Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss the cover-up budget, as it is now being called by Canadians.
The government introduced a budget with $41 billion of brand new cash spending designed to paper over the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal, a scandal that has engulfed the current government ever since the revealed that the and a group around him carried out an intense campaign of political interference, hounding, bullying and inappropriate pressure in order to convince her to set aside criminal charges on SNC-Lavalin, a company facing over $100 million worth of fraud and bribery charges.
When I began my speech, I started by pointing to numerous inconsistencies in the 's story on this matter. I want to read a particular quote that is central to his defence.
When the scandal came to light, and after the had resigned from cabinet over it, the said, “If anyone, including the former attorney general, had issues with anything they might have experienced in this government or didn't feel that we were living up to the high standards we set for ourselves, it was her responsibility to come forward. It was their responsibility to come forward, and no one did.”
Gerald Butts then went before a parliamentary committee. In an attempt to discredit the , he said that if she had such concerns about the way they were acting on the SNC-Lavalin prosecution, then why weren't they talking about this in September, in October, in November, in December?
The essence of the rhetorical question that the and his top staff have asked is this: If she had a problem with our political interference, why did she not say something? We now know that she did, and the 's suggestion to the contrary is false.
We have audio recordings in which the said this about the 's personal interference to the Clerk of the Privy Council: “So we are treading on dangerous ground here.”
She said, “This is a constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence. It is entirely inappropriate and it is political interference” and “decisions that are made by the independent prosecutor are their decisions.”
She also said, “ I can't even imagine [the former chief of the supreme court] feeling in any way, shape or form comfortable with interfering with the [independence of prosecutors.]” and “this is about the integrity of the prime minister and interference.”
She stated, “There is no way that anybody would interpret this other than interference... this is going to look like nothing but political interference by the prime minister, by you, by everybody else that has been involved in this politically pressuring me to do this.”
She also stated, “this is about interfering with one of our fundamental institutions. This is like breaching a constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence” and “it will be deemed political interference from day one”.
She said, “But I am trying to protect the prime minister from political interference—perceived [political interference] or otherwise. ...what I am confident of is that I have given the prime minister my best advice to protect him and to protect the constitutional principle of prosecutorial independence.”
Again, she said, “this goes far beyond saving jobs, this is about the integrity of the prime minister and interference. There is no way that anybody would interpret this other than interference if I was to step in.”
That is a list of eight, maybe more, warnings that the gave to the 's top public servant on December 19. However, two months later, the had the audacity to go before 35 million Canadians and say that she never once raised a single solitary complaint. He said that she never let him know at all that he was doing anything wrong. This conversation, had it not been recorded, would probably be denied right now. I think a lot of Liberals are attacking the for recording that conversation. I think she did so knowing that the and his team would lie and deny if she did not have proof that the conversation occurred.
The said that he was never warned. However, not only is there this extensive audiotape that shows the did warn the clerk, the clerk made clear during that conversation that he would be talking to the and the was not going to be happy with all of her refusals to interfere with the criminal prosecution. He said that he was in a mood. He was going to get it done one way or the other.
In other words, the expectation that all of us get from listening to the audio of that conversation is that the outgoing Clerk of the Privy Council would immediately be bringing the results of the conversation to the . Since, he has denied knowing anything about this conversation. This is laughable. Not only was this issue of helping SNC avoid trial top of mind for the according to the clerk, he was calling the about the issue on behalf of the . In other words, the would have been anxious to hear the results of that conversation.
In the last few days, the clerk has said that he would have told the about the conversation but everyone went on vacation right after it was done. Well, it only took a few minutes for the media to check the publicly available records to find out that the was not on vacation the next day or even the day after that.
Furthermore, we only have to go back to the Clerk of the Privy Council's own testimony before the justice committee wherein he said that anyone in the government can get a hold of the 24-7 just by calling his switchboard. Anybody who has ever used that switchboard will know that it is a magnificently powerful tool. It can find people anywhere that they might be hiding, including on vacation.
However, we are left to believe that two months went by from the time that the clerk had this menacing conversation with the , to February 15, when the would step out in front of 37 million Canadians and deny knowledge of any objections from the . All that time would have gone by and not once would the Clerk of the Privy Council have gone to his boss to say that, by the way, he did speak to the attorney general as he asked, and she gave him more than a half a dozen very clear warnings that what we were doing was wrong. I find it hard to believe that conversation did not take place.
Now, the claims that it is all just a breakdown in communications, an erosion of trust. Well, this is an area where I will agree with the . When one looks 35 million to 37 million Canadians in the eyes and tells them something that is not true, an erosion of trust is an understatement.
Let me point to another one of these contradictions that we have witnessed with the and his top staff and their interventions.
Gerald Butts testified about the meeting that he and Katie Telford had with the chief of staff to the attorney general. This conversation was important, because it is recorded in the notes that top PMO staff were using very aggressive language to try to get the attorney general at the time to shelve those criminal charges on SNC-Lavalin. Gerald Butts speaks of that meeting defensively. He said, “The second and final meeting I had on the file was with Jessica Prince, the minister's chief of staff, and Katie Telford. There was no urgency to attend the meeting.”
I remember that meeting very differently from the account given last week. I will repeat that. He said, “There was no urgency to attend the meeting.” Well, that is funny, because a PMO staffer emailed Ms. Prince, and the subject line in the email is “Urgent: chat w/ Katie and Gerry”.
One might, on the surface of it, say it is not terribly important whether a meeting is urgent or not urgent. However, when lies are thrown around like snowflakes and statements are expected to melt away and then evaporate into thin air, one comes to the conclusion very quickly that we cannot believe anything the and the people around him claim.
He specifically chose the sentence, saying that there was no urgency to attend that meeting, and then in the subject line to the meeting's invitation said, “Urgent: chat w/ Katie and Gerry”. It further states, “Katie and Gerry would like to speak to you asap - before 5 pm today..”. The email was sent at 4:16 p.m. That is not urgent at all: “I need to see you before 5 p.m., but that's okay, it's only 4:16 p.m.” In other words, drop everything, and did we mention that it was urgent?
One wonders, with all of the things that Mr. Butts could have said before committee, why he would specifically say something that is demonstrably false and easily disprovable in the documentary evidence. It is as though he thought he could sit in that committee and state falsehood after falsehood because no one would be able to know what was true or untrue, that it was just a he said, she said.
The problem for Gerald Butts and the is that they were dealing with someone who is punctilious in keeping records, and when people have records, it is hard to lie about what happened. We are seeing that in this example and many others.
I will go back to the claim that the knew nothing of the former 's concerns about his political interference. On September 18, the former attorney general met with the Prime Minister and said of that meeting, “...while looking him in the eye. I asked, 'Are you politically interfering with my role...as the Attorney General? I would strongly advise against it.'”
That was in September, and yet in February, the Prime Minister stood and said he did not know anything about her concerns, that she had never mentioned it to him, that it was funny how they walked past each other in the hallway every day and she did not think to mention it. We see one piece of documentary evidence after another showing that the Prime Minister stated blatant falsehoods.
