Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues for that very rousing welcome, both for the way it lifted my spirits and also for the way it permitted me to finish writing my speech. I promise to stop procrastinating, but just not yet.
Today I rise on a very important issue, which is of course the cover-up budget. I will quickly recap how we got to where we are and then discuss how we can get where we need to go.
Let us start with what happened a year ago today. The introduced a budget that amended the Criminal Code in an omnibus bill of over 500 pages, bringing into effect something called deferred prosecution agreements. These agreements allow corporations accused of serious crime to sign special deals to avoid trial and conviction.
Nowhere was this discussed in the budget book, but it was slipped into the back end of the budget bill. Members of the finance committee, including Liberals, were astonished when they discovered it there at around 10 p.m. in a late-night committee hearing, when the government was rushing to get the bill passed.
A year later, we would learn why the government was so determined to introduce this special deal for corporate criminals. It came in the form of a Globe and Mail story revealing that the had inappropriately pressured his then to extend such a deal to SNC-Lavalin, a large, Liberal-linked corporation with a history of donating roughly $100,000 to the Liberal Party illegally. That company is charged with fraud and bribery.
The charges are that it bribed the leaders of Libya in order to steal from the people of Libya. This is not a victimless crime. The leaders of the Gadhafi family were treated to a cornucopia of gifts from this company. Some might say that is trivial and irrelevant, but the consequence was that some of the poorest people in the world were robbed of $130 million, according to these allegations. These are not victimless crimes. This is not simply how things are done over there.
We later learned from the 's testimony at the justice committee that the allegations were true. She said that over a four-month period, she experienced consistent and sustained interference and that she was hounded and bullied and experienced veiled threats. She was ultimately removed from her job because she refused to interrupt the criminal proceedings and let SNC escape prosecution.
Many called her a liar and said she was not telling the truth. They said she was simply doing it all for publicity or out of some strange vengeance. Then, of course, she released documented evidence and audio recordings proving that everything she said was true.
Members of the government, despite having a massive apparatus of researchers and spin doctors, have not been able to contradict a single, solitary fact that she presented before the committee or that she stated anywhere else.
Against this backdrop, we have a government that has provided nothing but a cavalcade of contradictions and changing stories.
In the last three weeks, the has killed two parliamentary investigations into this matter and has refused to call a public inquiry. This morning, the justice committee met to decide whether it would resume its earlier investigation. A quick glance at the justice committee's website appears to suggest that under the direction of the Prime Minister, the committee has decided not to proceed with its investigation.
Where do we go from here? To see forward, we have to look backward. Such has been the method of all great advancement. If we look back at the great advancements in history, we can see they were made by people who understood history.
Think, for example, of Lincoln's famous Gettysburg address. We all remember that it ends with “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”, but that is just the ending of the speech. The beginning starts with history.
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure.
“Fourscore and seven years ago” refers to the passage of 87 years of time. Lincoln was saying to his country that for it to go forward in freedom, a freedom that would involve the Emancipation Proclamation, it needed to look back to 1776, master its history and live up to the words of its forebears. Therefore, here today, as we discuss the ancient principle of judicial independence, we too must look backward at our history to understand where these principles originate. To go forward, we have to be able to look backward.
Winston Churchill understood this. He was probably the most prescient statesman ever to live. His incredible clairvoyance is unmatched.
We all know the famous example: Early in the thirties, he predicted the comprehensive evil of Adolf Hitler, even when many others saw him as harmless. He called for a robust national defence to prepare for what he foresaw years in advance as Hitler's forthcoming aggression in pursuit of world domination. How did he see forward? He looked backward. He understood history.
We all know that at in 1946, at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, he predicted the beginning of the Cold War. He spoke of an iron curtain descending over Europe in 1946, well before the rest of the world was even thinking about a conflict with Stalin, who had been a so-called ally in World War II. How did he see forward? He was able to look backward.
He was able to look backward because he was the author of 58 volumes of Nobel Prize-winning literature, almost all of it on history. But for one or two that he admitted were failed attempts to write novels, he wrote almost exclusively about history. When instructing young people at a commencement ceremony on what they must do to succeed in life, he gave them three pieces of advice: study history, history and history.
The predictions that he made were not limited to the political realm. A lot of people do not know that in a 1931 Maclean's magazine essay, he predicted the iPad. He said that in future years, men and women would be able to hold in their hands a device, and then he predicted Skype. He said they would be able to speak to someone on the other side of the world instantaneously, as though they were sticking their head out the window and speaking to a neighbour. He said these devices would be connected by a central device in a household, which we call routers or modems today. This was in 1931. He predicted that humanity would one day unleash the extraordinary power of the atom for good and for evil. Again, this was over a decade before Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
He predicted the forthcoming conflict between free nations and socialist nations, which, of course, both manifested themselves in the Second World War, where we fought national socialism in Germany and Italy, and in the Cold War, where we fought Marxist socialism. However, he predicted this in 1931, decades before any of these events would actually come to pass.
