption, which is that the citizens watching this today did not notice or that the citizens watching today do not care enough to listen to the specific questions. What a sad mistake that is when we campaign, do television commercials, tweet the nasty stuff and simply say, “If you think what we did is bad, look at what you did”, and the argument goes back and forth—to use the vernacular, “I know you are, but what am I”, as said by many four and five year olds. We pretend Canadians do not even notice, but they do. We do not give the average citizen in this country enough credit for being intelligent enough to read between the lines.
Yes, by the way, before the question comes, I will follow my own advice and try to measure up to a standard that was given to us to be sitting here in the House of Commons. Can anyone imagine how many citizens in this country would dream some day of standing or sitting in this place where we are today, my friends? Let us make this debate about an ethical standard that we feel is not up to par. Let us make this debate about an ethical standard that we strive to be. However, in doing that, we have to point out that there are people among us—and I am including all parties—who do not measure up to this, given the trust of the public. There are people who are given the trust of the public who need to be looked at. We need to shine a spotlight on their actions and come up with answers. We talk about judicial inquiries. They are expensive and they take time. Sometimes they are necessary. The problem is that many times we have to realize that this is a forum that taxpayers pay for and their voices need to be heard.
The motion today was brought forward by my hon. colleague from , in New Brunswick. We talk about the recent sworn statements by the RCMP, Corporal Greg Horton. They reveal that in many cases the ethical standard was not reached, which is putting it mildly, and some cases that ethical standard appears to have been subverted.
On February 21, the 's Office had agreed, with regard to Mike Duffy's controversial expenses, that the Conservative Party of Canada would keep him whole on the repayment. This is the type of conversation that took place. What exactly does that mean? We try to pontificate as to what exactly that means, and I am sure the average Canadian does. In other words, how do we protect an individual who has—pardon the vernacular again—fallen off the rails when it comes to ethical standards?
On February 22, the 's chief of staff wanted “to speak to the PM before everything is considered final”. Later the same day, February 22, the 's chief of staff confirmed, “We are good to go from the PM once Ben has his confirmation from Payne”.
My hon. colleagues have already discussed the details, names and faces, colleagues like the member for . What I want to focus on again is the narrative, and the narrative is about how these actions do not measure up to the ethical standard, which was not met.
Agreement was reached between Benjamin Perrin and Janice Payne, counsels for the and Mike Duffy. The amount to keep Mike Duffy whole was calculated to be higher than first determined, requiring a changed source of funds from Conservative Party funds to Nigel Wright's personal funds, after which the arrangement proceeded and Duffy's expenses were repaid.
Let us go back for a moment. As citizens, we have the right, thank goodness, because we are the best democracy in the world, to not only vote for a particular party, its beliefs, ideals, ideology, but we also have the right to donate money to help them communicate that message to the masses.
As a Conservative Party fundraiser, certainly as a donor, if I were, imagine my dismay and shock to realize that my money went to Mike Duffy to say this is something for him to walk out and look good while doing it. It is particularly galling, to say the least. It got to a certain level where even Senator Gerstein could not handle it anymore. That threshold was gone. He had a certain threshold and a certain amount of money, but he just could not go any further.
Certainly when it climbed close to $100,000 and the personal cheque was written, I ask the people watching this at home or in the gallery to imagine that someone we barely know has done something wrong so we are going to reimburse them with a cheque close to $100,000 and by the way, that is from our account. Imagine that. We might do it for our children, but certainly not for someone we barely know. The narrative goes to the fact that there is not just one person in on this. There is a network of people involved in keeping this from the spotlight. That is the narrative that fails Canadians.
I know the Conservatives are going to talk about the past and about certain things that happened in my party in the past, but the point is that we go through the process of getting to the answers, which is what in 2004 we did to find the answers to make sure it did not happen again.
This morning I attended a briefing with the Auditor General, a fantastic exercise, highlighting the inefficiencies of government, even though it had the best of intentions. For example, we talked about issues of meat inspection. We talked about examples of border guards. We talked about the example of online services that need to be centralized and more accessible to people of all walks of life from everywhere in the country, whether it is urban, rural, east, west or north. However, these are inefficiencies in the system that start out with the best of intentions.
We want to engage citizens across this country by using online resources. Yes, it saves money and allows people to do it any time of the day. We know people are busy travelling back and forth to work, not just from a small geographical area, but many people in my riding travel from Newfoundland and Labrador to Alberta on a bi-weekly basis, or around the world to Russia, to Africa. They want their services to be online.
I bring this up by way of example because the inefficiencies that we have right now started out with the best of intentions. Is that germane to this debate? Yes, it is because this situation we are dealing with today did not start with the best of intentions and it got worse and worse. It pulled more and more people in. It became a situation of not just inefficiencies but of some substandard ethical actions taking place.
