Mr. Speaker, I will begin by saying that I will split my time with the member for .
Today I rise on a motion to get to the truth in the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Here is a quick recap of how we got here.
A year ago, the had his introduce a budget amending the Criminal Code to allow powerful corporations accused of fraud, bribery and other forms of corruption to get the charges shelved by signing something called a deferred prosecution agreement. We were all wondering where this was coming from and who was advocating for such special deals. We found out in February of this year, when The Globe and Mail reported that the faced interference, veiled threats, pressure, hounding and other inappropriate pressure from the Prime Minister and those around him to offer such a deal to SNC-Lavalin.
SNC-Lavalin is a company facing over $100 million in fraud and bribery charges. Among the charges are that the company bought prostitutes for the former Libyan dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, and that it bribed him and his officials to defraud among the poorest people in the world of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The was acting in a manner that was highly unusual. To take direct interest in a criminal trial of any kind would be strange on any day, but to try to defend alleged corporate criminals who engaged in malfeasance on this scale was particularly unusual. Of course, the said he did nothing wrong, that the story was false and that his was behind him all the way. The next day, she resigned. The Prime Minister dismissed her, saying that he was disappointed and surprised. We found out later, during her testimony, that he should not have been either. The reality is that she told him that she was worried about the level of interference by his office.
That brings me to numerous unanswered questions we now need to pursue. First, the said that she never raised any concerns with him at all and that if she was worried about the 20 times his office and his officials contacted her about this criminal prosecution, why did she not say something? It turns out she did.
Yes, she did, despite the heckling against her, again, by Liberal members across the way. Shame on them for heckling a fellow Liberal member. That is shameful.
On September 17, she asked the Prime Minister, “Are you interfering...with my role as the Attorney General?”, because if he was, she said, “I would strongly advise against it.” The was stating a falsehood when he said otherwise.
Then he said that it was all about jobs. If this powerful, Liberal-linked corporation did not get its charges shelved, 9,000 jobs would vanish into thin air. When his top adviser, Gerald Butts, appeared before committee, the Green Party leader asked him if he had any evidence that 9,000 jobs would disappear. His answer was that he had nothing specific. That was after two hours of testimony during which he claimed that he was tied in knots about all the families who would lose their jobs.
Then we asked Michael Wernick, the Clerk of the Privy Council, who had been involved in all the meetings and proceedings leading up to this interference, what reports he had to prove that 9,000 jobs would vanish. He said that he had nothing in particular. All of this aroused suspicion that the jobs claim was a bunch of nonsense, a suspicion that is supported by a lot of evidence.
Let me lay out that evidence. First, the company has the five biggest construction projects in Canada now, worth $52 billion. I want to offer a bit of a hint about how construction jobs work, for our friends across the way. They have to be done where the construction projects are. For example, in Ottawa, SNC-Lavalin has been retained to build the north-south mass-transit project, a $600-million project. It will lay track from near downtown Ottawa all the way out to deep in the south end of the city.
Rail cannot be built in Beijing or London, England and be dropped from a helicopter onto the nation's capital. It has to be built in the city. The same is true with all construction projects SNC-Lavalin is doing in the country.
The second claim the government makes regarding jobs is that if the company is convicted, then it will lose all access to federal contracts. We now know that is not true. The is already making revisions to the procurement policy allowing corporate criminals to continue to bid if they get an exemption. SNC-Lavalin already earned such an exemption, or at least was granted one, early in the days of the Liberal government. In fact, it was one of the very first acts the Liberal government rushed to take.
In December of 2015, the company, which had been banned from federal bidding after being charged with fraud and bribery, was then given an exception by the government so it could continue bidding, and it plans to do exactly the same thing even if a conviction occurs. In other words, if the government is just worried about protecting bidding opportunities for federal projects, it can do that without preventing the trial from going ahead. Therefore, that is fallacious excuse is as well.
Back in September, it was said that the told the former that if she did not immediately shelve the charges into SNC-Lavalin's corruption, the company would move its headquarters to London, England. He made that claim twice in that meeting. The Clerk of the Privy Council also made that claim in that meeting. The chief of staff to the would go to staff members of the former attorney general and say the same thing. Ben Chin said that the announcement of the move of the headquarters could happen within days and that it needed to be prevented because there was a Quebec election going on.