I will move on to the next falsehood, one that numerous members of the government repeatedly stated in their efforts to secure a deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin, and that is the claim that the headquarters of the company would imminently announce its departure from Montreal if the former did not immediately indicate her willingness to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement. The , the clerk of the privy council and the former attorney general met in late September. At that meeting, the attorney general reported that they told her before the Quebec election even happened, the company would announce it was moving its headquarters, unless she were to initiate a deal to shelve the prosecution. The Quebec election was only two weeks away. In other words, if she were to have believed what they said, she would have been under the mistaken impression that she had to make this decision immediately in order to avoid losing a major corporate headquarters.
It turned out that threat was totally false, as borne out by the fact that it has not moved its headquarters. Furthermore, the company has signed an agreement with the Quebec pension plan that in exchange for a $1.5 billion loan, the headquarters will remain in Montreal until at least the year 2024. By the way, it has signed a 20-year lease and announced a multi-million dollar renovation to accommodate its thousands of employees there. That does not sound like the actions of a company that is about to move its headquarters. Therefore, that statement they made to her about the immediate need for her to act to save the headquarters was utterly false.
Lying to a prosecutor or a top law officer in order to shelve criminal charges may well violate section 139 of the Criminal Code, which makes it an offence to attempt to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice.
Telling a law officer a lie to get charges shelved sounds like someone is obstructing, perverting or defeating the course of justice, yet that is exactly what happened.
I came to the House of Commons to ask the about this falsehood, and he denied ever having stated it. I was not in the room for that September meeting, so I could not say what was said there, but we have scrupulous notes from the , and we have the fact that the Prime Minister went into the press theatre and repeated exactly the same falsehood several months later. He publicly went on the record and said that the headquarters might leave if the company did not avoid prosecution. What the former attorney general claims the Prime Minister said in that meeting was the same as what he then said publicly. In other words, he has been peddling this falsehood in both private and in public.
I am not surprised that the did not remember that he had said it, because it is much harder to remember what we say if we are not telling the truth. When we tell the truth, we just have to hearken back to what actually happened. When we tell falsehoods, our memory has to keep track of a whole multiplicity of different versions of events, and that is why the Prime Minister is having such a difficult time keeping his story straight.
I will note that I am prepared to cede the floor right now if the members across the way will rise and commit that the justice committee will resume its investigation into the SNC-Lavalin scandal. The has shut down the justice committee investigation and has shut down the ethics committee. It is a justice committee with no justice and an ethics committee with no ethics, but we can fix all of that here and now if the Prime Minister will rise and give his word that—
Mr. Speaker, it was actually the estimates we were voting on, which is different from the budget. However, the member is just the finance committee chair and does not need to know the difference between the two, I guess.
We just got a budget from the other side of the House of Commons that contained in it over 150 million dollars' worth of math mistakes. The sent his officials out to say they were all typos. We very quickly pulled out calculators and figured out that they were not typos; they were in fact math errors. Once again, he is just the finance minister; he does not need to be good at math, I guess. The finance committee chair does not need to know the difference between budget and estimates, and the finance minister does not need to know how to do arithmetic in the current government.
The member has now distracted me from my train of thought, which was related to the evening of votes that the government forced upon the House of Commons. We were voting on billions of dollars of spending approvals. The Conservatives said that if we agreed to do a justice committee investigation to get to the bottom of the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal, we could bundle all the votes and go home. The government said it was not going to allow an investigation. Therefore, the Conservative opposition was required, as part of its duty, to keep the government here, voting on one spending item after another.
In order to get through that 30 hours, the government set up taxpayer-funded cots just behind the curtain over there. For the viewers out there, there were these cots where members could go and have a snooze between votes. Of course, there were blankets. What are blankets for? They are to help one cover up. Then, because they were so ornery and angry, they came in here occasionally and blamed us because they could not get a night's sleep.
My advice to them is this. The secret to a good night's sleep is a clear conscience. If they want a good night's sleep, they should have a clear conscience. If they want a clear conscience, they should tell the truth, let it all out and unburden themselves of all these falsehoods, because falsehoods are heavy things to carry around. That is why the has looked so heavy lately. He is carrying a lot of falsehoods around. They are like lead weights everywhere he goes, and they are weighing on him. If he would just stop the cover-up and end those falsehoods, he could move forward.
It is possible that the truth he is covering up is so appalling that he could not be re-elected. However, I would submit to him that any electoral strategy that hinges on keeping ugly truths hidden is destined to fail. He is not going to be able to keep this all under wraps until after the election. He has people in his own midst who are accusing him of a cover-up. His former Treasury Board president, the person to whom he wisely entrusted the management of our entire public service and the approval of tens of billions of dollars of expenditure, has said that there is a lot more to this story that has not been told, and that he is trying to shut down the debate on it.
That is what the Liberals say about the . Therefore, he cannot simply dismiss these allegations as something coming from a politically motivated opposition. The two women who have resigned from his cabinet have gained absolutely nothing by doing so. Not that this would matter to them, but I think it is worth stating the obvious. They have taken major pay cuts. They have had their position reduced from minister to non-minister, which is a very big distinction in a parliamentary system where ministers are responsible for the executive governance of the country. None of that was to their benefit.
We have heard a lot of people trying to attack the character of these two women, saying that they were being opportunistic by exposing this scandal, but I fail to see what they have gained. What advantage has it conferred to them politically by telling these truths? There is none. They have made immense personal sacrifices for blowing the whistle. One, they are no longer ministers even though they are far more qualified than those who remain on the front bench; two, they have come under attack, vicious, personal, sexist and racist attacks, by senior Liberals; and three, they have faced threats.
As recently as yesterday, the called the unethical and now the Liberal Party is threatening to throw them out of caucus altogether. To suggest that these two former ministers were doing this to somehow advance their own political interests runs exactly counter to what happened. It is very clear.
Though I obviously do not share the politics of either of them, I do clearly respect the conviction and principles that they have shown and their willingness to sacrifice their own careers in order to stand up for the truth. Both of these women have more integrity in their pinky fingers than the does from head to toe.
If he disagrees with me on that, then he should do what they have been willing to do. The went before the justice committee to testify, took a barrage of questions from the Liberal delegation and submitted 40 pages of written text messages and an audio recording, all of which confirm that she told the truth.
What is interesting about all of these people who are trying to discredit the is that they cannot point to a single falsehood she has told. Even though she has tabled something like 40 pages of text messages and an audio recording and even though the government has an army of spin doctors, dirt diggers and researchers to find any little hair that is out of place, the 's team has not been able to find a single contradiction or falsehood in anything the former attorney general has said so far.
In fact, she is the one person at the heart of this whole controversy whose story has not once changed in any way, shape or form. She has consistently told the same story over and over again. When challenged, she provided text messages to support her claims and when challenged again, she provided audio recordings. All of that evidence precisely supports the claims that she made all along.