I certainly believe that the motion today not only highlights that, but also looks at ways that we can fix it.
Let us have a look at some of the other details in this. The has given contradictory responses to the House of Commons, that we know. To the people out there watching today, we know exactly what it is we are talking about. Did he quit? Was he fired? Originally he quit. He is a nice guy, a good guy, means well. A few months later it was, he was fired.
There is a word we use in Newfoundland, called “sleveen”. It is someone of sub-ethical standards, and I am being kind. They are usually described in a much harsher way. They basically sleeveened the guy. If nothing, I hope we have learned a new word today from the Newfoundland dictionary: sleveen, someone of substandard ethical values.
Basically they have pointed out that this man is the sleveen of the most sleveen nature. I do not even know if that makes sense. I am trying to illustrate the point by saying that everybody in this country is talking about it. Everybody wants to know what is happened here, because they do not want to see it happen again.
The RCMP court filing also paints a disturbing picture of the entire PMO senior staff. The “fraud squad” engaged in the whitewash of a Senate report. Now we are going back to the other side with the whitewashing of a report that looks at this and says that there are people involved here, calls made from people on the board of the internal economy to the senator involved in the actions.
The conversation went like this, and this is why everybody is talking about it, because everybody understands this part. I am not a lawyer and when we look at some of this stuff, the vernacular of what is written down in legalize, sometimes it is hard to understand. Here is what is easy to understand. They wanted to get rid of the part or fix the part that shows that Senator Mike Duffy claimed per diems, claiming money because he was working in Ottawa on the very same day he was in Florida.
Now that I get, any Canadian can get that, anybody watching today can get that. Someone claimed money for doing their job in Canada while finding themselves in Florida. I doubt if anyone would even consider Florida the 11th province.
Ms. Lois Brown: Or Mexico...
Mr. Scott Simms: Sure, let us use Mexico. It is the same sort of difference; the person dealt with is gone. That is how malfeasance works, but that is admitted to.
To my hon. colleague who intends to interrupt my speech, I did not mean to interrupt her interruptions of my speech. I apologize.
However, that was the case. The light was shone on that and actions were taken. For this one, where is the spotlight?
Here we have a situation where it is not just one person anymore, it is several. The story unravels, the details come out and the documents come out. Let us just have a look at it for what it is. It is people behaving badly. People not behaving in the way in which Canadians expect them to behave.
I would leave with this thought. In 2006 I was in government. The Conservative candidate at the time put a flyer in the mail to every person in my riding. They said the worst thing one can do is not keep promises. Well, that is a good point.
However, here is a worse one. Since then we have seen this many times by the government. Not only did the Conservatives break the promise they made, but they continue to try to convince Canadians that they kept it when they know that they did not. When will the Conservatives practice what they used to preach?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his introduction of a very useful term, “mauzy” in his speech. He sells himself short as a former weatherman. I have heard weathermen apologize for their weather forecast, saying “Well, I was wrong yesterday, the weather actually wasn't the way I said it was going to be”. That is something I wish the government would do. It could simply say that this was the mistake it made, these are all the facts, this is the truth, it made a mistake and it would take the punishment and move on. If the government had done that early on, it would have contained the effects of the scandal in the Prime Minister's Office.
This scandal has consumed a lot of time and resources in Ottawa. The government claims it wants to work on the economy, but the necessity of having clean government, of ferreting out all the misdeeds of the Conservatives in the 's circle, has consumed a lot of time. We have to consume a lot of resources to do the proper investigation, and it is unfortunate that we have had to take this time.
My constituency work and my work on the Liberal Party team as a critic for science and technology, post-secondary education and economic development has meant that I cannot be consumed by all the details of the scandal in the Prime Minister's Office. That is probably true for most Canadians. They have their daily lives, family members to take care of, jobs to go to and communities to be part of. They do not have time to immerse themselves in all the details. I am in the same boat.
I hear all these names and it is very hard to keep track of many of them in the Prime Minister's Office, in the leadership of the Conservatives in the Senate and in the Conservative Party. It seems like all the Prime Minister's men and women have been involved in this cover-up. My question for the Prime Minister would be this. If he is really running the country, or managing the country's economy for Canadians, as the Conservatives would like to claim, how could he be so cut off from his own people and do a good job as Prime Minister? It does not seem reasonable to me that this could be true.
My guess is that the must have known because so many people in his inner circle in his office were involved in the cover-up. Cover-up was a word recently used by a spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office. That is not consistent with a well-functioning team that is responsible for managing the entire country and the economy for Canadians. Either the Prime Minister was involved or he was not managing the country's economy just hoping natural resources prices would stay high.