That seemed mighty suspicious, because a little research on doctor Google would prove that moving the SNC headquarters is impossible. A $1.5-billion loan agreement between the company and the Quebec pension plan requires that the headquarters stay there until the year 2024, another half-decade. The company just signed a 20-year lease on its headquarters there, and is in the process of spending millions of dollars to renovate specifically for the purpose of accommodating its 2,000 employees in that city. It is not only contractually impossible, it is physically unbelievable that the company would leave.
If people do not take any of that as sufficient enough proof, today the CEO of SNC-Lavalin made clear that was not going to happen. In fact, he was asked where this came from. He said that he did not know how people got ideas like that in their heads. Only the knows how that idea came into his head. Today he denied ever making the headquarters claim.
When one does not tell the truth, the problem is that it becomes very difficult to keep track of one's story. Unfortunately for him, we have him on tape, claiming that SNC would leave Canada altogether if it was convicted of fraud and bribery. He said it in his famous non-apology press conference, where he repeated that false claim that he had earlier said to the former . Therefore, we know he was going around stating that falsehood.
It is bad enough that the of Canada faces allegations of interfering with a criminal prosecution to get charges set aside. However, this scandal reaches a whole new level of criminal culpability if the Prime Minister or anyone around him deliberately stated a falsehood to a law officer in order to shelve criminal charges. It is an offence under section 139 of the Criminal Code to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice. Lying to a law officer to get her to set aside charges would obstruct, pervert and defeat the course of justice.
It is possible that during her testimony, the did not realize that this falsehood had been stated to her and that it was not true. However, these are the questions we need answered. That is why we need to end the cover-up, let the former attorney general complete her testimony and proceed with an investigation at the ethics committee.
Madam Speaker, this is about a who wanted to do a favour for friends. He wanted to do a favour in the form of allowing them off the hook.
In order to do this favour for his friends, he first needed to strong-arm the into doing the dirty work for him. She stood in his way, between the action of justice and the action of injustice, the action of maintaining integrity and the action of polluting our justice system.
The faithfully stood in that passageway and she resisted the strong-arming movements of the , his attempt to manipulate her to facilitate his desire rather than uphold justice.
We are talking about the of Canada. This is a leader on the world stage. This is an individual in whom Canadians have placed a great deal of trust. This is an individual in whom we have placed the responsibility of guiding our country. Instead of stewarding this place of trust and responsibility, he has actually abused his position of power.
Why should Canadians care? They should care because the , when he ran for election, made a series of promises, and they were the right promises. He said that we needed to be open and honest. He promised his government would do that.
The promised he would let the light shine in, that he would be more open, more transparent. He said, “It is important that we acknowledge mistakes when we make them.”
At another time, in the 's mandate letter as the justice minister, he said, “ I expect you to ensure that our initiatives respect the Constitution of Canada, court decisions, and are in keeping with our proudest legal traditions.” He went on to say:
We have committed to an open, honest government that is accountable to Canadians, lives up to the highest ethical standards, and applies the utmost care and prudence in the handling of public funds. I expect you to embody these values in your work and observe the highest ethical standards in everything you do.
The asked his to abide by these principles. She did; he did not. Now she is the one being silenced.
The , during his election run, also said this, “Sunny ways my friends, sunny ways. This is what positive politics can do.”
Those of us on the side of opposition are asking the to abide by his words “sunny ways”. Why are we not allowing the sun to shine in? Why are we not allowing the details to come forward? Why are we not giving the of Canada the opportunity to share her story?
This matters to Canadians. In the same way they have the opportunity, I daresay the privilege, to elect their officials, they also have the responsibility to hold them accountable. Now, of course, those of us on the side of opposition share that responsibility with Canadians. We, too, will hold the government to account. We, too, will in fact insist that the truth be told, which to date, it has not been.
Let us look more closely at what happened, and to do so, let us look at a number of voices that have been shared. Starting with the herself. She said:
For a period of approximately four months, between September and December of 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the Attorney General of Canada in an inappropriate effort to secure a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin.
She went on to talk about multiple phone calls, multiple emails, multiple text messages, multiple meetings that were held to try to pressure her. She goes on to talk about veiled threats that were issued toward her. This all came out during her initial testimony to the committee.
She also said that the stressed that there was an election taking place in Quebec and that therefore she needed to do this. She needed to do the dirty work. That is interesting.
What we have here is a case of sustained and inappropriate pressure. We have an issue of the actually bullying the , trying to get her to do his dirty work. As a result, we know that the was fired from her post as the attorney general and was moved into a different cabinet post, and then she eventually resigned from there.