I am not a trial lawyer, but I know that one thing judges and juries look for when they are determining who to believe is whose story is changing. If one witness's story seems to change more often than he changes his colourful socks and the other witness has a single story that is set in stone and does not change, the wise judge or jury will believe the latter over the former. That is why we, as Conservatives, having examined the evidence, have concluded that the has told the truth and that the has not.
That being said, we are so confident in our view of that, we welcome the proving us wrong. He should come to committee, testify under oath, put his hand on the Good Book, tell his story and answer questions, but so far, he has been unwilling to do that. It is like he is terrified that we might get too close to the truth, that we might find out the real reason he went to such lengths to protect this accused corporate criminal.
We might find out that he stated a patent falsehood to Canadians when he claimed that the never raised any concerns about his interference in the matter. We might find other falsehoods or expose bigger contradictions. His answer again and again is to shut it all down. He shut down the justice committee and the ethics committee. Tomorrow morning he will have a chance to change course.
The justice committee will meet again now that we have new written evidence and recorded conversations that blow apart earlier claims by the and his team of witnesses. Conservatives will move to reopen the investigation and include all of the witnesses, all of the players who are at the heart of this scandal and who are alleged to have interfered with the work of the by pushing her to sign a special deal for SNC-Lavalin to avoid criminal trial.
I want to examine the merits of the 's original decision not to interfere. The chose to amend the Criminal Code through an omnibus bill in the budget, through which he created something called deferred prosecution agreements. The agreements, for those who are not familiar, provide that corporations facing criminal charges can avoid trial by fessing up, apologizing, paying a fine and promising not to do it again. Factors that a director of public prosecutions must consider to determine the eligibility of a company for a deferred prosecution include severity of the offence and whether or not the company self-reported its crimes. Let us review both of those issues.
Let us start with whether the company self-reported. It turns out the company did not. Instead, the company was caught when one of its senior employees was charged and ultimately convicted in Switzerland. I am going to read some excerpts from the Financial Post:
According to police, Ben Aissa [a former senior employee at SNC-Lavalin] established a scheme in which two companies, Duvel Securities and Dinova International, billed SNC roughly $127 million for helping the firm win dozens of major contracts in Libya during the 2000s. In fact, Swiss and Canadian police say, Duvel and Dinova were shell companies controlled by Ben Aissa. The money—including US$1.5 million spent on a yacht for Saadi Gaddafi—was used to bribe Libyan officials and pad the bank accounts of Ben Aissa and Mr. Bebawi, who left SNC in 2006.
I now quote Global News:
In Switzerland, an ex-senior employee from SNC-Lavalin pleaded guilty to fraud, corruption and money laundering in relation to his business in Libya in 2014—before the RCMP charges. Riadh Ben Aissa acknowledged in court that he bribed Saadi Gadhafi, son of Libya’s late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, so SNC could win contracts.
It was out of these charges in Switzerland that the RCMP was able to ascertain the conduct of SNC-Lavalin and, therefore, was able to bring forward allegations of fraud and bribery. In other words, it was not that the company realized somebody did something wrong and then called the police and said it had made a mistake and wanted to self-report, and to please hold them accountable. The RCMP had to find out through Swiss proceedings that this corruption had occurred in order to launch its own investigation and lay its own charges.
The first criteria for getting a DPA, a deferred prosecution agreement, is not met.
The next is the severity. Was the offence severe and broad or was it a minor offence that could, therefore, better be treated through an administrative penalty rather than through a criminal court trial? Let us examine the charges that the company faces and determine if we think they are severe enough to warrant prosecution.
Let me read again from Global News:
In 2015, the RCMP charged SNC-Lavalin, along with its international division, with corruption and fraud in relation with their business dealings in Libya.
The RCMP said officials at the company attempted to bribe several public officials in the country, including dictator Moammar Gadhafi, as well as other businesses in Libya.
RCMP officials said SNC-Lavalin also lied to Libyan companies to defraud them of nearly $130 million.
Now the Financial Post:
SNC and its subsidiaries SNC-Lavalin Construction Inc. and SNC-Lavalin International Inc. are also alleged to have defrauded various Libyan public agencies of approximately $129.8 million.
Let me stop on that point.
This has been said again and again. We hear it muttered under the breath of some Liberals that what SNC did over in Libya is just the way that business is done over there. Frankly, I find that kind of utterance despicable. It is despicable to think it is okay for wealthy western companies to go into poor, developing nations where people live in squalor and rob them of $130 million just because that is the way things are done over there or that is how we have to behave, so goes the story, to be competitive in different parts of the world.
These places are so poor precisely because businesses have thought it appropriate to conduct themselves in that way. The parasitical corruption that has afflicted many countries in the world is the reason so many people still live in grinding poverty. Going to these poor countries, it astonishing to see how hard people work. On their streets people are always working. One can ask, “How is it possible that these people work so hard and yet they are so poor?” The answer is, in part, corruption because the labour of the people who are toiling away before our eyes is squandered by a corrupt and entitled elite who just suck the country of all of its wealth. That parasitical conduct is not limited to people from those countries. In fact, often it is foreign interests that come in and take advantage of the opportunity to defraud.
We have signed on to international conventions against fraud and bribery precisely because foreign companies have gotten into the practice of going in, defrauding companies and then getting the heck out because they know they could never be prosecuted back home. They go home. They leave with all the cash that they stashed in their pockets, having plundered the people, with no intention of ever going back. They know that they will never be prosecuted in the country where they carried out their misdeeds. That is why we have signed on to international conventions so that we can join with other countries in prosecuting corrupt corporate enterprises that rob people.
We, as a nation, understand that it is not only a miserable way to make money but it is an illegal way to make money, by robbing the poor. It is our duty, our moral duty, to prosecute this kind of corruption when it happens, even though it happens beyond our borders and even though we might not be the direct victims of the corruption.
Therefore, no, it is not a small offence. It was not just that the SNC lobbyists and insiders bribed the Gadhafis with prostitutes and yachts, as unseemly as that sounds. It is also that they are alleged to have robbed the people of that country of $130 million. That is a lot of money, especially for a country that is suffering in poverty. A lot of good could have been done for the Libyan people if they had been able to keep their own money, had they not been defrauded by these alleged crimes. Therefore, no, it was not a frivolous offence for which the appropriate sentence is an administrative penalty. It is a serious crime to defraud people, and it should be treated as such by our legal system.
Knowing all of this, it is astonishing that the would consider it such a top priority to help this Liberal-linked company avoid prosecution.
We have addressed the two first criteria upon which a deferred prosecution is supposed to be judged by the prosecutor, and ultimately, by the attorney general. On those two criteria, it is clear as day that the company did not qualify.