A lot of Conservative members of Parliament are aware of the facts put forward by the RCMP. They understand how damning the evidence is. They do not want to stand and defend the Prime Minister or try to explain what went on, or to try to put in their own words what they think really happened. From what I understand, there may not be any Conservative MPs standing today to make a speech or to ask questions. So far it has only been the parliamentary secretary who has been up to speak and we know that in question period, it is only the parliamentary secretary who has stood to answer questions when the Prime Minister has not answered them.
I forgot to mention at the beginning, Mr. Speaker, that I would like to share my time with the member for .
It is clear that Conservative MPs, having looked at the evidence that the RCMP investigators have brought forth and thought about it by themselves, know it would be very damaging to their prospects in the 2015 election if they were to stand and try to defend the . They can see, from the election results yesterday, that Canadians are very upset by the behaviour and the poor ethical standards of the Prime Minister's Office. They are voting with their feet, by not getting up, and we can see it will be pretty clear
I need to also comment about some of the things I have heard in the debate today. I had not prepared to talk about this, but I have been hearing the remarks from some of the members in this chamber. It seems to me that, for example, the parliamentary secretary has been trying to say, incorrectly I would add, that the leader of the Liberal Party has not been asking questions about the scandal in the 's Office. In fact, that is untrue and I stood earlier during this debate to read out a whole list of questions the leader of the Liberal Party had asked in the last few days. Whenever the leader of the Liberal Party is here, he always gets up.
I know the Liberal Party only has 34 seats right now, although 36 seats in a few days, and so we get a limited number of questions in question period. Out of the first 17 questions in question period, this smaller Liberal caucus only gets 3, so I know it is hard for the leader of the Liberal Party to get up and ask a lot of questions, but every time he is here he asks questions. He gets to ask the three questions and he does ask them to keep the government to account. I read out a number of them just a short while ago. Therefore, the parliamentary secretary is making up some things that are totally untrue because there is nothing left to resort to.
The Conservatives will not answer the questions that have been posed to them in question period and during today's debate, so all they can do is resort to personal attacks on the Liberal leader, especially since the by-election results yesterday. All they can do is resort to talking about unproven accusations from the past.
What we should be doing today, and as is the intent of the motion today, is to talk about the cover-up, the fact that it does not make sense that the was simply asked if it were okay for Mike Duffy to pay back the expense claims he owed. This is something that, from what I have heard in question period, the Prime Minister would have expected from any member of his caucus. Therefore, why would the Prime Minister ever need to approve something as simple as that? The implication is clear in the RCMP document, and we have heard it in debate and in question period in this chamber, that the Prime Minister was asked something more substantial. We do not know what it was, but it does not make sense that the Prime Minister was simply asked to approve the fact that Senator Duffy should repay the expense claims to which he was not entitled.
For somebody who shares, along with the rest of Canadians, a general sense of what the problem is, but not all of the details, and we hear a lot of conflicting statements that change from week to week and month to month from the members of the Conservative Party, we need to clear the air. We need to cut through the mauzy, as my colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador said.
We need to clarify what the story is. That is why it is important for the and his inner circle, who have been involved in this cover-up, according to the RCMP, to testify under oath to say, “This is our statement. This is what we say happened”.
I think it will be clear, if that happens, that there have been serious ethical breaches in the Prime Minister's Office. It will be clear that the members of the 's staff who, it is clear from the RCMP's statements, have been involved in this cover-up, who are going to be charged under certain sections of the Criminal Code, and who are still working for the government, should not be working for the government. It will be clear that if the Prime Minister wants to uphold the standards he claims to uphold, these members of the Prime Minister's Office should not be working for the government.
For these reasons, it is very important for us to support this motion and to ask the members of the Conservative government who have been involved in this scandal in the Prime Minister's Office to testify under oath, state very clearly what they believe happened, and clear the air and put some sunlight through the mauzy for the people of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I will continue, because I understand that my colleague from would like to speak for a full 20 minutes.
Let me talk about some of the other points that have been brought up in debate today. The parliamentary secretary talked about income trusts. This is an old accusation that has not been proven. The member for said that very clearly. He was here when those accusations were first made, and they were just accusations.
Members make accusations every day in the House. I wish that when Conservative members answered questions in question period, they would just answer the questions instead of going back years and years to talk about other accusations. This is an example of how members of the government try to deflect questions by bringing up old accusations. This is not a good way of conducting the business of the House. It is not what voters want.
When I walk the streets of Kingston and the Islands, it is not uncommon for people to walk up to me and make some comment about question period. They say that it must be frustrating, because we never get any answers to questions.
The topic of today's debate is a very serious one. It is about whether we can trust our head of government, and for that reason, it is very important that when the Conservatives are answering questions, they answer them. They should grab the bull by the horns, acknowledge the questions, and give their best answers. They should not deflect the questions by talking about old accusations or about old stories about one's family or about the pizza delivery man. We have heard these things in the House, and this is not what we are supposed to be doing here. This is not how we are supposed to be serving the people of Canada.