The would try to convince Canadians that there were two different experiences and that her interpretation is simply wrong. However, why will we not legitimize her voice? Has the not advocated for all this time that we would listen to the women among us? In particular, I would hope that we would listen to the who, I might add, is the very first indigenous female attorney general that this country has seen. Why would we not listen to her voice? Why would we not give it weight?
When that did not work, the decided that he would try another excuse. He said that it had to do with protecting 9,000 jobs that exist within SNC-Lavalin, but we know now that is not true either. The CEO of the company has come forward and said that this is not the case at all and that he actually never said that to the .
Well, that is one voice, the , and of course the has tried to squash her voice.
However, out came another voice, and that was the voice of Gerald Butts, the chief adviser to the . His voice said, “I quit”, and he walked out. That is interesting.
Then came another voice, the voice of the , and she too said, “I resign”, but she wrote a letter with her resignation. In her letter she said:
The solemn principles at stake are the independence and integrity of our justice system. It is a fundamental doctrine of the rule of law that our Attorney General should not be subjected to political pressure or interference regarding the exercise of her prosecutorial discretion in criminal cases. Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised.
She finished her letter by saying that “There can be a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them.” She could not be more correct.
Now we have three voices in the mix, but then there was a fourth. The Clerk of the Privy Council also tendered his resignation.
Then just today the member for also resigned. She resigned and shared her story of also being bullied by the . She shared a story of the calling her up and yelling at her over the phone so loudly that her husband could overhear the entire conversation.
This does not speak of a who deeply cares about wanting to serve his country. This does not speak well of a claiming to be a feminist.
Let us look at this. He has three female members who have all resigned from their posts, who have left, who have shed light on the fact that the has mistreated them.
Let us look at another set of voices, shall we? Let us look at the media.
The media have said that “It's fair to say that it's a constitutional crisis.” A former judge said that in an article.
The former Ontario attorney general said that “It opens the door to prosecuting enemies of the government and giving immunity to its friends, which is despotic.”
The Toronto Star said that “It is going to be impossible to look at Justin Trudeau's government the same way again.”
The National Post said that “...it sounded and felt like a death knell for the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau.”
There is plenty of commentary out there—
Madam Speaker, I would like to wish all members a happy International Day of La Francophonie.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the principles of cabinet confidence and solicitor-client privilege in a governmental context. I would like to begin with a few words about the important work the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has done so far.
As we know, the committee has held, to date, 11 meetings on the subject of remediation agreements, the Shawcross doctrine and the discussions between the Office of the Attorney General of Canada and government colleagues. The committee heard from 10 different witnesses over the course of approximately 13 hours.
On February 21, that committee heard from the current as well as the deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general of Canada, Ms. Nathalie Drouin, for an hour and twenty minutes, as well as from the Clerk of the Privy Council at the time, Mr. Michael Wernick, for an hour and a half.
On February 25, a few days later, the committee heard from Mary Condon, the interim dean of the Osgoode Hall Law School; Maxime St-Hilaire, associate professor in the faculty of law of the University of Sherbrooke; Wendy Berman, a lawyer and partner at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP; Kenneth Jull, a lawyer at Gardiner Roberts; and academic Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, senior associate counsel at Woodward and Company LLP and a professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia, over the course of a period of about two and a half hours.
Two days subsequent to that, on February 27, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard from the former for a period of almost four hours as a result of an unprecedented waiver that was issued by the . It was an exceptional waiver that addressed cabinet confidentiality, solicitor-client privilege and any other duty of confidentiality to the extent that they were applicable.
That waiver was indeed exceptional. Since 1987, there have been only four instances of cabinet confidence being waived, and none of those cases, absolutely none, included a waiver of solicitor-client privilege. The waiver was broad in scope, such that no witness was prevented from providing evidence relating to any relevant information during the period covered by the waiver, which was the focus of the committee's review.
As well, in response to this waiver, on March 6 the committee heard from the former principal secretary to the , Mr. Gerald Butts, for two and a half hours, in addition to recalling Ms. Drouin and Mr. Wernick, who also appeared for approximately two and a half hours.
On Tuesday, Liberal members of the committee sent a letter to the committee chair, indicating that they had achieved their objectives with respect to these meetings. They expressed that following the testimony of all witnesses, they believed that all rules and laws had been followed and that Canadians now had the necessary information to arrive at their own individual conclusions.
Yesterday, the committee adopted a motion to move on to a study of how to amend the Canada Human Rights Act “to stem the propagation of hateful acts and incitement of hate”. In my opinion, the committee's timing could not be better, in light of the tragic events that unfolded in Christchurch, New Zealand, last Friday, which bear an eerie resemblance to the tragic events on January 29, 2017, at the mosque in Quebec City.
