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View Leona Alleslev Profile
Thank you very much. I think this has been a very important conversation for Canadians to hear. It has clearly shown the perspectives of the Liberals on this committee, and I would argue that they are a reflection of the government.
For the statement to be made that our calling this meeting was to score political points, that is actually insulting, among other things. We have absolutely risen above politics in this. It is our job, as members of Parliament, to ensure that we hold the government to account, that we protect freedom of speech, that we protect the non-partisan nature of our public service, that this country's China policy is the absolute best one to address the serious situation we find ourselves in, and that we uphold the foundations and the principles of the institution of Parliament and governance.
To say that these individuals were consulted—the two former diplomats—that they were being asked for their opinion is insulting to them. To say that they are unable, as senior long-serving former public servants, diplomats, to understand the difference between invoking “The PMO has said that we need to look at this”, “We are looking at an upcoming election”, “We need to be speaking with one voice”....
Let's be clear. These public servants know the difference between someone calling them to consult and ask for their opinion on something, and being given pretty much clear direction by invoking the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's Office and words like “election” and “speak with one voice”. Either those two former diplomats are not being honest in what they said or the government is trying to tell you—and the Liberals at this committee—that there's nothing to see here, when in fact it is incredibly egregious that we would have a non-partisan public servant reach out to two former diplomats and try to restrict them from informing Canadians.
We also heard that calling for this investigation is egregious because we are in some way diminishing the severity of two Michaels being wrongfully imprisoned in China or the economic impact of the hardships that the restriction on exports to China is placing on us. In no way are we undermining or detracting from the severity. In fact, by asking for this investigation we are overwhelmingly putting forth the severity of the situation. Clearly, what the government has been doing for the last seven months hasn't worked. The relationship with China is deteriorating. The punishments and the situation are escalating. We need to hear from former diplomats about what some of the possible options might be. What we're doing right now as a country is not working. It's taking us in the wrong direction. At the very least, we need to hear from these experts, now more than ever, to understand exactly how we're going to improve the situation and how we might actually be able to get two Michaels out of Chinese prison.
For this committee to make comments around the fact that we're not taking this seriously, that we're diminishing the severity of it by asking for an investigation because two former diplomats who might be able to give us some important information about how we can extricate ourselves or improve this situation with China are not allowed to speak, and that this Prime Minister, because his plan is the only plan, therefore needs to muzzle any critics of it, is in itself, frankly, undermining the severity of this situation.
Lastly, the Liberals on this committee would have us believe there's nothing to see here. I think my two colleagues on this side have made it very clear that from the SNC-Lavalin scandal, from the Norman affair, from all of the times we have found this government saying there is nothing to see here and no undue behaviour, these denials have all been blatantly false. This government, this Prime Minister, these unelected officials in the Prime Minister's Office have engaged in a pattern of behaviour that has silenced and attempted to muzzle any form of criticism and public debate, the very foundation of anything in a democracy.
If there is in fact nothing to see here, then an open and transparent public investigation to hear from all of those people who were involved would only be of benefit, and in the process, we might actually learn even more so that the government can make an even more informed decision about its China policy, whatever that might be.
I am obviously pleading with all of the members of the committee to re-evaluate their position, rise to the responsibility of the office they hold as members of Parliament, put the country first, put two Michaels who are wrongfully imprisoned in China first and vote in favour of this investigation, rather than allowing themselves to compromise the country in favour of their party.
Thank you.
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