It is hard for me to go back to my riding of Kingston and the Islands and tell people that this is what happens and that is why it is called question period. We need to get voluntary compliance from members of Parliament on the government side. This place has a purpose, which is to serve the Canadian people. Questions are asked for a purpose, which is to keep the government to account. This used to be done in the chamber many years ago.
We have to call into question why the government wants to be the government and why it should be the government. Right now, the government has a majority, so we cannot win a vote of non-confidence, but if we had a secret ballot among all members of Parliament as to whether they all have confidence in the government, I wonder if that motion would pass, particularly if the backbench members of the Conservative caucus could vote secretly. I suspect that we might not get all government members supporting the government.
That is how serious this scandal in the 's Office is. That is why none of the Conservative members are speaking to this motion. It is because it is toxic. They know that there have been ethical breaches in the 's Office, and they know that this is very serious. They know from yesterday's by-election results that Canadian voters take this very seriously. They want to get re-elected in 2015, but it is not going to happen with the leadership of the Conservative Party, which is unwilling to admit and fix the mistakes that were made. That is what we have to be talking about today.
I cannot say whether particular Conservative MPs are here or not, but I think Hansard will show, by the end of the day, that only the parliamentary secretary has risen to give a speech. Maybe I will be proven wrong. I hope I am proven wrong. We will see what happens by the end of the day. However, so far, there is no evidence that other Conservative MPs will be getting up to defend the .
With that, I am ready to answer questions or hear comments.
Mr. Speaker, I might say at the beginning that I would not be too worried about the accusations from the , because he would not know the truth if it hit him in the eyes.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this opposition day motion. The key point of the motion is that:
...the House call upon the Prime Minister to explain in detail to Canadians, under oath, what Nigel Wright or any other member of his staff or any other Conservative told him at any time about any aspect of any possible arrangement pertaining to Mike Duffy, what he did about it, and when.
That is the context of the motion. That is the important part of the motion. What the opposition motion really does, I believe, is give the an opportunity to clear the record, if he has nothing to hide.
Comments expressed by his parliamentary secretary, however, lead me to believe that the government will continue the cover-up. It is interesting, as my colleague previously said, that in this debate, the only person who is allowed to speak on the government side is the parliamentary secretary himself.
There are a lot of good people on the backbench of the Conservative Party. There are. I have to ask them if they are under orders not to speak. Do they not care about the scandal in the Prime Minister's Office, this group that came to Ottawa on accountability and transparency? Are they fearful of standing in this place and asking the a question? In the Conservative government, have accountability and transparency just gone out the window in what is now clearly not just a cover-up in the Prime Minister's Office, but a cover-up by the whole Conservative Party of Canada and its entire backbench? They are all party to this cover-up in trying to protect the Prime Minister.
It must be difficult for backbench MPs who came to this place on a law and order, tough-on-crime agenda to swallow themselves whole. It really must be difficult. I sympathize with them that they came on here on a law and order agenda and now they are swallowing themselves whole.
Yes, there are laws, and they need to be abided by, but not by those in the Prime Minister's Office, that is for sure. Being tough on crime clearly only applies to others and not themselves when it comes to this particular government under the current Prime Minister's leadership.
If it is a youth from a broken family or a mentally ill person who has got in trouble and broken the law, everything we have seen in the Conservative government is punishment, punishment, punishment, and the harsher the better. The idea is to throw them in jail, practically, and throw away the key.
However, when it comes to government folks, some of their own, it is an entirely different story. In this case, looking at this issue in its simplest terms, it is bribery, fostered by the highest office in this land, the Prime Minister's Office, and that is okay. It is okay to the backbenchers over there. Influencing the buying privileges of senators and sanitizing a Senate report are okay. That bribery is not a crime to Conservative backbenchers, and they do not seem to want any answers.
Let us recall again what I said a moment ago about the Federal Accountability Act. The Conservative government may have had great intentions and it may have passed the Accountability Act, but it sure does not follow it. As far as transparency goes, every Canadian knows, except seemingly those on the backbench over here, that this is the most secretive government in Canadian history.
There are lots of areas where laws do not seem to matter to the Conservative Party. We have the in-and-out scandal, the robocalls, the Duffy-PMO scandal, and the list goes on.
I want to recall the words of this Conservative to a former prime minister and ask members in the governing party if these words apply to this Prime Minister . He said that if the Prime Minister knew about the scam, it was unconscionable, and if he did not, it was incompetence.
Does that statement not apply to this ? That statement certainly does.