Finally, there is a third criterion I forgot to mention, which is whether this was an isolated incident. We all understand that in our judicial system, we have a principle of proportionality. If someone makes a single mistake, the judge will take that into consideration when issuing a verdict. The prosecutor, the Crown, might even take it into account when deciding whether to pursue a trial or accept a moderate plea bargain. In this case, was it was an isolated incident? Were there just a few bad apples in Libya who made some mistakes who were not part of a broader corporate corruption culture in the company? The answer, of course, is no.
I will read some of the history this company has been involved in. I will read from Global News again:
three top executives were also charged with bribery in relation to the McGill University Health Centre. Former CEO Pierre Duhaime, along with McGill officials, pleaded guilty in the case.
This was the CEO and not some bad apple who, off in a faraway land, did some things unknown to anyone else. He was the CEO, and it was in relation to a contract with the McGill University Health Centre.
Then we have the Jacques Cartier Bridge. As reported by Global News:
Quebec prosecutors are working with the RCMP on the possibility of new criminal charges against SNC-Lavalin tied to a contract to refurbish Montreal’s Jacques Cartier Bridge, court documents show.
Again, from Global News:
In court documents, the RCMP lays out a bribery scheme involving a $127-million Jacques Cartier Bridge contract in the early 2000s. Former federal official Michel Fournier pleaded guilty in 2017 to accepting more than $2.3 million in payments from SNC-Lavalin in connection with the project.
This is an astonishing crime. It is a massive project of $127 million, and a federal official was paid $2.3 million in a bribe to get that contract. This is right here on our own home turf, which reminds us that the cost of corporate corruption for this company is not limited to some faraway land. It is right here in our own country.
I will go on reading from Global News, which said:
In 2011, an SNC employee whose job was to facilitate travel of SNC employees in and out of Libya was arrested in Mexico and accused of attempting to smuggle Gadhafi’s son and family out of the country. The employee was eventually released from jail and not charged in Canada.
What is a Canadian construction company doing helping to smuggle the Gadhafis in Mexico? We go from Montreal to Libya to Mexico. Everywhere, this company seems to be involved in the most appalling and in some cases downright bizarre forms of corruption.
The company was also banned from bidding on projects by the World Bank for 10 years over alleged misconduct during a bridge construction contract in Panama. Now we have Panama. It is Libya, Montreal, Mexico and Panama. SNC is in legal trouble in all these places because of the conduct in which it engages.
Then we find in an article, again by Global News:
During an investigation from CBC and the Globe and Mail, it was alleged there was an internal accounting code for bribes.
This is just an example of how entrenched the corruption had become. They actually had a system of codes they could use to properly account for all the bribery they were doling out.
On the third criterion to determine whether the company was entitled to a deferred prosecution agreement, which is whether the offence was an isolated incident, clearly it was in Montreal, in Libya, in Mexico and in Panama. It was right at the top, with the CEO of the entire company.
It seems everywhere one turns, someone from SNC-Lavalin is being accused or charged or convicted or pleading guilty to high-level, serious corruption involving hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. No, this was not simply an isolated incident.
We have a couple of sponsorship-scandal-era Liberals heckling away on the other side about ethics. I am glad that we have some of those sponsorship Liberals across the way, because it really is full circle for this particular scandal.
How did we find out about this scandal? We learned about it because of a law Stephen Harper put in place in response to the sponsorship scandal, the Federal Accountability Act. The Liberal Party, according to Justice Gomery, had engaged in an elaborate kickback scheme funnelling $40 million of cash, much of it still missing and never recovered, and some of it going right into the coffers of the Liberal Party itself. Paul Martin admitted that the Liberal Party stole at least $1 million. He gave the money back after he was caught.
We were struck by the fact that all kinds of people were charged for this fraud, but not the Liberal Party. It occurred to us that the possible reason for that was that the attorney general at the time was a Liberal, and the attorney general's office was responsible for prosecuting federal offences.
We wanted to make sure that never again could people get off a criminal prosecution because a friend or the party was in control of the office of the Attorney General. We created the director of public prosecutions, a separate and independent office, whereby a top, respected prosecutor would have his or her own office and could operate with total independence from the political arm of the government. So independent did we create this office that for the Attorney General to give any direction to the director of public prosecutions, it would have to be in writing, and that written instruction would have to be reported publicly in something called the Canada Gazette. That is a publication the government puts out to inform the public of decisions that have been made. In other words, there is no pulling someone into the office and twisting his or her arm. It has to be in writing, and it has to be made public. This, of course, is very inconvenient for those trying to interfere in a prosecution. It makes it a little difficult to keep it all under wraps.
Here is where it gets really interesting. Gerald Butts, according to text messages and sworn testimony by the , told two different people that he did not want to respect that law, because it was a Harper law. He thought, “Harper put it in; therefore, we do not have to respect it.” He told that to staff members in the attorney general's office, and he told it to the herself.
In the 40-page package she tabled with the justice committee on Friday, we have documented evidence that Gerald Butts did exactly that. If he is listening, I hope he is bowing his head in shame for saying that they do not have to follow the law, just because that law was put in place by a different political party under a different government.
That law was designed to protect the independence of our judicial and prosecutorial system. It is not to be trod upon just because of a partisan desire to get things done by going around the rules. That is how we got here in the first place. We had a prime minister in Stephen Harper who was determined to root out corruption and to protect the independence of prosecutions. He passed a law, the Federal Accountability Act, to make sure that he put an end to corruption in the prosecution of crime, and it worked really well.
I see that my Liberal friends across the way have gone silent since we have reminded them of that. I think that is probably a wise decision for them indeed.
An hon. member: Did you explain Arthur Porter, or are you getting around to that? What happened to Arthur Porter?
Hon. Pierre Poilievre: Unfortunately, it was not a long silence. That being said, an empty wagon rattles the loudest, Mr. Speaker.
The reality is that nothing has changed for the old entitlement Liberals. This is a party that seems to have an impossible time shedding itself of its core identity, which is one of entitlement, stuffing its pockets with other people's money, helping its friends and breaking the law. That is what it did under the sponsorship Liberals, and that is exactly what it is doing now.
I should mention, as I was remiss earlier, and I thank the members across the way for reminding me, that SNC-Lavalin gave about $100,000 of illegal donations to the Liberal Party, money it funnelled through the creation of phoney invoices, expenses and bonuses. Can members imagine the amount of coordination that must have been involved when the executives at that company told employees it wanted them to make phoney expense claims so it could reimburse them to give that phoney reimbursement in the form of a donation to the Liberal Party? For reasons unknown to me, when this fraud came to light, the Commissioner of Canada Elections decided to let the company and the Liberal Party off with respect to a trial or charges. The company was simply given a slap on the wrist through a compliance agreement, whereby the money was returned and the company promised never to do it again. Once again, the company was able to avoid accountability for a serious breach of law, which is very unfortunate indeed.