What else did he do in that essay? He explained his methodology for seeing the future. He actually gave kind of an IKEA instruction manual on how one could become a fortune teller. He said there were two ways to see ahead, and both of them involved looking backwards. One is the cyclical methodology, which is used when we see events in the present that have existed in the past. We look at where they ended up in the past and then we can predict where they will again end in the future.
An hon. member: Gomery.
Hon. Pierre Poilievre: Someone said “Gomery”, pointing to the Liberal sponsorship scandal. Quite rightly as that history is now repeating itself with the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
However, he said there was another methodology for seeing the future. It was the trajectory model. It is used when we are trying to anticipate something that has never existed before. I believe this is how he was able to foretell all of the technological advancements contained in that incredible essay. This methodology involves seeing where things were, where things are and therefore projecting where they will be.
Both of these methods, where we use a circular view of history repeating itself or a trajectory to judge where things have been and where they are to imagine where they will be involve looking backwards. This methodology makes sense with what we know about neurology. The human mind creates images for its imagination out of fragmented memories of the past. In other words, the things that we imagine in the future are the things that we have stored away in our memory from the past. Thus he was capable of taking that 58 volumes of literature he had written, the millions of words he had read and the countless historic events of which he had been a part and was able to take that knowledge and project it forward deep into the future, seeing far beyond what anyone else could see.
I say all of this as a justification for delving deep into our own history in order to judge how we might proceed with this present day controversy. Some members might be tempted to jump up on points of order, as I look back at where our democracy came from, ask about the relevance and ask the Speaker that I no longer be permitted to speak about our past because the past, according to some, no longer matters. Of course, I make these earlier remarks to tell members how very much our past matters and how much it can tell us about our future.
This is a lesson that the current should learn. In his speech before the House of Commons sometime ago, marking a great anniversary of the Parliament of Canada, he basically omitted the entire history of the Westminster system and spoke of Parliament as though freedom and democracy were just invented by his dad in 1982. Of course, we know that kind of thinking is dangerous. We today stand on the shoulders of giants. We here inherit something great from those who came before us.
We must always remember, especially in the debate about the interference of political actors in our judicial system, that while our parliamentary civilization may be 800 years long, it is only one or two generations deep. In other words, if one or two generations decide to dispense with its hard and fast rules and replace them with some new modern invention rooted in nothing but symbolism, selfies and sobbing speeches, then we very much will be living in a house resting on sand.
Speaking of sand and sandstone, I see a lot of it all around us today. We are inside the courtyard of the former West Block building, a building whose exterior has always been clad with sandstone. Sandstone tends to be more resistant to the weathering effects of our brutal Canadian climate.
That being said, we used to meet in another place called Centre Block. When we are inside Centre Block, we bear witness to a different stone, limestone.
: Manitoba limestone.
Limestone from Manitoba, someone very patriotically yells out from across the way. He should take great pride in that limestone. It is literally part of Canada. It is exhumed from the ground and builds up the democratic institutions we now enjoy in Canada's parliamentary system.
While we walk around that old Centre Block building, we might see a number of different substances. We might have seen, before we moved, the solid white oak desks we have here.
We might go into the Library and see the beautifully ornate and well-carved pine, polished brilliantly, resplendent before the eyes of every astonished visitor. We might look up at the gilded dome and see gold looking back down at us. We might look down at the ground and see the cherry, oak and walnut wood on which our feet walk. All of those elements are beautiful. However, for me, what matters most is the stone, the limestone.
The limestone takes us back in time. If we walk into the basement in the Centre Block building, we will walk millions of years into history. Inside those stones are skeletal fragments of marine life compressed and piled millions of times under unimaginable, nearly infinite pressure to create this stone. We can literally witness seashells in the walls staring right back at us. Those seashells would have been sliced in half by a stone mason in the 19th century or perhaps in the early 20th century, as Parliament was rebuilt following the World War I era fire. Either way, in those stones is the story of time and there are two parts to that story.
The first part is that limestone is solid and to our eyes unmoving, a perfect symbol of the institution the stone is used to build up, and it should be so. Also in that same stone is evidence that all nature, including geological nature, including the rocks and stones we see as indestructible, is always in transformation. They always risk erosion, that one object today was a different object long ago. We must always work every day to preserve what we have so that stone may never erode, that these oak desks may never be nibbled away by termites and that the institutions that took so long for us to build up shall never be allowed to disintegrate piece by piece. That is why this debate is so important.