Let us imagine this: his chief of staff knew, but the did not. About a dozen people, his closest advisers, knew, but the Prime Minister did not. The head of the Conservative Fund knew, and was willing to pay the bribe as long as it was only $32,000. That is the head of the Conservative Fund, a senator appointed by this Prime Minister. He knew, but the Prime Minister did not.
An audit of Duffy was sanitized at the request of close advisers to the PMO, a circle of them, and with the full co-operation of the 's leader in the Senate; a second senator, his former communications director; and a third loyal senator. This neat little trifecta of three closest loyal senators knew about the changing of evidence, fostered by a buyout, a bribe in the Senate, but the Prime Minister did not know.
Does that not really stretch reality? I certainly think so. Do Conservative members expect us to believe that the did not know? That is incredible.
Let me come back and re-quote that statement. It was that if the Prime Minister knew about the scam, it was unconscionable, and if he did not, it was incompetence.
I ask members on the government side, those who are sitting there with their lips zipped, which is it? It has to be one or the other.
Let us go back to the real reason the Senate scandal has landed on the 's desk. The Prime Minister made the appointment in the first place, in violation of the residency requirements. Why did he do that?
When we think about it, we realize why. Many in the country, many of the legal and constitutional experts, believe what the did in the appointment of Wallin and Duffy was a violation of the Constitution. I certainly believe it was.
Senator Duffy is supposed to be my senator. He lives in my riding. However, he certainly does not represent Prince Edward Island; he represents the 's voice in coming back to Prince Edward Island to tell them what they should do.
I have not heard Senator Duffy speak out on EI. I have not seen him in the coffee shops, talking to the people affected by employment insurance. He is a messenger for the in Prince Edward Island. That is not the way it is supposed to be, which is the other way around.
On this issue, as on other issues, the clearly just did not care. He just did not care about violating the Constitution of this country that we in this Parliament are supposed to represent. I can say to all those quiet backbenchers over there who were sent here with an obligation to represent the country that when the Constitution is being violated, they obviously do not care either. They stand and they cheer on the issue as the Prime Minister defends himself in an unconscionable cover-up.
What was the real objective of having two high-profile media types appointed to the Senate? A government member can correct me if I am wrong, but I think it was to have those senators, because they were well known in the media, go out and spin the message. Recall, they were the two key fundraisers within the Conservative Party for awhile. I believe they co-chaired the last Conservative convention before the one just about a month ago. I believe that a year or two ago they co-chaired that convention. They were the high and mighty, but now the is throwing them under the bus to try to cover up his own involvement in terms of the bribery of the Senate and the auditing of a report.
I vividly remember watching the program, and I can recall Senator Duffy sitting on his little stool in the media-type atmosphere, interviewing the , looking him in the eye and asking him tough questions with only invited guests in the audience, all the Conservative lawyers. The whole idea behind the thing was to make it look on TV like this was the Mike Duffy of old asking a Prime Minister tough questions. Really what it was all about was spin, trying to manipulate and manoeuvre Canadians into believing the Prime Minister's message. That is what it was all about. It was spin, and nothing else. That is one of the reasons the Prime Minister appointed Mike Duffy. The Prime Minister violated the Constitution in terms of the residential requirements to appoint these two media-profile people to go out there and really, in effect, abuse the trust of Canadians by providing spin for the Conservative message and the Conservative song.
When these folks were appointed, can members picture the gaggle of advisers, the hangers-on around the 's Office as to whom they should appoint and how they should do it? The Prime Minister was probably advised that it could be a violation of the Constitution. However, the Prime Minister probably said not to worry about it, that he did not care about the Constitution and that they needed these people for a purpose, to sell the Conservative message on what the Conservative government was doing, in everything from its cutbacks on services to Canadians to its attack on seasonal workers to whatever we can name, to provide the spin to try to massage the message. Therefore, the Prime Minister went with the appointment.
I would even go a little further. Maybe the parliamentary secretary can tell me if this actually happened. He was not parliamentary secretary then, but he might have been in the meeting. Can members imagine that first meeting of the with Senators Duffy and Wallin? As I said, the parliamentary secretary can tell me if I am right or wrong, but I expect this is what was said: “Pam, Mike, go out there and sell the message. Do the fundraising for the Conservative Party and bill the Senate”. Was that what was said? “Bill the Senate and do it at the taxpayers' expense”.
I know Mike Duffy well. I have known him for years. He is a visitor to the province from time to time. He has a fictional residence in Green Gables, so I know him well. He took his orders well. I will not get into the wording of what Senator Duffy said in the Senate on this issue. He thought he had permission to bill the Senate. He maybe never looked at the rules, but I expect he was told by the to just bill the Senate and everything would be fine. Now we know it was not fine.
Really, only the can tell us if that is what actually happened to get these senators in this kind of trouble. I would think the Prime Minister and his minions on the other side would see this as an opportunity. For the Prime Minister , if he has nothing to hide, it is an opportunity to come forward and clear the record. I think that would be a good thing.