That being said, that does not mean that accountability is over. As it stands now, the company will face trial. As it stands now, it will face prosecution for fraud and bribery. I keep saying, “as it stands now”, because we do not know if the new is going to make the decision to interfere in the criminal prosecution the way the refused to do. We know he has an open mind to the idea, but he has not made a decision. That in itself is interesting, because it shows that the cabinet shuffle of the out and the new Attorney General in had a material impact on the prospect of prosecution for the company. As of September 2018, it was the official position of the that the company would be prosecuted. That is no longer the case. Now it is the official position of the that the company might be prosecuted. In other words, he has left open the possibility of taking over the prosecution himself in order to negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement or of writing a directive to the director of public prosecutions ordering that she do so on behalf of the government.
It would be extremely telling if, after all of this, the were to get his way and have the company get off. I suspect that is exactly what he plans, that he is hoping and praying that he can put this scandal under the rug until the election is over, and then in the first couple of weeks, out will come the special deal. The Liberals will do it early in the term to make sure that everyone has forgotten by the subsequent election. Remember December 8, 2015, and one of the very first acts of the current government was to give SNC-Lavalin an exemption on a federal bidding ban that it had faced due to the fraud and bribery charges it is contesting right now. On December 8, there was a special deal for SNC-Lavalin within weeks of this Prime Minister taking office.
We know it is always a priority for Liberals to help this company whenever they can. Do not be surprised. If this gets back in office, it will not be two months. This trial will be over. This company will have a special deal. A small monetary fine will be paid. The CEO will cry crocodile tears and promise never do it again, and on we will go.
The message will have gone out that if individuals are charged with a serious crime in Canada, their recourse is not to go to court and defend themselves with a lawyer in front of a jury and a judge; their recourse is to hire an army of lobbyists and swarm the Prime Minister's Office to convince him to come to their rescue. If they have enough influence and enough political power, they might just get their way. Of course, that is a violation of the basic principle that everyone is equal before the law.
That is why Canadians have reacted so forcefully to this scandal. The assumed that no one would be interested. There were a lot of details and facts to keep track of. How can anyone follow all of these different debates about deferred prosecution agreements and directors of public prosecutions and attorneys general and on and on? The reason is that, at its core, this scandal is really simple. It comes down to this: Do we have one system of justice or two? Is it one set of rules for the people and another for the powerful? Do we have the rule of law or the law of rulers? People understand that because we have a proud, enduring history that goes back hundreds of years, which says no one is above the law, that not even the king or the queen are above the law in our system. Because of that principle, we all live in one of the most prosperous places in the world.
We see this everywhere. If we go around the world, we will see the difference between those countries that have a good, well-functioning legal system that is supreme over all of their rulers. Compare the quality of life, for example, in Hong Kong to the quality of life in other Asian countries. Hong Kong has a British legal system respected around the world, at least for now, and God willing, we hope it will continue in the future. People who have commercial interests from around the world will go to Hong Kong to litigate their differences, because the system there is so successful in mimicking British common law. It is inherited from generations of British people who brought that system to that jurisdiction before the reunification. Looking at the quality of life in Hong Kong, people there have a GDP per capita that is almost the same as Canada, even though it is what I would call a “city state”. It is on a piece of land that is a seventh of the size of the city of Ottawa and has eight times the population. They have to import their own water; they have no natural resources. However, it is an extremely prosperous place. Why? It is because they have the rule of law and, I might add, free enterprise.
Those basic ingredients make for an incredibly prosperous outcome for any place anywhere in the world, regardless of culture, race, history or background. If one has the ingredients of rule of law, free enterprise and democracy, one's people are almost destined to flourish. Once the rule of law starts to be corrupted, everything else comes tumbling down.
The Liberals are scratching their heads on the other side to try to figure out why Canadians are so angry about the SNC scandal. It is because Canadians know that all of our good fortune rests on the rule of law. We never want to normalize the idea that a politician, particularly the head of government, could pick up the phone and start twisting arms and threatening people's jobs in order to get a prosecution dropped.
An hon. member: Lifestyles of the rich and famous.
Hon. Pierre Poilievre: Yes, “lifestyles of the rich and famous”, as someone yelled out. It is true. This is a whose lawlessness has centred mostly around money. When he was found guilty of violating the ethics act four different ways by the Ethic Commissioner, which was the first time that any prime minister had ever faced such a conviction, it was about money. Someone came to him and said that they were looking for a $15 million grant, asked him if he would like to have a free $200,000 vacation on his island, and the Prime Minister said it was a deal and off he went. The Prime Minister said that he was getting tired of all this politicking and needed some frolicking, and away he went down to paradise island.
A lot of people have a hard time appreciating the commercial value of a vacation like that. We looked it up, and it costs about a quarter of a million dollars to rent this island, or a similar one, for a couple of weeks. The stayed there for free, so we can infer that the in-kind value of the gift was about a quarter of a million dollars.
I want members to think about this for a second. If a junior procurement officer had taken a free weekend at someone's cottage and then given that someone a contract, he would be out on his ear the same day. He might be charged for taking a bribe. When the head of the government literally meets with someone who is asking for a $15 million grant and accepts a quarter of a million dollar gift from that someone, he gets off with an Ethics Commissioner report and a slap on the wrist.
The thought he was indestructible and could get away with anything. There are clear sections in the Criminal Code that make it an offence for someone to accept a benefit from a person with whom they have government business. The Prime Minister clearly and flagrantly violated those sections. For reasons unknown to us, the RCMP did not investigate that offence.
I think he thought that because he is the son of a former prime minister, has a multi-million dollar trust fund, is rich, vacations at billionaire islands, surfs in Tofino and does whatever he wants, that if he decides a company should not be prosecuted, then that is that. The case should be thrown out, a deal signed and it should be taken out of the way. By the way, if the Attorney General is causing heck, then she should be taken out of the way too. That is how he thinks. We have all witnessed it.
We also witnessed when the was angry that a vote was not happening fast enough. He stormed over and grabbed the arm of the Conservative whip, tugged him and elbowed people along his way. We have seen how he erupts in rage when he does not get his way. This is the conduct of someone who has always had his way. We all know the classic spoiled rich kid who gets everything he wants all the time, when he wants, and no one had better get in his way. After all, do we know who his dad is?
When the Prime Minister decided that his friends at SNC-Lavalin should not face prosecution, he just wanted it done. We know that that was his state of mind, because the clerk of the Privy Council said so in a recorded audiotape. He said the Prime Minister was in a mood, and “he's going to find a way to get it done, one way or another.”
The clerk said to the in that famous conversation that he feared she was on a collision with the Prime Minister. He used the term “collision”. Of course, she knew exactly what that meant. She made reference to the “Saturday night massacre”, when Richard Nixon famously fired personnel to cover up Watergate. She said that she was just waiting for “the other shoe to drop.”
A month later, she was out of the position. It was just a coincidence, a total coincidence. What was the story for that sudden firing, removing a highly competent, accomplished and respected attorney general? Well, it was this strange game of musical chairs that resulted from Scott Brison resigning. The Treasury Board president resigned, which meant that the attorney general had to be moved, even though she was not replacing him.