The disintegration of great civilizations does not just happen with a sudden bang. They say Rome was not built in a day, and that is true. However, it was not destroyed in a day either. It took almost half a millennia from the time Julius Caesar converted the Roman Republic into an empire, and himself from consul into an emperor, until the Roman Empire disintegrated and was sacked and defeated. An early decision can slowly eat away and wear down the once mighty and apparently indestructible institutions that give rise to the people in the first place. Thus, we must be so vigilant and on guard whenever they come under attack.
The former has said that our core institutions faced such an attack from the of Canada. She testified that he personally and politically tried to interfere with a criminal prosecution. Our institutional history is one that separates court from Parliament, judge from Prime Minister, and deliberately so. We understand that as soon as the politicians start to mess with the courtroom, we will go from the rule of law to the law of rulers.
This history is encapsulated in stone. I have here a beautiful book, which I am not allowed to hold up because of parliamentary rules, by Eleanor Milne, Captured in Stone: Carving Canada's Past. If we walk through the old Centre Block building, we will find beautiful carvings chiselled in the wall that tell us where we came from. The book outlines, “East Wall, Set 1, “The First Inhabitants of the North American Continent” “Centre Stone”, “In the Bluefish Caves of northern Yukon, archaeologists have found evidence of the use of stone tools between 25,000 and 12,000 year ago.” The images of that life are carved in the wall with Inuit people carrying out their hunting traditions.
We can go forward, and there are the native people who greeted the Vikings in the year 900 and 1000. We have images in the centre stone of John Cabot holding up a scroll in his left hand and a tiller in his right. Elsewhere, we have the first merchant ships to navigate the St. Lawrence River on the centre stone. We have Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Quebec City, when he encountered an aboriginal guide willing to lead him inland.
We turn forward and we see, on the left panel, the first colonies of 1763, and on the centre stone, a family of European settlers establishing a homestead. We see also carved in the wall, the great surveyor, David Thompson, interacting with indigenous people.
Finally, on the North Wall, Set 3, “The Long Road to Freedom and Justice” is engraved there. All Canadians who have not seen it should make haste to do so when the Centre Block reopens.
There is described, as I quote from this great book, “A strong figure is breaking chains, freeing doves. This speaks a symbolic language stating that those who come to this land to begin anew must leave all rage and bias behind.”
Why do so many people come to this land and why are they so successful when they get here? Why do so many people of the world live in such squalor over there and yet when they come here, the very same people, enjoy such prosperity? We cannot say that it is anything unique about our makeup as a species. We are just the same as the rest of the world. In fact, we are the peoples of the world, literally.
We are a reflection of the world because of our long-standing and successful tradition of high levels of immigration. That long history that brings us to this moment tells us why so many people from so many far off lands make the journey here and why it is that they are so successful here when their lives were so much poorer elsewhere.
What is it that makes life so different here than it was over there? Is there something in the water? Is the air different? Why are we, as a nation, so prosperous, when so many others suffer so greatly?
I look to the great Wilfrid Laurier for the answer. He was once asked to comment on Canada's nationality, and even then it was a seemingly impossible task. If he were in France, he would say French. If he were in England, he would say English. If he were in Scotland, he would say Scottish. Of course, here in Canada, in his time, at the beginning of the 20th century, we were all those things and much more. He could not define us by ethnicity, by language or by religion. In fact, he himself, though a French Catholic, read the King James Bible and therefore was not properly or even able to make his own identity known based on religion. How is it that he identified the Canadian nationality? He did so in these simple words: “Canada is free and freedom is its nationality.”
From whence did that freedom come, though? That was the next question he needed to answer. He was a proud French Canadian who mixed very easily with people of other backgrounds. He said, famously, about his time at school, that he had schoolyard fights with the Scottish boys and made schoolboy love with the Scottish girls. In other words, he grew up with Scottish kids, even though he was French through and through.
His identity of Canadian freedom was actually British, even though his lineage was French. He said of French Canadians, which I will never forget, that France gave us life, and Britain gave us liberty.
I say that to explain that the inheritance of British parliamentary democracy, of the House of Commons, of common law and of so many other principles of British history are the inheritance of all people who live in this land, not just those who have an ethnic lineage back to Britain. In other words, we all inherit it. Even though I am not English, I inherit these English liberties, just the way Laurier said he did.
What are these English liberties and how did they originate? They started with the Magna Carta. In May 1215, the angry barons gathered in the fields of Runnymede. They were taxed to the max after years of crusading kings pillaging and plundering. They were tired of the Crown's tyranny, and they were determined to reverse it. They forced King John, against his will, to sign the great charter, or the Magna Carta, as it is called.
Looking through the Magna Carta and its roughly 60 clauses, one might find them a bit arcane. There is talk of scutage and fishing weirs and other arcana that might not seem relevant in the present, but there is a whole lot more that is.