As a member of Parliament from Prince Edward Island, this entire scandal concerning Senator Duffy, the and the Prime Minister's Office has been one that has had a direct impact on residents in my province. It really bothers me when I read in the press or I see in the nightly news, night after night, Prince Edward Island Senator Mike Duffy, then the scandal, then the expenses and all that kind of stuff. Prince Edward Islanders are so embarrassed. I have had people call me from Vancouver asking what is wrong with Prince Edward Islanders. They did not realize that, from our point of view as Islanders, Mike Duffy is not our senator. He is the Prime Minister 's senator.
It is a real problem. As I said, this is the 's senator, not Prince Edward Island's.
As for the previous owner of that cottage, seeing the cottage on the news nightly with this kind of scandal, for which the has to accept responsibility, it brought the daughter of the previous owner near to tears in talking to me. She said if her dad saw that cottage held in the light that it was on the nightly news, he would be very saddened. That is as a result of the appointing a senator who is not actually a resident of Prince Edward Island and then abusing that privilege and that trust.
Let me sum up and close by rereading what we are really asking for, and that is that:
...the House call upon the Prime Minister to explain in detail to Canadians, under oath, what Nigel Wright or any other member of his staff or any other Conservative told him at any time about any aspect of any possible arrangement pertaining to Mike Duffy, what he did about it, and when.
I see it as an opportunity to come forward and come clean, to stop the cover-up, to explain to us how a dozen people in his office knew and he did not, how his chief of staff knew and he did not, how senators down the hall knew about the whitewashing of the Senate report and he did not.
Either it is a scam that he knew about or it is absolute incompetence. However, he is the of this country and he does have to accept responsibility for decisions made in his office. That used to be the tradition in this place, and the should accept that responsibility and abide by the motion. I expect the Conservative backbenchers should like to see him have that opportunity, where we could have accountability in this place and those backbenchers could support it, the way they did when they talked about it in the last election. That would be quite a change.
Mr. Speaker, if only there were an NDP member for Toronto Centre right now.
I will start by saying that I will be sharing my time with my hon. friend from .
I would like to very briefly address one small point in the motion from the Liberal Party, which is the whole question of requiring the to speak under oath. I will be supporting this motion, but I want to suggest that this is a bit superfluous. Any MP in the House, including the Prime Minister, must tell the truth. It is a matter of our parliamentary privilege. Every time the Prime Minister stands in the House, he is duty bound to tell the truth. Therefore, he actually already is, in the best sense of the words, under oath every time he is in the House. We need a little more information from the Liberals on exactly what kind of process would perfect what the Prime Minister already has a duty to do.
I rose in the House on May 21 to ask the very first series of questions on the criminality involved in what we now know to be a criminal scheme. I referenced section 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act and then section 119 of the Criminal Code. This is almost a symbolic point I want to make. The Parliament of Canada Act, subsection 16(1), states:
No member of the Senate shall receive or agree to receive any compensation, directly or indirectly, for services rendered or to be rendered to any person, either by the member or another person,
(a) in relation to any...controversy, charge, accusation, arrest or other matter before the Senate or the House of Commons or a committee of either House;
It fits perfectly and actually applies only to the Senate and senators. Interestingly, and this is the symbolic point, any senator guilty of this provision is liable to a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $4,000. There is no jail time in this provision, but every person who gives the bribe and is not the senator, according to section 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act, is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year. The symbolic difference between how the Parliament of Canada Act is drafted so that senators can actually be bribed and avoid jail while somebody else involved in the same process goes to jail—an average citizen, for example—is an absolutely symbolic statement of the state of privilege and, indeed, institutional corruption in that body.
Many of us have read in detail the affidavit from RCMP officer Horton, 80-some pages, where he not only mentions section 119 of the Criminal Code and bribery but also mentions breach of public trust in section 122 and fraud on the government in section 121. All three of these provisions seem very clearly to be made out given what we know about the quid pro quo arrangement involving at least Mr. Duffy and Mr. Wright, where Mr. Duffy's side of the deal would be to be silent both in the Senate and in public, and the side of the deal for at least Mr. Wright—and others in the PMO quite likely—was that there would be money paid back to Mr. Duffy so that he would not have to bear the cost of the expenses he owed and also that there would be some kind of rigging of a report coming out of the Senate so it would go easy on Mr. Duffy. That was a key part of the quid pro quo as well.
What I would like to focus the remainder of my remarks on is the fact that we cannot be blinded by the Wright-Duffy relationship as the direct participatory side, two parties clearly involved. This whole thing is most clearly a scheme. Others are involved. We know of different aspects, thanks to this very historically unusual insight provided by the affidavit from the RCMP. Assistance and participation, other than being the directly involved party, is part of our Criminal Code, and with section 22 of the Criminal Code, frankly, depending on what the evidence reveals, I would suggest that we can start with the .