Then, weeks later, we found out that was not the 's official line any more. The reason, we learned, was that she was moved, according to media reports by some Liberal supporters in the press, because she wanted to appoint a chief justice who was not Liberal enough. Apparently, according to this report, the thought she had bad judgment because she wanted to elevate a respected chief justice of Manitoba to the head of the Supreme Court of Canada, even though he was not a devoted Liberal, a Liberal ideologue. That is the new explanation for her removal as Attorney General.
Putting aside the fact that leaking discussions about Supreme Court nominations violates the basic apolitical principle and confidentiality of that nomination process, consider how radically the 's story has changed from when he was claiming it was only about satisfying the game of musical chairs that Scott Brison's departure caused the government.
The story keeps changing, except for one story, and that story, of course, is the one we have heard from the herself, the one now validated by three and a half dozen pages of documented evidence submitted to the justice committee, published for all eyes to see. Even if there were any doubts left at all, those doubts went up in smoke when we heard that famous audio recording, which demonstrated that what happened was exactly what she said had happened.
Liberals have attacked her for recording that conversation. They have said that they think it was very unprofessional. They fail to take into consideration the context wherein she had been the victim of hounding, veiled threats, inappropriate pressure, and a whole other assortment of inappropriate conduct by the and his team in order to get her to shelve the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
She knew that if she did not have evidence, then the good old boys around the would lie and deny, lie and deny. The problem with lying and denying when dealing with someone like this particular is that she is highly scrupulous, and she is punctilious in her maintenance of records.
Unfortunately for the , he and his team have no evidence of their own to contradict what she has said.
Instead, the Liberals have used more bully tactics, gutless unnamed sources spreading rumours, racist and sexist comments by former Liberal cabinet ministers in the press targeting the , anything they can do to discredit her the has directed them to do. The bad news for him is that it has not worked. Canadians have seen through all of it. They knew exactly what he was trying to do and they have thoroughly rejected it. They see right through the nasty personal attacks as the act of a desperate man clinging to his job and held up only by his personal ego.
In the long run, the has an opportunity. That opportunity is to finally tell the truth. The truth will set him free. He need not be burdened any longer by falsehoods and secrets. He could release himself from all of that by coming clean and admitting that he inappropriately interfered in a criminal prosecution to help a Liberal-linked firm get released from having a trial, that he bullied his and when she would not back down, he moved her out. If he did that, he would suffer some political damage, but it would probably be less damaging than what he is doing right now. It would probably earn him a little empathy from people who would say that at least now he is telling the truth. He has put us all through a nightmare for the last two months, he has attempted to corrupt our legal system with political interference, but at least now he is telling the truth.
With that, he can began to heal and this wound that he has caused our justice system can also begin to heal. However, as long as he holds onto the falsehoods, as long as he tries to cover up the truth, it gets worse and worse. We will daily, through the tools of Parliament, extract from him the truth, like a rotten tooth, one piece at a time. It is coming out. I do not know if the has noticed, but his cover-up has so far not gone very well.
Ms. Stephanie Kusie: The , the , the member for .
Hon. Pierre Poilievre: That is a good point. I am getting some helpful comments from the wise member for . I mean that sincerely. She has just pointed something out that I forgot to mention.
We have had a resignation of the member for , a resignation of the , a resignation of the , a resignation of the principal secretary and a resignation of the head of the entire public service, Michael Wernick. Therefore, everybody is resigning but no one did anything wrong. Absolutely nobody did anything wrong. They are just resigning for nothing. If the thinks that this is working, he needs to sit down and scribble out that list of resignations to find out the contrary.
We can go through each one. Let us start with the . We know why she resigned. She says that she resigned because the said that her continued presence in the cabinet spoke for itself, an attempt to extract a phony endorsement by her of his SNC-Lavalin conduct. She says in a letter she recently released that having heard that comment by the Prime Minister, she decided to resign and that her resignation would speak for itself. In other words, she thought his conduct so appalling in this affair that she was unable to sit in cabinet at all with him as the Prime Minister of that cabinet.
Then we have the . She resigned because she said that somebody, and I think she meant the , was trying to shut down this whole matter and prevent the truth from coming out. She said that there is a lot more to this story that has not yet been told, and the Prime Minister is preventing anyone from telling it, so she resigned.
People do not just resign from cabinet for nothing. Being a minister of the federal government is literally a one-in-a-million opportunity. We have about 37 million Canadians and we have about 37 ministers. Therefore, literally, roughly one in a million Canadians is a federal minister. That is how rare and precious an opportunity it is to serve around the cabinet table. People who work their whole lives building up a body of expertise that makes them respected enough to sit at that council of ministers do not just storm off in a huff over an interpersonal spat or because they are friends with someone else who is in a different clique.
That is certainly not the conduct that a doctor or a top renowned lawyer, both of whom are extremely respected, would ever engage in. Both of them would have known and did know the immense privilege it was for them to serve at the cabinet table, and serve with distinction they did. However, they were prepared to give it all up, because the 's personal conduct was so egregious they could not bear the thought of sitting at the same table over which he was the chairman.
Then we move down the list of the additional resignations. Gerald Butts has been called the PMO's puppet master. He was the principal secretary of the . He is personally the best friend of the Prime Minister. Working in the PMO was his dream job. He devoted his entire life to that enterprise. He would not have resigned had his conduct not been extremely serious, but resign he did.
Then we have the Clerk of the Privy Council. This is the head of probably the largest employer in the entire country. Hundreds of thousands of people work as public servants, indirectly reporting up through the chain to the Clerk of the Privy Council. Mr. Wernick devoted his life to the public service, and it would have been his life's work to get up to that position. He would not surrender that opportunity unless this matter was extremely serious.
There we have it, four high-profile resignations, and a fifth if we include the member for who, at the early stages, linked her departure to this controversy as well.
All of that has happened in the window of two months, but the expects us to believe, having witnessed this spectacular meltdown, that nothing happened. It is just a big misunderstanding and a failure to communicate. If they had all just got together for a cup of coffee once in a while, then none of this would have occurred. It strains believability that all of this is the result of a simple miscommunication.
We on this side of the House have carefully and scrupulously examined the evidence and come to the conclusion that these principled former ministers stepped aside not out of some interpersonal dispute. It is clear they had nothing to gain and much to lose from doing so. They stepped aside because they could not countenance the 's attempt to corrupt our criminal justice system. Therefore, the answer is to get to the truth, hold hearings and bring the witnesses. If the Prime Minister has nothing to hide, he will happily agree and he will show up with bells on to offer his very own testimony.
If, on the other hand, he is harbouring more secrets, then he will do as he has done the last two months, which is to try to continue to sweep it under the rug. He has now shut down two investigations: the justice committee's and then the ethics committee's. Does he really believe that Canadians sitting at home watching that spectacle on their televisions believe he has nothing to hide when he does that?