As the stated in this chamber on Monday, in response to the horrific acts in Christchurch, New Zealand:
As leaders, as a privileged few with power and an audience, we have a responsibility to do something. This responsibility is not negotiable. It is not to be waived when it is politically convenient.... We have to chase out this hatred from our parties, fight it online, denounce it at town halls and push back when it reaches our front door.
We can take a stand here and now in Canada and around the world and say that enough is enough, that the days of spewing hatred and inciting violence without consequences are over.
We must counter this hatred, and together we will.
As a Muslim-Canadian member of this Parliament, I thought those were some of the most important words that have been spoken in this chamber since I was privileged enough to become a member.
The justice committee continues to do important work, and I look forward to its report on the propagation of hateful acts and the incitement of hate.
We also know that the Ethics Commissioner is conducting an investigation into this matter, and that the investigation is ongoing. On March 18, the announced the appointment of a special adviser to examine the position of the and to make recommendations to the by June 30 of this year regarding whether any legislative changes may or may not be recommended.
That is insofar as the important issue that has surfaced in the context of these hearings with respect to what is called the Shawcross doctrine and the notion of potentially dividing the roles between two separate individuals, the role of the attorney general as compared to the role of minister of justice.
As the has stated, Canadians expect and deserve to have faith in their institutions and the people who serve within them. I am confident that the study by the special adviser, as well as the investigation by the Ethics Commissioner, will be thoroughly and fairly conducted and will provide Canadians with the additional answers and information that they seek.
I would now like to turn to the concept of cabinet confidence and solicitor-client privilege.
As all of us in this chamber know, the Canadian governmental system is based on a cabinet system. The cabinet consists of ministers acting in the name—
Madam Speaker, as I was indicating and as members well know, the Canadian governmental system is based on a cabinet system. Cabinet consists of ministers acting in the name of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and establishes the federal government's policies and priorities for the country. Cabinet ministers are collectively responsible for all actions taken by the cabinet and must publicly support all cabinet decisions.
In order to reach final decisions, ministers must be able to express their views freely and openly during the discussions that are held in cabinet. That level of candour is critical to their deliberations. To allow the exchange of views at the cabinet table to be disclosed publicly would result in the erosion of the collective responsibility of ministers and their ability to execute that important function.
As a result, the collective decision-making process has traditionally been protected by the rule of confidentiality, which upholds the principle of collective responsibility and enables ministers to engage in the full, frank, honest and direct discussions that are necessary for the effective functioning of a cabinet system of government.
These are not just words I am reading into the record; rather, this has been opined on and observed by the Supreme Court of Canada, recognizing that cabinet confidences and cabinet confidentiality are essential to good government in Canada.
In the decision of Babcock v. Canada in 2002, at paragraph 18, the court explained:
The process of democratic governance works best when Cabinet members charged with government policy and decision-making are free to express themselves around the Cabinet table unreservedly.
“Unreservedly” is the word used by the Supreme Court of Canada.
To preserve this rule of confidentiality, subsection 70(1) of the Privacy Act provides that the act does not actually apply to confidences of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada.
Subsection 70(2) of the Privacy Act indicates that cabinet confidence applies to the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, committees of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, cabinet and committees of cabinet. Committees of cabinet include standing committees, ad hoc committees and any other committees of ministers.
In addition, meetings or discussions between ministers can result in the creation of records that are themselves also cabinet confidences, provided that the discussions concerned the making of government decisions or the formulation of government policy.
What is a cabinet confidence? They are defined in the act as information contained in six types of documents that are described in 70(1)(a) through (f) of the privacy legislation. The six types of documents do not constitute an exhaustive list, but rather provide a series of examples of records that are considered cabinet confidences.
This includes memoranda.
Paragraph 70(1)(a) stipulates that the act does not apply to memoranda the purpose of which is to present proposals or recommendations to cabinet. The purpose and content of a document are the determining factors, not its title.
Drafts of memoranda are also confidences. Thus, a draft memorandum that was created for the purpose of presenting proposals and recommendations to cabinet but was never actually presented to cabinet is still a confidence. Equally, a memorandum in final form is a confidence even if it has not been presented to cabinet. Material appended to a memorandum presented to cabinet will not necessarily be a confidence. It depends on the purpose of the document and its placement.
