Mr. Speaker, a lot of people in Beauport—Limoilou are listening to us right now, and I want to say hello to them.
Our political system is a parliamentary democracy. I believe that it is the best system in the world, and I think all members of the House would agree.
In this system, ministerial responsibility is the most important thing we carry out every day, primarily in question period and through opposition days like today. Ministerial responsibility was acquired as a result of long debates and long military campaigns.
Les Patriotes were not all French Canadians; they included some English Canadians, too. They fought in the 1820s and 1830s to obtain ministerial responsibility, which the British monarchy and British Parliament granted us with the Act of Union, creating a united Canada in 1841.
What we are doing today with our opposition day is exercising that ministerial responsibility and ensuring that it is fulfilled. One of the ways this is done is through investigative journalism, which is very important and which we on this side of the House take very seriously. In fact, with the help of its sponsor here, the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, a senator in the other place managed to get a bill passed that provides greater protection to whistleblowers and the confidential sources of investigative journalism.
What have investigative journalists discovered in recent months? The Minister of Finance did three things, or overlooked three things, or made three serious mistakes.
Need we remind members that the finance minister is second in command in the Government of Canada. He is second in command not because he is more important than other ministers, but it can still be argued that a country's finances are critical given their implications for education, health, and the well-being of Canadians. For that reason, the position of finance minister is held in high regard and the incumbent must do everything possible to ensure that Canadians' confidence in the minister is never in doubt or undermined.
Unfortunately, the three things that the finance minister did in two years, which were reported by investigative journalists in recent months, have slowly and surely undermined Canadians' confidence in the minister.
In my view, the attitude, behaviour, and actions of all members in their day-to-day activities both inside and outside the House must always be guided by three principles: a sense of duty, a sense of responsibility, and a sense of honour.
I urge my Liberal colleagues to listen carefully. The Minister of Finance, like all of us, had the solemn, legal duty to disclose his assets to the Ethics Commissioner right away. He had six months to do so, using a form that is pretty easy to fill out. It may have been more difficult for him, since he has so many assets. However, he had a duty to disclose all of his assets, in black and white, clearly and openly, leaving no doubt and leaving nothing out. He had a duty, and he did not properly fulfill it. I will get back to this and explain why.
The minister also had the responsibility, and still does today, to inform the Ethics Commissioner of any changes to his personal situation throughout his term. Such changes would include a new acquisition, a boat in the Bahamas, or, who knows, a second villa in France.
As a member of Parliament, I receive updates from the Ethics Commissioner reminding me of my responsibility and duty to disclose any new assets, throughout my term. For example, I recently declared that I purchased a home for my lovely little family; I was happy to do so. All members of Parliament have this responsibility.
In my opinion, however, honour is even more important than duty or responsibility. When members of Parliament are guided by a sense a honour, their actions are naturally guided by a sense of duty and responsibility. The Minister of Finance failed in his duty and his responsibility as an elected official, minister, and member of Cabinet over the past two years, and I will talk about this failure in a few seconds. Unfortunately for him and for this government, he sullied his honour.
First, two years ago, when he was made to fill out the much-discussed form disclosing his assets, interests, and so on to the Ethics Commissioner, he forgot, nay, omitted to declare a company incorporated in France that owns a luxurious villa in Provence in the south of France. I imagine it is very luxurious and quite expensive. That is unbelievable.
I have here a public notice of penalty issued under the authority of the Conflict of Interest Act. This is not a joke. These are not allegations or opposition attacks. This is fact. The Ethics Commissioner issued a penalty just a few weeks ago and fined the Minister of Finance $200 for violating paragraphs 22(2)(a) and 22(2)(d) of the Conflict of Interest Act by failing to include in a confidential report a corporation established in France and an estimate of its value and, crucially, by failing to include in the report his directorship in that corporation. This is serious business.
The Minister of Finance, an important businessman from Bay Street in Toronto who manages a huge family business, somehow forgot to report that asset in France, although he claims it was just an administrative oversight. That is a first. This actually happened; he paid the fine. He was caught and had to face the music, although only administratively. Of course, these are not criminal charges. That was his first dereliction of duty and breach of Canadian laws, the first stain on his reputation, and the first thing that shook Canadians' confidence in him.
On top of that, he did not put his shares in Morneau Shepell, worth $20 million, in a blind trust. He hid them in a numbered company in Alberta and has made millions on them over the past two years. Thank goodness he donated it to charity. It was the least he could do, but he still has not apologized and he refuses to talk about the fact that he has been violating the spirit of the law over the past year.
Lastly, he is once again being investigated by the Ethics Commissioner regarding a conflict of interest, because he introduced Bill C-27, which makes changes to pension plans and will benefit the family business started by his father. He is therefore in a direct conflict of interest, he failed in his duty and his responsibilities, and his honour is besmirched.