In just over 12 hours, the justice committee will reconvene. That gives the some time to reflect on how he has handled this scandal and whether he thinks he can go on and on trying to silence his critics and cover up the truth. What I would recommend he do is to meet with his committee members before the justice committee gathers tomorrow and tell them that the cover-up is over, that he is no longer going to ask them to go in there and humiliate themselves and disgrace their constituents by voting against accountability, that instead he is just going to ask them to go in and open the investigation and then he will instruct his staff in his inner circle to follow him into that committee room and one by one confess what happened, submit themselves to vigorous questioning and allow the committee to issue a final report.
Even if all that happens, the majority on the committee is still Liberal. That means that the Liberals will have the final pen on the report that the committee writes. We are asking him merely to submit to an investigation by a body on which the Liberals have a majority, so his claims that the whole thing could go haywire make no sense. It is his own party. All we are asking for is a chance to bring the key players in, and there are about a dozen of them, one by one, to tell their stories, confess the truth and answer questions. If he has nothing to hide, surely he will agree to that.
Here I am, standing before members, speaking about the cover-up budget. Just like the other night when the forced his members to stay here for 30 hours to preserve his cover-up, I am inviting him to do what I am sure he would enjoy doing, which is to bring an end to my remarks. I am sure that there have been many days when the Prime Minister would have wished that I would stop talking. This one time, I am giving him the chance to do it. If he walks in those doors, and I know he is here because I saw him earlier, and sits down and says, “The cover-up is over. The committee will have an opportunity to study this scandal—
Mr. Speaker, I apologize for remarking on the presence or absence of the . I will say this. Some people bring happiness wherever they go; others bring happiness whenever they go. With that, I will continue my remarks.
What I am seeking in the case of the is that he come to the justice committee. What I was saying earlier was that if he were to rise in the House of Commons right now and say that the cover-up is over and the justice committee will be allowed to finish its investigation, I would terminate my speech. I know there have been many times when the Prime Minister would have given a great fortune to make me stop speaking. I am offering him the chance right now to do that for free, in the sense that the truth will set him free. That is how we can end this speech earlier than it would otherwise go. I assure the members across the way, who have endured me thus far, that this will continue. I can tell they are already tiring, to which I will not take any offence whatsoever.
I was just about to address the international component of this scandal and note the interest the OECD has now taken in the SNC-Lavalin corruption affair. We are party to an international convention against corruption, bribery and fraud that requires the independent prosecution of international corruption. The OECD has expressed concern that the may have politically interfered with the role of the in attempting to block the prosecution of a company accused of well over $100 million of international fraud and corruption.
There is no doubt that such international infamy is bad for Canada. We are known as a country of the rule of law. Businesses around the world have always said that, for all of Canada's strengths and weaknesses, they can always count on fair treatment in our court systems and courts of law in the event of a dispute; that our governments do not typically confiscate property, abrogate contracts or carry out any other form of lawlessness; and that it is a safe and secure place for the world to do business.
That reputation is precious to our economy, and the existence of a public scandal where the has accused the of personally interfering in a prosecution jeopardizes that precious reputation, thus the interest, and even inquiry, that the OECD has now taken in this scandal. I say that not only because of the international consequences, but to illustrate how serious this matter is.
Countries around the world do not often take notice of political controversies in their neighbouring jurisdictions. Large international and multinational organizations do not typically get involved in the latest political controversy in France, the United Kingdom or Canada, for that matter. This would have to be an extremely serious affair for an international body like the OECD to consider a public comment and statement of that nature. However, we had such a statement, which has now been rendered public for all eyes to see. It is our duty to reassure the global business and legal community that Canada does have the rule of law, that everyone is equal under that law and that politicians have no business monkeying around with the law.
We have the ability to do that by bringing the before the justice committee, along with all of the others who were alleged to have participated in the interference with the former 's role, letting them speak the truth under oath, and letting the committee, which is majority Liberal controlled, issue a report with clear findings. That is all we are asking and most Canadians would consider that pretty reasonable.
One argument we have heard from across the way is that we have to get busy doing other things. I could not agree more. If I can be very blunt about it, I would rather be talking about the Liberal carbon tax or the broken promise on the deficit or a number of other extremely unpopular policy decisions that the has taken. Were we to shift to those failed and unpopular policies just for political purposes, we would be leaving behind a very important loose end with respect to the protection of our justice system under the law.
We are not simply going to try to score political points by talking about something that might be otherwise more politically advantageous. Instead, we are going to stay focused on bringing the government to account for this political interference in our legal system. The reason for that is while it might not be in our political interest to stay focused on concepts like preserving an independent judiciary and legal system, it is the right thing for the country.
There will be time to debate the carbon tax, which kicked in today in Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Manitoba. There will be time to debate the 's broken promise to balance the budget this year. There will be plenty of time for those things and we will debate them. More than that, we will solve them with proposals of our own that will lower the tax burden and balance the budget.
That said, now is the time for accountability, and now is the time for us to correct this grievous wrong that the has exacted upon our justice system. We have given him a pathway to do that. It is very simple: Support our motion at committee to have a full-scale investigation. The should come to testify and bring along all of the staff members who participated in the cover-up. Let them all speak freely without any restrictions on what they can say, and then allow the committee to issue a final report that Canadians can read before the next election. That is a very reasonable step forward, which we think any prime minister who has nothing to hide would be prepared to do.
So far, he has not been prepared to do that. As we know, he has shut down two parliamentary investigations, one at the justice committee and the other at the ethics committee. He has refused calls for an independent, non-partisan public inquiry. We have no other venue in which the truth can come out but the parliamentary committees that I have just listed. If the would merely agree to let us move forward with those investigations, we can get the truth out. Then, we can get back to the debates that we all want to have, which are, again, the very unpopular and damaging Liberal carbon tax, the Prime Minister's broken promise on deficits, his failures on the global scene, his disastrous trip to India, his Twitter war with Saudi Arabia, his climb down to Donald Trump in accepting one concession after another in the USMCA and his decision to kill three pipelines. All of those things merit debate, and we as Conservatives want to have and win those debates, and we will.
However, the cannot simply bury this corruption scandal under $41 billion of deficit spending that he is piling up in this cover-up budget.
That is why I am standing here today and giving these extended remarks to all of our colleagues before the House of Commons.
Where are we today with this cover-up budget? We have a government that is using public money to try to drown out a scandal. The Liberals have added $60 billion to our national debt, three times what the promised. Instead of balancing the budget this year, we have another $20-billion deficit, debts that will inevitably lead to higher taxes if he is re-elected.
We have billions of dollars of additional spending announced in the budget without any way to pay for them except piling on more and more debt, and we are entering a period of high levels of risk in our world economy already saddled with excessive deficits and debt, with the budget significantly out of balance, leaving us no buffer whatsoever to cushion us against the blows that the world could very well deal us again.