A second category is discussion papers. Paragraph 70(1)(b) stipulates that the act does not apply to discussion papers the purpose of which is to present background explanations, analyses of problems or policy options to cabinet for consideration in making decisions. The Cabinet Papers System was amended in 1984 and these discussion papers stopped being created. Paragraph 70(1)(b) was therefore no longer invoked for cabinet documents after that date.
In the 2003 ruling in Canada (Environment) v. Canada (Information Commissioner), the Federal Court of Appeal concluded that those parts of cabinet memoranda or records intended to brief ministers, which are equivalent to what were formerly known as discussion papers, presenting, for example problems, analyses and political options, and that are appended to a document, must be identified and processed in the same manner as if they were part of a discussion paper.
There is a third category that includes the agenda and the minutes of cabinet meetings and the records of decisions made in such meetings. Paragraph 70(1)(c) states that the act does not apply to agenda of Council or records recording deliberations or decisions of Council. This type or record relates to meetings of the cabinet and cabinet committees and includes agenda, minutes and records of the decisions made at these meetings.
It should be noted that this category will include drafts of these documents and any informal notes that officials take at cabinet or cabinet committee meetings. A distinction must be made between the text of the formal record of decision and the substance of the decision of cabinet.
The formal text of the record of decision is always a confidence and is excluded from the application of the act for a period of 20 years. The substance of a cabinet decision may be disclosed to the public as deemed appropriate by cabinet or by a minister with the approval of cabinet.
A fourth category, records of communications between ministers, paragraph 70(1)(d) of the act, excludes from the application of the act any information contained in records used for or reflecting communications or discussions between ministers of the Crown on matters related to the making of government decisions or the formulation of government policy.
A fifth category, again stipulated in the act, is records to brief ministers. Paragraph 70(1)(e) of the statute excludes from the application of the act any information contained in records the purpose of which is to brief ministers of the Crown in relation to matters that are before or are proposed to be brought before the cabinet.
This paragraph also excludes information in records the purpose of which is to brief ministers in relation to matters that are the subject of communications or discussions between ministers concerning the making of government decisions or the formulation of government policy.
A sixth category is draft legislation. Paragraph 70(1)(f) excludes any information contained in draft legislation from the application of the act. It is not relevant whether the legislation was ever in fact introduced into the House of Commons or the Senate or indeed even seen by cabinet; it remains a cabinet confidence, showing the importance of the confidentiality principle.
The operation of subsection 70(1) is subject to certain time limits set out in subsection 70(3) of the act. Pursuant to paragraph 70(3)(a), confidences that have been in existence for more than 20 years cannot be excluded under subsection 70(1) of the act. After that time period, information in the record becomes subject to the act and may be released subject to any otherwise applicable exemptions.
Pursuant to paragraph 70(3)(b), discussion papers are no longer excluded from the application of the act if the decisions to which the discussion papers relate have been made public or, if the decisions have not been made public, four years have passed since the decisions were actually made.
Returning to solicitor-client privilege, as we have already discussed, confidentiality in communication between a solicitor and client is premised on the notion that if the consultation between a client and the solicitor cannot be kept confidential, then clients might be less inclined to be forthcoming with their lawyers, thus reducing the quality of the advice that a lawyer can give.
As one of the many lawyers who has a place in this chamber, I cannot overstate how important this principle is to the functioning of the legal system in this country and the importance of the legal system in this country. It is something that is critical to all parties in this chamber.
What is important to underscore is that much like the necessity for having frank, open and honest discussions around the cabinet table, frank and open discussions between a lawyer and his or her client are absolutely pivotal to the operations of the legal system and the justice system as it unfolds, whether that is in the civil context or the criminal context.
Over the last few decades in Canada, because solicitor-client privilege is so important, it has evolved from a mere rule of evidence to a substantive rule of law, as well as a principle of fundamental justice within the meaning of section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada has described solicitor-client privilege as “a principle of fundamental justice and a civil right of supreme importance in Canadian law”.
Given the importance of solicitor-client privilege, the court has often declared that it should not be compromised unless absolutely necessary. It must remain absolute, with few exceptions. As such, the Supreme Court of Canada adopted strict standards for ensuring its protection.
Privilege is attached to every communication between a lawyer and a client that is for the purposes of giving and receiving legal advice and that is intended to be confidential. The privileged nature of a document or the information it contains does not depend on the category of the document but on its content and what it can reveal about the relationship and communication between a client and his or her notary or lawyer.
All communications between a solicitor and a client directly related to the seeking, formulating or giving of legal advice are privileged, along with communications within the continuum in which the solicitor tenders advice.