Let me read some excerpts from that great document.
No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.
What does that mean? It means no arrest without charge and no conviction without trial. That is relevant today, isn't it? Let me try another one:
He shall do this without destruction or damage to men or property. If we have given the guardianship of the land to a sheriff, or to any person answerable to us for the revenues, and he commits destruction or damage, we will exact compensation from him....
There are many important things here. One is, “If we have given the guardianship of the land to a sheriff”. In other words, only a civil authority approved by a democratic mandate must have the ability to arrest or do damage to property. In that case, there must be compensation if such damage or such arrest was not justified.
No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.
That, of course, speaks not only to arrest but to property rights. To this day, we state clearly that the Crown may not dispossess someone of his or her belongings, absent compensation for doing so, without the lawful judgment of equals or the law of the land. In other words, arbitrary expropriation is forbidden.
Let me pull another incredible invention out of that same statement: “except by the lawful judgment of his equals”. In other words, jury trials have their origins right here in this sacred text. Do not tell me that these old parchments are a relic of the past and we should forget about them and that Canada was invented in 1982. These are ancient English liberties that are our inheritance, and no one can take them away.
Here is one that is particularly relevant to this debate. I hope the is listening to this:
To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.
I look first at that starting clause, “To no one will we sell”. It does not matter how many billions are in SNC-Lavalin coffers, how many lobbyists it can send scurrying about Parliament Hill, how many illegal donations it can make to political parties and how many prospective job offers it can throw around. No matter how much it flexes its financial muscle, we will not sell them justice. Justice is not for sale.
It goes on:
To any man whom we have deprived or dispossessed of lands, castles, liberties, or rights, without the lawful judgment of his equals, we will at once restore these.
In other words, the Crown must compensate for what the Crown has taken away.
All these customs and liberties that we have granted shall be observed in our kingdom in so far as concerns our own relations with our subjects. Let all men of our kingdom, whether clergy or laymen, observe them similarly in their relations with their own men.
In other words, clergy and laymen alike, Crown or subject, all must follow the law.
I bring your attention, of course, to the most important of all:
To all free men of our kingdom we have also granted, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written out below, to have and to keep for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs
We are those heirs. We have inherited this. These are our liberties. They belong to us. The people of our country, the common people, have delegated us to this chamber to protect those liberties.
Thus there is the ferocious response of the Canadian people, which has surprised so many political observers, to the scandal that currently rages inside the government. A lot of people have asked why people are so upset. It is a debate about text messages and emails, he said and she said and prosecutorial independence. How often do we hear that discussed at the water coolers of the workplace in Canada?
Why is it that Canadians have resounded so strongly to this particular scandal? It is because this scandal is not that complicated. It is actually quite simple. It is based on one simple rule that everyone understands from childhood in Canada: we are all equal before the law. This too had its imperfect origins in the Magna Carta. The moment King John signed that parchment, he conceded, for the first time in the known history of our system, that he, as the king, was no longer above the law. At that moment, the Crown became subject to the law, and no one, not even a king, was above the law.
Everyone understands that we are all equal before the law and that if a homeless man is charged with stealing a loaf of bread, he cannot simply knock on the 's door and ask him to please make the prosecutor go light on him. He faces a trial, either by a judge or a jury, and a verdict is rendered based on the facts, precedence and the law. If it must be so for a homeless man charged with taking a loaf of bread, it sure as hell must be so for a powerful international corporation charged with corruption.
People understand that money already has too much influence in most western democracies. We do not need it to have more influence in the judicial system. We do not want two legal systems, one for the people and another for the powerful. We do not want justice to be for sale. We do not want politicians to tell the judges or the prosecutors what they can and should do. That is a basic principle dating back.
In the British North America Act, I notice that there is none of the soaring language witnessed in the Declaration of Independence or even in the U.S. Constitution. There was no Thomas Jefferson who sat down with a feather and drafted up words that we all remember, etch or repeat, other than “Peace, order and good government.” Why is that? The answer, of course, is that our founding fathers understood that they did not need to write out all our freedoms at that moment in time, because it was accepted that we would inherit those that came from the mother parliament and the Magna Carta.
It has been a positive development that we have since written them out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but that charter was merely a continuation of a then seven-and-a-half-century tradition that came before it. It was a continuation of the Canadian Bill of Rights, brought before Parliament by John Diefenbaker, but it was a continuation of everything that began in that field at Runnymede so long ago.
We are a nation not of revolution but of evolution. Where our friends south of the border spilled much blood to achieve their independence, we as a country almost had to be gently pushed out the door by the mother country. Of course, back in the early 1930s, with the Statute of Westminster, we were given full judicial independence, and yet for decades we would continue to go back to the British Privy Council as our supreme court. In other words, the British were offering Canada more independence than we were prepared to accept.