It is so different from the way we went into the last global recession. Governments, both Liberal and Conservative, made the responsible decisions in the late 1990s and early 2000s to pay off hundreds of billions of dollars of debt. I credit the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien for being part of that consensus of balanced budget, which followed with Harper and Flaherty, who also paid off $40 billion of debt, so that when the great crisis struck in 2008, we were prepared and we had a rock-solid foundation. The reality is that every country went into deficit, but Canada had the smallest deficit. It was the last to go into the recession and the first to come out. It created a million jobs and left the country with a balanced budget.
If we were to have that kind of financial crisis today, we would go into it already $20 billion in the red, which means that every single dollar in additional economic damage would be paid for with borrowed money above and beyond that $20 billion per year. As more people go on EI and draw from the system, fewer people would be paying income and payroll tax. As corporate profits drop, corporate tax revenues fall with them. All those things would only worsen the budgetary balance of the country. That is precisely why it is important to pay down debt during the good times, to prepare for rainy days ahead.
Instead, the has squandered his inheritance. He inherited good fortune in his own life, and he inherited good fortune as a prime minister. In the latter job, he has squandered it. He took a balanced budget and turned it into a massive deficit. He took low taxes and turned them into high taxes. Now he is spending our children's tomorrow on his today. He is doing that because he has made a political calculation that if Canadians see dollar signs flying at them in the form of massive pre-election government spending, they will completely forget about the scandal that has engulfed his government and they will say, “What happened to that SNC-Lavalin thing?” “I don't know. Just work on catching those dollars as they fly by.”
However, Canadians have not been fooled. In my community of Carleton, the wise people of Manotick, Stittsville, Greely and so many other wonderful neighbourhoods have been so fixated on protecting the legal system in our country against the corruption the has tried to administer against it. I have knocked on tens of thousands of doors, and not one person has said a positive word about the cover-up budget, because they saw it for exactly what it was.
Canadians knew exactly what the was doing. They knew that he was carrying out the Kathleen Wynne three-step. We all know the Kathleen Wynne three-step: one, get into a massive scandal; two, massive deficit spending to distract from it; and three, massive tax increases to pay for it all after the election. That is the McGuinty-Wynne three-step. It was designed by its architect, Gerald Butts, and it is exactly what we have in the present budget.
It did not work, though. It is a testament to the wisdom of the Canadian people that they were capable of ignoring every ounce of political bribery that the government attempted to bestow upon them. As they saw their running around throwing wads of cash into the air, Canadians looked a little more carefully. They realized that he was pulling the money out of their wallets and said they were not going to be distracted: “Now, let us get some answers with respect to the SNC-Lavalin corruption scandal.”
That is why, wherever I go, people are telling me, “Get to the truth. Do not let the cover this up. It has gone too far. He has crossed the line.”
I am here with an offer to the government on the cover-up. Come to the justice committee, answer the questions, do it on the record, let the committee members write a report and let Canadians decide on the truth in October. Do not cling to the idea that it can all be swept under the rug today and then hope to hobble the way to October without anybody finding out what Liberals did.
It has not worked. It cannot work. There is too much scrutiny and too much interest in finding the truth for the to get away with covering it up any longer. The more he tries, the more difficult it becomes, and the harder and harder it is to prevent the truth from seeping out.
Here we are today, gathered in the House of Commons, the House of the common people, with an opportunity to convert this scandal into a moment of accountability, to prove that this chamber is capable of unearthing hidden facts and making known hidden truths, and holding to account the doers of the deeds. Surely, if the has nothing to hide, then he will agree to allow Parliament to do that.
I note now that I have been speaking directly to the , through you, Mr. Speaker, for a long time. I will note now to some of the members of the Liberal backbench. There have been some courageous individuals in their midst, who have been willing to do the right thing, who have put aside their own political interest and their careers to speak truth, first, to power, and then truth to the public. Liberals might look at them and say, “Jeez, I do not want to go down that road. The will grind me under his foot.”
Liberals should take another look, because they have something that could be preserved, their integrity. They go to their communities and they are rightly greeted as heroes. I read this weekend that the was honoured with a great feast in her community. People recognized the integrity she has demonstrated in doing her job. They have seen that what she did was very difficult and very rare.
Many sitting on the Liberal backbench might say that they do not have the courage to take on a prime minister, or that they think it is in their political interest to put their heads down, barrel forward, forget about the truth and just get through to October. Then after that, they can worry about whether the truth gets out. However, they will be remembered if that is the attitude they take, because eventually the truth will come out and the members who helped the cover it up will have been exposed as his servants rather than the people's servants.
We have to remind ourselves that we do not work for the government in this place; we work for the common people. That is why it is called the House of Commons. Sometimes people get the organization chart backward. It is the people at the top, under them is the House of Commons and its members, and under them the ministers and the government. That is why the word “minister” has its root in the word “servant”. It is because the ministers were first servants to the Crown, but ultimately servants to the commons, because the commoners can fire the government at any given time.
I know that some members have just been startled and think I am suggesting they should vote for non-confidence. They do not have to go that far that fast. Why do we not start by having a full investigation? What if Liberal backbenchers stood and voted in favour of that investigation in the House of Commons? What is the worst that could happen to them? Many of them have been passed over for cabinet already, and if truth be told, despite their thoughts to the contrary, do not have any hope of getting into cabinet anytime soon, regardless. However, they do have their integrity and could preserve that integrity by voting in favour of an end to the cover-up, by allowing witnesses to appear and the truth to be told. Then they could go back to their constituents and say that the party bosses came down hard on them, but they did the right thing. They would not be in cabinet but would be good servants of the people. That is why I am asking members across the way to join with Conservatives and put country ahead of party, to let the truth come out.
In October, all Liberal members are going to have to go back to their communities—
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux: Maybe sooner.
Mr. Pierre Poilievre: Wait a second, I just heard a rumour from across the way, from the deputy House leader. I said October would be the election and he yelled out “maybe sooner”. Maybe a cat has leapt out of the bag, or maybe the deputy House leader has let out of the bag that we could be going into the cover-up election. We had the cover-up budget and now we will have the cover-up election. Get the election done before the truth comes out is perhaps the political strategy across the way.
If I were called upon to give advice to members across the way, and it is a rare occasion that they ever ask for my advice, I would say this: A cover-up is not going to work. The people of Canada are too smart. They have a very good idea of what is going on because they have seen so much evidence so far. They are not going to be fooled by a snap election, an overly expensive budget or an attempt to use a majority to slap down the truth and punish the whistle-blowers who told it.
For their own sakes, they should stand up for what is right, stand up to their , do what is best for their constituents, protect the integrity of our legal system, uphold all that is good about our institutions, lock arms with others who agree, put their party behind their country, look their constituents in the eye and tell them that they did the right thing, not for their party boss but for the people they represent. Then and only then will they have the ability to look their constituents in the eye with total confidence that they did the right thing.
I will be pleased to return to this place and continue this debate at a moment convenient to this House, unless between now and that time the is willing to signal to our party, in writing, that he is prepared to end the cover-up and allow the investigation to continue.