With respect to a person counselling an offence, subsection 22(1) states:
Where a person counsels another person to be a party to an offence and that other person is afterwards a party to that offence, the person who counselled is a party to that offence, notwithstanding that the offence was committed in a way different from that which was counselled.
It does not matter that somebody says “Please go out and do a hit job by kneecapping somebody with a hammer” and the person uses an iron bar instead. It does not matter if the source of illegal funds in a transaction was originally the Conservative Party's funds but turned out to be Mr. Wright's own funds, because either source is equally criminal. If that was to be the case, anybody counselling that initial payment from the Conservative Party fund would be equally guilty if it turned out that another fund was used.
Also, section 21 deals with parties to an offence, that being all criminal offences in the House, including the ones I have already read out on bribery, fraud against the government and breach of public trust. Every one of them has an analogue or accessory life, which is that other people can be involved as aiders or abettors.
As well, section 465 of the Criminal Code speaks to conspiracy wherein a number of people could agree to be part of a scheme.
I would like to suggest that we move on to another character in this quite tawdry and sordid drama, Senator Gerstein. Let us look at the whole idea of aiding what we know to have occurred between Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy. We know that being part of a common intention to fulfill the purpose of a scheme such as this is in itself criminal. Senator Gerstein tried to interfere with Deloitte by going to a contact within Deloitte to see whether or not its report could be stopped on the shady basis that Mr. Duffy was paying back the expenses and that somehow or another the matter would be moot. However, Deloitte said it would be going ahead but told him that it would not come up with a firm finding on the question of residency. That gave the PMO an advantage with respect to the rest of its scheme; that is, it told them how to go about obstructing the rest without pushing Deloitte any further. It is very clear that this was interference with respect to Deloitte in a way that assisted the broader scheme. If it turns out that what is said in the affidavit is true, I think there is more than enough evidence in that 80-page affidavit for Senator Gerstein to be charged with being part of the scheme.
I would also like to mention something else that is separate. Members should keep in mind that some things may have only gone so far and did not quite get completed. That might also include Senator Gerstein. Members should also keep in mind that attempting an offence is itself a crime under section 24 of the Criminal Code.
I will now turn to what happened after the scheme initially occurred. There was then evidence beginning to emerge and there was what one would call a cover-up. There is a whole section in the Criminal Code called Misleading Justice. Section 131 of the Criminal Code speaks to perjury. Perjury is not only something that happens when people tell an untruth in a court of law. Section 131(1) states:
Subject to subsection (3), every one commits perjury who, with intent to mislead, makes before a person who is authorized by law to permit it to be made before him a false statement under oath or solemn affirmation, by affidavit...
Therefore, the statements taken by the RCMP and revealed in this affidavit fall exactly within the scope of this provision. I would draw everyone's attention to how the RCMP has placed square-bracketed comments throughout that document, explaining in a number of cases that it clearly feels that somebody providing testimony did not tell the truth. I have to say that one of the highlights in the affidavit, from the RCMP's perspective, was that Senator LeBreton was not telling the truth. That was specifically in the affidavit. Perjury is also a crime, as is obstruction of justice. I will not go into the details.
Finally, I will get to the lawyers. It is an unethical practice for any lawyer to knowingly be involved in assisting a criminal offence such as may have happened in this case. I hope that there are members of the legal profession who will be drawing this to the attention of the respective law societies of the lawyers involved.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I am pleased to rise in the House today to talk about all of the scandals in the Senate, but that is not true. Unless someone is completely disillusioned, there is no way that they would enjoy a situation that proves, without a doubt, that democracy in Canada is slipping away. If it were just the scandal in the Senate, we could clean things up, but that is not the case. We are talking about a few Liberal and Conservative senators, but also the Prime Minister's Office.
The world is watching. I just got back from a trip to Europe, where this was being talked about. Any outsider looking at Canada sees the mayor of Toronto, the Charbonneau commission, the government's backward policies and the senators' inappropriate expenses. Meanwhile, the government is imposing unprecedented austerity measures on families and the RCMP is investigating the Prime Minister's Office.
Seriously, what a mess. The RCMP is investigating the Prime Minister's Office.
“How many criminal investigations are there in your party, Mr. Martin?”
That question must come back to haunt the from time to time. He asked Paul Martin that in a debate before the 2006 election, which he won.
Right back at him, how many criminal investigations are there in his party, his administration?
This party was elected on a platform of transparency. It took advantage of the sponsorship scandal to take power and do something even worse.