Madam Speaker, I will first say that the point of order raised by my friend from Saskatchewan illustrates the entire thesis of my speech, that we here are a house of common people. We speak on behalf of the commoners, and the first commoners met in fields. That is why this place is green. Therefore, we should always remember the plight of our farmers in this place, especially now, when they are facing an unprecedented attack by a foreign tariff regime against our canola producers. We should remember the thousands and thousands of them who generate billions of dollars of wealth to pay for our schools and hospitals and for the livelihoods of the people who work in them.
When a member from Saskatchewan rises in the House of Commons, it reminds me why we have Parliament in the first place. It is precisely so that such grievances can be raised. I thank him for his point of order, and I do not resent one iota his interruption of my remarks to make it.
Returning to the point of my speech, now that I have laid the historical foundations for our entire system, for all the prosperity we enjoy and for the great country in which we live and by which we have been blessed, allow me to settle today's controversy on that foundation.
We have before us serious allegations against the . These allegations are that he attempted to politicize a criminal court proceeding. This is not just any criminal court proceeding. This is a case involving formal police allegations of fraud and bribery in amounts that exceed $130 million. It is alleged by the police that this corporation gave millions of dollars of bribes to the Gadhafi family and stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the Libyan people.
To quickly recount the allegations made against the company, it is alleged that SNC-Lavalin created a shell company through which it funnelled gifts such as yachts and prostitutes to the Gadhafi family, and that those gifts were used to leverage contracts that SNC would not otherwise have won. It is further alleged that public agencies were defrauded by SNC-Lavalin to the tune of $130 million. Again I say that this is not a victimless crime.
Many people have said not to worry, and that that is just how things are done over there. It is frankly an appalling and racist mentality to suggest that it is acceptable for corporations to get rich by stealing from the world's poor, and I mean stealing, not doing business with but stealing, from the world's poor. It is an appalling suggestion.
Many of these countries find people in squalor. Why is that, when they have the same talents and work ethic as we do? Why are they so poor? They are poor because of corrupt leadership: parasitical corruption that daily drains away the wealth of the nation, that takes from the mouth of labour the bread it has earned and puts it in the hands of those who are more powerful and capable of trampling on the rights of others.
We have signed international conventions to ensure that Canadian corporations never engage in such corruption. The importance of those conventions is this. For the longest time, businesses thought they could pillage countries like Libya and then leave before any of the local authorities, if there were any honest ones, could prosecute. They would return to their wealthy western country and their wealthy western lives and partake of the fruits of their crimes with impunity.
We signed on to international conventions that banned companies from doing that and made sure they got prosecuted at home. Well, Canada is SNC's home, so that prosecution must happen here.
When news that the had attempted to interfere politically with his attorney general to shelve the criminal prosecution reached the OECD, officials with that body took the nearly unprecedented step of putting out a statement of concern. The OECD understood that if member nations are going to start to exempt their corporations from justice in cases of corruption, then we will return to the old days when it was seen as and believed to be, wrongly, acceptable for companies to rob the poor. The only way to stop the hideous practice is to make sure all countries of the OECD have an independent prosecution of those crimes.
It is true that some other countries around the world have deferred prosecution agreements, like the one the government instituted in a budget bill. However, those agreements are to be negotiated and potentially arrived at by independent prosecutors and approved by a judge, not directed by a political authority. In other words, it is the job of the director of public prosecutions, an independent prosecutor created by Stephen Harper's Federal Accountability Act, to examine the deferred prosecution rules in the Criminal Code and determine if a company qualifies.
Now, what are the criteria they are supposed to take into consideration in this determination? One, is it a severe offence? Let us ask, was this a severe offence, or was it a small hiccup? As I have already said, the allegation is of over $130 million of fraud. That is severe. In other words, the company does not qualify for a deferred prosecution agreement on the basis that the offence was not severe; it was severe.
Two, was it an isolated incident? Let us just recount the track record. This is a company that has been implicated in, and in some cases its employees found guilty of, bribery in the bid on the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal. It is a company whose CEO was found guilty of participating in bribery in the McGill health centre contract. It is a company that helped smuggle members of the Gadhafi family out of Mexico in order to avoid justice. It is a company whose members have been charged in places as diverse as Panama, Switzerland, Libya, Mexico and now Canada.
That is just a list of the charges. There have been convictions and many guilty pleas by members of the company, right up to the top and including former CEO Pierre Duhaime, who actually pleaded guilty to fraud.