Solicitor-client privilege enjoys a status more elevated than that enjoyed by almost any other recognized privilege, given the central role it plays in the effective operation of our legal system. It is in the public interest that the free flow of legal advice between lawyer and client be encouraged and protected, as noted by the Supreme Court in the 2008 Blood Tribe decision, which states, “Without it, access to justice and the quality of justice in this country would be severely compromised.”
We have said many times that solicitor-client privilege is an important part of the Canadian legal system and should only be waived in appropriate circumstances. That being said, in order to facilitate the work of the ongoing investigations, we have announced an unprecedented waiver to fully sweep away the obstacles. As I have explained, that exceptional waiver addresses cabinet confidence, solicitor-client privilege and any other duty of confidentiality to the extent that they apply. This has enabled any person who engaged in discussions on this matter to fully participate in the committee process.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for . I would like to thank him for his very important work on this particular issue and for his ongoing effort to get to the truth for Canadians.
I would also like to give a nod to my colleague, the member for , for his excellent work on the justice file and the incredible level of competence, intelligence and compassion he has brought to this entire affair over the past six weeks. I am quite honoured to be following in his footsteps as the justice critic for the NDP, and as always, I am very proud to stand as the member for Essex.
I rise today to speak to the motion before us that would allow the member for to speak her whole truth. Liberals want Canadians to believe that she has already had her opportunity to do this. They keep repeating the line that she has had four hours to have her say and that is good enough for them.
That is not going to get us to the truth. The has said in this chamber and publicly to the media that she would like the opportunity to come back to committee and would in fact be available at invitation.
We now know that the committee made the unprecedented move yesterday to vote to end the study and to shut down the testimony about allegations into political interference with the . That is really the heart of why we are here. I hear my Liberal colleagues making legal arguments about precedent setting and expanding what people can speak about under orders in council, but we are here to talk about political interference. We are not here to talk about the Shawcross doctrine. We are not here to talk about a lot of the things the Liberals are trying to change the channel with. Quite frankly, I think Canadians are getting dizzy from their changing the channel. They are running out of channels, unfortunately.
Once again today, there was a new development. The CEO of SNC-Lavalin blew apart the argument that has been put forward by the Liberals, and in fact by the , that this is all about jobs and the Prime Minister is just trying to protect Canadian jobs. Today, the CEO of SNC-Lavalin stated that he never told the Prime Minister that jobs in Canada were in danger. He never said that. The jobs argument is not based in fact and the is trying to turn that channel to protect the only job that matters to him, which is his own.
When the CEO was asked on BNN Bloomberg about whether he threatened to move SNC headquarters out of Montreal, he said no. A reporter asked where the notion that this was a possibility came from, and the CEO responded, “I don't know what people make up”.
Once again, we are finding bombshell after bombshell come out in this case, where the Liberals do not want to get to the truth. Now we know the jobs argument is completely false. This was not the argument made by SNC-Lavalin at all, and its CEO has been quite public about that.
The needs to answer to Canadians regarding why he has decided to bend the truth and create the false argument about jobs and trying to protect them. This argument is quite ironic given the fact that he turned his back on 12,000 Sears workers, GM Oshawa workers and postal workers. The list of jobs the Prime Minister will not protect or fight for goes on and on.
Let us get back to what happened at the justice committee. I cannot speak to this specifically, of course, because the meeting was in camera, behind closed doors. In an emergency meeting last week, we attempted to have the conversation about inviting the member for back to committee. Quite publicly, the Liberals used a crude tool to shut down debate under the guise that they needed time to think about things before coming back to committee. They said they had not had time to speak to each other and that they wanted to look at all of the possibilities.
On the eve of this week's justice committee meeting, which was to be in camera, behind closed doors, Liberals sent a letter, not to the committee members but to the media, saying there is nothing to see here and that they had already made up their minds. They said Canadians could make up their minds based on what they now know and that was enough. Canadians did not need to know any more.
It does not come as a surprise that New Democrats fundamentally disagree with the moves and behaviour of the Liberals on the justice committee.
It was very clear to me in my new role on the justice committee that the Liberal members are more interested in damage control and protecting the than they are in finding the truth. The truth is what Canadians deserve.
Liberal committee members flat out refused to hear from the former again, upon being given multiple chances to have her come before committee. They also refused to summon the majority of PMO staffers implicated by her testimony. Instead, they voted to move on, and sent a letter to the media saying that there was nothing to see here. Only three of the 11 people named by the former attorney general appeared before committee. We all know that Mr. Wernick came back again and had right of reply, something the Liberals are denying the former attorney general.