Talk about hollow symbolism. The first bill that the party introduced was Bill , which dealt with responsibility and accountability. Ironically, this bill strengthened the Conflict of Interest Act for public office holders, among others, and created the position of Parliamentary Budget Officer. Times change.
Now, we have the same , but he has become arrogant now that his party has a majority. Yes, Mr. Speaker, I said that he is arrogant. Whether that constitutes parliamentary language or not, this man has the arrogance to come before the House, before the parliamentarians who represent all Canadians and the country, and to perjure himself time and time again.
Apparently, “perjure” is too harsh a word because, according to the Speaker's ruling, the Prime Minister supposedly did not deliberately mislead the House of Commons. However, the fact remains that he misled the House. If you do not know, you do not say anything. Period. You do not make things up. This man is much too intelligent not to have deliberately misled the House. That is why the opposition parties are using the tools they have left to ask the to tell the truth once and for all.
Does he still have the moral legitimacy to govern the country and to stand in this House? If he was able to so readily deprive the three senators of their seats, I do not see why he can continue to claim that he deserves to keep his own. Perhaps he thought he was dealing with puppets who feared his influence too much. Whatever our opinion of them may be, Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy are also very influential individuals, and they are certainly not the kind of people you throw under the bus to save your own skin.
The is beginning to realize that. He even had the nerve to go before his supporters in his hometown of Calgary to tell them that Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy failed to abide by the party's standard of ethics and that they acted alone. I am sure everyone believes him.
Even the members of his own caucus have doubts about his version of the facts, particularly since it contradicts the version that Nigel Wright gave to the RCMP. Many people think that Nigel Wright is an ethical person and they are reluctant to believe that he could have orchestrated this whole affair without the 's knowledge.
A Conservative member who asked to remain anonymous had this to say to the media:
“The Prime Minister told caucus that Nigel acted alone. But it's clear now that a number of people in the room, including some senators and his chief of staff, knew all about it”.
I doubt very highly that a secret between the chief of staff and a senator—to cover the 's behind—could have been known to so many people in the Prime Minister's inner circle without him knowing about it.
They say that the and his entourage knew nothing. Then, all of a sudden, four people knew, then six, seven, thirteen, and so on. Even campaign organizers Jenni Byrne and Doug Finley were in the know. It is unbelievable.
Another backbencher also told La Presse that the would be “done like toast” if new information surfaced indicating that he knew what was happening and had lied to his caucus.
A number of us would ask for his resignation, but I do not believe that to be true.
This has become such a major story that people are calling it Duffygate. I do not necessarily want to make comparisons, but the similarities with the not-so-distant Nixon years are troubling. At the start, no one would have believed that the American president was involved. Instead, fingers were pointed at those around him, in particular his chief of staff, Harry Robbins Haldeman, who resigned. We still do not know if Nigel Wright resigned or was fired.
The American Senate investigated and promised to punish those responsible. It was discovered that the president's inner circle lobbied to have reports regarding the involvement of the president and those around him modified. Nixon's popularity plummeted and people began to consider the likely scenario that he was involved and might have to leave the White House. Next came the impeachment motion, but Nixon resigned in August 1974, before the vote took place and after releasing a recording of his telephone calls that clearly proved his involvement. That was the final blow. Does anyone see any similarities here?
The opposition members are not the only ones who are sick and tired of this. This situation cannot go on. The need not explain himself so much for the opposition members, but to reassure his own caucus, the senators and Canadians in general who are waiting to see whether they can still trust this man.
The fact that the NDP has been fighting for over 30 years to have the Senate abolished is immaterial in this specific instance. The Senate is distracting us from the conversations we might have and the questions we might ask the Prime Minister about his personal ethics, his perception of his role as Prime Minister and his vision of democracy.
We do not share the same views and that is just fine. I can live with that. I have never been afraid to debate my ideas or be confronted about them. However, I thought that at the very least we all believed in the truth. Unfortunately I was wrong.
The journalist I was talking about earlier attended the Conservative Party convention earlier this year. His observation was rather sad:
Yet everyone I spoke to said that the entire Conservative party is unsettled. There is a palpable sense of disillusionment—a feeling that the leader and his staff have forgotten the party was elected on a ticket of accountability and transparency.
The 's followers, Conservative supporters, MPs, ministers and senators do not want to believe that he had anything to do with this, and I can understand that. That is what trust is. They love their party and they love their country, and even though I do not share their views, I can see where they are coming from.
When asked about this, Senator Hugh Segal said his loyalty went beyond the .
...our oath to Her Majesty to do what’s right is actually more important than any other politician.
People are not fools. They have given the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt and have been more forgiving of his behaviour than he was himself when it came to the senators he expelled with no regard for the presumption of innocence.
If he is a real leader, then he should go to bat for his team, his caucus and the people who follow him and believe in him.
People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.
A real leader has to have the courage to do that.