In fact, this company engaged in a kickback scheme designed to pump $100,000 of illegal donations into the Liberal Party. The commissioner of Canada elections, in an extreme act of leniency, allowed the company to avoid charges in exchange for signing a compliance agreement in this case. In that compliance agreement, the company admits that executives urged employees to produce phony expenses and invoices, gave phony bonuses to those same employees, and then instructed those employees—
Madam Speaker, just as I was saying the Liberal Party had received these illegal donations from SNC-Lavalin, all of these members came scurrying in. They heard the word “donation” and, all of a sudden, they were very excited and the House went from completely empty to chock full. I am sorry to dangle that carrot in front of my Liberal friends. They can resist everything except temptation.
Just last week, the was at a glitzy Liberal fundraiser where some first nations protesters rose to raise the concern of mercury poisoning. He chuckled at their plight and had them thrown out aggressively by security. However, he was kind enough to thank them for their donation as they went out the door to the great roars of laughter from the $1,500 Liberal donors and glitterati who looked on in the audience.
However, I have digressed and go back to the subject at hand. Was SNC's alleged fraud in Libya an isolated incident? No, it was not. It was part of a long-standing pattern of proven corruption that has been upheld by judges and has resulted in convictions going back 20 years to the present, with convictions being issued as recently as one and a half years ago.
This is a company that had actually developed a coding system to account for bribery within it. It created its own accounting code so that it could go on bribing officials and account for it in a way that neither the tax authorities or anyone else would know what was going on. To do that, to have a special coding system, one has to be systematically focused on the objective of bribing and defrauding other people. In other words, this was not just a few bad apples that went off to Libya, did some inappropriate things and we ought to just let them take the fall and the company move on. This is systematic, rotten corruption that goes to the core of the company and has been prevalent in the heart of that enterprise for many years. In other words, the company does not qualify for a deferred prosecution agreement on the grounds that it was an isolated incident, far from it. It seems to be its modus operandi.
The director of public prosecutions carefully analyzed the facts the company put forward and determined through those facts that the deferred prosecution agreement provided for in law was not appropriate in this case. That is the end of the story, right?
Wrong. It is not end of the story. For the , it was the beginning of the story. The story is a very ugly and sordid tale, but one we have started to hear over the last two months. At that point in time, September 4, 2018, the director of public prosecutions accurately and properly concludes that SNC-Lavalin should go to trial and face the music for its alleged $130 million of bribery and corruption and says so in a letter to the executives, a letter that the company will not go on to reveal for more than a month, during which time its shareholders were kept in the dark. It sounds like a lot has changed over there.
However, the company did not take no for an answer. Lobbyists swarmed to Parliament Hill. The lobbyist registry shows meetings between SNC officials and top-level personnel in the Prime Minister's Office and in the 's office. In fact, the himself met with the company approximately 10 days after the director of public prosecutions rendered her decision to ensure the trial would go ahead.
After that extraordinary act of lobbying and those 10 days that followed the prosecutor's decision, the political heat started to rise. The started to face veiled threats, hounding, pressure and interference. By the way, all of those words I just used were quoted from her mouth. She experienced a September 18 meeting with the where he attempted to strong-arm her into granting a deferred prosecution agreement and shelving the charges. She said she looked him in the eye and asked if he was interfering with her job as the Attorney General, because she would “strongly advise against it.”
So much for his subsequent claim that she never once raised a concern about his personal political interference, but that meeting would only be the beginning. A cavalcade of pressure would come marching through her office again and again.
The chief of staff to the would reach out in emails and text messages. Other senior staff in the 's Office, including the senior adviser, the principal secretary and the chief of staff would all go and meet personally with top-level staff members of the , constantly twisting their arms. They said things such as “we don't want to debate legalities anymore” and “there is no solution here that does not involve some interference.” I am not paraphrasing. This is what they said. It is in the notes. Those notes were transmitted by text message to the former attorney general and have since been tabled with the justice committee and made available for all eyes to see.
Then we had that incredible meeting by phone between the and the Clerk of the Privy Council in which the clerk said he wanted to talk to her about the SNC-Lavalin issue. That conversation went on for 17 minutes, during which, more than a dozen times, the Clerk of the Privy Council attempted to change the former attorney general's mind. He used terms like the Prime Minister is very “firm”. He used the word “firm” four times. The Clerk of the Privy Council indicated that the was in one of those moods. He said that the Prime Minister would “find a way to get it done, one way or another”.
The only way he could get it done, the only way he could get such an agreement imposed on the prosecutor, was if he removed his Attorney General. More ominously, the clerk said he was worried. “Worried about what?” asked the . He replied he was worried because it is never good for the Attorney General and the Prime Minister to be at loggerheads. He warned of a “collision” between the Attorney General and her boss, the Prime Minister.