I cannot fathom what it is like to be a Liberal sitting over on the benches with those members, seeking to have one's truth be told and colleagues are saying that they cannot allow that. It really speaks to the character of members of that caucus.
Who have we not heard from? We have not heard from Katie Telford, the chief of staff to the PMO; Elder Marques; Mathieu Bouchard; Jessica Prince, the chief of staff to the former ; and the himself. All of these people who were named by the former attorney general have not had an opportunity to come and clear their names, because certainly some egregious things were said about them. One would think the Prime Minister would want his staff to have the opportunity to clear their own names, to come and state what happened, in their opinion.
I, like the member who spoke earlier, have reserved my judgment because I do not know what has happened. Canadians do not know what has happened. The Liberals are gatekeeping on the truth and not allowing people who are involved in this scandal to come and speak. There could not be any stronger argument for a full independent public inquiry than this, following all of these revelations that keep tumbling out into the front pages of newspapers across our country.
The Liberals are trying to create this concept that there is nothing to see here, that they have done unprecedented things and everything that they can possibly do. That argument is not being accepted by opposition members. It is not being accepted by Canadians either. Everywhere I go in my riding, people are talking about what is happening. People want the former to have the other half of her story be told. It is being denied to her by her own colleagues, and Canadians see that clearly. They want the truth to come out and they deserve that truth to come out. I have never been more assured that a public inquiry is necessary.
I want to talk about fairness. The former has publicly requested the opportunity to return to the committee, which we now know will not happen. The Liberals keep saying she has already testified for four hours. However, Canadians know there were strict limits on the period of time she could discuss. She stated that over and over during her original testimony. She stated:
My narrative stops here. I must reiterate to the committee my concern, outlined in the letter to the chair yesterday. That is that Order in Council 2019-0105 addresses only my time as the Attorney General of Canada and therefore does nothing to release me from restrictions that apply to my communications while I proudly served as the Minister of Veterans Affairs...
She herself has expressed to her own colleagues that she would like to come back. Despite the Liberals' feminist rhetoric, the continues to actively silence her. This is especially unfair given the Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Wernick, was allowed to testify twice.
Why is there one set of rules for powerful men in our country and another for women? The government claimed it would be different, but the proof is in the behaviour of the Liberal government, and women across Canada are not fooled. There is a reason only 26% of us are sitting in the House, and it is not because it has created the climate in the ultimate halls of power here for women to be able to speak their truth. What has happened in this very horrible display for Canadians is that Canadians now know corporations can get into the office of the PMO, can influence legislation and that the PMO is willing to allegedly pressure the former to bend the rules for Liberals.
Canadians deserve the truth and it is time for the Liberals to stop hiding it from them.
Madam Speaker, as always, it is a great honour to rise and represent the people of Timmins—James Bay.
What we are talking about today very much needs to be put in perspective. The Liberals will present this as a kind of he said, she said. We had Gerry Butts try to present it like it was one of those episodes on Friends, that maybe if he had been a bit more sensitive at the time, if he had allowed her to just speak more, she would not have slammed the door on the way out. The did this ridiculous statement about being more compassionate in his cabinet. We are talking about the corrosive power of the 1%.
The has been willing to burn through his credibility. In 2015, people believed him for openness, reconciliation, feminism, doing politics differently and for showing that it would not be the backroom politics of Stephen Harper and the cronyism of Jean Chrétien. However, he has shown a willingness to give us the worst of both worlds. It was about helping his friends at SNC-Lavalin.
He stood in the House day after day and told us it was about 9,000 jobs, but we now know that was false. We never saw the stand up for any jobs when they were Stelco workers, or Sears workers or oil sands workers. Why not Stelco or Sears? Because their pensions were being given over to the family of Morneau Shepell. This is about the power of the 1%.
Now we have the OECD stating internationally that all the alarm bells are ringing over the interference by the in the international bribery case against SNC-Lavalin. The Prime Minister's Office just a few days ago responded to the OECD and promised it a robust, independent set of hearings. That, too, was also a falsehood. The Liberals shut down the justice committee hearings. Why? Because they are doing everything they can to protect the key people around the Prime Minister's Office who interfered with and attempted to obstruct justice. This is the fundamental issue that we have to talk about.
Ben Chin, a public office holder, still has his job. He has not been brought forward to committee. Ben Chin went to the and told her that she had to change direction and bring in this deferred public prosecution, otherwise, he said, SNC “will leave Montreal, and it's the Quebec election right now”. Well, we know now from SNC executives that they never said they would leave Montreal.
