Mr. Speaker, I move that the 51st report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, presented on Thursday, October 4, 2018, be concurred in.
It is certainly an honour to stand and speak to this today.
Before I commence, I would like to state that I will be sharing my time with the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.
It is a very interesting report. It goes back roughly 14 or 15 years, from now to the previous Liberal government and the decisions that were not made in terms of the upkeep and maintenance of the bridge. As the bridge was aging, there were needed repairs and a new business plan associated with it, yet the federal government failed to do anything at that point.
Over time, it was then determined that the federal government, along with other shareholders in the area, engage with none other than SNC-Lavalin to work out the design of the Champlain Bridge. I know members are wondering if that is the same SNC-Lavalin that we thought might be talked about in committee today, if there were not a bunch of members of the committee of a certain political persuasion, specifically Liberal, who were trying to shut down that procedure in that committee. However, coming back to this, yes, it is the same SNC-Lavalin.
We certainly have the opportunity now, as we are looking at this committee report, to reflect on the work that SNC has been doing and we are finally able to talk about SNC and what has been happening. We know, based on what has transpired over the past couple of months, that SNC got into some legal difficulties, we will call them that, which were related to some foreign dignitaries, if I could even use that word, who were coming into this country. We know that there was a request for an offer of a sweetheart deal to avoid prosecution.
What we saw transpire was that the former attorney general stood up for the Canadian justice system, doing what she believed was right at the time, which was to essentially act as the person who was going to stand up for the rule of law. Unfortunately, we heard at committee that members of the current government, right up to the Prime Minister, were asking her to go against what she believed was the right thing to do with respect to the protection of the rule of law and the protection of our democracy as a whole, and to help out this same company that was doing the design and engineering on the Champlain Bridge.
Since all of that has come to light, we saw the former attorney general resign, based on, and I am going to paraphrase here, not being able to state publicly that there was confidence in the Prime Minister and the government anymore. Subsequently, another minister who was very senior in aboriginal affairs and the treasury resigned due to this scandal and these issues surrounding SNC-Lavalin. Additionally, we have had the principal secretary to the Prime Minister, his closest aid, step down because of this scandal involving SNC-Lavalin. Following that, we now understand that there is a pending resignation from the Clerk of the Privy Council.
This does not sound like there is nothing to see here. If there were nothing to see, we would not have multiple cabinet ministers resigning, three cabinet shuffles in one month, the senior-most public servant stepping away, and at the same time, the Prime Minister's chief adviser, who has been friends with him since university, also resigning.
If there were nothing to see here and there was no need for the justice committee and others to look into it, if there was no need for a public inquiry, then I am sure that somebody could stand up in the House and explain all of these things in a very coherent manner. Unfortunately, we have not see that and all of this is really just a tornado, a hurricane, around this original SNC proposal for a deferred prosecution.
We know that Canadians are looking at this and saying, “How is it that SNC should be given a sweetheart deal to avoid prosecution, when the average Canadian is left down and out?” As Canadians, they believe that they have to live by the law, that they have to follow the rules, and if they do so and work very hard, there is a potential for success. Meanwhile, we have the Prime Minister, the chief adviser to the Prime Minister and the chief public servant all looking at the potential for big business, SNC-Lavalin, who has done the Champlain Bridge design, to get a sweetheart deal and not have to live by the laws of the land.
How do we explain to our children that if they are just an average little one and go out and do something wrong, they have to abide by the law, but if one is SNC-Lavalin, if one is big business, if one has a lot of friends in the Liberal Party of Canada, if one lobbies the heck out of them day in and day out, if one hires the right former public servants to come and work in one's shop, then one can actually influence the Prime Minister of the country to influence the law in one's favour? That is just not cool. It is not something that our children should be learning or understanding. They should be learning that there are laws and we need to abide by them. They should be learning that there are consequences each and every time we make decisions.
The reality is that what the Prime Minister, the cabinet, the senior public servants and senior advisers have done is that they have created one set of rules for the rich and the famous and they have created another set of rules for the rest of Canadians. Can members imagine if one of our young people was perhaps arrested for something and they had the same resources to lobby the Prime Minister and those around him? Of course they would, but they do not, and the idea that we are all the same under the law needs to be enforced. That is the actual reason, that is the crux of why the former attorney general felt so compelled to resign from cabinet after the shuffle, understanding that what was coming next, because of the conversations she had with the principal secretary, the chair of the Privy Council, with all of those around the Prime Minister and with the Prime Minister himself, would likely result in this sweetheart deal being given and the rule of law and our democracy being trampled.
I know that SNC has certainly been involved in a lot of contracts related to the federal government. Like I said, the Champlain Bridge is one of them. However, at no point should that relationship influence the processes of the law, the ideals of our country. At no point should the Prime Minister be able to skirt what is actually written in stone in this country's constitution, what is actually written in stone in terms of the public good and the public trust.
We know that trust has been lost and it has not been lost in the rule of law. The people's trust in the rule of law, the people's trust in our democracy is strong. Their trust in the Prime Minister, their trust in the government has been waning for a long time, but this has sort of put it to a whole new level. They now understand that the Prime Minister is actually willing to change the law in certain ways to allow his friends, who are rich and famous, who are influential, who are big business, who are the corporate world, to get away with things that are just incredibly terrible.
I do not even want to go into the original issue in terms of the exchange of money from SNC to the person I will very loosely refer to as a dignitary coming to our country and what those funds were used for, because it is despicable and it is wrong. We should be prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law and not providing a sweetheart deal because these people at SNC-Lavalin have big relationships and big friends in this big government.