If someone warns us that we are about to have a collision with our boss if we do not do what we are told, what does that mean? What would we later interpret it to mean if that same boss moved us out of our job only weeks later? Would we think that collision and that removal from the job were two totally unrelated events? Or would we conclude, as the did, and most of the rest of the country has, that the removed her because she refused to do his bidding and stop the trial for SNC-Lavalin.
What is interesting about the 's account is that it has never changed. She came before a committee and testified at great length. She faced aggressive questioning from Liberal members on the committee. An aggressive group of the 's supporters in the press have attempted to discredit her. They have tried to poke holes in everything she said, but they cannot find anything.
She did an unprecedented thing on Friday. She handed over 40 pages of text messages, personal notes and diary entries, and of course audio recordings. What did the Liberals say in response? They said there was nothing new there and they are right. There was nothing there. Why? It is because her story had not changed. It upheld every claim she had made. There was not a single solitary contradiction the Liberals could find.
For judges in courtrooms and police officers conducting investigations, when they have to choose between the credibility of two competing individuals, they always gravitate toward the person whose story does not change. In this case, that person is the . By contrast, the 's story changes faster than his colourful socks. He always has a new story.
Let me note one twist and turn in this drama. The said that if anyone, including the former attorney general, had issues with anything they might have experienced in the government or didn't feel that they were living up to the high standards the government set for itself, it was their responsibility to come forward, and no one did.
However, we have that incredible recording, which was made two months before the made the statement that no one came forward. In it, the says to the Prime Minister's clerk:
So we are treading on dangerous ground here—and I am going to issue my stern warning—um—because I cannot act in a manner and the prosecution cannot act in a manner that is not objective, that isn’t independent. I cannot act in a partisan way and I cannot be politically motivated. All of this screams of that.
So much for the notion that no one came forward.
That was one of seven times in that 17-minute conversation that she made similar comments. She said that it was “inappropriate”, that she felt “uncomfortable”, that she was waiting for “the other shoe to drop”, and that it reminded her of the “Saturday night massacre”, a reference to Richard Nixon's firing of justice department officials to cover up Watergate. Nevertheless, we are to believe that no one raised any concerns.
Since then, the 's story has been that the conversation did happen but no one told him about it. He said he left on vacation right after the call was made, so no one had a chance to tell him as he was gone. The only problem with that story is that he did not leave on vacation right after the call was made. After that story came out, a few intrepid journalists looked at the publicly available schedule of the Prime Minister and found that he did not leave on vacation for another two days. Two days is a heck of a long time, and it is very easy to brief someone on a 17-minute conversation in a two-hour period.
However, the would have us believe that he could not be briefed because he was busy packing for his vacation. He had to pack lots of socks in order to prepare for that vacation. For two days, he was hunkered down in his closet at home, in his government-owned mansion, preparing for that exhausting vacation ahead. He was packing his bags so that he could go off and surf in Tofino, never to be distracted by a pesky phone call from his top public servant about an issue that the Prime Minister had considered of intense importance only hours before the call happened.
Furthermore, we have the testimony from the clerk, who said, when he was admonishing the for not reaching out to the personally, that he was available 24-7. If he was available 24-7, how is it possible that the Clerk of the Privy Council would have no opportunity between December 19 and February 15, a two-month period, to tell the about this exceptional and explosive phone call he had with the on this issue of dramatic importance?
That is just one contradiction of that particular claim. The other, of course, is that the met with the on September 18 and told him of her concerns. She looked him in the eye at that time. Now we have one documented example of her raising her concerns with him personally. We have the second tape-recorded example of her raising her concerns with the Clerk of the Privy Council. Then we have a dramatic meeting between the and the principal secretary to the , Gerald Butts, the puppet master of the PMO, in which she raised concerns about the inappropriate interference of the Prime Minister's Office in the case. Still, somehow the expects us to believe that he knew absolutely nothing about her concerns or about her decision not to grant a special deal to this company.
That is simply not believable, but if it is truly the position and he really believes he can defend it, then he can agree with our singular demand today, which is to reopen the justice committee investigation and invite roughly a dozen witnesses, including those accused of interfering with the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. If they have nothing to hide, if he has nothing to hide, he will let them all appear under oath, without restriction, to answer questions. If he walks into this place and offers to do that, I will end my speech now.
In all seriousness, if the were to stand in his place and make the commitment that the justice committee investigation will reopen, then he has my commitment to return to my chair and allow the debate to continue with other speakers so that Canadians can get to the truth. If he has nothing to hide, why would he not do it? What could be the harm in having questions?
He says that there is nothing to learn and that we have already learned everything there is to learn. Okay, then it will just be a redundant exercise. I suppose that would be the first time in the history of Parliament that anything redundant happened or that anyone repeated themselves. I think I have done it a few times in my speech, but no one noticed.