Therefore, when a public office holder presents a lie in order to interfere with the public prosecution, that could be seen as obstruction, and that certainly would be something we would expect the justice committee to care about, but the Liberals shut that down.
The former clerk of the Privy Council had to give up his position because of his role as a political actor. He went to the and said that there would be all these jobs lost, which we now know is false. To imagine the Clerk of the Privy Council making this up in order to interfere with an independent prosecution is shocking. Then he also told her on September 17 that SNC was about to move out of Montreal, which we again now know SNC never said.
Therefore, this was cooked up in the Prime Minister's Office, a series of lies to intimidate the into cutting this deal. She told them they were on very thin ice, that this was dangerous ground to be on in attempting to interfere in the prosecution. No wonder the Liberals on the justice committee did not want this heard. It was because of the damaging, corrosive effect on the 's credibility and a judgment he was making.
On December 5, Gerry Butts said that he did not like the law, that it was a Harper law and that he could just somehow ignore it. Then he said, when the was warning him about political interference, that they would not get through this without “some interference”.
Fortunately, Gerry Butts has left, but Katie Telford is still there, and Katie Telford said she was not interested in the question of legalities. People who do not care about the rule of law should not be anywhere near the exercise of legislative authority.
This is a question the needs to be asked. This is why the justice committee should have done its work, but it did not, and it did not because Liberal members on that committee have become hand puppets of the Prime Minister's Office and have disgraced their position and have left us now open to the OECD.
What do we tell the OECD when Canada is willing to remove the , when Canada has a who is willing to blow through the President of the Treasury Board, the former attorney general, his chief of staff and the Clerk of the Privy Council in order to push through a deferred public prosecution that the prosecutor said SNC-Lavalin was not eligible for? What do we tell the OECD when the Prime Minister is still suggesting day after day in the House that the government is going to go through with this, that it has a new and is still talking about moving forward with it? I find this fascinating.
Just what is the willing to do to get this deferred public prosecution? He has burned his bridges on reconciliation and he has burned his bridges as the feminist Prime Minister and he has burned his bridges with Canadians in terms of trust, yet he is still doggedly pursuing the deferred public prosecution, even though the independent office of public prosecutions had to set up a Twitter account to say that it had to remain independent. That is the issue that the OECD is concerned about.
The OECD says there cannot be international rules of law that allow companies to bribe officials around the world. SNC has been barred for 10 years by the World Bank for corrupt practices. If a Canadian company is going to be charged in its home jurisdiction, it cannot just call the Prime Minister's Office and say “make it go away”.
That is the issue here, which is why five former attorneys general have been asking for a police investigation into the actions of the Prime Minister's Office. Why? It is because the former attorney general for Ontario, Liberal Michael Bryant, said he has never seen such a brazen and reckless abuse of authority.
We need the former to be able to speak, to respond to the testimony of Gerald Butts, to explain what happened in the period when she was removed. We need those questions answered, and the needs to understand that his credibility is getting further and further eroded.
I heard the Liberal voice for the SNC scandal tell us today that the government now has a special adviser. Oh, my God. How do we explain to the OECD that the 's idea of a special adviser is to take someone off the Liberal fundraising circuit, someone who is out raising money for the Liberal Party right now, to oversee this? How can we tell the OECD that this will be a robust alternative to an independent all-party investigation? That does not cut it.
Until we have all the participants in this case brought forward and made accountable, until we have an opportunity to understand just how far the is willing to go to subvert the law, to obstruct justice, and have key staff like the and his staff interfere, Canada will be seen by the OECD and other international bodies as some kind of backwoods crony kingdom for the Prime Minister and the small group around him, who protect CEOs of a company that is not eligible for a deferred public prosecution. These CEOs themselves have said that 9,000 jobs are not at risk.
I will close on this. Just before this case broke, all the senior Liberal cabinet ministers and all the senior officials participated in a special function with SNC-Lavalin. They were the gatekeepers of the great privatization agenda of the Liberal government, but the jobs we are talking about are public jobs. They are jobs that are done by civil servants. They are jobs that are done in municipalities. Then we see the Liberal government, knowing that the company was facing charges, hosting a major event with all key Liberal cabinet ministers and SNC.
This shows that the government never took the issue of the rule of law seriously for a single minute, and that is what has damaged the credibility. This is going to drag the Prime Minister down until he comes clean with Canadians about the interference and obstruction from his office.