Really, if the has nothing to hide, what harm would it do to bring people before the committee, ask them questions about their role in the scandal and get the answers in a report from the committee before the election? If the truly has nothing to hide, then that is exactly what he will do.
It has been brought to my attention that the is not only going to shut down the justice committee and ethics committee investigations into this scandal but that he has now bailed on question period for today. I have not been able to independently confirm it, but I am understanding from a note just passed to me that the 's newly released itinerary shows that he will not be present for a second time in a row.
Of course, Parliament was out last week, so he dodged question period during that time. Yesterday he was missing in action, and today we are told that at two o'clock, when the government stands to answer for its conduct in this scandal, he will once again hide behind other ministers and refuse to appear and defend himself. That tells an awful lot about his guilty state of mind. He knows that his story has been riddled with contradictions. He does not want those contradictions queried before Canada's House of Commons.
Let us move on to the next part of the 's story.
He claimed that the reason he was so anxious to interfere in the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin is that if he did not, 9,000 jobs would vanish. It was an odd claim, and one I found suspect from the very beginning. I have to say that everything we have learned since then proves it was false.
When Gerry Butts came to the committee and was asked what evidence he had that 9,000 jobs would vanish, he said he had nothing specific. When Michael Wernick was asked if he had any documents or briefing notes he could share with the committee to show that these 9,000 jobs he kept talking about would be gone if the prosecution proceeded, he said no. The was then asked at a press conference if he had any evidence he could produce to show that 9,000 jobs would vanish. Again, he failed to be forthcoming with it.
Why would they have no such evidence? It is because the claim is false.
Let me walk through it piece by piece.
First of all, the 's claim that the headquarters of the company would leave in the fall of 2018 if the did not immediately intervene to give the company a deferred prosecution agreement is easily disprovable by publicly available facts. We know the company signed a $1.5-billion loan agreement with the Quebec pension plan that required the company's headquarters to remain in Montreal at least until the year 2024. We also know the company just signed a 20-year lease on its headquarters there and announced a multi-million-dollar renovation of that headquarters to accommodate its thousands of Montreal-area employees. Typically, companies that are renovating to accommodate their existing workforce do not get up and leave. It is kind of a waste of money. They do not sign 20-year leases and they do not sign $1.5-billion loan deals that oblige them to stay put for six or seven years. Therefore, the claim the Prime Minister made on September 18 when he met with the former attorney general—the claim that she had mere days to signal negotiations for a special deal for SNC-Lavalin or the company would leave the country altogether—was completely, utterly and demonstrably false.
His broader claim about 9,000 jobs is equally false. The company has $52 billion worth of construction projects located in Canada. It runs the five biggest construction projects in our country right now, and here is the thing about construction: Companies have to do a construction project where the project is located. It is a simple complication. They cannot build a road in Canada from far away in Beijing or in London, England. As an example, Ottawa just hired SNC for a transit project that will go from, roughly, downtown to the south end. The company cannot build 14 kilometres of rail transit in a foreign country and drop it out of the sky from a helicopter onto the nation's capital. The project is here. Therefore, the jobs are here and the jobs are not going anywhere.
The jobs that SNC has moved were moved before the company found out that it would necessarily face trial. In fact, four-fifths of the company's workforce is already outside of Canada, and that was long before the government ever signalled that the company would be required to go to trial. In other words, the movement of SNC-Lavalin jobs out of Canada has nothing to do with the prosecution, and therefore that justification itself is flawed.
Finally, the government has been telling us that if the company is forced to face trial and is ultimately convicted, the consequence would be that it would lose the ability to bid on Canadian contracts.
I am going to read directly from a report on exactly that question that the Deputy Minister of Justice Canada, Nathalie Drouin, wrote to the Clerk of the Privy Council in the matter of SNC-Lavalin. It refers to the Canadian integrity regime. This is the regime that bans corrupt businesses from doing business with the Government of Canada. It says this:
The ability of a company/supplier to contract with the federal government is affected by the Ineligibility and Suspension Policy (Policy). The Policy ensures the government does business only with ethical companies/suppliers in Canada and abroad. Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) administers the Policy on behalf of the government.
The Policy sets out when and how a company or supplier may be declared ineligible or suspended from doing business with the government. It provides that a company/supplier is suspended when charged with, or admits guilt to one of a number of listed offences, such as fraud and bribery of foreign public officials. The suspension from being able to contract with the federal government is for a duration of 18 months. This suspension is subject to extension pending the final disposition of the charges.
The report goes on to discuss administrative agreements. It says:
The company/supplier can enter into an Administrative Agreement with the government to stay the suspension. An Administrative Agreement is an arrangement between the company/supplier and the government where the former must adopt certain compliance measures. It is used to mitigate the risk of contracting with a particular company/supplier. For example, the government and a company/supplier may wish to enter in Administrative—